By: Pachynne Ignacio, Ṣu:dagī ‘O Wuḍ Doakag Facilitator
Sudagĭ 'O Wuḍ Doakag (SOWD/Water is Life) staff would like to proudly introduce this year's class of 2021-2022 student interns. This is our third year as a program at Baboquivari High School and so far, our students have learned about water systems, water quality, and quantity, and most recently they learned about ecosystem restoration.
SOWD is an after-school program that emphasizes teachings about rainwater harvesting and water conservation efforts around the world. At the end of each year, we help the students construct their water harvesting designs at Baboquivari secondary campus. We incorporate teaching about the drastic changes to traditional O'odham lands and discuss how these changes came to be, and what we can possibly do to restore our homelands.
Field trips that we take on Saturdays bring lessons to life and inspire our students to create interesting and inspired ideas for the project they will be creating in the spring semester as a team. So far, we have visited Alexander Pancho Memorial Farm in Cowlic, Wa:k Hikdan and the San Pedro River.
We are excited about future trips and projects the students will participate in and look forward to sharing our journey with you!
To learn more and to support the Ṣu:dagī ‘O Wuḍ Doakag (Water is Life) after-school program please click here.
By: Cholla Rose Nicoll, Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Coordinator
For the past year Borderlands Wildlife Preserve has been monitoring wildlife with a series of six trail cameras. For the most part these cameras are set up in easy to access areas providing us with a glimpse into what animals are on the preserve, but only a limited view from these areas. We are happy to announce our view is about to expand and we will be adding more cameras for a total of 15! This will allow us to evenly distribute cameras throughout the preserve getting a clearer picture of what animals are present in more remote areas.
Another exciting development on the horizon for 2022 is a partnership between Borderlands Restoration Network, Sky Island Alliance (SIA) and the Patagonia Public Library. SIA will be providing wildlife trail cameras to the library for check out and use in their FotoFauna program. The FotoFauna program allows anyone with a wildlife trail camera to submit data to help track presence, absence, and seasonal movements of species in the Sky Islands of the U.S. and Mexico. I will be available for guidance in operating these publicly available cameras and hope to use them for youth education in Patagonia schools.
More details on both projects will be coming soon so watch out for updates and invites to participate! We are happy to be able to share even more excellent photos with you throughout the coming year.
Wildlife Monitoring at the BWP during 2021 - 2022, supported by the Wildlife Conservation, Climate Adaptation Fund, supported by funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The WCS Climate Adaptation Fund supports projects helping ecosystems adapt to climate change, including urban environments and projects incorporating joint mitigation and adaptation approaches.
By: Perin McNelis, BRN Native Plant Program Assistant Manager
Between September and December 2021, our Native Plant and Watershed Restoration Programs kept very busy with our largest seed collection season to date. Between our seed collections for commercial sale and nursery production as well as our collections for various grants and contracts for restoration projects on public and private lands, the team collected approximately 700lbs of bulk seed! We were incredibly lucky to have an abundant crop after record monsoon rains quenched the landscape and supported a robust harvest.
Volunteer, Kirstine Grace, collecting Crimson Bluestem (Schizachyrium sanguineum) seeds on Coronado National Forest land in the San Rafael Valley.
The largest portion of our seed collection efforts this season was for a revegetation project in Mansfield Canyon in the foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains. The program brought on 10 seasonal seed collectors (two crew leads and eight crew techs, plus an intern that rotated between the nursery and seed collection crew) to spearhead this project. It was our fourth year conducting seed collection for this project in partnership with USDA Forest Service, with the goal of revegetating and controlling erosion on multiple sites after the removal of toxic tailings that were leaching from a few legacy mines into the local watershed, a tributary of Sonoita Creek and ultimately the Santa Cruz River.
The 2021 seed collection crew on the edge of the Patagonia Mountains and the San Rafael Valley on Coronado National Forest land. Photo credit: Cricket Dean.
Program management scouted the Coronado National Forest lands surrounding Patagonia and identified robust populations of plants on the target species list for the project, they then monitored the phenology of the species at each site, observing when the plants were finishing flowering and going to seed and when the plants were at their “natural state of dispersal” with mature, ripened seeds ready to be collected. This careful planning informed the schedule and flow of the season. The crew was thoroughly trained in plant identification, field safety, and seed collection ethics so as to not harm or over harvest from plant populations.
Seed collectors, Olivia Diaz, Gabriel Gudenkauf, Karima Walker and Marsella Macias,
practice grass identification during crew training.
The crew then split into two groups with one lead and four techs each and took our vans out into the mountains each day to different beautiful sites in the Sky Islands covering as much ground as possible, and building genetic diversity into each collection by collecting from as many individuals in each population. Our fantastic crew collected over 460lbs of seed from 16 different species of native bunch grasses, as well as 12 different species of forbs from various locations in the Santa Rita Mountains, Patagonia Mountains, San Rafael Valley, Huachuca Mountains, Canelo Hills and Chiricahua Mountains. Sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri) was a favorite target species of the group as they loved climbing to beautiful vistas in search of this charismatic plant.
The crew collecting Sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri) seeds, also known as Desert spoon, on Coronado National Forest land in the Patagonia Mountains. Photo Credit: Cricket Dean.
Additionally, we did smaller seed collections for contracts with USDA Agricultural Research Service and the United States Forest Service at the Wild Chile Botanical Area in the Tumacácori Mountains for research related to conservation of crop wild relatives, as well as for a contract with the National Forestry Foundation and Southern Arizona Quail Forever to be used in habitat restoration projects in conjunction with erosion control structures to support Montezuma Quail habitat in the Huachuca Mountains. We also collected seed for commercial use for seed sales and nursery production through Borderlands Nursery & Seed, and are excited to add some unique new species to our inventories in 2022!
Seed collector, Olivia Diaz, collects Rubber Rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa) on Coronado National Forest land in the Santa Rita Mountains.
The Watershed Restoration Program collected seed for a few of their own projects as well, including a project supported by funding from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Section 6 grant that involves establishing native grasses after invasive species removal to support habitat for the endangered Beardless chinchweed (Pectis imberis), as well as for landscape-scale restoration projects that combine watershed restoration work with seeding for our Path of the Jaguar project supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Arizona Department of Water ResourcesWater Management Assistance Program.
Seeds collected and stored in the BRN Native Seed Lab.
Finally, our staff harvested over 120lbs of native grass and forb seed from the farmed seed-increaser plot at Borderlands Nursery & Seed for seed production contracts with the Petrified Forest National Park, the Institute of Applied Ecology for Tonto National Forest.
As this seed collection season comes to a close, and the landscape transitions into winter, we are so grateful for the monsoon rains we received this summer that supported our fall harvest and for our incredible seasonal crew that made the scale of our collection season possible as well as fun! We were so lucky to have our own small staff joined by such a wonderful group of passionate, hilarious, observative, intelligent, adventurous, dependable, and caring individuals who brought renewed inspiration to our program, long term colleagues, and friends who care deeply about the BRN mission.
By: Borderlands Restoration Network
Environmental education is an organized effort to teach individuals about how to sustainably manage ecosystems. Graduates from the various education programs that Borderlands Restoration Network offers develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues and are taught the skills to engage in preserving the natural environment and biocultural diversity.
The Arizona Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) is a nonprofit organization leading in advancing environmental education throughout Arizona. AAEE collaborates with practitioners in the field to establish frameworks for quality environmental literacy programs, EE certifications, and working groups.
The nonprofit started hosting the AAEE Excellence in Environmental Education Awards to honor individuals and organizations that have made a significant impact on environmental education through innovative and inspiring practices in Arizona. Leona Davis, Earth Grant Program Coordinator with the Arizona Institute for Resilience nominated Jordan Sene, BRN’s Youth Education Program Coordinator in the Outstanding Young Professional (age 23 and under) category. On November 5th, Jordan received the award during an interactive award ceremony.
Jordan Sene, 21, is from Rio Rico, Arizona. She is a student at Arizona State University majoring in sustainable ecosystems at the School of Sustainability. She is also pursuing her Master of Sustainability Solutions (MSUS 4+1) degree at ASU. Jordan participated in the Borderlands Earth Care Youth (BECY) program when she graduated from Rio Rico Highschool, before heading off to university. During the program, she was a youth leader first learning about sustainability and permaculture while doing watershed restoration work. Participating in BECY sparked new interest and passion in Jordan and it changed the trajectory of her study and career path.
Six months in as a BRN staff member, Jordan learned hands-on how to coordinate the BECY program with the Patagonia and Douglas 2021 cohorts in the summer. By the fall, she designed and implemented an 8-week online course internship for students in Douglas, Arizona, Agua Prieta, and Hermosillo, Sonora. The course, Jaguars 101: Jaguar Habitat Restoration & Community Resilience was multidisciplinary and featured guest speaker practitioners from the U.S. and Sonora.
The course started with the basics on jaguar biology, ecology, history, and cultural value. Then, interns learned more about the importance of stakeholder engagement throughout the borderlands, watershed restoration techniques, and cases for conservation. Jordan also moderated a panel discussion focused on environmental justice, representation, and advocacy with three local environmental advocates. The last section of the course emphasizes sustainable management of food systems and current sustainability research that young conservationists are conducting at the University of Arizona and Universidad de Sonora.
By: Jordan Sene, BRN Youth Education Program Coodinator
This fall, we offered our first youth program centered around jaguar habitat restoration and community resiliency. It was an 8-week internship course that included eight youth ages 15-20 from Douglas, AZ, Agua Prieta and Hermosillo, Sonora Mexico. The purpose of this introductory course was to teach youth interns about the importance of jaguar habitat restoration and building community resilience in our southwest region of the US/Mexico borderlands.
Youth interns learned about environmental and community restoration, conservation, binational collaboration, environmental justice, and overall sustainability with an emphasis on regenerative management of natural and cultural resources. We also hosted many conservation professionals and experts from both sides of the border from diverse backgrounds and experiences in their expert fields of conservation and jaguar habitat restoration. Interns learned about the causes of jaguars critically endangered status and mitigation efforts aimed to prevent the jaguar's extinction in the Sky Islands region. Those efforts include various methods of water and land restoration. Throughout this online course, interns worked on an applied project centered around jaguar advocacy and community resilience which they successfully presented during the final week of the course.
The Story Behind Jaguars 101: The youth interns from Agua Prieta conducted virtual storytelling behind the Jaguars 101 course and shared their internship experience through their presentations. The students gave their perspective on the course including, jaguar history, cultural value, jaguar biology, and their role in the Sky Islands ecosystem. The interns also produced a jaguar video. Their purpose behind this project was to demonstrate that internships can be personal, captivating, and engaging for a younger demographic.
Youth Workshop at Douglas Public Library: The Douglas youth interns from Cochise College completed a series of workshops for young children, ages 6-11, at the Douglas Public Library. They taught the younger children and their families how they can help their environment and why it's so important to do so. Their purpose was to educate the youth, their parents, and the community about the importance of healthy ecosystems, conservation, and wildlife.
Biodiversidad de Hermosillo: Hermosillo youth interns from the Universidad de Sonora focused their project on sharing and educating young children about entomology, the study of insects. Their project took place at a local children's home called Todos Somos Hermanos, where they taught young children environmental science-related topics through a series of workshops while making it a fun experience. The purpose was to generate sincere interest in the nature that surrounds them and learn to respect it. The series of workshops focused on mammals and tracks, desert plants, and insect diversity. Youth played games and completed activities such as plant pressing during each short course. The youth interns plan to continue these workshops as they continue practicing environmental education and citizen science.
By: Cholla Rose Nicoll, Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Coordinator
As the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Coordinator, one of my many roles is to teach occasionally. The Borderlands education program brings in students from all over the globe, and frequently they are interested in wildlife. I begin my classes by presenting about the preserve and sharing some beautiful pictures and videos of some of the most charismatic animals in the area. As a relatively introverted person, this is always a challenge for me. Still, I am more grateful for each opportunity to teach I get.
Both of my parents in their younger years were teachers. They were not teachers in the traditional sense of working in public schools or universities. Still, they taught students what they were experts in, art and solar. I still admire their ability to answer just about any question on these topics. I now know how they gained this wisdom, and it was through teaching and being open to answering all those questions!
Each time I teach, I strive to have all the answers in my head. I study up on jaguars and bats and try to anticipate what I will be asked. There are so many animals to know about. Each time I am caught off guard with questions like, how many different stink bug species are there? How many jaguars exist worldwide? How high do butterflies fly? And the tough ones like, will humans ever be able to coexist with predators? What animals here will go extinct due to climate change? Are you hopeful for the future?
I take some time after each class to research the questions I don't have answers to, and frequently I learn so much more than I ever expected. Some of the questions are answered with even more questions. These are the best questions and an invitation to students to research more and find the answers themselves, their curiosity is needed.
So, am I hopeful for the future? Yes, I am hopeful each time I teach because the students' questions are full of hope, wonder, and care, and that is exactly what we need to save each other and the wildlife we love. Thank you to all the students out there, the ones in school and the ones who refuse to stop learning. Keep the questions coming!
Just in case you are wondering. There are around 120 pinacate beetle (stink bug) species found in the western United States. Worldwide jaguar estimates range from 15,000 to 170,000, more conclusive research is needed, but most experts lean towards the lower end of that range. Some butterflies have been known to fly at heights of 11,000 to 20,000 feet! Who knew!
By: Cholla Rose Nicoll, Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Lead Technician
The Dirtbags are an all-volunteer trail building group located in Patagonia, AZ. Founded about ten years ago and named after huge canvas bags used to haul dirt, they pride themselves on creating free access to natural areas to the public through creating expertly crafted hiking trails. Friends of Sonoita Creek, another Patagonia-based nonprofit conservation group focused on protecting, restoring, and educating people on the importance of Sonoita Creek (flowing seasonally from Sonoita to Nogales, AZ), provides the materials for the Dirtbags to do their fieldwork.
The Dirtbags adhere to a social contract of giving back to the communities they love. The gift given is access to beautiful, protected landscapes within the Sonoita Creek Watershed and surrounding areas. One of the areas they have enhanced with their trail building skills is the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve (BWP). The BWP, thanks to the Dirtbags, has a trail system consisting of three excellent and easy-to-access trails. In addition to building trails occasionally, one of the Dirtbags, Joe Watkins, creates and places wooden benches to enjoy the mountain views.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Joe about the bench building process and the experience of being a Dirtbag. Joe took a furniture building class back in the early 2000s and has been perfecting his craft of woodworking ever since. The latest creations now located within the BWP are two white oak viewing benches. One placed on the Smith Canyon Loop Trail and one on the Connector Trail. Designed after the famous conservationist Aldo Leopold’s bench designs, they create peaceful resting points along the trails.
These two benches took at least thirty hours apiece to craft and finish with UV protectant. The wood of Joe’s choice, Redwood or Cedar, was not available, so White Oak was used due to its natural insect repellent qualities. The planks are fitted together tightly to provide more of a water repellent design. With the help of the Dirtbags and Joe’s wife Barbra, the benches were placed on blocks on a rock patio to preserve the wood further. This process took about three hours, and Joe joked that the Dirtbag’s motto is “we don’t work fast, but we sure work cheap!”.
Borderlands Restoration Network would like to extend a special thank you to the Dirtbags for the fantastic work they do in this community. The trails and benches they build have opened access to nature to many and left our community a better place for all. Thank you to the Friends of Sonoita Creek for providing the materials for the Dirtbags to do their work and to Lou and Jim Schatz for donating the funds to create the two benches recently installed.
If you would like to know more about the Dirtbags and potentially volunteer with them, please reach out to Joe Watkins at (520) 377-7294 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Caleb Weaver, BRN Youth Education Program Manager
Now that the bountiful monsoon rains are behind us, one of my favorite seasons has arrived. During fall in the arid borderlands, I visit rainwater harvesting and restoration projects completed over the past year. From testing the sturdiness of erosion control structures, to witnessing the growth of plants in rain gardens, to gauging how full a cistern is, this season offers an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to be inspired.
In June of this year, the outdoor patio at the Douglas Public Library was devoid of life, reminiscent of a prison with tall concrete walls and cage-like fence. The main feature was an industrial generator, serving as the backup power for the library and an eyesore to passersby. This patio was a space that felt neither inviting nor comforting, heating up beyond the point of comfort during the summer months. However, with a raised bed running along the northern edge of the patio, remnants of an ancient irrigation system, and fencing that could double as a trellis, the patio had the potential to be a verdant space alluring to humans and nonhumans alike.
In July, the potential of this space was realized. The Borderlands Earth Care Youth (BECY) Douglas team swooped in for an arid lands library extreme patio makeover. With support from the New York Community Trust and the Douglas Public Library, students from Douglas High School replaced the broken irrigation system, removed weeds (saving a native velvet ash tree), installed a 360-square-foot trellis, planted 20 plants, and applied mulch. Tombstone rose and three varieties of table grapes were trained up the fence and trellis, with the plan of training the vines along overhead wires to one day shade the entire patio. A heritage pomegranate will provide nourishment for the body as library patrons feed their minds and souls. And native plants from our own Borderlands Nursery & Seed - Gregg’s Mistflower, Apache Plume, Arizona Milkweed, Lemmon’s Sage, and Yarrow - were introduced to provide critical urban habitat for native pollinators.
With the groundwork planted and mulched for a new public garden, the Legacy Foundation of Southeast Arizona further supported the transformation of the outdoor space with new patio seating and shade sails. Three sets of patio tables and chairs now offer a place of rest along with shade sails providing cool respite in the heat of the day. The community has come together to support future generations of Douglas residents and youth alike.
The Douglas Library is the only public gathering place for youth not involved with after-school clubs or sports. Douglas does not have a Boys and Girls Club or youth center, and there are limited activities for young residents. The inspiration for this project came directly from the Douglas Public Library, which wanted to engage youth with designing and installing a homework and hangout space designed by, and for the youth of the community.
So next time you’re in Douglas visiting the historic Gadsden Hotel - or one of the many other historic and natural attractions - stop by the library patio to engage your senses and enjoy the pollinators. If you’re lucky, you may get to taste ripe grapes or pomegranates.
By: Cholla Rose Nicoll, Borderlands Wildlife Preserve Lead Technician
As fall settles in and the high grasses from the monsoon start to fade to brown, we see why so many animals in this region share the same muted tones. One of the animals using color to camouflage into their environment is the Coues deer (Odocoileus virginianus couesi) also known as the White-tailed deer. Coues whitetails are the smallest subspecies of the white-tailed deer, averaging 65 to 100 pounds, with females on the smaller end. As their name implies, they have a broad triangular-shaped tail with a white underside.
White-tailed deer reside in Arizona in elevations ranging from 4K to 10K feet. These small and shy creatures prefer oak woodlands, grasslands, chaparral, and pine forests using cover from significant vegetation to hide from predators. In drought years, vegetation is low, leading to more predation from animals such as mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, and black bears. This year vegetation is exceptionally high, giving white-tailed deer and particularly fawns a better chance of survival.
The two deer seen in the pictures are a doe and her young fawn. If you look closely, you can still see the fawns' spots indicating this animal is still under two months of age. White-tailed deer in warm climates such as southern Arizona generally do not migrate due to weather but may migrate to find food and water resources. Their home ranges are also relatively small, averaging around 2 to 4 square miles or less.
The deer we see on the wildlife trail cameras could likely spend their entire lives living within or close to the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve boundaries. As the most frequently captured animal on the wildlife trail cameras, I occasionally see a familiar face. I hope these two find a haven in the high grasses and oaks this fall and look forward to documenting their existence and story of life. The best time to catch a glimpse of a white-tailed deer is at dawn or dusk. A set of binoculars is always recommended as these animals will most likely see you before you see them.
For a more detailed explanation of the white-tailed deer and its subspecies please click here.
By: Francesca Claverie, BRN Native Plant Program Manager
October is the ultimate fall month in southern Arizona, and as the season shifts, the weather cools, and these longer nights are a perfect time for us to appreciate our nighttime wildlife and pollinators, such as bats! Borderlands Restoration Network has been supporting nectar-feeding bats since we started collecting Agave palmeri seeds in 2013 specifically to growout and plant in habitat restoration sites for migrating Lesser long-nosed bats in the borderlands. Over the years our projects and partnerships have grown and we’ve diversified the ways we support these important pollinators. As we celebrate Bat Week 2021 we want to share our bat and agave work with you and let you know how you can become involved in supporting bats through agave restoration.
Our primary partner for our bats and agave work is Bat Conservation International (BCI). Through contracts with BCI we continue to collect agave seed and growout plants for restoration as well as expand our agave education work by connecting us with partners in Nuevo Leon, Mexico and beyond. BCI expanded its reach into Sonora by working with our partners Colectivo Sonora Silvestre (CSS), Cuenca Los Ojos and Naturalia, A.C. to encourage and support more organizations and individuals to propagate agave from seeds on both sides of the border. To date we have planted 3,774 agaves across the borderlands.
This year through support from BCI and Mountain Rose Herbs we published Agaves for Bats: From Seed to Flower Guide booklet available for download as well as free hard copies available for the cost of shipping. This booklet serves as a resource and guide for all things related to growing agaves from seed including seed collection, greenhouse construction, outplanting, agave salvage, and much more.
This year we’ve also continued to support the National Phenology Network’s Flowers for Bats program with one of our most hardworking and dedicated volunteers, John Hughes, leading expeditions to the Sands Ranch every week during agave flowering season to monitor the phenology of Agave palmeri. John has been monitoring the ranch over the last few years with help from Kathy Hughes and Laura Cleveland having collected hundreds of data points which help inform how agave nectar availability changes over the years as our climate fluctuates. Thank you for all your invaluable help John!
This season Marsella Macias is interning with our program and will be helping out and learning about our agave work in the region. Marsella is shifting careers and we’re happy to have a passionate agave aficionado stay in our community for the season helping with various projects focusing on agaves in the region.
October 2021 also marks one year since BRN and Colectivo Sonora Silvestre won the Connectivity Challenge, the inaugural competitive grant through Colorado State University’s Salazar Center with the project, Bacanora for Bats: Binational Conservation and Sustainable Agave Spirits. This project was designed to develop a sustainability certification for bacanora production through the Consejo Regulatorio de Bacanora, and establish a baseline survey of Agave palmeri populations throughout southern Arizona and northern Sonora. Organized and administered by BRN staff, this funding will support the Colectivo Sonora Silvestre to continue their policy work with the Bacanora Consejo with the agave map modeling component led by Erin Riordan, Research Associate at Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill, University of Arizona, and the on the ground survey work spearheaded by BRN staff and volunteers.
This first year of the Bacanora for Bats project has been a great success with a three part stakeholder symposium meeting held over zoom connecting bat and agave conservationists to bacanora producers, resulting in a signed agreement with the Consejo and the first models of the agave mapping completed. Going forward into the last year of the project, the Bacanora Consejo will review the bylaws of the Bacanora Denomination of Origin to include conservation of the agave with the last of the mapping occurring throughout the year. The last session of the stakeholder meetings will be facilitated in person in collaboration with the Agave Heritage Festival in Tucson, AZ.
There are many ways you can get involved in our bat and agave work including through financial support, volunteering for agave plantings throughout the year and at the Borderlands Nursery & Seed nursery where we propagate agaves, or volunteer for agave phenology work through NPN’s Flower For Bats Campaign. Lastly, you can help us with our agave mapping and survey work which you can do on your own time or during our in person mapping events.
For this year’s Bat Week, we will be holding our first in person agave mapping workshop on Saturday, October 30, 8AM - 1PM at a location in SE Arizona.
Don’t forget to check out our agaves for bats resource page for all things bats and agaves.
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