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Copy of May 2019 Newsletter

THE HAYS HUMM
MAY 2019 HCMN NEWSLETTER
TOM JONES & BETSY CROSS

Cover Photo-Cedar Waxwing
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TOM WATSON

About myself: In my childhood days our family lived on the outskirts of the small West Texas town of San Angelo where the surroundings were mostly rural. There I had daily exploits with similarly adventuresome playmates in the many pasturelands near my home. It was there that I became curious about all the varied and wonderful organisms that nature provided in the wildlands. I felt an enduring sense of freedom, peacefulness, and identity. Most vividly I remember a windmill in a pasture some distance from my home where my companions and I would camp nearby. I listened to the clanking of the gearbox and whirring of the millwheel until I fell asleep; those sounds for me to this day are somnific. In those West Texas fields I began to develop a lifelong appreciation of natural ecosystems and their constituent organisms. It was not until college at a small university in the Chihuahuan Desert of far West Texas that I began my formal studies of biology. Already predisposed to fall in love with the discipline and leading to a career mostly in Plant Biology, the desert setting was an ideal outdoor laboratory for study of plants and animals. Their adaptations to that harsh climate were fascinating. After completing my BS in Biology at Sul Ross State in 1967, I spent a year in graduate school at Washington State University. I returned to Texas the following year and entered the graduate program in Botany at The University of Texas in Austin where I completed a PhD in 1972. I was an Assistant Professor of Botany at The University of Montana for 8 years and lectured at The University of Texas for 4 years. Intermixed with years of teaching were varied employments as a computer analyst with Verizon, Dell Computers, and the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. I retired in 2004. Looking for an anchor in retirement, I was introduced to the Master Naturalist program by my neighbor Delbert Basset, one of the founders of the HCMN chapter. I completed the training class and MN certification requirements with the Dragonfly class of 2004. In 2005 and 2006, I served as Board President of the HCMN. 

You may not know: My grandfather and grandmother came to my home town from Eldorado shortly after their marriage in 1898, riding in a horse-drawn wagon and taking two days to traverse the 43 miles. My grandfather, my favorite male relative, became a windmill technician who sold, installed and maintained Aeromotor windmills for farms and ranches. I marveled over how he was able to erect windmills and towers in the early 1900s using nothing more than a model A truck and a gin pole! From my Tom Sawyer experiences referenced above and with a deep and admiring love of my grandfather and his work, to this very day I become reflective, mellow, and drowsy when near the clanking and whirring of windmills.

Also: It was during my second term as President in 2006, that the very first HCMN Gala was held. Without Susan Nenny and Jean McMeans, who both served on the Board then, the Gala may have never come to be. It was also the very first time for HCMN participation in the July 4th parade in Wimberley, ramrodded by a peripatetic Susan Nenny. 

Favorite MN activity: Leading interpretive hikes for wildflowers and grasses at Onion Creek and LBJ Wildflower Center and teaching grass identification classes for the Capitol Area Master Naturalists. I also enjoy developing plant species inventories (lists) for Onion Creek and working with ecologists for Austin Water Utility (WCD) in restoration activities at Onion Creek.


MARILYN BRISTER

About myself: I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, then studied at UT Austin where I received a BA, and then an MA in German. After a few years spent raising kids, I went back to school and got a degree in Medical Record Administration at Texas State and then got a job at Central Texas Medical Center where I worked for 19 years before retiring in 2010.

 What you may not know: I am an avid model railroader and with my son built a model railroad layout in my dining room. I am active in the New Braunfels Railroad Museum where I create dioramas and layouts for the museum (one was a model of a native seed farm). As the chairman of gardening at the Museum, I maintain the small garden in front and one in the back of the museum with help from the members. Since I became caretaker of the gardens, only native plants have been added. I also belong to the San Marcos River Walkers club and have walked in all 50 states. I enjoy playing pickleball at the San Marcos Activity Center. 

Favorite MN activity: Caring for the native plant landscape at the San Marcos Discovery Center with my master naturalist friends.

 

A large portion of Hays County is heavily fractured from the extreme pressures and stress generated when the Edwards Plateau was uplifted about 40 million years ago. The fractured limestone is in part responsible for a landscape rich with sinkholes. A sinkhole is considered the most fundamental structure of karst terrain and is common throughout Hays County. They are formed by naturally acidic rainwater entering the limestone bedrock via a network of fractures or cracks. Over long time periods, the cracks widen and expand as more limestone is dissolved, thus creating a channel from the surface to the aquifer.

Sinkholes, springs and caves have similar underground structures with the difference being the size of the solution cavities or the elevation of the water table. The illustrations below show the basic differences between them. Click on the images to enlarge and view in Lightbox. Click or swipe to scroll through the images.

Sinkholes have a significant impact on the regional aquifers. They allow rainwater to be efficiently collected and routed to the aquifer. Sinkholes are the source of an important re-charge system to both the Cow Creek Aquifer in the Wimberley Valley and the Edwards Aquifer in San Macros. These aquifers supply source water to some of our most iconic water attractions. This includes Spring Lake flowing water from the Edwards Aquifer and the Cow Creek Aquifer in Wimberley. The Cow Creek Aquifer is the primary source of drinking water for Wimberley and supplies source water for Jacobs Well, Blue Hole and Pleasant Valley Springs.

The Environmental Risk From Sinkholes

Being a gateway to the aquifer, sinkholes elevate the risk of environmental damage from surface spills or other types of contamination. Sinkholes can quickly transfer pollution directly into the aquifers and ultimately at our much-loved springs. Some studies note that sinkholes increase water flow through the aquifer which may result in faster dilution of contaminantes; however, in Hays County increased pumping and the effect of droughts are responsible for lowering the water table and flow within the aquifers. For example, Jacob’s Well which once flowed year round, now experiences short periods of no flow. During these periods, it acts more like a sinkhole than a spring.

Want to know more about Karst? Click on link to read my article: Karst-The Role of Water in Shaping the Hill Country.

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If you have ever been to Landa Park and watched the spring waters come bubbling up through the rocks in the stream below the cliff and thought those springs were the headwaters of the Comal River, think again. The real headwaters are about a mile upstream on a 16-acre property located at 333 Klingemann Street that was first owned by Fritz Klingemann and was sold to the City of New Braunfels in 1907. Since that time this property has been used as a waterworks, warehouse, fleet and facilities yard, office, and inventory storage.

In 2012, the New Braunfels Utilities (NBU) Board chose to give this historically significant area back to the community. They wanted to restore it and create an educational facility. In addition to exhibits of how it has been changed to collect runoff and preserve the environment, it will have an event and conference center, an educational outreach area, and a large outdoor classroom.

In addition to the removal of asphalt parking lots, archaeological digs have been made and will continue to be made in cooperation with Texas State University. The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center has advised on the introduction of native plants. In a walking tour arranged by a friend who knew about this site, I saw the renovation that has taken place there. It includes berms to slow down storm runoff and fields of native gaillardia, horsemint, and basketflower.

I was amazed at the care that has been taken of this area by NBU and the non-profit, Headwaters at the Comal, and other cooperating entities. I think it will be a great asset to the city of New Braunfels. For more detailed information, please see the website headwatersatthecomal.com

MN BOARD MEETING

When: Thursday, May 9, 6:30 pm
Where: AgriLife Extension office, 200 Stillwater Drive Wimberley, TX 78676

CHAPTER MEETING

When: Thursday, May 23, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Where: Hill Country Bible Church Dripping Springs, 100 Commons Rd, Dripping Springs, TX 78620
6:30 pm Dinner & Announcements
7:00 pm Presentation by Shannon Brown, speaking on Rainscaping for native plants

Goodwill donations are greatly appreciated to cover our food costs

BOARD MEMBERS

President – Susan Neill
Vice President – Venita Fuller
Secretary – Tracy Mock
Treasurer – Larry Calvert
Past President – Beth Ramey
State Representative and Volunteer Service Projects Director – Dixie Camp
TPWD Advisor – Gordon Linam
New Class Director – Mark Wojcik
Advanced Training – Beverly Gordon
Calendar – Beverly Gordon
Historian – Dana Martensen
Membership Director – Jane Dunham
Webmaster – Dana Martensen
Communications Director – Art Arizpe
Outreach Events – Paula Glover 
Host Committee – Mary Dow Ross, Roxana Donegan
Newsletter – Tom Jones, Betsy Cross
AgriLife Sponsor – Jason Mangold
Training Class Representative – Linda Paul

Beverly Gordon and Tom Jones Guiding at Westcave Preserve During Easter Weekend

Photos by Meagan Whitehouse


20TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
Saturday August 10 - Dripping Springs Ranch Park

WHAT YOU CAN DO!

Add your voice to the Anniversary Committee
Contact Susan Neill – pres@haysmn.org

Write an article about your experiences as a HCMN
Contact Tom Jones – news@haysmn.org

Volunteer to work the Anniversary Celebration at DSRP
Contact Dixie Camp – advisory@haysmn.org

Share your idea for an Anniversary activity or event
Contact Dixie Camp – advisory@haysmn.org

Contribute early photos of MNs and Projects
Contact Tom Jones – news@haysmn.org

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The Hays County Master Naturalist class of 2019 had the pleasure of visiting Canyon Lake Gorge for our second field trip. We split up into two groups, one climbing from the bottom of the gorge and the other descending from the spillway. The former group was accompanied by Jamie Kinscherff as our guide and Rich Miller as our docent.

We began our journey with a quick bus ride to the bottom of the gorge, where Jamie gave us an overview of the history of the area (nicknamed flashflood alley) and the very recent origins of the gorge, which was formed in 2002 by devastating floodwaters washing over the spillway for three weeks (an estimated 84 billion gallons of water) and carving out a volume of material the equivalent of a football field over 30 stories high.

Jamie showed us some of the vegetation that is growing in the gorge (over 180 plant species identified) and we discussed the invasive nature of cattails and steps the preserve is taking to promote native species.

After our introduction to the gorge, we proceeded to explore some of the fossils that are readily visible throughout the area. One of the most fascinating aspects of Canyon Lake Gorge is the accessibility to geological layers (units) that clearly show fossils and rock formations millions of years old, including many well-preserved ocean-dwelling creatures that existed in this area during the cretaceous period. One can virtually walk through time hiking along the canyon.

The force of the water that created this gorge is apparent in the shapes and patterns of the landscape. It is resplendent with forms and features, colors and shapes. The preserve managers and master naturalist volunteers have only begun exploring all the nooks and crannies that conceal fantastic fossils and rock formations like flowstone (calcite) and limestone (morrow). The entire gorge is a showcase for the power of water: ancient ripples carved into the rock by a tidal sea in sharp contrast to the harsh boulders and gashes created by enormous volumes of water rushing through what is now the throat (gorge) of Canyon Lake. The preserve boasts active springs and water visibly flowing through a limestone aquifer.

In addition to the amazing water-formed landscape, the canyon also exposes a dramatic fault line. The preserve is frequented by research geologists studying the faults and fractures to enhance oil companies’ understanding of geological formations in petroleum exploration. One of the most visited areas is the “relay ramp” showing the large rocks outlining the fault.

After exploring the fault and taking a peek at the blue lagoon, the group ascended to the “amphitheater” – an expansive area covered in large boulders where the ground is composed of millions of tiny fossils. Handfuls of them can be scooped up and examined up close. This area also shows many “vuggy” (bored) rocks and fossils. After our brief fossil hunt, we stopped to discuss some of the Texas landscape visible in the gorge. Notably, there are trees that appear to be growing out of solid rock, their roots exposed to the elements. This area continues to lose parts of the cliff surface to rain and runoff. Our group discussed the notorious reputation of ashe juniper (cedar) and Jamie explained that this tree is not an invasive species as it is commonly portrayed. Indeed, soil samples have shown that pollen from ashe juniper was in this area during the last ice age. It is a valuable tree in regions such as the gorge, where its roots help to hold the soil in place.

After our climb, we visited the 9-meter fault wall (see banner photo – courtesy of our guide, Jamie), a beautiful example of a spectacular upheaval event, exhibiting the streaks created by moving tectonic plates. Our group’s final stop was at the top of the spillway, where we were able to view some dinosaur tracks! These belonged to acrocanthosaurus and sauroposeidon, both of which lived in this area during the cretaceous period.

As we were departing the spillway to return to the parking area, Steve Janda (Master Naturalist) was kind enough to bring the group’s attention to a canyon wren’s cascading song in a nearby tree – an appropriate end to our fabulous tour of the bejeweled “throat” of Canyon Lake!

Plans have been brewing for some time to offer educational programs at Jacob’s Well for adults. In January 2019, they became a reality. A specific topic was selected for each month, making this a fun day for the entire family. Since April is prime wildflower time in Central Texas, this is the month we selected for our plants and pollinators topic.

Visitors were offered several activities: (1) a choice of plant walks with experts to help them identify that one plant they have never been able to distinguish from a weed, (2) story time for the very young, and (3) plant pressing and identification for those a bit older. The Master Naturalists had displays of native plants and basic suggestions for plant identification via leaf shape and flower color, as well as a beautiful collection of photos featuring plants at Jacob’s Well, along with the appropriate labels. The Master Gardners assisted by demonstrating the relationship between native plants and pollinators. Another of the Master Naturalists brought examples of riparian plants and offered suggestions to those living along the river for flood remediation, and the Hill Country Native Plant Society discussed various aspects of native plants and becoming involved in the NPSOT group.

The weather offered us the mixed blessing of rain, which we all embrace, yet it also kept visitation at a minimum. Even so, 20 or so brave souls joined us and had a good time, as did the volunteers who were busily trying their hand at identifying obscure blooms. We’ll repeat this in the fall or next spring, and by that time, we will all have greatly honed our plant identification skills.

Jeri Porter

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Quincy Kennedy recently stepped down from his role as Education Coordinator at Jacob's Well Natural Area (JWNA). Under his direction, Jeri Porter and a legion of HCMNs improved JWNA in almost every area. Guiding and education programs were established and expanded. The Nature Center went from an idea to a fully functioning education center serving both Hays County and many visitors throughout the USA. His long list of accomplishments are well known and appreciated.

Jeri Porter - Early in 2017 our guide group at Jacobs Well was struggling with the educational program. We had a vision of what needed to be done but could not corral the support required to make it a reality. - Enter Quincy - Visitor satisfaction was important, but Quincy also saw the potential for expanded education at the site. We have many visitors stopping on their way through the area, but we needed a means to draw in the local folks to help them understand the importance of this natural area relative to the City of Wimberley.

Docents were recruited for the Nature Center, hardscape work was completed on the grounds, guides found new ways to engage the visitors, a registration program for swim time was implemented which was so necessary to limit human impact on the property, and the Restoration Rangers carried on in their efforts to make improvements to the site and offer a safer place for the hikers. We had a great run under Quincy's tutelage and we wish him the very best with the new chapter of his career. God speed Mr. Kennedy!!  

Suzanne Davis - Quiet, unassuming, full of knowledge and vision for Jacob's Well Natural Area. I've been at Jacob's Well for a while, and until Quincy moved into the leadership role, we made incremental, small moves forward. When Quincy came on board, the energy level jumped considerably and vision for Jacob's Well took form. Quincy had his own vision but the thing I appreciate most from a volunteer’s perspective, is how he invited all the volunteers to join him on the journey...a creative and fun journey of making Jacob's Well the awesome visitors’ destination it is today. His leadership transformed Jacob's Well Natural Area into a place teeming with outstanding volunteer opportunities. I will miss the great conversations with Quincy about the "next" idea for Jacob's Well. I will miss his inviting and enthusiastic leadership style. It was a joy and a pleasure to work with him at Jacob's Well, and I wish him immeasurable enjoyment in his next position.

Nancy Russell - Quincy was such a valuable Jacob’s Well director and go-to person for the Master Naturalist guides and docents. He listened, considered comments deeply, and then responded with both understanding and in-depth knowledge. Among many other facets was his background in native American culture which he facilitated in a meeting at the Dripping Springs Library with a local expert in North American native cultures. Thank you, Quincy, you were worth a million even if you didn’t see that in your paycheck.

Chris Rambo - At Jacob’s Well, I would study up and think that I had everything covered, then would get a question from a visitor that I couldn't answer. I'd check with Quincy for a quick answer. He would come out of the office and engage the visitors in an informative and entertaining session. He was especially good at targeting the information to the level of knowledge and understanding of the audience and knew well how to engage kids. When it came time to recognize the volunteers at an appreciation pot luck, it became obvious that he had put much thought into personalizing an award for each one of us. We will miss you Quincy! 

Tom Jones - Thank you, Quincy. I want you to know how much I enjoyed working together on the many volunteer projects at Jacob’s Well. I have learned from from you and your efforts. It truly had an impact on me. You helped to make JWNA what it is today.

Deb Bradshaw - Quincy was a joy to work with. He had great ideas, endless enthusiasm, and he valued the contributions of others. He was a real "people" person” - perfect for his job. I am going to miss walking into the Nature Center & hearing "You know, I've been thinking”. I wish him happiness, challenges, adventure, and colleagues who appreciate him as much as we do.

Betsy Cross - Can’t thank you enough, Quincy, for being so generous, supportive, and appreciative. You always exceed expectations and keep things moving toward a greater goal. You have made a far-reaching impact on Jacob’s Well. I know you will be just as successful in your new venture. We will miss you!