Ciara Brodie accepting the James F. Cudday Scholarship.

Sul Ross State University graduate student Ciara Brodie, Midland, is the

recipient of this year’s James F. Scudday Scholarship from the Chihuahuan

Desert Research Institute (CDRI).

The award was made by Shirley Powell, president of the CDRI Board of

Directors. The $1,000 award is offered annually to Sul Ross graduate

students conducting research in the Chihuahuan Desert region, with

preference given to applicants conducting research in vertebrate biology.

Brodie’s research is aimed at collecting data for all species of turtles

residing in the Rio Grande near Lajitas, and determining the current status

of turtle habitat in the area.

“In dry arid places like the desert, rivers such as the Rio Grande are

lifelines for people, plants and wildlife alike. However, the Rio Grande is

overtaxed by people and under attack by invasive species, leaving little

precious water for the indigenous flora and fauna,” Brodie said. “The

effects of this are so deleterious that the World Wildlife Fund has listed

the Rio Grande in its top ten rivers-at-risk worldwide.

“The fragmentation of the Rio Grande affects many creatures, and one of the

groups which rely on intact river habitats is turtles,” said Brodie.

“Because of the intrinsic life history traits of turtles, they may indicate

the biodiversity and health of the ecosystems in which they reside.

“It is relatively common knowledge these days that many species of turtles

and tortoises are facing a high risk of extinction, partially due to how

slow they tend to grow and reproduce, and partially due to human

interference,” she said. “Efforts to conserve these or any species relies

heavily on species data, such as natural history, reproductive biology,

population abundance and distribution.”

Her data collection this summer seems to show that the Big Bend slider

turtles are using the water hazards at the Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa in

Lajitas as a surrogate habitat, although Brodie can only speculate as to the


“I’ve been catching more sliders at the golf course than in the Rio Grande,”

she said, “and inversely I’ve caught more soft shell turtles in the river

than I have at the golf course.

“It’s my hope that with further analysis I will be able to determine more

about why the turtles are responding to changes in their environment and

ultimate we can apply that information in our conservation efforts in other

places that have anthropomorphic water sources servicing as surrogate


Brodie is advised by Dr. Sean Graham, Sul Ross assistant professor of


Dr. James F. Scudday (1929-2009) was a CDRI co-founder and longtime

professor of Biology at Sul Ross. Upon his retirement in 1995, he was named

a Distinguished Professor Emeritus by the Board of Regents of the Texas

State University System, the Board’s highest honor for retired educators.

In addition to a full teaching load, he conducted significant research,

published in scientific journals and prepared numerous comprehensive

vertebrate surveys for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the

National Park Service.

During his Sul Ross tenure, Scudday directed more than 100 students in

graduate programs and thesis projects. Many of his former students remained

in close contact with him during the course of his lifetime.

The Dr. James F. Scudday CDRI Endowed Scholarship Fund was established in

2010 in recognition of his many contributions to the field and his passion

for teaching. Income from the fund supports scholarships for Sul Ross

graduate students, and each $17,000 generated for the endowment will fund an

additional scholarship.

Donations may be sent to: CDRI, PO Box 905, Fort Davis, TX 79734 (please

indicate Scudday Scholarship on donation). CDRI is a 501C3 organization so

donations are tax deductible.

Cutline for Scudday-Ciara Brodie:

Sul Ross State University graduate student Ciara Brodie, Midland, is a

two-time recipient of a graduate scholarship offered through the James F.

Scudday Endowed Scholarship Fund from the Chihuahuan Desert Research

Institute (CDRI). Shirley Powell (not pictured), president of the CDRI Board

of Directors, made the presentation. Photo by Cheryl Zinsmeyer


Grab your sweater and head over to Sul Ross State University’s Kokernot

Outdoor Theatre this weekend for the final performances of “Monty Python’s


The adaptation of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” will be performed at

8:15pm Friday-Sunday, July 22-24. Dona Roman, SRSU professor of Theatre and

director of the Theatre of the Big Bend (TOBB), is directing the musical


Audience response to the comedy has been overwhelmingly positive with

reviews such as: “Loved ‘Spamalot’ at Theatre of the Big Bend last evening!

Great work. See it next weekend if you can!”; “I laughed so hard! It was

great.”; “If you want to laugh a lot, go see ‘Spamalot!’”; and “Thank you

for bringing this wonderful show to the Big Bend. We were thoroughly


Theatre goers, particularly visitors to the area, are reminded that even in

the summer, Alpine evenings can get chilly due to the higher elevation, so

don’t forget to bring a sweater or light jacket to the outdoor theatre.

Since only bench seating is available, theatregoers are also welcome to

bring lawn chairs or stadium seats.

While the Theatre of the Big Bend shows go on, a fund-raising effort is

underway to upgrade facilities. More than $70,000 has been raised toward a

$300,000, three-phase goal to renovate the Kokernot Amphitheater.

The amphitheater, built in the 1930s as a Works Progress Administration

(WPA) project, was last used for stage productions in 2010. Upgrades will

include bringing the amphitheater to ADA compliance and other improvements

to both the theatre and restrooms. The renovated amphitheatre should reopen

to the public in summer 2017. Replacing the Outdoor Theatre will follow.

Tickets for “Monty Python’s Spamalot” may be purchased online at or by calling (432) 837-8218.


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