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Conservation Biology Chair Endowed at BRI by Davidson Charitable Foundation

ALPINE, Texas- Thanks to a $1 million gift, the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) has endowed a Conservation Biology chair at Sul Ross State University. Dr. Patricia Moody Harveson has been appointed to the James A. “Buddy” Davidson Charitable Foundation Endowed Chair in Conservation Biology.

“We’re pleased to provide this gift that will support wildlife research at the Borderlands Research Institute,” said Elaine Greenhaw, Secretary/Director of the James A. “Buddy” Davidson Charitable Foundation. “Throughout his life, Buddy Davidson supported wildlife, education and the environment, and this is a fitting tribute to the memory of his generous spirit.”

The endowed chair serves as program leader, spokesperson, and chief strategist for the Conservation Biology Program at BRI. The Conservation Biology Program complements the research being done by other BRI program areas that focus on big game, gamebirds and habitat.

In recent years, BRI’s research emphasis has broadened to include information regarding songbirds, hummingbirds and carnivores. Landowners are seeking more information about managing all walks of life on their properties. The Conservation Biology Program plays a critical role in understanding the ecosystem services for various nongame species of the region.

Dr. Patricia Moody Harveson is a Research Scientist with Borderlands Research Institute and a Professor in the Department of Natural

Dr. Patricia Moody Harveson | Photo Credit: Borderlands Research Institute

Resource Management at Sul Ross State University (SRSU). She has worked at SRSU for more than a decade. Her research interests are carnivore ecology, systems analysis and modeling, environmental policy, and landscape ecology.

She has published more than 20 manuscripts ranging from carnivore studies, landscape connectivity, predator-prey interactions, population models, and habitat suitability.

“The Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University has made great strides in ensuring that land conservation continues as a priority for research, education, and stewardship,” said Sul Ross State University President Dr. Bill Kibler.

“The generosity from the James A. “Buddy” Charitable Foundation takes Sul Ross State University one more step forward in our research to work with landowners for solutions that assist them and their land. Dr. Moody Harveson is an excellent choice to serve as the endowed chair and her wealth of experience will undoubtedly enhance our knowledge of conservation biology across the state and beyond.”

Dr. Moody Harveson earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Tarleton State University and her Master of Science in Range and Wildlife Management from Texas A&M University. She earned her PhD in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University where she was a Doctoral Fellow in the Hispanic Leadership Program in Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Among her honors and awards, Dr. Moody Harveson received the Educator of the Year in 2016 from the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society.

New Endowed Chair is Largest Gift in Sul Ross State University History

ALPINE, TX – The Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) at Sul Ross State University is pleased to announce the largest philanthropic gift in its 10-year history. The $1.5 million gift will fund a new Nau Endowed Chair in Habitat Research and Management at BRI.

The Nau Foundation in Houston has pledged $100,000 to an endowment and $50,000 for operations annually over the next ten years. The gift is also the largest ever received by Sul Ross State University.

“Endowments are among the most impactful philanthropic gifts that can be made because they provide funding certainty for key faculty positions,” said Dr. Bill Kibler, Sul Ross State University President. “We are extremely grateful to John L. Nau III and the Nau Foundation for this incredibly generous gift. It is a strong show of support for the outstanding reputation of BRI and will help expand the expertise of our faculty by allowing us to hire a national expert focused on habitat research and management for the region.”

Nau is the chief executive officer of Silver Eagle Distributors in Houston, the largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products in the United States. The Nau family owns a ranch in West Texas and has been actively involved with the BRI for more than 10 years.

The Nau family has supported BRI research projects, including studies on desert bighorn sheep, quail, and mule deer in West Texas. The Nau family has not only helped fund these studies, but their family and ranch personnel actively engage and interact with BRI students. Family member Parker Johnson currently serves on the BRI Advisory Board.

“We’re proud to make this gift to support BRI’s habitat program,” said Johnson. “BRI has been a great asset to our ranch operations, to the landowners of the region, and throughout Texas. Learning more about the habitat that supports thriving wildlife populations will ensure future generations will enjoy the natural resources we have today. Our family believes that supporting the habitat program will have the most impact on future conservation efforts.”

“The Nau family are champions of conservation and they have been leaders in the stewardship of natural resources on the ranches they own and operate in West Texas and across the state,” said Dr. Louis Harveson, who is the Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., BRI Endowed Director and professor of Wildlife Management at Sul Ross.

“What I respect the most about the Nau family is that they truly care about natural resource conservation and they seek information about how to best steward the resources they manage on their properties. They let science guide their management decisions and that philosophy has been the cornerstone of our relationship with them. We are immensely grateful for this gift.”

The position will have a joint research and teaching appointment and will be jointly funded by Sul Ross State University and the endowment. Harveson hopes to hire the new position in 2018.

National Geographic Showcases Film about BRI Mountain Lion Research

Mountain lion research conducted by the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) at Sul Ross State University is featured in a short film produced by Texas filmmaker Ben Masters that is an official selection of National Geographic’s short film showcase.

The film, “Lions of West Texas,” may be viewed on National Geographic’s website by clicking here.

Masters followed in the footsteps of BRI researchers who are studying various aspects of the mountain lions that roam West Texas. Over the course of several months, Masters gathered film footage, interviewed scientists, and created a short film chronicling some of the findings.

“The research data that Borderlands Research Institute is collecting is definitely worthy of National Geographic coverage,” said Masters. “They’re on the cutting edge of wildlife research and are slowly unravelling some of the ecological mysteries that have fascinated Texans for centuries. I look forward to seeing how the data they collect will impact the future of Texas landscape conservation and wildlife management.”

BRI began the research project in 2011 after area landowners began asking questions about mountain lions and their role as apex predators in the Davis Mountains. Over 95% of the funding for the project came from private citizens and foundations.

So far, researchers have captured and collared 25 adult and sub-adult cats in the Davis Mountains of West Texas and Big Bend National Park. The satellite GPS collars document the location of the animals every three hours and the information is transmitted to BRI computers daily.

Research objectives include learning more about predator-prey dynamics, diet composition, and use of lion kill sites by scavengers such as vultures and coyotes. Researchers are also evaluating the most efficient and effective way to determine density and population size. Testing techniques include using various types of cameras and studying the animal’s droppings (scat). Early findings include some encouraging news about mountain lions and feral hogs.

“While looking at prey selection by mountain lions, we were pleased to note that nine percent of all kills that we investigated were feral hog,” said Dr. Patricia Moody Harveson, who is the BRI research scientist leading the study and a Professor of Conservation Biology at Sul Ross University. “Feral hogs are a relatively new invasive species in the Davis Mountains which cause a lot of damage, so it’s good to see that mountain lions are helping to reduce their numbers.”

BRI fields numerous questions from landowners about how often mountain lions kill livestock. The study investigated more than 200 kill sites in the Davis Mountains.

“We suspected that depredation on livestock was low, but were surprised that out of all of the sites we investigated, no livestock were found,” said Harveson. “This doesn’t mean that they are never killed by mountain lions, but it does suggest that in the Davis Mountains, livestock depredation is rare.”

Bert Geary is a BRI research technician working with Harveson on the study. He worked closely with Masters during the field shoots for the film. The film premiered during the recent Wild Texas Film Tour through 13 Texas cities.

“I can really see Ben Masters’ passion about mountain lions shine through in this film,” said Geary. “It was really interesting and exciting to be a part of this documentary and to see how it grew from some rough ideas into the finished film. Being part of the Wild Texas Film tour and getting to talk about mountain lions and answer questions about them with so many differing people has been a great experience.”

In just over a week, “Lions of West Texas” has garnered over one million online views.

“It is truly an honor to help tell their story and spread their research with a film,” said Masters. “I just hope they keep letting me tag along with a camera!”

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