Valle de Oro, New Mexico: Why the Earth?

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Valle de Oro, New Mexico: Why the Earth?

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by Nicole Granone


Every year the senior class goes to Valle De Oro urban National Wildlife Refuge as a project for ESS (Environmental Studies and Statistics). Valle De Oro is located in the southern part of Albuquerque (South Valley). The senior class is split into groups that they are interested in learning and to collect the data. The groups for the Valle de Oro project are Small Mammals, Journalism, Biotic soils, Abiotic soils, Vegetation, Hydrology, Nature’s Notebook, Macroinvertebrates, Ornithnolgy,  Jr. Duck Stamp, and Visitor Services. These groups help the United States Fish and Wildlife Service improve the Valle De Oro. The groups help professionals collect data to help improve the environment around the Bosque and in the Valle de Oro. Let’s go through some of the groups’ processes to collect data, and how they feel about the project they are doing.

Jr. Duck Stamp

Jr. Duck Stamp teaches kids about different types of ducks that are in New Mexico and lets them draw a duck that gets entered into a competition. Their mentor is from the US Fish and Wildlife Services. They mentor the kids around Albuquerque and Bernalillo to create duck-themed postage stamps. Their mentor is Hannah Redwood.  For every entry that is entered $1.00 will be donated to the Valle De Oro to help raise money for research. The groups that are doing Jr. Duck Stamp said: “I really enjoy working with kids” (Layton, September 2018). It seems like the Jr. Duck Stamp group really enjoyed working with kids and mentors. The objective is to raise money for the United States Fish and Wildlife Services.  

Small Mammals

The Small Mammal group’s mentor is a biologist who works for Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (BEMP) in Albuquerque their mentor is Katie Elder. Ms.Elder mentors the small mammals’ group as they go out in fields at Valle de Oro and set traps. The traps are left overnight to catch some field mice. They catch the mice in traps and test for diseases on the mice. The objective is to see how many mice come back to the same field every night.   

Nature’s Notebook

Nature’s Notebook group is a group that is mentored by Liz Douglass-Gallagher, a BEMP coordinator. The group measured the health of trees in the Bosque and in the Valle de Oro. They measured the young tree and an old tree of the same species. They collected data on how they will grow and how old the tree is. The objective of their project is to see how old the trees are in the Bosque and Valle de Oro.


The Macroinvertebrate groups surveyed the organisms that were in the Rio Grande, Riverside Drain, and Playa Wetland that were located in the Valle de Oro. Their mentor is Ariel Elliot, a biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Services. They had to go into the water and dig in the sandy bottom in search for the organisms that they sorted and collected data on. The objective is to see what organisms live in the Rio Grande and the Valle de Oro.     

Biotic Soils

The Biotic Soils groups looked for living things in the soil. Their mentor is Richard Strait who is a soil expert. They went to 3 different spots to collect the soil samples. There were a lot of extra steps that the Biotic soils groups had to do to make sure the sites that they used for the project are the Playa Wetland, the Restored Bosque, and the Hayfield the is in the Valle de Oro. This is  The objective is to study the soil in the Valle de Oro meaning the living organisms.

Abiotic Soils

The Abiotic Soil groups looked for non-living things is the soil, like bacteria. Their mentor is also Richard Strait. They went to the same spots as the Biotic soils groups. The objective is to study nonliving things in the soil in the Valle de Oro.  


The Journalism group journals about each group and what the groups think about the project. The mentors to help them are  Amy Reece and Syd Dichiara, teachers at nexGen. The objective is to inform the community about what the nexGen Seniors are doing at the Valle de Oro.  


The vegetation is a group looks at all plants and trees that are in an area.  The mentor is Richard Strait; he also mentoring the Biotic and Abiotic soils at the same time. Really, the three groups intertwine with each other. The objective is to see what vegetation lives in the Valle de Oro.    


Hydrology is the study of water.  The Hydrology group measured the amount of surface water and groundwater that is in the Valle de Oro. Their mentor is Carlos Herrera, who is a Hydrologist. Water is important to the Valle de Oro because the plants and animals can’t survive without water. The objective is to see if the water levels in the groundwater and surface water.


The Ornithology group is about the study of birds. Their mentor is Katherine Weeks. They studied the number of birds that kept returning to the Valle de Oro or the Bosque. The objective is to see how many birds show up the Valle de Oro each time.      

Visitor Services

The Visitor Services group surveyed different grade levels from different schools around Albuquerque to see what people want is visitor center at the Valle de Oro. Their mentor is Jennifer Owen-White. She is the Refuge Manager from the United States Fish and Wildlife at the Valle de Oro. The objective is to see what people want to see in the new Visitor Center at the Valle de Oro.   

Class of 2019 Reaction

All the groups say, “We love the project but we hate the mosquitos” (Class of 2019). Everyone in the Senior Class of the school year 2018-2019 hates the mosquitos. We all got bitten about 40 to 50 times during the project. Overall, the class of 2019 had a good time collecting data and helping the United States Fish and Wildlife Services with improving the Valle de Oro and the Bosque around the Rio Grande.    


The Valle De Oro is a good learning experience for the senior class at nex+Gen Academy. Students learned about different jobs that are involved in the land and the species that live on this earth. The Class of 2019 would recommend you to keep on task and pick out of the projects that you are interested in your senior year.