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Jennifer Piarowski, Hear This New Mexico, 5/6/2012

In preparation for the recording of my first podcast I have:

A) Read

  1. Wikipedia entry on Tamarix
  2. Invasive Species Info site on saltcedar.
  3. Desert Museum entry on tamarisk.
  4. USDA site on saltcedar.

B) Wandered through

  1. Tamarisk Coalition

C) Watched

  1. Biological Control: The War on Saltcedar from USDA.
  2. Brian Layton Cardall's presentation, "Host-plant specificity in the saltcedar biocontrol beetle: is Diorhabda an agent of selection in Tamarix?", at 2009 Tamarisk and Russian Olive Research Conference, Tamarisk Coalition, Grand Sierra Resort, Reno, Nevada, February 19, 2009

Podcast 001

Title: Alien Invaders
Time: 5 Minutes
Date Recorded: 4/14/2012
Location: Albuquerque Rio Grande Bosque, Rio Grande Nature Center State Park
GPS Information: 35.131031, -106.6825999
GPS Data based on the address:
Rio Grande Nature Center State Park
2901 Candelaria NW
Albuquerque, NM 87107
Guest Speaker: None
Age Group: Ages 6+


1. Intro
a. Alien Music
b. There is a full-scale war being waged in the United States against alien invaders! You'll be surprised to know that this war began many years ago, in the 1900's! You may not even be aware there are aliens to fight right here in our own backyards. And another shocking fact is that we not only invited those aliens here, but gave them a safe ride and cozy home!

2. The meat
a. The alien that I am talking about is the saltcedar, scientific name Tamarix chinensis. Though "Tamarix chinensis" may sound like some green little alien-man with a big head and big eyes and keys to a UFO, the Saltcedar is a species of plant that was introduced to the United States in the 1900's.

The saltcedar is called an "invasive species" because back in the day, we shipped this plant, which is originally from China and Korea, in to the states to use the plant as a wind buffer, an erosion stopper, and just for "pretties." We later came to find out that this plant does better in certain areas that the plants that are native to New Mexico and often outcompete our own natural New Mexico plants. This means that the salt cedar can thrive in areas that it is hard for say, cottonwoods to survive, eventually causing the cottonwoods, or other native species to die out.

Saltcedars get their name from their special adaptation, their superpower, which lets them beat other plants by sucking up extra salt from the ground, storing it in their leaves, which when they fall to the ground deposit that salt onto the ground around them. Most plants don't do well with lots of salt in their soils, including most of New Mexico's native plants. This gives the saltcedar a competitive edge against other plants, like a runner with longer legs can outrace runners with shorter legs, or a baseball player who can hit the ball further can get their team more homeruns. The plants who don't do well in salty soil are pushed out of the area by saltcedar that does well in salty soil.

Cottonwoods are the trees that used to create dense forests near the Rio Grande River of New Mexico, the river that runs just west of the Rio Grande Nature Center you may be visiting today. Saltcedar has another leg up on cottonwoods because saltcedar has flowers all throughout the spring and summer season, several times, and can create seeds, which lead to little baby saltcedars, for nearly half the year. Cottonwoods, on the other hand, only flower once a season in early spring and have delicate seeds that only make baby cottonwoods, or seedlings, if they land in just the right kind of soil, moist.

How do we know who's the alien here and who's the cottonwood? If you are at the Rio Grande Nature Center, look around you. The large trees with triangular leaves are cottonwoods. The saltcedar may be harder to find because the war against them has been fought long and hard near the center. The saltcedar can grow as either a tree or a bush, can get up to 15 ft. tall, has long, wiry braches with itty-bitty scale-like leaves. In the spring and summer, the saltcedar could have tiny pink flowers along the ends of its branches. In the winter, it can easily be confused with a willow; the salt cedar appears red, feels bumpy when you run your fingers along the branch and will have scaly leaf remnants along its base. Willows, red also, will have actual, long, thin leaves around its base and have smooth branches.

3. The problem

a. So, what's the problem with having a super-powered, pretty, erosion and wind stopping plant in our state? The problem is that our riparian areas, or areas near water sources, are having a hard enough time in our dry, drought-prone state surviving without any alien bullying them out of their water, soil, and habitat!

We knew saltcedar was a problem early on and decided it was time to call war against the plants that were rapidly taking over our river banks! We decided to come at the saltcedar with all we had. We attacked the plant with chainsaws, fires and poison. But, it's hard to know the future when you're attacking an unfamiliar alien! Cutting the saltcedar didn't stop them for long. The saltcedar grew back quickly, having dropped many long-living seeds in the soil before it was cut away. Saltcedars grew in thicker after fires were applied and poison didn't kill away all the hidden seeds either.

So, what to do? Another alien was introduced in 2004 to attack the alien saltcedar. This alien is called the Saltcedar Beetle and eats away the leaves of the saltcedar. The effects of the beetle on native plants were thoroughly researched before the beetle was released, and research is still being done on the effects now that the fight is on! This could be a worthwhile fight, minimizing the saltcedar, but there are steps that need to be taken to ensure that only good comes of this beetle.

There are certain birds, including the endangered Southwestern Flycatcher, that have actually come to quite enjoy the saltcedar, making it their homes during certain seasons. In order to be sure these birds are not homeless, we need to plant willows and other natural New Mexico plants in place of saltcedar before the beetle eats his way to a bare landscape.

Take a walk-around the Bosque, visit the Rio Grande Nature Center and answer your questions by chatting with any of the knowledgeable staff. To learn more about Cottonwoods, the Saltcedar Beetle, the Rio Grande and the Bosque History, the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park, the Bosque Bike Trails, or the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher check out our other podcasts!

Podcast 002

Title: Wild and Unruly; The Spirits of St. James Hotel

Time: 5 Minutes

Date Recorded: 05/06/2012

Location: St. James Hotel

GPS Information:

GPS Data based on the address:
617 South Collison
Cimarron, NM 87714

Guest Speaker: None

Age Group: Ages 13+, Mature content (violence)


Gunslingers and scarlet ladies. Sheriffs and mavericks. New Mexico was a gold mine of outlaws and vigilantes during the Wild West years.

"Cimarron," the Spanish name of the northeastern New Mexico town, translates to wild and unruly; the perfect description for the post off the Santa Fe Trail. In 1872, Henri Lambert built a hotel in this rough city. The hotel was considered to be one of the finest hotels west of the Mississippi.

It's March 31, 1882; a time when disputes are negotiated with whiskey and bullets. Cigar smoke fills the room, low whispers create a comfortable hum, skirts rustle across hardwood floors, and a weathered cowhand guffaws as he slams his pint glass down.

A shot goes off upstairs!

Every pair of eyes in the room turn to the bullet-riddled tin ceiling, a collective breath is held for less than a second then everyone deliberately returns to what they were doing a little louder than before the shot rang out.

Upstairs, alone and bleeding from a gunshot to the back, Thomas James Wright crawls into room #18. T.J.'d just won a hefty pool in a high dollar poker game and was shot in the back by his poor-sport competitor. T.J. died in that room that night, just another victim of the raucous crowd at Lambert's place.

Violence was no surprise at the hotel and death was a business to place bets on. A common expression in Cimarron, New Mexico came to be "Wonder who died at Lamberts last night."

As an epicenter for booze, rest and friendly females on the Santa Fe Trail, St. James Hotel was frequented by many famous cowboys. Buffalo Bill Cody checked into the hotel, to write and rehearse with Annie Oakley their Wild West Show. Wyatt Earp and his brother stayed at the hotel with their wives. Clay Allison, Black Jack Ketchum, Bat Masterson, Kit Carson, Pat Garret and Doc Holiday took board here. Jesse James, signed in as his alias R.H. Howard, always stayed in room 14. Part of Ben Hur was written by Lee Wallace at St. James. It's even thought that the infamous Billy the Kid took up residence at the buzzing hotel.

It's said that some of the guests of the hotel still haven't checked out.

Some believe that even after T.J.'s body was removed, he never left room 18. Many feel that the spirit of Thomas James Wright is still bunked out in the room he expired in, angry to have lost his winnings and his life all with the pull of one little trigger.

A previous owner believes she saw Wright embodied as an orange ball hovering in the corner of the room and reported that she was later pushed by him. When guests now come to visit the hotel, they'll be greeted at room 18 with a locked door, the owner fearing T.J. would do harm to anyone who tried to stay the night. Above a bureau, a painting of a half-naked woman stands a lonely witness to the other bare-bone essentials of the room; a bed frame, rocking chair, coat rack, a Jack Daniel's bottle and a deck of cards. Guests claim T.J. has shown up beside their reflection in mirrors and that they have caught him on camera, peeking around corners.

Across the hall is the room that is believed to be haunted by Mary Lambert, Harry Lambert's wife, who not only died in the hotel, but witnessed the death of one of her children there. Visitor's claim that when Mary comes back around, the air grows heavy with the musk of roses and if the window is left open, Mary will relentlessly tap on the pane until it is closed. The room is adorned with a rickety metal-framed bed, a cabinet with a wash basin, a nightstand and a lamp. Guests who have stayed the night in this room have felt a negative presence, pressing in on them from behind the door across the hall, originating from room 18.

The hotel may also house the ghosts of two children whose family is thought to have taken residence at the hotel when the girls became ill along the Santa Fe Trail. Needless to say, they never recovered. These little girls have been seen by visitors playing with Johnnie Lambert, Mary's son who died in an accident outside the hotel in 1892.

Men have claimed to have been teased by a ghost of one of the painted ladies that has come to be called "Melissa." They feel tugging of their hair, fingers trailing their neck, and sometimes even feel Melissa lie down in bed with them.

A wily spirit, with pock-marked face and a shock of hair, is thought to be the cause of mischievous taunts the hotel employees have experienced.

The current owners of the hotel purchased it in 2009 and undertook a series of renovations. They respect the history of St. James Hotel and offer the guest not only rooms and food, but guided tours and the chance to greet one of the local haunts in the halls, in rooms, or even in the beds...

To learn more about some of the Wild West characters mentioned earlier, check out some of our other podcasts!

Podcast 003

Title: Murder in the Mountains

Time: 5 Minutes

Date Recorded: 05/06/2012

Location: Cerro Tecolote or Hermit's Peak (20 miles NW of Las Vegas, NM)

GPS Information: 35.74420 N, 105.4149 W

GPS Data based on the address:

Guest Speaker: None

Age Group: Ages 13+, Mature content (violence)


Some legends that are passed down are just that, legends. The truly fascinating legends are the ones that turn out to be based in truth.

It was a time when New Mexico was still a part of Mexico. It is the early 1860's. The Santa Fe Trail served as a route for traders and travelers. The Mexican-American war had raged on for two years twenty four years earlier from 1946 to 1948, concluding with Mexico ceding the American southwest and California to the United States. New Mexico, a territory at the time, participated in the Civil War, which was a war begun over the end of slavery. New Mexico partook as a Union state, fighting against the support of slavery upheld by the opposing Confederates.

During these feverish times, from an alien country, an Italian nobleman wandered. Information about him refers to him as Giovanni Maria de Augustino, Father Mateo, Father Francesco, Mateo Bacalini, Giovanni Marsa Augustini and Juan Maria Agustiniani. His name is not the only uncertainty about this man.

Father Mateo was a man with a foggy past who traveled hundreds of miles on foot, alone. Who was he? Why had he left his father land? He was shrouded in mystery when he was alive and the hundred and fifty some odd years since his existence have done nothing to clear up who he was, only allowed more room for elaborate legendary creation.

He was 62 when he walked from Kansas to Las Vegas, NM. That's about 600 miles! Just outside of Las Vegas, about twenty miles northwest, is a double-domed peak that went by the name of Cerro del Tecolote, or Owl's Peak. This peak sits in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the foothills of the Southern Rockies. The peak's summit is 10,212 feet above sea level. The eastern and southern sides are steep cliff terrain. On the east side, about three hundred feet down from the peak is a cave, La Cueva.

Giovanni Maria del Augustino made La Cueva his home. Las Vegas was a small town then and the residents took note of the strange man who was now calling their mountain his “humble abode.” Over time, Giovanni Maria made friendly with these folks. He served as a preacher and healer. Records indicate that if you were to visit him at his cueva, Giovanni Maria would put together a mean bowl of cornmeal for you. Invitations in were casual and comfortable.

It doesn't take much to get rumors brewing in a small town and having a stranger move into your neighboring mountain just begs for creative elucidation about why this came to be. Stories surrounded the reason for the life-long wanderings of Giovanni Maria. He had been wandering across the world since 1827.

Some believed he had abandoned his vows in Italy because he had fallen victim to the desires of man and fallen in love with a beautiful woman. Other stories indicate he had been seduced by this woman. There is tale that Giovanni Maria just didn't agree with church policy and so left to commit his life to serving St. Antony with eternal dedication to chastity and poverty. The most intriguing belief of all is the most ambiguous.

Some talk was that Giovanni Maria had been cast out of Italy for some terrible crime. He had devoted himself to recompense from his past sins. Even if this were talk during his lifetime in the Las Vegas area, Giovanni Maria's helpfulness and compassion for the people of the area won them over. He was considered saintly and respected. The townspeople would make pilgrimages to support the priest and look for aide from him.

Supposedly, one family in particular grew close to Giovanni Maria. The Barrelas were visited by him often. He would preach to them individually. His education was astounding for the time. Tales relate that Giovanni Maria could speak any language and had magical healing powers. Though, he was looks upon as a higher being, the Barrelas worried for the old man living alone in the treacherous mountain. The mountain experienced high winds and terrible cold.

To mitigate their fears, Giovanni Maria promised to light a fire every night at the mouth of his cave to indicate his well-being. This was a routine he upheld, until one spring night in 1869. That night, the townspeople saw only the shadow of Tecolote Peak. No fire was lit. Everyone feared the worst for the priest. A search group was pulled together to seek out the man.

Giovanni Maria del Augustino was found, face down, clutching a rosary hung on his chest, with a knife in his back. There was never anyone suspected of the murder. There was never anyone convicted of the murder.

Some think he was killed by an Italian man in vengeance for his sister. Some think it was someone in connection to a horrible crime he had committed in Italy, the reason for his nomadic ways. Then there is the mystery. If he hadn't been killed in vengeance, then why?

He was beloved. His murder will forever remain a mystery, but his patience, kindness and devotion will never be forgotten.

He is buried in Mesilla Cemetery, at the foot of a headstone that translates to, “John Mary Justiniani, Hermit of the Old and New World. He died the 17th of April, 1869, at 69 years and 49 years a hermit.”

Pilgrimages are still made to the cave mouth and relics from offerings past remain.

While you are in the area, check out Dripping Springs and Storrie Lake State Park!

Discovery and Innovation;
Discovering how my passion for environmental education could be innovated into a form of delectable entertainment

I started this class with a completely inaccurate concept of what I would be learning. I imagined that I would be learning how to take transect lines to survey vegetation, or be discussing population monitoring techniques. Boy, was I off-base! The first day of the class I discover that the instruction will be to expand and utilize my creativity, something I hadn't forcefully committed to for months at least.

The class was asked to create and explore a project... That was the extent of the instruction detail... I was, to say the least, lost. In normal life, expectations regarding work are typically strictly regulated. Having zero boundaries is something I am not used to. I had no clue where to begin my project. I had no clue how to begin determining where to begin my project!

Luckily, Maggie Werner-Washburne and Paul Szauter, the instructors of the course, provided the class with a variety of inspirational exercises. One of the exercises was called "The Bug List," which called for listing all the things that bothered you, big and small. I began to think about my interests and my job and all the things I thought I lacked throughout the day. I kept coming back to the same thing. I am new to the biology world, a newbie, a baby biologist and I was always running across the same issue; I couldn't identify all the species I came across in the field.

The perfect solution began to form in my mind. I needed a device that I could use to identify species in the field, take note of the GPS coordinate at which point I identified the species, take a photo of the species attached to the GPS coordinates if necessary, write relevant information about the siting as I would in a field notebook and incorporate all of these things into a hardy, field-worthy device. If I could design this device and a program that incorporated a constantly updated, simple-to-use, interactive dichotomous key I could be a MILLIONAIRE!!!

Ideas began to flood my mind! I could see my heavy-duty, yellow with black trim, palm-sized device with outdoor LED screen in the hands of field-going biologists around the globe! In the dense, hot and noisy jungle of Puerto Rico, a rough hand grips a stylus and couplet by couplet identifies an insect he's seeing for the first time. He snaps a picture, which is automatically tagged with northing and easting for the area, and taps the temperature, wind speed, and relative humidity into his electronic field notes.

I would enlist an organization to continually update an online website with region-specific dichotomous keep software, software that could be used without internet access. The software could be purchased from the site for field hands to carry with them into the field. But, alas, when I began to investigate online as to whether or not I was the genius of the century, I ran across identification apps on the National Audubon Society website. My plans of being filthy rich faded. My hopes of passing the course dwindled. I had failed to be original. My novel idea wasn't so novel to the wise guys at Audubon.

So, there I was, back at square negative. What to do? What to do? Oh, Nelly, what to do? Again, to my rescue race Maggie and Paul with inspirational exercise number two. Paul has me set up a chart on the board of our discussion group one Wednesday morning. I have always been extremely passionate about the environment and believe that one of the most secure ways to save any our own is through education. In order to hone in on a solution, I had to solidify what I thought the problem was with environmental education.

The problem with environmental education today is that it is lacking. Paul walked me through the exercise to identify an area in environmental education that had room for improvement. As a group, we defined several deficiencies in environmental education such as, inadequate access to education, the lack of a centralized hub for access to environmental education, the public lacks concern for the environment, public advertisement doesn't include information about environmental education or outdoor programs, there is less habitat in which to encounter nature, and one I think is most important is that information available is only 2D.

I listed age groups for headers of rows and began to fill in columns with various means of conveying the information that I wanted to convey. As a group, we identified six different age groups that should be targeted: 0-5 yrs., 6-12 yrs., 13-18 yrs., college age individuals, parents, and "other adults (i.e. seniors)." The main vessels for information formed the columns: TV, Orally, Outdoor Activities, Toys, Games, Web, Written, Public Service Announcements, and Consumer Goods. There were lots of environmental education areas identified that could be strengthened. Somehow, the idea of a podcast came up. And an idea was born!

A podcast seemed the perfect way to get environmental education into the lives of so many. The majority of people have iPods, iPhones, or other devices capable of downloading mp3 audio files. I could make a podcast intended to take environmental education to a 3D level! With entertaining information streaming to individuals as they were outdoors, I could help enhance their experience with nature, and stand a better chance, once I caught their interest, of educating them about being respectful and inspired by what Mother Nature had to offer. The novel concept behind the podcast collection is that a downloadable app would connect each podcast to a GPS location and users could access a podcast at a site it is relevant to.

I was off to a project start! ... kind of...

I hadn't an inkling which direction to take the idea. I had only listened to one podcast in my life, and it wasn't even the whole thing. I came to another creative wall. I knew I had to investigate how a podcast was structured, where and how to record one, and begin to write content. Content! Why I had tons of that! Didn't I? When it came right down to determining what to write about, I began to get overwhelmed. I couldn't move forward for a few days. The Monday following the idea-outbreak-discussion-class, I was happily surprised by another team exercise Paul initiated in regards to my project. He handed out five index cards to each student in class and asked me to explain my podcast intervention. Then we asked each student to write down one idea they would like to hear explored on each index card.

The outcome was interesting to me. The topics that people showed interest in were different than the ones I had been juggling in my mind. Carslbad Caverns, a walk along the Rio Grande bosque, Ice Caves, Chupacabra and other New Mexico lore, and the spaceport were all at the tops of their categories. I had initially been interested in created a podcast on the bosque because I had been learning so much about it through my job and through a class for the semester. I was able to more clearly see what an audience base would be interested in. I now had some direction and could begin research for my first topic; The Rio Grande Bosque.

I got overwhelmed, again. The content was too much. I wanted every tiny, little bit of information that I could scrounge up weaved into a podcast. I had it in my mind that each podcast would have to be an hour long. This was such a daunting thought that I hit my third creative wall of the semester. It wasn't until we discussed the average American attention span in discussion one day that I was able to begin writing my first podcast. My discussion group agreed that five minutes would be the most palatable timeframe for a podcast. That was an attainable time for me. Paul directed me to think about the podcasts as a sideshow act, short and sweet, but super entertaining, with a lot of flair.

I began to write my first podcast and recorded on April 14th, 2012. Paul and Maggie responded very positively to the recording. The podcast was about the invasive species Tamrix and the title was one Paul came up with; "Alien Invaders". After Maggie so kindly spliced the bits and pieces of my initial recordings into one fluid five minute podcast, it was played for the discussion group that wasn't my own. I received compliments from my peers. I was thankful that they seemed to like the writing style and content. I recorded my second podcast on May 6th, 2012. The second podcast was more casual as I was trying to reel in different audience types. I researched and wrote about the "ghosts" of the St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico. Each podcast is around a thousand words and takes a couple of hours to completely record. I plan to write a third podcast before the semester is through. It will be about various New Mexico lore.

I plan to take my project, Hear This, New Mexico!, into the future. I think that if I can get guest speakers to offer their personalities and wisdom I can pull together a fine collection of audio files that listeners would be drawn to. I began to think of the project as a means to draw in tourism, because as a class, we had to give elevator pitches, selling our idea to an audience. I plan to take my idea to my peers and supervisors and see if it can't be incorporated as a useful tool for the Bureau of Land Management. I feel that my project has great potential to lure people out of their homes and into the 3D New Mexico that I know and love!