10,000 Lakes to 10,000 Saguaros

Desert landscape, palo verde trees dot the slope as well as saguaros in the distance.

10,000 Lakes to 10,000 Saguaros

A tall saguaro right before sunset, framed by a blue sky and clouds. Five small arms sticking out of the saguaro. Saguaro surrounded by small, green bushes.
Evening saguaro in the Rincon Mountain District

A Minnesotan at heart, I’ve seen more than 10,000 lakes – but nothing quite compares to seeing massive saguaros rising out of the desert. My name is Hannah, and I’m the Acoustics Assistant at Saguaro National Park. I graduated from Mount Holyoke College last May, and am so excited to learn from the diverse, eccentric park staff. I’m interested in wildlife acoustics, plant ecology, and creative writing (I’m still figuring out how to combine them all). Before Saguaro, I botanized all over Massachusetts surveying rare plants, researched desert algae at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, germinated some endangered, Wisconsin plants at the Minnesota Arboretum, and recreated Chicago’s soundscape from the early 1800’s – 1920’s. Like many of the park staff here, I have an unusual background, and have also spent time frosting wedding cakes and restoring sculptures in an art conservation lab. I currently dream of becoming a park ecologist, dually understanding how we shape the land, and how the land shapes us.

I live in the park’s East District, and my favorite part of the day is running right before dawn, watching hundreds of saguaros glow orange with the sunrise. Some of the saguaros have been here for more than 170 years, and I can’t help but be filled with respect and awe looking up at these amazing cacti against the sky. They support all types of wildlife, as homes, food, shelter, and water, and are truly an integral part of this desert ecosystem. During my internship, I’ll have the opportunity to help survey these saguaros, as well as collect and analyze the park’s soundscape for a variety of bats and birds. I’m most excited to learn more about acoustic monitoring, while also trying to identify as many bird and plant species as I can along the way. With some luck, I may even avoid getting sunburnt…

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