Conservation Matters June 2014

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

  • From our director: The state of the institutes
    From our director: The state of the institutes

    At the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (IRNR) and the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI), we share a complementary mission. Our role is to advance the interdisciplinary approaches required to effectively address complex natural resource challenges.

    Since land and water activities are intrinsically linked, the Institutes collaborate on a wide range of issues. Sharing the expertise of more than 50 full-time professional and support staff, resources and multiple locations around the region and nation, we partner with departments, research and extension centers and various organizations to offer a more complete and effective approach to addressing the critical natural resource-related issues of our time.

  • Wildfire season forecast: Moderately active
    Wildfire season forecast: Moderately active

    In recent years, severe Texas wildfires have made national headlines, increasing wildfire awareness and concern throughout Texas. With the exception of some significant wildfire events in the Panhandle, this year’s winter/spring fire season was moderately active across the state, and the upcoming season is expected to follow a similar pattern, according to Tom Spencer, head of Texas A&M Forest Service Predictive Services.

    Spencer said the majority of Texas experiences two fire seasons: one that typically runs from January to April and another from mid-July to mid-September. The exception to this is the Trans-Pecos region, which has one fire season in the late spring to early summer.

  • Automated meter infrastructure project: How technology can reduce water usage
    Automated meter infrastructure project: How technology can reduce water usage

    If people knew it cost around $20 extra at the end of the month to leave their water hose on overnight, they might be more conscious about making sure it’s off. At least that’s the idea that Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station are testing in their automated metering infrastructure project (AMI), according to Joel Andrus, AgriLife Extension associate with the Texas Water Resources Institute. 

    From a consumer’s perspective, Andrus said the project will make managing utility bills more tangible. From a utility company’s view, it will provide a way to locate leaks, and thus save money. In both cases, the awareness between the two groups — industry and individuals — will ideally provide the information necessary to conserve water.

  • River course: TAMU graduate students gain experiential learning on Rio Grande
    River course: TAMU graduate students gain experiential learning on Rio Grande

    Learning about river hydrology is more impactful in a canoe than in a classroom – or at least that’s what a new graduate student course is betting on.

    “We’re doing a study of the Rio Grande as a part of our graduate water program here,” said Dr. Ronald Kaiser, chair of the Water Management and Hydrological Science program at Texas A&M University. “This semester we’re looking at issues all along the Rio Grande, and in May we took the students on a fieldtrip, from the headwaters to the Gulf.”

  • TSSWCB commemorates 75 years of soil and water conservation
    TSSWCB commemorates 75 years of soil and water conservation

    May 29 marked the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Texas Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) and the organization is celebrating its diamond jubilee throughout the rest of the year.

    According to Rusty Ray, public affairs specialist at TSSWCB, the Annual State Meeting of Soil And Water Conservation District Directors will commemorate the 75th anniversary and will feature a number of speakers, including historian Dan Utley and former Texas Speaker of the House Pete Laney, who will deliver the keynote address. The conference will be held October 27-29 in Galveston. The TSSWCB is also expected to receive a historical marker from the Texas Historical Society, Ray said.

  • Position announcement: TWRI director

    The search is underway for a director of the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI). The position vacancy is posted on the Texas A&M AgriLife Great Jobs website.

    This position will lead the Texas Water Resources Institute, which focuses on water-related applications, including water quality, supply and water use in Texas, the U.S. and internationally. The director will provide intellectual, philosophical and strategic leadership to system faculty and the institute’s scientists, staff and students to meet teaching, research and extension missions. The director will be responsible for developing optimum tactical and strategic responses to water-related issues and opportunities and will manage the human and fiscal resources, including leading a contract and grants program that elevates water-related efforts throughout the Texas A&M University System. 

  • Rainwater harvesting soaking in
    Rainwater harvesting soaking in

    After a long dry period, many parts of the state have finally received some badly needed rain, and those with rainwater harvesting systems have been reaping the rewards of this belated gift from Mother Nature, said Texas A&M AgriLife water resources experts.

    “Rainwater harvesting is a time-tested and effective means of water conservation and irrigation,” said Billy Kniffen, retired Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service statewide water resource specialist and past director of the American Rainwater Catchment Association.

  • Quail Index taking off

    The Texas Quail Index, a statewide effort by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to monitor wild quail population dynamics, has taken full flight, said the effort’s coordinator.

    “There are going to be more ears cocked skyward listening to the bobwhite’s iconic whistle this month than ever before,” said Dr. Dale Rollins, AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist in San Angelo and statewide coordinator for the Reversing the Quail Decline Initiative.

  • Keeping landscapes in shape: There’s an app for that
    Keeping landscapes in shape: There’s an app for that

    Many tools are available for turf managers to help monitor soil or weather conditions, diagnose turf problems or even take the guesswork out of selecting the best-suited grass type for the shade environment, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research turf expert.

    Dr. Ben Wherley, an assistant professor for turfgrass science/ecology with AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M University Soil and Crop Science Department in College Station, demonstrated some of the new tools and technologies available to attendees of the turf and landscape industry at the recent Turf, Landscape and Irrigation Expo at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Dallas.

  • Statewide boat-draining rule takes effect July 1

    Beginning July 1, boaters must drain all water from their boat and on-board receptacles before leaving or approaching a body of fresh water anywhere in Texas.

    The new Texas Parks and Wildlife Department regulation is designed to help combat the further spread of zebra mussels and other invasive species. It applies to all types and sizes of boats whether powered or not: personal watercraft, sailboats, kayaks/canoes, or any other vessel used on public waters.
    The regulation requires the draining of livewells, bilges, motors and any other receptacles or water-intake systems coming into contact with public waters.

  • AgriLife Extension sets Living Waters Conference for Aug. 19 in Junction

    The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will conduct the Living Waters Conference beginning at 8 a.m. Aug. 19 at the Texas Tech Junction Center, 254 Red Raider Lane, in Junction.

    Sign-in for the program is set for 8-8:30 a.m., followed immediately by presentations on the Lone Star Healthy Streams program, what constitutes a watershed, and water quality of the South Llano River watershed, said Sam Silvers, AgriLife Extension agent in Kimble County.

    For more information and to register, visit or call 979.845.2604. Also see the AgriLife TODAY news release.


  • TCEQ issues request for nonpoint source grant proposals

    The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) recently posted its Request for Grant Applications (RFGA) for Fiscal Year 2015 nonpoint source projects under the Clean Water Act Section 319(h) Grant Program.

    This solicitation can be accessed through the Electronic State Business Daily (ESBD) web site.  At the web site, in the "Browse Postings" section, in the line for "Agency Requisition Number", enter 582-14-43265, and then click on "GO" to access this solicitation.

  • Water/Wastewater short course for professionals Aug. 5–6 at Texas A&M

    The Global Petroleum Research Institute (GPRI) is hosting a water/wastewater short course, “Challenges and Treatment Options,” at Texas A&M University August 5–6. The course will include daily equipment demonstrations and cover practical aspects of separations technologies, case studies, system designs, industrial/commercial applications and field trials.                                  

    The registration fee for the short course is $1,095 and includes an eBook manual, daily lunches, refreshments, certificates of completion and pilot plant demonstrations. A webinar option is available for $250. Online registration is available.

  • New IRNR and TWRI Projects

    Golden Cheeked Warbler Fecundity/Banding for Long Term Monitoring JB San Antonio-Camp Bullis; Presence/Absence Survey of Black-capped Vireo and Associated Habitat Delineation on Laughlin AFB; and Mesomammals at JB San Antonio-Lackland

    Funded by: DOD – Corps of Engineers through the Gulf Coast CESU

    Partners: Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Camp Bullis and Laughlin Air Force Base

    National Water Quality Initiative Monitoring Supplies and Equipment

    Funded by: Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board

    Partners: Texas Water Resources Institute, Texas A&M AgriLife Research

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