This year’s 2015 Master Volunteer Entomology Specialist (MVES) training class was held September 28th through October 2nd, 2015 at the Thomas Leroy Education Building at the Texas A&M AgriLife Montgomery County Extension Office, Conroe, TX. Like our first Conroe class in 2009, the event was hosted by the Montgomery County Master Gardeners Association.
Twenty-nine current Master Gardeners and/or Texas Master Naturalists from 14 different Texas counties participated in the training. The week started Monday afternoon, with all the MVES “students” arriving at the Montgomery County Extension Office and after a short time devoted to individual introductions and information on what could be expected during the week, Dr. Mike Merchant, Urban Entomologist, and Wizzie Brown, Extension Program Specialist, immediately began the weeks presentations with information on general entomology and recognizing the important insect orders.
The next couple of days focused on “all” that is entomology. One day was spent at W.G. Jones State Forest hosted by the Texas A&M Forest Service, and included a night insect collecting adventure. Students got to try out their collecting kits and were given time to sort and organize insect specimens that they collected. Here we also got a presentation on structural pests (Dr. Robert Puckett, Extension Entomologist) and invasive insects (Allen Smith, Texas A&M Forest Service), and a quick tour by Texas A&M Forest Service Staff of the “working” forest.
The rest of the week was highlighted with a Thursday evening class dinner at a local restaurant, and Friday morning activities that focused on forensic entomology (Dr. Sonja Swiger, Extension Entomologist), everything bees and a honey tasting activity (Dr. Juliana Rangel and Lauren Ward, Texas A&M Entomology). The training was concluded by noon on Friday.
To see pictures from the 2015 class, click here.
As one participant noted, “the combination of lecture, demonstration and hands-on practice made this an excellent learning experience.” Another said, “The classes were very interesting and informative. I’ve always liked insects and looked forward to ‘pinning’ instruction… I would say that the information learned will be of great benefit in my duty [on the] phone and [with our county] speaker’s bureau.”
The purpose of the Entomology Specialist program is to provide advanced training whereby master volunteers can support or expand specific county educational programs of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Our goal is not to produce entomology “experts”, but to help students be able to better support specific entomology-related programs and projects. These projects might include building entomology collections, training other master volunteers, giving insect presentations, or conducting applied research and demonstrations.
To be fully certified as a MVES, participants must complete a project focusing on entomology with a minimum of 15 volunteer hours devoted to that project. A pin and certificate is provided to those who complete the course and finish their service hours.
Contributed by Paul Nester, Class Coordinator 2015