Today marks the completion of my first week as a Biological Technician with Lassen Volcanic National Park (LAVO), and I can say with certainty that it exceeded all expectations I had. LAVO, which was established as a national park by Congress in 1916, encompasses approximately 200 square miles of magnificent, jaw-dropping scenery. It lies on the southern end of the Cascade Range, and represents four distinct types of volcanoes within its boundaries: dome, shield, cinder, and composite. The park also homes countless unique flora including the Whitebark Pine, which will be my focus as I delve into the field season.
Reflecting on my first week, I am extremely grateful for all the experiences I have had thus far. My first day consisted of a hike to Ridge Lakes where the snowpack was deep, an exciting experience for someone used to the beach. We trekked to the top (~8,700’) and I was immediately overcome by how breathtaking the view was. Nestled in the saddle of two peaks, I looked around and saw an expanse of snow-covered trees, a thawing lake, and Mt. Shasta in the distance.
The next day was filled to the brim with learning native flora. I was able to see countless unique wildflowers happily blooming after a snowy winter. Wednesday and Thursday were field days. I aided a crew in removing invasive species affecting the park. This was a really fun experience for me because we were able to go to areas of the park that were hardly trafficked by humans. I find myself stopping every once in a while to take a deep breath, and take in how lucky I am to be here.
Aside from the beauty of the park, the people who work here are also a huge part of what’s made my first week so enjoyable. Everyone is very friendly and welcoming here. On Tuesday’s they play softball which was a great way to get to know everyone and have some fun after a long work day. As I wrap up my first week, I know I will have my work cut out for me here, but the reward of being able to live in such a beautiful region is more than worth it. I am eager to see what the rest of my time here will consist of.
Ever left something outside and bugs get into it? For my project bowls were left outside for a day, and look what I caught. After a struggling task to figure out coordinates for our transects Desi and I were able to put out bee bowls for one of the sites at the Dunes this week. The coordinates I am talking about are locations that were used in a previous survey study done in 2011. When we first went out into the field to find the pre-set coordinates on our GPS, the accuracy was off by 10 ft. From what data we had, the previous researches that did the study were not accurate as well. For some projects in science, precision is not a key component in some aspects. The area we were in had good diversity and abundance of flowers for bees. The next day we went back to points we set to put out bee bowl traps filled with soapy water. I have mentioned in previous blogs that colored bowls are used imitate flowers to attract bees and soapy water prevents surface tension when bees land. 24 hours passed and the bowls were collected. Shown below is what was collected. These traps can attract any insect besides bees. Collected specimens were placed into a freezer for further processing. The fun part will be sorting what was collected to find bees.
The days were already longer to begin with than what I was previously used to in Los Angeles. However, now that summer is here, I’m finding myself outside for longer periods of time as the days go by. Summer days in Colorado have so far proven themselves to be incredibly gorgeous and filled with good vibes. Although summer monsoon season is approaching, the past couple of weeks have been full of sun and blue skies with sprinkled clouds throughout.
This last week saw the first testing of activities for the Florissant Fossils Beds Geo/Paleo camp I am developing. On Friday, we had a group of teachers at the monument culminating their 5-day workshop on climate change. My supervisor and I thought it would be a good idea to experiment the activity I have on paleoclimate. The activity requires students to identify a set of fossil plants from the Florissant formation using a dichotomous key. Once the fossils plants are identified, students are given data of the temperature and precipitation ranges for modern plant species that are related to the plant fossils of Florissant. From there, students can narrow down a range for temperature and precipitation in which all plant species can thrive in. Once the students have calculated those ranges, I tell them the average annual temperature and precipitation of Florissant today. They are then able to make their own conclusions that during the Eocene, the climate of Florissant valley was much hotter and wetter. Even though the age range for the activity is intended for 3rd-5th grade, the teachers had a blast and were even requesting the activity be made available online so that teachers across the nation can access it.
As if the teachers’ enthusiasm and support for my camp development wasn’t enough excitement for one week, I also had visitors come through. On Thursday, I hosted Cristina Ramírez and Jennifer Orellana from the NPS regional offices in Lakewood, CO. Cristina and Jennifer are interns with the Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP), which is a partnership with the National Park Service, Environment for the Americas and Hispanic Access Foundation. It was great to show them around the Fossil Beds and introduce them to the Geo/Paleo camp I have been working on. Then on Friday afternoon, Lily Calderón and Chu-Yu of Environment for the Americas also stopped by for a visit. It was incredible meeting both of them and hearing Lily’s experience as a Mosaics In Science intern in 2016 served as inspiration and motivation. Needless to say, I feel incredibly
blessed to have met such beautiful and inspiring people this past week!
On a non-work related note, I finally was able to go rock climbing with some of the other interns at Florissant Fossil Beds. Shelf Road off the Gold Belt Byway in Central Colorado is notorious for world class sport climbing. My first time rock climbing in Colorado was a success!
I’ve always wondered if I had the patience to be a birder. On Thursday of this week, I found that with a bit more sunblock, I definitely did.
My supervisor here in the Interpretation Division has organized times for me to partner with another park department, Resource Management, once a week in what has already proven to be an incredibly enriching experience. Each Thursday I will be working on a different project in their division; an opportunity I hope will help me create a greater synthesis between the various facets of the Park and better inform my interpretive programs.
As the science education intern here at Rocky, I have a slightly different role than some of the other interpretive interns. In addition to my talks, hikes and roving, I don’t work in visitors centers, but rather have additional opportunities to engage with the scientific work and research being conducted in the park to integrate into my programming. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to work with these extra departments – and get extra time in the outdoors.
This week I assisted one of the head wildlife biologists on a raptor survey in the Fern Lake area of Moraine Park. We were looking for confirmation that a pair of Peregrine
falcons occupying the area along Arch Rocks at the ends of the trailhead had begun their nesting period.
Raptor surveying and field observations require infinite patience and a comfort with silence. For four hours, a timeline established by US Fish and Wildlife for observation periods, we sat in near silence, using our binoculars and spotting scopes to identify potential perches and nests. It can make one antsy, but seeing two peregrines – a truly remarkable bird – along with a slew of other raptors and a surprise eagle nest was incredibly rewarding in a way that I wouldn’t have expected bird-watching to be. Learning how to identify specific birds, their nesting patterns and the importance of this work to maintaining the ecological integrity of Rocky gave me exposure to and an appreciation of an often hidden side of Rocky for someone working in the public face of the Park.
National Parks are incredible areas where we’re able to preserve these beautiful environments and continue them sustainably, with as little impact as possible even with the public and recreational activities going on. While this may sound to some like an easy task of just putting aside some land and not doing anything too damaging, it takes a lot of work and management from devoted people. During my stay here at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park my role in that is taking water samples and testing them. This helps us to see bacteria levels in the water, and convey this to the public who are increasingly interested. I’ve also been helping out with butterfly counts, which is something this park has been doing for the past ten plus years, to help monitor the numbers of butterflies and their species.
Recently I helped one of the environmental protection specialists when she went out in the field to check on some sites here on the park. Most of the time we walked through a creek which got pretty deep at times, to get to the different spots, so it’s a good thing we wore our waders! We went to six different locations where we monitored the ground water and the creek water levels. This was pretty cool to do because I got to see different parts of the park that I wasn’t able to yet, and it was definitely off the beaten path which was fun!
When we were measuring the stream levels we used the gauge (left photo) that was in the water. At this site we can see the stream was measuring roughly one foot and seven inches high. When measuring the ground water levels we used the dipmeter (right photo). This measuring tool has a water sensitive tip, so that when it touches water it emits a high pitch noise, that way we know its reached the ground water and we’re able to measure it’s height. All of this is in an effort to keep track of this area’s water levels and their quality, which is all a part of the Environmental Management System (EMS) plan for the park. Without monitoring our environment and making sure we follow safe practices and act sustainably, there wouldn’t be a good environment for our national parks. So, while its great to go and camp in these areas, kayak, bike, etc…, we’ve got to remember to try and practice the “leave no trace” so that our environment is here for future visitors to enjoy the same way!
I’ve officially started recording! I got my best recordings from birds at Clingman’s Dome, the highest point at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fun facts about Clingman’s Dome is that at 6,643 ft, it is the highest point in Tennessee and the highest point east of the Mississippi. Since it’s so high, the temperature and vegetation can differ 10 ° to 20°F cooler from lower elevations. When you look around you notice that a spruce-fir coniferous rainforest dominate the view and smell. It literally smells likes Christmas along the trail.
There’s an observation tower to which is a paved trail and only 0.5 mile. Since it sounded reasonable easy, I thought “It shouldn’t be that hard”, and here I am writing as how I was a wrong. It’s short but very steep, I had to stop on almost every bench. I did stop to catch my breath, but also for the view. As you look around, you can find yourself in front of the most beautiful mountain range view ever.
Since it was packed with people I was a bit concerned of pulling out my microphone and start to record. It was sure going to get a lot of attention. On my way down, I started listening some interesting and different bird calls. I just had to recorded record it, so I just put my shyness away and pulled the equipment out. I could notice people, especially the kids looking all curious for the equipment but they were more entertained with the spectacular view. I did got 2 people asked me questions about it.
As I hiked back to the parking lot, I noticed there were other trails, Andrew’s bald. One of the interns from the Visitor Center had mentioned how beautiful it was. It was another short trail so I decided to go on this one. The Andrews Bald trail is part of Forney Ridge Trail and part as well of the main Appalachian Trail, which crosses Clingmans Dome, marking the highest point along its journey from
I appreciated the solicitude of this trail. I got to listen to different birds and saw some funny squirrels! As I arrived to Andrew’s Bald, there were not many people on the area so I catched my breath to a beautiful view of a cloudy yet clear view of the Appalachian Trail. The blue mist along the range of mountain looked magnificent.
It was already sunset time and I got to appreciate this beauty along my drive back home.
“You are not in the mountains, the mountains are in You” – John Muir