During 2010, we not only provided access to the preserve, but also provided staff, facilities, and vehicles for transport for the CDRI's: teacher workshop; "Top-of-Texas" series; and birding festival. The first two events included guided hikes up Mt. Livermore with interpretation. The birding festival included a hummingbird banding demonstration and a guided birding hike. In all of these instances, the events were organized and hosted by the CDRI, and we were very proud to be associated with them. The CDRI does a great job of providing opportunities for individuals to gain an appreciation for nature, especially that associated with the Chihuahuan Desert, and to be educated about same. Such is certainly consistent with the mission of The Nature Conservancy.
I have been a member of CDRI since my college days in the early 1970's. Over the years I have seen many changes and a lot of growth of both the Institute and the land site. My husband and I have both been employees at CDRI....it is truly the most inspiring work environment either of us has ever had. We now both volunteer throughout the year and only wish we had more time to offer. Being a CDRI volunteer is very rewarding, and we feel that we are in some small way helping to preserve the desert environment we so love.
My wife and I collect and study desert plants as a hobby. We have been visiting CDRI for a number of years. Each visit we find new additions to the exhibits as well as the plant collection. We have joined several field trips put on by CDRI. One of the most unusual was a night hike down the canyon where we saw desert fauna that you normally don't see during the day. Mark "the gardener" and the other staff have wealth on knowledge about about desert plants which we really like.
A few months after my husband passed away I was looking for something to do. My background had been with the National Audubon Society where I was Director of two of their Audubon Centers. CDRI was a great fit for my previous work and my natural history interests. When I approached the Executive Director about possibly volunteering she was enthusiastic. Since that time I have spent time greeting visitors, editing newsletters, working in the gift shop, leading field trips, mopping floors, cleaning restrooms, weeding in the Botanical Garden. Whatever needs to be done. I am now privileged to be on the CDRI Board.
I first came to CDRI as a frequent visitor, to hike, attend functions, and to learn more about the wonderful flora, fauna and geology of the Chihuahuan Desert. I later joined the board of directors and have watched with pride as the quality and number of CDRI's exhibits, seminars, and educational programs for school children, teachers and general public have improved and increased in scope and numbers served, with new an innovative programs that really teach good science and grab the interest. Our gardens and trails continue to improve and are great draws for hikers, general visitors and all who are interested learning about the area's diverse plants, wildlife and geology. The organization has developed ties with the scientific community in Mexico, to the benefit of both countries, and has worked with The National Park Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and other state and national conservation and scientific not for profit organizations on a wide range of science projects through the years. The organization expands and continues to improve annually, thanks in great part to a really good Director and staff and dedicated volunteers. CDRI has become an important part of the local community AND remains engaged in the greater scientific community, and we have great plans for the future.
I am the President of Central Texas Trail Tamers (CTTT), a central Texas based volunteer organization that builds and maintains trails. I am also a docent and volunteer at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center and a member of the Capital Area Master Naturalist. I am organizing a CTTT work trip to CDRI (11-22 thru 11-26), to work with CDRI and other area volunteers, building a trail from the canyon trailhead to the top of the overlook area. Although this is the first actual work I will have performed at CDRI, I have been a member of and visitor to CDRI for the last couple of years. Based on my other volunteer activities over the last 10 - 15 years, I have been very impressed with not only the displays and gardens filled with area native plants, but also the knowledge and cooperative attitude of the staff at CDRI. In conclusion, I have been fortunate enough to visit several native plant and botanical gardens in the U.S. and U.K., including the Kew Gardens. Although I still consider myself a novice, in my opinion, CDRI ranks highly in must places to visit, right up there with the "big boys".
Having Kelly Bryan give a hummingbird banding demonstration is one of many activities I admire about CDRI. They are mindful of ALL age groups and have plenty of programs to participate in. CDRI organizes excellent lectures at Sul Ross for older people in the community and little camps and hikes for the younger people. CDRI isn't just a place for interests in plants and animals but is a place for historians and geologists as well! We are quite lucky to have this place in our area!
We have visited CDRI many times; it is special to us because we have two sons who worked there while attending SRU. We've watched it grow since the 80's and especially enjoy the Cactus Greenhouse and the peace and beauty of the Pollinator Garden. Our grandkids enjoyed their week at day camp for the first time this year; they learned so much about the things that live and grow in the desert - plants and animals. Being "city kids", this was a really good experience for them and they are already talking about attending next year.
I take students to the annual Earth Rocks festival which is a fun, educational experience for our elementary students in the area. The activities all focus on Earth Science which is typically a tough concept for students to grasp without these hands-on activities provided free of charge by the CDRI.
Although we live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we love the Texas southwest, and particularly the Big Bend region, which we have visited about 20 times during the past 30 years. More recently, we've found it convenient to stay at the "White House" in Alpine, and during those stays we have visited and explored the CDRI. In between visits, we have greatly enjoyed the CDRI newsletters, which illustrate the enormous diversity of its scientific and nature programs, including the trapping of feral hogs, the banding of hummingbirds, and the well illustrated nature trails. The programs seem to be most suitable for families and people of all ages. We have enjoyed chatting with other visitors, who seem just as enthusiastic as we are about the work of the CDRI.