Johnny Ramirez's blog

5 Things You Need To Know About How We’re Using Modern Technology To Understand Our Changing Environment

Our environment is constantly changing. All of the time. It changes because of natural variables like the seasons or reoccurring droughts.

Earth going through its yearly transition between seasons. GIF: Public Domain NASA images


7 Things You Didn’t Know About Creosote Bush

If you are familiar with the Chihuahuan Desert, you will recognize the creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) as ubiquitous. It is common throughout Western North America, and it’s becoming even more common. Creosote bush has a unique set of evolutionary adaptations that allows it to outcompete many other plants in its ecosystems, given the right opportunities.

Creosote Bush Flowers


The Mongolia Connection

It seems as though drought and water scarcity are in the news on a daily basis. In fact, desertification is a growing problem throughout the world, as dryland regions become increasingly arid and more challenging to manage sustainably. For the people of Mongolia, a country that is more than 80% rangeland, land degradation is a particularly pressing problem due to increases in livestock numbers and changes to livestock management systems that occurred after the transition from communism to democracy in the early 1990s.

Helping to Solve Food Scarcity: an App Brings Expertise to the World’s Farmers

The world is going to have to double its current food production by 2050 in order to meet the demands placed upon it by a growing population. This is according to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is tasked with ending extreme poverty in developing nations across the world. Making progress on this high-reaching goal requires a multi-front approach, one of which is the use of modern technologies to bring information and new abilities to people who didn’t have it before. The Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, New Mexico is working in collaboration with USAID to develop technology in the form of a suite of mobile phone applications that will bring badly needed knowledge to rural land owners in developing nations. This knowledge is needed in order to maximize the production potential landowners can get from their land, while minimizing erosion risk on this land so their children and grandchildren are ensured a livelihood in the future.

Maximizing food production sustainably requires knowledge about the land.

New Methods of Identifying Climate Change in Desert Southwest ‘Unearthed’

LAS CRUCES, NM  - Researchers at The Jornada Experimental Range and New Mexico State University are learning to uncover thousands of years of climate data in environments where no record previously existed. In order to do this, they are digging into the earth itself for a chronology of how vegetation has shifted between grasslands and shrublands in the Desert Southwest. Not only does this give scientists a new method of peering into the climactic record in areas they could not before, but the information they gain will help differentiate between human-caused and natural cycles of climate change.

Every year the monsoon brings much needed rain to the Southwest. This transient moisture transforms the desert and allows the grasslands, that both wildlife and people depend on, to emerge.  When the rains end, the grasses will have spread their seeds, dried up, and will wait for next summer’s rain. Very little here is permanent.

Chihuahuan Desert Grassland Rangeland
Healthy Chihuahuan Desert grassland during monsoon season.

Goats Helping An Ecosystem, One Munch At A Time

Across the Western United States, grasslands that ranchers, their livestock, and wildlife all depend on are disappearing. This important ecosystem is being shaded out and out-competed for resources by juniper forest, which can support far fewer cattle and less biodiversity than grasslands. Currently people reclaim land by cutting down the trees or setting prescribed fires, but these methods can be expensive or risky. But, what if we could entice the livestock already grazing there to eat juniper? Like getting a child to eat his or her vegetables, could we get these animals to eat a plant they don’t normally like?

Juniper Encroaching on Rangeland

Juniper slowly encroaching on rangeland originally dominated by grasses.

Bird of the Week: Lark Bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys)

The nights are getting longer, the days chillier, and with each passing week there seem to be fewer and fewer birds occupying the skies.  But they aren't all gone. One small bird you will see throughout the winter here in the Southwest is the Lark Bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys). 

Female Lark Bunting Calamospiza melanocorys

Female Lark Bunting


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