July 24, 2017

A summer of student research and discovery

Posted by larryohanlon

By Audrey Kruse, BEMP Albuquerque 

Each summer a wonderful group of teachers, staff and students converge on Bosque School’s campus in Albuquerque to work as a team, to take care of each other and the environment, to think about bugs and observe snapping turtles! These people are the community of Horizons Albuquerque, and I was privileged to be a part of Horizons as one of their Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (BEMP) teachers this summer. For the 4th year, BEMP partnered up with Horizons Albuquerque to get students into the bosque (the forested zone that runs alongside the Rio Grande River) to conduct research, play and become stewards of New Mexico’s land and water.

4th graders graph their arthropod data.

Horizons (https://www.horizonsalbuquerque.org/) is a nationally recognized enrichment program that addresses the achievement gap and summer learning loss for public school students from low-income families. Every summer, students return for six weeks of learning, while they focus on reading and math, students are offered choices for extra-curricular activities from swimming, tennis and yoga, to guitar, dance and painting. The whole Horizons team has created a community where students take pride in learning, trying new things and being their best selves.

BEMP’s partnership with Horizons is a perfect example of how we fulfill the BEMP mission of “long-term, hands-on student research.” Each summer, Horizons students return to Bosque School’s campus and continue their journey as citizen scientists. With the help of BEMP educators they set up experiments to monitor bosque flora and fauna.

Last year our 6th grade class monitored turtles in the Bosque School pond and this year’s 6th grade class continued that work. Through weekly observations and trapping they identified the turtle species present, and were able to identify changes between this year and last (we caught the same number of turtles each year, but none of the exotic red-eared sliders ended up in our traps this year).

7th graders set track plates to monitor mammals.

This year’s 7th graders used track plates to monitor mammals, they designed experiments to answer 2 questions; Do more mammals live at the edge of the river or in the middle of the bosque? And will mammals be more attracted to peanut butter or cat food bait? (We discovered peanut butter is much more popular with mice, but squirrels prefer cat food.) Despite someone tampering with several of the track plates, the 7th graders answered both their questions and Maria and Eve and others are already eager to present at the Crawford Symposium again in 2018.

We also continued to study arthropods through pitfall trapping at Bosque School with the 4th grade class and the 5th grade class was in charge of continuing the Nature’s Notebook phenology monitoring that BEMP students do on study trips year-round to help us understand seasonal changes in the bosque.

Ten 6th and 7th graders also traveled with us to Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge to conduct a jackrabbit survey under the full moon. We stayed up until 3:00 AM and counted 69 jackrabbits, plus pronghorns, oryx, owls and coyotes. The wildlife refuge has been surveying jackrabbits for 25 years to help estimate population size. During the closing ceremony, we held the first BEMP/Horizons poster session where our students did an exceptional job presented their findings to their fellow students, parents, teachers and community members.

Congratulations to all the Horizons Albuquerque students on another summer of research and discovery. All your posters will be displayed again at the Super Saturday in September and everyone is invited to present their posters at the Crawford Symposium in March. See you at Super Saturdays!

Students present their research posters at the Horizons closing ceremony.

Across 350 kilometers of the The Middle Rio Grande River students and their teachers from kindergarten through college serve as field scientists for the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (BEMP). Bosque means ‘forest’ in Spanish, and refers to the vast cottonwood forest that straddles the Rio Grande. Currently there are 32 study sites, and over 1 million data points are collected each year by many local students who would otherwise have limited access to environmental education. This Albuquerque-based program shows how local science initiatives can connect people to their landscapes while helping inform resource management decisions.

This and other BEMP posts can be found at the BEMPin’ It Up blog.