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Bosque School
Bosque School

Bobcat Stories

First page of the PDF file: StableIsotopesJAMConference-14
  • Challenging Education

Bosque School students, teachers, and alums recently showcased their wildlife research at the 57th Joint Annual Meeting of the Arizona and New Mexico Chapters of The Wildlife Society and American Fisheries Society (JAM) in Flagstaff, Arizona. This marked Bosque School's 16th consecutive year participating in this respected conference, and this year, several of the students’ outstanding contributions were notably enhanced by their collaboration with the University of New Mexico's Center for Stable Isotopes. 

Kim Fike, Bosque School field and community science educator; Donny Kelley-Currens, art and ecology educator; Conrad Padilla, facilities;  and Dan Shaw, science teacher and field science coordinator, led the trip, emphasizing the collaborative and authentic nature of the experience. The JAM conference provided a unique platform for Bosque School students to present their wildlife research, offering an invaluable opportunity for interaction with professional biologists, university faculty, and fellow students specializing in fish, wildlife, and related subjects.

Ms. Fike praised the students, emphasizing the exceptional nature of their participation as the sole high school representatives in an audience typically composed of undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals. Bosque School students showcased work that rivaled their more experienced counterparts, a testament to their commitment and preparation.

Dan Shaw highlighted the multi-year projects and collaborations that extend beyond graduation, emphasizing Bosque School's commitment to mentoring across generations. This commitment was further exemplified by Donny Kelley-Currens, an advocate for wildlife filmmaking and Bosque School alum, who passionately shared his own insights at JAM. Donny's emphasis on visual storytelling and multimedia integration in environmental education resonated with the audience. His presentation covered filmmaking techniques, from trail cameras and smartphones for beginners to professional methods, showcasing a sandhill crane video designed to support students from visiting schools in Bosque School's field and community science program.

Reflecting on his leadership role at JAM, Donny expressed pride in leading students who not only excelled but competed successfully against college participants. His ongoing commitment to wildlife projects, including collaboration with the state herpetologist Leland Pierce, highlighted the lasting impact and continuity fostered by Bosque School's programs. Donny's involvement in mentoring kids as they capture and microchip turtles showcased the multi-generational aspect of Bosque School's wildlife initiatives, creating a bridge between past and present endeavors. 

Bosque School's commitment to fostering a passion for wildlife research, environmental conservation, and science education was evident through a myriad of accepted projects at the JAM conference. These projects explored the intricacies of local ecosystems, from exploring the impact of environmental changes on small mammal assemblages to monitoring long-term trends in lagomorph populations. 

The driving force behind this exceptional experience extends beyond the school's walls, finding many of its roots in the generous support provided by the Stable Isotope Lab at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Seth Newsome, the Associate Director of the UNM Center for Stable Isotopes, along with his colleagues, particularly Dr. Emma Elliott Smith and lab manager Alana Robinson (Bosque School alum class of 2018), have been integral parts of this collaboration. Their expertise and dedication have equipped Bosque School students with essential skills for data processing, enabling them to analyze samples collected for their research projects. 

Dr. Emma Elliot Smith's guidance has been instrumental in fostering a new generation of scientific leaders at Bosque School. She reflects, "I've had the incredible privilege of mentoring a group of exceptional high schoolers at Bosque School in their exploration of stable isotope analysis and its application to understanding local ecology and biology here in New Mexico. The dedication, enthusiasm, and depth of knowledge these students bring to their research consistently impresses and inspires me. Their passion for science, coupled with the support and encouragement from faculty like Mr. Dan Shaw, fills me with hope for the future, knowing that such capable and conscientious individuals will be leading the way in preserving our planet." 

For over six years, this extraordinary collaboration has opened doors for students from diverse backgrounds across New Mexico. Bosque School students, forming a substantial cohort, seize the opportunity to propel their wildlife research endeavors. Their impactful contributions often become the cornerstone of their senior theses, showcasing the depth and significance of their scientific exploration.

The compilation of Bosque School student abstracts accepted to the JAM conference not only reflects the institution's emphasis on hands-on learning, citizen science initiatives, and the creation of innovative educational programs but also bridges the gap between scientific knowledge and real-world applications. Beyond presenting valuable research findings, the students underscore the importance of engaging the community, fostering curiosity, and promoting environmental awareness. This holistic approach enhances the educational experience at Bosque School and contributes significantly to the broader field of wildlife research and conservation.

One standout collaborative effort at the JAM conference involved students Viv K. and Alto B., who engaged in a Stable Isotope project unraveling the mysteries of beavers' dietary habits. This project extended beyond the classroom, embodying the essence of community science and broadening the impact of their findings. Viv expressed enthusiasm for the project, emphasizing its significance for their senior capstone. The collaborative nature of the project, including assistance from students outside of the school in collecting hair samples from placed snares for later stable isotope analysis, showcased the inclusive and supportive community at the JAM conference.

The collaborative approach also extended to bilingual projects, such as Eliot P.’s exploration of the chytrid fungus and its impact on amphibians, aiming to provide science access for New Mexico's diverse student population. Eliot's involvement in collaborative and bilingual projects at Bosque School reflects a commitment to expanding science access for New Mexico's diverse student population. Her exploration of the chytrid fungus stands out as a noteworthy example of bridging language barriers in scientific research. Eliot, who initially joined the Bosque School community as a 6th-grade participant in amphibian research, has evolved into a project leader. This transition exemplifies the multi-generational impact of Bosque School's mentorship model, as Eliot has not only been mentored by others but has also taken on the role of mentor herself. Her focus on the chytrid fungus, particularly through a bilingual lens, demonstrates a keen awareness of New Mexico's student demographics, with a significant percentage being Spanish speakers or English language learners. Eliot's initiative aims to create more science access for these students by providing field experiences and organizing activities led by Bosque School high school students in Spanish. Her enduring dedication to the project illustrates a commitment to fostering inclusivity and mentorship within the scientific community at Bosque School.

Morgan L., a current senior, shifted from a medical-based research seminar to an ecological bird banding sciences project. She uses stable hydrogen isotopes to determine the breeding or wintering sites of selected banded birds in Bernalillo County, New Mexico. Morgan had the opportunity to present her project at the JAM conference in Flagstaff, showcasing her work with the Center for Stable Isotopes at the University of New Mexico. Since September, she has been actively engaged in bird banding related research, visiting the stable isotope lab once or twice a month. Collaborating with the Center of Stable Isotopes has not only allowed her to contribute to ecological sciences but has also exposed her to the chemistry-based aspects of stable isotope analysis, aligning with her aspirations to pursue chemical engineering at New Mexico Tech. This unique interdisciplinary approach provides Morgan with valuable real-world applications, fostering new connections within the scientific community and expanding her skills beyond her initial medical research focus.

Abby M., a current senior, is immersed in a groundbreaking research project on javelinas. She recently submitted her data to the Department of Game and Fish, marking a significant milestone as it documents the animal's presence in the county for the first time. She is now shifting her focus to investigate the dietary preferences of the javelina.

The study of hispid cotton rats has taken an intriguing turn, involving small mammal trapping in an area transformed by fire and flooding. Juniors Lelia Y. and Ada K. have been instrumental in collecting data that underscores the impact of extreme conditions on local ecosystems. Guided by Drs. Emma Elliott Smith and Seth Newsome, they are continually expanding their research horizons, with the ultimate goal of publishing their findings in a scientific journal. This incredible partnership has not only elevated the academic experience but also empowered students to contribute to our understanding of the natural world.

Stable isotopes, acting as a gateway to uncharted territories, have become a primary key for Bosque School students to explore the unseen and leave a lasting impact on the scientific world. The collaborative spirit among Bosque School's students and their dedicated mentors embodies the true essence of education that transcends the confines of traditional classrooms. The student
 success at the 57th JAM conference not only spotlighted the depth of Bosque School's wildlife programs but also emphasized its commitment to cultivating a community of passionate and engaged learners. The students' ability to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with professionals and their unwavering dedication to scientific research underscore the unique and impactful education provided by Bosque School. As the legacy continues, the school's emphasis on collaboration, mentorship, and lifelong learning remains firmly positioned at the forefront of its educational philosophy.

First page of the PDF file: StableIsotopesJAMConference-14