Ever left something outside and bugs get into it? For my project bowls were left outside for a day, and look what I caught. After a struggling task to figure out coordinates for our transects Desi and I were able to put out bee bowls for one of the sites at the Dunes this week. The coordinates I am talking about are locations that were used in a previous survey study done in 2011. When we first went out into the field to find the pre-set coordinates on our GPS, the accuracy was off by 10 ft. From what data we had, the previous researches that did the study were not accurate as well. For some projects in science, precision is not a key component in some aspects. The area we were in had good diversity and abundance of flowers for bees. The next day we went back to points we set to put out bee bowl traps filled with soapy water. I have mentioned in previous blogs that colored bowls are used imitate flowers to attract bees and soapy water prevents surface tension when bees land. 24 hours passed and the bowls were collected. Shown below is what was collected. These traps can attract any insect besides bees. Collected specimens were placed into a freezer for further processing. The fun part will be sorting what was collected to find bees.
The days were already longer to begin with than what I was previously used to in Los Angeles. However, now that summer is here, I’m finding myself outside for longer periods of time as the days go by. Summer days in Colorado have so far proven themselves to be incredibly gorgeous and filled with good vibes. Although summer monsoon season is approaching, the past couple of weeks have been full of sun and blue skies with sprinkled clouds throughout.
This last week saw the first testing of activities for the Florissant Fossils Beds Geo/Paleo camp I am developing. On Friday, we had a group of teachers at the monument culminating their 5-day workshop on climate change. My supervisor and I thought it would be a good idea to experiment the activity I have on paleoclimate. The activity requires students to identify a set of fossil plants from the Florissant formation using a dichotomous key. Once the fossils plants are identified, students are given data of the temperature and precipitation ranges for modern plant species that are related to the plant fossils of Florissant. From there, students can narrow down a range for temperature and precipitation in which all plant species can thrive in. Once the students have calculated those ranges, I tell them the average annual temperature and precipitation of Florissant today. They are then able to make their own conclusions that during the Eocene, the climate of Florissant valley was much hotter and wetter. Even though the age range for the activity is intended for 3rd-5th grade, the teachers had a blast and were even requesting the activity be made available online so that teachers across the nation can access it.
As if the teachers’ enthusiasm and support for my camp development wasn’t enough excitement for one week, I also had visitors come through. On Thursday, I hosted Cristina Ramírez and Jennifer Orellana from the NPS regional offices in Lakewood, CO. Cristina and Jennifer are interns with the Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP), which is a partnership with the National Park Service, Environment for the Americas and Hispanic Access Foundation. It was great to show them around the Fossil Beds and introduce them to the Geo/Paleo camp I have been working on. Then on Friday afternoon, Lily Calderón and Chu-Yu of Environment for the Americas also stopped by for a visit. It was incredible meeting both of them and hearing Lily’s experience as a Mosaics In Science intern in 2016 served as inspiration and motivation. Needless to say, I feel incredibly
blessed to have met such beautiful and inspiring people this past week!
On a non-work related note, I finally was able to go rock climbing with some of the other interns at Florissant Fossil Beds. Shelf Road off the Gold Belt Byway in Central Colorado is notorious for world class sport climbing. My first time rock climbing in Colorado was a success!
I’ve always wondered if I had the patience to be a birder. On Thursday of this week, I found that with a bit more sunblock, I definitely did.
My supervisor here in the Interpretation Division has organized times for me to partner with another park department, Resource Management, once a week in what has already proven to be an incredibly enriching experience. Each Thursday I will be working on a different project in their division; an opportunity I hope will help me create a greater synthesis between the various facets of the Park and better inform my interpretive programs.
As the science education intern here at Rocky, I have a slightly different role than some of the other interpretive interns. In addition to my talks, hikes and roving, I don’t work in visitors centers, but rather have additional opportunities to engage with the scientific work and research being conducted in the park to integrate into my programming. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to work with these extra departments – and get extra time in the outdoors.
This week I assisted one of the head wildlife biologists on a raptor survey in the Fern Lake area of Moraine Park. We were looking for confirmation that a pair of Peregrine
falcons occupying the area along Arch Rocks at the ends of the trailhead had begun their nesting period.
Raptor surveying and field observations require infinite patience and a comfort with silence. For four hours, a timeline established by US Fish and Wildlife for observation periods, we sat in near silence, using our binoculars and spotting scopes to identify potential perches and nests. It can make one antsy, but seeing two peregrines – a truly remarkable bird – along with a slew of other raptors and a surprise eagle nest was incredibly rewarding in a way that I wouldn’t have expected bird-watching to be. Learning how to identify specific birds, their nesting patterns and the importance of this work to maintaining the ecological integrity of Rocky gave me exposure to and an appreciation of an often hidden side of Rocky for someone working in the public face of the Park.
National Parks are incredible areas where we’re able to preserve these beautiful environments and continue them sustainably, with as little impact as possible even with the public and recreational activities going on. While this may sound to some like an easy task of just putting aside some land and not doing anything too damaging, it takes a lot of work and management from devoted people. During my stay here at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park my role in that is taking water samples and testing them. This helps us to see bacteria levels in the water, and convey this to the public who are increasingly interested. I’ve also been helping out with butterfly counts, which is something this park has been doing for the past ten plus years, to help monitor the numbers of butterflies and their species.
Recently I helped one of the environmental protection specialists when she went out in the field to check on some sites here on the park. Most of the time we walked through a creek which got pretty deep at times, to get to the different spots, so it’s a good thing we wore our waders! We went to six different locations where we monitored the ground water and the creek water levels. This was pretty cool to do because I got to see different parts of the park that I wasn’t able to yet, and it was definitely off the beaten path which was fun!
When we were measuring the stream levels we used the gauge (left photo) that was in the water. At this site we can see the stream was measuring roughly one foot and seven inches high. When measuring the ground water levels we used the dipmeter (right photo). This measuring tool has a water sensitive tip, so that when it touches water it emits a high pitch noise, that way we know its reached the ground water and we’re able to measure it’s height. All of this is in an effort to keep track of this area’s water levels and their quality, which is all a part of the Environmental Management System (EMS) plan for the park. Without monitoring our environment and making sure we follow safe practices and act sustainably, there wouldn’t be a good environment for our national parks. So, while its great to go and camp in these areas, kayak, bike, etc…, we’ve got to remember to try and practice the “leave no trace” so that our environment is here for future visitors to enjoy the same way!
I’ve officially started recording! I got my best recordings from birds at Clingman’s Dome, the highest point at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fun facts about Clingman’s Dome is that at 6,643 ft, it is the highest point in Tennessee and the highest point east of the Mississippi. Since it’s so high, the temperature and vegetation can differ 10 ° to 20°F cooler from lower elevations. When you look around you notice that a spruce-fir coniferous rainforest dominate the view and smell. It literally smells likes Christmas along the trail.
There’s an observation tower to which is a paved trail and only 0.5 mile. Since it sounded reasonable easy, I thought “It shouldn’t be that hard”, and here I am writing as how I was a wrong. It’s short but very steep, I had to stop on almost every bench. I did stop to catch my breath, but also for the view. As you look around, you can find yourself in front of the most beautiful mountain range view ever.
Since it was packed with people I was a bit concerned of pulling out my microphone and start to record. It was sure going to get a lot of attention. On my way down, I started listening some interesting and different bird calls. I just had to recorded record it, so I just put my shyness away and pulled the equipment out. I could notice people, especially the kids looking all curious for the equipment but they were more entertained with the spectacular view. I did got 2 people asked me questions about it.
As I hiked back to the parking lot, I noticed there were other trails, Andrew’s bald. One of the interns from the Visitor Center had mentioned how beautiful it was. It was another short trail so I decided to go on this one. The Andrews Bald trail is part of Forney Ridge Trail and part as well of the main Appalachian Trail, which crosses Clingmans Dome, marking the highest point along its journey from
I appreciated the solicitude of this trail. I got to listen to different birds and saw some funny squirrels! As I arrived to Andrew’s Bald, there were not many people on the area so I catched my breath to a beautiful view of a cloudy yet clear view of the Appalachian Trail. The blue mist along the range of mountain looked magnificent.
It was already sunset time and I got to appreciate this beauty along my drive back home.
“You are not in the mountains, the mountains are in You” – John Muir
Mycology and mycorrhizal networks. Exploring the ways in which fungi interact with and complicate forest networks and growth patterns has been one of the most complex intellectual endeavors I’ve ever attempted.
…And also one of the most fascinating. Expanding and destabilizing my own definitions of sentience, recognition and life as they applied to forest ecology has been one of the most important things I have ever done as someone studying sustainable development and environmental history. Challenging myself as an intellectual at the undergraduate level is something I didn’t initially know how to translate to my work with children. Yet, I knew I still needed to do it.
This weird meditation on how I’ve come to think about and consider forests as sentient, beyond any assertion of their “living” qualities brings us to (somehow) the completion of my very first Junior Ranger program here at our Jr. Ranger Headquarters at Hidden Valley at RMNP.
While I was developing my program outlines, I kept remembering one of the head researchers (with whom I was fortunate enough to have a conversation) tell me that too many interns in Interpretation (my division) are “afraid to let their programs have teeth.” His words stayed with me, even after two weeks of intensive training in which I was inundated with information.
Maybe I like a challenge (if you want to be nice) or I am a bit of a masochist (the truth is somewhere in between the two) but I resolved to imagine programming that was rooted in complex and interesting science, elevated kids rather than lowering them down or our expectations of them, and just somehow proved to be engaging. I worked and worked myself trying to imagine how I could accomplish this.
About a week before my first Junior Ranger programs were slated to begin, I had a bit of a breakthrough – which mostly involved cheering to my roommate and a host of flurried scribbling in my notebook. I wanted to take a huge risk and talk about something that was on the surface incredibly boring and in every other regard (to me at least) wickedly fascinating – mushrooms.
I spent the next week and a half scrambling – how was I going to get six year olds to relate to a complex, and hidden at that, ecological phenomenon that only I seem to care about? Was I going to cave and develop something average but well-attended and well-liked?
This week’s programming at Junior Ranger Headquarters was one of the most pleasant and validating surprises during my time here at Rocky Mountain – my program wasn’t too abstract or a flop! It was the highest attended afternoon program yet. Kids enjoyed it and were curiously asking me questions about mycorrhizae in greater detail. This kind of success is what makes working with children so rewarding – they have an ability and thirst for learning that far exceeds what people would imagine them to be capable of. There are smaller kinks a perfectionist like me will have to iron out in the program as I give it week to week but my most important critics have already spoken – the kids.
Water is the most important element for life on earth. It is highly evident in southwestern Arizona desert ecosystems where the average yearly rainfall is about 18 inches. Most of the rainfall falls during the monsoon, which traditionally starts on June 24th Dia de San Juan and ends on September 15th. Half or more of our yearly rainfall falls during this time period. Many plants, including the saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantean), bloom during this time and wildlife, including humans, depend on it. Spanish explorers that colonized the area turned the start of the monsoon into a celebration known as el Dia de San Juan.
The story goes that in 1540 the Spanish arrived in a drought stricken land here in southwestern Arizona. Worried for their European crops and livestock the Spaniards prayed to Saint John the Baptist for rain. Shortly after and on St.John’s Day rain started to fall. Since then, the coming of the monsoon season has become a celebration of water. It’s celebrated with cold beverages or foods, water filled activities, a bonfire, and prayer. The summer rains are always welcomed here in southwestern Arizona.
Upon reflecting about Dia de San Juan and the importance of water in nature I remembered listening to stories about the celebration from family members. When they were younger they mentioned how it would rain on the day of Dia de San Juan and would rain almost every day until September. Today it seems that the monsoons start later in the year. I wondered if it’s possible that climate change may have changed the timing of the monsoon and how that might affect life in the southwestern Arizona desert. I have not yet found any data that supports my hypothesis but Arizona temperatures are higher in 2017 than previous years and drier. Yet, the celebration of Dia de San Juan will never change because here in the desert the monsoon is always needed and welcomed.
I was able to spend my days looking for caves at Craters at the Moon that have yet to be explored. I had one particular cave in mind. It wasn’t just any old cave I was looking for though, it was the Big Enchilava (yes that is its real name). Armed with a GPS unit, youthful enthusiasm, enough lights to light up the western hemisphere, and my caving buddy Lucy, we set out on our journey. Each mile we drove closer to our entrance point seemed to anger the very sky. The wind began to howl, clouds rushed in to darken the sky, but at least it was dry. The terrain we had to cover seemed less than hospitable, bringing images to mind of the black vomit it was once described as so long ago.
Even still, we were on the hunt so out we went. The journey was difficult at points but we made good progress. And then the rains came. Clambering over the brittle and sharp a’a lava flow we made our way gamely on, heads bent against the sheeting rain, watching the GPS as we got closer and closer to our cave. Eventually we reached our destination, geared and ready to explore this mysterious cave known as the Big Enchilava.
Within one foot of the cave coordinates is where disappointment struck. No visible caves as far as the eye could see, not even a small burrow entrance that could have been mockingly referred to as the Big Enchilava. Our hearts sank, but it had been a long trek so we decided to explore the area.
Our desire to find this unexplored cave led us on a merry hunt, covering as much ground as possible in the hopes of stumbling upon it. Windswept and soaked through, we had to give up the hunt. We were beaten that day, but the disappointment of not finding our cave left a smoldering desire to find, map, and explore this elusive cave fondly referred to as the Big Enchilava.
In reality, we had fruitless but exciting search for this cave. My resource management partner Lucy, and I, spent a cold but exciting day out on the lava searching for this cave that was at one time tagged on a GPS unit but has yet to be explored. It is always good to have a sense of humor when working in the field and your day doesn’t go as planned. I hope you enjoyed this little insight to my week and hope I can share a blog post in the future describing my locating and exploration of the elusive Big Enchilava.
EcoLogik has begun! Ecologik is a 2.5 week full immersion program that fuses nature and technology. This program seeks to connect young women to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic) opportunities. We invited 25 students, ages 9 to 15, to join us this summer to learn how to collect data, make biomodels, 3D print, computer program and much more.
In one week’s time, these young scientists became acquainted with the National Park Service and developed their own opinion of what it truly means to be a “scientist.” Through the power of science communication, these students teamed up to create 13 different 1-3 minute videos on the rocky intertidal using the video editing software, iMovie. After getting familiar with the term ocean acidification as a byproduct of climate change, these young scientists realized the importance of long-term monitoring through hands-on data collection. These young scientists then brought the rocky intertidal indoors by creating 3D printed octopus biomodels. To finish off the week, these students got up close and personal with the natural world at Cabrillo National Monument. They learned personally from a nature photographer that with each beautiful form in nature comes an evolutionary function. It is hard to believe how much they have absorbed in only a week. Now let’s see what we can accomplish in two weeks!
After a week in the field, it is time to get back to the office. If you read my last blog post, you know we just did the biannual tortoise monitoring at Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park (PAAL), where I tagged along to deploy the tortoise radio tracking project. However, here at the Gulf Coast Network (GULN) of Inventory and Monitoring Program (I&M) office there are many projects rolling at the same time. The GULN is one of the thirty-two networks part of the Inventory and Monitoring Program of the National Park Service (see picture below). As the name suggests, the networks of the I&M program do inventories of the natural resources. They plan, design, and implement an integrated long-term monitoring program for the park vital signs. Vital signs are a subset of physical, chemical, and biological elements and processes of park ecosystems that are selected to represent the overall health or condition of park resources.
Our network, GULN, is responsible for eight national parks: Big Thicket National Preserve, Gulf Islands National Seashore, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Natchez Trace Parkway, Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park, Padre Island National Seashore, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, and Vicksburg National Military Park (see picture 2). I was able to “visit” all of them through the data entry of one vital sign, water quality. Well, to be very specific, PAAL does not have water quality monitoring, but because I literally just came back from there, I am going to say I visited them all.
Data entry is not the most exciting activity to do, but nevertheless, it is of much importance. All monitoring projects collect data in field sheets, however to be of any use the data needs to be added to the project database. Data entry is the first step for the information collected in the field to be turned into knowledge about the park. It was very interesting to see a snapshot of each park water quality status. I also learned about the differences of the monitoring schedule for our parks; some have every month, some bimonthly, and some quarterly. You can learn more about water quality monitoring for the GULN’s parks at https://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/guln/monitor/water_quality.cfm
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!