Blanca Wetlands Round 2 Selenium Testing

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 months ago in May 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 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 are doing another sampling run this month which is here towards the end of July into early August. The goal is to sample during the bird breeding migration and wintering migration.

We received the results from the lab for our May soil and water samples. We tested 12 playas that have heavy densities of shorebirds and water birds. Of the 12 playas tested 4 of the playas had somewhat alarming selenium levels. We changed our sampling method just a bit for this second run. What we changed was something called hyper sampling so at the playas that showed higher levels of selenium we we did a 6 horizon sampling method. This means you use a 6 foot bucket auger to dig into the ground and collect 6 different layers of soil. You start with surface then go down to maybe a sand layer then go down to a silt layer and keep going to where you eventually hit a clay layer. The water sampling was identical to the May sampling unit.

Once we get our results for this second set of sampling we will wait until next year to decide what to do with the results. During the winter season we will get more specialist and really focus on analyzing the results and what they mean. Again this selenium testing is in correlation to shorebirds and aquatic birds like ducks that live, feed and reproduce in these wetlands. Next season might be nest monitoring and checking for deformities in the birds and also blood and tissue sampling for selenium levels. This will require a team of highly specialized birders that know how to properly monitor and mange wild species.

All in all it is nice to know the BLM team here in the San Luis Valley is so dedicated to protecting and maintaining a healthy ecosystem for the many species that call the Blanca Wetlands home. Hopefully I can post another blog with the finalizing results of this project before my internship ends. I may even use this topic as a grad school research topic I find it extremely interesting. See you all next time.

Me using the 6 foot bucket auger to collect soils for selenium sampling.

Me using the 6 foot bucket auger to collect soils for selenium sampling.

Some of our soil samples I believe this was a surface sample and a clay sample.

Another clay sample.

One of the gorgeous playas that we were sampling with Mt. Blanca behind I love working at the Blanca Wetlands it is filled with beauty.

A surface sample and I was still digging to get a clay sample.

Playa 45 which is one of my favorite it is so gorgeous and peaceful.

Ricky Martinez
[email protected]

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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