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Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Biological & Life Sciences, Botanical Gardens & Arboreta, Environment, Natural History & Natural Science Museums

Mission: The mission of the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute (CDRI) is to promote public awareness, appreciation, and concern for the natural diversity of the Chihuahuan Desert region through research and education programs. The CDRI is an independent nonprofit organization established in 1973 by a number of concerned professionals. The mission of the CDRI is accomplished through scientific research; the publication and dissemination of literature; films; educational activities; and the development of a visitors' center with exhibits near Fort Davis, Texas. CDRI headquarters are located on 507 acres of desert grassland and igneous rock outcrops south of Fort Davis. The property is open to the public daily and features an extensive arboretum, cacti and succulent greenhouse, a visitors' center, and over two miles of self-guided hiking trails.

Programs: Nature center/gardens/public outreach program: cdri operates from a 507 acre site named the chihuahuan desert nature center. The nature center contains a wide range of features including: i) a 20 acre botanical and pollinator garden, ii) a cactus house, iii) over 5 miles of trails including a canyon with a year round spring and pools and an overlook trail featuring one of three geologic exhibits at the nature center, iv) a mining exhibit and v) a visitor center with a well merchandised gift shop. Cdri offers annual memberships of varying levels and benefits to nearly 500 members and host over 6,000 visitors annually to its site. We employ a full time gardener, a part time site manager, and persons to manage the gift shop as well as to staff the reception desk of the visitors center. Cdri also offers adult programs consistent with its mission of appreciation, awareness and concern for the natural diversity of the chihuahuan desert region. Certain events, principally an annual fund raiser bbq, are delivered in an attempt to raise funds in support of the organizations operating costs.

education program: cdri has two major tenets to its mission, education and research. The educational focus centers on programs for school aged children in a served market of schools within an approximate distance of 100 or so miles from the nature center. Cdri hosts a spring program for area 2nd and 3rd graders and a fall program for area 5th graders. All programs are designed to comply with tx essential knowledge & skills (teks) tests. In addition to the two major site based programs, throughou

research and conservation program: the other major tenet of cdris mission is research and both education and research are linked to conservation and sustainable practices. Cdri actively and overtly promotes the use of the nature center site in furtherance of research initiatives. Cdri allocates a portion of its site based costs to this expense classification.

Community Stories

17 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

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.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 4

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.

6

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

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.

7

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

9

Board Member

Rating: 5

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.

10

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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".

9

Volunteer

Rating: 4

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!

6

Donor

Rating: 5

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.

5

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

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.

5

Donor

Rating: 5

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.

5

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

CDRI is a tremendous resource to the Big Bend Country. The annual native plant sale attracts folks from all over the state, as does the annual auction and BBQ. Day hikes, field trips as well as Chihuahuan wildlife and flora education programs are offered to members at nominal fees.

6

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

CDRI is an invaluable asset to the communities of West Texas. Their workshops and lectures are always entertaining, enlightening and engaging. Their trails, gardens and exhibits have something to offer people of all ages and abilities. That's why, whenever I have out-of-town visitors, I take them to the nature center to learn about the Chihuahuan Desert and see the landscape. Even with the number of state and federal parks in this part of Texas, the nature center is probably the most easily accessible and educational place to hike and get to know the biodiversity of our region. They also do a great job of educating kids from local schools about the natural environment around them. My 9-year-old cousin, who visited from Dallas and had never experienced the Chihuahuan Desert before visiting CDRI, probably said it best: "This is adventure land!" He can't wait to come back.

5

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

CDRI is one of the most amazing places in the area with so much to do and see. They have so many fascinating educational programs on such a wide variety of desert plants, animals and geology for people of every age. The beautiful and diverse natural botanical gardens and cacti greenhouse are always a pleasure to explore and they explain so much about the native plants in the area. The guided hikes and lectures are a delight, always so interesting and full of great information. As a member, it is a wonderful place to take a desert hike on the trails around the nature center and into the canyon on a weekend morning or summer evening. The staff and volunteers are very personable and an absolute wealth of information. They can always answer your questions. The new Geology exhibit is a must see and their cactus festival and native plant sale are two events out of the entire area that I look forward to all year. I also just love that they have recently added a cactus rescue program. CDRI is nothing short of an all around invaluable asset to our area.

5

Board Member

Rating: 5

I enjoy the field trips and the nature center.The botanical gardens and exihibts are always worth a trip to the center.The CDRI is a great place to learn about the chihuahuan desert.

7

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

CDRI is the best-kept secret in Texas---it's time for more people to realize what a tremendous asset it is. CDRI is very well managed by a team of dedicated, highly educated, and knowledgeable individuals. As a National Park Service ranger at nearby Fort Davis National Historic Site, I turn to CDRI for answers to questions on area flora & fauna and geology. I also attend CDRI's excellent educational outreach programs.

6

Donor

Rating: 5

CDRI is hard to summarize because its mission ranges from teaching to interpretation to formal research to conservation to . . . A few observation from my limited perspective: Even before the time visitors and tourists first arrive in the area, they have heard about CDRI's unique nature center, bookstore, interpretive programs and nature walks. Children of all ages who visit CDRI are able to expand their appreciation and understanding of the Chihuahuan Desert through a thoughtful, carefully planned range of hikes, fieldtrips, workshops, nature camps, etc., etc. CDRI's award-winning program, "Nature Notes" can be heard throughout the tri-county area on KRTS, and members are treated to CDRI's equally informative and imaginative newsletter, "Chihuahuan Desert Discovery". Both program and newsletter are produced and edited by CDRI's staff with assistance from experts from the area and throughout the country. Less visible to the general public, but at least as fundamental to CDRI's mission is its commitment to research and scholarship. CDRI supports graduate and other student research projects, research, institutions of higher learning with Field School opportunities and every 5 years hosts the widely attended "Symposium on the Natural Resources of the Chihuahuan Desert Region which draws speakers and attendees including researchers, educators, conservation experts, and the general public from throughout North America to exchange and discuss ideas. And thats' just a few of the high points!

6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Wonerful facility. Competent personnel. magnificent gardens. Lots of hiking trails that are varied. Educational exhibits. Better than a bargain on Ebay.