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Dive into Outdoor Learning

Our rivers, lakes, ponds, estuaries, oceans, and seas support a wide array of wildlife and vegetation. These rich ecosystems flourish when they have clean water. But when water quality suffers, wildlife and vegetation suffer too.

Our rivers, lakes, ponds, estuaries, oceans, and seas support a wide array of wildlife and vegetation. These rich ecosystems flourish when they have clean water. But when water quality suffers, wildlife and vegetation suffer too.

In Texas, there are more than 11,200 inland waterways and almost 400 miles of coastline from Louisiana to Mexico. Proper monitoring and management of these water bodies are essential to their preservation, according to Jason Naivar, education programmer at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center. “Monitoring water quality gives us an indicator for the health of an ecosystem.” Jones Park’s new Turtle Pond Aquatics Lab is helping to educate visitors on the importance of water quality and nurturing a new generation of nature enthusiasts through hands-on learning. The lab serves as a focal point for all water-based field programs at the park. Participants of all ages are learning how to gather and analyze water samples.

“We have equipment to gauge the turbidity (water clarity) of a water sample, and we can accurately measure dissolved oxygen levels in the Turtle Pond,” Naivar says. “Since fish and other aquatic organisms need oxygen for survival, monitoring dissolved oxygen levels provides an important indicator of water health.”

The outdoor lab, which connects to the dock at the Turtle Pond, is also equipped with compound microscopes and seine nets. “We have ultra-fine seine nets for catching microscopic critters and larger nets for water spiders and tadpoles,” he says. While the covered lab sits within the floodplain of the park, its design accommodates the flow of flood waters through the pavilion-like structure, minimizing damage from debris and logs.

With seating for 18 to 25 adults and children, the lab hosts full-size classes and includes a wheelchair ramp, making hands-on learning accessible to all. A rainwater-collection system reduces water needed for cleaning lab equipment, and secure, onsite storage allows for faster setup and breakdown for park programs. When not in use, the lab serves as a rest stop, with scenic views of the park’s popular Turtle Pond located along Cypress Overlook Trail.

“The Turtle Pond Aquatics Lab gives people of all ages hands-on learning of water management practices and an understanding of what we can all do to protect and preserve our water resources,” Naivar concludes.

Upcoming Water Programs at Jones Park

Water Ecology Workshop. Saturday, May 27 at 10 a.m. Learn about the history of freshwater environments, collect aquatic critters for identification, and test water quality for overall health of the ecosystem. The citizen-recorded data will be kept for use in future park programs. Wear suitable clothing. Ages 10+. Reservations required beginning Wednesday, May 17.

Fish of Spring Creek.
Saturday, July 15 at 10 a.m. Join a naturalist to learn about common local freshwater fish species. Then watch the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department reveal what lives in Spring Creek. Ages 8+. Reservations required beginning Wednesday, July 5.

Freshwater Aquarium Friends. Saturday, July 22 at 10 a.m. Learn how to create an ecosystem in the comfort of your own home, and find out which animals and plants to avoid to prevent invasive species from unintentionally being released into area waterways. Beginners learn the basics of maintaining an aquarium, while advanced hobbyists receive new tips.



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