LTAR Network Infrastructure

Staffing:  There are 10 permanent full-time category I ARS scientists, 7 full-time post doctoral research  positions (either ARS associates or NMSU equivalent as of November, 2011), and 1 collaborating permanent full-time USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) scientist housed within this facility for a total of 18 scientists on site.  These scientists are supported by 15 ARS FTE technical and administrative staff, and 20-25 state technical FTE supported by extramural grants and contracts.   The Jornada research program staff of ~60 FTE are housed in Wooton Hall, a modern 29,000 sq. ft. USDA facility constructed in 2002 based on the campus of NMSU.  This building contains modern laboratory, office and conference facilities that support both ARS and LTER programs based at the Jornada. 

     In addition, 5 ARS FTE technical staff are assigned to the Jornada field station in support of all maintenance, repair, and research assistance activities.  These staff are housed at the Jornada field station headquarters on a daily basis and they provide all needed technical and logistic support for field station activities.  In total, the Jornada has a staff of 70-75 scientists, technicians, office and administrative professionals, graduate and undergraduate students working within the Unit.


Facility Administration:  An ARS senior scientist serves as location coordinator responsible for all overall administrative and scientific functions and operations of the Jornada research unit and its cooperative research activities (Fig. 4).  Lead Scientists serves as Principle Investigators for either the ARS or the LTER research programs based at the Jornada.  A Station Superintendent is assigned to the Jornada field station facility and directs staff, repair and maintenance (R&M) activities and field support functions on site.  A research support scientist directs all livestock related activities at the Jornada. Individual technical staff handle specific research projects and field campaigns. 

Figure 4. Staffing Chart


Headquarters Site:  The Jornada Experimental Range headquarters (HQ) is located in the geographic center of the field station and is approximately 30 mi from the campus of NMSU in Las Cruces.  This location provides direct access to hundreds of field sites currently in operation across the Jornada.  A single wide mobile trailer provides temporary housing for a resident on-site manager and family.  Additional on-site housing (mobile homes) provides accommodations for up to 20 visiting scientists, students and field staff.  A motor pool is based and maintained at the HQ to provide staff and visitor transportation needs.    A fully equipped 4000 ft2 shop area provides space for all basic equipment fabrication, repair and maintenance needs.  Four additional shop areas of 500-750 ft2 each provide specific space for wood, metal, mechanical and miscellaneous construction projects. 

     With the construction of Wooton Hall on the campus of NMSU in 2002 we completed the first phase of our facility development plan for the overall Jornada program.  With modern laboratories and adequate office space on campus, our most pressing need for the improvement of the Jornada was development of field facilities at the Jornada field station.  A NSF Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI) planning grant (NSF DBI Award # 0330667) that was awarded in 2003 allowed us to develop the next phase of this facility improvement.  During the course of identifying the priorities for needed new facility construction, we were able to use LTER, ARS, NMSU and NSF DBI funding support to dramatically improve the infrastructure at the Jornada HQ.  Currently, at the Jornada HQ the existing infrastructure includes:

  • resident housing for an on-site station manager,
  • housing for ~20 visitors,
  • modern shop, dry lab areas, and storage facilities/buildings,
  • modern telecommunications services,
  • modern electrical systems and distribution lines,
  • an integrated network of 3 domestic water wells providing 50,000g of water storage and a modernized delivery system,
  • offices for resident staff and visitors,
  • a fire abatement system with appropriately distributed hydrants,
  • a T1 fiber optics system providing high speed data communications and wireless internet access service to the HQ and subsequent wireless nodes across the field station,
  • a new 2000 ft2 multi-user facility.


Proposed Improvements:  The NSF DBI planning grant award provided support to identify priorities for infrastructure investment.  From that award ARS scientists, working with the Administration of NMSU, developed a master plan for research facilities within the Jornada basin.  Part of this plan included development objectives for the Jornada HQ. The master plan identified needed facilities to complete the field station in order to fully support existing, projected and proposed activities (Fig. 5).  These three priority facilities are currently being provided through temporary structures.  Subsequent proposals to NSF DBI are planned to provide needed construction funds. Our prior DBI awards for the planning grant and the multi-user facility increase the likelihood that these future proposals will be successful.  In the interim, we have structures in place that provide the needed services and support.



Fig. 5.  Jornada Experimental Range (JER) Headquarter Site Master Plan


The proposed facilities are, in order of priority:

  1. A 2000 sq. ft. on-site manager residence.  This facility will replace a 35-year old mobile home currently on site and used as this residence.
  2. A 2000 sq. ft. dormitory for student guests with 2 large sleeping areas, a commons area, and restrooms and shower/bath areas.
  3. A 2000 sq. ft. facility with 8 bedrooms for visiting scientists, a commons area, and restroom facilities.


Jornada Field Station Research Sites: Research sites across the Jornada can be characterized within one of two general categories; 1) long term, manipulative field studies, and 2) sensor networks (Fig. 6). Metadata are associated with both categories, and both documentation and data sets can be accessed on line (see Data Accessibility section for further descriptions).  All investigators are required to complete a research authorization request to ensure both metadata requirements are met, and to protect all existing research sites and locations (see: for instructions on site access and data documentation requirements).  The sensor networks include both local (for example, a dust collector network) and national (for example, climate reference network, U/V network) networks.

Fig. 6.  Locations of selected long-term study sites across the Jornada.


Facility Use and Maintenance Plan:  Our facilities on campus are maintained through a Research Support Agreement (RSA) with NMSU, and annual costs for routine use, maintenance, repairs, landscaping, fire protection, security and communications are less than $10/sq. ft.  Unit base funds are adequate for this RSA.

     Our Jornada HQ facilities are maintained by ARS R&M staff positions based at the Jornada and supervised by the Station Superintendent. At least 4% of the Jornada annual operating budget (~$176,100) is allocated to R&M activities directed towards station facilities.  This budget allocation includes both force account labor and funds for supplies, materials, and needed capital equipment.  The staff and base funding resources are adequate to address all facilities R&M needs.


Research and Training Use of the Jornada Facilities:  Over the last 5 years, on average, approximately 140 scientific personnel from various institutions use the field station in a variety of regular, scheduled capacities each year.  This use includes approximately 40 scientists accessing field sites and/or long term data sets originating from Jornada research, 10 post-doctoral research associates conducting research activities in support of either ARS or LTER programs, 25 technical staff directing field research activities, 30 graduate students from several institutions (including NMSU, Arizona State University, University of Arizona, Brown, UCLA, and several foreign Universities), 30 undergraduates providing support to field campaigns, and 5 undergraduates involved in Research Experience for Undergraduate programs.  Establishment of any new research site on the Jornada requires authorization by the Supervisory Scientist.  All needed forms and the submittal process are completed online via the Jornada website.

            In addition, there are numerous uses of the field station on a less routine or less scheduled basis each year.  For example, in the past 2 years dozens of university students from several institutions, including West Texas State, NMSU, the University of Chihuahua, the University of California, and the Ecological Society of America’s SEEDs program accessed the field station for several days or several weeks at a time in support of field courses or field experiments that took advantage of the Jornada research history, associated research programs, and its accommodations.  Each year approximately 30-100 students and faculty access the Jornada in this manner.       

            As a land base withdrawn from the public domain and devoted to long term research, the Jornada is closed to unescorted public access according to federal policies.  However, Jornada staff routinely escort public groups requesting access in support of specific interests. Each year the Jornada is a site for numerous local field trips organized by various civic groups, including local chapters of the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the Native Plant Society.  The Jornada staff also conducts 2-6 workshops each year for land management agency personnel, including the Bureau of Land Management and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.  These workshops are typically 3-4 days each with a mixture of field and meeting room activities.  These civic and agency groups are able to access Jornada facilities to support their local meetings and workshops, and associated on-site field activities.


K-12 Schoolyard Program:  For over a decade, the Jornada program has provided quality, inquiry-based science education opportunities to K-12 students and teachers throughout southern New Mexico and west Texas.  Over this time period, program staff have directly worked with >500 teachers who have participated in one-day, five-day and two-week teacher professional development workshops. These workshops are specifically directed towards development of science based curriculum that can be used by these teachers in their classroom programs.  These curricula have been developed through a Cooperative Agreement with the Asombro Institute for Science Education (see:, and specifically address state board of education outcomes for science education in New Mexico.  The key to this volume of outreach continues to be this partnership that was established in 1998 among the LTER, the ARS, and the Asombro Institute for Science Education (formerly the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park), a nonprofit science education organization.  Using the combined expertise of these partners, we deliver a multifaceted K-12 education program which includes schoolyard studies, science investigation kits, teacher workshops, field trips, and classroom programs.  Over the past 5 years, over 50,000 students have been involved in the Asombro Institute’s programs.  Approximately 20% of these students participate in field activities conducted on-site at the Jornada as part of their education activities.  Annually, Jornada staff devote over 300 hours of time in support of these field programs at the Jornada.  Our on-site resident manager provides logistical support for many of these activities.