Monday, November 7, 2016

An Intern's Adventures (and Ant Bites)

By Alyssa Meier, CNHP Siegele Intern

I spent this past summer with CNHP as an Siegele intern. I worked on various projects all over the state and even got to travel to Yellowstone. It was a wonderful experience full of some great adventures, amazing views, occasional sunburns, and plenty of bug bites (a few too many of those, if you ask me).

I began the summer at two separate BioBlitzes, one at Brown’s Canyon near Buena Vista and the second at Spring Valley near Rifle.
Spring Valley Ranch.
The next few weeks I spent completing surveys for Arapahoe County, weed monitoring at the United States Air Force Academy, and wetland surveys in Huerfano County. I even spent some time in Montrose surveying the rare plant Eriogonum pelinophilum.

Perhaps most exciting of all was my trip to Yellowstone National Park for the GLORIA project. We spent a week in the back country of the Shoshone Wilderness just outside of the park for vegetation monitoring on several of the peaks.

Overall, this summer was very exciting for me. I learned so much about nearly everything, ranging from plants to birds to surveying techniques. It was educational and fulfilling. I wouldn’t have traded this opportunity for anything.

Northern Bobwhite at North Kiowa Arapahoe County property. 
Columbine in Huerfano County. 
Basecamp beneath the peaks – Shoshone Wilderness.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Wetland Monitoring in Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

One of CNHP’s Wetlands crew spent July collecting data at wetland sites in Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in southern Colorado. The park and preserve is home to about 1,700 bison, and a large elk herd. The wetland monitoring data collected will be used to aid in planning and decision making as part of the Park’s ungulate management plan process. The wetland crew braved warm weather and abundant mosquitoes to collect vegetation, soil and ungulate use data, and install game cameras at over 20 sites.
The CNHP Wetlands crew and National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring employees after training in Great Sand Dunes National Park. 
Lexine Long and Erin Borgman setting up a vegetation monitoring plot in Great Sand Dunes National Park. 
When not in Great Sand Dunes National Park, the wetland crew also worked on a project surveying fen wetlands close to state highways for a project sponsored by the Colorado Department of Transportation. Fens are groundwater-fed wetlands with 40 or more centimeters of organic soil (often peat). Organic soil accumulates very slowly – at approximately 20cm in 1,000 years, so fens are an incredibly important wetland resource in Colorado. The crew got to spend their time working in the beautiful mountain passes of Colorado, and saw many interesting wetlands while collecting vegetation and soil data for the project.
Lexine Long collecting vegetation data in a fen in the San Juan mountains.
A fen wetland in the San Juan mountains. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Photographing Wing Venetation Patterns of Little Brown Bats

By Blaise Newman, CNHP Siegele Intern

Little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) are widespread across North America. They vary in color from reddish, brown, to golden with a wingspan of 8 to 11 inches and an average weight of less than half an ounce. In the summer, female little brown bats aggregate at sites called maternity roosts which can be found in buildings, caves, and other covered areas.

Unfortunately, the little brown bat is under attack across its range. White nose syndrome (WNS) is a fungus that disturbs the bat’s hibernation pattern wasting valuable energy needed to survive the winter. In eastern North America, the disease has killed millions of bats. The disease has yet to be detected in Colorado, but a recent detection in Washington state has scientists concerned. The Colorado Natural Heritage Program and Colorado Parks and Wildlife have started an ambitious project to monitor little brown bat maternity colonies in the Yampa Valley of Colorado. Obtaining baseline of data of bat survival and persistence prior to WNS is extremely valuable.

At two maternity sites, Jeremy Siemers and Rob Schorr are using passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags to monitor the adult female and juvenile bats. PIT tags are similar to radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips in your pets. PIT tags are unique identifiers that can help estimate mortality, understand behavior, and track population changes over time. However, one major concern for this marking technique is tag loss. For this reason, new methods of individual identification are being explored to work in conjunction with the PIT tags.

Wing venation is a promising identification tool. Similar to a fingerprint, wing venation is thought to be unique to each individual bat. After the bats were captured and tagged, I spread the wings of captured bats over a light board to show the distinct venation patterns. I then used a mounted camera to document the bat wing venation to be analyzed and cataloged later. Hopefully, future studies will be able to identify individual bats using both PIT tag and wing venation IDs.

Blaise Newman, CNHP Siegele Intern, photographs a little brown bat's wing venation pattern. This technique is fairly new, and holds promise as a way to identify individual bats.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Corwin Brown, CNHP Collaborator in Southeast Colorado, Wins Lifetime Achievement Award

Corwin Brown, Southeast Colorado rancher and founding member of the Colorado Cattleman's Agricultural Land Trust, has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Palmer Land Trust. Corwin was instrumental in helping CNHP secure funding and connect with ranchers in order to conduct biological surveys in Southeast Colorado. These studies supported the identification of the JE Canyon Ranch as an area of outstanding biological diversity. JE Canyon Ranch, located near Branson, Colorado, was purchased by the Nature Conservancy in 2015. Check out the video below to learn more about Corwin's legacy!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

CNHP Botanist Jill Handwerk Receives Award from Colorado Native Plant Society

Jill Handwerk, CNHP Botanist and our fearless Botany Team Leader, was presented with a well-deserved Special Merit Award from the Colorado Native Plant Society. The Society honored Jill's outstanding efforts as a former President and Vice President, and her work to protect rare native plants through the Rare Plant Symposium, Adopt a Rare Plant Program, and the Rare Plant Technical Committee.

At CNHP, Jill manages all of our rare plant data for Colorado, and leads survey and monitoring projects for rare plants with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Denver Botanic Gardens, and the Colorado Natural Areas Program. Jill is the perfect example of the difference one person can make in the protection and conservation of Colorado's native plants. Congratulations, Jill!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Beer, Brats, and Bats: CNHP Partners with the Yampa Valley Land Trust and the Wildlife Society

In August, the Central Mountains and Plains section of the Wildlife Society (CMPS) hosted its annual meeting in Steamboat Springs. The Colorado Natural Heritage Program and The Yampa Valley Land Trust welcomed attendees of the CMPS Society Annual Conference for a relaxing evening of food, beer, and bat conversations. Guests got to see the bat conservation work that is being done at the Rehder Ranch. Here is a link to an article on the fieldtrip produced by The Yampa Valley Land Trust. CMPS is a section of the international association of wildlife biologists called The Wildlife Society. It includes wildlife biologists from Colorado and many of the surrounding states.

Jeremy Siemers (left) and Rob Schorr (right) sampling bats at the Rehder Ranch outside of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Adventures in Wetland Ecology

by Sarah Marshall

As the first few aspen leaves turned gold, and a fresh dusting of snow fell on the high peaks along the Continental Divide, our National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA) field crew wrapped up 3 months of field sampling in 28 Colorado wetlands. Our work was part of a long-term EPA study to evaluate the ecological condition of wetlands and other aquatic resources across the United States, and included evaluating the plant community, hydrology, soils, water quality, and stressors for each site we visited. Beginning in the playas of the Great Plains, and ending in snowmelt and groundwater-fed fens and beaver ponds in the mountains, we traveled over 5,000 miles to access study sites. Some of our more adventurous sites involved backpacking to high-elevation meadows in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass and Holy Cross wilderness areas, bison herds and a rattlesnake in our vegetation plots in the San Luis Valley, and a few surprise moose hunkered down in riparian willow thickets.  When we set out to sample our last site for the summer field season, a rough mountain 4WD road led us to a lovely willow carr… covered with several inches of fresh snow.

After visiting so many different types of wetlands around the state, I have a renewed commitment to better understand and protect Colorado’s wetlands, and all of the processes that sustain them--from beavers constructing dams to elevate the local water table to moose and elk creating gaps in the willow canopy for the herbaceous understory to thrive. It was also rewarding to meet ranchers, scientists, and other land managers who play an active role in conserving Colorado’s wetlands. With threats ranging from rising water temperatures and earlier snowmelt associated with climate change to groundwater withdrawals and invasive weeds, preserving the diverse assemblages of native plants and animals that inhabit Colorado wetlands requires partnerships across public and private land, and thinking about wetlands as part of the larger landscape. I hope that our work this summer, and all of the work done by the CNHP wetlands team, continues to support and inform wetland conservation and management decisions in Colorado, and improve our collective understanding of these remarkable ecosystems!

A moose leaps out of a fen near Creede, Colorado on the Rio Grande National Forest. 
Scott Guinn and Sarah Marshall still smiling as the mosquitoes swarm in the Little Grizzly Creek drainage in Jackson County, Colorado.
KristiLee Halpin and Tyler Stratman set up a wetland plot in the Holy Cross Wilderness near Gold Dust Peak.
Sarah Marshall holds an impressive column of organic soil, known as peat, from a fen in the Routt National Forest near Livingston Park.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Colorado Rare Plant Symposium and 40th Native Plant Society Meeting: Sept 23-25, 2016

Mark your calendars! It's almost time for the Colorado Rare Plant Symposium and Native Plant Society Annual Meeting. This year, the event will be held in Boulder at the University of Colorado East Campus in the MacAllister Building. The Symposium will be held on Friday, Sept. 23. The Colorado Native Plant Society Annual Meeting will be held on Sat. and Sun., Sept 24 and 25. Join botanists and plant enthusiasts from around the state to learn about Colorado's rare and native plants. To register for the Symposium, click here. To register for the Annual Meeting, click here.