Archive for February, 2018

Compete in the City Nature Challenge

Friday, February 23rd, 2018
Cities taking part in 2018 City Nature Challenge.

Cities taking part in 2018 City Nature Challenge.

This is Passport to Texas

Document local flora and fauna when you participant in the Worldwide 2018 City Nature Challenge, April 27-30.

Each city will have a leader; that leader will bring in partners [like the city, county or environmental organization]. And they will ask participants to do bioblitzes within that city. A bioblitz is where you collect data on all the plants and the animals throughout the area.

Marsha May is a biologist and Austin area challenge coordinator. Teams from six continents will upload their observations to iNaturalist.org in an attempt to document more species than their competitors.

Then all that data is collected in iNaturalist, and it will be evaluated a week after the challenge is over, and a winner will be announced.

Experts from various fields will verify the data. No prizes will be given to winners, but they will get bragging rights, and a chance to help researchers.

We have many species in Texas that are species of greatest conservation need. And when we do these biolblitzes, oftentimes those species are identified within that project. And those species are very important for us to know where they’re located, and how many there are out there. And this is just a way that citizens help quite a bit.

For more details on the 2018 City Nature Challenge, April 27—30th go to citynaturechallenge.org.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

City Nature Challenge

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018
Photo: iNaturalist.org

Photo: iNaturalist.org

This is Passport to Texas

Game for some friendly competition? Then join teams from 60 cities, on six continents, to compete during the City Nature Challenge—April 27-30th. Teams will attempt to document more plant and animal species in their regions than competitors in other regions.

And we are using a format called iNaturalist, which is a real easy way of collecting data. All you have to do is take pictures of things. You don’t even have to know what it is.

Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist and Austin area challenge coordinator, Marsha May, says they need more experts to help verify data.

Professionals. People who know their plants. People who know their insects. Their invertebrates. Any of these organisms, to help us verify the data. You don’t have to live in any of the regions. Go to iNaturalist—especially those who use it regularly—because we need to get the data verified for it to count towards the contest.

Seven regions in Texas are hosting teams. Find them on the Nature Trackers page of the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

It would be a good idea in advance, if people would check out iNaturalist.org. And join iNaturalist and see what it’s all about—practice it. And then when the time comes, they would just join the project as they’re collecting their data.

How the City Nature Challenge works… tomorrow.

That’s our show for today… Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Habitat for Monarchs and other Pollinators

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018
Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly on milkweed.

This is Passport to Texas

For as long as biologists have been studying the iconic monarch butterfly, they’ve come up with more questions than answers about its biology and basic needs. The biggest question: do land management practices, like controlled burns and reseeding with native plants improve monarch habitat?

We have lots of questions about patch size, too.

That’s Ben Hutchins, the state’s invertebrate biologist. So, what is patch size?

When I say ‘patch size’ what I mean is, how far will a monarch travel to get from one plot of nectar producing plants to another? How big of a prairie do we need to support healthy monarch populations? How many milkweed in it? What density do we need across the landscape to promote healthy breeding populations?

Expansive patches of prairie are best, but hard to come by due to urbanization. Having said that—all is not lost.

Even urban environments have lots of potential for habitat for monarchs moving through; so you have urban corridors. So, there’s no property that’s too big or too small to help out monarchs and other urban pollinators.

That means even planting native nectar producing plants and milkweed in empty lots, on building rooftops, or in containers on your downtown balcony—you are playing a role in supporting monarch and native pollinators.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Questions About Monarch Butterflies

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018
Monarchs

Monarchs-Photo by Monika Maeckle

This is Passport to Texas

Here’s what you need to know about scientific discovery: it starts with a question. And that leads to—not answers —not immediately, anyway. It leads to more questions.

They just keep coming.

Ben Hutchins, the state’s invertebrate biologist, has been asking a lot of questions lately about monarch butterflies.

That’s right. The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. And so, many of us that are involved in monarch conservation have been to a number of conferences, meetings, workshops, symposia. And a big emphasis is on all of the questions that we still have about monarch biology. I think the biggest question, particularly, for conservationists for natural resource managers is: what can we do to make the landscape good monarch habitat. How can we be good stewards of the land to make sure monarchs are getting what they need?

See what I mean?

We have lots of questions about how particular land management practices, like using controlled burns, or reseeding with native plants—how those practices can best be used to produce good monarch habitat. We have lots of questions about patch size, too.

And if your next question is: what does Ben Hutchins mean by patch size? You’ll have to listen next time to find out.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Feel the (Prescribed) Burn

Monday, February 19th, 2018
Prescribed burn underway.

Prescribed burn underway.

This is Passport to Texas

Man mimics nature when he uses fire as a land management tool. He does this with controlled burning, and with prescribed fire.

David Riskin, director of natural resources for state parks, says there is a difference between the two.

Controlled burning is a term that people use that you start at part A, and you burn until you get to part B. Professional land managers use the term prescribed fire because you have specific objectives, you have specific outcomes, you burn under very specific conditions. And so a prescription is a planning document… you lay everything out ahead of time and you then implement it with very specific objectives in mind.

Those objectives naturally have to do with land management, as well as a range of various objectives a landowner may hope to achieve.

There can be a whole series of objectives. From very simple things like fuel load reduction. You can have specific habitat objectives…to change the vegetation structure and composition to support waterfowl, or to support antelope, or lesser prairie chickens…or Houston toads for that matter.

Learn more about prescribed fire on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti