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.
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!
In order to determine the success of tree thinnings and treatments, forest monitoring is conducted to quantify the changes of the forest health.
The best part about forest monitoring is using all of the different gadgets to measure the growth of the forest. We use a laser rangefinder for distance and angle, forest densiometer, angle correction sheet, CWD decay class sheet, DBH tape, a measuring tape, elevation, stakes, orange and red flagging tape, hammer, nails, compass, clinometer, map, chalk, and tree tags. The plots are preexisting areas within the forest in the park that have last been monitored five years ago. The plots are measured for herbaceous plant cover, forest canopy cover, and decaying logs. Every tree is also measured and recorded for its diameter, height, canopy height, bearing and distance from the boundary of the plot. There is a systematic way to monitor the forest in order to have comparable results. The hardest part of the procedure may be getting to the plots and finding the stakes that outline the boundary. There can be a lot of blowdown that can collapse once stepped on. The forest can become very steep in some areas that may make it hard to find proper footing. My favorite part of forest monitoring is the plant identification. I have learned many new species and variations within species that change my perspective on plants and trees I encounter. The temperate rainforest is vibrant, even on decaying logs there is life.The forest is like a mosaic with different working parts that come together to create a viable habitat for animals. This week, I was blessed with the rare sight of a mountain beaver!
“Today, across our land, the National Park System represents America at its best. Each park contributes to a deeper understanding of the history of the United States and our way of life; of the natural processes which have given form to our land, and to the enrichment of the environment in which we live.” George B. Hartzog, Jr., NPS Director, 1964-1972
Perks about working in a completely new place is that every day is an adventure, an opportunity to discover something new, a different perspective to view the world. I am fortunate to have the ability to explore the surrounding landscape on my days off. I am in Astoria, Oregon; it is the oldest town west of the Rockies as it was passed through by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Astoria was home to many Chinook and Clatsop natives. Astoria lies at the mouth of the Columbia River where it meets the Pacific Ocean. The water provides a prosperous environment for salmon which deposit rich nutrients for lush forests. As a result, Astoria was home to many salmon canneries and an important port for shipping resources such as lumber. Today, Astoria is an official Coast Guard city, with many ships coming into the port every day. Sea lions hang out on the docks and can be heard barking blocks away.
Astoria’s claim to Hollywood fame is The Goonies which is celebrated every year during National Goonies Day on June 7th. Featured below is the county jail from the movie which is now a film museum.
The historical sites throughout the city commemorate the people who have contributed to the rich history of fishing and boating. The Garden of Surging Waves celebrates the Chinese heritage of Astoria. I enjoy this park because it is a relaxing place to unwind and reflect.
The Astoria Column sits at the top of a hill in the middle of town and paints the history of Astoria. The column can be accessed by a few different hiking trails that connect parts of town. One of my favorite trails is behind Clatsop Community College and features artwork throughout the trail.
For a small town, there are a few sites to see but it is also accessible to many other places. I went camping at Saddle Mountain, approximately 45 minutes from Astoria. I embarked on the 3.5mi hike up the mountain at 5:30pm. The trail was extremely steep and treacherous as it was slippery from a creek running through it. Once near the top, clouds covered the peak and salty mist impaired my vision. Violent gusts of wind attempted to push me off the mountainside as I held on and continued to ascend the
peak. Finally, my body was eased with relief as I crawled to the top. The view was unclear, clouds surrounded the entire mountain and I could barely see five feet in front of me. The real challenge was getting down before sunset in a thick fog. I celebrated my victorious climb to Saddle Mountain with a fire and s’mores at my campsite near the base of the mountain. Who knows where this place will take me next, stay tuned!
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” -John Muir
I have been inspired to write a rap for you:
I can barely see past, the reed canary grass
The river is just ahead, if only the Pharlaris would drop dead
Third week out here, I’ve spotted a few deer
Learning about weed whacking, even some elk tracking
Mud in my boots, pulling out invasive roots
I am sent out here to kill; tomorrow I will need an advil
Lewis and Clark made their mark, here at this park.
Now its my turn to impress, WAIT HOLD UP, sorry to transgress
This rap is about weeds, so I shall proceed about stopping seeds
This is the optimal time, for pulling baby vines
Holly, laurel, and blackberry, do not belong in the prairie
Nor in the temperate rainforest, that I am exploring
Now its easy to get mixed up, not talking about a buttercup
Rubus laciniatus, urinus, and discolor, now to tell them apart from each other
Himalayan blackberry (R. discolor) has a robust stem with heavy prickles
Bear with me and my riddles
Cutleaf (R. laciniatus) have five serrate, lobed leaflets
Both of these sweet berries pose serious threats
We have to protect our native plants, preserve the forests,
the wetlands and even the hornets.
Invasive species control is important,
I hope rapping made this info absorbent.
If not, just remember…
NPS is the best, forget all the rest!
There is the moment after graduation when you finally realize why you have spent the last four years slaving over a computer in the library for hours until the sun came up, only taking short breaks for espresso and chocolate. This moment may not come right away, and sometimes it comes from experiences in your college career that you did not expect. I recently took a course in remote sensing just to fulfill my credit requirement to graduate. The moment of realization came to me when I was granted the opportunity to assist a team working to use an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to capture hyperspectral imagery of the restoration sites. I know that does not sound very cool but in simpler terms, I got to walk through a muddy marsh to set up ground control points then witness a high tech drone fly over the same restoration site that I have been sifting through data for.
This is not your average drone from Walmart. The drone needs 6 battery packs, FAA clearance, and a licensed pilot to fly it. The drone has a camera which takes images of the ground with a pixel size of 2 inches. The hyperspectral camera processes 110 bands of spectral information from the ground below. To put this in perspective, Landsat, the satellite that orbits the earth capturing images only captures at most 8 bands of data with a ground sampling distance of 30 by 30 meters. In one flight line, the camera uploaded 32 gigabytes of data. Now that is a lot of data and those who know me know I LOVE DATA!
It is hard to imagine but it gets even cooler than this. Drones are banned from the national parks for numerous safety and environmental risks however; LEWI has been working with this team of scientists for two years to get the proper authorization to use a drone in the park in the name of SCIENCE. And after two years of paperwork, obtaining the proper signatures and licenses, the day finally came to fly!
Even after rolling around in mud through the wetland and watching the UAV take off; the best part about this project is what it means for the future of restoration. By using a hyperspectral camera to capture the spectral signatures of the various plants that exist in a site, the interpreter can determine the location, type, and health of the vegetation without getting on the ground for surveying. Using a drone to fly over a site would save time and people power while also accessing sites that may be too remote to get to. This also allows more of an inclusive approach to ecosystem restoration by encompassing the entire area for analysis rather than a centric ecosystem approach. I am fortunate to have this opportunity to work with talented people who have the same vision and passion for environmental stewardship and conservation as me. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
“Things get done only if the data we gather can inform and inspire those in a position to make a difference.”
The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park was established in 2004 to commemorate the journey of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery through the Pacific Northwest. The park includes various sites: Salt Works, Dismal Nitch, the reconstruction of Fort Clatsop, the Fort to Sea trail, Cape Disappointment, and the Middle Village (qí’qayaqilam)/Station Camp. Fort Clatsop was the first military fort west of the Rockies where Lewis and Clark camped, traded with Clatsop natives, and hunted elk during the harsh winter of 1805. The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park preserves, restores and interprets important historical, cultural and natural resources along the lower Columbia River area (Foundation Document). The park, comprising of numerous state and NPS units, encompasses 3,245 acres of land within Washington and Oregon. Sitka spruce stand tall throughout the coastal temperate rainforest, emergent marshes provide habitat for local wildlife, and the stream channel is essential for the survival of young salmon. In order to restore and preserve the natural resources that were so valuable to the Corps of Discovery, the natives, and for future generations, the park resources management team works on restoration projects within the park and in collaboration with other partnerships.
This is where my story interweaves with Lewis and Clarks’. I am a Mosaics in Science Intern working with the National Park Service to process vegetation monitoring data that has been collected for the past ten years for the Columbia Estuary Ecosystem Restoration Program. While I have been here, I have learned that restoration projects consist of of many moving parts. Grants are tedious and provide the funding for these projects to exist. Partnerships with organizations such as the Northwest Oregon Restoration Partnership (NORP), allow for the sharing of technical expertise, growing of nat
ive plants, and grant matching for the restoration projects to be successful. Biological technicians, interns, and volunteers go out into the field to handle invasive plant species to allow native plants to flourish. Native plants are grown at the park nursery to plant thousands of young plants to regenerate habitats. Forest thinning remove Douglas fir, remnants of logging plantings to allow the native Sitka spruce and big leaf Maple to prosper and create disturbance for forest renewal. Restoration projects are necessary to restore the ecological processes that have been destroyed by anthropogenic influences. Logging and pasture grazing have transformed what used to be lush, thriving environments for many wildlife and plants.
Every day is an adventure; I get to participate at partnership meetings, learn about native plants, and be part of a larger effort to restore this beautiful place for all to enjoy.
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy, awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.” –Rabindranath Tagore, Indian poet
Did you get the Dr. Seuss reference?! Anyways, I am currently living in Fort Columbia State Park in historic housing. Fort Columbia lies near the mouth of the Columbia River and was constructed between 1896 and 1903 as a coastal defense site. The views are breathtaking especially at sunset. My favorite part is the hidden beach at the bottom of the site which I discovered after speaking with some Park Rangers that are also living there. So far, no sign of ghosts!
My first day was a field work day working with local biologists, botanists, The Northern Coast Conservancy and other environmentalists on West Sand Island.
We took a small boat from the dock at Cape Disappointment across the Columbia Bar to the island to observe prairie habitats. Fun Fact: The Columbia Bar is the most dangerous waterway in the world! There is a Maritime Museum in Astoria about shipwrecks!
West Sand Island is a dynamic island that changes drastically during intense weather events and contains many different habitats, including prairies, which we were particularly interested in. We were working to find early blue violets which are prairie flowers that host the Oregon silverspot butterfly eggs. The silverspot is a threatened butterfly that, hopefully by restoring the prairies will repopulate the island. This trip was a great opportunity for me to learn about the invasive plants that threaten native species here.
Some of the invasive plants we encountered were Scotch broom, thistle, Himalayan blackberry, and gorse. We trekked through marshes, walked along the shoreline, wrestled with blackberry vines, battled with mosquitoes and tried to avoid the thick, thorny borse patches. It was a long day but definitely worth the trip, not only did I learn about the native species of the area, but I learned about the work of the various stakeholders working in restoration projects. This was the best first day of work ever!!
I look forward to the rest of my time here seeking adventure everywhere I go and forming connections with all that I meet.
“The mountains are calling and I must go.” John Muir
Everything has happened so fast. Last week, I graduated from Syracuse University and now I am sitting on a porch watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. I am a city girl born and raised in New Jersey, 40 minutes outside New York City, and I have never been to the West Coast until now. Honestly, the biggest shock was first the density of trees, then the lack of street lights. This is a big change for me, as much as it is exciting, I am terrified.
Driving along the Oregon- Washington border, the mountains tower over with trees hugging the road. The Columbia River glistens as it runs along the Lewis and Clark Trail Highway. The view is not only beautiful but a reminder that, just as this river has evolved and shaped the landscape, I can do the same. I am as resilient as the pines stand tall. I am as ever-changing as the gollies along the riverbed. I am as strong as the waves that crash on the rocky coast. This is not only my time to adapt, this is a time for everyone to adapt and change with our landscape. Tomorrow begins a new journey and I am running toward it, leaping into it with full force.