NM Youth Engage in Community Science on the Wild & Scenic Rio Chama

By Becca Neal – NM Wild’s Community Science Coordinator

This August, River Source partnered with NM Wild and Far Flung Adventures to take a group of northern NM youth down the Wild & Scenic section of the Rio Chama to learn about environmental health and participate in the stewardship of the river. River Source brought the high school group together as a youth crew to conduct environmental science and restoration activities throughout northern New Mexico during this past summer.

This was the 2nd year NM Wild has participated in this float trip partnership, but for most of these students this was their first time on the river, and for some, it was their first time camping. We spent 2 nights and 3 days testing water quality, collecting benthic macroinvertebrate samples, identifying bat species with echolocation technology, and mapping landscape features. Everyone left with a better understanding of the Chama’s ecosystem dynamics, and the infinite layers of ecosystem health from bats to bugs to boaters!

The benthic macroinvertebrate collection is part of an ongoing community science project, where we ask boaters who are doing an overnight trip on the Chama to take an ammo can full of collection supplies along with them. Boaters spend a few minutes each night at sunset collecting bug and water samples, providing a snapshot of bug diversity near their camp, and the water characteristics the bugs are associated with. Together, these snapshots can uncover trends in bug diversity and river health over the course of the recreational boating season from year-to-year, informing flow management and ecosystem health decisions for the El Vado dam.

There are still a few weeks left in the boating season, so if you are doing an overnight trip in the Wild & Scenic section of the Rio Chama before Sept. 15th, reach out to rebeccan@nmwild.org to get a kit. The project is simple but reliable, and is good for all ages!


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