Valley’s Texas Master Naturalists taking applications for 2017 class

Writer: Rod Santa Ana, 956-878-8317, r-santaana@tamu.edu

Contacts: Tony Reisinger, 956-493-8129, e-reisinger@tamu.edu

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND  —  The Texas Master Naturalists program is taking applications through December for new members interested in the Rio Grande Valley’s native habitat and how to sustain its natural process between land and wildlife, according to organizers.

One of two Texas Master Naturalists chapters is taking applications for 2017 classes. Members here help build a bird sanctuary, one of many projects they can pursue. (AgriLife Communications photo by Tony Reisinger)

One of two Texas Master Naturalists chapters in the Rio Grande Valley is taking applications for 2017 classes. Members here help build a bird sanctuary, one of many projects they can pursue. (AgriLife Communications photo by Tony Reisinger)

“We’re inviting people interested in learning more about our highly unique ecosystem we have here in South Texas and who want to help us maintain and improve on what nature has provided,” said Tony Reisinger, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for coastal and marine resources in Cameron County and a Texas Master Naturalists advisor.

Texas Master Naturalists is a program supported by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Sea Grant and AgriLife Extension, he said. Among their many efforts, volunteers provide youth education programs and outreach and service to local nature centers and parks.

The deadline to apply for membership in the Rio Grande Valley Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists is Dec. 31, Reisinger said. Training begins Jan. 11. The cost is $150 and includes textbooks, fees and a one-year membership. Scholarships are available.

For membership and scholarship information, visit www.rgvctmn.org. Other information on the website includes a list of partners, the schedule of monthly speakers whose talks are free and open to the public, a live bird camera, a gallery of articles written by members, a calendar of events, field trips and more.

The Rio Grande Valley chapter of Texas Master Naturalists is taking applications through December for next year's classes.

The Rio Grande Valley chapter of Texas Master Naturalists is taking applications through December for next year’s classes.

Classes are taught by an array of experts, including local university professors and field personnel from Texas Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We have something for everyone interested in nature,” Reisinger said. “All Valley residents over the age of 18 as well as Winter Texans are welcome. We evolve into educated volunteers who become involved in myriad activities to learn about, work with and help educate others about the special land on which we live.”

Students attend weekly Wednesday evening classes from 6-9 p.m. through April 11. They are held in San Benito at the Cameron County Annex Building conference room at Williams Road and U.S. Highway 83/77.

Anita Westervelt, a member of the Rio Grande Valley Chapter, said members team up with more than 60 local partners who work with federal and local wildlife parks, coastal naturalist programs, cities, schools and other public entities.

“There are hundreds of opportunities, from studying ocelots and other mammals to joining cutting-edge university studies, developing public native gardens and even working with national programs like the one helping save monarch butterflies,” she said.

Westervelt said there are also plenty of interesting activities for bird lovers.

“We explore bird habitat in thorn forests, urban birding and migration, and there are volunteer opportunities to document and save shore birds and their habitat,” she said. “We don’t leave out the Gulf of Mexico, beach inhabitants and trends. And we also explore the Rio Grande and its evolution and learn about invasive species that threaten the Valley’s ecological uniqueness.”

To speak to a Texas Master Naturalist, call 956-748-3190 or email rgvctmntreasurer@gmail.com.

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