After a week in the field, it is time to get back to the office. If you read my last blog post, you know we just did the biannual tortoise monitoring at Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park (PAAL), where I tagged along to deploy the tortoise radio tracking project. However, here at the Gulf Coast Network (GULN) of Inventory and Monitoring Program (I&M) office there are many projects rolling at the same time. The GULN is one of the thirty-two networks part of the Inventory and Monitoring Program of the National Park Service (see picture below). As the name suggests, the networks of the I&M program do inventories of the natural resources. They plan, design, and implement an integrated long-term monitoring program for the park vital signs. Vital signs are a subset of physical, chemical, and biological elements and processes of park ecosystems that are selected to represent the overall health or condition of park resources.
Our network, GULN, is responsible for eight national parks: Big Thicket National Preserve, Gulf Islands National Seashore, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Natchez Trace Parkway, Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park, Padre Island National Seashore, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, and Vicksburg National Military Park (see picture 2). I was able to “visit” all of them through the data entry of one vital sign, water quality. Well, to be very specific, PAAL does not have water quality monitoring, but because I literally just came back from there, I am going to say I visited them all.
Data entry is not the most exciting activity to do, but nevertheless, it is of much importance. All monitoring projects collect data in field sheets, however to be of any use the data needs to be added to the project database. Data entry is the first step for the information collected in the field to be turned into knowledge about the park. It was very interesting to see a snapshot of each park water quality status. I also learned about the differences of the monitoring schedule for our parks; some have every month, some bimonthly, and some quarterly. You can learn more about water quality monitoring for the GULN’s parks at https://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/guln/monitor/water_quality.cfm
Perks about working in a completely new place is that every day is an adventure, an opportunity to discover something new, a different perspective to view the world. I am fortunate to have the ability to explore the surrounding landscape on my days off. I am in Astoria, Oregon; it is the oldest town west of the Rockies as it was passed through by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Astoria was home to many Chinook and Clatsop natives. Astoria lies at the mouth of the Columbia River where it meets the Pacific Ocean. The water provides a prosperous environment for salmon which deposit rich nutrients for lush forests. As a result, Astoria was home to many salmon canneries and an important port for shipping resources such as lumber. Today, Astoria is an official Coast Guard city, with many ships coming into the port every day. Sea lions hang out on the docks and can be heard barking blocks away.
Astoria’s claim to Hollywood fame is The Goonies which is celebrated every year during National Goonies Day on June 7th. Featured below is the county jail from the movie which is now a film museum.
The historical sites throughout the city commemorate the people who have contributed to the rich history of fishing and boating. The Garden of Surging Waves celebrates the Chinese heritage of Astoria. I enjoy this park because it is a relaxing place to unwind and reflect.
The Astoria Column sits at the top of a hill in the middle of town and paints the history of Astoria. The column can be accessed by a few different hiking trails that connect parts of town. One of my favorite trails is behind Clatsop Community College and features artwork throughout the trail.
For a small town, there are a few sites to see but it is also accessible to many other places. I went camping at Saddle Mountain, approximately 45 minutes from Astoria. I embarked on the 3.5mi hike up the mountain at 5:30pm. The trail was extremely steep and treacherous as it was slippery from a creek running through it. Once near the top, clouds covered the peak and salty mist impaired my vision. Violent gusts of wind attempted to push me off the mountainside as I held on and continued to ascend the
peak. Finally, my body was eased with relief as I crawled to the top. The view was unclear, clouds surrounded the entire mountain and I could barely see five feet in front of me. The real challenge was getting down before sunset in a thick fog. I celebrated my victorious climb to Saddle Mountain with a fire and s’mores at my campsite near the base of the mountain. Who knows where this place will take me next, stay tuned!
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” -John Muir
“Young people and their phones, ugh!”
“Excuse me, can you take a photo of us?”
“I don’t want to hike all of that.”
“Where is the closest wifi?”
These are some of the things my family and I heard while walking around the more touristy areas of Yosemite National Park. For my internship, I don’t spend too much time in the Valley, where about 95% of visitors to the park hang out. I wanted to see more of the views that you typically see in photos of Yosemite, and it would give us some time to do some shorter day hikes, since my family isn’t a big camping or backpacking family for backcountry trails.
As we passed and interacted with other park visitors, we saw people in flip flops, jeans, single use plastic water bottles, sodas, and everything else in between that you wouldn’t expect to see while hiking. Besides the fact that some of those things are unsafe for certain trails, it reminds me that people experience national parks in different ways. Some visitors see a visit to a national park as a place to shop and walk around the main areas. Others see it as a place to do some backpacking and backcountry camping. Others even see it as a place to exist without actually interacting with it. None of these experiences are better or worse than others. All of these experiences are valid and should be protected and available in our national parks.
There are differences in ways that generations experience national parks as well. There is a stereotype that young people are disconnected from the natural world and don’t stop to appreciate it, which I beg to differ considering the widespread use of hashtags during the park centennial celebration or varying environmental movements. Selfie culture is a thing, but it can spread the word of the awesomeness of our parks! On the other side, there’s a stereotype that older generations don’t have the drive or mobility to get close with nature, and only want to experience it from their RV or bus. From my time in the park, I’ve seen tons of people that live in these stereotypes and also tons that break outside of them. Either way, people are visiting and contributing to the park! As long as the park remains accessible to all of those different experiences, the national park is doing its duty to allow people to see nature at its best. That includes people with handicaps and disabilities, people from other cultures with different languages, people with children, and so on. At Yosemite, I believe they are doing just that!
As a child I always liked looking at the different colored layers of soil on the side of recently eroded mountains. I enjoyed following a single layer as far as I could and watching the line of the layer randomly curve and straighten out. I liked looking at the soil horizons as the sun would hit them with its rays and they would glisten back. I was taken back to this as I helped the park’s archaeologist analyze the soil horizons visible from the creek trying to unravel stories and events of the past.
^ Here’s a picture of the archaeologist determining which color the soil was using a soil color book for classification.
For the first image:
After wetting and mixing the soil, it was analyzed by following a table and running a couple tests such as the ribbon test. The table helps determine what type of soil it is based on its physical characteristics.
I have been inspired to write a rap for you:
I can barely see past, the reed canary grass
The river is just ahead, if only the Pharlaris would drop dead
Third week out here, I’ve spotted a few deer
Learning about weed whacking, even some elk tracking
Mud in my boots, pulling out invasive roots
I am sent out here to kill; tomorrow I will need an advil
Lewis and Clark made their mark, here at this park.
Now its my turn to impress, WAIT HOLD UP, sorry to transgress
This rap is about weeds, so I shall proceed about stopping seeds
This is the optimal time, for pulling baby vines
Holly, laurel, and blackberry, do not belong in the prairie
Nor in the temperate rainforest, that I am exploring
Now its easy to get mixed up, not talking about a buttercup
Rubus laciniatus, urinus, and discolor, now to tell them apart from each other
Himalayan blackberry (R. discolor) has a robust stem with heavy prickles
Bear with me and my riddles
Cutleaf (R. laciniatus) have five serrate, lobed leaflets
Both of these sweet berries pose serious threats
We have to protect our native plants, preserve the forests,
the wetlands and even the hornets.
Invasive species control is important,
I hope rapping made this info absorbent.
If not, just remember…
NPS is the best, forget all the rest!
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve gotten the opportunity to share the skills I’ve be gaining, with my supervisor and a couple other scientists. Raven Pro, Kaleidoscope, SongMeter are all very different softwares that are unfamiliar to researchers in Everglades, and the South Florida and Caribbean Inventory and Monitoring Network. It is quite rewarding to know that I am helping pave a new path in how data can be collected and analyzed. Acoustic ecology is still a relatively new field and I’m glad that the skills on gained during my internship in Alaska, last summer, are allowing me to make an impact at here at the SFCN.
During my time here at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park I will be helping to get the Cuyahoga River designated as an official national water trail, which is defined as a recreational route along a lake, river, canal or bay specifically designated for people using small boats like kayaks, canoes or SUPs. Obviously during my short stay here the designation won’t happen, but I will be gathering information on things like user counts, access points for the river, and water quality, and organizing it into useful data. At the park we have three main “unofficial” access points that people use to get onto the river. The Cuyahoga River is roughly 104 miles long, and 22 of those miles go through the park. Which means getting this river designated as an official national water trail is a group effort between the park and other groups along the river. So far I’ve really been focusing on these, and trying to find other ones within the park.
But this week I was able to go view other access points on the river that are within the watershed. We took pictures and completed site evaluation forms for the four access points we visited in the neighboring county. It was pretty cool to go and visit other access points along the river and know that all the information I’m gathering and helping to organize is going towards this super awesome goal of a national water trail!
Science is often valued as a way to understand how the world works and leverage that understanding to better human society. Yet, there is growing mistrust in science among the public. Some people see science as pretentious, elitist, or misleading; this attitude is frankly dangerous.
Interpretation can play a significant role in repairing the relationship to science as I learned during my three days of training at Yosemite National Park. Together with some amazing individuals from the Klamath Inventory and Monitoring Network, I attended two of the Bat Chat programs at Yosemite. The Bat Chats combined scientific data collection with interpretative talks by recording echolocation calls with visitors while sharing information about bats. The data collected from the Bat Chat was then incorporated into a long-term acoustic monitoring program to examine the effects of climate change or habitat disruption on bat species. Visitors were able to actively engage in the scientific process rather than passively observe it. Because both interpreters and visitors were collecting data together, there was less of an us-them hierarchy between citizens and scientists. By intertwining bat biology with personal experience, the interpreters constructed genuine emotional connections to scientific facts. You could see visitors’ faces light up and hear them ooh and ah when we heard bats! This upcoming week I’ll be incorporating the lessons on science communication from Yosemite to improve on my own Bat Walk program.
These last couple of adventures have been a blast!!! I have seen Wolves, Black Bears, Elk, Antelope and even Bison all in the same day!! We were on hikes with the wolf monitoring teams in Yellowstone. We were in search of wolf clusters which are where they slept or stayed for a certain amount of time either on a kill or just laying around getting some sun. We then went on with an amphibian crew and went on the search for tadpoles, frogs, and salamanders. It was a very fun time a good amount of hiking too. We will be starting our independent research projects in the following week so I am excited to start that,