For 49 years, Selah Bamberger Ranch Preserve has been a showcase habitat restoration project with a strong educational mission. For more than 30 years, the ranch has been used as an outdoor classroom for students and landowners. This new research and education facility on the ranch is unlike anything currently available to scientists and educators, and it represents the next chapter in Selah’s story.
J. David Bamberger is one of Texas’ greatest conservation heroes because of his inspiring vision and restoration work done to what is now known around the world as Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve. And it was Bamberger’s late wife, Margaret, who was the catalyst and muse for the educational programs that have benefitted tens of thousands of students and visitors who have come to the ranch over the years. It is fitting that her legacy is honored with a one-of-a-kind research and education building that will further inspire future generations of Selah visitors.
Selah is uniquely positioned for a project of this caliber. Many scientists believe that Selah’s 5,500 protected acres is large enough to be considered a functioning ecosystem. With climatic conditions changing and surrounding urban populations growing, understanding and documenting the biological communities on the ranch and then studying them over time is of utmost importance to conservation efforts now and in the future.
Aptly named in her honor, construction for the Margaret Bamberger Research and Education Center began in early 2017 and was completed and furnished in the spring of 2018. It provides the place and the space for a museum quality collection that will forever document Selah’s biodiversity as well as a classroom and laboratories for scientists and students to work and learn. It houses a growing and comprehensive collection of insects, an herbarium and preserved animals gathered from Selah by young students and university researchers.
What the staff calls the living wall is a very unique feature to its interior. A pair of vivariums created by the very talented professionals at CA Aquarium out of Florida display live native animals in ecosystems found on the ranch. One is a grassland vivarium that has lighting and equipment to simulate a rainstorm with the water visibly channeling through the native grasses, soil and geology to demonstrate aquifer recharge. Collared lizards and a rattlesnake will call this place home. The second vivarium represents a riparian system with simulated springs dripping out of travertine limestone. Six fish species native to Selah and a red-eared slider turtle enjoy this home. Mounted between the two vivariums are 12 reptile/amphibian cages where snakes and lizards are safely on display.
Around the vivariums, 600 square feet of native pecan wood panel the remaining wall. This wood was harvested by staff during volunteer relief and clean up efforts at the Blanco State Park after the devastating Memorial Day Flood of 2015. From large logs, the wood was milled, planed and sanded by ranch manager, Steven Fulton. Each piece was hand-picked for placement as Steven, ranch biologist Jared Holmes and volunteer, Rob Norwood carefully and meticulously built what can only be described as a piece of art. Wood that was slated for the landfill lives again in beauty. You can read more about the wall from our local newspaper here.
The building itself is a model of conservation and features the latest innovations in green design. The exterior stone façade is from limestone harvested off of the ranch. Steel support beams on the front porch are from old LCRA power lines collected when they were replaced a few years ago. A collection system by Agritek supplies the rainwater; levels and usage can be monitored and used for educational purposes through computer technology using a 72 inch white board by CreativeTouch. Solar panels from IES Solar provide the energy. Energy input and output can also be displayed during programs. Selah prides itself on the concept of reuse, recycle, repurpose and Steven Fulton engineered a unique mounting system for the panels using old Time Warner Cable satellite dish tripods that can weather any storm.
Part museum, part living zoo, part research lab, part classroom: this new facility is all that and more. The staff was directed that no money could be spent until there was money to spend. The successful 2.5-year fundraising campaign for the construction and furnishings was made possible by over 100 individuals, 16 foundations and 3 schools. We have a saying around here that passion alone is not sufficient to sustain any worthy cause, financial support is critical. In the case of the Margaret Bamberger Research and Education Center this saying could not be more true — we literally could not have accomplished this momentous endeavor without the help of very generous people who believe in our legacy and our mission.
The Bamberger Ranch is a 501-c-3 that relies on charitable gifts. Fundraising does not end with the completion of construction; snakes need to be fed, light bulbs need to be changed, water filters replaced. If you would like to help support future maintenance of this project, all gifts are appreciated and tax-deductible. If you want more information call our Executive Director Colleen Gardner at 830-868-2630 or send an email.