--Amanda Ross, Wildlands Conservation Education and Outreah Coordinator January 2011-September 2016
People often ask me, “How did you get your job?” My response, “I was lucky.” As I prepare for my last week as Wildland Conservation’s education and outreach coordinator, it is easy to reflect over the past five years and realize just how lucky I was. Below are just a few of my favorite memories that I will carry with me.
Working with Dedicated Volunteers
It is inspiring to work with volunteers who really do just want to make the world a better place. We’ve worked side-by-side to reseed and restore, hiked in heat through thick brush, and wandered through more wildflower meadows than I can count. I marvel at your passions and how you follow them. From learning about how you recovered from a heart attack when you were in China, to how you play music professionally or how you organize trips to Big Bend to monitor endangered species, or showed me how to make my house dark sky friendly, and hearing the joy in your voice when your first grandchild was born. Many of you have day jobs unrelated to the natural world but are some of the most dedicated people I have ever met. I marvel at your ability to find your passion and follow it.
Connecting Kids to Nature
We’ve made it a point to get kids outside to explore through school fieldtrips, summer camps and the always popular weekend insect safari hikes with entomologist Val. I’ll smile remembering when Helping Hands Home, a foster home in urban Austin, would travel from their concrete playground in downtown to join us for a hike on Wildlands. They were always a bit intrepid at first and TERRIFIED of snakes. But it didn’t take long for these kids to grab a net and race through a field to catch a butterfly.
Birding takes patience and time. I will never forget waiting on a steep forested hillside poised with my binoculars ready. In a nest barely visible high in a juniper tree three day-old golden-cheeked warblers nestling were waiting with mouths wide open. In a blink of an eye, a male golden-cheeked warbler with color bands on its leg quickly flew in and fed each of the nestlings. This was all caught on film thanks to partners at Texas Parks and Wildlife and a dedicated team of co-workers who knew just what to do to make this happen without disturbing this endangered species.
Our Natural World Is a Beautiful Place
I am amazed by the beauty that is found on Wildlands. The views from the rock outcrops over the deep canyons of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve define our Hill Country. The bubbling cold spring-fed creeks of the Water Quality Protection Lands remind just how important water is to our future. I will miss the drive to work in the winter when the sinking clouds define the path of Lake Austin. I will keep with me the moments on the hill above Onion Creek as Kevin and Matt unplug a karst feature, wrapping up a long day on a prescribed fire as reds, pinks and oranges streak the sky, being shocked by the flood damage along Onion Creek, and the first time the Tabor Overlook took my breath away.
Thank you for sharing the past few years with me, and know that I plan to volunteer for Wildlands in the future. I feel humbled to have worked with dedicated volunteers and co-workers. I will continue to help protect our natural world with Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department, and hope I am lucky enough to make more amazing memories.