Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Beer, Brats, and Brats: 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.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Bioblitzes and Butterflies: An Intern's Summer

by Gary Olds, CNHP Siegele Intern

Salida, Rifle, Carbondale, Boulder, Arapahoe County, and even New Mexico are among the places I was able to take my summer adventures, through CNHP’s Siegele internship. I relished the opportunity to participate in three BioBlitzes at Browns Canyon National Monument, Spring Valley Ranch, and Rifle Ranch, with fellow interns and CNHP staff and partners. This is where I got my introduction to biological surveying, including plant and animal collection and identification. Following these events, I participated in the Boulder Butterfly Survey, spending several days completing transects in eighteen different Boulder County Open Spaces. Despite run-ins with barbed wire and stinging nettle, I thoroughly enjoyed catching butterflies and learning to identify several species. I also took part in surveys in Arapahoe County Open Spaces. My largest project this summer was with the GLORIA project, or Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments. After weeks of training and preparation, I spent an eight day trip with five others in the Pecos Wilderness in New Mexico. We established GLORIA sites on four different peaks, the tallest standing at 13,000 feet. I contributed by collecting soil samples and helping to measure out the plots. Amazing weather and breathtaking views made for a fast and memorable workweek. I am very appreciative of the work experience, mentorships, and friendships that CNHP has been able to provide for me this summer.

CNHP staff and partners survey for birds at Rifle Ranch during a bioblitz. This was the third bioblitz the interns participated in.

We completed 18 butterfly survey transects in open spaces in Boulder, Colorado. Each transect was located in a different open space, with ecosystems ranging from shortgrass/mid grass prairie, riparian, and ponderosa pine woodlands. The Flatirons can be seen in the background.

Woodhouse's toads were among the diverse wildlife we observed during biological surveys at West Bijou Open Space in Arapahoe County, Colorado. 

Geothermal activity heat a cave and old mine, providing a comfortable habitat for a population of Townsend's big-eared bats in central Colorado. This population is protected and monitoring through chipping (and chip-reading technology) and thermal camera recording.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Using Rock Climber Observations to Find Bat Roosts

On a hot summer day above the South St. Vrain River, zoologists Rob Schorr and Andrew Reed stare up at a 50 foot slab of rock that has been carved by glaciers and rivers and time.They arrived at this particular location by the goodwill of Colorado’s rock climbing community.As part of a project that Schorr, botanist Bernadette Kuhn, and human dimensions specialist Shawn Davis developed several years ago called Climbers for Bat Conservation, Schorr and Reed are visiting this specific location because climbers have reported hearing or seeing bats in the cracks above. Reed, a rock climber,led the effort to look in the cracks and flakes for bats, guano, or insect parts, while Schorr watched enviously from below. After three hours of searching manually and with an ultrasonic acoustic detector they were unable to find any bats along the climb, and they were unable to find any guano on the rock walls or below the cracks. Schorr found a few insect parts below the climb, but it was unclear if they were the remnants of feeding bats. Although they did not stumble upon a large roost of bats, they were glad to follow leads provided by the Climbers for Bat Conservation partners. The CBC group is hoping to receive more observations of bats by rock climbers following a recent presentation to the International Rock Climbing Research Association given by Kuhn in Telluride, Colorado.

Andrew Reed looking in cracks for bats along the climbing route Panic in the Grey Room.

Andrew Reed pointing out the cracks, flakes, and crevices where bats could roost.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Remember This Summer-An Intern's View of a Summer Working at CNHP

by Tyler Stratman, CNHP Siegele Intern

My summer life was much different this year than it has been in the past. To describe it quickly it was a summer of eight projects across Colorado in nine weeks; it was a summer of driving 4,100 miles; it was a summer of learning how to sample and identify plants; and most outstandingly, it was a summer of challenging and rewarding field work. Although working on multiple projects was confusing at times, I was able to see so much of the state of Colorado and work with multiple people. Working with CNHP has given me the tools and skills to perform vegetation analyses and sampling methods in my career for the rest of my life. This summer I worked with eight different vegetation monitoring techniques, and I am now able to recognize over 40 plant genera. I have grown an appreciation for the plant diversity around me and the role plant’s play in ecosystem function. Here are some photos that represent the amazing views I had this summer.

I had incredible mountain views.

I swam in water holes in southeast Colorado.

I hiked in red sandstone canyons

 I saw wildlife.

I saw the world from above.

I don’t want to make it seem like I was not working. In between each of these views it was tough, hot, cold, uncomfortable, or long hours, but it is a summer that I am so blessed to have been able to have. I will remember it forever.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Adventures in the Alpine!

By: Lydia Fahrenkrug and Gary Olds, CNHP Siegele Interns

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.