Monday, October 25, 2010

Texas Section Meeting

My first ever visit to Texas was indeed, a Texas experience and a great introduction to the Texas Section of SRM.  The TSSRM fall meeting, this year held October 13-15 in Odessa, TX, is similar to a mini version of the international SRM Annual Meeting, complete with a trade show and more than 200 registrants.  While in Odessa I experienced first-hand the famed Texas hospitality...  (despite my inability to two-step).  I thoroughly enjoyed the technical sessions, banquets, and field tour.

A very large portion of the TSSRM membership is made up of NRCS employees, which is unsurprising as Texas has large amounts of private relative to public land.  Also noteworthy is that the Texas section is by far the largest section of SRM with more than 500 members.  This makes for big meetings with an interesting focus.  Additionally the meeting hosted quite a few young professionals, who had several opportunities to attend career development sessions in conjunction with the meeting, and plant ID and photo contest.

The Thursday and Friday technical sessions kicked off with a welcome from the Mayor of Odessa, and focused on a diversity of topics.  These included: effects of woody plants on water balance, effects of rangeland recovery on stream flows, mechanisms driving vegetation change, herbicides, prescribed fire to improve diversity, the challenges to range improvements, and the management of salt cedar using herbicides and biological control.  Presenters brought a wide range of experience to the technical sessions, as well as on the tour Thursday afternoon.

The tour was, as always, a meeting highlight.  On Thursday afternoon we set out in four large, air conditioned buses from the hotel heading for the local Railway Ranch.  Stan Smith, the owner of the ranch greeted us and gave an overview of the area.  Ray Schimcek gave an overview of the ranch partnerships and Dr. Dan Womochel (pictured) spoke about area geology, but not before warning the us that giving a microphone to a retired Professor of Geology could be a dangerous thing to do.

The second stop on the tour focused on vegetation, forage, and treatment of creosote and tarbush, led by Dr. Allan McGinty, Preston Irwin, and Sam Schiwart.  At the third stop of the tour Guy Bell gave an overview of the treatment of African rue, and Jim Bob Simms spoke to us about pipeline safety.  Mark Moseley gave a talk titled Forage Estimation and Grazing Stick Demonstration, after which, he distributed grazing sticks to the group.  (I was disappointed, but fairly unsurprised to have my grazing stick confiscated in airport security the following day).

One of my favorite talks from the tour was titled Feng Shui for Wildlife, during which Dr. Dale Rollins shook things up with regards to vegetation management for wildlife.  Somehow, he managed to put nearly everything in terms of baseball and gave a creative, interesting talk.

All in all, the TSSRM meeting was a successful and interesting event  The banquet was fun and entertaining, I am pretty sure the auction made a killing off both its willing and unwilling bidders (and with some top notch items for sale), and people all seemed to know one another well, despite being the largest section of the Society.

Thank you to the Texas Section of SRM for their hospitality and the introduction to Texas!  Next year I'll do my best to bring some boots.

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