Monday, September 11, 2017

Neal Swayze's Crazy Daisy Adventure!

By Neal Swayze 

This past summer I was chosen as a Siegele Intern to work with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. The internship lasted a total of ten weeks, with eight individual trips to different locations all around Colorado. I asked for the total CNHP experience, and did I get one! Working with a total of ten CNHP mentors, I learned botany, biology, field protocols, flexibility, teamwork, adaptability, and much more. It was a challenge to constantly be traveling and learning new tasks each week, but it was wonderful and exciting. Fieldwork was described to me as exhausting but ultimately rewarding, and I wholeheartedly agree! Nothing can compare to camping, working and living outdoors all summer. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute to meaningful conservation while having lots of fun.

Over the course of the summer, I traveled to Norwood, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado Springs, Steamboat Springs, Leadville, Gunnison, Pinyon Canyon Maneuver site, and Saguache County. I contributed to a wide variety of conservation work, including rare plant monitoring/surveys, wetland/ungulate use research, wildlife surveys, small mammal trapping, bat monitoring, sagebrush sampling, a bio-blitz, and finally pitfall trap setup/lizard surveys. It was an eventful summer, and I got a true taste of conservation research while learning the skills necessary to be a member of a conservation field crew. I learned how to be ready and flexible for anything nature could throw my way, while still enjoying the outdoors.

One of my favorite experiences was working on the wetlands at Great Sand Dunes National Park. I worked with other field techs to collect extensive quantitative measurements of wetland quality. We looked for traces of ungulate use including poop, grazing, and tracks. We also collected extensive botany data and water quality measurements. We had to dig small monitoring wells, as well as fix and repair broken ones. I learned how to thoroughly use a GPS, how to drive a 4 wheel drive vehicle, how to set up wetland monitoring plots, how to measure well depth, and how to use, clean, and maintain a water quality probe. I really enjoyed working with the park rangers and field techs, and I learned more than I could have ever expected.

It was a powerful experience to get out in the field, which was something I felt I was missing in my undergraduate education. I learned the value of raw experience, and how nothing else can replace walking around and observing the natural world. Learning from lectures and books is valuable and helpful, but nothing compares to learning out in the field. I highly recommend the CNHP Siegele internship, as I feel it helped catalyze my understanding of ecosystem ecology as well as link together previous knowledge from school with the real world. Plus, if you get the internship you get to see stunning, mild blowing sunsets, and many other beautiful natural vistas! It was a blast of a summer, and it was over before I knew it. I cannot wait to get back into the field, and back to conservation science. I look forwards to more adventures with the CNHP!

Sunset at Lake Catamount, Steamboat Springs.
Physaria pulvinata at Norwood.

Dee and Sarah conducting monitoring plots for Physaria pulvinata

Tyson looking out over the river that runs through Great Sand Dunes. 

Bobby, Neal and John after completing lizard pitfall traps in Pinyon Canyon. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Conservation Easement Study

CNHP is pleased to share the study, "Colorado’s Return on Investments in Conservation Easements: Conservation Easement Tax Credit Program and Great Outdoors Colorado." This study evaluates public benefits received by Coloradans from state investments in conservation easements. The study found that each dollar invested by the state produced benefits of between $4 and $12 for Coloradans in addition to protecting numerous key conservation priorities. To learn more, please see the CSU press release linked below.

https://source.colostate.edu/investments-conservation-easements-reap-benefits-colorado/

It was fantastic to work with our colleagues in the Warner College of Natural Resources and @CSUCollegeAgriculturalSciences. This report would never have been possible without help from Great Outdoors Colorado - GOCO, the land trust community and a generous private donation to help fund our work. Thanks to everyone who made this important work possible and we hope the study provides useful information on the State's return on investment for private land conservation efforts.

Pleasant Valley near Bellvue, Colorado

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Rifle and Carbondale Bioblitzes

By Riley Reed

What is a bioblitz?
Last week as a CNHP intern I had the opportunity to participate in two bioblitzes in Rifle and Carbondale, Colorado! A bioblitz is when a team of scientists travels to a designated area to best identify all the flora and fauna species. The scientists are given a twenty four hour period to find, identify, and document all the species that they can. Pictures or live samples are taken of each species that is documented. The purpose of the bioblitz is to gather information about the biodiversity of the area. This can help landowners manage their property more efficiently and promotes the best land use practices. It can also bring attention to any threatened and endangered species that are on the property.

First time? Won't be your last!
For many of the interns and volunteers, including myself, it was our first time learning about and helping with a bioblitz. It was a great learning opportunity that allowed us to get hands-on experience in a relaxed and fun manner. Many different fields of natural resources' work were covered, such as zoology, botany, restoration ecology, and human dimensions. All of the CNHP scientists were very helpful and passionate about spreading their knowledge and teaching the interns and volunteers.

Where did we go?
A large group from CNHP consisting of zoologists, botanists, interns, and volunteers left Fort Collins and headed west to the bioblitz location on a ranch in Rifle. The Ranch had a wide range of habitats that provided a high biodiversity rate relative to the size of the property. The data that was collected on the property was achieved through a variety of different methods. Birds and other wildlife were spotted during flash surveys of the property; camera traps were also set up at various locations. Bats were documented using a sonogram that was set up near the pond at night. Insects were captured with insect nets and a UV light trap at night. Fish were documented with the help of Colorado Parks and Wildlife and one of their fish shocking experts. (I would like to note that no fish were hurt during the fish shocking studies.) Trees, forbs, and grasses were identified and keyed out by the botany teams by walking the property. One specialist group of individuals from the botany team focused their entire time searching and identifying mosses and lichens. Once all of the species were identified to the best of our ability, we packed up and headed to our next location 45 minutes from Rifle around Carbondale.

Change it up?
The Ranch in Carbondale offered a good change of scenery and a new challenge to identify all the species on this section of land. Methods that were used in Rifle were repeated with slight modification to suit the new landscape. The zoologist team had wonderful success catching and identifying a wide variety of new butterflies, and the botany team had great achievements monitoring a rare species of plant known as good-neighbor bladderpod.

Overall, this was a life changing event, and I look forward to participating in future bioblitzes.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Kira and Toryn's Bat Blog

What are Kira and Toryn doing?
We’re following bats! Rob and Jeremy placed radio transmitters on the backs of nine female and one male little brown bats. We are using radio telemeters to track the signal emitted by the radio transmitter to the bats’ locations. When we find the bats, we collect data on their roosting site, including what type of structure they’re roosting in (such as a building or a tree), temperature, roost opening height, total structure height, slope, aspect, elevation, UTM, and other descriptors depending upon the structure type.
Little brown bats in a bat box at Rehder Ranch. 

Roosting little brown bat.

What does a normal day look like?
Since we’re studying bats, many people think we collect our data at night. However, the majority of our data is collected during the day, with a few observations at night. During the day, we find the bats and collect data on their roost sites. Finding some of the bats is easy; others . . . not so much. The transmitter signals can bounce in weird ways in a valley, forest, or building wall. Some signals can't be heard until you are right on top of them; other times you can hear the signal from every direction and have a hard time pinpointing its location. So it occasionally boils down to good luck when finding some of these bats.
One method for tracking bats is using a car-mounted antenna for radio telemetry.

Kira and Toryn locating bats with radio telemetry.
What do we do at night? 
The field work we do at night consists of mist netting, bat counts, and going around to roosting sites to check if the bats have left their day roost site. On June 21st, Rob accompanied us to Sarvis Creek to mist net for bats. A mist net was placed near an unused cabin, and night vision cameras and infrared lights were set up and aimed at the suspected exit roost site to get video of bats. We completed our setup around 8:00 p.m. and didn’t start seeing bats around 9:00 p.m. Kira kept seeing bats that Rob and Toryn didn’t see. Kira may have excellent eyesight or is a liar. Rob and Toryn were going crazy trying to spot the bats Kira ‘saw.’ Unfortunately, we didn’t catch any. However, we saw a ton of them swooping down the river catching bugs.

We also got permission from a private landowner to do a bat count on his property on 06/27. We set up night vision cameras and infrared lights at his doorstep at 9:00 p.m. where there was a pile of guano. We visually counted bats until 11:30 p.m. Kira is probably better at spotting bats than Toryn. The bats can be hard to count because they are difficult to see and you don’t know if you’re counting the same bat. This is why a night vision camera is set up because we will later review the video recording to see the amount of error of visually counting bats versus video recording of the bats. It was fun doing a bat count at night. We lounged in chairs watching the sunset and the stars come out, chit chatting and drinking tea. We also heard mountain lions in the distance, which was cool until Kira decided to tell stories of mountain lion attacks. Thanks Kira. 

The other type of night work we do is visiting the day roost sites. Currently the bats seem to return to the same day roost site every day. This has us worried because we aren’t sure if the radio telemeters fell off the bats or if the females have pups. So we visit the day roost sites at night to see if the bats are moving. Sometimes the bats are moving and aren’t at their sites, and sometimes they are still there.
Setting up for mist netting at Sarvis Creek Cabin. 

Nighttime setup for a roost count. 
What do we do in our free time? 
Nap! We nap a lot. Kira’s favorite napping spot is in the hammock. We also swim and fish in the stream (Kira’s better at fishing), explore the downtown, read books, and watch The Hobbit when we are trying to stay awake until 3 a.m. to check on the bats. We plan on inner tubing down the Yampa River and going hiking.
Kira's rainbow trout.

Toryn's first monstrous catch of the day!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

2017 Siegele Interns are Here!

Here at CNHP, we’re kicking off the summer with our 2017 Siegele interns! We are so happy to have Riley, Neal, Cora, Lauren, Toryn, and Kira join our team in the name of conservation science. This past week our interns had training, orientation, and were introduced to their mentors and projects they will be working on this season. These projects include a bat study, surveying rare plants, and researching rare animal species.

Because we know our interns love the outdoors, we took them on a “mini field day” to show them a day in the life of an ecologist! They spent time studying the region at Coyote Ridge Natural Area with a focus on occurrences of the rare and endemic Bell's twinpod (Physaria bellii), a neat little plant with a very specific habitat range. We're glad our newest CNHP members got a chance to enjoy the beautiful summer day while searching for the twinpod.

The interns are also becoming fast experts on our citizen science app, iNaturalist, where anyone can upload pictures of cool plants, insects, birds, and other wildlife species they see when out and about. We used the app dozens of times during the field day, and we are excited to see what plants and animals our interns will document during their projects this summer.

We’ll keep you updated on our interns’ work as the season progresses. Whether it’s exploring wetlands, romping around the Great Sand Dunes, or going on bioblitzes with other CNHP crew members, our interns are set to have an exciting and fun summer!

The interns and volunteers meet Bill and Diane Siegele and learn about the projects they'll be working on.

Some interns count Bell's twinpod with an attentive Pam standing nearby.

Talking about all things conservation science!

Interns Riley and Neal with volunteer Lexie take in the beauty of Coyote Ridge. 



Sunday, June 4, 2017

Field Season Black Bear Safety Tips


By Alyssa Meier, CSU Wildlife Biology Undergraduate and CNHP Student Intern

Field season is here, and with warming temperatures, black bears are emerging from winter hibernation. Black bears can spend up to twenty hours a day covering numerous miles of ground in searching for food, which can lead to some surprising encounters while working in the field.

Young black bear snoozing in tree. Photo by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Hear are some tips on what to do if you see a bear:
  • Stay calm. The bear is probably just as shocked as you are.
  • Stop and back away slowly. Sudden movements are often perceived as aggressive and can cause the bear to act defensively in response.
  • No eye contact. Directly looking at bears is seen as a challenge.
  • Speak quietly. Loud noises are perceived as aggressive.
  • Don’t run. Running triggers an automatic predator response in the bears and they will see you as some pretty slow prey. Bears are naturally inquisitive creatures. Some encounters occur because the bear is just curious about what’s going on in the area. The behavior of the bear is indicative of the bear’s intentions.
Bears are very capable climbers and often seek refuge from threats in trees.
Some common bear behaviors:
  • If a bear is sitting or moving away this is often a neutral behavior. Just go about your business.
  • If a bear is standing motionless or ignoring you, it is indicating that they just want to be left alone. As long as you don’t start toward them, the bear will leave you be.
  • Climbing a tree is a show of submission or seeking safety. Mothers will often send their cubs up trees and sit beneath them when they encounter dangers. You’ve probably passed under a few bears hidden up in trees already. Just keep away from the tree and give the bears space and they’ll leave you alone.  
  • If a bear is popping its jaw or huffing, it is a sign nervousness or apprehension. It’s a warning for you to back away and leave them alone.

Monday, May 22, 2017

CNHP Peep Show!

Last month, CNHP hosted its first annual Peep Diorama Contest, and there were far more wonderful entries than we could have possibly hoped for! From The Bunny Band and Chickweed to a Peep Bodies Exhibit and Peeptart, the competition was fierce. Thanks to everyone who participated and voted. You made it an incredibly successful event, and hopefully the first of many!
Jeepers Peepers by Pam
Here are this year's winners:
1st Place: Game of Peeps
2nd Place: Happy Earth Day
3rd Place: Peter Cottontail's Meats
Honorable Peep-mentions: Peeps of the Caribbean & Peep Gothic

Congrats everyone!

Game of Peeps by Alyssa & Sierra

Happy Earth Day by Kristin

Peter Cottontail's Meats by Dave

Peeps of the Caribbean by Denise & Jill

Peep Gothic by Tom

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Congrats to CNHP Graduates Alyssa and Savanna!

Esteemed CNHP work studies Alyssa Meier and Savanna Smith graduated this spring from CSU, both with honors. (Whoo!)

Alyssa worked with CNHP for nearly all four years of college, completing jobs varying from rare plant data entry to field work that included some nasty allergies (and the occasional ant bite). She was one of the Siegele interns last summer and an invaluable contributor to the nerd word of the day. She received her Bachelor's in Fish Wildlife and Conservation Biology with a minor in Creative Writing. Now she is off to collar elk calves in southern Colorado for the CPW and will return to do field work for CNHP at the Air Force Academy later this summer.

Savanna was with CNHP for the past year where she helped enter data from the endless pile of element occurrence records. For her honors thesis project, she studied the effects of noise and other factors on Colorado bat occupancy with the help of zoologist Jeremy Siemers (a fantastic poster of her findings is on the hallway wall next to the kitchen). She received her Bachelor's in Wildlife Biology with a minor in Ecological Restoration. Soon she will be headed north to work for Idaho's Bureau of Land Management.

These two will be sorely missed (and bribery attempts to get them to return to CNHP are undoubtedly in the foreseeable future). Congratulations to both of you! Have fun (and good luck) "adulting" in the real world!

Savanna on the steps of the CSU Administration Building.

(Typical) Alyssa giving one last huzzah as a CSU Ram.