EFTA’s 2nd annual America’s Latino Eco Festival

This past weekend, the Environment for the Americas headquarters team in Boulder, CO participated in the 2nd annual America’s Latino Eco Festival.  The festival is one of the world’s first environmental festivals hosted by Latino Americans.  Last year was the first year the festival was put into action, and we were also a part of the pilot year so it was interesting to see the development and changes to the festival from last year to this year.  This year, the festival was hosted at The Dairy Center for the Arts.  The week leading up to the festival was very busy and consumed with finalizing details, logistics, and helping the Art Director, Mary Powell, with art installations throughout The Dairy all week.  Every spare evening was spent towards working with the festival in some sort of way.  Environment for the Americas took on the responsibility of coordinating the education stations during the festival where we coordinated the following tables:

City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks:
The Bird Migration Game and Why Birds Migrate

Mary Powell (Boulder Valley School District, Uni Hill) and America’s Latino Eco Festival Artist, Alfonso Piloto:
Art Station

University of Colorado-Boulder Museum of Natural History
The Power of Pollinators

Environment for the Americas (us!):
Get Banded!
Who am I?-Bird matching game
Turkey Vulture Stomach Acid Experiment
Conservation at Home: How to Conserve Birds Around your Home

I was responsible for the Turkey Vulture Stomach Acid Experiment, and it was really fun!  The CU Museum of Natural History was able to provide us with a mounted Turkey Vulture which was great to have to a life-size mount to show kids.  All the kids, and even parents, really enjoyed learning about the vultures…they are amazing creatures and are a great representation of nature’s ability to have ecosystem workers in a natural way.  Did you know: Turkey Vultures eat dead animals and can smell a rotting carcass miles away!  Their wing span can be up to 6-ft wide and they can live up to 20 years and can be found all throughout the Western Hemisphere.  The point of the experiment was to demonstrate the extremely acidic stomach juices Turkey Vultures have to be able to eat dead and/or diseased carrion without getting sick themselves.  Overall, Turkey Vultures have a stomach acid pH from 0-1 (which is basically as acidic as battery acid!), whereas humans have a stomach acid pH of about 2.  We mixed ground up dried pasta noodles to represent bones, red food dye to be blood, water, and Alka-Seltzer  together and poured it down the Turkey Vulture’s “throat” (a tube attached to a funnel that was inside of a plastic water bottle) to see how it reacted with the “stomach juices” (white vinegar, which as a pH of about 2).  Kids loved to see the Alka-Seltzer react with the vinegar…any gross with kids is always a hit!

This is my last week with Environment for the Americas, so I’ll be highlighting my experience with EFTA in my next blog and in the meanwhile, I will be really busy finishing all the final tasks I need to get done before moving on to my next chapter with CO Parks and Wildlife!



Blanca Wetlands Blitz Pt.I


The other week I had the awesome opportunity to travel down to the San Luis Valley to shadow the two EFTA interns working at the Blanca Wetlands with the BLM.  What a fun week!  I arrived to Alamosa on a Tuesday evening and spent the night with Deisy at the BLM bunkhouse where herself along with two other BLM seasonals (one is involved with grassland management and the other fire management).  I had not seen Deisy since this past February during the EFTA “Celebrate Shorebirds” training, so it was great to spend the evening catching up with her!

The next morning, Mianna met us at the BLM offices in La Jara so we could all drive together to the Blanca Wetlands (which is about 20 minutes away) to go duck banding!  We met Mike and Rachel, who are private contractors with a wetlands ecological team, who showed us the ropes on their season of duck banding…they band the ducks on the Blanca Wetlands ponds every day over a span of six weeks.  The purpose of the duck banding is to obtain data and knowledge on the Cinnamon Teal populations at the Blanca Wetlands.  Throughout the morning we saw Cinnamon Teals, Green-Winged Teals, Ruddy Duck, Coots, and Mallards.We were to collect ducks from a total of seven ponds and at the end of the day we would band them all together.  The first pond was quite the experience!  We put on our thigh-high waders and stomped through the muck and mud of the pond to reach the duck traps that are placed in the middle of the pond…Desiy demonstrated the correct way to loose balance while trudging through the muck and she fell multiple throughout the day!  Collecting the ducks from the trap was by far my favorite part of the trip.  Once all the ducks were collecting (around 60 total) we brought them all to a central pond where students from Western State met us and helped us in banding the ducks.  We  spent the rest of the afternoon learning how to handle the ducks, venting the ducks (determining the sex), and placing bands on the ducks.  After a long morning and afternoon of collecting and banding ducks, we shifted to another pond to see a mock macro-invertebrate survey demonstrated by Portland and Anjelica (2013 EFTA Blanca Wetlands interns).  After spending a day in the field we ended the day by going around the town of Alamosa to place fliers around to advertise the family event Deisy and Mianna are hosting in a couple of weeks (Good Luck!).

More to come about my Blanca Wetlands Blitz!

Jr. Birding Pt. II

Continuing with my efforts in hosting some local Jr. Birder programs this summer, we had our second activity a couple of weeks ago.  The second activity focused more on the basics of bird ID:

Activity 2: “Bird Identification: Getting Started”
Saturday, July 12th; 10:00am-11:00 am; Bobolink Trail, (Near East Boulder Rec. Center-Trailhead starts off Baseline Rd.)
Learn the basics of bird identification!  We will talk about identifying birds based on their silhouettes or beaks, along with the learning how to properly use binoculars.

Screenshot 2014-07-29 11.07.01

English Flyer


Spanish Flyer

Spanish Flyer

While there were only a couple of kids there, it was still great practice and experience to lead an environmental activity.  The two activities I led were: “What is a Bird” and “Bird Topography” which are both free and downloadable from the EFTA http://www.birdday.org site (Links are below the pictures)!






“What is  Bird” – http://www.birdday.org/2011materials/whatisabird.pdf
“Bird Topography” – http://www.birdday.org/2011materials/BirdTopoActivity.pdf

The pre-made lesson plans helped me feel a lot more comfortable in leading the activities along with the Jr. Birder books that I’ve been using as an additional guide (also found through EFTA’s site).
My only hesitation in leading these activities is the fact I am not an expert birder, and I’ve learned how to handle questions I don’t know usually with a response like, “That is a GREAT question!  Let’s write that down and we can look it up later”.  However, when leading activities for young children, you would think you wouldn’t need to be an expert, right?  In my case, I had 6-year old Owen, who truly is a mini master birder!  While I did teach him some things, such as the bird topography activity and what specific parts of birds are called, when it came to the actual bird walk he really knew every single bird we sighted along with many calls!  He stumped me during the entire bird walk and there were many times he would confirm his bird sighting or call with me and I was not entirely sure on some of them.  Some little kids never cease to amaze me!  It was very good practice in leading an activity with a kid who knows a lot about the material, and I hope he learned something new from me.  For the meanwhile, I’ll try to learn more of the local birds to hopefully stump my friend Owen next time! 🙂 Here are some of the birds that we heard and saw:


Diversity and Inclusiveness

“Diversity in the world is a basic characteristic of human society, and also the key condition for a lively and dynamic world as we see today.”

— Jinato Hu

A main part of this internship has involved workshops and discussions about diversity and inclusiveness in the natural resources.  Our first discussion about this was together as a group, back in February during our weeklong “Celebrate Shorebirds” intern training in San Diego.  Natasha Kerr- Program Coordinator and Dr. Sue Bonfield- Executive Director, presented on their National Science Foundation funded research on Latinos and the barriers to their participation in science education along with how to improve outreach to this audience.

Learn more about how EFTA is connecting cultures at:

Along with the research presented by Sue and Natasha, we also had roundtable discussions about this topic.  It was really interesting to hear from all my fellow interns about their perspective on diversity and inclusiveness for Latinos in the natural resources.  The trend in the ’80’s for the government agencies was to increase diversity in the workforce by hiring women…and it has now shifted to culturally increasing diversity.  It is really interesting, and not surprising, that this movement has gained a lot of momentum over the past several years with organizations such as LatinoOutdoors and Hispanic Access-who was a 2013 EFTA intern, Lesly, will be going on a weeklong excursion to see six national parks with a group of fellow Latino students!

Continuing with the trend of learning more about diversity in the natural resources, a couple of weeks ago I attended a conference hosted by the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education (CAEE) on how to better have diversity and inclusiveness in environmental education.  The day’s discussion was centered upon their recent agenda to have a diversity and inclusiveness plan on how environmental organizations can increase diversity in their workplace. The common agenda goals set on this plan are to:

  1. Increase the awareness of the value of diversity and inclusiveness in the environmental education field
  2. increase inclusiveness skills among environmental educators
  3. increase the diversity of environmental educators
  4. increase the diversity of the audiences being served by environmental education

This movement to make our parks and open spaces more culturally and ethnically diverse is one I feel we can all be on board with…our parks should represent how the rest of our country looks: diverse!

Engaging Latino audiences in partnership with the Americas Latino Eco Festival during a bird walk at a local wildlife refuge.

Engaging Latino audiences in partnership with the Americas Latino Eco Festival during a bird walk at a local wildlife refuge.

Jr. Birding

About a week and a half ago, EFTA headquarters office hosted our first Jr. Birder activity!  We offered this activity in conjunction with a nature day put together by Americas Latino Eco Festival (ALEF).  As part of the upcoming ALEF festival in September, there are various programs focusing on the theme of nature and migratory birds.   The idea behind this particular activity was to have a multigenerational (a senior care group, Circle of Care, joined families with children to participate in the day’s activities) nature day to learn, draw, and appreciate the nature and birds at Sawhill Ponds.  Each participant was given a nature journal to observe nature and draw or write anything that inspired them.  These nature journals will then be put on display at the Americas Latino Eco Festival in September.

photo 1-1We started our activity with our friend from City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, Dave, who led a bird-walk throughout Walden Ponds.  We brought extra binoculars and had fun stopping to let people track down the circling hawk in the sky, Red-winged Blackbirds in the cattails along the pond, and even a Great Blue Heron across the pond.  The bird-walk ended up being a little longer than we anticipated (a little over an hour), so by the time we had walked to find a shady spot to do our kid activity, the kids were already a little anxious to go back to the picnic area for snacks.  However, they did a great job with our song map activity!  We had the kids sit in a spot where they could listen to the sounds around them, and the idea of the song map activity is to mark down where you hear a sound in relation to where you are sitting along with marking your surroundings.  The kids did a great job!  We heard a nest of baby birds in a tree, airplanes flying above, and a flock of geese flying into the water for a landing.   I really enjoyed gaining more experience in working with kids and hosting kid activities, and I feel more prepared to lead the next one!

Birds Abound Around You-song map activity

   Birds Abound Around You-song map activity

Example of activity

Example of activity

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