Over the years, since Hendrickson first came to the University of Texas and told most everyone he met during the job interviews that he would really like to do research on the blindcats living under San Antonio (having done a term paper on them as an undergrad), he's been trying to do just that. Politics got in the way initially - getting access to the San Antonio wells proved near impossible. The famous political battle surrounding that aquifer and the Fountain Darter, which ultimately brought the U.S. Supreme Court to force Texas to manage the aquifer to assure minimum flows for that species was raging at the time. It wasn't too surprising that one high level employee we met with about our request to sample wells controlled by his office was not pleased about the prospect of collecting data that could help add yet another endangered species to the list of concerns his office had to deal with. After complimenting us on all the cool science we hoped to do, his answer was simply "No."
But, by then, what would become a long and productive connection to Austin's active community of cavers, landed an icebox of live Prietella phreatophila in front of his office door one morning, and thus began a long relationship with many people, and that fish species, that continues to present. The long-awaited discovery of Mexican Blindcat in Texas rejuvenated activity and connections to old friends and colleagues, as well as many new ones, and the "Blindcat Working Group" was born with the mission to work collaboratively to support further studies of the North American blindcats and their habitats as relevant for their protection and sustainability of both these fish species and the humans that depend on the same water.
Participants, First Blindcat Working Group meeting, 25 May, 2017 in the Neutral Zone on Amistad Dam (left to right): Pepe Davila Paulín, Comisión Nacional de Areas Protegidas (CONANP) - Director, Area Protegida Sabinas; Roberto Enriquez, Engineer, CILA; Jean Krejca, President, Zara Environmental, LLC; Juan Antonio, CONANP Park Ranger; Peter Sprouse, Vice President, Zara Environmental LLC.; Andrew Gluesenkamp, San Antonio Zoo; Gary Garrett, University of Texas at Austin; Dean Hendrickson, University of Texas at Austin; Javier Ochoa Espinoza, CONANP - Sub Director, Area Protegida Maderas del Carmen; Ricardo Olivo Rodríguez, CONANP - Area de Protección de Recursos Naturales 004 Don Martín, Biologist; Joanny Guindin, National Park Service - Amistad National Recreation Area, Biological Technician; Jack Johnson, National Park Service - Amistad National Recreation Area, Integrated Resources Program Manager; Christopher Ryan, National Park Service - Superintendent, Amistad National Recreation Area; Sarah Howard, National Park Service - Amistad National Recreation Area