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CDRI Desert NewsFlash
May 2023
Photo shared by CDRI member Daryl Styblo.

AUGUST 12, 2023

Click for BBQ & Auction Tickets
Image from The Spiral Dance about the Big Bend Region. 
Celebrating 50 years
Four Films to Watch Now -
The Chihuahuan Desert Trilogy and 
The Spiral Dance
Throughout this year, as we celebrate 50 years, we'll pick out bits of CDRI's history that might be new to you, while for others, we hope it sparks fond memories.
This month, we're featuring four movies created by and for the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute between 1981 - 1983. We think a walk down memory lane by watching these films will rekindle your love of the Chihuahuan Desert and remind you of how beautiful and alive the desert becomes with a bit of rain. Although created 40+ years ago, these films have held up over time and are as timeless today as when they were first made.
The film trilogy includes  Land of Lost Borders, Where Rainbows Wait for Rain, and Desert Semaphore.  Each film in the trilogy is narrated by actor Burgess Meredith
The fourth film is The Spiral Dance, narrated by musician and actor Burl Ives
You can also access all four films on CDRI's website, www.cdri.org
There's a lot of activity in the Native Grasses section of the Botanical Gardens. As a result, the exhibit is enjoying a complete redesign. Information about the Native Grasses Exhibit can be found in Garden Notes in this Desert NewsFlash
Interview with a Volunteer

With a dedicated staff of five individuals, CDRI depends on its volunteers to help with things from "teaching" at one of our educational programs to set up for the BBQ & Auction to cutting new trails to watering plants and pulling weeds in the gardens. This month's featured volunteer is Julie Webb, co-owner of Webb's Fair & Square art gallery in Fort Davis.  
Julie, please, tell us about yourself.
I’m a 57-year-old Texas lady who has had a gallery of folk art, contemporary art & antiques for 35 years with my husband, Bruce Lee. I have two rescue dogs who I adore, Dexter, the senior Boston terrier and new to the family, and Winkie, the sweet but scrappy terrier mix of some sort. I like adventure, discovery, and good times.
Where are you from, and how did you end up in West Texas?
I grew up in Garland, Sachse, and tiny Cooper, Texas. My husband and I have lived in Waxahachie, just south of Dallas, since 1987, where we own a 1902 building that houses our home and gallery. We were honored to purchase the old Masonic Lodge and Scobee Adobe here in Fort Davis last January of 2022, where we opened a West Texas version of Webb Gallery called Webb’s Fair & Square.
What led you to volunteer at CDRI?
I love extremes in nature, and many desert plants give just that. I’m a big believer in making a difference and contributing where and how you can in your community. I knew immediately upon visiting CDRI that I wanted to volunteer there while learning more about this land and its plants.
Have you volunteered at other organizations?
Yes, in Waxahachie, I have volunteered on community boards, historic and museum boards, and helped launch the Crossroads of Texas, Film & Music Festival in Waxahachie.
Why do you think it’s important to volunteer?
Caring is the most important thing in life, and what better place to see your caring and contributions at work than your own community? Volunteering for something you love and admire will only give back 100% in return to your joy in life.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering at CDRI?
I enjoy learning about the plants, getting to know the staff and board, and in between working to just stop and enjoy the surroundings.
What do you enjoy most about living in Fort Davis and Far West Texas?
Fort Davis and its surrounding cities are all such strong communities that ring to places that could be found at various times of history with its strong community bonds, sincerity of its people, rich history, and its wonderful natural resources.
Do you have a favorite memory relating to CDRI?
That first initial view of the majestic Yuccas and Cactus collection. Every time I share it with friends, I get to see their same astonishment.
Do you have any advice for others about making that initial step of getting involved and volunteering?
Don’t be afraid to make the jump to ask how you can help. Pick one place or organization that means something to you and ask how you can help. It feels great to work with people in your community and see how your work can make a difference.
If you could be a local animal, which would you pick and why?
Hands down, I would be a buzzard. I love how they soar and seemingly float in the sky. I find them a majestic mystery.

For all who may be interested in volunteering at CDRI, please send us an email at events@cdri.org.
Summer Horticultural Internship 
We're accepting applications for an 8-week, paid summer internship at CDRI to work in the Botanical Gardens. The deadline to submit an application is May 5, 2023.  Please click on the button below for more information and to apply.  
Elle Sutherland and Derek Dacus
are CDRI's Scudday Scholarship Recipients

Each year, CDRI selects two graduate students as the James F. Scudday Scholarship Winners, awarding $1,000 to each scholarship recipient. We're pleased to announce this year's scholarship recipients, SRSU graduate students Elle Sutherland and Derek Dacus.
Photo, above left: Shirley Powell, CDRI Director Emeritus, congratulates Elle Sutherland and her thesis advisor, Dr. Carlos Gonzalez, SRSU, Borderlands Research Institute. Photo, above right: Shirley Powell congratulates Derek Dacus and his thesis advisor, Dr. Thorton Larson, SRSU, Biology Department. 
Elle Sutherland
Elle is researching disease transmission in big horn sheep in relation to their individual space use within each population. Her goal is to be able to predict pathways of specific disease transmission and assess niche variation among Trans-Pecos desert bighorn populations.
Derek Dacus
Derek is investigating the habitat utilization of narrow travel corridors in the Chisos Mountains by mountain lions and black bears. Recognizing that there are conservation concerns for mountain lions and black bears in the region due to the indiscriminate trapping of mountain lions, Derek’s study will give insight into the likelihood of a black bear stepping into a trap designed for mountain lions.  
The Scholarship’s Namesake
James F. Scudday, Ph.D. (1929-2009) was a CDRI co-founder and longtime professor of Biology at Sul Ross State University. Upon his retirement in 1995, he was named Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biology by the Board of Regents of the Texas State University System, the Board’s highest honor for retired educators.
In addition to a full teaching load, Dr. Scudday conducted significant research, published in scientific journals, and prepared numerous comprehensive vertebrate surveys for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the National Park Service.
During his SRSU tenure, Dr. Scudday directed more than 100 students in graduate programs and thesis projects. Many of his former students remained in close contact with him during his lifetime.
The Dr. James F. Scudday CDRI Endowed Scholarship Fund was established in 2010 to recognize his many contributions to the field and his passion for teaching. Income from the fund supports scholarships for Sul Ross graduate students.
The scholarships are one of the ways in which CDRI fulfills its commitment to nature-based education and the support of research of the Chihuahuan Desert region, as well as demonstrating the five-decade connection between CDRI and SRSU.
Garden Notes
When most people think of grass, it will generally evoke an image of a well-maintained HOA-approved Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon) lawn or a pristine golf course. However, there is so much more to grass than a neatly trimmed and sterile lawn.

CDRI offers 507 acres of grassland, with most major species being gramas, like Sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), the state grass of Texas. During winter and fall, the grasses shine golden in the bright sun, transforming into vibrant green during the summer monsoon. Grasses are not only beautiful to admire, but they are also vital to society as a whole.
Image of CDRI site is by Faith Hille Dishron. 
The Trans-Pecos region of Texas, with its mountains and basins, offers distinct grassland regions from the mountains to the plains and the lower-elevation desert region. In the 1930s, the Trans-Pecos was described as a continuous grassland with few shrubs. As time went on, agriculture, over-grazing, fire suppression, and other human activities changed the land into what it is today, a semi-desert grassland with encroaching brush and shrubs.
The diverse topography of the Trans-Pecos region has led to a biodiverse ecosystem with an abundant variety of around 268 recorded grass species. All the grasses of the Trans-Pecos are hardy and drought resistant due to the region's annual precipitation ranging from 12-20 inches, depending upon elevation.
As stewards of the land, we must preserve the remaining native grasses. Carbon sequestration in the grasslands is an important tool in the presence of global warming, as grassland biomass can store more carbon than a forest. We need to understand more about this important biomass and how to restore and maintain it at its maximum functional capacity.

Creating awareness about the importance of restoring and maintaining native grasses aligns directly with CDRI’s mission “to promote public awareness, appreciation, and concern for nature generally, and the natural diversity of the Chihuahuan Desert region specifically, through education, the visitor experience, and through the support of research.” For this reason and in celebration of CDRI’s 50th Anniversary, The Native Grasses Exhibit in the Botanical Gardens is getting a fresh remodel.

The exhibit will be organized into sections defined as "Mountain Canyon," "Range Grasses," and “Desert-Slope Grasses."  Twenty-five different grass species will be featured in the exhibit, including Sprucetop grama (Bouteloua chondrosioides), a rare species of grass in Texas that grows natively on the CDRI property on slope sides. 
Sprucetop Grama (Bouteloua chondrosioides), photo by William Juett, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
The exhibit was designed by Jim Martinez, CDRI Board President, landscape designer, and landscape consultant. Jim Fissel is creating the interpretive panels and individual plant identification signs. Both Martinez and Fissel, co-authors of Marfa Gardens,  are actively involved in the entire process. In addition, CDRI’s Head Gardener, Faith Hille Dishron, and CDRI’s volunteers have cleared planting areas and created rock barriers to separate grass species. Thanks to A. Michael Powell, Ph.D., CDRI co-founder, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biology, Director and Curator of the Herbarium, Sul Ross State University, who has generously shared his time and expertise for this exhibit.

We hope that the completed Native Grasses Exhibit will not only inform visitors of some of the varieties of native grasses in our region but will also serve to provide a greater understanding of the important role grasses play in the environment. We are also hopeful that the exhibit will inspire visitors to investigate native grasses of their region and incorporate those into their landscape design.  
Volunteers Katy Mendez, Greg Brock, and Devin Brock cleared planting areas for the Native Grasses Exhibit—photo by Faith Hille Dishron.
Faith Hille Dishron, Jim Martinez, and Lisa Gordon contributed to this article. 
Sources: A. Michael Powell, Grasses of the Trans Pecos and Adjacent Areas.
               Jim Martinez, Marfa Gardens. 
The Roger Conant Distinguished Guest Lecturer - with Lauren Esposito - Recap of the Event
Dr. Lauren Esposito, Curator and Schlinger Chair of Arachnology at the California Academy of Sciences, presented a fascinating lecture about scorpions on April 13 as CDRI's distinguished guest lecturer for Spring 2023. The lecture, held at the Crowley Theater in Marfa, Texas, has been described by many from the audience as "one of the best lectures they've heard."
Save the date for another great lecture coming this fall. Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan will be CDRI's Roger Conant Distinguished Guest Lecturer on Thursday, September 28.  
Volunteers, Visiting Schools,
Tour Groups and a Wedding
   We had a great turnout for the Adopt-a-Highway cleanup on April 5. Thank you, Team!
   Welcome UTEP Geology class! April 8, 2023. 
Members of the 2020 Leadership Big Bend class got back together to complete their objective to visit influential sites in the region. Head Gardener Faith Hille Dishron led the guided tour of the Botanical Gardens. April 6, 2023.
  Students from Lifegate Christian School, Seguin, Texas, explored all the hiking trails. April 1, 2023.
Members of the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, visited CDRI while on their tour of the region. April 13, 2023.
Students, teachers, and parents from the Montessori Mastery School of Odessa (Texas) hiked the trails with interpretive volunteer guides Roy Saffel and Marty Havran. April 22, 2023.
Congratulations to Elizabeth Farrell and Zeke Raney, who tied the knot on April 14, 2023. 
Upcoming events around the region
The Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition and the El Paso Zoo and Botanical Gardens are teaming up to host a third Chihuahuan Desert Conference in El Paso on November 15-17, 2023. The Conference Committee is now accepting abstracts for both oral presentations and posters.  http://chihuahuandesertconference.org   

The Christmas Mountains Research Symposium will be held May 22–24 at Terlingua Ranch Headquarters in Brewster County, Texas. Online registration and abstract submission for the meeting are open through May 8, 2023. Registration and submission sites can be accessed below:

Maureen G. Frank, Ph.D., from Borderlands Research Institute, will present "Seeing in the Dark: Watching Invisible Bird Migrations" at the Alpine Public Library on May 13 at 7:30 p.m.
Until next time, thank you for your support,
the CDRI Team!
Photo of Mexican Gray Fox by Daryl Styblo.
Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, P.O. Box 905, Fort Davis, TX 79734


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