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.
“Spies.” “Disloyals.” “Japs.” These words erased and replaced the names of eighteen thousand Japanese American citizens imprisoned at the Tulelake Segregation Center. They were no longer individuals. They were all the same in the U.S. government’s eyes, linked by their ancestry to those who attacked Pearl Harbor. “A Jap’s a Jap,” said General John DeWitt to justify internment. To be Japanese meant you were stripped of your freedom and undeserving of humane treatment. Tulelake Segregation Center surely embodies this sentiment. The entire town of Tulelake could fit in a just few of the barracks that held over ten Japanese American families. The barracks were not only overcrowded, but also enclosed in layers and layers of barbed wire. Those imprisoned were closely watched by armed guards wherever they went. The only crime they had committed was being Japanese.
Tulelake Segregation Center is a unit of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument; it is also half an hour from Lava Beds National Monument. Last week, along with my co-workers at Lava Beds Resource Management Division, I took a tour with an interpretative ranger of the segregation center. One of the most powerful moments during the tour was the visit to the jail. “Show me the way to go home,” reads a graffiti message on the walls of one jail cell. When a nation you considered your homeland isolates and brands you as an imposter, where do you call home? How do you make sense of a government that not only turns its back on you but also actively spreads racist sentiments against you? “It whipped up hatred and fear toward an entire group of people based solely on our ancestry,” writes George Takei, whose family was imprisoned at Tulelake. Takei calls internment “America’s Great Mistake.” Today, we are living with this legacy. Yes, the U.S. government has formally apologized for its blatantly racist segregation of Japanese Americans, but that by no means translates to a nation free from discrimination against Asian-Americans and other people of color.
After the tour, I reflected on how much further we have left in this nation to progress. We have so much to improve upon that I can’t help but feel sad or angry. However, I also remembered when I spoke with a program manager and resource assistant from our regional inventory and monitoring network. All three of us were Asian-Americans. We shared our experiences working for the National Park Service as people of color. I was able to see other people who looked like me and came from similar backgrounds as me achieve genuine success in the NPS.
Yosemite National Park had an amazing snowfall for the winter of 2016-2017. By April, there was still over 100 inches of snow in areas like Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows. This major snowfall and the resulting flooding conditions rendered the high country unaccessible for park visitors and park employees. Because of this, the Aquatics crew’s high country aquatic restoration sites were still frozen over and unsafe to hike to. Tioga Road, which connects the west of the Sierra Nevadas to the east of the range, remained closed up until late June because of damage from flooding and snowpack. I was pretty bummed at the beginning of this summer to not be able to experience some of the high country since I had never been above about 7,000 feet in elevation before. Where I’m from, Georgia’s highest point in elevation is only about 4,700 feet, and here at Yosemite, some of the high country sites reach 11,000 and 12,000 feet! I was still pumped for the other projects I would be able to join in on like turtle crew and bullfrog crew, but knowing I wouldn’t be able to experience the high country was much of a bummer.
A couple weeks ago during our 6 days off rotation, I had planned to just spend the time hanging out in the front country and doing random day hikes in the Valley that I could access and taking a breather. I got a message from someone on the crew saying, “Change of plans. Some people on the crew are heading to the East side tonight and want to go to Mammoth mountain tomorrow for skiing/snowboarding. If you want to go.” How could I pass up this opportunity to take a trip towards the high country? I said yes, instantly because I knew this might be my only shot to see it.
And boy, am I glad I did it. I felt like a kid in a candy shop! Every turn on Tioga Road yielded breathtaking views of valleys thousands of feet below or white-capped mountain peaks or acres of precious meadows. A major highlight was the newly cold temperatures I was experiencing from the elevation, as the front country site where I live for the summer has been experiencing heat wave temperatures of 110 on some days! Our first full day on the East side, we hit up food trucks, June Lake to swim and paddleboard, and even managed to squeeze in watching Moana with all of us crowded around a couple laptops. The next day we headed over to Mammoth Mountain to do a half-day of skiing/snowboarding. I’ve only ever skied before in slushy, fake snow in North Carolina, but this was the real deal! The temperatures on top of the mountain were even in the lower 70s, as people were skiing down in tank-tops and shorts. One of the employees on the Aquatics crew used to even be a ski instructor, and he gave me the courage and confidence boost to join them at the top to ski my first real Black Diamond slope down. Would I do that slope again? Probably not. Do I regret it? Absolutely not! Another bucket list item checked off. We ended our trip with some live music that was going on at THE Mobil, which is a gas station/restaurant destination spot that has become famous for its great view of Mono Lake and amazing atmosphere. I could finally see what everyone was talking about, and why this place was amazing.
I never would have thought I could see places so beautiful and jaw-dropping, as I did while experiencing the high country. Our trip to the east side was filled with June Lake swimming, Mammoth Mountain skiing, live music at the famous Mobil stop in Lee Vinings, and a great time with great people from the Aquatics crew. I’m so lucky to know these people that come from different parts of the country (and even world), but all have such a large passion for wildlife and habitat restoration at Yosemite. This internship has awarded me new skills, friends, experiences, and memories that I won’t ever forget.
First off, Happy Latino Conservation Week (July 15-23)!
I absolutely love the fact that I have been exposed to so many new and exciting marine ecology field techniques, data synthesis methods and being a part of the park’s social media team. Some weeks I work on a single project while others I work on a Hodge podge of different research. This is exactly what I hoped to experience from my Mosaics In Science internship, just a whole lot of different awesomeness.
(Photo credit: Michael Spaeth)
Coding in R was my main focus of the week. With much help from my supervisor, Ben, and several R books, I have written some sweet codes that actually produces graphs! This was an exciting breakthrough. As mentioned before, we are trying to produce graphs that show Harbor seal population variation over time by seal colony, of which there are eight. Hopefully, I will also have the time to analyze Harbor seal population variations with sea surface temperature changes and during El Nino years.
Why do we care about seals?! The presence of seals is a good indicator of food quality, ocean health, and the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas. They are also apex predators, which means they feed towards the top of the food chain. Essentially, the local marine trophic structure would be completely imbalanced if Elephant and Harbor seals were not at their current, healthy population levels.
Unrelated to the seal project, my role on the social media team had me captioning several of our videos on Facebook and YouTube. They were mostly interviews of different people that have been working for the park for years and are an integral part of the thread that holds this magnificent park together. If y’all have a few minutes to spare, you should definitely check out these interviews on the Point Reyes National Seashore Facebook page!
And finally, I rejoined my fellow Cavalier friend, Pam, on her PhD work in the salt marsh of Bolinas Lagoon! One of her lab members, Ben, also joined us for the wild ride through the marsh. We collected pore water samples from the enclosures, measure crab length, and counted the number of burrows within the enclosures. It was an especially soupy day out there. This time, I only stepped out of my boot and into the marsh once. A true success. My goal for next time is to not step out of my boots at all. 🙂
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!
I want to start off this post by celebrating my dear friends that I have made at the intern housing. These art folks that are participating in different projects at Point Reyes, including archeology, fisheries, range management, exotic plant and wildlife monitoring, and habitat restoration. We learn from each other and discuss the many facets of research and natural resource management that go into maintaining a successful national park. This past fourth of July weekend, we roadtripped to Mono Lake and made a stop in Yosemite for some outdoor rock climbing. This was my first visit to these parks. I remain speechless by their beauty and am so thankful for the wonderful company I had with me.
After a long weekend, I went back to work (still can’t believe that what I do is considered work). I had the incredible opportunity to help a masters student, Tracy, from San Diego State University on her crab diversity research. She is comparing the crab species in two estuaries, Elkhorn Slough and Drake’s Estero. Drake’s Estero is a beautiful estuary in Point Reyes that has just undergone an extensive eelgrass restoration project, which is great habitat for crabs! The photo to the right is my supervisor, Ben, who was driving the National Park’s boat for us.
On Wednesday, we set out six sets of two different sized traps. The larger trap targeted crabs while the smaller trap targeted fish, specifically the Pacific staghorn sculpin. The next day, we went back out on the boat to see what we had caught. Over the course of the week, we came across three different species of crab, Below is a photo of a female Metacarcinus gracilis, or slender crab. I loved these crabs because of their beautiful, purple color.
We pulled the crabs out of the cage and measured their carapace (the upper shell) at its widest point, determined the sex, identified the species, and then released them. For the fish, we only measured their length before releasing them. Tracy said the crabs caught in Drake’s Estero were massive compared to those in Elkhorn Slough.
This was such a cool week. While out in the estuary, we saw leopard sharks, bat rays, harbor seals, and river otters. It’s difficult to describe how incredibly lucky I feel.
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.
To switch things up this week, I thought I would interview someone working for the National Park Service I think is a great person for who they are and what they do for Yosemite National Park. Though I do not directly report to her, she is someone I feel like I can easily talk to about anything regarding my internship or work at the park this summer! Rachel is considered the black bear expert of the park, though I could argue she’s the expert for the entire state!
Dr. Rachel Mazur, Branch Chief of Wildlife, Visitor Use, and Social Science
B.S. (Penn State), M.S. (SUNY College of Forestry), M.P.A. (Syracuse University), Ph.D. (U.C. Davis)
How long have you been working for the National Park Service?
I started with the National Park Service as an SCA intern in 1989.
What brought you to the Park Service and Yosemite in particular?
The former division chief of Resources Management and Science recruited to come to Yosemite for a detail. I enjoyed it and ended up applying for the job.
What is the coolest part about your work/research?
The coolest part of my work is getting to dabble in a broad range of wildlife restoration and research projects since the Yosemite wildlife program is very large and diverse.
Share a defining moment in your career.
A defining moment in my career came when I sat in a giant sequoia grove and watched two bear cubs nurse. It was absolutely stunning and reminded me to slow down and observe.
If you could begin a research project on any species, problem, or topic, what would it be?
I actually am working on a pet project outside of work. My friend Olotumi Laizer, a Maasai warrior from Tanzania, now lives and works at Yosemite. How and why did he move and what can we learn from each culture? That is the subject of a book we are writing.
Growing up, did you see yourself becoming a scientist?
When I was a kid, I wanted to work at the local five-and-dime variety store. Later, I wanted to be a landscape architect. Then I wanted to be a wildlife biologist. When my kids were little, I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom. Now, I want to be a writer.
What do you like to do on your off time?
On my off time, I play with my kids. They are the center of my universe. Often, that means camping, swimming, or taking them to participate in wildlife projects.
(Mosaics in Science is an internship program that provides youth that are under-represented in the natural resource science career fields with science work experience with the National Park Service. 2014 data revealed that the National Park Service workforce is 18% racially diverse (African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, others). In STEM fields, this number drops down to 3%, compared to the national average of 6%). Why is it important to have programs like Mosaics in Science that promote inclusion, diversity, and equity in the science field?
Mosaics in Science is designed to let people know about jobs with the National Park Service. Bringing in a diversity of people is critical to our success because with a diversity of people comes a diversity of ideas, experiences, skills, and ways of doing things that continually improve the way we achieve our mission. I love interns, partly because I spent my first two years as an intern.
“Throw a stone into the stream and the ripples that propagate themselves are the beautiful type of all influence” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
I had these words in mind as we were wrapping up the Point Reyes Science Adventure on Tuesday. We ended our time together with a concept map exercise. The students were able to chew on their experiences and draw or write about their favorite activities. I noticed a beautiful theme among their work; interconnectivity. They seemed to truly grasp this concept as one that would allow for a sustainable future. Whether or not they first learned this from the Science Adventure, I was overjoyed to hear that this was a major take-away from the week. I hope that the students continue this ripple-effect by passing along the message of interconnectivity outside of our time together.
Above: Groups of students presenting their concept maps.
To back up a bit, the final few days of the Point Reyes Science Adventure were full of just that, adventure! We continued working in Lagunitas Creek to record its bathymetry by monitoring the water depth and variations of the creek bottom. In the days to follow, we surveyed the intertidal zone of the Tomales Bay and went fossil hunting! For the fossil hunting portion of our week, we met with Point Reyes’s former paleontology intern who is now working at the University of California Paleontology Museum at Berkeley. She guided us on a fossil hunt on Drake’s Beach. Drake’s Beach is lined with giant cliffs with exposed rock that are full of the fossils of incredible prehistoric animals. I guess I had eaten plenty of carrots that day because I spotted a fossilized shark’s tooth that had yet to be found.
Left: The rock on Drake’s Beach. Right: The fossilized shark’s tooth.