CSS - United States: New Mexico BioPark Society

The Center for Species Survival New Mexico, established in 2018, supports strategic species conservation across the IUCN's Species Survival Commission. From the small cacti of the desert southwest to the bees and butterflies that colour our landscape and the fishes that grace our rivers, we are committed to these organisms, no matter how small. We use tools like the IUCN Red List to produce critical baseline data that guide conservation planning and action. As of June 2022, we have contributed to over 2,000 species-level extinction risk assessments, spanning 96 countries, which will inform conservation measures taken by the ABQ BioPark, our partners in New Mexico, and conservationists worldwide.

For decades, ABQ BioPark has engaged in conservation programs supported by our community and our members through the New Mexico BioPark Society. Our captive breeding programs, habitat restoration efforts, and animal and ecosystem health research have had broad impacts locally and internationally. We recognize that modern zoos, aquariums, and botanical gardens have a critical role to play in preventing species extinctions. In 2018, the New Mexico BioPark Society established the Center for Species Survival New Mexico to utilize the resources and knowledge at our facility in support of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC). Through this partnership, we are working to address the conservation needs of key species groups, with a focus on medicinal plants, freshwater fishes, and invertebrate pollinators. 
At the Center for Species Survival New Mexico, we collaborate with IUCN SSC Specialist Groups to build capacity for species conservation through the Assess-Plan-Act cycle. We focus primarily on species-level extinction risk assessments, though we are increasingly involved in conservation planning and action at both the species and landscape scales. Among the many Specialist Groups we support, we work most closely with the Medicinal Plant Specialist Group, the Freshwater Fish Specialist Group, the Firefly Specialist Group, and the Butterfly and Moth Specialist Group. These collaborations have yielded over 2,000 extinction risk assessments to date. We also work to build assessment capacity by offering certified Red List assessor trainings and facilitating Red List assessment workshops, and serving as a key onboarding resource for the expanding Center for Species Survival partnership. In addition to contributing species-level assessments to the IUCN Red List, the Center actively engages with communities where threatened species occur to create comprehensive conservation plans and coordinate action. With the support of our community and our members, this partnership will continue to build on our existing conservation successes and position Albuquerque as a globally recognized hub for species conservation.

Supporting the Species Conservation

Globally comprehensive assessment of freshwater fish extinction risk

In support of a globally comprehensive assessment of freshwater fish extinction risk, the SSC’s Freshwater Fish Specialist Group and the IUCN’s Freshwater Biodiversity Unit, Tim Lyons has led or contributed to assessment projects for fishes in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, South America, and Southeast Asia. In the wake of the Mexico assessment project, the results of which have been summarized in this report, several captive populations of threatened Splitfin fish species were established at the ABQ BioPark. One of these fish is the Tequila Splitfin (Zoogoneticus tequila). It is endemic to the Ameca River basin in west-central Mexico, where it is currently restricted to a single spring pool in the Río Teuchitlán. The causes of decline are not well understood but likely include competition with non-native fish species, habitat fragmentation, and pollution and disturbance due to livestock. Several captive populations of this species exist, including the one at the ABQ BioPark, and reintroduction efforts have been successful so far.

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Joint work for species

For the past few years, the Center for Species Survival New Mexico has worked in collaboration with the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe to better understand the distribution, ecology, and existing threats of Mesa Verde Cactus (Sclerocactus mesae-verdae). This small cactus species occurs within a narrow range in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado and has experienced severe population declines due to drought and predation by beetles. For the last several years, our staff has collaborated with the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe's biology team to establish permanent monitoring plots to help us better understand how to protect this species from continuing decline. We have also collected seeds from this species and other rare and threatened plants in New Mexico to provide an insurance policy against future losses. Genetic material stored in the ABQ BioPark’s Seed Bank will allow for the re-establishment of Mesa Verde Cactus and other species and will provide a critical opportunity to develop ex-situ rearing protocols where necessary.

Evaluating firefly extinction risk

Anecdotal reports suggest fireflies are in decline around the world. However, until recently, the conservation status of specific fireflies species had not yet been assessed. In 2020, the Center for Species Survival New Mexico contributed to IUCN Red List assessments for 132 species of North American fireflies. In partnership with the SSC Firefly Specialist Group and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a report detailing the results of the assessments was published in PLOS One. More than half of the firefly species assessed were Data Deficient, so additional research has been identified as a key conservation priority for this group. Many of the Data Deficient species are found in the Western United States, where the Center for Species Survival New Mexico is based. To fill data gaps for fireflies in their own backyard, the Center has been leveraging support from community scientists to help us better understand the distribution and population trends of our local fireflies. 

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Meet our team

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Tim Lyons

Tim Lyons

Species Survival Officer for Aquatics. Tim works in collaboration with the SSC Freshwater Fish Specialist Group and the IUCN’s Freshwater Biodiversity Unit on priority Red List assessment projects. 

Clay Meredith

Clay Meredith

Species Survival Officer for Medicinal Plants. Clay works with the Medicinal Plants Specialist Group to identify plant species in trade which may benefit from conservation programs to ensure continued equitable access to these vital medicines. 

Anna Walker

Anna Walker

Species Survival Officer for Invertebrate Pollinators. In partnership with the Firefly Specialist Group and the Butterfly and Moth Specialist Group, Anna has written assessments for target insect groups such as Hawaiian butterflies and moths and North American fireflies.