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Jornada scientists plan research symposium

Speakers from universities across the United States and Mexico, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will gather July 13 for the 16th annual Jornada Symposium at New Mexico State University.

Even the tiniest plants are considered important in research being conducted at the Jornada Experimental Range. Research scientists will gather July 13 for the 16th annual Jornada Symposium at New Mexico State University. (Photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

The event is sponsored by the USDA's Jornada Experimental Range and the National Science Foundation's Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Research program at NMSU, the primary research activity at the range.

NSF has supported the Jornada Basin LTER since its beginning in 1982. NSF recently approved the project's proposal for the next six-year phase of work, from 2006-2012, with funding set at $4.9 million, or $820,000 a year. The prior six-year phase, from 2000-2006, was funded at $700,000 a year.

"Long-term research plays a critical role in our ability to understand and predict dynamics in the Chihuahuan Desert," said Debra Peters, lead principal investigator for the Jornada Basin LTER and lead scientist for the Jornada ARS. "Research at the Jornada since 1915 through the USDA provides a historical context for LTER research that started in the 1980s. This new funding from NSF in collaboration with ARS efforts will allow us to continue long-term studies and to take on new challenges associated with global changes in climate and land use."

The symposium is a chance for researchers to update each other on projects under way in the Chihuahuan Desert. Many take place at the Jornada , which is used by scientists from many universities and other organizations.

The symposium includes presentations from Peters, Ed Fredrickson and Brandon Bestelmeyer, USDA-ARS research scientists, on "Landscape Linkages in Arid and Semiarid Systems"; Bill Schlesinger, of Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, on "Deserts and Global Change"; Greg Okin of the University of Virginia, on "Environmental Sciences - Aeolian Processes Can Create Islands of Fertility"; and NMSU's Derek Bailey, of the Animal and Range Sciences Department, on "Manipulation of Livestock Behavior To Develop Sustainable and Prescriptive Grazing Practices."

Kris Havstad, the supervisory research scientist for the USDA-ARS at the Jornada, is coordinating the symposium.

"The problems we face today in managing our natural resources are often complex and require people from different disciplines and perspectives to work together to find solutions," said Havstad, who has organized all 16 of these annual symposiums. "This symposium is one way we get people to interact, share information and discuss research findings that will move us toward those solutions"

NMSU's Rhonda Skaggs, professor of Agricultural Business and Agricultural Economics, will discuss "The Human Dimension: Nature and Character of the Western Livestock Industry." Javier Martinez-Nevarez of the Universidad Autonoma de Chihuahua, Mexico, will speak about "Rancho Teseachi, an Opportunity for International Collaboration."

Heather Throop, a new assistant professor in NMSU's biology department, will give an update on land management and soil carbon pools at the Santa Rita Experimental Range near Tucson, Ariz. Dale Gillette of NOAA's Atmospheric Sciences Modeling division will outline "Interaction of Wind, Vegetation and Soil: Movement of Soil in Mesquite-Dominated Areas of the Jornada Basin." Experimental range scientists Jerry Barrow, Mary Lucero and Isaac Reyes-Vera will present "A Novel Approach of Regulating Vigor, Biomass and Reproductive Potential in Desert Range Plants."

Other speakers will make presentations on topics ranging from sediment transport research to global biodiversity scenarios.

Presentations will be made at Wooton Hall on the NMSU campus. A social gathering and barbecue dinner will follow at the Jornada Experimental Range headquarters building, northeast of Las Cruces.