(July 12, 2017) -- Meet Julian Chavez ’15. He’s working to preserve the monarch butterfly as a researcher and educator in the UTSA environmental science program.
A native of the rural town of Abbott, Texas, Chavez had a passion for nature at a young age.
“I spent a lot of time outdoors,” he said. “I grew up on a little ranch in the middle of nowhere. It was pretty isolated, but we had horses, cows, ducks and geese. I loved nature and spent as much time as I could playing outside and exploring.”
While his siblings were excited by mainstream cartoons, Chavez loved nature shows on National Geographic and PBS, as well as Captain Planet.
“I definitely wanted to be a planeteer,” he said. “I was interested in the environment, but it took me a while to find a place for that passion.”
When it became time to earn his college degree, Chavez took classes at a community college near Abbott and eventually moved to San Antonio to earn his associate’s degree in science at Northwest Vista College.
Looking to expand his horizons, he visited UTSA and was impressed by its close-knit, diverse campus community and its strong array of academic opportunities.
When he enrolled at UTSA in 2011 as an undergraduate, a friend made him aware of UTSA’s burgeoning environmental science program.
“She was a part of this internship that just sounded incredible,” he said. “She told me what she was studying and I was amazed because I never thought this was something you could do for a living. I realized this was what I should be doing.”
As he began taking classes in environmental science, Chavez found himself inspired by the passion of the scientists around him.
“I loved the program,” he said. “In my first class, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I felt like part of a family.”
His faculty mentors helped him gain an internship at the U.S. Forest Service and at the Cibolo Nature Center, where he worked as an outdoor field guide. Additionally, he immersed himself in the UTSA student community, becoming a member of the Green Society, and volunteered for the San Antonio AIDS Foundation.
“There was just this part of me that wanted to contribute to the world around me and try to make it a better place in every way I could,” Chavez said.
That mission expanded in his last year as an undergraduate at UTSA, when Janis Bush, professor and director of environmental science academic programs, received a $300,000 grant from the Texas Comptroller to study whether the monarch butterfly, Texas’s state insect, is endangered.
“We did roadside surveys every 10 miles across Texas to assess the amount of milkweed in Texas,” Chavez said. “The monarch butterfly uses the milkweed plant as baby food. They lay their eggs there and only eat it as caterpillars.”
After completing his degree, Chavez accepted a position as a researcher in the Monarch Milkweed Project, continuing his efforts to protect the monarch butterfly and educate the community about nature and environmental science. Each Saturday, he visits schools and libraries to teach children and adults about the monarch butterfly. He also runs a UTSA summer camp for six to 12-year-olds, an experience that he hopes will inspire them to develop an appreciation for wildlife and wildlife conservation.
“The kids learn about insects and plants,” Chavez said. “We teach them about their lifecycles and how they interact with us. It’s a wonderful experience to pass on this knowledge and passion to a whole new generation.”
President Taylor Eighmy is inviting all UTSA faculty and staff to "Tacos With Taylor." Take the opportunity to introduce yourself to the President at any one of these casual meet and greets.Frio Street Building, Food Court Commons Area, Downtown Campus
Celebrate 40 years of BestFest, an annual event hosted by Roadrunner Productions as a part of UTSA Homecoming festivities. The event will feature a carnival, food and drink booths, a golf cart parade, firework and live music from Anthem.Brackenridge Lot 1, Main Campus
Celebrate homecoming as the Roadrunners take on Rice. Come early for the Spirit Walk, tailgating, games, music and food. Stick around for a halftime show with SOSA and the crowning of Mr. and Ms. UTSA.Alamodome, 100 Montana St., Downtown San Antonio
The Leadership Storytelling Homecoming Brunch brings together UTSA alumni and students to share a delicious meal as well as a roundtable conversation about how experiences in college carry us forward on unique leadership journeys.University Center, Denman Room (UC 2.01.28), Main Campus
The conference is dedicated to sharing recent knowledge and experiences gained in the area of Big Data by researchers in academia, industry and the government sectors within the areas of business, national security, infrastructure, healthcare and visualization. The conference fee is $45 and includes breakfast, lunch & parking. Free for students and non-academic government employees. Register here: https://www.regonline.com/UTSAdataconference2017.H-E-B University Center Ballroom (HUC 1.104), Main Campus
Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, via webcast, will examine America’s economic, political and security relations with China during CHINA Town Hall, an 80-city live discussion and Q&A on China and Sino-American relations.Building Building, Richard Liu Auditorium (BB 2.01.02), Main Campus
The African American Studies program proudly presents William "Cruz" Shaw, San Antonio City Councilman and UTSA Alumnus. Event is free and open to the public.University Center, Retama Auditorium (UC 2.02.02), Main Campus
The graduate fair is an opportunity for the UTSA student body and local San Antonio community to learn about graduate education opportunities. The event is free and open to the public.H-E-B University Center Ballroom (1.104), Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
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