Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Texas A&M-Kingsville researcher receives Fulbright Award to study in Chile

KINGSVILLE - March 28, 2014

Contact: Julie Navejar
jule.navejar@tamuk.edu or 361-593-2590

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A wildlife researcher and faculty member at Texas A&M University-Kingsville has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Award to study and teach in Chile. Dr. Fidel Hernández holds the Alfred C. Glassell Jr. Endowed Professorship in Quail Research and is a research scientist with the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute (CKWRI) which is part of the Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences. He will be going to the southern region of Patagonia in Punta Arenas, Chile from August 2014 through January 2015.

“I am very honored and humbled by this award,” Hernández said. “It represents an important milestone for me professionally. The scholarship, however, represents so much more than an award. It represents the fulfillment of a personal and professional passion of mine to learn of the conservation of natural resources of remote and foreign landscapes while contributing to the betterment of their communities.”

“There are few honors a person can receive as noteworthy as this one,” said Dr. Fred Bryant, Leroy G. Denman Jr. Endowed Director of Wildlife Research for the CKWRI. “We are so proud of Fidel for this accomplishment, his recognition, and the prestige it brings to the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute.”

“This is a tremendous honor for Fidel, and it reflects the quality of the faculty in the college and the university,” said. Dr. Allen Rasmussen, dean of the Kleberg College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences. “Because of the caliber of work he does, it will make other fellows and the organization look to our students and faculty.

“This will extend way beyond his work in Chile because the Fulbright program creates an international network with all of the Fulbright Fellows. He will become part of this network over the next year. This will link A&M-Kingsville to this network and give both our students and other faculty more opportunities and exposure,” Rasmussen said. “Just as important, Fidel will bring back experiences that will help our students better understand very different ecosystems and his new network will improve our students’ study-abroad opportunities.”

“I first visited South America five years ago, and I became fascinated by the continent. Its culture, history and ecology simply invigorated me,” Hernández said. “I returned twice after my initial visit and now have traveled extensively throughout the continent. Although my travel was during my summer vacation and for personal enjoyment, I relished the learning experience and incorporated the ecology of the continent into my rangeland and wildlife ecology courses at A&M-Kingsville. I wanted to formally mature this learning experience beyond summer trips.”

Hernández will be teaching a graduate course at the University of Magallanes (UM) called Ecology and Management of Wild Lands and Animals. “The course represents a synthesis of information from four courses taught at A&M-Kingsville. The objective is to integrate information on soils, vegetation, biodiversity and human subsistence into a holistic, sustainable view of ecosystems,” he said.

His research subject will focus on the guanaco/sheep conflict that is occurring in that region of Chile. Guanaco (pronounced wanako) is a wild, llama-type animal with very fine wool. Hernández said guanaco populations have been declining severely in Patagonia since the introduction of domestic sheep during the 1800s. Both the guanaco and sheep compete for the same pastures.

“Conservation agencies recently have promoted the sustainable harvest of guanaco wool as a solution to the conflict. Their wool can be harvested by live shearing and often sold at much higher prices than sheep wool,” he said. “However, social and ecological factors limit sustainable harvest of guanaco wool as a conservation tool for the species.”

 “People living off the land still view guanacos as a competitor with sheep, despite their economic value. They also believe the costs of conservation are borne solely by them while the benefits are enjoyed by outsiders. I will be investigating the community attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs toward livestock grazing and conservation to identify incentives for, and barriers to, guanaco conservation,” Hernández added.

And after his work in Chile is done? “One goal of mine is to develop a field-abroad course to Chile where A&M-Kingsville students will be exposed to international issues and learn of rangeland and wildlife ecology in a foreign country,” Hernández said. “I also wish to build upon this initial research to create collaborative research opportunities for faculty and student exchange between universities.

“The university houses the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute and the King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management that engage graduate and undergraduate students in a wide variety of studies on rangeland, wildlife and ranching issues. The University of Magallanes houses the Institute of Patagonia that investigates natural resource issues of the region. Valuable opportunities exist for student and faculty exchange between the two universities,” he added.           

About Dr. Fidel Hernandez

Hernández is a professor in the animal, rangeland and wildlife sciences department and is a research scientist with the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, both in the Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences. He is a native of Brackettville and was raised on a cattle ranch in western Texas. Hernández earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology from Angelo State University with chemistry minors in both degrees. He earned his doctoral degree in wildlife science from the joint Texas A&M University and Texas A&M University-Kingsville degree program. 

His research interests involve general population ecology of wildlife and have included projects on the influence of predation, habitat, weather, land use, harvest and range management practices on avian populations. He has authored more than 60 scientific articles, seven book chapters and two books.  

In collaboration with his colleagues at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, he coauthored Texas Bobwhites: A Guide to Their Foods and Habitat Management (University of Texas Press, 2010).  He and Dr. Fred S. Guthery (Oklahoma State University) recently published the second edition of the classic Beef, Brush and Bobwhites: Quail Management in Cattle Country (Texas A&M University Press, 2012).  Hernández serves as a reviewer for several international journals, including The Journal of Wildlife Management, American Midland Naturalist, Wilson Journal of Ornithology, Journal of Rangeland Ecology and Management, Wildlife Biology, European Journal of Wildlife Research and Western North American Naturalist. He also has served as a panel review member for the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, International Aridlands Consortium and the Environmental Protection Agency.         

During 2007–2008, Hernández served as the president of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society. He also served the national organization, The Wildlife Society, at various capacities, including chair of the Ethnic and Gender Diversity Working Group. He and coauthors received the Outstanding Book Award in 2004 and 2014, as well as the Outstanding Scientific Publication in 2012 from the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society.

He received the Junior Faculty Distinguished Research Award in the College of Agriculture, Human Sciences and Natural Resources in 2005 and the Texas A&M University System Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award in 2010. Hernández received the Rising Star Award from the Javelina Alumni Association at Texas A&M University-Kingsville in 2010.  He and his graduate students have presented more than 200 papers at various national and international scientific conferences, with his students being winners of several awards for Best Student Research or Presentation.

-TAMUK-


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