Hey everyone I’m Christian Heggie and this summer through the Greening Youth Foundation and Mosaics in Science Diversity Internship Program, I’m heading up north!
My internship will be at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in northeast Ohio. I will be working as a river technician assistant, helping to plot access points, map river trails, test water quality, and more! I am a senior at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro majoring in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Sustainability. I’ve always loved to be outside and dream of one day hopefully working on a national park. This is an incredible opportunity and I’m ready to learn as much as I can!
This week I had the opportunity of visiting the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. This was my first time visiting a National Historic Site so I wasn’t sure what to expect but the site was a beautiful area surrounded by meadows, forests, and wetlands as well as the French Creek State Park. When we first arrived here, we had some time to explore some of the artifacts and talk to the park rangers inside the visitor’s center. Afterwards, we removed some invasive plants and helped replace a fence that was protecting a re-seeded area from deer. After lunch, we had some time to walk around the historic site and I got to learn a little about how wood was transformed into charcoal. Ignited wood was built into what they called a three corner chimney, covered with leaves and dirt, and ignited in these charcoal pits (picture to the left). For 10-14 days, workers would keep an eye on the ignited stack of wood to stop any open flames while they waited for the wood to fully char. Once the wood was fully charred, the cooled charcoal would be loaded onto wagons and taken to a cooling shed.
I look forward to spending more time in Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site and learning more about the history there. This week’s visit was a nice sneak peek at what there is to learn about.
Later on in the week, we participated in crayfish corps. It is a volunteer based program in the park that works on removing the invasive rusty crayfish. While we were out in the creek with a group of volunteers, we found a crayfish with eggs! Luckily, this particular crayfish species was a native so we were able to place it back into the water safe and sound.
This week I got to start setting up for the native bee project. The project is being finalized and soon will begin sampling what species have been inhabiting the dunes. The exciting part of this week was getting a chance to do restoration work for the day taking out invasive species with herbicide. The rest of was week was spent researching methodologies and current conservation issues with native bees. Next week there will be an event call ISWOOP where park interpreters will learn from researches about different conservation topics to express awareness to the public. The picture below shows bowls that will be set up in transects in sample areas. The bowls will be filled with soapy water to remove surface tension so when bees land in the bowl, they are captured. The color of the bowls mimics flower color because bees are attracted to these colors when they are pollinating. Bees are generally attracted to flower color as it is the most noticeable characteristic of the plant. The importance of this project is to catalog what species of bees inhabit the park. It is a replication of a study that was conducted in 2011 that inventoried bee species in the park. The bowls help maximize collection and sampling efforts with the hopes that the collections will give us a good representation of bee species captured. Previous studies have found that the park has 200 different species of native bees. I hope to find as many species as I can this summer with the hopes of measuring how these populations have changed since they were surveyed in 2011.
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.
The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park was established in 2004 to commemorate the journey of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery through the Pacific Northwest. The park includes various sites: Salt Works, Dismal Nitch, the reconstruction of Fort Clatsop, the Fort to Sea trail, Cape Disappointment, and the Middle Village (qí’qayaqilam)/Station Camp. Fort Clatsop was the first military fort west of the Rockies where Lewis and Clark camped, traded with Clatsop natives, and hunted elk during the harsh winter of 1805. The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park preserves, restores and interprets important historical, cultural and natural resources along the lower Columbia River area (Foundation Document). The park, comprising of numerous state and NPS units, encompasses 3,245 acres of land within Washington and Oregon. Sitka spruce stand tall throughout the coastal temperate rainforest, emergent marshes provide habitat for local wildlife, and the stream channel is essential for the survival of young salmon. In order to restore and preserve the natural resources that were so valuable to the Corps of Discovery, the natives, and for future generations, the park resources management team works on restoration projects within the park and in collaboration with other partnerships.
This is where my story interweaves with Lewis and Clarks’. I am a Mosaics in Science Intern working with the National Park Service to process vegetation monitoring data that has been collected for the past ten years for the Columbia Estuary Ecosystem Restoration Program. While I have been here, I have learned that restoration projects consist of of many moving parts. Grants are tedious and provide the funding for these projects to exist. Partnerships with organizations such as the Northwest Oregon Restoration Partnership (NORP), allow for the sharing of technical expertise, growing of nat
ive plants, and grant matching for the restoration projects to be successful. Biological technicians, interns, and volunteers go out into the field to handle invasive plant species to allow native plants to flourish. Native plants are grown at the park nursery to plant thousands of young plants to regenerate habitats. Forest thinning remove Douglas fir, remnants of logging plantings to allow the native Sitka spruce and big leaf Maple to prosper and create disturbance for forest renewal. Restoration projects are necessary to restore the ecological processes that have been destroyed by anthropogenic influences. Logging and pasture grazing have transformed what used to be lush, thriving environments for many wildlife and plants.
Every day is an adventure; I get to participate at partnership meetings, learn about native plants, and be part of a larger effort to restore this beautiful place for all to enjoy.
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy, awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.” –Rabindranath Tagore, Indian poet
In last week’s post, I briefly introduced what I will be working on at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument this summer. After meeting with my supervisors earlier this week, my project task has now been solidified. I will be creating a Geology/Paleontology summer camp for students (Grades 4th-6th) from socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. This camp would be implemented in the summer of 2018. However, this summer will see the testing of many of the planned activities for the camp, both on and offsite. My first task was to create an outline of the activities and daily themes the camp will have. After an hour-long discussion with my supervisors on Friday afternoon, we decided it would be a good idea for me to host a brown bag meeting next Friday where I will present my summer camp outline to the entire (or most) staff for extra feedback and suggestions.
A big component of my project requires me to do community outreach. I stressed to my supervisors that although the main focus of this camp is to get students excited about geology and paleontology, we must also focus on getting the community and parents involved in the camp. Just as the famous African proverb states “It takes a village to raise a child”, it also takes an entire community to raise a scientist. This coming week I will be meeting with an elementary teacher from Colorado Springs who participated in the National Park Service’s Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program for ideas on how to engage students in science. Then on Saturday, I will head into Denver for the Get Outdoors Colorado event where I plan to meet with other outdoor educators and build a strong network and support system.
Quick sneak peak into the camp: On one of the camp days, students will go down to the local Florissant Fossil Quarry to sift through sheets and sheets of paper shale in search of fossils. I can attest to the excitement and addiction this activity brings, as all of us interns at Florissant Fossil Beds lost track of time while digging for fossils at the quarry. The best part about the quarry, you get to keep your findings!
It’s hard to believe that my first week at Rocky Mountain is already over. I’ve only been here for 5 days and somehow it feels like I’ve been here forever. While seasonal staff training begins officially on Monday, I was really privileged to go out into the park twice with both the park photographer and one of the more established rangers and become acquainted to the park and some of its most compelling ecological features. While we drove, hiked and spoke with dozens of volunteers, rangers and support staff, I was able to speak with them directly and specifically about how to cultivate a personal relationship with such a beautiful place that I can translate into creating successful and impactful interpretive programs this summer. What is interpretation? What does my role really mean?
In Interpreting Our Heritage, Freeman Tilden writes, “The visitor’s chief interest is in whatever touches his personality, his experiences, and his ideals. The adult visitor who happens to be the auditor or reader of interpretation has no general awe of the interpreter…He does not so much wish to be talked at as to be talked with.”
I’ve been reading Tilden as I try to sort out what my role means for me; for the visitors I’ll be interacting with; for the Park Service. How do I engage with visitors in a way that animates the natural history of the park? Its social history and implications? How do I make the Calypso orchid not merely a small purple speck on the trail but bring it alive in its context? How do you properly blend the intellectual and emotional to really impact a visitor?
I’m asking lots of questions, but as one of the rangers told me yesterday, this is the time for questions. I am excited for training to begin next week and begin to put some meat on the bones of my relationship to this park. This weekend I plan to keep hiking and running; soaking in as much of the personal and emotional as I can.
Here are some of my favorite photos that capture some of the best moments of this week:
On another note, elk are everywhere and I intend to close every blog post with them. They’re majestic and quirky (which must be why I am so enamored with them), but if you ever intend to visit Rocky, you should start by accepting just how commonplace they are… these tri-tone landscape fixtures with the capacity to define the landscape of an entire park.
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.
A Mosaics in Science Internship is a rich opportunity to work side-by-side with scientists and other professionals. In 2016, participants were part of bat research, bird surveys, seed collection projects, geological surveys, archeological explorations, and much more. Throughout MIS, interns receive additional training through weekly webinars and help to share the mission of the program through this Blog. At the conclusion of their experience, interns share their work with other participants during the post-internship career workshop. The career workshop, for most interns, is the first opportunity to meet other interns face-to-face. Each shares their summer’s work during an oral or poster presentation. Guest speakers provide additional information about preparing applications for federal positions, diversity in the workplace, and science careers. Want to be a Mosaics in Science intern? Visit the internships and learn more about the 2017 positions.
You can’t pick a better or more beautiful place to spend a summer than in a National Park. In 2017, Mosaics in Science (MIS) interns will travel to Denali National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, and Great Basin National Park, to name a few. Each of the sites has competed with many others to be part of MIS 2017 and are working to make the summer experience fulfilling. With these diverse sites comes an array of research and education opportunities in an equally broad suite of habitats and climates. From Alaska to Colorado to Washington, D.C. and Florida, each intern will have a different, yet similar experience. While one may sweat during turtle surveys, another may be bundled in a coat and hat to while tracking butterflies. Whatever the experience, it will last a lifetime!
A day in the field for a Mosaics in Science (MIS) intern can be a journey into a lava tube, a hike to a high elevation pond, or time indoors at the computer entering data. MIS experiences happen all over the country in some of America’s most spectacular national parks, such as Yosemite National Park in California, Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota, and Everglades National Park in Florida. Wherever they are, participants gain critical skills needed to pursue careers in geology, natural resources, wildlife ecology, environmental education, and more. Just a few insights from our 2016 MIS interns include:
I have gained skills related to field work…and also have learned to become a more independent worker. I believe I am now better at independent research and finding solutions or answers to unknowns.
Skills I developed are how to use GPS, frog surveying, and tracking encroachment using Arc Collector app.
The highlights of my internship included learning how to navigate with a compass and map in remote wilderness settings, becoming familiar with the backpacking lifestyle, experiencing the solitude of the landscape of backcountry Yosemite, and meeting scientists from all around the country.
After processing the video footage from our first week of stationary camera deployments, we noticed we were not alone. Most people just recognize her as a shark, but that’s an understatement. She’s a tiger shark. Locals have taken to calling her Tony the Tiger. National Park Service biologists and technicians have yet to encounter one in their many years of diving around Buck Island so my team and I are confident we won’t be crossing paths with Tony while scuba diving.
NPS has been working with multiple collaborators to study the movements of sharks within the monument using acoustic telemetry. Given these recent sightings of Tony in our video footage, NPS biologists are eager to see if they can cross reference these sightings with detections from acoustic receivers installed near our camera monitoring site. We hope to find that Tony is one of the individuals that was tagged in previous years.
Tiger sharks are natural predators to sea turtles. Their serrated teeth allow them to tear through the turtle’s carapace (shell). Even though Tony has been feeding on our study subjects, we’re happy that she’s here. The presence of apex predators is one of the signs of a healthy ecosystem. Believe it or not, they play an important role in structuring seagrass ecosystems. They balance the food web as well as prevent lower levels from exhausting resources.
Healthy seagrass ecosystem = Abundant greens turtles = Tiger sharks
It’s important to understand the significance of top-down control in natural ecosystems in order to better establish conservation and management baselines that could predict ecosystem responses to natural and anthropogenic change.
Lisa Norby Welcome to the National Park Service and the Mosaics in Science Diversity Internship Program! I am pleased that you are joining us as a Mosaics in Science intern this summer. Your role is critical in fulfilling the National Park Service (NPS) mission and I hope that you will find your work rewarding, challenging, meaningful, and lots of fun.
My name is Lisa Norby – I am the NPS Program Manager for the Mosaics in Science Diversity Internship Program and have bachelors and masters degrees in geology. I work with the NPS Geologic Resources Division and have been working with the NPS for the last 23 years. I have worked with a variety of youth programs since I was in high school, and in 2013, I created the Mosaics in Science Program with George McDonald, Chief of the NPS Youth Programs Division. The Mosaics Program is funded by the NPS and is managed in partnership with Environment for the Americas (EFTA) and Greening Youth Foundation (GYF). The Program’s objectives are to encourage diverse youth 18-35 years old to pursue studies in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and science) fields, introduce program participants to science careers in the National Park Service, and increase relevance, diversity, and inclusion in the NPS workplace.
I am excited that you will be joining the NPS team and hope that you have a fun and successful internship with the NPS. We really appreciate your interest in the National Park Service and your assistance protecting and preserving the outstanding natural resources in our national parks. Most of the communication you will receive this summer will be from EFTA/GYF, but I want you to know that I am available anytime to answer any questions you have about the program, the NPS, or science careers. I can be reached at email@example.com. I am really excited to talk with you over the summer and to meet you in person at the career workshop in Colorado!
Welcome to the Mosaics in Science Program! Congratulations on having been selected as a Mosaics intern this summer. The coming weeks may be a life-changing experience for you. My name is Limaris “Lima” Soto, and I am the Program Coordinator with the National Park Service. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Geology from the University of Puerto Rico and my Master’s degree in Geology from the University of South Florida. My scientific interests include; cave/karst science, hydrogeology, geophysics, education and outreach, and youth programs. I partner with the NPS Geologic Resources Division, and I have been working with Mosaics for the last two years. In my spare time, I like to go hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and camping. I also love to read, knit, and spend time with my family. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions during the internship. I am looking forward to hearing about your project at the career workshop in Colorado.
Welcome to Mosaics! I am Mike Fynn, and I am the VP of Operations at the Greening Youth Foundation. I come to you with a background in engineering, construction, and operations management. I’m excited to work with you all this summer, and hear about your experiences at the different parks. I will get to meet a few of you during the site visits, and again at the career workshop in Colorado. The Mosaics team has some amazing things in store for you this summer, and I can’t wait to hear about your experiences! If you have questions, please feel to reach out to us at any time.
Welcome to the Mosaics in Science Diversity Internship Program! My name is Eboni Preston, and I am a Program Manager with the Greening Youth Foundation (GYF). For the last few years I have worked in nonprofit management, community development, and youth development programs. I, along with GYF, EFTA, and NPS, am very excited to work with all of you this summer. I am thrilled to follow you as you embark on this amazing journey!
Hello Mosaics in Science participants, welcome to the program! We are all looking forward to working with you this summer and to hear about all that you will accomplish in the months to come. My name is Lily Calderón, I am a Chicago native who loves to travel and learn about the world and the birds that live on it. Thanks to EFTA I have been able to experience Oregon and New Mexico through two different internship programs, Celebra Las Aves and Mosaics in Science respectively. Currently I am enjoying Colorado as a full time staff member at EFTA Headquarters in Boulder.
If you are curious about my Mosaics experience, I interned at Capulin Volcano National Monument in northeastern New Mexico during the summer of 2016. As an intern there I worked with the resource team and primarily assisted with the hummingbird research at the park by banding the little hummers. It was a great experience and I hope you all enjoy your experience as much as I did! I can’t wait to meet you all at the workshop in Colorado and to hear about your work.
At Cabrillo National Monument we have a few ambassadors that are typically behind the scenes. Every Thursday this summer at 1:30 pm, our ambassadors get to demonstrate to the public why this preserved and protected land is so significant in our urban San Diego community.
Wildlife Biologist, Ranger Stephanie Root, along with other park biologists represents our snakey co-workers and help communicate to the public on their behalf. All of our snake ambassadors are native to the San Diego Region and have be rescued for various reasons by the San Diego Herpetological Society.
Meet the Team!
Salvador: Northern Three-Lined Boa – Lichanura orcutti (Formerly Coastal Rosy Boa)
He became an ambassador in June 2014 and is approximately 7 years of age. Sal is the most comfortable with visitor interaction. He particularly enjoys hiding in shoes and hooded sweatshirts. A Northern Three-Lined Boa has a lifespan of approximately 20 years.
Agnes: California Kingsnake – Lampropeltis californiae
She became an ambassador in August 2014 and is approximately 17 years of age. Along with being the oldest of the ambassadors, she is also the largest. A California Kingsnake is known to live up to 50 years in captivity.
Summer: Albino California Kingsnake – Lampropeltis californiae
She became an ambassador in August 2014 with Agnes and is approximately 8 years of age. Because of her pigment, her veins can be seen through her scales (especially since she recently shed her skin in these images).
Wilson: San Diego Gopher Snake – Pituophis catenifer annectens
He became an ambassador in February 2017 and is approximately 4 years of age. He is the timidest of the ambassadors, but warms up after a while, particularly with Ranger Adam Taylor. A San Diego Gopher Snake typically lives 12-15 years.
Even though all of our ambassadors are non-venomous, be aware all snakes have the potential to bite and may mistake a finger near their face as a yummy treat. We encourage visitors to gently touch the base of their body with one or two fingers. Remember our ambassadors are key members of the Cabrillo National Monument Staff, and they shall continue to be treated as such.
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.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to enter a cave by sinking up to your chest in a pool of quicksand-like packrat poop?
If not, I’m here to tell you that it is a slightly alarming but mostly hilarious experience, and feels very much like your legs and torso are being gently squeezed by a blood pressure cuff. It is also a prime example of the amazing, unexpected opportunities I’m just starting to discover in my first two weeks as the Astronomy Intern at Great Basin National Park. My name is Brenna Rodriguez, and I love my job!
When I left my home in North Carolina and struck out alone on a 2,293 mile drive to Great Basin National Park, I was terrified of the uncertainties that reared up before me. Could I handle five days of forced solitude? Would I get harassed by a creepy stranger in the middle of nowhere? Would my car break down in the desert, miles from cell phone reception or services?
Fortunately, my fears proved to be unfounded, and the drive was fairly tame. Since arriving in Nevada, park staff and local residents have been incredibly welcoming, and I’ve been able to watch the town of Baker and the park itself come alive with wildflowers and tourists as the high-visitation season begins. Many of my first days in the park were spent shadowing interpretive cave and astronomy programs, hiking in slightly snowy weather, looking for fossils, and getting to know the folks who make a living in this slightly lonesome town.
Great Basin National Park is designated as an International Dark Sky Park, and has a huge variety of natural points of interest, including a network of wild caves and a developed cavern. Since I recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in geology, and am particularly interested in speleology and astrobiology, I am very excited to have access to the park’s natural resources. Through the summer, I hope to develop meaningful interpretive cave and astronomy programs, and look forward to cross-training with other divisions to gain a more in-depth understanding of the park.
I’m thrilled to be living and working in Great Basin National Park, and I look forward to sharing my discoveries with you!