Hello there, it’s your Environment for the Americas (EFTA) Intern and San Luis Valley Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Intern, Ricky Martinez. I’m here to give you an extremely exciting update on what is going on here within the BLM’s Blanca Wetlands here in beautiful Alamosa, Colorado. We have a major project lined up in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to do soil and water testing at the Blanca Wetlands. What are we testing for? That’s a great question. What we are testing for is high concentrations of selenium, which is known to harm birds’ reproductive systems by softening their egg shells.
Selenium was identified in the 1930’s as the cause of embryo mortality and severe embryo deformities when chickens were fed grain grown on seleniferous soils in South Dakota. There had been no documented occurrences of such effects in wild birds before 1983. Selenium (Se) is an essential microelement, necessary for normal functioning of human and animal organisms. However, once multiple studies were done in wetland areas in the Western United States it was concluded that high concentrations of selenium are harmful for birds and even humans.
My task involves mainly focusing on the water sampling and I will help with the soil samples as well, but the soil testing is mainly done by the USDA. This includes me working with my supervisors and team to set a sampling model to collect 120 soil samples and 180 water samples, which will then be sent to a lab for selenium testing. Please believe me, this is incredibly challenging. You don’t just go out and grab soil and water from wherever; the planning is extremely strategic.
The importance of this selenium testing is because the Blanca Wetlands is home to an incredible number of different species, especially birds that are mating and reproducing. We have many shorebirds that feed on macroinvertebrates at the Blanca Wetlands, and it is our duty to ensure that our waters and lands are extremely clean to keep the species healthy and reproducing properly. This project starts May 15, 2018. I will keep you updated with how the project turns out, as well as results. The BLM has managed this wetland for a long time and has done an amazing job. I have faith that our lands are safe and clean for the wild species that call it home.
These are just a small fraction of the species that call the Blanca Wetlands HOME!!!! My job and goal is to make sure these beautiful creations have a clean home!!!