Borderlands Birding Bonanza Takes Flight
Birders spotted a variety of species during the Borderlands Birding Bonanza at Alamito Creek Preserve last month. See the registration link below to sign up for November mist-netting events near Marfa.
Birding enthusiasts of all skill levels are invited to attend Borderlands Birding Bonanza events in West Texas on Nov. 14 and Nov. 15. The birding field trips will take place at the Dixon Water Foundation’s Mimms Ranch near Marfa. The event will feature a unique hands-on experience where participants will directly assist researchers with capturing wintering grassland birds using a mist-netting technique.

The Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) at Sul Ross State University launched the new series of outreach activities in October to connect people with birds through its Bird Conservation Program. The first event, held Oct. 24-25 at Alamito Creek Preserve in Presidio County, attracted 40 birders from El Paso to East Texas. Registration for the Nov. 14 and Nov. 15 events is required, and participants can sign up at

READ MORE about the first Borderlands Birding Bonanza field trip.
Respect Big Bend Seminars Wrap Up for 2020
The Respect Big Bend coalition wrapped up their fall 2020 seminar series hosted by the Borderlands Research Institute via webinar. Despite the pivot to online events due to COVID-19, participants remained engaged in the process.
“We were able to involve a great lineup of speakers, and that really helped attract participants to the webinars,” said Billy Tarrant, BRI Associate Director of Stewardship Services, who led the effort to organize the seminar series. “Despite the change from in-person seminars to an online format, the public was still eager to listen, learn, and engage with a terrific group of speakers.”
All seminars are available online, and plans are in the works for a Spring 2021 seminar series.
Project Spotlight: Quail Histology and Parasites           
By Trey E. Johnson, Dale Rollins, Carlos E. Gonzalez, and Ryan S. Luna
Scaled (Callipepla squamata), Gambel's (C. gambelii), and Montezuma quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae) infected with eyeworms (Oxyspirura petrowi).
Populations of quails in Texas have declined over the past few decades due primarily to habitat loss. However, the role that parasites may play in such declines has been largely dismissed. To help address this, we collected scaled quail (Callipepla squamata), Gambel’s quail (Callipepla gambellii), and Montezuma quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae) from across the Trans-Pecos ecoregion of Texas via hunter-harvest, funnel trapping, and nightlighting.

Quail samples were then necropsied to determine the occurrence of various endoparasites, especially eyeworms (Oxyspirura petrowi) and cecal worms (Aulonocephalus pennula). Individual quail organs were submitted to the Texas A&M University Veterinary Medicine Diagnostic Lab (TVMDL), where histopathological analyses were conducted to gain information on parasite-related tissue damage and to document other pathogenic factors.

We determined that host tissues were exhibiting immune responses to O. petrowi. However, the immune responses that were observed did not indicate severe tissue damage but rather mild irritation within the ocular tissues. It has been speculated that such irritation to ocular tissues could negatively impact quail vision. This is worth noting because quail rely heavily on their vision to detect and avoid predators. Future research should focus on measuring the impacts of O. petrowi infections on quail survival.
Student Spotlight: Trey Johnson
The stars aligned in late 2018, and Trey was accepted as a graduate student at BRI.

Trey’s research project examined parasite communities found in quail populations in the Trans-Pecos area of West Texas. The project proceeded as planned, and he was all set to defend his thesis in October 2020 when COVID-19 threw him another punch.

“I found out I was positive for COVID right before I was supposed to defend. I wasn’t feeling that bad, so we went ahead and proceeded with a virtual defense where I was sitting in my bedroom in front of my computer defending my thesis. That was odd, to say the least. But it went really well.”

And no doubt it will be a pandemic experience he will remember for the rest of his life. Trey has made a full recovery from the virus and is now looking ahead to his future.

Borderlands Buzz:
Dr. Ryan Luna and Trey Johnson
A major research focus for the Borderlands Research Institute is desert quail. There’s a lot of research attention on bobwhite quail, but little available research on scaled quail, Gambel’s quail and Montezuma quail. Listen in on our latest Borderlands Buzz podcast to hear more about BRI’s quail research efforts.

 Houston Safari Club Foundation Awards Scholarships to Seven BRI Students
Seven BRI students have received $27,000 in scholarships from the Houston Safari Club Foundation (HSCF). The Dan L. Duncan Scholarship recognizes and encourages students, who have exhibited academic excellence and exemplary character, through its prestigious scholarship program. Among this year’s HSCF Dan L. Duncan Scholarship winners are Sul Ross State University BRI graduate students (pictured here left to right) Rachel Bittner, Kelley Wood, Daniel Wilcox, Jamie Cooper, Joshua Coward, Jacob Locke, and Trey Johnson.
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Borderlands Research Institute | 432.837.8225 | bri@sulross.edu
P.O. Box C-21, SRSU, Alpine, Texas 79832