April 3, 2019

Budding scientists communicate river science to elected officials in New Mexico

Posted by larryohanlon

Two 6th grade-scientists, Madeline and Elise (second and third from left), took a trip downtown to the Albuquerque City/County building along with Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (BEMP) staff and a senior from Atrisco Heritage Academy High School, Xavier ‘19 (right).

Editor’s Note: 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 33 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.

By Kim Fike

Last week, two 6th grade-scientists from Bosque School, Madeline (Maddie) ‘25 and Elise ‘25, took a trip downtown to the Albuquerque City/County building along with Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (BEMP) staff and a senior from Atrisco Heritage Academy High School, Xavier ‘19. They were presenting to a group of City Councilors and County Commissioners at the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Government Commission (ABCGC) meeting. BEMP was asked to share its story with our local elected officials and, wow, did these two middle schoolers and their new BEMP friend from Atrisco Heritage do a tremendous job!

Maddie and Elise proudly presenting BEMP Monthly Monitoring in the City Council Chambers.

Maddie and Elise talked about how they visit four BEMP sites in Albuquerque each month to collect different types of data: depth to groundwater, litterfall, precipitation, and arthropods (three times a year). They highlighted the importance of understanding the hydrologic connections of our water in New Mexico. Maddie and Elise taught the Commissioners and Councilors about the value of tracking long term ecological changes in our bosque and how their data are shared with land and water managers to provide a more complete picture of how climate change and human activities are impacting the bosque. They even shared a graph they made in class showing the mean depth to groundwater across their four sites.

The presentation was well received, and the officials were not shy about asking the young Bobcats hard questions. When presented with inquiries about humans mimicking historic natural flood regimes and bosque wildfire risks, Elise and Maddie used their knowledge of riparian systems to provide accurate and science-based answers. They are already learning one of the most important, and oftentimes most difficult, parts of science: effectively communicating their knowledge to others around them. City Councilor Pat Davis commended the students for doing science that has meaning beyond the classroom and that helps City managers and others who manage the bosque ecosystem to be well-informed about ecological conditions as they make decisions.

Though the presentation was brief, the value was significant; Bosque School’s budding young scientists are helping to gain the support of our elected officials. The more support BEMP has, the greater its reach and capacity to learn more about our riverside forest and get more kids into the field doing meaningful hands-on science.

Thank you Maddie and Elise for sharing your BEMP story!

Kim Fike is the BEMP Science Coordinator. This post was originally published on the BEMP blog