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We present preliminary results of a fairly large scale infrared spectroscopic survey of nearby M stars. Given the important role of these stars in the total mass of the Galaxy, and their similarities to brown dwarfs, a better understanding of their characteristics impacts a number of research fields. To date, the few attempts at recording representative infrared M dwarf spectra have been limited in scope, typically containing only ~5-10 stars. Many of the limitations of past observations of M dwarfs stem from their faintness at visible wavelengths and from previously inadequate instrumentation in the infrared, where these objects emit their peak flux. With the recent addition of KSPEC to the facility instruments at the UH 88" though, we are now acquiring a much larger infrared spectroscopic database than has ever been possible. Some of the immediate benefits of creating such a database include better constraints on low mass star models through a better understanding of the dominant opacity sources in these stars. Effective temperature values for low mass stars could be much better defined through the fitting of temperature sensitive lines to spectra rather than the frequently used technique of broad band photometry. Finally, it should be possible for the first time to establish an M star spectral sequence ranging from M0-M10+ based on 1.0-2.5 $\mu$m spectroscopy. This result would clearly have a broad impact on low mass star and star formation research and could be used to compare established M stars with more peculiar low mass stars, like T Tauri stars, in embedded clusters.
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