At CNHP, we are excited to introduce an undergraduate student-led project that will complete land protection analyses within Colorado this semester. CNHP team members David Anderson and Michael Menefee are facilitating ecosystem science and sustainability (ESS) students Phillipo Admasu, Connor McCarty, Joshua Otis, Stephen Pfeiffer, Walter Quinones, and Sarah Whipple in their senior capstone course project. The course, titled “Practicing Sustainability,” hopes to provide students relevant applications to their degree through projects with various stakeholders across the Front Range. In regard to CNHP, we hope to get a better understanding of the importance of land protection statuses in Colorado for not only our records, but also for all of our personal stakeholders.
We are focusing on two questions within this project. First, what is the land protection status of important biodiversity hotspots in Colorado? Second, which hotspots are most at risk, and which are well conserved? While these questions may seem broad, the students will provide specific case studies and suggestions so that our stakeholders can move forward with better solutions for land protection within Colorado’s biodiversity hotspots. CNHP is providing the resources to complete the basic analysis of hotspots, but the students have a choice as to how they synthesize the data for communication purposes.
Through this project, students will complete GIS data analyses, external research through scientific and additional map layer sources, and engagement initiatives between stakeholders and protected areas. Some of the ideas that students might tackle include: looking at the geological relationship between hotspots and geography, the relationship of habitat degradation to biodiversity, potential gaps in current datasets, and the severity index of hotspots in relationship to local/state-level and international conservation (IUCN) status rankings.
If you are interested in learning more about the project, feel free to leave a comment or drop CNHP an email. This project will continue to grow as the semester goes on, and we are willing to shift our project outcomes based on other stakeholder interests.