The Sevilleta Field Station is located in central New Mexico at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, approximately 80 km south of the University of New Mexico’s (UNM) main campus in Albuquerque. The field station was initially established in 1989 to support the research efforts of Sevilleta Long-Term Ecological Research (SevLTER) program. The mission of the field station is “to promote understanding and preservation of the natural environment,” and over the past two decades its activities have expanded well beyond the SevLTER, enabling and supporting a wide variety of research, academic courses, training workshops, conferences, retreat, and class field trips. Field station facilities are owned and managed by UNM, while research and teaching efforts are carried out in cooperation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which manages the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge.
Beginning in the late 1980s, UNM biologists developed SevFS from a collection of military surplus tents on wooden platforms to a multi-purpose facility with funding from UNM, National Science Foundation (NSF), the Nature Conservancy and the USFWS. By 1995, those efforts had produced a modern field station with laboratories, computer facilities, a library, a conference and classroom facility, and housing for up to 48 resident researchers. In 2002, with funding from NSF and UNM, a new 1,200 sq ft storage building was added to the field station compound, providing new space for the storage of biological samples and field equipment. The original 1,500 sq ft storage building was then renovated into a fully functional “dirty” laboratory for plant and soil research, complete with RO water and drying ovens. This laboratory is also equipped with a wide variety of power-tools and construction equipment and is used as a staging area for construction and configuration of small equipment items employed in field studies. During 2006-2008, the Sevilleta Education and Research Facility (SERF) was constructed with $6 million in federal and state funds. This 20,000 sq ft facility contains modern laboratories for research and training, conference rooms, and offices. In 2011, with funding from NSF FSML, the construction of two new houses and renovations to the old laboratory and library buildings increased accommodations from 48 to 68 overnight guests. In the past five years, additional funding from NSF FSML enabled the acquisition of laboratory equipment items and growth chambers, as well as the outfitting of a computer research and training laboratory, substantially improving research and teaching capacities of the field station.
History of Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge
The Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR) was established in 1974 through a gift from the Campbell Family Foundation and The Nature Conservancy to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A Spanish land grant dating to 1817, the Sevilleta NWR is approximately 100,000 hectares (220,000 acres) in size, consisting of two mountain ranges and much of the Rio Grande valley. The Sevilleta NWR is bounded on the east by the Los Pinos Mountains (“Mountains of the Pines”), and on the west by the Sierra Ladrones (“Thieves Mountains,” in reference to 17th, 18th and 19th century bandit groups that would use these rugged mountains as hideouts).
The Sevilleta NWR lies at the junction of several major biomes of the American Southwest; it is at the northern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, the western edge of the Great Plains Short-grass Prairie, and the southeastern edge of the Colorado Plateau Shrub-Steppe. Along the Rio Grande is the gallery cottonwood forest (“bosque”). Above the riparian corridor are grasslands, shrublands, juniper savannas and piñon-juniper woodlands. Nearby mountain ranges (the Magdalena Mountains to the southwest, and the Manzano Mountains to the northeast) climb to nearly 11,000 feet and support old growth forests of ponderosa pine, limber pine, Douglas fir, Engleman spruce, and quaking aspen.
As a result of the variety of ecosystems in the region, the biodiversity of the Sevilleta NWR is remarkably rich, supporting over 1,200 species of plants, 89 species of mammals, 353 species of birds, 58 species of reptiles, 15 species of amphibians, and thousands of species of arthropods.
The Sevilleta NWR is unique to the National Wildlife Refuge System, because it is dedicated to environmental research and education. As such, it is deemed a natural preserve and is closed to general public use. Special permits are required for research and other activities. The refuge has been closed to livestock grazing since 1974, and public use of the area (e.g. hunting, hiking, camping) is limited. The Sevilleta therefore remains a secure and undisturbed site for long-term field research.
The Sevilleta Field Station provides support for the the Sevilleta Long-Term Ecological Research (SevLTER) Program and many other research and educational activities being conducted in the Middle Rio Grande Valley and on the SNWR. Research remains the most common reason for overnight stays at Sevilleta Field Station, aligning well with our mission. Several of these research projects encompass long-term studies that exist at multiple locations throughout the refuge. Approximately one third of these projects are either directly or indirectly associated with SevLTER, which handles permits for research infrastructure managed by Sevilleta Field Station, such as the Sevilleta Wireless Research Network (SevWRN) and Sevilleta Meteorological Network (SevMET). All SevLTER datasets are available online through the Sevilleta LTER. Moreover, most permitted research projects in the SNWR leverage multiple resources provided by field station, including residences, laboratories, computing resources, conference rooms, and/or assistance by field station personnel. The resources and logistical support provided by field station make the SNWR and surroundings an attractive place for a broad spectrum of research, which has attracted over $45 million in funding since 1989. The field station provides short- and long-term housing for intensive work in the area, maintains high quality laboratory facilities, and manages the SevWRN, which enables real-time access to instrumentation at field research sites located in remote areas. Given a choice of research sites on the abundant public lands in NM, many researchers choose to locate their projects in the SSNWR because of the benefits provided by Field Station.
The Sevilleta Field Station has been a demonstrated leader in promoting and maintaining technological infrastructure to support researcher needs and facilitate better understanding of ecological and climate dynamics in dryland ecosystems. The field station was an early adopter of Internet service via a T1 line, which was replaced by an aerial fiber optic line in 2006 that currently provides 100 Mbps of bandwidth year around. With the assistance of NSF FSML funding in 2004, the field station was also one of the first such facilities to establish a research wireless cloud, the Sevilleta Wireless Research Network (SevWRN), a large-scale wireless telemetry network that automates the real-time acquisition of data from instrumented field research sites located in remote areas. This network, which has been under the continuous oversight covers hundreds of square kilometers within and beyond the SNWR, and has connected over 50 unique research sites (e.g., meteorological stations associated with SevMET), representing one of the largest wireless telemetry networks devoted to environmental research anywhere in the world.