Conservation Biology Chair Endowed at BRI by Davidson Charitable Foundation
T hanks to a $1 million gift, the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) has endowed a Conservation Biology chair at Sul Ross State University. Dr. Patricia Moody Harveson has been appointed to the James A. "Buddy" Davidson Charitable Foundation Endowed Chair in Conservation Biology.

“We’re pleased to provide this gift that will support wildlife research at the Borderlands Research Institute,” said Elaine Greenhaw, Secretary/Director of the James A. "Buddy" Davidson Charitable Foundation. “Throughout his life, Buddy Davidson supported wildlife, education and the environment, and this is a fitting tribute to the memory of his generous spirit.”

The endowed chair serves as program leader, spokesperson, and chief strategist for the Conservation Biology Program at BRI. Dr. Patricia Moody Harveson is a Research Scientist with Borderlands Research Institute and a Professor in the Department of Natural Resource Management at Sul Ross State University, where she has worked for more than a decade. Her research interests are carnivore ecology, systems analysis and modeling, environmental policy, and landscape ecology. She has published more than 20 manuscripts ranging from carnivore studies, landscape connectivity, predator-prey interactions, population models, and habitat suitability.

Project spotlight:
Carrion and Scavenger Dynamics
A coyote and striped skunk feed simultaneously on a “closed” hog carcass in the winter; competing species may be more tolerant of each other at a common resource when other resources are slim.
C arrion, or the remains of dead prey or roadkill, may make our stomachs churn, but to many species, this is a valuable resource that is rich in nutrients yet requires little effort to acquire. In the Davis Mountains of Texas, the Borderlands Research Institute is beginning a third year of research analyzing scavenger ecology. Specifically, we are looking at scavenger interactions around two major sources of carrion: carcass refuse from mountain lion predation, and invasive feral hog carcasses culled for land management purposes.
Graduate student Michael Stangl (featured below) determined the locations of recent mountain lion kill sites based on GPS collar data, then set cameras at these sites to observe scavenger activity. In addition, feral hog carcasses were placed in various locations to mimic mountain lion kill sites, and trail cameras were set at these sites as well. The feral hog carcasses were also divided into two categories: “open,” which means they were opened by abdominal incision to imitate what happens during predation, and “closed.” The videos filmed by these cameras were then reviewed and analyzed for presence or absence of a species, feeding and visiting times of species, and the expression of a set of behaviors. A bobcat at one of these sites can be seen caching, or hiding, one of the feral hog carcasses in the video below.
In the video above, a bobcat in the Davis Mountains attempts to cache a feral hog carcass with the intention of returning later and preventing other scavengers from finding it. BRI researchers Michael Stangl and Dr. Patricia Moody Harveson are studying the interactions between species and individuals that utilize carrion as a food source.
BRI Student Profile: Michael Stangl
M ichael Stangl’s journey to find himself led him into the Yukon wilderness with the National Outdoor Leadership School. What he learned about himself and the wild environment led him to Alpine, Texas, and the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University.

“My experience in the Yukon helped me understand how to tread lightly through the wilderness,” said Michael. “I developed an immense sense of respect for the land and wildlife, and how delicately balanced everything is.”

The experience was life-changing and led to him applying at Sul Ross State University for the 2011 fall semester. He completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Resource Management at Sul Ross in 2015 and is now working toward his master’s degree. His graduate thesis is focused on the ecosystem services of mountain lion predation in the Davis Mountains.

“It’s really rad work looking at mountain lions as apex predators,” said Michael with enthusiasm. “They don’t eat all of their leftovers, and the carrion they leave behind provides sustenance for many other animals. It really is a niche world in food web ecology, and I hope this thesis will shed light on how mountain lions service the rest of the wildlife community.”

Fun Fact: Etymology of Puma concolor
Puma concolor:
From Quechua puma + Latin concolor (“of uniform color”)

Puma concolor , the scientific name for mountain lion, comes from a combination of Quechua (indigenous languages of the Andes and South American highlands), Spanish and Latin. Historically, mountain lions ranged from British Columbia to Patagonia and from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Cougar Ecology and Conservation , Maurice Hornocker and Sharon Negri
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Borderlands Research Institute | 432.837.8225 | bri@sulross.edu
P.O. Box C-21, SRSU, Alpine, Texas 79832