Did you know…
That the bright iridescent blue, yellow, and orange markings that span the velvety black body of the Navanax sea slug represent aposematic coloration and serve as a warning to potential predators.
Or that …
A closer look at the surface of a bat star’s colorful, mottled skin reveals a mosaic of course, scale-like structures. Without proper gills or lungs, bat stars rely on these small projections to aid in diffusion of oxygen from the water for respiratory exchange.
Or better yet…
That octopus maintain hundreds of highly sensitive suction cups that allow them to explore and smell their environment through touch and chemical receptors. With over 300 million peripheral neurons running through their arms, octopus use an elaborate muscle regulatory system to control each suction cup individually.
Nature showcases a unique geometry of living forms. Shape, structure, color, and pattern each play a complex role in ecological function. From large-scale ecosystems to microscopic beings, there is a unique magnificence in the complexities driven by evolution and necessity. In collaboration with nature photographer Michael Ready, Cabrillo National Monument is proud to showcase “Art Forms in Nature” for its FINAL week of exhibitory.
Through his work, Ready’s collection of images seeks to reveal the diversity of life and particularly its smaller and lesser-known forms. While possessing a background deeply rooted in natural history, Ready’s vision is divergent from typified nature photography. With an eye for rich colors, abstract patterns, and compositional mystery, the resulting images bring a sense of wonder and connection to the wild — and to the idea that nothing is outside of nature.
“Art Forms in Nature” highlights the interplay between form and function through an artistically scientific lens. From the symmetrical rosette of the Agave, to the unique dermal scales of shark skin, each Art Form is specifically crafted for utility and efficiency. For more on Michael Ready Photography, visit www.michaelready.com.
Our next exhibit will be “3D Cabrillo,” which showcases 3D biomodels created by two – six grade classes. See my previous blog to learn more it.
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.
Over the past decade, the Rocky Intertidal Zone at Cabrillo National Monument has been overrun by an invasive brown seaweed known as Sargassum muticum. This marine plant, native to Japan, is believed to have made it’s way to San Diego over 30 years ago through the ballast waters of ships. Invasive species, such as Sargassum, are hypothesized to lower the biodiversity of an area by outcompeting the native biota and overtaking all other available space. Therefore, Cabrillo Biologist and our lovely volunteers have been working on slowly removing this species from certain plots to better answer our question about the effects of invasive species on biodiversity. Our hope is that in the next 5 years we can revisit these sites to see if the brown wire weed does or does not influence biodiversity.
During the summer in San Diego, the tides shift and it is difficult to experience a low tide during appropriate work hours. Cabrillo Biologists and I went out on the morning of July 12, 2017 at 6am to begin another phase of Sargassum removal. The process of removal is tedious and difficult to witness change overtime with the continuous growth of this perennial brown alga.
However, the benefit to this process is by far the creatures you inevitably get to see when you look a little closer into the intertidal zone. A fan favorite this week was this vibrant nudibranch (sea slug), Chromodoris macfarlandi. Remember to always keep exploring, even when working!
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.
EcoLogik has begun! Ecologik is a 2.5 week full immersion program that fuses nature and technology. This program seeks to connect young women to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic) opportunities. We invited 25 students, ages 9 to 15, to join us this summer to learn how to collect data, make biomodels, 3D print, computer program and much more.
In one week’s time, these young scientists became acquainted with the National Park Service and developed their own opinion of what it truly means to be a “scientist.” Through the power of science communication, these students teamed up to create 13 different 1-3 minute videos on the rocky intertidal using the video editing software, iMovie. After getting familiar with the term ocean acidification as a byproduct of climate change, these young scientists realized the importance of long-term monitoring through hands-on data collection. These young scientists then brought the rocky intertidal indoors by creating 3D printed octopus biomodels. To finish off the week, these students got up close and personal with the natural world at Cabrillo National Monument. They learned personally from a nature photographer that with each beautiful form in nature comes an evolutionary function. It is hard to believe how much they have absorbed in only a week. Now let’s see what we can accomplish in two weeks!
This semester a group of Fourth grade students from High Tech Explorer Elementary embarked on a journey to learn about some of San Diego’s tidepool critters. These students demonstrated their knowledge base of the creatures through the fusion of art and technology.
Students joined our ranger-led Intertidal Exploration program to get familiar with the tidepool ecosystem and the organisms that live here. They were then assigned a species to investigate as they ventured along into the 3D Cabrillo curriculum. Students used the park’s classroom set of ipods to capture 25-30 pictures of an object to create a 3D file online. During a hands-on workshop in their classroom, these young scientists learned how to edit a 3D file and save it in a way that is available for print on any 3D printer. Back at Cabrillo National Monument, we utilized our 3D printer to print dozens of tidepool creatures. During our last visit into the classroom, students put their artistic abilities to the test using acrylic paint to fully cultivate a 3D biomodel. After the exhibition, students agreed to donate these 3D biomodels to Cabrillo’s tidepool volunteers as educational tools.
Beyond our direct partnership with these students, these young scientists went above and beyond using a multitude of art and research in regards to their species. Each student created a watercolor piece replicating their 3D biomodel, species signs illustrating the animal and its demographics, a haiku about the species defense mechanisms, a “choose your adventure” story, and a scientific journal with an associated food web and illustrations.
At the International Urban Wildlife Conference, you may have spotted National Park Service biologists and their representatives amongst some of the world’s most renowned wildlife scientists.
Held at San Diego State University, the conference provided an opportunity for scientists to present a wide array of research to their peers on topics such as bioacoustics, balancing the scientific and educational goals of urban biodiversity, management and monitoring strategies of conservation, human-wildlife interactions, citizen science on a global level, facing both invasive and endangered species from a biological point of view and so much more. Proceeding the scheduled speakers, four scientists from Cabrillo National Monument presented individual posters on various research that is being done at the park. Austin Parker, Wildlife Biologist, discussed monitoring the urban interface utilization by feral cats for endangered species conversation. Reyna Zavala, Videographer and Animator, displayed her animated short film on hybridization amongst native King Snakes titled Cabrillo Field Notes: Snakes Encounters Of The Third Kind
Wildlife Biologist, Stephanie Root elaborated on recent findings of bats on the urban island known as the Point Loma Peninsula (Click here for background information). Finally, I, Nicole Ornelas, presented Cabrillo National Monument’s most recent educational program at the park called 3D Cabrillo. 3D Cabrillo brings biomodels into the 21st century by using free 3D software in collaboration with our hands-on curriculum to teach the public how to create 3D printed creatures.
With this research and more to come, the National Park Service will remain relevant with the coming age of convergence between technology and conservation. The International Urban Wildlife Conference provided an academic platform for our research to be presented and networking opportunities to be established, but it is in our hands to further scientific endeavors, like these, to best manage our public lands.
Click here to find out more about 3D Cabrillo or watch a step by step demonstration of how a 3D printed biomodel is made.
For more information about the International Urban Wildlife Conference visit: http://www.urban-wildlife.org/
This week at Cabrillo National Monument as you walked to the Visitors Center you may have overheard a kindergartener teaching an adult about the poisonous aspects of a Spanish Shawl Nudibranch, glanced at a cluster of ceramic California Mussels designed by students, been lectured by a first grader about the moon cycles or watched a stop action film on how to protect the Brown Sea Hare. Science education and communication comes in many forms. In the National Park Service, education is mostly seen to the public through Ranger-led programs or educational films and handouts. In the school system, it is seen in the classroom through teacher based instruction. However, here at Cabrillo National Monument, we are trying to switch that framework to provide students with the tools to be the next generation of environmental stewards.
On May 31st, 2017 from 10 – 12 am, we hosted the High Tech Elementary – North County exhibition, where one-hundred kindergarten and first grade students presented conservation stop action short films, hand-designed ceramic tidepool critters, creature feature books, conservation paintings and published activity books that were all designed by themselves. The short films were shown in thirty minute cycles in the auditorium, where the students could escort their family members, friends and other park visitors. The ceramic critters were laid out with student ambassadors surrounding to help explain to visitors where each animal lives in relation to the intertidal zones. Creature feature books were read aloud by the students to visitors in a make-shift reading circle. Conservation paintings were displayed around the park for visitors to read and appreciate. Finally, the activity books were set out on tables for visitors to participate in collaboration with the students. At each station, student ambassadors were available to answer questions, inform the visitors, and above all teach the public about the rocky intertidal and what it means to be an environmental steward.
As we know by now, you can hardly do anything truly on your own. You need a support system. Here at Cabrillo National Monument that same rule applies, especially when it comes down to Science. Yes, there are isolating moments when you are sitting at a desk analyzing data, taking samples or, lets be honest, powering through countless emails that seem to never go away. However, real science requires a team. It requires observing a situation from a multitude of angles and bias, agreeing upon a hypothesis that fits the background research, creating an experiment that fits the given scenario, gathering the results and reporting the data. Alone this may seem like a lot. With a team, it is another challenge worth facing. A team motivates, coordinates and allows your greatest potential to be reached.
Meet my team: Alexandria Warneke, Andrew Rosales and me, Nicole Ornelas. Together we are the Science Education Department. On a weekly basis, we teach hundreds of students (K-12th) about biodiversity, plant adaptations, the rocky intertidal and how we at the National Park Service “do science”. On top of that, we are expanding our curriculum, giving presentations, attending outreach events in the community (no matter how large or small), continuously writing our park blog on the natural resources here at Cabrillo National Monument, connecting with the San Diego County school district through project based learning and much more. It seems like a lot because it is! At times, we stretch ourselves thin. But what gets us through it all, what gets ME through it all, is my team. Any slack left behind is picked up by my teammates. When I am feeling drained physically and emotionally after teaching 100+ students, there is Andrew to talk about the White-Line Sphinx Moth in an “attempted” english accent or Alex to give me a list of what needs to be done next, so my brain can take a break for that extra needed moment.
This summer, with help from my team, we embark on another journey. We will be organizing and running a 2.5 week summer program called EcoLogik. EcoLogik is a unique fusion of nature and technology that seeks to connect underrepresented women (ages 9 – 15) to STEM opportunities. 30 young scientists will join us this summer as we learn to collect data, make biomodels, 3D print, computer program and much more. As a Mosaics intern for the National Park Service at Cabrillo National Monument, I will be the program manager of this project. I will handle the logistics, coordinate with partner groups and organize the curriculum. However, with my team and the Cabrillo Natural Resource Department, we will make this experience a profound connection with the community that will have an everlasting impact on these young scientists. Because teaching the next generation of environmental stewards is a challenge worth facing.
Always remember, teamwork makes the dream work.