9,000 Ft., that was my elevation for one of the days that I spent in the field this past week. We were on the search for Whitebark Pine trees. This type of tree is currently under the attack of a disease called blister rust and by the Mountain Pine Beetles that are attacking them and using the trees as food and a place to live also. We also started taking tree cores for my independent research. These tree cores sampled can show the age, and the conditions of the tree. Its really awesome to see a tree`s history. During the following weeks will be continuing the same type of work. I am excited to continue my research on Whitebark Pine!!!
An invasive species is any plant, insect, fungi, bacteria or animal that is not native to a specific ecosystem. It can even include an organism’s seeds or eggs that doesn’t naturally occur in a specific area. Invasive species are usually spread by humans, often unintentionally. Since humans have the ability to travel to and from different places, we often bring along hitchhikers. Invasive species can stowaway in or on boat, wood, plants, and even our clothing and vehicles. Some invasive species are accidentally or intentionally released which is most commonly seen in the pet trade. Pets sometimes get lost, or some people realize that they can no longer care for that particular pet, and release it into the wild, disregarding the potential conflicts. Invasive species can wreak havoc on an ecosystem as they can out-compete native species for food and other resources.
Some species can be invasive in one area, but native in another. In parts of Montana, the brown trout is the invasive species and are out competing native cutthroat trout. I worked with a fish crew from the USGS to study the effects of this problem. We installed under water antennae that will scan and read trout that have been pit-tagged. Each pit-tag has a unique I.D. number which will be associated with a particular fish. Some of the data collected will include the time of day that fish swam over the antennae, and what direction they were traveling, whether it was upstream or downstream. This data is useful because it can show us how native species are being affected by the invasive species. The overall goal is to be able to come up with sound ecological solutions to help alleviate the problem.
For our last few days with these young scientists, we embarked on a journey to review what we have learned from one another thus far, connect the students with the resources to further their aspirations in the science realm and communicate the knowledge the students have learned to the public.
On Thursday, the young ladies were hard at work reviewing the various topics and splitting into groups in order to present at exhibition. Each group was given a different day, event or topic and were asked to make a poster presentation followed with an interactive component to engage the visitor. During this processes, we had some visitors from Channel 10 News visit the innovation lab and do a piece on what this program means to the San Diego community.
On Friday, we hopped on the bus for one last time to explore what it really means to be a woman in science. During the course of the day, students were able to meet over 20 different women from the San Diego county who have careers in a science related field, including Superintendent Compton who was our keynote speaker. From biochemist, to engineer, to marine ecologist, our young scientists really connected with these inspirational women and gained a passion for their future that cannot be taught.
To finish off the program, we held an open forum exhibition at Cabrillo National Monument on Saturday, July 8th. These young scientists were able to display their poster presentations while engaging park visitors about what the EcoLogik Project is and what they learned about the fusion of ecology and technology.
It was hard to say goodbye to this incredible group of young women, but if they so desire, this will not be the end of their relationship with science, technology or the National Park Service.
Last Saturday Lewis and Clark hosted its annual July Trail Run which consisted of a 6K and a half marathon. Forty seven runners registered that morning and ran through the beautiful park to get the best time, enjoy their favorite trails, and get active. I helped out with the event by guiding runners at the turn around point for the half marathon. The half way point just so happened to be at Sunset Beach, therefore, I volunteered to dress as Sammy the Salmon jumping out of the ocean to cheer on the runners. Not only did I enjoy the excitement of working on the beach for the day but the runners appreciated my enthusiasm and enjoyed the funny sight of a dancing salmon. Some runners stopped to take pictures with me; others “gave me some fin” as they ran past. Park employees and volunteers gathered around at the finish line after their duties to cheer on the accomplished runners. The event was successful because of the teamwork among the various divisions that worked together seamlessly. I enjoy working at this park because of the people who work here. Everyone is friendly, helpful and the divisions work together to serve the visitors and care for the park lands. I have made great friendships with the people that I work with and joined them on adventures.
As a team bonding experience, two SCA interns, Hannah and Claire, and I went backpacking in the Mount Hood Wilderness. It was by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life. The 10 mile hike on the Pacific Coast Trail with 80lb packs on our backs through blowdown, glacial
rivers, and switchbacks was exhausting yet so rewarding. I learned a lot about myself and my ability to adapt to my surroundings from this trip. Needless to say, I love it here and the summer is going by too fast!
Green turtles in the Caribbean feed selectively on the seagrass Thalassia testudinum; however, they do not graze at random. Rather, they maintain “grazing plots” of young blades of T. testudinum by consistently recropping them. By routinely cropping these plots, they’re increasing their protein intake while keeping lignin consumption low, essentially making their food more digestible. This grazing pattern also increases nitrogen content over time, yielding a higher nutrient diet. Lignin is a complex organic polymer deposited in the cell walls of many plants, making them rigid and woody. Also, lignin has been repeatedly identified as the major chemical component controlling the digestibility of cell walls; therefore making it more difficult to break down. In ungrazed blades of T. testudinum, lignin levels are 100% greater than in blades from grazed strands. When establishing a new grazing plot, green turtles will bite at the base of the tall T. testudinum blades and allow the upper, older portions that are high in lignin and covered in epiphytes to float away. Thus, the digestive efficiencies of green turtles and forage quality are enhanced by their specialized feeding behavior.
We have been placing stationary cameras in established grazing plots and have witnessed this maintenance behavior. I am excited to see what other behaviors we’ll be able to observe.