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CDRI Desert NewsFlash
November 2020
                                              Photo of Bombiliidae, little, fuzzy bee, by CDRI member Alan Wintz.
November = Thanksgiving
and Time to Say Thank You!

For most of us, when we think of November, we naturally think of Thanksgiving Day, and we are reminded to give thanks. 
Although grateful throughout the year for each of you, and for the wonderful team that makes the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center & Botanical Gardens such a special place, we believe that we can never say “thank you” enough. So, one more time, we’re taking this opportunity to say, “Thanks y’all!”
The wonderful team (referenced above) consists of CDRI’s employees, Seth, Steven, and Susie; our very supportive Board of Directors; our members (nearly 450 memberships strong!); our host campers; and our volunteers.
We extend a very special thank you to each of you who has been able to visit CDRI this year. It’s our visitors who breathe life into the Nature Center and who help us fulfill CDRI’s Mission.  
And thank you for the enormous outpouring of donor support!  Individual donations have ranged from $11 to $12,000, and we couldn’t be more grateful!
As our way to thank you, we’ll be open on Thanksgiving Day, 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.  Now you’ll have an excuse to get outside, hike our trails, visit the botanical gardens, and breathe fresh Davis Mountain air.
Wherever you happen to be for Thanksgiving this year, be sure to get outside and take the time to appreciate Nature.
And, when you’re able to travel this way again, know that we look forward to welcoming you back to “the best rural nature center in Texas!”
Happy Thanksgiving!
Lisa Gordon
Executive Director
We're sending out a big, hearty thank you to all of our new and renewing CDRI members! And thank you to each of you who has donated to CDRI this year. It means a lot, and you have helped immensely. 
                                         THANK YOU!
There's still time this year to renew your membership that may have lapsed a few months back; and, it's the perfect time of the year to make a donation. 
You can mail your check to CDRI, P.O. Box 905, Fort Davis, TX 79734.
Or, you can renew your membership or make a donation online at  www.cdri.org/get-involved.
Garden Notes:
In Nature, Timing is Everything
By Seth Hamby
Those of us who have spent time outdoors over the last few decades have probably noticed that things are a little bit off. Perhaps your favorite patch of wildflowers is blooming a little earlier than they used to. Maybe knowing when to put vegetable starts into your garden has become increasingly unpredictable. If you are a birder, maybe you have noticed that some birds come earlier, others later, and some not at all. The precise timing of seasonal events is called phenology and it plays a critical role in the life cycles of Earth’s biota. From the flowering and fruiting of plants to the emergence of insects to the migration of songbirds, timing is everything and could mean the difference between life and death.
Most organisms alive today have evolved and adapted to a relatively stable and reliable set of seasonal cues within their environment. When these environmental cues become less reliable and more unstable, as a result of global climate change, synchronized growth, reproduction, and emergences/migrations during optimal conditions become much more difficult. In plants, phenology is influenced by a number of different factors depending on the organism and its life strategy (ie. short-lived spring ephemeral (r-strategists) versus long-lived perennial (k-strategists)). In temperate regions, most plant species have adopted strategies that fall into three categories (1) solar cues (photoperiod (day/night length)), (2) past seasonal experience (winter chill), (3) current or recent experiences of temperature or precipitation patterns.
In addition, biological factors such as competition, resource limitation, and genetics also play a role in plant phenology. Species in a particular community have evolved phenologies that limit competition for resources such as sunlight, nutrients, and pollinators. Studies have shown that some plant species retain phenologies for a time when transplanted in different habitats, suggesting a genetic component that may make predicting responses to climate change difficult.
When the phenologies of two or more highly interdependent species fall out of synchronization, we call this “phenological mismatch.” Based upon long-term data and contemporary observation, annuals and short-lived herbaceous perennials and their obligate insect pollinators seem to be adjusting to seasonal changes in similar ways as to not cause a mismatch. This is likely because the insects have evolved to react to the same environmental cues as their host plant.
Insects are ectotherms, meaning they depend on external heat sources to regulate their body temperatures. This makes them highly sensitive to environmental temperatures. Most insects respond to warm temperatures by developing more quickly, kind of like the old saying, “make hay while the sun shines.” With spring beginning as much as two weeks earlier in some places, insects are shifting towards earlier seasonal activity.
Some insect species are taking advantage of the prolonged season by altering their number of generations per year (voltinism). Changes in voltinism are difficult to predict as many insect species use day/night length as a cue. Some have also developed an obligate period of suspended animation known as diapause which makes them less susceptible to changes in temperatures. However, diapause requires an extended period of cool temperatures, which may be affected by the trend of warmer and wetter winters. Some species are even delaying emergences, likely because they use other cues such as rainfall seasonality, which is changing as a result of climate change.
Many insect populations are able to complete more generations per year than they were previously able to accomplish. North American spruce beetles (Dendroctonus rufipennis), mountain pine beetles (Dendroctonus ponderosae), bark beetle (Ips typographus), maize borers (Chilo partellus), and mealybugs (Phenacoccus sp.) are among the documented cases of increasing voltinism. These species can have a tremendous impact on keystone and economically important species, especially when able to produce a second generation in a single growing season. In addition, increased voltinism can facilitate range expansions of insect pests (both native and introduced) into novel ecosystems that are not adapted to deal with the onslaught. On the other hand, some species are attempting a second generation, but do not have the time to fully complete it. This is causing collapses in insect populations.
Migrating birds face some of the greatest challenges due to the changing climate. While the phenology of birds is generally advancing to match their habitats and food resources, the rate of this change is not even because each area along their migration routes are experiencing and reacting to climate change in different and complex ways. This uneven adaptation by birds, their predators, and their competitors may cause a desynchronization of these critical relationships and cause dire consequences. Departure, stop-over, and arrival dates of many migrating birds have advanced substantially in the past 50 years. Most birds use photoperiod and even the orientation of constellations as environmental cues to begin their migrations. This makes it particularly difficult to predict and even understand contemporary and future reactions to changing phenologies in birds.
As we move higher up the food chain, the chance of phenological mismatch increases significantly because there are a greater number of connections at the lower trophic levels. Wood warblers (Parulidae), for instance, have not altered their migration phenology at all even though temperatures have increased dramatically along their route. Because of the rise in temperatures, their main food source, the eastern spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana), has advanced its emergence too early for the birds to take advantage of peak caterpillar abundance. This mismatch occurs along the length of their migration, making reproduction much less successful.
Some birds, like the pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) in the Netherlands, is not advancing its migration even though its main food source is emerging much sooner. To make up for the imbalance, the flycatchers are advancing their egg-laying dates. To add complexity, some species are unable to alter their phenologies because of predators or interspecies competition for resources. For example, the Canadian Arctic snow goose (Anser caerulescens) is not adjusting its egg-laying phenology to maximize food resources for its chicks. Experiments examining the nutritive value of the geese’s food plants show a clear advancement in phenology, yet the birds are not advancing their laying. So why not? It turns out that the risk of predation from polar bears (Ursus maritimus) is too great because the bears have had to return to land earlier due to melting sea ice.
Other impacts of changing phenology are the loss of relictual, rare, or highly specialized species, the migration or range expansion of native species into more suitable habitats, and the colonization of ecosystems by exotic invasive plant and animal species.
In the Trans Pecos region, we have quite a few relictual and/or rare species. What comes to mind specifically are the high elevation “sky island” communities of the Chisos, Davis, and Guadalupe Mountain ranges. These communities are relics from a time when the entire area was much cooler and wetter. Unfortunately, the future of these places looks grim as changes in seasonality regimes and increasing temperatures place more and more stress on the systems.
The northern migration of southern forest species as well as migrations of low elevation species to higher elevations is well documented in the literature. In fact, the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones have moved northward twice in my lifetime. Organisms unable to adapt to changing seasonality leave gaps in ecosystems that are easily filled by non-native invasive species, further disrupting highly stressed communities.
Overall, there is promise that many species are adapting their phenological strategies to a rapidly changing planet. Other species, particularly specialists at higher trophic levels are unable to adapt and will inevitably be lost. The overarching effect of climate change will be a homogenization of the landscape through a loss of biodiversity. Native and non-native generalist species will dominate ecosystems making them less redundant and therefore less resilient to further change. This homogenization will also alter ecosystem services making them less effective carbon storage sinks, among other things.
The natural world is incredibly complex, interconnected, and resilient. Because of this, scientists cannot predict exact outcomes, but generalizations can be made and folks, things do not look good. I know sometimes when we hear this terrible news it can make us feel powerless and can act to normalize despair, rendering us ineffective. However, people need to understand the gravity of the situation. We cannot afford to wait any longer, we must begin taking steps to combat climate change now. 
Massive Die-Off of Migrating Birds
Sounds an Alarm
By Lisa Gordon
As a follow up to The Garden Notes article, we found the following to be timely as it relates to the effects of climate change on Nature.
Arvind Panjabi, an ornithologist with the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, was CDRI’s guest lecturer at the R. Conant Distinguished Guest Lecture Program in October 2018. He was featured in a news story on CBS This Morning: Saturday (Oct. 24, 2020) about the massive dying-off of migrating birds earlier this fall. We’ve provided the link in case you missed it.
General area where massive bird die-off has occurred. Image from Birds Outside My Window, a Blog of Birds & Nature, by Kate St. John
This is a disturbing story about birds literally falling out of the sky in a mass die-off in the southwestern United States just as the bird migration season was beginning. The first large numbers of dead birds were discovered in August at White Sands Missile Range and at the White Sands National Monument outside of Las Cruces (Las Cruces Sun News, Sept. 12, 2020). That incident was thought to have been an isolated one, but by mid-September, more reports began coming in of birds dying throughout New Mexico. Those reports were then followed with similar reports throughout the Southwest including Colorado, Texas, Arizona, and even farther north in Nebraska (The Guardian, Sept. 16, 2020).
It’s believed that the smoke from the raging wildfires in states along the west coast may have contributed to the mass bird deaths.  Another contributing factor to the deaths may have been the sudden and extreme early cold front that pushed its way through the region at that same time in September causing a rapid decline in the insect population and resulting in birds having starved (CPR News, Sept.23, 2020).
All causes of these deaths seem to point to climate change.  This die-off of hundreds of thousands of migrating birds may be an important warning and a wake-up call for all of us. This event appears to be no less than “the canary in the coal mine.” Fortunately for miners, they understood what ensued.

Enjoy Thanksgiving Day
at the Nature Center!

Explore our hiking trails,
botanical gardens & cactus greenhouse,
bird blind, and mining exhibit.

Special hours: 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. 
Purchase tickets at www.cdri.org.

We're Top-Rated with Great Nonprofits!

Thanks to our fans, CDRI was an early winner of a 2020 Top-Rated Award from GreatNonprofits! For three years running, since 2018, visitors, host campers, directors, and volunteers have contributed their stories and have rated their experiences at CDRI, enabling us to earn the Great Nonprofits Top-Rated Award.
A nonprofit can earn the award by gathering 10 or more 4- or 5-star ratings and maintaining an overall average of 3.5 stars. This recognition helps us stand out from the crowd to gain volunteers, donations, and more supporters. Thank you to everyone who contributed their story. Together, we can make an impact!
Read inspiring stories about the CDRI Nature Center & Botanical Gardens, and add your own story!

Stuck on gift ideas for this holiday season? 

Why not give the gift of nature with a

Chihuahuan Desert
Nature Center Botanical Gardens
gift membership?

Memberships start at $35.

Welcome back, BJ!
Rolling up in her enormous motor home from having worked a summer "gig" at the gift shop at Mt. Rushmore National Park, South Dakota, host camper BJ King returned to CDRI -- making this her 4th year to work at the Nature Center with our host camper program.  Although she arrived on October 5, BJ had to quarantine for 14 days after having driven through four states to get to Texas.
Over the years, BJ has earned the title of "Membership Queen" because of all of the CDRI memberships she has sold. She truly loves the Nature Center and shares that enthusiasm with everyone who comes to the Nature Center wanting to explore the hiking trails or to stroll through the garden. 
CDRI's Host Camper Program: In case you didn't know, we started our host camper program in the spring of 2016. The program has been a "win-win" for CDRI and for our host campers. Host campers, either single or couple, stay for free at our private RV pad site for 2 to 4 months in exchange for working at the Admission Window (Information Desk) three days out of the week. The other four days allow our host campers to explore the Big Bend Region.  All of our host campers become "family" with some, like BJ, returning, while others keep in touch, but they're also always going to someplace different as part of the adventure.
 BJ will be at CDRI through January 2021. Then, in February, we'll welcome Julie and Casey. They will be here for three months. If you're interested in applying as a host camper, or if you'd just like more information, please contact Lisa at lgordon@cdri.org.
Adopt-a-Highway Clean-Up Scheduled
In August 2017, we cleaned up, literally, by joining the Don't Mess With Texas, Adopt-a-Highway pro-gram. This was a "win-win" oppor-tunity for us then, and it continues to be a "win-win" opportunity in 2020. 
The first "win" is having the signage so that first-time visitors get an advance notice that they are nearing the CDRI entrance. The signs are equally spaced about one mile from our entrance gate on both the East and the West sides of Hwy. 118. 
The second "win" allows the Nature Center the opportunity to affirm its commitment to maintaining and preserving the natural beauty of our area by agreeing to clean up two miles of the highway which border both sides of our entrance. 
For our clean up days, participants are expected to follow TXDOT rules that come with a high level of safety awareness. TXDOT provides a safety first video, bright neon orange vests, and collection bags. 
Our fall clean-up date is scheduled for Wednesday, November 18, with volunteer participants meeting in front of the Powell Visitor Center at 9:30 a.m. 
Volunteers need to wear sturdy shoes, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, jacket, hat, a face mask, and gloves. We'll provide bottled water, snacks, and trash grabbers. 
Please contact Lisa at lgordon@cdri.org if you can help out, or if you have questions and would like more information. Thank you.
SRSU Art Class Visits CDRI
Sul Ross State University (SRSU) Professor Carol Fairlie and students enrolled in her watercolor art class met at the Nature Center on October 19. They worked on landscape techniques which included learning about the nuances of afternoon light and shadows affecting their subject area.  
The Bluebonnet Miata Club Returns
We were delighted when we learned that the Bluebonnet Miata Club, San Antonio, Texas, was returning to the Davis Mountain region. This was their first stop of many planned for the day. Guests visited the Botanical Gardens and Cactus Greenhouse. Joe and Joyce Mussey were also on hand at the Mining Exhibit to welcome the group. 
Welcome Minnie and Friends
We welcomed Minnie and Bill Caruth, of Dallas, Texas, and friends for their first-ever visit to the CDRI Nature Center & Botanical Gardens on October 12. The group toured the Botanical Gardens and Cactus Greenhouse. It was fun meeting everyone, and we look forward to welcoming them to many more visits in the future. 
(Editor's note: The group was wearing masks, but asked to quickly remove them for the photo.)
We have
Queen Victoria Agaves!
 Just in time for the holidays!
To order call 432-364-2499
We'll have your order ready for pick up!
(Limited supply)
"the best rural
nature center
in Texas"
we wish you
happy trails
                         a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, P.O. Box 905, Fort Davis, TX 79734


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