Introduction and First Impressions of MACA by Isabel Sonora

sign urging tourists to 'please stay on path' placed in front of an attractive cave passageway, inside Mammoth Cave

Introduction and First Impressions of MACA by Isabel Sonora


Hello everybody! My name is Isabel Sonora. I also go by Izzie. This summer I will be working as a Paleontology Assistant at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. I was beyond excited to have been offered the position back in April and I can’t wait to see where the rest of the summer takes me! 

Before moving to Kentucky for the summer, I finished up my second to last semester at Northland College located in Wisconsin. During this past semester, I’ve completed my senior capstone project, analyzing and presenting 26-year changes seen in the groundlayer plant community of northern hardwood forests in Wisconsin. This project was very enriching, and I am thrilled to have completed my first scientific poster on such a neat long-term ecological data set! 

I am about to complete my undergraduate degree in Biology this coming fall and plan to further my education after graduation. During the past two years, I’ve been able to focus on my discipline through taking courses focused on ecology and biology. I also had the pleasure of being a Teaching Assistant for the Evolutionary Biology course. I held the responsibility of organizing meetings and leading discussions of scientific literature related to evolutionary concepts, as well as assisting with students’ comprehension of the literature. 

Isabel Sonora, smiling in her college greenhouse
Roadside photo of forested deciduous canopy
Forest canopy on one-way road to Cedar Sink trailhead


My long haul to MACA began at about 7:30 in the morning. I packed most of my belongings into my car the night before and secured some of my houseplants the morning of. Once I had eaten and started drinking my favorite caffeinated beverage, I was ready for the road. I had never been to Kentucky before, so I wasn’t super familiar with the area. I only got ‘lost’ once when I accidentally took an exit off the highway in Louisville, but this small detour only delayed my arrival at the park by about 10 minutes. I ended up arriving around 3:30 in the afternoon and met with my supervisor to discuss housing details.

I had the pleasure of my mom and younger sister driving down to spend the weekend with me and assist with move-in. After we moved my belongings inside, we were able to attend the cave tour ‘Gothic Avenue’ and we all loved it. I was amazed by how recently the park had become established (1941) and how much history it preserves! I intend on writing a whole separate blog post encompassing pieces of MACA history, so please stay tuned to read more!

Over the weekend we hiked the Cedar Sink trail, which was beautiful, and went searching for bats, at my younger sister’s request. I was worried the bat populations weren’t going to be abundant and easy to spot, due to White Nose Syndrome affecting bat populations. Yet, fortunately, we were able to observe the small mammals feeding on bugs swarming a streetlight! The biodiversity within the park stuns my ecology-focused mind, so of course I must write a blog post regarding various species found in the park and their specializations!

I remain beyond thrilled to have been selected for this position and I must say, MACA is truly a great place to be. I am truly quite sad my internship will only be 12 weeks long, but I am forever grateful for the opportunities in front of me, the experience gained, and the folks I get to work with during this time. I’ve only been here for two weeks, and I already know there’s so much more to experience and learn. Come back to this page soon to check for updates! 

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