Benthic Macrointervebrates on the Rio Chama

Due to unusually high flows on the Rio Chama below Abiquiu Dam through the end of 2015 and a very chilly start to 2016, our 4th-6th grade Española River Classroom hasn’t been able to search the river for benthic macroinvertebrates. That all changed last week, and we had quite a bit of exploring to do!

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Greeting students as the bus arrives

Our first task was pretty exciting. We met with USACE Ranger Austin to hear about some of USACE’s future plans for the area below Abiquiu Dam. Part of our goal is to collect data that can be used in evaluating the ecosystem for this project.

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Discussing future plans for the Rio Chama below Abiquiu Dam

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After this exciting discussion (during which our students showed off their knowledge of the Rio Chama), we put on waders and headed across the river to seek out more signs of life. This time we wanted to explore a little farther, so we carried shoes and left our waders by the river.

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Waders along the fence

This time we found some additional signs of life, like several bird nests and some new scat. We also went into a little more detail in discussing plants in the area and the cryptobiotic crust we found in a few places.

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A bird nest
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Unidentified scat
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Checking out a yucca
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Documenting some of the plants
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Looking at cryptobiotic soil

After fully exploring the far bank of the Rio Chama, we headed back across the river for lunch and to collect and catalog benthic macroinvertebrates.

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Demonstrating use of a kick seine
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Coming up with a game plan
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The “haul”
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Collecting our “bugs” into bowls
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Counting our catch
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A few students collected rocks
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Identifying benthic macroinvertebrates on rocks
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A few students doing a comparison with a pond that becomes part of the river when the water is higher.

We found a good number of benthic macroinvertebrates (of which a good proportion happened to be midges), and we collected some great data to share with our friends at USACE. It was a gorgeous day on the river, and we can’t wait to get back out there!

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