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Jornada Symposium to bring national, international scientists to NMSU

The 14th Annual Jornada Symposium will be hosted by New Mexico State University scientists from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, July 15.

posium will feature 15 invited talks on various research projects in the Chihuahuan Desert region from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Jornada Experimental Range Building (Wooten Hall), 2995 Knox St. A social and barbecue dinner will follow the talks from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the Jornada Experimental Range, about 30 miles northeast of Las Cruces.

"As in past years, we're going to again have a nice spectrum of national as well as international speakers this year," said Kris Havstad, supervisory range scientist at the Jornada Experimental Range and adjunct professor of range science at NMSU.

Representatives from Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales, Agricolas y Pecuarias, the Mexican counterpart to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), will attend the symposium and give a presentation. Seventeen Mexican scientists, including several professors from the University of Chihuahua and its director Salvador Alcantar, will attend.

The Jornada Basin Long Term Ecological Research (LETR) project at NMSU deals with the dynamics of the desert in which we live, Havstad said.

The 24 sites in the LTER network represent diverse ecosystems such as hot deserts, wet grasslands, temperate and tropical forests, alpine tundra, lakes, rivers and coastlines, said Debra Peters, lead scientist and plant ecologist with the Jornada Experimental Range and adjunct professor at NMSU.

"In southern New Mexico, much of this area was dominated by perennial grasslands, and now it has been converted to shrub-dominated systems due to woody plant encroachment," Peters said.

The conversion from grass to shrubs -- making the ecosystem more arid and dry -- is called desertification and is a key focus of field research for the Jornada LTER.

"The shrub-dominated system has changed how we deal with the land. We are studying how processes such as animals, water and wind move across the landscape and how these spatial processes affect variability in vegetation structure and dynamics," she said. "By understanding the effects of these spatial processes, we can make forecasts about future dynamics."

Field research at the Jornada LTER is conducted at NMSU's Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center and the adjacent lands of the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range, which comprise about 256,000 acres of land. These lands, which form the Jornada del Muerto Basin in southern New Mexico, are at the northern end of the Chihuahuan desert.

The Jornada Basin research, funded in part by the National Science Foundation, is a collaboration among NMSU, the University of New Mexico, Duke University, the University of Leicester and Kings College in the United Kingdom, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park and the Jornada Experimental Range.

Registration fee for the symposium is $10, which includes the barbecue dinner. Additional guests are $5 per person for the dinner. The deadline to register is July 7.

To register or view this year's Jornada Symposium program, go to http://usda-ars.nmsu.edu/JER/Symposium/symposium.php.