Thursday, November 19, 2015

Last fall, CNHP’s Rob Schorr and Bernadette Kuhn, and WCNR’s Human Dimension in Natural Resources specialist Shawn Davis, began a collaborative project with bat biologists, rock climbers, and natural resource managers. The project, called Climbers for Bat Conservation (CBC) successfully pulled all parties together to discuss the use of climbers as an information resource for where bats might be roosting in rock crevices. The CBC project recently had a warm reception at the North American Society for Bat Research 45th Annual Symposium hosted in Monterey, California. Rob Schorr was able to present a poster discussing the development of the collaboration, the challenges and opportunities the collaboration presented, and the hope for future progress. Many bat biologists appreciated the citizen science focus and liked the diligence taken to make sure this was a climber-supported endeavor. 
Rob Schorr presents his poster on the Climbers for Bat Project.
The Climbers for Bat Conservation poster at the 45th Symposium of the North American Society for Bat Research.

Friday, November 6, 2015

CNHP Releases STReaMS, An Endangered Fish Database

CNHP has completed the first release of STReaMS, an online database for managing endangered fish PIT tag tracking and location data in the Upper Colorado River Basin. STReaMS, which stands for Species Tagging, Research and Monitoring Systems, is a database that currently includes over 1 million sightings of 900,000 individual fish from more than 150 studies completed by the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Endangered Fish recovery programs.
Roundtail chub, pictured above, were once common throughout the entire Colorado River Basin. Today, they occupy only 55% of their historic range. The STReaMS database contains data on capture locations and movement patterns that help inform management of this species, now proposed as Threatened by the Endangered Species Act in the Lower Colorado River Basin.
The recovery programs are a consortium of partners from agencies, industry, and non-profits, all dedicated to restoring natural and self-sustaining populations of Endangered fishes while balancing the water needs of growing western communities. With almost 30 years of data and active partners in five states, the programs recognized the need to efficiently manage copious amounts of data. Thus the idea for a centralized, online database was born. With CNHP's October 2015 release of the database, recovery program personnel will be able to access:
  • Capture, stocking, and remote detection data collected from both programs since 1981
  • Filters that allow researchers to browse and download data by a variety of criteria
  • Cross-basin and cross-study downloads for examining fish movement between basins
  • Forms for editing existing data, and adding new data one record at a time
  • Organization based security to prevent data corruption 
Public access to the website will be available in October 2017. In the meantime, learn more about the San Juan Basin recovery program, their mission, and the fish they are dedicated to protecting by clicking here. For more on the Upper Colorado River Basin program, click here.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Searching for Pocket Mice in the San Luis Valley

The Rio Grande National Forest is revising their 1996 Forest Management Plan. The Forest Management Plan is the guiding document for all management decisions and activities on the Rio Grand National Forest. As part of the update, Rio Grande NF staff are seeking more information on rare species. This summer, the Rio Grande hired CNHP zoologist Rob Schorr to survey for several lesser-known and rare small mammals. Two of the primary targets were the silky pocket mouse (Perognathus flavus sanluisi) and the plains pocket mouse (Perognathus flavescens relictus), both of which are unique to the valley. These pocket mice prefer the sandy soils of the San Luis Valley. Schorr and his daughter spent time trapping for the pocket mice on US Forest Service lands north of Great Sand Dunes National Park. They trapped in eight different areas, catching one silky pocket mouse and two plains pocket mice in sandy, sparse grasslands below pinyon and juniper forests.
The plains pocket mouse capture site with sandy soils, tall grasses, and rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus spp.).
A close-up of a plains pocket mouse.
One of the two plains pocket mice captured on Rio Grande National Forest lands in 2015. 
The silky pocket mouse capture site on the Rio Grand National Forest. The site has sandy soils and large patches of blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis).

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Catching Colorado River Cutthroat Trout Near Trapper's Lake

This summer CNHP zoologist John Sovell conducted surveys for wildlife species across Garfield County, Colorado. In July, Sovell's surveys included fishing for Colorado River cutthroat trout. His field work is part of a larger effort led by Delia Malone (CNHP ecologist) to document locations of rare plant and animal species in the county, as well as noxious weed locations. Sovell and Malone will provide information from their county-wide biological surveys to Garfield County to aid in planning and natural resource management.

Colorado River cutthroat trout are one of dozens of rare species that occur in Garfield County, including Colorado hookless cactus and Debeque phacelia. Both of these rare plants are listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

A downed log rests in a pool occupied by Colorado River cutthroat trout on the North Fork of the White River near Trapper's Lake. Colorado River cutthroat trout rely on large woody debris like this tree to help form pools, store spawning gravels, and provide refuge from predators. 
Sovell updated information on Colorado River cutthroat trout at four locations in Garfield County, including the North Fork of the White River where it empties into Trapper's Lake. These brilliantly colored fish are one of three extant subspecies of trout native to Colorado. Recent genetic and morphological studies suggest that there are two extant lineages of cutthroat trout on Colorado's Western Slope. Cutthroat trout in the White River Basin are part of what is known as the Blue Lineage. For more information on Colorado River cutthroat trout, check out the newly updated State Wildlife Action Plan.

John Sovell, CNHP zoologist, catches a Colorado River cutthroat trout as part of  the 2015 Garfield County Survey of Critical Biological Resources. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

CNHP Leads Wetland Assessment Training in Colorado Springs

On September 9-10, CNHP Wetland Ecologists Joanna Lemly and Cat Wiechmann led a two-day training on the Ecological Integrity Assessment (EIA) methodology in Colorado Springs. A diverse group of twenty natural resource professionals attended the training, including representatives from six different federal, state, and local government agencies, four different consulting firms, and several conservation groups. The training included a full day of classroom instruction and a day in the field at Bear Creek Regional Park practicing the wetland assessment technique. Reviews from the class were all very positive, with many participants stating that they look forward to applying what they learned in their work. 
CNHP Wetland Ecologist Cat Wiechmann (red shirt) teaches training participants how to assess wetland condition using the Environmental Integrity Assessment protocol.
The training was funded by a grant from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 8 and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and was offered at no cost to participants.

Cover page of the new Ecological Integrity Assessment Manual available on the CNHP website.
More information on the EIA methodology, including links to download the field manual (pictured above), datasheets, and presentations about applying the EIA method, can be found here.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Rare Orchid Surveys Yield Low Numbers in West Denver

In late August, our botany team explored areas of West Denver hoping to relocate populations of the rare Ute ladies' tresses orchid (Spiranthes diluvialis). The orchid, which is listed as Threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has highly fluctuating population numbers from year to year. Last year in August 2014, no orchids were found at the West Denver occurrence. This summer, Pam Smith and Bernadette Kuhn were only able to locate six orchids at a location where hundreds have previously been documented. The orchids contain an array of flowers that curve along the top of the plant, like a white spiral staircase. Once the orchid's white flowers turn brown and the fruits mature, the plants are nearly impossible to spot in the tall grasses, rushes, and coyote willows that are typically found in suitable Ute ladies' tresses habitat. Only one of the orchids this year was in bloom (see photo below). While surveying, we were excited to spot a monarch butterfly resting in a plains cottonwood (see second photo below).

The lovely, rare and Threatened Ute ladies' tresses orchid (Spiranthes diluvialis) in bloom.
A monarch butterfly rests in a plains cottonwood tree in West Denver.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Let's Hear it For the Interns, Student Employees, and Volunteers!

CNHP gives a shout out to all of the students, volunteers, and interns that helped us make our 2015 field season a success! Thanks so much to the following individuals who supported our projects with their energy, enthusiasm, and hard work: Devanshi Kukadia, Abigail Bradley, Joe Tort, Caleb Freeman, Alison Hall, James Hunt, Dominik McLaren, and Maddie Micallef. Good luck on your future endeavors!

CNHP interns (from left) Caleb Freeman and Joe Tort, along with Alison Hall (student employee at Resources for Disabled Students) and David Anderson (CNHP director).

Thursday, August 20, 2015

CNHP Map Will Support Governor's Colorado Beautiful Initiative

Colorado Natural Heritage Program director David Anderson, along with staff members Amy Greenwell and Michael Menefee, were thrilled to participate in The Outdoors Summit in downtown Denver this summer. The Summit convened to help launch new initiatives to protect, preserve and enhance the state’s great outdoors and natural areas. Conservation leaders from around the state attended the event. Speakers included Governor John Hickenlooper and former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar among many other notable participants.

Governor John Hickenlooper presents his Colorado Beautiful plan at the Outdoors Summit in Denver, Colorado.
During the Summit, Governor Hickenlooper rolled out his Colorado Beautiful plan, an exciting conservation initiative that ultimately aims to enable every Coloradan to live within a 10-minute walk of an open space natural area. Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) has awarded $15.6 million in grants to support the Colorado Beautiful plan. A hallmark of the plan will be the creation of an interactive trail and recreational lands map. The map will use CNHP's existing map of Colorado's protected areas, called The Colorado Ownership, Management, and Protection (COMaP). COMaP is a dataset maintained by CNHP and the CSU Geospatial Centroid.

The complete Colorado Beautiful map is scheduled for completion in 2016. The map will also help guide plans to preserve and strategically protect Colorado’s most threatened landscapes, waterways and urban open spaces. It will also be used to identify 16 high-priority trail projects to help connect people to more recreational opportunities. The map will include all the state's trails, open spaces, parks and protected lands in a single site. “Colorado Beautiful, we believe, is not only about connecting our parks, trails and scenic lands, but about connecting people to the outdoor delights that set Colorado apart as a special place,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s important to bring our newest generations outside, away from electronic distractions and into the splendor of our waterways, forests, wildlife, grasslands, mountains and canyons.”

An image of the Colorado Ownership, Management, and Protection map (COMaP) that will be integrated into the Colorado Beautiful map proposed by Governor Hickenlooper.