Fauna Like Ours
UNM Press presents A Field Guide to the Plants and Animals of the Middle Rio Grande Bosque
Review by Lisa Lenard-Cook
A Field Guide to the Plants and Animals of the Middle Rio Grande Bosque
Jean-Luc E. Catron, David C. Lightfoot, Jane E. Mygatt, Sandra L. Brantley and Timothy K. Lowrey
Who knew there were so many species of flies indigenous to the middle Rio Grande bosque? Or ants, for heaven’s sake? For anyone who spends time along the bosque, A Field Guide to the Plants and Animals of the Rio Grande Bosque will help you decide if that track in the sand belongs to a bunny or a bear, or if that snake in the garden is a venomous Western diamondback rattlesnake or harmless Western hognose.
The book’s color photos illustrate detailed descriptions of everything from nonvascular plants (like moss) to vertebrate animals. The field guide also explores the changing ecology of the bosque as both habitat and life-source and lists access along the river (although not my own secret pathway, to my relief).
In a telephone interview, co-author Jean-Luc Catron explains the book’s origins: “While the project really began for me in when I was a UNM student walking my dogs, the book itself was launched in 2004,” he says. “The taxonomic group I’m most familiar with are the birds, so I had questions about a lot of the other animals I’d see. From there, the idea grew that there was a need for a field guide that would tell everyone about what’s there, including a checklist of where you can expect to find such and such, and natural history."
Proceeds from the book’s sales will help purchase copies for schools and environmental educational programs. As Catron notes, “We wanted to make sure that the book would be used by not just adults but also children. We’re extraordinarily lucky here in New Mexico. In so many places, the cottonwood forest has been cut down because of groundwater pumping, water diversion and such. The creek that flows through Tucson, for example, is soil-cemented—gone. A bosque of giant mesquites that once thrived south of Tucson is gone."
It’s for these reasons Catron and the other authors (David C. Lightfoot, Jane E. Mygatt, Sandra L. Brantley and Timothy K. Lowrey) have arranged to borrow against what the book will earn in royalties in order to ship copies to teachers. To that end, they’ve arranged for 40 copies to be shipped to the Bosque School’s Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program, which works with teachers and students both to monitor plants, insects and other wildlife.
Catron stresses that the authors are proud of the field guide and those behind it. He says, “It’s an example of a local community coming together for something that all of us thought was important to produce.”
A Field Guide to the Plants and Animals of the Middle Rio Grande Bosque launches with a talk and book signing at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History on Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m.
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