By Jacqueline Violeta Valdes Cárdenas*

The training courses in biological monitoring provided an unequaled opportunity: the chance to camp and take a guided eco-trip into the hidden spaces of the Ciénaga de Santa Clara, a mangrove wetland in the Colorado River Delta, located in the city of San Luís Río Colorado.

The group of community monitors, composed of workers from CEDO (the Intercultural Center for the Study of Oceans and Deserts), the environmental group Pronatura and students from the Center for Marine Technology Studies (CETMar) No. 14 in Puerto Peñasco, were accompanied by Hitandehui Tovar, a biologist from CEDO.

The participants spent the night camping in cabañas built by the ejidatarios for that purpose, and while they enjoyed the marsh’s tranquility, the project’s leader shared anecdotes and explained how the project is being developed.

The following morning, after a chance to commune with nature, members of the work team put into practice what they had learned about monitoring birds.

Led by Alejandra Calvo and Eduardo Soto, they took a trip into the marsh, walking along an interpretive trail that was funded by the UN.

They marveled at the surrounding environment and encountered signs along the way which pointed out important facts, such as the difference between resident and migratory birds.

Grassroots Bulletin for Sustainable Development in Northwest Mexico
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Fieldwork during the training workshop.
(Photo: Kenia Castañeda Nevárez)

La Ciénaga de Santa Clara and La Pila reveal their secrets
Courses began with initial training for all of the participants, and were held in the offices of Pronatura Northwest, in San Luís Río Colorado.

The courses included lectures about the Upper Gulf of California and Colorado River Delta Biosphere Reserve.  Among the topics covered in the lectures was the location of the reserve, which is divided between the states of Baja California and Sonora, passes through the municipalities of Mexicali, Puerto Peñasco y San Luís Río Colorado, and is less than 36 miles from the US border.

Administrative regulations as they apply to protected areas were also addressed, and included the Federal law Norma Oficial Mexicana (NOM) 059 from the Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), which protects various species found in the reserve.

Also discussed were conservation and management programs, which are themselves divided into sub-programs for: protection and monitoring; use of economical and sustainable technologies; wetland

restoration; the culture of conservation; and opportunities for promoting and improving ecotourism.

Lecturers also discussed their experiences in monitoring and shared basic monitoring tools, such as the time and temperature at which monitoring should be conducted, and the conditions under which it should be carried out.  They explained how datasheets should be completed, how to recognize the different types of monitoring forms, and then ended by sharing some of their personal strategies with the participants.

The purpose of the event was to develop a conscious culture of conservation within the participants by having them learn directly from their positive, enjoyable interaction with nature.

It was about a beginning in passing on this type of knowledge to the community, in which it is stressed that sustainable development provides jobs in the protection of an environment that everyone has a stake in maintaining.

*Student, Center for Marine Technology Studies (CETMar) No. 14

Setting up camp at Lla Ciénega Santa Clara.
(Photos: Kenia Castañeda Nevárez)
What the eye cannot see, workshops reveal:
Hidden Marvels of the Sonoran Desert
By Kenia Castañeda Nevárez*

As good Sonorans, we love the generosity of our state, which allows us to appreciate her natural beauties that extend for as far as the eye can see. Our eagle-eye has the freedom to observe from afar the beautiful scenery marked by the yellow, orange and red tones of a beautiful sunset, from the serene blue waters of the Gulf of California to the silhouette of a cactus such as the Saguaro, or a plant replete with medicinal properties like the creosote bush that abounds in this region.

Neither the mountains nor the densely vegetated forests limit our vision. It travels freely like a ray of light, delighting in the distance, resting on the salt flats that were once the majestic and extensive delta of the Colorado River. According to the historian Leo Hillar, in 1540 Fernando de Alarcón was the first European explorer to navigate its voluminous waters, arriving at its confluence with the Hardy River.

Our eyes can also easily appreciate the splendor of the imposing dark peak of El Pinacate, an inactive volcano in the Sierra de Santa Clara reaching 3,904 feet above sea level. From there the explorer Father Francisco Eusebio Kino was able to confirm in 1701 that Baja California was not an island but a peninsula.

One can enjoy the view of unrivaled scenery, like the ample wetlands of Bahia Adair, an oasis for desert dwellers.

But the human eye cannot see through the dunes formed by the scattering of the red sands and sediments of the Colorado River over hundreds of years. It cannot see the boats that have been shipwrecked in the past and remain buried in its jealous depths.

Nor is it easy to see the important role of the Bahía Adair wetlands as breeding grounds and nurseries for the Upper Gulf of California.

Similarly it is not obvious without some investigation that they are also located within an avian migration route that deserves to be further studied, protected and made known to the world in an effort

Students and teachers of CETMar 14 participate in the first Community Biological Monitoring Workshop.

The interpretive trail offers information about native species like the endangered Desert Pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius), as well as the environmental importance of the brackish wetland, which is the largest in the Sonoran Desert and provides invaluable benefits for both residents and visitors to the area.

At the end of the trip, the group visited Ejido Samuel Ocaña in what is commonly called La Pila, where hot water flows to the surface as natural springs that support an abundance of flora and fauna.  After walking around the area for awhile, the group placed traps in the springs to catch some specimens of the Desert Pupfish, which is found only there.

to generate a sustainable symbiosis between the environment and its residents.

Because of this they were listed on the Information Sheet for Ramsar Wetlands (RIF) of July 23, 2008, making them one of the 1,888 wetlands of international importance, according to the United Nations.

Hence, the importance of organizations dedicated to environmental research and protection of the Gulf of California region, such as the Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans (CEDO), Pronatura Sonora and the Upper Gulf Of California and Colorado River Delta Biosphere Reserve.

And the value of the participation of students from our region in workshops given by these groups, such as the First Workshop on Community Biological Monitoring offered last January to students and teachers of the Center for Marine Technology Studies (CETMar) No. 14 in order to give them the tools necessary for monitoring both marine and terrestrial animals.

*Teacher, Center for Marine Technology Studies (CETMar) No. 14

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