"Voices of Women – On Our River, On Our Stage," features four prominent local women speaking on the culture, recreation, restoration and preservation of the Rio Grande, the lifeblood of New Mexico, in Tech's Macey Center Galena Room at 5:30 pm on Friday, Nov. 22.

The discussion, sponsored by the Socorro chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the Performing Arts Series, is free to all and precedes the all-female group Honeyhouse performance at 7:30 p.m.

It also coincides with the 32nd annual Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

The event will feature speakers Gina Dello Russo, Doris Rhodes, Nelia Dunbar, and Cecilia Rosacker, all active in issues affecting the river, wildlife, and those who rely on her waters for sustenance. It’s an age-old story with contemporary overtones.

The program grew out of recent collaborations between PAS and AAUW to plan educational and cultural events in tandem with PAS concerts, especially when the concerts have a focus on women.

“Both PAS and Socorro AAUW are pleased to host this diverse and inspiring program,” PAS Director and AAUW member Ronna Kalish said. “Each of the evening’s speakers has a unique perspective on the river; together, they paint a portrait of a resource we might sometimes take for granted.”

Born and raised along the river, Dello Russo is from a farming family in the Rio Grande valley. She worked with the federal government for 27 years; after retiring from Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, now runs a small consulting business with more time for gardening and tromping around the desert and mountains near home.

Working on the Rio Grande, Dello Russo has experienced the river’s strengths, and worked to address issues surrounding water and ecosystem health. She has been building local and regional interest in and capacity for addressing river ecosystem restoration and long-term health over the last 20 years.

Dello Russo is on the board of the non-profit organization Save Our Bosque Task Force, formerly worked with the Rio Grande Trail Commission as Resources Workgroup chair, and is involved in the Regional Water Plan update for the Socorro/Sierra County area. Her roots and home are in the Escondida area.

Rhodes, who is allowing the 629-acre lot of Rio Grande riverfront property she inherited in Socorro County to be transformed into a massive refuge for the endangered silvery minnow, forewent a million-dollar offer for the property because “this is conservation land.” She and her sister inherited the land after the 2005 death of their father, state Sen. Virgil Rhodes.

According to an article in the Albuquerque Journal, her decision wasn't just an extraordinary act of generosity on Rhodes' part; it was also a remarkable example of collaboration involving a landowner, and the worlds of government and non-profits.

And it wasn't the first time. Rhodes has offered her land as a refuge for other native flora and fauna: the yellow-billed cuckoo, the southwestern willow flycatcher, and the Pecos sunflower.

Dunbar, the first woman to head the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, is an acclaimed scientist involved in research on volcanoes in New Mexico and Antarctica. She has been honored with several awards, including being named a Geological Society of America Fellow in 2014; and, this year, a Five College Distinguished Lecturer in Geology. She is widely recognized for her scientific achievements. She works to support research on water issues and their impact on the state she has adopted as home.

As Bureau director and state geologist, Dunbar is responsible for overseeing the research and service activities of the state geological survey. She also represents the Bureau at the state legislature, other state agencies, and at national meetings, and serves as the New Mexico representative to the American Association of State Geologists organization. The Bureau’s Aquifer Mapping Program conducts hydrogeologic research for the state of New Mexico. Since the early 1990s, the staff has been engaged in hydrogeologic studies of the state’s aquifers in cooperation with federal, state and local agencies.

Dunbar and her husband, Bill McIntosh, have been in New Mexico since 1983 when they both moved here to begin graduate work at New Mexico Tech. During graduate school, they lived and worked at a riding stable in Polvadera. In 1992, they bought a 25-acre farm in Lemitar where they raise hay, keep their own riding horses, and board horses for others. Together, they have spent many hours riding horses near the Rio Grande.

Rosacker has served as executive director for the Rio Grande Agricultural Land Trust (RGALT) since 2007. Before that, she volunteered her time for the organization since RGALT's beginnings in 1997. In fact, RGALT was founded at Rosacker’s kitchen table by fellow farmers, ecologists and conservationists, all interested in protecting the Rio Grande and its floodplain – the farms and riparian lands.

She has been a leader in the middle Rio Grande landscape conservation initiative to protect agricultural land, wildlife habitat and water. This leadership role required developing partnerships and implementing collaborative efforts to access federal and state funding for conservation easements and habitat/restoration projects. RGALT serves a culturally diverse and primarily low-income demographic, where access to the financing for on the ground conservation to occur is often critical.

Also, Rosacker owns and operates a 30-acre certified organic farm in Polvadera, established in 1997. Cecilia’s Organics provides vegetables, flowers and beef to a number of Albuquerque’s fine restaurants and grocery stores, as well as Grower’s Markets in Albuquerque.

“Please make plans to join us for what promises to be a lively and informative program,” Kalish said. “Light snacks - pulled pork sliders & sides - will be available, and a cash bar.  The program is free, but your monetary donations and conversational contributions on the topic of the river are welcome!” 

“Also,” Kalish added. “Rumor has it that HoneyHouse might close this pre-show program about our River with an original song by Hillary Smith about the Rio Grande.”

For further information, contact PAS at 575-835-5688.