“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.
In order to determine the success of tree thinnings and treatments, forest monitoring is conducted to quantify the changes of the forest health.
The best part about forest monitoring is using all of the different gadgets to measure the growth of the forest. We use a laser rangefinder for distance and angle, forest densiometer, angle correction sheet, CWD decay class sheet, DBH tape, a measuring tape, elevation, stakes, orange and red flagging tape, hammer, nails, compass, clinometer, map, chalk, and tree tags. The plots are preexisting areas within the forest in the park that have last been monitored five years ago. The plots are measured for herbaceous plant cover, forest canopy cover, and decaying logs. Every tree is also measured and recorded for its diameter, height, canopy height, bearing and distance from the boundary of the plot. There is a systematic way to monitor the forest in order to have comparable results. The hardest part of the procedure may be getting to the plots and finding the stakes that outline the boundary. There can be a lot of blowdown that can collapse once stepped on. The forest can become very steep in some areas that may make it hard to find proper footing. My favorite part of forest monitoring is the plant identification. I have learned many new species and variations within species that change my perspective on plants and trees I encounter. The temperate rainforest is vibrant, even on decaying logs there is life.The forest is like a mosaic with different working parts that come together to create a viable habitat for animals. This week, I was blessed with the rare sight of a mountain beaver!
“Today, across our land, the National Park System represents America at its best. Each park contributes to a deeper understanding of the history of the United States and our way of life; of the natural processes which have given form to our land, and to the enrichment of the environment in which we live.” George B. Hartzog, Jr., NPS Director, 1964-1972
Listening to the sound of water running through streams or rivers soothes me. I enjoy feeling the fresh current run through my hands. Who knew this is what a day in my internship would be like?!
I had the joy of joining the person who monitor’s Valley Forge and Hopewell Furnace’s water quality. After calibrating the probe, we set out to the various streams we were going to inspect.
In Valley Forge, the stream was a short walk away. During this walk, there was a little section that was muddy and laying there fully displaying its yellow and blue wings was a gorgeous Eastern tiger swallowtail!
In all my excitement, I didn’t get the chance to take a picture but just so you all get the idea of how beautiful this species is here is an image from google:
This is a species of butterfly native to this area. I knew that it has been previously seen at the park however, I had not encountered it while walking the transects for my project so I was so happy to finally see it!
Being in Hopewell Furnace was also amazing. This park has a very peaceful feeling to it and walking through forest under-story to get to the stream was great! This is one of the streams we checked for
quality. To do so, the air temperature barometric pressure were taken. Then the probe would be placed into the water and the sensors would measure the pH, dissolved oxygen available, conductivity, and water temperature. Then the stream width and depth were measured using a transect. This description may sound a little dull but I really enjoyed being out in the field and monitoring the water quality for three streams!
In the broadest sense, nature is our world in the physical, material and natural form. It is everything not made by the human race. For me, nature serves as a place of tranquility, worship, culture and love. At the same time though, it can be frightening, intimidating and humbling. Nature is, hands down, a force to be reckoned with.
Our ancestors were far more in tune with nature than we are today. With so many distractions in the modern world, it has become increasingly more difficult to access nature. The more we become disconnected, the less attentive we will be. Therefore, I believe it is every individuals responsibility to make the effort to break away from mainstream society, at least once in their lifetime, and become one with nature.
I recently was able to reconnect with nature when a group of high school students from Texas stopped by the Florissant Fossil Beds for a visit. Whitney, my education partner, and I led the group of students and their chaperones into the woods on a nature walk with a specific exercise in mind. Upon reaching the most dense part of the forest, Whitney instructed the students to write down what nature is using their five senses. Given that the students were in the age range of 14-17 years old, I was expecting to hear laughter and gossip, and not see much writing going down. However, the students fully participated and even the chaperones were jotting down their thoughts.
At the end of the exercise, Whitney had the students recite their favorite interpretation of what nature is, however, replacing the “Nature is…” with “I am…”. As you can imagine, some were rather humorous, while others were incredibly poetic.
After the nature walk, I had the students and chaperones participate in the paleoclimatic reconstruction activity I put together for the Geo/Paleo Camp. It was incredible to witness the students draw their own conclusions on how the Florissant valley, during the Eocene, exhibited drastically different climatic conditions than today. The biggest take away for me, and I hope for the students and chaperones as well, is that in addition to making connections with nature on a mental and spiritual level, everyone is also capable of making scientific connections. There is no requirement of a masters or PhD to make that scientific connection. The only requirements are patience, curiosity and an open mind.
This past school year I started a bird club at Wade Carpenter Middle School in an effort to get students to participate in citizen science. Citizen science is collaborative networking between scientists and everyday citizens. Through citizen science people can contribute to scientific data. For example, citizens use eBird to share sightings so that scientists get an idea where populations of birds are located. Teaching kids about citizen science not only inspires them to pursue science careers but connects them with nature. When we start as kids we may be more inclined to be citizen scientists for the rest of our lives.
Students had a wonderful time participating in the bird club. We did all kinds of projects including participating in the schools science fair and taking top honors in the Friends of the Santa Cruz river art contest. But one of our biggest contributions was entering our sightings on eBird. Students spent time counting the number of each species of birds and making sure to correctly identify the bird using their field guide. We bird watched twice a week from August until the week before finals in May. My students learned how to identify birds based on shape, size, color pattern, behavior, and habitat. We also feed birds at our school campus and visited Las Lagunas de Anza (a lagoon located near our school) to bird watch. It was an amazing experience to see my students gain an interest in local birds and have them participate in a citizen science project that contributes to scientific research.
My work here at Tumacacori National Historical Park deals with creating a curriculum for the Santa Cruz river. Much of the program is centered in a citizen science project. Through this program I hope to inspire kids to perform citizen science and contribute to scientific research. Using citizen science becomes a hands on way to educate kids about the environment and science, and gives them a personal sense of nature.
The days were already longer to begin with than what I was previously used to in Los Angeles. However, now that summer is here, I’m finding myself outside for longer periods of time as the days go by. Summer days in Colorado have so far proven themselves to be incredibly gorgeous and filled with good vibes. Although summer monsoon season is approaching, the past couple of weeks have been full of sun and blue skies with sprinkled clouds throughout.
This last week saw the first testing of activities for the Florissant Fossils Beds Geo/Paleo camp I am developing. On Friday, we had a group of teachers at the monument culminating their 5-day workshop on climate change. My supervisor and I thought it would be a good idea to experiment the activity I have on paleoclimate. The activity requires students to identify a set of fossil plants from the Florissant formation using a dichotomous key. Once the fossils plants are identified, students are given data of the temperature and precipitation ranges for modern plant species that are related to the plant fossils of Florissant. From there, students can narrow down a range for temperature and precipitation in which all plant species can thrive in. Once the students have calculated those ranges, I tell them the average annual temperature and precipitation of Florissant today. They are then able to make their own conclusions that during the Eocene, the climate of Florissant valley was much hotter and wetter. Even though the age range for the activity is intended for 3rd-5th grade, the teachers had a blast and were even requesting the activity be made available online so that teachers across the nation can access it.
As if the teachers’ enthusiasm and support for my camp development wasn’t enough excitement for one week, I also had visitors come through. On Thursday, I hosted Cristina Ramírez and Jennifer Orellana from the NPS regional offices in Lakewood, CO. Cristina and Jennifer are interns with the Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP), which is a partnership with the National Park Service, Environment for the Americas and Hispanic Access Foundation. It was great to show them around the Fossil Beds and introduce them to the Geo/Paleo camp I have been working on. Then on Friday afternoon, Lily Calderón and Chu-Yu of Environment for the Americas also stopped by for a visit. It was incredible meeting both of them and hearing Lily’s experience as a Mosaics In Science intern in 2016 served as inspiration and motivation. Needless to say, I feel incredibly
blessed to have met such beautiful and inspiring people this past week!
On a non-work related note, I finally was able to go rock climbing with some of the other interns at Florissant Fossil Beds. Shelf Road off the Gold Belt Byway in Central Colorado is notorious for world class sport climbing. My first time rock climbing in Colorado was a success!
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
Water is the most important element for life on earth. It is highly evident in southwestern Arizona desert ecosystems where the average yearly rainfall is about 18 inches. Most of the rainfall falls during the monsoon, which traditionally starts on June 24th Dia de San Juan and ends on September 15th. Half or more of our yearly rainfall falls during this time period. Many plants, including the saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantean), bloom during this time and wildlife, including humans, depend on it. Spanish explorers that colonized the area turned the start of the monsoon into a celebration known as el Dia de San Juan.
The story goes that in 1540 the Spanish arrived in a drought stricken land here in southwestern Arizona. Worried for their European crops and livestock the Spaniards prayed to Saint John the Baptist for rain. Shortly after and on St.John’s Day rain started to fall. Since then, the coming of the monsoon season has become a celebration of water. It’s celebrated with cold beverages or foods, water filled activities, a bonfire, and prayer. The summer rains are always welcomed here in southwestern Arizona.
Upon reflecting about Dia de San Juan and the importance of water in nature I remembered listening to stories about the celebration from family members. When they were younger they mentioned how it would rain on the day of Dia de San Juan and would rain almost every day until September. Today it seems that the monsoons start later in the year. I wondered if it’s possible that climate change may have changed the timing of the monsoon and how that might affect life in the southwestern Arizona desert. I have not yet found any data that supports my hypothesis but Arizona temperatures are higher in 2017 than previous years and drier. Yet, the celebration of Dia de San Juan will never change because here in the desert the monsoon is always needed and welcomed.
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!
After a week in the field, it is time to get back to the office. If you read my last blog post, you know we just did the biannual tortoise monitoring at Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park (PAAL), where I tagged along to deploy the tortoise radio tracking project. However, here at the Gulf Coast Network (GULN) of Inventory and Monitoring Program (I&M) office there are many projects rolling at the same time. The GULN is one of the thirty-two networks part of the Inventory and Monitoring Program of the National Park Service (see picture below). As the name suggests, the networks of the I&M program do inventories of the natural resources. They plan, design, and implement an integrated long-term monitoring program for the park vital signs. Vital signs are a subset of physical, chemical, and biological elements and processes of park ecosystems that are selected to represent the overall health or condition of park resources.
Our network, GULN, is responsible for eight national parks: Big Thicket National Preserve, Gulf Islands National Seashore, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Natchez Trace Parkway, Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park, Padre Island National Seashore, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, and Vicksburg National Military Park (see picture 2). I was able to “visit” all of them through the data entry of one vital sign, water quality. Well, to be very specific, PAAL does not have water quality monitoring, but because I literally just came back from there, I am going to say I visited them all.
Data entry is not the most exciting activity to do, but nevertheless, it is of much importance. All monitoring projects collect data in field sheets, however to be of any use the data needs to be added to the project database. Data entry is the first step for the information collected in the field to be turned into knowledge about the park. It was very interesting to see a snapshot of each park water quality status. I also learned about the differences of the monitoring schedule for our parks; some have every month, some bimonthly, and some quarterly. You can learn more about water quality monitoring for the GULN’s parks at https://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/guln/monitor/water_quality.cfm