Story by Liliana Banta. Photos by Katie Kelton.
Texas Master Naturalists are volunteers who help manage the natural resources and natural areas in their communities through education, outreach, and service. These citizen scientists are sponsored by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, working to provide our communities with many of the beautiful public spaces we enjoy today. Amy Martin is one of these dedicated citizen scientists.
Amy volunteers as a North Texas Master Naturalist, and as a volunteer for other, non related organizations. Her first experience as a volunteer was as a middle school student, and now, as an adult, volunteering helps Amy create community throughout the city. This soul-filling activity has nurtured Amy for decades and has provided her with an extended family that shares her passion for the outdoors.
Growing up in Dallas’ Hillcrest neighborhood, Amy later attended Southern Methodist University, graduating with a degree in journalism. She first began her journalistic career with the Dallas Observer as their music critic and then with the Dallas Times Herald covering comedy and writing features. Later, as a seasoned journalist, Amy shifted her focus to nature writing, crafting the perfect story about the parks and prairies of Texas for GreenSourceDFW. Amy also stays busy writing for her website, moonlady.com.
If you are allergic to poison ivy, then Amy’s book, Itchy Business, is a must-read. As a poison ivy specialist, Amy’s book contains information on allergic reaction treatment, preventing exposure and eradication of this noxious plant. Two years ago, while speaking about poison ivy to the North Texas Master Naturalists, an attendee, and friend to Amy, Kristi Kerr Leonard, convinced her that her energy and plant knowledge would be of great use as a Texas Master Naturalist. Amy had her doubts. A year later, however, Amy applied to the program.
In 2018, Amy began volunteering for the North Texas Master Naturalists. She has already dedicated nearly three hundred hours towards the preservation and creation of North Texas’ natural world–helping ensure that the 1% of Texas’s remaining natural prairies remain intact. A naturalist at heart, Amy took daily walks along the Dixon Branch Greenbelt, one of the feeder creeks into Dallas’ White Rock Lake. Amy knew this area was once prairie, filled with purple coneflower and Maximilian sunflower. It contained non-native invaders like privet and KR bluestem. Wondering about the potential for restoring prairie along this creek, Amy joined the Eastwood Riparian volunteers.
Amy also focuses on replacing invasive plants with non-invasive, native Texas plants. Native plants help prevent flooding, their growth is checked by natural pests and herbivores, and they are perfectly adapted to life in Texas. The presence of these native plants benefits the land through leaf drop and nitrogen fixing, animals get shelter and food, and locals are provided with color and beauty throughout the year.
One of Amy’s greatest success stories and accomplishments before she became a Texas Master Naturalist occurred when she and her husband restored Texas prairie tall-grasses to three different habitats, spread over fifteen acres. She spoke proudly of this as she recalled the beauty and awe she experienced when the insects, birds and larger mammals returned to the land. Amy’s work in restoring Texas prairie lands is important to her and the future of Texas’ natural ecosystems. When asked what is most inspiring about her volunteer work, Amy responded, “it’s the closest to immortality I’m ever going to get. When you work in nature, what you do lives long past yourself.” According to Amy, the remaining 1% of the tall grass prairies are home to a wide variety of animals including birds, field mice, foxes, bobcats, and coyotes.
Amy enjoys the social and physical benefits provided by her volunteer work as a Texas Master Naturalist. It takes effort to clear a public hiking trail; furthermore, the long hikes through parts of the Great Trinity River Forest, in search of invasive plant species, work both her body and her mind. As a volunteer, Amy continues to advance her knowledge of the native flora and fauna of Texas through the educational classes provided through the Texas Master Naturalist program.
When not lifting a shovel to restore prairie, Amy dedicates hours as a member of the Texas Master Naturalist social media committee, maintaining up-to-date information about the Master Naturalist program, events, and project updates. Amazingly, Amy is also co-chair of the Texas Master Naturalist Program and Events committee. As a result of Amy’s dedication and effort, she received the 2019 Chapter President’s Award. This award is given to volunteers who exemplify the dedication and giving nature of the Master Naturalist volunteers.
The North Texas Master Naturalist volunteer program is growing in popularity. Each fall, potential eligible applicants are invited to apply. After discussing Amy’s many projects, she emphasized that she has experienced many marvelous things as a North Texas Master Naturalist. The most important experience has been inclusion as a member of a like-minded community. Amy emphasized, “if you’re with an organization like North Texas Master Naturalists, there will be other generations to continue the work that I am doing.”
Some people know Amy as the “moon lady” because she conducts moonlit hikes and does her native plantings by the light of the full moon. The Texas Master Naturalist program is dear to Amy. As she said before concluding the interview, “when we die, we have nothing to take with us except the good deeds we’ve done.”