Selenium Sampling and Birds in the Blanca Wetlands, Colorado

A few weeks ago I had mentioned that I was going to be leading a selenium testing project at the Blanca Wetlands located here in Alamosa, Colorado. The previous weeks have been tons of planning and coordinating with my team. I am super excited to tell y’all that the selenium project is underway, and I’d like to go a little more in depth in explaining the project and also share some pictures, so here we go!

Before the project started I did a bunch of preliminary research on the effect that selenium could have on birds. Just a reminder that selenium is a naturally occurring element in nature and in small trace concentrations it is essential for all life, but it can be harmful or even deadly at high concentrations. When it comes to birds, some studies have found that at high concentrations it can make the eggshells of birds soften and even cause deformities to the baby birds.

So in terms of the project, we are collecting 16 dust samples, 104 soil samples, and 180 water samples from all over the Blanca Wetlands, and are having them tested for selenium. Our sampling periods are during spring migration, which is now and in late July-early August during fall migration. Our Blanca Wetlands is home to a variety of bird species and many other critters. Our May sampling is underway as we have collected all of our soil and dust samples for the spring migrations, and we just have our water samples yet to collect. Once we get our results back from the lab, I will be happy to share the results with everyone.

We are working constantly to keep the Blanca Wetlands clean and habitable for all the animals that call it home. I believe we should get some good results, but, as I said, I will keep everyone informed. Thank you and stay tuned as the story for the selenium project continues. Below are some fun pictures from this crazy week of sample collecting, and some cool wildlife I saw during my shorebird survey recently. See ya soon!

Me at our dust collection site collecting our May samples.

May dust sample collection, with the gorgeous Blanca Peak behind me. I love my job.

Finishing up dust collecting and taking a break on the BLM truck.

Copyright @ Ricky Martinez

By far my favorite bird ever, the American Bittern. They are starting to show up at the Blanca Wetlands.

Birds are just one of the many species of animals at Blanca Wetlands. Here you see a bull snake.

Yellow-headed Blackbird; common but gorgeous.

That’s one stud of a Red-tailed Hawk.

Ricky Martinez
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Im Ricky Martinez Metropolitan State University of Denver Alumni (BS Biology). Also I am a SCA Massachusetts AmeriCorps Alumni (2016-2017). I currently am interning with the San Luis Valley Bureau of Land Management. I consider myself an ornithologist and I love birds.

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