Managing natural resources in a park is a balancing act. Some days you are adding to the land and others you are removing from the land. I got the opportunity to do a bit of both this week! We started off the week planting everything we bought the week before for the garden outside headquarters. The park has a program called Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) which is a group of 10-15 kids below the age of 18 who work at the park over the summer and they came out to help us plant. It was fun getting to know the kids and learning about what they’re interested in and what brought them to the National Park Service. It was really great to plant everything and see the whole garden come together nicely where before there was nothing but a couple sad looking bushes. Here are few pictures of all of us really in the zone planting!
The next day I had the chance to join the team who monitors the water in the river that runs in part of the park. It was really interesting to learn about how to test water quality and what is ideal for fish species. They showed us how to understand the different things that are monitored such as pH, flow, and more. They even let us handle some of the equipment which was fun to try in different areas of the stream to see how different factors could change across the stream. I would definitely be interested in learning more about stream monitoring and how they interpret the data and degradation of water bodies.
Switching gears from planting, we worked with a lot of herbicide this week! We learned how to mix herbicide and were able to do it ourselves and understand the different substances that are added together to create the herbicide we put in our backpack sprayers. We used Rodeo herbicide which is non-selective and kills every plant it comes in contact with because we were clearing a parking lot of a lot of growth coming up in the cracks. We mixed the Rodeo with a dye and a substance that allows the herbicide to be a little stickier and hold to the leaves of the plants we spray. We measured everything out and mixed them to create a 2 gallon mixture. These were added to our backpack sprayers and we spent the next day spraying the entire area which only gets sprayed once a year. We were spraying for hours and all of our hands starting cramping but it was really fun and good to get it done.
Towards the end of the week, we worked to clear up a patch of wildflowers in front of our office. The patch needed help because all the wildflowers were in heavy competition that they were not looking as beautiful as they could. So we decided to transplant some of the plants into an area that was empty and was not growing grasses. By doing this we created space in the patch for other flowers to flourish and added flowers to an area that was not looking great.
Overall, the week was a good balance of adding and removing from the park. I was reminded that growth is great but it is important to find the balance and make room for new growth. Looking forward to another great week!
Rain has many benefits which I appreciate but I don’t specifically enjoy being stuck inside when I work at a national park. Unfortunately, it rained for a couple days here in Virginia during our work hours so we were not able to go out into the field. This wasn’t any ordinary rain, it was what I would call a downpour. The water under the stone bridge in the park had risen more than halfway up the bridge structure and the roads surrounding and in the park looked more like rivers than roads. Even surrounding major roads were blocked off because of flooding and the quarry nearby had waterfalls in it! It was pretty fun going around and seeing parts of the parks and taking photos for records of how high the water gets under the bridge. We even helped maintenance alleviate the flooding around our building and headquarters because the water was pooling near doorways. I’ve never experienced a rain like this with so much of an impact but it was exciting to say the least.
Despite the rain, I still managed to learn a lot. There is a flowerbed in front of headquarters which is next door to our office and the other intern and I were put in charge of designing it and picking what native species we want planted there. It was really interesting to learn about all the species we see in the park that are actually native as we looked up different flowers we had seen around to look into. Once we picked species and designed it we all went to a huge plant nursery and got to pick out and buy all the species we wanted. It was a really fun experience and we are going to plant the garden on Monday so I will share pictures of it next week! Also, I got the chance to look more into my project that is my focus at the park this summer. I will be helping to create and improve a management plan for the Quail species and the grassland habitat they utilize. I spent a lot of time reading through some research papers and past plans and the impacts that have been recorded in the park. I am getting really excited to put together information and create my own plan with the help of our team here.
I got the chance to go pick up my card that will allow me computer access at my park on Friday! My supervisor was out so she let me and one of the other interns go into D.C. to pick it up and then spend the day visiting other national parks in D.C. which was a lot of fun! We went to a lot of the monuments including the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial. We even went to the Department of Forestry building which has a small museum area you can go see where I got to meet Smokey the bear! Here are a few pictures of me picking up my card, at the monuments, and with Smokey!