Interpreting ANWR

Volunteer roving interpreters for Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

By Phil Stapleton, certified Texas Master Naturalist

My wife, Rebecca, and I (above) have always loved to visit the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.  It has been one of our favorite places to enjoy our beautiful south Texas coast.  Last year we started volunteering as interpretive guides on the Aransas Refuge.  As interpretive guides, we learned as much as possible about the refuge plants and wildlife so we could help visitors.  One of the most helpful books to learn about the refuge is The Guidebook to the Aransas Wildlife Refuge by Dr Wayne H McAlister & Martha McAlister.

Our goal as interpretive guides is to help maximize the experience for as many visitors as we can.  With that in mind, we select areas of the refuge that will have the most possible visitors.  Heron Flats Trail, Jones Lake, and the Observation Tower are likely visitation spots.  Armed with spotting scope, binoculars, and nature journal, we settle down to let Mother Nature come to us.  Not surprising, if you spend several hours at the same locations every week, you really get to know the plants and animals of the seasons very intimately.  We learn where the green herons like to feed, where the whitetail hawks hunt, where the alligators spend their day, and other such interesting information.  Most visitors would briefly walk out to the observation platform without really seeing nature around them.  Without the encouragement to look and observe, the visiting public would miss a lot of the wildlife on the refuge. We feel we’ve accomplished our mission if guests leave with a new appreciation for the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

If you enjoy the outdoors and meeting people from all over the country and the world, maybe you would also enjoy being an interpretive guide.

A future birder learns to use the scope

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