Celebrating Crawford Symposium 2018

On March 6th, BEMP celebrated its 8th annual Crawford Symposium, a conference honoring BEMP co-founder Dr. Clifford Crawford.  This year’s conference brought together over 250 people, including more than 70 presenters, in celebration of citizen science and environmental research along the Middle Rio Grande.  The conference showcased research by an outstanding set of presenters ranging from 5th grade students to seasoned environmental scientists and professionals. We were honored to have Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller give the Symposium’s keynote address, which highlighted the importance of the Rio Grande and its bosque as a natural treasure within our community. This year’s conference theme was “In This Together: Collaboration along the Middle Rio Grande,” and the evening highlighted the energy and dedication with which members of our community are working together to study and care for the bosque ecosystem.

The evening began with a poster session at which over 50 students and professionals showcased their scientific research and conservation work. A superb array of student posters featured topics ranging from mammal, turtle, and monarch butterfly population assessments to programming Raspberry Pi miniature computers for use in scientific monitoring. Other students explained their work on hydrology, plant phenology, fish genetics, graphing BEMP’s groundwater data, urban coyote dependence on human food sources, designing enrichment activities for captive Mexican gray wolves, and conducting citizen science through the BEMP Monthly Monitoring and Watershed Watch programs. We were also thrilled to be joined for our poster session by citizens and environmental professionals from the Rio Grande Phenology Trail, the Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program, the New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge.

Following the poster session, fantastic presenters of diverse ages gave oral presentations to an enthusiastic and supportive audience. Four of our amazing Horizons Albuquerque students began the session: Hannah (6th grade) and Leo (5th grade) presented their research on trapping and identifying turtles, and 7th graders Sahilda and Eve spoke about assessing mammal populations in the bosque. Jefferson Middle School 8th grader Henry then gave a wonderful presentation of his research on the phenology of native southwestern plants. Next up were our dedicated high school students from South Valley Academy, Amy Biehl High School, Highland High School, La Academia de Esperanza, and Bosque School, who shared their original research on topics including water quality monitoring and the population genetics of the Rio Grande Chub, a fish species of conservation concern. The spirit of collaboration was evident as students described their BEMP experiences, highlighting research conducted with diverse government agency and nonprofit partners, and describing how BEMP has sparked their connections with nature and with one another.

After our high school student presentations, Jonathan Tyrrell, BEMP’s Crawford Fellow and an undergraduate student at the University of New Mexico, described his BEMP journey from an elementary and middle school student collecting data with Cliff Crawford to a high school intern and then undergraduate fellow. Looking toward the future, he highlighted the value of citizen science:  “in the face of human alteration, climate change and heightened fire risk, citizen science is critical to building understanding of both local and global ecosystems and their future stewards – seedlings around the world.”

Following the student presentations, we were thrilled to welcome Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, who gave the evening’s keynote address. Mayor Keller described the meaning of the bosque to his family and the community as not only an ecosystem of rich scientific importance but also as a special place for people of all ages to explore the outdoors. He affirmed his administration’s commitment to environmental action, and spoke directly to BEMP’s students, encouraging them to continue contributing their curiosity and hard work toward studying and conserving the bosque. We’re grateful for the mayor’s enthusiasm for and support of BEMP’s mission and work!

Professional presentations continued after the keynote address, highlighting how BEMP’s data actively inform management decisions and conservation efforts along the Middle Rio Grande. US Army Corps of Engineers scientist Lynette Giesen described how her agency uses BEMP data in their decision-making and planning processes for critical restoration projects and endangered species conservation efforts. UNM graduate student Derek Jarner then spoke about his research on water quality and wetland restoration in the Middle Rio Grande, and Dr. Cliff Dahm of the UNM Biology Department highlighted common themes and connections between BEMP’s research in the Middle Rio Grande and research done in the California Delta.

The evening ended with thoughts of collaboration as we look to the future. Gary Goodman of the Cebrin Goodman Youth, Leadership, and the Environment Project emphasized the value of working together to promote scientific knowledge and enthusiasm in today’s youth, thus fostering the environmental stewards of the future. He spoke of BEMP’s role in building scientific skills and ecological awareness in our citizens, thereby contributing to sustaining our environment and community for generations to come.

Many thanks to all who helped make the 2018 Crawford Symposium a true celebration of the hard work, enthusiasm, and dedication of the numerous members of our community who are researchers and stewards of the Middle Rio Grande and its bosque. We hope to see you again next year!

Written by: Melanie Kazenel