There have been a couple of early 2015 announcements about the exciting new addition to Selah, which for a lack of a better word (and always considered temporary) we have called the Science Building. But as of now it will forever be known as The Margaret Bamberger Research and Education Center.
The new building will be located directly across the driveway of the Center, our conference room/dormitory style building that has been used for educational purposes and retreats since 1987. It will have 2,500 interior square feet with a patio of an additional 500 square feet to allow for future expansion.
In June 2015, we received documented and unanimous board approval from our directors, that officially allows us to take the next steps to embark on a major capital improvement to Selah.
Part museum, part living zoo, part research lab, part classroom. This new facility will be all that and more. The Margaret Bamberger Research and Education Center is the next step in fulfilling Selah’s legacy of research and education, while still being true to our motto: Nature, Pure and Simple. Let us tell you more about it below.
A Model of Conservation
Habitats are never static. Short-term, they can change in a decade of drought, and they can change in a season of wet. Long-term, they can change by sea levels and currents, change tectonically, or any number of other events. Some animals are equipped to move, migrate, or relocate altogether. Plants and the other smaller critters have to either adapt in place or not survive.
Understanding what we have today will help us in the future as the ranch is increasingly sandwiched between major urban centers to our East and South (Austin and San Antonio), and even to our North and our West (Johnson City and Fredericksburg).
Climate change, urban pressure and other factors will all influence future land management practices and conservation priorities. Conservation can also be a term that can apply to what goes in and around a new man-made structure. The Margaret Bamberger Research and Education Center will be a model of conservation and will feature the latest innovations in green design.
Rainwater collection and solar arrays for water and energy conservation will be integral to the design. Features like light tubes will be in rooms so that electrical lighting will be unnecessary. Natural materials harvested from the ranch itself (like limestone and wood) will be used throughout the interior and exterior.
Research: Think of it as a Vault
If you were a researcher and went behind the scenes in a facility like the American Natural History Museum in New York City, you would likely find a western diamondback rattlesnake collected from West Texas in 1915.
Known as voucher specimens, they are the best example of their species and they are museum-quality preserved for research. Exposure to air and light is kept to a minimum; you would be able to compare a diamondback rattler from today to one perfectly preserved from 100 years ago. The Texas A&M Biodiversity Research and Teaching Collections (BRTC) is currently the main repository for the state for these types of collections. Several Selah species collected a few years ago by Dr. David Ribble of Trinity University are held there now.
Think of it as a vault. For biological research, it’s very important to have these specimens protected and stored in perpetuity. The Margaret Bamberger Research and Education Center will have its own vault for all future biological research conducted on-site.
Some in the science community have told us that 5,500 contiguous acres is large enough to be considered its own functioning eco-system. In other words, that is enough habitat size to have everything from the largest predator in the food chain (mountain lions) all the way down to the smallest microbes in the soil. One major component of this building will be to find, identify, document and store the biodiversity of Selah’s acreage.
Education: The Rich Biological Diversity of Selah
Our younger students will probably never see the museum vault collection of voucher specimens, so we plan on having a teaching collection available for educational purposes.
Many of our educational programs are one-to-two overnight trips, giving us a longer time to incorporate hands-on research opportunities. A student may catch our first tiger swallowtail, have a lesson on how to preserve and then pin the insect to a board that a student next year will be able to pull from a drawer and admire.
Preserved specimens will demonstrate the rich biological diversity of Selah. But there will also be a living, breathing component within its walls: a 20-foot wall that will house a live collection of native snakes and amphibians and two vivariums. Ideas are still formulating, but for now, the vision is that one vivarium will be a grassland habitat with live grasses, viewable soil profiles, and a den for a rattlesnake visible through an aquarium-strength wall.
A second vivarium will likely be more of a riparian habitat with an aquarium at the lower half, and snakes, turtles and others compatible species above. There will also be a beehive display and an ant farm; when you walk through the entrance, you will be surrounded by a variety of displays of life found at Selah.
Additionally, there will be lab tables, microscopes and computer equipment for state of the art presentations. It will be our official and designated classroom for all future programs at Selah.