Habitat Management, Restoration and Research
Habitat management, restoration and research for wildlife in south Texas covers a broad spectrum from brush control to restoration. Scientists such as Drs. Timothy E. Fulbright, George A. Rasmussen, and J. Alfonso Ortega-S. examine the thresholds for manipulating vegetation to improve forage and cover for wildlife. Forrest Smith focuses on developing applied strategies for reclamation and restoration projects in south Texas. Dr. Sandra Rideout-Hanzak concentrates on using prescribed burning as an important method of maintaining high quality rangeland that is beneficial to wildlife. Dr. David Wester's research interests involve all aspects of plant ecology, both at the individual plant level and at the plant community level.Research is conducted to determine the conditions in which this useful management tool is most effective for maintaining and enhancing wildlife habitats. Other research evaluates wildlife food plots that many ranchers and managers are using to increase food resources on their land. Drs. Fulbright and Ortega-S. study livestock grazing, brush encroachment and management, re-vegetation of disturbed sites, and reclamation of south Texas habitats to benefit wildlife and livestock. The Center for Semi-Arid Land Ecology, South Texas Natives, and Texas Native Seeds are specialized research programs at the Institute focusing on habitat management and restoration.
◊ The Center for Semi-Arid Land Ecology, directed by Dr. Timothy Fulbright, specializes in ecological research.Many of the plants, wildlife, and natural communities in semi-arid regions of the world, including south Texas, are being lost to human impacts, overgrazing, and the invasion of exotic plants. This Center focuses on research that will minimize the effects of these trends which will continue as human populations expand and place growing pressures on natural resources in semi-arid land regions.
◊ South Texas Natives, coordinated by Forrest S. Smith, is a program focusing on the development of locally adapted native plant seed for south Texas habitat restoration and reclamation projects. The South Texas Natives program was developed in response to the increased construction of highways and pipelines, increased oil and gas activity, and the increased awareness of native plants as a vital component of wildlife habitat. In 2000, this project was initiated with an overarching goal to develop and promote native plants for the restoration and reclamation of habitats on private and public lands. South Texas Natives works in close collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Natural Resource Conservation Service-E. “Kika” de la Garza Plant Materials Center, which was established on the TAMUK campus in 1981 and is currently managed by Mr. John Lloyd Reilley.
◊Texas Native Seeds is a research and development organization, augmenting and providing products to the commercial seed industry. TNS work to develop native seeds that can be produced commercially, in volumes needed by restoration professionals in order to have ecosystems level impacts on native plant and wildlife conservation. TNS is a visionary effort to do something now, while substantial native plant populations still exist and provide a reservoir for collection, evaluation, and development of tomorrow's seed sources, today.