Certain experiences in your life can create such an impact on who you are and where your passions lie. I was lucky enough to grow up camping, hiking, and travelling with my family and friends often. Through those cherished memories I found my passion for exploring wild places and conserving wildlife. My name is Saba Rahman and I grew up in Maryland where I have had the opportunity to explore and become familiar with the habitats and wildlife seen in this region and am excited to immerse myself in a national park in a neighboring state, Virginia. I graduated from the University of Maryland in 2016 with a degree in environmental science and policy with a concentration in wildlife ecology and management. I was involved in the Wildlife Society at UMD and was also part of a co-ed service fraternity. Through these organizations I had a lot of opportunities to do a variety of service work, which was a big part of why I enjoyed my time at UMD. Overall, I had great experiences at UMD and I hope to use both the knowledge I gained and experience I had to help me excel in my position this summer.
This summer I have the opportunity to work at Manassas National Battlefield Park as a Biological Technician Intern. I will be working with grassland birds and performing habitat management at the park. I am so excited to work with the wildlife biologist at the park and get to learn from her and get hands on experience performing research in a national park. I hope to improve my fieldwork techniques and my ability to display data in a more accessible way through GIS and other programs. I have done fieldwork on Poplar Island on the Chesapeake Bay before and I absolutely loved it and can not wait to head to Virginia. The picture below is of me holding a diamondback terrapin when I was out on Poplar Island and I can not wait to take more pictures in the field and share them with you all. I have always wanted to work with the National Park Service and I am so happy the Mosaics program has now given me the chance to do so. Looking forward to growing and learning as much as I can this summer!
Along with every field researchers, there are people in the office who receive the data collected in the field and put the data to use. Data is interpreted and organized in graphs, tables, and even maps. ArcGIS is commonly used to visually represent data that is collected in the field. This is important for several reasons: One reason is that once data is put onto maps, you can get a visual representation of the area that was surveyed and develop hypotheses as to how it may affect the data that was collected. Another reason is the area that was surveyed can be re-visited in the future. The maps can assure the accuracy of your location once in the field.
Interpretation of data is a very important step of developing proper solutions to environmental issues that are being studied. I took part in ArcGIS training to learn how data is manipulated to be displayed on maps. Along with this training, I also enrolled in classes that taught the importance of the National Park Service and its employees.
I have had the absolute pleasure of spending my week with a group of 13 curious young scientists, their awesome counselors, and the creative Point Reyes Science Adventure program manager. The Point Reyes National Seashore Association, a non-profit associated with the park, annually hosts around 13 high school aged students at the park for the week-long Point Reyes Science Adventure!
We began our adventures with a plant assessment of the Giacomini Wetlands by using 1×1 m quadrats. The Giacomini Wetlands is a special place because it is the site of a successful restoration project that began in 2007. We were out there to help the park collect annual data that will then be processed to analyze the change in the plant species distribution over the course of the past year.
The next day we took the young scientists out into the field to seine fish. Seining is the process of catch and release fishing by using a wide net that is vertically placed into and then stretched across a body of water. We were helping the park’s fish biologist assess the success of the Giacomini Wetland restoration by looking for indicator species, such as the Yellowfin Goby. We sampled three different sites where the students were taught to identify and handle the fish. The third site was a ways into the muddy and breathtaking Giacomini Wetland. For most of the students, this was their first time trudging through this type of ecosystem. If y’all recall from my last week’s post, wetlands and marshes tend to want to swallow boots whole and can make some feel defeated by its tricks. It requires a lot of teamwork, communication, and patience. Given this challenge, the students were in high spirits and were impressed with their own abilities to persevere in the name of science and adventure. It was incredible to watch!
On Friday, the students participated in a state-wide monitoring program called LiMPETS. LiMPETS, Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students, is a program that engages young people in citizen science to monitor the health of the California coasts. A good indicator species for ocean and beach health is the mole crab, also called the sand crab. These are cute little invertebrates that burrow into the sand along the swash zone of the beach. The students set up their stations and cored for mole crabs at 1 m intervals along a 10 m transect.
Once the sand was sieved through, a bunch of mole crabs would appear! The students recorded the gender and carapace length of the mole crab. All of this data was then inputted into the online LiMPET database that is then used to assess California coastal health. This was an incredibly rewarding experience because, by inputting the data online and creating graphs, the students were able to instantly see the impact they were having on such an important health assessment.
Fortunately, my week with these folks is not over, and tomorrow I will be going back out with them into Lagunitas Creek to record its bathymetry!
Have you ever seen a bee up close? What if I told you that I was able to take a detailed picture of one. Thanks to my handy iPhone I am able to show all of you the characteristics you can’t see with a naked eye. Shown below is an up close up view of a bee and its wing. In order to identify a bee, characteristics must be examined under the microscope and an identification guide is used to match descriptions explained in the book. It becomes a tedious process as the descriptions become more specific and the list of possible species narrows down.
Besides my role in identifying bees this summer, I have been tasked to do a presentation on citizen science programs that visitors can get involved with for a entomology workshop on Saturday. Anyone can be citizen scientist and people like you are needed to collect data to further help researchers understand what is happening to animal populations. There are a lot of opportunities to get involved with projects and I encourage you spread the word about it. The workshop that we are in doing is to teach educators about entomology, but also encourage them to incorporate the resources we give them into their school curriculum for their students. We hope that students grow to appreciate insects for what they do for our environment.
“Consider the sea turtle when you boat where they feed;
injuries can be avoided if we just reduce our speed.
Consider the sea turtle when you’re at the beach;
trash, holes and castles make the sea hard to reach.
Consider the sea turtle when installing outdoor lights;
they misguide hatchlings when they are high and bright.
Consider the sea turtle when you shop at the store;
plastic bags are deadly when they float beyond our shore.
Consider the sea turtle when you spend the day fishing;
lines, hooks and nets can prevent them from swimming.
Consider the sea turtle when using balloons;
if they land in the water they cause certain doom.
Consider the sea turtle when you want to fertilize;
runoff from rain will cause bad algae to rise.
Consider the sea turtle and work together;
because our actions can impact sea turtles forever.”
When my friend Ashley shared this poem with me all I could do was smile. I love how it addresses major issues in a simple, understanding way. This poem is a great example of how we can inform the public and get them interested enough to pay attention to these topics. With minimal effort on our part, we can have BIG impacts on our surroundings.
If you want to be precise and/or accurate you need to test, evaluate results, improve, and test again until you are satisfied with the outcome. This is basically what I have been doing the past two weeks. I had been developing a harness for a microGPS unit which will be attached to tortoises. Concurrently to the radio tracking, the GPS project will also study the Texas tortoises (Gopherus berlandieri) of the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park (PAAL). The radio tracking project gives us a once-a-month snapshot of the activities and location of the tracked tortoises. The microGPS will record 5 locations per day at specific times; 7am, 11am, 1pm, 4pm, and 7pm. This increases the temporal information for the selected tortoise.
I started creating the prototypes using play-doh. After I created the desired shape, I realized that it weighed too much and would not work for our small tortoises. (If you missed my other blog posts, the Texas tortoises are the smallest tortoise species in the United States.) Using aluminum foil as the base and the play-doh to protect the microGPS prongs, the envisioned harness prototype was created. Nevertheless, play-doh and aluminum foil are unfit for the desert environment, so I had to upgrade my materials. Ten models later, using aluminum sheet and epoxy the harness was created.
Simultaneously to the development of the harness, we were also testing the accuracy of the GPS. On the first test, we mimicked different environments that the tortoise can be found: open area, under coarse vegetation, and inside of a woodrat midden. Unfortunately our results were very disappointing. After contacting the technical support and changing microGPS settings we got better outcomes. Next week, 2 microGPS units will be deplyed in Brownsville for some field test.
Stay tuned, the next blog post will be about the June field trip to Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park.
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
Standing tall as one of nation’s most prominant symbols, is the bald eagle. While this bird has been delisted as an endangered species, it is still in a federal monitoring stage. Here at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park visitors and employees who have been around for atleast the past ten years have gotten a chance to see these beautiful creatures in person. Since 2007 a pair of bald eagles have lived here in the Northern end of the park. Since that time they have produced 14 eaglets. In February of this year the eggs of the 13th and 14th ones were layed, and by late march they were hatched. Since around the time of the eggs being layed this section of the park has been closed off to visitors, to give the parenting eagles and newborns a less stressful environment.
This past week I was able to acompany my ranger to this closed off section to try and view the young eagles, and see if they were now flying well enough for us to be able to open the section back up. Although we didn’t see all four of the eagles we were fortunate enough to see what we believe was the adult male eagle, and a young one. We were able to see it fly and judge that it would be safe to open the section back up so visitors could come in for a personal look! These birds are beautiful to see and its an incredibly opportunity to have.