Sometimes when I get the question “What have you been up to since you moved to Texas?” I respond that I’ve become a Texas Master Naturalist, and my conversation partner will get an amused eye-twinkle because ‘naturalist’ has evoked the image of naked bodies on a beach down by Corpus Christi. I twinkle back because I know that being a Master Naturalist is more fun than cavorting in the buff on a beach.

Sometimes folks will ask, “What is a Master Naturalist?” and I respond with a question, “You know the Master Gardener program?” and they will nod because it is familiar. “Master Naturalists are like Master Gardeners only we work with natural resources.” In fact, many Texans are both Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists, members of organizations that are volunteer-led, educational, and outdoor-focused.

On the other hand, each has its own goals. Under joint sponsorship of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, the mission of the Texas Master Naturalists 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.

With 48 chapters throughout the state and over 10,000 volunteers, the award-winning Texas Master Naturalist Program has engaged in projects that respond to the needs of local ecosystems and range from wetland reparation to prairie restoration in city parks.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because we have our very own chapter here! The Prairie Oaks Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist program covers Erath, Hamilton, Comanche and Palo Pinto counties. It is one of the two newest chapters across the state of Texas, and it is only one of two student chapters in the state. However, the chapter members are BOTH students at Tarleton State University AND community members from all four counties. This results in a unique learning situation for training classes which are taught by experts with the goal of outreach to the communities we serve.

A particularly twinkly master naturalist at the Texas Master Naturalist Annual Meeting last fall told me that master naturalists are “delightful and adventurous.

If you want to learn more about this intrepid group that takes learning seriously and revels in getting boots on the ground, 

Go to the Texas Master Naturalist website https://txmn.org/ Go to the Prairie Oaks Master Naturalist website https://txmn.org/prairieoaks/ Catch us at the Stephenville Farmer’s Market the first Saturday of the month and get your free native seed packet. Attend one of our monthly meetings and learn more from our expert speakers: We meet the third Thursday of each month at Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension Center at Stephenville with speakers starting at 7:00 p.m. Each month, this column will feature not only activities of the Prairie Oaks Master Naturalists but guest writers, interviews with experts involved in natural resource conservation, scientific pieces about local natural resources, and reflections on humans and ecology.

See y’all next month!

Dr. Rebecca Damron is a certified Texas Master Naturalist with the Prairie Oaks Chapter which covers Erath, Hamilton, Comanche and Palo Pinto counties.