Cannot believe that 150 bee specimen have been pinned so far. How did I do it? So many tiny insects to pin correctly. Don’t get me wrong, I like pinning, but you know when to call it a day when there are tiny dots on your thumb from poking yourself so much. With time running by and the ending of this internship within sight, how can I accomplish everything. Summer is a short frame nowadays when you are just scratching the surface of a topic. Showing people what I have done so far feels like an accomplishment to me because someone sees my project for what it is to further understand pollinators. Many visitors do not get to experience what I am doing, but they can if given the opportunity. The last project of this internship will be writing a proposal to the park to set up transects at heavily visited sites along trails for visitors to get involved with pollinator counts. They will have the chance to learn about the different pollinator species by recording the number they see on flowers along the trails . This project would serve as a type of citizen science opportunity for people to collect data to help the park know what type of pollinators are out there during the season. Data collected can help resource managers understand how pollinator activity correlates with the blooming times
of flower species when restoring areas. The picture below is a cool moment with folks from two different internship organizations in the same room coming together to learn about each other’s experiences.
First off, Happy Latino Conservation Week (July 15-23)!
I absolutely love the fact that I have been exposed to so many new and exciting marine ecology field techniques, data synthesis methods and being a part of the park’s social media team. Some weeks I work on a single project while others I work on a Hodge podge of different research. This is exactly what I hoped to experience from my Mosaics In Science internship, just a whole lot of different awesomeness.
(Photo credit: Michael Spaeth)
Coding in R was my main focus of the week. With much help from my supervisor, Ben, and several R books, I have written some sweet codes that actually produces graphs! This was an exciting breakthrough. As mentioned before, we are trying to produce graphs that show Harbor seal population variation over time by seal colony, of which there are eight. Hopefully, I will also have the time to analyze Harbor seal population variations with sea surface temperature changes and during El Nino years.
Why do we care about seals?! The presence of seals is a good indicator of food quality, ocean health, and the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas. They are also apex predators, which means they feed towards the top of the food chain. Essentially, the local marine trophic structure would be completely imbalanced if Elephant and Harbor seals were not at their current, healthy population levels.
Unrelated to the seal project, my role on the social media team had me captioning several of our videos on Facebook and YouTube. They were mostly interviews of different people that have been working for the park for years and are an integral part of the thread that holds this magnificent park together. If y’all have a few minutes to spare, you should definitely check out these interviews on the Point Reyes National Seashore Facebook page!
And finally, I rejoined my fellow Cavalier friend, Pam, on her PhD work in the salt marsh of Bolinas Lagoon! One of her lab members, Ben, also joined us for the wild ride through the marsh. We collected pore water samples from the enclosures, measure crab length, and counted the number of burrows within the enclosures. It was an especially soupy day out there. This time, I only stepped out of my boot and into the marsh once. A true success. My goal for next time is to not step out of my boots at all. 🙂
A foggy Saturday morning, we arrived hands full of boxes, cables and misting machines. “Why a misting machine, when you have mother earth right?” We all low key panic, but smile and walk to our set up tent. “All the planning put into this event and a little fog might ruin it” I think to myself “Stop, you have to stay positive” — Sail Boston had arrived and the weather was not really on our side.
Sail Boston is a tradition that welcomes crews and cadets from all over the world to the Boston Harbor. About fifty six sail boats from thirteen different nations had embarked in a long journey to the harbor, but the weather conditions were so bad that their arrival was delayed. Nevertheless, we began setting up our engagement tent in the pavilion of the Charlestown navy yard. We prepared a series of fun family activities, a scavenger hunt, button making(as a prize for completing the scavenger hunt), a relay station , kite making, write a letter to a sailor, message in a bottle, and cork boats.
Throughout the day, I was really interested in seeing how engaging the stations would be, and I tried to keep track of which station worked for what age group. To my surprise, I noticed that our most engaging station was the kite making, followed up by the cork boat making station. Also kids of all ages really engaged with both stations. I believe that the reason why these stations were so popular is that the kids could see, touch and keep their end product. It made me think about how a project might work in a similar way. The story map I am creating, that will share the experiences of the summer connections program, will help the kids leave Thompson Island with an “end product” like the kite or cork boat. They can share this story map with their friends, teachers, and family, and be proud and excited to show off what they learned and where they went. I hope my final project actually accomplishes this goal and I will keep you guys updated on the progress of that! For now I will continue to work on it and learn more and more about base-placed learning.
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!
Returning, finally, to Rainier, I got my first view of the mountain, and enough snow had melted on our routes for our crew to begin performing butterfly and wildflower surveys. Being a citizen science project, the Cascades Butterfly Project encourages volunteers to help us by participating in our surveys, even if they would prefer tagging along for a hike to catching butterflies. We saw our first volunteers of the season this week, and surveyed 3 of the 5 routes we will be frequenting this summer.
Relatively cold temperatures and cloud cover, combined with the early season state of most of our nectar plants meant that we didn’t identify a large number of butterflies. A boon for us was the wildflowers. In the places that had melted, wildflowers were already flourishing and we found that the temporal patters their blooms follow are as intriguing as the flowers are beautiful.
It is field trip time, and I’m back to Brownsville, TX. The goal of this trip was to relocate all 16 tortoises and find 2 more tortoises to add to the project.
So let’s test you again. Can you find the tortoise in this picture? Be careful not to get fooled by the yucca trunk.
If I give you a closeup picture does that helps?
Here he is.
Don’t be sad if you did not find, those little tortoises are experts in camouflaging themselves with the vegetation. We are able to find them because we have the radio tag, otherwise, it would be very difficult. Even with the help of the radio transmitters, if the animal is tucked under a prickly pear cactus, a woodrat midden, or in this case under a Spanish Dagger (Yucca treculeana) it can take us 10 to 20 minutes to find it.
Basically, we are playing the hot and cold game with the tortoises. Our prize is the animal, the “hunter” is me with an antenna, and the receiver gives the clues. A louder bip means hot, a lower sound is cold. By going in the direction of the loudest sound, you get closer and closer to the tracked animal. It gets to a point where you know where the tortoise is, even if you are not able to see it yet. On the picture below you can see me listening to the receiver.
The area of this picture is very open, which makes it easier to locate the animals. However it is not always like that, the denser and taller the vegetation the harder it is to maneuver around with the equipment.
In the picture above you can see one of our grueling areas. Unfortunately, it is not just a tight walk around, but the vegetations are literally “grabbing” you as you pass by. Your mind needs to be in an “unagi” state. (This is a Friends reference from Ross. However he uses the word unagi incorrectly, the word he means to use is zanshin, which is a term used in Japanese martial arts. Zanshin means “residual mind.” It refers to a state of relaxed awareness in which a practitioner of martial arts is wary of their surroundings before, during, and after attacks.) After three days in the field, we were able to find all animals and the 2 new ones. Other interesting findings during this trip was two juvenile tortoises, two eggs of Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albiollis), a hog skull, and a Texas indigo snake (Drymarchon melanurus erebennus). There is no picture of the snake because my first instinct was to run for my life. I’m always worried that I will encounter a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, so if I see anything that resembles a snake, I’m running in the opposite direction.
I hope you enjoyed my second trip, see you next time.
Over the past decade, the Rocky Intertidal Zone at Cabrillo National Monument has been overrun by an invasive brown seaweed known as Sargassum muticum. This marine plant, native to Japan, is believed to have made it’s way to San Diego over 30 years ago through the ballast waters of ships. Invasive species, such as Sargassum, are hypothesized to lower the biodiversity of an area by outcompeting the native biota and overtaking all other available space. Therefore, Cabrillo Biologist and our lovely volunteers have been working on slowly removing this species from certain plots to better answer our question about the effects of invasive species on biodiversity. Our hope is that in the next 5 years we can revisit these sites to see if the brown wire weed does or does not influence biodiversity.
During the summer in San Diego, the tides shift and it is difficult to experience a low tide during appropriate work hours. Cabrillo Biologists and I went out on the morning of July 12, 2017 at 6am to begin another phase of Sargassum removal. The process of removal is tedious and difficult to witness change overtime with the continuous growth of this perennial brown alga.
However, the benefit to this process is by far the creatures you inevitably get to see when you look a little closer into the intertidal zone. A fan favorite this week was this vibrant nudibranch (sea slug), Chromodoris macfarlandi. Remember to always keep exploring, even when working!
I want to start off this post by celebrating my dear friends that I have made at the intern housing. These art folks that are participating in different projects at Point Reyes, including archeology, fisheries, range management, exotic plant and wildlife monitoring, and habitat restoration. We learn from each other and discuss the many facets of research and natural resource management that go into maintaining a successful national park. This past fourth of July weekend, we roadtripped to Mono Lake and made a stop in Yosemite for some outdoor rock climbing. This was my first visit to these parks. I remain speechless by their beauty and am so thankful for the wonderful company I had with me.
After a long weekend, I went back to work (still can’t believe that what I do is considered work). I had the incredible opportunity to help a masters student, Tracy, from San Diego State University on her crab diversity research. She is comparing the crab species in two estuaries, Elkhorn Slough and Drake’s Estero. Drake’s Estero is a beautiful estuary in Point Reyes that has just undergone an extensive eelgrass restoration project, which is great habitat for crabs! The photo to the right is my supervisor, Ben, who was driving the National Park’s boat for us.
On Wednesday, we set out six sets of two different sized traps. The larger trap targeted crabs while the smaller trap targeted fish, specifically the Pacific staghorn sculpin. The next day, we went back out on the boat to see what we had caught. Over the course of the week, we came across three different species of crab, Below is a photo of a female Metacarcinus gracilis, or slender crab. I loved these crabs because of their beautiful, purple color.
We pulled the crabs out of the cage and measured their carapace (the upper shell) at its widest point, determined the sex, identified the species, and then released them. For the fish, we only measured their length before releasing them. Tracy said the crabs caught in Drake’s Estero were massive compared to those in Elkhorn Slough.
This was such a cool week. While out in the estuary, we saw leopard sharks, bat rays, harbor seals, and river otters. It’s difficult to describe how incredibly lucky I feel.
9,000 Ft., that was my elevation for one of the days that I spent in the field this past week. We were on the search for Whitebark Pine trees. This type of tree is currently under the attack of a disease called blister rust and by the Mountain Pine Beetles that are attacking them and using the trees as food and a place to live also. We also started taking tree cores for my independent research. These tree cores sampled can show the age, and the conditions of the tree. Its really awesome to see a tree`s history. During the following weeks will be continuing the same type of work. I am excited to continue my research on Whitebark Pine!!!
An invasive species is any plant, insect, fungi, bacteria or animal that is not native to a specific ecosystem. It can even include an organism’s seeds or eggs that doesn’t naturally occur in a specific area. Invasive species are usually spread by humans, often unintentionally. Since humans have the ability to travel to and from different places, we often bring along hitchhikers. Invasive species can stowaway in or on boat, wood, plants, and even our clothing and vehicles. Some invasive species are accidentally or intentionally released which is most commonly seen in the pet trade. Pets sometimes get lost, or some people realize that they can no longer care for that particular pet, and release it into the wild, disregarding the potential conflicts. Invasive species can wreak havoc on an ecosystem as they can out-compete native species for food and other resources.
Some species can be invasive in one area, but native in another. In parts of Montana, the brown trout is the invasive species and are out competing native cutthroat trout. I worked with a fish crew from the USGS to study the effects of this problem. We installed under water antennae that will scan and read trout that have been pit-tagged. Each pit-tag has a unique I.D. number which will be associated with a particular fish. Some of the data collected will include the time of day that fish swam over the antennae, and what direction they were traveling, whether it was upstream or downstream. This data is useful because it can show us how native species are being affected by the invasive species. The overall goal is to be able to come up with sound ecological solutions to help alleviate the problem.
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!