Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pressed for Success

CNHP's wetland ecology team recently finished identifying the last of the unknown plants sampled from wetland surveys we conducted last summer in the North Platte River Basin. Now we have a mini-wetland herbarium right in the office, comprised of the 1,230 plant specimens and photos we collected from 95 randomly located sites throughout the basin. Sample locations ranged in elevation from 7,700 ft to well over 11,000 ft and included riparian shrublands, wet meadow, marshes and fens. Our final species list included a total of 536 distinct plant species. And that doesn't even compare to the final plant list – between all the plots, our team identified a total of 4,296 plants this summer in the North Platte River Basin alone!

Many of the plant specimens were sampled early in the growing season before they had flowering and fruiting parts. But once we discovered the trick to identifying a plant from the leaf-only sample, we often unlocked the key to identifying many more sampled plants. One exception, unfortunately, was with the grasses, where admittedly some attempts to ID the inflorescence-free plants were, in fact, fruitless. [rim-shot]

Here are a few of the uncommon and rare plants we were excited to identify from the photos and pressed specimens:
Lomatogonium rotatum (marsh felwort), a USFS Species of Local Concern.

Astragalus leptaleus (park milkvetch), a G2S4 ranked plant in the Fabaceae family.

Carex lasiocarpa (woollyfruit sedge), a G5S1 ranked sedge.

Thelypodium sagittatum (arrow thelypody), a G4S1 ranked plant in the Brassicaceae family.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ecological Systems: Salt Shrub

example of salt shrub

Salt shrubland ecosystem types are typically dominated by saltbush species or other shrubs tolerant of saline or alkaline soils typically derived from marine shales, siltstones and clay. These sparse to moderately dense low-growing shrublands are widespread at lower elevations (generally from 4,500 to 7,000 feet) in Colorado's western valleys, and are also found in more limited distribution in the southern part of the eastern plains. In addition to mid-height and dwarf saltbush species, the shrub layer may include winterfat, wolfberry, horsebrush, and sagebrush species. Grasses and forbs are generally sparse, and dominated by species tolerant of these harsh soils. Some areas are essentially barren, or very sparsely vegetated.

These arid habitats support desert species such as the lesser earless lizard, desert spiney lizard, and the common kingsnake, but provide limited food and cover for mammal or bird species. White-tailed prairie dogs may be found in areas with sufficient vegetation. These barren and sparse shrubland habitats of shaley soils are one of the most important for Colorado's rare plants, including the federally listed endangered wild clay-loving buckwheat, and the threatened Mesa Verde cactus and Colorado hookless cactus.

Holbrookia maculata
The lesser earless lizard (Holbrookia maculata)

Sclerocactus mesae-verde
The Sclerocactus mesae-verde (Mesa Verde cactus) in bloom

Salt shrublands cover more than 750,000 acres in Colorado, primarily on federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and the remainder on private or tribal lands. Protection of these habitats is weak; few salt shrublands are within protected areas with special management in place. A substantial portion of these shrublands have been converted to agricultural use in valley bottoms where irrigation is available. Because remaining occurrances are generally not productive agricultural or ranching lands many are in good condition. Impacts and fragmentation from energy development are the most current threats to this type.

Overall biodiversity, threat, and protection status scores for salt shrub in Colorado.

A "windrose" graph depicting salt shrub status for individual scoring factors.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Supporting Students

CNHP is affiliated with the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University and, as such, we routinely engage CSU students and collaborate with faculty in our work. Not only do we employ many current and former CSU students in both permanent and temporary positions, we also engage students through lectures, internships, work-study opportunities, field trips, and assistance with thesis and research projects. CNHP is proud of the growing role we play in the excellent education CSU students receive. Students that have worked with us in various capacities have gone on to become leaders in the conservation and natural resources fields.

Here are some statistics for 2010:
Lectures given by CNHP employees as guests in WCNR classes:18
CNHP staff with instructor roles:3
Students employed at CNHP:12
Credits earned by CSU students for internships at CNHP:4
Work-study hours completed at CNHP:458

CNHP Outreach Intern Kevin Adams got to meet U.S. Senator Mark Udall while at the 2010 Colorado Stewardship Forum this past November.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

CNHP's Wetland Program Plan

CNHP's Ecology Team recently prepared a Wetland Program Plan documenting our goals for wetland work over the next five years. The plan is a road map to answering questions about wetlands that people around the state have been asking for decades, questions like:
  • What kinds of wetlands occur in Colorado?
  • How many acres of wetlands exist in Colorado and where are they located?
  • What is the condition of Colorado's wetlands?
  • Which of Colorado's wetlands are most significant?

At the start of the planning process, CNHP's Ecology Team decided on a mission statement that would guide our work in wetlands:

To empower public and private partners by providing science-based information on the types, extent, location, condition, and biodiversity significance of Colorado's native wetland ecosystems.

Following that statement, the plan details six strategic directions and numerous action items that CNHP will undertake over the next five years and beyond. Some action items are part of already funded grants and contracts, while others are proposed ideas for which we will seek partners in the coming years.

Read the full plan.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More Job Openings - Statewide Ecologist/Botanist Field Technicians

We have added a sixth job pool to our Employment and Volunteering page!

We are looking for between 1 - 6 Ecology and/or Botany Field Technicians to work throughout the state of Colorado this summer, with the position(s) potentially extending through the winter, depending on funding and need.

Those hired will conduct investigations of high-quality upland and wetland plant communities, as well as rare plants within a study area. This work involves interpreting aerial photos and other pertinent information to select sites, determining land ownership and contacting landowners regarding access, describing and demarcating plant communities, collecting vegetation, describing soils, identifying plant species, collecting voucher specimens of unknown plant species, and completing Natural Heritage Program field survey forms. This position will require extensive travel and long days in the field. This position requires proficiency in scientific report writing, as well as experience using Microsoft Office programs and ArcGIS.

First consideration of applicants will begin March 1, 2011. Applications will be accepted for future consideration through June 30, 2011. Read the full announcement.

Please note, we have a number of very similar-sounding job announcements up right now. You can apply to more than one job pool, but please do so separately for each position and be sure to clearly state for which position you are applying.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

5 new temporary job pools open!

Ecology and Botany Field Technicians
  • NUMBER OF POSITIONS: 6 - 10 (temporary)
  • LOCATIONS: North central Wyoming and south central Montana (Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area)
  • DURATION: 2-4 months (approx. May – September)
  • FULL ANNOUNCEMENT: Botany and Ecology Field Tech - Summer 2011 (BICA Project)
  • CLOSING DATE: June 30, 2011

CNHP is looking to hire experienced ecology and botany field technicians for summer field work in and around The Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in south central Montana and north central Wyoming. The work entails vegetation sampling and all positions require field botany or field ecology skills. Knowledge of plant taxonomy and species identification required. Experience identifying flora of the area is preferred. A crew lead position is available to suitably qualified candidates.

Vegetation Mapping Field Technicians (ecology/botany)
  • NUMBER OF POSITIONS: 6-8 (temporary)
  • LOCATIONS: Various sites along Upper Missouri River in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska
  • DURATION: 4-5 months (approx. May – September 2011)
  • FULL ANNOUNCEMENT: Vegetation Mapping Field Tech - Summer 2011 (ERDC Project)
  • CLOSING DATE: June 30, 2011

CNHP and CEMML anticipate a need for up to 6 technicians for accuracy assessment field work along the Upper Missouri River. The work requires field botany or field ecology skills, GPS, map reading and navigation skills. General knowledge of plant taxonomy and species identification is required; experience identifying flora of the northwestern Great Plains is beneficial. Valid U.S. driver's license required.

Botany Field Technicians
  • NUMBER OF POSITIONS: 4-6 (temporary)
  • LOCATIONS: Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • DURATION: 2-6 months (approx. May – September)
  • FULL ANNOUNCEMENT: Botany Field Tech - Summer 2011 (GLORIA Project)
  • CLOSING DATE: June 30, 2011

CNHP is seeking four to six field technicians to support the GLORIA (Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments) monitoring project at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The GLORIA project is an international research effort to monitor the effects of climate change on alpine biodiversity. Our primary objective is to establish and sample GLORIA plots in Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. The field crews will also train and assist with plot monitoring at existing GLORIA sites in Rocky Mountain National Park as well.

Wetland Ecology Field Technicians / Lead Technician
  • NUMBER OF POSITIONS: 4 (temporary)
  • LOCATIONS: Statewide Colorado and Wyoming
  • DURATION: Variable by position; 4-10 months (approx. Feb–Nov 2011)
  • FULL ANNOUNCEMENT: Wetland Ecology Field Tech
  • CLOSING DATE: June 30, 2011

CNHP seeks experienced field technicians for summer field work assessing the condition of wetlands throughout Colorado and Wyoming. All positions require field botany, ecology, or soil sampling skills. Knowledge of plant taxonomy and species identification is required for at least two positions. Knowledge of soil taxonomy is required for at least one position. Experience in wetland ecology and knowledge of the Rocky Mountains is preferred for all positions.

Wetland Mapping Technician / GIS Analyst
  • NUMBER OF POSITIONS: 2 – 4 (temporary)
  • LOCATION: Fort Collins, Colorado
  • DURATION: 6 months (approx. January – June 2011)
  • FULL ANNOUNCEMENT: Wetland Mapping Tech
  • CLOSING DATE: June 30, 2011

CNHP seeks experienced GIS Analysts to work on wetland mapping in Colorado. The successful candidates will use automated and manual computer processing to convert existing hard-copy National Wetland Inventory (NWI) maps to digital spatial data. Additionally, a subset of the NWI maps will be updated using color infrared and true color aerial imagery and verified through field visits to selected sites.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


By Bernadette Kuhn, CNHP botanist

CNHP biologists, along with partners from the National Parks Service, are preparing to establish long term, high elevation monitoring sites in Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Parks.  This research is part of the GLORIA project, the GLobal Observation Research Iniative in Alpine environments for the comparative study of climate change impacts on alpine biodiversity.  Data from the project will be used to examine climate-induced changes of vegetation cover, species composition, and species migration.  In 2006, CNHP botanists were instrumental in establishing the first of four GLORIA sites in Colorado, near Lake City.  

Photo by Rick McNeill, used with permission. 
Alpine poppy (Papaver kluanensis), growing at 13,300 feet, Weston Peak, CO. The purpose of the GLORIA project is to assess risks of biodiversity losses and the vulnerability of alpine ecosystems under climate change pressure. How will this species respond? 

Field work begins in June 2011. CNHP is looking for qualified field botanists to assist with the project.  Field crews will set up long-term plots on summits above treeline, then record plot vegetation data using GLORIA protocols.  To apply for a position on our field crew, check the CNHP website for postings. For more details on the GLORIA project, visit their website.