Taos High School Environmental Education Sets Up at Rio Fernando Park

Taos High School Environmental Education Sets Up at Rio Fernando Park

The Taos High School environmental education students are getting set up to utilize our Rio Fernando Park as their outdoor laboratory. Led by teacher Greg Rael and Amigos Bravos‘ Shannon Romeling, the 11 students are getting an understanding of a watershed-based plan and training in water quality monitoring, soil science, aquatics and forestry. All of this training feeds into their biology, computer and mathematics classes.

Part of this group will take what they’ve learned here to compete in the 2-day 2018 Envirothon in Capitan, New Mexico this spring. Envirothon is a hands-on environmental problem solving competition for high school students from the United States and Canada. Students compete in a range of natural resource categories. This is “Fun science!” said one of the participants.

For the Taos Land Trust, these young scientists bring research valuable to our restoration work at the park. The group will keep up the monitoring through summer 2018 and through the 2018-19 school year, at least. We know that the Rio Fernando is considered “impaired”. That is, the river is not nearly as healthy as it should be. So tracking the measures or river health (the presence of E. Coli, temperature, pH, conductivity and dissolved oxygen) and wildlife populations (in this case minnow populations) in the area is key to help us understand how things change as we move forward with restoration work.

Taos High School Environmental Education

Taos High Students Cora and Abby set up minnow traps in order to measure the health of the fish populations along the Rio Fernando.


Taos High School Environmental Education

Cora and Abby have discovered that the minnow populations aren’t what they should be. For some reason there is a fairly healthy little group of minnows just past the culvert under La Post road but not further downstream where habitat appears to be better. They arent sure why yet.


Taos High School Environmental Education

The Taos High School Environmental Education students are also learning electronic data entry tools provided by Amigos Bravos such as Survey123 which loads field data automatically to a GIS enabled program.


Water temperature, pH, conductivity and dissolved oxygen are all measures of water quality. For the Rio Fernando all these measures are currently unacceptable resulting in a river that cannot support the biodiversity it should. We aim to change that in the comming years both through restoration work at the park and engaging with our upstream partners.


Shannon Romeling of Amigos Bravos teaches the Taos High School students how to take the measurements.


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Taos High School Environmental Education

The results of this water quality monitoring by the Taos High School Environmental Education students will be used to pinpoint any changes or trends that appear in water bodies over a period of time. It also helps us to identify existing problems or issues that could arise in the future.



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Jim O'Donnell

Jim was born and raised in southern Colorado. He obtained both a BA in Anthropology and a Masters in Community and Regional Planning from the University of New Mexico. After ten years as an archaeologist and Jim served as the lead organizer for the Coalition for the Valle Vidal and after as the Northern Director for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. Today Jim works part time as a freelance journalist, conservation photographer and our communications lead. He is the author of “Notes for the Aurora Society” and leads yearly photography workshops to Havana, Cuba.