The Short Story: The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are statewide sponsors of the Texas Master Naturalist Program. As such we must adhere to the policies set forth by both of our sponsoring agencies. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has mandated that ALL AgriLife face to face events, programs and meetings be cancelled through May 4th at the earliest. This includes Texas Master Naturalist face to face events, programs and meetings.
Texas Master Naturalist Program Policy Updates
First and foremost – please refer to local officials for the most updated travel restrictions and regulations for social distancing.
Current Guidelines for Texas Master Naturalist Chapters
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are statewide sponsors of the Texas Master Naturalist Program. As such we must adhere to the policies set forth by both of our sponsoring agencies.
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has mandated that ALL AgriLife face to face events, programs and meetings be cancelled through May 4th at the earliest.
- This includes Texas Master Naturalist face to face events, programs and meetings.
- Because the period may well be extended, all TMN chapters should continue to make contingency plans for no face to-face events through the summer out of an abundance of caution.
- https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/coronavirus/ – a resource page for updates
Certification Requirements – 2020 Events & Situations
- The mission of the Texas Master Naturalist Program is to develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities for the State of Texas.
- Key Tenets of our Program – are a ‘Masters’-level Basic Training & Volunteer Service
- The requirement for a full 40 hours of Basic Training and 40 hours of Volunteer Service will not be changed for 2020.
- Exceptions will be made for Advanced Training in 2020 as described below, but 8 hours minimum will still be required.
Basic Training Requirements – 2020 Events & Situations
- For chapters in the midst of a spring basic training class and who choose to continue Spring Basic Training Classes Online
- Host remaining class subjects through Zoom/Online platforms
- Field based education delayed until shutdown lifted
- Field based training waived for 2020 spring basic training classes. But encourage members to audit field courses in future years.
- Coordinate training opportunities with nearby/regional TMN chapters
- Take advantage of presentations from state office* (*pending)
- Encourage members to audit future in-person basic courses for reinforcement of subject matter
- MUST include question/answer and discussion period with presenter
- Make-up exceptions for basic training courses need to be submitted to chapter leadership or to the state office for input (i.e if a trainee misses an online training day, how do they make it up?)
Advanced Training Annual Requirements – 2020 INTERIM POLICY
- Online-based training and webinars will accepted for all of the minimum of 8 hours of advanced training hours required for certification. Additional AT hours can be earned through distance or in person courses once shutdown lifted.
- We encourage members to consider attending in person advanced trainings in the fall once travel & health restrictions lift.
- We encourage chapters to host multi-chapter or regional advanced training webinars/online programs to limit stress on presenters.
- We encourage the priority of those online training/webinars that are live, allow for speaker/audience interaction and allow for questions/discussion at the end.
- We encourage chapters to host post-training discussion groups if speaker isn’t available for questions/discussion.
- We encourage limits to those advanced trainings that are pre-recorded, not live or not interactive in their online format. No “learning by YouTube”.
Volunteer Service Requirements – 2020 Events & Situations
- There will be no change in the minimum requirements for volunteer service for certification/recertification in 2020
- But there are some options to switch to distance service:
- 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 * (*more guidance on CitSci volunteer service coming soon.)
- 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.
- Encourage your members to share their service ideas with us to share across the state!
- IMPORTANT NOTE – ALL volunteer service MUST meet local and federal guidelines for limited travel and social distancing. Local Guidelines currently vary city to city and county to county.
- Some considerations – We encourage members to limit engaging in service at parks, nature centers, gardens even if following distancing and cleaning guidelines – consider your travel there (i.e stopping at a gas station) or the potential safety situations when working by yourself at a remote site. It is strongly recommended that these types of service be limited out of an abundance of caution and are not required to complete under social distancing restrictions.
COVID-19 Guidelines and Resources
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose significant challenges and is likely to remain a concern for the next several months. On March 19th, the Governor of Texas signed the executive order limiting all social gatherings to less than 10 people and several local City/County authorities have followed suit with a more restrictive order to shelter in place. We encourage you and your chapters to follow these guidelines and be socially responsible in our programming for the next few weeks by helping to minimize the spread and impacts of this novel virus. This includes cancelling all face to face events, programs and meetings for the immediate future. Online and distance based programming methods are being explored and many TMN Chapters are beginning to use these platforms to host basic/advanced training events and chapter meetings.
Other Key Guidelines from Texaa A&M AgriLife Extension Service:
- People, businesses and communities should immediately undertake hygiene, cleanliness and sanitation practices that are accessible, affordable and known to be effective against COVID-19.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- People who are known to have, or are under investigation or monitoring, for COVID-19, should adhere to the direction provided to them by duly authorized persons, including public health officials. Failure to abide by such direction may result in involuntary quarantine or isolation for the purposes of preventing further community spread of COVID-19.
- Wash hands often for 20 seconds and encourage others to do the same.
- If no soap and water are available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue away.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Disinfect surfaces, buttons, handles, knobs, and other places touched often
These actions, are necessary to slow the spread of the COVID 19 virus, reduce the burden on the healthcare system and provide researchers more time to learn about this virus and create strategies to combat and defeat it.
We are all very appreciative of the work you are doing, on behalf of our state, our clientele and our natural resource communities. Please, take care of yourself, your family and friends. If you feel sick, take actions to not spread the disease, especially among the elderly or those with underlying health challenges. Prepare, but don’t panic! Additional resources are available at http://texashelp.tamu.edu , https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/ and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
Thank you for your continues support and leadership!
Please let us know if you have any questions regarding these closures and cancellations.
Michelle and Mary Pearl