There’s something about the National Park Service emblem and logo that just immediately allows people to trust whoever is wearing it. That’s what I think I’ve gathered most so far during this internship.
The Division of Resource Management and Science provides the expertise and sustainable management of Yosemite’s natural resources using science-based decision-making. Working as an intern for the Wildlife Management branch under this division, I get to act as eyes and ears for the park’s wildlife. Because of this, we rarely encounter or plan to interact with the public. However, that does not mean we don’t come across people while tracking turtles in the Valley of Yosemite, or pass people while hiking to a site.
I am fortunate and glad I have not experienced an emergency situation with a park visitor, as most of my interactions have been highly positive and educational! Every day has been different and my past front-country tour proved it! Here are some stories of experiences with the public (and actual animals) from my most recent tour and previous tours.
- An Aquatics crew employee and I were on private residence near Sierra National Forest land, placing traps in a pond to assist a phD study on Western pond turtles. As we were leaving the site, four hunting dogs came walking up to us, each wearing a GPS collar. They all looked thin and tired, though were very nice with us. Their owner was nowhere in site, as we waited for some sign of someone being out in the area. After calling the numbers on the dogs’ collars and receiving no answers, we decided to call the local sheriff’s office to have a deputy come take the dogs to animal control so their owner could be notified that their dogs were found. When speaking with the deputy, he thanked us for taking responsibility of the dogs and helping out.
- During off time, we took a break at the local fairgrounds where we would be camping for the duration of a tour. As we parked the park vehicle at our site, people immediately non-stop approached us to ask questions about the park, the fairgrounds, service, closest gas station, anything! At one point, someone wanted us to help them with the transmission of their RV! Even though we could not answer many of the questions as we were in an area we were not acquainted with, we helped out as much as we could.
- While walking through Yosemite Valley wearing headphones, carrying a receiver and antenna, people often come up and ask what we’re tracking. Once we’ve assured them that we are tracking turtles and not bears, their muscles relax and are at ease again knowing that a bear is not in the vicinity. On multiple occasions, people actually know about the reintroduction of the Western pond turtle to the park, which is exciting!
When people think about the National Park Service, they think of park rangers with the wide-brimmed hat in full uniform. I originally thought that too! Now, I think of all the important people and groups that work to create great experiences with our National Parks. This includes the park rangers, biologists, operators, retailers, bus drivers, scientists, interpreters, custodial, managers, receptionists, trail keepers, everyone! Though we all don’t have the park ranger uniform, we still all carry that same arrowhead emblem. We’re doing just as much work for people as we are for the actual job descriptions. I never would have thought that I would be helping return lost dogs, teaching people about the history of the herpetofauna in Yosemite, or showing someone on a map the closest gas station. Every day is different and that’s what makes this internship and working with the National Park Service so amazing. People really love the Park Service.
Weather in the desert is wild, so wild that you can see snow in June! A few days ago, I woke up to snowfall outside my window and all across the entire park. I couldn’t believe that only a week ago I was complaining about the dry desert heat. Some of you might be unimpressed by snow no matter the season but to put my excitement in context, both Virginia (where I go to school) and Guam (where I grew up) have very little to absolutely no snow. So this surprise snowfall was especially impressive for me!
Its the most wonderful time of the year – June! . . . Photo Credit: Ranger Jillian at the Big Nasty Trail today . . . ⛄⛄⛄ . . . #lavabedsnationalmonument #findyourpark #ilovelavabeds #nature #summersnow
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Inspired by the wild weather, a couple of other interns and I decided to go venture out and explore some caves. After crawling to the end of Valentine Cave, we turned off our lights and lied down on the cave floor in absolute darkness. At first, the dark and confined space is creepy but somehow in the quiet shadows I found myself feeling calm and almost on the brink of sleep. Even though I had already been inside a cave during my first week here at Lava Beds, I never paused to appreciate the solitude you can find within caves, solitude that is simultaneously eerie and relaxing.
After Valentine Cave, we set our sights on Golden Dome Cave, which is named after the glittering bacterial colonies that resemble golden dust and line the cave’s vast walls and ceilings. The bacteria are hydrophobic so water gathers as beads on top of them and the bacteria appear shiny. Before arriving at Lava Beds, I assumed caves were only colored in shades of gray and brown. Golden hues were the last thing on my mind but as I’ve learned, Lava Beds is full of surprises!
Take thirty seconds to look at this picture and tell me: What do you see? What do you think is happening? Describe how the environment is/feels? Students take a second to observe the picture. I think to myself how is this activity going to play out with the kids. This is my first time really working with such a large group of young kids, and I have no idea the level of interaction we will get. “If there is no participation then what? Kids don’t really feel the need to speak when it is awkward.” But just like that I saw many hands go up. I was so impressed by the amount of enthusiasm I saw in these kids faces. They really wanted to share their opinion, their views.
This week we welcomed a few new education team members. Throughout their training and familiarization, we went over visual learning and how we will be using it on a program on Friday. I was a little skeptical on how this new learning tool would work with fourth graders. I couldn’t really see how kids would interact with the activity. However, when I saw it in action I truly understood the power of allowing kids to discover the answers by themselves, like detectives. I also believe I underestimated these kids. Some of the questions and poems they came up with at the end of their activity, were incredible. The more experience I gain, it really reinforces my drive to fully commit to the educational field