By Rachael Taylor
All of the snow we got in January sure has been a sight! Perhaps you’ve watched your dog happily run out into the white wonderland, only to promptly drop from sight in fresh heaps of powder. Have you ever wondered how even smaller animals, like rodents, survive in all of this snow?
Believe it or not, there’s a whole little world scurrying beneath many of the snowy fields blanketing our winter landscapes. Subnivean, a fancy-sounding word derived from the Latin sub (under) and nives (snow), is the name of this life zone. This zone lies in the space that can form above the earth and below the snowpack. It is made up of tunnels, rooms, and air vents that various rodents make. Regardless of outside air temperature, the subnivean zone stays around 32 degrees all winter, making it an ideal habitat for mice, voles, and other small rodents to avoid predation, find food, and stay warm.
Rodents in the subnivean zone aren’t the only things staying busy this winter! SJMA’s education team is back, carrying on the tradition of school snowshoeing lessons. Groups of up to 50 students don their winter gear, excitedly load their school buses, and head into the mountains where they meet SJMA’s educators and volunteers for lessons on winter watersheds, surviving and thriving in winter, and subnivean zones. For some of these students, it’s the first time they have ever been snowshoeing, and their excitement is contagious!
In addition to winter lessons, our education team is preparing for our fast approaching spring and summer seasons. Next up we have our Spring Break Camp where we will spend the week adventuring throughout the snowy mountains and warming desert. Students will learn about the ecosystems, waterways and ancestral ways of life in the Southwest.
In April and May, our San Juan Science Ramblers after school program will pick back up. This is a perfect opportunity for kids to stretch their restless legs as we hit the local trails and explore the emerging flora and fauna of spring.
Finally, our increasingly popular six weeks of elementary-aged Junior Naturalist Field Camps will return this summer, along with our two weeks of middle school Adventure Camps. These weeklong summer camps are a warm welcome after the winter months, and a great opportunity to learn in a very hands-on way about our local ecosystems and natural environment. For a few delightful months, when the long hours of sunlight lead to a plethora of life popping among our local mountains and waterways, we are presented with an ideal outdoor learning laboratory. SJMA’s science-based summer camps bring students outdoors where they can observe first hand the intricacies of the spectacular natural environment that surrounds us.
Until then, our education team will be busy with snow programs, some of which you can join! Come on up to Andrews Lake for our free Snow Science and Social events on various Saturdays to learn about the snow pack while traversing the landscape on skis or snowshoes.
For more information about all of these programs, visit: www.SJMA.org/Learn.
Rachael Taylor, a Community Education manager at SJMA, is passionate about getting kids outside and seeking water-related adventures.