Donna Browning

About Me: I grew up in Bedford, MA, next door to Concord, land of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, the Alcotts, and where I attended K-12. My Mom and Dad were "city folks” from near Boston, trying to get started in the post war suburbs. Despite Thoreau’s writing about Walden (or perhaps they were unfamiliar with him?), they would not allow me to take local swimming lessons because they were given at Walden Pond. I suspect they were sure their daughters would be exposed to encephalitis. Regardless, I was exposed to plenty of nature, following Mom and Dad around the yard, planting and observing all kinds of interesting things: club moss, ferns, blueberries, lady slipper orchids and lots of chipmunks and mosquitoes. We spent winters ice skating on the pond behind our lot that had been part of a dairy farm and is now occupied by a Whole Foods store. Attended college in Kansas City and returned to live for five years on the outer part of Cape Cod. Moved to Texas to find a piece of land I could live on, little knowing that I would also find a partner and have two children. One son now lives in Seattle and one in northern Wisconsin near Lake Superior.

You May Not Know: I have always been confused by the “find your passion” theory!  I have worked many types of jobs, including nursing and recreational therapy, landscaping, cooking and baking, working with databases and data analysis. I guess I am a generalist because I get just so much knowledge in an area and I am ready to tackle something else!  This year I also became a Wisconsin Master Naturalist. Their program has only been in operation for about 3 years. Michelle Haggerty, TX coordinator for the Master Naturalist program, worked with them on the development of their program. WI MN also differs in that one can volunteer anywhere in the state and do advanced training in neighboring states. I completed all my advanced training at a three day botany class in the Keweenaw on the Upper Penninsula of Michigan. The Keweenaw is that large peninsula, shaped like a claw that points north into Lake Superior from the Michigan UP.  I had taken a class last year at Isle Royale NP with a botanist from  the Isle Royale and Keweenaw Parks Association and was delighted to find that her Keweenaw class would count as AT.  Among other areas we explored during her class, we walked in a beautiful bog with thousands of two kinds of orchids and pitcher plants in bloom and loads of sundew plants!  It was hard to know where to put one's feet!  

My Favorite Master Naturalist Activity: Anything to do with plants, particularly if I can work with someone from whom I can learn. I enjoy supporting City of San Marcos projects,including Friends of the Trees, Sessoms Park and San Marcos Greenbelt as well as Austin Water Quality projects in Buda.

Animal I would most like to be—at least for a little while:  I always thought I would love to be a vulture!  They appear to have so much fun just soaring in the wind!  Recently, however, I saw my first flying fish and that looks like even more fun!  (Yes, I know that it is thought they are fearing for their lives when they fly, but to go from swimming to flying, oh, what fun!)

Kristy Daniel

About Myself: I grew up in mid-Missouri and was inspired, like so many other girls, to explore biology thanks to the work of Jane Goodall.  I was absolutely fascinated by the outdoors and grew up climbing trees and playing in creeks. It was in college when a professor, Dr. Amspoker, first introduced me to plant taxonomy. I had never before noticed just how many different varieties of plants I was surrounded by every day, I was instantly hooked. I took every plant class I was able to during my undergrad and worked my summers as a field botanist and Naturalist for the State of Missouri. I went on to study plant-insect interactions during my Master’s program at Iowa State University when I was introduced to the amazing world of plant galls!  While I loved the work I was doing in biology, I quickly learned I loved teaching people about biology even more.  I decided to change my path and applied to a Ph.D. program at the University of Missouri where I would no longer study biology directly, but rather I began to study how people make sense of and share their understandings of biology to others. I moved to Hattiesburg, Mississippi for my first job as an Assistant Professor of Biology where I met my now husband, James Daniel. After we married, we decided we wanted to move closer to family which led us to San Marcos, TX where we are now happy to call home. 

You May Not Know: I have always been what I would call a bit nerdy.  As a child, I used to dream of becoming a college professor or a mermaid. I used to joke with my students that I made the right decision when I ended up becoming a biology professor. But, now that I’ve moved to San Marcos, I have been offered the unique chance to be both a biology professor at Texas State University and a mermaid through my involvement with the mermaid society. Also, I love to travel (seriously, I’ve been to all 50 states and 32 countries so far). 

FAV Master Naturalist Activity or Project: I enjoy serving on the Master Naturalist Training Team as the Speaker organizer because it gives me a chance to meet so many people that love nature as much as I do!  

Bird you most identify with:  While I am mostly a plant person, if I had to pick a favorite bird, I would have to claim the Atlantic Puffin.  I travel to Ireland almost every year as part of a study abroad program I run through Texas State University and have enjoyed following the conservation success story of these beautiful birds that nest in the Cliffs of Moher (one of my favorite natural places to visit).  

James Kinscherff

About Me: My 3 siblings and I grew up in El Paso with an appreciation of the sparse beauty of the desert. Our family spent summers in Cloudcroft NM where we were free to hike in the woods, build forts, and ride horses. In fifth grade my Dad, a military man, was transferred to Sacramento where we had easy access to the Sierra Nevada and the Redwoods. I went to three different high schools (not recommended) as we moved to S. California and then Illinois. I went to the University of San Diego, then built my first two guitars at Mr. Mitton’s Cabinet Shop. I was the fifth employee at Taylor Guitars. That led to my forty-year career as a guitar maker, moving to Austin in 1990 to open a shop off South Congress. I came to Wimberley in 1999 and lived on the Tapp Ranch. I went through the MN training in 2003 and was asked to serve on the Training Committee, which I did for several years. Martha and I married in 2012 and live on a rural property near Driftwood. We enjoy being a part of a vibrant community with lots of wonderful friends.

Things you may not know: I picked up surfing as hobby and it’s the only thing I miss about San Diego. Through the years I’ve played in various local bands both in California and Austin. Music remains a very important part of my life. Martha is a terrific singer/songwriter and I’m often her sideman. I worked for over a year with a team of wood carvers creating entry doors for The Vineyard on Hwy 620. In 1986, I remodeled a house on Swiss Ave. in Dallas making a mantle, paneled ceiling, custom stairway and more. My “tip” was a roundtrip ticket to Paris so I sold most worldly possessions and went on a walkabout. I traveled alone through Europe, N. Africa, India and Nepal. I used to deliver quarter horses from Houston to Amsterdam on a 747. Martha and I continue to enjoy travel both near and far.

Favorite MN project: I first hiked Canyon Gorge as part of our MN training in 2003. I spent as much time there as possible, learning first from Carter Kearns and then Bill Ward. I was in the first group of guides leading hikes for the Gorge Preservation Society. I now teach the ecology section of the training to the new docents. I’m privileged to have developed relationships with Trinity University, U.T. Geology department and Southwest Research Institute. My favorite moment comes when someone tells me they “will never view the earth the same again” after a hike through Canyon Gorge.

Bird I most identify with: To me, the male bowerbird is most remarkable. Their radiant plumage isn’t enough to attract a mate so they construct complex bowers from twigs and decorate them with colorful objects like flowers, berries, shells, and even human refuse like bottle caps, plastic bits and cutlery. They often arrange these decorations from large to small creating a walkway to attract a female-an optical illusion that humans didn’t perfect until the fifteenth century! This crazy bird creates a structure that’s more sophisticated than many examples of animal tool making. Many scientists consider this bower to be no less than a work of art.

Martha Kinscherff

About Me: I grew up in Houston, the oldest of five to a newspaper dad and an activist mom on the banks of Sims Bayou. My sibs and I spent a lot of time outdoors, experiencing the natural world. After graduation from the U. of Houston, I spent a few years teaching in the Third Ward nearby and then in Galena Park. After moving to central Texas where my son grew up, I had the privilege of being a middle school counselor in Pflugerville and Georgetown, where I retired after 32 years in education. I went into private practice for 16 years as Martha Pinto, LPC, working with families and children who dealt with adoption, abuse, foster care and the court system. After Jamie and I married, we found our place to see the stars near Driftwood. I went through the MN training in 2014 and found it to be one of the most amazing experiences in my life! I currently volunteer as Chair of the Student Art Contest with the Texas Night Sky Festival, and as Recording Secretary for the Wimberley Valley Dark Sky Committee.

Things you may not know: I taught myself guitar at 16, and have been singing and writing songs since then. I sing with a woman’s group in Austin, and love playing music with Jamie. In 2011, I was inspired to join Global Camps Africa, a non-profit camp for young people who have been harshly impacted by HIV and Aids. It remains one of my most memorable experiences. I have been fortunate to be able to travel to many places around the world, including Central and South America, Asia, central Europe, New Zealand, Sweden and Norway. Many trips included outdoor adventures. I’ve paddled the lower canyons of Big Bend twice, and kayaked many Texas rivers.

Favorite MN project: Being on the river has always been a kick for me, so I really enjoyed surveying and planting wild rice on the beautiful San Marcos.

Bird I most identify with: To me, the canyon wren has the most beautiful voice, and it always takes me back to the majestic peace of Santa Elena Canyon.

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Article by Constance Quigley

Article by Constance Quigley

The Hays County Master Naturalist class of 2019 (the Horned Lizards) traveled to Bamberger Ranch for our 5th field trip. This fabulous preserve is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Our group gathered just inside the entrance to the 5500-acre preserve, where we were introduced to Colleen Gardner, Executive Director since 2008 and ranch resident for twenty years. Colleen gave us a brief history of the ranch and its founder, David Bamberger.

Colleen explained to us that the ranch and everyone on it is there because David Bamberger read a book. That book was Pleasant Valley by Louis Bromfield, which describes the connection between humans and the land. This book inspired Bamberger to pursue his own dream of restoring a desolate piece of land to its former glory, and the result is Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve. You will find links to the preserve’s history and David’s personal life history at the end of this article. 

In the 50 years since David purchased the “worst piece of ranchland he could find”, the land has been transformed from dry, over-grazed ashe juniper scrub to savannah and forested habitats interspersed with natural springs that support an abundance of wildlife. The steps taken to achieve this have been monumental: 3,000 acres of ashe juniper cleared, $25,000 of native grass seed planted initially, dozens of varieties of other native tree and plant species reintroduced and tended. 

The table compares surveys taken shortly after the purchase and very recently.

The table compares surveys taken shortly after the purchase and very recently.

After our introduction, we accompanied Steve Fulton (resident biologist) into a wooded area of ashe juniper to discuss this particular native species of Texas. Historically controlled by natural fires, large herds of grazing bison, and drought, ashe juniper has become an invasive species due to ranchers fencing their land and preventing fires to protect property and livestock. 

Ashe juniper has a very fast growth rate. In addition, the fallen needles from the trees also accumulate and soak up water, which then evaporates and is lost to vegetation, exacerbating the drying effect across large expanses of ranchland. The end result is a very hard surface which increases run off during heavy rains.  Because of its dry characteristics, ashe juniper is very susceptible to fire and can be controlled/killed with prescribed burns. 

In contrast, grasslands absorb 80% of rainfall and hold it in their root systems. Grasses are quickly burned by fire, but their roots allow them to recover quickly. For this reason, one of the methods used by Bamberger Ranch Preserve to maintain their savannah is regular prescribed burns. 

Our next stop on the preserve was Madrone Lake – the headwaters of Miller Creek.  Here we observed the amazing benefits of conservation efforts. The area is surrounded by trees, all under 50 years old. A large patio here is used to educate visitors and demonstrate the effects of rainfall on grassland vs. ashe juniper scrubland. A butterfly garden has been constructed next to this area, and the area is alive with birds and insects. Turtles dot the water’s surface. The spring-fed creek has never gone dry since it was revived nearly 50 years ago. 

Our group took a short hike from the lake to observe the variety of trees that have been planted along the creek. Colleen showed us the arroyo – a deep drainage area that is still in recovery from overgrazing decades ago – and pointed out some of the efforts to clear ashe juniper in this area.

 The motto at Bamberger Ranch Preserve is “Don’t start a project if you can’t sustain it”.  The removal of ashe juniper requires constant effort and diligence, as a single female tree can produce ¼ million berries in a normal year. If you remove a tree, dozens will grow in its place.

We boarded our open-air tour bus again after climbing up the other side of the arroyo and into another area of savannah. The next stop was to see the small herd of scimitar-horned oryx that the preserve has helped to sustain on 643 dedicated acres. These creatures are extinct in the wild, but Bamberger has managed to maintain a herd of 40-60 animals through a controlled breeding program. This year they had 24 babies. Excess animals are sold to exotic ranchers and used for ecotourism. 

Another conservation effort is the “chiroptorium” or bat observation cave. This is one of only two man-made bat caves in the world. It was constructed from local materials in 1998 and is now home to approximately 400,000 Mexican free-tail bats. Bats are surprisingly efficient at pest control, devouring corn earworm moths and cotton boll worms in addition to many other pests. The bat population of Texas is estimated to save the agricultural industry $2 billion annually. 

Our final stop was Hes’ Country Store, where we were greeted by none other than David Bamberger himself. Mr. Bamberger regaled us with some touching stories about his mother Hester for whom the store is named. He then invited us inside to explore the myriad of implements, tools, and kitchen utensils that his mother gave him for this historical reproduction of his mother’s cabin and his childhood home.

Our tour concluded with some book-signings and lively discussions about the preserve and the fascinating life of the man who made it all happen. 

In the past few years, Mr. Bamberger made several attempts to give his property to organizations that could sustainably care for it. Rejected by the Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy, both of which wanted to monetize the property to cover management costs, Selah Bamberger Ranch Preserve was finally deeded to the San Antonio Area Foundation. 

This 50-year turnaround project has not been easy or quick. It has required thousands of hours of human labor and millions of dollars of investment. After experiencing this tour of the preserve, I concluded that the most fundamental ingredient for Bamberger’s success is pure determination of spirit. David Bamberger is himself a force of nature. At 91 years of age, he is as spry and articulate and vocal as can be. It was a true privilege to meet him and hear his stories in person and it is a joy to know that his labor of love is now guaranteed to survive in perpetuity as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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On September 18th, attendees at the One Water Summit held in Austin, participated in a site visit to view two iconic Hill Country springs.  This included stops at the Headwaters at the Comal and Jacob’s Well Natural Area (JWNA) in Wimberley. The agenda was to get an up close look at successful restoration projects for these important water features and how the communities have implemented the goals of One Water. “One Water” is defined by the Water Research Foundation as an integrated planning and implementation approach to managing finite water resources for long-term resilience and reliability, meeting both community and ecosystem needs. 

I quickly signed up to help guide the visitors and show them the great progress that has been achieved at JWNA in managing wildlife, native plants and water resources.  I was joined by fellow HCMN Jeff Vasgaard.  Also hosting the One Water visitors were David Baker, Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, Lon Shell, Hays Co. Commissioner and Katherine Sturdivant with the Parks Department.   

I arrived at JWNA at noon and helped set up the Nature Center in advance of the One Water Summit group. The bus with the One Water Summit attendees arrived and we gathered in the Nature Center. David, Lon and Katherine welcomed the attendees. They gave a brief history of the JWNA along with a summary of the ongoing land and water management efforts.

We divided into three tour groups. Jeff, Katherine, and I each led a group. I took my group down the dry Cypress Creek, along the cliffs and ended at the Well. It was a hot day and I made only a few stops along the way, preferring to give most of my guide information at the Well. It was much cooler standing on the weir over the spring water. The view of the well was great as always. The other two tour groups arrived a few minutes later. Swimming was definitely an option for the Summit attendees. David Baker led the way, stripped to his swim suit and jumped off the cliff into JW. This prompted many of the attendees to join him. The conversations about JWNA and the water issues in Hays Co. immediately shifted to the pool.The swimming portion of the visit lasted over 30 minutes. We headed back to the Nature Center, posed for a group photo and the visitors boarded the bus back to Austin for the One Water Summit activities. 

Learn More About One Water-Click Here

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One Year Anniversary of Publishing the HCMN Newsletter Online

Click Here to View


President – Susan Neill
Vice President – Vacant
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
VMS Coordinator: Patty Duhon
Webmaster – Dana Martensen
Communications Director – Art Arizpe
Outreach Events – Paula Glover 
Host Committee – Mary Dow Ross, Roxana Donegan
Training Class Representative – Linda Paul
Newsletter – Tom Jones, Betsy Cross
AgriLife Sponsor– Jason Mangold


When:  Thursday, October 10, 6:30 pm
Where: Agri-Life Extension office
200 Stillwater Drive Wimberley, TX 78676


When: Thursday, October 24, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Where: Lutheran Church in Wimberley
Time: Dinner and announcements at 6:30, speaker at 7:00. Goodwill donations are greatly appreciated to cover food costs

Speaker: Lee Ann Linam will present
"Where Have All the Horny Toads Gone?"
AT Chapter Meeting Speaker - 1 hour

For twenty years, “Outreach” has been an integral part of growing the HCMN organization into what it is today - a dynamic organization that provides an extensive range of expertise and achievements that benefit our communities. We need to continue to grow and the Outreach Committee is ramping up efforts to more effectively accomplish just that.

“We do not need to preach to the choir. The folks we need to talk to are those who have never heard of us.” This is a theme Outreach Coordinator, Paula Glover, invokes repeatedly. To accomplish this objective, Outreach has formed two new teams, Community Liaison and Festivals, both designed to more effectively extend our reach to all of Hays County.

The newly formed Community Liaison Team is busily identifying a variety of opportunities across different parts of the county. They are doing things like arranging speakers for community libraries, YMCAs, homeowner associations, etc. as well as identifying local and community wide festivals where Outreach can set up a table. Team members focused on each of the four segments into which the county has been divided are Christine Middleton (Wimberley), Sue Harding (Dripping Springs), Patty Duhon (San Marcos), and Lauralee Harris (Kyle/Buda).

The Festivals Team mans the tables set up at festivals and other events throughout the county. Traditionally, we have participated in the Butterfly, Night Skies, Rainwater, and Mermaid festivals as well as the Wimberley Library Summer Reading Kick-off. This year we have expanded our reach by adding the Jacob’s Well Fun Days, San Marcos’ Sustainability Fair, Plum Creek End of Summer Bash and Wings over Wimberley. Wings over Wimberley, our most recent event, employed nineteen HCMN volunteers to man our table over three days.

An exciting new area Outreach has identified involves working with area realtors to more effectively reach newcomers to Hays County. Many arrive with an appreciation of our natural beauty, but little knowledge of what is needed to keep our local ecosystems sustainable, making them a perfect target for a more focused effort. New Outreach materials such as magnets advertising our beautifulhayscounty website, articles appearing in real estate magazines, and classes to train realtors are all in the works.

Stay tuned. But don’t forget while many contribute directly to Outreach with their time, energy and expertise, all of us share the responsibility of enlightening others on the Master Naturalist program and its many benefits.

Outreach Booth At Wings Over Wimberley

We Love Water - Jacob’s Well Natural Area
Saturday, October 5, 2019

Free Family Fun Days – Discover, Learn, Explore

FREE FAMILY FUN DAYS are on the 1st Saturday of the month. Staff and Master Naturalist trained volunteers will facilitate fun and educational activities for children of all ages. This month it’s all about water! Come out to the park on October 5th for a couple hours of FREE games and activities focused on water quality and conservation. You’ll learn a few tips on how to conserve water in your own home while you’re at it. Then, take a guided hike with us down to Jacob’s Well to learn more about the amazing spring and the water flowing through it! 

Various activity stations will be located both indoors and outdoors and will include:
— Water Conservation bean bag toss 
— Test your TDS, test your drinking water and see how it compares
— Kids craft station
— More activities planned

Event begins at noon and will end around 2 p.m. Guided Hike will begin at 1:45 p.m. No tickets necessary to participate. This event is FREE to the public. Meet at the Jacob’s Well Natural Area Nature Center – park in Parking Lot C for this event. (Lots A & B will be used for overflow). Event will be held rain or shine. In the event of bad weather, the activities will be held indoors. Be sure to bring water and good walking shoes.

Link To Hays County Parks website for more information.

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San Marcos' Second Annual Monarch Fest

Save the date, October 19th 9am-4pm, for San Marcos' second annual Monarch Fest! Conservation groups will be there to show visitors the importance of monarch butterflies and other pollinators that can be found in the region. Peruse our fall native plant sale and be inspired to build your own butterfly garden and lend a helping hand to pollinators while enjoying native flowers. Did you know Central Texas is in the heart of a flyway for many migrating species of birds and insects including the monarch butterfly? That means we are lucky enough to witness a diversity of migrating species when the time is right. Come see what San Marcos is doing as a city to help pollinators and learn how to get involved to make a difference!
Monarch Fest Link: http://www.sanmarcostx.gov/2848/Monarch-Fest