TXST convenes West Texas scientists and the public for the Christmas Mountains Research Symposium


Matt Joyce | April 19, 2024

black and white photo of a mountain range

Texas State University is gearing up to host the Christmas Mountains Research Symposium, an annual West Texas gathering focused on the ecology, geology, culture, and history of the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem.

The tenth edition of the symposium is scheduled for May 19-21 at Terlingua Ranch Lodge, which neighbors Big Bend National Park. The symposium highlights research by students and faculty from Texas State University System schools—including TXST—as well as other universities, and state and federal agencies.

May 3 is the deadline for both registration and presentation abstracts, said David Lemke, Ph.D., a TXST biology professor who produces the event.

“The symposium provides an opportunity for folks who share an interest in the natural history of West Texas—including university students and faculty, employees of governmental and nongovernmental agencies, and the general public—to get together and learn about ongoing research activities in the region,” Lemke explained. “We also hope to increase awareness of the availability of the TSUS Christmas Mountains property as a site for educational and research purposes.”

The State of Texas deeded the 9,270-acre Christmas Mountains property to the Texas State University System in 2011. Since then, the system has promoted research enterprise on the property, and it’s now in the planning stages of building a field research station at the base of the mountains. 

Symposium presentations cover a range of topics, from botany to zoology, archaeology, geology, astronomy, and conservation. Presentation abstracts are not due yet, but Lemke said Texas State will have at least a few presenters on the agenda. Biology master’s student Elisa Williams and her advisor, Joseph Veech, Ph.D., will present on rock squirrel response to anthropogenic change. Biology master’s student Jackson Burkholder and his advisor, Lemke, will present on extrafloral nectaries in cacti. Aquatic Resources doctoral program alumni Rebekah Rylander and Amanda Haverland will present on grassland bird conservation efforts.

The symposium also offers field trips into the mountains, including a guided drive to the 5,728-foot summit and geology and paleontology walks.

Terlingua Ranch Lodge, which is situated at the foot of the Christmas Mountains, is about 35 driving miles from the unincorporated town of Terlingua. The facility offers guest cabins, campsites, the Bad Rabbit Café, and a swimming pool.

Attendance is capped at 80 people, but Lemke said walk-up registration is allowed.

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922