Poindexter Fellowship
Benefits Quail Research at BRI
T he Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) at Sul Ross State University is pleased to announce the John B. Poindexter Endowed Fellowship in Quail Research. The $400,000 endowment honors John Poindexter, a founding advisory board member for BRI, who has long been a champion for West Texas. The endowment was kicked off a few years ago by Poindexter’s friends, who chipped in more than $250,000 on his behalf.

The Poindexter endowment will support a graduate student who will focus their thesis research on quail ecology. Sustained funding from the endowed fellowship will also allow BRI to leverage additional funds for quail research from various conservation partners. 

“The Borderlands Research Institute has established a reputation for groundbreaking research that has furthered our knowledge of wildlife in the Chihuahuan Desert,” said Poindexter. “I’m grateful for the generosity of the many folks who have contributed to this fund that will help ensure the future of the critical work BRI is doing in West Texas.”

Project Spotlight: Prairie Dog Translocation
This prairie dog is eating celery, a supplemental food provided to help translocated prairie dogs adjust to their new surroundings. The prairie dogs in the background came to join in the feast later on.
P rairie dogs are often underappreciated animals; usually considered pests, this species helps uphold a healthy ecosystem. In the Trans-Pecos, the Borderlands Research Institute and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are interested in restoring black-tailed prairie dogs on the landscape because prairie dog populations in the region have declined dramatically. Translocating prairie dogs from a large, healthy colony and creating a new colony helps combat the decline of prairie dogs within the ecosystem.

In October of 2018, graduate student Barbara Sugarman (featured below) conducted a translocation to a private ranch in West Texas. The prairie dogs were moved into nesting boxes meant to mimic their natural burrowing system. After the release, the prairie dogs either dug themselves out of their nesting boxes, or baskets on top of the burrows were removed. Currently, we estimate that there are 30-35 prairie dogs living at the restoration site. They have dug an extensive network of natural burrows and will hopefully produce offspring this year. This study will provide wildlife managers and landowners the opportunity to see how prairie dogs can benefit the ecosystem and to outline steps for future prairie dog restoration efforts.
BRI Student Profile: Barbara Sugarman
B arbara Sugarman grew up in sunny San Diego and spent as much time outdoors as she could on the public land trail system adjacent to her neighborhood. Her father instilled a love of nature in her, and family trips to national parks enhanced her interest in the environment.

Her professional experience began in 2011 with an internship for the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project. That year also marked her first exposure to prairie dogs as a volunteer at Habitat Harmony in Flagstaff, where she helped translocate Gunnison’s prairie dogs from a future construction site to public land. That experience would eventually lead her on a path to Alpine and the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University. 

Her experiences and mentors enhanced her interest in wildlife biology, and Barbara realized future career success would depend on furthering her education. She began shopping around for graduate programs, and when she learned about an opportunity to study prairie dogs in Texas, she went for it.

“My graduate thesis involves translocating black-tailed prairie dogs to see what works best,” she explained. “We have moved more than 200 prairie dogs in September and October of 2018 from a well-established colony near Marathon to a private ranch near Alpine . Now I am monitoring their progress to see how they are doing. The landowner has been wonderful to work with.”

Fun Fact: Why is a prairie dog a dog?  
E arly French explorers called these ground-dwelling rodents petit chien , or little dog, for their barking alarm call. In 1803, the Louis and Clark Expedition recorded the first scientific description, 1 and p rairie dog was one of the some 1,528 names given to animals, plants, and places observed...this said to be a record in vocabulary making. Captain Meriwether Lewis had first called the animal a barking squirrel , but this probably more accurate description was changed to prairie dog by...William Clark.” 2

1 The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, University of Nebraska Press, the Center for Great Plains Studies and the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
2 The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins , by Robert Hendrickson
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Borderlands Research Institute | 432.837.8225 | bri@sulross.edu
P.O. Box C-21, SRSU, Alpine, Texas 79832