Maura Denman

NDC Welcomes New Executive Director, DeAndra Ramsey

After a thorough search, the Board of the Nature Discovery Center is thrilled to announce that local conservationist and environmental educator DeAndra Ramsey has joined the Center as their new Executive Director. Ramsey comes to the Center from the Houston Zoo where she worked for ten years in the Conservation Education department connecting communities to wildlife and natural spaces.    

“We heartily welcome DeAndra to the NDC team and know she will connect very well with our NDC community” says Board President Kristen Buck. “DeAndra has a robust passion for nature and a breadth of experience in environmental and conservation education programs, project management, volunteer and outreach programs, and cultivating community partnerships.” 

DeAndra Ramsey grew up along the Gulf Coast of Texas with a love of animals and nature. Since graduating from Texas A&M University with a B.S in Biomedical Science, Ramsey has worked in the conservation community for over 15 years. Beginning in 2003, she became an active community speaker, engaging the public with programs on the natural history and conservation of bats. She began her career at the Houston Zoo in 2010, where she was involved in conservation initiatives including pollinator conservation and prairie habitat restoration. Ramsey was awarded the title of Conservation Champion for her work with the Texas Bat Monitoring project she has led at the Houston Zoo along with facilitating the partnership between the Houston Zoo and Bat Conservation International. Ramsey also works with Buffalo Bayou Partnership to further conservation education efforts in relation to our amazing urban wildlife we have right here in Houston. Now, alongside her husband, she is raising her son to have the same empathy for wildlife she has.  

“I am excited to be a part of the Nature Discovery Center, a place where urban communities can connect with nature and see the value in our native plants and animals that surround our wonderful city. People often overlook the wonders of nature that are here in our backyard. The Center allows our communities to explore our natural spaces and I can’t wait to grow the relationship our community has with the world around them and with the Center itself.” 

When DeAndra Ramsey accepted the job of Executive Director at the Nature Discovery Center earlier this month, she knew that she would be challenged with leading the Center through its continuing recovery from the pandemic. She was eager to support Center staff in their ongoing efforts to find creative and safe ways to connect the community with nature during these difficult times. What she did not expect was to be faced with with the toughest first weeks on the job ever tackled by any Director in the Center’s history. The unprecedented deep freeze we just experienced was a trial by fire, and Ramsey met the challenge, managing staff and animal care concerns and overseeing critical park preparations in communication with the City of Bellaire, all while still “learning the ropes”.    

Ramsey is excited to bring her expertise in community engagement, conservation education, and environmental advocacy to the Nature Discovery Center. She recognizes that the Center’s mission to ignite lifelong curiosity, understanding, and respect for nature through education is a critical component of inspiring and empowering visitors to take action and make a difference in the natural world.  

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Center Receives Community Assistance Grant from Junior League of Houston

Bailey Kinney, Development Director of the Nature Discovery Center, recently received a Junior League of Houston (JLH) Community Assistance Grant of $10,000 on behalf of the Center. Thanks to the Junior League’s support, the Nature Discovery Center will offer on-site camp scholarships and reach beyond location limitations with creative Nature on the Go programs. These programs will ensure more children are able to participate in hands-on nature education this year. Pictured with Bailey are representatives of the JLH, and Licorice, one of the Center’s beloved ambassador animals.

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Girl Scout Gold Award Project Highlights Wildlife of Westbury Nature Trail

Debakey High School Senior Morgan Lipman has always been interested in the nature she could find close to home, in her own yard and in the Westbury neighborhood she has grown up in. Her decision to conserve and raise public awareness about local wildlife through her Girl Scout Gold Award Project was a natural choice.

Morgan created a website and virtual nature trail, posting QR codes (as well as nature labels and signs) along a section of trail in her neighborhood that link to informative text, and to videos and pictures of local animals and plants. She also organized a community clean up day for the Westbury Nature Conservation Trail that runs between Hummingbird Street and Bankside Drive. It is Morgan’s hope that by bringing awareness to the abundance of wildlife close to home she will encourage her community to be better caretakers of nature, reducing litter and pollution, and protecting natural areas for future generations.

About the Girl Scout Gold Award Since 1916, girls have been making meaningful, sustainable change in their communities and around the world. The Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement a Girl Scout can earn, acknowledges the power behind each Gold Award Girl Scout’s dedication to not only empowering and bettering herself, but also to making the world a better place for others.

Nature Discovery Center naturalists and educators are proud to serve as mentors, guides, and resources for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts working to make a difference through projects in our nature park and in our greater Houston area community. Mary Ann Beauchemin, our recently retired NDC Senior Naturalist and Park Steward, served as a Project Advisor to Morgan as she worked on the content of her website and created labels and signs for the Westbury Nature Conservation Trail.

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NDC’s Own Mary Ann Beauchemin Interviewed for Houston & Nature Podcast

Mary Ann Beauchemin, recently retired NDC Senior Naturalist and Park Steward, was recently interviewed by Nivien Saleh of Houston & Nature podcast. Please check out their discussion about environmental education here (Episode 9, January 1, 2021).

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Limited Re-Opening of the Nature Discovery Center

The Center’s two Discovery Rooms will be reopening slowly, with added precautions in place, as we continue to heed the health and safety advice of City, County, and State officials. We know that each family has to weight their own personal risks in deciding whether or not to visit the Center during this transition time, but we want you to know our re-opening plans so that you can make the best decision for your family.

Our rooms will be touch free until it is safe to add interactive elements back. All hand lenses, binoculars, puzzles, books, toys, and loose specimens have been removed. But we encourage you to come in and visit our live animals and see the specimens we have on display in enclosures. The Discovery Rooms will be disinfected throughout the day with CDC recommended cleaning products for the safety of our guests, volunteers, and staff.

For now, our plan includes the following additional precautions:

  • Restricted Hours: Saturday’s ONLY beginning May 16 from 12 pm – 3 pm (possibly switching to Sundays ONLY after May 30)
  • Limited Attendance: 12 visitors at a time will be allowed inside the Center. Kids must be supervised by an adult at all times.
  • Masks will be required inside the Center.
  • One Way Flow in and out of the Center (please observe directional signs on-site)
  • Hand washing will be required in the upstairs bathroom before entry to the Discovery Rooms.
  • Individuals and groups should practice social distancing from unrelated visitors, whether inside in the Discovery Rooms, or outside waiting on the porch.

We hope to see your family when you feel comfortable returning to the Center!

Please know that we are happy to continue to welcome you and your family to the Center’s Discovery Rooms free of charge. We do welcome donations to help cover our operating costs, including staff time and animal care, and the additional costs we now face in protecting visitors, volunteers, and staff from the virus.

Touch-free donations may be made online here, or in person at the Center via the credit card “Dip Jar” located on our entry information table just inside the front door. We appreciate your support during these difficult times!

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NDC Presents Online Content for April

The Nature Discovery Center presents weekly online content you can count on during these unusual times. Here is our schedule for the remainder of April.

For those of you not on Facebook, you can find our Facebook Live Videos embedded here on at our website at the following links:

Animal Encounter and Feeding Time Videos: https://naturediscoverycenter.org/feeding-time-videos/

Virtual Story Time Videos: https://naturediscoverycenter.org/virtual-nature-story-time/

Park Walk Videos: https://naturediscoverycenter.org/park-walk-videos/

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NDC Temporary Closure Extended – Again

Our temporary closure due to COVID-19 has now been extended to April 30. We will continue to monitor the guidelines of the CDC and the policies and recommendations of Harris County, the City of Bellaire, the City of Houston, and the State of Texas. And we will make further modifications to our closure schedule if and when it becomes necessary.

Center Staff will be contacting program participants and those who had events scheduled during the extended closure window about refunds and any attempts to reschedule programs and events to later dates.

Take care, and please enjoy some time in nature while social distancing (if it is possible) until we see you again!

~ NDC Staff

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NDC Offers Virtual Experiences during COVID Closure

During our COVID-19 closure, NDC Staff have been making Facebook Live videos of animal encounters, feeding times, walks in the park, and Nature Story Time. Teachers, scout leaders, and parents, we realize that sharing Facebook videos with the kiddos in your world isn’t ideal (not everyone has access to Facebook), so we’ve set up some pages on our website with the videos embedded so that you can more easily use and share these resources.

Animal Encounter and Feeding Time Videos: https://naturediscoverycenter.org/feeding-time-videos/

Virtual Story Time Videos: https://naturediscoverycenter.org/virtual-nature-story-time/

Park Walk Videos: https://naturediscoverycenter.org/park-walk-videos/

Nature Journaling Video: https://www.facebook.com/NatureDiscoveryCenter/videos/2683136501812953

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NDC Temporary Closure Extended

Our temporary closure due to COVID-19 has now been extended to April 10. We will continue to monitor the guidelines of the CDC and WHO and the policies and recommendations of Harris County, the City of Bellaire, and the City of Houston. And we will make further modifications to our closure schedule if and when it becomes necessary.

Center Staff will be contacting program participants and those who had events scheduled during the extended closure window about refunds and any attempts to reschedule programs and events to later dates.

As you may have seen during our recent Facebook Live Feeding Time videos, we are continuing to provide quality care for our resident ambassador animals in the Discovery Rooms and in our outdoor Critter Classroom. We are currently working on plans for their future care at our own homes should there be a stay home order from city officials. If this were to happen, we would continue to provide updates on our animals via Facebook and Instagram during their “vacations” away from the Center.

Take care, and please enjoy some time in nature while social distancing (if it is possible) until we see you again!

~ NDC Staff

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NDC Temporarily CLOSED

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

As a public health precaution to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Nature Discovery Center is temporarily closing, effective March 17 until further notice. The health and safety of our staff, volunteers, visitors, and their loved ones is our top priority. We appreciate your understanding as we do our part to keep our community safe.

We will continue to monitor the recommendations of the CDC, WHO, City of Bellaire and the City of Houston. The exact length of our closure will be determined as we learn more from these organizations and government entities in the days and weeks ahead. Please keep an eye on our social media accounts while we’re closed for further updates. Russ Pitman Park remains open, and we encourage you to enjoy time outdoors during this stressful time.

The Nature Discovery Center building is now closed, and all programs and events through March 31 have been cancelled, suspended, or postponed. If you registered for a program, or booked a program with the Center during this closure period, we will reach out to you separately if you haven’t already heard from us. For more information email mail@naturediscoverycenter.org or call 713-667-6550. Note that we will continue to update our cancellations and postponements as this public health crisis continues and the length of our closure is more certain.

During the closure, our animals will remain under the continued care of our Animal Care Coordinator and other trained staff. With our position on the Texas Gulf Coast, we have weathered many emergency closures with animal care contingencies in place, and we are ready to provide our animals with quality care throughout the anticipated closure period. Though this virus is believed to have originated in a non-human animal host, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not received any reports of wildlife or animals in human care becoming sick with COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus.

Please stay healthy, spend some quality time in nature, and we’ll see you again soon!

~ NDC Staff

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