This week I took a new approach to my sampling. Instead of following a protocol devised by an I&M network which sampled 50x50m plots, I decided I would get a better grasp on Whitebark Pine growing conditions and White Pine Blister Rust by walking along transects where they populate. In doing this, I collected a lot of quantitative data that I did not have before, and was able to hike along the ridgelines of several mountains in Lassen Park- double win!
Having the freedom to choose how to go about my project has led me to some ideas that allow me to use my creativity, which is how I best thrive! In three days, I traversed three peaks/ ridgelines, and gathered extremely useful information- no case of the Monday Blues here!
This week consisted of sampling my plots, as per usual. As I increase my sampling size, there are several realizations that I’ve come to have about the decline of Whitebark Pine. Whereas before I knew that they were being impacted by climate change, drought, mountain pine beetle, and blister rust, I stumbled upon another presumable factor that I noticed in the field. As global temperature increases, the areas where plants best grow and animals reside shift. As a result, Whitebark Pine trees, which grow in very high elevations and rocky soils that do not usually exhibit a lot of diversity, start to receive competition by other tree species moving to higher elevations– notably Mountain Hemlock.
Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) is tolerant of most forms of competition by other species. It grows in areas similar to that of Whitebark Pine, however, it grows in dense, tall stands that exceed the growth rates of Whitebark Pine. Subsequently, the Whitebark Pines are being pushed out or having trouble succeeding in areas where dense hemlock stands are present.
Noticing this reminded me that it’s always good to keep an open mind. When you become too focused on what you think the outcome should be, you ignore the truth.
This week I had the pleasure of working with the Klamath Inventory and Monitoring Network again. Aiding them with their plots helps me make sure that I am following the protocol correctly when working on my own plots. When travelling to our sites we see some of the most breathtaking views of Lassen– most of which many visitors do not have the opportunity to see. It’s a constant reminder of how grateful I am to work here and do what I do.
Not everyday is sight-seeing and tree-hugging, however. The advantage the Klamath Network has is that all of their sites have been visited before, monumented, and are known to be safe and viable sampling areas. With my sites, I determined points of interest based off information on where Whitebark Pine grows best and hoped they would be viable when I sought them out in the field. This isn’t always the case, I’ve come to realize. After we hiked for nearly 4 miles, we reached as close to our site as possible and decided that the terrain would be too risky to to be able to set up a sampling plot. Heartbroken, we took a break on a plateau and I looked around me. I saw several volcanic peaks, beautiful topography, and Mt. Shasta in the distance. Taking in the view I realized that it’s okay for situations like this to happen, and that there’s a positive side to everything if you just take a moment to look.
I had the great opportunity to work on the 2017 Solar Eclipse event here at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and on the best spot to see it, Clingmans Dome. We were expecting thousands of people, and for our surprise (and a very good thing), the event turned out pretty chill. It turned out so perfect, that the garbage cleaning around the park scheduled for the next day got cancelled! Apparently visitors turned out to be more conscious on leaving the park better than they’ve found it.
My supervisor along the Air Quality technician and I, set up a telescope exploration area to observe the Sun. It was pretty fun to help visitors observe the Sun and the Eclipse events as it came closer to totality.
I also had the opportunity to talk and show visitors, specially kids about my natural sounds project. The Natural Sounds & Night Skies Division had the project of setting up sound recording equipment across 22 national parks that were found around the totality region with the purpose of gathering data of animal activity during the eclipse. People were very interested on these topics and on my project. It felt great to be able to share information with people and see that they were curious into knowing more.
From Totality, we were able to note some changes: Temperature dropped, it got a lot cooler, bees that you could hear around suddenly stopped buzzing, birds got more active and we saw near us a snake that got out to rest on a plaque on the ground, from which we could assume it was searching for heat. It was very interesting to be able to notice all these changes as these events are unique; they don’t happen on the same spot everytime for at least a long time.
This Solar Eclipse event made me realize how fortunate this summer has been for me. It is coming to an end, as this is my last week. I’ve learn a lot and events like this reminds me that doesn’t matter at what point we are in our lives, we never truly stop learning.
“Always walk through life as if you have something learn to new, and you will” – Vernon Howard
This past week I had the opportunity to go out into the field and sample my Whitebark Pine plots. The sites were ones I identified using ArcMap as having a high probability of Whitebark Pine populations. I used different slope, soil, elevation, and vegetation information to derive areas of interest, then randomly designated 50×50 meter plots within those areas. Whitebark Pine is found in subalpine and alpine elevations, mostly in rockier soil types, which meant that the majority of my plots were surrounding Lassen Peak. When I went out to my first plot I was excited to see that there was indeed Whitebark Pine populations growing! They were also present at the second and third sites I visited—score!
It was a relief to see that I correctly identified populous areas. I was mainly excited, however, to be applying skills learned during my time in college to real-world issues. Through the first few plots that I sampled I was able to gather information about white pine blister rust and its distribution throughout the park. I can only wait to see what I else I will discover by the end of the season.
The final touches for the 2017 continental United States Solar Eclipse are being done as we speak, as tomorrow August 21rst is finally arriving. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been on a hectic assignment for planning two major events happening: Clingmans Dome (Highest point on the park) and Cades Cove (a clear valley), where the most NASA media is going to be, including a guest astronaut at Clingmans Dome. Being part of the Natural Sounds & Night Skies Division, guess where am I going to be? At the main spot for the event, Clingmans Dome!
But before telling you about my duties, what is a solar eclipse and why is it such an event? A solar eclipse occurs when the moon casts a shadow on Earth, fully (umbra) or partially (penumbra) blocking the sun’s light in some areas.
This event doesn’t occur every year nor in the same place. On the United States, it hasn’t been to presence in 38 years (1979), and the next one after August 21rst, will be April 8, 2024. For this one, lots of people are going to be able to see it. Everyone in the contiguous United States, in fact, everyone in North America plus parts of South America, Africa, and Europe will see at least a partial solar eclipse, while the thin path of totality will pass through portions of 14 states.
This may be a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity, so get pumped to go outside!
For this event, it’s important to keep safety of your eyes on every phase of the eclipse. Here are some tips provided by NASA:
The natural neatness of this is that observers found within the path of totality will be able to see the sun’s corona.
This eclipse is a great opportunity to share with family, friends and a group of strangers that has gotten together as a curious community that cares for the environment. Remember, wherever you are going to be, to be safe in traffic, make sure you have snacks, plenty of water and your safety method of observation.
For more information, visit: NASA’s official webpage: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/, and don’t hesitate to ask questions to leaders on your “Eclipse -viewing” event.
“A man should look for what it is and not for what he thinks should be” – Albert Einstein
This is what my kind of field work looked like in Denali. It was a lot of hiking for four days to our transects where we would locate our sites using our GPS. We would then dump the contents of the cup (soapy water, coolant/antifreeze, and the arthropod bodies) into a strainer, reuse the liquid by dumping it back into the cup(add more coolant if needed for preservation purposes) and place the strained contents into a whirl-pak as pictured. At times we would fill one entire large whirl-pak and sometimes more in each site (most of what fell in our traps though were non-target species such as black flies and forest gnats).
Once we were finished with our four days of field work that next week we would spend hours under the microscope looking through the whirl-pak contents and working to separate the arthropods (bees, flies, beetles, spiders, butterflies, moths, etc.). After sorting through all of the baggies, if time permitted we got to wash the bumble bees in a mason jar using dish soap and then blow dry them with a hair dryer to get their fur fluffy and nice for pinning and identification.
It was definitely a messy task, getting coolant on our clothes and hands, having bug parts accidentally on our hands and arms and getting ethanol on the desk and on us, but that, I’ve learned is how field work goes and that’s how it went.
My favorite net collecting day in Denali was when we hiked all the way to the tippety top of Sable Mountain. We are particularly interested in collecting syrphids (bee mimics) since they like hanging out in the rocky outcrops of the landscape. Initially our ascent began with hiking along Tattler creek which is very well known for high bear activity and is also the location of where the park discovered its first dinosaur footprint tracks embedded on the rock walls. It was a nice hike up the creek and we reached the gully where we then entered the tundra. In the tundra we collected a number of bees that were pollinating the variety of flower patches. We didn’t see bears, we didn’t see the dino footprints.
This isn’t the point. What was moving about this hike, was the name of the mountain. Sable mountain, the name of my elementary school, Sable elementary. That’s the age in which I realized I loved hanging out with insects. Those elementary years were the years where I owned my first ant farm, fed, watched them grow, that’s when I learned and became comfortable with catching grasshoppers with my bare hands, and catch lady bugs to count their dots. And here I was standing on Sable mountain, doing just what I learned to love when I was little, except a decade or so later, as a grown adult, with a paid job doing what i’d always been fascinated with and enjoyed so much.
There was also great views!
This week has been a scramble to get started on the field portion of my project, with the coming of the Klamath Network Inventory and Monitoring Program (KLMN) to teach me their standard operating procedures (SOPs) when sampling plots. As the season gets later and later we are able to get further up the mountains, where our plots were once (and some still are) covered in snow. This year, Lassen Volcanic NP had the latest road opening on record due to snowfall, which has created some challenges when monitoring at high elevations. Thankfully, we were able to make it to some plots so I could get hands-on experience with data sampling, monitoring, and storing– rather than just reading a how-to guide.
Learning KLMN’s procedures is crucial to this study because it makes our data comparable and replicable with theirs. Some things I learned were how to set up plots and subplots in the field, what signs to look for when diagnosing a blister rust infection, and how to prepare for going out in the field. It is such a unique experience working with trees; though they are living, their time-scale transcends that of humans. In the field, I am able to see trees that are hundreds of years old (Whitebark Pine can live up to 1,000 years!), many which probably withstood the eruptions from Mount Lassen. I am able to be a sort of ‘doctor’ to these trees, diagnosing infections and attempting to identify methods to restore the populations of a keystone species. This work is so fulfilling to me. Perhaps one day I will become a real doctor to these trees once I pursue a PhD in Forest Ecology.
You can’t pick a better or more beautiful place to spend a summer than in a National Park. In 2017, Mosaics in Science (MIS) interns will travel to Denali National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, and Great Basin National Park, to name a few. Each of the sites has competed with many others to be part of MIS 2017 and are working to make the summer experience fulfilling. With these diverse sites comes an array of research and education opportunities in an equally broad suite of habitats and climates. From Alaska to Colorado to Washington, D.C. and Florida, each intern will have a different, yet similar experience. While one may sweat during turtle surveys, another may be bundled in a coat and hat to while tracking butterflies. Whatever the experience, it will last a lifetime!
A Mosaics in Science Internship is a rich opportunity to work side-by-side with scientists and other professionals. In 2016, participants were part of bat research, bird surveys, seed collection projects, geological surveys, archeological explorations, and much more. Throughout MIS, interns receive additional training through weekly webinars and help to share the mission of the program through this Blog. At the conclusion of their experience, interns share their work with other participants during the post-internship career workshop. The career workshop, for most interns, is the first opportunity to meet other interns face-to-face. Each shares their summer’s work during an oral or poster presentation. Guest speakers provide additional information about preparing applications for federal positions, diversity in the workplace, and science careers. Want to be a Mosaics in Science intern? Visit the internships and learn more about the 2017 positions.
A day in the field for a Mosaics in Science (MIS) intern can be a journey into a lava tube, a hike to a high elevation pond, or time indoors at the computer entering data. MIS experiences happen all over the country in some of America’s most spectacular national parks, such as Yosemite National Park in California, Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota, and Everglades National Park in Florida. Wherever they are, participants gain critical skills needed to pursue careers in geology, natural resources, wildlife ecology, environmental education, and more. Just a few insights from our 2016 MIS interns include:
I have gained skills related to field work…and also have learned to become a more independent worker. I believe I am now better at independent research and finding solutions or answers to unknowns.
Skills I developed are how to use GPS, frog surveying, and tracking encroachment using Arc Collector app.
The highlights of my internship included learning how to navigate with a compass and map in remote wilderness settings, becoming familiar with the backpacking lifestyle, experiencing the solitude of the landscape of backcountry Yosemite, and meeting scientists from all around the country.
After processing the video footage from our first week of stationary camera deployments, we noticed we were not alone. Most people just recognize her as a shark, but that’s an understatement. She’s a tiger shark. Locals have taken to calling her Tony the Tiger. National Park Service biologists and technicians have yet to encounter one in their many years of diving around Buck Island so my team and I are confident we won’t be crossing paths with Tony while scuba diving.
NPS has been working with multiple collaborators to study the movements of sharks within the monument using acoustic telemetry. Given these recent sightings of Tony in our video footage, NPS biologists are eager to see if they can cross reference these sightings with detections from acoustic receivers installed near our camera monitoring site. We hope to find that Tony is one of the individuals that was tagged in previous years.
Tiger sharks are natural predators to sea turtles. Their serrated teeth allow them to tear through the turtle’s carapace (shell). Even though Tony has been feeding on our study subjects, we’re happy that she’s here. The presence of apex predators is one of the signs of a healthy ecosystem. Believe it or not, they play an important role in structuring seagrass ecosystems. They balance the food web as well as prevent lower levels from exhausting resources.
Healthy seagrass ecosystem = Abundant greens turtles = Tiger sharks
It’s important to understand the significance of top-down control in natural ecosystems in order to better establish conservation and management baselines that could predict ecosystem responses to natural and anthropogenic change.
Lisa Norby Welcome to the National Park Service and the Mosaics in Science Diversity Internship Program! I am pleased that you are joining us as a Mosaics in Science intern this summer. Your role is critical in fulfilling the National Park Service (NPS) mission and I hope that you will find your work rewarding, challenging, meaningful, and lots of fun.
My name is Lisa Norby – I am the NPS Program Manager for the Mosaics in Science Diversity Internship Program and have bachelors and masters degrees in geology. I work with the NPS Geologic Resources Division and have been working with the NPS for the last 23 years. I have worked with a variety of youth programs since I was in high school, and in 2013, I created the Mosaics in Science Program with George McDonald, Chief of the NPS Youth Programs Division. The Mosaics Program is funded by the NPS and is managed in partnership with Environment for the Americas (EFTA) and Greening Youth Foundation (GYF). The Program’s objectives are to encourage diverse youth 18-35 years old to pursue studies in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and science) fields, introduce program participants to science careers in the National Park Service, and increase relevance, diversity, and inclusion in the NPS workplace.
I am excited that you will be joining the NPS team and hope that you have a fun and successful internship with the NPS. We really appreciate your interest in the National Park Service and your assistance protecting and preserving the outstanding natural resources in our national parks. Most of the communication you will receive this summer will be from EFTA/GYF, but I want you to know that I am available anytime to answer any questions you have about the program, the NPS, or science careers. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am really excited to talk with you over the summer and to meet you in person at the career workshop in Colorado!
Welcome to the Mosaics in Science Program! Congratulations on having been selected as a Mosaics intern this summer. The coming weeks may be a life-changing experience for you. My name is Limaris “Lima” Soto, and I am the Program Coordinator with the National Park Service. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Geology from the University of Puerto Rico and my Master’s degree in Geology from the University of South Florida. My scientific interests include; cave/karst science, hydrogeology, geophysics, education and outreach, and youth programs. I partner with the NPS Geologic Resources Division, and I have been working with Mosaics for the last two years. In my spare time, I like to go hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and camping. I also love to read, knit, and spend time with my family. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions during the internship. I am looking forward to hearing about your project at the career workshop in Colorado.
Welcome to Mosaics! I am Mike Fynn, and I am the VP of Operations at the Greening Youth Foundation. I come to you with a background in engineering, construction, and operations management. I’m excited to work with you all this summer, and hear about your experiences at the different parks. I will get to meet a few of you during the site visits, and again at the career workshop in Colorado. The Mosaics team has some amazing things in store for you this summer, and I can’t wait to hear about your experiences! If you have questions, please feel to reach out to us at any time.
Welcome to the Mosaics in Science Diversity Internship Program! My name is Eboni Preston, and I am a Program Manager with the Greening Youth Foundation (GYF). For the last few years I have worked in nonprofit management, community development, and youth development programs. I, along with GYF, EFTA, and NPS, am very excited to work with all of you this summer. I am thrilled to follow you as you embark on this amazing journey!
Hello Mosaics in Science participants, welcome to the program! We are all looking forward to working with you this summer and to hear about all that you will accomplish in the months to come. My name is Lily Calderón, I am a Chicago native who loves to travel and learn about the world and the birds that live on it. Thanks to EFTA I have been able to experience Oregon and New Mexico through two different internship programs, Celebra Las Aves and Mosaics in Science respectively. Currently I am enjoying Colorado as a full time staff member at EFTA Headquarters in Boulder.
If you are curious about my Mosaics experience, I interned at Capulin Volcano National Monument in northeastern New Mexico during the summer of 2016. As an intern there I worked with the resource team and primarily assisted with the hummingbird research at the park by banding the little hummers. It was a great experience and I hope you all enjoy your experience as much as I did! I can’t wait to meet you all at the workshop in Colorado and to hear about your work.
Seagrass ecosystems are incredibly important foundational ecosystems that provide a variety of ecological and economic services. These ecosystems, and the animals that rely upon them, have been threatened and disrupted by rapid declines and degradation in seagrasses worldwide. Much of the loss can be linked to anthropogenic stressors. Green turtles are the only herbivorous sea turtle species and are the primary consumers of seagrasses worldwide. Green turtle populations have been severely overharvested by humans over the last 200 years and are currently listed as a threatened/endangered species. However, populations are beginning to increase in some areas as a result of long-term conservation efforts. Given the rapid decline in seagrass coverage globally, there is growing concern that the altered ecosystems of today may not be able to sustain grazing by green turtle populations as they did two centuries ago. When an endangered species recovers, what ecological role does it fulfill if its ecosystem has been altered by anthropogenic activities? This is only one of many questions being asked by my mentor, Alexandra Gulick (Graduate Student, Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research, University of Florida). To begin to answer this prodigious question, she must start by investigating the fundamental factors that drive this plant-herbivore interaction. I’m here to help Alexandra execute two of her ecological objectives.
- Evaluate the productivity of naturally grazed and ungrazed seagrass meadows.
- Evaluate the effects of seagrass pasture characteristics on green turtle foraging behavior.
Accomplishing said objectives will then allow her to model the carrying capacity of Caribbean seagrass pastures for recovering green turtle populations.
Buck Island Reef National Monument (BUIS) was established in 1961 under President John F. Kennedy and was later expanded in 2001 under President Bill Clinton. It was the first fully marine protected area in the National Park Service system. The monument includes Buck Island (176 acres) and 18,839 acres of submerged land and coral reef systems. Buck Island is an uninhabited island 1½ miles off the northern coast of St. Croix, and is surrounded by a barrier reef and large expanses of seagrass meadows. Conducting this research at BUIS offers a unique opportunity to study green turtle grazing dynamics and habitat use. Fortunately, the seagrass ecosystem supports both juvenile and adult turtles throughout the year which is uncommon. Also, over the last decade NPS resource managers have documented increases in green turtle nesting and foraging populations. When combined, these factors make BUIS more than ideal for studying green turtle and seagrass interactions. I am thrilled to be a part of this research and partake in sharing it with the world.
In last week’s post, I briefly introduced what I will be working on at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument this summer. After meeting with my supervisors earlier this week, my project task has now been solidified. I will be creating a Geology/Paleontology summer camp for students (Grades 4th-6th) from socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. This camp would be implemented in the summer of 2018. However, this summer will see the testing of many of the planned activities for the camp, both on and offsite. My first task was to create an outline of the activities and daily themes the camp will have. After an hour-long discussion with my supervisors on Friday afternoon, we decided it would be a good idea for me to host a brown bag meeting next Friday where I will present my summer camp outline to the entire (or most) staff for extra feedback and suggestions.
A big component of my project requires me to do community outreach. I stressed to my supervisors that although the main focus of this camp is to get students excited about geology and paleontology, we must also focus on getting the community and parents involved in the camp. Just as the famous African proverb states “It takes a village to raise a child”, it also takes an entire community to raise a scientist. This coming week I will be meeting with an elementary teacher from Colorado Springs who participated in the National Park Service’s Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program for ideas on how to engage students in science. Then on Saturday, I will head into Denver for the Get Outdoors Colorado event where I plan to meet with other outdoor educators and build a strong network and support system.
Quick sneak peak into the camp: On one of the camp days, students will go down to the local Florissant Fossil Quarry to sift through sheets and sheets of paper shale in search of fossils. I can attest to the excitement and addiction this activity brings, as all of us interns at Florissant Fossil Beds lost track of time while digging for fossils at the quarry. The best part about the quarry, you get to keep your findings!
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to enter a cave by sinking up to your chest in a pool of quicksand-like packrat poop?
If not, I’m here to tell you that it is a slightly alarming but mostly hilarious experience, and feels very much like your legs and torso are being gently squeezed by a blood pressure cuff. It is also a prime example of the amazing, unexpected opportunities I’m just starting to discover in my first two weeks as the Astronomy Intern at Great Basin National Park. My name is Brenna Rodriguez, and I love my job!
When I left my home in North Carolina and struck out alone on a 2,293 mile drive to Great Basin National Park, I was terrified of the uncertainties that reared up before me. Could I handle five days of forced solitude? Would I get harassed by a creepy stranger in the middle of nowhere? Would my car break down in the desert, miles from cell phone reception or services?
Fortunately, my fears proved to be unfounded, and the drive was fairly tame. Since arriving in Nevada, park staff and local residents have been incredibly welcoming, and I’ve been able to watch the town of Baker and the park itself come alive with wildflowers and tourists as the high-visitation season begins. Many of my first days in the park were spent shadowing interpretive cave and astronomy programs, hiking in slightly snowy weather, looking for fossils, and getting to know the folks who make a living in this slightly lonesome town.
Great Basin National Park is designated as an International Dark Sky Park, and has a huge variety of natural points of interest, including a network of wild caves and a developed cavern. Since I recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in geology, and am particularly interested in speleology and astrobiology, I am very excited to have access to the park’s natural resources. Through the summer, I hope to develop meaningful interpretive cave and astronomy programs, and look forward to cross-training with other divisions to gain a more in-depth understanding of the park.
I’m thrilled to be living and working in Great Basin National Park, and I look forward to sharing my discoveries with you!