Friday, December 24, 2010

What Are We Celebrating and Why?

Pictured left to right: Scott Grote, Ranch Operations Manager; Colleen Gardner, Executive Director; Francisco Coronilla, Ranch Hand; Steven Fulton, Ranch Biologist; J. David, Founder; Lois Sturm, Adminstrative Assistant; and our dog Cory.
Photograph taken by Colleen Gardner.

I’m not talking about Christmas, but rather about this place called Selah. Fifty-five hundred acres of the Texas Hill Country reserved and preserved for Mother Nature. To me, Selah is like Walden was to Thoreau, a place to pause and reflect and to think about my stewardship of this land. I’m celebrating because this small staff works together in harmony and respect for one another and their passion is absorbed by all who come here. We’re celebrating because we’re at the end of a successful year. Even though we are very short on rainfall right now, we’re celebrating the end of the worst drought in our forty-one year history. We’re celebrating because all of us are healthy. We’re celebrating because of the enthusiasm of our many volunteers. We’re celebrating because more and more people have come to our aid in 2010. We’re optimistic about the future of Selah. Yes it’s Christmas time, we’re celebrating that too.

There are so many, many good causes that need financial help. Preserving the earth itself is important. So, if you would like to help us with a donation, we are a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation and gifts are deductible to the extent of the law. You can send your contributions to: Bamberger Ranch Preserve, 2341 Blue Ridge Drive, Johnson City, TX 78636 or donate through your computer by using PayPal.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Conservationists All – “We the People”

As a nation we should not expect nor depend on our government to be occupied with conservation. There is just too much going on in the world for that. We should, however, expect our elected officials to provide leadership, education and incentives in regard to conservation issues and then “we the people” can go about accomplishing the work. It is only through the voluntary efforts of “we the people” that environmental and conservation needs will be met.

Over the past forty years here at Selah we have been preaching the gospel about conservation to tens of thousands of people and I have been a witness to a sea change in the attitudes of educators, landowners, and even corporations. There is momentum building, a new paradigm has emerged in our society and in particular the need for children to get connected to the natural world. The encouraging thing to me is that this activity – this sea change is coming about through the efforts of thousands of initiatives started by “we the people” not the government.

In the past few weeks, we have had many like-minded people visit here. It’s from people like these that I see reason for hope that we can preserve and pass on a healthy planet Earth.

Pictured left to right – J. David Bamberger, Candace Andrews, Bill Lende.
Photograph taken by Joanna Rees.

Bill and Candace visited Selah early in November. Bill has always been an advocate for conservation and a supporter of environmental organizations but in October of 2008 he took a giant step in gifting 500 acres of his ranch to an entity he named Cibolo Preserve. The following was taken from the Boerne Star: Friday, October 1, 2008:

“Bill Lende, proprietor of Herff Falls Ranch for the past 27 years, has just announced the creation of the Cibolo Preserve, a non-profit private operating foundation to which he has donated 500 acres of his Herff Falls Ranch.

Included in the Preserve are the Fern Bank, Great Blue Heron Rookery, and Herff Falls, with a mile and a half of Cibolo Creek connecting these three landmarks. At Herff Falls, Cibolo Creek cascade through a fossilized rudist reef which flourished 110 million years ago when Kendall County was covered by a shallow ocean.

The Cibolo Preserve will be managed as a unique outdoor laboratory for preservation, research, and education. The Preserve has selected Texas Park and Wildlife Department, Cibolo Nature Center, and The University of Texas at San Antonio to conduct research on the property. The Preserve has been endowed by the Lende Foundation.”

Pictured are Daryl Smith, center, and Mrs. Sue Smith,
daughter Meg is holding granddaughter Sonya;
Steven Fulton, Ranch Biologist, is on the right.
Photograph taken by J. David.

This family visited Selah Thursday, November 11. They are all educators. Dr. Smith is Director of the Tallgrass Prairie Center at the University of Northern Iowa at Cedar Falls, Iowa. Sue Smith recently retired from a career as a science teacher and their daughter, Meg, teaches English as a second language. These were interesting people. The work of the Tallgrass Prairie Center is inspiring. The following is excerpted from their website

“The Tallgrass Prairie Center is a strong advocate of progressive, ecological approaches utilizing native vegetation to provide environmental, economic, and aesthetic benefits for the public good. The Center is in the vanguard of roadside vegetation management, native Source Indentified seed development, and prairie advocacy. The Center primarily serves the Upper Midwest Tallgrass Prairie Region and is a model for similar efforts nationally and internationally.

The Tallgrass Prairie Center’s mission is to develop research, techniques, education and Source Identified seed for restoration and preservation of prairie vegetation in rights-of-way and other lands. The Center was established at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) in 1999 as the Native Roadside Vegetation Center. It is located on the UNI west campus and utilizes 65 acres of campus and leased land for native seed production plots. The name was changed January 1, 2006, to more accurately reflect its mission, programs, and activities. Many of the programs are accomplished through partnerships with organizations, associations, and federal, state, and local agencies.”

Hill Country Master Naturalists tour Selah
on the “Blue Bonnet”, October 30, 2010.
Photograph taken by Joanna Rees.

We have had many chapters of the Texas Master Naturalist program visit the ranch. Many, after receiving their training, have returned to volunteer or further their education by attending our workshops. Here is a very good example of “we the people.” The following is excerpted from their website

“In Texas, this partnership among the AgriLIFE Extension, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and some 300 local partners has resulted in a unique master volunteer organization. At the state level, the organization is directed by an advisory committee providing training guidelines, program marketing and promotion, curriculum resources, and advanced training opportunities; and a volunteer representatives committee responsible for representing the varied interests of the chapters and providing a communication link to state committees and program leaders.

An individual gains the designation of Texas Master Naturalist™ after participating in an approved chapter training program with a minimum of 40 hours of combined field and classroom instruction, obtaining 8 hours of approved advanced training, and completing 40 hours of volunteer service. Following the initial training program, trainees have one year in which to complete their 40 hours of volunteer service and 8 hours of advanced training. To retain the Texas Master Naturalist title during each subsequent year, volunteers must complete 8 additional hours of advanced training and provide an additional 40 hours of volunteer service coordinated through their local chapter.

The program currently has trained 6,000 Texas Master Naturalist volunteers in 42 local chapters across the state. The program continually expands so if there is not a chapter near you contact the Texas Master Naturalist Coordinator or your local TPWD biologist or Texas AgriLife county agent.

Since its establishment in 1998 Texas Master Naturalist volunteer efforts have provided over 1,226,173 hours of service valued at more than $21 Million. This service has resulted in enhancing 90,000 acres of wildlife and native plant habitats; reaching more than 2 million youth, adults and private landowners. One member discovered a new plant species. The program has gained international state and local recognition with the Wildlife Management Institute’s Presidents’ 2000 Award, the National Audubon Society’s 2001 Habitat Hero’s Award, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission’s 2001 Environmental Excellence Award and Texas A&M University’s 2001 Vice Chancellor’s Award of Excellence in Partnership and in 2005 the U.S. Department of Interior’s “Take Pride in America” award.

Funding for the Texas Mater Naturalist program is provided by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and AgriLIFE Extension.”

There are so many, many good causes that need financial help. Preserving the earth itself is important. So, if you would like to help us with a donation, we are a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation and gifts are deductible to the extent of the law. You can send your contributions to: Bamberger Ranch Preserve, 2341 Blue Ridge Drive, Johnson City, TX 78636 or donate through your computer by using PayPal.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bamberger’s Folly – Huh?

I’ve forgotten just when this happened, but it’s all true…

When our bat cave was about finished, we held a big event at the site. We invited every bat scientist we knew of as well as TV, radio and newspaper writers. They came in droves. This event was in 1998. It was the first time the word “chiroptorium” was ever used; it being authored by my son, David K. Bamberger, and my wife, Margaret C. Bamberger. Here’s how they arrived at the name. In science bats fall into an order called “chiroptera” (it’s pronounced KI-rop-tur-ah) which means hand wing and of course “auditorium” which is a big place to see a show. We have submitted it to three well-known dictionaries and expect that it will soon be an accepted word.

Here is the chiroptorium as it was just before the application of the gunite. The framework was of iron rebar rods – 20 tons of them, welded and tied together then covered with metal lath forming 8,000 square feet of surface area. Scientists at the time thought that our man made habitat would hold one million bats. Photograph taken by Susan Sander.

Shortly after the big scientist and media event, gunite was blown onto the steel framework. This was the only part of the construction that we contracted out ~ this was done by a company that builds swimming pools. The black bottom was of tar painted on to prevent moisture from weakening the structure. Photograph taken by Susan Sander.

As the picture illustrates, we had covered the structure with earth. Bat biologists told us that “seeding” bat houses by capturing bats and introducing them had never ever been successful, but they thought with a structure of this size it just might work. Two attempts were made bringing bats, each time but to no avail – they left that evening and never returned. Over a two year period, we witnessed one hundred or so bats that found our chiroptorium on their own, but they didn’t stay long. Upon investigating I found numerous dead bats on the floor below an observation room window. Further investigation revealed that they had crashed into the window and I made an erroneous assumption. I thought that the bats’ echolocation was not working off the glass. . . . It was a long and anxious wait, but then a bat biologist from England, Allison Walsh, paid us a visit in 2003 and after two days of scientific study determined that there was a streak of light reflecting off the wall creating an effect on the glass that to the circling bats appeared as an opening to them. She said, particularly in small spaces (our main dome is forty foot wide and 20 foot high), bats use their eyes as well as echolocation thus they slammed into the window, injuring themselves and therefore finding our chiroptorium very unfriendly . . . . Within days we covered the three observation windows with cardboard – and now comes a series of events I call “Bamberger’s Folly – HUH!” Photograph taken by Lorraine Benini.

It’s late in the summer of 2003 when a very diligent reporter for the San Antonio Express News calls – “Mr. Bamberger, I’m doing a follow up story on your chiroptorium, how many bats do you have?” I’m a bit embarrassed as at the time the number is small, say maybe 100, so I try to be funny ~ “I can’t tell you exactly how many, but they cost me $5,000.00 each” ~ “You don’t have any bats then, so I’m going to do a column on Bamberger’s Folly” and so the story comes out, Bamberger spent as much on a bat house as he did on his own house - the chiroptorium is Bamberger’s Folly.

But wait ~ This was at the same time that the bat biologist, Allison Walsh, was here and within days of us covering the windows with cardboard a migrating group of bats – my estimate was 20,000 – found our cave and moved in. I called another of our media event guests who was from Channel 12, a San Antonio television station, who promptly sent a film crew up and this spectacle shows at 6 and 9 p.m. on the nightly news just a few days after the Bamberger’s Folly story. . . . completely exonerating me and putting egg on the face of the hapless reporter. Photograph taken by Lorraine Benini.

Scientists from Boston University have developed a infrared computerized camera and an algorithm that can process its images to count the bats as they swarm out of our cave. They visit us the first two days of every summer month. A few days after they have been here with their equipment, they call us and tell us how many bats we have. This year they were not able to do the October census. Now at then end of this summer the population has swelled to what I believe is 200,000 Mexican free-tail bats and a small number of another Hill Country species called Cave myotis. The emergence is awesome! Sometimes lasting twenty-one minutes. They come out and form a serpentine column. Scientists believe this is a defense behavior for protection from the hungry eyes of red tail hawks and owls. Photograph taken by Lorraine Benini.

While most all of our guests observe the evening emergence very few have ever witnessed the bats return. However our good friend and volunteer, Chris Johnson, was on hand to witness this extraordinary event. He is adding it to this blog posting.

Thanks, David. Chris Johnson here, just to add a few relevant links. However, let me begin by saying that I’ve been waiting ages for someone to post photos of the chiroptorium’s construction to this blog, but just before I was going to start a formal campaign of nagging David, he came-up with this post. Wonderful. However, having seen one of David’s slide shows about the chiroptorium, I’m fairly sure there are even more photos that’re worth seeing. So, post comments asking about those photos and you might get lucky. (David, I’ll scan the slides for you, if necessary.)

Now, those links I mentioned.... First, there’s a high-definition (720p) movie I shot of the bats returning to the chiroptorium on August 14, 2010. A search of YouTube for "Bamberger chiroptorium" turns-up a number of videos, but this one seems to be unique in showing the return of the bats, and is unusual for being high-definition. (See my associated blog post for further details.)

Second, for those of you with QuickTime installed on your machines (that’ll be all Mac users, and some Windows users), there’s a QuickTime VR spherical panorama I shot inside the main (first and largest) chamber of the chiroptorium back in December of 2007. The chamber has changed a bit since then, as more bat boxes were added to the ceiling in February, 2008, but this panorama is still pretty much the best and only way for most of us to get a good look at the inside of the finished chiroptorium, as access is tightly restricted both to avoid disturbing the bats, and to avoid disturbing the various ongoing studies of the developing ecosystem inside the structure.

Chiroptorium Main Chamber. Click to View.

More details on that experience, the chiroptorium, and the challenges associated with that panorama, are available from the relevant post on my blog.

Finally, there’s this aerial view of the chiroptorium from March, 2009, which was obtained with the help of my good friend Jerry Gatlin who happens to be a pilot. Jerry did the low flying and aggressive banking, while I rattled around in the back of the plane shooting the photos.

There are so many, many good causes that need financial help. Preserving the earth itself is important. So, if you would like to help us with a donation, we are a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation and gifts are deductible to the extent of the law. You can send your contributions to: Bamberger Ranch Preserve, 2341 Blue Ridge Drive, Johnson City, TX 78636 or donate through your computer by using PayPal.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Water Scenes - Compare and Contrast

Readers of this blog might find an interesting contrast to the photos in David’s post from last week in the photos I’ve posted on my own blog. They’re panoramas shot at two of the same places pictured in David’s post, but during 2007 – the previous “wet year.” (Acutally, if memory serves, that winter and spring was wet but things dried out progressively after that.) They all show significant water flow, but nothing compared to David’s photos.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tropical Storm Hermine

Here at Selah, the eastern edge of the Hill Country, tropical storms normally don’t bring us rain. Hermine, however, was a different story and it spent two days—September 7th and 8th—over us dropping ten and one half inches on these limestone hills. Selah is at the very top of a divide, the very highest point. We are downstream from no one. On the west, a big part of the watershed goes to the Blanco River and on the east it’s to the Pedernales … Because we have very good grass cover, the first two or three inches of rain is absorbed into the earth, replenishing our aquifer which keeps our springs, our sole source of water, producing … It takes up to seven hours, in a heavy rainfall, such as provided by Hermine, for runoff to occur at the lower elevations. You can actually see it coming and it rises very fast. Fortunately because the hills are steep, it generally goes down fairly fast. Not with Hermine however as you will see in the following pictures.

Madrone Lake is at a higher elevation so it was the first to fill up – and, as you can see, to overflow bringing tons of debris with it. This debris included a lot of Walnut, Pecan and Oak tree leaves whose tannin has left this normally crystal clear lake a light brown color. We don’t know when this will clear up. The spillway for the lake is 30 feet wide. Water flowed over it two foot deep. Photograph taken by J. David.

About one half mile below Madrone Lake is this dam on the Louis Bromfield Trail. There are stepping stones on top for you to walk across. I cannot recall in my 41 years here seeing this much water at this point on the ranch. Photograph taken by J. David.

Here we are at a still lower point at a low water crossing leading to the Aldo Leopold Trail. Water here was three foot deep. Photograph taken by J. David.

We recently took possession of thirty acres right at the entrance to the ranch. We’ve been using heavy equipment there, pushing cedar, cleaning up, moving earth so this scarifying of the land has left a lot of bare ground – not yet covered with grass. Just look at the amount of soil being carried away. Tons of it. It takes Mother Nature 500 years to replace this. Photograph taken by J. David.

Liquid Gold! – Notice how clear the runoff water is on this low water crossing at the Country Store. Well managed rangeland, land with good grass cover, land that’s not overgrazed, not only allows rainfall to soak into the earth, but also prevents the erosion of soil. Photograph taken by J.David.

RAINFALL - Last year, 2009 was a drought year even though we recorded 24.06 inches. What really affected us the most was 60 days of record 100+ degree days and only 1.11 inches in April, May, June and July. We sold half our cattle, lost over 2,000 trees, creeks dried up, stock tanks went to mud and spring flow fell below 1 gallon per minute. We were within weeks of having to buy drinking water.

Now we are at the end of September and with tropical storm Hermine’s generosity we have recorded 37.0 inches.


There are so many, many good causes that need financial help. Preserving the earth itself is important. So, if you would like to help us with a donation, we are a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation and gifts are deductible to the extent of the law. You can send your contributions to: Bamberger Ranch Preserve, 2341 Blue Ridge Drive, Johnson City, TX 78636 or donate through your computer by using PayPal.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Like ’Em or Not – Lichens

This blog post has been on my mind for many months. Not that I studied it all that time, but mostly because it scared me! Not being a scientist I don’t speak genus and species, and really don’t know much about plants, etc. except the beauty and miracles I enjoy from them. So I asked Steven Fulton, our biologist, for help. “Steven, I want to do a blog on lichens and I need your help.” He asked, “When are you going to post it?” I said, “Next week” to which he replied, “I think you’ll need more time than that, there are 18,000 of them!”

In the winter of 2009 my friend, Joanna Rees, and I were exploring a very step rugged canyon on a part of the ranch named “High Lonesome.” We entered the canyon from the bottom climbing through thick brush, fallen trees, over rocks and stones. I was there primarily looking for any new source of water, a seep or spring, but we were also exploring, enjoying the Fall colors and getting good exercise. I hadn’t been in this canyon in years. It was thick with greenbriar which we were fighting and cutting on our way. At the head of the canyon rim it is lined with an outcropping of giant boulders, perhaps 20 feet tall. We could see where wild creatures had made their homes there. Perhaps coyotes, bobcats, maybe even our goats who are pastured there from time to time, but what got our attention were strange drawings on the face of these giant boulders. There were many of them and at first we thought – PETROGLYPHS. This was exciting as perhaps it would be another attraction for our education programs. We’re pretty excited about this and I can’t wait to show this to Steven. Upon looking at these interesting circles, Steven said these are not ancient Indian messages at all, but are in fact lichens. Not ancient, but they are formed over very long periods of time.

We have, over 40 years, been “building” a library here at the ranch. Not just field guides, but published research, and books on everything that exist with us and for us on this planet. Books on nature’s success stories, famous explorers who wrote about the Hill Country and modern day biologists and environmentalists. Books on endangered species and legal issues. Books on water, trees, grass, fossils – well you name it – we have a respectable library . . . but it had never occurred to me to acquire a book on lichens until my curiosity arose from the discovery of the “petroglyphs”!

I learned about the “lichen bible” as I call it – Lichens of North America by Irwin M. Brodd, Sylvia Duran Sharnoff and Stepehn Sharnoff published by Yale University Press. It’s unbelievably thorough and beautiful. It also is big and thick and it cost over $120.00! I also found in our library an article about lichens by Janet R. Edwards and printed in the Texas Co-op Power Magazine in September of 2001. I also got lichen information from my good friend Susan Sander, founder of the Riverside Nature Center in Kerrville. She is always full of nature knowledge. . . . One of the more unusual lichen things I received was through a Selah visitor, Gwendolyn Hallsmith, from Montpelier, Vermont. She, via email, introduced me to Alan Atkisson who wrote, among other things, “The Strangely Popular Lichen Song” which, with his permission, I’m adding the lyrics to this posting . . . You can buy the song on iTunes or on

Now, just what are lichens? Once again, I have to confess – I’m not a biologist so I won’t try to get into the scientific lingo by copying from my Lichen bible – about the simplest way I can define a lichen is that they are small, colorful little creatures. They are not plants, but they grow or form just about everywhere in any environment from deserts to the Artic, on trees or stone, iron gates, power lines or dead wood. They are formed from a marriage of an alga and a fungus and like in any marriage (should be) they work together for the benefit of both. Lichens are different than mosses, fungi or algae, but I don’t have the ability to tell you about all their differences except that a mushroom is a fungus, mosses are small soft plants that, here on the ranch, grow on stones around our springs and as the adage goes “a rolling stone gathers no moss” and fungi are a group of spore-producing organisms feeding on organic matter such as molds, yeast, mushrooms and toadstools.

I read once in a government agriculture bulletin that it takes Mother Nature 500 years to manufacture soil. Well, it’s lichens that make this happen! One more fact before I move on, is that lichens are useful in making compounds used in medicines as well as herbicides, dyes and perfumes and if you’re poking around in bird nests, you’ll often find the birds used them in building the nests. So, you see, lichens are another of nature’s success stories!

Steven left me a post-a-note in the lichen bible instructing me to “find this in a tree.” It’s the 9 x 10 beautiful picture on the jacket cover of my lichen bible. I thought that should be so easy to spot until I walked trails and woods for two hours to no avail. You’d think an 82 year-old conservation oriented man like me would know better. When I complained to Steven, he reached to a branch over my head – he’s 6’8” - and broke off this dead branch. I had been wondering through the woods looking for a big patch of this orange beauty, not something the size of a nickel! Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

Psora crenata (From the Lichen bible) Common name – Brickscale. Found on soil in arid sites. The scales are pink to pinkish-orange and turn grey-green when damp. They are very small. Photograph taken by J. David.

Here is Steven looking at the petroglyphs!! Well, not petroglyphs, but you can imagine how excited we were when we found them. The Lichen “bible” lists them as Speerchneidera euploca with a common name, Pale rockwood. Photograph taken by J. David.

Here you see a large group of the Pale rockwood. A common growth form of lichens is in circular patches or radial growth. Some lichens will maintain the entire patch of growth while others will allow the older center of the patch to become inactive and die leaving an outer ring of younger material which continues to take advantage of un-harvested nutrients/minerals from the substrate as it grows in a radial fashion. Photograph taken by J. David.

Dermatocarpon miniatum – common name Stippleback, leather lichen. Lichens have the ability to grow on rocks of all types and textures. These are usually found on limestone rock. Photograph taken by J. David.

The following are three pictures of lichen covered rock. Our hillsides on the ranch have many large rocks covered with the white patches – Hacma fenzlianum. We found very little of the yellow and orange. Photograph taken by J. David.

Photograph taken by J. David.

Photograph taken by J. David.


Many times I’ve said I’m not a scientist. This is the most difficult blog I’ve ever tried and I might not have these lichens correctly identified. I will say I know much more now about lichens than I did before. Discovery and pictures were the easy part, the identification was not.

Now, if you want some real lichen entertainment fun, listen to Alan Atkinson sing his song. Here are the lyrics:

by Alan Atkisson

Once there was a fungus, Freddie was his name,

Said there’s no love for me among us

All these fungi look the same

So he took himself a’ courtin’

Down to where the green things grow

Met some algae name of Alice

She set his heart aglow


Freddie Fungs, Alice Algae

Took a “Lichen” to each other

They grew so very close

That now you can’t tell one from t’other

Them lichens lead a simple life

They never are alone

Alice does the cookin’

And Freddie builds the home

-That’s right, this song is biologically correct -

Well Freddie says, now Alice

You’ve made my life complete

But Alice said, “Now Freddie,

there’s something else we need.

gotta have some lichen children

little ones like you and me.”

So they broke up into pieces

That’s how lichens came to be.


-That’s right, they’re domestic, but they’ve got a great love life – like you

Now you’re a lonesome fungus

And you’re hungry too, besides

Better hook up with somebody

Who can photosynthesize

And if you love each other

Like all good couples do

And take vows of symbiosis

You can be a lichen, too.


There are so many, many good causes that need financial help. Preserving the earth itself is important. So, if you would like to help us with a donation, we are a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation and gifts are deductible to the extent of the law. You can send your contributions to: Bamberger Ranch Preserve, 2341 Blue Ridge Drive, Johnson City, TX 78636 or donate through your computer by using PayPal.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Acquaintances Become Friends

Friend – “a person whom one knows well and is fond of; intimate associate; close acquaintance; applied loosely to any associate or acquaintance, or as a term of address even to a stranger” from Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary.

In Water From Stone, I’m quoted as saying that I know a lot of people, but I have few friends. However events in my life the past few years have lead me to questions my definition of friend.

As the dictionary says, it could be a close acquaintance. In going through this questioning, I’ve come to realize I have many friends so I retract my statement. I think Selah has done that for me . . . from the thousands of people, young and not so young, who have visited here my circle of acquaintances has evolved into friendships. Likewise, I have many of these visitors who tell me that the “Selah Moments” they have experienced here have had a profound life changing impact on them. They need to return to walk a trail, experience the changing seasons, see nature’s progress, to talk to Colleen, Steven or myself, to have another Selah Moment. These encounters over time, the familiarity from them that develops in our lives moves us from acquaintances to friends. One aspect of this that has moved me is that age, sex, religion, politics, social status, financial status, nor anything I can think of, none of these are a barrier to friendship. I’m so very pleased to have come to this realization. Reflecting on this has been a good experience for me. I recommend you try it.

Pilar and Apolos Urquieta live in Peru where they are restoring a tract of land and using it for environmental education. They learned about Selah from the internet. Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

Kim Kennard spent three summers in Texas while doing research for her Master’s Degree in relation to bats and their value to agriculture. Kim did a short stint as an intern at Selah. Matt Valente is a Ph.D. candidate in Geography and Paleo Ecology. Photograph taken by Joanna Rees.

Ed Sones is a wildlife rehabilitator who has brought many “creatures” to the ranch for release. Here he is preparing a green heron for its new home on Selah. Grey and Willow Grote, who live here on the ranch, learn about the many animals brought here by Ed and Sallie Delahoussaye. Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

Dr. Kunz has brought many scientists to Selah to do research on bats and along with others they have developed a system used to actually count the bats emerging from the cave. Pictured are some of the young people who spent three weeks with us in July. Their credentials are so impressive everything from undergraduate degrees, master degrees, doctorial degrees and post doc student except Lois and me who are “lowly” undergraduate degree holders. From left to right they are: Paul Heady, III, Winifred F. Frick holding their son, Darwin, Nathan Fuller, Lois Sturm, J. David, Dr. Tom Kunz, Jaclyn Aliperti, Leslie Pepin. Photograph taken by Mary Jo Snider.

Gary McCracken, Professor and Department Head Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee. Gary is a nationally known bat biologist. He is a scientific advisor to our Preserve and was very helpful in 1997 when we built the Chiroptorium. Jennifer Krauel is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tennessee. Photograph taken by Joanna Rees.

Liz Braun de Torres, Ph. D. candidate Boston University does our bat censusing and three wonderful and interesting students who assistant her. They are from left to right Liz Braun de Torres; Luyi Zheng, graduate of Texas A&M at Galveston Marine Biology; Kristen Lear, Ohio Wesleyan University senior majoring in zoology; and Gary Kanner, Boston University Biology and Environmental Science. Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

Most certainly my son, David K., and son-in-law, Ernie Sessums, would not fall under the definition of acquaintance! It is possible, however that, as we all grow a little older, sometimes moving far away making personal contact less frequent that in spite of the family link one may not think of a relative as a friend. This is not the case here as Ernie Sessums, left, and David K. Bamberger, right, are two of my best friends. Photograph taken by Joanna Rees.

There are so many, many good causes that need financial help. Preserving the earth itself is important. So, if you would like to help us with a donation, we are a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation and gifts are deductible to the extent of the law. You can send your contributions to: Bamberger Ranch Preserve, 2341 Blue Ridge Drive, Johnson City, TX 78636 or donate through your computer by using PayPal.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Apple Pie and 4th of July

Oh how I remember those July 4th celebrations of the 1930’s and 40’s! I played trumpet in the marching band. As we played and paraded through that little village, there were American flags hanging everywhere, front porches were decorated with red, white and blue bunting, farmers came to our little town to witness the parade and the mayor, school superintendent or some official spoke to the crowd who gathered in the square. Those were the days my friends. Patriotism was supreme. As a young boy I thought only of the wonderful country I lived in, that my God was God and he was big and strong and protector of our country, our little town.

World War II broke out – the patriotism became even stronger. We had scrap drives, war bond rallies, more parades and flag waving. We also had rationing – rationing of sugar, gasoline, tires even toilet paper! There were only a small number of young men recruited into the military from my small community. Some never came home. My older brother was one of those – shot down over the English Channel. I remember quite clearly the day the news was delivered to my mother. Under these circumstances, it was a bit hard to wave the flag and boast of patriotism. There was however for my mother tremendous support from everyone in our little town. Patriotism prevailed and as a young man I was unaware of any divisiveness in our community.

So here at Selah I wanted to have an old fashioned 4th of July. From its establishment in 1969, Selah was to bring people from the left and right of environmental issues together . . . Unlike those years when I was a boy it seems to me that, as a society, we have too many divisive things taking place. Could Selah, in some small way, help to reverse this trend? So please enjoy our July 4th, 2010 celebration at Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve.

The patio at Madrone Lake was decorated with flags, stars, and bunting wrapped around trees. Everyone was invited to speak. I started off with my “Declaration of Dependence.” I declared my dependence on Mother Nature and the Planet Earth. A planet in trouble with signs of danger all around and we don’t seem as a world society able or willing to do the things necessary to protect our planet and thus ourselves from what’s going on. Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

The spirit is in the air. Here Tom Kunz, our bat researcher from Boston University, takes the platform . . . The speakers are free to say anything they wish. Photograph taken by J. David.

John Phillips Sousa marching music reverberated across Madrone Lake and fifty people joined in to sing “God Bless America.” Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

This was a Pot Luck Day with the ranch providing 60 halves of bar-b-que chicken. There was plenty of everything for all. Followed by four big, red, sweet and cold watermelons. That’s really 4th of July! Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

Bob Cowell, retired Air Force and now working for the Postal Service, took the podium and quickly drew the attention of the crowd with a stirring patriotic speech. Bob is a leader in the Bexar Grotto, a volunteer caver group that takes care of Bracken Cave. Photograph taken by J. David.

Winfred F. Frick, Post Doctoral Scholar, Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology, Boston University who now lives in California, got the spirit. “Fred” with her eight month old son, Darwin, enjoyed the day. Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

Our celebration was really enlightening to these two men from Kazakhstan who are in the United States learning English at the Defense Language Institute at Lackland Air Force Base. My son, David K. Bamberger, serves as a volunteer under the “Amigo” program. Don’t you know what a celebration such as this would mean to them? Kazakhstan is at the belly of Russia. It has around 15 million population and is the 9th largest land mass country in the world. Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

The lake was attractive to all the celebrants. Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

Luyi Zheng was born in China before her parents emigrated from China. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University where she majored in Marine Biology. Luyi visits Selah once a month to assist Liz Braun who is censusing our bat colony using infrared computer technology. Photograph taken by J. David.

David K. Bamberger, my oldest son, gave a historical review of the 4th of July and its importance to all of us in protecting our values as a nation. Photograph taken by J. David.

Joann DeLuna is a long time volunteer at Bracken Cave and hard working member of the Bexar Grotto. Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

For those who hadn’t been to Selah we toured the ranch for two hours on the BlueBonnet. It was a bit crowded, but the spirit of the day prevailed. Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

It really wasn’t the crowded BlueBonnet that put “Bike Man” on his bike for the tour with us. He is just into biking. I really don’t know his name. Only know that he was on the ranch for two weeks assisting in some research using vertical profiler radar which was used to explore the behavior of bats, birds and insects in the lower atmosphere. Wow! Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

There are many more photos of our “APPLE PIE AND 4TH OF JULY” celebration. I wish everyone could have been here. I particularly like the diversity of people. Not pictured are folks from England, Argentina and Canada who took the opportunity to speak . . . on our 4th of July patriotism was evident.

There are so many, many good causes that need financial help. Preserving the earth itself is important. So, if you would like to help us with a donation, we are a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation and gifts are deductible to the extent of the law. You can send your contributions to: Bamberger Ranch Preserve, 2341 Blue Ridge Drive, Johnson City, TX 78636.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Aeroecology – The Next Frontier

I’d make a bet that you who follow my blog have never seen this word. Neither had I, so I looked in my trusty Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary and wasn’t at all surprised that it wasn’t there! What was there was a number of words that will give you a clue – such as aerodynetics, “a branch of aviation that has to do with gliding” or aerodynamics “relating to the force of air in motion.”

Now – I’ll quote from a paper written by Boston University professor – Thomas Kunz, Ph.D:

“Every so often in the history of science and technology, empirical discoveries, theory, and technological developments converge, making it possible to recognize a new discipline. Past examples include astrobiology, biomechanics, sociobiolgy, and more recently, macroecology, bioinformatics, and nanotechnology – disciplines that are now well established in the lexicon of modern science and technology. Aeroecology is a new discipline of ecology that embraces and integrates the domains of atmospheric science, earth science, geography, ecology, computer science, computational biology, and engineering. The unifying concept that underlies this emerging discipline is its focus on the planetary boundary layer, or aerosphere, and the myriad of airborne organisms that, in large part, depend upon this environment for their existence. The term aerosphere is derived from the Greek aero, meaning air, and sphere referring to planet Earth. In contrast to continents and oceans, which are interrupted by one another, the aerosphere is the only environment in the biosphere that is truly circumglobal.”

So – What’s This Have To Do With Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve?

In past blogs, I reported that “research” was a part of our mission. But at the time we thought of this as being on plants, insects, birds and animals, the natural environment of the ranch. What’s going on here at our Preserve for three weeks in June/July is mind-boggling.

The researchers are funded by grant from the National Science Foundation and Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Boston University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, the Center for Ecology and Conservation, Biology, and a corporate donation from FLIR, Inc., the company that donated the mobile research laboratory for housing the high resolution thermal imaging cameras. This custom built trailer is used to transport the high tech equipment developed specifically for this research project. Photograph taken by J. David.

The object of the research is to learn how bats, birds and insects can fly in groups. You’ve probably noticed the ups and downs, the individual and group flight behavior of bats – more to our lifetime. Curiously, Roy Bedichek, author of Adventures with a Texas Naturalist, described these maneuvers as “a travesty of flight!” Photograph taken by J. David.

Nathan Fuller, graduate student, Ph.D. Program in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution, Department of Biology, Boston University, is holding a device used to calibrate three thermal infrared cameras for exploring and describing the movements of bats in three dimensions as they emerge from our Chiroptorium. Photograph taken by J. David.

These highly specialized cameras make it possible to characterize the flight of individual bats within groups (or so-called collective behavior) as they emerge nightly from the Chiroptorium. This research is being conducted by Professor Thomas Kunz, Director of the Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology, Boston University assisted by graduate students Nathan Fuller (Biology) and Diane Theriault (Computer Science), research assistant Jaclyn Aliperti (Biology), and undergraduate student Leslie Pepin (Biology). Photograph taken by J. David.

Trailer with a DeTect vertical profiler radar used to explore the behavior of bats, birds, and insects in the lower atmosphere. This equipment is being deployed as part of a “radar aeroecology workshop” being conducted here on Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve in early July. Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

Paul A. Heady III, Research Technician, Central Coast Bat Research Group, Aptos, CA and his wife, Winifred E. Frick, Postdoctoral Scholar, Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology, Boston University along with the youngest scientist ever to be here doing bat research – their eight month old son, aptly named “Darwin.” Photograph taken by J. David.

There are another twelve scientists with us now. Too many to photograph. Besides, like bats they sleep all day and stay out all night!

I have seven copies of Dr. Kunz’s lecture, “Aeroecology: The Next Frontier” in a pamphlet form. It’s very interesting stuff. I will gladly send it to the first seven people who respond with your name and snail mail address.

There are so many, many good causes that need financial help. Preserving the earth itself is important. So, if you would like to help us with a donation, we are a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation and gifts are deductible to the extent of the law. You can send your contributions to: Bamberger Ranch Preserve, 2341 Blue Ridge Drive, Johnson City, TX 78636.