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Bird Migration in New Mexico

The theme of migration can cover many topics in New Mexico, but the focus of this unit is on the species of migratory birds that make the Middle Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico their home for at least part of the year, and the importance of habitat here in the valley as well as in the places these birds call home during the rest of the year.

Students follow the path of energy through the bosque ecosystem.

The Bosque Education Guide is dedicated to Clifford Crawford, professor emeritus of biology at the University of New Mexico, long- time bosque researcher, co-author of Middle Rio Grande Ecosystem: Bosque Biological Management Plan, director of the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program, key supporter of the Bosque Improvement Group, and treasured mentor and colleague.

This guide does more than offer guidance; we hope it also offers knowledge, ideas, and passion about a special ecosystem found along the rivers of New Mexico.  Our focus in particular is an approximately 200-mile stretch of forests and woodlands growing directly adjacent to the Rio Grande in central New Mexico. We call this forest the Middle Rio Grande bosque.  We call this book the Bosque Education Guide.

The cottonwood forest that borders the Rio Grande in central New Mexico is a remnant of a unique and diminishing habitat. Known locally as the bosque (pronounced boh-skay), a Spanish word for “forest,” these riparian, or riverside, forests provide valuable resources for animals and plants living in the arid Southwest.  Unfortunately, the Rio Grande and its bosque have been heavily altered by human activities, especially during the last century.  Regulation of water flow in the river has not only impacted the organisms that live in the water, but has also changed the mosaic of vegetation types once present in the valley.

This chapter compiles an assortment of field activities to support multiple visits to the bosque. These include activities that support observation skills for a class's first introductory field trip, as well as activities to develop students' critical-thinking skills in follow-up field trips.

This chapter is devoted to creating a cloth and paper model of the river valley that provides a hands-on approach to understanding river and floodplain ecology in the Southwest. The basic activity, "Changing River," provides a setting for the subsequent activities that explore the roles of animals, plants, cottonwood trees, agriculture, and change in the river of the past (Rio Bravo), the present (Rio Manso), and the future (Rio Nuevo). By creating models of these three stages of the Rio Grande, the powerful teaching technique of contrast is used to clarify the role humans have played and can play in this river ecosystem.

This chapter compiles classroom and schoolyard-based activities that do not utilize the river model. These activities are grouped under the following topical subheadings: natural history, geology, water, and human influence. Within these activities several essays provide additional in-depth background information on specific topics.

Fire in the bosque! Dry weather and a changes bosque ecosystem have made this a common cry in recent years. Large bosque fires have increased public awareness of this fragile ecosystem, but there is still much to learn about riparian fires. Even land managers are still trying to understand the role that fire plays here and the best ways to protect bosque plants and animals. Just what do we know?

This chapter explores the potential of making the bosque a focal point for service-learning opportunities. This chapter is intended to guide teachers toward helping their students participate in improving the bosque ecosystem. Research shows that when environmental education involves students in action efforts the students develop increased knowledge. Your students will also be empowered by the opportunity to help the bosque.

Appendices of the Bosque Education Guide

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