Wednesday, June 21, 2017

2017 Siegele Interns are Here!

Here at CNHP, we’re kicking off the summer with our 2017 Siegele interns! We are so happy to have Riley, Neal, Cora, Lauren, Toryn, and Kira join our team in the name of conservation science. This past week our interns had training, orientation, and were introduced to their mentors and projects they will be working on this season. These projects include a bat study, surveying rare plants, and researching rare animal species.

Because we know our interns love the outdoors, we took them on a “mini field day” to show them a day in the life of an ecologist! They spent time studying the region at Coyote Ridge Natural Area with a focus on occurrences of the rare and endemic Bell's twinpod (Physaria bellii), a neat little plant with a very specific habitat range. We're glad our newest CNHP members got a chance to enjoy the beautiful summer day while searching for the twinpod.

The interns are also becoming fast experts on our citizen science app, iNaturalist, where anyone can upload pictures of cool plants, insects, birds, and other wildlife species they see when out and about. We used the app dozens of times during the field day, and we are excited to see what plants and animals our interns will document during their projects this summer.

We’ll keep you updated on our interns’ work as the season progresses. Whether it’s exploring wetlands, romping around the Great Sand Dunes, or going on bioblitzes with other CNHP crew members, our interns are set to have an exciting and fun summer!

The interns and volunteers meet Bill and Diane Siegele and learn about the projects they'll be working on.

Some interns count Bell's twinpod with an attentive Pam standing nearby.

Talking about all things conservation science!

Interns Riley and Neal with volunteer Lexie take in the beauty of Coyote Ridge. 



Sunday, June 4, 2017

Field Season Black Bear Safety Tips


By Alyssa Meier, CSU Wildlife Biology Undergraduate and CNHP Student Intern

Field season is here, and with warming temperatures, black bears are emerging from winter hibernation. Black bears can spend up to twenty hours a day covering numerous miles of ground in searching for food, which can lead to some surprising encounters while working in the field.

Young black bear snoozing in tree. Photo by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Hear are some tips on what to do if you see a bear:
  • Stay calm. The bear is probably just as shocked as you are.
  • Stop and back away slowly. Sudden movements are often perceived as aggressive and can cause the bear to act defensively in response.
  • No eye contact. Directly looking at bears is seen as a challenge.
  • Speak quietly. Loud noises are perceived as aggressive.
  • Don’t run. Running triggers an automatic predator response in the bears and they will see you as some pretty slow prey. Bears are naturally inquisitive creatures. Some encounters occur because the bear is just curious about what’s going on in the area. The behavior of the bear is indicative of the bear’s intentions.
Bears are very capable climbers and often seek refuge from threats in trees.
Some common bear behaviors:
  • If a bear is sitting or moving away this is often a neutral behavior. Just go about your business.
  • If a bear is standing motionless or ignoring you, it is indicating that they just want to be left alone. As long as you don’t start toward them, the bear will leave you be.
  • Climbing a tree is a show of submission or seeking safety. Mothers will often send their cubs up trees and sit beneath them when they encounter dangers. You’ve probably passed under a few bears hidden up in trees already. Just keep away from the tree and give the bears space and they’ll leave you alone.  
  • If a bear is popping its jaw or huffing, it is a sign nervousness or apprehension. It’s a warning for you to back away and leave them alone.

Monday, May 22, 2017

CNHP Peep Show!

Last month, CNHP hosted its first annual Peep Diorama Contest, and there were far more wonderful entries than we could have possibly hoped for! From The Bunny Band and Chickweed to a Peep Bodies Exhibit and Peeptart, the competition was fierce. Thanks to everyone who participated and voted. You made it an incredibly successful event, and hopefully the first of many!
Jeepers Peepers by Pam
Here are this year's winners:
1st Place: Game of Peeps
2nd Place: Happy Earth Day
3rd Place: Peter Cottontail's Meats
Honorable Peep-mentions: Peeps of the Caribbean & Peep Gothic

Congrats everyone!

Game of Peeps by Alyssa & Sierra

Happy Earth Day by Kristin

Peter Cottontail's Meats by Dave

Peeps of the Caribbean by Denise & Jill

Peep Gothic by Tom

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Congrats to CNHP Graduates Alyssa and Savanna!

Esteemed CNHP work studies Alyssa Meier and Savanna Smith graduated this spring from CSU, both with honors. (Whoo!)

Alyssa worked with CNHP for nearly all four years of college, completing jobs varying from rare plant data entry to field work that included some nasty allergies (and the occasional ant bite). She was one of the Siegele interns last summer and an invaluable contributor to the nerd word of the day. She received her Bachelor's in Fish Wildlife and Conservation Biology with a minor in Creative Writing. Now she is off to collar elk calves in southern Colorado for the CPW and will return to do field work for CNHP at the Air Force Academy later this summer.

Savanna was with CNHP for the past year where she helped enter data from the endless pile of element occurrence records. For her honors thesis project, she studied the effects of noise and other factors on Colorado bat occupancy with the help of zoologist Jeremy Siemers (a fantastic poster of her findings is on the hallway wall next to the kitchen). She received her Bachelor's in Wildlife Biology with a minor in Ecological Restoration. Soon she will be headed north to work for Idaho's Bureau of Land Management.

These two will be sorely missed (and bribery attempts to get them to return to CNHP are undoubtedly in the foreseeable future). Congratulations to both of you! Have fun (and good luck) "adulting" in the real world!

Savanna on the steps of the CSU Administration Building.

(Typical) Alyssa giving one last huzzah as a CSU Ram.


Monday, May 15, 2017

RARE II, Imperiled Plants of Colorado: Exhibit at the Ft. Collins Museum of Discovery

The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (Mason and Cherry streets) is hosting the amazing art exhibit, RARE II, Imperiled Plants of Colorado, May 6 - August 6, 2017. The exhibit was organized by our important partners from the Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists.

The illustrations are beautiful, highly accurate, and significant because they call attention to these little-known rare and imperiled plant species found in Colorado, and, in many cases, are not known from anywhere else in the world. The Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Initiative identifies lack of awareness as one of the most noteworthy threats to these species' long-term viability. For additional information about these and other Colorado rare plants, please visit the Colorado Rare Plant Guide, hosted on the Colorado Natural Heritage Program website.

Big thanks to the Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists and the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery!


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Human Disturbance in Colorado’s Potential Conservation Areas

by the ESS 440 Anthropogenic Disturbance Team

Throughout the spring 2017 semester at Colorado State, seniors in the ecosystem science program have been working through their senior project with the help of a local Colorado agency or organization. This blogpost is an overview of one of the team's collaboration with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. For more information on the team and an overview of this project, please see our previous blog post, found here.


The Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP) has worked in Colorado since 1979, cataloguing information about the rare and endangered species that exist within the state.  One aspect of their work has been the creation of potential conservation areas (PCAs) in Colorado. A PCA is an area created to denote some level of biodiversity significance. CNHP has identified these areas in the hopes of protecting the plants and animals that reside within it. The main objective of the following project is to build upon CNHP's work in order to better understand the level at which potential conservation areas (PCAs) in Colorado have been disturbed by human activities.

Map of Potential Conservation Areas
Location and rank of Colorado's potential conservation areas (PCAs)

The map above gives the location and rank of each PCA that has been identified by CNHP in Colorado. An area shown in pink, given the rank of B1, surrounds species that are deemed to have outstanding levels of biodiversity significance. These are highly important areas for conservation and contain Colorado's rarest or most imperiled species. Orange sites given a rank of B5 on the other hand, hold species of more general biodiversity significance, likely containing communities that are healthy and relatively abundant in the state.

This map helps focus conservation efforts by ranking areas of biodiversity significance that may be currently unprotected. Areas given a higher ranking such as B1 or B2, are higher priority for conservation. However, to add another layer of information to this idea, our team wanted to find how much anthropogenic, or human, disturbance has taken place in each of these areas.

The first thing the team did was use the location and rank information from each of Colorado's PCAs and combine it with a landscape disturbance index (LDI) dataset. The LDI dataset contains information about a type of disturbance that has been created and that disturbance type's severity level.
distance decay curves used in the LDI model.
Distance decay curves used to determine the disturbance range of each anthropogenic activity
(reproduced from Rondeau et al. 2011)

Above, you can see the distance decay curves that were used as part of the LDI dataset. Each curve is associated with one of the nine types of mappable anthropogenic disturbance. The curve assigns an impact weight, the amount of disturbance created, over a distance to each type of disturbance activity. Some activities have a further reaching effects than others. For example, low intensity urban development has an initial impact weight of 300, however it still creates some level of disturbance up to 2000 meters away. Agriculture on the other hand, also carries an initial impact weight of 300, but its furthest reaching effects end at 500 meters.
Anthropogenic disturbance in Colorado displayed on a color scale ranging from green to red (CNHP 2016). Green denotes undisturbed areas. Red denotes highly disturbed areas. The PCAs that were the focus of this study are highlighted in various colors.


In general, areas along the Front Range and the eastern plains of Colorado have experienced the greatest amounts of anthropogenic disturbance. This is due to the high population density along the Front Range and eastern Colorado's agricultural activity. From the Rocky Mountains westward, there are much lower level of disturbance in the state. A major factor of this is the ruggedness of the terrain. Mountain areas are less accessible to people and have lower population density. Many mountain areas may also currently have some level of protection surrounding them, such as a state or national forest.

Having this new information about the level of disturbance an area experiences, allows conservation efforts to be balanced. While a B1 area may have greater biodiversity significance than a B2 area, it is possible that the B2 area is experiencing a greater amount of anthropogenic disturbance and therefore may be considered a higher priority for conservation.

Through our analysis, we identified the most and least disturbed B1 PCAs in the state. In the above map, you can see an area in western Colorado highlighted in blue. This area is the Colorado River PCA. It is a B1 PCA and home to the endangered Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, and razorback sucker. It is the most disturbed B1 PCA in Colorado primarily due to its proximity to the I-70 urban corridor. Not addressed in the LDI are additional significant impacts, such as the large amount of agricultural water diversion used for irrigation. Water diversions use dams and canals to draw water out of the river.

In contrast, Colorado's Hankins Gulch, located in central Colorado and shown in pink, is the least disturbed B1 PCA in the state. The area has a minimum elevation of 8,305 ft., meaning the mountainous terrain puts this area out of reach for many activities and land uses. Additionally, motorized vehicle usage is also prohibited within the area, further reducing accessibility to the area for most people. Hankins Gulch receives its B1 PCA status because it is home to the critically imperiled budding monkeyflower (Mimulus gemmiparus).

While this was just one example of the scope at which human disturbance can affect a PCA, identifying areas in Colorado that are heavily disturbed by humans is an important step in prioritizing conservation efforts in order to most effectively protect Colorado's biodiversity. For more information, please follow this link to an interactive Story Map created about the project.

Special thanks to Michelle Fink and David Anderson of CNHP for their contributions and guidance with this project.
---
CNHP. 2016. Landscape Disturbance Index Layer for Colorado. Edition 12_2016. Raster digital data. Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO.

Rondeau, R., K. Decker, J. Handwerk, J. Siemers, L. Grunau, and C. Pague. 2011. The state of Colorado's biodiversity 2011. Prepared for The Nature Conservancy. Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado.

Monday, May 8, 2017

CSU Students Create Project with CNHP on Priority Conservation Areas and Land Ownership Using COMaP Data

Group Members: Tatum VanDam, Madison Wood, Alexa Grafton, Dylan Heser, Anna Banwart, and Nicole Chirban

Through our senior level Ecosystem Science and Sustainability class, we were given the opportunity to connect with resources from around Fort Collins to create a research and development capstone project. Working alongside the Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP), we were able to communicate and develop a research project that allowed us to apply the knowledge we have gained through our four years of education at Colorado State University.

Our team was lucky to be advised by David Anderson, the director and chief scientist at CNHP. David helped us navigate COMaP (Colorado Ownership, Management, and Protection) to determine the distribution of land management and ownership types within specific parcels of land. Each parcel of land that CNHP has deemed of significant ecological/ biological importance is known as a Potential Conservation Area (PCA).

We chose sites of interest for our project based on a biological significance scale from B1 – B5, B1 being of highest importance and B5 being of lower/lowest importance. Of those sites, we chose three B1/B2 PCAs to focus on, including one in Gunnison Basin, Horsetooth Reservoir Hogbacks, and Rabbit Mountain. B1 areas are described as having outstanding biodiversity significance, and B2 areas are described as having very high biodiversity significance. Each site has a unique characteristic that gives it the potential to be a conservation site. In the Gunnison Basin, the sage brush area is of high importance (B1) to conserve because of the habitat it provides to the native Sage Grouse. The Horsetooth Reservoir Hogbacks have a high importance rating (B2) because of the occurrence of vulnerable plant communities and butterfly species native to the area. Like the Horsetooth Reservoir Hogbacks and Gunnison Basin, Rabbit Mountain is also rated highly as a B1 because of the native shrub lands and habitat for Black-tailed Prairie Dogs.

Our group worked extremely hard to evaluate the data of land management and ownership types given to us by CNHP. Madison, a master creator in GIS, was an amazing leader for the analysis of COMaP data. She was able to take an enormous amount of land data and break it down to a manageable size. Madison created a Storymap visual presentation with the help of Anna, Alexa, Dylan, and Nicole. CNHP will use this presentation for public education on the management of local lands and the distribution of PCA’s, allowing for more public understanding and possibly better collaboration on private ownership lands.

Finishing up the semester, we presented our findings at the ESS symposium in April as well as in class for our stakeholders from CNHP. This project was a growing experience as well as an opportunity to build connections with CNHP. We would like to thank all who took the time to help us with this project and we hope CNHP finds much benefit in our final product.

CNHP group meeting with Dave 
Gunnison Basin: Sage Brush



Thursday, May 4, 2017

CSU ESS 440: Investigating Colorado's Ever-Changing Riparian Habitat

Students enrolled in WCNR’s Ecosystem Science & Sustainability 440 spring semester worked with CNHP staff on several learning projects. One of these projects was to re-evaluate Front Range riparian plots from the 1991-1999 State Riparian and Wetland classification project. The students were given four plots with data sheets and photos from the 1990s with the task of relocating each plot and noting changes in appearance and function. Additionally, the students developed a video documenting the process as well as the results. Denise Culver, a CNHP ecologist, was thrilled with the results, saying “Everyone quickly grasped the complexities of Colorado’s wetland and riparian ecosystems. The conclusions were thoughtful and insightful.”  You may view the video below.

The ESS 440 students are: Charlie Beasley, Katherine Feldman, Danielle Reimanis, Makenzie Ruppert, Savannah Telander, and Caitlin Tuminello. Denise was assisted by Neal Swayze, a WCNR student workstudy.  


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wetland Ecologist Denise Culver Receives CSU Distinguished Administrative Professional Award

At her core, Denise is first and foremost a ‘plant geek,’ with an infectious passion for petals and perigynia that has propelled her through an incredible and highly successful 20 years at CNHP. Throughout that time, she has written and submitted 96 proposals, out of which 90% have been successfully funded (an astounding $3,720,882!). She is a member and past officer of the Colorado Native Plant Society and an instructor in the Native Plant Master Program. She has been the project leader for over 20 Colorado county surveys for critical biological resources and is the lead author for the Field Guide to Colorado’s Wetland Plants: Identification, Ecology and Conservation. She also assisted in designing and developing the Colorado Wetlands App (CNHP’s first app).

Denise’s positivity and strong work ethic shines through to colleagues, co-workers, and students alike. She never comes up short in her commitment to educate others about wetlands and wetland plants. Congratulations, Denise!

Denise and her wonderful Nakai atop the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

CSU Seniors Join CNHP to Address Anthropogenic Disturbances in Colorado

By George Simpson

Ecosystem Science and Sustainability is one of the majors offered through Colorado State’s Warner College of Natural Resources. The degree program teaches students how to better manage the Earth’s natural resources through the application of science in decision and policy making areas. After four years in the program, many students are finishing their final semester and preparing to graduate. For most, this means enrolment in the curriculum’s capstone class ESS 440. The distinguishing feature of the class is a semester long project working with a local agency. The projects are designed to allow students to apply the skills they have been carefully refining over the past four years in order to help practitioners solve a local sustainability problem. Student have multiple project choices to choose from, and thus are divided into smaller teams to work in throughout the semester.

Our team will be collaborating with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP) throughout this semester. The Colorado Natural Heritage Program works with rare and imperiled species in Colorado, conducting research and sharing their expert information with stakeholders in order to help ensure that Colorado’s biodiversity is not diminished. CNHP has mapped over 1,800 Potential Conservation Areas (PCAs) in the state that contain species of biodiversity significance. Our team will be running an analysis of their PCAs to determine what areas in Colorado have experienced the greatest impacts from anthropogenic disturbances. This information will allow us to prioritize conservation efforts by combining knowledge about the biodiversity these areas contain, and the level of disturbance the area has experienced from anthropogenic activities. Included with this assessment, the team will create a summary of its findings to be shared with the general public.  

While a seemingly complex task such as this may appear daunting at first glance, 2017’s ESS 440 CNHP project team has fielded some real talent, fully qualified to complete the task at hand. Aspiring young scientists Julia, Alex, Daniel, Caden, Leo and George, working under the guidance of CNHP’s Michelle Fink and David Anderson, will use this semester to better understand the sources of anthropogenic disturbance in Colorado. The team’s composition has allowed us to blend technical expertise and creativity skills to best complete this project.


The ESS 440 project team from left to right: Leo, Caden, Danielle, George, Julia, and Alex.

Alex and Julia are the team's ArcGIS wizards. They cast virtual ArcGIS spells to extract, clip, interpolate, overlay and buffer CNHP’s data so that it can be grown into a map that tells the story of anthropogenic disturbance in Colorado. Their work will produce a map of Colorado depicting potential conservation areas in the state and the extent to which they are affected by a number human activities.

The next step in the team’s analysis will be to pick apart the results, identifying overlying trends and drivers of anthropogenic disturbances. Danielle and George will pore over the results, looking for spatial patterns and reoccurring themes between sites. The two will compile the team’s work into a digestible, easy readin’ scientific report that details the project’s goals, methods, results, and outcomes.

The team’s final members, Caden and Leo, are in charge of crafting the projects final piece, a summary of our work designed to be shared with the general public. They will shape the project's key points into an interactive story of the project that people can access to learn more about this project and the work that CNHP does.

As the semester winds down, stay tuned for our team’s completed project and access to our Storymap that you can use to learn about sources of anthropogenic disturbance that affect outdoor areas in Colorado near you.

Monday, January 30, 2017

CNHP Paid Internships for Summer 2017!

CNHP is looking for up to six Colorado State University undergraduate students interested in expanding their knowledge and experience in conservation science. Interns will build skills in plant identification, vegetation sampling, animal monitoring and surveys, monitoring protocols, data collection, and describing conservation values. Interns will be paid $12/hr, with per diem provided for overnight field trips. Program begins June 12, 2017 and ends August 18, 2017. Applications are due by March 1, 2017.

For more information read the full announcement on our website here:
http://www.cnhp.colostate.edu/download/documents/jobs/CNHP%20Internship%202017.pdf

The 2016 Siegele Conservation Science interns. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Natives in Your Landscape!

Would you like to use Colorado native plants in your landscape? Check out the exciting new webinar below about using natives in your garden. You will learn about natives for sunny areas, for clay, for shade, for formal situations, for fragrance, for fall color, and more!


Why use natives? You can increase the sustainability of your garden, save money from less watering, attract native pollinators, and enjoy a bounty of Colorado’s native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.

WEBINAR - Native Plants For Every Landscape Situation – March 16, 12 noon to 1 PM, taught by Irene Shonle, CSU native plant expert and County Extension Director.

Interested in receiving a CSU certificate for your knowledge about natives, becoming a Native Plant Master volunteer, or finding offerings in locations across the state? Learn more at www.COnativeplantmaster.org or call 303-271-6621. For research-based information on 1,000+ Colorado plants, see http://coloradoplants.jeffco.us. Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.


Monday, January 9, 2017

Life as a CNHP Work Study: Taming of the Shrew

By Alyssa Meier

At the end of the hall here at CNHP, there is a small lab in which, not ten feet apart, sit two very different worlds. On one side, we have a freezer filled to the brim with shrew specimens dating back to 2012. On the other, a cabinet loaded to the top with plant specimens all the way from 1993.

Collection of shrew specimens.
Shelf of plant specimens from the 90s.
This past semester, I had the privilege of being a part of two projects that dealt with these specimens. The first project involved taking the old plant specimens, digging through twenty-year-old field journals, and trying to glean enough information to make a label so I could turn them in to the Colorado State University Herbarium. The second involved separating the shrews into individual baggies and giving each a catalog number so we could cart them off to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Each of these projects had its own merits. Making labels for the plants involved a bit of detective work. I was snooping into the past—the far-off years of the 90s when I was just a kid and these plants were still alive. Of course, the field journals of each individual botanist had their own nuances to navigate just to obtain any relevant information, and this sometimes involved tracking down GIS files and surfing through records in Biotics. Many times the information was simply lost over the years.

A pressed rusty lupine (Lupinus pusillus) specimen.
Comparatively, working with shrew specimens was an overload of information. Dozens of grocery bags loaded with sandwich bags loaded with shrews. All of them frozen together. The unfortunate thing about studying shrews is that, because they are so small, it is difficult to draw any inference on habitat or location without the use of pitfall traps or other lethal methods. Thus, the specimens collected are bagged and frozen together. My job was to thaw out the shrews (the smell is indescribable), meticulously peel them apart (so I don’t accidentally rip them in half), put them in separate snack bags, and give them a catalog number.

Me gently peeling apart two shrews that have been frozen together.
Botany and zoology—they both have their ups and downs. One thing's for certain: reeking shrews and crispy plants are still better than case changes.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Bethke Elementary “Bat-Bots” and Creative Solutions to Deter Bats from Wind Turbines

The Bethke Elementary Legos Robotics Team, called the Bat-Bots, invited Rob Schorr to talk with them about bat conservation and ecology. The Bat-Bots are tasked with coming up with solutions to reduce bat mortality at wind turbines. In 2012, it was estimated that over 600,000 bats died at wind turbine facilities in the United States (M.A. Hayes. 2013. Bats killed in large numbers at United States wind energy facilities. BioScience 63:975-979). They were all aware of the importance of bats for insect control and pollination, and were concerned about conflicts between renewal energy from wind energy development and bat conservation. They wanted to know about possible solutions to reducing bat deaths, while maintaining access to clean energy. Schorr and the team discussed options to use ultraviolet (UV) light as a deterrent (P.M. Gorresen and others. 2015. Dim ultraviolet light as a means of deterring activity by the Hawaiian hoary bat Lasiurus cinereus semotus. Endangered Species Research 28:249-257). The team discussed how to design buildings with UV lights, and were contemplating ways of designing new turbine facilities with dim UV light deterrents.

The Bethke Elementary Bat-Bots include Case L., Carly L., Juliana S., Ella N., Abigail F., and William W., with Schorr.