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CDRI Desert NewsFlash
August 2021
Our stunning view of Blue Mountain is enjoyed from the top of the CDRI driveway. Photo by LFG. 
It's green, green, green!

One month ago, we were worried sick about the plants throughout the botanical gardens and whether they received enough water to survive. At that time, we hadn't seen rain in months, and it didn't look like there was any in sight. 
Fortunately, none of the team relies on making a living as a meteorologist, and we were wrong about the weather prediction. At last, the rains arrived at the end of June to our delight. We've been the fortunate recipients of about 10 inches of precipitation to date. Comparing that amount to the scant 6 inches total rainfall we received in 2020 makes us very happy.
If you haven't visited the region this year, you're missing out! 2021 has turned out to be one of those summers in which we enjoy mild temperatures, lush landscapes, dark skies, and peaceful surroundings.  
Experience it for yourself!
CDRI is honored to receive support from some of Texas' top Foundations
As everyone is aware, 2020 was a quiet year for educational programs worldwide. Yet, with a keen awareness that educating children is of primary importance, we are coming back strong with meaningful support from several Texas Foundations. 
The mix of Foundations varies yearly, and in 2021, we are incredibly grateful to the following Foundations, whose grants essentially will meaningfully help us fund our Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 education programs.
In alphabetical order, your CDRI Nature Center & Botanical Gardens received 2021-22 funding for education programs from the following:

The Brown Foundation, Inc., Houston, Texas,  $7,000 

The Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation, with offices in Austin and the Woodlands, Texas,  $10,000 

Tillapaugh Public History Fund of Permian Basin Area Foundation and
Permian Basin Area Foundation, Midland, Texas,  $40,000

We truly appreciate these Foundations, and we're appreciative of several other Foundations that have funded CDRI in previous years. We believe that this level of support from these highly professional Foundations can be interpreted as confirmation that our student participants are highly valued. This level of support is also evidence that CDRI's science-based education programs, designed to "spark" the power of observational and interactive learning, which leads to making lifelong connections to nature, conservation, and sustainable practices, are worthwhile. 
On behalf of the entire CDRI Team and Region 18 and Statewide participating students, THANK YOU!

p.s.  If you love learning and enjoy fostering learning, especially with children in grades K-6, please join in this vital element of our Mission by being a member, a volunteer, or a supporter. THANK YOU!

Next month, we will feature individual donors who have also donated to support our education programs that, in turn, support our Region 18 students.

You're Invited!
BBQ & Auction 
 Saturday, September 25, 2021            
Click here to purchase tickets!
or mail your check to 
CDRI, P.O. Box 905, Fort Davis, TX 79734

CDRI's BBQ & Auction fundraiser is  coming up quickly! We are ready to welcome you back (after missing this event in 2020!) and share with you the best that CDRI has to offer! This year's event is already off to a strong start!
Lisa and Mark Sanchez of Sanchez BBQ will be catering this year's event! They'll be serving brisket, sausage, all the sides, homemade bread, and homemade cobbler. Dinner will also include two beverage tickets for wine and beer. Dinner tickets are a low $25 per person. 
The Silent Auction has some terrific items, including a vintage 1950's Red-Man picnic basket, an assortment of collectible books, southwestern jewelry, fabulous matching geodes, carved wood vessel, handmade paper mache bowls, decorative items, framed art, and once again Joyce Mussey's legendary rum cake. 
Not to be outdone, the Live Auction includes fun getaway vacations to many popular destinations in Texas! We'll have all of the details in the September issue of the Desert NewsFlash
 The Live Auction will also offer original, framed art, the artistry of several photographers known for their work in the Big Bend region, and jewelry created by Randy Glover.
Martin Stringer, auctioneer, will be returning, Stephen Bright of Cathedral Guitars is providing the sound system, and we'll also have live music!

Why is Your Participation Important?
We didn't have a fundraiser in 2020, but proceeds from the 2019 auction brought in close to 20% of our annual revenues! We want to repeat that record or top it.
With the purchase of your dinner ticket ($25), you'll receive an auction bidder card so you can bid on this year's fantastic assortment of auction items. Your winning bids help us reach our goal for the fundraiser. 
You can also bid on the Education "Paddle" Raise with proceeds allowing CDRI to offer all of the programs for Region 18 students free of charge during the school year. Individual bidding amounts for the Education Paddle Raise range from $10 to $1,000, with everyone submitting a winning bid! With your help at the past three fundraisers, we've been able to provide our educational programs at no cost for our Region 18 kids! So let's do it again! 
We're looking forward to seeing you  at the
CDRI Cookout & Auction!
Join in the fun and be part of the 
2021 BBQ & Auction
Host Committee
with your minimum donation of $250.

As a host, or host couple, you receive
 two dinner tickets to the event (a $50 value),
Marfa Garden: The Wonders of Dry Desert Plants,
a special packet of Native Wildflower Seeds,
and recognition for your participation at the event.

The 2021 BBQ & Auction
Host Committee Members include:
(as of July 31; There is plenty of time to climb on board!)
Anne Adams
Judy and Stephen Alton
Martha Atiee and Michael Carter
Veleda Boyd & Don Coan
Liz & Rick Culp
Lanna & Joe Duncan
Kristin & Tom Feuerbacher
Ben Foster
Lisa Gordon
Linda Hedges
Rick Herrman & Margaret O'Donnell
Victoria Lowe
Clint Parsley & Alex Albright
Susan & Jerry Pittman
Cecilia Riley & Mike Gray
Cameron & Rick Pratt
Ron Sommers
Daryl & Mary Styblo
Suzanne & Steve Tuttle
Joe Williams

Many thanks to each of these "early birds!"

You may also mail a check to:
CDRI, P.O. Box 905, Fort Davis, Texas 79734

Please get in touch with us if you have any questions:
programs@cdri.org or 432-364-2499

Meet one of CDRI's Directors,
Tom Feuerbacher
Each month, we like to introduce you to either a CDRI volunteer or one of the Directors on CDRI's Board of Directors. This month, we thought our readers would like to get to know Tom Feuerbacher. 
 In the photo, Tom is the one with the mustache. He is very much a family man.

Tell us about yourself.
My wife, Kristin, and I own an environmental consulting firm in San Antonio, where I am a licensed Professional Geoscientist-Soil Scientist. We have four kids and five grandkids scattered around California, Colorado, and San Antonio. Gardening is a year-round passion and a challenge to keep fresh vegetables and herbs on the table, and it gives me an excuse to be outside. I can be entertained doing very little as long as I’m doing it outside. In fact, I wear my CDRI t-shirt proudly, with the motto on the back that says, “Take A Hike.” My cameras go with me almost everywhere.
Where is “home?” Where do you live?
Born in Dallas, but my home for most of my life has been San Antonio, where I still have a bit of family. About every three months, we spend a week or two in the Davis Mountains area, where we have a cabin that offers beautiful views, dark night skies, lots of wildlife, gorgeous sunrises, and unimaginable quiet. It’s always hard to leave. We also live part of the year in the Texas Hill Country.
What is your work background?
Following graduate school at the University of Kentucky in 1981, I worked for the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, mapping soils in Texas and New Hampshire. Since 1989, I have worked as a consultant, assisting lignite strip mining companies with state and federal permits and, more importantly, providing expertise needed to return the land to a highly productive condition.
When did you first visit far West Texas? What is your connection to West Texas?
Growing up in San Antonio, my parents took my four brothers and me on numerous camping trips to Big Bend National Park and the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert region. Subsequently, we did the same thing with our four kids. Following their retirement from Texas A&M, my in-laws moved to Alpine, with a second home in the Davis Mountains. They provided us the opportunity in 2011 to make this area our home away from home. There is just something about the Chihuahuan High Desert.
Did you do volunteer work before becoming a CDRI Director?
I have been active in professional societies my whole career, holding various offices, serving on committees, editing manuscripts, setting up field trips, but this is my first experience as a volunteer for a non-profit organization. I feel very honored and fortunate to be associated with such a diverse and qualified group of people at CDRI. A great bunch of like-minded folks.
Do you have a favorite memory relating to CDRI?
Every visit, every hike, every trip to the bookstore/gift shop has been memorable, but sharing with family and friends the beauty, awesome hikes, botanical, mining, and geologic exhibits, and friendly staff of CDRI is something I always cherish. Also, the annual BBQ & Auction fundraiser is a lot of fun. We look forward to participating every year.
In your opinion, what is the most important work CDRI does?
Sharing this little piece of paradise with the world promotes an appreciation for the diverse and fragile Chihuahuan Desert by educating kids and adults alike. The guide booklets and well-placed signs in the gardens and along trails provide additional educational value. I think it is also important how CDRI is partnering with research institutions to gain new knowledge and understanding of the area.
Besides CDRI, what do you enjoy about visiting Fort Davis and the region?
Wow, how much space do I have?! I will just sum it up with quaint, historical old west towns, each with its own personality and historic hotel and one with an actual old fort, the never-ending quiet, dark night skies and myriad of stars, deep blue day skies, crazy weather, beautiful scenery, photo-ops everywhere, friendly natives. I can go on and on.
If you could be a local animal, which would you pick, and why?
I marvel at the raptors, the way they soar for miles without flapping a wing, but the Texas Horned Lizard (horny toad) deserves a lot of respect and gets my vote, not just because they can stomach red ants, but they are true survivors. With its existence threatened in much of its native habitat, they somehow hang on, and they’re cute.
Guest lecturer, Dr. Louis A. Harveson.
Save the Date!
The CDRI Roger Conant Distinguished Guest Lecturer Program Presents:
Dr. Louis A. Harveson, founder and director of the Borderlands Research Institute and holder of the Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Endowed Directorship, will present a lecture titled, “Creating a Conservation Vision for the Greater Big Bend, A Community Approach.”
Please join CDRI at the Crowley Theater in Marfa, Thursday, September 30, 2021, at 7:00 p.m. for an informative and engaging evening as we gather to celebrate nature and learn about Dr. Harveson’s work.
Admission is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. A reception with appetizers and beverages will follow the lecture.
For additional information, please call 432-364-2499 or email programs@cdri.org.
Garden Notes
The Hinckley Oak: Living on the Edge
by Seth Hamby

The vast expanses of the Chihuahuan Desert (CD) harbor thousands of plant and animal species, many found nowhere else on Earth. The slow march of time, acting on geology and climate, creates an endless procession of life. One suite of species might find themselves dominating the landscape for millennia, only to be deposed by other species when circumstances change. The widespread expansion of piñon-juniper woodlands into what is now the CD, occurred from 45,000 to 11,000 years ago when temperatures were cooler and rainfall was higher. We know this because of the reconstruction of Ice Age plant assemblages found fossilized in packrat middens. Also found in abundance in these records is the now highly localized endemic shrub, Quercus hinckleyi, the Hinckley oak.
In 1957, oak expert C.H. Muller, discovered this strange diminutive oak near Solitario Peak in southern Presidio County, later naming it for Leon Hinckley, a former Sul Ross Biology professor. Hinckley oak is an evergreen, rhizomatous (clonal) shrub that inhabits Early Cretaceous limestone slopes, hills, and canyons at elevations of 3,500 to 4,500 feet. Quercus hinckleyi is easily distinguished from other oaks by its small, finely curled, glabrous (smooth) leaf blades, with 4-6 spiny teeth on the margins. Leaves are covered in a powdery blue-green bloom. Unisexual flowers bloom in early spring. Rare spring rains are likely required in order to produce acorns. Plants are capable of producing heavy acorn sets when conditions are favorable, however, no indication of successful recruitment (new plants germinating and surviving from sexual reproduction) has ever been documented. It is probable that the environmental conditions required for germination and seedling survival no longer occur in habitat.
Hinckley oak was listed as “Threatened” by the Federal Endangered Species Act and the State of Texas in 1988. It is listed as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List.  According to the latest USFWS Review, the global range of Hinckley oak is in 9 distinct localities (Element Occurrences (EO’s)) in Presidio and Brewster Counties.  These distinct EO’s occur near the town of Shafter, and in the vicinity of the Solitario in Big Bend Ranch State Park (BBRSP), a distance of roughly 37 miles apart. In order to conserve the species, the ESA created a Recovery Plan in which studies were recommended to “assess present genetic viability, evaluate requirements to achieve stability, and develop recommendations for augmentation,” as well as to “determine types of reproduction and their contribution to populations.” 
Quercus hinckleyi, CDRI Nature Center and Botanical Gardens.
Janet Backs and colleagues (2015) conducted a population genetics study from 2 EO’s in Shafter and 2 EO’s in BBRSP, comprising most of the global population of Quercus hinckleyi. A total of 204 stems were tested, 146 in BBRSP and 58 in Shafter. Of the 146 tested in BBRSP, 116 were unique individuals. Of the 58 tested in Shafter, 7 were unique individuals, bringing the grand total of unique individuals in the entire species to only 123. It was determined that Hinckley oak has levels of genetic diversity and heterozygosity that are comparable to non-threatened oak species, likely due to the long-lived nature of the clones (thousands of years). While there is evidence of hybridization with Q. pungens and Q. vaseyana, it is not enough to cause genetic swamping. In addition, one of the EO’s at Shafter was found to form a subpopulation with plants at BBRSP, showing two distinct subpopulations exist and suggesting that the historic range of Hinckley oak was likely contiguous.
Another study conducted by Backs et al. (2021) looked at ex situ collections of 22 Quercus hinckleyi specimens in 9 botanical gardens in the U.S. and Europe. The study determined that all 22 of the plants protected in these gardens were unique individuals, bringing the new total of individuals to 145. Unfortunately, these 22 plants only align with one of the three genetic clusters found in the wild, leaving considerable conservation gaps in ex situ collections.
The future of the Hinckley oak remains uncertain, but continued efforts to study natural populations and to increase the genetic diversity of collections in botanical gardens will certainly be of great importance. In our gardens here at CDRI, we have 6 specimens of Hinckley oak. So come on out and admire one of the rarest plants in Texas. (Remember that these plants are federally protected, so please refrain from touching or collecting any part of the specimens.) 
Meet the vendors who help us provide a unique shopping experience at the CDRI Gift Shop

If you've shopped at the CDRI Gift Shop you've likely noticed that many of the items we carry are produced either locally or within the Chihuahuan Desert region.  We thought you might want to meet some of our friends who also happen to be vendors for the CDRI Gift Shop.  Each month, we'll introduce one of our vendors and tell you a little about them.  To start off this segment, we want to introduce you to Ellen Ruggia of Alpine, Texas

Where are you from and how did you end up in West Texas?
I am originally from Houston and then Ingleside, Texas near Corpus Christi. I went to college at UT Austin. After graduation with a BFA, I decided I wanted to study biology and chose SRSU because it was in the Big Bend area which was interesting to me and was different from where I had lived before.
We sell 5 different prints of your botanical artwork as notecards.  How did you become interested in plants?
My father was a landscape architect in Houston and then owned a plant nursery when we lived in Ingleside. I was aware of plants from an early age because of his passion for them.
Which came first: the artist? Or the botanist?
The artist came first. My interest in botany developed through drawing plants. The more I observed and drew them, the more I wanted to understand their structure.
When did you know that you wanted to paint plants?
I started drawing plants in Austin while taking a Field Biology class at Austin Community College. While I was at Sul Ross I worked in the herbarium and started drawing plant specimens for my professor, Dr. Michael Powell. These drawings were done in black ink which is standard for publication. I didn’t start working in color until I left Sul Ross in 1996.
Do you work with one specific media (pastels, oils, watercolors)?
I primarily work with a mix of gesso, acrylic inks, and colored pencil.
In addition to your notecards, what other art pieces have you produced?  Are they for sale locally, and if yes, where?
The images on the notecards are details from larger works. I also made prints of some of these works. The prints and some of the originals are currently available through me.
Do you have any information relating to projects or shows that you’re currently working on? Can you tell us more about that?
Most recently, I did a mural design of flowering desert willow branches with visiting insects that will be painted on the outside of a courtyard wall in Alpine. I am currently fundraising for this project. (A photo of the project is shown below.)
What do you enjoy most about living in Alpine?
I enjoy the climate, the landscape, and the fact that I live within walking distance of a grocery store.
Since you paint several of the native Chihuahuan Desert plants, do you have a favorite, and if so, why that one?
I really don’t have one favorite; I have many, including Mexican Redbud, Havard Plum, Yellowbells, Blue Grama, Plains Zinnia… to name a few.
Visitors to the Nature Center can find your beautiful note cards for sale in the CDRI Gift Shop. How may they contact you if they are interested in your other work and your current projects? 
To ask about prints or original artwork, contact me at ellen@vastgraphics.com.
To find more about the mural project or to donate, visit www.vastgraphics.com/mural.
Early Sunday morning, July 11, the Botanical Gardens served as the perfect setting for an intimate wedding. Congratulations to newlyweds Charles Morris and Courtney Gilmore!
Middle and High School students from Santa Rosa ISD, located in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, hiked Modesta Canyon and Clayton's Overlook Trail on July 21.  Trail guides were Marty Havran, Judy Reichelderfer, and David and Cindy Sims. 
Volunteers met for a morning of Interpretive Guide Training with a hike to Clayton's Overlook. Volunteer Marty Havran led the hike. Participants included Judy Reichelderfer, Laura Gold, Nancy Foxworthy, and Annette Carter
A beautiful evening, a pretty wedding, great food, and a happy couple:  Catherine Ritzi and Max Lannom tied the knot and celebrated their marriage with family and friends at the CDRI Nature Center on Saturday, July 31, 2021. 
We're hiring!
For over 1-1/2 years, the exceptionally talented and dedicated team at CDRI has functioned as a skeleton crew consisting of
     Lisa Gordon, Executive Director (F/T)
     Seth Hamby, Head Gardener (F/T)
     Steven Hamilton, Maintenance Supervisor (P/T)
     Susie Liddell, Information Desk Host (P/T)
     and some wonderfully dedicated volunteers!
Our business has been great, and visitor attendance has been high, but we have reached that point where we need to build back the rest of the team to serve you well. 
Two positions are now open:
1. Weekend Information & Gift Shop Host 
2. Programs & Events Coordinator (Mon.-Thurs.)
We offer a friendly, supportive and collegial work environment.
You can find detailed information at www.cdri.org. 
Please forward your resume and letter of interest to lgordon@cdri.org.
Thank you!
We're looking forward to welcoming you soon! 
In case you were wondering, 
well-behaved dogs on a leash and those who choose to ride inside a backpack are always welcome at the CDRI Nature Center and Botanical Gardens. 

Happy tails?
Happy trails! 
Photo of Margeaux the pup and her human by LFG.
Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, P.O. Box 905, Fort Davis, TX 79734


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