What Makes Me Texan by Nature – Caitlin Tran

Big Bend National Park – Caitlin Tran

By Caitlin Tran, Texan by Nature Conservation Marketing Intern

Roughly 50 years ago, both of my parents and their families boarded fishing boats in Vietnam in search of safety and a new home. In international waters, US ships allowed them to board and took them to the West Coast of the United States. From there they received sponsorships that brought them to East Texas, where they were able to continue their lives, earn an education, and build a family. It was an amazing journey to Texas that has given me the life I have today.

I grew up in Sugar Land, Texas, a suburb 30 minutes southwest of Houston, five minutes from the Brazos River, and a short trip from the coast. Some of my favorite childhood memories include biking along the river, watching alligators, camping near lakes, and body surfing on the beach. I hadn’t realized how lucky I was until I grew older, when my town became increasingly urbanized. What seemed like an endless forest had turned into concrete strip malls and neighborhoods.

I remember learning about the importance of permeable surfaces to streamflow recharge and floodplain management in environmental science, right before Hurricane Harvey hit. I could only imagine how the results of the storm could’ve been different. Maybe if rapid urbanization accounted for long term environmental effects, farms downstream wouldn’t have flooded. Maybe if more people understood the importance of water management and climate change, less lives would’ve been lost. The devastation and flooding that ensued was life changing for me and many others. After witnessing the power of such a large storm and the flooding of my hometown, I knew I wanted to study Geosystems Engineering and Hydrogeology at The University of Texas at Austin. My studies taught me the complexities of the hydrologic cycle, natural disasters, and the importance of conserving our natural resources.

My time at UT afforded me so many opportunities to see Texas in a totally different light. In my geology courses, we frequently took field trips across central Texas, and I became enamored by the diversity of geology and landscapes within our state. I was able to do some fun research projects that measured water availability between the soil, plants, and atmosphere in response to different climatic environments, as well as map large geologic formations. I learned about changes experienced by the earth in the depths of geologic time and realized humans are only one tiny blip in that timeline. Still, our actions today will directly impact our future and the future of our Earth.

After college, I knew that I wanted to be a part of an organization that would facilitate my desire to promote conservation and a sustainable future. Texan by Nature works to create this future, forging relationships between businesses and conservation so that generations of Texans may enjoy the land as we have. Texas gave my parents a place to call home and I will forever be grateful for the life it has afforded me. No matter where I go or what I do, I will always be Texan by Nature.