Happy 20th Birthday BEMP!

Tuesday, March 7th marked a momentous night for BEMP – we hosted the 2017 Crawford Symposium and we celebrated our 20th anniversary. In the last 20 years, we have grown from a small monitoring effort with only a few sites (Alameda was our first site!) to the 32 BEMP sites we have today, stretching over 320 miles of the Rio Grande bosque. We reach 10,000 people each year and about 180 of them joined us this year for the Crawford Symposium. At this annual event held at UNM, we had an outstanding set of speakers ranging in age and experience from 6th grade students to professional scientists and conservationists.

The night began with a vibrant poster session. Fourteen students presented posters on their research about the bosque. Our youngest presenter, Jude, a 5th grader and participant in the BEMP Horizons program during summer 2016, presented his poster about the arthropods he trapped and studied last summer. Several other students from BEMP presented their research about the bosque and wildlife populations of the Middle Rio Grande. We had great representation during the poster session from several of our agency partners as well.

We were warmly welcomed by Dr. Patricia Henning, the Assistant Vice President of Research at UNM. Our youngest presenters, Horizons 6th graders, talked about turtle species they found during their summer research in 2016. Rosa, an 8th grader at Bosque School, presented her work regarding pharmaceutical and personal care products in the Rio Grande above and below the wastewater treatment plant in Albuquerque. Did you know there’s an incredible amount of sucralose from diet soda is in our water?

The high school student presentations were each technologically impressive and covered topics in engineering, genetics, and biochemistry. Janys, Miguel, and Santi, students from South Valley Academy, shared their work on the weather station they are programming to inform Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge land managers about microclimatic differences between the Refuge and the nearby bosque. Two young women from Bosque School (Sarah) and Amy Biehl High School (Delaney) presented about their work on the genetic relatedness of porcupines in the bosque. Jarek, a senior at the Albuquerque Institute of Mathematics and Science, discussed his work at the Sevilleta Long Term Ecological Research station where he studied the impacts of rainfall patterns on nitrogen movement through dryland soils.

Keara Bixby and Matthew Leister, both BEMP employees and an undergraduate and graduate student respectively, presented research about arthropods. Keara discussed the spread of the tamarisk leaf beetle and Matthew talked about goblins of the bosque, goblin spiders that is! Matthew discussed how BEMP is helping to document expanded ranges of these inconspicuous spiders.

Writer and conservationist Bill deBuys gave an inspirational and reflective keynote address about the early conversations that got monitoring started in the bosque and throughout the Middle Rio Grande. He discussed the complex political ecology that was at least as complex as the actual ecology of the bosque. As part of the Rio Grande Bosque Conservation Committee’s first steps, Bill who was the Chairman of the Committee approached Dr. Cliff Crawford to join the process. Bill described Cliff as a man who “oozed kindness the way the rest of us just sweat.” Bill and the other committee members recognized Cliff Crawford as a man passionately committed to science and the places he studied – and when the Bosque Biological Management Plan called for a monitoring effort for the long-term, Cliff stepped up and said “I’ll take that action item on!” What became of that was the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program and its 10,000 participants 20 years later.

To round out our presentations, Yasmeen Najmi, of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, shared a poem called “In the Time of Yellow Flowers.” This was a moving and beautiful tribute to Cliff Crawford and his effervescent spirit that engaged all community members young and old in asking questions about the bosque. Ondrea Hummel, a long time agency partner of BEMP, shared how BEMP data and long-term monitoring have been essential in the adaptive management model she and her colleagues use to do restoration work in the bosque. While Ondrea helped BEMP reflect on its last 20 years, Jennifer Rudgers of UNM looked to the future, and the next 20 years of long term monitoring. As lead scientist for the Sevilleta Long Term Ecological Research Station, she gave some compelling examples of how long-term monitoring data is absolutely essential to predicting ecological responses to climate change, especially in our arid Southwest.

As BEMP looks toward its own 20 year future (and beyond), we are excited to announce that we are in the beginning stages of a new campaign for a BEMP center of community engagement. BEMP has outgrown its current spaces and needs a new building and permanent home where we can continue to serve the community. Gary Goodman, of the Cebrin Goodman Youth, Leadership, and the Environment Project, noted that the political climate might seem daunting for environmental work at the moment. He called on those in the audience and in BEMP’s greater community to help us with this exhilarating new building project to ensure that both science and BEMP have secure footing in the future. We are excited to move forward with the BEMP community’s support on this building project and you can help make this a reality here: Donate to BEMP.

To close the evening, BEMP shared a video about how our partners, students, and teachers feel that BEMP makes a difference (see video here). A very Happy Birthday to BEMP and we hope to see you soon, out in the bosque!


Thank you very much to all who attended and shared in our celebrations!