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Miguel Grageda studies endangered Sonoran pronghorn in the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve in Sonora, Mexico, to see how nearby human development might affect their population. Aerial surveys done by the Arizona Game and Fish Department in 2019 estimated about 100 individual pronghorn within the Reserve.


Miguel's 90 camera traps cover 200,000 acres, a significant portion of the pronghorn habitat within the Reserve. From January to June 2020, he obtained 58 records of Sonoran pronghorn, as well as 14 mule deer, 110 coyote, 3 bobcat, 17 badger, and 25 livestock records. 


One of Miguel's most exciting findings for 2020 was a group of fawns born during the first week of March, demonstrating recruitment of pronghorn into this area. There were two records of pronghorn just south of the international border in May 2020, and It will be important to see if pronghorn continue to use this area after the new border wall is constructed.

When Miguel checks his cameras at the end of 2020, he will be able to see if total number of pronghorn records exceeds the numbers estimated in  2019. Will the numbers of this endangered species increase?  Stay tuned.

Julie Rakes studies biocrusts, the topsoil microbial communities found atop desert soils. It is important to understand what affects the health of biocrusts as they provide nutrients to soils in nutrient-poor regions such as the Sonoran Desert.


Recent field surveys of biocrusts have revealed the presence of virulent predatory bacteria (the “plaques” seen in Julie's photo), which infect healthy biocrusts. Julie's research involves analyzing the effects of rainfall and temperature on the health of biocrusts in desert soils.


Julie's data show that increased rainfall facilitates the rate of infection by predatory bacteria, killing up to 28% of the biocrusts that they inhabit. Intense sunlight has the opposite effect, killing about half of the infectious bacteria on the soil surface.


By learning more about what factors influence the health of biocrusts, we will be able to develop better management plans to protect them.


Julie Bethany Rakes is a Ph.D. student in ASU's School of Life Sciences. She was awarded a $500 grant to help her complete her studies on a predatory bacterium found in the the soil crusts of the Sonoran Desert. Julie's work will increase our understanding of how desert microbes impact topsoil communities in arid, desert environments.

Miguel Angel Grageda Garcia is a Ph.D. student in the University of Arizona's School of Natural Resources. He was awarded a $500 grant to continue his camera trap studies on the endangered Sonoran pronghorn in the El Pinacate Biosphere Reserve in Sonora, Mexico. Miguel is examining how obstacles like roads and physical barriers affect the movements and range of Sonoran pronghorn, as well as their ability to compete with livestock for food and space.

Student Grant Program

FRIENDS OF THE SONORAN DESERT (FSD) is pleased to announce our new student grant program. Grants will be awarded to students for proposals that will increase our understanding of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem and facilitate our mission to protect and conserve the Sonoran Desert throughout its range. 


Qualified applicants include advanced undergraduate students and graduate students enrolled in Arizona universities. In 2020 two awards will be made of $500 each. 


Criteria used to evaluate applications:

     1. Overall quality of the proposed project

     2. Match of the proposal with FSD ongoing programs

     The proposed project can be part of a larger student-driven project (honors thesis; MS thesis; etc.).                

     Applicants should make clear how FSD funds will advance the completion of their project.


Applications must include:

     1. Title of project

     2. 500 word summary of proposed project

     3. Project budget and brief justification

     4. Name and contact information of two references, including the student’s academic supervisor


Grant Program Timeline:

     Call for proposals: 1 February 2020

     Deadline for proposal submission: 20 March 2020

     Award notification: 13 April 2020

     Final report due: 1 December 2020

Final Report

     Grant recipients will submit a final project report (due 1 December 2020) and 3 high-quality images     

     (JPEGs) with permission for FSD to use these photos to promote their work: one image will be of the student

     investigator, preferably in the field (required); and two from the following list, as applicable: the species being     

     studied; the​ habitat in which the study was conducted; workshop; product produced; etc.


Postmarked by 20 MARCH 2020

EMAIL APPLICATION TO:  info@friendsofthesonorandesert.org






P.O. BOX 25592

TEMPE, AZ 85285

Student Grant Application

PAGE 1 (of 2)

Applicant Name:  

Affiliation (university/department):  

Grade Level:  

Contact Information – e-mail address and phone number:  


Reference 1:  Supervisor's name:  

Affiliation (university/department):  

Contact Information – e-mail address and phone number:  


Reference 2:  Name:  

Affiliation (university/department):  

Contact Information – e-mail address and phone number: 


Project Title:  

Budget plus justification of expenses (use remainder of Page 1):

     Budget guidelines: no salaries allowed.  Allowed expenses include $15/day per diem;       

     $0.25/mile mileage allowance; supplies and minor equipment.


PAGE 2 (of 2)

Project Description:

     500 words maximum/no longer than 1 page

     Single spaced; include up to 3 relevant citation references.

     Address overarching issue, how you will address the issue, and relevance of the issue to the     

     goals of FSD.

Friends of the Sonoran Desert

P.O. Box 25592

Tempe, AZ  85285

P.O. Box 25592

Tempe, AZ. 85285

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