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.
My name is Bella Reyes and I am so excited to have started my first week as the Marine Ecology Intern at the Point Reyes National Seashore! As I drove up to my new summer home, I was greeted by the sound of the waves splashing against the beach. The night was pitch black but I knew the view was going to be stunning in the morning. I was right. Intern housing is right on the Tomales Bay. It is quite a sight.
We jumped right into the field within the first few minutes of my first day! An adult female Blue whale washed up to shore last week after being hit by a cargo ship strikes. Very unfortunately, whales that feed near the Point Reyes coast will sometimes get hit by ships and die. The yearly rate has been increasing all along the California coast. Scientists believe this may simply be due to an increase in the whale population.
Along with the California Academy of Sciences, we went out to the field to assess the damage. She had 17 broken vertebrae and 11 broken ribs. It was a nasty hit. Point Reyes and several other groups are brainstorming ways to mitigate these ship strikes.
Later in the week, we read the tags off of Elephant seals to better understand where they are coming from. Elephant seals are incredible and mysterious creatures. Some of these animals had traveled hundreds of miles to snooze on Drake’s Beach in Point Reyes while they molt their fur and skin! They pile on top of each other because the molting phase is very itchy and the feel of one another soothes the itch.
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.
As its name suggests, Lava Beds National Monument is known for its geologic formations built by volcanic eruptions especially its vast networks of caves. Caves draw in a huge number of visitors that seek to explore their twists and turns. So far, I’ve been to three caves at Lava Beds and can attest to the adventures you can find by exploring them!
Although most visitors are interested in the geology of the caves, they are often anxious about the bats that reside in them. A lot of this anxiety about bats can be traced to common misconceptions that give the creatures a bad reputation. The image of the blood-sucking bat is all over popular media like movies and TV shows. So this week, I’ve been working on an interpretative program for park visitors that will clarify some of these misconceptions. By developing this program, I’ve dispelled my own preconceptions about bats and discovered that bats are misunderstood yet remarkable creatures! Echolocation is only one of their many superpowers. Some bats are also immune to scorpion stings.
As part of my program, I will demonstrate a new software that monitors bat echolocations in real time. Visitors will be able to “see” bats through their calls and experience them in a non-harmful or overwhelming way. The first time I tried out the software we found a hairy winged myotis, which is only about 3 inches in length and 10 grams in weight. Most of the bats I’ve seen back home are larger fruit bats distinguishable by their audible calls. So I was so amazed that through this form of acoustic monitoring, we’re able to identify bats we can’t see or hear! Although I have to wear a 4-foot-tall microphone while monitoring, I am excited to look foolish in the name of science.
My name is Noelani Parker and I am recent graduate of California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, with a B.S. in Environmental Management and Protection. Though my journey deviates slightly from the other interns in that I won’t be starting until the end of June, I still wanted to take the time to introduce myself. This summer I will be working closely with the ecologist at Lassen Volcanic National Park in California as a Biological Technician in order to help map the distribution and infection rate of an overseas pathogen (Cronartium ribicola). As a result, most of my work will lead me to the backcountry terrain of Lassen, where both elevation and spirits will be high.
Growing up in a small coastal town in California gave me an early appreciation for nature, and a deep-rooted need to protect it. I was lucky enough to be able to engage myself in some sort of outdoor activity daily, and had an innate love for hiking and camping, making me ecstatic to have been accepted into a MIS program that allows me to do just that!
As the days dwindle down I find myself anxiously excited to see what this summer holds for me. I am mentally prepared to trek new mountains, expand my botanical knowledge, and work hard, but find myself nervous to live in a small town with a population bobbing around 100. For now, I have set my goals and intentions, and all I can do is let the excitement build. I can’t wait to share more of my adventure with everyone once it begins!
Two weeks done and it’s going by so fast.
This past week was Memorial Day weekend so Yosemite was packed to the brim with people. We opted to stay out of Yosemite Valley and instead, do some hiking on the edge of the park. Even though the area we were in was considered relatively low elevation for Yosemite, 5,000 ft is pretty high up for me! We hiked to Cascade Falls and were able to see it from a vantage point pretty different than what you typically see. We finished off our hiking by heading to Tuolumne Grove to check out one of the giant sequoia groves in the area. In all, a day of hiking around 11 miles!
The rest of the week was spent doing park-wide orientation for all employees, interns, and volunteers for the season. Right from the beginning, I could tell that I was going to be a part of a big family that would look out for each other and include everyone’s interests. Throughout orientation, we learned about the different divisions, attractions, wilderness safety, and expectations. To end the park-wide orientation, we got to take the Green Dragon around the park, which is an open-air tram that allows you to see the gorgeous rock faces of the valley in clear view.
Following park-wide orientation was my crew’s orientation for Aquatics team for the summer season. Once again, I felt included and welcomed immediately. This is essential for success this summer and I’m already off to a good start. We learned about the natural history and biology of the species we will be focusing on, wilderness ethics, conduct, and intern expectations. Friday, we went into the park to watch a demonstration on collecting eDNA samples and ended it with a training hike up Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, and coming back down the John Muir Trail. An intense shorter hike with lots of mist, stairs, and great views.
With two weeks under my belt, I have already learned so much and am excited to learn even more this summer. I still can’t believe I’m working at Yosemite National Park! This is a dream that I’ve always had, and everyday, I wake up excited for what’s to come.
Hello everyone! My name is Sidney Woodruff, and I just started my internship with Greening Youth Foundation and the National Park Service this summer through the Mosaics in Science Diversity Internship Program. I’ll be completing my program in herpetological conservation at Yosemite National Park in California. I never thought I would be able to one day actually say those words!
I’m currently a senior at the University of Georgia pursuing a dual degree program in Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. I will be graduating in December 2017, so this is a nice way to finish off my degree! I’ve always had a passion for the outdoors and working in the conservation field. This internship will allow me to work alongside NPS biologists and biological science technicians to restore high elevation lakes for the endangered Sierra Nevada Yellow-legged frog, control invasive Bullfrog populations, and track and monitor Western Pond turtle sites.
With the first week already done, including a four-day tour in frontcountry Yosemite tracking and surveying turtles, I’m more than excited to see what else this summer has to offer!