Last Friday was overcast and rainy, but that didn’t stop us from heading to the Pecos River with a Wildlife Biology class from Santa Fe High School! This class has been a part of Trout Unlimited’s Trout in the Classroom program, and they raised a tank full of tiny Rio Grande Cutthroat trout. Last Friday, the class released the trout. We also discussed and tested water quality and identified benthic macroinvertebrates, to be sure that the stream is healthy enough for the trout to survive.
We found a fantastic diversity of benthic macroinvertebrates, including some of the biggest stoneflies (Pteronarcys) I’ve ever seen. The Pecos is a very healthy river, with low values of turbidity and conductivity (until students began wading upstream) and high values of dissolved oxygen (DO). We have high hopes for these little trout!
Last Wednesday was the big day… the day that River Classroom finally got to test the water wheels that we’ve spent all year building! We didn’t hook up generators to the wheels yet. We just wanted to make sure they spin.
The Rio Chama is up quite a bit, so first we had to review wader safety.
All of that testing was difficult work, but we still managed to find some time to have fun exploring the river ecosystem!
After lunch the wind really picked up ahead of a cold front, and it was just too cold to get back in the river and search for benthic macroinvertebrates, so we decided to explore a different area of the Abiquiu Lake ecosystem.
The fantastic thing about having class outside is that there’s always more to learn. On our hike we talked about cairns, the importance of staying on trail to minimize our impact on the landscape, how wind is caused by pressure gradient force, and why certain wind directions produce larger waves on Abiquiu Lake.
Last Saturday was our third teacher training as part of the Improving Teacher Quality Grant from the Title II New Mexico Higher Education Department, which NMWC is hosting in conjunction with Northern New Mexico University. We’ve covered geology and water in New Mexico, so this time we were on to forests and wildfire!
We began the day at NMWC, where Mary took advantage of the internet to show the group a few Youtube videos of flooding after wildfires and wildfire plumes. Mary made a fantastic map that shows all of the wildfires since 2000 that we can see from NMWC.
After these initial explanations, we hit the road! Our first stop was an area of pinyon-juniper outside of White Rock. We explored this area and made observations as a group, and Mary explained the pinyon-juniper ecosystem.
Our second stop was an area of ponderosa pine that was affected by the 1977 La Mesa fire. Mary explained how foresters determine whether or not a forest is healthy. One of the most interesting discussions was simply “What is a forest?”
Our final stop was the Cerro Grande trail in the Jemez, where we discussed the Cerro Grande fire and the devastating Las Conchas fire. Most of the group lived in New Mexico during the Las Conchas fire and were familiar with the incident. We drove past areas that were absolutely devastated by the fire. The fire that burned through the area we explored was not quite as intense.
One of my favorite activities that Mary modeled was using all of your senses to look around you. Because we observed several different ecosystems, we all got a glimpse of the variety of forest in this area of New Mexico. We also came away with a renewed understanding of wildfire and how the density of our forests is making this issue worse.
Last week was officially the Week of Benthic Macroinvertebrates around here, as we discussed those little bugs with the kids at Embudo and with our Earth Sciences class at McCurdy High School.
Classroom days are always difficult. Being outside is so much more fun and interesting. For class last Thursday, we brought part of the Rio Chama to McCurdy High School in the form of benthic macroinvertebrates. We collected these during our teacher training two weeks ago, and we found some really interesting ones.
We began class with a very short discussion of benthic macroinvertebrates, and then students were on their own. They selected samples, examined them under a microscope, and recorded their findings in their science notebooks.
The students did a fantastic job with this activity, and we look forward to testing their skills in a few weeks on the Rio Chama when we have our all day field trip!
When I was in elementary school, I always wished we had an after school science program like the one in Dixon. The Embudo Valley Library’s after school program is absolutely fantastic, and last week we were fortunate enough to head that way and help the kids learn about the Embudo River.
We went on a hike to identify life forms, learned how to use compasses and GPS units, and collected and identified benthic macroinvertebrates. While we didn’t have much time before parents came and collected their kids, we made great strides in learning about riparian ecosystems.
We were really impressed by the students both days that we visited Dixon, and we look forward to working with them in the future. Keep up the good work, Embudo Valley Library!