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Posts Tagged ‘Sheldon Lake State Park’

Bittern (8)

Restored wetland basin at Sheldon Lake State Park

The Texas Coastal Watershed Program (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension/Texas Sea Grant) seeks a Wetland Program Assistant. The Successful candidate will: collect and install native wetland plants within the restored wetland basins at Sheldon Lake State Park and other designated wetland restoration projects; prepare for wetland restoration workdays, including gathering, sorting and preparing equipment and materials, and cleanup and storage of said equipment; maintain UTVs including regular maintenance and minor repairs; keep accurate records of workdays in the field and other collected field data for reporting purposes to sponsors and perform other job related duties as required. Bachelor’s degree is required, preferably in natural resources or related field required or equivalent combination of training and experience. The successful candidate will have: experience working within the Natural Resource Science field with extensive experience using ATVs, UTVs and tractors or other related equipment; the ability to multi-task and work cooperatively with others; excellent computer skills including utilization of Word and Excel;  and must be able to lift and move up to 50 lbs. This position is currently funded for only one year starting October 2015, with the potential for continuation contingent upon funding. Direct inquiries to: m-sipocz@tamu.edu

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Last week, our normal Friday crew ventured out to the Phase 4 forested wetlands—the farthest east you can travel and still be on the park.  The intent of this scouting trip was to note the sizes and extent of Chinese tallow trees in the wetland basins.  As expected the basins were full of tallow and, fortunately, of a size (e.g. not too big) consumable by the mulching machines.   Our restoration plan for 2014 includes hiring a contractor to remove the Chinese tallow without harming the existing stands of sweet gum, pine, cypress and very old yaupons.   For the majority of the work, access to the areas with heavy tallow stands is easy and will not require much maneuvering (and by extension, minimal damage).  We were pleased with what we saw in the forest for the prospective clearing job.

It was, however, hard to drag park ranger Kelly out of the forest—being the East Texas boy he is.  But as we stomped our way out of the forest we passed some old sweet gum trees, and I made it very clear that I am a city girl. (Yikes!) One of the larger tree trunks was laced with a series of holes.  Pointing to the holes in the truck, I turned to Kelly, who replied with one word, “sapsucker”.   Cullen chimed in, “probably yellow-bellied sapsuckers, based on the region”.  It was a ‘duh’ moment for me, as I have seen sapsuckers on the park, but it has been a while only because my time at Sheldon Lake State Park is mostly spent in the wetlands on the prairie.

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Sapsuckers are a small woodpecker, and it makes sense that they would leave evidence of their presence behind them on the tree they “harvest”.  The holes were deep and in consistent rows which made me appreciate the industry and effort of this little bird.  It is one thing to know that the sapsucker will drill 10 holes in wood and another thing to see the holes and the effort it takes to drill through the hardwood to get to the sap.

Well, little sapsucker, we hope to clean up your neighborhood by taking out the trash trees.  Maybe by clearing out the tallow, we will give the standing sweet gum, pine and cypress more of a chance to make sap for your little hungry belly.

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Recently I have seen multiple articles on various wetland restoration projects from California to Florida and the consistent (and obvious) theme: return the land to the wetland habitat  that once existed.  Those stories just lend credibility to our wetland restoration project at Sheldon Lake State Park.  The restoration of the 136 acres of prairie wetlands to date, and the upcoming additional 52 acres, reflects a true (as true can be) restoration–taking the landscape back to what it once was—wide-open coastal prairie and pine/oak savanna dotted and crossed by circular and linear marsh basins.   

As we look forward to Phase 4 of the restoration, its amazing to look at the pictures from Phase 1 and see that what we attempted to do with our restoration model, and indeed, how well it established and flourished.  Phase 1 was the beginning of the whole restoration process and we weren’t sure all we planned would work out–would the excavations be right? would the soils support the plant community? would the plantings take?  By the end of Phase 2 and 3, we felt that our model was solid and the progression below offers the visual testimony (picture of Pond 2, Phase 1)

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Phase 4 will take us into somewhat new territory but the principles of the model will remain the same. Investigate the landscape to uncover the past and precisely restore the wetlands were they once thrived and follow by restoring the native plant community by the hands of invested volunteers.  (Follow our efforts on the Wetland Team blog)

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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.

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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.

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