August 29, 2019
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.
Every month, students along the Rio Grande venture out into the bosque to collect data. Thousands of citizen scientists, of all ages, and from a wide variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds roll up their sleeves and dig into this essential New Mexico ecosystem. With BEMP, learning becomes relevant and engages kids in becoming stewards of the earth. BEMP students not only learn about the bosque and collect crucial data, but are also personally affected by BEMP and their time in the bosque. “It’s like a zen garden. You walk through and it’s all quiet and the birds are chirping and it’s beautiful,” says Christian, a student at Albuquerque Sign Language Academy (ASLA). These citizen scientists might be a group of second graders practicing observational skills, or graduate students working on a thesis, but they monitor and protect the bosque, and its fragile future.
This week, BEMP celebrated its 100,000th BEMP student! Since 1996, BEMPers have been exploring and connecting to the history of this region while working to preserve the vital ecosystem New Mexicans depend on. To honor this milestone, students from Horizons, ASLA, West Mesa HS, and Bosque School brought U.S. Representative Deb Haaland on a walk in the bosque so she could learn more about BEMP. “BEMP is important because everybody needs to learn about the bosque. We all have an obligation to protect our natural resources,” she said. As they walked, students explained the type of hands-on experience they receive, and at the river, Representative Haaland made her remarks. “100,000 students have walked the halls, tested in the labs, and hiked these trails.”
Jessie Barrie, head of Bosque School explained why she considers BEMP to be an important program. “I think what’s most important about BEMP is that it makes learning real and relevant,” she said. As we celebrate the 100,000th BEMPer, we honor the 100,000 students that are connected by the Rio Grande, and all the plants and animals that depend on it.
Eliot is a Class of 2023 student at Bosque School in Albuquerque. This post was originally published on the BEMP blog.