On late July I started editing on the computer all the good recordings I’ve been collecting over the past couple of weeks. Harsh thing about field work is that after you spend a good couple of hours, and return to the office to check out the audio, turns out only a couple are good. And the number reduce even more so, when you polish it via a spectrogram using the software, Audacity.
Field work is still going with more stationary recorders, which can capture for more hours throughout the day. This way, it captures more birds and other critters like mice, squirrels and bugs. I learned how to use them recently the other day just for 2 hours. Now I just have to listen to the data and check out what kind of sounds !
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs
Yes, as the title suggest this post sure promise bears ♥ … I got the great opportunity to shadow the Wildlife Ranger during a Bear release and a procedure known as Bear Check-Up. As I may have mentioned on my previous post, at Great Smoky Mountains there are approximately 1,600 American black bears, Ursus americanus
As an aspiring Wildlife Biologist, this shadowing was a dream come true experience. It all happened when I arrived at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, when there was a rumor among my co-workers about a bear being brought to Headquarters, and that one of the interns went to see it. I asked my supervisor at the Visitor Center about it, and she told me it had happened earlier, before I arrived. I got sad, but continued my day normally. Then. the intern that assisted on the bear returned showing off these amazing pictures, when he mentions that the wildlife ranger returning for anyone who wants to assist to the release. My face expression changed from serious and disappointed to excited and grinning.
It was funny, because my supervisor came outside to ask me if I was interested in attending a bear release, and before she finished the question, I said: “Yes!, of course!” , and she replied: “Oh, ok you are clearly excited. You are definitely going.”
When the wildlife ranger arrived, they had the bear on the “bear cage”. People were gathering up around, causing a “bear jam” on the parking. Another intern and I went on the ride to release the bear in Chimney Tops Picnic Area, where this bear was caught the night before. It was around lunch time so as you can imagine, it was crowded and the cage caught everyone’s attention. This was good though, as the wildlife ranger had a big audience to educate about the importance of making sure that when out in the field, you want to make sure that you leave no trace behind. Leaving “human” food leads to unfortunate consequences to wildlife. On this case, for bears, they can get sick from it and also it can lead to a harming attack.
Bears in general are omnivorous animals, they can eat everything. Although, commonly they eat berries, if given the chance of a burger or a something sweet such as a donut, they’ll choose it over berries (I would!). Black bears are not aggressive but if they get used to humans, they could fight them over the food. That’s the most common cause for human incidents, at least at the Smokies. These results not only bad for the human but for the bear too, for the management action would be relocation which can result very stressful, and on a worse case and last resort, euthanization.
When the bear got release, it was obviously scared but even more with a huge crowd yelling at you. He ran off the hill, hopefully not roaming around the picnic area again.
We went back to the warehouse, where the wildlife ranger station is, and for my surprise, they had another bear trap from a campground. For this one, I got to assist on the whole process of the Bear Check Up:
- Carrying the bear inside
- Taking physical measurements: Paws, the whole arm, head, neck, body
- Hair and Blood samples for DNA data
- Body Temperature
- Tooth, for accurate aging
- Ear Tag
- Tattoo on the inner lip of the mouth for Id.
The main purpose of the bear check up not only is to monitor in the future the “misbehaved” bear but also making a bad human impression so the bear gets scare of us enough to not to get closer.
After that, we returned to the visitor center to continue with our day. For the rest of the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about this experience. It made me appreciate the opportunities that this internship has to offer and how to use these as a motivation to continue on this career path.
“The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves” – Jane Goodall
To switch things up this week, I thought I would interview someone working for the National Park Service I think is a great person for who they are and what they do for Yosemite National Park. Though I do not directly report to her, she is someone I feel like I can easily talk to about anything regarding my internship or work at the park this summer! Rachel is considered the black bear expert of the park, though I could argue she’s the expert for the entire state!
Dr. Rachel Mazur, Branch Chief of Wildlife, Visitor Use, and Social Science
B.S. (Penn State), M.S. (SUNY College of Forestry), M.P.A. (Syracuse University), Ph.D. (U.C. Davis)
How long have you been working for the National Park Service?
I started with the National Park Service as an SCA intern in 1989.
What brought you to the Park Service and Yosemite in particular?
The former division chief of Resources Management and Science recruited to come to Yosemite for a detail. I enjoyed it and ended up applying for the job.
What is the coolest part about your work/research?
The coolest part of my work is getting to dabble in a broad range of wildlife restoration and research projects since the Yosemite wildlife program is very large and diverse.
Share a defining moment in your career.
A defining moment in my career came when I sat in a giant sequoia grove and watched two bear cubs nurse. It was absolutely stunning and reminded me to slow down and observe.
If you could begin a research project on any species, problem, or topic, what would it be?
I actually am working on a pet project outside of work. My friend Olotumi Laizer, a Maasai warrior from Tanzania, now lives and works at Yosemite. How and why did he move and what can we learn from each culture? That is the subject of a book we are writing.
Growing up, did you see yourself becoming a scientist?
When I was a kid, I wanted to work at the local five-and-dime variety store. Later, I wanted to be a landscape architect. Then I wanted to be a wildlife biologist. When my kids were little, I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom. Now, I want to be a writer.
What do you like to do on your off time?
On my off time, I play with my kids. They are the center of my universe. Often, that means camping, swimming, or taking them to participate in wildlife projects.
(Mosaics in Science is an internship program that provides youth that are under-represented in the natural resource science career fields with science work experience with the National Park Service. 2014 data revealed that the National Park Service workforce is 18% racially diverse (African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, others). In STEM fields, this number drops down to 3%, compared to the national average of 6%). Why is it important to have programs like Mosaics in Science that promote inclusion, diversity, and equity in the science field?
Mosaics in Science is designed to let people know about jobs with the National Park Service. Bringing in a diversity of people is critical to our success because with a diversity of people comes a diversity of ideas, experiences, skills, and ways of doing things that continually improve the way we achieve our mission. I love interns, partly because I spent my first two years as an intern.
There’s something about the National Park Service emblem and logo that just immediately allows people to trust whoever is wearing it. That’s what I think I’ve gathered most so far during this internship.
The Division of Resource Management and Science provides the expertise and sustainable management of Yosemite’s natural resources using science-based decision-making. Working as an intern for the Wildlife Management branch under this division, I get to act as eyes and ears for the park’s wildlife. Because of this, we rarely encounter or plan to interact with the public. However, that does not mean we don’t come across people while tracking turtles in the Valley of Yosemite, or pass people while hiking to a site.
I am fortunate and glad I have not experienced an emergency situation with a park visitor, as most of my interactions have been highly positive and educational! Every day has been different and my past front-country tour proved it! Here are some stories of experiences with the public (and actual animals) from my most recent tour and previous tours.
- An Aquatics crew employee and I were on private residence near Sierra National Forest land, placing traps in a pond to assist a phD study on Western pond turtles. As we were leaving the site, four hunting dogs came walking up to us, each wearing a GPS collar. They all looked thin and tired, though were very nice with us. Their owner was nowhere in site, as we waited for some sign of someone being out in the area. After calling the numbers on the dogs’ collars and receiving no answers, we decided to call the local sheriff’s office to have a deputy come take the dogs to animal control so their owner could be notified that their dogs were found. When speaking with the deputy, he thanked us for taking responsibility of the dogs and helping out.
- During off time, we took a break at the local fairgrounds where we would be camping for the duration of a tour. As we parked the park vehicle at our site, people immediately non-stop approached us to ask questions about the park, the fairgrounds, service, closest gas station, anything! At one point, someone wanted us to help them with the transmission of their RV! Even though we could not answer many of the questions as we were in an area we were not acquainted with, we helped out as much as we could.
- While walking through Yosemite Valley wearing headphones, carrying a receiver and antenna, people often come up and ask what we’re tracking. Once we’ve assured them that we are tracking turtles and not bears, their muscles relax and are at ease again knowing that a bear is not in the vicinity. On multiple occasions, people actually know about the reintroduction of the Western pond turtle to the park, which is exciting!
When people think about the National Park Service, they think of park rangers with the wide-brimmed hat in full uniform. I originally thought that too! Now, I think of all the important people and groups that work to create great experiences with our National Parks. This includes the park rangers, biologists, operators, retailers, bus drivers, scientists, interpreters, custodial, managers, receptionists, trail keepers, everyone! Though we all don’t have the park ranger uniform, we still all carry that same arrowhead emblem. We’re doing just as much work for people as we are for the actual job descriptions. I never would have thought that I would be helping return lost dogs, teaching people about the history of the herpetofauna in Yosemite, or showing someone on a map the closest gas station. Every day is different and that’s what makes this internship and working with the National Park Service so amazing. People really love the Park Service.
This week of my Mosaics in Science internship consisted of continued training and learning about the purpose of the aquatic herpetological restoration projects going on throughout Yosemite National Park. There are particular reptile and amphibian focal species of concern in the park including the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, California red-legged frog, Yosemite toad, and Western pond turtle.
Historically, the lakes and streams above 4,000 feet in Yosemite National Park were fish-less due to the natural barriers seen in Yosemite Valley like steep waterfalls that prevented them from moving upstream, reaching those high elevation lakes. From the early 1900s to even the 1990s, non-native fish were stocked in some of those lakes and streams to promote fishing opportunities in Yosemite’s backcountry wilderness. As a result, the existing aquatic organisms that had existed there for hundreds of years, now had a new competitor and predator that was never there before. The Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, Rana sierrae, declined by over 95% of its historic range because of the pressures and predation from the non-native fish. Frogs were not the only species affected by the introduction. The trout in the lakes and streams disrupted the food web impacting insects, snakes, bats, and even some bird species.
To add insult to injury, the discovery of a new fungal disease, chytridiomycosis, has devastated populations of the endangered frog, resulting in local extinctions of the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog. The species needs help more than ever to restore those sites to native species only and protect from the spread of Chytrid.
Other amphibian species are seeing declines in populations due to the fungal disease and also the spread of the invasive bullfrog species (Lithobates catesbeianus). American bullfrogs, native to the east coast, is now seen in all 50 states. This species is the largest frog in North America, exhibits voracious feeding, and is said to be a carrier of the chytrid fungus. This makes them excellent competitors to Yosemite’s lower elevation native species, like the federally threatened California red-legged frog, Rana draytonii, which hasn’t been seen in the park for half a century. Habitat restoration and conservation for native amphibian species is needed to combat the invasive bullfrog species.
Similar trends have been seen in the Western pond turtle, Actinemys marmorata. High populations of raccoons and the removal of large woody debris (used for basking) throughout the park have severely impacted populations. Groups like the Yosemite Conservancy and NatureBridge have assisted the park in the education and reintroduction of the native red-legged frog and Western pond turtle species.
Being a part of monumental and important projects like these is an amazing experience. I am learning from such qualified and well-rounded biologists and technicians that I am in constant awe of their experience. This internship has allowed me to have a voice in the matter and provide support when I can.
Hello World and Welcome to the Smokies!
I’m Laura C. Del Valle and I’ll be working this summer on Great Smoky Mountains National Park as an acoustic biologist technician for the Natural Sounds & Night Skies Division. My project will consist on capturing the essence of the park by audio recordings. I’ll be hiking around some trails around the park to grab recordings with the goal of capturing everything from birds to the sound of a creek or even the wind that roses the trees. With these recordings, I’ll become some sort of detective as later I’ll try to identify the author of the sound and get a better idea on the density and location of it. These findings may contribute to a much detailed database for a species or specific sounds in general. Other of my duties, will include assisting park rangers at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, to answer some public questions and eventually give some talks and presentations on the project.
It’s been surreal to realize that it’s already been a week that I’ve been away from home, Carolina, Puerto Rico and has been living (literally) at a National Park. To tell you a bit about myself I’m currently a Senior and almost a recent graduate at the University of Puerto Rico, Humacao campus and my major is Wildlife Management. Getting some field experience and job taste outside the classroom was a big must for me as I have plans to apply to Graduate School in the Fall, so this internship will be a huge opportunity, not only to do some networking, but to find some focus interest on where I want to continue to on with the field on wildlife studies.
This is my first time in Tennessee and so far, it’s been great! I’ve gotten a big peak from the wildlife that can be found here. I’ve already checked some wildlife off my bucket list: a raccoon, a deer, and a snake and of course, squirrels! This last Saturday, I got to see my first black bear (my favorite), it was approximately a year old and probably a male. It was the cutest thing , we were really close to it, therefore I was really excited about it. Interesting fact, there are 1,600 black bears are all around the park, but are commonly seen on Cade’s Cove.
Living on a National Park, has been great but only that where I live there’s no service, including WiFi (which is why it has taken me a bit of time to update the blog). It has been interesting and a good experience to take time off social media and actually explore around the campsite neighborhood. Because of this, I was lucky to find the area where the Synchronous Fireflies show gets place. Their high peak only runs from May 30 to June 6. The fireflies were really pretty, looked like yellow blinking stars, and I even got to see some blueish color ones, which I’ve been told are difficult to see. These fireflies have a really short lifespan, they only live on these certain dates, seeing them after will be very difficult. It was also very nice to walk back home and check out the families at the campsite enjoying their time around the fire and smell the barbecue.
For my research, I’ve been able to get started on some hikes to practice with the recording equipment. My first one being a trail around Twin Creeks, where my work area is located. On Friday I got to hike Grotto Falls, which was beautiful. Being the most intensive one has been Ramsey Cascades, the trail where I saw the bear. It was a rough 8 mile roundtrip, but totally worth it, the main cascade is magnificent as well as the ones that you get to see along the way. It sure was a huge workout but like I mentioned, all the nature beauty that surrounded us was worth it!
Following these weeks, I’ll be making more hiking plans with my supervisor and get started full with the recordings. I’ll keep you posted on what I find!
Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way! – Dr. Seuss
Two weeks done and it’s going by so fast.
This past week was Memorial Day weekend so Yosemite was packed to the brim with people. We opted to stay out of Yosemite Valley and instead, do some hiking on the edge of the park. Even though the area we were in was considered relatively low elevation for Yosemite, 5,000 ft is pretty high up for me! We hiked to Cascade Falls and were able to see it from a vantage point pretty different than what you typically see. We finished off our hiking by heading to Tuolumne Grove to check out one of the giant sequoia groves in the area. In all, a day of hiking around 11 miles!
The rest of the week was spent doing park-wide orientation for all employees, interns, and volunteers for the season. Right from the beginning, I could tell that I was going to be a part of a big family that would look out for each other and include everyone’s interests. Throughout orientation, we learned about the different divisions, attractions, wilderness safety, and expectations. To end the park-wide orientation, we got to take the Green Dragon around the park, which is an open-air tram that allows you to see the gorgeous rock faces of the valley in clear view.
Following park-wide orientation was my crew’s orientation for Aquatics team for the summer season. Once again, I felt included and welcomed immediately. This is essential for success this summer and I’m already off to a good start. We learned about the natural history and biology of the species we will be focusing on, wilderness ethics, conduct, and intern expectations. Friday, we went into the park to watch a demonstration on collecting eDNA samples and ended it with a training hike up Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, and coming back down the John Muir Trail. An intense shorter hike with lots of mist, stairs, and great views.
With two weeks under my belt, I have already learned so much and am excited to learn even more this summer. I still can’t believe I’m working at Yosemite National Park! This is a dream that I’ve always had, and everyday, I wake up excited for what’s to come.
My name is Sophia Bass Werner and I am the 2017 mosaics intern for the Boston Harbor Islands National Park. I am originally from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, but have been living in Massachusetts for the past 10 years. You may be wondering why I choose to stay local when applying for this internship. Well, I have a long history with the Boston Harbor Islands I could not let go off. I have worked for them on and off for a period of about 4 years in a variety of internships and temp positions. A year ago, I graduated college from the University of Massachusetts Boston with a Environmental Science Bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately I was not able to lock up a permanent position with the park, and for the past year I was in between jobs hoping to find something that focused on my career. To my luck, the Boston Harbor Islands was going to hire an intern through the mosaics internship program, which my previous supervisor encouraged me to apply; and so I did.
Every time I have returned to the Boston Harbor Islands has been incredible! It always is like coming back home. However, this time around will be a little bit different. The past years my work has mostly focused in the management of natural resources. This summer however I will be transitioning into education. My internship this year focuses in enhancing the educational programs for kids of the Greater Boston area, as well as creating a interactive map summarizing the geologic inventory for educational use. I am very excited for this great learning opportunity! I know I will have my ups and downs but I am definitely ready and up for the challenge.