Project Spotlights

These spotlights feature completed and in-progress CPCESU projects to showcase some of the great work that has been accomplished by our partners.

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Archaeological Studies at Las Ventanas LA 1328

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Las Ventanas (Candelaria) great house, looking south. The structure rises nearly 4 m above the sloping ground surface to the south. Las Ventanas’ ground floor comprised 50 rooms, with a substantial second story of perhaps 25 rooms (at the far edge of the structure in this view).               
Photo by Paul Reed; copyright Archaeology Southwest                   

Project Award Number and Abstract: CDA-009

Non-federal Partner: Archaeology Southwest

Federal Partner: National Park Service

Location of Project: El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico

Principal Investigator: Paul Reed

Description of Project:

Since 2006, Archaeology Southwest (AS), formerly known as the Center for Desert Archaeology, has conducted several archaeological projects within the boundaries of the El Malpais National Monument, or ELMA. During these projects, AS intensively surveyed approximately 4000 acres and recorded more than 115 sites. Identified components range in age from Paleoindian to 1970s sites. This past fall, AS undertook a detailed assessment of the Las Ventanas or Candelaria Community and the lava landscape to the west.

The Center’s work at Las Ventanas focused on two aspects: 1) archaeological survey of the extensive lava landscape west of the great house, and 2) creation of a detailed map of the Las Ventanas great house site and surrounding features. Work in the lava revealed numerous trails, cairns, bridges, and other features related to ritual and non-ritual activities.

Click here to view a map of Las Ventanas great house. Note the basic L shape of the structure, the tower kiva on the two-story south side, and the multiple kivas inferred in the lower, single-story portion of the building. Map courtesy of Bob Powers, from the 2005 El Malpais Archeological Survey report, page 80. 

Project start/end dates: September 2010 – September 2013

Project Cost: $50,000

Project goals:

The primary goal of the project is a better understanding of the great house and surrounding community, including its origin, its Chacoan or non-Chacoan derivation, and its relationship to other Chacoan communities in Chaco Canyon and in the southern periphery of the Chacoan World. Archaeology Southwest's work in 2010 revealed a full and varied ritual landscape in and around the Las Ventanas site.

Project successes:

The project is still ongoing, but preliminary conclusions indicate that the Las Ventanas great house and community were built by local Puebloans who incorporated the Chacoan approach to sacred landscapes.

Student support:

No students have been involved with this project to date.


Establishing Ex-situ Populations of an Endemic Guadalupe Mountains Violet for Conservation and Genetic Study




           One of the first Viola guadalupensis germinants     Nets are used to collect seeds from violet capsules from which                   at The Arboretum at Flagstaff.                              the seeds are forcefully ejected.                                                               Photo Credit: Kristin Haskins                                Photo Credit: Fred Armstrong

Project Award Number and Abstract: AAF-001 and AAF-003

Non-federal Partner: The Arboretum at Flagstaff

Federal Partner: National Park Service

Location of Project: Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Principal Investigator: Kristin Haskins

Description of Project:

The Guadalupe Mountains violet (Viola guadalupensis) was discovered in Guadalupe Mountains National Park (GMNP) and newly described to science in 1990.  It grows on vertical limestone faces that are heavily shaded by a relict forest at 2,438 m in elevation.  The discovered population consists of only 70 plants tightly clustered within a 2.4 m x 3.0 m area.  Searches for other violet sites had proven unsuccessful until GIS modeling in 2006 predicted potential habitat in 10 locations in the park.  Location searches resulted in the discovery of a second, smaller population.  In 2009, a rare plant survey identified two additional populations, bringing the total to four.    

This violet has been found nowhere else in the world.  The park has successfully collected and germinated seed through the assistance of an independent violet specialist. The highly specific habitat requirements of this species make it susceptible to catastrophic fire, disease, herbivore attack, and climate change. Prior to out-planting propagules, propagation requirements and transplant techniques will be examined and researched by The Arboretum at Flagstaff to determine the set of protocols that will insure the highest success of survivorship.

Project start/end dates: April 2007 – June 2012

Project Cost: $14,900

Project goals:

The primary objective is the continued propagation and multiplication of seed through a cooperative research project with The Arboretum at Flagstaff. A second objective is to establish one or more geographically separate populations of this violet within the park boundary.  The third objective is to examine the genetics of the Guadalupe violet by soliciting the help and collaboration of several experts in the family Violaceae.  These steps are necessary to maximize the survival and conservation of this rare violet.  Furthermore, results from this study will contribute to critical management decisions whether it will be practical to expand the number of populations of this violet or if it will be necessary to place it into commercial propagation under a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA).

Project successes: 

Recent genetic work has resulted in an updated phylogenetic tree for the species.  This work can be found in the American Journal of Botany (Marcussen et al. 2011).  Phase two of this project was initiated in 2011, with an additional funding amount of $16,397 and an expected end date in late 2012.  

Student support:

Students have not been involved in this project to date.   


Ecological Effects of Magnesium Chloride as a Dust Suppressant 


  A truck sprays a chemical dust-suppressant.                                  Scott Hoffmann, a PhD student in Ecology at USU,                                                                                                       works in the field.

Project Award Number and Abstract: USUCP-045

Non-federal Partner: Utah State University

Federal Partner: National Park Service

Location of Project: Arches National Park, Utah

Principal Investigator: Mark Brunson

Description of Project:

The large number of unpaved roads on the Colorado Plateau, coupled with the growing popularity of recreation uses and development of roads for energy exploration and development, raises critical questions about the production and impacts of so-called "fugitive dust" on natural resources (especially plants and soils). To reduce potential dust impacts to natural environments and to visitor experiences, managers increasingly use chemical dust-suppression products such as magnesium chloride (MgCl2), which in itself may have unpredicted impacts on natural resources. This project is designed to yield ecological information that helps managers weigh the tradeoffs between vehicle-generated dust deposition and inputs of chemical dust suppression products. It also will lead to a long-term monitoring protocol and best practices management guidelines for the future application and environmental impact assessment of MgCl2.

Working at a site on the Salt Valley Road in Arches National Park, researchers are studying 1) the extent to which MgCl2 and its ionic constituents Mg2+ and Cl- are transported by wind and water away from unpaved roads on which it is applied; 2) relative effects of fugitive dust and MgCl2 on vegetation downwind of the road; 3) and changes in soil chemistry associated with MgCl2 application. Greenhouse studies at Utah State University in Logan offer additional information about the impacts on dust and MgCl2 impacts on common Colorado Plateau plants under controlled laboratory conditions.

Project start/end dates:  April 2010 – September 2012

Project Cost: $30,355

Project goals: 

1) To gain a better understanding of the role of visitor-generated fugitive dust on park resources.

2) To work collaboratively with NPS personnel and university researchers to develop a long-term monitoring protocol and best practices guidelines for future application and environmental impact assessment of magnesium chloride dust suppressants.

Project successes

The project is still ongoing.

Student support:

This project forms the basis for the doctoral dissertation of Scott Hoffmann, a PhD student in Ecology at Utah State.

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