New Endowed Chair is Largest Gift in
Sul Ross State University History
Members of the Nau family, including (left to right) Parker Johnson, Victoria Nau Johnson, John L. Nau, III, and Elizabeth Nau Stepanian, recently established the Nau Endowed Chair in Habitat Research and Management.
T he Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) at Sul Ross State University is pleased to announce the largest philanthropic gift in its 10-year history. The $1.5 million gift will fund a new Nau Endowed Chair in Habitat Research and Management at BRI. The Nau Foundation in Houston has pledged $100,000 to an endowment and $50,000 for operations annually over the next ten years. The gift is also the largest ever received by Sul Ross State University.

“Endowments are among the most impactful philanthropic gifts that can be made because they provide funding certainty for key faculty positions,” said Dr. Bill Kibler, Sul Ross State University President. “We are extremely grateful to John L. Nau III and the Nau Foundation for this incredibly generous gift. It is a strong show of support for the outstanding reputation of BRI and will help expand the expertise of our faculty by allowing us to hire a national expert focused on habitat research and management for the region.”

Nau is the chief executive officer of Silver Eagle Distributors in Houston, the largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products in the United States. The Nau family owns a ranch in West Texas and has been actively involved with the BRI for more than 10 years. Family member Parker Johnson currently serves on the BRI Advisory Board. 

“We’re proud to make this gift to support BRI’s habitat program,” said Johnson. “BRI has been a great asset to our ranch operations, to the landowners of the region, and throughout Texas. Learning more about the habitat that supports thriving wildlife populations will ensure future generations will enjoy the natural resources we have today. Our family believes that supporting the habitat program will have the most impact on future conservation efforts.”

Annual Mule Deer Capture Provides Data for
Long-term Study
T he quest to learn more about mule deer kickstarted the creation of the Borderlands Research Institute more than ten years ago. One of BRI’s first projects was a long-term mule deer research project. That study is designed to help better understand antler growth, body characteristics, and tooth-wear for mule deer of varying age classes, with an emphasis on bucks.

Since 2011, BRI researchers have captured more than 225 mule deer bucks that were caught either as a fawn or yearling across the Trans-Pecos. Most recently, 18 fawns were captured on a ranch between Alpine and Marfa in April 2018. During the capture, helicopter crew members verified ages, ear-tagged the fawns, took body weights, recorded gender, and released the deer on-site. The ear tags correspond to their birth year, which helps researchers, landowners, and managers document and learn from the deer as they age. 

With the use of trail cameras, opportunistic sightings, and hunter harvest photos, over the last seven years, BRI has been able to document each buck’s antler and body growth through time. Currently, the oldest known-aged cohort of tagged mule deer bucks are 8.5 years of age. Preliminary data suggests that given adequate time and nutrition, mule deer bucks are not reaching their maximum antler potential until at least 7 or 8 years of age.
RED 28, one of the first mule deer that BRI tagged, with antler development shown from 2011 to 2018.
BRI Alumni Profile: Froylan Hernandez
F roylan Hernandez loves his job. As Desert Bighorn Sheep Program Leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Froylan leads one of the most successful wildlife conservation efforts in Texas.

After he graduated from Texas A&M in 1999, he learned about a job opening at Sul Ross State University, and met Dr. Louis Harveson, who would become his boss, his mentor, and his friend. He also did an internship at Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMA), which exposed him to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department projects and people, including Mitch Lockwood.

Harveson and Lockwood convinced Froylan to pursue a master’s degree, and Froylan enrolled at Sul Ross State University. He did his thesis work on Montezuma quail at Elephant Mountain WMA, and after he graduated in May 2005, he took a research associate position at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute in Kingsville.

In 2005, Froylan was hired as assistant manager of Elephant Mountain WMA. He was immersed in work involving desert bighorn sheep from the very beginning of his TPWD career. In 2010 he was selected as Desert Bighorn Sheep Program Leader by his new boss, Mitch Lockwood.

Throughout his TPWD career, Froylan has maintained close ties with the students and faculty at Sul Ross and has observed the growth of the Borderlands Research Institute over the last decade.

“BRI research projects have really assisted us in developing effective management plans for desert bighorn sheep and other species,” he said. “We just don’t have the bandwidth to do all the research that is necessary for us to make the best science-based decisions. Wildlife research is what BRI is all about. It’s a great partnership.”

Fun Fact: Lechuguilla
L echuguilla ( Agave lechuguilla )

Habitat: An indicator plant of the Chihuahuan Desert, lechuguilla only occurs in this region, in rocky areas and limestone hillsides.

Value to Wildlife: “Third-choice browse for deer. The flower stalk is highly desirable and readily consumed by deer and bighorn when available. Deer in very arid areas will also browse the bases of lechuguilla leaves, but not the leaf tips. Important food and water source for javelina, which consume the heart of the rosette, leaf bases, roots and flower stalk. Lechuguilla is also an important food source for some small mammals, including pocket gophers.”

Source: Harveson, L. A. et al., Woody Plants of the Big Bend and Trans-Pecos: A Field Guide to Common Browse for Wildlife. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press. 2016.
Woody Plants of the Big Bend and Trans-Pecos
T o learn other interesting facts about key forage species in the Chihuahuan Desert, you can read more in Woody Plants of the Big Bend and Trans-Pecos: A Field Guide to Common Browse for Wildlife . Written by researchers and specialists at Borderlands Research Institute and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, this book is a valuable resource for identifying woody plants in the region that are essential for wildlife, helping you better understand species-habitat relationships. Proceeds from book sales will benefit the outreach efforts of the BRI. The book is available for purchase at or your local bookstore.
Figure 1. Relative diet of big game species commonly found in the Trans-Pecos Region.

Woody Plants provides helpful photos and charts, along with text on plant species’ identifying features, value to wildlife, and plant response to management.
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Borderlands Research Institute | 432.837.8225 | bri@sulross.edu
P.O. Box C-21, SRSU, Alpine, Texas 79832