Rio Grande Valley Chapter, Texas Master Naturalists are hosting a summer training session this year for those interested in becoming a certified Texas Master Naturalist.

Registration is open through July 31. Class size is limited to 25. Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy county residents and Winter Texans are welcome. Candidates must be at least 18 years old.

“This will be an abbreviated session and still contain all the state-required classes,” said Steve Lanoux, chapter president.

Instead of a three-month training period with weekly sessions, the summer class will meet Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings during a 10-week time frame beginning August 28 and ending mid-October.

Texas Master Naturalist is a volunteer educational program sponsored by Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Service and Texas Sea Grant and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It is designed for people who want to learn about, and help sustain, the Lower Valley’s native resources. There are chapters throughout Texas. Local advisors are Tony Reisinger, Cameron County extension agent for coastal and marine resources with Texas Sea Grant at Texas A&M University and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Park Superintendent Javier de Leon.

Texas Master Naturalist training is region-specific and taught by local university professors, field experts from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and other noted local professionals.

Curriculum includes overviews of urban and ecosystems of plants and insects, biodiversity ecology, hydrology, herpetology, ornithology, entomology, wetland ecology, ichthyology, forest and riparian ecology and other disciplines that explain and define the unique habitat that is the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Exclusive Saturday afternoon guided programs are scheduled at area wildlife centers including Resaca de la Palma State Park, Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park, South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, Sea Turtle Inc., Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Estero Llano Grande State Park, and Valley Nature Center.

During the training period, trainees join volunteer teams with other chapter members and work among more than 60 local partners that include federal and local wildlife parks, coastal naturalist programs, cities, schools, and other public entities.

“After graduating, chapter members may become involved in charitable, scientific and educational outreach within the Rio Grande Valley,” Lanoux said. “They will continually train in areas of personal interest. Throughout the year, volunteers are offered a network of workshops, lectures and advanced training opportunities not generally open to the public.

“Hundreds of opportunities are available to volunteers from joining cutting-edge university studies, developing public native gardens, learning about native plants and habitat, bird migration and shore birds to Gulf and beach inhabitants and trends,” Lanoux said. Rio Grande Valley Chapter, Texas Master Naturalists also offer a free speakers bureau with presentations to local groups on a variety of native subjects; they train as docents and nature guides at local wildlife preserves.

The cost is $150 and includes text book, fees and one-year membership. Full scholarships are available. Students will attend most classes in San Benito in the Cameron County Annex Building conference room at Williams Road & Hwy. 83/77 with some weekend classes taking place at field trip locations.

Online registration and information about scholarship categories are on the chapter’s website at www.rgvctmn.org. Also visit the site for a list of volunteer partners, speakers bureau topics, gallery of articles written by members, a list of Valley native plant growers and a bimonthly blog.

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