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Water for Wildlife !

Alden Larrick

 This past year we completed Phase 1 of our Water for Wildlife initiative and secured funding to begin work on Phase 2. The Water for Wildlife project allows us to provide clean water year-round to wildlife that live in or visit Circle Acres. The project also established a low-tech irrigation system and a means to distribute water around the preserve. Last year, Planet K generously provided the seed money to start this project. This allowed us to manage water from our seeps and springs so that we could better utilize this precious resource. We diverted the spring water that had been pooling and soaking underground through the contaminated landfill cap to a series of troughs and storage tanks that act as biological filters. The biologically cleaned water then flows to an in-ground pond at the edge of our intermittent wetland. In dry times, like this past summer’s drought, the pond serves as a vital water source for area wildlife. Trail cameras captured numerous birds, deer, raccoons, coyote and fox using this water, as well as, a bobcat and some feral hogs. The pond also provides a great method to help control mosquitos. When the rains return, and the wetland refills, the native gambusia in the pond are able to escape back into the wetland. The population of mosquito larva-eating minnows quickly rebound and help control the mosquitos as well as feed the heron, egrets, kingfishers, and turtles.

We have already begun Phase II of this project, funded by the new Texas Environmental Fund. This stage will focus on removing rubble and debris from the springs and provide the materials to distribute the water to troughs in other parts of the preserve for wildlife to use. We also want to thank the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Texas Wild and Native Nursery for donating hundreds of native plants. We are quickly establishing food and habitat for the growing diversity of wildlife found on site. We thank Planet K and The Texas Environmental Fund for allowing us to pursue this innovative solution to addressing ground water contamination and provide clean drinking water to wildlife.

A key component of the Water for Wildlife project are troughs such as these which hold and filter water diverted from our seeps and springs at Circle Acres. The water is then returned to the nearby wetlands.

A key component of the Water for Wildlife project are troughs such as these which hold and filter water diverted from our seeps and springs at Circle Acres. The water is then returned to the nearby wetlands.

Trails Update !

Alden Larrick

It's been a busy year for our trail system with several ongoing projects aimed at stabilizing our existing trails and adding new features such as improved signage and seating.

We recently wrapped up the work associated with our City of Austin Urban Forest grant which included the placement of new interpretive signage at key locations within the preserve.

Last Spring we learned that we were one of only nineteen organizations statewide and the only organization in Travis County to receive funding from Texas Parks & Wildlife's Recreational Trails program to fund several of our planned enhancements.

As part of the funding request to TPWD, we created the map below to help explain the need and goals of the work, which also help to show the extent of the trail network and access points that already exist at Circle Acres. The general goals include improvements to the three trailheads with new wayfinding signage, seating and lighting, improved grading at the parking trailhead, some additional wayfinding and interpretive signage along the trails, and erosion control particularly for the trail which leads up the steep slope to Atwood Street.

We look forward to sharing progress on these projects when they commence in 2019!

TPWD Trail Grant - Site Plan.jpg


Ecology Action

We're so happy to be partnering with new Austin-based business Kwaddle. Kwaddle is a new startup born right here in Austin, TX! It helps parents find the best summer camps, activities and classes for children. Kwaddle has the largest collection of summer camps and classes for kids. Over 500 businesses are listed and over 2,000 different activities, camps and family-friendly events are listed on  Each year Kwaddle sponsors a child to go to summer camp (up to $300 value) as part of their mission to help educate and enrich children. To enter the contest simply sign up here. Enter code: Amplify-ecologyacti to let them know you found out through us.

Holiday Giving

Ecology Action


It's the end of the year and as you're putting together your gift list, please consider donating items from our wish-list this year and/or becoming a member

OFFICE SPACE: We are looking for a small office or co-working space starting in December 2016. Secure storage for documents would be a big plus. 

Name *
Please list and describe the items you'd like to donate.


  • Picnic tables
  • Storage shed
  • Wood benches
  • Fencing
  • Hoop house (for propagating plants)


  • Tree wrenches (specifically, 1 of the smallest diameter and 1 of the largest diameter tools)
  • 1 Quality Post hole digger
  • 1-2 Stout posts for main gate
  • 1 quality Chainsaw
  • 1 Tamper
  • Solar water pump (1/2-1hp)
  • Hay bales
  • Metal roofing

Summer Camp Photos and Recap

Ecology Action


JUNE 13 - 17 : 9AM - 1PM : AGES 5 - 10


Our camp is done for this summer, but watch this space for future camps (including a fall "camp day" for grown ups to have the fun when the kids go back to school :). We were lucky to have incredible photos from this year's camp donated by Green Wheels Studios - Check them out below.

About Urban Ecology Camp at Circle Acres:

Join Ecology Action for a fun filled week of nature play, exploration, and learning. Enjoy exploring our beautiful nature preserve with the deer, turtles, and birds, and participate in fun games and projects, learn about ways we can care for our environment

When:  June 13th - 17th, 9AM - 1PM

Who: Kids! Ages 5 - 10 (elementary school)

Who: Lead Counselor Thora is the Austin Discovery School EcoWellness teacher, and spends her days teaching kids of all ages in an outdoor setting. She has also a permaculture expert, and Wilderness First Responder!  She will be assisted by Katie Jo (Registered Nurse, family and child photographer, and mom) and Cory (Ecology Action Director with experience in community education design, nature based art installation, professional childcare and homeschool assistance)

Where: Circle Acres is located conveniently off of Hwy 183 and is adjacent to Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park. It is just 15 minutes from downtown Austin, and less from anywhere on the East Side.

Cost: $200: $250 to register, $50 refunded with feedback survey at the end of the week)  Contact us if you or your business can sponsor a scholarship to make this camp accessible to more kids!) 

Registration Deadline: Monday, May 16th to guarantee your spot, space available basis after.




  • Connect: with nature through immersion and adventure in our beautiful, secluded environment.
  • Learn: about brownfield remediation and preservation with fun, hands on activities, building science skills and understanding.

  • Explore and Create: Discover the secrets of our forests and wetlands as we examine the world around us with all of our senses and create artwork with found materials.

  • Play and Restore: Fresh air, active play, and low-pressure time in a beautiful natural environment. Give your kids the opportunity to start summer off right with this restorative week in the nearby wild. Structured learning activities will be balanced with relaxation, free play, fort building, games and walks in the woods.

Questions? Please contact us

Summer Camp Updates, Tree Walk this Saturday

Ecology Action

A few updates from Ecology Action this week:

  • Camp Registration Deadline Monday

For your friends who haven’t completed registration yet:  We can guarantee spots until then, after that it’s on a space/staff available basis. Register at

Cost of camp is $200 for the entire week - $250 required to register but you’ll get $50 back as soon as your quick post camp survey is complete.

  • Camp Staff

Lead Counselor: We are thrilled to have Austin Discovery School’s EcoWellness Teacher, Thora Gray joining us for this year’s camp. Thora is a skilled educator devoted to the whole child philosophies and enjoying time outdoors. She has many years of experience in permaculture and and outdoor play and learning, with kids of all ages. Thora is also a Wilderness First Responder - your kids will learn a ton with her, have a great time, and be in very safe hands.

Assistant Counselor: Katie Jo Dixon is a Registered Nurse, talented family photographer, and awesome mom!

Camp Director (onsite): Cory Skuldt has many years of experience in childcare as a nanny, art educator, homeschool support specialist, community education organizer, and mom.

We have several additional counselors with a range of experiences who will be added if enrollment increases by Monday.

We’ll also have several guest activity leaders from Myco Alliance (land remediation with mushrooms), Little Herds (edible insects!) and more.

More events, volunteer days, and camp updates coming soon.

If you have any questions in the meantime, please get in touch.

-Cory (Interim Executive Director, Ecology Action)

The Next Fifty Years

Alden Larrick

Dear Friends of Ecology Action:

New years are opportune moments to talk about new chapters. And Ecology Action’s next chapter is a winner. As Ecology Action moves into its next fifty years, you can look forward to more innovative and worthwhile work from a nonprofit comfortable with and confident in re-inventing itself to meet the environmental needs of its community.

First, some reflection on the past year, full of transition and opportunity. As a dedicated supporter of Ecology Action, you already know about the closure of the recycling center last October. During its twenty years as a downtown fixture, the center diverted over seventy-eight million pounds of material from local landfills.

So, Ecology Action finds itself in the enviable position of accomplishing the goal of all socially conscious nonprofits: putting itself out of business. Ecology Action was founded in 1969 with the express mission of creating a culture of reduction and reclamation in Central Texas. Now, every home in Austin has a blue bin, and the City reports that 87% of Austinites recycle.

Certainly there are massive amounts of recyclable materials still not properly diverted, but by any standard there has been progress, and Ecology Action is proud of the leading role it has played. We are encouraged by the City’s emphasis on landfill diversion, allowing Ecology Action to shift its focus to other pressing environmental needs through a series of big initiatives.

There’s the Austin Materials Marketplace, facilitating business-to-business material reuse in Austin. There’s the Zero Waste consulting, helping public and private entities keep almost all discarded materials out of landfills. And then there’s land recycling, an innovation that puts Ecology Action back in the vanguard of environmental activism. The Circles Acres Nature Preserve is Ecology Action’s first major success in remediating a former landfill into a wetland preserve, learning space, and community park. Through our efforts at Circle Acres and the newly established Center for Sustainable Futures, Ecology Action is moving towards what we consider the future of recycling: stewarding damaged land and putting it back to communal use. Ecology Action’s mission to recycle land in 2016 shares the same sense of purpose as recycling glass bottles did in 1969, to put ourselves out of business, to find and fulfill the next environmental need.

Which brings us back to this special moment in this new year. Ecology Action is coupling its commitment to zero-waste leadership and land recycling with a recommitment to connecting with and expanding its membership. We want you to know that your support is meaningful to us. We want you to know that your support of Ecology Action makes you part of something unique and enterprising.

And, of course, we want to ask you for a couple of favors. Please continue your financial support; a gift of just $50.00 allows Ecology Action to continue its original and effective work. Also, please spread the word about Ecology Action’s impact. Please help us grow our ecologically minded community here in Central Texas.

For information about Ecology Action, and a calendar of upcoming events, please visit, or visit us at the Austin Earth Day Festival at Mueller Hangar on April 23, 2016.

Thank you,

Eric Dieter, Ecology Action Supporter & former Board Member

CLICK HERE to donate to Ecology Action today! 


Numbers Game

Alden Larrick

The land at Circle Acres has withstood a lot of human abuse over the past century.  For the past few years, Ecology Action has been working to rehabilitate the site and to return it to something more closely resembling its original biological health. But how does anyone recognize or measure that sort of health, or any changes in it? That is undoubtedly one of the enduring questions in the field of ecology.

Of course, part of the answer is to determine as precisely as possible just what biological elements – plants, animals, microbes – are present on the land, what their numbers are, how those numbers change. As a small part of that effort, since December of 2012, I have periodically canvassed the numbers and species of birds at Circle Acres and reported my counts to an internet site called eBird, maintained by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Over the years, the eBird system has compiled millions of checklists from birdwatchers all over the world, including (as of January 1) 72,175 from Travis County. Cornell scientists use this data to study the distribution of bird species and their population trends. Obviously, some errors in counting and identification are bound to creep into this huge volume of checklists, but eBird has statistical and analytical methods to account for this.

Users of eBird can report bird counts from just about any point of a Google map.  Indeed, many have compiled long-continuing surveys of their back yards. However, the eBird operators put greater focus upon pre-identified sites called “Hotspots.” These places are generally accessible to the public and have been assessed to have greater than normal potential for attracting birds. Circle Acres is a designated Hotspot, one of about 145 within or immediately adjacent to the Austin city limits.  Beginning on November 16, 2012, birders have submitted 211 checklists for Circle Acres (of which, I note somewhat sheepishly, I have submitted 193).  Each checklist represents sort of a “snapshot” of the bird population that the observer encountered during a visit of an hour or two at the preserve.

After I'd been surveying birds at Circle Acres for a year or so, and the cumulative species list for the site began to build up, I began to become preoccupied with the number 150. Of the 145 Austin Hotspots, only about 26 boast lists of 150 species or more – and those are identified on the website's Hotspot map with yellow-gold markers (or with orange or red markers for that handful of the 26 with lists of over 200 species). The gold markers seemed to me much more distinguished than the green and blue markers for sites with fewer than 150 species.  For various reasons, among them a strong component of juvenile competitiveness, I wanted Circle Acres to attain a gold marker.

At times, progress toward the goal seemed glacial.  On January 1, 2015, Circle Acres' list still included only 132 species.  By the end of November, it had reached 147. On December 1, during a particularly short visit to the site, I encountered two new species: dark-eyed junco and pyrrhuloxia. Then on December 26, after some recent heavy rains, I arrived at the site with a strange confidence that conditions were right for some different kinds of ducks to be swimming in the flooded bottomlands. I was not surprised to find a single female ring-necked duck accompanying the pond's usual contingent of wood ducks.  The gold marker for Circle Acres looks good on the eBird map now.

I'm not psyching myself up yet to press on to the next Hotspot level, which is 200 species.  Experience shows that to be a lot of birds for any single site in Travis County.  On the other hand, Roy Guerrero Park, right next door to Circle Acres, has a Hotspot list of 223.  Of course, at 300-plus acres, the park is more than 30 times the size of Circle Acres and includes more than a mile of Colorado River frontage. Still, who knows what is possible? – especially if more birders look at Circle Acres' gold marker on the Hotspot map and decide to give it a visit. The birding community has a curious term for the tendency of bird-sightings to compound themselves: “the Patagonia Picnic-table Effect.” 

Right outside Patagonia, Arizona, is a large preserve that is widely known for its wealth of bird species.  Many birders visiting the preserve stop at a nearby roadside park for lunch or a snack, and while there, some of them have spotted species of birds that are remarkably rare in the region.   In time, the roadside park itself became something of a birding destination, although most of those who stopped there didn't find a lot of birds.  In all likelihood, the incidence of rare-bird sightings at the picnic table is attributable more to the abundance of birdwatchers there than to any special abundance of birds.

I believe, though, that the abundance of birds at Circle Acres still greatly exceeds the abundance of birders – and that this is likely to become even more true as rehabilitation efforts continue to improve the site's habitat.  In the interest of maintaining a proper bird-birder balance, however, I will continue encouraging people to visit and appreciate the preserve – and perhaps to begin working toward that elusive No. 200.

- Mike Rogan

For Immediate Release: Ecology Action to Close Its Downtown Recycling Center Sooner than Planned

Alden Larrick

1 September 2015

Downtown Recycling Center to Close to the Public on Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ecology Action of Texas will discontinue operations at its downtown recycling center, at 707 East 9th Street, on September 13, 2015, instead of the previously released date of September 30th. This decision was made by the Ecology Action Board of Directors under recommendation by the Ecology Action Staff to allow for ample to time vacate the 9th Street property by the lease termination date.

The recycling center, established in the mid 1990s, is a familiar presence along the southbound frontage road, offering Austin citizens and businesses an option for recycling that is accessible twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The Ecology Action recycling center currently diverts over 100 tons of recyclable material from area landfills each month. For information about other recycling resources in Austin and Travis County, please visit

Ecology Action, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, has played a foundational role in building an eco-aware culture throughout Central Texas, establishing Austin’s first recycling program nearly fifty years ago. Since its founding in 1969, Ecology Action has been and will continue to remain an active and innovative contributor to environmental education, protection, and community building. For additional information about our upcoming endeavors, please visit Ecology Action’s website at