Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program

Measuring Rainfall

Measuring Rainfall
An elementary school student reads a rain gauge at a site in Albuquerque.  Photo taken November 17, 2010.

Leaf Litter

Leaf Litter
Students gather leaf litter, which serves as a measurement of forest productivity.  Photo taken November 17, 2010.

Measuring Ground Water

Measuring Ground Water
Measuring groundwater depths from a well is one of the students' most favorite activities.  They love loud, beeping, technical equipment!  Photo taken January 20, 2010.

Fuel Load

Fuel Load
A UNM student and a high school student take measurements to determine woody debris or fuel load.  Photo taken December 15, 2010.

Measuring Oxygen

Measuring Oxygen
A high school student measures dissolved oxygen in the Rio Grande River.  Photo taken August 15, 2010.

Water Chemistry

Water Chemistry
A high school student mixes water samples from the river to then filter and run chemical analyses to determine chloride, nitrate, ammonium, phosphate, and bromide levels.  Photo taken August 8, 2011.

Water Chemistry

Water Chemistry
A UNM student pumps water from a well and measures pH, conductivity, temperature, dissolved oxygen and turbidity, and also obtains a sample to run chemical analyses.  Photo taken November 7, 2006.

The late Dr. Clifford S. Crawford established the Sevilleta’s Schoolyard LTER Program which funds an educational outreach program known locally as the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (BEMP).  The major focus of the program is to monitor key indicators of structural and functional change in the Middle Rio Grande riparian cottonwood forest ('bosque') corridor through central New Mexico, including the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge.

Annually, over 5000 K-12 students and their teachers from 40 different schools, as well as citizen volunteers, collect data relevant to the long-term management of bosque functioning. Participating students have won local, state and national science fairs and competitions.

The Bosque Environmental Monitoring Program has four main educational goals:

1. Involve students and citizen volunteers of all ages in the coordinated monitoring of key processes and populations of the endangered Middle Rio Grande riparian       forest ecosystem;

2. Enable participants to 'learn by doing' about the natural history and ecology of the bosque which lies near their communities;

3. Encourage these students and volunteers to convey to their communities an appreciation of the scientific and social significance of long-term environmental research;

4. Give the students and informed citizens an opportunity to become involved in the management of a critical environmental resource.

Data collection occurs synchronously and according to a predetermined schedule at 26 BEMP sites spanning 350 miles of the Rio Grande. The sites are identical in layout and extend from the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo north of Espanola, NM to Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park near Las Cruces, NM.  Site-specific abiotic (soil and air temperatures, precipitation, groundwater level, water quality, river flow and water level in ditches) and biotic (plant diversity and productivity, vegetation cover, surface-active arthropod activity and woody debris/fuel loading) data are collected. Years of restoration related research on the bosque by University of New Mexico biologists have demonstrated the relative ease of collecting the necessary field data and the value such information provides.

BEMP data have demonstrated new cottonwood growth within certain sections of the bosque, as well as some areas that comprise more than 95% native vegetation. BEMP has also documented the dominance of exotic plant communities and tracked the impacts of various intervention and management strategies such as exotic plant removal, mowing, and landscape alteration. Most BEMP sites have a significant hydrologic connection between groundwater and river flow, and some have a significant connection between groundwater and water in the nearby ditches and drains. Resource managers and researchers attempting to restore cottonwood-dominated sites can benefit from BEMP data to locate suitable areas and determine the most appropriate strategy. Ten federal, state and local agencies currently use BEMP data; hence BEMP data are actually applied to real-world management issues. 

Program Co-Directors Dr. Kim Eichhorst and Daniel C. Shaw

Department of Biology
MSC03 2020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131
kimde@unm.edu, 505.277.0758
 dshaw@bosqueschool.org, 505.898.6388
Fax: 505-277-6318