Friday, January 23, 2009

Internships available with Houston Audubon Society

Houston Audubon Society

440 Wilchester Blvd.

Houston, TX 77079

Title: Sanctuary Management Interns (2)

Agency: Houston Audubon Society

Location: Primarily High Island and the Bolivar Peninsula

Job Description: Assist with management of Houston Audubon Sanctuaries on the Upper Texas Coast.

Duties: Control exotic plant species by cutting, pulling, mowing and herbicide application. Erect sanctuary signs, post boundaries, maintain fences, pick up trash, and perform other tasks as necessary. Interact with sanctuary visitors. Bird censusing and nest monitoring may be included. Use all tools and equipment in a safety conscious manner at all times.

Qualifications: Excellent physical condition. Ability to perform hard physical work for extended and irregular periods, under adverse conditions and in all extremes of weather. Mechanical aptitude and knowledge of machinery. Experience with chainsaws and other power tools. Ability to work with a wide variety of people and to work independently of supervisor. Enthusiasm for working outdoors. Personal vehicle necessary.

Minimum Qualification: College coursework in natural or biological sciences.

Benefits: Travel expenses between sanctuaries reimbursed.

Salary: $10 / Hour (10-hour week)

Last date to apply: February 16, 2009

Starting date: March 10, 2009

Documentation needed: Resume with cover letter and 2 references.

Contact: Winnie Burkett

Sanctuary Manager

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How do marsh and mangrove habitats compare?

In seagrass beds in Florida, nutrient supply appears to be more important than canopy complexity for epifauna. How does that conclusion apply to salt marshes in Texas?

Most Texas salt marshes are dominated by Spartina alterniflora (cordgrass). This forms a dense, complex canopy (left) that is critical habitat for a variety of animals, including snails, shrimp, and juvenile fish. But, in some parts of the Texas coast, native mangroves (Avicennia germinans) are behaving like invasives and converting marshes into dwarf mangrove forests. This change may have been influenced by climate change, which brings milder winters and less frequent freeze events to limit the spread of mangroves. Continuing climate change may accelerate mangrove proliferation, particularly in transition zones like Port Aransas.

Mangroves have aerial root structures (left) that may provide analogous habitat to salt marshes for marsh fauna. I have observed snails using marsh grasses and mangrove pneumatophores in similar ways. But will other important marsh fauna, like brown shrimp or juvenile fish, use marsh and mangrove structures in the same way? In other parts of the world, the answer is "no," but here in Texas, where we are at the transition between marsh and mangrove habitats, the answer is unknown. We will soon begin collecting fauna from both habitats to find out.