Sustainable Aquatic Habitat Management on Agricultural Lands

Progress report for PDP21-06

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $60,000.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2022
Grant Recipient: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Region: Southern
State: Texas
Principal Investigator:
Brittany Chesser
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Co-Investigators:
Mikayla Killam
Texas A&M University
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Project Information

Abstract:

A major component driving the success of agricultural lands is water and more specifically private water resources, such as livestock tanks. These resources are threatened daily by environmental conditions and human actions. Currently there is no curricula developed addressing sustainable aquatic habitat management on working lands. This project addresses this lack of information by providing training to Texas A&M AgriLife County Extension Agents, Natural Resource Conservation Service staff, mentor farmers, NGO personnel, and other agency personnel. The proposed program is designed to train participants to confidently 1) evaluate aquatic habitat for producers, 2) identify sustainable management solutions to improve aquatic habitats, and 3) teach producers solutions for further integrating aquatic habitat within existing agricultural lands. Once completed, participants should be readily prepared to offer  tailored advice to producers and host similar workshops or programs to producers within their jurisdictions; which will assist in meeting our long term goal of producers adopting sustainable practices Objectives will be met through a hybrid approach in training consisting of 1) One hour weekly trainings through a self-paced online delivery, 2) Live panel discussion once monthly, and 3) two non-concurrent field days for each participant. Participants will be evaluated through 1) in-training surveys, 2) training assessments and plan of work, 3) six month and one year review. Additionally, a subgroup of past-trainees who use this program as a model to conduct workshops to their clientele, will help direct future efforts of the program.

Project Objectives:

This proposed program has an overall objective of providing AgriLife County Extension Agents, Natural Resources Conservation Service personnel,  NGO personnel, mentor producers, and other interested qualified individuals (including PVAM personnel), a ‘toolkit’ when interacting with clientele regarding aquatic habitat management on agricultural lands. The project committee is confident that this opportunity will lead to improved water quality and quantity, restored native aquatic habitats, increased economic performance, and reduced environmental impacts for Texans. This overall objective will be achieved through providing skills and knowledge necessary for participants to:

  1.   Evaluate Aquatic Habitats for Producers.

Participants will receive training on how to evaluate aquatic habitats on agricultural lands related to potential water quality. Typically when these professionals are called to provide aquatic management advice to clientele, an initial evaluation has not been done, which should be the first step in management. After training, participants should be able to identify water quality and security issues through the assessment of soil, slope, water quality parameters, aquatic vegetation presence, and land use patterns. From these evaluations participants will also be able to identify potential economic losses and feasibility 

  1.     Identify Sustainable Management Solutions to Improve Aquatic Habitats

Based on detailed evaluation, law limitations, and overall management goals of the producer, participants should be able to direct their clientele to best management practices for an aquatic habitat. This includes suggesting water quality amendments, integrated pest management solutions, and bank stabilization/restoration. 

  1.     Promote Integration of aquatic habitats within existing agricultural lands.

Participants will learn how a sustainable aquatic habitat can coexist with operating agricultural lands. With this information, participants can promote methods and modifications to meet multiple goals including terrestrial goals including livestock watering and crop irrigation, and still meet aquatic goals such as managing for fisheries and waterfowl.  

Meeting these objectives will ensure behavior-based outcomes in participants and they will be readily prepared in: 1) offering tailored advice to producers and 2) hosting their own workshops or programs to producers within their jurisdictions, to distribute knowledge learned. Through this dissemination of knowledge from those trained, we hope our long term goal of producers adopting sustainable practices related to aquatic habitat management on working lands is met.  

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Tom Butler - Producer
  • Troy (& Amie) Doughman - Producer
  • Mikayla House
  • Kevin Isom (Educator)
  • Rob Sawyer - Producer (Educator)
  • Mac Soules - Producer

Education

Educational approach:

All topics in the program revolve around: 1) evaluation of aquatic habitat for producers, 2) identifying sustainable management solutions to improve aquatic habitats, and 3) teaching producers solutions for further integrating aquatic habitat within existing agricultural lands.

Objectives were met through a hybrid approach in training consisting of 1) Weekly trainings through a self-paced online delivery, 2) Live panel discussion once monthly, and 3) two non-concurrent field days. Since participants are coming from multiple regions and disciplines with varying experience, online pre-recorded portions serve as a primer for background knowledge. Participants were encouraged to come to the virtual live panel discussions with more in depth, specific questions for each speaker. Field days revolved around hands on training and evaluation.

Three out of four total training sessions have been conducted. During each session there have been one hour recorded trainings delivered weekly to interested participants, along with a one hour panel at the end of each session with previous speakers from that session. So far, they are as follows: 

Session 1 

  • Introduction: Wildlife and Safety Around Water conducted by Dr. Aaron Sumrall with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service 
    • 71 views; 3,408 training minutes 
  • Ponds- Planning, Design, & Construction conducted by AJ Logan with the Natural Resource Conservation Service
    • 69 views; 1,845 training minutes 
  • Evapotranspiration Losses by Brittany Chesser with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service 
    • 38 views; 617 training minutes 
  • Water Quality & Livestock Health by Dr. Thomas Hairgrove with Texas A&M University 
    • 47 views; 2,820 training minutes 
  • Visual Cues and Management of Cyanobacteria by Brittany Chesser with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
    • 34 views; 782 training minutes 
  • Session 1 Live Panel with Presenters 
    • 29 people present live, 3 recording views; 1,760 training minutes 

Session 2 

  • Aquatic Plant Management in Texas by Monica McGarrity and John Findeisen with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 
    • 50 views; 3,750 training minutes 
  • TPDES Pesticides General Permit TXG870000 by Kayla Robichaux with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality 
    • 35 views; 980 training minutes 
  • Texas Water Law in a Droplet by Dr. Ronald Kaiser with Texas A&M University 
    • 66 views; 5,544 training minutes 
  • Session 2 Live Panel with Presenters 
    • 25 people present live, 10 recording views; 1,470 training minutes 

1st Field Day- September 17 , 2021 in Normangee TX

  • Introduction from Producers (Amie and Troy Doughman) on history of agriculture and pond use on property, management challenges, and recent management. 
  • Dr. Aaron Sumrall- wild pig damage to aquatic habitat and surrounding agriculture; trap set up demonstration. 
  • Brittany Chesser- aquatic plant identification scavenger hunt and evaluation on plant coverage 
  • Leanne Wiley- Preventing bacterial contamination, soil erosion, exclusion fences in livestock ponds, and alternative water sources 
  • Brittany Chesser- Pond calculations for management and water use restrictions depending on agricultural operation 
  • Brittany Chesser- Hands on water quality analysis 

Session 3

  • Aquatic Pest Management by T.J. Muir with Texas Wildlife Services
    • 34 views; 2,176 training minutes *required viewing before field days held in May*
  • Propagating and Establishing Native Aquatic Plants with Haley Kokel with Fish On Aquatic Plants 
    • 22 views; 1,298 training minutes *required viewing before field days held in May*
  • Session 3 Live Panel with Presenters
    • 12 people present live, 2 recording views; 322 training minutes *required viewing before field days held in May*

These recorded sessions are archived for professionals to refer to as needed and views continue to increase. Session 4 will take place during April 2022. 

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Session 1- Identifying Water Quality and Security Issues
Objective:

Participants will learn fundamental knowledge related to potential water quality and security issues on working lands, including increased evaporation rates, evapotranspiration rates, identifying harmful algal blooms, poor water quality, and leaking ponds. Trainers will cover these topics in relation to: 1) potential economic losses if these issues are not addressed, 2) ponds used specifically for agricultural purposes, and 3) multi-use ponds.

Description:
  • Introduction: Wildlife and Safety Around Water conducted by Dr. Aaron Sumrall with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
    • 71 views; 3,408 training minutes 
  • Ponds- Planning, Design, & Construction conducted by AJ Logan with the Natural Resource Conservation Service
    • 69 views; 1,845 training minutes 
  • Evapotranspiration Losses by Brittany Chesser with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
    • 38 views; 617 training minutes 
  • Water Quality & Livestock Health by Dr. Thomas Hairgrove with Texas A&M University
    • 47 views; 2,820 training minutes 
  • Visual Cues and Management of Cyanobacteria by Brittany Chesser with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
    • 34 views; 782 training minutes 
  • Session 1 Live Panel with Presenters
    • 29 people present live, 3 recording views; 1,760 training minutes 
Outcomes and impacts:

33 participants filled out the pre-test prior to viewing any recorded session. A summary of results are as follows:

Please estimate the percentage of clientele that seeks help related to aquatic habitat management on agricultural lands. - Selected Choice Count Results:  
Percentage (0-100) 30 91%
N/A 3 9%
Total: 33  
     
Please estimate the percentage of clientele that seeks help related to aquatic habitat management on agricultural lands. - Percentage (0-100) - Text Count Results:  
3 1 3%
5 1 3%
7 1 3%
10 2 6%
15 4 12%
20 3 9%
25 2 6%
30 4 12%
40 3 9%
50 6 18%
65 1 3%
75 1 3%
N/A 4 12%
Total: 33  
     
How many years have you been in your current position? If you are a CEA, please put total years as a CEA, not years within your current county. Count Results:  
>5 15 45%
5-10 8 24%
10-15 2 6%
15+ 8 24%
Total: 33  
     
How comfortable are you currently on evaluating and recommending management regarding aquatic habitats? - Slide Bar Count Results:  
9 1 3%
18 1 3%
20 2 6%
21 1 3%
25 1 3%
30 4 13%
35 2 6%
36 1 3%
50 1 3%
60 2 6%
61 1 3%
66 1 3%
70 6 19%
71 1 3%
75 1 3%
80 2 6%
85 1 3%
90 2 6%
100 1 3%
Total: 32  

24 participants filled out the post evaluation after viewing all recorded sessions and attending the live panel session. A summary of results are as follows:

Were you able to access the pre-recorded links sent through weekly emails? Count Results:  
Yes 22 92%
No 1 4%
N/A 1 4%
Total: 24  
     
Did you increase your background knowledge of evaluating the feasibility of management related to aquatic habitats? Count Results:  
Yes 23 96%
N/A 1 4%
Total: 24  
     
Please choose the option that best describes your experience with the pre-recorded presentations. Count Results:  
Information was sufficient 20 83%
Information needs to be more in depth 2 8%
N/A 2 8%
Total: 24  
     
How useful was the panel session? Count Results:  
Useful 20 83%
Somewhat useful 3 13%
N/A 1 4%
Total: 24  

Feedback from participants for future sessions:

  • Great job!
  • Dr Hairgrove and NRCS pre recorded presentations were good but audio was horrible.
  • I like the format of being able to watch the sessions on my schedule and then getting together for the discussion.
  • Could we get all the pre recorded presentations at once for each section. Sometimes it is easier to block out a 3 hour period instead of 3 separate one hour periods
  • great program with lots of useful information and a good variety of subject matter
  • I think this has been well done thus far. I look forward to listening to the upcoming presentations. Thank you for putting this together.
  • Holding both an early and late summer hands on field day would be useful.
  • Sometimes the speakers were hard to hear
  • Very good program with a good variety of topics
  • Really enjoyed the panel discussion learning more and going more in depth on some questions and getting info from other agents that I might not have thought to ask.
  • A water chemistrywater/quality, use of dyes etc presentation would have been useful prior to the panel. Found the nusiance animal wildlife program was too basic.
  • I wish I could have been a better participant. My new job prevents me from being a part of many sessions. I do a fair job of reviewing material as I can. You all are doing a great job!
  • You did a great job being prepared with sample questions for the live session!

 

Session 2- Evaluating Feasibility of Aquatic Habitat Management
Objective:

During this session, participants will get background knowledge for challenges producers may come across when trying to manage aquatic habitats. This includes coverage of water law, dealing with invasive species, laws regarding pest management.

Description:
  • Aquatic Plant Management in Texas by Monica McGarrity and John Findeisen with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
    • 50 views; 3,750 training minutes 
  • TPDES Pesticides General Permit TXG870000 by Kayla Robichaux with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
    • 35 views; 980 training minutes 
  • Texas Water Law in a Droplet by Dr. Ronald Kaiser with Texas A&M University
    • 66 views; 5,544 training minutes 
  • Session 2 Live Panel with Presenters
    • 25 people present live, 10 recording views; 1,470 training minutes 
Outcomes and impacts:

12 participants filled out the post evaluation after viewing all recorded sessions and attending the live panel session. A summary of results are as follows:

Were you able to access the pre-recorded links? Count Results:  
Yes 12 100%
No 0 0%
Total: 12  
     
Did you increase your background knowledge of evaluating the feasibility of management related to aquatic habitats? Count Results:  
Yes 12 100%
No  0 0%
Total: 12  
     
Please choose the option that best describes your experience with the pre-recorded presentations. Count Results:  
Information was sufficient 11 92%
Information needs to be more in depth 1 8%
Total: 12  
     
How useful was the panel session? Count Results:  
Somewhat useful 3 25%
Useful 9 75%
Total: 12  

Feedback from participants for future sessions:

  • A more detailed session on aquatic products including dyes, muck control products, pesticides types etc
  • I think having the ability to watch the videos at our own time but then having a chance to ask questions still was a great idea. Thank you
  • I would suggest giving the speakers a few minutes during the live panel discussions to just give an overview/refresher of their presentation.
Field day #1- Hands-on Evaluation
Objective:

Participants will evaluate aquatic habitats on producing lands based on information given by mentor producers hosting field days and using knowledge from previous sessions. Following demonstration from trainers, participants will assess soil, slope, water quality parameters, aquatic vegetation presence, and land use patterns.

Description:
  • Introduction from Producers (Amie and Troy Doughman) on history of agriculture and pond use on property, management challenges, and recent management. 
  • Dr. Aaron Sumrall- wild pig damage to aquatic habitat and surrounding agriculture; trap set up demonstration. 
  • Brittany Chesser- aquatic plant identification scavenger hunt and evaluation on plant coverage 
  • Leanne Wiley- Preventing bacterial contamination, soil erosion, exclusion fences in livestock ponds, and alternative water sources 
  • Brittany Chesser- Pond calculations for management and water use restrictions depending on agricultural operation 
  • Brittany Chesser- Hands on water quality analysis 
Outcomes and impacts:

9 participants filled out the post field day evaluation. A summary of results are as follows:

Overall, how satisfied are you with the field day? Count of Results:
Mostly 2
Completely 7
Total:  9
   
   
Overall, how much did you learn from this field day? Count of Results:
A lot of things 8
A few things 1
Total:  9
   
Specifically, please indicate how much you learned from the following portions of the program: - Wildlife concerns with aquatic habitats Count of Results:
A little 3
A lot 3
A great deal 3
Total:  9
   
Specifically, please indicate how much you learned from the following portions of the program: - Hands on pig trap set up Count of Results:
A little 1
A lot 1
A great deal 7
Total:  9
   
Specifically, please indicate how much you learned from the following portions of the program: - Hands on aquatic plant identification Count of Results:
A little 0
A moderate amount 1
A lot 4
A great deal 4
Total:  9
   
Specifically, please indicate how much you learned from the following portions of the program: - Surface water protection Count of Results:
A little 1
A lot 5
A great deal 3
Total:  9
   
Specifically, please indicate how much you learned from the following portions of the program: - Hands on water quality analysis Count of Results:
A little 0
A moderate amount 2
A lot 4
A great deal 3
Total:  9
   
Do you plan to implement similar field day activities in your own region/county? Count of Results:
No 0
Not Sure  3
Yes 6
Total:  9
   
This field day was all about evaluation. What would you like to see in terms of hands on management in aquatic habitats (coming in spring 2022)?
Multiple use management. How can Aquaculture, livestock, and wildlife interests co-exist (or even just 2 of those 3, other people may also care about recreation)  
More weed Id, hands on equipment for herbicide applications demonstration  
Maybe something related to application of weed control in ponds...  
I would like to see treatment demonstration (i.e., chemical selection, calculation of pond size/chemical needed, and application)  
Aquatic plant control methods, fish sampling, trap placement for nuisance animals, more plant ID  
I really enjoyed the hands on collecting of pond weeds. I would like to do that more often and be able to compare them hands on to other pond weeds  
N/A  
Background knowledge of aquatic habitats is not great, so whatever is presented will be new news to me. But it might be helpful to see an example of a well managed pond or at maybe a location of a pond that I could access and go look at.  
how to spray for aquatic vegetation, what to look for in pond design  

Educational & Outreach Activities

10 Online trainings
3 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

50 Extension
1 NRCS
3 Nonprofit
1 Agency
1 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
4 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

23 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
23 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

3 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

10 pre-recorded webinars, 3 live panel discussions, and 1 field day were held prior to this annual report. 

So far, as three other entities (Texas Park and Wildlife Department, Hutto Park and Recreation Department, AYW Texas Conservation Corps) have reached out on conducting similar field days to their employees. 

Most aquatic programs and field days are being held mid to late spring or early summer, so most of these numbers will not be able until after summer 2022. 

Participants

No participants
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.