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Arriving in Wonderland: Legends and Landscapes

Arriving in Wonderland: Legends and Landscapes

By: Sonya Carrizales

When I first got the news that I was chosen for an on-site internship in Yellowstone, it didn’t feel real to me. Living and working in Yellowstone was merely a pipe dream for me, so when that daydream materialized, I was very excited and somewhat speechless. Ever since I’ve arrived in Gardiner, MT, right outside the North entrance of Yellowstone National Park, that feeling of wonder and disbelief has persisted.

Yellowstone River in Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

I could not have imagined the outlandish tales I would soon hear or incredible sights I would soon see. In my first week alone, I’ve heard stories of early tourists feeding black bears and stealing natural resources from the park while learning the ins and outs of my new position. I got the chance to see spectacular sights such as the Lower Falls at Canyon when my supervisor took me on a full-day tour through Yellowstone. The guided tour helped me contextualize where different expeditions, raids, and events took place. I was able to visit and revisit Yellowstone’s most prominent sites while my supervisor recounted the histories of early explorers, historic buildings, and wildlife populations that have survived from near extinction. We talked extensively about the bison population in particular, as my mom and I saw hundreds of Bison breeding in Lamar Valley the weekend before.

Bull(male) bison. Northern Bison herd, Lamar Valley

Calves (baby) bison, also known as “Red dogs” pictured. Northern  Bison herd, Lamar Valley

Delving into events that led to Yellowstone’s creation, I read the book Empire of Shadows by George Black to better understand the key players in the establishment of our first National Park. I learned how mystical landscapes of the greater Yellowstone area were traversed by early pathfinders, “civilized” by self-appointed vigilantes, and ultimately conquered by the U.S. Cavalry after the violent Indian Wars. At this point, I have a firm grasp on the history leading up to Yellowstone’s inception, so I’m going to shift to learning about specific women who were influential in early Yellowstone history. I look forward to continuing to become a subject matter expert in the topic of Women’s History at Yellowstone National Park!

Talking to People

Talking to People

By: Eliana Moustakas and Jake Rayapati

Quick show of hands, who’s heard this one before? “The whole reason I got into wildlife was so I wouldn’t have to talk to people.” It’s a common mantra among those of us who never grew out of the animal-obsessions of our childhoods. Unfortunately, it’s not sustainable. In the Anthropocene staring down the barrel of the planet’s sixth mass extinction, conservation requires communication. Whether by oral traditions or Instagram, communication is how you share a conservation ethic, and it all starts with talking to people.

2020 America looks a little different than it did a century ago. The population has noticeably acquired more people, more cities, and more melanin. Laudably, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is actively working to engage the public through its National Visitor Survey (NVS), so that 21st century conservation can reflect 21st century Americans. When we learned we were lucky enough to work with NVS, we did a little dance. Then we got to work.

Ten Thousand Islands NWR

After a week of training in Fort Collins with the USFWS Human Dimensions Branch, we hit the road. First on the docket was Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, TTI to the cognoscenti, which spans the marshes and mangroves of Southwest Florida. Our first day at TTI, we posted up at the beginning of Marsh Trail. The trail’s observation platform is particularly popular before sunset when thousands of wading birds descend from the skies and come home to roost.

Roosting pelicans and ibis at the Marsh Trail at Ten Thousand Islands NWR.

But, we aren’t here for the wildlife; we’re here for the people. Once you find your mark, it’s fairly simple. “What’s your name? What’s your address? What’s your primary activity on the Refuge today? Do you live within 50 miles? What year were you born?” Exchange a few pleasantries, then follow up with, “Thank you!” and, “You’ll receive a survey in the mail in about a week, but today you get a magnet.” Smile, rinse, and repeat. Our task isn’t to survey visitors directly, but rather recruit visitors to complete the survey at home.

That distinction didn’t stop folks from giving us a piece of their mind. In our day-to-day lives, we don’t normally get accused of being “The Man”. That changes when you’re wearing a uniform with the Fish and Wildlife logo. Suddenly, you represent the Refuge, the Department of the Interior, and the US of A. As it turns out, a lot of people have something to say about that. Talking to people, as you might have guessed, requires listening to them too.

An American Alligator.

Each refuge was a little different. At TTI, mostly we got the usual, “Where can I see alligators? Where can I see manatees?” Sometimes, it got a little more interesting, for example: “How can you seriously call yourself a refuge if you allow hunting?” or “There are too many manatees, they need to open season!” Did we receive micro-aggressions about our race and gender? You betchya. Still, it wasn’t all bad, not even close. “Thank you for what you’re doing!” was surprisingly common to hear. So was the somewhat incredulous, “You get paid to travel?” There were also exclamations of pure joy, like, “We just had the greatest view of a swallow-tailed kite in America!”

Nathaniel P. Reed Hobe Sound NWR

Right about the time we got into the swing of things, we were on the road again, crossing the peninsula to Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge – a testudine retreat on Florida’s Atlantic Coast for endangered gopher tortoises and nesting sea turtles. Surrounded by a sea of development, Hobe Sound is not only a refuge for wildlife, but for people too.

An endangered Gopher Tortoise at Hobe Sound NWR.

Many folks were enamored with the beauty of a natural beach and thanked us personally. Others didn’t want to be bothered – the refuge was their, well, refuge (pardon the cliché) and a place for peace and quiet. Interestingly, most locals didn’t self-identify as visitors. They weren’t tourists gosh darn-it, they lived there – at least some of the time. But, with some gentle convincing, they agreed to be surveyed too. Local or otherwise, the people at Hobe Sound often referred to the refuge as Southeast Florida’s hidden gem, and we have to agree.

A Ruddy Turnstone wears drab nonbreeding plumage at Hobe Sound NWR.

Bon Secour NWR

After Hobe Sound, we crossed back to the Gulf Coast, this time to Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge on Alabama’s Fort Morgan Peninsula. While showing us around, the Refuge Manager bent to point out the sandy tracks of the endangered Alabama Beach Mouse when a cat strolled out of the dunes. The felon feline approached us nonchalantly, and the manager scooped it up and brought it back to her truck. Cats eat mice, even endangered mice, which is why pets aren’t allowed on the refuge. Under questioning, the cat pled the fifth. However, it was betrayed by a tag on its collar: “Outdoor Cat, I Live Nearby, Please Leave Me Alone!” Talking to people, in this case, meant speaking for the beach mouse and mitigating human-wildlife conflict when we returned the cat to its owner.

A striking Green Anole at Bon Secour NWR.

Bon Secour’s sandy shores also attracted anglers who enjoyed casting into the surf. They often asked us what the folks down the beach were catching. Well, they weren’t catching much of anything, and soon neither were we. Chatting, comments, questions and even pet management ended when all those activities became public health concerns. Our time with the National Visitor Survey came to an abrupt end one week into our stay at Bon Secour (pesky pandemics).

Looking back, each refuge had its own unique set of conservation challenges and successes, and we have been inspired to continue exploring “America’s Best Kept Secret”. Over the past few months, we had the privilege to be supervised by incredible conservationists and mentors, and we also had the invaluable chance to hear from everyday people about what National Wildlife Refuges mean to them. Whether this will be your first internship out of college or your last, it’s a rare opportunity to contribute to a paradigm shift in conservation while travelling the country at the same time. Whether you want to get a foot in the door with federal service, receive an AmeriCorps Education Award or a Public Land Corp Hiring Certificate, or simply get yourself through the winter, ACE and USFWS have created an incredible opportunity to make this position your own. So, what will you make of it?

South for the Winter

South for the Winter

By: Maddy Hoiland and Victoria Coraci

In February two strangers from opposite ends of the country (Washington and Florida) hopped in a truck and headed south for the winter, from snowy Colorado to sunny Florida. The adventure that followed was certainly one to write home about, complete with alligators, visitors from all over the world, and homemade pecan pie

Lower Suwannee NWR

Our orientation to the refuge started with a 7 am team meeting where we met the crew and started learning how they care for the Lower Suwannee. It immediately felt like we were sitting down together for a family meal! That night the volunteers living near HQ shared a campfire with us and the next morning we started our first sampling shift at the entrance to the Shell Mound Archaeological area. Dating from 900 to 1200 CE, the mound of discarded shells is about 5 acres wide and roughly crescent moon shaped. It rises about 28 feet above sea level, which is some serious elevation for Florida! We also sampled on the Dixie County portion of the refuge, where we met hunters, oysterers, anglers and so many campers. We set up along a popular fishing spot and were lucky enough to spend time with some visitors during our sampling shift, and learned how to throw a cast net.

A net is cast at Lower Suwannee NWR.

The Lower Suwannee refuge is surrounded by an incredible mosaic of green space. From former logging areas the refuge was set aside to preserve the water quality of the area and now hosts migratory birds in addition to reptiles, fish and manatees. Ongoing restoration projects include the removal of the invasive plant Brazilian Pepper and the installation of artificial nesting areas for shorebirds. We assisted with building floating docks and covering them with a substrate to simulate what shorebirds would be looking for to nest. Creating the habitat on these floating docks allows them to be responsive to rising sea levels both through tides and over time.

Victoria helping staff install a floating barge to expand shorebird nesting habitat. Photo by Maddy Hoiland

We were also lucky enough to join the Friends of Lower Suwannee NWR for their meeting, learning about their adopted Swallow-tailed Kite “Suwannee” and the incredible 10,000+ mile journey she embarks on. We even observed an early migrant kite while at the refuge. The dates of their migration have been changing and may continue to change, as demonstrated in this neat widget Audubon developed which models how suitable habitat may change with the changing climate.

In our free time, we were able to borrow kayaks to explore the refuge and we came across egrets, herons and a large gator! We also explored outside the refuge and discovered that there is a whole community working on helping to protect the mature coast. We visited Manatee Springs State Park and Fanning Springs State Park and saw a manatee from the dock. We also toured the University of Florida Nature Coast Biological Center to learn about their research and met with a scientist designing experiments on monitoring water quality post oil spill and Terrapin Turtle habitat. We even were able to tag along on one of the field trips they were hosting that day and met Captain Kenny who began an ecotourism educational tour operation after retiring from the FWS. We also spent free time with staff from the refuge team enjoying the pristine nature that Florida had to offer. Andrew took us out spear fishing, letting us drive the boat and watch as he free dove 30 ft, bringing back multiple sheepsheads at a time. It was a beautiful day, and Maddy even caught one!

Maddy spots a large alligator during a kayaking trip. Photo by Victoria Coraci.

On our last day in Florida we sat in on a Florida Shorebird Alliance meeting and were able to see some of these partnerships in action as they worked together to help these species recover. One of the biologists had observed some really clever raven behavior where they observed predation from the nests they were monitoring but only those that were visited on a particular day. They set up game cams and found that the ravens were recognizing the biologist and following them from nest to nest!

After our first two weeks learning and exploring, we packed up our truck, said goodbye to the incredible and welcoming staff of Lower Suwannee and made our way back up north.

Wheeler NWR

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge is located in Decatur, Alabama on the Tennessee River. Founded in 1938 by Theodore Roosevelt as a refuge and breeding ground for waterfowl and other wildlife, it was the first refuge ever to be superimposed on a hydro-electric site. This refuge is known for the thousands of waterfowl, including Whooping and Sandhill cranes that make a stop along the Mississippi Flyway in the winter to feed, rest, and roost, entertaining crowds with their intricate dances and calls that fill the sky. Most cranes had moved on when we arrived, but there was still a pair of Sandhill Cranes feeding in the field outside the visitor center as we drove in, and one Whooping Crane nicknamed Louisiana around the refuge.

Pair of sandhill cranes feeding in the cornfield. Photo by Maddy Hoiland.

While we were surveying we met many visitors enjoying the diverse habitats found on the refuge, out for a drive on Mussel Camp Road, putting in their boats to go fishing from at Arrowhead Boat Ramp, and runners and bikers out enjoying the views of the Tennessee River. The visitor center was a popular attraction to learn about the flora and fauna of Alabama, and get answers to questions from the helpful volunteers. While surveying we hung out around the information desk, helping answer questions and enjoying the stories of visitors from near and far. Families and bird watchers alike enjoyed looking through the binoculars in the observation deck and snapping photos of the groups of waterfowl on the lake.

View of songbirds through visitor center binoculars. Photo taken by Victoria Coraci.

One of the coolest sampling shifts was during the “Wings to Soar” event in the visitor center, where the audience got up close and personal with birds of prey such as owls, hawks, and even a vulture. The presenters shared some facts about the species and the events that led to the bird being in their care. Many had been injured or raised around humans, not able to survive in the wild, so Wings to Soar took them in and now bring them around the country to share the importance of conservation with audiences. Those in the middle of the room had birds soaring over their heads and children squealing in delight as they saw their parents ducking from the wings just inches above them.

Wildlife conservation drives everything on refuges so monitoring and research are crucial to understanding how to best protect them. Staff and volunteers conduct several projects related to the waterfowl and caves located on the refuge, and we got to join them on a few. We assisted the biological technician with switching out the batteries in the Anabat acoustic monitoring box (a box that records the sounds from bats going in and out of the cave), getting to take a peek into the normally fenced off area. You could feel the cold air coming from the cave!

Victoria and Drew maintaining the Anabat acoustic box in Key Cave. Photo by Maddy Hoiland.

Before we left we got to squeeze one more project in, helping with stream inventorying on a private landowner’s property for the USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife program. We donned our waders, learned about techniques for electrofishing, and waded into the streams to catch fish and identify the species that were present. And soon enough it was time to keep swimming upstream to our next refuge.

Big Lake NWR

Our third, and as it turned out, final stop on this project was Big Lake NWR, one of the nation’s oldest refuges. It sure lived up to its name! Many visitors were there every day, locals and regulars fishing for crappie or just “sitting and clearing their mind”.

We were excited to learn about how Steven and Glenn work together with the Army Corps of Engineers and the state. Steven showed us how they use dams here to control the flooding. The lake often floods up to 99% of the area, so managing the water levels is crucial to avoid flooding the farms and town nearby. On a break from the clouds one afternoon, we had a chance to explore the refuge before surveying to hike out to the state champion Overcup Oak Tree!

Arkansas state champion Overcup Oak.

Outside the refuge the University of Arkansas has a great museum where we were able to rock out to some rockabilly music and look into the state’s historic megafauna.

A taste of local prehistory at the University of Arkansas museum.

After our first weekend on the refuge the COVID-19 virus spread became a concern, so we had to stop surveying. In times like these, access to nature and a calm place to reflect is more important than ever. Even though our project got cut short it was a whirlwind of learning, exploring, and putting wildlife first!

Following the River

Following the River

By: Ally Wood and Eric Rios-Bretado

This blog tells the story of two strangers turned friends and the first leg of their journey through Texas and New Mexico. Here, they encounter people from all over the world, beautiful birds, striking sunsets, and a brief stint as a FWS mascot. We started off in snowy Fort Collins, Colorado and soon after left for South Texas, a birder’s winter paradise!

Eric is a recent grad from Texas A&M-Commerce eager to learn more about the wildlife refuge system. Ally is a New Yorker exploring the southern and western USA for the first time! Photo by Ally Wood.

Santa Ana NWR

It seemed the cold followed us, as our first day in Texas we had snow fall over night and well into the next morning. Undeterred by what Eric’s people call a “snowstorm”, we moved on. We stopped briefly in historic San Antonio, just minutes away from the Alamo! Our ultimate destination was Santa Ana NWR, which some people consider the jewel of the whole Wildlife Refuge System.

We had a most excellent orientation of the refuge where we were given a personal tour by the refuge manager and one of the park rangers. Santa Ana has an impressive 40 foot observation tower, a swing bridge situated 25 feet above the ground, a graveyard that has the remains of Santa Ana’s original land grant owners, and a view of the mighty Rio Grande. The refuge manager explained how refuge biologists recreate flooding events on the refuge to mimic what the Rio Grande once did before it was managed by people. Wildlife depends on the wetlands here for food and habitat, which is important since several major bird flyways meet at Santa Ana. Javelinas, bobcats, elusive indigo snakes, chatty green jays, and dazzling Altamira orioles where some of the most impressive wildlife here.

The forty-foot observation tour was often busy with birders hoping to see the elusive hook billed kite. Photo by Ally Wood.

As there is only one point of entry into the refuge, we were able to work the fee booth and sample from there! On one rather slow day and an eventful conversation with a certain park ranger, we decided dressing up as Puddles the Blue Goose would get people to come by the refuge instead of just passing through. It didn’t bring more people in, but it sure did get some laughs at the visitor center and a few pictures of Puddles getting up to some shenanigans! Another highlight of our time there was going out with the refuge manager to an elementary school where we helped students plant native flora for their school garden. The kids had fun planting and playing in the dirt while also learning about the importance of pollination. Sadly, we had to leave this jewel called Santa Ana. Though we would miss the colorful birds and friendly staff, our next destination was close to the beach and home to a few endangered species we were eager to encounter!

Puddles the Blue Goose (AKA Eric) radios Santa Ana dispatch to tell them we’re in the Fee Booth. Photo by Ally Wood.

Laguna Atascosa NWR

At Santa Ana NWR, the powerful Rio Grande was the backdrop of our surveying efforts. Our second refuge, Laguna Atascosa, took us to the River’s outflow – the Gulf of Mexico. Laguna Atascosa NWR is situated on Laguna Madre, which, in combination with South Padre Island, protects the coast line from the ocean’s powerful waves. Laguna Atascosa, like Santa Ana, is a birder’s dream and a popular destination for Winter Texans. The intersection of several habitat types, such as temperate, coastal, and desert, draws in migrating birds who need some TLC before continuing their journeys. We often surveyed visitors next to one of the refuge’s bird feeders and enjoyed the familiar calls of green jays, Altamira orioles, chachalacas, and the ever-present great tailed grackles as we worked.

One morning, we managed to snag seats on Laguna’s coveted tram ride, a 3 hour habitat tour that takes passengers from the thorn scrub to the Laguna Madre and back again. Wanda, one of the refuge’s volunteers, narrated the trip. Although she promised that she wasn’t a birder, she succeeded in pointing out white tailed hawks, caracaras, Caspian turns, and a long billed curlew, among many others. We also saw Nilgai, an invasive but impressive antelope originally from Asia, and a flotilla of ducks. Like many visitors, we had hoped to see evidence of ocelots, a medium sized wild cat with a sleek, dappled fur coat. Laguna Atascosa’s abundance of thorn scrub makes a desirable habitat for the endangered cat and is home to some of the remaining North American population. Although we didn’t spot the elusive ocelot on our tram tour, we did get to help the refuge with Ocelot Conservation Day!

Renee’s Overlook was one of the few stops we made on the tram tour. Photo by Ally Wood.

Ocelot Conservation Day, which took place at nearby Gladys Porter Zoo, featured a very special guest: Clyde the ocelot! Clyde was visiting from The Texas Zoo in Victoria, TX. We helped refuge staff and volunteers set up and break down the event and provided extra crowd control for Clyde. Ocelot Conservation Day was a purr-fect way to wrap up our time at Laguna Atascosa (yes, ocelots purr!) before heading to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.

Clyde waits patiently for his daily meal. Photo by Ally Wood.

Bosque del Apache NWR

Although we were sad to leave south Texas, it was exciting to visit New Mexico since neither of us had spent much time there before. We were treated to stunning mountain vistas for the last leg of the drive, a big contrast to the picturesque plains of southern Texas. Although many things changed between our Texan refuges and Bosque del Apache, one thing stayed the same: the importance of the Rio Grande.

Like Santa Ana, Bosque del Apache staff manipulate water levels in the refuge’s wetlands to mimic historic cycles of the River. This repetitive filling and draining of the wetlands allows vital waterfowl food sources to grow on the refuge each year. On one of our first mornings at the refuge, we took a break from contacting visitors and hopped in a truck with Susan, the wildlife refuge specialist, to help with wetland monitoring. We used binoculars to read the water depth on a measuring stick in the wetland and recorded the data. It was awesome to be included in one of the most important jobs on the refuge!

One of Bosque Del Apache’s many wetlands aglow at sunset. Photo by Eric Rios-Bretado.

Due to Covid-19, we suspended our visitor sampling a week after arriving at Bosque and cut the rest of our journey short. Although we wish we could keep working on the survey, this change has allowed us to work with the refuge on several different projects. We spent one day prepping an authentic Adobe-style bunkhouse for future refuge visitors and imagining what it would be like to live in such a cool place. The next morning, we set out with two refuge volunteers, Wendy and Pam, to do trail maintenance in the Chupadera Peak Wilderness Unit. Wendy and Pam have been working on the 9.5 mile round trip Chupadera trail over several seasons and are almost done! We helped by trimming back prickly pear cactus, abundant grasses, and some four wing saltbush in the canyon portion of the trail to make it safer. It was amazing to see the Chihuahuan desert and the refuge wetlands spread out below us as we gained altitude on the mountain.

Ally, Pam, and Wendy head down Chupadera after a day of trail work. Photo by Eric Rios-Bretado.

Although our journey will end sooner than expected, we had an incredible experience exploring and sampling the southwest. We surveyed and met people from across the globe, learned their stories, and shared in their joy of nature and the wild world. This internship took us to new places and helped us grow into more confident and experienced stewards of the environment.We are so thankful for the excellent USFWS staff and volunteers and ACE employees who made this the most amazing internship imaginable.

Flyways and Byways

Flyways and Byways

By: Lindsey Broadhead and Paul List

Each year millions of migratory birds utilize invisible superhighways to reach their nesting and wintering grounds. Our time surveying visitors these past few months was spent at a few important spots in the middle of one of these superhighways – the 4,000 mile long Pacific flyway. This flyway runs north-south from the Arctic to Mexico, crossing the entire west coast of the US and states such as Utah, Idaho, and Nevada. The diversity and abundance of birds in the wildlife refuges along the flyway bring joy to birders, photographers, hunters, and casual passersby alike as migration, one of nature’s grandest spectacles, occurs twice a year.

Snow geese along the Sacramento NWR auto tour. Photo by Lindsey Broadhead

Sacramento NWR Complex

In the heart of California’s Sacramento Valley lies the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The complex protects the last remaining riparian and wetland habitat in the valley, and is a vital wintering ground for thousands of waterfowl. While we were there, we spotted 5 species of goose (and a cackling/white-fronted goose hybrid!), 10 species of duck, tundra swans, and plenty of other migratory wetland birds such as long-billed curlews and sandhill cranes. With the influx of waterfowl comes an influx of predators, and birds of prey from bald eagles to great horned owls to red shouldered hawks were a common sight along the auto tours and viewing platforms of these refuges.

Our first three weeks in California were spent surveying visitors at Sacramento River NWR. This refuge is comprised of 30 disjointed units up and down the Sacramento River, all providing a safe haven for riparian wildlife and recreation opportunities for visitors. We were excited to learn that this refuge has frequent mountain lion sightings throughout its many units, but unfortunately neither of us were lucky enough to spot the elusive big cat. We were, however, just in time for prime sandhill crane viewing at the Llano Seco unit and met many birders and wildlife photographers that came to the unit specifically for the cranes.

Sandhill crane at Sacramento River NWR. Photo by Lindsey Broadhead

After our time along the river, we spent our remaining two weeks at Sacramento NWR, the hub of the complex. This refuge has plenty to offer- from birding to hiking to hunting, and because of its convenient location along I-5, we were able to speak to hundreds of people from all over the United States. We even had spare time to help out with an elementary school field trip and man the front desk of the visitor center for a few hours, which was a nice change of pace from surveying. Our housing at this refuge (appropriately named The Blue Goose Inn) was within walking distance of the visitor center and the beautiful wetland walking trails where mule deer, striped skunks, and great horned owls were a common sight. We spent many evenings enjoying the sunset along the trails and watching the thousands of geese fly off to feed in the nearby rice fields for the night.

The warm sunny climate of this region was a welcome change from colder temperatures up north, and it was easy to see why waterfowl would take advantage of this. With food aplenty and days filled with sun, this refuge felt like a waterfowl vacation destination, with population numbers steadily increasing the 5 weeks we spent there. When we left in mid November, the total waterfowl population was estimated to be 604,893 at Sacramento NWR, and a staggering 1,448,948 throughout the complex’s many other refuges in the valley.

White-fronted geese at Sacramento River NWR. Photo by Lindsey Broadhead

Mid Columbia River NWR Complex

After our time in California, we returned to Washington to continue sampling at the Mid Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge complex, home to additional stops for migrating birds along the Pacific Flyway. We had already sampled salmon anglers at one location in this complex: Hanford Reach National Monument (previously known as Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge). But the new season brought out a new source of visitation-waterfowl hunters- at two new refuges: Columbia and McNary.

Located in the northern part of the complex, Columbia National Wildlife Refuge is a quiet site with dynamic scenery. With basalt cliffs shaped by volcanic activity and glacial flows thousands of years ago, this refuge attracts hunters seeking waterfowl, small upland game, and deer. While we had stayed at the Columbia bunkhouse when sampling at Saddle Mountain, we had not previously explored the refuge itself, and we enjoyed the opportunity to hike the trails and see our first snow of the season. While our exploring, Lindsey successfully uncovered one of the oldest geocaches in Washington, which is hidden somewhere beneath the refuge’s abundant sagebrush.

A hiking club out exploring the sagebrush wilderness. Photo by Lindsey Broadhead

Columbia NWR, with its protected wetlands and expansive habitat, is an important stopping point for many waterfowl during their migrations. It is home to an annual sandhill crane festival every spring as these great birds stop at the refuge on their way back north. Although we left a few months earlier than the sandhill cranes we saw at Sacramento NWR, it was nice to see the place where many of them would likely be stopping on their spring migration.

After Columbia, we had a short drive south to McNary National Wildlife Refuge, the headquarters for the Mid Columbia complex. Located along the Columbia River, this refuge featured ample opportunities for waterfowl hunting, viewing areas for photographers and birders, a two mile trail for walkers and explorers, and an environmental education center. While thick fog and ice on the water were less than ideal for visitation, the team was still able to meet a number of hunters and other visitors.

Lindsey surveys hunters at the hunt check station, which is also the environmental education building. Photo by Paul List.

In addition to visitors, Paul and Lindsey were able to meet with the Friends of Mid-Columbia River Wildlife Refuges. As was the case at other refuges, the friends group is instrumental in maintaining and growing the refuge, from manning the hunt check station to carrying out improvement projects around the headquarters. Paul and Lindsey got a taste of this sort of work by spending an afternoon volunteering with one of the Friends on various projects. They also got a taste of some delicious desserts at the Friends’ holiday party/planning meeting for the upcoming year. Paul is currently accepting suggestions for what to do with the new vest he won in the raffle (it has 14 pockets-he counted).

Paul and his 14-pocketed vest. Photo by Lindsey Broadhead

Like the birds that rely on these important refuges, we have spent the past four months migrating across the country. And like these birds, we found it necessary (or at least enjoyable) to make some stops along the way. The wildlife refuges discussed in our blog may have been our primary destinations (and worthy destinations they are), but our journey would not have been the same without many other stops. Should you find yourself in the Pacific Flyway (or Oklahoma), we encourage you to give these places a visit.

National Park System:
Rocky Mountain NP
Mesa Verde NP
Mt Rainier NP
Lassen Volcanic NP
Lava Beds NM
Golden Spike NHS

Absolute Bakery & Cafe (Mancos, CO)
Yogurty Smogurty (Othello, WA)
Mayan Fusion (Fort Bragg, CA)
Anne’s Country Kitchen (Lawton, OK)
The Meers Store (Meers, OK)
Donut Wheel (Willows, CA)
Angie’s Restaurant (Logan, UT)
Black Bear Diner (CA chain)
Thai Orchid Cafe (Klamath Falls, CA)
Buckin’ Bean Coffee Roasters (Pendleton, OR)
Ironworks Cafe and Market (Othello, WA)
Smith’s-get the deli pizza (UT grocery store)

High Desert Museum (Bend, OR)
REACH Museum (Richland, WA)
National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center (Baker City, OR)
Stokes Nature Center (Logan, UT)
NOYO Center (Fort Bragg, CA)
MacKerricher State Park (Fort Bragg, CA)
Three Island Crossing State Park (Glenn’s Ferry, ID)
Antelope Island State Park (Syracuse, UT)
North Cheyenne Canyon Park (Colorado Springs, CO)
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (Fort Bragg, CA)
Sacramento Zoo (Sacramento, CA)
Shoshone Falls (Twin Falls, Oregon)
Berkeley Pit-aka the “Death Pit” (Butte, MT)
Wilson’s Arch and Looking Glass Arch (Hwy 191, near Moab, UT)
Sierra Nevada Brewery (Chico, CA)
The World’s Largest Functioning Yo-Yo (Chico, CA)
Utah State University (Logan, UT)
Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuges (CA & OR) – shoutout to Jeremy who gave us pumice rocks and sugar pine cones at Klamath Marsh!

Across the West

Across the West

By: Jess Michalski and Ben Schian

In the past two months, we have seen a wide variety of unique, beautiful ecosystems. From salt flats in Oklahoma, to a desert and oasis in California and Arizona, to the snowy mountains in Wyoming. Each ecosystem has been unique, lovely, and something new we had never had the opportunity to see before. It’s impossible to choose a favorite, so we are happy to write about each. We’ve done our surveying at Salt Plains NWR in Oklahoma, Bill Williams River NWR in Arizona, Havasu NWR in California, and National Elk Refuge in Wyoming, and in between survey sites we have seen even more beautiful ecosystems and landscapes, from the Grand Canyon, to the Pacific Ocean, to national parks such as Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and Grand Teton! Of course, completing a coast-to-coast trip would allow us to see an immense amount of natural wonders, but we never could’ve dreamed of seeing so much unique beauty.

Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge

We didn’t know what to expect when coming to Salt Plains, as the town it lays in has a population of ~200 people, and many of the refuge activities had recently closed for the season when we arrived. We thought it might be sort of slow there, but we were way wrong! Salt Plains draws thousands of visitors each year for the ability to dig for selenite crystals- not just any selenite crystals though – the crystals that develop in the salt flats here have a unique hourglass shape that you can’t find anywhere else on Earth. Although the crystal digging season was over there were two big positives, one being the refuge manager personally taking us out to dig for crystals when we arrived, and the other big positive was the reason why the crystal dig site had closed- for the safety of thousands and thousands of migrating sandhill cranes. If you haven’t personally seen or heard thousands of sandhill cranes flying across the sky, you’ve got to add this to your bucket list!

When one door closes another one opens, and although visitors couldn’t dig for crystals, we had visitors come from all across the country to view the sandhill cranes flying overhead. There were also several people on the lookout for the endangered whooping crane. We didn’t get to see any, but we know from conversations with visitors and staff that they were there. Which gives us another reason to return one day! Some people may think Oklahoma City would be the go-to place to see in Oklahoma, but the very unique and very striking salt plains may make you think twice about that.

Salt Plains NWR, where visitors can crystal-dig or see sandhill cranes (Photo by Ben Schian)

Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge

Our time in Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge began with the understanding that we would be in this area for longer than usual. It did not take long for us to become comfortable in the area. Although the region was so strangely beautiful, it felt like Mars! Our work in “Bill Will”, as it is called locally, was a warm surprise after Oklahoma! We spent our days surveying the warm Arizonan sun, November was the perfect time to visit. We met with visitors coming to do use the amazing hiking trails through the refuge, go kayaking or canoeing, or driving down the wild Planet Ranch Road… which truly felt like you left Arizona, and travelled to a new planet! On one occasion, we had the opportunity to work with refuge volunteers and staff to go to a remote area of the refuge to scout for future projects. It was a fun road trip for the day, and included some historic elements, as we got to learn about the Mexican ranchers who previously utilized the land for their livelihood when the land was not part of the US. After work was through for the day, we would often watch the sunset over the water, and see all the stars come out! There were many jackrabbits, roadrunners, and quail, as well as many bird species we weren’t familiar with, but loved to watch! Definitely put Bill Williams River on your list of refuges to see if you love being surrounded by mountains and bright blue waters!

Our survey location at Bill Williams River NWR! (Photo by Jess Michalski)

Havasu National Wildlife Refuge

Getting to Havasu refuge was very simple after Bill Williams River – just about an hour away, and some locations were even closer! Our time here was slightly longer, and we continued to enjoy the sunshine (and occasional downpour) of the area. Havasu means blue-green water in the Havasupai people’s language. This name holds true for the water of the lake that encompasses the refuge. It brings in many visitors to walk the trails, fish, and to kayak. Daily we would cross the boundary between Pacific Time and Mountain Time from California, where the headquarters and housing were, to Arizona, where the majority of the refuge is! It seemed like we were getting 25 or 26 hours in a day! Beyond surveying we also worked at a local animal shelter to acquire our service hours for AmeriCorps. We loved spending time with the shelter dogs so much that we ended up being there almost everyday before work! We wrapped up surveying Havasu, with the help of our logistic coordinator, Jessie, who visited to see how surveying goes on the ground! We showed her how the surveying efforts go, in terms of day-to-day work, so she is ready to get 2020 interns ready to go soon!

The view from where we surveyed at in Havasu NWR. (Photo by Jess Michalski)

Tiara and Bambino from Needles Animal Shelter taking a walk one morning with us! (Photo by Jess Michalski)

National Elk Refuge

We couldn’t have dreamed of a more unique or beautiful location for our final refuge. Once again, the National Elk Refuge makes you question whether or not you’re actually on planet Earth or some other mystical wonderland. Situated less than an hour from Yellowstone National Park, less than 10 minutes from Grand Teton National Park, and surrounded by the Bridger-Teton National Forest, National Elk Refuge could be considered to be in the Mecca of natural beauty. That being said, the wildlife is the true attraction here. It would be easy to think National ELK Refuge is all about the elk, but honestly there are so many other species who call this place home. Elk are just one of four beings in the deer family here, alongside moose, mule deer, and white-tailed deer. And that’s just the deer family! As for birds, there was a lot of diversity too, with swans, ravens and even bald eagles in the area. From afar we got the chance to see some grey wolves, which was a lot more comfortable than if they were right next to us! Our favorite animals here, the bighorn sheep, did in fact get really close and comfortable with us. On the wildlife drive at this refuge, dozens of bighorns would walk around, cross the roads, and come within 20 feet of people!

We were only in National Elk Refuge for 5 days, as opposed to 2 weeks like we had gotten used to. Despite being there for less than half the amount of time we usually spent in a refuge, we probably saw more wildlife here than anywhere else.

The humans here were cool too! This was the first place where we surveyed inside a visitor center, and all the staff there were very kind. One of the naturalists here ended up being our roommate and she made the nights in the bunkhouse really fun and full of laughter. The visitors we spoke to here came from all across the state, the country, and even some international visitors had to see what National Elk was all about!

After having travelled across the country nearly 2 full times, and getting to stay in so many memorable places, the only negative part of staying in National Elk, was that we couldn’t stay longer. Once again though, that just gives us another reason to come back (maybe next time in the summer!)

A Bighorn sheep showing that it’s not just about elks at National Elk Refuge. (Photo by Ben

Our journey as National Visitor Survey interns for USFWS and AmeriCorps can be parallel with the ecosystems. Each day we found new things to be excited about, saw new wildlife, learned new facts, met new faces. We saw the beauty of the US, from each coast, from the mountains, forests, marshes, beach, salt flats, desert, and the snow covered mountains. Each place and day held a new lesson for us, whether that be professional, educational, or personal. We can comfortably say that our four months as NVS interns left a lasting impression and appreciation for the natural world in our country. We hope that the survey will help more people to come to enjoy these natural spaces as much as we have.

Exposed to the Elements

Exposed to the Elements

By: Lindsey Broadhead and Paul List

This epic adventure begins as two strangers hop aboard a Toyota RAV-4 (affectionately nicknamed Ravioli) and depart into the great expanse known as the American West. Their adventures will take them through steep and dark mountain ranges, wide open prairies, ragged coastlines, and desolate deserts. Along the way they will meet a variety of amazing people, view some incredible wildlife, and sample all types of breakfast restaurants and Love’s travel stops.

Through our travels, we have noticed an elemental theme between our assigned refuges, and we want to take you on a journey with us through water, earth, and air.

Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge: bringing people to the river

Nothing is as essential to life on earth as water. Especially in desolate areas like eastern Washington, water, more specifically the Columbia River, is critical in supporting the food we eat every day. Our first refuge was here, right in the heart of the Washington agricultural industry at Hanford Reach National Monument (Saddle Mountain NWR, the name is no longer used). Hanford Reach protects the longest free-flowing stretch of the Columbia river, and we saw the importance of the river firsthand while we were in the thick of salmon run. People from throughout the Pacific northwest converged to try their hand at catching the world-renowned Chinook salmon in the clear, cool waters of the Columbia. In fact, this spot was so popular that people set up “salmon camps” for months at a time, living on site so that they could fish every single day. From many vantage points along the river and refuge, visitors can also view the 9 decommissioned nuclear reactors of the of the Hanford Site for which the refuge is named. The refuge itself was and still is a buffer site between the surrounding communities and the nuclear reactors. Part of the reason that this place was chosen for the complex was the clean and abundant water supply from the Columbia river. The river here is truly the lifeblood of the region, a deep blue vein of life in a vast sagebrush sea.

Saddle Mountain fishermen hold two Chinook salmon caught from the Columbia (Photo by: Lindsey Broadhead)

In addition to our first two week sampling period at Saddle Mountain in late August, we returned for a third week a month later in October. During our first two weeks, the salmon had not yet begun their migration. We returned to Saddle Mountain just in time for the end of salmon season, encountering a significantly greater number of salmon fishers actively enjoying their access to the river. While the vast majority of visitors we met at Saddle Mountain were fishers, some came for other reasons. We met families looking to enjoy an afternoon boating, sightseers looking to explore this stretch of the Columbia River, and even a class out searching for macroinvertebrates. These groups helped remind us of the many different uses people might find for a river like the Columbia and the importance of continuing to preserve access for generations to come.

A view of the Columbia River White Bluffs boat launch (Photo by: Paul List)

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge: preserving an iconic American landscape

After our first period at Saddle Mountain, we headed inland for Oklahoma, home of Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Here, the namesake mountains rise up out of one of the last remaining expanses of mixed grass prairie, creating a surprisingly diverse ecosystem rich in wildlife. The refuge is one of the oldest in the nation, founded in 1901 as a sanctuary for one of North America’s most iconic land animals: the American bison. Since then, the refuge has grown into an iconic attraction for nature lovers, with a wide array of activities and uses. An auto tour route takes visitors through the grasslands to admire wildlife from prairie dogs to longhorns, while a network of trails brings guests up into the mountains themselves. A state of the art visitor center allows guests to learn about the refuge’s unique natural history, while volunteer led educational programs take guests out into the field for a more in depth experience. With picnic areas and camping sites, this refuge feels in many ways like a national park.

American bison at Wichita Mountains NWR (Photo by: Lindsey Broadhead)

Our slower start at Saddle Mountain did not prepare us for how popular Wichita Mountains would be. It is the most visited wildlife refuge in the system, and at 59,020 acres of wildlife and wilderness it is easy to see why. Visitors ranged from local regulars to international tourists looking to experience a piece of American history. It was clear that Oklahomans are incredibly proud of this place, as evidenced by the active volunteer group, Friends of the Wichitas. We spoke to people who have been coming here for generations, now taking their great grandchildren for the first time to experience its wonder. We also got a taste of wonder ourselves as we ogled over one of the oldest herds of American bison, intricately patterned Texas longhorns, charismatic prairie dogs, and majestic elk, all on the backdrop of beautiful red granite mountains. Our housing was a 1930’s CCC built bunkhouse surrounded by woods and mountains, and we made friends with a fellow intern named Miahna who was staying with us there. We had a grand old time going to local restaurants, discovering venomous snakes on nighttime drives, and snapping photos of tarantulas as you do when you are all hardcore nature nerds. Another highlight of this leg of the trip was our invitation to a boy named Robert’s 10th birthday party while we were sampling near a picnic area. The family generously provided us with hotdogs and (heavenly) homemade strawberry shortcake, a gesture that sealed our love for this place and the people of Oklahoma.

Paul and Lindsey with Miahna, a fellow intern at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (Photo by: Miahna Corella)

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge: where the skies are filled by wings of thunder

After leaving the prairies of Oklahoma, we returned north to the Great Salt Lake region of Utah, home of Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Like Wichita Mountains, this refuge is old, dating back to 1928 when it became the first wildlife refuge created by an act of Congress. Like Wichita Mountains, Bear River has an active Friends group and is loved by the local community. However, unlike Wichita Mountains, Bear River was designed as a refuge for migratory birds, preserving the famous sound of “wings of thunder.” From the bird shaped design of the visitor center to the giant American avocet that greets you as you enter, the importance of birds at the refuge is made abundantly clear. The visitor center also prominently displays an airboat, commemorating the wildlife biologists who developed this method of harnessing the power of air as a way to effectively navigate the refuge’s wetlands. In addition to the visitor center, the refuge features a 12 mile auto tour loop through the wetland area, with several pullovers and viewing platforms for birders.

View of the Wasatch range from the auto tour at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge (Photo by: Lindsey Broadhead)

Our first weekend at Bear River coincided with National Public Lands Day, a national day of service and celebration of our public land systems. We were able to assist with Bear River’s commemoration of the day by running activities for guests. The visitor center’s classroom, normally closed to guests, was opened up, allowing visitors to examine natural history specimens or enjoy the collection of bird puppets. To help guests learn more about the birds that call this refuge home, a station was set up to depict various beak types, with interactive components for hands on learning. In addition, we were provided with materials to set up a track making activity, allowing guests to leave with a free, educational souvenir. Unfortunately, the skies were not fully cooperative this day, as cold rain kept us from having the high visitation we were expecting. Nevertheless, those visitors who did join us were enthusiastic participants, eager to learn and grateful for our efforts.

Paul and Lindsey ready to help visitors make tracks (Photo by: Kathi Stopher)

Our last weekend at Bear River introduced us to a new kind of visitor: hunters. During hunting season, Bear River’s wetlands are opened up to waterfowl hunters, who came out in great numbers to take advantage of this opportunity. Purchases of duck stamps (which are required for hunting migratory waterfowl) provide an important source of income for the refuge, while refuge regulations and wardens help ensure that game species are sustainably hunted while nom-game species continue to be protected. The hunting community’s support was invaluable in the creation of the refuge almost a century ago, and this partnership continues to be crucial today.


From the Columbia River in Washington, to the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma, to the Migratory birds in Utah, our adventures thus far have taken us to refuges defined by access to water, land, and sky. Along the way, we have met a wide variety of visitors, from dedicated local fishermen to international sightseers. Despite their diversity in uses, all were unified by their appreciation for the continued access to wildlife provided by these refuges. As we continue our journey through California and return to Washington, we expect to continue to see how both people and animals benefit from the work of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

East Bound and Down

East Bound and Down

By: Caroline Brown and Julia Guay

Fort Niobrara and Upper Mississippi

When people said the midwest was nothing but cows and corn fields, we are glad to report that they must have missed a few spots. One such place was our first survey site, Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).Through it runs Niobrara River, a National Wild and Scenic River, where we were envious of many visitors floating down on tubes. This refuge also offered us an up-close opportunity to see bison in their native range. Sadly, we were only here for one week as we had to drive to our next make-up shift on the Upper Mississippi.

Both the LaCrosse District (part of Upper Mississippi NWR) and Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge offered amazing birding opportunities, as well as a wide variety of fish species that drew fishermen and women from across the midwest. One shift was spent at the re-opening party of a boat landing, where many locals were happy to have the launch reopened and we were happy for the free food. While in Mississippi, we stayed at Perrot State Park, where we had barred owls for neighbors and wood frogs as tent buddies. After a whirlwind of a week, we departed for Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge.

A silly bison from Fort Niobrara NWR. Photo by Caroline Brown.

Clarks River

Upon arriving in Kentucky, after we camped for the night at Shawnee National Forest, we were happy to start our first two-week sampling period and have some time to settle down. Though the heat was an unwelcome change from chilly Wisconsin, we were excited nonetheless! Our first sampling shift at Clarks River NWR was one of our most successful and most fun! Clarks River NWR held a family fishing night event at their Environmental Education and Recreation Area (EERA).The event provided fishing poles and bait for children to come fish with their families, as well as other kid-friendly activities, including a table hosted by the Murray State Wildlife Society with furs and live snakes to show the visitors. During our other shifts at the EERA, we learned that the walking paths there are appreciated by the local community with many regular visitors who come to exercise and enjoy nature. When not surveying, we were able to learn about the unique forested environment of Clarks River NWR and ongoing forest restoration efforts. Our time at Clarks River NWR ended with the Wildlife Heritage Outdoors (WHO) Festival which took place at a local park. Clarks River NWR hosted a booth with “Animal Olympics” so kids could play and learn about local wildlife in the process. The booth also provided refuge information and hunting permits for those interested. The WHO festival included a nature photography contest, a calling contest, and various other activities. It was wonderful to see how the local community valued spending time in nature! At the end of our two week stay, we were sad to leave the great staff members we had gotten to know but we knew we would be back in November in the hopes of making contacts once hunting season was underway. We departed for EH Mason Neck NWR, hoping for some cooler weather!

Walking Path at Clarks River NWR. Photo by Julia Guay.

Mason Neck

The 800 mile journey to Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge was our longest trek so far this fall. Luckily, we were able to break it up by staying in western Virginia and then at a lovely campground in Shenandoah National Park. We woke early for a quick hike and then descended from the mountains towards the river banks of the Potomac to where Mason Neck NWR is located. Created to protect breeding habitat for bald eagles, this refuge has become a haven for other wildlife. Many of our shifts were spent chuckling over the antics of gray squirrels and listening to the calls of barred owls. Most visitors we made contact with were from the area and appreciated having the refuge, as it is 25 miles south of Washington D.C. and is one of several protected areas on this peninsula. One day off was spent exploring the many free museums in our nation’s capital. Though our feet may have been tired by the end of the day, we could not believe that such a bustling metropolis was just a short distance from this quiet refuge. When it came time to go, we were sad to say goodbye, but we were excited to see what adventures Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge would bring.

Sunset on the Potomac River from EH Mason Neck NWR. Photo by Caroline Brown.

Alligator RiverLeaving the hustle and bustle of the DC area behind us, we headed south to the shores of North Carolina. We were excited to find our bunkhouse was on the Outer Banks and just a short walk from the beach. After bringing our belongings inside we took a walk to the beach. We were impressed by the huge waves and shore birds. The next day we made the drive inland to Alligator River NWR. Alligator River is comprised of both fields and various wetland habitats, making it home to lots of interesting wildlife! Alligator River NWR is perhaps best known for having a small population of the endangered red wolf both in captivity and in the wild on the refuge. We were lucky enough to participate in a Wings Over Water (WOW) event where we got to hear the captive red wolves howl! Though the red wolves are what the refuge is best known for, most visitors come in the hopes of spotting black bears. Alligator River NWR is believed to have the highest concentration of black bears on the east coast. We were lucky enough to see several black bears during our time at the refuge and observed them doing different activities such as wading in a canal and climbing a tree. Despite the name Alligator River NWR, alligators are not as common there as they are farther south but we were lucky enough to spot a young alligator who likes to hang out by the boat launch. With so much wetland habitat, waterfowl and migratory birds may be observed as well. There is truly something for every type of wildlife lover here! Due to its proximity to the Outer Banks, there are many tourists, both domestic and international, who visit Alligator River NWR so we were kept busy during our shifts making contacts. Locals enjoy Alligator River NWR as well, especially for hunting, so we were glad to get the chance to meet them. In our free time we were able to visit the beach, see the largest active dune on the east coast, visit a historic lighthouse, see the site of the lost colony of Roanoke, attend a play that a refuge staff member was starring in, and sample an Outer Banks staple: Duck Donuts. We were sad to leave such a unique and popular refuge but look forward to continuing our adventure at nearby Great Dismal Swamp.

Enjoying a sunny day spent surveying. Photo by Caroline Brown.



By: Ben Schian and Jess Michalski

In day-to-day life, most people have routines. They go do similar tasks at similar jobs in similar locations. This is not one of those stories. We have been experiencing a job that requires an understanding that everything changes, and that is the one consistency. Change has been the underlying theme of our time with the ACE National Visitor Survey team. We have found an abundance of changes throughout the two months of being on the road. When we began our journey to Fort Collins, CO for training, we arrived unsure of where the job would take us. We found out that we would be traveling across the entire US, coast to coast which was definitely unexpected as we had thought that we would be surveying just one region!

Immediately upon transferring towards our work assignment we felt the changes of being on the road.

Bald Knob NWR, AR

Bald Knob NWR has one of the most intricate water systems to manage waterways for waterfowl. (Photo by: Jess Michalski)


From the moment we left Fort Collins, Colorado everything began to change. In fact on our very first travel day our campsite changed, when we arrived and noticed that there was a nicer campsite open a few sites away from where we had originally planned. On our second day of travel from Fort Collins to Bald Knob, our plans also changed as we were originally going to camp in the Ozark National Forest, and instead camped about an hour from Bald Knob, at a campsite called Cove Creek. Before our sampling ever began, before we had even arrived at our first refuge we realized there would be constant change and that one thing that we would have to get comfortable with was adaptability. (Spoiler alert: we have become incredibly adaptable).

As natives of Niagara Falls, NY the first big change we had to adapt to was the change in temperature from New York to Arkansas. During our time in the “Natural State” it was consistently over 90 degrees. This high heat may have been a deterrent for refuge visitors, but the wildlife at Bald Knob sure seemed to enjoy the end of the summer. In the hot air you could always see great blue herons and white egrets flying around, until the heat became too much and they settled into the intricate waterways that the refuge maintains. Among the herons and egrets you could also see tons of butterflies and dragonflies, unless they were hiding away in the dense trees that cover close to half of the refuge.

As for Bald Knob, our time there was during the change of seasons between the end of summer and the start of fall. One thing we are sure of after leaving Bald Knob is that it will be a completely different experience for our friends sampling during period 2 in the fall!

Santee NWR, SC

At the Cuddo Unit’s wildlife drive, days went by without seeing any American Alligators, until one day that changed- and we saw this +12 foot alligator! (Photo by Ben Schian)

Upon leaving Bald Knob, we had the opportunity to camp in Alabama, at Monte Sano State Park, as our housemate in Arkansas (an Alabama-native) recommended. It was beautiful and peaceful full of white-tailed deer who roamed freely nearby. Just in time for sunset, it was wonderful through the trees. The next night we got to camp at Congaree National Park (sweet job right?!) but the coolest part was that we were the only visitors in the park camping that night! Imagine an empty National Park, with a full moon (and of course plenty of massive spider webs to dodge!) That was an experience like none other! The next morning we arrived at Santee NWR in South Carolina.

Sunset through the forests at Santee NWR. (Photo by: Jess Michalski)

Santee is a 13,000 acre refuge on the edge of Lake Marion, the largest lake (Reservoir) in the state. We encountered our first American alligators, plenty of wild turkeys, as well as white-tailed deer, raccoons, hawks, and one very large snake. The folks at Santee were friendly; however, we met very few people. We tried to not take this too personally…the refuge biologist told us that visitation is hit-and-miss, especially with the transitional seasons. Just another change for us to roll with. Onto coastal South Carolina…

Cape Romain NWR, SC

Imagine all the changes this tree at Bull Island (>1,000 years old) has seen! (Photo by Ben Schian)

Although Cape Romain was only approximately 1 hour from our last refuge, Santee NWR, it was a completely different experience. Upon arrival our schedule was still pretty much up in the air, and that quickly turned during our orientation with a very sweet refuge manager. She booked us a ride on a ferry to the uninhabited Bull Island where we surveyed for our first shift- a once in a lifetime experience and something vastly different from what we had done until then. Our next sampling day we had another once in a lifetime experience as we got to sample visitors during a red wolf feeding. There are about 20 red wolves left in the wild so it was very cool to see them walking around and eating (and hanging out with their vulture friend) while we also sampled visitors. With change in mind, hopefully the population changes for these beautiful red wolves, and it just may thanks to dedicated people like “Wolfman Rob.” As for populations that have been changing for the better, we also got to help out with a loggerhead sea turtle nesting project, where we helped count eggs. We were told that the population has been increasing year by year and this year was the largest population they had ever recorded since their surveying began, up from 1-2,000 to more than 3,000 turtles!!!

Within about one month of traveling the country and working on the National Visitor Survey, change had become something we had gotten used to, and impermanence was something we had become somewhat-comfortable with. Change and impermanence was shown to us to beautifully & symbolically during our time at Cape Romain on our off-time. Every chance we got, we went to the beach to swim in the Atlantic ocean. With the coming-and-going of each wave it was a beautiful reminder that nothing stays the same from moment to moment, but beautiful moments will always continue to come again and again.

Hoping that the population of these red wolves will change for the better! (Photo by Ben Schian)

Cross Creeks NWR, TN

About an hour west of Nashville lies Cross Creeks, an 8,862 acre refuge that features a focus on waterfowl habitat and co-op farming accordingly. Many of the folks were visiting to observe the variety of species there. These included armadillos, vultures, eagles, an abundance of white-tailed deer, turtles, heron, white pelicans, egrets, and bison (at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area). We had the opportunity to encounter the bison relatively close, as one day we were driving through and two were less than 10 ft from the fence of grazing range. We got out of the car and gazed at them grazing…it is true peace to watch these majestic animals.

Our time in Cross Creeks was one of the first times that there was moderate consistency in our lives throughout our time on the road, with a pattern of light visitation that we followed to try to recruit as many survey participants as many as we could. This resulted in us having a daily routine of sorts. But not to worry, we remained in the state of change not through our daily actions but change to our physical bodies, we gave each other haircuts and got new tattoos. We must have just grown accustomed to change!

Best friends, travel buddies and partners during a sampling shift, let us survey you!

We were lucky enough to start this job, traveling the country, as best friends and we’re glad to say that is one thing that has not changed. In fact we’ve become much closer than ever before! Along with the turning of the seasons, the changes from place to place and the changing climate that is affecting these refuges, we have noticed major inner changes within ourselves. We have gotten better at not jumping to conclusions about people or places, and really getting to live life with genuine wonder and awe for everyone and everything we see! Working at National Wildlife Refuges has shown us that although the refuges are primarily for the wildlife, they are just as important to the public, and to ourselves as we have found a deep sense of inner peace while sampling at some of the most beautiful places on the planet.

Summer on the Water

Summer on the Water

By: Konner Magnuson and Andy Lisak

Upper Mississippi NWR – Winona District

We didn’t even have to move our accommodations as we continued working our way up to our final district of the Upper Mississippi NWR. Much like the rest of the districts along the Upper Mississippi River a lot of the visitors were either fishing or boating. Our term in Winona started off strong with lots of visitors for Father’s Day and the Fourth of July. We were also able to finally use our MOCC (Motorboat Operator Certification Course) certification for the first time when invited to survey from a boat for one morning shift. It was an overcast morning so there weren’t too many people on the river but it was a fantastic change in scenery and it felt great to finally get out on the water .As things began to wrap up at the end of the sampling period, we turned our sights for South Carolina and the three-day drive we needed to take to get there.

Andy scouting for potential visitors from the boat at the Upper Mississippi NWR. Photo by Konner Magnuson.

Waccamaw NWR

After we finished up with the Upper Mississippi NWR (for now), we made the 1,200-mile trek southeast to the scorching hot Waccamaw NWR for its second period of sampling. This refuge featured many different habitats ranging from the upland forest of Sandy Island, where we were stationed, to tidal rice fields and wetlands. But the habitat was not the only unique thing about this sampling period. To get to our sampling location, we once again put our boat training to use and navigate the Great Pee Dee river until we found a beach filled with boats and loud music.

Konner navigating the boat to the sampling site at Waccamaw NWR. Photo by Andy Lisak.

During our stay at Sandy Island, we learned firsthand what southern hospitality is all about. The locals always made sure we never went hungry or thirsty in the sweltering 110-degree heat. All the locals loved this location because very few tourists know of its existence and because they have been going there since they were kids. All the locals seemed to very tight-knit and had no problems welcoming us with open arms and buckets of fried chicken.

When we were not sampling, we took the opportunity to hang out in the river and lagoon with the locals and learn more about the island and things to do in the area. We only got to leave the island a couple of times and we decided to make our way to Huntington Beach State Park, to cool off after a long, hot sampling period before driving north to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Boaters enjoying the warm weather on the lagoon at Waccamaw NWR. Photo by Konner Magnuson.

From Sandy Island, it was only a short drive up to Alligator River in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Things were already off to a good start when we discovered we would be staying in the refuge’s bunkhouse just a block away from the beach. Despite their beachfront housing, Alligator River is actually located inland and is primarily made up of pocosin wetland habitats. This ecosystem provides homes for many species of birds, snakes and small mammals, as well as one of the most concentrated black bear populations in the Eastern US and a reintroduced population of critically endangered red wolves.

With a steady stream of visitors to survey through the auto-tour, we had some free time to assist with other refuge activities. Nearby, Pea Island NWR was in the midst of sea turtle nesting season and we were able to volunteer for their turtle watch program, which entailed going to the beach and watching for any turtle activity for an evening. We had three nests to observe, and after a short while, the first nest began to slowly emerge, one turtle after the other poking its tiny head out of the sand. Soon enough, the nest was ready to boil (when all of the hatchlings dig their way to the surface at once) and suddenly dozens of baby turtles were making the mad dash to the ocean. A few minutes after the excitement had died down, another turtle was beginning to emerge from the same nest and was quickly followed by more as the nest boiled for a second time on the same night! By the end of the night, we got to help 71 little loggerheads safely complete their first journey to the ocean.

A loggerhead sea turtle nest boils as dozens of baby turtles begin to make their way to the sea. Photo by Andy Lisak.


Andy navigating the canoe in the swamp at Alligator River NWR photo by Konner Magnuson.

Other notable animal encounters during our stay at the refuge include almost daily sightings of some of the refuge’s 400 black bears, a herpetologist’s trifecta of cottonmouth, copperhead, and timber rattlesnake, as well as getting an inside look into the refuge’s small population of captively bred red wolves.

A copperhead suns itself on the road at dusk at Alligator River NWR. Photo by Andy Lisak.

As our time in the Outer Banks came to a close, we also took advantage of some of the area’s more touristy attractions like delicious seafood restaurants, a series of lighthouses down the coast, and Kitty Hawk, the site of the Wright Brothers’ first flight. After finally getting our last few contacts, we packed up once again and prepared for another drive up the coast to Cape May, New Jersey.

Cape May NWR

Cape May NWR was one of the toughest places for us to sample due to a bike trail that ran down the middle of the Two-Mile Beach Unit. This bike path proved to be a tough obstacle to overcome as cyclists are a tough crowd to stop and talk to. Even when we did get them to stop there were quite a few who did not even know they were on a wildlife refuge.

The Two-Mile Beach Unit was acquired from the US Coast Guard in 1999 and is comprised of sand dunes, a beach, and wetlands. The beach itself is closed off to the public during the nesting season for birds such as the piping plover. While the closing of the beach upset some visitors, there was still plenty of opportunities to admire the shorebirds and ocean life from a distance and give the wildlife the respect that it deserved. Since we were getting enough visitors per shift we rolled up our sleeves and helped the maintenance staff trim grass and pull weeds around interpretive kiosks and signs. When we got done with that we threw on our jumpsuits and rubber boots and helped the other interns spray and cut the invasive bull thistle.

Two-Mile Beach unit at Cape May NWR. Photo by Konner Magnuson.

One of the most unique experiences at Cape May was when two visitors decided to stop in the middle of the road while we were at the end of our sampling shift. Oblivious as to what was going on, we decided to approach the car only to find Konner’s Aunt and Uncle had traveled several states to surprise us without any warning at all. After the initial excitement had simmered down, we gave them a tour of the refuge.

When we were not sampling, we took the opportunity to explore the local area some more, tried out the local seafood hotspots and made a visit to the town of Cape May with Konner’s family to check out the old Victorian style houses and the Cape May Lighthouse overlooking the Delaware Bay. We also spent quite a bit of time on the bay sorting through tons of perished horseshoe crabs in hopes of finding one that was tagged.

A horseshoe crab molt on the beach during sunset over the Cape. Photo by Andy Lisak.

Weeks Ten, Eleven, and Beyond: Lumion! Rendering Images and Post-Processing in Adobe Photoshop

Weeks Ten, Eleven, and Beyond: Lumion! Rendering Images and Post-Processing in Adobe Photoshop

by: Anna Tiburzi

Welcome back!

Last we spoke, we were neck deep in SketchUp, frantically modeling to our heart’s content. Today, we talk about Lumion, which is a program with different strengths entirely.

While SketchUp shines in 3D modeling, giving the user the ability to push, pull, drag, and draw to create shapes and surfaces as desired and apply material textures to the faces of the model, it’s limited in how you can show your model as far as lighting, textures, and atmospherics. Lumion, on the other hand, is a visualization and rendering program designed to do just this. In Lumion, you can’t draw and make changes like you can in SketchUp, but you can add more detailed textures, better objects (such as trees, rocks, people, flags, and even whole buildings), and contextual terrain changes. It also features a scenes workspace where the user can set up vantages, like through the lens of a camera, and apply filters and effects in order to change the mood and atmospherics of the scene.

To start, it was important for the repeat photography vantages that all six models be in the same position. Lumion allows the user to align models or objects based on their origin point, so this was the first step after importing all the period models into Lumion.

Aspects like terrain can also be manipulated, changing the default terrain (grass) to ocean, in order to better place Liberty Island in context.

In previous posts in SketchUp, I mentioned the importance in isolating the paths in each of the models and applying the material textures. All that is still relevant here. Those isolated textures can be replaced in Lumion with more detailed and, generally, better looking textures in the Lumion material library. However, we’re not limited to Lumion’s textures – we can make our own.

During the site visit back in July, we took a lot of pictures of the island for the update report, for references in modeling, and for textures. I was able to take some of those images and create what are called seamless textures. Textures, in this case, are made up of image files that are just tiled over and over again. Seamless just means you can’t tell where the tiles begin and end – their seams match up with the one next to them, creating a smooth material surface.

From our site visit, I created seamless textures for the fort wall, coping stone, interior terreplein wall, concrete pedestal base, pedestal wall at the terreplein, the two different terreplein surface pavers and stones, and the seawall. Now, these surfaces in the model reflect the actual textures they have in real life. It might not be necessary to do this for all materials on a site, but for ones that may be more important or critical, using the real texture is always better than a generic one.

As amazing as the Lumion library is, it doesn’t have every tree or shrub or object in existence and those that is does have, sometimes don’t match the character of the element I’m trying to place – trees come in all shapes and sizes, even when they’re the same species. For some of the trees, matching the species worked great – the tree was the right one and it had the right look. For others, either the species didn’t exist in the library or the one that did exist didn’t look the way I wanted it too. In these cases, I placed another tree of a different species, one that better matched the character and look of the ones in the historical photographs. While it would be nice to have all the trees be the right species, getting the feeling and character of the place and scene took precedence. Which is why, in some of the models, I also added more trees than the original models indicated, making them look younger or more mature based on the historical references which showcased a much more dense or varied character.

Another feature Lumion offers is adjusting object transparency from 0% to 100%. For Liberty Island, in the 1956 and 2019 models in particular, the quantity and size of the trees on the island obscured a lot of the island’s detail and, in some vantages, began to overwhelm the image itself. By reducing the opacity of the trees to 50% however, they become too light and we lose that sense of mass and cover. We eventually settled on about a 20-30% transparency for a mostly solid look that lightened the overall presence of the trees in the scenes while still maintaining that sense of mass vegetation.

 Even with just materials and trees placed, you can start to get a better feel for the models as they become more detailed and realistic than they had been in SketchUp.

Here you can also see how you might change your materials over time, as we did with the grass texture between 1937 and 1956. This we did in response to the changing ownership of the island, from when it was run as a military base by the war department to when it was operated as part of the Statue of Liberty monument by the National Park Service.

Lumion offers a variety of preset styles, as well as the possibility to create any number of combinations of effects for a custom setting and mood from more realistic to styles that emulate a blueprint, watercolor, or pencil sketch. There’s infinite options really for how you could choose to show your render, and what you choose is determined by your intent and what you’re trying to show with your image.

We had a lot of details we wanted to show and so we decided to go in a more realistic direction, setting our scene at an earlier time of day to get more dynamic shadows and a softer, warmer light quality.

Now, it’s important to note that, while I don’t particularly mention any progress in SketchUp in this post, that doesn’t mean no work has been done doing further modeling in that program. Once the models are in Lumion, changes can be made in SketchUp and the models can then be re-imported into Lumion. As long as the file name hasn’t changed, those material changes, object placements, or scene set ups will be maintained.

To place the island a little more into context, I worked on developing a generic skyline background for each of the vantages. Lumion has an application called Open Street Map, in which you can pinpoint your location and Lumion will draw up the surrounding land areas and building footprints, which can be raised up or down to their approximate height.

If we go back into the scene setup workspace and apply a blueprint style, it gives the scene an outline look. This image can be rendered and brought into Adobe Photoshop to be traced and filled, creating a basic skyline silhouette.

Unfortunately, based on Liberty Island’s location, one single grab in Open Street Map wasn’t enough to cover all of the required background skylines, so I had to move that circle and render four different portions of skyline for each vantage. These I brought into Photoshop, reduced to 50% opacity so I could see them all at the same time, and traced and filled them in.

Whether you leave the outlines as a trace, semi-transparent blurred fill, or solid fill, the effect is a general skyline that adds a little more context to our model. We ended up going with a slightly transparency blurred fill, getting a more solid look but one that is less visually dominant – adding context without distracting from the image subject itself.

Other changes can be made in Photoshop too at this point, using the tools available to emphasize certain areas, lighten the image, or clean up any inconsistencies. Once you’re done in Photoshop, you have the final renders.

Final Renders

Now we’ll take a look at some of the final renders to come out of the project.

The goal of the vantage below is to demonstrate changes in the spatial organization of the island as the years progress. In it, you can see how the island’s edge changes over time as the island expands, or how the circulation paths and building concentrations have evolved through the years.


There are 8 vantages total, but I’m only including one more today. In this last vantage, the goal was to highlight that view at the end of the entrance axis to the flagpole and beyond to the city skyline in the 1956 and 2019 models. However, another great aspect that this vantage gives you the opportunity to get a closer look at, is how the island changes in the foreground.

In the earlier models, the water laps right up onto the island’s surface. This is because, at these points in time, the seawall hadn’t yet been constructed for this area of the island. As the year’s progress, the island’s surface is expanded and the foreground fills in.

Immersing myself into the models, from 1840 and on, to visiting the island in the present day has been such a unique and rewarding way of learning about Liberty Island. There’s only so much that can fit into a blog post, but I’d like to note that all of these programs that I’ve used – AutoCAD, SketchUp, Lumion, and Adobe Photoshop – are programs that I just became familiar with in the past year. The workflows I’ve described in these past five posts are just the techniques I’ve used to get from 2D plan to rendered image, but they’re ones that can be applied to any number of other projects or sites should you have the time or opportunity to explore these programs.

What’s left is finishing up the remaining vantages and any last modeling changes – there are 8 total and across six models that really adds up. The process for the rest will be similar – adjusting the Lumion scene and styles, rendering the images, developing and adding the skylines, and finishing up the last touches in Photoshop. As that process will be an echo of this post, I won’t go into any further detail on their process.

As I close, I’d like to give one last thank you to all the members of Team Liberty at SUNY ESF and at the OCLP in Boston – so thank you Aidan Ackerman, Julia Miller, Eliot Foulds, and Bob Page, for all your support, contributions, and guidance throughout the summer and as we move into the final stages of the rendering phase.

And thank you to any readers, friends, and family, who spent the last three months listening to me talk about the island’s materials and walls and stairs (a lot). It’s been an amazing opportunity and I’ve loved having the chance to share it with you all!



Wrapping up, but full speed ahead

Wrapping up, but full speed ahead

Week 10

by: Michelle Dempsey

Over the last couple weeks, I have largely been pulling together the research I have conducted over the past several months.

I have almost finished putting together the biographies necessary for our voting rights activity for fifth graders. Each student will receive a historical person, and the interpreters will be asking students various questions about who is able to vote during what time. I have created a timeline of key dates and events for students, so they can place their person in the appropriate historical context. The goal is to get students to think about what voting looks like when only a small number out of the population is able to vote.

With the education staff, we have come up with a list of 25 people, some more well known than others, who represent various demographics in American society through the 20th century. We have chosen men and women of different socioeconomic statuses, time periods, and races, and each student will randomly choose a historical character to learn about. Most of these people relate in some way to the state of New York. However, we realized that several crucial moments (and people) involved in voting rights history for the U.S. operated outside the realm of this state, especially concerning Native Americans and citizenship. While the Onondaga nation made their opposition to the 1924 Snyder Act (also known as the Indian Citizenship Act) known, we decided to include a Native American man named John Elk from Nebraska who sued for his right to vote in 1883. We have also decided to include Zitkala-Sa, one of the most prolific Native American authors and activists of the 20th century, who fought for Native American and women’s suffrage until the end of her life.

One of the most time-consuming, but important, aspects of this project is including as much information as possible about people history has barely remembered. Rather than simply having a bio card for a “poor white man” or “free black man” in the 19th century, I have been digging, with the help of the staff here at Lindenwald, to find names and stories about people who did not leave much historical evidence behind. For example, we are including two slaves who had passed time at Lindenwald. George was enslaved by the well-known Van Ness family of Kinderhook, who owned the home before Martin Van Buren. George sought his freedom in 1804, which we know from a runaway ad that the students will be able to read for themselves. We have also included Levi, a slave belonging to Henry Clay. Levi is a person interpreted at Lindenwald, for the guest bedroom on the first floor, known as the best bedroom, is set up to resemble Henry Clay’s visit to Lindenwald in 1849. Levi had become truant twice in his life, but he returned both times for reasons unknown. We are hoping to show through these stories that, as enslaved persons, Levi and George had no rights to American citizenship. After the 1857 Dred Scott Case, this status included all African Americans even though increasing numbers of propertied African American men were able to vote leading up to the Civil War.

In between conducting research and finalizing my projects here at Lindenwald, I have also been assisting the curatorial staff around the house. I have been assisting in the ins and outs of light monitoring, Integrated Pest Management, and general handling and caretaking of objects and collections. The following photos show the light reader used to monitor and track the UV light, visible light, temperature, and relative humidity in the many rooms around the house. The more information that is collected, the better the curatorial staff can care for the objects in the house. For instance, UV shades have been installed in most rooms to protect furniture and textiles from harmful light. Tracking which bugs have managed to find their way into the house can reveal if moisture levels are changing. Dusting, sweeping, and vacuuming all help keep objects clean and pest levels down.













We Can Do It: A Brief Look Into the Women of World War II, an Internship Update, and Goodbye

We Can Do It: A Brief Look Into the Women of World War II, an Internship Update, and Goodbye

by: Hannah Marcel

My last few weeks at the Charlestown Navy Yard have been filled with opportunities for learning and engaging in history. A conservator came into the park to do work on objects displayed in the visitor center. The exhibit remained open while this work occurred, providing an opportunity to engage visitors in the process of preservation and giving me a chance to experience this public outreach. During this process I answered visitor questions about the objects and the conservators work. The first to receive attention was a display of foot protection used by Navy Yard workers. A pair of steel toe boots show the safest form of footwear, unfortunately the priciest. A pair of steel toe covers show a cheaper alternative that can be clasped on to a regular pair of boots and still provide protection. Lastly, on display are a pair of regular boots with strips of steel nailed over the toe, even cheaper still, but not an ideal form of protection. The conservator examined the condition of the boots, looking for any signs of deterioration, before performing a light brush vacuuming to clean the boots.

The next object receiving care was an eagle figurehead on display that had been removed from the ship USS Nightingale. The Nightingale was siezed by the United States Navy for participating in the illegal slave trade and repurposed for use during the Civil War. The figurehead was removed following the war. A layer of a shellac like substance appeared to be surrounding portions of the eagle figurehead, possibly covering a gilded decoration underneath that could be seen in certain areas where the outer layer had chipped away. A cleaning test was performed to see if this layer would be removable.

Not all objects in collections are on display, however, and work continued behind the scenes as well. To prepare for an upcoming move, many of the foundry patterns housed in the collection need to be wrapped and boxed. This requires caution in both the handling of the objects as well as recording which box they have been moved to and where in the collection that box is located.

 The highlight of the past few weeks has been the World War II focused event hosted at the Charlestown Navy Yard. The event, titled We Can Do It; Service on the Homefront, showcased the sacrifices needed on the homefront to support the war effort. There was a strong emphasis on the contributions of women during the war with the event being nicknamed “Rosie” or the “Rosie Event” among park staff. This is in reference to historical and feminist icon Rosie the Riveter, which park staff and visitors were encouraged to dress as in keeping with the events theme. A variety of lectures were given by rangers and historians, including how Massachusetts prepared soldiers for the war, and the role of make up in women’s lives during World War II. Ranger led talks explored an on site victory garden, and discussed the actual women that worked in the Navy Yard during the war. The event gave visitors an opportunity to see how the war impacted American society, giving opportunities to those who they had been closed off to previously including women, people of color, and disabled workers. It also provided a look into how production in the Navy Yard, which occurred night and day, contributed to the war effort. 

The park partnered with other parks and historical organizations to provide an education opportunity for all. Members of the 26th Infantry Division, a World War II reenactment group, had a living history tent set up on the lawn of the Commandant’s House. Staff from the Lowell National Historic Park were on site to discuss how the war impacted life in Lowell as well. In the evenings, live bands blasted hits from World War II to accompany a swing lesson followed by a lively dance where visitors could put their moves to the test.

Dive Deeper: Rosie the Riveter and the Women of World War II 

The event gave me a wonderful opportunity to dive into the role of women during World War II as well as the history of the Rosie the Riveter icon. Who did Rosie the Riveter represent? Bright red lips, hair pulled back in a bandana, arm curled up as a sign of strength is a recognizable icon that once served as motivation for women during the war. This rendition of Rosie has become a well known feminist symbol representing the strength of women, especially in the workforce. The image was not widely seen during the war, however, hanging on the wall of a helmet-liner factory for only two weeks. In fact, it wasn’t until a 1982 article about patriotic posters did it’s popularity grow, becoming the feminist symbol that it is today. The nickname referring to the women working in production during the war, Rosie, can likely be attributed to a well known pop song of the era. “Rosie the Riveter,” sung by the Four Vagabonds, was written to showcase the contributions of working women during the war. Norman Rockwell, possibly motivated by the song, painted an image of a working woman with the name Rosie painted on her lunchbox. Both the song and the painting likely cemented the nickname in American society. 

 American pop culture played a significant role in the war effort by encouraging public participation and reflecting the anxiety of the time. Movies, cartoons, and comics educated the public on the importance of supporting the war. War Bonds, food rationing, and victory gardening were all popular topics of discussion. Artists and musicians depicted what life was like on the homefront and abroad as fighting continued. Posters, like the image of Rosie the Riveter, specifically encouraged women to participate. The Women’s Army Corps (WACS), The Navy Women Accepted for Volunteer Services (WAVES), and the Coast Guards Women Reserve (SPARS) all utilized posters to recruit women directly into the military effort. These posters promised a sooner victory and increased safety for the troops if women joined. The women enrolled would serve in a position previously held by men, freeing them up to fight abroad. The women of the WAVES were prohibited from serving overseas, with the exception of Hawaii, and performed crucial tasks on Navy bases at home. These tasks included clerical work, healthcare, radio operating, machine work, parachute rigging, and training men to serve abroad.

 Enrollment in the military was not required to work in production, as a Rosie, and women across the country kept the nation running. Over 8,000 women were employed here in the Navy Yard during the war. The work was not always easy and shifts often lasted 10-12 hours, running 24 hours a day. After long hours of work, many of these women had to return to prepare meals for their families and maintain their household. Childcare was rarely offered to the women, providing another challenge for many working mothers. In some cases, men did not wish to be working alongside the women arguing that they were weaker, more emotional, and ultimately taking a men’s work. On occasion the women would face tricks and harassment from their male peers.  Despite these challenges, the women stepped up to support the nation. This work often gave women a new level of social freedom by providing an income, with many moving to urban areas to work. For some this was the first time they had ever worked, for others it was a new opportunity. The Rosie the Riveter icon has historically ignored the reality of many African American women who faced discrimination for being both African American and women. In many cases African American women, and women of lower social status, had already been working to support their families. Jobs in production provided increased opportunity for them however, with better wages. This work also began breaking down many divides and gave women a chance to interact with people that they likely would not have previously.

 The war began to impact the role of women in the workforce on a larger scale. After victory was won increased amounts of production were no longer needed to support a war. Men were sent back to America, returning to work. Some women desired to remain in the workforce, utilizing the skills they had developed during the war. The nation grappled with the best way to handle this transition, facing many questions. Had the women not sacrificed plenty in their own lives to support the war effort, learning a wider depth of talents? Would it be fair to let them go after all they had done? What about war widows who had families to support? At the same time, hadn’t the agreement been that work would be temporary, a solution for the war and nothing further? Would it be fair to tell a soldier who had also placed his life on hold, and at risk, that his job was not available for him when he got back? A poll taken at the time suggested that 48% of Americans felt the women should be let go, with another 36% believing that they should only stay on if they were war widows or there was plenty of work for men already. Most navy yards and factories agreed and began letting their women workers go, starting with women of color and disabled women.

To learn more about the women who worked her in the Charlestown Navy Yard, visit 

To hear interviews of women who went to work during the war, visit 

Letter Reading, Deciphering, Pondering

Letter Reading, Deciphering, Pondering

Week 8

by: Michelle Dempsey

Over the past couple weeks, I have been conducting a deep dive of letter-reading. The letters I received from the New-York Historical Society are letters written by Christina Cantine, Van Buren’s niece, to her close friend Caroline Ludlow (Frey). The collection itself is part of the Frey Family Papers, the family that Caroline married into in 1828. These letters very much contain what one would expect in correspondence between good friends: local news, gossip, fears, hopes, and remonstrances for not writing more often. However, I am mining Cantine’s letters in particular for material relating to women’s lives and experiences in the antebellum period, the Van Buren family, and anything connected to wider movements or concerns of the day (e.g. the Second Great Awakening and evangelical revivalism, Indian removal, slavery, or women’s socio-political standing).

In reading these letters, I had to overcome a certain level of frustration, as Cantine’s letters were very often almost indecipherable due to her habit of turning her page ninety degrees to continue writing over what she had just written (see image below).

Perhaps one of the most interesting passages I have encountered relates to Cantine’s refusal to live with her uncle in Albany, when Van Buren’s term as US Senator from NY was ending, and his term as state governor would start the following year. These letters unveil her reasons why she declined, as she wrote, “I would cheerfully make a sacrifice of my own feeling for his [Van Buren’s] gratification if I thought I could do it consistently – but do you not think, my friend, that I would be putting myself in the way of temptation by going to Albany – & could I go there & then with confidence pray ‘lead me not into temptation’…. I wish to comply with all his requests…that I may have the greater influence over him & if possible bring him to reflection but I dare not, even to accomplish this desirable object, endanger my own peace & bring guilt on my conscience” (Kinderhook, July 25, 1828). Cantine reveals her reservations for visiting for fear of temptation, but what temptation she refers to is unclear.

Several months later, Cantine wrote again to Frey, as Van Buren had asked her once more to come live with him and his family in Albany. This time, however, she provided a little more context for her reservations and reasons for denial, writing, “I could not consent to live as he would wish to have me – he would expect me to do many things that would be repugnant to my feelings & my principles – He said I might live as retired as I chose except he should expect me to entertain ladies when they came & during the winter he should be obliged occasionally to make evening parties & then of course it would be expected that I should be present, that is, when the ladies visited.” Cantine felt ganged up on by those who attempted to persuade her to stay, and she noted that “I never had my feelings more tried in my life. I hardly knew what was my duty – For a moment I thought perhaps I could be very useful here – perhaps I may do much in restraining John – If I am faithful I may do much for the servants – I thought it may be that I am shrinking from my duty in being so unwilling to stay,” but ultimately, Cantine feared “I might in time take delight in those very things I now consider sinful” (Kinderhook, October 10, 1828). Wile she never clarifies what sinful or tempting “things” she means, Cantine reveals a severe discomfort with aspects of Albany political society. Considering the pious and deeply religious nature of her other letters, I would not be surprised if Cantine opposed the drinking and luxury that accompanied the society of a prominent politician. As hostess to her uncle, Cantine, as Van Buren himself noted, would be responsible for entertaining a group of people whose lifestyle she clearly felt uncomfortable with.

In this situation, Cantine’s religious views come through in a unique way, for many of her letters describe sermons, contain prayers, and discuss the various revivals and church meetings sweeping through New York. As a Sunday School teacher for African Americans, an abolitionist, supporter of temperance and opposer to Indian removal, Cantine’s reform-mindedness informs much of her religiously-inspired daily activities. A long-term stay or visit with the president, playing hostess to state and federal politicians, removed from her many organizations, meetings, and societies, would be sure to disrupt her routine piety and devotion in a way Cantine clearly viewed as dangerous. In these writings about Van Buren we can see Cantine struggle with her feelings about the family she chose (her religious family as a child of God) and the family she was born into (the future president of the United States).

Brief Discussion on Segregation and African American Contributions to the War Effort During World War II

Brief Discussion on Segregation and African American Contributions to the War Effort During World War II

by: Hannah Marcel

The past couple of weeks I have been assisting the museum technician with re-establishing the collections Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan. Having an IPM plan in place protects historical and cultural resources against potential damage caused by pests. Pests include insects or rodents that may feed on or nest in objects, but also moisture pests like mold. Monitoring for these pests is an important part of an IPM plan. This includes setting traps to identify which pests may be in your collection and where they are located. This allows you to take further action in protecting other artifacts in the collection by preventing the spread of the pest and deciding the best course of action in eradicating them. It also gives you a better idea of how to protect against these pests in the future. By changing and monitoring these traps, I am learning what to look out for in order to keep a collection safe.

Another project that I have been working on is planning a collection show and tell program for park staff and volunteers. This would give them a chance to see objects in the collection that are not typically seen and broaden their understanding of the parks cultural resources and the ways that these are maintained. They can use the collection as a resource in their research and interpretation as well. This program will also allow them to understand when and how to connect members of the public with the cultural resource management team for personal research questions or artifact donation questions. To begin preparing for this program I have been working on identifying objects in the collection that may be of interest to the staff and volunteers. After identifying certain objects, research into the history and context of the objects provide a better picture of the ways that they connect to the daily work of volunteers and staff here in the park.

Dive Deeper

The Charlestown Navy Yard, and the USS Cassin Young, have been witness to changes in society and policy throughout history. The Second World War impacted every aspect of American life, including race relations. The experiences of those that worked in the Navy Yard, or served on the Cassin Young, is reflective of these cultural shifts. The Charlestown Navy Yard was established in 1800 at a time when slavery, although illegal in Massachusetts, was still practiced in most of the country. When the USS Cassin Young was commissioned in 1943, the Navy was still segregated. African American men and women made incredible, yet often overlooked, contributions to the war effort all while facing segregation and discrimination at home.

Prior to the Second World War, African American enrollment in the Navy was actively discouraged. Selective recruiting allowed the Navy to maintain a low number of African American soldiers who were only permitted to serve as stewards. A nation at war needs manpower, however, and the Navy was faced with increasing pressure from political activists to open all branches of the Navy to African Americans. After the United States joined the war they decided to do just that, with the exception of the Women’s Naval Reserve. African American women would not be permitted to join until late 1944.

African American enlistees trained in segregated facilities, lived in segregated berthing, and were barred from restaurants and bars that their white counterparts could visit. On the USS Cassin Young, African American soldiers were berthed in the small closet sized room that would later be converted into a barbershop space. Only 10% of a ships crew was permitted to be African American, leaving most enlistees to work on land as construction and dock workers. The Navy pointed to a lack of segregated berthing options onboard as a reason for these restrictions. Political pressure continued to grow, however, and the Navy decided to commission a ship specifically for African American soldiers.

The USS Mason was built here in the Navy Yard and held an almost entirely African American crew. Serving as an escort ship the USS Mason assisted more vulnerable ships across the North Atlantic, navigating storms and German U-Boats. During a particularly brutal storm, the crew escorted the more vulnerable ships in their convoy to safety. When other ships sent to help turned back to harbor, and the storm cracked their deck, the men of the USS Mason repaired the deck and continued to help. The men went above and beyond to serve their country despite racism and segregation they experienced back home. As a result of their bravery the captain of the USS Mason recommended the crew receive a commendation for their efforts but this request was ignored. In 1994 President Clinton recognized the bravery of these men with a commendation, presented to 67 surviving members, after the story of the USS Mason resurfaced.

African American women who contributed to the war effort also faced segregation and discrimination on the homefront. African American WAVES were trained separately from their white counterparts and were sometimes given less desirable jobs. When women all over the country took jobs in factories and navy yards to support the war effort, African American women were barred from many of the jobs. They often faced harsh treatment from their bosses and discrimination from their white counterparts. The hypocrisy of a nation fighting the white supremacist ideals of the Nazi regime while treating their own citizens as inferior based on their race was obvious to many. In 1942, the Double V Campaign emerged, advocating for a double victory for African Americans, one abroad and one at home.

The pressures of war forced barriers to break as the nation needed more manpower. The war effort brought individuals of all different backgrounds together and opened opportunities that had previously been unavailable to many Americans. African American men and women were able to obtain higher paying jobs than those available before the war. People of various backgrounds worked alongside people of different genders, races, class, and physical ability. In July of 1948 President Truman signed executive order 9981, requiring all armed services to begin the process of integration and declaring equal treatment an official policy.

During the Korean conflict, ships were fully integrated and pictures taken on the Cassin Young during the Cold War show white and African American soldiers together. The military, and the country, still had a long way to go. Many African American veterans that fought the white supremacist beliefs of Nazi Germany returned home and fought for Civil Rights in their own country. Despite this the contributions and experience of African American men and women during the Second World War and beyond have historically been ignored. As always the story goes deeper than what I am able to share here and I urge you to continue to research the stories of these men and women.

To read a more in depth post on the men of the USS Mason visit this blog post written by Mary Pat Kelly,, or purchase her book Proudly They Served: The Men of the USS Mason.

To hear the stories of African American women working in World War II please visit












A Change of Pace- Utilizing Special Collections and Visiting Historic Sites in Auburn, NY

A Change of Pace- Utilizing Special Collections and Visiting Historic Sites in Auburn, NY

by: Victoria Elliot

Last week I was very much “on-the-go.” I traveled from Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls to the University of Rochester, the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, NYS Equal Rights Heritage Center, and the Seward House Museum in Auburn. These trips were a welcome change of pace from my typical work schedule, which otherwise consists of mostly sedentary activities.

 I had the opportunity to browse the University of Rochester’s Rare Books and Special Collections library. I was looking to learn more about the Rochester Women’s Rights Convention, held two weeks following the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention. I read through Box 3 of the Isaac and Amy Post Family Papers, and came across some great resources. One of the most interesting letters I read was from John Willis, addressed to his “Esteemed Sister” Amy Post, regarding the Rochester convention.


The letter opens with the following: “I thought when I received that Rochester paper [the North Star] giving an account of the woman’s [sic] convention and of their rights and what they wanted… that I would write to Isaac and and request him to peruade [sic] his wife to try to have a little more stability, and to act more like a sensable [sic] woman.”

Esteemed sister, indeed!

This letter is a great example of the paternalistic attitudes held toward women. This section of the letter doubly admonishes Amy Post- she is attacked for her “inappropriate” behavior, but by stating his plan to address his concerns to Isaac, Amy Post’s husband, John Willis reflects the belief in the husband’s authority and superiority over his wife. The rest of the letter is likewise hostile to the idea of women’s rights, and this sentiment extends to women’s involvement in abolition, temperance, and free soil activities.

The Posts were Spiritualists, abolitionists, and supporters of women’s rights and other social reform movements. Their home was a station on the Underground Railroad in Rochester, NY, and they were close friends of important figures like William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, William C. Nell, Abby Kelley, and Harriet Jacobs. I’ll close this blog post with one of my favorite finds from the University of Rochester’s Isaac and Amy Post Family Papers- in a letter from Frederick Douglass to Amy Post, Mr. Douglass assures her in the fashion of a true agitator:

“The coming Women’s Rights Convention is looked forward to with much interest… I will be on hand if nothing happens.”

(For the full letter: Douglass, Frederick, “Douglass, Frederick. Letter to Amy Kirby Post.,” RBSCP Exhibits, accessed August 12, 2019, )

Deliberating rights: Constitutional Conventions and the Disfranchised

Week 6 – Deliberating rights: Constitutional Conventions and the Disenfranchised

by: Michelle Dempsey

The past couple weeks have been mostly made up of primary research on voting rights in New York. I finished reading through over 900 pages of the 1821 New York State Constitutional Convention (hooray!) and moved on to finish the 1846 convention, which also hovered around 900 pages. Many of the arguments from 1821 again resurfaced in 1846. Should property be necessary as a voting requirement? Should African Americans be entitled to equal privileges as white citizens? While the 1821 convention eliminated most property requirements for white male citizens, black men were still required to possess 250 dollars in order to vote (as I had noted in my previous blog post). The 1846 Convention, edging ever nearer to the upcoming sectional crisis, made concerns about class and race prominent. Some representatives, such as Isaac Burr, believed that “they [the men of the 1821 convention] made a retrograde movement – that they took a step toward the dark ages” and asked, “should this Convention in 1846, take still another step in that direction, by continuing this odious provision, and by disenfranchising another portion of our tax-paying native born citizens?” However, the majority of the men at the convention agreed that the status of African Americans was not, and should not be, equal to white men, and the property requirement remained.

At this convention, the roles and rights of another group of Americans were brought up for discussion: women. In the first couple days of the convention, trouble apparently arose due to men taking up the front row of the women’s gallery, the designated space for women to observe the proceedings of the convention. After a petition was presented on behalf of the women by John Leslie Russell, an argument ensued about how to handle the situation. Some men believed that a few doorkeepers should be placed in order to properly reserve the ladies’ seats because, as Russell noted, “The high consideration in which the sex were held in this country, and should be everywhere, demanded that the privileges which they did enjoy should be fully secured to them.” While many were in favor of protecting the ladies’ gallery in some way, by means of doorkeepers or signs, Benjamin Bruce commented that “he was somewhat suspicious of this new-born zeal of certain gentlemen, veteran members of the legislature, on behalf of the ladies.” Russell made the point that the previous two sessions had appointed doorkeepers, and the delegates resolved to maintain one doorkeeper for the ladies’ gallery for the remainder of the convention. I found this passage particularly interesting, as it highlights the growing role and interest American women were taking in politics as the nineteenth century moved forward. The maintaining a gallery for women, even though still separate from men, meant that women were encouraged to be engaged in politics not only for the sake of their brothers, fathers, and husbands, with whom they were meant to converse and socialize with, but also for their own sake, as men were meant to protect the interests of the women under their care.

The question of women’s rights continued as the convention progressed, this time concerning the property rights of married women. The 1846 convention proceedings reveal a great concern on this topic on behalf of the men present. A proposal was introduced which stated that “All property of the wife owned by her at the time of her marriage and that acquired by her afterwards by gift, devise, or descent or otherwise than from her husband, shall be her separate property.” This proposal meant giving to married women a right they previously did not have under the law: the right to their own property. This issue was contested hotly, and some men noted that “this subject had been before the legislature for many years, and if there was any desire among the people for such a provision, they should have known it.” He went on to note that “this separation of interest and division of property between man and wife, would produce domestic trouble.” However, many others noted that this provision would mean women were protected from profligate husbands, sons, and other male relatives destined to inherit the property women brought to their marriage or obtained after. In the end, the provision passed; however, it was only slowly and sporadically enforced over the ensuing years.

As noted by historian Lori Ginzberg, several petitions by women made their way to the 1846 convention (through their county representatives), which not only asked for married women’s property rights, but also their right to vote. Two years before the momentous Seneca Falls women’s rights convention in 1848, a group of six women from Jefferson County asked of the convention to “extend to women equal, and civil and political rights with men,” invoking the Declaration of Independence as they proclaimed equality of men and women “a self-evident truth” which “is sufficiently plain without argument” (Ginzberg 4). While at least two other women’s petitions made it to the convention, the records were apparently lost in the 1911 Capitol Building fire. Prior to Seneca Falls, women across the state of New York publicly desired to expand the rights promised to them, as citizens, under the founding documents of the United States. The debates about property, voting, rights, privileges, and citizenship which permeated both the 1821 and 1846 constitutional conventions made the problem of women’s citizenship paramount in the years to come, as Americans increasingly pondered which rights women should have. As Ginzberg notes, these women petitioners, and the men they petitioned, knew that “the right to hold property, so long associated with independent citizenship, would alter women’s status as citizens” (Ginzberg 144). The results of the 1846 convention meant that married women could now be considered property holders. If property-holding black men could vote, why not women?



NPS Academy, 2019

Every year a new group of individuals from all over the United States is selected to take part in the NPS Academy.  With varying backgrounds, identities, and experiences these folks initially converge in Grand Teton National Park, a unique place fitting for the unique mission these participants are about to delve into.  In early spring, ACE the NPS and Teton Science Schools co-host an orientation with the purpose of participants getting an immersive understanding of the Agency and community they will work alongside the following summer in a National Park.  The objective of this innovative summer internship experience, paired with spring orientation, is to introduce and connect diverse students, ages 18 to 25 to career opportunities with the NPS.

In 2019, NPS Academy at Grand Teton partnered with American Conservation Experience, Emerging Professional Intern Corps (EPIC).  At ACE EPIC, we support college students and young adults transitioning in their career with professional development opportunities in natural and cultural resource management alongside federal and NGO agencies.  Partnering with the NPS Academy has been an exciting opportunity!  Throughout the season, ACE supported fifteen participants in various internships across the nation.  Pictured below are just a few of the internship opportunities and experiences had through NPS Academy.

Figure 1: Snowshoeing at Orientation in March, 2019.

Figure 2: You’ll need sunglasses for winter in a place like Jackson, Wyoming. High elevation, remoteness, and deep snow can create conditions requiring significant preparation for the outdoor extremes.

Figure 3: Water sampling and fisheries monitoring are some of the many exciting opportunities and wide-ranging internships of NPS Academy.

Figure 4: Trail work is really important for erosion control and hiker safety in a high-use recreation area like Grand Teton National Park.

Figure 5: Swearing in junior rangers!

Figure 6: Data entry is an important component to tracking your efforts and outcomes of your internship.

Figure 7: It is hard to complain about the view here!

Figure 8: Working with local youth and student groups is always a blast.

Figure 9: Trail work can include cutting stone! Did you ever imagine that?

Figure 10: NPS Academy 2019.



















Finalizing the Last of the Inventory

By Clara Chang

These last few weeks of my internship have been very exciting and filled with new experiences! I have been helping my supervisor with her annual museum inventory, which includes all the southeastern parks of North Carolina: Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Wright Brothers National Memorial, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, and Moores Creek National Battlefield. Last week we traveled to Cape Lookout and Moores Creek to finish up the last of the inventory due this week. Both parks were new to me, and I was blown away by the serenity of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, surrounded by crystal clear blue waters. Moores Creek was equally serene, beautifully green and surrounded by lush trees and forest. Both sites were also filled with history and welcoming rangers, eager to share their parks with us.

Figure 1: Lots of travel in my last few weeks!

Last week I also spent some time at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, assisting with archaeological monitoring while maintenance installed new bollards at the entrance road. I also completed photographing the Fort Raleigh archaeological collection at the Museum Resource Center.

Figure 2: Maintenance installing new bollards at the entrance station.

In addition to inventory, I also became familiar with the Interior Collections Management System (ICMS), a database software used by the Department of the Interior for cataloging and accessioning the cultural and natural resources of each park. The past couple of days I was updating the locations and statuses of the museum collections for some of the parks as my supervisor was completing the inventory sheets for each park. Also this week, I went back to Cape Hatteras to reinstall the 20th Anniversary of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse move exhibits in the correct colored exhibit cases with my supervisor and John Havel of the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society. I also began converting slides from the Moores Creek slide collection to JPEG format.

Figure 3: One of my site visits this week

Next week, for my last week, I will most likely continue to work in ICMS, cataloging resources and uploading those Fort Raleigh archaeological photos into the database as well.

These past 11 weeks have been so fulfilling and educational for me. As I begin my graduate studies in Anthropology at NC State, I feel so prepared from this experience with ACE and NPS. I have become more confident in my abilities with cultural resource management, and I would like to thank the Resource Management Division and everyone at the Outer Banks Group Headquarters that made my time here so memorable and inspiring. I am especially grateful to have worked under my supervisor, Jami Lanier. As the Cultural Resource Manager for five parks, she showed me just how capable and talented one person can be when under so much pressure and having so many responsibilities. I am lucky to have learned so much from her and the many people that she works with on a daily basis, as it demonstrates the power of teamwork and strong leadership.








Venturing Through Campus

By Elizabeth Eikmann

Last week I ventured to the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, one of the oldest Universities in the city. I stopped in to visit their Special Collection to discover all kinds of rare images and objects related to suffrage in St. Louis!

One wonderful source I uncovered was the collection of diaries of William Greenleaf Eliot, a founder of the University, St. Louis city civic booster, Reverend, Professor, and very outspoken supporter of women’s suffrage… And he was all these things in the 1860s and 70s! He is one of the small group of men of agency and influence during this time in St. Louis history with surviving record of supporting the developing suffrage movement.

In his diaries there are record of him being invited to attend suffrage meetings, some of which he did and others where he wrote a speech to be read at the meeting in his absence, which he then had published in local newspapers.

Figure 1: Collection of diaries of William Greenleaf Eliot


I also explored the papers of Edna Gelhorn, an active suffragist and later President of the St. Louis chapter of the League of Women Voters. I uncovered telegram records between her and Carrie Chapman Catt, well-known suffragist activist and founder of the League of Women Voters and President of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association and her “Honor Roll” certificate of recognition for her dedication to the suffrage movement and political activism.

Figure 2: The papers of Edna Gelhorn

There were also some wonderful images from Gelhorn’d 85th birthday celebration, which took place at the St. Louis League’s headquarters in the Central West End (a St. Louis neighborhood). Check out those awesome posters hanging in the background!

Figure 3: Edna Gelhorn’s 85th birthday!

On my way out of the library one day, I happened upon this awesome “mini”-exhibition: true in every sense, as the display was dedicated to miniature books! Reading Shakespear is hard enough, never mind trying to do it in 3 point font!

Figure 4: A mini exhibit of Shakespeare

My journey also took me to the Mercantile Library, the oldest library in the city of St. Louis. There I found a book The Minor Family of Virginia, a genealogy dive of the Minor family published by a descendant in 1922. There I found mention of both Virginia Louisa Minor and Francis Minor. This source was invaluable in tracing their own family history…I discovered that Francis Minor’s parents were first cousins and that he is the second cousin of the father of Virginia (who will later become his wife). They’re also both related to the Meriwether and Lewis families (of the Lewis and Clark fame!).

This was a tough one to look through…everyone shares the same last name, names their kids after ancestors, and even…gives their kid the same first and last name! How confusing! (See number 4 on this list…Minor Minor…oh, my!)

Figure 5: Findings at the Mercantile library

In the coming weeks, I’ll dive back into the genealogy of the Minor family to (hopefully!) discover Virginia and Francis’s descendants, continue work at the Mercantile library, and pay a visit to the State Historical Society.