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Desert NewsFlash
July 2020
... with liberty and justice for all.
CDRI Nature Center Is Open!
Although the COVID-19 virus is raging through Texas, we are pleased to inform you that CDRI is open.  We have implemented safety protocols which are a part of our Phase 1 reopening and which we are following closely.  The CDC has reported that it is good to be outdoors, while remembering to maintain social distancing and to wear a mask when you're within 6-8 feet of others not in your group. We are following the CDC guidelines.
Tickets must be purchased online at www.cdri.org  We have discovered that this step, alone, has streamlined the entrance process. Our visitors agree. 
For information about tickets, as well as what is included in the Phase 1 reopening, please access our website at www.cdri.org
We look forward to seeing you soon, from at least 6 feet away and wearing a mask!
Nature Deficit Disorder Is Really a Thing

Children’s behavior may suffer from lack of access to outdoor space, a problem heightened by the pandemic.
Credit...Wesley Allsbrook

 Article summarized by Rick Herrman, CDRI Board Treasurer

By Meg St-Esprit McKivigan.  This appeared in the NY Times, Parenting Section on 6-23-20.

We’ve broadly written on this topic, including “nature or forest bathing”, and Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD).  We summarize it here, and urge you to read the entire article for greater depth. 

LaToya Jordan's Brooklyn apartment has no green space. So, like many New Yorkers, she and her 2 and 8 year old children rely on the city's playgrounds and parks for much of their nature exposure. 
NYC’s coronavirus outbreak took away that green space access as playgrounds closed across the city, and the city’s parks, like Prospect Park in Brooklyn, became too crowded for her children to properly social distance.

Ms. Jordan has observed a distinct change in her children’s well-being after having little to no access to green space. “Both of them are more moody and cranky,” she said. “My 8-year-old is so jealous of her friends who have backyards right now.”  Ms. Jordan found that her children missed outdoor play with friends more than the cancellation of all in-person activities — from Girl Scouts to piano lessons to gymnastics.
The change in behavior has been so noticeable that she and her husband are considering renting a house with a yard in Brooklyn for a week.

 We’ve shared numerous studies showing the mental and physical benefits of spending time in nature, but for some people, it took a pandemic and stay-at-home orders to elevate the desire for outdoors time to the level of a necessity. Experts hope that desire for nature will remain once people physically return to their busy schedules.  

“Ironically, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, as tragic as it is, has dramatically increased public awareness of the deep human need for nature connection, and is adding a greater sense of urgency to the movement to connect children, families and communities to nature,” said Richard Louv, a journalist and the author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.”

Pre-pandemic, many children were spending their lives mostly indoors, and the spread of the coronavirus has likely accelerated that, and, in turn, deeply affected them, Louv said.

He added, “As young people spend less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow, both physiologically and psychologically.”

Kiona Gardner, observes behavioral changes in her two boys, ages 9 and 12.  Their California townhouse has no yard, and nearby parks are too crowded to allow social distancing.  Summer travel is out, and the family is experiencing a sense of home confinement.  Ms. Gardner reports the boys are showing symptoms Richard Louv calls nature-deficit disorder, a nonmedical condition that suggests that spending less time outdoors can contribute to behavioral changes in children.

“They are stressed and anxious,” Gardner said. “I had to buy them an anxiety chew necklace because they have both been putting everything in their mouth.”  Needless to say, Ms. Gardner and her sons and family are eager for a time when it’s again safe to experience free play, and/or structured outdoor activities back in nature. 

Research has shown access to green space is linked to a child’s well-being. For example, adding greenery to school play yards has been shown to increase prosocial behavior in kids. They help, cooperate, comfort and share more; the loss of access to this greenery has the opposite effect. A 2013 study found that even viewing nature scenes can reduce stress and regulate heart rates.

Louise Chawla, Ph.D., a professor emerita at the University of Colorado Boulder, studies the effects of nature and urban spaces on children. She explained how one of the greatest needs of young children is autonomy, and free play in nature is one way to satisfy that need.

“If you explore a woody area in the park, there is something for every age there,” Dr. Chawla said. “There are rocks of different weights, stumps of different sizes, lighter and heavier sticks. Whatever a child’s current skill level is, they can work toward their next level of challenge. They are learning about their own capabilities.”

Yet another mom, Kim Shore of Chicago, reports that she loves their condo  because there is a park across the street.  But access to their park has been curtailed because of the crowds during the coronavirus outbreak.

Early on in the pandemic, Ms. Shore noticed short tempers and anxiety in her 6- and 8-year old children that she attributed to a lack of time outdoors. She took her family to a friend’s home with a large yard in a Chicago suburb for several weeks. Once her children had space to move outdoors, she observed they seemed calmer, more regulated, and happier. When they returned to their condo, they seemed to regress, she said. They plan to stay with friends who have a yard in a St. Louis suburb for the summer. “I started to worry about the long-term impact on them,” she said. “In the city, they hold their breath when anyone walks by us. In the suburbs, they were able to relax. They were completely different human beings with a yard.”

Ming Kuo, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Illinois who studies urban greening, said parents, like Shore, have described how their children are “completely different” when they have access to green space. Dr. Kuo’s research has shown that access to green space decreases aggression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms, and boosts the immune system. Dr. Kuo also noted an unequal access to green spaces across socioeconomic and racial lines.

“Overall, wealthier areas are much greener with more street trees, more lawns and gardens, and more parks. It also varies by race because of segregationist housing policies,” Dr. Kuo said.

Rebecca Hershberg, Ph.D., a psychologist who specializes in early childhood social-emotional development and mental health, hopes the observable value of unstructured time in nature will be remembered by us all as safe public conditions return.  

“We now know, not just intellectually but based on recent lived experience, that not all activities are created equal when it comes to enhancing our children’s mood and behavior. Prioritizing time in nature, exercise, and even some unstructured downtime is analogous to prioritizing our children’s mental health, which is more important now than ever.”

In the meantime, Louv, the journalist and author who conceived of the concept nature-deficit disorder, created a list of ways that families could connect with the natural world, including some that don’t require having green space, like setting up a “world-watching window.”

In an interview, he recalled the excitement that many people experienced when they saw nature through windows in cities with shelter-in-place orders. “As we sequestered at home, many of us were fascinated by the apparent return of wild animals to our cities and neighborhoods. Some wildlife did come deeper into cities. But many of these animals were already there, hiding in plain sight.”

For families without their own green space, Dr. Chawla suggested taking some books or art supplies to any little patch of green outside.

“Children are moving all the time, but they also show sustained fascination,” Dr. Chawla said. “Even a tiny bit of green space can be a place to slow down, watch an insect, or just move some dirt around.”

In reconnecting with nature, Dr. Kuo said activities could take “a variety of forms — a hike in a forest preserve, or fishing or gardening, obviously, but also smaller doses we might not think of: walking in a tree-lined neighborhood, a glimpse of a green view through the window, the scent of roses. Every bit helps.”

We agree with these parents, their children, and the cited experts, that time in nature is good for us all.  To enhance public safety, we’ve structured CDRI’s reinstated public access to avoid the need for personal contact.  Combined with our other public safety protocols which are detailed on our website, we invite you to come to experience a connection with nature to restore and refresh you and your family.  We think you’ll be glad you did.

See you soon and thank you.

What's Up With the Masks?

Masks have become the center of recent controversy - to wear or not to wear. Having to wear a mask evokes a sense of insecurity in some as they ask, "What if I look silly?" To that, one might ask, "When did we become so serious?"  Others have made the bold statement, "No one is going to tell me what to do!"  While others ask, "What good is it going to do?"
 The truth to the matter is that many of us have worn a mask at more fun times in our lives and thought nothing of it. We've worn masks to complete a Halloween costume. Others have worn masks to a masquerade ball, while superheroes insist on wearing a mask to conceal their identity.
     (Left) Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany's. (Right) Jim Carrey in  The Mask. Photos:
      Getty Images. Above image of the Lone Ranger is  from the book, Who Was that Masked Man? by James Van
Most importantly, it is an accepted, and expected, practice for healthcare workers to wear masks. Now, the public has been asked to wear a mask, or facial covering, to help contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. At CDRI Nature Center & Botanical Gardens, everyone over three years of age is required to wear a mask. We are requiring masks out of concern and in the interest of protecting all visitors, volunteers and the CDRI team from the COVID-19 virus and any other virus that might otherwise be transmitted through the air by person to person contact. 
It is with pleasure that we've greeted our guests, each wearing a mask, each ready to enjoy the outdoors and the beautiful setting at the Nature Center. The following are but a few of our visitors we've welcomed to the Nature Center since reopening on June 15th.
Garden Notes
Guayule Bounces Back into Cultivation
 by Seth Hamby

The Chihuahuan Desert (CD) has supported indigenous cultures for millennia. These peoples learned how to survive and flourish in concert with harsh and unpredictable environmental conditions. One of the many ways they accomplished this was by developing and maintaining an intimate understanding of the flora of the CD. One such plant they utilized was Parthenium argentatum or guayule. Guayule (wah-yoo-lay) is a perennial, woody shrub in the sunflower family (Asteraceae or Compositae). Guayule was used by the people of the CD for a very particular reason, rubber. In fact, the common name derives from the Nahuatl word “ulli/olli” meaning rubber.
The sunflower family currently holds the record as the largest plant family on Earth with roughly 33,000 species! The orchid family comes in at a close second with about 28,000 species. Asteraceae are a cosmopolitan family and occur in great diversity and abundance on every continent except for Antarctica. The fossil history of the Asteraceae family dates back to 75-89 million years ago in the Cretaceous Period.
Because of the huge number of species within the family, it is broken up into 12-13 subfamilies and 43 tribes. Here in the contiguous United States, we like to think that we have an overwhelming abundance of Asteraceae, however only 2,400 species from 420 genera and 25 tribes occur here. That’s a small number compared to the global species diversity of the family. However, anyone who has been out in the field trying to identify the seemingly endless variety of little, yellow flowers dotting the landscape might agree that 2,400 species is plenty. In the botany business, we call these plants “DYC’s,” or damn yellow composites because of how difficult they can be to correctly identify. “Composite” is a term referring to the families’ compact inflorescences consisting of an aggregation of dozens or hundreds of smaller flowers. When one looks at a sunflower what you are actually seeing is a large cluster of tiny flowers in the center surrounded by yellow radial appendages (what you might think are petals) that are also small individual flowers.
In the early 1900’s, trials began to determine the efficacy of guayule as a cheap domestic alternative to Brazilian rubber. There are about 2,000 known plant species that produce natural rubber, but until guayule, Havea brasilensis (Brazilian rubber tree) dominated the international market. Before cultural practices and domestication trials existed for Parthenium argentatum, countless natural stands of the shrub were collected for rubber. By 1907, twenty industrial processing plants existed in Mexico, and all were harvesting the plants from the wild. By 1912, the Mexican Revolution had completely halted rubber production in Mexico and, in effect, stopped the complete eradication of guayule in the wild.
In the 1920’s, research and development into guayule as a natural rubber source moved to the United States, particularly to Arizona and California. Commercial plantings and early extraction methods seemed promising and annual production from 3,200 total hectares was about 1,400 tons. But just as things were looking up, the Great Depression hit and guayule rubber took a backseat.
The next major attempt to find a domestic source of rubber came with the Emergency Rubber Project of World War II. This monumental effort consisted of nearly 10,000 scientists and laborers with 13,000 hectares of guayule planted in 3 different states. Results were fantastic and guayule was well on its way to becoming America’s alternative to Brazilian rubber, which by this point was grown almost exclusively in southeast Asian rubber plantations. Unfortunately, with the end of World War II and an increased focus on globalization, the project was abandoned and plants destroyed.
Beginning in the 1970’s with the energy crisis looming heavy, a resurgence of interest in guayule began, namely with tire companies such as Bridgestone and, more recently, with latex start-ups like Yulex. The number one obstacle to commercialization is increasing yields per acre enough to make guayule competitive with Havea rubber and/or other arid and semi-arid land crops. Plant breeding also focuses on reducing post-harvest rubber degradation, increasing shrub regrowth and quality after harvest, and disease and pest control. Parthenium argentatum exists naturally as both diploid (2 sets of chromosomes) and polyploid (many sets of chromosomes). In addition to cross-pollination, guayule is also self-fertile. In addition to self-fertility, guayule can also reproduce by apomixis (clonal asexual reproduction through seeds). All of these forms of being and methods of reproduction make guayule particularly useful for the manipulation of traits through breeding.
Natural rubber is known as cis-1, 4-polyisoprene and constitutes about 5-10% of the guayule plant body. Unlike Havea rubber, guayule lacks particular proteins, making it just as strong, yet hypoallergenic. There is currently no synthetic rubber that performs as well as natural rubber. The traditional method for extraction of Havea rubber is tapping the tree, while guayule rubber exists within its cells making it more difficult to extract. However, innovative processing techniques are underway which promise to make guayule rubber production more competitive. Bridgestone’s main focus is to figure out how to make profitable the rest of the guayule plant that isn’t rubber. Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. is leading a consortium of researchers, including the USDA Agriculture Research Service and PanAridus, a guayule research start-up, to understand the genetics of guayule.
A spokesperson for the start-up latex company Yulex states that, “We have solved all the riddles with respect to processing, technology, performance of the material, and finally the question of genetics. Now it is just an issue of scale.” After a very long and arduous road, it looks as if we will see the commercial availability of guayule rubber very soon. From the harvest of guayule rubber by early indigenous tribes, through multiple resurrections of interest in the 20th century, all the way to cusp of commercialization in the 21st century, Parthenium argentatum has withstood the test of time as a useful plant for humanity. Guayule has also withstood the geological and ecological test of time as an important part of the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem and landscape.
How many useful plants exist within the CD that we do not yet know about? The Chihuahuan Desert is one of the most unique and biodiverse desert regions on Earth. It is also one of the most imperiled. When early Spanish explorers reached the CD, they said that the oceans of grass were “belly high to a horse.” This is certainly not the case today in most of the desert. We will never know how much we have truly lost, but we have an opportunity to conserve and restore what is left. A cure for cancer or the next great technological advancement might be hanging on to existence on an island of untouched desert, waiting to be conserved. 
On your next visit to CDRI Nature Center & Botanical Gardens, take a closer look around you as you stroll through the gardens or when you're hiking one of the trails. There is much to see and to learn about the native plants of the CD. We look forward to welcoming you soon. 
CDRI to Host TEA Region 18
Teacher Workshop: "Stuck on You!"

The CDRI Nature Center & Botanical Gardens will host a summer teacher workshop on July 28, 2020. The workshop is our first group program since our temporary closure last March. 
CDRI's gardener, Seth Hamby, will lead the program with a tour through the Botanical Gardens to the Cactus Greenhouse. Seth will teach the teachers all about cactus traits, care of cacti, and fun facts that teachers can share will their students. There will also be a hands-on, make-and-take  project for the teachers to pot their own cactus as they learn about creating a cactus garden at their schools. 
This program is being offered for free to all Region 18 teachers, grades K - 12. The class size is limited to 10 teachers, with physical distancing being observed throughout the program. The program is set for Saturday, July 28, 10:00 a.m. to Noon, followed with a brown bag lunch from Stone Village Market at the Pavilion. 
For additional information and to reserve your space at the program, please contact Leanne Locklar at llocklar@esc18.net
We're sharing our fan mail!

At CDRI, we always enjoy hearing from visitors. Here is one such email we received recently from Magnus Andersson who lives in Trollhättan, Sweden.

Hey. I visited CDRI and walked one of your truly magnificently beautiful walks. This was 2017. The immediate landscape, under my feet, as well as the surrounding views made such a deep impact on me. I bought myself a t-shirt with a printed landscape on the chest and "take a hike" encouragement on the back. Since then I've followed the Desert NewsFlash with great interest. The area around Fort Davis and Alpine is a wonderful place to visit.
Thought I ought to send you a HI from Trollhättan, Sweden and thanks for your environmental efforts. Stay healthy.  
Kind regards, 
Magnus Andersson 

FROM CDRI: Thank you Magnus for visiting us in 2017, and for your email. We hope you can plan a return visit to the Davis Mountains of Far West Texas in the not-too-distant future. 
New Signage at the Mining Exhibit
If you have visited the Nature Center recently, chances are that you've also seen or visited with Joe and Joyce Mussey. Joe and Joyce, along with several friends, including Jack Burgess and Bob Calhoun built the Mining Exhibit many years ago. Over the years, Joe and Joyce have maintained the exhibit.
Most recently, the Musseys could be seen installing new signage around the exhibit. All of the signs feature a logo with Dinamito, the life size donkey statue in the center of the yard of the Mining Exhibit. 
Don't forget to stop by and explore the Mining Exhibit the next time you're visitng CDRI. Kids have fun learning about all of the many types of minerals that have been mined in the region, while adults enjoy the fascinating history of mining in the Chihuahuan Desert. 
As a side note: Joe just celebrated his 90th birthday! So, be sure to wish him well and we look forward to more of his interesting stories about his mining career throughout the desert southwest. 
                      This photo is of Crew, host campers Dave Boner and Mary Beadleston's Labrador Retriever.
From the Team at
CDRI Nature Center & Botanical Gardens
We wish you a happy and safe 4th!
Come for a hike when you are able.
Stay well.
And, always, we wish you happy trails! 
Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, P.O. Box 905, Fort Davis, TX 79734


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