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Carrillo has deep roots at NMSU, Leyendecker Plant Science Center

Date: 01/25/2011

He doesn't seem old enough to be an "old timer," but Tracey Carrillo has been at New Mexico State University in one capacity or another - and frequently in multiple capacities - since 1986. The title he has held since fall 2009, assistant director of campus farm operations, suggests the broad sweep of his responsibilities.

Between 1986 and 2009, Carrillo earned an NMSU master's degree in agricultural biology, enjoyed a one-year stint at the Agricultural Science Center in Clovis and then returned to Las Cruces, where he spent 18 years as a senior research specialist in the Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Weed Science. Toward the end of that time, he finished his doctorate in agronomy, after which he was hired to direct NMSU's seed certification program and noxious weed-free forage program.

His combination of education and experience are what landed him in his current position.

Carrillo still directs the NMSU Seed Certification Office, located at the Leyendecker Plant Science Center, and the additional programs the office houses: the Noxious Weed Free Forage Program and the Insect Resistance Management Program. And he is the superintendent of operations at both the Leyendecker Plant Science Center and the Fabian Garcia Science Center, which occupy a combined 244 acres in the Las Cruces area. He also has broad oversight responsibilities as the point of contact for on-campus agricultural lands and their infrastructure needs.

Science center superintendent, first and foremost, means facilitating the research efforts of the faculty and staff that avail themselves of those facilities, primarily to test new crops and farming methods. These days, that not only includes standard New Mexico field and orchard crops - cotton, pecans, chiles, onions and alfalfa can all be found at Leyendecker - but also specialty crops such as herb plants for the urban horticulturalist, turf grass varieties for low-water yard and golf course applications and jatropha for possible biofuel application. There are even a few algal raceways, part of the huge NMSU-based project to refine algae cultivation and processing for jet fuel and biofuel production.

More than 30 researchers, plus technicians and student workers, are typically involved in work at the two science centers, so Carrillo and his staff have refined the business processes to streamline the paperwork requirements for the faculty. "One of the most gratifying aspects of this position for me is that I am able to make a difference for both the faculty and the state," Carrillo said.

Also gratifying, and central to his personal goals for the centers, is the expanding push for sustainability in their day-to-day operations. A grant from the New Mexico Governor's Office included funding to purchase solar collectors, and Carrillo hopes that the purchased panels, plus additional units donated by Solarzentrum Innovations, will significantly reduce Leyendecker's reliance on off-site sources of electricity. Leyendecker will also soon be the recipient of a biodiesel processing machine that will transform grease from the campus into diesel to power tractors and farm vehicles. Expanding the space and containers dedicated to the algal research is also in the works.

"The Leyendecker and the Fabian science centers are an integral part of NMSU's agricultural research mission," Carrillo said, "a mission that is part of the university-wide mandate to serve the needs of New Mexico, the country and the world.

"All parts of campus participate on some level to achieve a common goal," he said. "That's what I love about this job - I get to work with everyone from NMSU!"

Outside the workplace, Carrillo is family-centered. An avid horseman, he enjoys spending riding time with his youngest daughters and participating in various activities with his wife and other children. Additionally, he serves on the board of directors of the organization Cowboys for Cancer Research, which raised more than $400,000 this year for cancer research.

Written by Jay A. Rodman.

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