Field Day with the I-20 Wildlife Preserve Conservation Job Corps

Borderlands Research Institute hosted members of the I-20 Wildlife Preserve Summer 2023 Conservation Job Corps for a field day at The Nature Conservancy Davis Mountains Preserve.

The Conservation Job Corps takes Midland area high school students on a series of field trips throughout the greater West Texas region to experience wildlife and habitat conservation efforts firsthand.

The Borderlands Research Institute welcomed the job corps members for an evening of introductions about student programs at BRI, including our BUMP program (BRI Undergraduate Mentorship Program).

BUMP students shared their experiences in the program and talked about the kinds of research they’re working on.

The I-20 Wildlife Preserve visitors were very curious about how BRI students learned about various types of wildlife research.

BRI students were happy to answer questions and said that it’s okay if you’re not an expert in the subject, because you learn as you go. Some BRI students are learning about these subjects for the first time thanks to the BUMP program.

There are plenty of mentors at BRI to help new students learn. The BUMP program is a great chance to get acquainted with different kinds of conservation and wildlife research.

For the field day, BRI researchers hosted the group at The Nature Conservancy Davis Mountains Preserve near Fort Davis.

The Nature Conservancy’s West Texas Education and Outreach Coordinator Kaylee French began the day with an introduction about The Nature Conservancy and the beautiful Davis Mountains Preserve and surrounding areas of Madera Creek that are also protected by conservation easements.

Borderlands Research Institute BUMP student Cali Hughes talked about working on her undergraduate project and doing field work in the Big Bend region.

Most recently, she had the opportunity to place bioacoustics monitors in remote locations that will be used to record bird calls. Researchers will analyze the recordings to get an idea of what birds are present.

Researchers are especially interested in monitoring for the presence (or absence) of Montezuma quail on the Davis Mountains Preserve.

Borderlands Research Institute graduate assistant Maya Vaughn talked about the four quail species we have in Texas, with a focus on the three West Texas species of quail: Scaled quail, Gambel’s quail, and Montezuma quail.

She described how increases in elevation, such as in the mountainous region of the Davis Mountains Preserve, correlate with changes in habitat. Within the different habitats, different quail species can be found.

For each of the quail species, Maya described their general appearance, their habitat niche, diet, fun facts, and played audio clips of the different calls they make.

The group went outdoors for some hands-on experience with wildlife research tools.

BRI graduate assistant Caleb Hughes demonstrated how to use a Yagi antenna. These antennas can pick up radio signals on tracking collars that researchers place on wildlife.

Caleb hid some tracking collars on the Preserve, and the students took turns practicing the technique of honing in on the beeps to locate the collars.

When the beeps got the loudest, it indicated that the collar was located in that direction, and the students followed the antenna until they located the collars.

Then it was off to a remote part of the Davis Mountains Preserve to catch insects with Chris Mott. Chris is a BUMP student with BRI.

He is working on a project to identify and display insects from 9-Point Mesa Ranch, one of the Borderlands Research Institute’s research sites in the Chihuahuan Desert.

Students caught and identified a variety of bugs.

We had a great time sharing a conservation field day with the I-20 Wildlife Preserve and The Nature Conservancy.

Learn more about the I-20 Wildlife Preserve, located near Midland, Texas, at

Learn more about The Nature Conservancy at