22 May Living at Agate Fossil Beds
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog for the summer! My name is Maya and this summer I have the awesome opportunity of being a National Park Service and Environment for the Americas intern in the Mosaics in Science program. I will be working at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in Harrison, Nebraska. All my life, I have enjoyed the outdoors and the unknown, so this opportunity was calling my name. As someone who is majoring in biotechnology, I appreciate all the ways in which science is around us, and therefore, I also understand the great responsibility that comes with preserving nature and ensuring that this enjoyment and this life can continue for millions of years to come.
At Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, I am working on developing a comprehensive herbarium collection of the plant species that grow here, with a focus on the ethnobotanical significance of these plants for the Native American people. This project specifically interested me because not only did it have that interesting science and creative component, it also had the valuable cultural and historical element, which is something that I believe to be very important to preserve and learn about as well. We hope that this herbarium collection at Agate will allow visitors to interact with the plant life that they may see during their escapades around the park and through the trails, and that they can learn about different tribes, specifically the Lakota, used these plants for. Additionally, this collection can serve as a historical record for the species present at the park during this time and this year and can be used by scientists in the future who may want to see how biodiversity or plant species have changed over time. My goal this summer is to successfully complete this project, but to also initiate other botany related projects around the park, such as installing or creating signs with write-ups about plants on the trails. Another goal of mine this summer is to figure out how to make the herbarium collection, as well as the other projects accessible to people with disabilities. I am looking forward to working with Tera Lynn, my supervisor, on this aspect.
At Agate Fossil Beds, there are two things I noticed first. Firstly, the grasslands and the prairies are something that are not similar to anything you’ve seen before. The hills are covered in different species of grass and different shades of green. These grasses can be just a few inches tall, and some can be competing to be the tallest person in the room. The hushed rattle of the rattlesnakes is real, especially when the weather is good, and it’s almost like they’re talking about you as you walk by. Different types of yellow flowers will pop-up over one rainy night, like all they needed was a sprinkle of water and now they can do just about anything, like grow out of a rock. The bright green and sunshine orange lichen grows where you wouldn’t have thought they would, and birds are always singing making sure you know of their lovely presence.