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As chair of the Local Host Committee, I am pleased to welcome you to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the 2009 Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. In addition to wishing you a productive meeting, I encourage you to explore Albuquerque and the exceptional landscapes, biodiversity, and cultural diversity of New Mexico. We have assembled an exciting group of field trips (noted here by FT) to help you experience New Mexico, in many cases offering a unique perspective or access to areas of the state that would be difficult to match on your own.

Bosque in Fall ColorAlbuquerque is bisected by the Rio Grande, lined by one of the largest remaining cottonwood gallery forests (FT) in the American Southwest. Originating in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado, the river follows the Rio Grande Rift through New Mexico. In northern New Mexico, the Rio Grande is relatively confined by narrow valleys, including the spectacular Rio Grande Gorge near Taos, until it reaches the head of the Middle Rio Grande near Cochiti, New Mexico. From there, the Rio Grande meandered, historically, over much wider flood plains for the remainder of the river’s course through the state. Because New Mexico straddles the Continental Divide our rivers flow either to the Atlantic via the Gulf of Mexico (Rio Grande, Pecos, Canadian) or to the Pacific via the Colorado and the Sea of Cortez (San Juan and Gila, one of the last remaining free-flowing rivers in the lower 48 states).

ShiprockThe diverse landscapes of New Mexico range from volcanic features, such as Mount Taylor, Shiprock, and expansive jet black lava flows at White Sands National Monument (FT), where they contrast with dazzling gypsum dunes to the amazing subterranean formations of Carlsbad Caverns. The southern Rocky Mountains encompass the Sangre de Cristo Range (FT), rising to over 4,000 m, and an extension of the San Juan Mountains. The Jemez Mountains (FT) include the Valles Caldera (FT),one of the world’s largest at over 25 km in diameter. Dozens of other isolated mountain ranges occur in New Mexico, including the Sandia Mountains (FT) just east of Albuquerque. Not all of New Mexico is mountainous, however. The plains of eastern New Mexico include one of the flattest landscapes on Earth, the Llano Estacado.

Valles CalderaThe climate varies widely along New Mexico’s wide range in elevation (866 – 4011 m). Annual precipitation, which averages from 200 mm to over 1,000 mm, is bimodal with the largest amounts falling during the North American Monsoon in July, August, and September. There is substantial variation around this typical pattern because winter precipitation is influenced by the El Niño Southern Oscillation.

New Mexico’s high spatial variation in climate and its heterogeneous landscapes result in exceptionally high biodiversity. Vegetation ranges from Chihuahuan Desert scrub and lush riparian wetlands to high mountain forests and alpine tundra. Among the 50 states, New Mexico has the 4th highest diversity of native plants, the 3rd highest diversity of mammals and of reptiles, and the 2nd highest diversity of birds.

A unique mix of human history and diversity complements the rich natural history of New Mexico. The cultural diversity of New Mexico presents itself as a blend of thriving Native American, Hispanic, and other traditions drawn from the world over. While Albuquerque, founded in 1706, is relatively old compared to most U.S. cities, Santa Fe was founded 100 years earlier. However, Native Americans have the deepest history in New Mexico by far. For instance Acoma Pueblo, or “Sky City”, was founded at least 600 years before Albuquerque. However, even Acoma Pueblo appears recent compared to the full extent of Native American presence in New Mexico. For instance, Native Americans farmed the Middle Rio Grande Valley for thousands of years before Spanish explorers encountered their flourishing communities in 1540. But the earliest known human occupation of New Mexico dates back further still to the Clovis people who hunted the plains of eastern New Mexico over 11,000 years ago.

Over the centuries Albuquerque and its surroundings have grown into a multicultural metropolis of over 800,000 people that is a center for high tech industry and research and increasingly attractive to the movie industry. The city supports over 3,000 shops, including those of the historic Old Town Plaza. Dining opportunities abound in Albuquerque’s thousands of restaurants, including ones specializing in our own distinctive New Mexican cuisine. There are also museums, a biological park, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, national parks and monuments, and a plethora of hiking and biking trails. In short, there much to enjoy here, in addition to what is sure to be a wonderful scientific exchange at our meeting.

Welcome to Albuquerque!

Will Pockman
ESA Local Host Chair
Department of Biology
University of New Mexico

Albuquerque Skyline Night

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