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!
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve gotten the opportunity to share the skills I’ve be gaining, with my supervisor and a couple other scientists. Raven Pro, Kaleidoscope, SongMeter are all very different softwares that are unfamiliar to researchers in Everglades, and the South Florida and Caribbean Inventory and Monitoring Network. It is quite rewarding to know that I am helping pave a new path in how data can be collected and analyzed. Acoustic ecology is still a relatively new field and I’m glad that the skills on gained during my internship in Alaska, last summer, are allowing me to make an impact at here at the SFCN.
Science is often valued as a way to understand how the world works and leverage that understanding to better human society. Yet, there is growing mistrust in science among the public. Some people see science as pretentious, elitist, or misleading; this attitude is frankly dangerous.
Interpretation can play a significant role in repairing the relationship to science as I learned during my three days of training at Yosemite National Park. Together with some amazing individuals from the Klamath Inventory and Monitoring Network, I attended two of the Bat Chat programs at Yosemite. The Bat Chats combined scientific data collection with interpretative talks by recording echolocation calls with visitors while sharing information about bats. The data collected from the Bat Chat was then incorporated into a long-term acoustic monitoring program to examine the effects of climate change or habitat disruption on bat species. Visitors were able to actively engage in the scientific process rather than passively observe it. Because both interpreters and visitors were collecting data together, there was less of an us-them hierarchy between citizens and scientists. By intertwining bat biology with personal experience, the interpreters constructed genuine emotional connections to scientific facts. You could see visitors’ faces light up and hear them ooh and ah when we heard bats! This upcoming week I’ll be incorporating the lessons on science communication from Yosemite to improve on my own Bat Walk program.
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!
Along with every field researchers, there are people in the office who receive the data collected in the field and put the data to use. Data is interpreted and organized in graphs, tables, and even maps. ArcGIS is commonly used to visually represent data that is collected in the field. This is important for several reasons: One reason is that once data is put onto maps, you can get a visual representation of the area that was surveyed and develop hypotheses as to how it may affect the data that was collected. Another reason is the area that was surveyed can be re-visited in the future. The maps can assure the accuracy of your location once in the field.
Interpretation of data is a very important step of developing proper solutions to environmental issues that are being studied. I took part in ArcGIS training to learn how data is manipulated to be displayed on maps. Along with this training, I also enrolled in classes that taught the importance of the National Park Service and its employees.
I have had the absolute pleasure of spending my week with a group of 13 curious young scientists, their awesome counselors, and the creative Point Reyes Science Adventure program manager. The Point Reyes National Seashore Association, a non-profit associated with the park, annually hosts around 13 high school aged students at the park for the week-long Point Reyes Science Adventure!
We began our adventures with a plant assessment of the Giacomini Wetlands by using 1×1 m quadrats. The Giacomini Wetlands is a special place because it is the site of a successful restoration project that began in 2007. We were out there to help the park collect annual data that will then be processed to analyze the change in the plant species distribution over the course of the past year.
The next day we took the young scientists out into the field to seine fish. Seining is the process of catch and release fishing by using a wide net that is vertically placed into and then stretched across a body of water. We were helping the park’s fish biologist assess the success of the Giacomini Wetland restoration by looking for indicator species, such as the Yellowfin Goby. We sampled three different sites where the students were taught to identify and handle the fish. The third site was a ways into the muddy and breathtaking Giacomini Wetland. For most of the students, this was their first time trudging through this type of ecosystem. If y’all recall from my last week’s post, wetlands and marshes tend to want to swallow boots whole and can make some feel defeated by its tricks. It requires a lot of teamwork, communication, and patience. Given this challenge, the students were in high spirits and were impressed with their own abilities to persevere in the name of science and adventure. It was incredible to watch!
On Friday, the students participated in a state-wide monitoring program called LiMPETS. LiMPETS, Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students, is a program that engages young people in citizen science to monitor the health of the California coasts. A good indicator species for ocean and beach health is the mole crab, also called the sand crab. These are cute little invertebrates that burrow into the sand along the swash zone of the beach. The students set up their stations and cored for mole crabs at 1 m intervals along a 10 m transect.
Once the sand was sieved through, a bunch of mole crabs would appear! The students recorded the gender and carapace length of the mole crab. All of this data was then inputted into the online LiMPET database that is then used to assess California coastal health. This was an incredibly rewarding experience because, by inputting the data online and creating graphs, the students were able to instantly see the impact they were having on such an important health assessment.
Fortunately, my week with these folks is not over, and tomorrow I will be going back out with them into Lagunitas Creek to record its bathymetry!
Have you ever seen a bee up close? What if I told you that I was able to take a detailed picture of one. Thanks to my handy iPhone I am able to show all of you the characteristics you can’t see with a naked eye. Shown below is an up close up view of a bee and its wing. In order to identify a bee, characteristics must be examined under the microscope and an identification guide is used to match descriptions explained in the book. It becomes a tedious process as the descriptions become more specific and the list of possible species narrows down.
Besides my role in identifying bees this summer, I have been tasked to do a presentation on citizen science programs that visitors can get involved with for a entomology workshop on Saturday. Anyone can be citizen scientist and people like you are needed to collect data to further help researchers understand what is happening to animal populations. There are a lot of opportunities to get involved with projects and I encourage you spread the word about it. The workshop that we are in doing is to teach educators about entomology, but also encourage them to incorporate the resources we give them into their school curriculum for their students. We hope that students grow to appreciate insects for what they do for our environment.
Take thirty seconds to look at this picture and tell me: What do you see? What do you think is happening? Describe how the environment is/feels? Students take a second to observe the picture. I think to myself how is this activity going to play out with the kids. This is my first time really working with such a large group of young kids, and I have no idea the level of interaction we will get. “If there is no participation then what? Kids don’t really feel the need to speak when it is awkward.” But just like that I saw many hands go up. I was so impressed by the amount of enthusiasm I saw in these kids faces. They really wanted to share their opinion, their views.
This week we welcomed a few new education team members. Throughout their training and familiarization, we went over visual learning and how we will be using it on a program on Friday. I was a little skeptical on how this new learning tool would work with fourth graders. I couldn’t really see how kids would interact with the activity. However, when I saw it in action I truly understood the power of allowing kids to discover the answers by themselves, like detectives. I also believe I underestimated these kids. Some of the questions and poems they came up with at the end of their activity, were incredible. The more experience I gain, it really reinforces my drive to fully commit to the educational field
After 3.5 weeks spent doing in-office research, which has consisted of a lot of statistics, softwares, ARDs, SOPs, and reading through lots of User Manuals I finally got the opportunity to do a couple hours of field work this past week! I got to deploy an SM3 Automated Recording Devices in a couple different spots near some sloughs in Everglades National Park. It was nice getting to go out! Just a bit of advice though; it you ever feel inclined to go exploring the Everglades in the middle of June beware of the most vicious residents of the Everglades. Mosquitoes!
Another successful week at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park! This week we focused on river user counts through cameras, and trail monitors. I got to go out and learn how to switch SD cards in the three cameras we have set up, and how to format them. The three cameras are set up pointing towards the river. These are set in place so we can get an idea of how many people are using the river and for what. People go down the river in kayaks, canoes, floats and even some SUPs (stand up paddle boards).
Additionally we put up some infrared trail counters. These were put on little trails that are put ins, or take outs for people using the river. These don’t take pictures but help to give us a rough idea of how many people are going down these paths to the river, and at what times are most popular. With the information from these cameras and infrared counters we can use it create better water trails, and access points!