Listening to the sound of water running through streams or rivers soothes me. I enjoy feeling the fresh current run through my hands. Who knew this is what a day in my internship would be like?!
I had the joy of joining the person who monitor’s Valley Forge and Hopewell Furnace’s water quality. After calibrating the probe, we set out to the various streams we were going to inspect.
In Valley Forge, the stream was a short walk away. During this walk, there was a little section that was muddy and laying there fully displaying its yellow and blue wings was a gorgeous Eastern tiger swallowtail!
In all my excitement, I didn’t get the chance to take a picture but just so you all get the idea of how beautiful this species is here is an image from google:
This is a species of butterfly native to this area. I knew that it has been previously seen at the park however, I had not encountered it while walking the transects for my project so I was so happy to finally see it!
Being in Hopewell Furnace was also amazing. This park has a very peaceful feeling to it and walking through forest under-story to get to the stream was great! This is one of the streams we checked for
quality. To do so, the air temperature barometric pressure were taken. Then the probe would be placed into the water and the sensors would measure the pH, dissolved oxygen available, conductivity, and water temperature. Then the stream width and depth were measured using a transect. This description may sound a little dull but I really enjoyed being out in the field and monitoring the water quality for three streams!
Starting something new usually leaves me with a combination of feeling excited and nervous. I am happy to say by the end of my first week I am feeling much more excited than nervous. I started with the natural resource management department at Manassas Battlefield National Park and I have been warmly welcomed by the entire team. My first day was my orientation day so my supervisor and the other two natural resource interns took me all around the park introducing me to different areas so I could get familiar with the park as a whole. I have never been much of a history buff but I have learnt a lot about the Civil War in the past week and I am looking forward to learning more. Two major battles between the Confederacy and the Union were fought on this national park and its amazing to see the way the land and building have been preserved to teach people about those important battles. A fun fact I learned was that General Jackson was given the name Stonewall on this very land. Here is a picture of me with the other two natural resource interns on the stone bridge from my first day!
My second day was a field day and we went out and did some vegetation management. That means I got to wear the full white suit and spray herbicides from our backpack sprayers in large fields. I had never done this before so it was exciting, we were targeting an invasive species in the field that was outcompeting what we wanted to grow in that field. The park has a lot of grassland habitat which is rare since Virginia and the countries grassland have been rapidly declining so it is important to preserve a healthy grasslands for a variety of grassland species. The next day the department of forestry hosted us and gave us a tour on urban forestry in a park where they have used a variety of different management techniques which was really interesting. Afterwards we had a big barbecue with the whole department and some people from the department of forestry which was great to get to know the team!
We also went to the NPS Youth Summit for this region this week which was really fun! The summit was at Anacostia Park in Washington, D.C. and they had a variety of different stations that we rotated through. The stations included an aquatic center, living history, the park police, bird watching, and even roller skating! It was really interesting talking to all the interns at other parks to learn about their experiences. Here are a couple pictures from the event!
I have already learned a lot this week and I can’t wait for some more of those long field days. Although this is just the beginning, I know this is going to be a great summer.
Grand Teton National Park is located in northwest Wyoming. It encompasses the Teton mountain range, the 4,000-meter Grand Teton peak, and the valley known as Jackson Hole. Sagebrush monitoring has been identified as a key component in detecting changes in high elevation parks due to increased rates of climate change. I aided the vegetation monitoring field crew members in hiking to survey points and identifying plant species present. Various data was collected at the sites such as: Bare ground, litter, rocks, shrubs, forbes, and grasses (both native and non-native).
However, the excitement didn’t end there. I was also able to work with crew members who are responsible for monitoring avian productivity and survivorship. We conducted call-back surveys for the endangered Yellow Billed Cuckoo, as well as Osprey, Bald Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon monitoring. During off-work hours, I attended an invasive plant, and Mountain Goat seminar. I am so fortunate have the opportunity to be involved in such a wide array of subject areas as well as meet professionals who a very knowledgeable and dedicated to their work. I look forward the adventures and opportunities that are yet to come!
In the broadest sense, nature is our world in the physical, material and natural form. It is everything not made by the human race. For me, nature serves as a place of tranquility, worship, culture and love. At the same time though, it can be frightening, intimidating and humbling. Nature is, hands down, a force to be reckoned with.
Our ancestors were far more in tune with nature than we are today. With so many distractions in the modern world, it has become increasingly more difficult to access nature. The more we become disconnected, the less attentive we will be. Therefore, I believe it is every individuals responsibility to make the effort to break away from mainstream society, at least once in their lifetime, and become one with nature.
I recently was able to reconnect with nature when a group of high school students from Texas stopped by the Florissant Fossil Beds for a visit. Whitney, my education partner, and I led the group of students and their chaperones into the woods on a nature walk with a specific exercise in mind. Upon reaching the most dense part of the forest, Whitney instructed the students to write down what nature is using their five senses. Given that the students were in the age range of 14-17 years old, I was expecting to hear laughter and gossip, and not see much writing going down. However, the students fully participated and even the chaperones were jotting down their thoughts.
At the end of the exercise, Whitney had the students recite their favorite interpretation of what nature is, however, replacing the “Nature is…” with “I am…”. As you can imagine, some were rather humorous, while others were incredibly poetic.
After the nature walk, I had the students and chaperones participate in the paleoclimatic reconstruction activity I put together for the Geo/Paleo Camp. It was incredible to witness the students draw their own conclusions on how the Florissant valley, during the Eocene, exhibited drastically different climatic conditions than today. The biggest take away for me, and I hope for the students and chaperones as well, is that in addition to making connections with nature on a mental and spiritual level, everyone is also capable of making scientific connections. There is no requirement of a masters or PhD to make that scientific connection. The only requirements are patience, curiosity and an open mind.
This past school year I started a bird club at Wade Carpenter Middle School in an effort to get students to participate in citizen science. Citizen science is collaborative networking between scientists and everyday citizens. Through citizen science people can contribute to scientific data. For example, citizens use eBird to share sightings so that scientists get an idea where populations of birds are located. Teaching kids about citizen science not only inspires them to pursue science careers but connects them with nature. When we start as kids we may be more inclined to be citizen scientists for the rest of our lives.
Students had a wonderful time participating in the bird club. We did all kinds of projects including participating in the schools science fair and taking top honors in the Friends of the Santa Cruz river art contest. But one of our biggest contributions was entering our sightings on eBird. Students spent time counting the number of each species of birds and making sure to correctly identify the bird using their field guide. We bird watched twice a week from August until the week before finals in May. My students learned how to identify birds based on shape, size, color pattern, behavior, and habitat. We also feed birds at our school campus and visited Las Lagunas de Anza (a lagoon located near our school) to bird watch. It was an amazing experience to see my students gain an interest in local birds and have them participate in a citizen science project that contributes to scientific research.
My work here at Tumacacori National Historical Park deals with creating a curriculum for the Santa Cruz river. Much of the program is centered in a citizen science project. Through this program I hope to inspire kids to perform citizen science and contribute to scientific research. Using citizen science becomes a hands on way to educate kids about the environment and science, and gives them a personal sense of nature.