You are here

Frequently Asked Questions

No, only Title I schools in the Austin Independent School District are eligible.

We have developed a watershed viewer, so it is easy to find out what watershed you live in and to find out its Environmental Integrity  Index score.

AISD 5th grade teachers that have been trained and attended a week of Earth Camp led by City staff may participate in Teacher-Led Earth Camp! To schedule contact Susan Wall

The four Earth Camp Field Guides are available below for you to download. They require Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing. If you are scheduled for Teacher-Led Earth Camp, an Assistant will bring the field trip materials. If you would like to purchase materials, reference the "Materials" PDF file.

Field Trip Guide Contents * required when leading Teacher-Led Earth Camp

Field Trip Guide TEKS

Edwards Aquifer/Barton Springs

Barton Springs

Scavenger Hunt *only print the Lesson for the Park you will visit

All Parks Scavenger Hunt Lesson

Green Classroom

Macroinvertebrate Activities

 

Biologists

Andrew Clamann

Andrew Clamann

Environmental Scientist

Biologist

College Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Biology, University of Texas at Austin

How did you become interested in biology? Watching nature TV shows (like the old school shows with Jacques Cousteau and Marlin Perkins)

What have you learned about water quality from your job? We all do our part. No matter how small, every little bit counts. Use less water, never litter and conserve resources. When people see that nature is worth protecting, we will have a better quality of life.

What science question are you investigating? I am studying the impacts of the water quality on the aquatic life of Austin's streams.

My best day on the job... ...is a day when I feel like I have made a difference by protecting wetlands and riparian areas or by finding pollution problems and helping to resolve them.

Fun facts I know from doing my job: Bugs are awesome, and you’d be completely amazed at the things they do, and the way they look under a microscope. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

What has been your most interesting encounter on the job? Seeing salamanders swim in little spring-fed streams

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Movie: Shawshank Redemption
  • Favorite Book: The Diversity of Life, (E.O. Wilson)
  • Favorite Hobby: Grilling
  • Favorite Food: Chocolate Cake
  • Favorite Music: Tom Petty

Something unique I do: I like to catch reptiles in South Texas and West Texas

Have another question? Send Andrew Clamann an email.

 

Todd jackson

Todd Jackson

Environmental Scientist

Biologist

College Degrees:    Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of North Texas

Career: I am currently working as an associate environmental scientist for the City of Austin. Before moving to Austin I had been working for Watershed Protection in the City of Denton. I have also been employed as a research assistant conducting arthropod bioinventories at Texas Army National Guard Training sites, as a laboratory instructor teaching biology, and as an analyst at an air quality lab where I identified molds.

How did you become interested in biology?
My interest in biology began at an early age and I always had a particular interest in spiders and insects. When I was about 8 or 9 years old I started keeping all kinds of spiders and other “creepy crawlies” in terrariums in my room.

What have you learned about water quality from your job?
I have learned that each of us plays an important role in protecting our water. Every time you pick up even the smallest bits of trash you can help keep our water clean and help protect the environment for all of the other organisms that live in the creeks and lakes in our city. Whenever someone throws out even a little bit of trash, motor oil or yard waste improperly, it can really add up. These things can end up in stormwater drains, which don’t go to the sewer system, and eventually end up in the same water bodies that we get all of our drinking water from! One other thing that I have learned about water quality at my job is that streams which are surrounded by large tracts of healthy riparian woodlands usually have much better water quality compared to streams that are not surrounded by healthy ecosystems (such as areas where buildings or parking lots are built right up to the waters edge).

What science question are you investigating?
One of my major job duties is to collect and identify aquatic macroinvertebrates (insects, crustaceans, worms, snails, and others) that live in creeks and lakes in the Austin area.  Some of those organisms are very sensitive to water pollution, while others are very tolerant to some types of pollution.  The different types of organisms present in a sample, and the number of those organisms present, allows me to compare water quality and ecosystem health in different creeks or in different parts of the same creek.    Another one of my jobs is to help the other scientists who monitor the populations of salamanders that live in our area, such as the Barton Springs Salamander.  The Barton Springs Salamander is an endangered species, which means that it must be protected from threats to its extinction.  When I count the salamanders I have to wear SCUBA gear and I stay under water at Barton Springs for hours sometimes.    Some of the other jobs I do include taking water samples in creeks and lakes, collecting bacteria samples, looking for places where litter is becoming a problem, and trying to make Austin creeks a better place for wildlife and plants to live by improving the habitat around the creek.  I look for elevated bacteria in the water so I can help other City employees fix problems like leaking sewers or parks where too much pet waste is getting into the water.

My best day on the job... I really do love my job so most of my days are pretty awesome. Some of my best days have been spent snorkeling in Barton Springs while counting salamanders, collecting insects and water quality data in creeks all over the city and cruising up and down Town Lake and Lake Austin to pick up sediment samples from the bottom of the lakes.

What has been your most interesting encounter on the job?
One time we found more than 1200 Barton Springs Salamanders at the Eliza Spring at Barton Springs.

Fun facts I know from doing my job:

  • Native mussels (these look kind of like clams from the outside) spend part of their life cycle as parasites that attach to fish!
  • Lethocerus uhleri is a big aquatic insect that lives in the headwaters of Bull Creek and may prey on salamanders and tadpoles.
  • There are species of fresh water jellyfish that live in some spring-fed streams in this region and they look just like miniature versions of the jellyfish that you can find in the ocean.  These jellyfish are non-native.
  • The larvae of many caddisflies, which live under water before they become adults, construct really neat cases that help them obtain oxygen from the water and also protect them from some predators. For example, the caddisfly Helicopsyche constructs a spiraled case that looks just like a snail’s shell!
  • Some water snakes can make themselves look like venomous cottonmouths to scare predators (or people) away when they are scared.

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Book - gosh that's a hard question, probably whatever books I'm reading at the time.  Lately I've been reading some Tom Robbins novels, some books on drawing, a music book called Never Heard of 'em, by Sue Donahoe, and a book called Wicked (can't remember the author but its about the wicked witch of the west).  Oh, and I kind of read books like other people watch television, so I'm always reading little bits of different ones.
  • Favorite Hobbies - When I'm out hiking I like to take pictures of all the insects and other small animals that I find.  I like thrift store shopping for junk and turning it into art.  I collect fossils, weird pieces of tree stumps, plants and other stuff and I like to put it around my house.  I'm learning how to play guitar.
  • Favorite Food - Tacos.  Maybe also mint chocolate cookie ice cream.
  • Favorite Music - Punk rock.  At least it used to be.  I think I like a lot more stuff nowadays.

Something unique I do:  I collect grasshoppers and crickets from different places because I'm writing a book about them.

Have another question? Send Todd Jackson an email.

 

Mateo Scoggins

Mateo Scoggins

Environmental Scientist

Aquatic Biologist

College Degrees:

  • Bachelors of Arts in Communication, University of California at San Diego
  • Masters of Science in Aquatic Biology, Southwest Texas State University

How did you become interested in environmental science? I got interested in water resources in the Peace Corps where I worked building water systems and teaching watershed management.

What have you learned about water quality from your job? Every creek in Austin is a fantastic place to experience our environment. Our senses are often more efficient at assessing stream health than years worth of data. If more people spent time really experiencing our streams, they would probably be in a lot better shape than they are.

  • What science question are you investigating?
  • Are algae or insects (or both together) better at measuring water quality?
  • Do plants and trees along streams improve water quality?
  • At what level of development do our streams degrade quickly?
  • What effect of impervious cover is more destructive to our creeks: 1) Pollution runoff (chemical effects) or; 2) Increased flooding/decreased baseflow (physical effects)?
  • What methods should we be using to quickly and effectively evaluate water quality?
  • How often should we monitor biology and at what time of year?

My best day on the job...

  • Spending the day walking through beautiful stream channels, collecting insects and documenting environmental conditions.
  • Analyzing biological data (on a computer, using statistics) and finding patterns and trends that answer important questions we have been asking for years.

Fun facts I know from doing my job.

  • I spent about 6 years counting salamanders once a month at Barton Springs Pool (underwater, using SCUBA).
  • The more you study insects the more incredible and interesting they become.
  • Austin has hundreds of fantastic swimming holes on its streams; you just have to find them.
  • I have the best job in the world.

What has been your most interesting encounter on the job? I once watched a large Cottonmouth snake catch, wrestle and finally eat a big catfish. It was an epic battle and reminded me how out of place I was in the water.

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Movie - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • Favorite Book - Catcher In the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  • Favorite Hobby - Cooking Favorite Sport - Soccer
  • Favorite Food - Souvlaki Favorite Music - Cuban
  • Something unique you do - Ride my bike to work everyday

Have another question? Send Mateo Scoggins an email.

 

Staryn Wagner

Staryn Wagner

Environmental Scientist

College Degrees:

  • Associative Science from Whatcom Community College in 2000
  • Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Western Washington University in 2002

Career: I presently work as an Environmental Scientist Associate for the City of Austin in the Watershed Protection and Development Review Department. The environmental work I performed before this involved taking water quality samples from Lake Whatcom in Bellingham, Washington and processing them in the lab. Before that I built and installed neon signs in Texas and Washington.

How did you become interested in geology? Living near Seattle in Washington State I was able to spend much of my time in the mountains and along the streams that fed the Puget Sound. The more time I spent in the wild there the more I began to focus my attention on the Salmon streams and the amazing life cycle of these anadromous fish. This interest piqued my curiosity how the entire landscape, both flora and fauna, lent itself to enabling this amazing fish to exist. From there sprouted my interest in Ecology which I continue to expand my knowledge on every day.

What have you learned about water quality from your job? The more natural vegetation that exists around a stream and its contributing features, the better the water quality which leads to a greater diversity in the aquatic biology.

What science question are you investigating? Right now I have my head buried in two research projects. The first is whether or not dog parks lead to increased bacteria levels in the stream sediments and the other project is focusing on the ecological impacts resulting from rehabilitating urban stream riparian zones. A riparian zone is the area of land that joins the terrestrial and aquatic habitats.

My best day on the job... ...is under 95°F, water flowing in the stream and a full day in the field.

What has been your most interesting encounter on the job? One of the property owners whose land we cross to get to Barton Creek loves what we do so much that she wants to help us.

Fun facts I Know from doing my job:

  • Walnut Creek has lots of fossils and Native American artifacts in it.
  • The streams and their inhabitants respond positively when people take care of them.

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Book - Ecotopia, by Ernest Callenbach and Earth, by David Brin. Both are EnviroSciFi.
  • Favorite Hobbies - Designing and building things and riding my bike.
  • Favorite Food - I love all food but I especially like eating things that I have never tried before.
  • Favorite Music - I like all kinds of music. Each different style has something in it that is worth paying attention to.

Something unique I do:  I have traveled and lived in many places all around the world. I like to ride my bicycle everywhere I go. That way I get to see things that you do not notice when you are in a car like the animals that are all over the place here in Austin. I also like to swim in Barton Springs Pool and any other cool swimming hole I can find.

Have another question? Send Staryn Wagner an email.

 

Ana Gonzales

Ana Gonzales 

Environmental Scientist

College Degree:  Plant Ecology, PhD

How did you become interested in environmental science?
Exploring the woods and gathering food in the forest had been some of my favorite things since I was a little girl. Nature had always been an exciting place and I wanted to learn more about how nature functions and why. I am still amazed by all the strategies that plants use to survive. Unlike animals, plants cannot hide when a plant-eater approaches, build a burrow to escape the freezing weather, move to a shady place in the middle of summer, or move around in search for water during drought. How do they manage to survive? Trying to find answers to these questions I became a biologist. Now, as an environmental scientist, my work focuses also on trying to preserve or restore the forests that grow along rivers and creeks.

What have you learned about water quality from your job?
I have learned that plants provide a lot of services to keep our creeks healthy. Plant roots hold the soil and prevent soil erosion, the leaves and branches slow-down the rain and reduce runoff, shade from the plants keeps the temperature in the creek more stable, and their fruits and leaves feed many critters. Maintaining or improving water quality in our creeks depends on the plants that grow near the stream.

What science questions are you investigating?
When the plants have been mowed for a very long time, the soil is very compacted and it is hard for the forest to grow back again. I am working on some studies trying to understand what strategies are more efficient at getting the plants to grow again and restore a healthy forest along the creeks.

My best day on the job...
Is when go to work on the field, collecting data, and picking bugs.

Fun facts I know from doing my job:
I can get dirty and muddy doing my work and I don’t get in trouble for that.

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Movie: Andrei Rublev
  • Favorite Book: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
  • Favorite Hobby: Working on my vegetable garden
  • Favorite Food: Thai and Mediterranean
  • Favorite Music: Nueva Trova

Something unique I do:  I buy local fruits in bulk to make my own preserves for the whole year (strawberries, peaches, blackberries, figs, and tangerines) and also make my own ricotta cheese at home.

Have another question?  Send Ana Gonzalez an email.

 

Tomm Devitt

Tom Devitt

Environmental Scientist

Salamander Biologist

College Degree:

  • Bachelor of Science in Biology (Ecology, Evolution, & Conservation emphasis) from UT
  • Master of Science in Biology from Louisiana State University
  • Ph.D. in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Berkeley

How did you become interested in your profession?
I’ve been fascinated by reptiles and amphibians since the time I could walk! I grew up across the street from a pond and spent the majority of my time as a kid looking for snakes, salamanders, frogs, and turtles. I never grew out of it, and here I am as one of the City’s Salamander Biologists!    

What have you learned about water quality from your job?
Water is our most important natural resource. Because we only have a finite amount, we have to protect and conserve it every day.

What science questions are you working on?
Working with a team of other biologists, we’re trying to gather basic information about the biology of the Barton Springs and Austin Blind salamanders so that we can conserve them. We’re asking questions including:  How many salamanders are there? What is the extent of their geographic range? How long do they live? How far do they move?  What do they eat? What are their predators? Where do they mate and lay eggs? What causes populations to increase or decrease in number? How are the Barton Springs and Austin Blind salamanders related to other Central Texas species of aquatic salamanders?

My best day on the job...was the first time I scuba-dove in Barton Springs searching for salamanders.

Fun facts I know from doing my job:
The scientific name of the Austin Blind Salamander (Eurycea waterlooensis) comes from the name “Waterloo”, the original name for Austin.

What has been your most interesting nature encounter on the job?
Seeing an Austin Blind Salamander for the first time.

Want to know what I like besides science and engineering?

  • Favorite Movie: Lonesome Dove
  • Favorite Book: The Crossing, by Cormac McCarthy
  • Favorite Hobby: exploring nature
  • Favorite Food: Tex-Mex
  • Favorite Music: blues

Something unique I do:  I love to fly-fish in and around Austin.

Have another question?  Send Tom Devitt an email.

 

Hydrogeologists

Nico Hauwert

Nico Hauwert

Environmental Scientist

Hydrogeologist

College Degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science in Geology from University of Texas, Austin
  • Master of Science in Geology from University of Toledo, Ohio
  • Ph.D in Geological Sciences, University of Texas, Austin

How did you become interested in hydrogeology? In high school I got interested in geology because I loved exploring the outdoors. In college I became fascinated with learning about the aquifer through cave exploring and hiking the City parks.

What have you learned about water quality from your job? I have learned how our groundwater flow system is incredibly sensitive to pollution, so much more than we previously thought.

What science question are you investigating? How much recharge occurs in what locations?

My best day on the job... A lot of my job is fun because I get to be in nature; like measuring flow in creeks, exploring caves, and mapping geology.

Fun facts I know from doing my job:  Barton Springs and many water-supply wells south of Austin are most affected by areas farthest away- almost 20 miles away.

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Movies "Pirates of the Caribbean"
  • Favorite Book - Fafhrd and the Grey Mouse, by Fritz Lieber
  • Favorite Hobby - Playing with my daughter, Tara
  • Favorite Sport - Caving
  • Favorite Food - Cherries and exotic fruits, like mango, papaya, and cherimoya
  • Favorite Music - Alternative 80's songs

Something unique I do:  Love building things: tree houses, toy sceneries for my daughter, creek-flow stations... though I am most awed by nature untouched (is that a contradiction?).

Have another question? Send Nico Hauwert an email.

 

Scott Hiers

Scott Hiers

Environmental Scientist

Geologist

College Degrees: Bachelor Science in Geology, University of Wisconsin

How did you become interested in geology? I always had a love for mystery stories and rocks. As a kid, I had a rock and a mineral collection. I wondered about the rocks and the minerals that I was finding. How did they form? How did they end up in the places were I found them? How could I identify them from other rocks and minerals? It was all a great mystery to me, like Geology. I learned in college that Geology helps us unlock the mysteries of the world in which we live.

What have you learned about water quality from your job? Water is a valuable natural resource that needs to be protected.

What science question are you investigating?

  • How fast and in which direction is ground water moving in the Edwards Aquifer?
  • Which springs are contaminated in Austin?
  • Where is the contamination coming from?

My best day on the job... When I find recharge features like caves, sinkhole, and solution cavities and protect them from being destroyed.

What has been your most interesting encounter on the job? Finding and exploring caves.

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Book - Cosmos
  • Favorite Hobbies - Hiking, Backpacking, Camping, Fishing, Hunting, Biking and Caving
  • Favorite Sport - Football
  • Favorite Food - All Food Favorite Music - Rock, Jazz and Classical

Something unique I do:  Woodworking

Have another question? Send Scott Heirs an email.

 

David Johns

David Johns

Environmental Scientist

Hydrogeologist

College Degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science in Geology, Texas A&M
  • Master of Arts in Geology, University of Texas, Austin

How did you become I have always loved the outdoors and wanted a job that would pay me to be there. I also had a great biology teacher in high school that led me into the sciences in college.

What have you learned about water quality from your job? The quality of groundwater is important because it flows into most of the rivers and creeks in our area through springs or seeps; it provides the life of the surface waters.

What science question are you investigating? What happens to groundwater and springs when development happens? For example:

  • Do springs dry up when we cover their recharge areas with homes, or do they flow more because we water our lawns?
  • Does what we do in our yard, like fertilize, affect groundwater?
  • How quickly does water from Slaughter Creek reach Barton Springs?
  • What is one of the best ways to protect water quality?

My best day on the job... My best days at work are spent in the field. The field means anywhere outside collecting samples, gathering information, or surveying for interesting environmental features. Sometimes it means swimming in Barton Springs to collect a water sample from the cave where the main spring flows out. Other times it means standing in a swiftly flowing creek measuring the volume of water flowing in the channel. Lately, it means exploring ranch lands that will soon be developed to map the location of special areas like springs and caves that we will want to protect from damage during and after construction. A day in the field beats a day in the office any day!

Fun facts I know from doing my job:  Barton Springs discharges an average of 400 gallons of water every single second!

What has been your most interesting encounter on the job? One summer I was collecting samples at Barton Springs for a tracing project when who should show up but the entire Dallas Cowboys football team. Those guys are big!

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Movie - "The Lord of the Rings"
  • Favorite Book - Dune, by Frank Herbert
  • Favorite Hobby - Hunting
  • Favorite Sport - Soccer
  • Favorite Food - Fried Shrimp
  • Favorite Music - Rock-n-Roll

Have another question?  Send David Johns an email.

 

Sylvia Pope

Sylvia Pope

Environmental Scientist

Hydrogeologist

College Degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science in Geosciences, Purdue University, Indiana
  • Master of Science in Community and Regional Planning University of Texas, Austin

How did you become interested in hydrogeology? I was interested in protecting water resources because I like to swim and hike and it is more fun when the water is clean.

What have you learned about water quality from your job? There is a rapid connection of water that flows in creeks in the recharge zone to what comes out at the springs.

What science question are you investigating? How can we protect the aquifer from construction activities?

My best day on the job... When I get to go kayaking to pick up receptors for a dye trace test or to collect spring samples.

Fun facts I know from doing my job:  There are hundreds of small springs in Austin. Sometimes you can even find them in your local park!

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Movies- "A Civil Action"
  • Favorite Book - A Civil Action
  • Favorite Hobby- Kayaking Favorite Sport- Biking
  • Favorite Food - Pumpkin Pie
  • Favorite Music - World Beat

Something unique I do:  Church Youth Group Advisor

Have another question?  Send Sylvia Pope an email.

 

Engineers

Michelle Adlong

Michelle Adlong

Graduate Engineer

 

College Degree:   B. S. Environmental Engineering, Oregon State University; M.S. Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California at Berkeley

How did you become interested in your profession?  
In high school, my favorite subjects were chemistry and math because they were logical and predictable. Engineering seemed like a good fit, but what type of engineering? Well, in high school I got interested in rivers and water quality, and I volunteered as a student representative on my local watershed council. But ultimately, I wanted whatever I did to have a positive impact on the world. After doing some research, I discovered environmental engineering, and have stuck with it ever since!

What have you learned about water quality from your job?
I have learned that healthy creeks are natural water filters. There are many parts that work together to clean the water, from the air and soils to the plants and bacteria to the insects and other animals. We can learn a lot from these natural processes and we sometimes mimic them when designing our own water treatment systems.

What engineering problems are you working on?
My group does a lot of engineering to solve problems caused by poor development decisions of the city's past, but with a limited toolbox of solutions. For example, large swaths of pavement (called impervious cover) cause rain to run off faster and dirtier than if it fell on natural ground, and this causes erosion, flooding, and poor water quality. But how do you fix a watershed-wide problem on the scale of acres, when your solution can only take up a few hundred square feet? Is it even possible to fix it?

My best day on the job...
One day I visited my stream restoration project where the stream had been an unsightly, torn-up construction zone for many months. Some plants had finally begun to grow back, but that day, I saw a heron fishing for the first time since the creek had been restored. With the heron's silent approval, I knew all that hard work was worth it!

Fun facts I know from doing my job:
1.    Rivers naturally change and reshape themselves. What is a sandy beach one day may be in the middle of a stream a few years later.
2.    It may look weak, but water is very powerful! Little by little, water in rivers can erode away even the most permanent-looking rock (think of the Grand Canyon!). When you get a lot at a time, it can carry the heaviest boulders and the biggest trees.
3.    I am definitely not immune to poison ivy.

What has been your most interesting nature encounter on the job?
When I first started my job, I was walking in an eroded creek in east Austin. I started noticing spiral-shaped fossils everywhere where erosion had worked them out of the limestone. I picked one up and later found out that the fossils were common ones called Exogyra, and they were ancient clams from back when Texas was under an ocean. That fossil in my hand was over 200 million years old!

Want to know what I like besides science and engineering?

  • Favorite Movie: I protest this question…I can never decide!
  • Favorite Book: The Hobbit
  • Favorite Hobby: Backpacking
  • Favorite Food: Pineapple
  • Favorite Music: Anything that makes me want to sing when nobody's listening

 

Something unique I do:  I am learning how to paraglide.

Have another question?  Send Michelle Adlong an email

 

Katina Bohrer

Katina Bohrer

Engineer

 

College Degree:  Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, University of Colorado

How did you become interested in civil engineering/modeling floodplains?
My grandfather is a civil engineer who specialized in oil spill cleanup and I became interested in engineering through him.  I became interested in floodplain modeling specifically while in college when our class was tasked with determining if a local eatery would flood during a rain storm, and then determining a possible solution to keep the eatery from flooding in the future.

What have you learned about flooding from your job?  
Most of the people who die during a flood event are in a vehicle at the time  – do not attempt to cross a flooded roadway.  Save yourself!  Turn around, don’t drown.

What engineering question are you investigating?
Right now we’re completing floodplain studies for 5 watersheds (Cottonmouth, Shoal, Boggy, Carson and Bull creeks) which encompass approximately 60 square miles of land in Austin.  The floodplain studies will tell us where to expect creek flooding in the future.

My best day on the job...
...is a day where I feel like I’ve been able to make a difference – whether that’s educating people about the possibility of flooding, inspecting locations where roads cross over creeks for the potential of flooding, determining how high the water was during a flood or reviewing site plans to make sure that a potential development doesn’t increase the possibility of flooding on another property.

Fun facts I know from doing my job:
If a house is in a 100-year floodplain, there is a 26% chance of that house experiencing a flood in a 30-year period while the chances of that house experiencing a fire is only 7%.  

What has been your most interesting encounter on the job?
When I was helping at the Halloween Flood Flood Assistance Center, I met Representative Lloyd Doggett.

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Movie:  Tropic Thunder
  • Favorite Book: I’m an avid reader, so it’s tough for me to choose a favorite…Founding Gardeners by Andrea Wolf, the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and anything by James Rollins are the ones that get re-read the most frequently.
  • Favorite Hobby: Photography and Gardening
  • Favorite Food: Spaghetti
  • Favorite Music: I’m an ex-band geek so I love everything from Classical to Punk Rock.  If it’s got an odd time signature, I’m almost guaranteed to like it.

Something unique I do:  I’ve been a garden blogger January 2007.

Have another question?  Send Katina Bohrer an email

 

Sergio Mendozaf

Sergio Mendoza

Professional Civil Engineer

Certified Floodplain Manager

College Degree: Bachelor of Science Engineering, California State University, Northridge

How did you become interested in civil engineering?
Initially I was attracted to the alternative fuel resources such as: solar, geothermal and wind. That drew me towards civil engineering. Then I refined my interests to water resources and structures.

What have you learned about water quality or flooding from your job?
I have learned that flooding can be caused by a number of factors and that many behaviors affect our water quality,

What engineering problems are you working on?
My main task is to lessen the impact of flooding in places away from the creeks and rivers.

My best day on the job...
is when I submit a completed design that will benefit the residents of the City of Austin.

Fun facts I know from doing my job: I know that technology and methodologies (the way we do things) are always evolving and improving. It is important to make learning a life-long commitment.

What has been your most interesting nature encounter on the job?
My most interesting nature encounter has been my survival of a skunk encounter. We encountered a skunk and did not get sprayed.

Want to know what I like besides science and engineering?

  • Favorite Movies: The Color Purple and What’s Up Doc?
  • Favorite Books: Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series (The DaVinci Code)
  • Favorite Hobby: Playing Tennis
  • Favorite Food: Mexican, especially enchiladas
  • Favorite Music: 80’s rock, 00’s country

Something unique you do:
I wake up at 4:00 AM to do my exercises (work out) before my family wakes up.

Have another question? email: Sergio Mendoza

 

John Middletonf

John Middleton

Engineer

College Degree: Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Master of Science in Civil Engineering

How did you become interested in your profession?
I spent a lot of time in the Hill Country when I was growing up, and always loved cooling off in the creeks and swimming holes. My first career was in electrical engineering – I worked for several start-up companies in Austin during the tech boom. But I still found myself drawn to creeks and water. One day, during a heavy rain, I went out to watch a large detention pond as it filled with water. As I stood under an umbrella watching, an engineer that had worked on the design of the pond joined me. After talking to him, I decided that working with stormwater was what I really wanted to do, so I went back to school, got a civil engineering degree, and now I’m working for the City to help protect citizens from flooding and keep our creeks healthy.

What have you learned about water quality or flooding from your job?
Flooding is so dangerous. People can live near a creek for years and years without flooding, and then one day a heavy rain can suddenly flood their homes. And low water crossings can be deceptively dangerous. It doesn’t take much water to wash your car (and you) off the road.

What engineering problems are you working on?
Right now I’m working on a low water crossing that floods when we get 2 inches of rain. When this crossing is under water a whole neighborhood is cut off from the rest of the City and cars that try to cross are at danger of washing off the road. My job is to upgrade this low water crossing so it isn’t so dangerous.

My best day on the job...
is a day that I spend in the field walking a creek. There is always something interesting - amazing plants, animals, and fossils are everywhere. We have beautiful creeks!

Fun facts I know from doing my job:
Our creeks change character as they run through different parts of the City. Williamson Creek is a typical hill country creek in the western part of the city. It changes character and loses water as it flows over recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer. Then it changes again as it passes over the eastern part of the city which is Blackland Prairie.

What has been your most interesting nature encounter on the job?
I found a very large fossil, an ammonite, on Onion Creek while walking with a friend. Besides being a cool fossil, I won our contest of who finds the largest ammonite!

Want to know what I like besides science and engineering?

  • Favorite Movies: Dr. Strangelove
  • Favorite Book: Dune
  • Favorite Hobby: Kayaking and canoeing the rivers of Texas (when there’s water!)
  • Favorite Food: My Mom’s spaghetti and meatballs
  • Favorite Music: Robert Earl Keen

Something unique you do:
I’m trying to visit all the county courthouses in Texas. So far I’ve visited 127 out of 254. There are some really cool ones!

Have another question? email: John Middleton