Full Week of Selenium Sampling at the Blanca Wetlands

Hello there again to the public and anyone else that may follow the Environment for the Americas (EFTA). It’s your EFTA intern Ricky Martinez serving the people and the environment here in the San Luis Valley, or Alamosa Colorado to be specific. I am working on Bureau of Land Management Lands the gorgeous Blanca Wetlands to be specific. A few weeks ago, I was talking about a project where the BLM is collecting water samples from the wells, fresh water ponds, are salty playas, some soil and dust samples and testing for selenium. The Blanca Wetlands being home to such a vast amount of bird species and many more animals, we want to make sure selenium is not at a harmful concentration, especially because it has been found to interfere with bird reproduction, specifically the softening of their egg shells. The Blanca Wetlands is amazing for the breeding season for many waterfowl and shorebirds, so this being a breeding ground is key to protecting from harmful people such as poachers and of course pollution.

We are doing two sets of sampling. We just completed our May sampling period where we collected 60 salty playa samples, 4 fresh water pond samples, 2 BOR Canal samples (a canal that feeds into the wetlands), 24 well samples, 24 soil samples and 8 dust collection samples. We will also be doing another sampling at the end of July or early August. The goal is to sample during the bird breeding migration and wintering migration, so back to completing the collection of all of our May samples. Was this an easy task? Was there a lot of people contributing to collecting the samples? The answer to both of those questions is no and in the next paragraph I will explain why.

When working for a federal agency, you have lots of meetings and office stuff to do, amazingly not a lot of time for the field. Since my supervisors Jill and Sue with the BLM’s wetlands and wildlife division are really tied up, my intern partner Tayler and I collect the samples. The task was not easy, being that the wetlands is 10,000 acres and you have to be very cautious in watching out for eggs on the playa shores because shorebirds are ground nesters. Lastly the insects mosquitoes and gnats are all over you and the sun is hot. Let me add bug spray, lots of snacks, sunscreen and lots and lots of water are very necessary for this job. The Blanca Wetlands is my 10,000 acre piece of heaven, because it is so gorgeous and spending a full week out there and actually getting to travel through the whole 10,000 acres and getting up close and personal with the shorebirds, was an amazing experience. We had to wear waders to collect water samples and sometimes we were knee deep in mud, as wetland playas have very soft ground (one thing we did was avoid Snowy Plover habitat because deep footprints in the shore could trap Snowy Plover babies). We collected the soil and dust samples in bags the lab sent us and the water samples in little bottles the lab sent.

Now that all the samples have been collected they will be sent to the lab and I will create a blog on our results and what the results mean. Below are some pictures to enjoy of the beautiful wetlands I got to live in for basically a week and of course the collection of the dust and water samples. Hope you enjoy and see you next time!

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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