UH Coastal Center Open for City Nature Challenge Participants: Gates open on Friday, April 30 Morning

The University of Houston Coastal Center, located in La Marque, is the home of the Texas Institute for Coastal Prairie Research and Education.  The 925-acre site is a mosaic of pristine coastal tallgrass prairie, wetlands, forest, and coastal prairie in the process of restoration.  The UHCC is a fenced and gated facility, but participants in the Houston City Nature Challenge will be welcome on Friday, April 30.  

The gates will be open from 8 am to 9 am and from 11 am to noon.  A UHCC representative will be at the gate to sign you in.  When you sign in, you will be given a number to call when you are ready to leave so that the gate can be opened.  We will sign people out as well (especially since we don’t want to leave anyone behind a locked gate!).  We ask that visitors finish their surveys by 2:30 PM.   

It would be a good idea to wear long pants and close-toed shoes, especially if you plan to walk out on the prairie.  A hat is a good idea.   

There are restrooms in the lab building, which will be open.  Park in the back of the building and enter through the double doors.   

I will be on site all day.   


Here are directions and attached map for the UH Coastal Center in La Marque.  Google maps link: https://goo.gl/maps/RXaN3aHo9TQYqiBe8

The street address is:  5721 Highway 2004, La Marque, TX 77568…

The U of H Coastal Center is located south of Houston off of I-45 (Gulf Frwy.) next to the La Marque Dog Track.  Take the FM 1764-West exit from I-45 (Exit #15) and go WEST.  DON’T take the FM 1764-East exit!  After you exit onto the service road and reach the stoplight at the intersection with FM 1764, turn right (west) IF YOU ARE COMING FROM HOUSTON.  IF YOU ARE COMING FROM GALVESTON, turn left (west) underneath the freeway. Next, make a left at the stoplight intersection onto FM 2004 and follow the road for about 1/4 mile.  A Whataburger will be on one side of FM 2004 and the dog track will be on the other side of FM 2004.  The road will join another and turn to the right.  Go about 1/2 mile further on FM 2004 and the U of H Coastal Center will be on the right just beyond the dog track.  The UH Coastal Center/Texas Institute for Coastal Prairie Research and Education  is surrounded by a fence with a sign at the gate.    Evelyn Evelyn L. Merz, M.B.A.Program DirectorUH Coastal CenterThe Texas Institute for Coastal Prairie Research and Education5721 Highway 2004; La Marque, TX  77568

Deer Park Prairie open for City Nature Challenge 2021 on May 1, 10am – 2pm

It’s April – City Nature Challenge Month!

CNC is a worldwide contest: everyone can participate and help Greater Houston win!

Don’t know what this is? Join the Houston – Native Plant Society of Texas (H-NPSOT) on Thursday, April 15, 2021, at 7 p.m. to learn from TWPD biologist Craig Hensley on how to use iNaturalist and participate (for newbies) and how your data is used (for past participants). Register for the Zoom meeting where you can ask questions via chat or view the talk on Youtube Live.

Also view previous blog to learn more about the Houston-Galveston area CNC -from Jaime Gonzalez, one of the CNC coordinators for this area.

The over 50 acres of Deer Park Prairie will be open to CNC participants to take photos.

  • Date & Time: Saturday, May 1, 2021 between 10 a.m. & 2 p.m.
  • Location: 1222 East Purdue Lane, Deer Park, TX 77536
  • Visitors must bring a signed copy of the liability release and sign in at the back porch.
  • Please add your photos to the Deer Park Prairie project on iNaturalist (www.inaturalist.org/projects/deer-park-prairie-biodiversity)
  • Normal visitation rules:
    • Minors must be accompanied by an adult
    • No firearms, motor vehicles, alcohol, or smoking on the prairie
    • No loud music or noise – it disturbs the wildlife
    • Leave only footsteps and take only photos: please take out your trash and do not pick flowers, seeds, plants.
  • The house will NOT be open – there will be no bathroom facilities
  • Please abide by Covid-19 guidelines:
    • Facemasks are mandatory in the front, side, and backyard of the house. Facemasks are mandatory when around others not in your household
    • Practice social distancing: Stay at least 6 feet away from others not in your household. With over 50 acres, there should be sufficient space on the prairie for social distancing.
    • Groups of more than 10 are not allowed.

Houston-Galveston City Nature Challenge 2021

Read the next blog for basics of City Nature Challenge & Deer Park Prairie being open on May 1, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. to CNC participants.

Below is information about the Houston-Galveston City Nature Challenge from Jaime Gonzalez, Houston Healthy Cities Program Director, of The Nature Conservancy, Texas Chapter – Houston Office:

“We are very excited to be just about two weeks away from this year’s global City Nature Challenge (April 30-May 3, 2021)!

Don’t let the title fool you. Yes, we absolutely want to observe and record species in our wonderful cities – like Houston and Galveston – but you can do this even in much of the countryside and seascapes surrounding our cities – we are all in this together (see the map… to see what counts in the Houston-Galveston region)!

[Note: to sign up for the Houston-Galveston City Nature Challenge Team:

This year, the Houston-Galveston City Nature Challenge Team (if you make observations in our region during CNC, you are on the team!) will join over 200+ Global Cities to observe, record, and identify the wildlife, plants life, and other living organisms of their regions using the amazing, free iNaturalist app. We will also be competing against other Texas regional teams, including the tough, talented team from Dallas-Fort Worth. This is real community science in action. The observations we make using the iNaturalist app can be used by scientists to track wildlife and plant populations and even plan habitat restorations that will benefit both them and humans.

Last year, even during the pandemic, our regional team set new records (see attached card). Lastly, we want you, your students, and your staff to be absolutely Covid Safe. Click here for some helpful hints on staying safe. Also, make sure to adhere to your local social distancing/masking guidelines and recommendations.

Below, please find resources to help you learn more about and engage your students with the City Nature Challenge and the iNaturalist app, and to create your own campus or neighborhood iNaturalist project that you can use during the City Nature Challenge and beyond! If you have any questions, need any resources, or want to share events or activities, please do not fail to contact me, Suzanne Simpson with Bayou Land Conservancy, or Nicole Temple from the Houston Museum of Natural Science – your regional co-coordinators ☺


Jaime González

Join Us to Honor John Egan, Recipient of HNPAT’s 2020 Prairie Volunteer Award

John Egan at Sheldon Lake SP, November, 2020

HNPAT (Houston Chapter – Native Prairies Association of Texas) will be presenting its 2020 Prairie Volunteer Award to John Egan on Wednesday, December 2 (6:30 pm to 8:30 pm), at the annual Prairie Stampede via zoom this year (registration required at this link). (See flyer here)

John Egan mentoring volunteers at Sheldon Lake S.P.

The award is given to John especially for his work over the years at Sheldon Lake State Park as well as his other prairie volunteer work. In 2008, shortly after joining the Prairie Restoration Team at Sheldon Lake S.P. under the mentorship of Tom Solomon and Jim Duron, John became the leader of that Team. In that capacity he provided weekly planning for volunteers and served as the interface between Park Staff and the Prairie Team.

Sample of Report Documenting Results at Sheldon Lake S.P.

He also gathered and maintained detailed records of the Prairie Team efforts which included the names of volunteers and their hours, planting and propagation data by plant type, planting location information, and plant type inventory records. (Example Summary Report attached).

He also planned and lead Sheldon’s annual Prairie Plant-a-thons over the past decade which involved working with 100 or so volunteers and school groups to plant 1000-2000 new plants into the prairie.

Working closely with LyondellBasell Corporation and Park Staff, John has been the focal point for GCMN Chapter to receive grants supporting Sheldon activities. Grants to date now total $22,500.

John had become a Gulf Coast Master Naturalist in the Spring of 2008 and then served on the Chapter Board for 4 years as Secretary. He has participated in other prairie volunteer work. Periodically he participated as a team mentor at Armand Bayou Nature Center assisting volunteers for their annual Prairie Pandemonium event. He was also active at Jesse Jones helping to remove invasives off trail to allow native grasses and forbs room and sunlight to rebound. Also at Jesses Jones, with the help of GCMN volunteers, 100 native grasses and forbs were planted in the park’s pocket prairie. John is also a member of the Green Team at the Houston Parks Board. And when not involved in restoring native habitat, John spent several years at Sheldon trapping invasive beetles for a project sponsored by the USDA.

In 2016, John received the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for volunteer service signed by President Barack Obama. In 2019, TPWD recognized John with the Stars in our Parks award for his work at Sheldon.  This year he will have achieved approximately 7500 volunteer hours much of which has been dedicated to prairie restoration. He continues to volunteer weekly at Sheldon as a member of the Prairie Team splitting his efforts to all the various activities. Going forward however he plans to spend more time on invasive management allowing the native prairie, now restored by restoration planting, to maintain a long and productive life.

John also sent the following thanks:

“Thank You From John Egan
2020 Prairie Stampede

I would like to thank HNPAT for this very valued recognition coming at a time in my life I can really
appreciate it. Special thanks to my wife Trish (an indoor girl), for her continued support to all my
outdoor adventures. Thanks to Tom Solomon for keeping the faith and to all the current members of the
Prairie Team at Sheldon consisting of Texas Master Naturalist and Park volunteers:
Gulf Coast Chapter – Paulette Pittman
Melinda Kincaid
Joan Ward
Jane Shaw
Chatt Smith
Galveston Bay Area Chapter – Lana Burkowitz
Tom Solomon
Lower Trinity Basin Chapter – Mindee Poldrack
TPWD Volunteers – Glenn Braden
Kaveh Moghadam
Gus Cei

And a final thanks to Sheldon Lake Superintendent Kelley Parker and Resource Ranger Matthew Moore
for providing the opportunity.”

Prairie Wisdom from Tim Siegmund: Bees, Pollinators, Ag Exemptions & More

Tim Siegmund (scroll to 2/2020 meeting)  leads the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Private Lands and Habitat Program  and is on the board of Native Prairies Associations of Texas (NPAT).

Recently blogged at this website was his answer about mowing to maintain a prairie. We plan to continue blogging his answers to various prairie related questions under the tag Prairie Wisdoms from Tim Siegmund

Question #1 (from Kirsti Harms, Executive Director, NPAT): What are the benefits of keeping bees on a prairie. Does that count as an agriculture valuation? Does it negatively impact native bees?

Tim’s answer: Yes to both. The law was changed to allow properties between 5 and 20 acres to qualify for ag by keeping bees, but you have to keep a lot of hives. More than that acreage could really support so they bees are depending on their neighbors. Yes, honey bees can out compete or over saturate areas to push out native pollinators. Further, honey bees are generalists so they can exclude species specialists from their preferred nectar source while also not begin quite as efficient at pollination as the native bee. So honeybees are cool, and beekeeping can help folks qualify for ag. However, they should be kept off natural areas as they can negatively impact our native pollinators.

Page 3 in TPWD’s Pollinator Management guidelines highlights the potentially detrimental relationship of honey bees with native bees. https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_bk_w7000_1813.pdf

…[I am] highlighting this link to our “Private Lands and Pollinators” page…  There are lots of folks with wildscapes, prairie gardens, pocket prairies, and so on that might benefit from some of the resources on this webpage. It discusses different species of native pollinators and how to manage to attract them, and what species of plants to select as well. https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/nongame/native-pollinators/

Question #2 (from Andrew Coulter, HNPAT board member): How do the tax incentives for wildlife management/conservation (by which I mean, in this case, management to promote native pollinators) compare to the ag exemption for beekeeping?…

Tim’s answer: Beekeeping only allows you to take land from full value into an ag valuation which lowers the overall taxable value.  It is then broken down into production catergories (native pasture, irrigated cropland, dryland cropland, orchard, bee keeping, etc).  Once it’s been broken down into its categorical use the switch over to wildlife is tax neutral.  So whatever it did to qualify for ag (farming, ranching, beekeeping) and the previous taxable value associate with that property stays with it as it moves to the wildlife valuation.  Beekeeping is actually one of the highest appraised practices because on a per acre basis it raises more money than native range or other uses.

So there really is no incentive or disincentive between beekeeping and the wildlife  valuation.  Beekeeping can help those smaller properties between 5 and 20 acres to qualify for the open space exemption with an ag valuation.  Then long term allow them to transition to the wildlife valuation at the same taxable rate if they so choose.  In order to get to wildlife valuation currently you have to already be in an agricultural or timber valuation first.

Comment from Wally Ward (HNPAT board member):  Dr. John Neff of the Central Texas Melittological Institute in Austin made a presentation to the Houston Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association several years ago. He said africanized bees have displaced European honeybees throughout much of Texas. Native bees are also more efficient pollinators. Honeybees are invasive exotics.

Prairie Maintenance #1: Mowing

A question came to NPAT (Native Prairies Association of Texas): “We will be converting some acreage in our parks [to] prairies and wildflower areas… What is the recommended amount of times per year and height… to mow the areas…

Answered by Tim Siegmund of Texas Parks & Wildlife and board member of NPAT

I would agree with the once or twice.  6 or 7 times a year is wayyyyyy too much for any type of prairie in Texas to truly express itself floristically….

I would recommend 6” being absolute lowest they would shred.  It would be better at 8-12”.  This leaves more growing points (buds, leaves, stems) on the vegetation so it can recover and survive. I tell folks that shredding in late February is ok before spring wildflowers begin to lift from their rosettes, and then early July is ok once spring wildflowers are done, and it gives summer and fall wildflowers enough time to recover to bloom again in the fall if they get rain.

As far as untidy that is the in the eye of beholder.  Some would say thickets of Japanese honeysuckle, Chinese privet, Ligustrum, and callary pear are untidy, but that’s what I see when I go to most city parks.  So an untidy native area with lots of bees and butterflies may be of better worth especially with a few interpretive signs to let folks know why it looks the way it does.

Nature Related Free Presentations and Videos updated 9/3/2020

Updated 9/3/2020

Recently there are so many interesting free presentations and videos/podcasts online. After missing some, I’ve decided to organize some of those that might be interesting to people interested in nature, conservation, etc. Included are date, title, registration information. This is not a comprehensive list, but just some of which I am aware. Also note, many online meetings have limited capacity, so register early.

Free Zoom-type Presentations & Webinars : updated 9/3/2020

Free videos / podcasts

Check out the five videos by the Deer Park Prairie Education Program in this Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC61bpw5Fiuj1d7vtT51gMtg/videos . Read about the videos here: https://texasprairie.org/the-deer-park-prairie-education-program/ )


This list will be updated as more information becomes available, so bookmark this page to come back to it.


Powerpoint: Build a Pocket Prairie – Prairie Garden

This is the PowerPoint presentation (or click the above picture) of the talk given by Lan Shen via Zoom on July 2 to the Texas Master Naturalist, Coastal Prairie Chapter. The talk was basically information provided in Katy Prairie Conservancy’s “Build a Pocket Prairie” by Jaime Gonzalez.

A few of the slides have speaker notes attached. To see the speaker notes, view the pdf version of the presentation.

Urban Prairie Series Written & Edited by Bob Romero

Bob Romero publishes the Urban Prairie Series about our local pocket prairies in HNPAT newsletters.  Links to the pertinent newsletters in this Series are listed below. For each link, scroll down to the Urban Prairie Series article.

MD Anderson Prairie by Flo Hannah

Blog by Don Verser on the Mandell Prairie Garden

In Memory of Charlie Lundquist – Deer Park Prairie Volunteer

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We are extremely sad to announce that HNPAT (Houston – Native Prairies Association of Texas) member and devoted Lawther – Deer Park Prairie (DPP) volunteer Charlie Lundquist of Friendswood passed away on Saturday, May 16, 2020. Charlie had been volunteering at Deer Park Prairie since 2014, the year when NPAT acquired the Prairie.  The funeral service will be accessible via Zoom at 4:00 pm on Saturday, May 23, 2020. Email Lan.shen@txgcmn.org for more information.

Charlie’s sister, Katie Sallean, contacted NPAT to let us know that she wants to set up a memorial in his name at DPP, because he loved it so much.  We thought a project to build the Charles Lundquist Memorial Boardwalk into the prairie would allow people of all ages and physical abilities access to the prairie including to the wetland areas. That would be one of the best ways to experience the prairie and we think that would have made Charlie very happy.

To honor Charlie’s memory, the family requested donations toward this boardwalk project.  Also, read more about Charlie’s “passion in…observing the natural world and striving to understand the complexities that come with its beauty.” at the NPAT blog: texasprairie.org/charlie-lundquist

On a personal note, I met Charlie in the summer of 2014 when his sister Katie brought him to a Memorial Park Prairie walk prior to a Native Plant Society of Texas – Houston Chapter (NPSOT-H) monthly meeting. When we talked about NPAT’s newly acquired Deer Park Prairie, Charlie said that he lived not too far from Deer Park.  Shortly thereafter, he started coming to DPP to volunteer. As Katie said, “[Charlie] felt it was a great misfortune that, through our modern-day actions, the unique and exceptional flora and fauna that have evolved over eons are being wiped out. This feeling spurred Charlie to action and Lawther – Deer Park Prairie became that outlet.”

To maintain DPP, there are routine tasks that need to be done and our regular volunteers often take them on. For Charlie, one of those tasks was mowing the fenceline. In addition to whatever special task of the workday, Charlie was often on the mower creating a firebreak, a walking/driving path along the west side between the prairie and our neighbors’ backyard fences.‘ backyard fences.
We missed Charlie, this past winter, while he was ill. We will miss him on future workdays.
Lan Shen
HNPAT Volunteer at Deer Park Prairie