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Fond Memories and Final Reflections

Fond Memories and Final Reflections

By: Kylie Campbell and James Puckett

We have traveled over 30,000 miles through 34 states in the past ten months, and every moment was jam packed full of amazing memories and lifelong lessons. Each refuge that we visited provided us with unique opportunities to see the world from a new perspective. Our final blog details our last refuge visits and overall reflections inspired by our experiences in each place. Thank you for following us along our journey!


Loess Bluffs NWR

The last leg of our journey started with a second sampling period at Loess Bluffs NWR. While the pools were completely covered with ice when we first got there, it felt like we brought the warmth with us because many of the pools thawed within a few days of our arrival. The thawing meant that many birds returned back to the refuge: we could often hear them approaching even before we could see them. As the flocks of migrating snow geese got closer, you could look up and see hundreds of geese forming giant v-lines in the sky. Loess Bluffs is a common resting area along the Western Central Flyway. This migration route is the most common corridor that the snow geese use and it is more than 3,000 mi (4,800 km) from the tundra to traditional wintering areas. Because the snow geese are such a big attraction, we got many questions from visitors about their numbers and migration patterns.

Trumpeter swans take a sunset swim across a pool at Loess Bluffs NWR. December 2018. Photo by Kylie Campbell.

We had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the snow geese as well as other waterfowl while helping with a weekly waterfowl count. We joined the refuge biologist for a full day of methodically counting all of the birds in all 24 pools of the refuge. We counted over 100,000 snow geese and a record high number of trumpeter swans! We also got to assist with a research study investigating how windmills impact bird migration. We went to a wind farm near the refuge and set up a radar system that detected birds flying overhead. Whenever the radar would detect a bird, we had to use the birding skills that we’ve developed during this internship to quickly identify the bird.

The opportunity to work alongside U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff has been one of our favorite aspects of the internship. The dedicated men and women that we’ve interacted with have inspired us and strengthened our motivation to pursue our own careers in public service.

Bird detection radar in action during an early morning bird count. December 2018. Photo by Kylie Campbell.

Tennessee NWR

After an unexpectedly long break over the holidays due to the government shutdown, we arrived at Tennessee NWR and met up with another ACE team, Angelica and Michelle. The winter waterfowl residents were present in large numbers while we were there. A birdwatching festival, Wings of Winter, occurred on the refuge while we were in town. Despite some rainy weather, the participants in this event happily donned their rain gear and were still rewarded with great birding! During this event we had the opportunity to survey visitors from all across Tennessee who traveled to the refuge to observe the wintering waterfowl.

While duck hunting is not allowed on the refuge, we were able to interact with lots of hunters who come observe the ducks after hunting private lands in the morning. These interactions with hunters have provided us with new perspectives that we will cherish forever. Prior to this internship, we didn’t know much about hunting and generally couldn’t understand how people could enjoying killing innocent creatures. Now, we’ve seen how harvesting an animal is much more complex than simply shooting and killing. After witnessing it firsthand across the entire country, we’re able to appreciate how deeply hunting is woven throughout American culture and family traditions. We’ve learned that sportsmen (and women!) are some of the most well informed, conservation-minded individuals who truly support public lands. This lesson has not only opened our minds to hunting, but has broadly shown us the importance of getting to know all sides of an issue before forming an opinion.

J.N. Ding Darling NWR

After a brief dusting of snow on our last day in Tennessee, we headed south to the sunshine and warmth of Florida. Our first stop in Florida was J.N. Ding Darling NWR on Sanibel Island, and it was a stop for many other travelers as well! This refuge sometimes felt like an amusement park with how many visitors were there every day. We sampled visitors from all over the United States who, much like the wintering birds, were in town for the absolutely beautiful weather. We were able to see was the Roseate Spoonbills, a beautiful pink wading bird that definitely added to the tropical feel of the refuge.

While at this refuge, we saw how the refuge successfully partners with other conservation groups and businesses. The refuge partners with a very popular concessionaire, Tarpon Bay Explorers, and a portion of this business’ profits go back to the refuge. Tarpon Bay Explorers offers educational cruises as well as guided kayaking and paddle boarding. We enjoyed a paddle board tour offered by Tarpon Bay and we could certainly appreciate how this business allows visitors to experience the refuge in an educational and memorable way.

James and Kylie enjoying a sunny day on Tarpon Bay. February 2019. Photo by Kylie Campbell.

J.N. Ding Darling NWR also has a particularly active volunteer group, the Ding Darling Wildlife Society (DDWS). Like other volunteer groups that we’ve encountered, DDWS is very successful at raising funds that support environmental education and other refuge projects. The refuge wouldn’t be able to do all the amazing work that it does without the support of the Ding Darling Wildlife Society and active volunteers.

Another unique partnership that we witnessed was between the refuge and the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF). A new marine laboratory that exemplifies this successful partnership was recently opened on refuge land. USFWS provided funding to build the new laboratory that is staffed and operated by SCCF. The scientists employed by SCCF will be able to collect and analyze data that will aid refuge staff in their management of refuge lands and wildlife.

While the power of partnerships was particularly apparent on Sanibel Island, it reflected a theme that we’ve seen in many other places. These types of partnerships allow resources from multiple sources to derive their maximum benefit, which is increasingly important as we face ever more complex environmental challenges.

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR

Our second stop in Florida took us across Alligator Alley to Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. This urban refuge protects the remaining Northern Everglades habitat in a region that is quickly growing even more developed. To the trained eye, the refuge was brimming with life; we saw alligators, turtles, lizards, and many different species of birds. However, we found it interesting that some first time visitors would comment that they thought it was “boring” because they couldn’t see any animals. It seemed that sometimes these visitors heard the words “wildlife refuge” and imagined that they would experience something more like a zoo. They would talk a short walk and feel disappointed that there were not animals waiting for them around every corner. Conversely, more experienced wildlife observers would take their time walking the numerous trails and then excitedly tell us about the many different creatures that they saw.

These interactions with different types of visitors reminded us of ourselves and how much we have learned through this internship. A year ago we had a vague understanding of what a wildlife refuge was, but now we are truly experts! We now understand that there are so many different types of public lands that each have their own management priorities. In our future travels we will certainly seek out more National Wildlife Refuges and the serenity that can be found there, rather than always hitting the bustling National Parks.

Beautiful sunsets at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR provided ample opportunities to walk and reflect on this transformative internship. February 2019. Photo by: Kylie Campbell.

Mattamuskeet NWR

After the fast pace of our time in Florida, the quiet atmosphere at Mattamuskeet NWR in North Carolina was a welcome change. We sampled mostly fishermen enjoying sunny days on Lake Mattamuskeet. The visitors to this refuge are routine visitors and we often saw the same groups out multiple days in a row. While the majority of the wintering waterfowl had already left the refuge, we still saw a few swans, ducks, and dedicated birdwatchers.

While it was full of wildlife and beautiful in its own way, Lake Mattamuskeet is not a destination that would have ever been on our travel bucket lists. It is precisely for this reason that this refuge was perfect for our final stop. The tiny town of Swan Quarter in rural North Carolina exemplified all of the unique little communities that we’ve been able to experience during the past 10 months that life otherwise never would have taken us to. Through these travels, we have been able to see what life is like for so many different people in every corner of this vast country. We’ve heard opinions from countless points of view, and now have a deeper understanding of the reasoning behind this diversity of perspectives.

A heartwarming characteristic that has been common across all of the refuges that we’ve been to is how incredibly important these spaces are to the communities that surround them. Public lands truly bring people together in an inspiring and refreshing way. Whether people are gathering to reel in fish that will feed their families or to unwind from the stress of an urban workweek, wildlife refuges ensure the continued health of more than wild animals. As John Muir said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

Oh The Places We Go!

Oh The Places We Go!

By: Michelle Ferguson and Angelica Varela

The day is here! Can you believe it? We surely can’t. Our last three refuges have come and gone in a blink of our unsuspecting eyes. We felt lucky to revisit some of our most loved refuges, San Diego Bay, San Diego, and Canaan Valley NWRs. We also got the chance to sample Tennessee NWR, our final refuge. Join us on our last blog as we close this wild and wonderful chapter of our lives.


Northern harrier, San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. December 2018. Photo by Angelica Varela.

San Diego NWR and San Diego Bay NWR

The refuge staff at San Diego and San Diego Bay NWRs greeted us as though we had never left. One of the best parts of this internship has been being immersed in the presence of the driven, empowering staff of the wildlife refuge system. Words cannot fully express how much kindness our refuge contacts Jill Terp and Chantel Jimenez extended towards us, and they’ve had a tremendous positive impact on our experience. Jill and Chantel have been an unyielding support system throughout this internship; we are so grateful to have worked with them.

Osprey catches a fish over San Diego Bay NWR. December 2018. Photo by Michelle Ferguson.

As the second refuge we traveled to for the visitor survey project, it was particularly neat to return to the same place, now as seasoned surveyors. We stayed at ACE’s eclectic housing in Dulzura and were welcomed in by ACE’s Southern California branch. Operating as a team of 2 for most of our internship, we enjoyed bonding with fellow ACErs who are working on restoration projects and trail crews across Southern California.

Surveying in California a second time we had the opportunity to see the progression of the new trail on Mother Miguel, a popular hiking and biking spot in Chula Vista at San Diego NWR. When sampling here in April, the trail work had just begun. One of the best moments we had while surveying was watching when the trail crew let two young boys test out their bikes on the unopened trail. The boys finished their ride with huge grins across their faces exclaiming how much they loved the new trail. This was one of many moments we’ve experienced visitors expressing pure joy for their wildlife refuges. While at San Diego Bay NWR we enjoyed watching the osprey and black-necked stilts who frequented our survey location along the birding trail in Imperial Beach. As these birds stuck around in the warmer winter weather, we migrated east to cooler temperatures.

Canaan Valley NWR

Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. January 2019. Photo by Michelle Ferguson.

We left the sandy beaches of San Diego to head back east to a snow-covered wonderland (although the snow didn’t stay long). With the snowfall, visitors at Canaan Valley NWR like to cross-country ski, snowshoe, and hunt this time of the year. Here in West Virginia we rang in the new year with the locals, having a grand time at The Purple Fiddle. As we went back to our normal sampling schedule, the locals recalled meeting us earlier this summer when they were hiking at Beall Trailhead. They expressed their interest in the progression of our internship since they had last seen us! It’s always comforting to know that the local community is rooting for us on our adventures. Visitors we meet often are making sure we stay warm, and asking us if we have had time to explore and have some fun in their beloved town.

We were especially glad to touch base with refuge manager Ron Hollis again while in Canaan Valley. Working closely with USFWS has exposed us to the variety of elements involved with taking this career avenue. The refuge staff always showed their support for us and their tenacity, no matter what challenges came their way. As we returned our keys, the valley winds of Canaan blew us to our last refuge in Tennessee.

Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Beall Trailhead. January 2019. Photo by Angelica Varela.

Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Freeland Boardwalk. January 2019. Photo by Angelica Varela.

Tennessee NWR

While at Tennessee NWR, we stationed ourselves mostly at the Duck River Bottoms unit where visitors enjoy birding, fishing and scouting for ducks. This season visitors also attended the Wings of Winter (WOW) birding festival on the refuge, showing their perseverance for bird watching even with the steady rainfall that weekend. In between surveying visitors we played “duck, duck, cormorant” as we expanded our knowledge of local waterfowl on the aptly named Duck River. We added the Hooded Merganser, ring-necked duck, and canvasback to our game.

Tennessee NWR was a unique survey spot because it was there that we joined forces with another intern team, James and Kylie. We enjoyed several evenings together swapping fond refuge stories (Be sure to check out their blog posts as they continue their journey through March!). Collectively we were all thoroughly entertained by the family of playful river otters who hung out in the Duck River munching on fish. The otters were a dinner time hot topic at the Tennessee bunkhouse. On one of our last nights in the wilds of Tennessee, we stayed awake to watch the blood wolf moon peak through the clouds. It was a perfect way to end our time at our last refuge. We reflected on the past year as ACE-EPIC National Visitor Survey interns with good memories and excitement for our careers in this field to follow.

Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge. January 2019. Photo by Michelle Ferguson.

After 35,000 miles,16 different refuges, over 30 states, and a new found friendship, it’s time to say our final goodbyes. This internship has been one wild drive. From meeting amazing staff members who have shown us that we too can one day pay our bills, to viewing an array of our nation’s wildlife, wild lands, and traveling the country, 2018 is one for the books. Here’s to new connections, adventures, and driving into a promising future!

Signing out for the last time,
         Road Warriors: Michelle Ferguson and Angelica Varela

Winter Migration

Winter Migration

By: Justin Gole and Nicole Stagg

Our adventure that started at Bayou Sauvage in New Orleans and has since led us all around the Midwest and East Coast and is soon coming to a close. Nicole spent the entire year talking about how great Louisiana was, while Justin did the same for his home state of Michigan. It turns out that November in Michigan gets COLD, as we found out during our foray to Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge.

First day of snow in Saginaw, Michigan. November 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg

We were met by Lelaina Muth for refuge orientation and saw immediately that our work would be cut out for us. The wildlife drive was closed as were most of the trails for hunting season, so we spent long hours waiting for hunters to get back to their cars. Waiting out in the cold was worth it because of how friendly the hunters were when we surveyed them.

Deer hanging out near the road, successfully avoiding all the hidden hunters. November 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg.

We also got to spend early mornings working at the waterfowl check station, starting at 5 a.m. While getting up this early to survey was not ideal, we had a blast bonding with temporary biology technician Cameron Dole who is a Saginaw native. Over coffee, we got to hear about his career path and talk about our adventures throughout the year. Chatting with him made the early mornings more fun!

Running into old faces in new places is one of our aforementioned favorite parts of our job! Another person we ran into for a second time was intern Gabe Jimenez, who had come to Ottawa NWR to help with the Youth Waterfowl Workshop a month earlier. Gabe was working as a volunteer at Shiawassee to get hours to hopefully get into the Fish & Wildlife Service law enforcement academy. Refuge Manager Pamela Repp said “this is the future of the Fish & Wildlife Service” as she took a picture of the three of us.

Nicole Stagg, Gabe Jimenez, and Justin Gole. November 2018. Photo by Refuge Manager Pamela Repp.

Although Justin had been raving about his home state of Michigan all year, he was more than happy to escape the snow and start the journey south for the winter. Camping at Camp Creek State Park in West Virginia and Colleton State Park in South Carolina was rainy, cold, and a bit icy, but once we made it to Pinckney Island NWR we were more than happy to shed a few layers of clothes.
Pinckney Island NWR is located near Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. We stayed at what used to be the refuge manager’s house at the back of the island, and our back porch was on the water. We were able to watch the tides and saw many spectacular sunsets. The island has several miles of trails and visitors were usually out walking, biking, or running. Otherwise, they were taking pictures and looking for birds and alligators. Since it was late November, it was too cold for alligators to be out and about much, but the egrets and ibis like to gather in the ponds in the evenings, making for a spectacular view with the already amazing sunsets.

A fiery sunset from Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge. November 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg.

Pinckney Island is part of the Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex so the headquarters office was located at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. One day after working in the office, Nicole decided to check out the Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive. The drive has an audio tour through the AM radio and the recording changes at each checkpoint along the drive. Therefore, while getting to see lots of birds out on the water, Nicole also learned about the history of the refuge and some of the old structures still out in the fields.There were a wide range of birds including an Anhinga, mottled duck, American coot, and more. There were also a few alligators out since it was a sunny day.

American coot at the Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. November 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg

We were in South Carolina for Thanksgiving, so Justin put together a feast for us to enjoy out on the island. It was a calm day of food and movies with an occasional call to loved ones at home.

Thanksgiving feast prepared by Justin Gole. November 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg.

Our last day working at Pinckney, Justin saw a bufflehead at the boat ramp. It was the first one to show up in the area for the winter and let us know it was time to move further south again.

The first bufflehead of the winter season at Pinckney Island NWR. November 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg.

As we said goodbye to South Carolina, we moved to our farthest south location of the year. Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR is located at the northernmost tip of the Everglades and just beneath Lake Okeechobee, the headwaters of the Everglades. Our first full day at the refuge was gave us all sorts of surprises. Interpretation Specialist Serena Rinker took us around the refuge to see all the locations that we would be working at and the wildlife pulled out all the stops. We saw the formerly endangered Everglade snail kite, alligators, iguanas, and even a bobcat the size of a large dog. We had seen a bobcat earlier this year while camping in Texas, but it had nothing on the size of this Florida feline!

Iguana hanging out at the south entrance of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR. December 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg.

We were so excited to see more of the area, and we went on a nature walk with Florida Master Naturalist and volunteer Bruce Rosenberg. Bruce taught us about the history of the area and the uses of many of the plants, both in the past and present. One of the last plants we discussed was coontie, also known as Florida arrowroot, which is toxic to most animals. However, it has a very unique importance. It is the host plant for Atala butterfly larvae. The Atala butterfly is a Florida native and was announced as nearly extinct in 2016. Since then, nature preserves such as Loxahatchee NWR have been raising larva, and they have been making a comeback. The front sidewalk of the Visitor Center is lined with coontie, and Atala butterflies can be found hanging out there at all times of the day.

Florida native Atala butterfly on larval host plant coontie. December 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg.

The most common activity at Loxahatchee during our visit was fishing from boats. We spent a good bit of time hanging out at boat ramps to recruit visitors for the survey. While at the south entrance to the refuge, we were often visited by a flock of monk parakeets. It was a shock to see them there and definitely emphasized that we were in a tropical climate. These parakeets most likely escaped a pet store during a hurricane but they acted as a reminder to us of the diversity of habitats we have seen throughout the country.

Monk parakeet hanging out at the south entrance of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR. December 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg.

We were given one last surprise treat during our last week at Loxahatchee. Wading birds would gather in the evenings in the rookery behind the Visitor Center, including newly arrived wood storks. It was like something out of a Cajun fairytale, at least for Nicole. The trees were lined with egrets, herons, and storks, and they were perched to rest for the evening or fighting over fish in the water. It was a beautiful sight and a privilege to experience.

Wood Stork fishing behind the Visitor Center. December 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg.

The drive to our next refuge was our shortest this year. We simply drove to the other side of the Florida peninsula to Sanibel Island and the famous J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR. The drive itself went through three major wildlife areas: Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area, Big Cypress National Preserve, and Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. There were pull-offs every mile or so to stop at observation towers but even without stopping we saw hundreds of alligators, wading birds, and a few dozen Everglade snail kites. The drive on I-75 was worth a day trip to see all the cool wildlife the Everglades hosts.

Ding Darling has a very extensive and highly involved volunteer group, the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society (https://www.dingdarlingsociety.org). Within our first few days on the island, we attended a luncheon which was attended by about one-hundred of the refuge’s volunteers. The event was held at the local community center and was potluck style. There was lots of food and of course a massive dessert table. Even with so many people, only a small dent was made in all the delicious goodies.

It was at this event that we met Wendy, the owner of Tarpon Bay Explorers, Inc. (https://tarponbayexplorers.com). Tarpon Bay Explorers runs the tram tours for the wildlife drive, does boat tours out of Tarpon Bay, and even rents out all sorts of equipment, from kayaks to bikes. Wendy invited us out on a paddleboard tour the next morning. Neither of us had been on a paddleboard before so this was quite a unique experience for us. The water was very calm that day which made it a great day for beginners. While it took a bit of balance to stay up on the board, it was mostly about getting comfortable and not letting your legs cramp up. Out in the Bay we saw sea stars, blue crabs, and even the rustling of a manatee.

Justin Gole and Nicole Stagg on paddleboard tour with Tarpon Bay Explorers Inc. December 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg.

Nicole had the opportunity to help out with the school visits a few days. We went along with a school group on the wildlife drive where the students got to learn how to use binoculars. Education intern Shay gave them small bird guide pamphlets and they got to try their hand at identifying birds. The kids caught on fast and eventually were finding birds we hadn’t noticed. The other half of the day, we took a walk along the Indigo Trail behind the Education Center. There, education intern Emily taught them about the different mangrove trees and wildlife that live on the refuge. Helping out with the kids was so much fun and very informative. We learned a lot about the refuge just by following around the education employees and helping with the school groups.

Fourth graders learning how to use binoculars for the first time on the Wildlife Drive. December 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg.

Like all the refuges we have visited this year, Ding Darling has a remarkable assortment of wildlife. The most popular would be the alligators, manatees, and Roseate Spoonbills, but the refuge also hosts white and brown pelicans, osprey, mangrove tree crabs, and hundreds of shorebirds. One day while out on the wildlife drive, Nicole visited with one of the volunteers stationed out to answer visitors’ questions. He was very friendly and eventually offered to let her try his camera. It was one of those massive cameras that serious wildlife photographers have; he just popped Nicole’s memory card in it and said to have at it! It took awhile to figure out how to use it but Nicole was able to get some amazing pictures of the Roseate Spoonbills that were hanging out that day.

Roseate Spoonbills on Wildlife Drive. December 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg

After the warm weather on Sanibel Island, we had to venture a little farther north towards Samuel D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR. We were met by Steve Reagan for refuge orientation and got to learn a little bit about the diverse refuge that’s used frequently by deer hunters, anglers, birders, and of course hammockers!Samuel D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR is about twenty miles from Mississippi State University and on sunny evenings, and especially weekends, the college students flock to the lakefront to get prime hammock real estate. Some students even set up a slackline. If we could have balanced on it long enough to get a picture of ourselves on it, we would have!

The famous “pod people” as dubbed by the Noxubee staff. January 2019. Photo by Justin Gole

We were on the refuge for the end of gun season for deer hunting and, while we benefited by getting some free hot dogs and potato salad from some hunters, several hunters got a bigger prize and left with some beautiful venison for the winter.

One of the high points for Justin came from a group of Michigan natives whose son was a student at Mississippi State. We ran into them on a couple different days and they were dead set on seeing an alligator before they left Mississippi. The first time they were there was an overcast day, so we told them to come back on a sunny day when the gators would be active. When they showed back up on a beautiful, sunny Saturday, Justin scoured the side of the lake and managed to find a sunbathing gator. We were happy to be able to send them back north with some good memories. Getting to help make people’s visits better is the best part of our job!

Visiting Michiganders, my people. January 2019. Photo by Justin Gole.

From Mississippi, we drove northwest for our second stint at Cache River NWR. Due to the partial government shutdown, our orientation was brief. Fortunately we knew what to expect based on our first visit to the refuge.

The first time here you may remember we primarily ran into deer hunters, but our second time around we were in the market for waterfowl hunters. We had a lot of early mornings, getting up as early as 2:30 a.m. to get out to boat ramps before the boats were allowed in the water, but boaters were more than happy to share coffee with us, and that made the early mornings more tolerable.

We were also surprised by the vast range of home states represented by the hunters this time around. While it was rare to run into people from even as far away as Little Rock during our last sampling period, this time we ran into hunters from Mississippi, Missouri, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky! It’s always cool to see how much traffic refuges can bring to the local area!

While here, we also got to enjoy hanging out with our old friend Matthew Sieja. We had several pizza and movie nights and it was a great way to get to unwind at our last refuge.

Finally we drove back towards Fort Collins, Colorado, to end our internship where we started. Our odometer hit the 30,000 mile mark which was a point to reflect on. Having traveled so many miles and getting to see so many unique places, while meeting so many unique faces, truly has been a once in a lifetime opportunity.

EPIC Experience | Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge

The Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is now also home to two USFWS EPIC interns! This is the first group of interns to have the opportunity to work with USFWS biologist, Angela Dedrickson at this particular refuge. Interns Rose Caplan, and Shannon Finnerty started their year-long internship in September of 2018. During their time with the refuge, they have been an integral part of the US Fish and Wildlife Service team.

Interns in the bird blind to conduct monitoring with a refuge volunteer.

Mississippi sandhill cranes in their temporary enclosure.

The refuge was established in 1975 under the authority of the Endangered Species Act to protect the critically endangered Mississippi sandhill cranes and their unique, and itself endangered, wet pine savanna habitat.The population was once at a low of 30-35 individuals, however, with the efforts of the refuge they have been brought up to over a hundred individuals as of 2019. The 20,000 acres of the refuge also protects the critically endangered Mississippi gopher frog, more commonly known as the dusky gopher frog.

Intern Rose and Shannon check camera traps and fill feeds to monitor and track the wild cranes on the refuge.

Each morning the interns monitor the new cranes which are brought in from another facility to be released on the refuge. Through captive rearing and reintroduction to the area, as well as wild birds nesting in the savannas, the crane population continues to grow. The interns monitor their behavior and reactions to potential threats, as well as monitoring the wild population through camera traps. Rose and Shannon have also played a roll in the dusky gopher frog project from the time they arrived as tadpoles to their eventual release later this year. 

A intern dons a “crane suit” which allows her to approach the crane enclosure in somewhat of a disguise. This is done to prevent the cranes from becoming comfortable with humans.

Interns work with USFWS biologist, Angela Dedrickson to survey the potential release site of the dusky gopher frogs.

Interns on the refuge bayou conducting wildlife surveys from a boat.

A squirrel tree frog.

Both ACE and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are excited to see the partnership grow and continue into the future. An in-depth video for follow on the refuge and the role ACE EPIC interns are playing in the protection of these species.

Corps to Career – EPIC Edition

We are so proud to share this EPIC intern story. Katya Waters participated in two internships with the ACE EPIC program and is now continuing on her journey, transitioning to the career of her dreams with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as a Petroleum Engineering Technician in the Oklahoma Field Office. Congratulations Katya and thank you for sharing your story in your own words:

My time with ACE and the BLM began in Price, Utah during the summer of 2017. While there I worked as a Quarry Steward Intern and my daily duties included interacting with guests and occasionally leading guided tours. I was able to learn a lot about paleontology while working at the quarry and I got to spend my days off volunteering at the local museum where I researched many different paleontological topics for up-coming exhibits.

Last June I started to work as a Geology Intern for ACE and the BLM in the Las Vegas Field Office. My job included inspecting community pits that were in a pending status as well as inspecting tortoise fences that surrounded sand and gravel mines. I had the opportunity to shadow some of the full-time BLM employees, which included the geologists, the hydrologist, the botanist, the natural resource specialist, and a park ranger.

After completing the first 11 weeks of the internship I was able to extend my internship for an additional 11 weeks. During that time I spent 2 weeks in Winnemucca, Nevada, learning about the gold and silver mines as well as the geothermal plants that were located on BLM lands. I was also able to work more closely with the geologists in the Las Vegas office on preparing mining contracts and interacting more heavily with the sand and gravel miners.

I have recently accepted a position with the BLM as a Petroleum Engineering Technician in the Oklahoma Field Office and am looking forward to starting very soon!
I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to work for ACE and the BLM for two summers in a row! During my time as an intern I learned a lot about the BLM and made many friends who I still keep in touch with!

BioBlast! – And EPIC Youth Event

Our 2018 BLM DHA Wildlife Technician Intern, Esther Daraciang, who is serving with the BLM Salt Lake Field Office, developed and hosted BioBlast!, an environmental education event that hosted 100 local students from a partnering elementary school in Salt Lake City.

Students traveled up to Big Cottonwood Canyon at Silver Lake and spent the day participating in wildlife viewing (searching for Pikas), identifying local fish, and learned about water cycles and macro-invertebrates!

Esther is an intern with ACE EPIC and the BLM, and invited ACE EPIC staff to come volunteer for the day with these youth. ACE staff had the opportunity to volunteer with current interns, alumni, BLM staff, and local volunteers, as well as supporting all the students who attended the event!

Thank you to our EPIC staff  and Alumni for participating in this event: Kelly Barrett, Erin Mounce, Katelyn Jordan, Suzy Lee, and Melissa Early. ACE Interns – Esther Daraciang, Nichole ‘Nik’ MacPhee .  ACE Alumni (now BLM Employees) – Tess Webb, Clayton Anderson, Adam Erdmann, Hannah Cowen, Mitchell Kleimeyer.

A special thank you to Esther Daraciang who put together this video highlighting this amazing environmental education event.

 

Road Warriors

Road Warriors

By: Michelle Ferguson and Angelica Varela

Hello! And welcome to our first blog. We have logged thousands of miles so far in our journey and we’ve only just begun! Join us road warriors as we drive across the states, jumping head first into new rhythms at every refuge.

Night one on the road we spent our evening camping under the stars in Moab before driving to Desert National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) near Las Vegas, Nevada. A rainstorm welcomed us to Las Vegas, and the refreshing scent of creosote hung in the air. A smell quite familiar to us Southwest gals, we were grateful our first refuge felt close to home. One night at Desert, we grabbed our headlamps and trekked along muddy cattails under the moonlight surveying the endangered relict leopard frog with researcher Rebecca Rivera from University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Rebecca works to restore populations of relict leopard frogs in their historic range. After a few weeks of seeing more lizards, Cooper’s hawks, and burrowing owls than visitors, we traded our hiking boots for flip-flops and headed to the beach.

Desert National Wildlife Refuge, March 2018. Photos: Michelle Ferguson

San Diego welcomed us with kind hearts and a glorious amount of tacos. We also got a taste of the challenges that urban refuges face while working at San Diego and San Diego Bay NWRs. There is a continuous battle with misused trails and graffiti, and the staff’s tenacity when it came to maintaining their refuge grounds was impressive.
After long days of visitor surveying, we came home to our groovy hostel two blocks from the Pacific Ocean, enjoying evenings around the bonfire teaching our new international friends how to make s’mores. April 15th, toes in the sand, we watched our final sunset on the west coast before an early start the next morning with a long drive to Marble Falls, TX.

San Diego Bay NWR, April 2018. Photo: Angelica Varela.

Taking a 180-degree turn from living in San Diego, where the hang loose beach lifestyle echoed in the streets below our window all night, we landed in a quiet 1960’s ranch house at Balcones Canyonlands NWR. Located in Texas Hill Country, our stay was peaceful with no neighbors or Wi-Fi for miles.

During our second week of sampling at Balcones Canyonlands, we were extremely fortunate to see the Golden-Cheeked Warbler flying above our sampling spot. The Golden-Cheeked Warbler is an endangered species that only nests in the oak-juniper woodlands of Texas. This wildlife interaction was considerably more favorable than the encounters with our red wasp, wolf spider and Texas redheaded centipede roommates.

Balcones Canyonlands NWR. Warbler Vista Observation Deck, April 2018. Photo: Michelle Ferguson.

After travelling from Texas across the Midwest, we sat on the edge of West Virginia with our back porch looking out across Ohio River Islands NWR. Here we learned all about freshwater mussels’ life cycle and the lures they display to attract fish. While most of the refuge staff focused on the “May is Mussel Month” initiatives, one staff member was eager to teach us local bird song mnemonics, the most memorable of which were the barred owl song, “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all!” and the eastern towhee’s call, “drink your teeeeea!” To this day, we sing along with them when we hear their cries.
Our last evening in town brought in thunderstorms. Afterward, the refuge manager scooped us up to hike through the backwoods behind our apartment. We stumbled upon a twinkling array of fireflies under a low, moonlit canopy still dripping from the rainfall.

Ohio River Islands NWR, May 2018. Photo: Michelle Ferguson.

Promethea Moth at Ohio River Islands NWR, May 2018. Photo: Michelle Ferguson.

Although working with the public sometimes results in uncomfortable or negative interactions, we have found ourselves most uplifted by an unexpected piece of the job. Among our travels for survey sampling, we have the opportunity to get to know many remarkable women in science at each refuge we have visited. In a male-dominated field, we stand at every refuge with females who are holding their ground: researchers, biologists, fire dispatchers, and managers to name a few. These women are leaders. They have shown us to stand strong as females in conservation careers. As two aspiring women in the environmental sciences, we have felt immense inspiration from the women on our journey. The phrase, ‘I wish I had something like this when I was growing up,’ is something we hear often. We are humbled to know that these women helped pave the trail we chose to walk on. Encouraged by these women, we are getting our chance to lay yet another layer on this rough trail to make it easier for future women in science to hike upon. We are grateful to know we walk among and behind hard-working women in our careers and we are grateful for the opportunity American Conservation Experience has given us to meet them.

Michelle Ferguson

USFWS NWR Visitor Survey Intern

I’m Michelle, a Colorado native and recent graduate from Northern Arizona University with my masters in Environmental Sciences and Policy. I’m interested in the human dimensions of natural resources, and using social science to inform conservation work. Specifically, I am interested in the balance of meeting human needs without compromising ecological resources.

Angelica Varela

USFWS NWR Visitor Survey Intern

I’m Angelica. I grew up in the harsh Sonoran desert of Arizona. I received my undergrad in Biological Science at Arizona State University and I hope to pursue my masters soon. I am interested in birds, specifically raptors, and hope to work with them one day.

EPIC visits National Wildlife Refuges – A Journey of Exploration

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ACE-EPIC Director Shane Barrow and ACE’s newly hired U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Program Director, Kevin Sloan paid a recent visit to Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada to meet with Project Leader Christy Smith.  Kevin enjoyed a 30-year career with the FWS and recently retired before taking his new position with ACE-EPIC in Salt Lake City.

Kevin and Shane traveled 100 miles north of Las Vegas to visit the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), one of the refuges in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex.  This particular refuge has special significance for Kevin because, in the late 1990’s, he served as Pahranagat’s Refuge Manager.

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Kevin and Shane met with Pahranagat NWR Manager Rob Vinson to learn of the many habitats and infrastructure improvements that have been made at Pahranagat. These improvements include hydrologic restoration in Black Canyon and a new visitor center, which highlights the importance of the Pahranagat Valley to the Native American Tribes in the area as well as the importance of refuge habitats to migratory and resident birds including southwestern willow flycatcher and Sandhill crane.  Pahranagat NWR, the “place of many waters,” has supported human habitation for thousands of years and is one of a string of desert wetland “pearls,” providing critical habitat in this transition area of the Mojave and Great Basin deserts.

This was a significant journey of exploration for ACE-EPIC.  Kevin’s career experience in the FWS and his vast network of FWS contacts allow a very high level of immersion into FWS culture with a highlight on field-level conservation needs. This level of knowledge will enable ACE-EPIC to adapt to meet the future needs of the FWS as well as the needs of aspiring young talent seeking careers in conservation.

Our congratulations to both Christy and Rob on a job well done!  We look forward to providing many highly-qualified interns through our ongoing partnership with FWS to protect and enhance wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of all Americans but mainly for the benefit of younger generations of conservation stewards.

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ACE YCC and EPIC assist NPS with a Pollinator Field Research Study at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

 

In summer 2017, four local high school students from Akron, Ohio participating in the six-week ACE Youth Conservation Corps program (YCC) joined ACE EPIC Intern Carlyn Mitchell at Cuyahoga Valley National Park to assist the National Park Service (NPS) with a variety of natural resource management projects there. NPS has produced a wonderful video series called the “Outside Science (Inside Parks)” initiative.This video showcases the pollinator field research study. Click here to learn more about the research taking place at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Pinnacles National Park hosts the Pinnacles Ranger Corps Program

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Not far from Hollister, California, ACE has partnered with Pinnacles National Park to host a “Ranger Corps” Program. The initiative started in 2009 and is one of the few of its kind. Pinnacles National Park currently has four Ranger Corps members, Elijah Valladarez, Alex Diaz, Conner Stephens and Ryan Robledo. All of the members are local youth (ages 18-25) who will complete 300 hours in the park over their weekends assisting park professionals and learning about the National Parks Service.

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“I like that I have been able to work in my community and this experience has taught me to really appreciate the area that I grew up in,” explained Alex Diaz, Soledad resident. The program runs on the weekends and aims to mentor the interns in different directions through working closely with the park’s rangers and other ACE members participating at Pinnacles.

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Elijah Valladaraz is studying criminal justice and explained, “since I am interested in law enforcement the park does its best to get me around the park’s security rangers.” Alex Diaz expressed a similar point, that he was focusing on botany in school and gets to go out and work with the park’s vegetation and restoration team.

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Conner Stephens and Ryan Robledo are both in their senior year of high school. Conner is hoping to study something along the lines of geology in college. “This position has improved my social skills but it has also taught me a lot about basic geology and plants and has improved my overall mood,” explained Conner, “the highlight for me is waking up each morning and being in a National Park and being able to work outside, whether that is assisting the vegetation and condor crews, or just helping park incoming visitors.”

Conner Stephens explains the difference between condors and turkey vultures to the park's visitors while working the nature center desk.

Conner Stephens explains the difference between condors and turkey vultures to the park’s visitors while working the nature center desk.

Paul Mondragon is a part time Park Ranger and runs the program in the park on the weekends. Paul expressed his dedication to the program and stated, “I like seeing the kids grow and become more comfortable talking with the people who come to visit the park.”  Paul has been working with the program for the last five years and works closely with the corps members.

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The Ranger Corps also provides CPR and first aid training in addition to the hands on experience of working in the National Park. The program aims to open doors for the local youth into the world of environmental stewardship.

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#IamACE – EPIC Edition – Kyle Tibor [video]

Meet EPIC Intern, Kyle Tibor. Kyle has been interning out of Pinnacles National Park’s Condor Program. Pinnacles National Park joined the California Condor Recovery Program as a release and management site in 2003. The park currently co-manages 86 wild condors in central California with Ventana Wildlife Society. Thank you to our partners at Pinnacles for allowing us to see the amazing work you are doing with these majestic creatures. Pinnacles is located east of the Salinas Valley in Central California. For more information on Pinnacles Condor Program go to: https://www.nps.gov/pinn/learn/nature/condors.htm

Pinnacles National Park – Jawbone Canyon – EPIC Intern Team works on Vegetation and Restoration

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In Pinnacles National Park ACE currently has two EPIC interns working the with the park’s Vegetation and Restoration team. The park’s restoration team is lead by Park Ranger Mike Shelley with the  main objective to restore and protect native plant species and to maintain the landscape.

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Joshua Mosebach and Karina Garcia (ACE EPIC Interns) of the restoration team take part in native seed collecting, planting, monitoring and research. The internship is currently six weeks into a twenty-one week program in the park. “I’ve learned a lot about working in the federal government and the park service during the last few weeks,” explained Karina, “I didn’t know that the park conducts research and works with native american tribes.”  While Karina is still determining what path she would like to pursue, she explained that she has been able to explore a variety of different career paths within the National Parks Service during her time in the park.

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During the week of April 24th, 2017 the team was working in Jawbone Canyon on the west side of Pinnacles National Park. A new trail has been slated to go through the canyon and through a section of Italian thistle, an invasive species. It is crucial for the invasive plants to be removed from the trails, as  “the seeds will attach to hikers boots and pant legs and spread to other areas of the park,” Mike Shelley explained during his introduction to invasive species removal with a local Native American tribe.

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The park has been working with the Amah Mutsun Land Trust since 2009 on various local projects. The Amah Mutsun Land Trust group came out with the team to work on the removal of this area of Italian Thistle. There are two areas in the park that have cultural significance to the tribe because the areas contain deer grass and white root sage. These are plants that are used for weaving by the tribe. The park and tribe worked together to have the first prescribed burn of deer sage since the mission period.dsc_1246

#IamACE | Dania Jordan

Cultural Resources Diversity Internship Program intern Dania Jordan.

[ACE]: What do you do here in your EPIC internship?

[DJ]: I am an intern for the Northeast Region Park Service’s History Program. The Park Service partnered with Groundwork Lawrence to begin a pilot program called Urban Archaeology Corps for high school students in Lawrence, MA. Therefore, as part as my internship I provide “expertise” on archaeological processes and methodology as well as support Groundwork Lawrence in the historical aspect of their program.

Can you tell me about your background?

I received a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Nevada, Reno in 2015 and now I am attending UMass Boston to obtain a Master’s in Historical Archaeology.

How did you find out about ACE, and what attracted you to this position?

I found out about ACE by through google. I was looking for internships in “history,” I believe and the website came up so I began to browse at the potential internships that I potentially qualified for. The original internship I applied for was doing research on African American site associated with the Park Service in the Northeast Region, which I am still doing and developing a product that is accessible to the public. I was attracted to this internship because I am interested in African American experiences in the North (which has not been well documented). However, the internship came with a bonus that allowed me to also teach and mentor high school students in archaeological methods and processes. Thus, this internship has allowed me to engage in all my interests as well as give back to the youth.

Can you tell me a highlight and a challenge that you’ve had so far during your internship?

Highlight: being able to teach the youth about archaeological processes and methods, why archaeologists do what they do, and why archaeology is important, and them being receptive to the information I am providing to them.

Challenge: Creating outlines for the activities that include the objectives of the activity and teaching the students about archaeological methods and processes. I find it quite difficult sometimes to write and present in a way that high school students can understand the content.

Any goals for when you complete your internship?

Yes, I plan to continue to work on my Master’s degree and the Park Service has hired me on for another project. In the fall I will be working with the Northeast Museum Services Center on rehousing and analyzing the Abiel Smith School archaeological collection. I also hope to continue my education and get my PhD in historical archaeology as well.

Do you have any advice you’d give to someone looking to join EPIC or get into this field?

For whatever internship you plan to apply for make sure you have passion for it and express that passion during your interview process. Your resume may be able to list your achievements and experiences, but that means nothing when you cannot share your passion for a field and person can see and hear your enthusiasm.

#IamACE | Ryan Scott Gillespie

[ACE]: What is your background? Where are you from?

[RG]: I’m from Minnesota. I moved to Arizona in 2009 to study environmental studies with an emphasis in natural history and ecology at Prescott College.

What made you want to get into the field of conservation?

I think I’ve known since a relatively early age that I wanted to be involved in conservation. I’ve always loved the outdoors. I had some experiences when I was a teenager that helped to inspire me; some canoe trips in Northern Minnesota specifically. It was outdoor experiences like that which made me want to get involved.

How did you find out about ACE?

I actually ran into an ACE crew college field course while they were doing some aquatic weed removal at Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, and so I found out about the program by talking to them.

Can you tell me about one highlight and one challenge that you’ve had during the internship?

Well this past week, we set up wildlife cameras as part of the joint wildlife study we are doing with the other EPIC interns at Saguaro National Park. We just pulled all those cameras in the last few weeks and I got to sift through the photos. We saw hundreds of jackrabbits and cottontails and pocket mice, but yesterday I found a photo of a kit fox, and grey foxes, and the back end of a bobcat! It’s really cool. I’ve been out here for four months and you don’t necessarily see too much wildlife during the day when you’re out here, but it’s cool to be reminded that there really is so much abundant life in this area, it’s just hidden.

What do you feel sets ACE apart from other organizations?

I’ve done a few other internships that were similar in some ways. I think that I’ve had really good experiences with everyone from ACE, there’s been very little confusion when interacting with them. The staff seems really supportive and organized, which has definitely not been my experience with some other internships.

What are your goals after this position ends?

Well I wanted to get some experience with land management organizations through this internship to see if that’s really what I’m interested in, and I have determined that it is. I’m really hoping to continue my path in conservation in the science and wildlife areas. I’m especially interested in a plant BioTech position.

Do you think this position has helped you prepare to pursue that career path?

Yes, definitely. I didn’t have any experience with this sort of work before, especially not in a government setting. It’s also been really helpful to get to work alongside BLM staff, being able to get to know them and hearing about how they got started in their positions, and what their day-to-day tasks look like.

#IamACE | Rachel Stewart

ACE Cultural Resources Diversity Internship Program (CRDIP) Intern Rachel Stewart

[ACE]: Tell us about your CRDIP internship.

I am an intern at Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70 miles off the coast of Key West. I have been working with other interns to find and capture lionfish in the park. I am also working a little with the Submerged Resources Center of the National Park Service to locate and map a shipwreck in the park.

Can you tell me about your background?

I was born and raised in Nashville, TN. I grew up loving the water, so it only seemed right I start SCUBA diving. Through diving, I have been exposed to many new opportunities, one of which is underwater archaeology. I am currently a junior at Tennessee Technological University studying civil engineering with a concentration in the environment and water resources.

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How did you find out about ACE, and what attracted you to this position?

I found out about ACE through my participation in Youth Diving With a Purpose (YDWP), a program that teaches the basics of underwater archaeology. The Submerged Resources center offered diving internships to three participants in parks throughout the country. I knew this position at Dry Tortugas would be an amazing once in a lifetime experience.

Can you tell me a highlight and a challenge that you’ve had so far during your internship?

The most obvious highlight of my internship is the diving. It is amazing! I’ve never had the chance to dive as often at gorgeous sites like those in the park. The main challenge I have had during my internship is adjusting to the lifestyle at the park so far away from the conveniences I’m used to.

Any goals for when you complete your internship?

Upon completing the internship, I hope to have made a good impression at the park. I also hope to have helped in mapping a shipwreck and remove as many lionfish as possible.

Do you have any advice you’d give to someone looking to join EPIC or get into this field?

To anyone looking to join EPIC or get into this field, I would say be open to all opportunities. I have had many experiences that don’t necessarily match exactly what I want to do in my career, but through these experiences I have picked up varied skills that will help me in the future. I would also say be sure to make good first impressions with everyone you meet. Networking is really what has helped me the most.

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#IamACE | Elizabeth Creswell

Elizabeth Creswell, BLM Direct Hire Authority (DHA) Intern.

[ACE]: Please explain about your BLM DHA Internship.

[EC]: My role is to perform civil engineering design work for project at the Bakersfield Field Office for the BLM. Due to the recent fires there are road maintenance and drainage projects. Besides road work, other projects include a pedestrian bridge for a trail at a wetlands area, and campground design.

Can you tell me about your background?

My undergraduate degree and past internships are within architectural design. I grew up in Bakersfield and love outdoor activities such as camping and hiking. Recently I have worked for an engineering contractor within the energy sector, specifically oil and gas.

How did you find out about ACE, and what attracted you to this position?

I was nearing the completion of my master’s degree in civil engineering, and wanted to find an internship that would allow me to start putting my new academic skills as a structural designer to use. Looking at local internships, the ACE-DHA internship really stood out as an interesting opportunity that would provide great experience, and lead to a career within BLM. Since I appreciate and enjoy wilderness areas, it was a good fit.

Can you tell me a highlight and a challenge that you’ve had so far during your internship?

One highlight is how professional, kind and helpful the entire staff is at the Bakersfield Field office. They work very well together as a team, and management does an excellent job with keeping the office running smoothly.

A challenge is balancing out the wide variety of projects this internship offers. Since there are completely different focuses and objectives among the civil projects, it can be tricky switching gears and working on several of these at once. Good time management and organization is necessary.

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This is a rendering that I completed for a kiosk poster showing the original stamp mill at the Keyesville mine.

Any goals for when you complete your internship?

To have completing as many of these challenging projects as possible. To become familiar with the areas of land around this field office that is managed by BLM. To improve my design skills with roads and structures as an engineer.

Do you have any advice you’d give to someone looking to join EPIC or get into this field?

Make sure that you enjoy the outdoors and different weather conditions. In engineering, this internship will provide you with very good experience getting to do a wide variety of projects. This is also a good opportunity to learn more about our federal government and understand the challenges that it faces on a daily basis.

#IamACE | Katherine Giraldo

Katherine Giraldo, Museum Curator’s Assistant at Boston National Historical Park

[ACE]: As a Cultural Resources Diversity Internship Program (CRDIP) intern, what is your role?

[KG]: I am the Museum Curator’s assistant at Boston National Historical Park. Along with conducting the annual inventory for museum objects, I help organize research appointments, help researchers find whatever they need during their appointment so they can use in their research projects, I help plan, set up and make signs for exhibits, as well as write articles about our museum collections for the park newsletter.

Can you tell me about your background?

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts Boston. My concentration was in Archaeology so I was able to attend a Field School in Central America during my time at the university. There, I was able to work on a few of about 50 Maya sites. The sites varied from small settlements to large cities that contained some really cool artifacts like obsidian blades, jewelry, etc. I also had the opportunity to work alongside a number of experienced Archaeologists from a variety of universities. Working on these sites gave me an insight into what it actually takes to find, analyze and preserve the materials needed to tell the history of humanity.

How did you find out about ACE, and what attracted you to this position?

While I was doing some online research about graduate programs, I came across ACE and their CRDIP program. Having a background in Anthropology and Archaeology, I was immediately interested in their cultural resource internships. I was drawn because they offered great benefits; travelling and exploring new places, an opportunity to get my hand dirty in the field, and, most importantly, a chance to keep learning about a field that I am very passionate about.

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Can you tell me a highlight and a challenge that you’ve had so far during your internship?

There are many highlights during the time of my internship. I have enjoyed very much going through the museum collection while conducting the annual inventory. I have been able to see objects that date back to the American Revolution! The biggest highlight, however, is setting up an exhibit at the Bunker Hill Monument. I was able to be part of the culmination of three years of conservation work on “ The Adams” cannon, which is believed to be one of the British field pieces possessed by the British colonies at the outset of the American Revolution in April 1775. The cannon is now on display and it is very exciting to think that I helped put it there for thousands of people to see. One of the biggest challenges, however, is when I am tasked to find a museum object for the annual inventory, and it is nowhere to be found. It’s frustrating but you eventually realize that out of thousands of objects, some are bound to be misplaced.

Any goals for when you complete your internship?

After completing my internship, I will be starting my Master’s degree in Preservation Studies at Boston University. My main goal is to graduate and hopefully get employment through the National Park Service.

Do you have any advice you’d give to someone looking to join EPIC or get into this field?

My advice to someone looking to join EPIC is not to be afraid and go for it! This program has taught me things that I never learned in a classroom. It gave me an insight into what it actually takes to work in cultural resource management, and, when I was having doubts about my professional life in Archaeology, it made my passion for the field even stronger. So if you’re a recent college graduate or emerging professional and are not sure what your degree in History, Archaeology, Biology, etc. will bring to your professional life, ACE, EPIC, and CRDIP will definitely help guide you. There has not been a day in which I don’t learn something new and valuable through this program.

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#IamACE | Bailey Bates

Bailey Bates, Direct Hire Authority (DHA) Range Management Specialist intern for the BLM in Farmington, NM.

[ACE]: Please explain your main duties as a DHA Intern.

[BB]: I am a range management specialist intern for the BLM in Farmington, NM. My main duties include collecting data for range trend monitoring and writing up Allotment Management Plans. I am also monitoring sagebrush treatments for both pre and post treatments.

Can you tell me about your background?

I am originally from Tohatchi, NM where I attended high school. For college I went to Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, NM, and then transferred to New Mexico State University where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Range Science in May 2016. Growing up I had always loved being outdoors and which is where I’m usually at during my free time.

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How did you find out about ACE, and what attracted you to this position?

I found out about ACE through my college advisor while attending NMSU. What attracted me to this position is that it was pertaining to what I was getting my degree in. Also the location added a lot with being close to home in New Mexico.

Can you tell me a highlight and a challenge that you’ve had so far during your internship?

The biggest highlight so far within this position is finishing my first Allotment Management Plan; it was the longest I had written up so far which included 11 different plots for the past six years. Another highlight was while out in the field one day driving to our next plot, two turkeys just walked right in front of us crossing the road. They did not care to run off once they seen us, I thought it was a pretty cool sight. One challenge that I do face on a regular basis is locating the plots, at times the GPS points will be off, or it had not been recorded in previous years. On one plot I remember we were utilizing a photo that was taken in 1994; the area had changed so much since then. Some plots we are able to find using photos and updated GPS points, while a few are still unable to be located.

Any goals for when you complete your internship?

I would love to start my career off with the BLM working in range. I am thankful that I had received this opportunity working with ACE to help me get starting working with the BLM. Over the past weeks I have learned so much working both out in the field and in the office. I look forward to extending that knowledge in years to come!

Do you have any advice you’d give to someone looking to join EPIC or get into this field?

My advice would be if given the opportunity; TAKE IT! EPIC is a great organization, I am glad that I am able to get this experience learning more in my field. Not only will you extend your knowledge, but you get to have fun while doing so!

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