Monday, August 15, 2016

Adventures in the Alpine!

By: Lydia Fahrenkrug and Gary Olds

Along with the New Mexico Heritage Program and the National Park Service, CNHP recently completed two important projects as a part of GLORIA. The Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments, GLORIA, is a project designed to monitor long-term changes in alpine tundra vegetation, soils, and temperatures. This global network assesses climate change impacts on the biological richness of the planet's high mountain ecosystems, by monitoring four summits in a target region. The peaks have similar geology, climate disturbance, and land-use history, leaving vegetation differences among the summits to be driven primarily by elevation (Kuhn et al. 2014). After initial implementation, target regions are repeat sampled at least every five years.
Gary Olds in Pecos Wilderness Area. Photo taken by Lydia Fahrenkrug.
The two target regions accomplished this summer include starting a GLORIA site in Pecos Wilderness Area, New Mexico (July 5-12) and repeat sampling in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming (July 21-27). The trip began at Santa Barbara Trailhead, where the crew backpacked into No Fish Lake, the location of base camp all week. The crew consisted of Lydia Fahrenkrug, Dustin Gannon, Gary Olds, and Claire Tortorelli from CNHP, Hannah Burnham from New Mexico Heritage Program, and Brian Jacobs, a retired NPS botanist. Each day, they summited one of the four peaks, which were Chimayosos, West Chimayosos, North Truchas Peak and No Fish Peak to complete set-up and vegetation monitoring. With great weather and a hard working team, they were able to finish the project quickly and efficiently.
Botanists Hannah Burnham and Brian Jacobs surveying plant species in Pecos Wilderness Area.  Photo by Lydia Fahrenkrug.
The Yellowstone crew included Lydia Fahrenkrug, Alyssa Meier, Dustin Gannon, and Claire Tortorelli from CNHP, and Heidi Anderson and Monica Lomahukluh from the National Parks Service. They began in Shoshone National Forest and backpacked into their camping spot, which was on the border of Yellowstone National Park. Since this was a re-sample, all of the hardware was previously put in, allowing the crew to focus on the alpine vegetation. Everyone enjoyed the wonderful views and working together to complete this project, while wildflower season was in full swing.
Dustin Gannon measuring out for a plot in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Alyssa Meier.
These projects were successful thanks to funding from the Rocky Mountain Inventory and Monitoring Program of the National Park Service.

Kuhn, B., T. Talbot, and J. Stevens. 2013. Alpine vegetation composition, structure, and soils monitoring for Yellowstone National Park: 2011 Summary Report.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

CNHP Releases New Rare Plants by County Interactive Map

Check out CNHP's new interactive map for rare plants! The map displays the number of rare plant species in each Colorado county documented by CNHP and partner agencies, organizations, and individuals. Users can access pdf lists of rare plant species for each county by clicking a county, then clicking More Info on the pop up box. The plant lists contain species names, as well as conservation status, wetland and riparian dependent status, links to Rare Plant Guide profiles, and much more. The data used to create the map are from the CNHP Biotics 5 database.

The new CNHP Rare Plants by County Map displays the number of rare plant species documented in each Colorado County, according to the CNHP Biotics 5 database.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

CNHP Undergraduate Researcher Discovers New Relationship Between Rare Butterfly and Ants

Myrmecophily is a mouthful of a word that refers to positive interactions between ants and other species. Such relationships are well known among the ant and butterfly specialists of the world. CNHP undergraduate researcher Tristan Kubik is a bit of a prodigal ant expert, spending time as a high school student collecting and cataloging ants, and mapping ant colonies. Kubik teamed up with Rob Schorr, a CNHP zoologist, to assist Schorr in studying populations of the rare hops blue butterfly (Celastrina humulus). For his part, Kubik has focused on determining if myrmecophily plays a role in the hops blue butterfly life history. Kubik recently spent weeks monitoring eggs and larvae of the hops blue butterfly and has documented that ants tend larvae (see pictures below). Kubik has observed larger ants, such as carpenter ants, defending the larvae from predation. The caterpillars dissuade the ants from eating them by using pheromones and providing protein and sugar-rich secretions. This marks the first documentation that myrmecophily exists for hops blue butterflies and ants. It is theorized that ants provide defense for the larvae in exchange for the nutritional benefits from the nectar that the larva can excrete (mutualistic symbiosis). Alternately, some believe that the nectar is simply a calming agent that minimizes ant aggression (commensalism). Kubik and Schorr are excited about identifying what the advantages may be and how this discovery can play a role in butterfly conservation.

Tristan Kubik with a female hops blue butterfly.
Ant crawling on larvae.

Hops blue butterfly larva (Celastrina humulus) on a hops leaf. (Humulus neomexicanus).

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Remembering Dr. Sylvia "Tass" Kelso

by Denise Culver, CNHP Wetland Ecologist

Sylvia "Tass" Kelso, Professor Emeritus at Colorado College, passed away on June 8, 2016 after an 18-month struggle with pancreatic cancer.

Since 1987 she was a member of the faculty at Colorado College, teaching courses in botany, conservation, and evolutionary biology, among others, and was Curator of the Carter Herbarium (COCO). She was dedicated to sharing her enthusiasm and teaching about plants with students and with the public.

Awards and honors include the Colorado College Burlington Northern Award for Faculty Achievement in Teaching (1992); the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor at Colorado College (1992--1994); the Verner Z. Reed Professor of Natural Sciences endowed position (2004--2007); and she was recognized as Outstanding Volunteer by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program.

Tass’s botanical specialties included the systematics and reproductive biology of the Primulaceae, on which she authored numerous papers. She also studied and published papers on the arctic and alpine flora and its phytogeography, the floras of southeastern Colorado and the Pikes Peak region, edaphic endemism, grasslands, the influence of Quaternary environments on plant distributions, plant reproductive biology, and the continuing importance of floristic exploration. Her research on Primulaceae has resulted in most of her contributions, culminating most recently in treatments of Primula, Androsace, and Douglasia in Volume 8 of Flora of North America and Dodecatheon and Primula in the revision of the Jepson Manual of the flora of California.

Tass and her husband George Maentz have been wonderful supporters of CNHP for over 20 years. The “Bed and Breakfast on Mesa Road” in Colorado Springs is a favorite with staff. Several CNHP staff have been students of Tass over the years, so Tass’s legacy continues. On a personal note, one of my favorite memories is of Tass running through the short willows (Salix glauca) on the South slope of Pike’s Peak with her plant collection bag bouncing along her side!

Tass’s botanical expertise, intellect, and friendship will be greatly missed.

Tass Kelso (right) and Denise Culver (left) collecting cut-leaved groundsel (Senecio eremophilus) on the south slope of Pike's Peak. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

CNHP and Colorado Department of Agriculture Recommend Best Management Practices for Managing Noxious Weeds near Rare Plant Populations

CNHP and the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Noxious Weed Program have created guidelines for managing noxious weeds in the vicinity of rare plants. Geared towards such stakeholders as natural resource and land managers and decision makers, the document recommends best management practices (BMP) for effective weed control while minimizing harm to nearby rare plant populations. Rare plants are threatened not only by displacement by noxious weeds, but also by unintended negative impacts through certain weed management practices. Native plant species designated as G1 or G2 are threatened by these activities due to their restricted habitat; this habitat may be a target project area for implementing a BMP. Recommended BMPs are provided for site assessment, harm avoidance, and weed management techniques to outline where and how these G1 and G2 rare species are to be protected. The document is co-authored by Cecily Mui, former Noxious Weeds Specialist for Colorado Department of Agriculture, and Susan Spackman Panjabi, CNHP Botanist.

Grand Mesa penstemon (Penstemon mensarum) is a rare plant that is occasionally found near roadsides. The BMPs in the 2016 report provide guidelines on effectively managing roadside noxious weeds without harming rare plants.

Friday, June 24, 2016

CNHP and Partners Receive Honorable Mention for Climate Adaptation Leadership Award

CNHP was part of a team receiving an honorable mention in the 2016 Climate Adaptation Leadership Awards for its efforts to incorporate the consideration of climate change in Colorado’s 2016 State Wildlife Action Plan. The award was announced June 7 by the National Fish, Wildlife and Plant Climate Adaptation Strategy’s Joint Implementation Working Group.

Colorado’s latest State Wildlife Action plan now includes an assessment of how key habitat types could be impacted by a changing climate, and the collaborative effort that produced the analysis has received a national award. CNHP Conservation Planning team members Michelle Fink, Karin Decker, and Lee Grunau collaborated with Department of Interior North Central Climate Science Center and Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff in a series of workshops that evaluated potential future climate scenarios for a number of key wildlife habitats. Complete modeling and assessment results are also available as a separate report on the CNHP website.
The Honorable Mention plaque for the 2016 Climate Adaptation Leadership Awards. 

Michelle Fink (CNHP), Marian Talbert (NCCSC), Andrea Ray (NOAA), Heather Yocum (NOAA), Eric Odell (CPW), and Ken Morgan (CPW) discuss habitat models during a workshop at the Resource for Advanced Modeling center at NCCSC.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Siegele Summer Internship Launched With Bioblitzes

By Lydia Fahrenkrug

In the past two weeks, CNHP launched its Siegele internship program by attending three Bioblitzes. The first of these was in the recently designated Browns Canyon National Monument in Chaffee County. The following week, we co-hosted Bioblitzes at the Spring Valley and Rifle Ranches in Garfield County. A BioBlitz is an intensive period of biological surveying to find, identify, and record all the species within a designated area.
Early morning birding by Delia Malone, Mary Harris, Maddie, Alyssa Meier, Lydia Fahrenkrug, and John Sovell (left to right) at Rifle Ranch Bioblitz, in Rifle, CO

At Browns Canyon, the six interns, Lydia Fahrenkrug, Alyssa Meier, Blaise Newman, Gary Olds, Tyler Stratman, and Brandi Thomas, along with Director Dave Anderson, Pam Smith, and Scott Kellman, had an amazing time surveying the diverse landscapes and using the opportunity to work together with many different organizations and professionals. Students gained hands-on experience in a variety of disciplines, such as small mammal trapping, plant identifying and collecting, birding, insect collecting, and bat surveying. It was exciting to collaborate with different professionals while students were introduced and helped to achieve the goals of a Bioblitz.
Entering Browns Canyon National Monument for a full day of surveying, Chaffee Co.
Pam Smith, CNHP Botanist (left), works with CNHP intern, Brandi Thomas, (right) to identify plant in Browns Canyon National Monument, Chaffee Co.

For the Spring Valley Bioblitz near Carbondale, students were introduced and assisted in data collection for a Modified Whittaker Plot and helped to implement a Picture Post, which allows citizen scientists to take pictures at 9 permanent orientations over time to support environmental monitoring. We learned about the climate monitoring site being installed by the Aspen Global Change Institute by Elise Osenga and Adam Korenblat. At the Rifle Ranch Bioblitz in Rifle, students explored a riparian area and they were surprised by the amount of species they found on this ranch property. Additionally, it was exciting to have interns from the Rocky Mountain Sustainability and Science Network (RMSSN) join CNHP and focus on pollinators at both of these ranches, and also to meet students and faculty from Colorado Mountain College who helped out at Spring Valley. At both ranches, we documented birds with the Roaring Fork Audubon Society, and learn about the ranches from the owners, John Powers and Jana Six. From the Bioblitzes, students learned valuable skills and gained important experience that will help leverage their field projects through the summer.
Implementation of Picture Post at Spring Valley Bioblitz, in Carbondale, CO by Adam Korenblat, Tyler Stratman, Blaize Newman, and David Anderson (left to right).

Friday, June 17, 2016

Remembering Jodie Bell

CNHP mourns the loss of longtime co-worker and friend, Jodie Bell, who passed away on April 10th after a courageous battle with neuroendocrine carcinoma. Jodie was the Ecology Data Manager at CNHP from 1999-2012, when she left to pursue her own yoga business. Although she was part of CNHP’s Ecology team, she had formal training in Wildlife Ecology from Texas A&M University, and had a soft spot for reptiles. Jodie was instrumental in keeping CNHP’s Biotics database up-to- date with the latest plant community associations and regularly reconciled Colorado’s data with the national database at NatureServe. She spent countless hours working with CNHP ecologists to document differing viewpoints on systems and associations, tracking these concepts over time, and identifying the best way to represent these complex entities in the database. Behind the scenes of many data records is the hard work and dedication of Jodie Bell. She enjoyed field work and participated in the Sand Creek zoological survey, La Plata County biological inventory, vegetation monitoring at Pueblo Chemical Depot, several baseline surveys, and more. In addition to her database and biology skills, she was a natural editor and fine-tuned CNHP reports with her sharp editing skills and candid critiques.

Jodie added a personal touch to her work and her laughter filled the halls of CNHP. She led the CNHP birthday fund to ensure every staff birthday was celebrated, and she cared for CNHP’s unofficial mascot Kris, an albino king snake with an attitude whose origin was the source of many tall tales. Her view of wildlife and wild-lands was filled with awe, wonder and an eagerness to learn. In addition to her passion for conservation, her personal passions included yoga and animal rescue and rehabilitation. In her memory, the cat adoption room at the Animal House rescue shelter will be dedicated to Jodie Bell. CNHP extends a heartfelt thanks to Jodie for her many years of service, her significant contributions to our program, and her unending commitment to biodiversity and conservation. We will miss her warm smile and curious nature. We send our deepest condolences to her family.
Jodie Bell on a private ranch in the Eastern Plains of Colorado in 2009. Photo by Denise Culver.