Houston Environmental News Update March 25, 2020

What a difference a week (or year or decade) makes! Online environmental education resources, TAEE conference presentations, Birdathon continues, avocets don’t do social distancing, Earth Hour, EcoCareers Conference, Green Jobs, and more

What a difference a week (or year or decade) makes.

Last week in this space, we told you about how many of the outdoor spaces that residents of the greater Houston region are remaining open during the cornonavirus/COVID-19 crisis. And while that remains true, public officials are imploring us to remain at home as much as possible, and to practice social distancing (remaining at least six feet apart) when we do go out. (See the front page article in the Houston Chronicle, “Parks are a refuge — and a risk,” by Molly Glentzer.) This week, we are sharing some online learning opportunities for kids and families (see below). But first…

One year ago, we were reeling from the ITC Chemical disaster. “For three full days, a humongous black plume wafted over the region, caused by a massive tank fire explosion and fire at the International Terminals Company (ITC) facility in Deer Park., spewing chemicals used as additives in gasoline and other consumer products into the air,” we wrote. (See also “Hurricane Harvey led to stronger policies. Chemical fires — ITC, KMCO, Exxon Mobil, TPC, Watson — should too,” by Allyn West, in the Houston Chronicle on March 14, 2020.)

Five years ago, we were contemplating the signs of Earth Season in Houston

  • “Spring break is over for the kids
  • Your birdwatching friends are AWOL
  • The list of upcoming events in CEC’s newsletter doesn’t even make it through Friday”

Ten years ago? The environmental community was getting ready for Earth Hour; Earth Day; Rivers, Lakes, Bays ‘N Bayous Trash Bash®; and the Shell Eco-Marathon. And the only image in our email newsletter was our logo.

In March 1995, CEC was promoting its annual meeting (recapped in the April newsletter), at which attendees were invited to join the “phone/e-mail/fax tree” (we had no website then) or to volunteer to help with the Houston Environmental Foresight Report (now available at psu.edu), learned about the 1994 Houston Area Survey from Steven Klineberg of Rice University, and heard an Environmental “State of the State” from Texas Land Commissioner Gary Mauro.

Fifty years ago, although not yet incorporated, the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition was active in the community and about to host Houston’s observance of the very first Earth Day.

Scroll down to read notes from our member organizations and the community.


CEC Volunteer Info Session March 31 online

CEC seeks individuals who might be interested in volunteering to help with our website and newsletter, plan events, design graphics, serve on one of our committees (programs, communications, finance, fundraising and development, membership, and governance) this year, or possibly joining our board of directors in January 2021. We are hosting information sessions for prospective volunteers to learn more about the ongoing opportunities. Upcoming sessions include the evenings of March 31, May 19, and June 30. For more information, please email [email protected], or join us online at Google Hangouts.

Online Environmental Learning Activities & hereinhouston.org

With school districts closed, those of us with school-age children are taking up the mantle of teachers, looking for resources to keep them engaged educationally during this very trying time. Thankfully, many of our member organizations, and others, are stepping up to the challenge. In addition to the following resources, visit CEC’s hereinhouston.org website to learn about other environmental education resources.

Winnie Burkett writes the following about this photo posted on the Bolivar Flats Bird Cam Facebook group: “Avocets do not practice social distancing.”
  • Houston Audubon’s new digital library of resources is available at houstonaudubon.org where you will find games, interactive activities, and learning tools for you and your family. Webcams are set up at Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary and Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary for a virtual birding experience. The Cornell Lab has some wonderful bird cams from around the nation too. Note: Houston Audubon has closed its offices and sanctuaries through April 3.
  • Houston Zoo is offering daily updates through its FacebookInstagram, and Twitter accounts, as well as Facebook Live events each weekday at 11 a.m.
  • Children’s Museum of Houston is offering both Learn at Home activities and Facebook Live videos daily. For more information, visit cmhouston.org
  • The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary has many educational materials for people of all ages available at flowergarden.noaa.gov.
  • Galveston Bay Foundation is offering “At Home With The Bay,” a weekly series of educational videos featuring a virtual lab, conservation craft, talk with a Bay biologist and an activity of the week.
  • The National Environmental Education Foundation is offering activity guides and citizen science projects available for children of all ages to learn about environmental education. Learn more at neefusa.org.
  • The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is offering a wealth of science-based learning activities. Learn about them at noaa.gov.
  • The North American Marine Environment Protection Association is offering a “Parent Survival Series,” featuring lesson plans for K-12 students. Learn more at namepa.net
  • Texas State Aquarium is offering daily Aquavision educational videos on the Facebook page.

Of course, this is just a small sampling. Find out what all of our member organizations are doing through our Environmental Directory. Also, check out our “Environmental Headlines” section below for some of the stories about the environment that caught our eyes this week.

Greater Houston Environmental Summit – Call for Presenters

Share the story of your environmental work and inspire our community to take action! CEC is soliciting proposals for table talk hosts and presenters for the Greater Houston Environmental Summit on Friday, August 7, 2020. Learn more and submit your proposal using this Google Form. Proposals due April 31, 2020.

Summer Internships with CEC

The CEC will be hiring several interns this summer, and is conducting interviews this month. If you or someone you know would like to help with and learn about communication, marketing, policy, government, publications, journalism, digital media, fundraising, event coordination, business development, filmmaking, bookkeeping, and/or accounting, we invite you to learn more at cechouston.org. We post opportunities with our member organizations can be found on CEC’s Green Jobs page.

Earth Day HoustonSuspended

In response to the outbreak the Discovery Green Conservancy is canceling, or postponing, all events scheduled through May 15, including Earth Day Houston, previously scheduled for Sunday, April 19, 2020. We will let you know if the event is rescheduled. We will be emailing additional information to exhibitors, sponsors, and volunteers. In the meantime, learn how, internationally, Earth Day is going digital.

The Living Coast and Montopolis at MATCH

On June 12, 2020, MATCH will present The Living Coast, combining a gorgeous nature film, dynamic storytelling and live music performance to explore the Texas Gulf Coast (see the trailer). Montopolis features members of the Austin Symphony Orchestra and Texas’ best rock musicians touring with an environmental scientist. The show is a love letter to the region as well as an opportunity to discuss broader environmental challenges. Proceeds will be be donated to the Matagorda Bay Foundation and the Citizen’s Environmental Coalition. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit matchouston.org.


We have endeavored to confirm the opportunities listed below. Please consider confirming directly with the hosts, particularly in light of concerns about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), as there are continuing cancellations of events over the next several weeks.

OneNOAA Science Seminars

OneNOAA Science Seminars is a joint effort by several NOAA seminar partners to help share science and climate seminars and information across NOAA and its constituents. The next seminar, at 11:00 am on Thursday, 3/226/20, is about organic matter in Texas bays. To hear about upcoming OneNOAA Science seminars you can sign up for a weekly e-mail of seminars. To see a list of upcoming seminars and to sign up, visit noaa.gov.

Earth Hour 2020

On March 28, 2020, from 8:30-9:30 p.m. local times, communities across the globe will celebrate “Earth Hour 2020,” a symbolic lights-out event that began in Sydney, Australia, in 2007. Earth Hour is now one of the world’s largest grassroots movements for the environment, engaging millions of people in more than 180 countries and territories. It has become a catalyst for positive environmental impact, driving major legislative changes by harnessing the power of the people. To learn more about Earth Hour and how you can participate, visit earthhour.org.

Webinar: The Wonders of the Deep Sea

On March 29, 2020, from 6-7 p.m., Christ the King Evangelical Lutheran Church will lost a webinar titled “The Wonders of the Deep Sea,” featuring Professor Hyun-Min Hwang of Texas Southern University, who will discuss the myriad forms of life in the deepest parts of the ocean. For more information and register, visit eventbrite.com.

Urban Harvest’s 2020 Edible Academy Summer Workshop registration open

Urban Harvest will hold its 2020 Edible Academy Summer Workshop, called “Cultivating the Outdoor Classroom”, designed for teachers environmental educators, and parent garden coordinators, from June 23-25, 2020. The workshop is limited to 24 participants with a maximum registration of two attendees per school or garden site. Additional participants may be admitted, space permitting. Registration is open through March 31. For more information and to register, visit urbanharvest.org.

EcoCareers 2020 Conference

The annual National Wildlife Foundation’s EcoCareers Conference started out as an entirely online conference four years ago for two reasons: sustainability and accessibility. This year’s conference will be held April 1-2. If you are an educator temporarily moving to distance learning requirements, this online learning opportunity is for you. For all high school audiences, this conference is entirely free. Higher education institutions can become conference sponsors, automatically making the conference free to the entire faculty and student bodies, or encourage their students to unlock free registration by joining the NWF EcoLeader online community. Note that if sponsorship or registration cost is a concern for higher education audiences, we encourage you to reach out to us at [email protected]. To learn more and to register, visit nwfecoleaders.org.

Gulf Coast Bird Observatory’s Spring Fling

From April 4-May 6, 2020, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory will host its annual Spring Fling, an opportunity to see and celebrate the return of migratory songbirds as they arrive at stopover habitat along the coast. This is great time to enjoy the wide variety of species that migrate through Texas dressed in their spring finery and to see colorful birds like orioles, grosbeaks, tanagers, and numerous warbler species, to name just a few. Spring Fling takes place at the Quintana Neotropic Bird Sanctuary located on Lamar Street across from the Quintana town hall building. For more information, visit gcbo.org.

Texas Association for Environmental Education conference call for presentations

The Texas Association for Environmental Education will hold its annual conference Sept. 25-26, 2020, at Cisco College in Abilene. TAEE now has an open call for presentations for the conference, as well as for the TAEE affiliate strand at the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching in Houston from Nov. 5-6, 2020. Deadline for submissions is April 6 for CAST in Houston, and June 1 for TAEE in Abilene. Find more information on the HERE in Houston website.

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary recruiting for Advisory Council

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is seeking applicants for one seat on its advisory council, a community-based group of individuals that provide advice for sanctuary management. The sanctuary is accepting applications for one Oil and Gas Industry seat. Candidates are selected based on their expertise and experience in relation to the seat for which they are applying, community and professional affiliations, and views regarding the protection and management of marine resources. Applicants who are chosen as members should expect to serve 3-year terms. Applications for this recruitment cycle are due April 16, 2020

EPA Seeks Nominations for Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals

EPA is announcing its request for nominations of candidates for the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC). Nominations are due no later than April 20, 2020. Any interested person or organization may nominate qualified persons to be considered for appointment to the SACC. Individuals also may self-nominate. The preferred method for submitting nominations is via email to Steven Knott, the SACC’s Designated Federal Officer at [email protected] For more information on the TSCA SACC, visit epa.gov.

EarthEcho Water Challenge

The EarthEcho Water Challenge is a program of EarthEcho International that runs annually from March through December and equips anyone to protect the water resources we depend on every day. The Water Challenge builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local waterbodies. Deadline April 21, 2020. For more information on how to participate, visit www.earthecho.org or monitorwater.org.

Houston Arboretum vies in “Worth Saving” Landmarks Contest

The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center is one of four national landmarks participating in the second annual “Worth Saving” Landmarks Contest hosted by the American Association of Endodontists (AAE). Voting has begun and is open until April 22, 2020. The landmark with the most votes will receive $20,000 and the city it is located in will receive $30,000 or more in free endodontic services. These funds would greatly help the Houston Arboretum in its dual mission of conservation and education. Vote for the Arboretum at aae.org/landmarks. Learn more about the contest at newswise.com.

Texas Water Resources Institute releases “Water & Health”

The Texas Water Resources Institute recently released the Winter 2020 issue of its txH2magazine, focused on “Water & Health.” It includes articles on protecting drinking water, water quality challenges in irrigation, and new screening tools for bacteria. To download a free copy of the magazine, visit twri.tamu.edu.

Birdathon 2020 continues through May 11

Houston Audubon’s Birdathon 2020, is continuing through May 11, 2020 with a few modifications. Birding is a great way to stay safe and fulfilled during this period of uncertainty, whether it’s in your backyard, on a feeder cam, or in a secluded spot out in nature. For more information and to register, visit houstonaudubon.org.

TV: Texas Parks & Wildlife

Broadcast on KUHT Channel 8 at 3 p.m. each Saturday and on municipal access cable channels in Baytown, Deer Park, Houston, Texas City, Galveston, Nassau Bay, Pasadena, Seabrook, Sugar Land, and on HCC TV. More info on the TPWD website (* indicates a segment about the Houston area). For a preview, visit TPWD’s YouTube Page.

  • The waters of Mineral Wells, west of Fort Worth, have long lured visitors. Relaxation at a lakeside state park is more the draw than the historic spas today, but entertaining exercise is also an option
  • Meet some landlords looking out for their tenants at a small high-rise condo complex that’s completely for the birds. Purple martins seem to need people, and the birds provide some rewards for those who watch out for them
  • Grab a flashlight and head underground to experience the wonder of the Longhorn caverns. Explore these unusual formations up close to see intricate details created over thousands of years

Additional Upcoming Events


At Houston farmers market, folks seek sense of normalcy — and ways to help (Erica Grieder, Houston Chronicle, 3/25/20. Photo by Erica Grieder.)
“The Urban Harvest farmers market on Buffalo Speedway was open for business as usual this past weekend — or as usual as possible, under the circumstances.”

National parks are open — with some changes — amid virus (Brady McCombs and James Anderson, AP, 3/19/20.)
“Most national parks are open as a refuge for Americans tired of being stuck at home during a global pandemic, but despite now being free to visit, people may find it more difficult than normal to enjoy them as parks close visitor centers, shuttles, lodges and restaurants to fight the spread of the coronavirus.”

Scientists expect spring floods to be milder than last year (Christina Larson, AP, 3/19/20)
“Too often disasters come in threes. But the year of global pandemic and record wildfires in Australia will not also be a year of historic floods in the U.S., forecasters predict.”