Tell Your Story - Member Interviews

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?: I think my first project was volunteering at Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center. I worked at the welcome desk. The people that work there were very nice, interesting and it was neat to meet visitors from all over the world. Of course hiking down to the grotto or on the upland trails is an experience every one would enjoy. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and that is where I saw my "lifer" Golden-cheeke Warbler
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: Picking a favorite is practically impossible. They are all different and fun in their own ways. I have really enjoyed working on the newsletter. The Fourth of July parade was quite an event and I will definitely do that again. I look forward to Project Feeder Watch every year because I love birds and learn so much. But right now, working on the Dripping Springs Ranch Park Aviary Observation Deck has a big place in my heart. I really love this place and am so glad I got to be involved in something that I know will bring joy to folks and the children for years to come. It is a very peaceful place for me.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN?: Most of my funny memories are from class events. The instructors and speakers always made things interesting. We had many good laughs. Nature can be cruel but it is also funny.
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You?: I am excited to get to be a part of a great group of people with the same interests in caring for the beautiful nature around us. I look forward to meeting old and new members and visiting with ones I have worked with. I think this group has done many great things. I look forward to being a part of the great things they do in the future.

What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: I think it was helping with the Chinaberry Tree mapping at the Onion Creek WQPL. The project was lead by Tom Watson who did an excellent job of explaining what we were doing, why, and keeping us straight (literally). We had to conduct sweeps of the entire property and record the GPS coordinates of all the Chinaberry trees. The results were used by the City of Austin Water Utility to plan the eradication and control of this invasive, non-native species. I completely enjoyed every time we were out there. It was such a beautiful and peaceful hike.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: I enjoy leading nature hikes and tours. It's great to see young people getting involved and having so much knowledge already.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN?: We were at the Onion Creek property and one of the new folks wanted to make sure he knew what a chinaberry tree looked like. Tom spotted a small one a bit away from the road. I offered to retrieve a sample of it to examine. I hiked off the road and brought it back to Tom. Tom was very kind because I had incorrectly brought back a flame leaf sumac. Tom explained my error and asked me to go get the right one. How embarrassing! So much for my knowledge as an experienced chinaberry hunter! Tom was very cool about it and said it was easy to get the two confused. Very classy.
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to you?: I'm happy to be associated with so many fine people who care about our surroundings as much as I do. The members are a constant source of learning for me.

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?: Eastern Bluebird nest box - made 2 "permanent" bird boxes from the supplies and instructions provided by Bonnie Tull. I cut and drilled all the PVC, and then assembled the boxes.
They will replace the older ones in Dripping Springs Ranch Park.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: Participating with the Outdoor Educators in March to tell 3rd graders about birds.
The kids were very interested and enthusiastic about the topics. It was very easy to get into character and be 9 years old again.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN?: I love to learn. It's exciting to hang out with the same type of people that get as excited as I do when we discover an insect, bird, plant, etc on the site visits or field trips during the certification training period. I remember, after the class presentation at the Freeman Ranch we were given butterfly nets. Our mission: to collect butterflies and identify (with the help of our instructor). We worked as teams of two as they were only enough nets for 1/2 the class. So imagine, 15 - 20 people running thru the fields with butterfly nets. At one point, I realized we probably look like escapees from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You?: The tip of the iceberg. I'm in the class of 2019 so it's exciting to find my passion in and with an organization whose members share the same respect for the environment and planet Earth as me. It's the tip of the iceberg because I'm just getting started on this new journey with Mother Nature and sharing this journey with others.

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?: I put caterpillar food in the little containers for the Butterfly Festival.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: I have really enjoyed being on the Training Committee, mostly because it gives me a chance to revisit the material and keep reinforcing what we are learning.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN?: Before I figured out the various communication tools that we use as a chapter I kept getting emails about LBB's. I finally figured out that these notes were encouraging me to learn more about "little brown birds." I've made some progress, but have to admit I still can't tell most of them apart despite all the encouragement.
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You?: I have only been here a few years, but having such a substantial and well developed organization in place has greatly enhanced my appreciation of where I am living and how rapidly I felt "at home" as I settled into my new life here.

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?:
 Perhaps VMS will refute me, but I recall my first volunteer experience at the Emily Ann Butterfly Festival. I had the privilege of releasing butterflies, witnessing the awe and wonder of young minds. This also afforded me an eye-opening insight of how little society knows about our precious resources & native species. Thus, flaming a passion to protect and preserve nature however I can!
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: My favorite activity is simply being outside! Since graduation, I’ve been on the Training Committee’s Site Visit Team and seem to have a talent for recruitment. (You’ll find me a most outreach events, hawking the program.) I find this committee’s genuine dedication, diverse backgrounds, and infectious humor are a magnet that keeps drawing me back year after year.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN?: I suppose I have been a Naturalist all my life, beginning with my grandmother’s teachings about birds. When Lauren Young and I graduated, we were so inspired that we went out and got dragonfly tattoos! I proudly display this at every opportunity to talk about HCMN.
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You?: This tribe has become my church. I find renewed spiritual energy with every encounter! I feel blessed to surround myself with like-minded souls who devote time and energy to rescue & revive all things in nature.

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?:
 I believe my first project was at Jacob's Well while I was still a trainee. There was a group of us. Most of the guys had some project going that required tools and muscles. The rest of us were sent to remove Malta star-thistle. I got to know several of the members that day visiting while sitting in a very small space pulling up thousands of Malta star-thistle plants. I enjoyed getting to know these members better, but I run at the mention of Malta star-thistle to this day.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: My favorite volunteer project and the one that I spend most of my time is Westcave Outdoor Learning Center. I lead tours and assist the conservation team. I love introducing others to the canyon and grotto and providing information about the eco-systems, geology, flora and fauna of this special place . For most people it is their first time to visit and they are blown away by the beauty of the waterfall and unique vegetation that is in the canyon. The conservation work is always fun too. I have helped with building bird blinds, setting posts, clearing fire breaks, invasive and planting trees to name a few.
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You?:
 The HaysMN members have made this organization the best there is. It is evident in the many volunteer projects, dedicated leaders, and the many hours that have been spent on them. I believe the citizens of Hays County have received many great benefits as a result and will continue to receive more in the future.

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?:
 I volunteer at the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment as part of the AquaCorps volunteer diving program. We dive in Spring Lake (San Marcos) to help monitor and manage the lake. A typical task is to remove overgrown aquatic plants that are blocking the view of spring openings from visitors in the glass-bottom boats. I was already enjoying this activity when I became a Master Naturalist, and now I can use this fun activity to get hours for ongoing certification as well as the Texas Waters Specialization. Anyone who is already certified as a recreational diver can take a weekend-long Dive Authorization Course to join the AquaCorps group. Spring Lake is about 70 degrees F all year long. In the summer it is so refreshing to get into the cool water to complete a dive assignment. In the winter it feels fine, too, but getting out of the water into a stiff cool breeze can be a bit uncomfortable! It is incredibly relaxing to dive into the quiet waters, and to get to see some of the largemouth bass, crayfish, gar, and turtles that occupy the lake. It's such an amazing experience - it almost doesn't seem real!
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: Recently I started participating in the City of San Marcos's land management project at the Sessoms Creek Park. This city-owned property near Texas State University was partially covered in bamboo when the project began less than two years ago. City staff and volunteers together have transformed the appearance of the park, removing bamboo, chinaberry, tree of heaven, and ligustrum, and sowing native wildflower seeds. Why do I enjoy it? I've learned something about myself recently. I really love removing invasive plants. There is something almost Zen-like about pulling up a tiny chinaberry sprout, and seeing that you got it, root and all! Also I must mention that breakfast kolaches or a pizza lunch are provided to the volunteers to thank them for their hard work. Master Naturalists all know how important food is to us!
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN?: These are still early days for me since I just graduated last year! This morning I marched with HCMN in the Wimberley Fourth of July parade. We had the big banner up front proclaiming our identity, the truck (decorated with butterflies) playing patriotic music, and the rest of us marching along behind playing our kazoos. The crowd was very interested in who we were, and appreciative of our group. When we started playing, many bystanders actually joined in singing along. "This Land is Your Land" seemed like the magic tune that really got people excited. It was silly and fun, and I want to do it every year from now on!
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You?: As a newbie, I am in awe of the hard work that must have gone into creating the Hays County chapter. It is clear to me that Hays County is the best chapter in the state, and I'm just glad I had the wisdom to be living here already, or else I would have had to move!

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?: San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance Trail crew. We created new trails and maintain the trails in all six of the natural areas in San Marcos. I was a member of the trail crew before I joined HCMN. Lance Jones and Dick McBride got my interest up and the rest is history. I still work on the trail crew. After I joined the HCMN, I worked in the Discovery Center (formally known as the Nature Center) for several years.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: I work as a volunteer in the Schulle Canyon Natural Area. I live next to this 22 acre in the middle of San Marcos. I enjoy keeping the trails trimmed and the trees off the trails. I walk this area daily and taking care of this area means a lot to help provide a great place for the human visitors and the natural residents.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN?: The whole experience as a Master Naturalist has been great fun.
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You?: This tells me that HCMN is a thriving and growing organization. I think Hays County is a better place b

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?:
 San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: I do three or four regular projects and they’re all fun. Mostly for the opportunity to be outside with friends and accomplishing tangible results.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN?: Every volunteer day is an opportunity to learn.
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You?: We’ve come a long way, we’re a dynamic organization and we’re making positive changes in our community.

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?: As far as I can recall, my first project was at what was then called the San Marcos Nature Center - now the Discovery Center. We tried to showcase native plants by removing invasive, non-natives and keeping the beds in reasonable order.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: Truly, I enjoyed every project I worked on. The surveys at the Wildflower center, the china berry mapping, seed collecting and seeding at Onion Creek, monitoring the river in Martindale with the Texas Stream Team, removing water hyacinth at the Meadows Center with SMRF, helping with the school classes at Lockhart SP, "picking bugs" with TPW..........can't find a fav! Satisfying work, really great folks and continuous learning. What could be better?
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN?: We used to go out in Kayaks to collect water hyacinths from the Sink Creek Slough. One time, while attempting to bring a full load back, I ended up with one foot on the ground, one in the heavily listing kayak and you can picture the result. The cool water felt great, though!
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You?: This organization is so impressive. The people it attracts, the public education it offers and the measurable results of so many volunteers is so encouraging. The continuing evolution of the program, and particularly of the HCMN chapter is what has contributed to the longevity of the program. This anniversary is a testament to the fact that people can work together, iron out differences and make real progress.

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?
: Removed invasive plants from Aguarena Springs in San Marcos.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: Aguarena Springs (Meadows Center). I enjoyed working with the HCMN and SMRF (San Marcos River Foundation) volunteers.

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?
: My first project was working with the Restoration Rangers at Jacobs Well Natural area.
Area.What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: My professional background is being a writer and videographer and editor. I have used that experience to help support a number of different projects as well as record classes for those in the process of becoming Master Naturalists.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN?: Well, I always said that before going through the new member classes, I could only identify what I saw in the natural world according to whether it was an animal, vegetable or mineral. I did make some improvement in that area.
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You?: There is a great store of knowledge shared by HCMN members. The amount of volunteer work over the years has been extensive and the results impressive. It is one of the best organizations in the county both in its conservation efforts and its public outreach. Congratulations to everyone involved.

What was your first project and what did you do
With many San Marcos residents in the first class that’s where the first projects were organized but I think our first one in Wimberley was the Patsy Glenn bird refuge behind the Community Center. Our initial focus was getting a plant survey done while we were still learning plants ourselves. Another early one for sure was the rainwater demonstration units Billy Kniffen built and made sure we used at every possible public event. Billy was and remains the best advocate for good land management you can find and his rainwater demonstrations are the best graphic proof of the value of native plants.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity and why?  We have two – site visits because we get to meet some interesting folks and see parts of the county we’d never get to see otherwise, and Blue Hole Regional Park, because we like thinning cedars and pulling up non-native plants.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with the Chapter?One of our class meetings was at Freeman Ranch to see a project Billy and others had set up to measure the amount of rain intercepted by cedar trees as opposed to what reached soil and percolated down in adjacent grassy areas. An impressive project. Another: one site visit was to a cattle ranch devoted exclusively to providing wombs for giving birth to the most highly valued breed stock. The ranch received embryos of artificially fertilized eggs and implanted them in cows themselves bred for this purpose. This had to be the most highly specialized business in Hays County at the time.
What does the HCMN 20thAnniversary mean to you?  It proves we’ve matured into one of the stronger and more diversified chapters; it demonstrates the strength and value of the program and gives a degree of hope that some area residents are committed to environmentally sound land management.

JACKIE MATTICE – 2008 Class – Roadrunners
What was your 1st. Project and what did you do
? As a retired science teacher I knew I wanted to join or start a program for school children. Jane Little and Cara Wernli had started the 3rd grade birding program at the Patsy Glenn Refuge which I joined. Eventually we added other grades to visit other local natural sites with the goal of exposing Wimberley students to the natural areas in our community. We take high school students on the Cypress Creek Nature Trail, work with 2nd graders at their outdoor education facility to promote plant education, hold a water fair for the 5th graders at Jacob's Well Elementary, take middle school students on a field trip to Blue Hole and 3rd graders to Patsy Glenn Refuge for a birding program.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why? Wimberley Outdoor Educators continues to be my favorite HCMN activity.  I also enjoy my outreach writing for the Wimberley View in conjunction with Keep Wimberley Beautiful. The weekly column (I write every other week) forces me to learn more about the local environment, which is why I became a Master Naturalist and continue to value the program. 
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN? One endearing story took place at Blue Hole as the students were returning to the bus.  One middle school young man said to his friend, " I had no idea there was so much nature at Blue Hole." Mission accomplished!

JANE DUNHAM -   2010 CLASS Prickly Pears
What was your 1st. Project and what did you do? I assisted the Education Director for Jacob’s Well with many activities and student group visits at the well.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why? I am passionate about water conservation and am always happy to find a way to educate people about the need for it.
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You? It means we have established a strong chapter with lots of enthusiastic volunteers who sustain it.

CONSTANCE QUIGLEY – 2019 Class – Class Name TBD
What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?
 My first project was acting as docent/nature center guide at Jacobs Well Natural Area. It's a lot of fun and there is some interaction with the public, so it's an opportunity to educate and contribute to visitors' awareness of the importance of our aquifer and the restoration of our wild areas in Texas.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why? I really love the vegetation surveys at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It's so much fun to get out in the field and observe tiny plants emerging in the spring and fall. It's a fabulous long-term project (over 20 years now) studying the effects of fire on prairie recovery and species diversity. I enjoy spending the time with other plant aficionados and learning how to identify the enormous quantity of native (and invasive) plants that grow in Central Texas.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN? Well, I'm not even an "official" master naturalist yet. This is my training year. I think most of the entertainment so far involves getting lost trying to find projects using GPS and discovering how very large Hays County really is when you have to drive to various parts of it for projects or training. Oh, and the mosquitoes! And the joys of finding your way around low-water crossings that are closed due to flooding. Yes - all of that and more - but it's so worth it! I love HCMN - it's like finding long-lost family who don't think I'm crazy for having a jungle around my house!
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You? The 20th anniversary is a special milestone for any organization. I'm so impressed that HCMN has grown so much and contributed so much to Hays County. I'm excited to be a part of this great organization and hope to spend many years participating, sharing, educating, and most importantly learning about animals, plants, water, land use, geology, etc. Twenty years is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to all the subjects we need to study!

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do? 
Chaetura Canyon Sanctuary, Travis Co. The work involved tail maintenance.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why? Being a Guide at Westcave Preserve.The biggest joy is just being outdoors. It is a new experience every time even though I give tours on the same trail many times. Guiding is an interactive experience with individuals and groups that came to see and learn about a new place.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with the Chapter? I am a relative newbie with the Chapter, so no early days. Working with the Newsletter, I have had the opportunity to discover what a unique and wonderful Chapter we have in Hays County.  So many talented people willing to work hard to educate and improve the natural resources.
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You? For 20 years HCMN have invested thousands of hours making a difference to the communities and the Hill Country. I cannot imagine what it would look like if this organization was never formed.

WINIFRED SIMON - 2000 Class - I would love to help out here but my memory of our training is very sketchy.  We graduated in 2000 but I don’t even remember our class name or too many other details.  Thank goodness I do remember some of what we learned.  

The name was my suggestion because we were sort of a “prickly” group.  It passed 17 -16 so obviously wasn’t everyone’s favorite.
What was your 1st. Project and what did you do? My first project was working trails with the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance.  I moved to San Marcos not knowing anyone so I thought the trail crew might be a good start.  There were a couple of MNs on the crew which sparked my interest in the program.  I had to wait a year because the class was full when I applied in 2009.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why? I don’t have a favorite project—really.  I have not met a project I don’t like and that’s the reason I work so many of them.  I’d work more if there was more time.  I have a number of regular projects each week with a couple of regular Saturdays and pop-up projects often.  I have a big advantage in being single so I don’t have many family obligations.  Almost all of my time is my own.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with the Chapter? Although there is always humor when working and especially in the training classes I can’t come up with much right now.  I am known for my horrible puns.  One year they were discussing the Graduation Gala in a training class—I was in back shooting the video.  The food people said we were going to have Thai food that year.  —I piped in from the back that the reason for that was that half of the host committee wanted chicken while the other half wanted bar-B Q—hence it was a Thai—yea, bad
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You? The 20th Anniversary is important to me in that it represents the success of the MN concept and its staying power.  It is a moment to reflect upon what we’ve accomplished and what’s ahead.