Monday, August 31, 2009

CNHP intern reports on her summer in the field

By Jessica Parker, CNHP intern

Jessica modeling the best in wetland ecologist wear

As the first intern that CNHP has officially hosted from the department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources at CSU, I would like to share the incredible experience that I have had this summer. The thrill of documenting the presence of a rare plant species, the satisfaction of crawling into a sleeping bag after a long but successful day in the field, and the pleasure of feeling like a valued and respected member of such a well-recognized organization, means my time spent at CNHP has truly been time well spent. From the amazingly beautiful canyonlands and shortgrass prairie of southeast Colorado to the diverse wetlands of Gilpin and Jackson Counties…from catching butterflies and toads with Zoologist John Sovell to analyzing the spread and control of invasive weed species with Ecologist RenĂ©e Rondeau and Director Dave Anderson, this field season has been extremely diverse, incredibly enriching, and downright exciting at times.

Photographing a Texas Horned Lizard
(barely visible in the photo, but it's there!)

I will always remember dangling Ecologist Joe Stevens off the side of a cliff by his ankles so he could collect a rare plant, jumping in the Purgatoire River after a long hot morning in the field, and swabbing a boreal toad between his toes to check for chytrid fungus. Most importantly however, I will never forget the knowledge that was passed on to me from CNHP concerning zoology, botany, ecology, and conservation biology; knowledge that I plan to apply in the future as a graduate student and biologist. So which project was my favorite to work on? The truthful answer is: …all of them! From taking soil samples in wetlands with Ecologist Dee Malone to identifying willow species with Botanist Janis Huggins; I have seen, experienced, and learned about the some of the best that Colorado has to offer!

Jessica and John Sovell reflecting on a long day’s work

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A visit to one of Colorado's rarest species

Draba weberi may be Colorado’s rarest plant. This diminutive member of the mustard family is known only from a single occurrence of less than 100 individuals in Summit County. The single small population has persisted since at least the late 1960’s, but no other populations have yet been located. Although little is known about the species, it is believed to reproduce through a form of apomixis in which seeds are formed without fertilization and carry only maternal genes.

Draba weberiDraba weberi (photo by Jill Handwerk)

CNHP Botany Information Manager Jill Handwerk, together with representatives from the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado Natural Areas Program, and the owners of the site visited the population in July. Jill is happy to report that this small piece of Colorado’s biodiversity is still with us. Colorado botanists will no doubt continue to search for this elusive species in hopes of finding a second population.

Draba weberi with scaleIt is the little things in biodiversity that matter (photo by Jill Handwerk)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Threatened and Endangered Plant Species Data Development and Field Surveys

Jill Handwerk and Peggy Lyon, CNHP Botanists

An on-going partnership between CNHP, the Colorado Natural Areas Program, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service develops and manages biological and conservation data on federally-listed Threatened, Endangered, and Candidate plant species occurring in Colorado, integrating all element occurrence data into a single comprehensive source.

Cryptantha gypsophilaCryptantha gypsophila

In 2008, element occurrence data for eight threatened and endangered plant species and one petitioned species were updated: Astragalus humillimus, Eutrema penlandii, Sclerocactus mesae-verde, Spiranthes diluvialis, and Oenothera acutissima (petitioned). Field surveys were conducted for additional candidate and potential candidate species including Astragalus equisolensis, Cryptantha gypsophila, Lygodesmia doloresensis, Physaria pulvinata, and Phacelia submutica.

Lygodesmia doloresensisLygodesmia doloresensis

Data were provided to the USFWS and CNAP via an ArcMap Hyperlink Tool which links spatial data to associated detailed tabular information for each element occurrence.

Physaria pulvinataPhysaria pulvinata

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

CNHP botanists preparing for 6th Annual Colorado Rare Plant Symposium

This year’s workshop will be held on September 11, 2009, at The Ranch in Loveland. Held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Colorado Native Plant Society (CoNPS), this symposium brings together professional and amateur botanists from around the state to share information about Colorado’s rarest plant species. The meeting is organized by members of the Colorado Rare Plant Technical Committee, an ad-hoc group of agency and NGO botanists that has been working for many years to advance rare plant efforts in the state. CNHP provides the latest information from our BIOTICS database as a starting point for the annual assessment.

Ipomopsis globularisIpomopsis globularis (G2) is one of the species that will be highlighted at this year’s meeting. Photo by Georgia Doyle.

The symposium will include a photo review of globally imperiled (G2G3) species known predominantly from northern Colorado for discussion of their current status and potential threats, as well as a review of species highlighted at previous year's symposium.

The meeting is open to any one with an interest in the rare plants of Colorado. Contact Jill Handwerk for more information at (970) 491-5857 or There is a nominal fee of $10 to attend. To register visit the CoNPS website.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tracking lizards in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

By Brad Lambert and Rob Schorr, CNHP Zoologists

In 2008, CNHP collaborated with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in a radio telemetry project to collect information on habitat use and movement by the rare longnose leopard lizard and the sympatric, and more common, collared lizard on the BLM managed Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (CANM) in Montezuma County. CNHP assisted with capture, radio transmitter attachment and data analysis, while BLM biologists conducted the daily tracking and data collection.

Radio transmitters were attached to 8 longnose leopard lizards and 6 collared lizards between June 23rd and June 25th on Rinsley Mesa within the CANM and tracked daily through July 21st. Vegetation and other habitat variables were recorded at each capture location.

longnosed leopard lizard
collared lizardA longnose leopard lizard (Gambelia wislizenii - top photo) and a collared lizard (Crotaphytus collaris) sport their new and fashionable telemetry devices.

Preliminary analysis shows that longnose leopard lizards made greater movements and maintained larger home ranges than the collared lizards. Additional analysis on habitat use by the two lizard species is currently being conducted.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hanging Gardens

Hanging GardensHanging garden in western Colorado – photo by Jodie Bell.

Hanging-garden communities are known from Colorado, Utah, and Arizona, where they are typically associated with canyon walls and cliff faces. These highly localized environments are found in canyonlands where perennial water sources provide a stable source of moisture within a surrounding arid environment, forming pocketed wetlands and allowing the draping of vegetation across wet cliff faces. The associated wetland species are typically herbaceous, and often include species endemic to the Colorado Plateau. Common species include northern maidenhair (Adiantum pedatum), common maidenhair (Adiantum capillus-veneris), Eastwood's monkeyflower (Mimulus eastwoodiae), seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), hanging garden sullivantia (Sullivantia hapemanii var. pupusii), Rydberg's thistle (Cirsium rydbergii), and several species of columbine (Aquilegia).

Sullivantia hapemanii var. purpusiiSullivantia hapemanii var. purpusii, the Hanging Garden sullivantia
photo by Janis Huggins

NatureServe and the Colorado Natural Heritage Program recognize two distinct groups of hanging-garden communities, characterized by geology and species composition. Those of the Utah High Plateau ecoregion are associated with springs, seeps, and waterfalls formed in calcareous formations, especially shales of the Green River Formation, while those of the Colorado Plateau ecoregion further south are associated with cliffs where water percolating through the stone reaches the surface along joints between impervious strata in massive sandstone deposits such as the Navajo and Entrada.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Initiative in the news

The Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Initiative (RPCI), which we originally posted about here, made today's front page of Colorado State University's online news publication Today @ Colorado State, with a great quote from CNHP botanist Susan Panjabi.

Additionally, Betsy Neely of The Nature Conservancy will be giving a talk about the RPCI today at 7:00 p.m. at the Steamboat Art Museum in downtown Steamboat Springs and another one at the Denver Botanic Gardens on August 13.

Boreal Toad Monitoring and Surveys

Bufo boreas in Chaffee CountyA whole herd of boreal toads heads for the safety of the water in Chaffee County, CO.

By Brad Lambert, CNHP Zoologist

Since 1999, CNHP, in partnership with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, has been monitoring known breeding sites of the state endangered boreal toad (Bufo boreas) and surveying locations throughout Colorado for new populations. Data collected helps the Boreal Toad Recovery Team assess the status of the boreal toad in Colorado, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service evaluate its status for potential federal listing as an endangered species.

Bufo boreas being heldResearcher examines the distinctive dorsal stripe on an adult boreal toad.

In 2008, CNHP monitored 26 known breeding sites in Chaffee, Eagle, and Summit Counties, making repeated visits to collect baseline information on toad numbers and breeding success. In addition, 91 sites throughout Colorado were surveyed for boreal toads, resulting in the documentation of two new breeding sites in Chaffee County. Over 1,500 adult toads were tagged between 1999 and 2008.

Bufo boreas in vegetationIt is difficult to get a boreal toad to stand still long enough to get a good picture of it.

An ongoing mark-recapture study investigating demographic variables in a large metapopulation of boreal toads continues this year in Chaffee County.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Surveying Wetlands of the San Luis Valley

wet meadowSetting up a vegetation plot in a wet meadow on the San Luis Valley floor within the old floodplain of the Rio Grande River.

Here is a field update from Joanna on her Statewide Strategies for Colorado Wetlands project:

The second summer of field data collection in the Rio Grande Headwaters river basin (San Luis Valley and surrounding mountains) is nearly complete. We have surveyed about 150 different wetlands to assess their condition and to create a wetland landscape profile of the basin. The profile is an estimate of the total wetland acreage across the basin, and the proportion of wetland acres by wetland type and by overall condition. The final report for this project should be completed by the end of 2010.

fen and wet meadowAnne Maurer and Conor Flynn collecting data from a plot in a large and unusual fen and wet meadow complex at the base of Blanca Peak.