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Initiatives in the 2000s

Projects and other changes in the 2000s at the SMNHC.

Initiatives in the 2000s

In 2002, Southwick trail was constructed; named after John Southwick, longtime neighbor and supporter of the center. When he died, in 1997, his ashes had been scattered on his favorite place, the viewpoint atop the BVB trail. Southwick trail was built nearby and in 2004, a plaque was placed on the hill top in his honor.  In the fall of 2002 a tipi was constructed for use during tours, (lodge poles from the tipi can still be found near the headquarters building). 

Paul Mauermann and Helen Haskell

Also in 2004, Helen Haskell left and Paul Mauermann, an educator at the center since 2000, became the Manager. In the summer of 2004, the center was opened to the public for single day events, like “Adventure Day” and “Lunar Lunacy Night.”  With financial assistance from EMNRD and PNM, a solar panel installation was erected in 2004.  That year, new trails were added to allow more school class groups to use the center on a given day.  Rocky Ridge (originally called Sloth Circle) was added, as were Leopold Loop, and Abbey Alley.

Paul Stubbe and Daniel Bush


2004 was the year that saw the return of wild turkeys to the Sandias.  NM Game and Fish captured 22 Merriam turkeys near Chama and released them in the Sandias. They flourished and multiplied. In the winter of 2011, staff members counted 67 turkeys in a flock walking through the compound.  Additional trails, new programs, and outreach all contributed to the gradual rise in the number of individuals participating in Center activities each school year. On October 3rd of 2004, the headquarters building was christened the “Paul Stubbe Center for Environmental Education”, in honor of long time volunteer, Paul Stubbe.  On that same day, the gardens adjacent to the building were dedicated as the “Daniel Bush Gardens”, after another stalwart volunteer and trail builder. He added Southwick, Leopold Loop, Abbey Alley, Dove, and Deer trails to the Center, and improved many other trails.  

New programs were added such as a two day Wilderness First Aid training for educators and staff held at the Center in July 2007. Also that year, 10,000 square feet of piñon-juniper forest were thinned.  

On July 1, 2008, a Forest Health Initiative was started with the assistance of the Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation District and the N.M. State Forestry Division; eighty acres of the property’s trees were thinned.  The Forest Health Initiative’s goal was to return the forest to a more natural, healthy state.  In 2012, the U.S. Forest Service followed suit by thinning adjacent sections of the forest. 

2008 saw the initiation of an Ecology Research and Monitoring Program in which two sites, each 50 by 100 feet, were intensely studied.  Work on the sites was carried out by students from East Mountain High School and APS’ School on Wheels.  Students from an East Mountain High School biology class also installed game cameras at Mud and Paradise Springs to record wildlife activity.   A ringtail was photographed that year on one of the game cameras; the first confirmation that the species visited the Center area.  

Trail Camera photo of mother black bear with 3 cubs at Paradise spring, July 14, 2008

In the winter of 2010, a dendrochronology project began in which core samples were taken from 100 trees around the center property to determine the age of the trees. In summer 2011, a shade structure/bird blind was built in the meadow which included a water hole fed by a rain water collector.  

With funding from Sandia National Labs and the Albert I. Pierce Foundation, a new program based on the Project-Based Learning concept started in the 2011-2012 school year.  During the summer, ten mid-school teachers were trained in the concept, in which students develop and investigate questions, meet with experts and conduct their own experiments. The results of the experiments must then be presented in a public forum. That fall students from Madison, Desert Ridge, and Jimmy Carter Mid-schools came to the center to conduct experiments they had designed to address questions in air and water quality, scatology and forest health.  In that first year, 1665 students participated in the program.

Instructor teaching classin meadow at SMNHC  

Projects in 2012-13

  • The Project Based-Learning Program expanded to include more teachers and more students from Madison, Desert Ridge, Jimmy Carter, Van Buren, and Truman Mid-schools; 17 teachers and 2675 students participated
  • The S.M.N.H.C. Pocket Naturalist Guide was published
  •  The Bernalillo County Master Naturalist Program conducted training at the Center.
  •  BioBlitz, a one day citizen science inventory of species, moved from the Rio Grande Nature Center to the Sandia Mountain Natural History Center in August 2012; 200 people attended.
  •  New Mexico Game and Fish provided a grant to begin a Nature Mapping Project in which Center educators collect and share wildlife information gathered throughout the state on the iNaturalist website.
  •  Two new trails, Dove Trail and Deer Trail were constructed and put into use 
  • The two northern barrack buildings fell into disrepair and were torn down.
  • A Bear Monitoring Project was initiated in partnership with N.M. Game and Fish. Two bears were trapped and tracked with transmitting collars 
  •  BioBlitz was hosted again at the SMNHC in May of 2013; 187 species were identified in the 24 hour event.
  • As part of the Hondo Fuel reduction Project, the Forest Service conducted a prescribed burn just above Leopold Loop, on March 13, 2013.  The Center staff installed time lapse cameras to record the recovery and re-growth of the area, which will be used in educational programs.

Prescribed Burn Study Site

Prescribed Burn Study Site September 28, 2013

  • Paul Mauermann attended the launch of the latest Landsat satellite in California on February 10, 2013, as a representative of the Center, which has been chosen to participate in NASA’s Adopt a Pixel Program. The Center staff will methodically photograph specific locations which will be analyzed for accuracy and changes over time with the Landsat images.  In a parallel program, students will conduct surveys of forest cover at designated locations on the Center for comparison with Landsat satellite images now available on a new University of Maryland website, Global Forest Change.   

During the 2013-2014 year the Center’s participated in numerous projects, both new and old.  

Collaborative Forest Restoration Project

Along with numerous government and private agencies, the Center again participated in the Collaborative Forest Restoration Project:

  • February 10, 2014- the Forest Service conducted another prescribed burn; this time just above Paradise Spring and along parts of the Rocky Ridge and Bushwhack trails.
  • March, 2014- Krista Bonfantine, of Arid Land Innovations, trained the Center staff and volunteers in the techniques used in forest health monitoring; some elements of the techniques will be woven into the educational program for students attending the Center.
  • March 25, 2014- another prescribed burn near Mud Spring.
  • On  April 26, 2014- the Center hosted a hands on workshop taught by Professor Ellis Margolis, from the University of Arizona Tree Ring Lab--Dendrochronology-Collaborative Forest Restoration Project.
  • June 13, 2014-the Center hosted a public hike on Fire Ecology, Tree Thinning, and Forest Health

Bear Research

Staff played a major role in the ongoing bear research in the Sandias:

  • Bear Blitz, a pilot program to collect and analyze bear scat to determine the number and distribution of bears in the Sandias: during the week of October 7, 2013, numerous bear scat samples were collected at the Center and analyzed for DNA by Professor Jerry Dragoo of the U.N.M. Biology Department.  The samples proved to be too old and degraded to be of use.
  • For six weeks in the summer of 2014, Center staff participated, along with numerous other agencies, in the Sandia Mountain Bear Collaborative (SMBC), which collected bear hair on barbed wire snares set in 12 sites around the Sandias.  187 samples were collected and will be subjected to DNA analysis to estimate the number of bears in the area.Volunteer Marty Peterson assembling bear skeleton
  • In the Fall of 2013, an intact bear carcass was discovered near Mud Springs. Dave Weaver, a former Professor with the Departments of Medicine and Anthropology of Wake Forest University, and Marty Peterson, both Center volunteers, stripped the carcass and reassembled the bear skeleton.  The completed skeleton should be ready for use as an educational exhibit by the fall of 2014.

Facility Improvements

Bird blind with benches

  • During the summer of 2013, a new bird blind was constructed south of the Stubbe Center. 
  • A new interpretive trail east of the parking lot was completed in the summer of 2014; it has informational signs and a shade structure. 
  • An extensive remodel of the Visitor’s Center was accomplished with the help of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History.  New exhibits and improved audio visual equipment were part of the remodel.
  • A new septic system was installed.

New Staff

The Center welcomed several new staff members:

  • Steven Henley, a former science teacher at Tierra Antigua Elementary School. Steven aligned the standards and benchmarks for all Center activities and posted them on the Center website for use by teachers
  • Tobias Archuleta, in charge of maintaining the facility
  • Elizabeth Segura, who handles scheduling and other clerical duties

Other Notable Events

  • October 13, 2013, the Center  hosted members of the  Association of Science and Technology Centers Annual Conference 
  • The Project Based Learning program continued during the school year with three schools: Desert Ridge High School, Van Buren Mid School; and Truman Mid School. All totaled, 49 teachers and over 2500 students participated. 
  • The Weyerhaeuser Foundation committed to provide an $8,000 grant to support basic functions of the Center.
  • The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish provided $14,000 to help fund the Nature Mapping Project and educational outreach.
  • The Collaborative Forest Restoration Project provided $4200 to help fund forest health education through the Center.