Trans-Pecos Wildlife Conference Returns in 2022
For the first time since 2016, the Trans-Pecos Wildlife Conference is back!

The event is co-hosted by the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University, the Texas Wildlife Association, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The event will be held on the Sul Ross campus in Alpine.

The Trans-Pecos Wildlife Conference aims to address the needs of landowners and managers by covering relevant topics on big game species like pronghorn, aoudad, bighorn sheep and mule deer, as well as nongame species like black bears and songbirds. Attention will also be given to energy development and conservation planning, as well as landowner support programs for habitat restoration activities.

The conference will begin August 4, at the Morgan University Center. Natural resource experts from across the region will share information with landowners, ranchers, natural resource professionals, and wildlife enthusiasts about various management strategies, recent research updates, and conservation opportunities for the region.

The conference will conclude on August 5, with a half-day field tour to demonstrate various habitat management prescriptions, enhance plant ID skills, and discuss on-the-ground wildlife management on several private ranches. Costs to attend the conference are $75 for early registration (before July 25) and $100 for late registration.

John L. Nau, III, Honored with West Texas Conservation Award
John L. Nau, III, was honored as the 2022 West Texas Conservationist of the Year in Houston last month. Pictured left to right: Parker Johnson, BRI Advisory Board member, award recipient John L. Nau, III, and Louis A. Harveson, Director of Borderlands Research Institute.
The Borderlands Research Institute and the Borderlands Research Foundation honored Houston businessman John L. Nau, III, with the inaugural West Texas Conservationist of the Year award on May 25, 2022. The award was presented at a special event at the River Oaks Country Club in Houston.

Nau has impacted all corners of the country through his conservation vision. Among his myriad accomplishments, he currently serves on the boards of the National Park Foundation, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the American Battlefield Trust and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation. Here in Texas, he is a longtime member of the Texas Historical Commission, and is currently serving as board chairman.

In West Texas, Nau has partnered with the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University in Alpine on numerous wildlife and habitat research projects. In 2007, Nau acquired Nine Point Mesa Ranch in southern Brewster County, a breathtaking high desert oasis teeming with wildlife and the location of a continuing restoration success story, thanks in large part to his passion for West Texas and the wildlife that thrives there.

“John L. Nau, III, has certainly made his mark on conservation in West Texas and is a shining example of private land stewardship,” said Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., former chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, who now chairs BRI’s Advisory Board. “John has created a conservation legacy through his unwavering support of research, management, and philanthropy.

The event was also a Borderlands Research Foundation fundraiser supporting the work of the Borderlands Research Institute.

“We’re thrilled to honor John L. Nau, III, as the 2022 West Texas Conservationist of the Year,” said Borderlands Research Foundation chairman Allen Smith. “The proceeds of the event will help support the conservation mission of the Borderlands Research Institute into the future.”

A video produced for the event chronicles Nau’s conservation accomplishments.

Project Spotlight:
Pronghorn Restoration Behavior
By Erin O’Connell, Justin French, Carlos E. Gonzalez, Louis A. Harveson, Shawn Gray, and L. Cody Webb
Pronghorn evolved to use vast open spaces of grassland, so the relatively recent addition of fences is a challenge. However, we have found that in the Trans-Pecos, translocated pronghorn can help resident pronghorn learn how to use modified fences that allow for easier movement across the landscape.
Pronghorn once occupied nearly all of Texas, but their range is much smaller today, in part due to drought, restrictive fencing, and anthropogenic expansion, all of which contribute to habitat loss. In 2011 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) began a tremendous long-term program to restore pronghorn in the Trans-Pecos, partnering with Borderlands Research Institute, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF), landowners, and other conservation organizations to monitor and learn from these efforts.

Restoration efforts are complex and challenging to implement, particularly when animals must be moved from surplus populations to augment declining ones, a process known as translocation.

Pronghorn strongly rely on their memory of the landscape, what we call a cognitive map, to choose habitat. We thought that translocated pronghorn would learn from residents to develop their cognitive map, benefiting from the residents' experience. Instead we found that translocated pronghorn readily crossed modified fences and moved freely throughout the ranch, whereas residents, by and large, did not. The memory of past restriction still limited their use of the landscape.

BRI Student Profile: Erin O’Connell
A passion for stats and bats led Erin O’Connell on a winding path to Alpine and the Borderlands Research Institute.

Her original career goal was clinical research, and she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in biology from Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She was fortunate to have two study abroad opportunities, in Australia and in Chile. Her affinity for statistics was recognized by her professors, and she worked as a statistics tutor for her last two years as an undergrad. During her sophomore year, her career interest shifted.

“I realized that what I am really interested in is research and biology and natural processes,” she said. I want to learn more about what is happening in the environment and the sort of relationships that we see in nature.”

During her sophomore year, she stumbled upon the Texas A&M job board, and that led to her first summer job as a bat field technician for an environmental firm in Pennsylvania.

“My job duties included conducting surveys by catching bats, researching population estimates and monitoring the spread of white-nose syndrome, and I ended up falling in love with research and that whole world. My original academic goal was to pursue a PhD, but that experience with bats made me want to do my own research, so I decided to pursue a master’s degree in wildlife biology first.”

New Faces at BRI
Amanda Veals, PhD, is the Carnivore Specialist and post-doctoral Research Scientist at Borderlands Research Institute. Before coming to BRI, Amanda graduated in 2014 with a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from University of Arizona. She earned her MS degree from the University of Arizona in Wildlife Conservation and Management in 2018, and completed her PhD in Wildlife Sciences from Texas A&M University-Kingsville with the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute in 2021. Her dissertation focused on the endangered ocelot in an effort to reduce road mortalities. 
Alex Hettena, MS, is the Geographic Information Systems Specialist at Borderlands Research Institute. Her responsibilities include database administration and management, spatial data analysis, and support for BRI’s Center for Land Stewardship and Stakeholder Engagement. Alex earned a BA in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology from Vanderbilt University and an MS in Environmental Science from Pace University. During and after her master’s studies, Alex spent three years as the mountain lion research associate for the Living with Lions program at Audubon Canyon Ranch in California.
Shawna Graves, BS, is the Communications Coordinator at Borderlands Research Institute. During the course of earning a BS in Geology at Sul Ross State University, she joined the journalism team, which nurtured her passion for the field of communications. She has been writing about the Big Bend region since 2013. Her favorite market is local media, where there are many opportunities to foster relationships and cultivate the regional ethos. She is excited about her role on BRI’s media team, to help elevate the message of conservation in the Big Bend region.
Publication Spotlight
Publishing the results of research projects in peer-reviewed publications is the goal of most research scientists. We’re proud to showcase these papers as they are published.
Montezuma Quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae) foraging in a pinyon-juniper woodland
Former BRI graduate students Karlee Cork and Elizabeth Tidwell and faculty at Sul Ross State University recently published an article in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology about Montezuma quail foraging site selection in pinyon-juniper woodland habitat.
The citation for the article is: 

Karlee D. Cork, Elizabeth A. Tidwell, Daniel H. Foley, Ryan O'Shaughnessy, Ryan S. Luna; Montezuma Quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae) foraging in a pinyon-juniper woodland. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 1 December 2021; 133 (4): 645–648. doi:
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Borderlands Research Institute | 432.837.8225 | bri@sulross.edu
P.O. Box C-21, SRSU, Alpine, Texas 79832