Sunday, February 26, 2012

Of Wolves and Politics

Why is it that divisive politics have such a hold on wolf management, or any environmental issue, for that matter? The complex reality is that much of wolf management is not about managing wolves at all. It is really people management in wolf’s clothing.

Human societies make rules that maintain structure and order, similar to wolves living in a pack. However, the resources wolves need for survival is very simple: tolerance from humans, habitat and food. Human needs and wants are much more complicated and require more structure.

Humans tend to set rules and customs that facilitate a smooth daily life. Go to work. Be nice to your neighbor, do not kill or steal, pay your bills, and so on. Each human culture has woven a matrix of rules of engagement to manage nearly every encounter, every situation, and every circumstance. Likewise, we make rules to manage wolf populations and the situations wild wolves may encounter.

How then, does politics become involved?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Texas A&M Press Author Liz Carmack Gives Excellent Advice on Promoting Books

By: Liz Carmack, author of Rodeo Austin (Texas A&M Press, 2012)

As an author, your efforts to promote your nonfiction book are every bit as important as the work you put into writing it. If you realize a few facts about the process and include a few key tasks in your to-do list, it can make your life easier and help your book achieve greater success.

Inconvenient truths

1. The success of your book is largely in your hands. You must take the lead in promoting your work. This includes figuring out (often before you even write the first word) who your target readers are and devising creative ways to reach them. Expect to set up your own book signings and speaking gigs even if you have a traditional publisher.

2. You’d better love, love, love your subject. After spending several months, or years, researching and writing your manuscript you may be sick of your topic. Get over it. Remember why you wrote the book in the first place. Your work will brand you as an authority, and you’ll be expected to speak intelligently and passionately about that subject for years to come.

3. Book signings at book stores are often a waste of time. Unless you’re David Grann or Malcolm Gladwell, folks probably won’t line up for hours at Barnes and Noble to see you. Instead, schedule signings at conferences, festivals or other events attended by your target readers. Signings at independently owned bookstores can be successful if their loyal customers include your market.

4. You can’t wait until your book is published to start promoting. Share details about your evolving manuscript or the trials of your project’s research through blog posts and other social media. Comment on the blog posts of others who write about your subject area. Avoid being overly promotional in your posts. Instead, provide interesting, engaging content. By the time your book is released, you’ll have built a fan base.


1. Have a plan. Early on in your writing, draft a strategic communications plan to promote your book with a scheduled list of to-dos. Clearly define your audience and the best ways to reach them. Include sections on how you’ll use social media, public speaking, face-to-face networking and media outreach. If you have a publisher, coordinate your efforts.

2. Tweak your plan. Stay flexible. When my book Historic Hotels of Texas was released, I booked speaking gigs and book signings with anyone, anywhere, anytime. After I realized that women 40 and older bought more copies than any other group, I targeted organizations with that demographic. I instantly sold more books at those events.

3. If you have the money, hire a publicist. A book publicist experienced in your genre is worth every penny. Interview two or three companies before you select one; I did and then hired PR by the Book. When Historic Hotels of Texas was released, the firm helped me land several radio and TV interviews that I wouldn’t have gotten on my own.

4. Polish your presentations skills. You’ll engage more readers and sell more books if you can combine public presentations with book signings. If you’re not a polished speaker, get help from a speech coach. Offer your presentation to groups whose membership best fits your target market and schedule your own workshops or presentations centered on your book’s topic. Also consider posting videos and podcasts.

I realize that book promotion has many more truths and to-dos than those included here, but I hope this information will at least give aspiring authors a reality check about what’s ahead. What would you add to either of these lists?

Liz Carmack is a freelance writer, editor and researcher. She founded Liz Carmack Communications in 2006. Liz began her career as a newspaper journalist and has also helped craft messaging and manage communications projects for nonprofits and government agencies. Her most recent book, Rodeo Austin: Blue Ribbons, Buckin’ Broncs, and Big Dreams, is published by Texas A&M University Press.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Empty Handed

I received an e-mail a few days back from someone who owns a cabin near Ely who had captured a collared wolf on his neighbor's game camera.  In the picture the wolf is clearly wearing a radio collar and is walking away into the woods.  He offered to let me head up and take a look in the area for recent wolf sign.  I couldn't resist.

We could not determine what collared wolf it was in the photo as multiple packs visit the area at any given time.  The date of the photo also doesn't seem to line up with the most likely candidates actually being in the area.

Almost a month has passed since the photo was taken, but I was hopeful that I might still find some sign.  Then, it started snowing.  While I am excited about the addition of at least five inches of snow, it did not increase my chances of seeing anything.  The tracks and sign from the previous wolf activity would almost certainly be covered up.  After nearly getting my truck stuck on the extremely steep road into the property, I parked along the road and hiked in.

Almost immediately I found tracks:  but they were deer tracks.  They looked really fresh and headed along the driveway where the deer were browsing on low plants as they walked.  I topped a small hill and two deer bounded into the woods before I could get the camera up for a picture.  I would not catch another glimpse, though I would intersect with their paths numerous times.

The possibility of seeing wolf tracks in snow that was still falling was very low, but hope springs eternal, right?  So I hiked the trail marked in the woods with my ears open and my eyes peeled.  It was a beautiful day in the woods, with very little noise.

I stopped for a moment to listen and consider my path.  I was rewarded not with a wolf howl or a deer sighting, but with a pileated woodpecker tapping away at a large Aspen.  I know that woodpeckers are all around this area, but like most people I don't spend nearly enough time quietly in the woods to hear and see them.  It was a real treat.

I followed the trail a bit further and then turned around and headed back.  No wolf sign in the fresh snow, but just in case, I'll check back tomorrow.

Enjoy a few of the pictures from my hike.
A number of deer had passed right by this tree.  There were signs of browsing on the small twigs sticking out of the snow.

Fresh deer tracks.  Could those be old wolf tracks just to the left?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

12 Impacts of the 12th Man, George P. Mitchell

An energy tycoon, real estate developer, and philanthropist, George P. Mitchell is also an idealist, a big thinker who gave his time and fortune to the study of sustainability long before it became a household word.

This month Mitchell is featured in Texas A&M University's first installment of the 12 Impacts of the 12th Man series, for his contributions to the oil and gas industry.

Jurgen Schmandt, professor emeritus of public affairs in the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, worked with Mitchell for many years. He was formerly the director of the Mitchell Center for Sustainabl Development.

His book, George P. Mitchell and the Idea of Sustainability (Texas A&M University Press, 2010), focuses on Mitchell's commitment to the idea of sustainability from the early 1960s, when the focus was on population growth, to today, when climate change and global warming dominate the debate.

Texas A&M University Press: George P. Mitchell is known, in part, for his contributions to the oil and gas industry, as well as for his visionary real estate ventures, and his untiring support of scientific endeavors. Your book, however, focuses on his commitment to the idea of sustainability. How do his contributions to sustainability compare in range and scope to his other achievements? Are his efforts in this area as widely known?

Schmandt: George Mitchell excelled in three careers, which he pursued in parallel — energy, real estate and philanthropy. He created one of the largest independent energy companies. He built a community —The Woodlands — that followed the principles of Design with Nature. And he devoted his fortune to public causes — sustainable development and science. He is well known in all three fields, but by different constituencies.

TAMU Press: What influenced you to cast Mitchell as the focus of this book?

Schmandt: George is one of a handful of successful businessmen who saw early on that population growth and ever-increasing consumption were threatening the resource base of our planet. I felt that it was worthwhile to document his commitment to sustainable development.

TAMU Press: What are some of the lasting impacts of Mitchell's contributions to sustainability?

Schmandt: In the '70s and '80s, Mitchell familiarized American decision makers and scholars with sustainability research that had been pioneered in Europe under the heading Limits to Growth. Mitchell, through conferences, prizes and sponsored research broadened the focus of this debate: not no-growth but sustainable growth — improvements in the quality of life that do not endanger the resource base of future generations: food, energy and work. Then he tried to bring these ideals to Washington. He wanted the government to take the first step: keeping track of changing conditions. This did not work. So he turned to the National Academy of Sciences and helped them develop the scientific and engineering underpinnings of sustainable development. Today he supports sustainability projects through the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.

TAMU Press: You worked for Mitchell for many years. Why do you think he was so motivated to advance these ideas?

Schmandt: He always searched for answers to urgent questions. Early on he read Rachel Carson, who warned against the overuse of DDT. The breakthrough came when he met Buckminster Fuller. His image of Spaceship Earth — the world can take only so many people — impressed him deeply. He would say: protection of the environment is important. But you have to aim a notch higher: protection of the planet, sustainable development.

TAMU Press: You note in your book that while Mitchell made many strides to advance the idea of sustainability through the creation of conferences and prizes, support of scholars and scientists, and funding of research and publications, he did not take measures to advance sustainability in his own energy company. Through your research were you able to discover why this was the case? What did you discover?

Schmandt: Ray Anderson, a Mitchell Prize winner, rebuilt his carpet business around green principles, and found that he could do so profitably. Mitchell did not follow this path, probably because he did not see how to build a green energy company. Or better: he saw only a partial way to this goal. For twenty years he pioneered the extraction of shale gas. The large companies said it could not be done economically. Mitchell persevered. He argued that gas emits less carbon dioxide than coal and oil and should be used more widely, while work on alternative energy sources — wind, solar, bio fuels—is being up scaled. Today, because of his work, the United States has increased its energy independence and has become a gas exporter. And shale gas is being produced worldwide.

TAMU Press: In the future, will Mitchell be remembered for his commitment to sustainability? Why or why not?

Schmandt: Yes, if the world commits to sustainability. No, if we continue to do business as usual.

Monday, February 13, 2012

We Saw Wolves, Again!

After spying the two wolves running along the Kawishiwi River a few Saturdays ago during a telemetry flight, (link to past post) we flew on to locate a wolf with a radio collar. We successfully located wolf 7107 of the Moose Lake Pack on a small lake off the Fernberg by using radio telemetry from the airplane.

After observing 7107 walk along the lakeshore and then find a spot on the lake to curl up and rest, we headed back to the airport for the next flight. Hoping 7107 was still on the lake and visible, we headed back for one last look. To our surprise, not only was 7107 still resting on the lake, three other wolves – presumably yearlings based on size and behavior – were chasing and wrestling with each other nearby!

As we circled above, the younger wolves disappeared into the woods and 7107 continued his nap on the lake. On our flight back to the airport, I made the decision to hike into that location with the group for our afternoon outing.

Thinking that the wolf would either be long-gone after two hours or at the very least that he would hear us coming a mile away – literally – and move on, I had expectations of seeing wolf tracks and scat on the lake and in the surrounding forest. An excellent opportunity to discuss wildlife tracking, wolf feeding behavior and habitat use.

We were not exactly a quiet group of seven stumbling through the forest, dodging low branches and tripping over snow-covered logs. The hike in was about a mile over uneven terrain and the temperature was a chilly 5°F (overnight temps had dropped to almost -30°F).

As we neared the boggy lowland that surrounded the lake, we stopped and took a moment to take out our cameras in the hopes we may see a wolf. Inside, I was certain that 7107 had heard us coming at least 20 minutes ago and did not expect to see any sign of life on the frozen lake. On the outside, I was enthusiastic that the group was so excited to have an opportunity to be on the same lake that a wolf had been sleeping on just a few hours ago.

Unbelievably, as we emerged from the thick balsam fir cover, a black spot on the lake was visible. Could it be? No…


7107 was STILL resting on the lake in the same spot! I was dumbfounded. I could not believe that we were able to get down to the lake without the wolf being disturbed. This never happens.

We all froze and stared across the lake. 7107 was about 400 yards away curled up in a furry ball facing the opposite direction. The wind had picked up and snow was falling, likely the reason why 7107 had not heard or smelled us coming as we were downwind.

Not wanting to disturb or harass the wolf, we quietly took pictures and video. Sharing a pair of binoculars we each watched as his chest rose and fell with each breath.

As we shifted in place, a stick snapped and 7107 lifted his head. As he scented the wind, his head turned toward us.


He slowly rose and stretched his long legs then stood and stared in our direction. He didn’t seem to be concerned with our presence. He walked forward a few yards toward the forest, stopped, stretched again and stared at us.

After about 30 seconds, he shook his body, sending snow flying, and then casually trotted off the lake into the woods.

From there we hugged the opposite side of the lakeshore from where 7107 had disappeared into the woods investigating the tracks and scat left behind.

It is rare that one is able to see a wild wolf on the ground in Minnesota. Typically, it is all about being in the right place at the right time when a wolf crosses the road or travels across a frozen lake.

This day, we were lucky.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Camp Hearne in Lone Star Stalag

In 1942, a World War II prisoner-of-war camp spanned 250 buildings on three compounds in the small, central Texas city of Hearne.

Surrounded by 10-foot fences and barbed wire, Camp Hearne was guarded by seven guard towers and 500 American servicemen and women, who guarded and operated the camp.

Texas Highways magazine featured an article on the camp and Texas A&M anthropology professor Michael Waters, who -- with a team of 150 students -- investigated the camp’s history through archeological excavation, archival evidence, and oral history in its December 2011 issue. You can read the history of Camp Hearne in Water’s book Lone Star Stalag (Texas A&M University Press, 2006).

“The documents we found, and the archeological investigations we conducted, provided the facts about what happened at the camp,” says Waters of the site, which today is hidden beneath a growth of weeds.

“But when the oral history research began, we started to hear the stories and understand some of the emotions involved.” Waters said the last former Hearne POW that he is aware of visited the site a few years ago.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Texas, Our Texas!

This semester, a Sam Houston State University class will watch snippets of Urban Cowboy and Hollywood iterations of the Alamo, read iconic Texas writers like Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry, see performances by Cajun musicians and cowboy singers, and take a field trip to the Texas Independence Day celebration.

The "idea of Texas"- in literature, culture, politics and even food - is the focus of courses in college campuses around the state. A recent article in the Houston Chronicle highlighted the influx of new classes, emerging at universities from Huntsville to Houston, Abilene to Austin.

“ . . . students are alternately studying, skewering and celebrating the enduring notion of the Lone Star State as a land of mythic proportions and mighty individualists,” writes Rhor.

Read the full article here.

Texas A&M University Press is a leading publisher of Texas history and Texana ─ a genre focusing on Texas culture and history.
Discover Texas culture and history with the following selections:
If you are interested in Texas history and folklore, check out the following Texas A&M Press books!

Just over thirty years ago, Dan Kilgore ignited a controversy with his presidential address to the Texas State Historical Association and its subsequent publication in book form, How Did Davy Die? Now, in this enlarged, commemorative edition, James E. Crisp, a professional historian and a participant in the debates over the De la Peña diary, reconsiders the heated disputation surrounding How Did Davy Die? and poses the intriguing follow-up question, “. . . And Why Do We Care So Much?”

Veteran historian T. Lindsay Baker brings his considerable sleuthing skills to the dark side, leading readers on a fascinating tour of the most interesting and best preserved crime scenes in the Lone Star State. Gangster Tour of Texas traces a trail of crime that had its beginnings in 1918, when the Texas legislature outlawed alcohol, and persisted until 1957, when Texas Rangers closed down the infamous casinos of Galveston. Baker presents detailed maps, photographs of criminals, victims, and law officers, and pictures of the crime scenes as they appear today.

In Why Texans Fought in the Civil War, Charles David Grear provides insights into what motivated Texans to fight for the Confederacy. Mining important primary sources—including thousands of letters and unpublished journals—he affords readers the opportunity to hear, often in the combatants’ own words, why it was so important to them to engage in tumultuous struggles occurring so far from home.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Until They Are Home

Film Maker Steven C. Barber and Producer Matthew Hausle are setting out on a mission to bring back the fallen soldiers of the WWII Battle of Tarawa. After 68 years, these soldiers will be given the burial they deserve, and their families will receive the closure they have been waiting for. This documentary shows the amazing story of the young men and women of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) who embed themselves in beyond rugged and brutal conditions to bring fallen service members home.

This is not the first time that a mission like this has been attempted. In Thomas T. Smith’s memoir Until They Are Home: Bringing Back the MIAs from Vietnam, a Personal Memoir (Texas A&M Press), he recounts his experiences, leading a joint task force established to recover the remains of Vietnam POW/MIA soldiers.

Describing everything from diplomatic negotiations between the Vietnamese and American governments to his views on commanding a remarkably complex mission in an unforgiving environment, Smith draws on memory, e-mails, letters, and journal entries to recreate the story of his mission in Vietnam. Smith and the forces serving under him found the remains of fourteen lost American servicemen—including two graduates of Texas A&M University.

Monday, February 6, 2012

We Saw Wolves!

A few Saturdays ago, I took six adventurous souls out into the Superior National Forest for the day to learn about field biology. We began our day at 7:00 a.m. with copious amounts of coffee and apple Danish in hand as we got to know each other and went over the day’s plans.

We spent the morning engaged in the fine details of using radio telemetry equipment. However, no matter how adept you are at using the equipment, if the wolves aren’t around, it does no good. We spent two hours trying to locate one, just one, wild wolf fitted with a radio collar with no luck. But, hey, that’s part of the deal when trying to locate animals on the ground in the winter with 6 to 10 inches of snow in a national forest with few roads.

Thankfully, our pilot, Rick, was ready at the Ely airport to take us up in his small-engine Cessna 172 outfitted with telemetry antennae on each strut. We charted a course to seek out the Slate and Mitawan Lake packs south and east of the airport.

The first flight was a bust. While two participants eagerly scanned the ground 1,000 feet below us for signs of wildlife, I was manning the receiver. I was only picking up faint signals that seemed to go in and out. I was frustrated and confused. Upon landing, Rick and I realized that the coaxial cable connecting the receiver to the antennae was loose and worn – the likely cause for the faint and intermittent signals. I had even checked the receiver with a dummy collar positioned on the fence at the airport before we left. Blasted!

After fixing the cable issue, we took the second group of participants up and chose a different route toward Fernberg Road (referred to as “the Fernberg”) east of Ely towards Moose Lake pack territory. On the way as we flew over a part of the Kawishiwi River someone spotted something.

“Two wolves! Two wolves running up the river!”

The participants in the backseat had zoned in on two moving dots on the river and recognized them as canids rather than deer. While I had my nose buried in the map trying to make sure I had the correct wolf collar frequency for the location we were flying over, my participants were searching for any sign of movement.

The two wolves, both gray in color, were trotting toward a wooded edge of the river periodically stopping to look back. About 300 ya
rds behind them was a group of Wintergreen dogsledders about to cross a portage onto the wolves’ section of the river. Based on their body language, the wolves were not comfortable with the three dog teams heading their way. With tucked tails the two wolves disappeared into the forest.

It’s not often that I take a group up in the air and we find wolves without the aid of radio collars. I took this as a reminder that wolf research is not just about looking where the wolf should be; it’s also about looking where the wolf might be.

Check back next week for what happened later that day when we hiked in to a lake where we had observed a collared wolf later during that same flight.

AAUP 2012 Directory Now Available!

New this year, AAUP has developed a special discount for faculty and graduate students. Because many presses host publishing information seminars on their campuses, and editors and press directors are often invited to speak at such seminars and workshops on campuses without presses, AAUP now offers attendees at these conferences a 30% discount on a key reference guide.

For more information check out the link below or contact Susan Patton at