The bear hair snares that are set up around Yellowstone National Park have to be checked and re-baited periodically. When the snare sights are revisited, the barbs on the wire are checked for hair left behind by bears curious to see what is in the middle of the snare. At the end of the season the hair snares have to be taken down for the fall, winter, and spring. The focus of this week’s work was to do a final check for bear hair, and take down these sights. The barbed wire was taken off the four trees, and wrapped around one tree until samples are to be collected again next season.
I am officially back in the United States after taking a trip to Costa Rica to celebrate completing my undergrad! While there, I was able to completely immerse myself in the local culture and see what a country leading in sustainable practices (ecotourism, renewable energy, waste reduction, etc.) looks like. Costa Rica produces over 90% of its electricity from renewable resources and conserves around 30% of the natural land. The province I stayed in, Guanacaste, is in the northwest region of the country and it was evident there how much people cared about preserving their land.
For starters, every home is strategically built to go with nature instead of opposing it, like most Western structures. No one had grass lawns, pools, or slabs of cement sealing off the natural earth– instead, their ‘yards’ were just the already existing land, for the most part untouched, overgrown with native fruiting species. Another thing I noticed was how self-sufficient the people were. The majority of homes had at least one of the following: chickens, cows, goats, some sort of fruit tree, and vegetables. Next, I noticed how sustainable the businesses were there. One restaurant I went to (and loved so much we ended up going several times) stood out as being one of the most environmentally-friendly businesses I’ve seen. Lola’s restaurant along Playa Negra has amazing food and inspiring practices. Here is their mission statement:
Lola’s uses organic produce and free range organic chicken and eggs. We recycle, compost (or feed Lolita!) and convert fryer oil to biodiesel. We support the local communities, police, schools, children’s advocacy groups, lifeguards, beach cleanups, animal clinics & various social and environmental projects. Our wastewater treatment facility supplies water for our reforestation projects and gardens. Lola’s is climate neutral and has been since we opened in 1998. We hire locally and think of our loyal and conscientious employees as family.
Most other business followed a similar protocol by using local, organic produce, and promoting waste reduction such as recycling materials for other purposes.
Coming to Costa Rica left me feeling inspired to do my part to protect the environment and furthermore gave me hope that moving towards sustainability is not only achievable, but a real possibility that starts on a personal level. Seeing how other countries treat the environment can be very insightful, and in this case it was clear how proud everyone was of their country and its beauty, which was a driving force in the steps they took to maintain it. Now I am back and ready to get to work at Lassen!
It is amphibian monitoring time. Amphibian monitoring is one of the high priority vital signs selected the Gulf Coast Network GULN. These animals are known for their broadly sensitive to environmental change, which makes them a great biological indicator for park health. Amphibians have permeable skin, and some species have an aquatic life stage, making them susceptible to water and air pollution. By monitoring the abundance and diversity of the amphibian species, we can detect signs of a collapsing environment and propose changes before it is too late.
The Antonio Missions National Historical Park (SAAN) is located in the westernmost part of the GULN rage. You can find more information about the park at “https://www.nps.gov/saan/index.htm.” Here is a picture of one site where amphibian monitoring is done.
The tan and gray squares are coverboards, made of plywood and zinc respectively, that are used as artificial refuges. They provide shelter for amphibian, reptiles, invertebrates, small mammals, and rodents’ species. Some sites, there are also PVC pipes attached to trees, and those provide shelter for tree frogs, lizards, skinks, and unfortunately for me, roaches (I not a fan of roaches). You can find more detail information about the amphibian monitoring of the Gulf Coast Network at “https://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/guln/monitor/amphibian_reptile.cfm.”
The sampling occurs every month, during that, the coverboards are flipped, any amphibians and/or reptiles species presents are counted and identified. You can see on the pictures below an example of how that is done. William Finney, the field biologist of the Gulf Coast Network was the crew leader (green shirt). I participates as data recorder and flipper (the person who “flips” the coverboard). Dr. Marvin Lutnesky, Chair of the Department of Science and Mathematics of the Texas A&M University – San Antonio, also participated in this sampling event and can be seen flipping a coverboard in the third picture. Accompanying Dr. Lutnesky was Dr. Kenwyn Cradock from Eastern New Mexico University, whom I will be forever grateful for taking those great pictures below.
There are nine known amphibian species at the park. The two most common are the Coastal Plain Toad (Incilius nebulifer) and a non-native species. Rio Grande Chirping Frog (Eleutherodactylus cystignathoides). During this event, we saw an Eastern coral snake (Micrurus fulvius) crossing the sidewalk in one of the park trails. These are venomous snakes endemic to the southeastern United States. They are known for the color pattern consisting of red and black rings separated by narrow yellow rings. A good way to remember the color pattern to know if it is poison or not is by a simple rhyme: “Red next to black, safe from attack, red next to yellow, you’re a dead fellow”.
Eastern coral snake – Micrurus fulvius
We did see red next to yellow, but we kept our distance and we did not end up as dead fellow. For that I’m very grateful.
The Cascades Butterfly team is is responsible for monitoring butterflies and wildflowers along transects in ten subalpine meadow locations across two national parks. In order to obtain sufficient data to track trends in both North Cascades (NOCA) and Mount Rainier (MORA), the Cascades Butterfly crew is divided into two smaller teams, one at each park.
Our first week as the Mount Rainier Butterfly crew began with a trip to North Cascades National Park to meet and train with the our colleagues spending the summer there. I had the chance to meet my counterpart in NOCA, Alex Brito, an intern with the Latino Heritage Internship Program.
The Cascades butterfly project is a citizen science project, and one of its key missions is to involve volunteers in collecting data. After some training for Alex and I, the butterfly crew spent a day at Sauk Mountain in the North Cascades to train enthusiastic volunteers on the protocol for the transects. Some volunteers were new to the project, while others have been working with CBP for years.
At Cabrillo National Monument we have a few ambassadors that are typically behind the scenes. Every Thursday this summer at 1:30 pm, our ambassadors get to demonstrate to the public why this preserved and protected land is so significant in our urban San Diego community.
Wildlife Biologist, Ranger Stephanie Root, along with other park biologists represents our snakey co-workers and help communicate to the public on their behalf. All of our snake ambassadors are native to the San Diego Region and have be rescued for various reasons by the San Diego Herpetological Society.
Meet the Team!
Salvador: Northern Three-Lined Boa – Lichanura orcutti (Formerly Coastal Rosy Boa)
He became an ambassador in June 2014 and is approximately 7 years of age. Sal is the most comfortable with visitor interaction. He particularly enjoys hiding in shoes and hooded sweatshirts. A Northern Three-Lined Boa has a lifespan of approximately 20 years.
Agnes: California Kingsnake – Lampropeltis californiae
She became an ambassador in August 2014 and is approximately 17 years of age. Along with being the oldest of the ambassadors, she is also the largest. A California Kingsnake is known to live up to 50 years in captivity.
Summer: Albino California Kingsnake – Lampropeltis californiae
She became an ambassador in August 2014 with Agnes and is approximately 8 years of age. Because of her pigment, her veins can be seen through her scales (especially since she recently shed her skin in these images).
Wilson: San Diego Gopher Snake – Pituophis catenifer annectens
He became an ambassador in February 2017 and is approximately 4 years of age. He is the timidest of the ambassadors, but warms up after a while, particularly with Ranger Adam Taylor. A San Diego Gopher Snake typically lives 12-15 years.
Even though all of our ambassadors are non-venomous, be aware all snakes have the potential to bite and may mistake a finger near their face as a yummy treat. We encourage visitors to gently touch the base of their body with one or two fingers. Remember our ambassadors are key members of the Cabrillo National Monument Staff, and they shall continue to be treated as such.
It’s hard to believe that my time at Rocky is coming to an end. Today I got my last schedule here and it finally began to sink in. After just 9 weeks this place has already felt like I’ve been here forever. (It almost seems appropriate now to stick in a sappy John Denver lyric, fittingly enough about the Rocky Mountains; “Coming home to a place he’d never been before.”)
I wanted to dedicate one of my last blog posts to processing what it will be like to have to leave this place and return to NYC and two more years of undergrad. This summer has felt right for lots of different reasons, but perhaps mostly so because I finally feel like I am an affirming and supportive workplace, doing what I enjoy. I truly love New York, but between having grown up there and attending college there, I feel like I’d forgotten to imagine that there were, and are, different ways of relating to work, schooling and relaxation — it was nice to be reminded of an alternative that I think ultimately is better for me.
Beyond differences in workplace culture, I can find differences within myself and how I operate that stand in marked contrast to who I was at the beginning of the summer. I feel more confident that this is something I want to do with my life — outdoor interpretation and education — than ever, but beyond that I feel bold enough to be open about that in the rigid, pre-professional environment I’m currently finding myself in at my school. I’ve met so many people here who I find to be brave — chiefly because they’ve been so ready time and time again to admit, and then give those things up, that the way their life was working wasn’t right for them and decided to follow their passions. It’s a story I’m not unfamiliar with back home but to be in a place where it felt like everyone had made bold sacrifices in some form or another — whether it be money, a home or a previously settled career (or just the know) — for this position is amazing.
I’m simply in awe of where I am and know I have so many lessons to bring back to New York with me.
“Spies.” “Disloyals.” “Japs.” These words erased and replaced the names of eighteen thousand Japanese American citizens imprisoned at the Tulelake Segregation Center. They were no longer individuals. They were all the same in the U.S. government’s eyes, linked by their ancestry to those who attacked Pearl Harbor. “A Jap’s a Jap,” said General John DeWitt to justify internment. To be Japanese meant you were stripped of your freedom and undeserving of humane treatment. Tulelake Segregation Center surely embodies this sentiment. The entire town of Tulelake could fit in a just few of the barracks that held over ten Japanese American families. The barracks were not only overcrowded, but also enclosed in layers and layers of barbed wire. Those imprisoned were closely watched by armed guards wherever they went. The only crime they had committed was being Japanese.
Tulelake Segregation Center is a unit of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument; it is also half an hour from Lava Beds National Monument. Last week, along with my co-workers at Lava Beds Resource Management Division, I took a tour with an interpretative ranger of the segregation center. One of the most powerful moments during the tour was the visit to the jail. “Show me the way to go home,” reads a graffiti message on the walls of one jail cell. When a nation you considered your homeland isolates and brands you as an imposter, where do you call home? How do you make sense of a government that not only turns its back on you but also actively spreads racist sentiments against you? “It whipped up hatred and fear toward an entire group of people based solely on our ancestry,” writes George Takei, whose family was imprisoned at Tulelake. Takei calls internment “America’s Great Mistake.” Today, we are living with this legacy. Yes, the U.S. government has formally apologized for its blatantly racist segregation of Japanese Americans, but that by no means translates to a nation free from discrimination against Asian-Americans and other people of color.
After the tour, I reflected on how much further we have left in this nation to progress. We have so much to improve upon that I can’t help but feel sad or angry. However, I also remembered when I spoke with a program manager and resource assistant from our regional inventory and monitoring network. All three of us were Asian-Americans. We shared our experiences working for the National Park Service as people of color. I was able to see other people who looked like me and came from similar backgrounds as me achieve genuine success in the NPS.
“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”, Franklin D. Roosevelt. I think this is a great quote because it reflects the difficulty our society and world has as a whole for building a promising future for the upcoming generations. There are a lot of areas in which we aren’t leaving much for them, but if we can build them, then they’ll be ready for what’s ahead and whatever we do, or fail to leave them. Recently I was given the opportunity to work with a high school youth group who came to the park as ACE interns for a couple weeks. My ranger and I did a variety of different things with them. We did a lot of work with pollinators in an attempt to really show their importance.
We took them to a beautiful area that’s commonly used for sledding during the winter months, but is great during spring and summer seasons for pollinators! This is where we did our bee survey. During this survey the students were taught two different methods of safely catching bees in order for them to be identified. They had a super great time with this and were netting bees left and right. Although we didn’t find any rare bees, it was great to see how quickly they learned the more common species, and could tell it’s sex. We did find a beautiful female monarch though! Don’t worry, we let it go within 15 seconds, just long enough to determine its sex and snap a photo.
Along with bees, we also taught them about butterflies. We went over the most common species around here and took them out to Indigo Lake where we have a transect and did a survey. Just like with the bees they caught on super quickly and were able to identify a lot of them on the spot. On this survey we caught a beautiful Red Spotted Purple, which I hadn’t seen yet this summer!
Water quality was next on the agenda. We took them to the bridge where we sample from and had them take two samples. We then had them read and record the gauge data, and headed back to the office to run the tests. They all got to test for turbidity, total coliforms and E. Coli. Because we have a huge river running through the park water quality is very important to this area, and it has come a long way! The science of water was something they got to learn and can add to a resume! To finish out their time here they were able to jump onto the junior ranger paddling program, which I was fortunate to be able to assist with. This gave them a fun send off, as well as a new perspective of the environment, since views from the water are a lot different than views from land. During these events there was a videographer from Colorado State University here filming for a web series with the NPS about youth in the environment! Hearing his stories about programs in other parks was super cool, and I can’t wait to see our episode! Working with these kids for even the short time I did was great and enjoyable. These younger kids truly are the future, and getting them involved in the environment, taking them outdoors, and showing them some of the science behind it is always an incredible opportunity. Educating the youth for the future is one of the best things we can do!
Has there been times that something could have been done an easier way than the way you are doing it? Have researchers used new methods to answer scientific questions? The image above is a photo of a glued bee specimen on the left and a pinned one on the right. Traditionally, insects are pinned on the right side of the thorax (right) because specimens stay in place and even with the right side of the thorax damaged, the left side is still intact for identifying characteristics. I learned that bee specimens can also to be glued to pins (left). The purpose of gluing specimens rather then putting a pin through their thorax is because it does not damage it. It also leaves all the parts of the insect undamaged and gives entomologists a different angle to view the insect. I found it easier to view the characteristics of the it when it was glued on its ventral side as shown above because it require less focusing and positioning to view it under the microscope. Gluing insects is a controversial method of pinning because insects could fall off pins over time of glue does not last. From my experience, too much glue could get legs or wings struck together if not careful. Overall, gluing them requires more of a steady hand, and requires more time to make sure the glue does not attach to a wing or leg. With smaller specimens a microscope is needed to see where you are putting the pin. Putting one through the thorax requires just a good eye to make sure the pin goes in the right side of thorax. This is done just with your naked eye. Both methods have their pros and cons, but as long as the specimen is identifiable it makes no difference how the specimen is pinned.