Archive for the ‘The Wetland Restoration Team’ Category

0815130934-01 DSCN0005

During my junior year Field Biology course at the University, I had my first introduction to a basic tenet: field biology isn’t always pretty (or comfortable or clean or fun) but it will always have a purpose.  Each friday this summer, I am reminded of that tenet, and smile under rumpled straw hat, now partially colored from marker dye.

We (Cullen, myself, willing Team members and Kelly, the Park Natural Resource Ranger) have made a commitment to treating vaseygrass in the restoration areas. While I never expected to be pleased by something dying, I find myself feeling vindicated and pleased by our eradication efforts.  Vasey Grass or vaseygrass, Paspalum urvillei (http://www.texasinvasives.org/) is a South American perennial grass which was accidentally introduced near New Orleans in 1883 per the USDA 1925 Farmers Bulletin (http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1769/m1/26/). At that time, Vasey grass was considered an important secondary forage species in pastureland partially because it had spread and established well in the region, and it has a remarkable “ability to grow in wet land and survive severe drought.”  However, now this noxious bunch grass presents a serious threat to pastures and conservation lands alike, as evidenced by studies identifying appropriate management techniques to control vaseygrass (https://www.crops.org/publications/cs/abstracts/45/5/2038).

For all the reasons cited above, we have made our summer mission to eradicate what we can of this weed—given that the wetlands are dry and we can easily access all areas. To date, we have completed our treatment for all 48 acres of Phase 3, and we are currently planning our “attack” of Phase 2.  So, when the straps of the backpack sprayers bite into my shoulders, I remember that the work is what matters and keep going.  We have more acres (over 70) left to treat and thankfully we have a new 45-gallon sprayer tank fitted with two nozzles to assist our mission. I personally am looking forward to the continued eradication and am equally hopeful of its success.

(The pictures above are of Cullen Ondracek, giving the vaseygrass the evil eye during a reconn, and on a different day, spraying with herbicide)

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (1925). Farmers Bulletin 1433: “Cultivated grasses of Secondary Importance”. Washington DC. U.S. Department of Agriculutre. (pg: 22-26).

Newman, Y.C. and L. E. Sollenberger. (2005) “Grazing Management and Nitrogen fertilization effects on Vaseygrass persistence in limpograss pasturelands.” Crop Science, 45(5), 2038-2043.

Read Full Post »

DSCN0236sm IMGP1650 dscn0680
Immeasurable. Priceless. Both are words worthy of the volunteers who comprise the Wetland Restoration Team, and until recently, with the need to put a REAL number to their time, I would have preferred to leave them respectfully in that realm of the invaluable and intangible.
I was charged with the task of determining the hourly rate (value) of a volunteer’s effort for a proposal reviewed by a federal agency. The request required specific current documentation to support the final documented amount. In the pursuit of that value, I came to the conclusion that you can only guess and find values to imperfectly measure a volunteer’s “dollar value”.
For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics establishes a standard value for an educator (National Compensation Survey). But what if a volunteer is teaching biology and chemistry and physics to a student with varying degrees of botany and taxonomy, and touches on the ecology of the plant community. How does that advance and varied educational experience get captured in a dollar amount?
Likewise, the Bureau standarizes the market value for labor in the Natural Resources/Conservation field. But could that value accurately encompass the 10 years of experience working with students doing restoration and the 40 years of prior experience as a science teacher? Could it capture the years of experience with safety protocol in the work force that is then applied to working as a volunteer in inclement field conditions?
In the end, the value-determining exercise made me further appreciate the uncaptured value of the volunteers who comprise the Wetland Restoration Team. Their effort and experiences are essential to the whole restoration process, as it is through their hands and sweat equity that the wetlands are planted. There is no pricetag on their willingness to restore wetlands on days when the weather and the work is LESS than desirable. The Team volunteers could choose other places to support or other projects, but they consistently return to the wetlands. A truly priceless gift.

Read Full Post »


Master Naturalist Steve Upperman is one of the Wetland Restoration Team’s most dedicated members and he is leaving Houston for a new life in Ohio.

To say he will be missed on the Team is an understatement.  No one else can entertain the student volunteers quite so well with a bare-handed dissection of coyote scat or an impromptu cross-prairie nature walk. He is equally enthusiastic about hair-raising true-life detective stories or home-made baked goods.  He’s often sharing results from new creative ventures like recordings of prairie frogs, taking infrared photos, or auto-portraits of night wildlife.

Steve’s photo gallery of Sheldon Lake State Park documents the changing prairie wetlands over the seasons and the years, with his sharp eyes trained on wild animals, wildflowers, and volunteers alike. This is a wonderful visual record that he leaves for us, and the impact of his work on the Wetland Restoration Team will be felt long after he’s started his new life in Akron. Much appreciated, Steve.

Read Full Post »


Learn about the work of the Wetland Restoration Team and receive basic plant identification training which will aid in your participation with the Team.  The course runs 5 weeks in August, 9-12am every Wednesday, at Sheldon Lake State Park in northeast Harris County. A different plant family– wetland grasses, rushes, sedges, and Sagittaria– will be the focus of each week, plus an introduction to our wetland restoration efforts of the past five years, current projects, and future projects.

For Texas Master Naturalists, the classes count toward advance training, even if the course has been taken previously.  Volunteer hours will also be received for participation in Team workdays.

Due to the popularity of the course and the limitation of the classroom size, the class is limited to 24 students.  You must register with Marissa Sipocz (m-sipocz@tamu.edu) by July 25, 2010 and receive a confirmation email to reserve a spot in the course. The fee for this course is $20. For more information on the course, including a carpool from our Clear Lake office, please see the online flyer.

Read Full Post »

The Wetland Restoration Team gets a three-week boost from 14 high school and college students in the Student Conservation Association. TCWP staff and Texas Master Naturalist mentors have been showing the students how to identify and dig important wetland species, divide them into sprigs for transplanting, and replant them into the developing prairie wetlands at Sheldon Lake State Park. With the SCA’s help, a phenomenal 2875 sprigs of desirable sedge species were planted last week! The students also collect bushels of ripe seed heads and separate out the seed for future projects.  The work of these young people is vital to the success of the wetland restoration program, and is greatly appreciated. Now, if we could only have some more rain…

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »