Borderlands Research Institute receives bird research grant

FAR WEST TEXAS – The Texas Ornithological Society has awarded a $6,000 grant to the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) to purchase radio transmitters for a grassland bird research project already underway in the Marfa grasslands. The project is a collaborative effort between BRI, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Dixon Water Foundation, and the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies.

“We’re pleased to support this project and the work the Borderlands Research Institute is doing to learn more about these grassland birds,” said Texas Ornithological Society President Shelia Hargis. “This research aligns perfectly with our mission of promoting the discovery, knowledge, observation, and conservation of birds in Texas.”

Since 1966, grassland bird populations that winter in the Chihuahuan Desert have declined by 70 to 80 percent. In 2016, BRI student researchers began trying to determine why by studying Baird’s and grasshopper sparrows in the Marfa grasslands.

The $6,000 grant will advance the study by funding a purchase of 33 radio transmitters weighing less than 0.03 ounces each. Transmitters will be attached to netted birds which will then be released and tracked. The research process will yield information on the bird’s mortality, habitat use, and preferences.

“We appreciate the Texas Ornithological Society’s support of this project,” said Dr. Louis Harveson, the Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., BRI Endowed Director and professor of Wildlife Management at Sul Ross State University.

“They not only provide funds for needed research equipment, their members are also actively involved as volunteers in the field.”

For more than a decade, BRI has encouraged effective land stewardship of the Chihuahuan Desert. Housed at Sul Ross State University, BRI builds on a long-lasting partnership with private landowners, the University’s Range and Wildlife Program, and cooperating state, federal, and non-governmental organizations. Through research, education, and outreach, BRI is helping to conserve the last frontier of Texas and the Southwest.