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Morning photo: RMNP!

A little taste of high country heaven

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Trail Ridge Road view.

FRISCO — Dylan and I had a chance to visit Rocky Mountain National Park as part of the crowdfunded Climate Ranger project, meeting with a team of scientists who are monitoring conditions in the park’s alpine tundra as part of the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. The monitoring is part of a global program aimed at trying to track climate-induced changes with long-term data, because we won’t know what climate change is doing unless we study it closely. We’ll do more reporting on this topic in the next few days, but for now, a few pics from the Park. Click on the panos to see the full-size versions. Continue reading

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Report: Hot times ahead for Colorado

More heatwaves, wildfires and water shortages in the outlook

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Colorado will warm dramatically in the next few decades.

Staff Report

FRISCO — By the middle of this century, Denver’s average temperature could be 6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than today — on par with Albuquerque, according to a new climate report released by the Colorado Water Conservation Board in early August.

Even with deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, Colorado will continue to get warmer. An increase of at least 2 degrees Fahrenheit by mid-century is all but certain, and that will have a big impact on the state’s water supplies, state officials said, reinforcing the results of a series of studies all showing that rising  temperatures will reduce the amount of water in many of Colorado’s streams and rivers, melt mountain snowpack earlier in the spring, and increase the water needed by thirsty crops and cities. Continue reading

Study: Colorado pikas holding their own

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A Quandary Peak pika enjoys some sunny weather recently on his rocky ledge. bberwyn photo.

Plenty of good habitat left in the Colorado Rockies, researchers conclude

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — New surveys by Colorado wildlife biologists suggest that pikas seem to be holding their own as temperatures rise in the Rocky Mountains. The study found that pikas remain well distributed in the Colorado high country.

“In their primary habitat, mainly at and above timberline where there is lots of talus, we find pikas almost everywhere we look,” said Amy Seglund, a species conservation biologist for Parks and Wildlife based in Montrose. Continue reading

Morning photo: Wetlands morning

(Mostly) unfiltered

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Vertical landscape, to emphasize the deep reflections in the pond. This is an unfiltered, unedited shot straight out of the iPhone.

FRISCO — It’s probably no secret, but not all the images in this ongoing series are morning shots (although many are). But today’s sunrise was so cool that I just decided to post a set showing some different flavors of the same scene, with all the shots taken within a half hour and all within a mile of Summit Voice headquarters in Frisco. If the rest of the day is as good as the sunrise, well, it should be pretty spectacular! Continue reading

Morning photo: Moon dance

Another super moon?

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That rhythm of the setting sun and rising moon …

FRISCO — My timing has been a bit off for lunar photography later – I think I need to download an app or something! But I did get out early Monday morning to one of my favorite (albeit trashed out by gun “enthusiasts”) Gore Range overlook spots to catch the supermoon setting behind the Gore Range, realizing as soon as I arrived that I was a day late, at least in terms of catching just the right balance, with the moon close to the horizon, sinking into the deep, rich colors of dawn. Next month! Continue reading

Biodiversity: Can Colorado’s native greenback cutthroat trout make a big comeback?

Recovery team stocks genetically pure trout in historic habitat

A Rio Grande cutthroat trout. Photo courtesy Andrew Todd.

A Rio Grande cutthroat trout. Photo courtesy Andrew Todd.

FRISCO — Colorado’s native greenback cutthroat trout may be on their way to repopulating their historic habitat in the South Platte River Basin, thanks in part to a scientific sleuthing effort that helped trace the genetic roots of the colorful fish a couple of years ago.

About 1,200 greenback cutthroat fingerlings reared in federal and state hatcheries in Colorado were stocked into Zimmerman Lake, near Cameron Pass last week. An interagency recovery team hopes the stocking is a first milestone toward re-establishing populations of the state fish, which nearly vanished from Colorado’s rivers  because of  pollution, overfishing and stocking of native and non-native species of trout.

In 2012, scientists concluded that the only remaining genetically pure greenbacks were isolated in a small, single population — about 750 fish, all living in a four-mile reach of Bear Creek, a small Arkansas River tributary in the mountains west of Colorado Springs.

University of Colorado, Boulder researcher led the study that pinpointed the genetic history of the fish, clarifying the native diversity and distribution of several Colorado cutthroat trout strains. Tracking that history wasn’t easy. Historical records show that, between  1889 and 1925, more than 50 million cutthroat trout from the Gunnison and Yampa river basins were stocked in tributaries of all major drainages in the state, jumbling the picture of native cutthroat strains in Colorado through time and space.

“This is a conservation genetics success story,” said Metcalf. “We were able to use historical specimens to find out something quite novel about cutthroat trout biodiversity that has resulted in a management action. We are not just bringing a native species back to its historic range, but the greenback cutthroat trout, our Colorado state fish. I would have never imagined this outcome when we started our research in 2001.”

According to Doug Krieger, senior aquatic biologist for CPW and the Greenback Cutthroat Recovery Team leader, about 3,500 greenback cutthroat trout — offspring of fish taken from Bear Creek — have been raised at the Mt. Shavano State Rearing Unit and the Leadville National Fish Hatchery.

“We finally have the opportunity to bring these fish home,” Krieger said.

According to CU-Boulder Professor Andrew Martin, who spearheaded the 2012 study with Metcalf, researchers are trying to understand more about the characteristics of the greenback, including a collaborative effort to assess how the fish succeed in their new environment.

“Living in Zimmerman Lake in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest at an elevation over 10,000 feet will be very different from living in Bear Creek at 6,100 feet or living the ‘cushy’ life in a hatchery,” Martin said, explaining that researchers will closely watch the newly stocked greenbacks in Zimmerman Lake.

“This is an extremely challenging situation,” said Martin of CU-Boulder’s ecology and evolutionary biology department. “But this recovery effort has been a joint project of many different people with different interests and backgrounds combining their energy toward one specific goal. We have a chance to bring a native species back from the brink, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Colorado’s greenbacks, along with 14 other recognized subspecies, all originated in the Pacific Ocean, evolving along different genetic lineages in river drainages across the West.

 In Colorado, four lineages of cutthroats were previously identified: the greenback cutthroat, the Colorado River cutthroat, the Rio Grande cutthroat and the extinct yellowfin cutthroat. Work by the CU team also identified a previously undiscovered San Juan Basin cutthroat trout that is now extinct.

The study technique could pave the way for the gene sequencing of other wild creatures like reptiles and amphibians that were preserved in ethanol by early scientists, perhaps even helping researchers determine biodiversity levels in the late 1800s, said Metcalf,

 

 

Travel: Exploring Mesa Verde

Kim Fenske tours Colorado’s only world heritage site

Long Dwelling, Mesa Verde National Park.

Long Dwelling, Mesa Verde National Park.

Story and photos by Kim Fenske

Arriving at the Mesa Verde National Park Visitor and Research Center ten miles east of Cortez in early evening, I worked with a ranger at the tour desk to build an itinerary at Colorado’s only World Heritage site. Despite the ranger’s doubts that I could meet the necessary schedule, I purchased tickets for the three possible tours at a cost less than a camping fee at developed campgrounds. The tours of both Wetherill Mesa in the southwest corner of the park, and Chapin Mesa in the southeast portion of the park, involved driving nearly a hundred miles during the day.

After paying the entry fee, I drove a few miles south to Morefield Campground and registered for two nights of camping at the campground store, open from mid-May through mid-October. The complex offers showers, laundry, internet, fuel, and basic camping supplies, more services than typical of my usual backcountry or primitive camping on national forest lands. After purchasing ice to defend against the ninety-degree heat of the day, I found a tent site conveniently located a short distance from the amenities. My primary criticism of the facilities is that new investment is overdue to update showers and restrooms in the campground. Continue reading

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