Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lower South Platte River Basin Wetland & Riparian Condition Assessment Field Season in Full Swing!

by Dave Wesolowski, CNHP Wetland Field Ecology Technician

The field season for wetland and riparian condition assessment has been rocking and rolling since the beginning of June, and we’re learning so much about the Lower South Platte Basin!  Joanna Lemly and Laurie Gilligan lead a field crew consisting of Leah Fugere, Laura Cascardi, Cole Reagan, and Dave Wesolowski.  An intensive week of training has led to a thorough investigation out on the plains and foothills of northeastern Colorado.

Laura Cascardi investigates a soil pit.

Laurie Gilligan (far right) leading an exercise during training week.  

Most folks don’t associate the South Platte River or the plains of north eastern Colorado with wetlands, but they are out there and all over the place.  Diverse, complex, and fascinating warm water sloughs, emergent marshes, wet meadows, playas, and many other systems are found throughout the study area.  Our crew camps and surveys in and around many unique areas, including Chatfield and Jackson Lake State Parks and the wonderful towns of Strasburg, Sterling and Sedgwick.  Below we see Cole surveying a pond, which at first may not seem like a wetland but is, providing excellent habitat for wildlife such as: migrating birds, fish, macroinvertebrates, and a host of other organisms.

Cole Reagan field-tests his waders for a site photo.
While the plains wetlands are beautiful and provide crucial habitat for a variety of wildlife, we tend to also find a fair amount of non-native species such as cheat grass (Anisantha tectorum).

Invasive cheat grass!
Overall, it’s been a fun and exciting field season so far.  Our field season surveying the lower South Platte River basin lasts through the end of August.  At that point, we begin analyzing data and preparing for the next basin to survey.  The Lower South Platte has proven to be an intriguing basin full of unique plants and ecological systems.  We look forward to seeing what else northeastern Colorado has to offer!  Stay tuned!

Cole Reagan, Dave Wesolowski and Leah Fugere reviewing the results of today's field survey.