Conserving the natural resources of the Chihuahuan Desert Borderlands
through research, education, and outreach.

Conservation Partnership Funding Applications Available for West Texas Landowners

Through the Greater Big Bend Conservation Partnership program, eligible habitat management activities may include grassland restoration via brush management (pictured), in addition to riparian restoration, construction of wildlife-friendly fencing, and other conservation management activities.

The Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) is now accepting applications for its Greater Big Bend Conservation Partnership program. This is a cost share program that will reimburse approximately 50 percent of the overall cost of qualified conservation practices to selected landowners in Brewster, Jeff Davis and Presidio counties in West Texas. The application period will be open from Oct. 24–Dec. 16, 2022, and applications are available online.

BRI, along with the Texas Agricultural Land Trust (TALT), have joined forces with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to implement landscape-scale conservation initiatives across the Greater Big Bend Region of West Texas. The effort is fueled by a $3.5 million commitment from the NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which will help fund innovative conservation approaches on private lands, including habitat restoration efforts, conservation easements, and ecosystem services compensation. Eligible habitat management activities include but are not limited to grassland restoration via brush management, riparian restoration, and construction of wildlife-friendly fencing.

The Greater Big Bend Conservation Partnership is managed by BRI’s Center for Land Stewardship and Stakeholder Engagement, which is responsible for implementing restoration and enhancement projects, as well as monitoring and evaluating projects. TALT personnel will provide the expertise for all conservation easement agreements, as well as evaluation of ecosystem services and assessing ecosystem services compensation options.

“We appreciate the partnership with NRCS and TALT to support West Texas landowners in enhancing conservation of wildlife habitat in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas,” said Billy Tarrant, who leads BRI’s Center for Land Stewardship. “We encourage landowners to apply for these funds and we look forward to supporting them in their conservation efforts.”


BRI Celebrates 15 Years of Conservation Research in the Trans-Pecos

The 2022-2023 academic year marks the 15-year anniversary for the Borderlands Research Institute, which was launched at Sul Ross State University in the fall of 2007. Since then, the organization has been a key player in collaborative wildlife research in the Trans-Pecos while offering meaningful graduate projects for students enrolled in the Natural Resource Management program at Sul Ross.

The mission of the Borderlands Research Institute is to conserve the natural resources of the Chihuahuan Desert Borderlands through research, education, and outreach.

Fifteen years ago, there weren’t any organizations dedicated to this kind of work in the Trans-Pecos.

Dr. Louis A. Harveson, who is the Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Endowed Director and founder of BRI, as well as the newly appointed Associate Provost of Research and Development at Sul Ross, recalls seeing an opportunity for this type of institute at the university when he was a new hire almost 25 years ago.

Harveson first arrived to teach in the Natural Resource Management program at Sul Ross as a young PhD graduate of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute based in South Texas.

“Of all places in the state, the Trans-Pecos, with its intense variety of wildlife and vast landscapes, makes for the most compelling outdoor research laboratory,” Harveson said. “I was inspired by the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute model and began thinking about what the possibilities might be for a similar organization in West Texas.”


New Video Series Highlights BRI’s History

We’re celebrating 15 years of BRI’s conservation mission, and to mark the occasion, we’re launching a series of short videos commemorating our history. The first video features our founder and director, Dr. Louis Harveson.


BRI Celebrates 15 Years - featuring Dr. Louis Harveson

BRI Students Awarded $46,500 in Scholarships

This year's scholarship recipients were, L-R: Maya Ressler, Leann “Lilly” Morin, Preston McKee, Erin O’Connell, Caleb Hughes, Brooke Bowman, and Olivia Gray (not pictured).

Seven graduate students at the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University have been selected to receive $46,500 in scholarships from seven different sources, including the first ever scholarships awarded from the Wes and Victoria Bannister Scholarship and the Wayne and JoAnn Moore Endowed Scholarship.                 

The Wes and Victoria Bannister Scholarship was established by the Bannisters’ family after their passing. The Bannisters were longtime residents of Alpine who loved the natural beauty and ecological diversity of the region. They passionately supported wildlife conservation and philanthropy in the region, and their family honors their legacies with a permanent endowment fund plus annual student scholarships to the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University.

The Wayne and JoAnn More Scholarship was established by the Wayne and JoAnn Moore Charitable Foundation in Midland. Wayne and JoAnn placed considerable emphasis on education and saw it as a path to a fulfilling life. To that end, the foundation has established a number of endowed scholarships at various colleges and universities, most recently at the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University. 


Project Spotlight:

Five-year Study of Mammals in Big Bend National Park Contributes to Biodiversity Data

Between 2014 and 2019, BRI placed game cameras at Big Bend National Park to get a better understanding of mammal distribution, activity, habitat use and co-occurrence. Pictured here are Carmen Mountains white-tailed deer, bobcat, and coyote.

On the northeastern range of the Chihuahuan Desert along the US-Mexico border, Big Bend National Park (BBNP) is a place of magnificent scenery and nearly unparalleled biodiversity. The over 800,000 acre park boasts a diversity of ecosystems and hosts a variety of plant and animal species. Given the importance of BBNP for biodiversity and habitat protection in the Trans-Pecos ecoregion, the distribution of species in the park has been well-studied. However, it is also important to monitor changes in the distribution of species over time and to gauge what factors within the park may contribute to change, such as increased visitation use and climate change.

The Borderlands Research Institute conducted a study on the mammals of BBNP to understand their distribution, activity, habitat use, and co-occurrence patterns. We surveyed specifically for carnivores and ungulates due to the higher detection rate of large-bodied animals as well as their importance to ecosystem functions and human interests. Fifty-eight motion-triggered cameras were placed within and surrounding the Chisos Basin between 2014 and 2019.


BRI Student Spotlight: Caitlin Camp

Caitlin Camp is settling into a new life in California with a newly minted range and wildlife graduate degree from the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University. She started a new job in September 2022 with an environmental consulting firm, where she is implementing botanical and wildlife surveys, and preparing biological assessments on endangered and other wildlife species.

The few weeks before she departed for California were a whirlwind. She successfully defended her thesis, packed up her student life in Alpine, then jetted off to California to start her new job.

“My experiences at Borderlands Research Institute really set me up to be successful in this new job,” she said.


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.

Modeling Kit Fox Distribution in West Texas

Authored by former graduate student Matt Hewitt, now a BRI Research Associate, and others at BRI and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, this article discusses the team’s research findings on the probability for kit fox distribution throughout the Trans-Pecos.



Hewitt, M. O., Karelus, D. L., Harveson, L. A., Martin, R. L., and Harveson, P. M.. 2022. Modeling habitat use and potential distribution of kit fox in the Trans-Pecos, Texas. Journal of Wildlife Management 86:e22303.

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Borderlands Research Institute | 432.837.8225 | bri@sulross.edu

P.O. Box C-21, SRSU, Alpine, Texas 79832


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