Monday, October 31, 2016

Wetland Monitoring in Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

One of CNHP’s Wetlands crew spent July collecting data at wetland sites in Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in southern Colorado. The park and preserve is home to about 1,700 bison, and a large elk herd. The wetland monitoring data collected will be used to aid in planning and decision making as part of the Park’s ungulate management plan process. The wetland crew braved warm weather and abundant mosquitoes to collect vegetation, soil and ungulate use data, and install game cameras at over 20 sites.
The CNHP Wetlands crew and National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring employees after training in Great Sand Dunes National Park. 
Lexine Long and Erin Borgman setting up a vegetation monitoring plot in Great Sand Dunes National Park. 
When not in Great Sand Dunes National Park, the wetland crew also worked on a project surveying fen wetlands close to state highways for a project sponsored by the Colorado Department of Transportation. Fens are groundwater-fed wetlands with 40 or more centimeters of organic soil (often peat). Organic soil accumulates very slowly – at approximately 20cm in 1,000 years, so fens are an incredibly important wetland resource in Colorado. The crew got to spend their time working in the beautiful mountain passes of Colorado, and saw many interesting wetlands while collecting vegetation and soil data for the project.
Lexine Long collecting vegetation data in a fen in the San Juan mountains.
A fen wetland in the San Juan mountains. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Photographing Wing Venetation Patterns of Little Brown Bats

By Blaise Newman, CNHP Siegele Intern

Little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) are widespread across North America. They vary in color from reddish, brown, to golden with a wingspan of 8 to 11 inches and an average weight of less than half an ounce. In the summer, female little brown bats aggregate at sites called maternity roosts which can be found in buildings, caves, and other covered areas.

Unfortunately, the little brown bat is under attack across its range. White nose syndrome (WNS) is a fungus that disturbs the bat’s hibernation pattern wasting valuable energy needed to survive the winter. In eastern North America, the disease has killed millions of bats. The disease has yet to be detected in Colorado, but a recent detection in Washington state has scientists concerned. The Colorado Natural Heritage Program and Colorado Parks and Wildlife have started an ambitious project to monitor little brown bat maternity colonies in the Yampa Valley of Colorado. Obtaining baseline of data of bat survival and persistence prior to WNS is extremely valuable.

At two maternity sites, Jeremy Siemers and Rob Schorr are using passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags to monitor the adult female and juvenile bats. PIT tags are similar to radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips in your pets. PIT tags are unique identifiers that can help estimate mortality, understand behavior, and track population changes over time. However, one major concern for this marking technique is tag loss. For this reason, new methods of individual identification are being explored to work in conjunction with the PIT tags.

Wing venation is a promising identification tool. Similar to a fingerprint, wing venation is thought to be unique to each individual bat. After the bats were captured and tagged, I spread the wings of captured bats over a light board to show the distinct venation patterns. I then used a mounted camera to document the bat wing venation to be analyzed and cataloged later. Hopefully, future studies will be able to identify individual bats using both PIT tag and wing venation IDs.

Blaise Newman, CNHP Siegele Intern, photographs a little brown bat's wing venation pattern. This technique is fairly new, and holds promise as a way to identify individual bats.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Corwin Brown, CNHP Collaborator in Southeast Colorado, Wins Lifetime Achievement Award

Corwin Brown, Southeast Colorado rancher and founding member of the Colorado Cattleman's Agricultural Land Trust, has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Palmer Land Trust. Corwin was instrumental in helping CNHP secure funding and connect with ranchers in order to conduct biological surveys in Southeast Colorado. These studies supported the identification of the JE Canyon Ranch as an area of outstanding biological diversity. JE Canyon Ranch, located near Branson, Colorado, was purchased by the Nature Conservancy in 2015. Check out the video below to learn more about Corwin's legacy!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

CNHP Botanist Jill Handwerk Receives Award from Colorado Native Plant Society

Jill Handwerk, CNHP Botanist and our fearless Botany Team Leader, was presented with a well-deserved Special Merit Award from the Colorado Native Plant Society. The Society honored Jill's outstanding efforts as a former President and Vice President, and her work to protect rare native plants through the Rare Plant Symposium, Adopt a Rare Plant Program, and the Rare Plant Technical Committee.

At CNHP, Jill manages all of our rare plant data for Colorado, and leads survey and monitoring projects for rare plants with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Denver Botanic Gardens, and the Colorado Natural Areas Program. Jill is the perfect example of the difference one person can make in the protection and conservation of Colorado's native plants. Congratulations, Jill!