It’s hard to believe that my time at Rocky is coming to an end. Today I got my last schedule here and it finally began to sink in. After just 9 weeks this place has already felt like I’ve been here forever. (It almost seems appropriate now to stick in a sappy John Denver lyric, fittingly enough about the Rocky Mountains; “Coming home to a place he’d never been before.”)
I wanted to dedicate one of my last blog posts to processing what it will be like to have to leave this place and return to NYC and two more years of undergrad. This summer has felt right for lots of different reasons, but perhaps mostly so because I finally feel like I am an affirming and supportive workplace, doing what I enjoy. I truly love New York, but between having grown up there and attending college there, I feel like I’d forgotten to imagine that there were, and are, different ways of relating to work, schooling and relaxation — it was nice to be reminded of an alternative that I think ultimately is better for me.
Beyond differences in workplace culture, I can find differences within myself and how I operate that stand in marked contrast to who I was at the beginning of the summer. I feel more confident that this is something I want to do with my life — outdoor interpretation and education — than ever, but beyond that I feel bold enough to be open about that in the rigid, pre-professional environment I’m currently finding myself in at my school. I’ve met so many people here who I find to be brave — chiefly because they’ve been so ready time and time again to admit, and then give those things up, that the way their life was working wasn’t right for them and decided to follow their passions. It’s a story I’m not unfamiliar with back home but to be in a place where it felt like everyone had made bold sacrifices in some form or another — whether it be money, a home or a previously settled career (or just the know) — for this position is amazing.
I’m simply in awe of where I am and know I have so many lessons to bring back to New York with me.
“Spies.” “Disloyals.” “Japs.” These words erased and replaced the names of eighteen thousand Japanese American citizens imprisoned at the Tulelake Segregation Center. They were no longer individuals. They were all the same in the U.S. government’s eyes, linked by their ancestry to those who attacked Pearl Harbor. “A Jap’s a Jap,” said General John DeWitt to justify internment. To be Japanese meant you were stripped of your freedom and undeserving of humane treatment. Tulelake Segregation Center surely embodies this sentiment. The entire town of Tulelake could fit in a just few of the barracks that held over ten Japanese American families. The barracks were not only overcrowded, but also enclosed in layers and layers of barbed wire. Those imprisoned were closely watched by armed guards wherever they went. The only crime they had committed was being Japanese.
Tulelake Segregation Center is a unit of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument; it is also half an hour from Lava Beds National Monument. Last week, along with my co-workers at Lava Beds Resource Management Division, I took a tour with an interpretative ranger of the segregation center. One of the most powerful moments during the tour was the visit to the jail. “Show me the way to go home,” reads a graffiti message on the walls of one jail cell. When a nation you considered your homeland isolates and brands you as an imposter, where do you call home? How do you make sense of a government that not only turns its back on you but also actively spreads racist sentiments against you? “It whipped up hatred and fear toward an entire group of people based solely on our ancestry,” writes George Takei, whose family was imprisoned at Tulelake. Takei calls internment “America’s Great Mistake.” Today, we are living with this legacy. Yes, the U.S. government has formally apologized for its blatantly racist segregation of Japanese Americans, but that by no means translates to a nation free from discrimination against Asian-Americans and other people of color.
After the tour, I reflected on how much further we have left in this nation to progress. We have so much to improve upon that I can’t help but feel sad or angry. However, I also remembered when I spoke with a program manager and resource assistant from our regional inventory and monitoring network. All three of us were Asian-Americans. We shared our experiences working for the National Park Service as people of color. I was able to see other people who looked like me and came from similar backgrounds as me achieve genuine success in the NPS.
“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”, Franklin D. Roosevelt. I think this is a great quote because it reflects the difficulty our society and world has as a whole for building a promising future for the upcoming generations. There are a lot of areas in which we aren’t leaving much for them, but if we can build them, then they’ll be ready for what’s ahead and whatever we do, or fail to leave them. Recently I was given the opportunity to work with a high school youth group who came to the park as ACE interns for a couple weeks. My ranger and I did a variety of different things with them. We did a lot of work with pollinators in an attempt to really show their importance.
We took them to a beautiful area that’s commonly used for sledding during the winter months, but is great during spring and summer seasons for pollinators! This is where we did our bee survey. During this survey the students were taught two different methods of safely catching bees in order for them to be identified. They had a super great time with this and were netting bees left and right. Although we didn’t find any rare bees, it was great to see how quickly they learned the more common species, and could tell it’s sex. We did find a beautiful female monarch though! Don’t worry, we let it go within 15 seconds, just long enough to determine its sex and snap a photo.
Along with bees, we also taught them about butterflies. We went over the most common species around here and took them out to Indigo Lake where we have a transect and did a survey. Just like with the bees they caught on super quickly and were able to identify a lot of them on the spot. On this survey we caught a beautiful Red Spotted Purple, which I hadn’t seen yet this summer!
Water quality was next on the agenda. We took them to the bridge where we sample from and had them take two samples. We then had them read and record the gauge data, and headed back to the office to run the tests. They all got to test for turbidity, total coliforms and E. Coli. Because we have a huge river running through the park water quality is very important to this area, and it has come a long way! The science of water was something they got to learn and can add to a resume! To finish out their time here they were able to jump onto the junior ranger paddling program, which I was fortunate to be able to assist with. This gave them a fun send off, as well as a new perspective of the environment, since views from the water are a lot different than views from land. During these events there was a videographer from Colorado State University here filming for a web series with the NPS about youth in the environment! Hearing his stories about programs in other parks was super cool, and I can’t wait to see our episode! Working with these kids for even the short time I did was great and enjoyable. These younger kids truly are the future, and getting them involved in the environment, taking them outdoors, and showing them some of the science behind it is always an incredible opportunity. Educating the youth for the future is one of the best things we can do!
Has there been times that something could have been done an easier way than the way you are doing it? Have researchers used new methods to answer scientific questions? The image above is a photo of a glued bee specimen on the left and a pinned one on the right. Traditionally, insects are pinned on the right side of the thorax (right) because specimens stay in place and even with the right side of the thorax damaged, the left side is still intact for identifying characteristics. I learned that bee specimens can also to be glued to pins (left). The purpose of gluing specimens rather then putting a pin through their thorax is because it does not damage it. It also leaves all the parts of the insect undamaged and gives entomologists a different angle to view the insect. I found it easier to view the characteristics of the it when it was glued on its ventral side as shown above because it require less focusing and positioning to view it under the microscope. Gluing insects is a controversial method of pinning because insects could fall off pins over time of glue does not last. From my experience, too much glue could get legs or wings struck together if not careful. Overall, gluing them requires more of a steady hand, and requires more time to make sure the glue does not attach to a wing or leg. With smaller specimens a microscope is needed to see where you are putting the pin. Putting one through the thorax requires just a good eye to make sure the pin goes in the right side of thorax. This is done just with your naked eye. Both methods have their pros and cons, but as long as the specimen is identifiable it makes no difference how the specimen is pinned.
Yosemite National Park had an amazing snowfall for the winter of 2016-2017. By April, there was still over 100 inches of snow in areas like Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows. This major snowfall and the resulting flooding conditions rendered the high country unaccessible for park visitors and park employees. Because of this, the Aquatics crew’s high country aquatic restoration sites were still frozen over and unsafe to hike to. Tioga Road, which connects the west of the Sierra Nevadas to the east of the range, remained closed up until late June because of damage from flooding and snowpack. I was pretty bummed at the beginning of this summer to not be able to experience some of the high country since I had never been above about 7,000 feet in elevation before. Where I’m from, Georgia’s highest point in elevation is only about 4,700 feet, and here at Yosemite, some of the high country sites reach 11,000 and 12,000 feet! I was still pumped for the other projects I would be able to join in on like turtle crew and bullfrog crew, but knowing I wouldn’t be able to experience the high country was much of a bummer.
A couple weeks ago during our 6 days off rotation, I had planned to just spend the time hanging out in the front country and doing random day hikes in the Valley that I could access and taking a breather. I got a message from someone on the crew saying, “Change of plans. Some people on the crew are heading to the East side tonight and want to go to Mammoth mountain tomorrow for skiing/snowboarding. If you want to go.” How could I pass up this opportunity to take a trip towards the high country? I said yes, instantly because I knew this might be my only shot to see it.
And boy, am I glad I did it. I felt like a kid in a candy shop! Every turn on Tioga Road yielded breathtaking views of valleys thousands of feet below or white-capped mountain peaks or acres of precious meadows. A major highlight was the newly cold temperatures I was experiencing from the elevation, as the front country site where I live for the summer has been experiencing heat wave temperatures of 110 on some days! Our first full day on the East side, we hit up food trucks, June Lake to swim and paddleboard, and even managed to squeeze in watching Moana with all of us crowded around a couple laptops. The next day we headed over to Mammoth Mountain to do a half-day of skiing/snowboarding. I’ve only ever skied before in slushy, fake snow in North Carolina, but this was the real deal! The temperatures on top of the mountain were even in the lower 70s, as people were skiing down in tank-tops and shorts. One of the employees on the Aquatics crew used to even be a ski instructor, and he gave me the courage and confidence boost to join them at the top to ski my first real Black Diamond slope down. Would I do that slope again? Probably not. Do I regret it? Absolutely not! Another bucket list item checked off. We ended our trip with some live music that was going on at THE Mobil, which is a gas station/restaurant destination spot that has become famous for its great view of Mono Lake and amazing atmosphere. I could finally see what everyone was talking about, and why this place was amazing.
I never would have thought I could see places so beautiful and jaw-dropping, as I did while experiencing the high country. Our trip to the east side was filled with June Lake swimming, Mammoth Mountain skiing, live music at the famous Mobil stop in Lee Vinings, and a great time with great people from the Aquatics crew. I’m so lucky to know these people that come from different parts of the country (and even world), but all have such a large passion for wildlife and habitat restoration at Yosemite. This internship has awarded me new skills, friends, experiences, and memories that I won’t ever forget.
With practice, I have been getting better at identifying different species of butterflies. With some skippers, the first step to take is to make sure it actually is a butterfly. I learned an easy way to sometimes distinguish between a moth and butterfly. The coloration isn’t what gives it away- many skipper butterflies have similar dull color patterns as some moths however, some moths have distinct hairy antennae. This was a dead giveaway when trying to identify this one:
However, not all moths will have the easily distinguishable hairs on their antennae.
This one is missing the distinct hairs on the antennae but I also read that butterflies tend to have a little bulbs on the tips of their antennae. This moth is also missing those slightly thicker tips on its antennae. I am still going to look through the butterfly identification book I am using to be sure it is not a butterfly but for now it most likely isn’t.
This is an example of a thought process I go through while being out in the field walking the transects, looking through binoculars, and flipping through the identification book to be able to say which species of butterflies are present on the field.
And just because I thought it was really awesome, here is a picture of me standing next to a milkweed that was basically the same height as I am (5’3″). The monarch butterfly solely relies on milkweed as their host plant so it made me really happy to see this one growing so well!
Last week the river was dry but teeming with life all waiting for a single summer storm to bring water back to the river. Then, on July 8th around 9pm a storm hit the upper Santa Cruz River valley, the first storm of the monsoon. The rain gage I have at home registered 0.35 inches of rain. On my day off, July 9th at around 2pm, a storm hit the border towns of Nogales Arizona and Nogales Sonora producing a massive flood. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported a gage height of 7 feet in the Nogales wash. It has rained around the area everyday producing beautiful clouds and lightning strikes.
Check out the USGS water data here:
I was excited to return to work on Tuesday and take a hike to the river. I wanted to know if the river had water and the extent of the flood damage in the cottonwood habitat. As I hiked the Anza trail leading to the river I noticed all kinds of wildlife. Birds were chirping in every tree. Lizards rustled in the leaves and bushes as they ran away from my incoming feet. Tiny flying bugs were seen clumped in the air enjoying the morning breeze. Once I arrived to the river I noticed the same frogs I saw last week. They were enjoying their new source of water.
The river was no longer dry! The rains that occurred the last few days returned the river to life.
It is always nice having a long weekend to wind down and go exploring. Especially when it involves family. Luckily, my family was able to stop by for a visit to Colorado this past weekend. I was able to spend a few days with them in Denver meeting other family members of ours, and show them around central Colorado and the Florissant valley.
The downside to having a long weekend is that the following work week is short and generally hectic. Such was the case here at the Florissant Fossil Beds. With meeting after meeting and visit after visit, there was never time to catch a break.
There was a lot of planning going on at the monument this past week. Most of us have been incredibly occupied with preparation for the Preserve America Youth Summit coming up next week. I was in charge of putting together a virtual tour of the paleontology lab, which will premier at the summit next week. Preparing a script, testing GoPro equipment and running several takes with the crew took up much more time than I expected. However, the end results were amazing and I am looking forward to running the tour this coming week.
Also in preparation for the Preserve America Youth Summit, my supervisor, Dr. Herb Meyer, and I worked together on putting together a PowerPoint presentation where he will be covering the incredibly intricate history of the Florissant valley and the vast array of fossils found here at the monument and the geologic processes responsible for creating an environment set up for fossils.
I think what counted for me as a “break” this week was the visiting Girl Scouts group from Kansas. Dr. Sarah Allen and I spoke to this group about how we came to work for the National Park Service and what steps we took to get here. After our brief introductions, we took the group on the Petrified Stump Loop trail and did an activity on stratigraphy. At the end of the hike, we had the group split into three small groups and discuss what they think happened in the Florissant valley 34 million years ago. The groups were able to draw very similar conclusions to what our scientists have concluded occurred in the valley during the Eocene. I believe this young and aspiring group of students are on the path to success. And I am confident many of them will go on to become scientists!
Yesterday, a day camp group came to visit the monument and we took them on a nature walk. I was able to snap some pictures of many of the flowers in bloom. I normally never take the time to admire the wildflowers in the monument but due to the frenetic environment we had this past week, it felt incredibly appropriate to stop for a moment and really take in the beauty the wildflowers add to our community here.
“You have the coolest gig!”
A teenage boy yelled this in my direction after I gave him and his friends directions on my morning rove in the Bear Lake corridor area. Roving has quickly become one of my favorite parts of this job. A rove, by definition, is “to travel constantly without a fixed destination; wander.” Yet, it is this wandering that is such an important part of my days here and role as a park interpreter.
Sometimes my job is to wander. That is crazy to type out; actual hours I spend hiking to beautiful destinations is of value to my division and the Park visitors, enough so that I get to do it multiple times a week. When I first began this internship and received my master schedule, I was unsure how fulfilling it would be, especially coming from New York and such a crazy, demanding and over stimulating work environment. Would I really be happy with this much “down-time?”
Roving to me has become more than “down-time” – it’s something I routinely look forward to, excited by the places I’ll go and the people I meet. It felt that almost out of nowhere, my roves have become something uniquely rewarding. Now when I speak to visitors of places in the Park, I know them on my own; not in the abstract, and not through photos. I can tell them that I love Sandbeach Lake because of the trickling waterfall that will convince you it’s a true ocean. I can warn them about the steep climb to Gem Lake or the spot I always catch a glimpse of marmot at Forest Canyon. When I send people to the tundra, the locations of my favorite blooming wildflowers guide me, not the road. In learning this Park, I’m becoming its ambassador, and hopefully, sharing some of my own emotional connections to it with the visitors.
When I walk, I stop and talk. I’m friendlier than I’ll ever be while I hike on my day off (I’m often trying to avoid visitors those days anyway), stopping and chatting, handing out extra park maps. I’ve gotten good at roving, which means I always have trail maps, junior ranger booklets and badges and golf pencils in my pack and a pencil and highlighter in my pocket. It feels extra but providing resources for visitors, informational or tangible, has been the best window into conversation. Suddenly, I’m engaging them in a deep conversation about what this place means to them or how the Park handles wildlife management or conducting an impromptu geology class for kids at the Alluvial Fan (I swear this happened). Or maybe I’m simply clarifying signage. Either way, somehow I know I’ve made an impact even if I don’t quite yet know what that will be.
It was hard for me to realize that regardless of the hours and research I’ve put into my educational and interpretive programming, not every visitor will want to stop by. I can’t reach everyone or be the best interpreter by staying at my scheduled post or my advertised programming – maybe, I’m doing the most I can when I do my “downtime.”
That boy is right – I do have the coolest gig.
Bears are often viewed as an iconic symbol of wildness. Though there a people who can say they have actually seen a bear in the wild, there are people who cannot say they have. Bears located in National Parks attract a lot of attention. Bear sightings cause traffic jams, and in some cases, cause people to get into accidents because of senseless and reckless behavior to see wildlife. Bears also attract the attention of wildlife researchers who have careers studying this iconic animal.
Bears have been observed rubbing their backs against trees. It looks like they are scratching to get that unbearable itch, but they often rub their backs on trees to communicate with one another. Rubbing their backs on trees leaves their scent so other bears can know they’re in their area. Scientists suggest that they also rub trees to get a good scratch or to cover them with sap, which is used as a bug repellent. When rubbing against these trees, they often leave a significant amount of hair on the bark. Researchers find and collect these hairs because they contain a variety of information such as: species, gender, individual identity, as well genetic relatedness/diversity within and between populations. This information can then be used to study distribution, abundance, movement patterns as well as evolutionary history.
Finding the trees that bears rub against can be a bit difficult due to the plethora of trees in their habitat, so bear biologists create hair snares. They tie barbed wire around four trees to make an area of about 5×5 meters. The wire is about 2- 2 1/2 ft off the ground so the bear can get to the middle of the square which is baited with something to attract the bears. I helped the researchers re-bait these hair snares using a fish blood concoction. The scent draws the bears in, but they have to get past the wire, so they often get hair snagged while passing through to the middle to investigate the scent.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!