Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mr. Burr Williams

Mr. Burr Williams
Executive Director
Sibley Nature Center
Midland, Texas

Today Donna and I had some errands to run and one of them was to stop by the Sibley Nature Center in Midland to drop off a special delivery.

We've met Mr. Williams in person once before when the Center hosted two programs, one by the Horned Lizard Conservation Society and another by the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute on Desert Pollinators.

Today we caught him -- I wouldn't say not busy because he is indeed a busy and industrious man -- but today there were no special programs going on at the Center. That is to say, we had him to ourselves!

We had so many questions. And here's the man that has the answers we were seeking. And much more.

By the time we were done, we had become official members of the Sibley Center, got a DNA testing pack for horned lizards with instructions (the instructions are hoot, let me tell you), we got the heads up on dates for plant propagation sessions at the Sibley greenhouse this fall, and we are going to join the Master Naturalists for 2009. Our heads were spinning with excitement.

The thing that I love about Mr. Williams so much -- besides the twinkle in his eye and deep melodious voice; besides the great Center and its website that he has built up over the years to be educational and invaluable; besides the amazing walking encyclopedic resource his is -- is that he loves amateur naturalists. He said he enjoys most people that are enthusiastic and love nature. Hey, that's Donna and me.

He explained these days amateur scientists are more important than ever. There is so much to study, but the areas that get studied by professionals are things that either help or hurt man's interests. There's no money in other things, like horned lizards, for example. Our state reptile, aka the "horny toad" is precious to the ecosystem as well as to most Texans' pride, however it is not a threat or a direct contributor to man's (current) interests. So, it's the volunteers and enthusiasts that can fill in informational blanks on the benign and neglected.

His pep talk has given Donna and I a new sense about what we do. We now plan to take on the challenge to be more scientific in our outings. We'll begin taking notes on what we observe, where we see it, and likely publish it on the web for the curious seeker's reference.

Oh, and what was that special delivery we made to Mr. Williams? Well, Mr. Williams is the only person on the planet that I know that would have wanted -- nay, who asked for -- the dessicated weasel I found some months back in Howard County. (I also must thank my companions who allowed me to carry this, um, aromatic find with us, in the truck, 60 miles back home. They are saints.)

And now I know this weasel's skeleton, once cleaned and bleached, will educate many school children and those of any age who remain life-long learners. My scary, wrinkled find is in good hands.


Frances said...

and did he tell you what those gooey flowers were? I should probably re-read in case you have mentioned that - but Mr BW's beard was too exciting for me.
Sounds fantastic. Great to hear this, I am sure he is really pleased to have people like you with your talents and eye for wildlife on board and out there informing and delighting us as you do.

Bev said...

LOL Frances

It does sound great news, and you do take photos of many unusual species, it is amazing what you do find.

Bev said...

I think Frances husband has a beard.

Bobbie said...

Burr is as interesting as the Sibley Center must be. I'd love to hear more about the DNA testing kit, especially the results that come in. There is a lot of interesting stuff in the desert and elsewhere too. Yeah, what about the gooey stuff?

Frances said...

his beard reminds me of ZZTop - and yes, husband has a beard. LOL

Frances said...

BTW are you all safe and sound and away from the hurricane? News is garbled here and I don't know how far inland it has got.

Irene said...

I find men with big beards like that such turn offs, as they have the personality to go with the beard. Large! That's going to make me real popular, isn't it? I bet he bowled you two women over with his authorative talk and attitude. Probably thinks he knows more about wildlife in the state of Texas than anybody else. Yup, he's got the beard to prove it.

Debi said...

Thank you everyone for the comments.

Frances, we are safe and sound from the hurricanes. We are quite far inland. But we did get a lot of rain -- so needed in this area. However, Lubbock, further north, where Donna lives got too much of the rain. They had what they called one of their "100 Year Floods." Some damage to property, but only idiots got hurt in it.

Hi Bev. Thank you. Once you start looking, it's easy to find the unusual. The gumweed is everywhere, I just didn't see it before.

Mom, I'll post more about the Horned Lizard DNA kit =)

Irene, I guess there are exceptions to every rule. Mr. Williams is a gentle, non-pushy kind of person. I bet Donna or I either one could out-talk him any time. Heck, we might have done that already! ugh.

He has studied this area all his life, not only observing first-hand, but he's a fine listener, paying keen attention to the stories and experiences of everyone, then sharing the collective knowledge on his website and in his writings.

Privately we dubbed him "a sweet ol' teddy bear."