Audubon program to feature Anthony Culpepper of the Mountain Studies Institute


By Becky Herman

Special to The SUN

On Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. at the Community United Methodist Church, located at 434 Lewis St., the Weminuche Audubon Society chapter of the National Audubon Society will present Anthony Culpepper, who will talk about local forests, their history and the changes which have taken place in them.

This subject fits in well with several other citizen science projects with which the society is involved.

Culpepper is the associate director of forest health for the Mountain Studies Institute (MSI); he has been with them since 2012, when he was hired as an intern assisting with a fire history study of the forest near Pagosa Springs. Since his internship, he has designed and led numerous monitoring efforts looking at the before and after effects of forest health treatments in the San Juan Mountains.

Culpepper also works on numerous other MSI projects, including alpine wetland restoration, riparian vegetation monitoring, alpine vegetation monitoring, water quality monitoring, various citizen science projects and all things GIS. Culpepper, through MSI, has found opportunities to blend his academic background of forestry, conservation biology and GIS with community and stakeholder engagement.

Currently, Culpepper works with several forest collaboratives in southwestern Colorado, including Pagosa’s San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership. When not thinking about forest heath collaborative efforts and forest ecology, Culpepper can be found running, skiing and backpacking throughout the San Juans.

Have you noticed changes in the forests around Pagosa? Some of these changes, while dramatic, are a part of the ecology and natural history of our forest types, while other changes are due to the actions of land managers. Have you wondered how these changes are affecting the broader ecosystem around Pagosa? Have you wondered how these changes are being documented?

Culpepper, partnering with the San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership, will help answer these questions and more. He will cover the basics of the forest’s natural history; the forest and fire ecology of the eastern San Juan mountains; and the current impacts to our local forests including insects, diseases and fire.

With the question, “What is being done to address these issues,” in mind, we will talk about current and future actions being taken in our forests and how local groups, and our land managers, are documenting and monitoring the impacts, positive and negative, of the activities we see out in the forests around Pagosa.

Lastly, we will have an open discussion of opportunities for the public to become engaged with monitoring our forests through citizen science.

This presentation, along with others sponsored by the Weminuche Audubon Society, are open to all interested parties. Refreshments will be served. WAS encourages attendees to donate nonperishable food items to add to the church’s food bank; this is a thank you for the use of the meeting room.

For more information, please contact Jean Zirnhelt at 731-2985.