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CDRI Desert NewsFlash
January 2023
Photo of Scaled Quail taken at CDRI by Danny Hancock, Lubbock, Texas. 

Happy 50th Anniversary CDRI!
1973 - 2023
In this issue...
Incorporated in December 1973, CDRI is celebrating 50 years! It's interesting to see where we came from, where we are now, and to imagine what CDRI might look like in 50 years.  
Thanks to Jim Fissel of Marfa, Texas, for designing the memorable CDRI 50th Anniversary logo. We owe an even more enormous thanks to Jim for creating the Cactus Brochure. You can find out more about our newest guide booklet in this issue of the Desert NewsFlash (DNF).
We're introducing our 2023 Board of Directors in this DNF. In addition, we'll provide more information about our directors in feature-story interviews throughout the year.
In the 2023 DNF, we'll bring you articles from CDRI's past outlining its 50-year history. 
We'll also provide fun and informative stories about some of the Chihuahuan Desert wildlife. This month's featured wildlife is the elusive long-tailed weasel. Don't let its cute face fool you!
There are also some important "Save the Dates" in the newsletter. Please note those on your calendars now!
And, always, thank you to each of you who has helped make your Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and Botanical Gardens the special place it is. Watch what's in store for 2023! 
CDRI’s History
Co-Founder “Re-Connection” & a Bit of History
By Rick Herrman,  CDRI Exec. Director, Jan. 2015 to July 2018
The following story was initially shared in April 2017 in the Desert NewsFlash. We think it's a fitting tribute to CDRI and its founders to start the year by sharing information about CDRI’s early days. 
Some, if not most, of our readers are aware that four primary people (assisted by many others, detailed later herein) spawned the idea and helped create CDRI in late 1973. Those four are: 
Dr. Powell (“Mike” as he prefers to be called) is a Professor Emeritus at SRSU and runs their impressive Herbarium. It is located in the Barton H. Warnock Science Building and occupies one wing of the building, with 112 cases holding approximately 100,000 specimens. The major collections include plants of Trans-Pecos Texas in the northern Chihuahuan Desert region. Mike and his wife Shirley (CDRI’s Board President) continue in active support of CDRI.
Dr. Scudday passed in 2009, having retired as a Professor Emeritus in 1995. Dr. Scudday donated The James F. Scudday Vertebrate Collection containing 1,300 amphibians, 6,257 reptiles, 1,243 birds, and 2,871 mammals for a total of 11,671 specimens. The collection is largely regional, including excellent representation of vertebrates in the southwestern USA and Mexico.  CDRI continues to honor Dr. Scudday by awarding scholarships to certain graduate students in vertebrate biology at SRSU. Those recipients are encouraged to apply, with details concerning the process and the award found on our website.
Dr. Deal earned his Ph.D. from the Univ. of North Dakota and spent his time as an educator and working geologist involved with groundwater, mining, and environmental geology. He moved to Carlsbad, New Mexico, and became the geotechnical manager for a major underground engineering and construction project to safely dispose of toxic and radioactive waste.
So, getting back to “reconnecting,” out of the blue in early March [2017], I received a voice message from Grainger Hunt, who lives in northern CA, having retired from the Peregrine Fund, which is based in Idaho.  
Dr. Hunt wrote his Master’s thesis on peregrine migration in 1966 at Sul Ross University and earned his doctorate in Zoology from UT Austin in 1970. His study area was population and foraging ecology of birds of prey. He was a member of the Peregrine Falcon Recovery Team and the California Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon teams for the U.S. Fish &Wildlife Service. He retired from the Predatory Bird Research Group, UC Santa Cruz, and joined The Peregrine Fund in 2001 as a Senior Scientist. Grainger and his wife Terry, a biologist who shares his interest in raptors, have three grown children.
Grainger’s Houston-based family had a summer home in Alpine, helping to form his early connection to the Big Bend region. Like many of us of have experienced, this place just seems to make a lasting impression. After UT, he lived in Alpine, forming his connections with the other founders. The initial CDRI grant of $500 related to a proposal the NPS (with a sponsorship by Roland H. Wauer of NPS) funded regarding falcons. Interestingly, much of the “boots on the ground” support (i.e., low paid graduate students) came from Evergreen College in Olympia, WA, from a supporter named Steve Herman (no relation).
In short, it was much fun asking Grainger’s recollection of the “early days”. Early on, this group of founders and Board members did impressive work on multiple fronts, including: a) organizing and forming an active and engaged Board (something we continue to be fortunate to have) and b) creating the vision for the marriage of supported research, education, and a site to house a nature center. 
The foundational document, printed in late 1978, is titled “Guidelines for Development” and lists the CDRI officers as Mike Powell, Pres.; Jim Scudday, VP; Grainger Hunt, Secretary; and Dwight Deal, Treasurer. The 22-person Board, including four women, included some well-known persons of regional and state-wide notoriety. A Board of Scientists also existed, comprised of 32 persons, including ten from Mexico, as well as France, Belgium, Canada, and across the U.S.  A major gifts page also listed nearly 60 persons and corporate entities.
Today, as then, CDRI is the manifestation of dedicated, committed naturalists, environmentalists, and scientists who unite in a shared mission of connecting people to nature and the Chihuahuan Desert region.   We are forever grateful to our Founders, each of whom and their families, we believe, can take comfort in knowing their vision, leadership, and commitment continues to remain vital and vibrant in the lives of every visitor, member, team member, and supporter of the organization they helped found. 
Our sincere thanks to them and to each of you!
Thank you for the generous donations
from the following CDRI supporters!
Last month we listed donors for the 2022 calendar year, fully knowing that November isn't the end of the calendar year. So, special thanks to our generous December 2022 donors! 
 
John Heidemann                                         $10,000
 
The Bybee Foundation                               $ 3,000
 
Anonymous Donor                                     $ 3,000
 
Norma & Wayne Wilkerson                       $ 2,000
                      (In Memory of Patt Sims)
 
Jeff Beauchamp                                          $ 1,000
 
Anonymous Donor                                      $   600
 
Suzette Ashworth                                        $   600
 
Robert A. Ayres &                                      $   500
                     Margaret Anne B. Ayres
 
Bruce Hunter                                               $   230
 
Charles & Margaret Semple                       $   200
                      (In Memory of Tom Younger)
 
Jim Fletcher                                                 $   200
 
Nancy Cooper                                              $   150
 
A. Josephine Van Beek                               $   105

  
We have more acknowledgements for our supporters who donate through the CDRI Membership program. Please watch for our CDRI Membership special report in the February 2023 issue of the Desert NewsFlash

CDRI's 2023 Directors & Officers
Thank you to the following individuals who have agreed to serve as directors on the CDRI Board of Directors for the 2023 year. Although they are seldom in the spotlight, our directors are among the best. Thank you to each of the following for their service. 

Officers & Members of the Executive Committee

Jim Martinez, Marfa, TX, President
Tom Feuerbacher, San Antonio, TX, Vice-President
Anne Adams, Fort Davis, TX, Secretary
Rick Herrman, Santa Fe, NM, Treasurer


Members-at-Large

 
Reggie James, Austin, TX
Victoria Lowe, Fort Davis, TX
Debbie Murphy, Fort Davis, TX
Ed Pfiester, Los Angeles, CA
John Pritchett, Fort Worth, TX
Chris Ritzi, Alpine, TX
Joe Williams, Fort Davis, TX
New Cactus Brochure is for sale now!

We are delighted to add the new Maxie Templeton Cactus Museum Collection Guide to the selection of guide booklets that are offered for sale at the CDRI Information Desk. Our latest booklet was designed by Jim Fissel, Marfa, Texas. Its 36 pages provide colorful photographs of the cacti in bloom, along with detailed information of the genera represented in the collection.  
 We think you'll find the booklet to be an excellent guide for learning more about the Chihuahuan Desert cacti exhibited in the collection.  
The diagram of the greenhouse layout is located near the beginning of the booklet and at the top of each page. With the plants organized and arranged in the greenhouse by their genus, each page of the booklet follows the same arrangement, describing the genus and providing photos of the cacti in bloom.   
We also have guide booklets for sale ($2 each, or 3 for $5) for Modesta Canyon Trail, Clayton's Overlook Trail, the Botanical Gardens, and Geology of the CDRI site. Each booklet contains beautiful photographs and detailed information about the trails and the plants you'll see on the garden path. We think you'll find they make an excellent and affordable souvenir of your visit to CDRI. 
Each of the booklets (for the trails and the garden) was redesigned and updated by Jim Fissel. 
Wildlife of the Chihuahuan Desert
The long-tailed weasel:
A rarely seen fearless predator of the night
This article is reprinted with permission from its author, Rick LoBello, Education Curator at the El Paso Zoo & Botanical Gardens. It was originally published in the El Paso Zoo's Conservation Education blog on November 29, 2022. 
The long-tailed weasel is one of the rarest predators living here in the Chihuahuan Desert. As a result of their nocturnal lifestyle, very few people have ever seen one, but they are out there hunting for rodents and other small prey, including shrews, ground squirrels, pocket gophers, woodrats, cotton rats, harvest mice, and small cottontails. They will also eat small birds, reptiles, and insects and are excellent tree climbers.

The subspecies of the long-tailed weasel found in El Paso, Mustela frenata neomexicana, ranges from the southeast corner of Colorado, western Oklahoma, the western third of Texas, eastern and southern New Mexico and south into most of western Mexico. Of all the color variations of the long-tailed weasel neomexicana is one of the most distinctive and colorful with a black face and white spot between the eyes, a broad black band on each side of the head between the ear and eye, and white on the chin.
If you should see a long-tailed weasel in El Paso, consider yourself extremely lucky. I have seen only two over the past 40 years. Both were in Big Bend National Park near the entrance to Croton Springs. One was crossing the road, and the other was a road kill.
Garden Notes


Mistletoe, genus Phoradendron

by Faith Hille
It's that time of year to take your annual tree health assessment for your deciduous trees. Now that your trees are defoliated, it makes it easier to see irregular growths on the trees. On my beautiful commute from Alpine to CDRI, along St. Hwy. 118, I've noticed that many mature oaks have green masses on them ranging in size from 5 to 60 cm in diameter. These trees are infested with mistletoe, the genus Phoradendron. The genus name is from the Greek "phor" meaning "a thief," while "dendron" translates to "tree." 
In the past few years, with west Texas experiencing severe drought, trees have become stressed, allowing mistletoe to thrive by literally sucking the nutrients from a weakened or infected limb or trunk of a tree.
 
Biology of Mistletoe
Mistletoe has a semi-parasitic relationship with its host – meaning it does not entirely rely on its host for food. Instead, mistletoe tissue contains some chlorophyll to engage in photosynthesis. However, it derives most all its water, nitrogen, and other elements from the host.
Hardwood mistletoes, such as Oak mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum, have clusters of small, oval, green leaves that make for quick identification. The leaves have a thick waxy cuticle that helps minimize plant water loss. Its flowers are light yellow to green. Its fruits are a translucent, pearly white color that includes only one seed surrounded by a sticky substance, viscinthat helps the seed attach to a new host tree.  
Instead of a root system, mistletoe has haustoria. These are rootlike structures that penetrate the host's tissue, causing the infected host tissue to swell. As soon as you notice swollen tissue, it is best to keep a watchful eye on the tree, but do not immediately begin pruning, as it could instead be a gall created by gall wasps.
 
Seed Dispersal and Attachment
Mistletoe relies on birds to assist with seed dispersal through i) their consumption and excretion of the fruit, ii) the seeds sticking to either the feet or beak, and iii) from a bird's regurgitation of the fruit with the seed. The sticky substance surrounding the seed, viscin, sometimes sticks to the bird's cloaca, which it then rubs directly onto a tree branch. 
Mistletoe berries are the main source of food in the winter for Phainopepla. As such, Phainopepla is one of the birds primarily responsible for the distribution of desert mistletoe seeds. The image of the Phainopepla is by Carol DiQuilio, https://www.carolsnaturephotography.com/.

Mistletoe populations are sometimes irregular due to bird behavior—birds deposit seeds in the tree's canopy so that areas of the tree that are already infected tend to be continually infected due to a higher seed population. Mistletoe may be more abundant if the bird species are territorial. Additionally, when food is scarce in drought, birds will utilize mistletoe fruit as a food source, facilitating infections.  
      The above photos are from Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab.
Once the seed is attached to its host, it is almost “game over” for that host. The germination success rate for mistletoe is an astonishing 90%!  However, seeds that did not attach immediately dry out and become inviable with little to no dormancy rate. The seed is at its most vulnerable during the attachment and germination stage.
 
Removal and Control
To avoid mistletoe, it’s best to maintain healthy trees so that trees aren't susceptible to infection. Remember, mistletoe thrives on weakened trees.  
To remove mistletoe, you’ll see the best results if mistletoe is discovered in its early stage. You can prune limbs on a young tree, but the haustoria will continue to live inside the tree and will likely resurface.
An alternative to removing the limb is to remove the leaves and stems in the infected area and tightly wrap the infected limb with a sheet of heavy black polyethylene (i.e., a contractor’s trash bag). Still, to completely remove the mistletoe, prune at least six inches below the infected area. If you are pruning branches, remove the limb at the collar when the tree is dormant.
If you decide to prune, don’t over-prune. If the mistletoe is extensive, it's recommended that you spread your efforts to control the mistletoe over a year or two. 

Now that you're armed with information to combat mistletoe, we hope you're ready to protect your trees from mistletoe damage. Happy New Year!

Sources:
Controlling Mistletoe in Trees, Arnold M. Brodbeck, Jack Rowe, and Gary Ickes, December 2018, Alabama A&M & Auburn University, Extension, https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/forestry/controlling-mistletoe-in-trees/
Phoradendrum leucarpum, The University of Texas at Austin, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Plant Data Base, https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=phle14
Message from Head Gardener Faith Hille, 
Just a quick shout-out to my regular volunteers Annette Carter, Margaret Mannchen, Nancy Foxworthy, Judy Reichelderfer, Glen Eisen, Krystl Campos, Marty Havran, Warren Shaul, Greg Brock, and Pam Cook, our Executive Director Lisa Gordon, and our Site Manager Miguel Lopez! Y'all keep me sane, and thank you for a fantastic first year here at CDRI.   
A drone video, an interview, and Texas Highways

CDRI has enjoyed being in the spotlight over the past few months! We hope you will "click" on each of the following -- a video, a podcast, and a magazine article -- to learn more about your Nature Center & Botanical Gardens.
David Politzer, Director of the University of Houston School of Art, and Associate Professor of Photography and Digital Media, brought his multi-media class to CDRI last summer during a week-long exploration of the Big Bend Region. As many of our visitors do, David "fell in love with CDRI" (our words) and asked if he could create a drone video of the site for us. Of course, we said, "Yes!" Please click on the CDRI.org link or the image below to enjoy a stunning aerial view of the site. The new video is featured on the Home page of the CDRI.org website and will be used to promote public awareness, appreciation, and concern for the natural diversity of the Chihuahuan Desert Region.
Chris Ruggia, Director of Tourism for the City of Alpine interviewed Executive Director Lisa Gordon about visiting the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center on the Heart of the Big Bend podcast, in which Lisa shared information about the variety of activities and exhibits available to visitors. This podcast aired on September 28, 2022. Please click on the link above to hear the entire podcast on Heart of the Big Bend.    
The December 2022 issue of Texas Highways celebrates the iconic desert plants of the Big Bend region of West Texas in an article titled "Hocus Pocus: The Magical Resilience and Enduring Utility of Big Bend's Prickly Plant Life."  Several people connected to CDRI, both past and present, were interviewed for the article. A. Michael Powell, CDRI co-founder and professor emeritus of biology at Sul Ross State University, describes the vast diversity of our desert region, and botanist and former Board member, Michael Eason, discusses the threat to certain cacti in the Trans-Pecos region due to poaching. The article also contains comments from Cathy Hoyt, Interpretive Guide at the Big Bend National Park and former CDRI E.D., and Lisa Gordon, the current Executive Director at CDRI. Included in the article is a section titled "A Museum for Cacti" about CDRI's cactus collection.  
Be sure to save these dates!

CDRI's Cactus & Succulent Sale                                   Mon.-Wed.  March 13-15
The R. Conant Disguished Guest Lecturer Program   Thursday     April 13
CDRI's BBQ & Auction fundraiser                               Saturday      August 12
Adopt-a-Highway Cleanup Scheduled
Please join us for the first of four highway cleanups of 2023 on Thursday, January 19
We'll meet at the Powell Visitor Center at 9:00 a.m. and split into teams to pick up trash along a two-mile stretch of roadway in front of the CDRI gates along St. Hwy. 118.
Please contact Ivory Harlow at events@cdri.org if you've got the date open and can help us meet our contract requirements (four cleanup dates during the year) with the Texas Department of Transportation.  
We'll provide vests, trash bags, long-handled trash grabbers, bottled water, a snack, and a fun time. We suggest layering your clothing as it warms up quickly when working outdoors. Also, bring a hat and work gloves, and wear closed-toed shoes.
We're looking forward to seeing you on the 19th! 
CDRI Celebrates its Volunteers
CDRI volunteers joined us on December 3rd for our annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner catered by Poco Mexico Restaurant. With our small team of two full-time and three part-time employees, we are grateful to our volunteers for all of their contributions throughout the year. Also in attendance to show their thanks to our volunteers were members of the CDRI Board of Directors Anne Adams, Jim Martinez, Debbie Murphy, and Joe Williams. 
Congratulations and thank you to Annette Carter, CDRI's Volunteer of the Year, who contributed 100 hours of volunteer work in 2022. And thank you to our Vital Volunteers, each who volunteered 30 hours or more in 2022.
If you would like to join in the fun and be a part of the CDRI Volunteer Team, please contact Ivory at events@cdri.org.
In closing, we wish you
Happy New Year!

 From "the best rural
nature center and botanical gardens
in Texas!"
Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, P.O. Box 905, Fort Davis, TX 79734
432.364.2499

www.cdri.org


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