W elcome to the first issue of Borderlands Bulletin , a new enewsletter from Borderlands Research Institute. Several times a year, we’ll be sharing information with you about our projects, people and programs. Thank you for your support of our work.

Louis A. Harveson, Ph.D.
Dan Allen Hughes Jr. Endowed Director
Celebrating 10 Years of Collaborative Conservation
T he Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) at Sul Ross State University is marking ten years of collaborative efforts to conserve one of the most biologically diverse regions of the world: the Chihuahuan Desert in the borderlands of West Texas. Award-winning filmmaker Ben Masters has debuted a new film about BRI , and a new website has also been created to better showcase BRI’s work.

Through research, education, and outreach, BRI has encouraged effective land stewardship throughout the region by providing land managers with the most current scientific information. A steady stream of graduate students has produced new research annually on topics ranging from pronghorn to songbirds.

Besides research and education, outreach to land managers is a top priority for BRI. Getting scientific information into the hands of those who can apply it on the landscape improves land management practices across the region. Since BRI’s inception, the institute has graduated more than 60 graduate students, with another 18 currently enrolled. Under the guidance of faculty professors, more than 80 significant research projects have been completed, adding to the body of knowledge that has improved land management practices.

One of the most noteworthy aspects of BRI’s operation is that it is essentially self-funded through private dollars and grants. The first annual budget in 2007 was only $3,000. Today BRI is managing almost $3 million in research accounts and has endowments that exceed $3 million.
New Scholarship Benefits Grad Students
A new scholarship has been created through the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University by the family of Virginia Matthews Law, whose family has operated a ranch in West Texas for more than one hundred years. The scholarship was created to honor her life and celebrate the family’s long history of ranching in Brewster County.

The first scholarship has been awarded to Kaitlyn Williams, a second-year graduate student with the Borderlands Research Institute. She has a Wildlife and Fisheries Science bachelor's degree from Texas A&M and is expecting to complete her master’s degree in Range and Wildlife Management from Sul Ross State University in 2019. Her thesis work is examining grassland birds as indicators of grassland health, and she is exploring how the abundance of bird species responds to grazing pressure.

Project Spotlight: Pronghorn on the Move
S tudents and faculty from BRI took part in translocating 113 pronghorn from the Texas Panhandle to the Trans-Pecos region of West Texas from Jan. 28 to Feb. 1, 2018. It is the sixth time in recent years that pronghorn have been transplanted from healthy populations on public and private land near Dalhart to supplement depleted pronghorn populations near Alpine.
It’s just one aspect of the Trans-Pecos Pronghorn Restoration Project, which is a partnership of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University, Trans-Pecos Pronghorn Working Group, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and USDA Wildlife Services. The objective of the project is to bolster declining pronghorn populations through wildlife management practices, including: translocations, habitat improvements, as well as researching and monitoring the pronghorn. 

“Facilitating movement is the best way to ensure that the pronghorn have access to seasonally available forage, good fawning cover, and an ability to escape predators, all factors that contributed to the population crash in 2012,” said BRI Research Scientist Dr. Whitney Gann.

Forty of the pronghorn were fitted with GPS satellite collars to monitor survival, what habitat they favor, and how they use ‘pronghorn-friendly’ fences and fence modifications. Ongoing research has demonstrated that recent fence modifications have greatly increased pronghorn movement across the Marfa Plateau.

Current pronghorn research projects underway at BRI include estimating pronghorn home range in the Trans-Pecos, habitat use by translocated pronghorn, and an estimate of pronghorn carrying capacity of target restoration areas.
Nature Notes: Tracking Grassland Birds
M arfa Public Radio recently showcased Borderlands Research Institute’s Grassland Birds project and the work of Dr. Mieke Titulaer and her graduate students.

Fun Fact: Songbirds

85% of the grassland birds that breed in the western Great Plains overwinter in the Chihuahuan Desert.

Grassland birds perform essential ecosystem services such as controlling insects and rodents, eating carrion, dispersing seed, and serving as food for other animals.
People Profile: Denis Josefina Perez-Ordoñez
G rowing up in Chihuahua, Mexico, Denis Josefina Perez-Ordoñez remembers the government campaigning to create awareness about water issues and developing water conservation regulations.

“I got interested in environmental issues at a young age because of the water problems in Chihuahua,” she explains. “It’s a city of almost a million people, and even today we only have water for six hours a day. That opened my eyes to the importance of natural resources.”

For her thesis project, Denis is studying wintering grassland birds in West Texas. Once the study is complete, results will be shared with land managers in the region to help guide grassland management practices. Denis expects to graduate in December 2018 with a Master of Science in Range and Wildlife Management.

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Borderlands Research Institute | 432.837.8225 | bri@sulross.edu
P.O. Box C-21, SRSU, Alpine, Texas 79832