In the National Park Service, there are a lot of acronyms and buzz words used to describe entities and procedures. I compiled a list of lingo that are thrown around the office and in the field:
Arrowhead: The National Park Service emblem
Bioswail: area of plants and soil to capture sediment before they reach the water source
Blowdown: a tree or trees that have been blown down by the wind or other factors.
“It is best to avoid blowdown while walking through the forest.”
Cut stump: Using loppers to cut woody stems and apply a herbicide to stunt growth
Dbh: stands for diameter at breast height, is a measuring tape.
Epp: a sound made by a crewmember to locate other members or call for assistance in the forest
1 epp= hey! 2epps= come over here 3epps= emergency or cool mushroom
GAR: Operational risk management assessment procedure that ranks 8 categories green, amber, or red to determine mitigation
Garlon: Herbicide used for cut stump treatments
GIS: geographic information systems capture, store, manipulate, and analyze spatial data
GPS: global positioning system
HAGA: a rangefinder used to measure the height of trees and forest canopy.
Hori-hori: Japanese soil knife that is very sharp and useful for removing blackberry shrubs
Nurse log: a fallen tree that decays and provides nutrients to support other trees
Organic Act of 1916: the federal that established the National Park Service
“…to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
PIV: Personal identity verification card for US Federal employees that takes a long process to obtain
PNW: Pacific Northwest
PPE: Personal protective equipment such as goggles or gloves
Snag: dead tree that has fallen or at a 40 degree angle
SPE: severity, probability, and exposure for assessing risk of injury
Surfactant: a chemical solution mixed with herbicide to stick to the plant it is applied to
Transect: a line in which people walk along that is representative of the larger site usually for invasive work or vegetation monitoring
Tree hugging: literally hugging trees or measuring a tree using a dbh measuring tape (see dbh)
VC: Visitor Center
VIP: Volunteer-in-Parks program for people to get involved in the national parks
WASO: Washington Support Office is the NPS national headquarters which provide services to the regional offices and coordinate with other agencies
YCC: Youth Conservation Corps is a summer youth program
The past few weeks I have been entering data, checking field logs for quality assurance, and searching for shapefiles. As much as I love data, it was a long tedious process that I celebrated when it was completed. On Tuesday, I got to change up my office environment to the East fork of the Lewis River. My supervisor, Carla, and I joined other scientists and professionals at a Science Work Group Trip organized by the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership. We started to canoe at La Center, Washington and continued along the river to a couple of restoration sites to learn about the progress of other projects and network.
The first stop was a brief tour of the La Center restoration site. The site was lush with native plantings and had been under water for a majority of the winter and spring. The willow trees were looking healthy and the reed canary grass growth had been stunted for the long duration of inundation. This site was particularly intriguing because it looked similar to the restoration site I have been analyzing data for. We learned about their management techniques and returned to paddle downriver. The second project was at Plas Newydd farm and Wapato Valley Mitigation Bank, an 876-acre restoration. The plan was impressive; recreating channels for salmonids, reestablishing habitats for Streaked Horned Lark, promoting growth of Oregon White Oak, and securing turtle nesting areas. After the presentation we enjoyed lunch underneath massive sequoia trees. The day on the river was the perfect escape from the confines of my desk, but more importantly, I got to talk to scientists who are dedicated to the work they do inspiring me to continue my career in natural resource management. When you love what you do, it is not work anymore. It is joy.
My focus project here at Manassas National Battlefield park is assisting with and creating a management plan for the Northern Bobwhite Quail. We started our Quail habitat vegetation surveys this week and I am very excited to collect more information and data to create a management plan! We also went to a training on trapping this week and did some planting but I want to share all the exciting things I learned about Quail habitat first!
Our habitat surveys are done mid-July to early August in order to ensure the warm season grasses are mature and mowing has not occurred yet. Mowing in grassland habitat is limited in the park and must be done mid-August or after in order to ensure Quail nests are not destroyed. We have 19 survey sites around the park and we need to go to each and obtain data in the North, South, East, and West directions. When we are obtaining data we use a tape measure and walk 20 meters out from our starting point. Then at 2 meter intervals we use a densiometer and record what we see such as grasses, forbs, bare ground, etc. A fun fact is that our densiometer is just an empty toilet roll holder to narrow your sight to a specific circle! We have been working on our grass and plant identification skills and have been using field guides that we created and books to help us out. You can see how we perform the surveys, record the data, and all the supplies we take out with us in the pictures below. It has been really fun getting started on the surveys and I’m hoping my identification skills keep improving as we get through all 19 sites.
The Department of the Interior also held a training called Trapping Matters at Monocacy National Battlefield Park which we all attended. I have assisted with trapping of mammals in the past but I only learned about two different types of traps so this was really interesting to learn how to trap other types of animals with different methods. Trapping can be used for a variety of reasons including scientific research, nuisance control, recreation, and wildlife management to conserve another species. We saw different types of traps including cage, foot holds, snares, and more. I did not know how much there was behind trapping as it is very strategic and labor intensive. The strategy behind trapping is so important to being able to trap an animal because you have to estimate the path the animals are taking along with the right attractant in order to be successful. It is very labor intensive as the best site to trap at may be hard to get to and besides setting the trap you have to come back every single day to check the trap. I did not know how difficult trapping was and how hard it is to estimate the patterns of various species.
Overall, I learned a lot this week and I really enjoy having the opportunity to participate in these training’s because there is so much to learn about natural resource management. Looking forward to learning more about Quail habitat management next week!
Often, even when surrounded the immense beauty on display in our national parks, the highlight of your day will be the people you meet. The people visiting the parks are friendly, always have a story of their own to share, and their curiosity and enthusiasm for nature is refreshing.
Three volunteers posing with two NOCA interns.
The highlight of the past week with the cascades butterfly project has been our volunteer training event, where many of these interesting, enthusiastic, and curious visitors had their first chances to come and spend a day surveying our butterfly populations. Our training even was aimed at familiarizing volunteers with our sampling methods so that they can successfully participate in future surveys, and the turnout was great. A diverse group of volunteers came from all over Washington came to learn, and some came from as far as New York. The things that linked these people; a love for nature, a great attitude, and a will to help conserve natural things
After a long vacation, I came back revitalized and ready to dive into my project: monitoring and restoring whitebark pine populations. This week consisted of preparing for field sampling by learning standard protocols and creating GIS maps from pre-existing data and regional information to guide me when I am out conducting surveys. Being someone who needs to be outside the majority of my waking hours, I learned that you can’t have field work without administrative (and sadly, indoor) work. Some days I spent in the office reading countless technical documents, analyzing and organizing data in ArcGIS, and familiarizing myself with local flora and fauna. Other days allowed me to go in the field, to actualize that knowledge, and “learn by doing” (side-note: go CalPoly Mustangs!). I refreshed my memory with measuring diameters and heights of trees, identified various plant and tree species, and practiced locating and setting up plots for sampling. All of this went into preparing me for when I start monitoring for the effects of white pine blister rust next week.
So far, though I have barely explored the park, I am already amazed by its diversity. I am thrilled to get started on my sampling now that the snow has melted off the majority of high elevation areas and see the effects Cronartium ribicola on a unique keystone species. This eagerness fuels me on days when I am stuck in the office, longing to be outdoors, like I know most can relate to. Most of all, I am excited for my ‘real’ learning to begin. Now that I have completed my bachelor’s degree and am acclimating to the professional realm, I find myself swimming in the specialized knowledge of my colleagues, trying to take in every bit of information I can. Sometimes in this barrage of knowledge I find myself feeling inferior, wishing I was as smart as my fellow workers. During these times I remind myself that what I know is not nearly as important as what I am capable of learning, and once I stop pursuing that knowledge is when I have lost. Everybody starts somewhere, but it is grit, the motivation to keep reaching towards a long-term goal, that separates successful versus “unsuccessful” people. In other words, don’t give up!
You need to try some new things once in a while and it may turn out fun. There is a lot fun involved with seeing smiling kids. We were all at the Porter County fair working a shift at the National Park Service booth. We were making making buttons for kids. We had different logos of animals for kids to color. We put it through the button making machine and they got it to wear. Many adults wanted to get on the fun and they made buttons as well. Other visitors talked to us about their experiences at the dunes. Most of them were more intrigued by the buttons. It was a good change change of pace to get a chance to interact with visitors on off-site events.
Trying to accomplish everything can be also a daunting task. Helping other interns with their project as important because it benefit both of them. I helped one of the other intern collect data on her vernal pool project. My role was taking canopy converge in areas and taking photos of plant species around the wetland for her botanist friend to identify. I also observed how to take GPS coordinates with different GPS units, and learned more about how to classify soil. The characteristics of soil were different depending where the sample was taken. For each vernal pool, which is a type of seasonal wetland, soil cores were taking on the inner and outer boundaries of the area. These characteristics further contribute to classifying vernal pools from other wetlands. With the last week of this experience in full spring, how can this end so soon.
It is time to go back to Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park (PAAL) again. But before I tell some of the great things that happened during the July trip I want to tell you a little about what happens in between the trips.
The journey between Lafayette, LA and Brownsville, TX takes approximately 9 to 10 hours each way. It is imperative that we make the money and time spent worth it. During the drive back, last time, William Finney, the network field biologist, and I spend a great amount of time talking about this project. You can’t imagine how much inspiration you can have when you are confine to a small space. The intention of this internship project is to implement, test, and evaluate the design of the radio tracking project which will continue beyond the summer. I can’t express how happy I’m to have the opportunity of giving my inputs to a project that will help improve the decisions made to manage the natural resources of one of our beautiful National Parks.
Between trips there is a lot of work to do, however when you know that what you do DOES make a difference and can have REAL impact on the results of science discoveries it is all worth. After processing our field data, pictures, GPS points, writing the trip report, and having project meetings we decided to modify the project design, and tracking procedures. I’m confident that the project changes will greatly improve the quality of this project results. So there you go, now that you know a little more what happens behind the scenes let’s talk about of highlights of this trip.
Contrary to popular belief tortoises do not walk super slowly. Here you can see one of our tracked animals in turbo mode.
Tortoises and snakes have the same hiding spots. This can be very dangerous if you are not extremely careful during you field work.
Tiny tortoises are adorable.
Doesn’t matter if you have a transmitter on you, there will always be a male that is attracted to you.
Contrary to the more common way of fishing ‘hook, line, sinker’, there is electro-fishing! Electro-fishing is a method used for scientific surveys of fish populations. Using direct current electricity you can create an electric field that stuns nearby fish. This makes it incredibly easy to net them. Once they’re netted you store them in the live well while you continue your survey, in which time they usually start to come back to normal.
When you’re finished collecting fish in your survey area then you can start to identify them. You keep track of the different types of species found and how many. Depending on the fish size, they may also be weighed and measured.
Knowing what types of fish are there and in what abundance really helps to inform you on water quality. Fish that are more reliant on clean water and are pollutant sensitive are a good sign. While having a profound amount of pollutant tolerant fish might mean higher pollution in the water.
These waterways are vital to the ecosystem, as are the fish that live in it, so these surveys really help to give us a good idea of the good and bad changes that’re happening in that environment.
Never have I ever seen a bat up close. At least until last week! I attended a workshop that was held right here at Lava Beds National Monument on field survey techniques to study bats. One of the survey techniques discussed during the workshop was mist-netting. Mist-netting relies on the element of surprise to capture bats in a wall of thin netting. Although I didn’t have my rabies vaccine and was unable to handle bats, I held the honor of being the data scribe. We noted the sex, age, and reproductive status of each captured bat. In addition, we measured the bat’s forearm length and body weight. Based on qualitative characteristics such as tail structure or fur, we were able to identify the species which each bat belonged. However, some bat species look so similar that the only way to decisively pinpoint their species is through acoustic identification. After releasing the captured bat, we recorded its echolocation calls and used software called SonoBatLIVE to automatically classify the bat based on the call characteristics. SonoBatLIVE is the same program I use during my Bat Walk interpretative programs so I was excited to see it in a different context.
I had heard the sharp chatters of over fifty bats tucked into a tight crevice. I had seen thousands of bats emerge out of a cave. But I was able to really get up close and personal with a bat even if I couldn’t physically touch it. By doing so, I busted the most widely held myth about bat: the belief that they aren’t cute. I call them ugly-cute. Like a pug or bulldog. Here’s to hoping that these photos can convince you!
On late July I started editing on the computer all the good recordings I’ve been collecting over the past couple of weeks. Harsh thing about field work is that after you spend a good couple of hours, and return to the office to check out the audio, turns out only a couple are good. And the number reduce even more so, when you polish it via a spectrogram using the software, Audacity.
Field work is still going with more stationary recorders, which can capture for more hours throughout the day. This way, it captures more birds and other critters like mice, squirrels and bugs. I learned how to use them recently the other day just for 2 hours. Now I just have to listen to the data and check out what kind of sounds !
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs