I had the great opportunity to work on the 2017 Solar Eclipse event here at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and on the best spot to see it, Clingmans Dome. We were expecting thousands of people, and for our surprise (and a very good thing), the event turned out pretty chill. It turned out so perfect, that the garbage cleaning around the park scheduled for the next day got cancelled! Apparently visitors turned out to be more conscious on leaving the park better than they’ve found it.
My supervisor along the Air Quality technician and I, set up a telescope exploration area to observe the Sun. It was pretty fun to help visitors observe the Sun and the Eclipse events as it came closer to totality.
I also had the opportunity to talk and show visitors, specially kids about my natural sounds project. The Natural Sounds & Night Skies Division had the project of setting up sound recording equipment across 22 national parks that were found around the totality region with the purpose of gathering data of animal activity during the eclipse. People were very interested on these topics and on my project. It felt great to be able to share information with people and see that they were curious into knowing more.
From Totality, we were able to note some changes: Temperature dropped, it got a lot cooler, bees that you could hear around suddenly stopped buzzing, birds got more active and we saw near us a snake that got out to rest on a plaque on the ground, from which we could assume it was searching for heat. It was very interesting to be able to notice all these changes as these events are unique; they don’t happen on the same spot everytime for at least a long time.
This Solar Eclipse event made me realize how fortunate this summer has been for me. It is coming to an end, as this is my last week. I’ve learn a lot and events like this reminds me that doesn’t matter at what point we are in our lives, we never truly stop learning.
“Always walk through life as if you have something learn to new, and you will” – Vernon Howard
The final touches for the 2017 continental United States Solar Eclipse are being done as we speak, as tomorrow August 21rst is finally arriving. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been on a hectic assignment for planning two major events happening: Clingmans Dome (Highest point on the park) and Cades Cove (a clear valley), where the most NASA media is going to be, including a guest astronaut at Clingmans Dome. Being part of the Natural Sounds & Night Skies Division, guess where am I going to be? At the main spot for the event, Clingmans Dome!
But before telling you about my duties, what is a solar eclipse and why is it such an event? A solar eclipse occurs when the moon casts a shadow on Earth, fully (umbra) or partially (penumbra) blocking the sun’s light in some areas.
This event doesn’t occur every year nor in the same place. On the United States, it hasn’t been to presence in 38 years (1979), and the next one after August 21rst, will be April 8, 2024. For this one, lots of people are going to be able to see it. Everyone in the contiguous United States, in fact, everyone in North America plus parts of South America, Africa, and Europe will see at least a partial solar eclipse, while the thin path of totality will pass through portions of 14 states.
This may be a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity, so get pumped to go outside!
For this event, it’s important to keep safety of your eyes on every phase of the eclipse. Here are some tips provided by NASA:
The natural neatness of this is that observers found within the path of totality will be able to see the sun’s corona.
This eclipse is a great opportunity to share with family, friends and a group of strangers that has gotten together as a curious community that cares for the environment. Remember, wherever you are going to be, to be safe in traffic, make sure you have snacks, plenty of water and your safety method of observation.
For more information, visit: NASA’s official webpage: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/, and don’t hesitate to ask questions to leaders on your “Eclipse -viewing” event.
“A man should look for what it is and not for what he thinks should be” – Albert Einstein
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
Yes, as the title suggest this post sure promise bears ♥ … I got the great opportunity to shadow the Wildlife Ranger during a Bear release and a procedure known as Bear Check-Up. As I may have mentioned on my previous post, at Great Smoky Mountains there are approximately 1,600 American black bears, Ursus americanus
As an aspiring Wildlife Biologist, this shadowing was a dream come true experience. It all happened when I arrived at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, when there was a rumor among my co-workers about a bear being brought to Headquarters, and that one of the interns went to see it. I asked my supervisor at the Visitor Center about it, and she told me it had happened earlier, before I arrived. I got sad, but continued my day normally. Then. the intern that assisted on the bear returned showing off these amazing pictures, when he mentions that the wildlife ranger returning for anyone who wants to assist to the release. My face expression changed from serious and disappointed to excited and grinning.
It was funny, because my supervisor came outside to ask me if I was interested in attending a bear release, and before she finished the question, I said: “Yes!, of course!” , and she replied: “Oh, ok you are clearly excited. You are definitely going.”
When the wildlife ranger arrived, they had the bear on the “bear cage”. People were gathering up around, causing a “bear jam” on the parking. Another intern and I went on the ride to release the bear in Chimney Tops Picnic Area, where this bear was caught the night before. It was around lunch time so as you can imagine, it was crowded and the cage caught everyone’s attention. This was good though, as the wildlife ranger had a big audience to educate about the importance of making sure that when out in the field, you want to make sure that you leave no trace behind. Leaving “human” food leads to unfortunate consequences to wildlife. On this case, for bears, they can get sick from it and also it can lead to a harming attack.
Bears in general are omnivorous animals, they can eat everything. Although, commonly they eat berries, if given the chance of a burger or a something sweet such as a donut, they’ll choose it over berries (I would!). Black bears are not aggressive but if they get used to humans, they could fight them over the food. That’s the most common cause for human incidents, at least at the Smokies. These results not only bad for the human but for the bear too, for the management action would be relocation which can result very stressful, and on a worse case and last resort, euthanization.
When the bear got release, it was obviously scared but even more with a huge crowd yelling at you. He ran off the hill, hopefully not roaming around the picnic area again.
We went back to the warehouse, where the wildlife ranger station is, and for my surprise, they had another bear trap from a campground. For this one, I got to assist on the whole process of the Bear Check Up:
- Carrying the bear inside
- Taking physical measurements: Paws, the whole arm, head, neck, body
- Hair and Blood samples for DNA data
- Body Temperature
- Tooth, for accurate aging
- Ear Tag
- Tattoo on the inner lip of the mouth for Id.
The main purpose of the bear check up not only is to monitor in the future the “misbehaved” bear but also making a bad human impression so the bear gets scare of us enough to not to get closer.
After that, we returned to the visitor center to continue with our day. For the rest of the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about this experience. It made me appreciate the opportunities that this internship has to offer and how to use these as a motivation to continue on this career path.
“The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves” – Jane Goodall
I’ve officially started recording! I got my best recordings from birds at Clingman’s Dome, the highest point at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fun facts about Clingman’s Dome is that at 6,643 ft, it is the highest point in Tennessee and the highest point east of the Mississippi. Since it’s so high, the temperature and vegetation can differ 10 ° to 20°F cooler from lower elevations. When you look around you notice that a spruce-fir coniferous rainforest dominate the view and smell. It literally smells likes Christmas along the trail.
There’s an observation tower to which is a paved trail and only 0.5 mile. Since it sounded reasonable easy, I thought “It shouldn’t be that hard”, and here I am writing as how I was a wrong. It’s short but very steep, I had to stop on almost every bench. I did stop to catch my breath, but also for the view. As you look around, you can find yourself in front of the most beautiful mountain range view ever.
Since it was packed with people I was a bit concerned of pulling out my microphone and start to record. It was sure going to get a lot of attention. On my way down, I started listening some interesting and different bird calls. I just had to recorded record it, so I just put my shyness away and pulled the equipment out. I could notice people, especially the kids looking all curious for the equipment but they were more entertained with the spectacular view. I did got 2 people asked me questions about it.
As I hiked back to the parking lot, I noticed there were other trails, Andrew’s bald. One of the interns from the Visitor Center had mentioned how beautiful it was. It was another short trail so I decided to go on this one. The Andrews Bald trail is part of Forney Ridge Trail and part as well of the main Appalachian Trail, which crosses Clingmans Dome, marking the highest point along its journey from
I appreciated the solicitude of this trail. I got to listen to different birds and saw some funny squirrels! As I arrived to Andrew’s Bald, there were not many people on the area so I catched my breath to a beautiful view of a cloudy yet clear view of the Appalachian Trail. The blue mist along the range of mountain looked magnificent.
It was already sunset time and I got to appreciate this beauty along my drive back home.
“You are not in the mountains, the mountains are in You” – John Muir
Hello World and Welcome to the Smokies!
I’m Laura C. Del Valle and I’ll be working this summer on Great Smoky Mountains National Park as an acoustic biologist technician for the Natural Sounds & Night Skies Division. My project will consist on capturing the essence of the park by audio recordings. I’ll be hiking around some trails around the park to grab recordings with the goal of capturing everything from birds to the sound of a creek or even the wind that roses the trees. With these recordings, I’ll become some sort of detective as later I’ll try to identify the author of the sound and get a better idea on the density and location of it. These findings may contribute to a much detailed database for a species or specific sounds in general. Other of my duties, will include assisting park rangers at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, to answer some public questions and eventually give some talks and presentations on the project.
It’s been surreal to realize that it’s already been a week that I’ve been away from home, Carolina, Puerto Rico and has been living (literally) at a National Park. To tell you a bit about myself I’m currently a Senior and almost a recent graduate at the University of Puerto Rico, Humacao campus and my major is Wildlife Management. Getting some field experience and job taste outside the classroom was a big must for me as I have plans to apply to Graduate School in the Fall, so this internship will be a huge opportunity, not only to do some networking, but to find some focus interest on where I want to continue to on with the field on wildlife studies.
This is my first time in Tennessee and so far, it’s been great! I’ve gotten a big peak from the wildlife that can be found here. I’ve already checked some wildlife off my bucket list: a raccoon, a deer, and a snake and of course, squirrels! This last Saturday, I got to see my first black bear (my favorite), it was approximately a year old and probably a male. It was the cutest thing , we were really close to it, therefore I was really excited about it. Interesting fact, there are 1,600 black bears are all around the park, but are commonly seen on Cade’s Cove.
Living on a National Park, has been great but only that where I live there’s no service, including WiFi (which is why it has taken me a bit of time to update the blog). It has been interesting and a good experience to take time off social media and actually explore around the campsite neighborhood. Because of this, I was lucky to find the area where the Synchronous Fireflies show gets place. Their high peak only runs from May 30 to June 6. The fireflies were really pretty, looked like yellow blinking stars, and I even got to see some blueish color ones, which I’ve been told are difficult to see. These fireflies have a really short lifespan, they only live on these certain dates, seeing them after will be very difficult. It was also very nice to walk back home and check out the families at the campsite enjoying their time around the fire and smell the barbecue.
For my research, I’ve been able to get started on some hikes to practice with the recording equipment. My first one being a trail around Twin Creeks, where my work area is located. On Friday I got to hike Grotto Falls, which was beautiful. Being the most intensive one has been Ramsey Cascades, the trail where I saw the bear. It was a rough 8 mile roundtrip, but totally worth it, the main cascade is magnificent as well as the ones that you get to see along the way. It sure was a huge workout but like I mentioned, all the nature beauty that surrounded us was worth it!
Following these weeks, I’ll be making more hiking plans with my supervisor and get started full with the recordings. I’ll keep you posted on what I find!
Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way! – Dr. Seuss