The Rio Brazos Chapter sponsors and participates in projects that meet the mission of the Texas Master Naturalist program: Providing education, outreach, and service for the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within our communities. Many of our projects are carried out with our state and local partners. Projects include such things as maintaining and improving natural areas, conducting inventories, leading citizen science activities, conducting a home school program, and hosting outdoor community learning events.
The following are some of our principal projects:
Natural Areas: Creating and maintaining natural areas, including wildscapes, trails, habitat, and interpretive areas such as animal and bird blinds and butterfly gardens. Specific areas at which members volunteer are Acton Nature Center, Comanche Peak Nature Trail, Cleburne State Park, Dinosaur Valley State Park, and Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.
Natural Resource Management: Improving, restoring, rescuing, and rehabilitating public natural areas and resources. Volunteer activities include removing invasive species; removing debris; restoring habitats with native grasses, forbes, shrubs, and trees; creating habitats such as bird and bat houses; and enhancing pollinator reproduction by installing bee houses. Volunteers conduct these activities at partner sites, including Acton Nature Center, Dinosaur Valley State Park, Cleburne State Park, and at the semi-annual Brazos River cleanup days organized by a chapter member.
Field Research (Citizen Science): Citizen science activities that chapter members participate in include blue bird box monitoring and Monarch tagging at Acton Nature Center, plant surveys for butterfly habitat at Dinosaur Valley State Park, shrike surveys at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, local bioblitzes, and water quality monitoring.
A popular citizen science activity led by chapter volunteers is the First Saturday Bird Walk at Acton Nature Center. This is a monthly open-to-the-public early morning activity that includes time split between the bird blind and walking the trails around the Nature Center. Bird counts are officially recorded in eBird.
Chapter members also participate in local bioblitzes, which are intensive surveys of all living species within a designated area over a designated period (usually 24 hours). Results are recorded in iNaturalist, through which observations are independently identified and verified as research quality data.
Members can also earn volunteer hours by participating in the Texas Stream Team’s water quality monitoring program. This program depends on citizen volunteers to collect water quality data throughout the state.
Public Outreach: The chapter organizes, leads, and staffs events and activities that offer the public opportunities to learn about nature and Texas natural areas. The chapter also offers educational assistance to public and private schools and home school programs in response to requests.
The chapter organizes and hosts the following events yearly, listed from spring to fall. All events are at Acton Nature Center in Acton, Texas, and are free and open to the public.
- Feather Fest — Celebration of birds and welcome to wildflower season. Exhibits, children’s activities, presentations, hikes. On a Saturday in March.
- Mothing Event — National Moth Week event. Special speaker and children’s activities followed by gathering around light displays for attracting and identifying nocturnal insects. On a Saturday in July, late evening into the night.
- Star Party — Special speaker followed by stargazing with telescopes and guides. On a Saturday in Fall, late evening into the night.
- Monarch Event — Celebration of Monarch butterflies and their migration. Introduction to Monarch Watch Program. Education stations on Monarch life cycle; children’s activities; and capture, tagging, and release of Monarchs. On a Saturday in early October.
- Discover Earth Science — Recognition of Earth Science Week. Earth science-focused interactive exhibits, children’s activities, geo-hikes, and Earth-inspired art. On a Saturday in late October.
The chapter assists with and participates in the following yearly partner events.
- Acton Nature Run — Annual Acton Nature Center benefit 5K run/walk. Hosted by Revolver Brewery. Third Saturday in April.
- Great Backyard Bird Count — Bird walks on Saturday and Sunday of the weekend of the Great Backyard Bird Count. Bird talks in addition to the walk on Saturday. Free public event at Acton Nature Center, usually third weekend in February.
- Reptile Fest — Presented by local herpetologist and Dallas-Fort Worth Herpetological Society. Exhibits, live reptiles, children’s activities. Free public event at Acton Nature Center.
- Wing Ding — Spring-time celebration of migratory birds and winged insects. Special speakers, exhibitors and vendors, and children’s activities. Free public event at Dinosaur Valley State Park on a Saturday in early April.
Check our calendar and partners websites for other events throughout the year.
The Rio Brazos Chapter has a number of local partners in addition to state partners (Texas Parks and Wildlife and Agrilife Extension). Chapter members serve as volunteers to assist local partners in carrying out various projects and activities that meet the goals of both the Texas Master Naturalist program and partner organizations. Links in the following list will take you to partner websites where you can learn more about each.
- Acton Nature Center
- Botanical Research Institute of Texas
- Camp El Tesoro
- City of Burleson Parks & Recreation Department
- Cleburne State Park and Friends of Cleburne State Park (Facebook group)
- Dinosaur Valley State Park
- Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
- Native Plant Society of Texas, Prairie Rose Chapter
- Sunset Hill Tree Farm