Colorado mountains

Sevilleta Schoolyard LTER and the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (BEMP): Partnering environmental education, ecosystem monitoring, and stewardship of the Middle Rio Grande riparian forest

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Presenter/Primary Author: 
Kim Eichhorst
Kimi Scheerer

The Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (BEMP)/Sevilleta schoolyard LTER is long-term ecological research done by K-12 students and their teachers to monitor key indicators of structural and functional change in the Middle Rio Grande riparian forest, or "bosque". Each year BEMP involves ~ 1000 students in year-round data collection and lab processing, and over 2000 students in 1-3 day field/lab sessions, helping to increase their understanding and appreciation of science and the ecosystem. Last year over 7000 people were involved in this program, from Ohkay Owingeh pueblo to Mesilla Valley in the south.

Over 45 schools participate in the hands-on, inquiry-based, standard linked science provided by BEMP in the field and in the classroom/lab. BEMP provides assistance with teacher workshops that focus on regional and national curriculum, continuing education credit for current teachers, student trainings that can lead to peer teaching, and continually updates on-line resources (including field-collected data). In addition, our education staff provides and teaches nine different "in-the-classroom" education sessions that help students and teachers link their fieldwork with local flora, fauna, water issues, lab activities and historical activities that affect the Rio Grande. At the end of the school year, students are invited to attend a symposium-style "congress." BEMP involves a rich and diverse blend of Hispanic, Native American, and Anglo cultures. BEMP schools are located in inner-city, suburban and urban-rural interface areas, including three local pueblos. BEMP students span all ages and economic groups.

Abiotic data collected and analyzed include groundwater, river and ditch water level and quality; precipitation; and temperature. Biotic data include plant productivity and cover; woody debris/fuel load; cottonwood numbers, size and sex; and surface-active arthropod activity. These data provide insight into the biological quality, resilience, hydrologic connectivity, and effectiveness of land management practices of 27 BEMP sites spanning 480 km of the Rio Grande. There are over 15 years of data from the earliest established sites. Included are post-fire recovery sites, wetlands, sites bracketing Albuquerque’s drinking water diversion dam, sites with landscape alteration or bank lowering, and sites cleared of exotic vegetation used for measuring the effects of thinning on groundwater and vegetation. University of New Mexico interns (seniors and graduate students), site representatives, and contracted experts provide quality control on BEMP data. BEMP data are used by federal, state, and local agencies.

Background Photo by: Nicole Hansen - Jornada (JRN) LTER