Maura Denman

Fox 26 Houston features NDC Summer Programs

Chelsea Edwards from Houston’s own Fox 26 visited with NDC Executive Director DeAndra Ramsey and Head Naturalist Eric Duran on a recent trip out to learn more about the Nature Discovery Center and Russ Pitman Park. She shared a piece she put together highlighting our summer programs for children, families, and adults, helping bring awareness to the Greater Houston Area about one of the area’s best kept secrets. We’re definitely fans of dropping the secrecy and spreading the word about our mission to ignite lifelong curiosity, understanding, and respect for nature through education. Please feel free to share this video with family and friends and help us broaden our audience this summer and for years to come!

Click image to play video.
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Happy World Bee Day!

In honor of World Bee Day I’m sharing this recent social media post from Eric Duran, Head Naturalist.

The oblique longhorn bee also called the sunflower bee is one of our gorgeous and helpful native bees. This gorgeous little insect was recently seen flying around with its friends in the wildflower garden in front of the nature center building. We plant an encourage native Texas wildflowers to help our native pollinators. Come by the Nature Discovery Center soon and see some of our gorgeous little native bees.

Eric Duran, Instagram May 12 3:30pm
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Results of the 2022 Fall BioBlitz

Green Anole

Eric Duran
Head Naturalist

Twice a year, once in the Spring and once in the Fall, we try to count all of the living wild species of plants, animals, slime molds, and fungi that we can find in Russ Pitman Park, where the Nature Center is located.

This counting of species is referred to as a “BioBlitz”. It’s an important part of understanding the life at the Nature Center, and how it may be changing over time. We want to be able to answer questions about population trends, introduced non-native species, and general biodiversity.

Our staff naturalists conduct this count, along with volunteer naturalists and biologists. For many institutions, a Bio-blitz is just one day, but we have a limited staff and relatively small volunteer corps, so our bio-blitzes usually last for about 2 weeks. This month, because of busy schedules and even fewer available volunteers, we decided to make the Fall BioBlitz last for the entire month of October. We may just move to having both our Spring and Fall BioBlitzes last a full month in the future.

As a practice, we like to enter much of our observations into E-Bird and iNaturalist, so that our data is accessible to biologists around the world and through time, going forward. That way, our local data can become part of big picture scientific data.

This was a really successful Fall BioBlitz!

This year, we counted 359 total species, which was comparable to last year’s Fall Bio-blitz count of 361. This number is still more than 2020 and 2019. The relatively cooler weather this year, and lack of rain before and during the BioBlitz probably negatively impacted the species count.

As with most of the counts we do, we found a few new species for the park (at least as far as we know from records). Although the Wandering Glider is the most widespread dragonfly in the world, we had yet to add it to one of our BioBlitz lists. We were also finally able to add Black Saddlebags, another common dragonfly, as well as the common fall butterfly, the Sleepy Orange. The Fireflag Plume Moth was a totally new species for the park, as were the Black-shouldered Drone Fly, the Australian Cockroach, the Flat-faced Longhorn Beetle, and the Trainwrecker mushroom.

It usually takes 2-4 weeks to get all of the species, that we photographed, identified, so that we can compile an accurate count. As far as we know at this, time, we’ve IDed everything we can, and we are ready to present to you the final version of the Fall 2022 Bio-blitz for the Nature Discovery Center in Russ Pitman Park!

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at

Thank you!

All photos by Eric Duran. CC BY-SA – Some rights reserved.




ANIMALS: (183)



FUNGI: (25)


PLANTS: (150)

Feather of a Red-bellied Woodpecker

Mammals: (4)

Gray Squirrel – Sciurus carolinensis

Fox Squirrel – Sciurus niger

Raccoon – Procyon lotor

Roof Rat – Rattus rattus

Birds: (44)

Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens

Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius

Cooper’s Hawk – Accipiter cooperii

Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis

Broad-winged Hawk – Buteo platypterus

Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura

Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus

Eastern Screech Owl – Megascops asio

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Archilochus colibris

Rufous Hummingbird – Selasphorus rufus

Chimney Swift – Chaetura pelagica

White-winged Dove – Zenaida asiatica

Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus

Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis

Indigo Bunting – Passerina cyanea

Summer Tanager – Piranga rubra

American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos

Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata

Carolina Chickadee – Poecile carolinensis

Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor

American Robin – Turdus migratorius

Hermit Thrush – Catharus guttatus

Blue-headed Vireo – Vireo solitarius

Philadelphia Vireo – V. philadelphicus

White-eyed Vireo – V. griseus

Black & White Warbler – Mniotilta varia

Orange-crowned Warbler – Vermivora celata

Tennessee Warbler – Leiothlypis peregrina

Nashville Warbler – L. ruficapilla

Yellow-throated Warbler – Setophaga dominica

American Redstart – Setophaga ruticilla

Black-throated Green Warbler – S. virens

Wilson’s Warbler – Cardellina pusilla

Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronate

Pine Warbler – S. pinus

Magnolia Warbler – S.magnolia

Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottus

Eastern Wood-Peewee – Contopus virens

Eastern Phoebe – Sayornis phoebe

Great Crested Flycatcher – Myiarchus crinitus

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea

Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Regulus calendula

Golden-crowned Kinglet – R. satrapa

Eastern Screech Owl

Reptiles: (8)

Three-toed Box Turtle – Terrapene Carolina

Red-eared Slider – Trachemys scripta elegans

Green Anole – Anolis carolinensis

Cuban Brown Anole – Anolis sagrei

Ground Skink – Scincella lateralis

Mediterranean Gecko – Hemidactylus turcicus

Rough Earth Snake – Haldea striulata

Brahminy Blind Snake – Indotyphlops braminus

Amphibians: (1)

Gulf Coast Toad – Incilius nebulifer

Bony Fish: (2)

Mosquitofish – Gambusia affinis

Tilapia – Tilapia zillii (introduced)

Fiery Skipper

INVERTEBRATES (Non-insects):  (18)

Mollusks: (3)

Asian Tramp Snail – Bradybaena similaris

Globular Drop – Oligyra orbiculata

Flatcoil Snail – Polygyra sp.

Segmented Worms: (1)

Common Earthworm – Lumbricus terrestris

Arachnids: (12)

Wolf Spider – Tigrosa georgicola

Wolf spider – Tigrosa sp.

House Orbweaver – Metazygia zilloides

Common Orbweaver – Mangora sp.

Common House Spider – Parasteatoda tepidariorum

Spinybacked Orbweaver – Gasteracantha cancriformis

South American Hacklemesh Spider – Metaltella simony

Long-jawed Orbweaver – Tetragnatha sp.

Yellow Garden Spider – Argiope aurantia

Orchard Orbweaver – Leucage sp.

Funnel Weaver – Barronopsis sp.

Brown Widow – Lactrodectus geometricus

Crustaceans: (2)

Comm. Striped Woodlouse – Philoscia muscorum

Common Pillbug – Armadillidium vulgare

Roseate Skimmer

INSECTS/Hexapods: (106)

Dragonflies and Damselflies: (9)

Roseate Skimmer – Orthemis ferruginea

Great Blue Skimmer – Libellula vibrans

Wandering Glider – Pantala flavascens

Neon Skimmer – Libellula corceipennis

Blue Dasher – Pachydiplax longipennis

Slough Amberwing – Perithemis domitia

Black Saddlebags –  Tramea lacerata

Band-winged Dragonlet – Erythrodiplax umbrata

Citrine Forktail – Ischnura hastata

Caddisflies: (1)

Net-spinning Caddisfly – Hydropsychinae

Butterflies and Moths: (33)

Monarch – Danaus plexipus

Common Buckeye – Junonia coenia

Tawny Emperor – Asterocampa clyton

Spicebush Swallowtail – Papilio troilus

Eastern Giant Swallowtail – Papilio cresphontes

American Black Swallowtail – Papilio polyxenes

Gulf Fritillary – Agraulis vanilla

Horace’s Duskywing – Erynnis horatius

Clouded Skipper – Lerema accius

Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola

Fiery Skipper – Hylephila phyleus

Dorantes Longtail – Thorybes dorantes

Cloudless Sulphur – Phoebis sennae

Little Yellow – Pyrisitia lisa

Sleepy Orange – Abaeis nicippe

Texan Crescent – Anthanassa texana

Pearl Crescent – Phyciodes tharos

Gray Hairstreak – Strymon melinus

Abbot’s Bagworm Moth – Oiketicus abbotii

Southern Flannel Moth – Megalopyge opercularis

Indian Meal Moth – Plodia interpunctella

Feather-edged Petrophila – Petrophila fulicalis

Curve-horned Moth – Gelechioidea

Dusky Herpetogramma Moth – Herpetogramma phaeopteralis

Pannaria Wave – Leptostales pannaria

Assembly Moth – Samea catellalis

Genista Broom Moth – Uresiphita reversalis

Hawaiian Beet Webworm Moth – Spoladea recurvalis

Spotted Beet Webworm Moth – Hymenia perspectalis

Greater Wax Moth – Galleria mellonella

Celery Leaftier Moth – Udea rubigalis

Green Cloverworm Moth – Hypena scabra

Moonseed Moth – Plusiodonta compressipalpis

Angle Moth – Rindgea nigricomma

Wedgeling Moth – Galgula partita

Lesser Cornstalk Borer Moth – Elasmopalpus lignosella

Pecan Borer Moth – Gretchena bolliana

Cobbler Moth – Condica sutor

Soybean Looper Moth – Chrysodeixis includes

Wainscot Green Veneer – Eoreuma densellus

Erebinae (caterpillar)

Unicorn Prominent – Coelodasys unicornis

White-speck Moth – Mythimna unipunctata

Dot-lined Angle – Pasamatodes abydata

Eggplant Leafroller Moth – Lineodes integra

Green Cutworm Moth – Anicla infecta

Black-shaded Platynota Moth – Platynota flavedana

American Idea Moth – Idea americalis

Milky Argyria Moth – Argyria lacteella

Fire-flag Plume Moth – Sphenarches anisodactylus

Bicolored Ecdytolopha Moth – Ecdytolopha mana

Moonseed Moth

Flies: (14)

Goldenrod Gall Fly – Erosta solidaginis

Hackberry Aciculate Gall Midge – Celticecis aciculate

Hackberry Globular Leaf Gall Midge – Celticecis globosa

Long-legged fly – Condylostylus sp.

Oriental Latrine Fly – Chrysomya megacephala

Leaf-miner Fly – family Agromyzidae

Dusky-winged Hoverfly – Ocyptamus fuscipennis

Black-shouldered Drone Fly – Eristalis dimidiata

Calligrapher Fly – Toxomerus sp.

Narrow-headed Marsh Fly – Heliophilus fasciatus

Non-biting Midge – Chironomus sp.

Common Flesh Fly – Sarcophaga sp.

Crane Fly – Tipuloidaea

Beefly – Bombyliidae

Bees, Wasps, Sawflies, Ants: (23)

Eastern Carpenter Bee – ‎Xylocopa virginica

Southern Carpenter Bee – Xylocopa micans

Horsefly-like Carpenter Bee – Xylocopa tabaniformis

Western Honeybee – Apis mellifera

Leafcutter Bee – Megachile sp.

Carpenter Mimic Leafcutter Bee – Megachile xylocopoides

American Bumblebee – Bombus pensylvanicus

Small black sweat bee – Halictidae

Metallic Epauletted Sweat Bee – Augochloropsis metallica

Carpenter Ant – Camponotus sp. – subgenus Myrmentoma

Black Crazy Ant – Paratrechina longicornis

Graceful Twig Ant – Pseudomyrmex gracilis

Red Imported Fire Ant – Solenopsis invicta

Metric Paper Wasp – Polistes metricus

Southern Live Oak Stem Gall Wasp – Callirhytis quercusbatatoides

Braconid Wasp – Atanycolus sp.

Red-marked Pachodynerus – Pachodynerus erynnis

Yellow-legged Mud Dauber – Sceliphron caementarium

Spider Wasp – Pompilini

Feather-legged Scoliid Wasp – Dielis plumipes

Gold-marked Thread-wasted Wasp – Eremnophila aureonotata

Blue-eyed Ensign Wasp – Evania appendigaster

Weevil Wasp – Cerceris sp.

Beetles: (7)

Asian Ladybird Beetle – Harmonia axyridis

Ground Beetle – Notiobia terminata

June Beetle – Phyllophaga sp.

Ground Beetle – Agonum sp.

Drugstore Beetle – Stegiobium paniceum

Flat-faced Longhorn Beetle – Ataxia crypta

Red-shouldered Bostrichid – Xylobiops basilaris

True Bugs: (8)

Hackberry Petiole Gall Psyllid – Pachypsylla venusta

Scissor-grinder Cicada – Neotibicen pruinosi

Giant Leaf-footed Bug – Acanthocephala declivis

Eastern Leaf-footed Bug – Leptoglossus phyllopus

Ambush Bug – Phymata fasciata

Brokenback Bug – Taylorilygus apicalis

Jewel Bug – Orsilochides stictica

Planthopper – Cyarda sp.

Coppery Leafhopper – Jikradia olitoria

Cockroaches: (5)

Suriname Roach – Pycnoscelus surinamensis

American Cockroach – Periplaneta americana

Asian Cockroach – Blatella asahinai

Smoky Brown Cockroach – Periplaneta fuliginosa

Australian Cockroach – Periplaneta australasiae

Termites: (1)

Eastern Subterranean Termite – Reticulitermes flavipes

Earwigs: (1)

Yellow-legged earwig – Euborellia arcanum

Lacewings: (3)

Brown Lacewing – Micromus subanticus

Brown Lacewing – Hemerobiinae

Green Lacewing – Chrysopa quadripunctata


Dog Vomit Slime Mold – Fuligo septica

Chocolate Tube Slime – Stemonitis splendens

Green-spored Parasols

FUNGI: (25)

Hairy Hexagonia – Hexagonia hydnoides

False Turkey Tail – Stereum ostrea

Southern Clamshell – Fomes fasciatus

Crowded Parchment Fungus – Stereum complicatum

Bracket Fungus – Ganoderma sessile

Bracket Fungus – Trametes lactinea

Oak Bracket – Pseudoinonotus dryadeus

Turkey Tail Fungus – Trametes versicolor

Mustard Yellow Polypore – Fuscoparia gilva

Hypoxylon Canker – Biscogniauxia atropunctata

Common Tarcrust – Diatrype stigma

Ceramic Parchment fungus – Xylobolus frustulatus

Firerug Inkcap – Coprinellus sect. Disseminati

Splitgill Mushroom – Schizophyllum commune

Honeycomb Bracket fungus – Favolus brasiliensis

Green-spored Parasol – Chlorophyllum molybdites

Wood Ear Fungus – Auricularia sp.

Deer Mushroom – Pluteus cervinus

Trainwrecker – Neolentinus lepideus

Pore lichen – Pertusaria sp.

Graffiti Lichen – Graphis sp.

Common Greenshield Lichen – Flavoparmelia caperata

Eastern Speckled Shield Lichen – Punctelia bolliana

Whitewash Lichen – Phlyctis argena

Cartilage Lichen – Ramalina complanata

Blue Mistflower, an important fall blooming wildflower

PLANTS: (150)

There are of course way more than ___ plants in Russ Pitman Park.

The Nature Discovery Center, however, already has a rather voluminous and exhaustive plant list for the park. Thus, the naturalists who participated in the first Bio-blitz did not attempt to document all or even most of the plants in the park. Participants simply noted plants they found interesting, observed fruiting or blooming, or thought may not already be on the official park list of plants.

During future Bio-blitzes, we will invite plant specialists to help us survey more systematically, for a more thorough accounting of plants present in the park.

Mosses: (1)

Unidentified moss sp.

Ferns: (3)

Resurrection Fern – Pleopeltis michauxiana

Japanese Climbing Fern – Lygodium japonicum

Southern Wood Fern – Dryopteris ludoviciana

Palms: (2)

Dwarf Palmetto – Sabal minor

Mexican Fan Palm – Washingtonia robusta

Grasses/Sedges/Rushes: (14)

Indiangrass – Sorghastrum nutans

Switch Grass – Panicum virgatum

Gulf Muhly – Muhlenbergia capillaris

Eastern Gamagrass – Tripsacum dactyloides

Basketgrass – Oplismenus hirtellus

Wood Oats (Inland Sea Oats) – Chasmanthium latifolium

Southeastern Wildrye – Elymus glabriflorus

Bermuda Grass – Cynodon dactylon

Big Bluestem – Andropogon gerardi

Hairy Crabgrass – Digitaria sanguinalis

Umbrella Papyrus – Cyperus involucratus

Cherokee Sedge – Carex cherokeensis

True sedge – Carex sp.

Deep-rooted Sedge – Cyperus enterianus

Broadleaf Plants: (130)

Mexican Plum – Prunus mexicanus

Boxelder Maple – Acer negundo

Red Maple – Acer rubrum

Southern Sugar Maple – Acer floridanum

American Sycamore – Platanus occidentalis

American Sweetgum – Liquidambar occidentalis

Chinese Privet – Ligustrum sinense

Tree Privet – Ligustrum lucidum

Ornamental Pear – Pyrus sp.

Black Willow – Salix nigra

Gum Bumelia – Sideroxylon langunosum

River Birch – Betula nigra

Sweetbay Magnolia – Magnolia virginiana

Southern Magnolia – Magnolia grandiflora

Sugar Hackberry – Celtis laevigata

Green Ash – Fraxinus pennsylvanica

Red Mulberry – Morus rubra

Chinese Mulberry – Morus alba

Shummard Red Oak – Quercus shumardii

Southern Live Oak – Quercus virginiana

Loquat-leaf Oak – Quercus rysophylla

Bur Oak – Quercus macrocarpa

Swamp Chestnut Oak – Quercus michauxii

Live Oak – Quercus virginiana

Willow Oak – Quercus phellos

Water Oak – Quercus nigra

Bald Cypress – Taxodium distichum

Loblolly Pine – Pinus taeda

Spruce Pine – Pinus glabra

Roughleaf Dogwood – Cornus drummondii

Eastern Redbud – Cercis canadensis

Carolina Laurelcherry – Prunus caronliniana

American Hornbeam – Carpinus caroliniana

Mexican Buckeye – Ungnadia speciosa

Osage Orange – Maclura pomifera

Orchid Tree – Bauhinia variegata

Shining Sumac – Rhus copallinum

Pecan – Carya illinoinensis

American Elm – Ulmus americana

Cedar Elm – Ulmus crassifolia

Northern Catalpa – Catalpa speciose

Chinese Raintree – Koelrueteria elegans

American Basswood – Tilia Americana

Camphor Tree – Cinnamomum camphora

Coralberry – Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

False Indigo – Amorpha fruticosa

Senna sp.

Parsley Hawthorn – Crataegus marshallii

Yaupon Holly – Ilex vomitoria

Chinese Holly – Ilex cornuta

Possumhaw Holly – Ilex decidua

American Black Elderberry – Sambucus canadensis

Southern Arrowwood – Viburnum dentatum

Buttonbush – Cephalanthus occidentalis

American Beautyberry – Callicarpa americana

Heavenly Bamboo – Nandina domestica

Common Lantana – Lantana camara

Texas Lantana – Lantana x urticoides

Groundsel Tree – Baccharis halimifolia

Redbay – Persea borbonia

Straggler Daisy – Calyptocarpus vialis

Texas Frogfruit – Phyla nodiflora

Yard Aster – Symphotrichum divaricatum

Panicled Aster – Symphotrichum lanceolatum

False Daisy – Eclipta prostrata

Blue Mistflower – Conoclinium coelestinum

Tall Goldenrod – Solidago altissima

Seaside Goldenrod – Solidago sempervirens

Giant Goldenrod – Solidago canadensis

Narrowleaf Sunflower – Helianthus angustifolius

Camphorweed – Pluchea camphorata

Opposite-leaf Spotflower – Acmella repens

Spiny Chloracantha – Chloracantha spinosa

Cuban Jute – Sida rhombifolia

Illinois Bundleflower – Desmanthus illinoensis

Chamberbitter – Phyllanthus urinaria

Leafy Elephant’s-foot – Elephantopus carolinianus

Frostweed – Verbesina virginica

Missouri Ironweed – Vernonia missurica

Mexican Primrose-willow – Ludwigia octovalvis

Three-seeded Mercury – Acalypha sp.

Lizard’s Tail – Saururus cernuus

Obedient Plant – Physostegia virginiana

Brazos Penstemon – Penstemon tenuis

Hairy Crabweed – Fatoua villosa

Pickerelweed – Pontederia cordata

Rattlesnake Master – Eryngium yuccifolium

Cast Iron Plant – Aspidistra elatior

Monkey grass – Liriope sp.

Mexican Shrimp Plant – Justicia brandegeeana

Mexican Ruellia – Ruellia simplex

Wild Petunia – Ruellia caerula

Wedelia – Sphagneticola calendulacea

Turk’s Cap – Malvaviscus arboreus

Whitemouth Dayflower – Commelina erecta

Scarlet Sage – Salvia coccinea

Giant Blue Sage – Salvia azurea

Ball Moss – Tillandsia recurvata

Late Boneset – Eupatorium serotinum

Eastern False Aloe – Manfreda virginica

Narrowleaf Sunflower – Helianthus angustifolius

White Clover – Trifolium repens

Alligatorweed – Alternathera philoxeroides

Swamp Criunum – Crinum sp.

Spotted Spurge – Euphorbia maculata

Painted Spurge – Euphorbia heterophylla

Mock Strawberry – Potentilla indica

Peruvian Lily – Alstroemeria aurea

Tahitian Bridalveil – Gibasis pellucida

Blue Violet – Viola sororia

Shrubby Boneset – Ageratina havanensis

Pitcher’s Leatherflower – Clematis pitcher

Swamp Leatherflower – Clematis crispa

Mugwort – Artemisia sp.

Climbing Hempvine – Mikania scandens

Tievine – Ipomoea cordatotriloba

Saltmarsh Morning-glory – Ipomoea sagittata

Mustang Grape – Vitis mustangensis

Muscadine Grape – Vitis rotundifolia

American Trumpetvine – Campsis radicans

Carolina Snailseed – Cocculus carolinus

Virginia Creeper – Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Poison Ivy – Toxicodendron redicans

Japanese Honeysuckle – Lonicera japonica

Saw Greenbriar – Smilax bona-nox

Cross Vine – Bignonia capreolata

Blackberry/Dewberry – Rubus sp.

Scarlet Creeper – Ipomoea hederifolia

Pepper Vine – Ampelopsis arborea

Catclaw Vine – Dolichandra unguis-cati

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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:

Virtual Story Time Videos:

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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