Only on 6: MSU's Desert Research Station

Only on 6: MSU's Desert Research Station

Just south of Marfa, Texas is the Midwestern State University Dalquest Desert Research Station used by both graduate students and faculty.

Newschannel 6 had the opportunity to view the scenic classrooms on Wednesday, which have been a dream of MSU's current president, Dr. Jesse Rogers and the Director of Natural Laboratories, Dr. Norman Horner.  With the help of builders, architects and $840,000 from donors, the dream has become a reality.

One mile outside of the facility is MSU Vertebrate Biology Professor Ray Willis' classroom.

"As you can see by the view, it's indescribable until they actually see what their dealing with.  It's like no other place that's really in the state of Texas," said Willis.

Willis and about five grad students drive the 9 hours from Wichita Falls to the Desert Research Station about once a month to survey what he calls bats, rats and cats.

"I have a student who has just finished doing the small rodent surveys to figure out all of the species that are all actually here.  Then, I have a guy that does the bats, who catches them every month to see which species are coming through this corridor and are staying put in this particular area.  Finally, I have two students that are working on the subspecies for a particular lizard that's up here using genetics and morphology," said Willis.

One of Willis' students is Erika Mitchell.

"I'm studying the carnivores for the area so it's any of the large carnivorous mammals.  I'm taking cameras, they're trail cameras that you can set up and leave for months at a time and setting them up along the trail.  I'm baiting a couple of them, either scent bait or chicken to see which ones work better and to see which carnivores actually exist in the area.  It's amazing because you can come out and you can get your experience.  You're working out in the desert and that's a great way to gain experience," said Mitchell.

The Research Laboratory Building at the research station took about 10 and half months to build.  It's complete with restrooms, showers and multiple rooms.  It was built in two steps, but one total project.

"That was because of mobilization of materials and getting out to the site, so the first thing that was built was the utility building which houses toilets, showers and covering and storage for all of the workers.  The second stage was the lab building itself, it's got 2,000 feet roughly of usable space," said Dick Bundy, and architect for the Research Laboratory Building.

Bundy said the best way to describe the building, is that it is a building inside of a building.

"It's a double skinned building.  It's got a structural system that when up first and then the building was built underneath that," said Bundy.

The building is sensitive to the environment and sustainable.

"The west side of it has no openings, no windows, so it's protected against the harshness of the west exposure.  The overhang on the north side is very little because you want north light coming in. There's no extreme solar gain," said Bundy.

The south and east side of the building have deep porches that face into the breeze so the building is naturally ventilated.

"With the ecology of the Chihauhuan Desert, the beauty of this landscape and seeing how the animals and the ecology mesh together and how they survive together is a wonderful job to have," said Willis.

There were some challenges when building the laboratory building.  One being that the area itself is so far from town and the environment, the summer season is extra hot and the winter season is extra cold.

Dr. Rogers is hoping to attract scientists from all over the country to the Research Station to study.  Dr. Rogers is even hoping for students from other countries to come because he said that there is no place like it.

Taylor Barnes, Newschannel 6