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!
My first two weeks have consisted mostly of office work. I have done trainings on how to navigate through computer servers and such, but for the most part I’ve been reading through a lot of software, hardware and programming instruction manuals. I’ve also had to read through a lot of government documentation which has allowed me to gain a better understanding on how to put together my own protocol for monitoring vocal anuran/amphibian communities in the South Florida and Caribbean parks. A lot of my research has been conducted by reading through the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) documentation that the Southeast Coast Inventory and Monitoring Network has published.
Over these past two weeks I’ve really discovered the importance of being able to be self-driven, as well as, being able to do a lot of self-teaching, since my supervisor has been gone since last Friday on a week long trip conducting field work out on the Virgin Islands. Although I haven’t gotten the opportunity to do any field work as of yet and my work hasn’t been the most exciting, I certainly feel as though I’ve gained a lot of valuable knowledge in the past two weeks. It also helps that I do have a lot of experience doing research independently from my past internship in Alaska, although it differs in that the majority of my research last year was conducted while I was out on the field on backpacking trips, day-long hiking trips, or overnight canoeing trips.
However since I do live in Everglades National Park, on my own time, I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of exploring of the park’s natural beauty. On my bike rides, hikes and canoeing trips, during the past two weekends I’ve gotten to see some amazing wildlife and experience some amazingly scenic views!
With the first work week down I’ve already begun learning a lot and have already had the opportunity to do great things. As a river technician assistant here at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, life really is better on the river. After finishing a week of training I finally got to get into the field. Taking water samples was the first thing on the list. Going to a bridge in the section known as Jaite we gathered water samples, then walked to a nearby water gauges to note its recordings. Back in the lab we tested for turbidity and E. Coli. I was also able to join a group on a butterfly counting hike, which is a project the park has been tracking for over ten years!
Along with these things I was able to participate in kayak training, which was followed up by a kayaking test in the river. I did a number of different maneuvers and paddled up, and down stream. The test went well and I easily passed! Nearing the end of the week I was able to attend a very important water trails meeting with different people who play vital roles in the whole northeast Ohio watershed! I learned a great amount about this regions watershed and the work that’s already been done for it, and the progress that still has to be made! I’m super excited for all the work I will be doing within the next handful of weeks on the river and surrounding areas here in this beautiful area for this Cuyahoga Valley National Park!
This was one of the best experiences I have ever had. We went to Bighorn National Park and completed vegetation monitoring. What that means is that we took plots given from previous years and we looked to see the kind of plants, shrubs, cactus, cryptonic soil, etc. During this time I learned how to ID all of these things also. We camped out and that was just simply amazing we could see all of the stars at night which were awesome and ran into a lot of wildlife to. We saw a mamma bear and her two cubs, a rattlesnake, and antelope. This was a great experience and I can’t wait for what the future had in store for me!
This week, we traveled to Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in Big Horn County Montana to do vegetation monitoring. The purpose of vegetation monitoring is to determine whether vegetation composition, structure and condition are changing over time due to climate and/or in response to a management intervention. I learned how to I.D. several grasses, trees and shrubs, along with how to determine cover class percentage. We camped at the Ewing Snell Historic Ranch Site. Big Horn Canyon was absolutely breathtaking. Everything from the wildlife to the landscape was mesmerizing. It was an honor and a privilege to have been able to work in such a beautiful place. I had a very close encounter with a black bear and her two cubs. After a long day of monitoring, we returned to our campsite, and these three bears walked right behind our tents! We also encountered wild horses, scorpions, antelope, and a rattlesnake which I nearly stepped on while surveying one of our plots! I have learned so much in such a small amount of time and I owe it all to the supportive, passionate and knowledgeable staff with whom I work. There hasn’t been a dull moment since I began this internship and I look forward the adventures and experiences yet to come.
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.
Hey everyone! My name is Sofia Petros-Gouin and I am a rising junior at Columbia University, majoring in American Studies and Sustainable Development with a special concentration in Education. I will be interning at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado where I am excited to work as the science education intern. A New Yorker for much of my life, this will be my first time in Colorado!
Much of my academic research focuses on the environmental and social history of energy infrastructure and development in the United States and the rise of the conservation movement and environmental justice. I am also deeply interested in the viability of non-traditional and experimental education models. Through much of my work, I’m seeking to ask how can we educate others, especially young people, about the outdoors, environmental justice and work towards de-privileging and protecting natural space? I have worked extensively in outdoor education initiatives and on environmental justice campaigns in New York and I am excited to bring this energy and desire to learn to my time at Rocky Mountain!
This summer I’m excited to learn about career opportunities and realities within the Park Service, to gain the necessary skills to develop, implement and lead original public and interpretive programs, to expose myself to guiding and wilderness education strategies that can be applied across a variety of age groups and to establish connections in the regional network and local environmental/conservation organizing.
I’m excited to start this journey and call such a beautiful place my home for the summer! I’m one of the first of the seasonal staff on site, so I’m excited to get to meet everyone at the end of this week and begin staff training soon!
Attached are photos of me arriving at the airport and a gorgeous view of the park I get to see from the local grocery store.
Seagrass ecosystems are incredibly important foundational ecosystems that provide a variety of ecological and economic services. These ecosystems, and the animals that rely upon them, have been threatened and disrupted by rapid declines and degradation in seagrasses worldwide. Much of the loss can be linked to anthropogenic stressors. Green turtles are the only herbivorous sea turtle species and are the primary consumers of seagrasses worldwide. Green turtle populations have been severely overharvested by humans over the last 200 years and are currently listed as a threatened/endangered species. However, populations are beginning to increase in some areas as a result of long-term conservation efforts. Given the rapid decline in seagrass coverage globally, there is growing concern that the altered ecosystems of today may not be able to sustain grazing by green turtle populations as they did two centuries ago. When an endangered species recovers, what ecological role does it fulfill if its ecosystem has been altered by anthropogenic activities? This is only one of many questions being asked by my mentor, Alexandra Gulick (Graduate Student, Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research, University of Florida). To begin to answer this prodigious question, she must start by investigating the fundamental factors that drive this plant-herbivore interaction. I’m here to help Alexandra execute two of her ecological objectives.
- Evaluate the productivity of naturally grazed and ungrazed seagrass meadows.
- Evaluate the effects of seagrass pasture characteristics on green turtle foraging behavior.
Accomplishing said objectives will then allow her to model the carrying capacity of Caribbean seagrass pastures for recovering green turtle populations.
Buck Island Reef National Monument (BUIS) was established in 1961 under President John F. Kennedy and was later expanded in 2001 under President Bill Clinton. It was the first fully marine protected area in the National Park Service system. The monument includes Buck Island (176 acres) and 18,839 acres of submerged land and coral reef systems. Buck Island is an uninhabited island 1½ miles off the northern coast of St. Croix, and is surrounded by a barrier reef and large expanses of seagrass meadows. Conducting this research at BUIS offers a unique opportunity to study green turtle grazing dynamics and habitat use. Fortunately, the seagrass ecosystem supports both juvenile and adult turtles throughout the year which is uncommon. Also, over the last decade NPS resource managers have documented increases in green turtle nesting and foraging populations. When combined, these factors make BUIS more than ideal for studying green turtle and seagrass interactions. I am thrilled to be a part of this research and partake in sharing it with the world.