My focus project here at Manassas National Battlefield park is assisting with and creating a management plan for the Northern Bobwhite Quail. We started our Quail habitat vegetation surveys this week and I am very excited to collect more information and data to create a management plan! We also went to a training on trapping this week and did some planting but I want to share all the exciting things I learned about Quail habitat first!
Our habitat surveys are done mid-July to early August in order to ensure the warm season grasses are mature and mowing has not occurred yet. Mowing in grassland habitat is limited in the park and must be done mid-August or after in order to ensure Quail nests are not destroyed. We have 19 survey sites around the park and we need to go to each and obtain data in the North, South, East, and West directions. When we are obtaining data we use a tape measure and walk 20 meters out from our starting point. Then at 2 meter intervals we use a densiometer and record what we see such as grasses, forbs, bare ground, etc. A fun fact is that our densiometer is just an empty toilet roll holder to narrow your sight to a specific circle! We have been working on our grass and plant identification skills and have been using field guides that we created and books to help us out. You can see how we perform the surveys, record the data, and all the supplies we take out with us in the pictures below. It has been really fun getting started on the surveys and I’m hoping my identification skills keep improving as we get through all 19 sites.
The Department of the Interior also held a training called Trapping Matters at Monocacy National Battlefield Park which we all attended. I have assisted with trapping of mammals in the past but I only learned about two different types of traps so this was really interesting to learn how to trap other types of animals with different methods. Trapping can be used for a variety of reasons including scientific research, nuisance control, recreation, and wildlife management to conserve another species. We saw different types of traps including cage, foot holds, snares, and more. I did not know how much there was behind trapping as it is very strategic and labor intensive. The strategy behind trapping is so important to being able to trap an animal because you have to estimate the path the animals are taking along with the right attractant in order to be successful. It is very labor intensive as the best site to trap at may be hard to get to and besides setting the trap you have to come back every single day to check the trap. I did not know how difficult trapping was and how hard it is to estimate the patterns of various species.
Overall, I learned a lot this week and I really enjoy having the opportunity to participate in these training’s because there is so much to learn about natural resource management. Looking forward to learning more about Quail habitat management next week!
Managing natural resources in a park is a balancing act. Some days you are adding to the land and others you are removing from the land. I got the opportunity to do a bit of both this week! We started off the week planting everything we bought the week before for the garden outside headquarters. The park has a program called Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) which is a group of 10-15 kids below the age of 18 who work at the park over the summer and they came out to help us plant. It was fun getting to know the kids and learning about what they’re interested in and what brought them to the National Park Service. It was really great to plant everything and see the whole garden come together nicely where before there was nothing but a couple sad looking bushes. Here are few pictures of all of us really in the zone planting!
The next day I had the chance to join the team who monitors the water in the river that runs in part of the park. It was really interesting to learn about how to test water quality and what is ideal for fish species. They showed us how to understand the different things that are monitored such as pH, flow, and more. They even let us handle some of the equipment which was fun to try in different areas of the stream to see how different factors could change across the stream. I would definitely be interested in learning more about stream monitoring and how they interpret the data and degradation of water bodies.
Switching gears from planting, we worked with a lot of herbicide this week! We learned how to mix herbicide and were able to do it ourselves and understand the different substances that are added together to create the herbicide we put in our backpack sprayers. We used Rodeo herbicide which is non-selective and kills every plant it comes in contact with because we were clearing a parking lot of a lot of growth coming up in the cracks. We mixed the Rodeo with a dye and a substance that allows the herbicide to be a little stickier and hold to the leaves of the plants we spray. We measured everything out and mixed them to create a 2 gallon mixture. These were added to our backpack sprayers and we spent the next day spraying the entire area which only gets sprayed once a year. We were spraying for hours and all of our hands starting cramping but it was really fun and good to get it done.
Towards the end of the week, we worked to clear up a patch of wildflowers in front of our office. The patch needed help because all the wildflowers were in heavy competition that they were not looking as beautiful as they could. So we decided to transplant some of the plants into an area that was empty and was not growing grasses. By doing this we created space in the patch for other flowers to flourish and added flowers to an area that was not looking great.
Overall, the week was a good balance of adding and removing from the park. I was reminded that growth is great but it is important to find the balance and make room for new growth. Looking forward to another great week!
Rain has many benefits which I appreciate but I don’t specifically enjoy being stuck inside when I work at a national park. Unfortunately, it rained for a couple days here in Virginia during our work hours so we were not able to go out into the field. This wasn’t any ordinary rain, it was what I would call a downpour. The water under the stone bridge in the park had risen more than halfway up the bridge structure and the roads surrounding and in the park looked more like rivers than roads. Even surrounding major roads were blocked off because of flooding and the quarry nearby had waterfalls in it! It was pretty fun going around and seeing parts of the parks and taking photos for records of how high the water gets under the bridge. We even helped maintenance alleviate the flooding around our building and headquarters because the water was pooling near doorways. I’ve never experienced a rain like this with so much of an impact but it was exciting to say the least.
Despite the rain, I still managed to learn a lot. There is a flowerbed in front of headquarters which is next door to our office and the other intern and I were put in charge of designing it and picking what native species we want planted there. It was really interesting to learn about all the species we see in the park that are actually native as we looked up different flowers we had seen around to look into. Once we picked species and designed it we all went to a huge plant nursery and got to pick out and buy all the species we wanted. It was a really fun experience and we are going to plant the garden on Monday so I will share pictures of it next week! Also, I got the chance to look more into my project that is my focus at the park this summer. I will be helping to create and improve a management plan for the Quail species and the grassland habitat they utilize. I spent a lot of time reading through some research papers and past plans and the impacts that have been recorded in the park. I am getting really excited to put together information and create my own plan with the help of our team here.
I got the chance to go pick up my card that will allow me computer access at my park on Friday! My supervisor was out so she let me and one of the other interns go into D.C. to pick it up and then spend the day visiting other national parks in D.C. which was a lot of fun! We went to a lot of the monuments including the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial. We even went to the Department of Forestry building which has a small museum area you can go see where I got to meet Smokey the bear! Here are a few pictures of me picking up my card, at the monuments, and with Smokey!
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.
Certain experiences in your life can create such an impact on who you are and where your passions lie. I was lucky enough to grow up camping, hiking, and travelling with my family and friends often. Through those cherished memories I found my passion for exploring wild places and conserving wildlife. My name is Saba Rahman and I grew up in Maryland where I have had the opportunity to explore and become familiar with the habitats and wildlife seen in this region and am excited to immerse myself in a national park in a neighboring state, Virginia. I graduated from the University of Maryland in 2016 with a degree in environmental science and policy with a concentration in wildlife ecology and management. I was involved in the Wildlife Society at UMD and was also part of a co-ed service fraternity. Through these organizations I had a lot of opportunities to do a variety of service work, which was a big part of why I enjoyed my time at UMD. Overall, I had great experiences at UMD and I hope to use both the knowledge I gained and experience I had to help me excel in my position this summer.
This summer I have the opportunity to work at Manassas National Battlefield Park as a Biological Technician Intern. I will be working with grassland birds and performing habitat management at the park. I am so excited to work with the wildlife biologist at the park and get to learn from her and get hands on experience performing research in a national park. I hope to improve my fieldwork techniques and my ability to display data in a more accessible way through GIS and other programs. I have done fieldwork on Poplar Island on the Chesapeake Bay before and I absolutely loved it and can not wait to head to Virginia. The picture below is of me holding a diamondback terrapin when I was out on Poplar Island and I can not wait to take more pictures in the field and share them with you all. I have always wanted to work with the National Park Service and I am so happy the Mosaics program has now given me the chance to do so. Looking forward to growing and learning as much as I can this summer!