Partner Spotlight with the
Blackland Prairie Raptor Center

by Tiara Chapman

Credit: Sean Fitzgerald

Category Archive: Uncategorized

  1. Partner Spotlight with the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center

    Leave a Comment

    Texas is home to more raptors than any other state! Some, like the red-tailed hawk, make Texas their permanent home while others, like the Mississippi Kite, love to hang out in Texas during the summer. During spring and fall migrations, raptor populations can swell by 1 million visitors.

    Eastern Screech Owl with injured wing Credit: BPRC
    Eastern Screech Owl with injured wing Credit: BPRC

    However, not all of these birds of prey receive a warm Texas welcome. Development and population growth have had serious impacts on their habitat, food sources, and overall safety. It’s estimated that 34% of golden eagles along the Texas-Mexico border are electrocuted within their first year of life outside the nest while red-tailed hawks have lost 99% of their original hunting grounds throughout the Blackland Prairie.

    Rehabilitated Barred Owl Release Credit: BPRC
    Rehabilitated Barred Owl Release Credit: BPRC

    Making sure that raptors have room to spread their wings safely is a top priority for our Conservation Partner, the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center. For over two decades, this North Texas nonprofit has provided a haven for thousands of abandoned and injured birds of prey, nurturing them until they’re ready to soar in the wild once again.

    Keep reading to learn more about them and their incredible work!

    Injured Great Horned Owl Credit: BPRC
    Injured Great Horned Owl Credit: BPRC

    Located forty miles north of Dallas, on Lavon Lake, the 66-acre campus of the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center (BPRC) houses 14 avian ambassadors, a diagnostic lab, a veterinary clinic, research offices, and space for you to explore it all!

    The BPRC has educated over 30,000 people about raptors through public outreach and programs like their 1st Saturday Open Houses, Raptor Photo Days, Family Campouts, and more. These events provide a bird’s eye overview of the value of raptors in the ecosystem and give participants an up-close and personal experience with the beauty of these animals. Their mission to advance the environmental preservation of birds of prey and wildlife in their natural habitat extends through these public education events and into restoration and rehabilitation.

    Open Glade in a section of restored prairie with blooming American beauty flower. Credit: BPRC
    Open Glade in a section of restored prairie Credit: BPRC

    BPRC’s namesake comes from the Blackland Prairie ecosystem that once comprised over 23,500 square miles of the Lone Star State and served as the primary habitat for the 39 species of raptors that make their home in Texas. Today less than 1% of the Blackland Prairie ecosystem remains. As raptors lose this space, they must navigate the hazards of neighborhoods, cities, and infrastructure to survive. Many are injured in the process by electrocution, lawn fertilizer burns, maliciousness, collision strikes, and more. The BPRC rehabilitates hundreds of birds of prey every year brought in from across the state, for diagnosis, treatment, and release back into the wild.

    In addition to helping birds of prey recover physically, BPRC also works to restore their habitat. A cadre of volunteers helps clear invasive plants from their 66-acre campus that sits along Lake Lavon. In 2023, their work to clear 800 cedar trees off the property resulted in the return of the native plant species that had been crowded out. With the return of native plant food sources comes the return of prey animals like rabbits, wood mice, squirrels, and other rodents. With the return of prey animals, raptors can better thrive in their natural habitats, soaring safe and sound through Texas skies.

    Red-shouldered hawk in flight. Credit JLK Photography
    Red-shouldered hawk in flight. Credit: JLK Photography

    Texan by Nature’s vision is for every business and every Texan to participate in conservation and for Texas to be a model of collaborative conservation for the world.

    Uplifting the valuable work of our Conservation Partners, like the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center, brings us one step closer to achieving our mission of uniting all Texans in conservation action. Be sure to stop by when you are in town for one of BPRC’s many public education events and stay up to date on their work by following them on Facebook!

  2. What Makes Me Texan By Nature – Abbey Jacks

    Leave a Comment

    Abbey Jacks as a child hikingI was born in Kingwood, Texas under the huge canopy of loblolly pines native to the Big Thicket of Texas. These trees were the constant background for my childhood quests as my family and I rode our bikes on the greenbelts to school or to my grandparents’ home, and some of my first and most cherished memories are of these kinds of adventures with my parents. My mom was a flight attendant for Continental Airlines (when Continental was independent of United Airlines), and I was incredibly lucky in my childhood to travel far and often. My dad comes from a long line of native Texans and instilled in me a sense of wonder and respect for the land and nature just outside our door; so, despite getting to be on an airplane for most of my childhood, some of my favorite destinations were in my home state.

    One such destination is west Texas, and this area still holds my heart to this day. My childhood is filled with memories of swimming at Balmorhea State Park, star parties at McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, and exploring Big Bend National Park and the ghost town in Terlingua. Anybody will tell you I have always had an affinity for nature and wildlife, but I think it was here in these spaces that I developed my love for all things wild and all things Texan. 

    As I grew, loving wildlife and animals was the driving force for my hobbies, extracurriculars, and goals. I knew I wanted to work to protect animals in their wild habitats thanks to my childhood heroes like Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin.
    Abbey Jacks as a child horseback riding
    My parents (thank you Mom and Dad) helped foster that drive in me, and I grew up tackling the joys and challenges of working with animals such as raising a filly for my 4H Club and riding horses competitively throughout middle and high school. I also joined the local horse judging team and this skill stayed with me on to college at Texas A&M University in College Station where I competed at the collegiate level and went on to graduate with a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries.

    I have been so lucky in my life to do some amazing work with a wide variety of animal species – lions, tigers, bears, oh my! (no, seriously) – but my absolute favorites have always been Texas native species. There is such a pride that we as Texans take in our wild neighbors, and there’s something magical knowing that we share our home with animals like black bears, mountain lions, pronghorn antelopes, and golden eagles.

    Abbey Jacks in front of Bracken Cave

    We certainly do it bigger here in Texas, and our over 260,000 square miles of land is home to 142 animal species and sees over 500 species of birds – roughly 75 percent of all bird species identified in the United States. We share our home with animal species seen nowhere else in the world, like the Barton Springs salamander and the Rio Grande gold tarantula. Texas is unique and special in so many different ways that are worth protecting, and the fierce pride and ingenuity of every Texan (native or not, y’all means all) is essential in conserving these spaces and the incredible animals that live here alongside us.  

    Abbey Jacks at the entrance of Big Bend National Park

    When I think about what makes me Texan by Nature, I think of the animal life we see here in the Lone Star State. I think of the wide variety of ecosystems in Texas, from the beaches of the gulf to the panhandle plains and caliche outcroppings to the pine trees and bayous where I grew up. My passion for conservation began in the deserts and mountains of my home state, tracking lizards and snakes in the sand and marveling under the night sky in Big Bend National Park, now the largest dark sky reserve in the world. Most of all, I think about how important it is to protect these wild spaces for generations to come for all Texans. What makes me Texan by Nature? Simply put, it’s the nature in Texas  


  3. What Makes me Texan by Nature – Natalia Rodriguez

    Leave a Comment

    Natalia Rodriguez as a child on a bikeSummers in Texas cast a golden spell over my childhood. I was a fearless child, and I loved being outdoors. I got into trouble climbing trees and bringing home cicada shells that my mother didn’t want inside the house. When I wasn’t running around the neighborhood collecting bugs and riding bikes with my sisters, I enjoyed long car rides with my family traveling across the Lone Star State.

    As much as we Natalia Rodriguez as a child sitting on a treeloved to explore new places, some destinations became annual traditions. The Gatorfest in Anahuac, Texas, is one that I remember vividly. Coastal marshes were explored in hopes of catching a glimpse of an alligator. Something about this reptilian animal captured my attention early on, inspiring more trips to Brazos Bend State Park for more gator-watching.

    At Brazos Bend State Park, I turned my attention to the sky, experiencing the beauty of a dark Texas night, clustered by stars and unpolluted by city lights. George Observatory at Brazos Bend is another place I hold dear to my heart. Growing up, it marked the bittersweet finale of summer fun and a return to our busy school routines. Every August we planned one final trip to Brazos Bend to watch the annual Perseid meteor shower. At these star parties, we met kind strangers willing to share their telescopes and guide our curious eyes under the night sky. I remember such peace in these moments. I’m so thankful to have these memories connecting with my family in nature early on. It inspired my sincere appreciation for the great outdoors and the respect needed to uphold its true beauty.

    Natalia Rodriguez in front of a waterfallNow what makes me Texan by nature? Ironically, I don’t think I realized how important Texas was to my identity until I left the state for some years. Perhaps it was the ingrained “Don’t Mess with Texas” attitude I found myself sharing with newfound friends. Or maybe it was simply a longing to reconnect with the warm, helpful, and generously spirited individuals so common back home. No one is prouder of their state than Texans. Even as I reflect on this now, I struggle to pinpoint what exactly it is about us as Texans that I love.

    When I first moved to California, I was in awe of the remarkable access to nature. With the ocean and mountains at my doorstep and the perfect balance between warm and comfortable weather, many new hobbies blossomed. I enrolled in a hiking class (yes, really, a hiking class), where I learned about native plants and the significance of biodiversity conservation. Bought a national parks passport book, and I proudly added my first stamp at Yosemite, igniting a series of adventures to various national parks across the U. S. (though none in Texas yet, but I’ll get there). Most notably, I made the bold commitment to join the rowing team, dutifully attending 5:30 a.m. practices six days a week. For nearly a year, I navigated the waters of Briones Reservoir, nestled serenely behind the East Bay hills. Over the year, the water level in the reservoir visibly decreased due to California’s drought conditions. This prompted me to reassess my habits and cultivate a newfound sensibility in my lifestyle choices.

    Natalia Rodriguez in Rowing Club

    Upon my return home, Texas revealed itself to me in a new light, brimming with untapped potential. As I readjusted to the sweltering Texas summer, I recognized the necessity of putting in extra effort to engage with the outdoors. While on campus during my undergraduate studies, I became involved with the Office of Sustainability, organizing events to showcase the latest sustainability developments within our campus community and the Greater Houston Area. This experience, coupled with my volunteer work in the community, steered me towards a career in public health, solidifying my belief in the profound impact of our environment on our well-being. In the realm of public health, challenges abound, yet what remains inspiring is the ability to inspire action through conversation and reshape behaviors through education and community outreach.

    City skyline - Natalia Rodriguez

    Being Texan by nature is leading by example and an unwavering commitment to best practices even in the face of daunting challenges. Our go-getter attitude drives transformative change across communities. As my rowing coach would say, “Today’s accomplishment is tomorrow’s warm-up,” and that’s how I aspire to lead in my new role. I am eager to forge new collaborative partnerships in Houston and across our state. I am excited to have found Texan by Nature at this point in my career and join the Center for Health and Nature to engage communities in promoting well-being at the intersection of health and nature.


  4. What Makes me Texan by Nature – Aaron Bowen

    Leave a Comment

    I grew up in the rolling hills of Tontitown, Arkansas, amidst the gentle hum of a 4-house pullet farm. This is where my connection with nature began. Those long, sun-soaked summers spent working the farm, growing chickens, and wading knee-deep in Clear Creek fostered a profound love for the outdoors—a love that would shape my life’s journey in ways I couldn’t yet comprehend.

    The farmhouse, perched on the banks of Clear Creek, became a sanctuary—a portal to a world overflowing with adventure. From the crack of dawn till the sun dipped below the tree line, I wandered the rocky landscape, hunting ducks, trapping crawdads, and chasing after elusive smallmouth bass. Every moment spent there was a lesson in resilience, resourcefulness, and reverence for the wild.

    But it wasn’t just the farm that captured my imagination; nestled amidst the majestic Ozark National Forest was our family cabin and 40 acres of untamed wilderness—an explorer’s paradise. In those dense woods, my brother and I embarked on daring escapades, our youthful curiosity leading us down unmarked logging roads and into uncharted territories. Lost in nature, we found ourselves—instinctively navigating the forest, forging bonds that would endure a lifetime.

    As life beckoned, I traded my fishing pole for a baseball bat, leaving behind the untamed landscapes of my youth to pursue higher education and chart a course in the business world. Yet, the call of the wild never truly faded; it was simply dormant, patiently waiting for its moment to resurface.

    And resurface it did, with the allure of Texas’ vast wilderness calling me once more. In a state dominated by private land, my journey to rediscover the outdoors was met with initial uncertainty. But in true Texan fashion, strangers soon became friends, opening their lands and sharing their passion for the wild with me.

    Reflecting on my roots and the invaluable lessons learned amidst the Arkansas wilderness, my path converged with Texan by Nature—a beacon of conservation and stewardship in the Lone Star State. My journey from the pullet farm to the boardroom, from the tranquil waters of Clear Creek to the sprawling forests of the Ozarks, has equipped me with a unique perspective—a blend of business acumen and a deep-seated admiration for nature.

    As I step into this role as Chief Administrative Officer, my mission is clear—to leverage this expertise and unwavering passion for wildlife conservation to propel Texan by Nature’s noble cause forward. To me, the wilderness isn’t just a place to escape; it’s a canvas upon which life’s most profound lessons are painted.

    In the words of the legendary Jim Harrison, “The wilderness does not make you forget your normal life so much as it removes the distractions for proper remembering.” And for me, Texan by Nature isn’t just a job; it’s a calling—a testament to this unwavering commitment to preserving the wild places that have shaped me into the Texan I am today.

  5. What Makes Me Texan by Nature – Jake Cooper

    Leave a Comment

    Texans don’t just live in Texas; Texas lives in them. The state’s culture and hospitality, the feeling of freedom and wide-open spaces (a la Dixie Chicks), and the unwavering spirit of wild possibilities.

    Mexia, Texas

    As a native Texan, born and raised on a lake outside the small town of Mexia, I grew up surrounded by the beauty of nature. As an only child, stepping outside my door every day was like jumping into my own adventure. The sound of cicadas buzzing in the early summer sun, sitting on the dock watching thunderstorms roll in across the choppy water, spending hours immersed in the forest oaks. Not to mention, our town boasted both a Walmart and H-E-B, which anyone from a small town would recognize as a point of pride. Growing up on the lake gave me access to what felt like another world. I would set out on the kayak, paddling under the old bridge and up the slough, exploring every bend and curve, in awe of catching wildlife in their natural habitat. These moments were not just about being in nature; they were about becoming a part of it, feeling its rhythms and mysteries. Nature taught me the value of independence, the thrill of discovery, and the peace of solitude. It nurtured my curiosity, instilled in me a sense of wonder, and fueled a deep love for exploration and learning.

    Lake Mexia, Texas

    As I grow older, I become ever more aware of how magical these experiences were for me as a child, how they sparked a fire within me, which has fueled a deep and nurturing bond with nature that has continued throughout my life. The calm glassy waters in the early morning hours, the way you feel small when standing so deep in the trees is all you can see, catching the shape of the wind as it playfully lifts the leaves, swilling them into the air. There is so much untapped wisdom in the outdoors just waiting to be uncovered, a spiritual connection that felt both ancient and present to me.

    Mount McKinley, Alaska

    Heading out into nature has always been my first line of defense when I feel lost or overwhelmed. The power it has to bring you peace and reflection never ceases to amaze me. Stare out over the cliffside, lay down in the grass and watch the trees sway, open your eyes to the deep truths that “I am you and you are me,” we are all a part of the cycles of the universe.

    It’s this connection with nature that has accelerated my journey into conservation. After practicing law for close to ten years, I found myself at a crossroads where my heart was steering me towards a different path – one that aligned more closely with my passion for nature conservation and the great outdoors. The decision to leave behind a successful legal career was not easy, but the pull of my true calling was stronger. I wanted to dedicate myself to protecting and preserving the natural beauty that has always been such a big part of my life.

    Rio, Brazil (left) Segovia, Spain (right)

    My roots in small-town Texas and my deep connection with nature have shaped me into who I am today. They have taught me the value of community, the importance of preserving our natural world, and the power of following your heart. When I’m not at work, you can catch me and my husband, Michael, hiking, biking, and camping in one of the many beautiful parks in the Hill Country! I am forever grateful for the experiences that have brought me to this point and excited for the adventures that lie ahead!

    Garner State Park
  6. What Makes Me Texan by Nature – Eros Baua

    Leave a Comment

    I was born in the little town of Iloilo City, Philippines, but raised entirely Texan. I came to the States when I was 6 months old. However, my time here in Texas has taught me to trust and value the meaning of never forgetting where you came from. With all the lessons I have learned, there’s something really special about the Lone Star State: What makes a Texan a Texan? An enormously loud sense of heart and pride for Texas. It’s beautiful. 

    When I first got here, we lived in Corpus Christi, Texas for about 2-3 years. One thing did remain the same since moving. The ocean. There’s something healing about the ocean, as they say. I grew up with a community of Filipinos, tons of trips to McDonald’s, and especially, the Texas State Aquarium. 

    Soon after, there were more opportunities elsewhere, so off to Richmond, Texas we went. I lived a nice suburban life where, if you drove 30 minutes away, was the Museum District of Downtown Houston. That was where most of my childhood memories reside. The gorgeous fountain and greenery of Hermann Park, the Downtown Aquarium, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and most importantly: the Houston Zoo… but we’ll get back to that later. 

    Growing up, I always knew I wanted to work with animals. Originally, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I volunteered at Citizens for Animal Protection and ended up becoming a foster parent as well. Fun fact: I did all of this in high school where I balanced fostering, choir, musical theater, colorguard, and my job as a veterinary receptionist.

    During this time, every summer I volunteered a good 3-5 weeks as a Naturalist and Camp Mentor through the Zoo Crew Program at the Houston Zoo. I learned so much about different endangered species, conservation efforts, working alongside conservation partners, and how to provide a sense of urgency for the zoo guests to also take action. So I changed my career pathway.

    Currently, I study Wildlife Biology with a double minor in Nature and Heritage Tourism and Sustainability Studies at Texas State University. Here in San Marcos, I’m constantly finding ways to be proactive. I worked for the city as a Kennel Technician, interned in the Conservation Crew through the San Marcos Parks and Recs Department, and volunteered for some graduate students for fieldwork experience where I eventually worked as a Lab Technician working with macroinvertebrates and freshwater mussels.

    Where I stand now… along with being an intern at Texan by Nature, I’m the Secretary for the Wildlife Society at Texas State (fingers crossed for my presidency), I just joined a grassland and wetland plant ecology lab where I soon hope to conduct my own undergrad research project. I’ve committed two years so far with The Meadows Center driving glass bottom boats, leading field trips, and taking care of the native and endangered species in the Discovery Hall.

    Shot by: Niles Davis

    Most importantly, I advise students to take the chance to study abroad. I went to Costa Rica where I studied Tropical Ecology and Conservation Biology.

    This was probably the most life-changing trip I have ever gone on. This place felt like home, there was wildlife, there was the beautiful, healing ocean, and there was opportunity.I was at the right place at the right time. This ultimately led me to my chosen career pathway: International Tropical Ecology and Conservation Education. It also inspired me to inspire and motivate others to go abroad, learn, and get involved.

    So I strive to continue studying abroad with Texas State in South Africa and Ireland and continue my education and research internationally as well. With everything I learned in Texas and this position, I strive to create an organization that connects students with the opportunity to go abroad and encourages networking with organizations, just as my opportunities did to me. I hope to create a stepping stone to start creating more conservation leaders, wildlife warriors, and environmental stewards.

    With the knowledge I have learned and gained and the wisdom I have yet to learn, I strive to keep my goals for the future’s sake of conservation. No matter how many miles away I may be, I will always be grateful for my roots. To reminisce about the memories, the people, the wildlife, the coasts, the rivers, why the stars at night are big and bright, and what makes me so proud to define myself as Texan by Nature.

  7. 7 Questions for a Sustainability Professional: Nichole Jones-Dooley

    Leave a Comment

    A native of Hot Wells, Texas, Mary Kay Ash is known as one of the original glass ceiling breakers for her iconic brand, Mary Kay. A true disruptor in business, Mary Kay’s mission since 1963 has been to enrich women’s lives and empower them with the opportunity to define their own futures. Today, Mary Kay operates in more than 35 countries and its Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategy weaves business excellence, product stewardship, responsible manufacturing, women’s empowerment, and social impact to their growth.

    Mary Kay’s commitment to intentional and sustainable initiatives to address the global challenges threatening future generations is thanks in part to the behind-the-scenes work of strategists like Nichole Jones-Dooley, Plant Manager, Richard R. Rogers Manufacturing and R&D Facility, Mary Kay.

    Nichole Jones-Dooley, Plant Manager, Mary Kay

    How would you explain the importance of ESG strategy to someone who wasn’t familiar with it?
    ESG strategy is vital because it represents a holistic approach to doing business that prioritizes not just financial gains but also positive impacts on the environment and society. At Mary Kay, it guides us in making decisions that are good for the planet and its people, ensuring a sustainable future for all while staying true to our core values. It’s about creating a balance between economic success and the well-being of our communities and the environment.

    When planning environmental sustainability targets, what do you use as a guide to set these goals and commitments? 
    In setting our environmental sustainability targets, we’re guided by a combination of successful industry models, stakeholder concerns, and our natural resource use. We align our goals with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring our efforts contribute to global priorities. Our approach is collaborative, involving key stakeholders to ensure our goals are ambitious yet achievable, reflecting our commitment to making a meaningful—and realistic—difference.

    What is the first step for implementing ESG strategy for a company looking to engage in environmental sustainability for the first time?
    The first step is understanding the intersection of your business operations with environmental, social, and governance factors. For Mary Kay, this meant assessing how we could leverage our influence for positive environmental change while empowering women and ensuring ethical governance. Starting with a commitment to sustainability that aligns with core company values is key, followed by establishing clear, measurable goals and integrating these into all aspects of the business.

    Mary Kay’s commitment to sustainability by the numbers:
    Mary Kay uses 100% biodegradable packing peanuts
    Mary Kay’s manufacturing centers are powered by 100% renewable energy
    Mary Kay’s global manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and China operate as zero landfill sites

    In 2023, what was your most interesting lesson learned in your work as a sustainability professional?
    The most interesting lesson was the power of collective action, especially the role women play in driving sustainability efforts. Our initiatives, from water stewardship to supporting female-led conservation projects, underscored how impactful partnerships and community-led actions can be. It reinforced the idea that when we empower women, we can accelerate progress towards sustainability goals.

    What component of working in environmental sustainability is your favorite and why? 
    Our commitment to water sustainability. Our manufacturing facility has a direct and tangible impact over this resource, with the ability to drive substantial improvement and conservation advancements through operational processes. It’s a fundamental resource that’s under increasing stress globally, and our efforts in water stewardship have shown tangible benefits. It’s gratifying to work on something so essential to life, knowing that every improvement contributes to the well-being of communities and ecosystems.

    When Mary Kay Ash said she wanted to change the world, this included protecting it for future generations. Because she embraced those values, Mary Kay has been making systematic changes across our operations and value chain for more than 60 years with the goal of becoming a more sustainable business. We’ve made significant progress—but there’s still work to be done and together we can accomplish our goals.


    From the eyes of an environmental sustainability professional, what makes a conservation project stand out? What can conservation projects do to make it easier to partner with them?
    A standout conservation project is one that combines innovative environmental solutions with social benefits, especially those that empower communities. Projects that facilitate partnerships by demonstrating tangible impacts, scalability, and inclusivity always stand out. Making it easier to partner involves clear communication of goals, transparency in operations, and showcasing how collaboration can amplify results.

    What sustainability goal are you most looking forward to working on in 2024?
    In 2024, I’m most looking forward to expanding our efforts in responsible water use and conservation. Building on our successes, we aim to implement more advanced water-saving technologies and practices across our operations. Enhancing our water stewardship not only reflects our commitment to environmental sustainability but also supports our broader goal of empowering women and communities through improved access to clean water.

    Texan by Nature’s vision is for every business and every Texan to participate in conservation, and for Texas to be a model of collaborative conservation for the world. 

    We’re grateful to Nichole, Mary Kay, and the many sustainability professionals and companies who are future-proofing their businesses and our state with operational innovations and conservation investments that advance environmental sustainability in their sectors and provide successful models for the globe to follow.

    Learn more about the annual TxN 20 program, which recognizes leadership in environmental sustainability in industry, by visiting the TxN 20 website, and keep an eye out for more insight from other sustainability professionals to come.

    More about Nichole Jones-Dooley

    Nichole holds Bachelor of Science degrees in Chemistry and Nuclear Medicine Technology. She has over 15 years of experience in Cosmetics manufacturing and Supply Chain Management. She began her career as a Chemist for L’Oréal USA at their manufacturing site in North Little Rock, AR. While there, she worked in multiple roles across Operations and Supply Chain including Manager of Industrial Quality, Manager of Packaging Operations, and Manager of Master Scheduling.

    In 2015, Nichole joined Mary Kay Inc. as Manager of Production Operations at the Dallas manufacturing site. During her tenure with the company, she served as Director of Operations and is currently Plant Manager for the site, overseeing all of Operations, Warehousing, and Site Engineering at the new Richard R. Rogers Manufacturing and R&D Facility in Lewisville, TX. Nichole is an active member of the Board of the Lewisville Chamber of Commerce as well as a member of the Board of Trustees for Medical City Lewisville.

  8. International Day of Women and Girls in Science

    Leave a Comment

    As we mark the 9th annual International Day of celebration for women and girls in science, Texan by Nature recognizes the remarkable women who are accelerating change and progress in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM), and of course – conservation! According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of women in the workforce has increased by 10% from 1970 to 2019. Excitingly, the percentage of women working in STEM fields has increased from 8% in 1970 to 27% in 2019. Working women are choosing to make their presence known in these fields. 

    2023 Conservation Summit

    To gain insights into the experiences of women in conservation, we turned to the extraordinary members of our team at Texan by Nature. Hailing from diverse backgrounds both in life and career, we asked the women on our team to share their perspectives as we forge forward for this generation and the next.

    What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the field of science?
    “It’s cool to be interested in what interests you. There’s no such thing as a subject being ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls’. If you like bugs- Go outside and play with bugs! If you like growing plants and flowers- Start a garden! Even if other people around you disagree, try lots of different things until you find something you like to do that makes you happy. Don’t just do what you think is expected of you to make others happy.” –Kenzie Cherniak, Program Manager

    Be authentic! Your perspective as an underrepresented scientist positions you to contribute uniquely to issues you care about.

    Carolyn Cooper, Project Associate

    “Discovering your unique identity in STEM is crucial. Being a scientist doesn’t mean conforming to others’ perceptions of what a scientist should look like or how they should behave. It is okay to express your femininity (or not). Wearing nail polish while doing field surveys does not make you any less of a conservationist. Work hard, follow your passion, and don’t let other people define you.” –Taylor Kennedy Frenchi, National Health Alliance Program Manager

    “You don’t have to be an engineer or a doctor to work in STEM fields! If you love reading, writing, drawing, designing, speaking– there are endless opportunities to leverage your creative strengths to help amplify scientific innovations, missions, and messages that you are passionate about.” –Karina Araujo, Marketing Director

    Faith Humphreys, Programs Intern

    Who are some women scientists or conservationists that you admire and why?
    Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring inspired the modern environmental movement and set the stage for the founding of the EPA. I also have loved learning about her lesser-known work as a marine biologist and biographer of the sea.” –Carolyn Cooper, Project Associate

    “Honestly, all of the amazing women who work for the National Park Service are living my dream. For example, Herma Baggley was the first female naturalist who worked for the National Park Service. She was a pioneer in botany and natural education at Yellowstone National Park starting in 1929.” –Jenny Burden, Director of Development

    “Bindi Irwin is a huge inspiration to me. Her passion for wildlife is so evident, and she still makes time for conservation work even though she’s a mom (like me!). Her dad inspired me to love wildlife, and she is doing an incredible job carrying on his legacy.” –Faith Humphreys, Programs Intern

    While I have had many role models and mentors throughout my career, Jane Goodall was a true inspiration to me since I was young. Despite no formal academic or scientific background, Jane Goodall broke through a male-dominated field, combating discrimination and gender inequality. She is now a renowned woman in science and conservation who has inspired future generations to follow your true aspirations, no matter the barriers.

    Madeleine Kaleta, Marketing and Media Intern

    Texan By Nature CEO and President, Joni Carswell at the 2023 Texan by Nature Conservation Summit

    What impact do you hope to make through your contributions to the field of science and conservation?

    I want to change the way conservation is funded, the way it’s understood, and the way people engage. I want to realize a world where every person is a collaborating conservationist. Working together, we can achieve the restoration and conservation needed across the globe. I hope that the impact TxN is making is the model and catalyst for this.

    Joni Carswell, CEO and President, Texan by Nature

    Karina Araujo

    “I want to create a future where every Texan values the vital connection between our natural world and our happiness, health, and livelihood. I think this starts by communicating the value of our natural resources and their benefits in a personal, accessible, and culturally relevant way. My goal is to inspire people of diverse backgrounds to embrace that connection and the conservation of our natural resources as a part of their identity.”
    –Karina Araujo, Marketing Director


    “I think our whole team here at TxN values the importance of meeting people where they are, listening, and finding ways to work together. That’s the type of discourse needed, the kind that makes people excited about participating in conservation. I hope that’s the example I’m helping to set, and that it leads to even more investment in our natural resources.” –Jenny Burden, Director of Development

    “I’d love to be the reason that even one person starts caring for the environment more. Many people feel that they are separate from nature, especially with increasing urbanization. I hope to help close that imaginary gap between people and nature to ensure that future generations can enjoy the beautiful places that we enjoy today. “–Faith Humphreys, Programs Intern

    Kenzie Cherniak

    How can we create a supportive environment for women in science to thrive and succeed?

    One of my all-time favorite quotes is “Be curious, not judgmental”. We must create an environment for women to learn and ask questions without the fear of being judged or punished for not knowing the answers to everything. This builds confidence, increasing the number of brilliant women with wonderful new ideas in the STEM field.

    Kenzie Cherniak, Program Manager

    “While there are many structural changes needed to make science inclusive, openly speaking about the challenges (e.g., sexism, racism, imposter syndrome, mental health) of being a member of an underrepresented community in science makes it less lonely for everyone.” –Carolyn Cooper, Project Associate

    Madeleine Kaleta

    “Creating an environment for women to succeed starts at a cultural level, and will need time to be changed. But encouraging and supporting other women throughout our journey can make a big difference in our success. Women throughout my life have shared their experiences and challenges with me, and I pass on that mentorship mentality to other aspiring women. By helping each other with resumes or encouraging each other to take that higher level job, we can thrive together.” –Madeleine Kaleta, Marketing and Social Media Intern

    “Encouraging women to pursue these careers from an early age is one of the best ways to ensure women will feel at home in science fields. When young girls see themselves represented in STEM, they will see that success in this field is possible for them too.” –Hanna Guidry, Programs Intern

    Jenny Burden
    Jenny Burden

    Can you share a memorable moment from your career in science and conservation that inspired you to pursue this path?

    I haven’t had a traditional science/conservation career, but my first job that put me in a position to steward and care for land was working on a ranch in Wyoming right after college. It was my first time experiencing access to wilderness areas and balancing care for those precious areas with the demands of a working cattle ranch. My formal education may have had nothing to do with it, but my heart instantly fell in love with the work, and I’ve been passionate about it ever since!

    Jenny Burden, Director of Development

    “One of my most memorable moments was on my first day of work conducting bat surveys. I had dedicated time to studying and gaining experience (and even relocated halfway across the country on short notice for this job). However, it didn’t feel real until that first day, as I hiked into the field with all my equipment, with monarch butterflies fluttering around me. I felt immense pride that my work had paid off and I had finally made it.”  –Taylor Kennedy Frenchi, National Health Alliance Program Manager

    Our vision is for every business, every Texan to participate in conservation and for Texas to be a model of collaborative conservation for the world. 

    In celebration of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we recognize the remarkable women of Texan by Nature. Your unique perspectives, voices, and expertise are invaluable toward  helping us achieve our vision and mission–THANK YOU!

  9. What Makes Me Texan by Nature – Hanna Guidry

    Leave a Comment

    The bumper sticker phrase “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could” was something I heard often from my parents throughout my childhood. They were true examples of that saying: my mom grew up in the Midwest and my dad grew up in Louisiana, and as soon as they graduated college and got married they came to Texas. When I came along, I became the first and only native Texan in our family.

    Growing up, our family of three did most of our traveling by car. By the time I started middle school, I had already seen most of the state’s natural landscape through the windows of my mom’s minivan. I also gained an appreciation of local nature through annual family trips to the Dallas Arboretum, where I got to watch Monarch butterflies migrate every October (and started a lifelong obsession with Texas butterflies). From a young age, I recognized the natural beauty of the state of Texas and the many different plants and animals that call it home.

    I’ve known since I was eight years old that I wanted to be a lawyer, but it wasn’t until I was older that I realized I could combine my love of nature with my desire to practice law. This led me to pursue degrees in Government and Sustainability Studies at the University of Texas at Austin to prepare myself for a career in environmental law. Along the way, I became involved in various corporate sustainability opportunities that made me realize the power businesses have to play a key role in conservation and environmental protection.

    To me, this belief is what makes me Texan by Nature. Texas is a state driven by business and innovation while also being characterized by its wide variety of landscapes, plants, and animals. These qualities make Texas unique and are the primary reason why I want to remain here to preserve Texas’ natural beauty and economic strengths. Working for Texan by Nature is the perfect way for me to spend my time between graduation and law school: I get to connect business and nature and work on meaningful projects in my home state.

  10. What Makes Me Texan by Nature – Kat Hicks

    Leave a Comment

    I have lived in Texas all my life. Born in Plano, surrounded by all of my extended family, I was a kid from the suburbs of Dallas until about eight years old when my family decided to move to Austin for my parents work. Despite my long-time residence, I haven’t always been in touch with my Texan pride. When we’re young it is difficult to be aware of our realities and the privileges we are granted. For me, one of those was the privilege of being born and raised in Texas, by Texans.

    At the Grand Canyon on my 4th Birthday

    Growing up, I was constantly immersed in nature as my parents and grandparents were big campers. Every summer since 1980, my grandparents have traveled the nation up to Alaska and back. The two generations combined loved to show their children and grandchildren the beauties of nature and the wonders it held. By age ten I had been to half of the National Parks with a decorated jean jacket of Junior Ranger patches to prove it. When we couldn’t travel out of state, we would take weekend camping trips to Texas State Parks or simply play in the greenbelt behind my house that had hills and a stream to splash in. My Aunt and Uncle had some land in west Texas where my adrenaline junkie was born racing Polaris’s, riding 4-wheelers, and jumping between hay bales. As a child, all of my best memories were made outside.

    Racing Polaris’ at the ranch

    As I grew older and went through highschool I kept this love for the outdoors when I got my driver’s license and gained the ability to explore the outdoor corners of Austin with my best friends. Weekends were spent at Barton Springs, Zilker Park, Sandy Creek on Lake Travis, Turkey Creek Trail and much more. Time flew and before I knew it I was applying for college and having to choose my field of study. My parents, lifelong Aggies who met in college and named their first dog Dudley (Aggie’s know), wanted their last child, and last hope of having an Aggie in the family as my older siblings strayed from tradition, to go to A&M. Ultimately, against my original hopes as we must rebel against our parents’ dreams for us, I was starting at Texas A&M with my chosen major, Environmental Studies. Before I knew it I was drinking the kool aid and becoming a diehard Aggie filled with tradition and pride. I think this is where I began to get in touch with my Texas spirit as there’s nothing more Texan than Texas A&M University. From Aggie football to playing pool at The Chicken, and dare I say, listening to country music, I began to feel the love and spirit of all the Texans before me that we’re lucky to call this state home.

    Me and my siblings at Duddley’s Draw in 2010 next to my dad (class of ’86) and I at my ring day in 2023

    The summer before my senior year of college I was granted the opportunity of studying abroad in Costa Rica. My program was in biodiversity and sustainability among coffee farmers, and I would be gone for a month.

    Visiting the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

    As much as I had traveled within Texas and the United States, I had never been out of the country and for my first experience abroad, I would be going at it alone. I was nervous, but overcome with excitement and dreams of all I would see and do. The program was so helpful at affirming my passions for sustainability and conservation, but one of my biggest takeaways was how much I loved the state of Texas. I found myself listening to Jerry Jeff Walker’s London Homesick Blues every chance I could get and realizing how big the Texas sky is when I had to look straight up just to see some blue. Costa Rica was one of the most diverse and beautiful places I have ever been, but it would never beat the expansive land and sky’s of the sweet state of Texas.

    Being proud of the growing economy and uniquely successful business’ of Texas as I begin to enter the workforce, while having a love for our landscapes, wildlife, and our big, beautiful sky drives the direction of my future in Texas. Pursuing work within conservation and business, to me, is a testament of the Texan within me and is what I am looking forward to doing post graduation.

    Texan By Nature defines me—by birth, by spirit, and by choice. I wholeheartedly adopt and wield the Texan pride within me as I grow and navigate the world before me.

  11. Local Opportunities to Achieve Global Goals: Circularity 

    Leave a Comment

    In the pursuit of sustainable operations, an increasing number of Texas-based companies are embracing the circular economy. Texan by Nature found that over 50% of the state’s leading companies committed to conservation are actively advancing circular material practices. From designing products with extended life cycles to championing recycling initiatives that divert waste from landfills, companies are seeking innovative ways to “close the loop” and minimize the use of new materials and resources in their operations. Innovative collaborations between business and local conservation offer a unique avenue for companies to not only advance their sustainability goals but also yield tangible environmental, social, and economic benefits.

    PET 1 plastics accepted during the El Paso PET Recycling Project.

    The Demand for Circular Materials
    Currently, only 18% of thermoplastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle waste is recycled within the U.S. value chain. Alarming projections indicate that, should companies maintain their recycled-content commitments, the demand for recycled PET plastic (rPET) will surpass the available supply by threefold come 2030, according to a report by McKinsey.

    This challenge is already impacting Texas companies, exemplified by 2023 Texan by Nature 20 Honoree, Mary Kay. Reflecting on their sustainability journey, Mary Kay emphasized the importance of adaptability and the continuous pursuit of alternative options when faced with material shortages. 

    “We encourage others embarking on similar sustainability journeys to anticipate and address these supply chain complexities to ensure the continued success of their sustainability initiatives. In a world of finite resources, collaboration and flexibility emerge as crucial elements in advancing collective sustainability efforts.”

    Explore more sustainability lessons learned from the 2023 TxN 20 honorees – Download the 2023 TxN 20 Industry Report.

    Four green recycling receptacles with bilingual signage were placed outside Sam’s Club locations in El Paso.

    Increasing Circularity Supply: The El Paso PET Recycling Project
    The El Paso PET Recycling Project, launched in 2022 by Texans for Clean Water and Texan by Nature in partnership with Sam’s Club, Blue Triton Brands, and D6. Facilitated by Texan by Nature, the project incentivized the El Paso community to participate in the material return process by depositing PET 1 thermoforms at the collection receptacles placed outside four local Sam’s Club locations. Users were offered 10 cents per PET 1 thermoform or bottle deposited, with the option to receive payments via Venmo or contribute to a local non-profit organization. 

    Over 170,000 PET items were deposited by more than 531 unique active users as of July 25, 2023. Additionally, all data, best practices, and lessons learned were captured and reported to share with other retailers as a model for replication. As a result, Sam’s Club and D6 are continuing a modified version of the pilot in El Paso, along with expanding to other locations. Waste collected will be transported to facilities for recycling or returned to brand sponsors for use in circularity initiatives.Learn more about their on-going recycling efforts inspired by the El Paso PET Recycling Pilot here

    El Paso Partners attend the inaugural El Paso PET Recycling Project launch. 

    Community-Driven Sustainability
    Low recycling rates are often a result of a lack of public awareness of the importance of recycling and lack of access to recycling infrastructure. To drive the community to use new recycling receptacles, the El Paso project launched an awareness campaign featuring a video contest for El Paso High School students, paid social media advertisements, bilingual public service announcements, and local media outreach.

    The ethos-focused messaging of the project’s awareness campaign focused on the impacts of litter on Texas wildlife and waterways creating positive sentiments and a steady increase in participation from the community over 6 months.

    I really love what you guys are doing and really hope this program gets to stay in El Paso. It can help keep the community clean and provide people with a chance to make extra money. It’s a great incentive for the people that recycle and the companies that produce plastic waste.

    Erick., El Paso PET Recycling Project Participant

    At the conclusion of the pilot, $3,500 in donations was made to seven local El Paso non-profits: El Paso Community Foundation, El Paso Zoo Society, Green Hope Project, Paso del Norte Community Foundation, Second Chance Wildlife Rescue, The Frontera Land Alliance, and Tom Lea Institute.

    The road to zero-waste will require collaboration
    According to McKinsey, boosting the supply of rPET will require local public-private partnerships  to increase local material collection rates in areas without curbside recycling. Initiatives like the El Paso PET Recycling Project showcase the catalytic effect of local conservation efforts on a broader scale. With measurable impacts and multi-faceted benefits, such investments become integral components of corporate sustainability strategies, addressing global environmental sustainability challenges like material shortages. 

    Our vision is for every business, every Texan to participate in conservation, and for Texas to be the model of collaborative conservation for the world.

    To explore opportunities and discover how Texan by Nature connects business to conservation, visit our Business Member page or reach out via email.

  12. What Makes Me Texan by Nature – Taylor Kennedy Frenchi

    Leave a Comment

    I grew up in Wichita Falls, a town in North Texas where our landmark and namesake is a muddy-brown, artificial waterfall (usually turned off to conserve water). The town’s unofficial motto is “Fake Falls, Real People” and I have found that to be true of Texans in general…you just won’t meet more authentic people. As you can tell from my style (and the bright pink cowboy boots out of frame in the picture), my mom had dreams of raising a real, authentic Texas cowgirl.

    Unfortunately, I was allergic to horses and hay, so her dream didn’t come true. Since I couldn’t be a cowgirl, my love for the outdoors took root on family fishing trips, where my parents introduced me to the joy of casting a line into the river long before I could even walk.

    These early moments of connection with nature set the stage for my lifelong passion for the outdoors, but one specific trip stands out in my memory. During what we were sure was the hottest summer in Texan history, my dad, sister, and I took a float trip down the Brazos River. At some points, the water level was so low that we had to get out and drag the canoe. We spent the days rowing, complaining about the heat, and waiting for my dad to cast his line into a coveted deep pool in the river. Once he determined there were no fish for us to spook, my sister and I could hop out and swim to cool down. Our trip was full of misadventures, including an accidental lantern fire, a tipped canoe, burnt dinner, tents placed on top of fire ant nests… and my dad finding it very funny to say, “Taylor! You asleep yet?” every ten minutes as I tried to drift to sleep in the oppressive heat (still nursing fire-ant bites). Looking back, we laugh at our misadventures but also cherish the whirlpool we swam in for hours, the fish we caught, and the fun we had. That memorable trip left me with more than just anecdotes: it instilled in me a profound respect for the wilds of Texas and nature as a whole. It made me realize that I find my true happiness outdoors, even amongst the misadventures 

    Since then, I continued to spend time exploring and investigating the natural world, whether looking for insects or turning over rocks in the creek. These early experiences and lessons nurtured my curiosity and led me to pursue a career in STEM. I have explored many paths at the confluence of health and the natural world- conducting field research with bats, exploring the human dimensions of conservation efforts in Central and South America, and managing research programs that bridge human health and environmental concerns. My career has led me to beautiful places, from the prairies of Texas, through the forests of the Carolinas, and currently to the mountains of the Colorado, where I spend my time fishing and exploring with my dog, Mango.  

    But despite my roaming, I will always be Texan by Nature. I am an earnest advocate for advancing the understanding of the connections between nature and health and working towards a future where everyone can access and enjoy the benefits of nature. There is no better way for me to promote these goals than working with Texan by Nature and the Nature and Health Alliance.