Houston Environmental News Update July 21, 2021

National Moth Week, Plastic Pickup Challenge, Lunch and Learn: Waterways, Fleet Electrification in Texas, Celebrate Architecture Gala, Green Jobs and more

Polyphemus moth photo 116076852, (c) frymierj94, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)

This year, National Moth Week is observing its tenth anniversary July 17-25, 2021. NMW encourages individuals to not only appreciate moths, but also to become citizen scientists and contribute data. 

As one of the most diverse and successful organisms on the planet, moths may be short lived, but they pack much excitement, complexity, and duties into their brief life. Moths can even impersonate other animals. For example, certain moths have evolved to look like less palatable insects such as the wasp. Some moths are as small as a pinhead while others are the size of an adult hand. They are an essential component of the food chain. An estimated 95 percent of nesting birds rear their young on insects, and caterpillars make up a significant part of that. 

The Lepidoptera order includes both butterflies and the much more numerous moths. In general, moths can be distinguished from butterflies by their antenna: butterflies usually have long, thin antennae tipped with a ball.

Salt Marsh Moth Photo 142400937, (c) Sonorabee, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)

The most commonly observed moths (as recorded in iNaturalist) in the Houston area include the following species:

  • Salt Marsh Moth (aka the fuzzy caterpillar racing across bike trails)
  • Forest Tent Caterpillar Moth
  • Southern Flannel Moth (the puss moth caterpillar, or asp, notable for its excruciatingly painful sting)
  • Polyphemus Moth
  • Fir Tussock Moth
  • Fall Webworm Moth
  • Yellow-striped Armyworm Moth
  • Tersa Sphinx
  • Giant Leopard Moth (also known as the woolly bear caterpillar)
  • Luna Moth

Moth Night Out Event at Trinity River Refuge

Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge will host its Annual Moth Night Out Event on Friday, July 23 as part of National Moth Week events occurring across the country.  Interested folks will meet at the Refuge Headquarters building at 9 p.m. to see and photograph some of the over 950 species of moths documented around the building’s security lights.  Black lights and mercury vapor lights will also be used. At 9 pm., Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge Biologist Laurie Lomas Gonzales will give a talk titled “The Moths at night, need less light.”  She will discuss the plight of moths, light pollution, and simple steps you can do at home to help moths at home. Stuart Marcus will lead moth identification outside starting around 9:30 p.m. The Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters building is located at 601 FM 1011. Liberty, directly across the street from the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center. If you are not yet fully vaccinated, wearing a mask is required: in federal buildings and outdoors on federal land when social distancing cannot be maintained. Call the Refuge office at 936/336-9786 for more information. All ages are invited.

If you want to spend time outside for an evening of mothing and observing, check out the moth night events hosted by The Native Prairies Association of Texas.

If you–like most moths–are a night owl, stay on the lookout for these friends. You can leave a porch light on and check for them when it is dark. Here’s a great video, from the US Fish & Wildlife Service near Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, describing how to observe insects at night.


Professional Development Opportunities for Teachers

Engage your students with lessons outdoors. Over 30 workshops are in the regional summer professional development calendar to connect you with local resources. Sign up today at hereinhouston.org.

Breaking Through – How to Build A Strong, Sustainable Nonprofit

Presented by the Executive Service Corps of Houston and Citizens’ Environmental Coalition, Breaking Through – How to Build A Strong, Sustainable Nonprofit is a free, robust, six-month business training program for nonprofit organizations with a multifaceted approach including workshops, mentoring/coaching, and development of of a business plan. Topics covered include governance, financial management, marketing and branding, fundraising, volunteers, insurance, IT, HR, and disaster planning. Apply now for a July program start date. Special consideration given to CEC’s member and partner organizations. Download the flyer and simple application.

Montopolis: The Living Coast

We are excited to announce that The Living Coast event, planned for last year but postponed, has been rescheduled for Sep. 18, 2021, at MATCH. The Living Coast performance by Montopolis combines original music, live narration, and cinematic images of the Texas gulf coast. Surfers and sailors, shrimpers and oilmen, poets and scientists all share their stories about this complicated region of serene beauty, vast industry, and incredible contradictions. All ticket sales will be donated to the Matagorda Bay Foundation and the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition.  Tickets now available.

Please scroll down to read about public engagement opportunities and notes from our member organizations and the community.


H-GAC Unified Planning Work Program and Title VI Environmental Justice Program Virtual Public Meetings

On July 22, 2021, at 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Unified Planning Work Program and Title VI Environmental Justice Program will host two virtual public meetings to discuss proposed program updates. H-GAC seeks public feedback on what it can do to reduce congestion, improve air quality, create safer bike and pedestrian paths, increase access to public transportation, and create a more connected, inclusive transportation system for everyone who lives and works in the region. To register for the public meetings and view the meeting documents, visit h-gac.com/unified-planning-work-program or h-gac.com/title-vi-program. The public comment period is currently open and closes on Aug. 11, 2021. Comments may be submitted by email at PublicComments@h-gac.com, by phone at 1-855-363-2516, or by mail to “Attention: Unified Work Program and Title VI Environmental Justice Program”, P.O. Box 22777, Houston, TX, 77227-2777.

Upper Oyster Creek Total Maximum Daily Load Implementation Group

On July 23, 2021, from 1:30-3 p.m., the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Houston-Galveston Area Council will host a virtual stakeholder meeting of the Upper Oyster Creek Total Maximum Daily Load Implementation Group to discuss iongoing work to decrease bacteria concentrations, and increase dissolved oxygen concentrations, in the creek. A representative of the Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research will give a presentation about the dissolved oxygen modeling they are doing for the creek. For more information and to register, visit tceq.texas.gov.

EPA accepting comments on Risk Management Plan rule through July 31

The Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing the Risk Management Program (RMP) rule in accordance with Executive Order 13990: Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science To Tackle the Climate Crisis (EO 13990). Members of the public will be able to submit comments at regulations.gov (Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OLEM-2021-0312) until July 31, 2021. Houston area environmental and community organizations are invited by Houston Climate Movement to sign on to a joint comment letter here.

Spring Creek Watershed Partnership Meeting

On Aug. 4, 2021, beginning at 2 p.m., there will be virtual meeting of the Spring Creek Watershed Partnership, a stakeholder group working to improve water quality in Spring Creek and its tributaries. The partnership is supported by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Houston-Galveston Area Council. Participants will discuss edits to the latest draft of the Watershed Protection Plan detailing community-driven strategies for water quality improvement. To register, visit zoom.us.

2022 Unified Transportation Program comment period open through Aug. 9

Via LINK Houston: During their June meeting, the Texas Transportation Commission decided to include the North Houston Highway Improvement Project as part of the annual public comment period for the Unified Transportation Program for 2022. TTC Chair Bruce Bugg stated that based on public input, the TTC will consider removing funding for the NHHIP and the Houston region as part of the UTP, the state’s 10-year slate of projects. On July 9, the Texas Department of Transportation opened the 30-day public comment period for the UTP, giving the public only two options to consider regarding the NHHIP: “Support maintaining project and funding as proposed or Support removing project and funding.” TxDOT will accept written public comments until 4 p.m. August 9, 2021. You can submit your comments through the online form and provide your feedback in the text box under question number 1. You can also print a comment form and mail it to TxDOT or call (800) 687-8108 to leave a voicemail with your name and comments. Another option is to email your comment form to TxDOT at utp-publicComments@txdot.gov. Additionally, you can make comments during the virtual public hearing scheduled on August 2 at 3 p.m. For any special accommodations, call (800) 687-8108 at least 3 business days before the public hearing.


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).

Open Flood Districts position at the San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group

The San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group is soliciting nominations for individuals interested in becoming a voting member to represent Flood Districts on the
San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group. Nominees who have strong affiliation, or are endorsed by Flood Districts within Region 6 are encouraged to apply. This individual
must have demonstrated public service experience and show they are capable of acting in
a leadership role. As the Flood District voting member representative, this individual must
be prepared to adequately represent the interest and concerns of all Flood Districts within
the San Jacinto Region. Nominations may be made to the Region 6 – San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group Sponsor, Harris County, until August 6, 2021 by 5 p.m. Find the full notice, including the nomination form, at twdb.texas.gov under the heading “Open Solicitation for Vacant RFPG Member Positions”.

Funding Opportunity: Building the Next Generation of STEMM Leaders in the Field of Environmental Justice

The National Academies’ Gulf Research Program is developing new programming around health and community resilience that prioritizes the needs and challenges of at-risk communities that disproportionately live in unsafe and unhealthy environments. This funding opportunity seeks to build the future leaders needed to confront the complex challenges to human health and the environment in the 21st Century. The GRP expects to award up to six proposals under this funding opportunity. Applicants may request up to $250,000 per year for up to five years. The deadline for submissions of full proposals due by 4 p.m. Central Time, Aug. 23, 2021. Find full details at nationalacademies.org.

LINK Houston seeks volunteers to conduct survey

LINK Houston is seeking volunteers to help speak with people at bus stops in six neighborhoods in northeast Houston as part of our Equity in Transit: 2021 study. Volunteers will work in small groups alongside a LINK Houston staff member. The interview will use a brief survey form developed with LINK Houston’s community-based research team. They will provide all volunteers with materials (survey badge/button, a clipboard, survey forms, pencils, and face mask), refreshments, and METRO fare cards (if needed). The work will primarily take place in August on some weekdays and a few Saturdays. Volunteer orientations will be held prior to beginning the work. If interested, fill out out the Volunteer Information form and sign up for shifts you are available to volunteer.

Equitable Water Infrastructure “Boot Camp”

Community groups are invited to learn how federal funding makes its way to the local level to tackle water availability through the River Network‘s new Equitable Water Infrastructure Toolkit. Beginning in late August, there will be six sessions taught by River Network staff and expert authors with some homework and an opportunity for “office hours” between sessions. The final session will focus on how each group will use these resources. Each participating organization will receive $1,000 for active participation. The deadline to apply is July 26. The link to the opportunity is available here and can be accessed with a membership log-in (membership with River Network is free).

Katy Prairie Conservancy survey on conservation cemeteries

The Katy Prairie Conservancy was recently selected as one of three projects in the Texas Outcomes-Based Finance Challenge. The KPC’s project – the development of the first conservation cemetery in the Houston metro area – is now underway. The goal of this initiative is to conserve another piece of coastal prairie, contiguous to the Katy Prairie Preserve and within our strategic priority area. This conservation cemetery will be a beautifully restored nature sanctuary that is a perpetual resting place for the deceased. The KPC is asking the public to participate in a short, three-minute survey intended to gather basic demographic information and test awareness and interest regarding the new conservation cemetery. Take the survey here.

Plastic Free EcoChallenge

Throughout July, the Interfaith Environmental Network of Houston invites you to join its team n the Plastic Free EcoChallenge. Plastic pollution now contaminates the deepest trenches in the ocean, high mountain peaks, and even the air we breathe. Plastic has entered the food chain, killing wildlife, and causing the average person to eat one credit card’s worth of plastic each week. During the Challenge, you select the challenges you’d like to accomplish during the month and when/how you do them. If you have any questions, contact Lisa Brenskelle at gcs.lrc@gmail.com.

Plastic Pickup Challenge

Through July 25, Houston Audubon and Partners in Litter Prevention Plastic Pickup Challenge. Organizations across our region will be hosting cleanups that you can attend, or go out and clean up your community on your own. See the full list of pickups at the Facebook event.

Virtual Lunch and Learn: Waterways

On July 22, 2021, from noon-1 p.m., the Houston Parks Board will host a virtual luncheon presentation featuring river researcher and advocate Tom Douglas, who will discuss Houston’s best paddling trails and trips, water safety, fishing on the bayous, and upcoming paddling events. He’ll also be joined by Danny Zirilli, HPB Construction Manager, to discuss construction, access points and recreational safety along the Bayou Greenways. For more information and to register, visit houstonparksboard.org.

Fleet Electrification in Texas: How Houston is Accelerating Fleet EV Adoption

On July 22, 2021, from 1-2 p.m., UH Energy will present a webinar featuring  Chris George and Yann Kulp of EVolve Houston, a coalition of sustainability-minded civic, business, and academic leaders who seek to accelerate clean transportation through electrification. They will discuss EVolve Houston’s mandate, the City of Houston’s fleet conversion goals, and highlight what both have accomplished to date in the region. They will also discuss the fleet EV assessment process and key results of EV feasibility from studies with the City of Houston. For more information and to register, visit eventbrite.com.

Woodland Park Clean-Up

On July 24, 2021, beginning at 8 a.m., as part of the Partners In Litter Prevention’s Plastic Pickup Challenge, SPLASh, Bayou Preservation Association, LovePositive8, and Friends of Woodland Park will be hosting a cleanup at Woodland Park, 212 Parkview St., Houston. The organizers will provide all cleanup supplies, just bring comfortable shoes, sun protection, and your enthusiasm! All volunteers are required to sign waivers. Register here.

Celebrate Architecture Gala

On July 24, 2021, American Institute of Architects- Houston and the Architecture Center Houston (ArCH) will return to in-person events with the Celebrate Architecture Gala, t the Lone Star Flight Museum. At this time, they believe masks will be optional, but will update COVID information as the event gets closer. New this year will be tours of two vintage, mid-century aircraft. For tables and sponsorship opportunities, visit aiahouston.org.

AIA Sandcastle Competition registration open through July 28

The 34th Annual AIA Sandcastle Competition will take place Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, live and in person on East Beach in Galveston. The competition is a fundraising event for AIA Houston and ArCH Foundation. Competing teams have their eyes and shovels set on winning the prestigious Gold Bucket Award. Firms begin months in advance generating ideas, developing designs, and assigning duties. On the day of the event, the teams – stretched along the beach front – meticulously sculpt their piles of sand and work non-stop for five hours. Registration is open through Monday, July 26. Learn how to register your team at aiahouston.org.

Summer Institute for Climate Change Education

EcoRise is leading a cohort of Houston-area educators to the Summer Institute for Climate Change Education, hosted by Climate Generation in partnership with NOAA’s Climate Program, and The Wild Center’s Youth Climate Program. From July 28–30, 2021, participating educators will gain the skills, tools, and resources to teach climate change concepts and empower students in all subject areas, and receive ongoing support throughout the year. BIPOC teachers are highly encouraged to register to help increase representation in conversations about climate change. Find the full course description here, and register to join the Houston cohort here.

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Photo Safari

The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is holding a Photo Safari Scavenger Hunt through July 26, 2021. No, you don’t have to go knocking door to door to find odd objects. Instead, they invite you to explore the sanctuary website for photos that match the clue list we’ll provide. They will post two clues a week for five weeks. Your mission is to find photos from our website that best represent those clues. At the end of the five weeks, they’ll also offer a bonus clue. That’s a total of 11 opportunities to win a tour of R/V MANTA, the sanctuary research vessel, Clues will be posted on the website, as well as on the Facebook and Twitter pages each week and you’ll have until July 26 to submit your photos for any or all of the clues.

STEM21 conference

From July 26-30, 2021, the National Science Teaching Association will hold its annual conference, STEM21, virtually. The event will include thought-provoking presentations and sessions, lively Marketplace partner workshops, and the latest teaching tools and techniques for an evolving educational landscape. Each day of the five-day conference will concentrate on a different grade band or strand. For more information and to register, nsta.org.

Nature-Based Early Learning Conference

From July 26-30, 2021, the Natural Start Alliance and the North American Association for Environmental Education will hold NATSTART 2021 virtually. The event will feature more than 50 interactive live sessions, with 24 hour on-demand access to more than 60 sessions throughout the conference week, and access all of the sessions for up to one year. Professional development certificates are available for all sessions. For more information and to register, visit naturalstart.org.

National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration

From July 26-29 and Aug. 2-5, 2021, the National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration will be held virtually. NCER is an interdisciplinary conference on large-scale ecosystem restoration presenting state-of-the art science and engineering, planning and policy in a partnership environment. NCER brings together scientists, engineers, policy makers, planners and partners from across the country actively involved in large-scale ecosystem restoration. For more information and to register, visit ifas.ufl.edu.

Bringing Back Main Street Roundtable: How Local Food Fuels Your Economy

On July 27, 2021, from 9:30 a.m.-noon, the Houston-Galveston Area Council will hold a Bringing Back Main Street Roundtable with a focus on the economic impact of food trucks, farmers markets, and restaurants in rural and small towns. For more information and to register, visit h-gac.com.

Energy and Climate Thought Leadership webcast

On July 27, 2021, beginning at 5 p.m., the Center for Houston’s Future will hold an Energy and Climate Though Leadership webcast featuring Peter Fox-Penner, founder and director of the Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy and professor of practice at the Questrom School of Business. Gavin Dillingham, clean energy policy director at Houston Advanced Research Center, will moderate the discussion. Fox-Penner’s most recent book, Power after Carbon: Building a Clean, Resilient Grid, focuses on opportunities to move net-zero emissions driven by the need to address climate change. They will discuss how the electricity grid can meet this challenge and remain reliable – despite unprecedented change brought on by new technologies, competitors and policies. For more information and to register, visit centerforhoustonsfuture.org.

Net Zero Energy Initiatives

On July 28, 2021, from noon-1 p.m., the Green Building Resource Center will hold an online seminar featuring Anica Landreneau, director of sustainable design at HOK, who will discuss the process Washington, D.C. went through to amend its Energy Code to delineate requirements for achieving an Net Zero Energy classification for a building in the city. A Zero Carbon Building is defined as a highly energy-efficient building that produces on-site, or procures, carbon-free renewable energy or high-quality carbon offsets in an amount sufficient to offset the annual carbon emissions associated with building materials and operations. For more information and to register, visit codegreenhouston.org.

Pollinators and the Powerhouse Prairie Plants They Love

On July 28, 2021, beginning at 7 p.m., the Houston chapter of the Native Prairies Association of Texas will hold a virtual meeting featuring a presentation by Lauren Simpson of St. Julian’s Crossing Wildlife Habitat, who will discuss local pollinators and their needs, showcase prairie plants that help them thrive, and share management techniques to welcome pollinators into any garden. For more information, including how to attend the meeting, visit houstonprairie.org.

Mercer Botanic Gardens Volunteer Orientation

On July 29, 2021, from 6-7 p.m., Mercer Botanic Gardens will hold an orientation for prospective volunteers. The orientation will detail the various volunteer opportunities, from helping maintain our gardens, to plant propagation and sales, to educational programs and the Mercer Ambassadors. This orientation will be off site at the Timber Lane Community Center, 1904 Naplechase Crest Drive in Spring. Participants must be 16 or older or 12-15 if accompanied by a parent or guardian. Limited space is available, and registration is required. For more information, see the Facebook event.

My Scenic Houston Photo Contest

Scenic Houston has launched its first annual My Scenic Houston Photo Contest. Scenic Houston is inviting photographers of every level to participate. Photos are a great way to showcase our eclectic City and the scenic character of Houston’s outdoor spaces. The deadline is Saturday, July 31. For more information on how to enter, visit scenichouston.org.

World Ocean Day Youth Advisory Council

Youth ages 16-24 are invited to apply to become a member of the World Ocean Day Advisory Council, which helps develop World Ocean Day into a unique opportunity to connect and unite youth and others around our blue planet, with the focus on action for a healthier ocean and more sustainable society. Currently the Council includes 25 youth from 22 countries. The Council is looking to fill 10 positions for 2021-2022. Applications are due by July 31, 2021. For more information, visit worldoceanday.org.

Get Into Your Sanctuary” photo contest

In celebration of national Get Into Your Sanctuary activities from Aug. 2-8, 2021, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries is hosting its annual photo contest. Through Labor Day, ONMS is accepting the public’s best photos of the National Marine Sanctuary System to help celebrate the beauty and importance of these special places, including Texas’s own Flower Garden Banks NMS. The categories are: Sanctuary Views, Sanctuary Life, Sanctuary Recreation, and Sanctuaries at Home. Winning photos will be featured in next year’s Earth Is Blue Magazine and on the Earth Is Blue social media campaign. For more information, including how to submit photos, visit sanctuaries.noaa.gov.

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.

  • Imagine living your life knowing one day you could lose your eyesight forever. That’s the norm for Cole Johnson, but you wouldn’t know it. He may be legally blind, but Cole doesn’t let his disability slow him down
  • Members of the Lone Star Dutch Oven Society whip up some tasty dishes at Cleburne State Park
  • Moving day can be tough. Especially if your family that numbers in the thousands. Watch a bee specialist relocate a hive of European honey bees, giving them a safe new home where they can keep on buzzing
  • Postcard from Texas: Buzzards and blackbirds hit the hay in the treetops at Cleburne State Park

Additional Upcoming Events

Check out the latest Green Jobs at cechouston.org/green-jobs/.