Biological field stations
Prairie Biological Field Station
Jungle Biological Field Station
Prairie Biological Field Station
The Prairie Biological Station is immersed within the Janos Biosphere Reserve in the State of Chihuahua in northern Mexico, which was decreed in 1999. The station was founded in 1998 and its objective was to function as a station field scientist and as the main operations center for researchers and students conducting research in the region. The idea of making a biology station in the Janos region started in 1991 when researchers and students started the first studies on the biodiversity of vertebrates in the colonies of Black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) and a biological diversity of vertebrates was observed. This was uncommon and had never before been recorded for an arid region of Mexico.
The Janos, Chihuahua region is of extraordinary natural beauty, it is characterized by incredible landscapes with extensive plains that give an appearance of being endless, in addition to soft hills and on the horizon you can see the foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental with majestic peaks and steep cliffs. The region is a very heterogeneous mosaic of plant communities. However, when a tour is made from the lower parts, the prairies are dominated by short grasslands characteristic of the great prairies of North America, in some places there are patches of scrub mesquite, popotillo and cholla and already in the mountains there are abundant forests of oaks and pines, and in the wetter glens are splendid ash forests. Sycamore, walnut and willow trees grow along the streams. All this makes the region have an unusual gradient in Mexico of its flora and fauna, in addition to studies on restoration and management of ecosystems.
The Prairie Biological Statio, in addition to being surrounded by these types of vegetation, abundant wildlife is observed, so it is also possible to find fauna of the most diverse and characteristic of North America. Janos is a region of biological superlatives, home to more than 380 species of terrestrial vertebrates; 227 species of birds; 79 species of mammals; 41 species of reptiles and 13 species of amphibians and an as yet unregistered diversity of invertebrates. This Janos fauna includes bison, deer, pronghorn, black bears, cougars, sheepdogs, bighorn sheep, raccoons, peccaries, rabbits, wildcats, hares, squirrels, golden and white-headed eagles, hawks, hawks, cranes, sparrows , plovers, owls, owls, geese, snakes, snakes, frogs and fish. Many of these species, such as the bison, pronghorn, wolf and porcupine, which have been eventually bordered on the brink of extinction by different human activities, find in this region a last refuge.
One of the emblematic species of Janos, and for which we began research since the early 1990s, is the presence of one of the colonies of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) in North America. With their day-to-day activities, they keep grasslands open, limit brush growth, and prevent large-scale desertification. This in turn allows the presence of endangered species such as the golden eagle, the owl, and the desert fox, species that depend on the llaneros for food and / or shelter to dozens of species in their burrows and are prey to many predators such as desert foxes, coyotes, and eagles. Another of the singularities where the Prairie Biological Station in Janos is located is that it maintains the largest reproductive population of owl in the grasslands of North America, the largest population of golden eagle in Mexico and the only population of wild bison in the country. . It is one of the most important wintering sites for pasture birds and nesting of the western mountain parakeet in the pine forest of the neighboring mountains. This is why the conservation of this region is so important to maintain the biological diversity of Mexico, which is why the Janos area has been considered a priority for nature conservation in North America.
The Prairie Biological Station is located in the central part and privileged place of the RBJ in a mosaic of different types of vegetation and with different uses and land properties for agriculture and livestock, where overgrazing and drought have left grassland fragments and a year-by-year increase in mesquite and gullies thickets distributed throughout the region.
This configuration makes the Prairie Biological Station an ideal place to carry out different and interesting investigations of its flora and fauna, in addition to studies on restoration and management of ecosystems. The Pradera Biological Station offers a wealth of opportunities to work on a wide variety of species in a wild environment.
The research we have focused on for the past 30 years focuses on
Ecology of Populations and Communities
The Pradera Biological Station is designed for researchers, students and for conducting courses and for visitors. The station offers infrastructure for comfortable accommodation for up to 18 people on a one-hectare site that is equipped with:
Three full baths
Large room that also functions as an Auditorium
Educational resources at the station and an active environmental education program provide learning opportunities for local and international visitors.
How to get to the Pradera Biological Station
The Biological Station is located in the northwestern part of the state of Chihuahua, south of the border with the United States and east of Sonora, in the Provinces of Sierras y Llanuras del Norte and Sierra Madre Occidental. It is located within the Ejido San Pedro in the municipality of Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico (30 ° 51'34.4 "N 108 ° 23'25.0" W). It is located 220 km from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. The trip by car from Ciudad Juarez to the Biological Station lasts 2:45 min.
Ecology and Conservation of prairie dogs’ ecosystem in Janos, Chihuahua
In addition to the largest colonies of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) on the continent and a great diversity of fauna, the Janos region maintains extensive areas of native grasslands. The work that we developed in this region began more than 20 years ago when we focused on assessing biological diversity, mainly of vertebrate groups. Throughout this time, we have developed numerous research projects in which we have recorded the rapid degradation of the grasslands.
Currently we focus on the conservation of the ecosystem through particular projects of students and four general projects:
Program of Restoration and Conservation of Arid Grasslands in Northwest Mexico
From 1990 to 2000 more than 40,000 hectares of grassland were transformed into arid shrubland and more than 45,000 hectares of pasture cover were lost. In addition, intensive agriculture increased from 731 hectares in 1993 to 12,845 hectares in 2008 and 70% of the hectares occupied by prairie dog colonies were lost.
These changes motivated us to link scientific research with the environmental problems of the region and as a result of our commitment, in 2009 we achieved the declaration of the Janos Biosphere Reserve, the first federal reserve to protect native grasslands in Mexico.
The scientific information we are producing will allow us to establish the basis for promoting grassland restoration and socio-economic well-being in the region by developing sound strategies to: 1) restore the prairie dog’ ecosystem, 2) implement a better livestock management, and 3) restore grasslands using intensive agriculture to transform shrubland into native grasslands.
Together with the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas we are coordinating the elaboration and implementation of the management plan with conservation and restoration actions using interinstitutional and interdisciplinary approaches.
Interaction of Prairie Dogs and Domestic Cattle in Janos Grasslands (JPACS)
Throughout the world large and small herbivores modify the plant composition and soil structure having a very important role in the maintenance of grasslands.
However, domestic livestock has now replaced native herbivores and thousands of their populations have been decimated primarily by apparent competition. Although livestock farming has been considered one of the main causes of grassland degradation, very little is known about its interactive effects on native flora and fauna and possible effects on ecosystems.
Since 2006 we have established a long-term experiment in the grasslands of Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico which simultaneously manipulates prairie dogs and domestic livestock in four key treatments (+Prairie Dogs -Livestock; +Prairie Dogs +Livestock; -Prairie Dogs +Livestock; -Prairie Dogs -Livestock). The objective of this work is to help understand the relationships and interactive functions of these key herbivores and understand the possible impact of livestock and wildlife management in the restoration and conservation of grasslands in northwest Mexico.
This work is carried out in collaboration with the University of New Mexico (UNM) and the United States Department of Agriculture in New Mexico (USDA-ARS).
Habitat use and conservation of the North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) in the southern limit of its geographical distribution.
The North American porcupine is considered an endangered species in Mexico since its distribution is limited to a few localities in the north of the country. The only population studied in Mexico lives in northwestern Chihuahua, within the Janos Biosphere Reserve. Although it has been declared a natural protected area the region continues to suffer severe degradation which threatens the permanence of fragile communities such as riparian areas and a large number of species that depend on them.
Between 2006 and 2009 we determined the abundance, the home range and evaluated the use and selection of porcupine habitat through the use of telemetry. Field data revealed an abundance of 0.38 individuals per km2 and an average home range size of 329 hectares. These values represent the lowest abundance and the largest home range reported for the species in North America. Porcupines use mainly riparian forests and mesquite shrubs but show a strong selection towards riparian vegetation where the fragmentation of the few riparian forests in the reserve seriously threatens the viability of porcupine populations.
The loss of northern porcupine populations in the region may lead to shrinkage of geographic distribution and lead to local extinction of the species. This study provides useful information on the identification of critical sites for the conservation of porcupines and many other species that depend on riparian areas.
Reintroduction and translocation of native species
The black-footed ferret, one the rarest mammals in the world, reintroduction program began in 2001. This weasel depends almost exclusively on prairie dogs as prey and its distribution has been alarmingly reduced until the edge of extinction. To date more than 300 ferrets have been released in Janos and since 2002 the first offsprings born in the wild Mexico have been located.
In 2011 we began the prairie dogs’ translocation program to repopulate areas of grassland where they have been extirpated. We have translocated more than 150 individuals being this the first reported attempt to reestablish colonies of prairie dogs in Mexico. We are currently developing the basic methodology for the restoration of colonies of prairie dogs at the large-scale.
Ecology and Conservation of low forests in Chamela, Jalisco
The project “Ecology of Small Mammals in the Dry Forest of Chamela” began in 1986. The objective was to evaluate the influence of environmental heterogeneity on population dynamics and on the structure of communities of small tropical mammals. Information has been generated since 1990 and has allowed us to have the longest database for a dry tropical ecosystem.
Small projects have been carried out throughout these years. The possible effect of the “El Niño” phenomenon on small mammal species was evaluated; The structure and content of Liomys pictus burrows; The habitat use of arboreal rodent species of which there is little information and the spatial and temporal variation of the community structure.
Conservation in Latin America
In partnership with “The Sierra to Sea Institute” and “ProCAT” Colombia, the laboratory is currently developing research and conservation projects in several regions of Colombia, including the Caribbean region, the Amazon region and soon in the Orinoquía. The work of the laboratory in Colombia is focused on the development of conservation projects based on a robust scientific background as basis for the decision making, while also working hard in the training of human capital through the training of students and the building of capabilities in ecology, conservation and management.
Our work in Costa Rica has been developing since the 90’s where we carried out the first research projects south of the country. Our involvement with Costa Rican science and conservation has a long history and we are currently developing several initiatives in terms of both basic and applied research and scientific dissemination and diffusion. We are currently working with “The Sierra to Sea Institute” on a number of field projects, focusing on connectivity, functional diversity, feline ecology and conservation and applied conservation biology through research projects in some of the most important biodiversity areas in the country. In addition, we are developing editorial and educational projects on the country’s biodiversity, both for dissemination and scientific purposes, supporting the management of Costa Rica’s biodiversity and as an example for other countries in the region.
Our work in Peru began in 2011 in collaboration with a team of Peruvian researchers led by Dr. Horacio Zeballos of the Museum of Natural History of the University of San Agustín in Arequipa. Our research in this country has been focused on the search for new species for science and new records of distribution areas of vertebrate species mainly mammals, amphibians and reptiles. Together we carried out an expedition to the national sanctuary “Tabaconas Namballe”, in the province of Cajamarca, where we found eight new species of mammals and three species of amphibians. This is the most important biodiversity discovery in recent years because all these species of animals were discovered in a very small area located on the Atlantic slope of the Peruvian Andes, near the border with Ecuador.
In 2012 we carried out an expedition to the historic sanctuary of Machupicchu where the preliminary results of our collections suggest that this may be an important site for the discovery of new species.
These works have spread all over the world having a great impact for the science and also for the conservation of the ecosystems of Peru and of the biodiversity in America.