Environmental Engineers come to SMU in Taos

Engineering and Design for the Developing World taught by Nathan Huntoon and Environmental Field Methods taught by Andrew Quicksall were new classes in the August term never before taught at SMU in Taos. The design class “examined engineering design in the absence of key resources, including construction material, water and electricity. The course will focus on the development of shelter and sanitation in an efficient manner. Understanding the total energy cycle will be emphasized, as well as multiple alternative energy solutions.” The Field Methods class covered topics related to environmentally relevant field work in the developing world and tackled such projects as building a latrine.


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Hiking on the Taos Rift Valley Trail

Rift Valley Trail, West Rim Trail, and Horse Thief Trail
Known by the locals as the Taos Overlook, these are a meandering nine miles of beginner to advanced intermediate trails, which run along the volcanic mesa of the beautiful Rio Grande Gorge, through pinon, sage and cedar. This trail provides exciting downhills and small spaced uphill climbs to many viewpoints of the stunning mesa and mountain vistas. The trails include some old jeep road and single track. These are most popular in the late fall and early spring seasons.
– Taos Unlimited.net

Amongst the sage and the mountain bikes, the horny toads, horned lizard or horned frogs, depending on if you are a Texas TCU fan are now thriving.  This genus of lizards are actually neither a toad nor a frog.  The spines on its back and sides are made from modified scales, whereas the horns on the heads are actually horns with a bony core.  There are 15 species of horned lizards in North America, eight of which are native to the United States.

Horned lizards use a wide variety of means to protect themselves.  Their coloration acts as camouflage.  When threatened, their first defence is to remain still.  If approached too closely they run, puff up their bodies to cause them to appear more horned and larger and at least four species are able to squirt a stream of blod from the corners of the eyes from a distance of up to five feet.  They do this by restricting the blood flow leaving the head, thereby increasing blood pressure and rupturing tiny vessels around the eyelids.

Horned lizards prefer to eat ants.  Efforts to eradicate ants – their staple food with DDT, destruction of their natural habitat and the pet trade have reduced their numbers. (Photograph courtesy of Gary M. Stoltz, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)Destruction of their native habitat, efforts to eradicate ants—their staple food—andPhe pet trade have all contributed to this.

TPPhoto: Short-horned lizardPhe primaPCoury cause for population decline is the loss of habitat by agricultural and urban conversion. Other causes also have lead to declining populations including Photograpoverharvesting for the pet trade and curio trade and the invasion of exotic species, parPticularly exotic ants which the lizards can not survive on and outcompete their preferred ant.he primary cause for population decline is the loss of habitat by agricultural and urban conversion. Other causes also have lead to declining populations including overharvesting for the pet trade and curio trade and the invasion of exotic species, particularly exotic ants which the lizards can not survive on and outcompete their preferred ant.






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Sage Hunters

The Taos area is known for its pungent sage. The sage is popular as smudge sticks used by Native Americans in their ceremonies and as keepsakes by visitors. Professor Jen Valadez and I hunt for suitable stalks of sage in the open field across the highway from the SMU in Taos campus. These sprigs will be dried and mixed with juniper and then tied with hemp to form the sticks. But beware of rattlesnakes!

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Botany and Parasitology Students

Advanced biology students Kimberly and Jewel logged many hours in the Fort Library researching their topics.

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Online Circulation comes to Fort Burgwin Library

Professor Jose Santos teaches ANTH 3310/CFB 3310 Gender and Sex Roles: A Global Perspective in the May 2012 Term is the first to use the Voyager online check out system. Now Fort Library item status will be reflected in the library online catalog accurately. Students and faculty will no longer have to manually fill out cards to borrow library materials. This improvement should encourage more usage of library materials for SMU in Taos courses.

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Cantonment Burgwin Digital Collection

The Cantonment Burgwin Postings digital collection chronicles the establishment and history of this small military installation in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains located 10 miles outside of Taos, New Mexico. It was established in 1852 as a cantonment to denote a temporary cavalry installation to protect the Taos Valley from the Utes and Jicarilla Indians. It was named after Captain John K. Burgwin, in honor of his death in 1847 while fighting during the siege of Taos Pueblo. The excavated, rebuilt compound was renamed Fort Burgwin in 1956 by Dr. Fred Wendorf.

The digital collection is created from two sets of documents. The first set, presented in Series 01 through Series 06, includes transcripts of primary documents relating to Cantonment Burgwin. The transcripts are held by SMU and the primary documents are mainly held at the National Archives and Records Administration. The second set, Series 07, was obtained from the Arrott Fort Union Collection at Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

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May Term 2011

Students arrived to find cooler temperatures in the Carson National Forest. Several days gave forth snow showers that only lasted a little while but dusted the juniper pine trees with white.

Now the weather is windy and dry and forest fires are breaking out in the Taos area. The beginning of June Term was delayed due to road closures resulting from a fire near Sipapu. Smoke could be seen on the SMU in Taos campus from this fire as well as from a larger forest fire in Alpine Arizona.


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Memorial to Hunter Green

Charles Moore, Taos Scholar in the first SMU in Taos Fall Term, donated a framed photograph in memory of Hunter Green. Hunter was a student in the Fall Term of 2009 who died in January 2010. The photograph now hangs in the Fort Burgwin Library.


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Gisella Loeffler Art

SMU in Taos received a gift of crayon and watercolor drawings by Gisella Loeffler, Taos artists from Mary Ackerschott. Some of the pieces are on display in one of the exhibit cases in the Fort Burgwin library.

Loeffler was one of those “more than a minor footnote” artists of the new deal era. Born in Austria, in 1903, Gisella Loeffler is remembered as a Taos artist of immense and diverse talent. Loeffler, who signed her paintings: Gisella, moved to the U.S. with her family in 1908, settling in St. Louis, Missouri, where she studied art at Washington University. She began her career painting for the WPA Federal Art Project in the 1930???s. After seeing an exhibition of works by Taos artist Ernest Blumenschein, Gisella left her husband and moved to Taos with her two daughters. Known for whimsical Austrian and Mexican child folklore figures, she executed murals for children’s areas in a number of hospitals across the United States. Gisella was popular in the Taos community, and remained there until her death in 1977.

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A new addition to the Fort Burgwin campus is an area for chapel services. The mountain views from the chapel display the majesty of the Sangre de Christo mountains.


In the evenings, classes compete in a volleyball tournament. Here, the biology class is sparring off against archaeology. The winners of the tournament get t shirts and bragging rights for the rest of the term.


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