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Water Logged

Monday, November 7, 2016

Alumnus dedicates himself to preserving and protecting the planet's most valuable resource and the environment that supports it

by Mary Denny

Bryan Hummel '01, B.S. Biology

You can call Bryan Hummel a lot of things. Environmentalist. Conservationist. Wildlife biologist. Environmental compliance monitor. Land restoration/regeneration specialist. Even herpetologist. But you what you can't call him is uncommitted or dispassionate.

Growing up in San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country, Bryan aspired to become a marine biologist, but an epiphany early in his career led him to become an "upland biologist with a passion for water." After graduate school and a short stint with Texas Parks and Wildlife, Bryan moved into environmental consulting for large wind energy projects.

"While out in the desert, I realized that without energy, you are uncomfortable, but without water, you die," Bryan says.

Taking that salient observation to heart, Bryan has spent his entire career dedicated to habitat regeneration projects across private, state, and federal lands. He also educates people on the importance of and how to conserve and protect precious water resources.

At Trinity, "which changed my life for the better and taught me how to think," Bryan loved the biology department, especially professors David Ribble and Bob Blystone and economics professor Rich Butler who taught environmental economics. Exceptionally comfortable with the natural environment, Bryan paid his way through grad school at the University of Texas at Arlington by breeding and selling reptiles, a pursuit he is  "transitioning out of after 20 plus years."

Bryan has designed and built miles of water harvesting earthworks, worked with an environmental consulting company to reduce riparian damage from wind development, provided baseline documentation reports for conservation easements, helped with a detailed vegetation analysis of the Big Thicket, and consulted with Hill Country landowners on restoration options for various land use objectives.

Anyone who enjoys Texas' Guadalupe River can appreciate Bryan's efforts, via conservation easements, to protect in perpetuity some 12,000 acres and the springs that form the start of this scenic river. Visitors to Pedernales River State Park can also enjoy some 3,000 acres of land he helped protect so "you do not look at mansions when you visit the wonderful waterfalls."
Since 2009, Bryan has been a natural resource specialist, the pollution prevention manager, and the aquifer recharge specialist for the U.S. Air Force at Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA). In that capacity he is helping to restore the landscape health, studying caves and aquifer recharge sinkholes, and helping convert floodwaters into groundwater recharge to keep groundwater supplies clean and abundant in the Trinity Aquifer under Camp Bullis and much of Central Texas. Since 2011, Bryan been awarded just over 50 percent of the grants he has written.

For example, in September 2013, he applied for and received four grants to install rain gardens for pollinators at each of the three elementary schools within JBSA. The projects, designed to educate youth on the importance of water resources, native pollinators, and water conservation, include gravity-irrigated gardens full of native wildflowers, which infiltrate storm water runoff to passively irrigate pollinator habitats.

Bryan has also been involved with several community gardens, butterfly gardens, and was the inspiration for the first two projects on city property that diverted runoff from the street and biologically filtered this runoff before using it as a free gravity powered irrigation (Olmos Park Terrace, and Pittman Sullivan Community Gardens). Irrigating with storm water runoff rather than Edwards Aquifer water is helping reduce the demands on the Edwards Aquifer. These pollinator garden projects are also helping San Antonio meet its pledge to become the nation's first Monarch Champion city.

Not surprisingly, even Bryan's hobbies revolve around conservation: energy–efficient buildings, passive solar heating and cooling, renewable energy sources, greenhouses, watersports, and learning. His favorite activity is hiking, observing nature and "being in nature, away from all signs of humanity."

As to his long range goal, Bryan says he's going to "make a fortune by helping people take better care of the environment and helping to restore/regenerate healthy ecosystem processes." The more he succeeds, the richer we all will be.

You can contact Bryan at bryan.h.hummel [at] gmail.com