Article by Jim Ray, Pantex Wildlife Biologist/Scientist
Well, summertime has arrived, again.
The June/July/August time frame is a busy time for the wildlife program here at Pantex. Nuisance animal calls have picked up as snakes are on the move and birds sometimes don't pick the best place to build their nests.
My hopes are—any day, now—to initiate annual surveys for, and mark Texas horned lizards; our only year-round threatened or endangered species (classified as 'threatened" by the state of Texas.)
But, there is a lot more going on!
West Texas A&M students have initiated surveys of birds and nests in plots of different habitat types across our 18,000 acres. A component of our monitoring association with the Pantex Renewable Energy Project (PREP), this consists of several rounds of surveys that will last throughout the summer. These involve visits to G.P.S. points, and the students record the birds observed and heard in the pre-determined-sized plot, over a specified period of time.
Fourteen of 21 Swainson's hawks that carried PTT/satellite transmitters to Argentina in the fall have made their way back to their nesting territories on and around the Plant. This work is also a portion of the monitoring associated with the PREP, and the year-round tracking ability is a bonus. The U. S. Geological Survey's Texas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Texas Tech University is taking the lead with this objective.
Last week, volunteers and I captured and equipped adult Purple Martins at a colony off-site with data logger tracking devices. Eleven were fitted with geolocators, like the 24 in 2013, while another 12 were fitted with G.P.S. tags, a much more accurate tracking technology. Both kinds of devices will record their journey from our area, and to and from their wintering areas in South America. This project is a partnership with the University of Manitoba (Canada), York University (Toronto, Canada), the Purple Martin Conservation Association (Erie, Pennsylvania), as well as others. More good migratory work and partnering displayed by Pantex/USDOE/NNSA! Think about it: G.P.S. technology that is now down to the size of the weight of a dime and we are the second entity to use them on this species, and among the first on any species!
Finally, during June, July and August, Sampling and Analysis personnel and I will conduct our annual mapping of prairie dog colonies at Pantex and at Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge (control site). This is a manner in which we monitor our prairie dogs, and we frequently use this data as a habitat layer, over-lain with the data from our animal-tracking studies.
It is a Wild Pantex, and there is plenty going on.
Photo: Participating in a range-wide tracking study of Purple Martins has played a role in Pantex/USDOE/NNSA's three-time nomination for the Presidential Migratory Bird Federal Stewardship Award (2012, 2013, and 2014). An ASY male and a geolocator data logger.,/em>
Armed Forces Day commemorated at Pantex
The Pantex Plant honored veterans Wednesday at its annual ceremony to commemorate Armed Forces Day. Members of the Pantex Fire Department Honor Guard raised the American flag as attendees recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the national anthem. Pantex has been holding an Armed Forces Day ceremony for more than 15 years to honor those who served.
Pantex has a long history of supporting military personnel and currently employs 782 military veterans amongst its workforce of approximately 3,100 people.
Donations delivered to Snack Pak 4 Kids
For the past two weeks, a group of volunteers at Pantex has been collecting donations for the Snack Pak 4 Kids program, gathering an impressive amount of food for needy children.
Pantexans donated more than $1,000 to the effort, as well as a variety of food items, which were placed in barrels located throughout the plant.
Snack Pak 4 Kids is an Amarillo-based charity started in 2010 to provide backpacks with snacks in them for children to take home for the weekend. The program is designed to provide food to hungry children when they are away from school and unable to access a reliable source of sustenance. The program serves over 4,000 students in 24 school districts in the Texas Panhandle.
The volunteers this week delivered 5,000 Pop Tarts, 82 jars of peanut butter, as well as other snacks and money donated by Pantexans.
The effort was led by Pantexans Josh and Tracy Cunningham, Rick and Lisa Jones and Sherry Philyaw.
Admiral Cecil Haney, Commander, USSTRATCOM, visited Pantex Tuesday to tour various facilities and conduct an all-hands meeting with Pantex workers. Haney thanked Pantexans for the work they perform to help maintain a credible nuclear deterrent, thus ensuring the safety of the United States.
Haney briefed Pantexans about the responsibilities and capabilities of USSTRATCOM and discussed how the work done at Pantex factors into that mission. Haney said as the number of weapons in the U.S. stockpile decreases, the work done at Pantex to ensure the safety and reliability of each nuclear weapon becomes even more important.
Haney told Pantexans that although they do not wear a military uniform, the work they do to protect America is as crucial as the work done by those who do.
When B&W Pantex Science Bowl Coordinator Debra Halliday decided to take her 9-year-old grandson with her to the national Science Bowl competition in Washington DC last month, she thought he would have a memorable trip, but she didn’t know just how memorable it would be.
Halliday said her grandson, Griffin Koehn, was with her during the awards ceremony when Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz was congratulating the winners and presenting trophies. As Moniz exited the stage, he stopped for a moment to talk with Griffin and posed for a photo that will no doubt become a cherished memento.
“Secretary Moniz was so gracious,” Halliday said. “He shook hands with Griffin, and Griffin said to him ‘When I grow up, I want to be a scientist just like you.”
Halliday said her grandson enjoyed being a runner during the competition, as well as visiting some of the historic sites in Washington. But getting to meet the secretary of energy was the best part of the entire trip.