Hello reader,

My name is Crystal Zhao and I am a rising sophomore at Johns Hopkins University studying environmental science, English, and economics. This summer I will be interning at Cuyahoga Valley National Park as a science communication assistant. My work will revolve around developing a citizen science program focused on assessing the impact of the park’s current visitor use management strategies. I am especially excited about my project because it deals with balancing two principles at the very core of the NPS mission: the ability to “preserve unimpaired” natural areas and people’s ability to enjoy those places. Considering that every environmental issue today involves some version of managing the relationship between humans and nature, I see the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship on the local scale, even within the borders of one park.

As a student, I feel grateful that the Mosaics in Science program is giving me the opportunity to work on a project that combines my interests. And as a native Clevelander, I am absolutely delighted to be getting involved with a park that I have been visiting for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories of CVNP is biking along the Cuyahoga River with my sister. At some point, she decided to use those six years she has on me to speed out of sight. I followed the sound of cackling to her abandoned bike, and after a brief moment of panic, I spotted her splashing around in the river. It was a close call between running away with her bike and joining her, but in the end, I settled on the latter. 

Me at the Petrified Forest
What came first – the forest or the girl? (me at the Petrified Forest)

As I write this post on the Friday before my internship begins, I am settling back into life in Cleveland after a year away at university. I know that starting Monday, I’ll be reporting to CVNP bright and early every day, but that doesn’t erase the fact that it has been months since I’ve visited. I’m tempted to go tomorrow – I’ll bring my dog and maybe my sister, we’ll do a hike or two, and we probably won’t be able to resist going to Country Maid’s for some ice cream. Next week’s blog post will reveal whether or not I end up going, and it will also recap my first week of work at CVNP! I am looking forward to this summer and all that it will bring. 


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