Pagosa students get out and contribute to citizen science on ‘Science on Snow Day’

SUN photos/Randi Pierce
Pagosa Springs Middle School fifth-graders hit downtown Pagosa Springs on Friday to participate in the “Science on Snow Day,” at which the students learned about birding, the moisture in snow, identifying tree species and calculating biomass, learning about watersheds and more.

By Keith Bruno
Special to The SUN
The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) enlists the help of citizens all over the world. Without the numbers of “professional” bird biologists on hand to go out and count birds in each community the world over from Feb. 16-19, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology calls on us layfolk to go out and log birds and submit reports on eBird.
It was this tradition that sparked the “Science on Snow Day,” now in its second year.
Fifth-grade science teacher Chris Couch and Audubon Rockies Community Naturalist Keith Bruno both previously worked as field biologists before taking on careers in the educational world and, thus, brainstormed last year to construct a day to get students outside, learning different field science disciplines.
The result: Not only do the students learn to identify local birds along the San Juan River Trail, but also they cycle through stations learning how to identify a handful of tree species and calculate biomass on Reservoir Hill with local dendrochronologist Herb Grover, evaluate snow crystals and calculate how much water is in the snowpack, model watersheds that take our neighbors into consideration and meet a peregrine falcon (Dooley) with handler Pat Jackson from St. Francis Sanctuary and Wildlife Rehabilitation center.
On Friday, the weather fortunately remained stable for birding purposes. The students collectively logged 25 bird species for the GBBC, drawing a tie with last year’s effort.
Fourth-graders from the Pagosa Peak Open School (PPOS) contributed, birding a stretch of the river trail inaccessible to the fifth-graders. That means that nearly 150 students aided in this undertaking.
This effort wouldn’t be possible without the willingness of volunteers to contribute their time and wisdom. Thank you to Peggy Andrews, Stacey Couch, Dooley the peregrine falcon, Dottie George, Byron Greco, Herb Grover, Pat Jackson, Cedar McGrath, Anne Stevens and Jean Zirnhelt.
Let’s keep the effort rolling in 2019.