Teacher Training: Forestry and Wildlife

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!

Our expert this week was Mary Stuever, who currently works for New Mexico State Forestry, although she’s worn a number of different hats during her career, including wildland firefighter and author.

Our fearless leader, Mary.
Our fearless leader, Mary.

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.

Checking out the map of nearby wildfires.
Checking out the map of nearby wildfires.

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.

Exploring the pinyon-juniper regime.
Exploring the pinyon-juniper regime.
Comparing observations.
Comparing observations.
We used all of our senses to observe the trees!
We used all of our senses to observe the trees!

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?”

Walking into the ponderosa forest.
Walking into the ponderosa forest.
Using our thumbs to determine which trees are in or out of our study plot.
Using our thumbs to determine which trees are in or out of our study plot.
Enjoying lunch underneath the ponderosa pines.
Recording observations of the ponderosa pines.

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.

Piling out of the van at the Cerro Grande trailhead.
Piling out of the van at the Cerro Grande trailhead.
Heading up the trail.
Heading up the trail.
Pinecones from a ponderosa pine and a Douglas fir.
Pinecones from a ponderosa pine and a Douglas fir.
Comparing pinecones.
Comparing pinecones.
Feeling a friendly fir.
Feeling a friendly fir.
Walking around an exclosure, which had a different variety of plants than the outside meadow.
Walking around an exclosure, which had a different variety of plants than the outside meadow.
Taking a closer look at the bark of the ponderosa.
Taking a closer look at the bark of the ponderosa.

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.

Christy

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