First and foremost, all Texas Master Naturalist events, meetings, service projects must be compliant with all state, county and local public health proclamations and ordinances. Safety is our guiding principle for operations. As a program sponsored by both Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, each with their own COVID-19 guidelines, we have chosen to follow those of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension for all Texas Master Naturalist programs, meetings, events and service projects. Full guidelines for Return to Service can be found on our website – https://txmn.tamu.edu/welcome/covid-19-response/
With these new guidelines and timeline for return to service, we understand that there may be TMN volunteers looking for new ways to engage in Service at a Distance due to travel restrictions, personal health concerns or changes in access to service sites (i.e closed nature centers or parks). At this time, the TMN Program does not anticipate a change in the minimum requirements for volunteer service for certification/recertification in 2020. This is being evaluated weekly, but at the core of our program’s mission is your service to the natural resource community of Texas.
To help provide ideas for ways our TMN volunteers can engage in Service at a Distance, we’re providing ideas sourced from chapter leaders throughout the state. Please know that these ideas are general examples of ways chapters are volunteering throughout the state and that ALL volunteer service MUST be pre-approved by your local chapter before you engage in the activity. Please use this list as a resource for inspiration.
Volunteer Service at a Distance
- Write a newsletter article spotlighting a local SGCN species or make a presentation to give in the fall.
- Verify or assist with curating observations in iNaturalist or eBird
- Contributing to the chapters blog/newsletter
- Planning your chapter’s 20th anniversary events/celebration/etc.
- Planning for fall trainings, ATs and projects
- Grant writing
- Updating chapter websites
- Updating chapter brochures and outreach materials
- Reviewing/making comments to the TMN bylaws, CMOP and COH documents for possible considerations to state program office should consider for 2020 updates.
- Join a planning committee for the TMN Annual Meeting and events.
- Assist leadership with managing your chapter, going through and organizing chapter files whether they are electronic or paper files.
Ideas Submitted by TMN Chapters:
- The Blackland Prairie Chapter is reaching out to groups in their community who are able to offer educational online presentations on topics they typically do in person as part of their outreach.
- South Texas Border Chapter is promoting community-based science with the Texas Estuaries Resource Network (partnered with Texas Audubon).
- Lost Pines Chapter is also coordinating seed collection for native trees and shrubs, which the Texas Forest Service will raise into seedlings for future sale.
- Cradle of Texas Chapter is performing “socially distanced” water quality monitoring service with the Texas Stream Team.
- The Rio Brazos Chapter suggests that chapter members share their ideas for “virtual adventures” for kids on their Chapter’s website since parents and grandparents everywhere have inquisitive children that are missing field trips and public events. Invite the public to visit the website for ideas to keep their children engaged in nature! This will also increase Chapter visibility and public interest in becoming a Texas Master Naturalist.
- The Gideon Lincecum Chapter has several suggestions:
- Backyard Bird Feeder Watch VMS opportunity: Project Feeder Watch Backyard Bird FeederWatch welcomes participants of all ages and skill levels, from scout troops and retirees to classrooms and nature center visitors. To learn more and to sign up, visit www.feederwatch.org or call the Lab toll-free at (800) 843-2473. In return for the $18 fee ($15 for Lab members) participants receive the FeederWatcher’s Handbook, an identification poster of the most common feeder birds in their area, a calendar, complete instructions, and the FeederWatch annual report, Winter Bird Highlights.
- Community Collaborative Rain, Snow and Hail Network – Rain Data Collection VMS opportunity: CoCoRaHS This is a “citizen scientist” program called CoCoRaHs for reporting precipitation data. This allows those of us who like to track rain to do something with the data. See: http://www.cocorahs.org/ for the full story. The data is helpful in improving weather models, and it provides more data on the extent of flooding or droughts than the data from “official” weather stations. The program requires that you buy a special rain gauge. The CoCoRaHs program has a weather instrument supplier which will sell them for around $22 plus S&H. If you want to participate you can join at the web site and order your own gauge. There is an online training program, which tells you how to read a rain gauge in 100ths of an inch and how to place the gauge so that it collects the rain with minimal error. It does require routine data entry, but it only takes a few seconds to enter the data. Go to: CoCoRaHS and click on Washington County or some other county of interest.
- Green Ash Seed Collection – Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center VMS opportunity: Forest Restoration/Seed Collection Extensive mortality among the Green Ash Tree across the United States is the result of the Emerald Ash Borer. Texas Master Naturalists across the state are working with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to collect Green Ash seed. The Wildflower Center needs your help to save the ash trees of Texas. First, we need to locate and map native ash trees in your area. It’s important to map only native ash trees from natural areas, not ones planted in landscaped areas such as backyards or city parks. You can help by sending the GPS location, tree species name, one close up photograph of the leaf for identification and one photograph of the entire tree.The Wildflower Center will then contact you and provide Instructions for collecting seeds from the tree, for use in its seed bank. To get involved or to learn more, please visit www.texasinvasives.org/ashtrees/. You may also email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
- Invaders of Texas VMS opportunity: Invaders of Texas This is a statewide program coordinated by the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. Anyone can participate through a “satellite” group. If we have enough chapter members who want to participate, we can form our own satellite and get the necessary training. Or individuals can take the training that is offered around the state and then report directly.
Submit your Ideas for Volunteer Service at a Distance!
Your submission will be reviewed by the State Office and then uploaded to the list above.