The AmaTerra Update - Fall 2015
Divers recovering mussels from a survey transect.

As we all get ready to settle in for some Thanksgiving turkey and the official start of the holiday season, AmaTerra is thinking about mussels; freshwater mussels, that is. We just completed our first Task Order as the Prime Contractor under the Texas Department of Transportation’s Statewide Biological Services Contract and this was a wet one!

Regulations in the State of Texas require the survey, identification, and relocation of any specimens of Texas’ threatened and endangered mussel species that may be impacted by construction projects that will take place within its many rivers and streams.

Downstream view of Little Brazos River at bridge crossing (courtesy Freese and Nichols, Inc.)
AmaTerra’s divers/biologists, working with subconslutant malacologists from Freese and Nichols, Inc., conducted one such freshwater mussel survey for TxDOT’s proposed Farm-to-Market (FM) 485 bridge replacement at the Little Brazos River north of Bryan, Texas.  Since the water was muddy with essentially zero visibility, AmaTerra’s staff divers swept and squished their hands into the mud across every inch of the river bottom within the project's impact footprint and removed every mussel they touched.   

In all, the team pulled out 485 native live mussels, representing 10 species.  These included (among others) yellow sandshell (Lampsilis teres), threeridge (Amblema plicata), smooth pimpleback (Quadrula houstonensis), and Texas Lilliput (Toxolasma texasiensis). Each specimen was catalogued and immediately moved to a nearby location upstream and away from construction.  There, they were placed back into the river sediment in a location and orientation that assured the best chance of their survival.  

The team kept a keen eye out for water moccasins (they did see two!) and snapping turtles but didn’t have any unfortunate run-ins. Whew!
Water Tank along Rail Line

AmaTerra recently completed several cultural resource investigations at Fort Bliss for the United States Army. Under this task, a team led by Rachel Feit developed an Historic Context for railroad related sites along the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad system. This facility, starting in 1898, opened up the remote deserts and mountains in southeastern New Mexico to economic development. The project team then visited six sites along the railroad line between Fort Bliss and Alamogordo and tested these sites using the new historic context. Above, you can see the foundation of one of the line's water tanks.  
Four of the sites were documented to have lost integrity, but the remaining two sites are recommended as eligible for listing on the NRHP and preservation of both sites is recommended.  

On another task, a second team led by Deborah Dobson-Brown documented and assessed 149 historic buildings and structures at the main cantonment and at several outlying range camps. The 14 locations that were recommended as eligible for the NRHP included such diverse properties as a missile instrumentation building, a High Powered Acquisition Radar (HIPAR) building, as well as a tennis court and the main Fort Bliss parade ground.
In Other News Banner
Tree condition data from Evergreen Cemetery
In September, Austin’s City Council approved the final draft Historic Cemetery Master Plan. AmaTerra, the City’s prime contractor for the project, was thrilled with the news and proud to have played a key role in its production.  Over the course of the 18-month project, AmaTerra’s team, which includes specialists from JMA and McDoux Preservation, developed the Master Plan to serve as a guide for Austin planners in how best to manage and maximize the use of the City’s five historic cemeteries today and (hopefully) for decades into the future.  Along with overall project management, AmaTerra’s key roles included developing a massive GIS geodatabase of archival, infrastructure, and field-collected data for each of the cemeteries (something that, until this project) was essentially nonexistent for the cemeteries.  Additionally, the team conducted a detailed qualitative tree inventory, recording 15 attributes for some 4,578 trees, stumps, and snags within the cemeteries.  A first of such scale, the Master Plan development was featured in the September issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine and has generated a good bit of buzz in many cities across the country.  It was an exciting experience for us and we are happy with the results!
Click Here to See the Master Plan
AmaTerra President wondering if she can make a break for it with the cute baby...

In September, AmaTerra’s media director and senior archaeologist, Mason Miller  welcomed eight pound, three ounce baby boy Elliott. Mason is very proud of his second little boy and the whole family is doing great (a little sleepy, though).  
Elliott got to meet his dad’s co-workers and he was a hit! We wonder if AmaTerra President, Jill Madden (pictured above), was considering making a run for it with the little guy. 

Literally moments ago, AmaTerra Cultural Resource Program Manager, Nick Trierweiler, welcomed his first grandchild! Lyla was born weighing in a seven pounds, eight ounces with strawberry blonde hair. Exciting times for sure around here!

OK. . .  We aren’t a cooking company.  But, we know that Thanksgiving is this week and with it comes the mad scramble for a tasty and (hopefully) easy recipe that will be a crowd pleaser.  We thought we’d use this occasion to highlight one of our own, Rachel Feit, who is keenly up for this challenge. Though she is best known around here as one of AmaTerra’s senior archaeologists, Rachel is also quite the foodie! Rachel is an accomplished cook and a regular contributing author to the Austin Chronicle as a restaurant reviewer (among others). Check out some of her nearly 200 articles!

We asked Rachel what would be a good recipe for the holidays that would be 1) easy to make and 2) delicious.  This was her suggestion:
AmaTerra Awarded Two-Year Prime Statewide Contract for Biological Services; Texas Department of Transportation
Crispy fried or roasted brussels sprouts are super trendy in restaurants these days. And what’s not to like about them? On their own, brussels sprouts have a mild, slightly nutty taste that pairs well with many other flavors. This makes them great for combining them with bold sauces and spices. For Thanksgiving I like to toss them with mustard and bacon bits.

1lb brussels sprouts

2 cloves garlic, mashed

2 T olive or sunflower oil

1 t salt
¼ lb of bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces


1 T dijon mustard

1 T cream or sour cream

2 T chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pare off the ends of the sprouts and cut each one in half lengthwise. Toss the sprouts in the oil, salt and crushed garlic, making sure to coat thoroughly, and place on a sheet pan. Roast the sprouts for about 30 minute or until the leaves become brown and crispy.  While the sprouts are roasting, put the bacon in a pan and fry up the pieces until they become crispy little bacon bits. Discard the bacon grease and save the bits.

Mix the mustard, cream, and chopped chives in small bowl. After the sprouts come out of the oven, and just before serving, toss them with the bacon bits and mustard-cream mixture.  Serve warm.
If you give it a go, let us know how it went on Facebook or via Google+. You can also just send us an email as well.
All of us here at AmaTerra Environmental wish you a Warm and Happy Thanksgiving!
Copyright © 2015 AmaTerra Environmental, Inc., All rights reserved.

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