In furtherance of the Honors College’s educational mission, Sundt Honors Seminars (HON 450V) aim to foster student engagement by offering intensive learning opportunities both inside and outside the traditional classroom. The Sundt Honors Seminar is a unique, experience-based, interdisciplinary seminar developed and taught by the Sundt Honors Professor. The course is taught in the spring semester by the holder of the Sundt Honors Professorship for that academic year.  It may include a travel experience related to the seminar topic, hosting of outside specialists, or other unique activity. The instructor is provided with a budget of approximately $10,000 to support the course. The fund may go toward paying the costs of student travel, paying for supplies, inviting outside speakers, or other activities. However, major equipment purchases are not allowed, nor may the fund may be used to hire a graduate assistant.

The Sundt Honors Seminar is open to Crimson Scholars of sophomore, junior, or senior standing by application only. Up to 14 students are accepted. Students accepted into the seminar will be designated Sundt Honors Scholars for the term. Sundt Honors Seminars satisfy the Viewing the Wider World requirement of General Education.

Hon 450V: The Sundt Honors Seminar: Querétaro, México: A Case Study for Biodiversity, Food Security, Ecosystem Services, and Global Change

Brook Milligan

T • 4:00 – 6:00 PM Foster Hall Rm. 146


Through a mix of teamwork, field projects in México, and presentations, the Sundt Honors seminar for Spring 2018 addressed three interrelated issues dominating the 21st century: (i) assurance of food and water security, (ii) maintenance of natural ecosystem services affecting human well-being, and (iii) the impact of global change on both. We used the State of Querétaro, México as a case study to learn about (i) the perspectives of governmental agencies dealing with biodiversity and land use information to guide policy and management decisions, (ii) the process of acquiring information in the field as well as the potential conflicts that arise from the realities of field conditions, and (iii) the value of integrating scientific information to address the interrelated challenges of food and water security, functioning ecosystem services, and global change. During the field component of the course, NMSU students worked directly with Mexican peers, an experience that will amplify the value of the course and perhaps create lasting interactions.

iglesia-de-santa-rosaFigure 1. Querétaro is a microcosm of the world in many ways with respect to the challenges of sustainability and therefore offers special insight into the issues we will focus on.  Its capital city is the fifth fastest growing in México, yet development threatens an adjacent national park that provides essential ecosystem services including flood control and water filtration.  The state hosts an ecologicaly significant UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, yet many species of plants and animals continue to be threatened by extinction.  Local communities have been actively involved in the policy and management of the region, yet illegal logging and poaching still occur.  Thus, this single state exemplifies many of the tensions that result from the interplay of food and water security, ecosystem services, and global change.  As such, it is an ideal laboratory for studying those tensions and for seeking solutions that improve both livelihoods and sustainability.

In addition to working with Mexican scientists and peers on field projects in Querétaro, we learned about Mexican biodiversity management at CONABIO (México’s premier biodiversity commission), visit the National Museum of Anthropology (a world-renowned museum on the history and culture of México), the Templo Mayor (the major Aztec archeological site predating the Spanish Conquest), and Teotihuacán (remains of an ancient Mesoamerican city, thought to be the largest in pre-Columbian America), and explored the historic center of Querétaro City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Of course, we also enjoyed the hospitality of our Mexican colleagues and a diversity of authentic Mexican cuisine. Students worked in small groups and conducted a case study project during an 11-day field trip (over spring break) to Mexico City and Querétaro. There we worked with Mexican colleagues at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro (UAQ) to learn how they gather and use biodiversity and other data to address sustainability.  In the field, we worked in small teams that mix NMSU students with Mexican counterparts to participate in ongoing research projects.  Although this work was carried out in México, knowledge of Spanish was not a prerequisite. Following fieldwork in México, students returned to NMSU and finished their case studies by providing written documentation of their work, as well as gave oral presentations to the Honors College in a small mini-symposium and at URCAS, to which the campus community was privy to learn about the interplay between biodiversity, ecosystem services, human well-being, and climate change.

Dr. Milligan is a Manasse Scholar in the Department of Biology, Jefferson Science Fellow with the U.S. Department of State, and Science Advisor for the U.S. Forest Service.  His major research interests are population genetics and conservation biology. The Sundt Honors seminar aims to foster student engagement by offering intensive learning opportunities both inside and outside the traditional classroom. The Sundt Honors seminar is a unique, experienced-based, interdisciplinary seminar developed and taught by the Sundt Honors professor.


Applications, including the International Programs Office FLiP application forms, were due Monday, October 26, 2017.