Society for Ecological Restoration

Texas Chapter 


     Restoration Field Notes                        March, 2016

In This Issue





Quick Links


Board of Directors 



Charlotte Reemts


Vice President

Kelly Lyons



Leslie Dietz



Colin Shackelford


North Texas Rep.

Michelle Villafranca


East Texas Rep.

William Forbes


South Texas Rep.

Eric Grahmann


West Texas Rep.

Katherine Crosthwaite


Central Texas Rep.

Ingrid Karklins


Coastal Texas Rep.

Alejandro Fierro Cabo


Coastal Texas Rep.

Bradley Hoge


Chapter Director

Gwen Thomas




(972) 768-8067 



Employment Opportunities 
& More
For up-to-date announcements of positions open in ecological restoration and environmental science,
visit our website at:
Job Postings

We also post a wide range of articles on ecological restoration issues as well as job and volunteer opportunities on our Facebook page at:
TXSER Facebook Page

South Rio Grande Valley
TXSER Newsflash

Exciting News: The Fort Worth Park System, with the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge as the largest property in the system, just received the special designation of "Lone Star Legacy Park" by the Texas Recreation and Parks Society. This award designation indicates their special prominence in the local community and the state.

The TXSER Board would like to send a huge shout out to friends and colleagues at the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, particularly, former TXSER Board Member, Suzanne Tuttle and current TXSER Board Member, Michelle Villafranca, both with the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge. Many, many congrats! It is well deserved!

Click the link for more info. on their  Lone Star Legacy Park designation and to learn more about the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge.
Member Spotlight

Name:  Robinson Sudan

City:  Austin, Texas
Affiliation:  New Leaf (
Briefly describe your ongoing efforts/interest in ecological restoration.  I founded new Leaf in 2015 to help promote biodiversity conservation, habitat and ecological restoration, and scientific research in Texas and the Southwest.  In particular, I want New Leaf to broaden the visibility and impact of our activities by engaging communities underserved by conservation efforts and making accessible scientific communication an issue of social responsibility.  New Leaf also works with landowners through our private lands consulting services to help them develop and execute successful and effective restoration and land management plans.

Robinson Sudan in his element.

Briefly describe if, and how, climate change has affected your work.   Climate change looms large in what we do.  For example, an upcoming National Park Service funded project we're about to begin in May is focused on understanding the habitat associations and patterns of diversity in bee communities of the Sky islands across Texas, Arizona, and Mexico.  This information is absolutely critical for informed management and restoration of these unique habitats in the face of climate change.  We know that the Sky Island region has one of the highest levels of bee biodiversity anywhere, but the habitats at greatest risk to the rising temperatures are those where we actually know very little about their bee diversity.  We're very excited to share what we learn with land managers so they can start putting practices in place to promote Sky Island bee biodiversity and restore and maintain the ecosystems they depend on.
Describe your favorite outdoor activity.  I love cycling, on the road and off.  To me, it's such a perfect compromise between speed and engagement with the elements.  Without windows or AC, all of your senses can engage with the world around you, but at the same time, you can cover up to four times the distance as you could on a run.  It's also a great way to experience seasons and spot plants on the roadsides and fence lines.  If you're looking for some wild plums, I know a few places to look in late summer.
What is your favorite Texas plant and/or animal?  It might be  
cliché , but I love the Texas madrone ( Arbutus xalapensis ).  Something about a tree in the heath family that can live through Texas droughts and summers inspires me.
Texas madrone ( Arbutus xalapensis ) in Big Bend National Park.  Photo credit:  National Park Service

Editors Note:  If you want to learn more about Robinson's work, join him at the Pollinator PowWow in Lubbock, April 22-24.

Coyotes as Super Seed Dispersers are  Keystone Species in the Fragmented Habitat  of the Lower Rio Grande Valley

By:  Alejandro Fierro,  Assistant Professor
School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences
University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley, Brownsville, Texas

Land use change and heavy fragmentation of remaining natural habitat are currently the main threats to biodiversity in the lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV).  These threats also represent formidable obstacles to full restoration at the landscape level.  At the fragment level, attempts to rehabilitate patches of historic habitat such as Tamaulipan thorn forest and coastal prairie are hindered by the harsh climatic conditions and three hyper competitive invasive species of African grasses (guinea grass, buffel grass and Kleberg bluestem grass). In addition, natural propagation of native foundation species is very limited due to fragmentation.
Current and planned restoration efforts in this region focus on existing protected patches of natural habitat, and on abandoned fields set aside for conservation and to enhance connectivity among patches.  A principal component of these efforts is revegetation/reforestation through planting of nursery produced seedlings.  This procedure is expensive and time consuming; most thorn forest seedlings are grown in containers for about two years before transplantation into the field.

A coyote in the mixed palm forest near Brownsville, TX.  
Photo credit:  Game Camera
We have been exploring a set of plant-animal interactions involving seeds of various species from the thorn forest and the mixed palm forest (i.e. thorn forest with sabal palm as one dominant species).  We have found that seeds from sabal palm and from woody species are heavily and rapidly predated.  For example, palm seeds have a 100% predation rate within less than two weeks on the soil unless they are ingested by coyotes.  Seed predators include rodents, raccoons and seed beetles, and replace each other depending on how far from the forest edge (both ways) the seeds fell to the ground.

As opportunistic feeders, coyotes consume fruits of several plant species and thus ingest their seeds.  We investigated how well coyotes disperse seed and found, what we term "coyote benefits," including that a coyote is:  1) a legitimate disperser - seed in scats are viable (same germination percentage as clean seeds); 2) an effective disperser - the germination process is improved (faster and more synchronized germination); 3) an efficient disperser - the seeds are deposited far from the mother plant where seedlings have a higher chance to develop; 4) a seed protector - seeds are protected from predators for a few weeks (based on a predator preference experiment, seeds in scats are avoided by beetles and mammals); and 5) a promoter of seedling recruitment and competitiveness - seeds in scats have congregated germination which represent an advantage for seedlings to resist competition by invasive grasses.  

Coyote scat loaded with seeds.  Photo credit:  Guillermo Aguilar

We sustain that the coyote is a keystone species in the LRGV because it is an extraordinary disperser/protector of native species' seeds.  We have found seeds of native species (13 species in total so far) in every scat we have examined (~200 scats), and the "coyote benefits" are certainly applicable to all of these species.  Finally and very importantly, coyotes have large home ranges traveling up to 30 km in a single day.  They have adapted well to human modified landscapes, crossing almost any sort of land use when travelling from patch to patch of natural habitat. Their role as propagators of thorn forest species is unmatched in a fragmented landscape.

Congregated germination and seedling recruitment is one of the "coyote benefits."
A group of 6-8 sabal palm seedlings growing in the location of a coyote scat containing palm seeds.   Photo credit:  Alejandro Fierro


Busy Times at Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA)

By:  Ken Steigman, Director, LLELA

While spring is now busting out all over, unbeknownst to many, winter is one of the busiest times for LLELA restoration activities. Late autumn, when most plants have gone dormant, is the time remnant prairie salvage operations can begin without creating physiological stress on the very plants that we are attempting to save. During the cool winter months at the LLELA native plant nursery, harvested seed is being sown into pots and beds. Rootstock salvaged from area remnants is being separated and sprigged into pots for planting the next year. Plants that were potted last year now have developed root systems. If planted during the winter, they can thrive on early spring moisture and cool temperatures to establish strong root systems into the prairie soils.
Prairie restoration efforts at LLELA.  Photo credit:  Julia Young

This is also an important time of year to continue with the prescribed burning of management units. Prescribed burns are conducted throughout the year, when weather conditions allow, to provide a diversity of vegetative structure and a mosaic of good wildlife habitat. Many species of birds require high quality grassland habitat for their survival, which results in part from prescribed burning.

Bobwhite quail on the LLELA property.  Photo credit:  LLELA/UNT Staff.

One of LLELA's exciting projects is the reintroduction of northern bobwhite quail. To date, there is no scientific documentation of successful reintroductions of bobwhite quail, using pen-raised birds, anywhere in the country. So far scientists have not been able to show that pen-raised birds survive long enough after release to reproduce, and are killed by predators within days or weeks of release. Therefore, most experimental reintroductions of bobwhite quail have concentrated upon trapped and relocated wild birds, instead of pen-raised birds. For our reintroductions, wild bobwhite quail are not an option for several reasons. Most ranchers do not want their birds trapped and removed and where this has occurred, critical population numbers have dropped below a sustainable level, thus endangering a stable "donor" wild population. LLELA biologists are working on a method of reintroducing pen-raised quail that provides sufficient acclimation and resources necessary for them to survive long enough after release to produce offspring on site. Two groups of 30 birds each were released in July and August of 2015. The first group were banded with red color bands and the second group (in August) with blue color bands. Small numbers of quail were seen few times throughout the summer and reports of quail sightings came in sporadically and infrequently. However, in mid-January a small covey of quail were spotted, some birds had red bands and others wore blue, indicating that birds from both releases have "coveyed up" together for the winter.

Since that time, as of this writing, quail have been heard calling on several occasions in the same general area. It appears that these birds are healthy and may survive a few months to breeding season. We will continue to monitor these birds and will be releasing additional birds early this spring in hopes of successful nesting attempts throughout the spring and summer.
LLELA and University of North Texas quail restoration team with author, Ken Steigman, at far right.  Photo credit:  LLELA/UNT Staff

Additional avian conservation projects that are ongoing at LLELA include bird banding research and nest box monitoring.

The LLELA Bird Banding team has been very active throughout the year with many more volunteers contributing to the effort. We are nearing the end of the third year of the grassland sparrow winter site fidelity study. The results of the study are intended to reveal the diversity, relative population numbers and degree of site fidelity of grassland species, many of which require good grassland habitat for wintering to maintain sustainable populations.

As of mid-March the bird banding team will transition from the winter project on the prairie back to the banding station for spring migratory bird banding, which will be conducted through the month of May. The bird banding station will also be the site of new educational programming offered to the public by Erin Taylor, LLELA Nature Preserve's Nature Programs Coordinator. This educational bird banding program will give participants a window into the lives of migratory birds and the art and science of bird banding.

Since 2009 a dedicated flock of Master Naturalists has been essential in maintaining nest boxes, monitoring the nesting process, and banding nestlings of cavity nesting songbirds at LLELA. Approximately 90 nest boxes are scattered over 2,000 acres of land and water. Eastern bluebirds, Carolina wrens, eastern tufted titmice, Carolina chickadees, prothonotary warblers, eastern screech owls, wood ducks and hooded mergansers are among the bird species nesting in managed nest boxes. At the beginning of every year the group begins to check nest boxes for maintenance issues because by the month of February, bluebirds begin to search for nesting locations.

Pelicans on the Lewisville Lake Spillway.  Photo credit:  John Dewey

We are very appreciative of the support for all our avian conservation projects from both the Fort Worth Audubon Society and Prairie and Timbers Audubon Society. This work could not be done without their assistance.

News You Can Use

1.  Earth Day Texas to offer $25,000 award for sustainability projects with Earth Tank Award (as opposed to Shark Tank!)

Note:  The deadline is fast approaching!  Applications must be submitted soon and awards are handed out at Earth Day Texas in April!

For more information, click here:   Earth Tank Award

2.  Open access to SER's January 2016 Journal of Restoration Ecology through March 31st.

There are lots of great articles available, including an article written by TXSER members Meshal Abdullah and Steve Whisenant at TAMU.  

3.  USDA - National Invasive Species Information Center

Database information available on invasive species - Federal, State, Local and International

For more information, click USDA-NISIC

4.  World's 36th Biodiversity Hotspot - North America's Coastal Plain

Check out the article at:   36th Biodiversity Hotspot

5.  TNC Blog - 7 Resources for Natural History Nerds

This blog has sites you can go to for all kinds of things.  You may know some, but we are betting, you'll find some fun surprises here.

NY Times Digitalized Natural History Collection
USFWS Feather Atlas (yup, feather ID)
Amphibian Web
Cornell Lab or Ornithology - All About Birds
Nature Tracking (this is not inaturalist, but all about animal tracks)
Marine Species Identification Portal
The Cloud Appreciation Site (for the cloud gazers among us :-)
And a bonus one....MorphoSource (at first glance we thought it would be about butterflies, but it is on fossils!)

Click on the link to check it out - Natural History Nerds

Upcoming Events

1.  Earth Day Texas

Event Dates:  April 22-24, 2016, 10am - 6pm

Location:  Fair Park, Dallas

Free to the Public.  Don't miss the announcement of the Earth Tank Awards!!

For more information, visit:   Earth Day Texas

2.  Texas Pollinator PowWow

Learn about Texas plants and pollinators, the conservation challenges they are facing, and how you can help.  Topics range from native plants and bees to monarchs and bats to best management practices for urban and rural landowners.  

Event Dates:  April 22-24, 2016

Location:  Museum of Texas Tech University, L ubbock

For more information visit:

3.  2016 Society for Wetland Scientists Annual Meeting

Theme:  Protecting Wetland Ecosystem Services.  Promoting Stronger Economies

Event Dates:  May 31 - June 4, 2016

Location:  American Bank Center, Corpus Christi

For more information, click the link:   SWS Annual Meeting

A Heartfelt Thanks to the Following Organizations & Individuals for their Generous Support  of our
2015 20th Anniversary Conference!!




Charlotte Reemts           Suzanne Tuttle

Please Take a Moment to Click on the Above Logos
& Check Out Our Sponsors' Websites.


The Society for Ecological Restoration, Texas Chapter promotes ecological restoration as a means of sustaining the diversity of life on Earth and

re-establishing an ecologically healthy relationship between nature and culture. 



 Become a member today!                            Click Here to Join Us! 


Join the Texas Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration.  Chapter members receive valuable benefits including:

  • the opportunity to network with restoration practitioners and enthusiasts;
  • discounts to our Annual Conference, an opportunity to share and learn;
  • invitations to attend talks, ER Discussion Groups, and volunteer workdays around the state; and,
  • monthly updates and quarterly newsletters with articles and notices about regional events that allow you to connect to the local restoration community.

Chapter membership fees of $15 support chapter administration.  The TXSER Board of Directors consists of volunteers who share a passion for furthering ecological restoration in Texas.


Joining SER links you with a global restoration network.  SER member benefits include:

  • SERNews bi-monthly newsletter;
  • discounts on journal publications;
  • discounts to SER World Conferences;
  • discounts on SER Career Center;
  • access to a searchable, online member directory;
  • access to SER's Global Restoration Network; and,
  • promotional opportunities through the SER Calendar of Events and Restoration Project Showcase.

To become a member visit:


Be sure to click the Texas Chapter as your Chapter Affiliate.  We look forward to having you join us!