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Biodiversity Blog


Invasives make a splash at the Creek Show

by Joe Matza, Texas Applied Arts Creek Monster Habitat student

Well, Halloween is officially over, and with that comes the official start of the holiday season. While the holidays ramp up, and the weather cools down, there are some yearly occurrences happening throughout Austin that are not to be missed. One such event is the Waterloo Greenways Creek Show, organized by the Waller Creek Conservancy. Going into its 6th year, the annual event features art installations from teams of local artists, landscape architects, and designers. The installations are displayed along Waller Creek and the newly unveiled Waterloo Greenway, creating a one of a kind backdrop for some truly mind bending creations.  



Date: November 7 through November 17, 2019

Time: 6:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. nightly

Location: 700 East 9th Street (The exhibition is on Waller Creek between 9th Street and 12th Street)

For more information, visit: www.waterloogreenway.org/creek-show/


This year, Texas Applied Arts is taking part in the festivities, and has enlisted a group of students from a wide range of majors and backgrounds to create what is affectionately known as the “Creek Monster Habitat.” The project, which initially began in the Spring of 2019, offers these students an opportunity to collaborate on a real-world project at the intersection of art, design, and community attraction.  

Illuminated eyes paired with remote controls become part of the nest structure

In creating a Creek Monster Habitat, there was an immediate recognition of the link between the people of austin, the wildlife found within Waller Creek, and the idea that animals, just like people, seek out a safe home within their environment. As spectators come up to the habitat, they will experience the melding of nature and built structure, as the trees and foliage along Waller Creek become intermeshed with the pathway, and ultimately build up into the large nest located at the intersection of Red River and 11th St. Worried about how to spot the nest? Don’t be. It will be nearly impossible to miss the glowing eyes peering out through the 10’ high egg-shaped struture. 

The nest is almost ready for the big event! Notice the natural covering of harvested invasives

The Creek Monster Habitat is focused on raising environmental awareness, and with that goal in mind, the dressing for the nest was created from multiple invasive species found growing along Waller Creek and other waterways throughout the Central Texas region. Arundo Donax (Arundo), Melia azedarach (Chinaberry), and Nandina domestica (Nandina) are a few of the invasives used to make up the nest facade. The use of invasive species for the nest covering serves multiple purposes. One is to bring awareness to the idea of good and bad species within an ecosystem, and to prompt reflection on what other plant species could the nest be made from that are native to this area. Another more direct goal was to use this opportunity to clear invasives from along waterways within the Austin area. 

Group member and local creek monster Tabitha Tattenbach made a friend at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory

Supporting this goal was the UT Biodiversity Center, who opened their Brackenridge Field Laboratory for the group to harvest invasives within their 82-acre research tract. The group was led by research scientist Robert Plowes, who guided the crew to a sizable patch of Arundo donax growing near the water's edge as well as portions of Nandina domestica growing throughout the site. The invasives were cut at their base, with care taken not to disturb native flora in close proximity. During the visit, multiple species of beetles and a scurrying array of other insects beneficial to native ecology could be seen amongst the ground debris. A silent applause for the invasive removal could be heard coming from the mantis seen above. 

One of many invasive hauls for making the nest dressing

The Creek Show will be open to the public from November 7th - 17th, and with over 50,000 attendees last year, the event provides an important opportunity to educate visitors on the importance of habitat preservation, and the benefits of invasive species removal. So mark your calendars and make the trip down to the 2019 Waller Creek Show. We can’t wait to see you there!


The habitat fully installed and ready for the 2019 Creek Show


The Trees of BFL: Chinaberry (Melia azedarach)
New wasp species named after UT Entomologist

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