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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2007-06-25                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than six years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Aaron Reed, 512-389-8046 ] [AR]
June 25, 2007
Boating Fatalities Up Over Same Period Last Year
AUSTIN, Texas--Texas boating fatalities for the first five months of 2007 are up over the previous three years, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department reports show. State game wardens say the increase underscores the need for boater education and shows why TPWD and its partners are this summer launching the Nobody's Waterproof™ public awareness effort statewide.
From Jan. 1 to May 31 this year, there were 64 boating accidents resulting in 23 fatalities and 33 injuries on Texas waters. That compares to 20 fatalities for the same period in 2006 and only 13 for the first five months of 2005.
"While some lakes are doing better this year than in recent years, the overall trend is not positive," said Maj. Alfonso Campos, TPWD's chief of marine safety enforcement. "Last year we had 47 fatalities. At the rate we are going, we may exceed 50 fatalities for the first time since 2002.
Heavy spring rains and swollen rivers have contributed to the grim count. On a single day in late May, two teenagers and a game warden who was searching for one of the missing teens drowned on the Paluxy and Brazos Rivers near Glen Rose.
Other incidents have involved intoxicated boat operators and boaters operating in a reckless manner or failing to keep a proper lookout.
"These are all things that can earn a boater a ticket at the very least, and fines and time behind bars at worst," said Campos. "But the most serious consequence of being unsafe on the water is that someone dies. That's something you can't ever undo or make right. It's a tragedy for everyone involved in such an accident."
Campos urged boaters to take a few simple steps to stay safe on the water during the busy summer boating season:
--Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device, also known as a PFD or lifejacket.
--Avoid alcohol. At the very least, designate a sober driver for the lake or bay and for the ride home.
--Operate your boat at a safe speed; what might be safe in some places or in some conditions might not be safe in others.
--Keep a proper lookout -- for hazards in the water, for the wakes of other boats, and for swimmers and water-skiers.
--Take a boater education course.
Some Texas lakes will receive extra attention this summer -- particularly on busy holidays and weekends -- with extra game wardens and beefed-up enforcement of Boating while Intoxicated and Public Intoxication laws.
TPWD, along with partners in the Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas areas, also this year launched a statewide social marketing campaign aimed at 18-34-year-old lake and bay enthusiasts.
The campaign, called "Nobody's Waterproof," was developed by the Lower Colorado River Authority and Enviromedia Social Marketing, Inc., for use on Lake Travis and Lake LBJ*
last year. Country rocker Kevin Fowler is the statewide spokesperson this year, and has recorded radio and TV public service announcements which are available at the Web sites listed below.
* Correction, June 26, 2007: The original version of this news release incorrectly listed Lake Buchanan here. Lake LBJ is the correct lake. (Return to corrected item.)
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On the Net:
http://www.nobodyswaterproof.com
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/boat/safety/
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[ Note: This item is more than six years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ General Media Contact: Business Hours, 512-389-4406 ] [AJ]
[ Additional Contacts: Alanna Jones 512-389-4577, alanna.jones@tpwd.texas.gov or Tom Harvey 512-389-4453, tom.harve@tpwd.texas.gov ]
June 25, 2007
TPWD Internship Program Trains Future Conservationists
AUSTIN, Texas -- All across Texas this summer, 147 student interns are getting their hands dirty and feet wet in the real world of wildlife conservation, environmental law enforcement, state parks and other aspects of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Hans Friedel, a first year graduate student at Texas State University majoring in geography with a concentration in land/area development and management, is interning in the Wildlife Division.
Friedel said his life experiences involving the outdoors, wildlife, swimming, camping, hiking, mountain climbing, nature viewing and fishing have all influenced him in his decision to seek TPWD as his internship of choice.
"My undergraduate degree is in marketing, and since I am currently pursuing a masters in applied geography, nature tourism seemed like a perfect fit for my educational background and interests," said Friedel. "I feel this position will help me learn more about the diverse ecoregions, wildlife and small towns in Texas."
Friedel said he is interested in developing and implementing sustainable wildlife tourism. Growing up in Colorado gave Friedel the opportunity to watch Rocky Mountain National Park change from a quiet area where tourists are able to see many animals roam the open land to a place that is congested and where many of its more interesting species are seldom seen.
"I think working for TPWD in nature tourism will help me learn more about balancing the economic benefits and opportunities of wildlife tourism and sustainable hunting with the needs of the wildlife and the environment itself," said Friedel.
Friedel was one of more than 600 students who sent applications for acceptance into the competitive TPWD summer internship program.
The program objective is to introduce interested college students, particularly women and minorities, to career opportunities in positions located statewide and job settings in which to gain practical experience and training in natural and cultural resource fields.
Connie Hofmann, TPWD Intern Coordinator, has been with the agency for two years and 2007 marks her third summer heading the intern program.
"The intern program is so important because it's the lifeline to our agency's future," said Hofmann. "The internship experience encourages students to think about majors they may have never thought about before. The program also allows our agency to replenish all those who are retiring."
Hofmann also said the intern program is critical to help the agency increase its workforce diversity.
"As an agency, we should reflect the state of Texas," said Hofmann. "The intern program broadens the culture at TPWD and this is so important because we need to make our agency relatable to the public and the public relatable to us."
In order to increase diversity, Hofmann and her team are using a technique called "targeted recruiting" to reach women and minorities who may not have been aware of what TPWD has to offer.
This year's diversity efforts through the intern program are at total record highs: 72 women, eight blacks, 20 Hispanics and one Asian-American are working as interns.
Some interns have been coming back to TPWD each summer for years. Returning intern Stacy Marhofer, a senior at Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi majoring in environmental science with an emphasis in biology and a minor in business, first interned with the Coastal Fisheries Division in Port Arthur in 2006 and is now an intern with the Coastal Fisheries Division in Port O'Connor.
With a childhood passion for fishing, Marhofer chose TPW as her internship so she could spend her summer outside and not behind a desk.
"I love outdoor activities and this seemed to be the perfect solution," said Marhofer.
Marhofer said she has a desire to make the world more ecologically friendly. Through her interest in the popular Discovery Channel TV show Planet Earth, Marhofer said, she realized that even though much has been lost, there is still a lot to conserve.
"If we don't preserve it, we will be known as the generation that didn't care. I don't want that," said Marhofer. "While you can't stop progress, I believe you can shift its focus. I'd like to really work with people to try to get them to appreciate what they have, both locally and globally."
Her job duties include traveling on boats to do trawls, sampling fish with bag seines and gill nets, and producing gill net report summaries.
Marhofer said that being a member of the intern program has taught her that hard work can get you anywhere and her experiences with TPWD are helping her reach her career goals.
"[The intern program] has allowed me to work with people that know so much about the environment and they have transferred their knowledge to me," she said. "I don't know it all but I'm learning slowly about the different ecosystems and that will come in handy when explaining the importance of marine life to people."
Internship veteran Lana Daniels, a senior at Texas A&M University majoring in wildlife and fisheries and a minor in sociology, began her internship experience at TPWD in the State Parks Division at Lockhart State Park in 2004, continued as a clerk at Bastrop State Park in 2005, interned with the Infrastructure Division in 2006, and is currently an intern with the Wildlife Division.
Daniels' decision to choose TPWD for the fourth time not only stems from her extensive internship experience, but to help her reach her personal goals in life.
"I chose Wildlife this year to complete my field experience as required by my degree plan," said Daniels. "I have been able to see and experience a broad array of what TPWD has to offer as an employer. I plan to pursue a career in wildlife and fisheries but I'm not sure exactly where or what role."
Daniels' current job duties include two projects dealing with wildlife management areas (WMA): payment in lieu of taxes for the WMAs which involve researching the current acreage for each WMA and also contacting the county where the WMA lies to find the current agriculture value per acre of land, and working on the filing system and reconciliation of land easements and agreements involving the WMAs.
Although Daniels has learned how much work goes into the day-to-day operations at TPWD, she is looking forward to much more.
"I hope to travel this summer. Last summer with Infrastructure, I was able to travel out to Indian Lodge for a historical renovation project and I also spent two weeks with the survey crew at Cleburne State Park," said Daniels. "I would really like to visit one of the WMAs this summer. I have never been to one and I would like to see exactly what goes on there."
Scott Copper, a graduate student at Baylor University and an intern in the Information Technology/Telecom division, said that the project to install wireless networks at each of the parks convinced him that TPWD was the place for him to work this summer.
"I could have gone to work for a company to install equipment in buildings but the challenge to install against different terrains and atmospheres was the deciding factor in my internship choice," said Copper. "I wanted to learn all aspects of the job and TPW persuaded me with the ability to be on-site and jump right in to the implementation of the wireless networks."
Although Copper looks forward to many more challenges with implementation of the state parks, he is beginning to learn aspects in his field of interest that he didn't know before.
"I am beginning to learn about virtual private network clients and securing the networks," said Copper. "The program has helped me with my knowledge of wireless networks and security to better prepare me for this converged field of telecom and IT."
Not all interns are getting their hands dirty during their internship experience. Carly Drees, a recent graduate of Southwestern University with a degree in communications studies, is interning with the Marketing and Web Services Branch at the Austin headquarters.
"I've always loved things like camping, fishing and hiking, and I wanted to work with something that I'm passionate about," said Drees. "I'm also job searching right now and thought TPWD would be great place to build up my resume and get a lot of real life experience."
Drees said she is learning a lot.
"I'm getting a great inside look into everything that TPWD does. I've learned about the different divisions, the many programs they develop, and the ins and outs of working for a state agency," said Drees. "I'm helping with many aspects of marketing. So far, I've written copy for brochures, direct mailings and ads and I'm helping develop brochures for Expo 2007 and license plate sales."
Some interns get hired and move into fulltime careers with TPWD. Nyta Hensley interned with TPW in 2000 at the Old Tunnel WMA, where she worked with bats and helped educate the public about the importance of bats to the environment.
Hensley was hired in 2004 and is currently the Natural Resource Specialist for the Old Tunnel WMA. She manages the 16.1 acres that comprise the management area, the bat habitat, a volunteer group of 60 individuals and a host of other responsibilities.
"Having the opportunity to continually talk with the public about nature inspired me to want to learn more and share more with others," said Hensley. "In addition, I came to love bats so I wanted to do my part to help protect them."
Hensley said that she is the perfect example of how getting your foot in the door and doing a good job can pay off and how students can make their internship experience as much or as little as they want.
"Don't be afraid to ask questions and try to work on many projects that interest you. I always found an open door and a willing answer to any question I had," said Hensley.
Since 1992, when TPWD had 33 summer interns, the program has trained 1,098 interns. The program will cost TPWD a little over $500,000 this year, but organizers say it generates a far greater value to the agency through work done by interns, and by recruiting diverse talent for the organization. Currently, 87 TPWD positions are filled with alumni of the intern program.
---
On the Net:
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/business/jobs/summer_internships/
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[ Note: This item is more than six years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
June 25, 2007
Research Proves Bats Help Control Insect Pests
AUSTIN, Texas -- New research shows bats suppress agricultural insect pests, saving farmers millions of dollars in avoided pesticide costs and better crop yields. Although the study area focuses on eight counties in Texas, scientists say insect suppression by bats benefits farmers up into the Midwest and Canada, and that this underscores the need to protect large bat colonies and promote public education and bat ecotourism.
A team of researchers from Boston University, University of Tennessee, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is this summer entering the fourth year of a five-year research project funded by a $2.4 million National Science Foundation grant. Researchers are focusing on an eight-county region in South Texas near Uvalde, studying how free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) protect corn, cotton and other crops against insect infestation.
In a 2006 article in the scientific journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the research team reported that the annual value of insect pest suppression provided by bats approaches $1.7 million dollars. This figure reflects the cumulative value of avoided yield loss and avoided pesticide costs for cotton grown in the eight-county study region.
The study area includes Uvalde, Medina, Zavala, Frio, Dimmitt, LaSalle, McMullen and Atascosa counties, known as the Winter Garden agricultural area. But researchers say the benefits of insect suppression by bats extend far beyond the Texas study region.
"Large bat colonies in Texas provide value nationwide, because they intercept moths that would otherwise migrate out of the area to infest fields elsewhere in Texas or in other states, especially in the Corn Belt of the upper Midwest," said John Westbrook, Ph.D., USDA meteorologist, and a co-principal investigator on the research team. "I'm seeing new interest in this research among scientists in states as far away as Iowa and Minnesota. Nationally, producers are planting more corn because of the higher commodity price for corn, which is one of the most suitable hosts for the corn earworm. This comes at a time when there is increased national interest in biofuels from crops like corn."
Westbrook says the corn earworm, also known as the cotton bollworm, and another pest, the tobacco budworm, cost farmers about $1 billion per year nationwide, representing the cost of pesticide use and yield losses due to crop damage. These pests start as caterpillar larvae and turn into moths.
Researchers have been tracking the way insect pests progress among plant species, revealing a surprising link with the Texas state flower, the bluebonnet.
"Corn earworms start with bluebonnets in early stages, then move to corn in the second and third generations, and cotton in the fifth and sixth generations," said Thomas Kunz, Ph.D., of Boston University, the NSF research project principal investigator. "They could almost be called bluebonnet worm. Prior to corn and cotton, fields that now support crops most certainly had more abundant wildflowers that provided food for these moth larvae."
Using thermal imaging cameras, researchers from Boston University have for the first time been able to accurately count the numbers of bats that emerge nightly from their day-time roosts. Kunz explained that "our research has revealed that current bat population estimates are an order of magnitude less than what scientists reported 50 years ago. These lower estimates may in part reflect actual population decreases due to previous use of pesticides, but they also may reflect the fact that Texas free-tailed bats now have more places to roost--especially beneath highway bridges. Scores of bridges in Texas are now occupied by bats, where before bat friendly bridges did not exist."
The NSF research project originally focused on natural bat caves, which remain the primary roosting resource for most bats; however, large bat colonies now commonly roost under highway bridges. This behavior has fostered a growing partnership between bat scientists and highway engineers, who have actually begun designing bridges to accommodate bats. Today, sites such as Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin and Waugh Drive Bridge in Houston are becoming important tourism attraction and public education venues.
Much of the current research developed after the National Weather Service installed NEXRAD Doppler radar in the early 1990s. These weather surveillance radars detected large, mysterious "clouds" in areas where no storm activity was expected. The clouds turned out to be hundreds of thousands of bats emerging from cave roosts.
Soon after, another radar system operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under the guidance of John Westbrook, detected additional radar images that were intersected by the bats at altitudes of thousands of feet. These images were found to be millions of migrating moths--a favorite food of free-tailed bats.
It took a decade for researchers to learn how to precisely measure and demonstrate the presence of insect pests in the diet of bats. It turned out that specific insects could be detected from DNA gene fragments in bat feces. Today researchers can not only determine which bats eat moths, but can specify which insect species the bats eat and even estimate the quantity of moths consumed.
"What's really impressed me is that the bats are tracking the availability of these major crop pests," said Gary McCracken, PhD, an evolutionary biologist with the University of Tennessee and a research co-principal investigator. "The pests are very episodic," he explained, "characterized by dramatic increases in numbers, followed by down times. They flush and then disappear, and the bats are somehow able to track these things. This speaks strongly for the bats as effective control agents, because when the insect populations erupt, the bats are demonstrating their ability to cue in and take them out."
Alongside the agricultural pest research, the NSF grant is also funding public education. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is producing a bilingual book and DVD for schools connected with the bat research. The department and partners such as Bat Conservation International, the Texas Department of Transportation and cities and counties who host bat sites are also promoting public bat viewing sites and bat-related tourism.
"This project demonstrates a key value of bats, showing why it's critical to dispel all the myths and superstitions about bats," said Pat Morton, TPWD wildlife diversity education coordinator. "In order to generate those economic benefits, bats have to exist in large numbers, and that means their roosts in Texas and Mexico must be protected. This is a migratory species that winters in Mexico and spends spring and summer in Texas and other states. And that is why educational materials, including the bilingual children's book and DVD, are going to be distributed on both sides of the border."
The upcoming book "Frankie the Free-tailed Bat" is about a female free-tailed bat which migrates to Texas, where she has a baby. The story tells the adventures of Frankie and her son as they migrate back and forth, which Morton describes as "kind of a year in the life of a Mexican free-tailed bat." The book is geared to older elementary and middle school children. About 20,000 copies will be printed in September, and will be distributed free to schools. An electronic version will also be available free on the TPWD Web site.
A new booklet is also available, "Bat Watching Sites of Texas," produced by TPWD in partnership with the Bat Viewing Sites Forum coalition of partners. The booklet covers basic information about free-tailed bats, plus bat-watching etiquette for the public. It includes maps and information about 10 established sites across Texas where people can witness evening bat emergences from caves, tunnels and highway bridges. The booklet is available for $2 at any of the bat watching sites, or people can order it by sending a check for $2 made to "Texas Nongame Fund," mailed to Wildlife Diversity Program, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744.
More information about free-tailed bats, as well as photos of research activity for news media use, is on the TPWD Web site.
---
On the Net:
News Media Resources: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/newsmedia/releases/news_roundup/
Bat Conservation International: http://www.batcon.org/
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[ Note: This item is more than six years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.texas.gov ] [LH]
June 25, 2007
Marina Owner Offers Iraq Vets Free Fishing on Lake Fork
ATHENS, Texas--Joe Axton spent nine years in the U.S. Marine Corps, and he's heard stories of Vietnam veterans being treated poorly on their return home. Now the owner of Axton's Bass City on Lake Fork, Axton is doing what he can to see the same thing does not happen to military service men and women returning from duty in Iraq.
Axton is offering free accommodations and meals for two days at his motel and marina on Lake Fork for military personnel returning from Iraq and their families. In addition, he will secure the services of a fishing guide for the service member. He will even arrange to pick the party up at DFW Airport and return them after their stay--all at no charge.
Lake Fork is generally regarded as the Mecca of bass fishing, and a guided trip on the lake typically costs $300 a day.
"I have several guides who have already committed to taking the soldiers fishing at no charge, and a number of anglers who fish the lake regularly have also volunteered their services," Axton said. "Guides usually have openings throughout the year, and we will work with the soldiers and guides to book trips whenever they have dates available.
"A lot of people give lip service to supporting the troops, and I felt it was time to do something," Axton added. "My family has always been very patriotic, and we are just carrying on the tradition. I think it will be good for the veterans, and doing it makes me feel good."
Axton said he wants as many military personnel as possible to take advantage of his offer, which is limited only by the availability of rooms and guides. "The offer is good as long as they are over there getting shot at," he said.
Axton can be contacted at (877) 525-4698 or axtons@axtonsbasscity.com.
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