Blog

Speciality Blog

Viewing posts from the Speciality Blog category

Behind the Scenes at Wildlife Refuges

Behind the Scenes at Wildlife Refuges

By: Kylie Campbell and James Puckett

Growing up we both spent lots of time at wildlife refuges, and always had the impression that these areas were largely left to function on their own with little human intervention. The first two months of our cross country tour of the National Wildlife Refuge System have opened our eyes to how wrong we were!  We’ve had the pleasure of serving alongside staff members “behind the scenes” at multiple refuges and we are proud of how we’ve helped wildlife and improved visitors’ experiences on the refuges. The wide array of management strategies that we’ve seen have changed our perspectives dramatically and given us a deeper appreciation for the hard work that refuge staff puts in for the benefit of communities and wildlife.

The first refuge we visited was Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Minnesota. This refuge is home to a diversity of species from beavers and muskrats to herons and sandhill cranes. At Sherburne we got our first glimpse at how important public lands are to the communities around them. One couple was particularly memorable; they visited the refuge almost every day that we were out sampling and they were so excited to share their favorite memories and photos of the refuge with us.

James surveys a visitor at Sherburne NWR. The prairie on the right side of the road shows evidence of the recent prescribed fire while the left side of the road shows how quickly plants regenerate after an earlier burn. May 2018. Photo by: Kylie Campbell

When we arrived at Sherburne NWR, refuge staff was just finishing a prescribed burn. It was fascinating to learn about the benefits of fire and rewarding to share this knowledge with curious visitors. It was astounding to see how fast the plants grew back in just the two week period that we spent there. The prescribed burns help maintain the native Oak Savannah habitat that has been diminished from 50 million acres prior to European settlement to less than 30,000 acres currently. Restoring this fire-dependent habitat is critically important for many endangered and threatened species. Fire is key to these restoration efforts because it opens up the canopy and removes invasive species. We learned that after refuge staff burns an area, they often reseed it with native wildflower seeds to help restore prairie habitat. We never would have guessed the level of planning and management that goes into these systems!

Also at Sherburne, we were able to shadow the biologist while he did rounds to check the water levels and adjust the water control structures as needed in various pools across the refuge. We learned how different bird species and their food sources need precise water levels, and laughed with the biologist when he described how beavers often disagree with the water management plans and attempt to dam up the water control structures.

Views and 4-legged visitors at Portland-Vancouver refuges. June 2018. Photos by: Kylie Campbell

While all refuges are unique, something all of them have shared is the deep connections that visitors make to these spaces: we met a woman at Ridgefield NWR in Portland, OR who truly embodied this connection. She spent a while talking with us and she got emotional when she discussed how blessed she feels to be able to experience the wildlife at the refuge, from playful river otters to magnificent bald eagles. Her genuine gratitude was heartwarming and really opened our eyes to how the refuge system connects people to the natural world. Tualatin River NWR, also in Portland, is a great example of the importance of refuges to people in the area. It’s creation began with a grassroots effort in the community, when the people in the area recognized how quickly their open spaces were being developed. In 1990 a local citizen proposed the creation of a wildlife refuge, and the refuge was created two years later when a couple donated the first 12 acres of land to USFWS. The public continues to be heavily involved in the restoration efforts at Tualatin River NWR.

We worked alongside a team of volunteers at Dungeness NWR to trap and remove invasive European Green crabs. July 2018.

The third refuge that we visited in the Portland area was Steigerwald Lake NWR. The behind the scenes work at this refuge is still in the planning process, but will dramatically improve habitat for salmon and other wildlife once completed. Currently, the refuge is separated from the Columbia River by a large dike. Refuge staff are planning to breach part of this dike and restore connections between the Columbia River and its floodplain to improve habitat. It sure will be exciting to visit this refuge in the future and see how wildlife responds to these improvements!

While working on invasive green crab removal we spotted a Giant Pacific Octopus washed up in the mudflats. July 2018.

Across the refuges that we have visited we have been astounded by the effort that volunteers put in to help support the refuge. Without the hardworking hands of refuge volunteers, many refuge programs and projects would not be possible. In fact, a staff member at Dungeness NWR told us that last year their group of volunteers contributed enough hours to equal the time of five full time staff members.

It has been an amazing learning experience to understand and help with all of the different projects that go on behind the scenes in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Our experiences have shown us that management actually has a large role in ensuring that habitat is ideal for a diverse range of wildlife species and we’re looking forward to learning more as we visit more refuges!

Kylie Campbell

USFWS NWR Visitor Survey Intern

Kylie is recent Virginia Tech graduate with a passion for public land conservation and outdoor recreation. Kylie Campbell grew up playing in the streams on her family’s farm in Virginia, and this lifelong interest in water inspired her to pursue a degree in Water: Resources, Management, and Policy. Kylie aims to use her degree to understand and protect America’s water resources through a career in public service.

James Puckett

USFWS NWR Visitor Survey Intern

James Puckett is a also a recent Virginia Tech graduate. He is an avid outdoorsman and spends all his free time outdoors. He grew up on the tidal wetlands of North Carolina experiencing wildlife within estuaries. He studied Political Science and has two minors in Environmental Policy and Planning and Public Urban Affairs. He hopes to implement long lasting policies to improve natural areas and to protect nature for future generations to come.

As the Birds Fly

As the Birds Fly

by: Justin Gole & Nicole Stagg

We will be spending our time traveling along the Eastern Shoreline and the Midwest, and telling the story of how we migrate from refuge to refuge. Our trek across the country began with a 3-day drive from Fort Collins, CO to Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in New Orleans, LA. The first night on the road, we caravanned with another team heading to Hagerman NWR in Texas. A night of campfire songs and s’mores was a great way to kick off the survey season! The next morning we drove most of the day, stopping at Wichita Falls for a short side trip. As the sun set that night at Tyler State Park in Texas, we could hardly sleep in anticipation of arriving at our first refuge!

Nicole in front of historic Wichita Falls. March 2018. Photo: Nicole Stagg

We arrived at Bayou Sauvage having traveled more than 1,300 miles. To put that into perspective, the previously endangered brown pelican, the state bird of Louisiana, can only travel about 300 miles in the same amount of time.

Bayou Sauvage is the 2nd largest urban refuge, located within New Orleans city limits, right on Lake Pontchartrain. Most visitors come to the refuge for birding, fishing, or exploring the trails. We were amazed to see the before and after pictures of the devastation that Hurricane Katrina caused to the old growth forest but the refuge staff and volunteers have done amazing work rebuilding the area. We got to contribute to the effort by participating in a cleanup day and left New Orleans with confidence that the refuge is on the mend!

Justin helping to collect trash at the Crabbing Bridge at Bayou Sauvage NWR. March 2018. Photo: Nicole Stagg

Our 560-mile drive from Bayou Sauvage to Okefenokee NWR (in Native tongue “land of the trembling earth”) was completed in one day; this distance would have been a 2-day trip for the local Sandhill crane. Compared to Bayou Sauvage, Okefenokee is definitely a rural refuge. The clear night skies are well known, and people travel from around the world to gaze at the night stars, as well as see the gators and carnivorous plants. Okefenokee had Michigan native Justin trembling a little bit. While we saw over half a dozen alligators at Bayou Sauvage, that was nothing compared to Okefenokee where there are an estimated 100,000 gators on the more than 400,000 acres of refuge land!

Adult male alligator sunbathing at Okefenokee’s west entrance Stephen C. Foster State Park. April 2018. Photo: Nicole Stagg

We had a great time at the refuge, attending a pizza and bonfire night for volunteer appreciation and frequently embarking on late night quests to find reptiles such as water and corn snakes.

We left Okefenokee and traveled 700 miles in two days, winding up at Crab Orchard NWR, which was established in 1947 as a haven for nesting Canada geese. The geese could have made the trip in less than one day, but we took a break and spent a beautiful evening with our supervisor Katie Lyon at Cheatham Lake outside Nashville, TN.

After our brief pit stop and reunion, we were welcomed into the tight knit community of Crab Orchard NWR. We were lucky enough to be invited to the annual volunteer banquet at Giant City Lodge (which was featured in the movie “Gone Girl”). The highlights of the evening included learning that volunteers contributed 20,853 hours during 2017, a trivia competition about the refuge, and a dazzling, customized rendition of “You’ve Got a Friend” by one of the members of the local Friends group sung to the refuge manager.

High water at Crab Orchard Lake Dam after a week of rain. April 2018. Photo: Nicole Stagg

Crab Orchard NWR is a fisher’s paradise with three large lakes. A lake-record breaking 11.79 pound bass was caught the weekend before we came into town! Locals speculated that in order for a fish that big to be present, someone must have caught some bass in Florida, brought them up to Illinois and released them into the lake.

Our next refuge was Blackwater NWR in Maryland, where we managed to see a screech owl sticking its head out of a tree, several bald eagles, and osprey nesting over the water our first day when Blackwater Visitor Services Manager Ray was showing us around the refuge. Blackwater is home to 30-40 nesting pairs of bald eagles, and a couple hundred come to the refuge during summer months for feeding. The bald eagles roam the skies, traveling over 125 miles a day in search of food, so if you visit you will certainly see some if you pay attention!

During our time at Blackwater, Justin went out fishing several times to try and curtail the invasive snakehead population. Nicole went out on the Wildlife Drive most mornings determined to capture a better picture of the screech owl — and was met with success!

The Eastern Screech Owl at Blackwater NWR that Nicole was determined to get a photo of. May 2018. Photo: Nicole Stagg

We also had the chance to take a trip to Assateague National Park to see the wild horses, and stopped at Crabcake Factory USA for crab cakes.

Wild horses found on the entrance road to Assateague National Park. May 2018. Photo: Nicole Stagg

All in all, our adventure so far has been better than we could have imagined and we are excited to share it going forward!

Justin Gole

USFWS NWR Visitor Survey Intern

Justin graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2015 with a Bachelors in Accounting. He spent a few years in Management for Huntington National Bank before making the shift towards following his passion for the great outdoors and leaving the world a better place than he found it.

Nicole Stagg

USFWS NWR Visitor Survey Intern

A south Louisiana girl, Nicole graduated from Louisiana State University (LSU). She majored in Natural Resource Ecology and Management with a focus in Wildlife Habitat. Last summer she served as an intern at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia and fell in love with the Refuge System. Nicole is interested in pursuing a career in human dimensions and environmental education.

Hello from the East Bay!

Hello from the East Bay!

by: Marjorie Anne Portillo

Hello all! First, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Marjorie Anne Portillo and I am the Museum Technician Intern for the National Park Service in Contra Costa County, CA. I graduated from California State University, Chico with a degree in Social Science and am now continuing my studies in Library and Information Technology. I have a great interest in working with archives and preserving cultural resources so I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn from the Cultural Resources team here!

What I really like about my internship here is the fact that I get to serve not one, but FOUR different National Park Sites!

These sites are:

I mainly work out of the Rosie the Riveter Headquarters office in Richmond, CA but there are times where I will be visiting the other three parks as well. It’s kind of funny… because I was born and raised in the Bay Area and was never aware that these awesome National Park sites were out here – it’s such a shame, really! But thankfully from this position, I now know – and for the next few weeks, I will get to learn more and more about each site as each day goes by!

Of Lost Conversations

During my first week, I had the opportunity to familiarize myself with two sites: Rosie the Riveter/WWII NHP and John Muir NHS. I was able to walk around a bit and check out a few of the exhibits at each site. I even learned how to complete a few housekeeping and environmental duties in John Muir’s house! But more on that later – because there is one experience in particular that I would really like to share with you all.

While at Rosie the Riveter, I attended one of the very popular programs held there: ”Of Lost Conversations” led by Ranger Betty Soskin. Betty Soskin, at 96–almost 97, is the oldest Ranger in the National Park Service. She spoke to us about her life during World War II in the East Bay. She explained that she was not a Rosie and made it very clear that not every woman’s experience in WWII was similar to the “Rosie Story”. As an African American woman, she had quite a different perspective and shared her personal experience as a file clerk in an all-black union hall during WWII.

Contrary to popular belief, there actually were women that had already entered the workforce way before WWII. Some African American women (like Soskin’s great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother) have been working ever since slavery. According to Soskin, it was pretty much impossible for a black family to support themselves with just one income. The Rosie Story was, in her words, “a white woman’s story.” However, she did not want to discredit the Rosie Story because that was their truth. And there were in fact some African American Rosies. But she wanted to emphasize how important it was that she shared her story because “what gets remembered is a function of who’s in the room doing the remembering.”
This statement really made an impact on me because this reminded me exactly why I wanted to enter the field of archiving and preserving cultural resources.

When it comes to history, we tend to learn about important (and more popular) events and movements that have been told and retold for years. But when it comes to people in the minority, who gets to speak for them–especially if some are no longer around to tell their story? This is where artifacts and manuscripts come into play. We can look into these cultural resources and interpret them to tell us the story of what occured during their time. And by creating exhibits in museums and displaying them to the public, we are able to enable society to do the remembering for them.

Attending Betty Soskin’s program was a very eye-opening experience for me. It honestly was the perfect way to start my internship. And I totally suggest you attend one of them if you are ever in the area!

Introduction to the EUON Manuscript Project

Now, let’s talk about my internship project! My main project for this internship is the digitization and transcription of manuscripts from the Eugene O’Neill NHS Museum collection. For those that are not aware of who exactly Eugene O’Neill is, here is a brief introduction — Eugene O’Neill is a famed playwright that is considered the “father of modern American Drama”. He was awarded four Pulitzer Prizes and is the only American playwright to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. He and his wife, Carlotta, lived in Danville, CA from 1937 to 1944. The house they lived in, called Tao House, is now the focal point of the Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site. More information can be found here.

Many of these manuscripts consist of letters that have been written or sent to either Eugene O’Neill himself or the people that surrounded him like his wife Carlotta or his driver/friend Herbert Freeman. Through these letters, we are be able to get more insight on the life Eugene O’Neill lived. I have started digitizing and transcribing a few of these letters and I must say that these letters have been quite interesting to read! It does require a bit of detective work since I’m an outsider look into their private lives. There are names and nicknames I am unfamiliar with and I often find myself trying to conduct some research to piece together who and what each letter is about. Each letter, to me, is a small piece to the bigger puzzle of Eugene O’Neill’s life and I am really looking forward to reading the rest of these letters! I will definitely keep you all posted as I go. To be given the opportunity to handle these letters and play a role in the preservation of Eugene O’Neill’s life is truly a dream come true.

Eugene O’Neill (right) pictured with his wife, Carlotta (left) – Image Courtesy of Eugene O’Neill NHS.

Museum Technician Duties

In addition to working on the EUON manuscripts, I have also been assisting the Cultural Resources staff with various tasks. During my first two weeks I have assisted Virginia, the Museum Technician for the four parks, with tasks such as IPMs (Integrated Pest Management), inventory, various housekeeping duties, and environmental readings. I will talk more about this in my next blog post!

Two weeks have definitely flown by and I am enjoying every single minute of it. I am learning something new each day I come in. The Cultural Resources staff here–Isabel, Ann, Virginia, and Paul–have all been very helpful and I definitely don’t see myself wanting to spend my summer with anybody else!

Checking Parks Off My NPS Bucket List!

Checking Parks Off My NPS Bucket List!

by: Mariah Walzer

In case you missed it, Independence Day was about two weeks ago. One of the perks of working for the federal government is getting federal holidays off. Between that and my regular work schedule, I ended up with a five-day weekend to do as I pleased. So I packed my bag and headed off to North Carolina to visit family.

Well, being a National Park nerd, I couldn’t resist visiting a few parks along my way. I joked that instead of trying to get out of the office for vacation, I just transfer locations! During this North Carolina trip, I stopped at Petersburg National Battlefield and Fredericksburg National Battlefield, both in Virginia.

Reenactors drilling before an artillery demonstration at Petersburg National Battlefield.

Petersburg National Battlefield preserves sites associated with the longest siege in American warfare. Union troops under General Ulysses S. Grant laid siege to the town of Petersburg from June 15, 1864 to April 2, 1865, just six days before Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, ending the Civil War.

A replica of the “Dictator” – the giant of all cannons that could fire a 225 lb. shell up to 2 miles. This humungous cannon was used during the seige of Petersburg, but it really wasn’t all that militarily effective.

It simply isn’t allowed to visit a battlefield without taking an abundance of cannon pictures.

The park is divided into three main areas. I only toured the Eastern Front, which includes several earthwork defenses, a recreation of a siege encampment, and the Crater. Aside from its fame as the longest siege, the Crater is perhaps Petersburg’s most defining feature. The Battle of the Crater occurred when Union troops dug a tunnel under the Confederate line and exploded it early in the morning. Despite the initial devastation, poor leadership and communication lead to a staggering loss for the Union as their troops were caught in the same crater they had created.

A reconstructed model of a seige encampment defenses at Petersburg.

Today, the Crater is somewhat filled in with dirt and grass, but it is still easy to see how much damage was done.

The entrance to the tunnel Union troops dug to plant the explosives underneath the Confederate line.

I made a very quick stop at Fredericksburg National Battlefield, which also consists of several sections – actually four separate battlefields and the “Stonewall” Jackson Shrine. In my visit, I only explored the Sunken Road and the cemetery at the Fredericksburg Battlefield.

The Sunken Road – The Confederate Army chose this position to fight from due to the cover provided by the dip in the ground and the stone wall (reconstructed on the left). Despite multiple assaults, the Union Army never made it within 50 yards of the wall.

In addition to the battlefields I explored on this trip, I also visited Antietam National Battlefield, Gettysburg National Military Park, and Valley Forge National Historical Park during other weekends. I even spent some time at Manassas National Battlefield’s museum when I helped with shovel tests in the park a few weeks ago. Eight parks down; four hundred nine to go!

A line of cannons and the State of New York monument at Antietam National Battlefield.

The Dunkard Church was heavily contested during the Battle of Antietam. Ironically, the Dunkers were a Protestant sect well-known for their pacifism. The original church collapsed during a storm in 1921; the current building was reconstructed using as much original material as possible for the 100th anniversary of the battle in 1962.

The Cyclorama is a massive, circular oil painting by Paul Dominique Philippoteaux that artistically depicts the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

The United States Flag in 1861 – The stars for the eleven states of the Confederacy were never removed because the Union never recognized the right of these states to secede.

The view from Little Round Top is one of the most iconic views at Gettysburg. Holding this high ground was a top priority for General Meade and his Union troops.

Visiting Valley Forge National Historic Park – my first Revolutionary War park of the summer!

Inside Washington’s Headquarters at Valley Forge.

Now, despite all the fun, I promise I did actually do some work these past two weeks. We continued our ASMIS surveys to check on the known sites in the park. I also focused on identifying the projectile points and other stone tools from a collection donated to the park. These lithic artifacts have no provenience (meaning we don’t know where exactly they came from), so they will be used as educational aides instead of going to the Museum Resource Center with the rest of Monocacy’s artifacts. I am just beginning work on creating that educational presentation.

So many projectile points to identify!

This particular tool is cool because each edge exhibits a different flaking technique. One edge is unifacial, meaning flaked only on one side; the longest edge is bifacial, meaning flaked on both sides; and the bottom edge has shallow surface flakes and a rough but relatively straight edge. The bottom edge may have been a tool itself or possibly where the tool was hafted on to a piece of wood.

One of the things that can make identifying projectile points difficult is that the blades are often resharpened over and over again, making them smaller and sometimes changing their shape altogether.

Time to get back to work for me!

Sweetgrass

Sweetgrass

by: Colleen Truskey

Greetings from Salem, Massachusetts! My name is Colleen Truskey, and this summer I will be joining ACE’s Cultural Resources Diversity Internship Program (CRDIP).

Prior to this internship I had never been to New England. I was raised in Roanoke, Virginia and later attended William & Mary, located on the opposite side of the state. After I graduated in May of 2017, I spent a year working dual fellowships with the National Audubon Society and my alma mater’s Center for Geospatial Analysis. Now that I have joined ACE, I will be working for the Northeast Regional Office of the National Park Service as a GIS (geographic information systems) intern.

This makes my situation somewhat unique. Unlike many of my fellow interns, I am not working on a project for any one specific park. Rather, I have been assigned to create a GIS that depicts NPS units throughout the Northeast Region and how tribal areas of interest interact with those lands. The resulting application, likely an interactive web-based map, will be used to better inform both tribal and park leadership of key contacts on either side. My partner on this project is Cody O’Dale, a fellow CRDIP intern based out of Idaho.

Cody O’Dale and I at Boott Cotton Mills in Lowell, MA for our preliminary “kick-off” in late June.

The Custom House (left) and the Hawkes House of Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Salem Maritime NHS was gracious enough to offer me office space for the duration of my internship. Thanks, Salem Maritime!

I have been working now for two weeks, long enough to get a better sense of what my days will actually look like. There have been plenty of meetings, and many hours spent familiarizing myself with relevant materials from other federal offices—the Forest Service, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Federal Communications Commission, among others. With few exceptions, most offices are obligated by law to consult with tribal communities on projects that have the potential to impact tribal land, so it is no surprise that there are a number of extant lists and applications out there intended to help make the process easier. Unfortunately, none of these products exactly meet the needs of the Northeast Region; hence the work Cody and I have been assigned.

This is a technical internship, so I will be spending the vast majority of my time in front of a computer working with specific software programs that will allow me to organize and visualize data on public and tribal lands. Fortunately, my supervisor, Dr. David Goldstein (head of Tribal and Cultural Affairs for the Northeast Region), has several trips planned so I can see what consultative work actually looks like at parks. The first trip was last weekend, when we drove up to Acadia National Park.

First designated as such in 1919, Acadia is the oldest National Park this side of the Mississippi River. The park is made up of several islands and peninsulas off of the coast of Maine, home to striking coastal views. Think seawater rhythmically drumming against a plateau of ancient eroded stone; slender blue irises and wild roses bursting forth in abundance from the crags; pine, fir, and birch growing straight and tall over it all. We were not there to tour the sights, however, but rather to attend a daylong meeting between park representatives and tribal members where the topic of discussion was sweetgrass.

Some of the scenery on Schoodic Point, within Acadia National Park.

Some of the scenery on Schoodic Point, within Acadia National Park.

Sweetgrass is not a “flashy” plant. It is a fairly common grass, actually, that grows predominantly in and around marshes and wetlands in northern Europe and North America. Historically, a number of indigenous communities gathered sweetgrass, valued for its fragrance, medicinal qualities, and long leaf blades used in the creation of baskets and other household goods. As a result of increased development, environmental degradation, and fragmented landownership, contemporary gatherers have found it far more difficult to harvest the plant in a safe and sustainable way.

Hence the meeting in Acadia National Park. At the Schoodic Institute, located within Acadia near Schoodic Point, sweetgrass gatherers from the Mi’kmaq (Lnu), Maliseet (Wolastoqiyik), Passamaquoddy (Pestəmohkat), and Penobscot (Penawapskewi) nations met with researchers and park representatives to discuss harvesting sweetgrass within Acadia’s boundaries. The gatherers have been harvesting the plant within the park for a couple of years now under the auspices of local researchers, all in an effort to secure permanent harvest rights. Eventually they will need to prepare a report with their findings, draft a plan for how harvesting will be managed, and submit it to park authorities for approval, a process that could take some time.

The meeting was held largely to prepare everyone for the next steps and present the data that had been collected so far, all of which appeared to confirm what the gatherers had long been asserting—the plant grows better after being harvested. More specifically, the plant grows better after being harvested according to long-practiced indigenous methodologies. The room lit up when the results were announced; one participant declared, “science is finally catching up to us.”

Such validation has been hard-won. The National Parks, “the best idea America ever had,” did not come into being uninhabited. The “crown jewels” of the nation were carved out of indigenous homelands, crudely—and often violently—separated from the peoples who originally helped to shape these landscapes and who were in turn shaped by them. This was done to the detriment of all, including the parks themselves. Indigenous knowledge can better inform our understanding of the landscapes we now inhabit and render us better stewards of the places that define America in the popular imagine. More importantly, incorporating indigenous stories, values, and peoples is the right thing to do. Yet only recently have we begun to “catch up.”

Another view off of the coast of Schoodic Point, within Acadia National Park in Maine.

I had no direct role in the meeting at Acadia; my sole responsibility was to listen. Nevertheless, I saw a clear connection to the project I am currently working on. By making it easier for tribes and parks to “find each other,” more meetings like the one in Acadia can occur, and more historical wrongs can be righted. Horrible mistakes have been made, and the goal—at the very least—is to not make them again.

With that in mind, I am ready and anxious to continue the work. ‘Til next post!

Your Friendly Neighborhood Archaeologist

Your Friendly Neighborhood Archaeologist

by: Alicia Gonzales

It’s your friendly neighborhood archaeologist writing in from Ohio. I can’t believe it’s already the conclusion of week 3! In a nut shell my experience thus far has been nothing short of a whirlwind.

Welcome sign to Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CUVA)

CUVA is a beautiful urban park with a great diversity of cultural and natural resources. With this diversity of resources and scarcity of resources in which to address all the needs (which I feel is fairly common amongst land management agencies), inevitably I’ve seen this park attempt to meet this challenge with enthusiasm. Given the size geographically, the staff here is a relatively small and tight knit group. All the folks I have met so far, have shown me a great deal of kindness and general interest in my contributions to come. So far Bill and I (Bills my mentor here at the park, Historian, Story Teller, Planner extraordinaire, NEPA and section 106 champion and all around great guy), have hit the ground running with every new curve ball that seems to come our way. We’ve had an opportunity to survey a few properties, meet with local farmers and entrepreneurs while assessing the status of historic structures within the Historic Landscape.

Historic Lock located in CUVA

We are a team of two in the cultural resource division and although my time here is limited I hope to be as great an asset as possible. My days have varied greatly, sometimes I’m indoors crouched over a desktop computer, pouring over old maps or I’m walking up a trail in the humidity, with muddy boots.

Happy intern ensuring she has proper PPE on while working in hazardous environment

The park staff and Bill, have truly welcomed me into the fold and I am most grateful for this easy transition. As a personal goal for myself, to my new colleagues, and from the words of CUVA Superintendent, who told me to “Have some fun this summer…” I am making it my mission to do dynamic and effective work, while injecting some fun into the lives of those I come into contact here in CUVA. Cheers!

Mushrooms! Example of some natural resources

Introducing Sherlock ‘Helms’

Introducing Sherlock ‘Helms’

by: Danielle Kronmiller

My color-coded note packet containing the locations of and information on the remaining accessions inventory

Approaching the halfway point of my internship with Boston National Historical Park, the progress of the collections inventory has surpassed that mark across the three sample lists – controlled property, random sample, and accessions. All in all, by my best estimation, I have helped physically locate more than 700 items in the collections so far! The controlled property and random sample inventories are generally straightforward and are growing nearer and nearer to completion, which is a very satisfying bit of progress. The accessions portion of the inventory has proven to be the most challenging, and therefore most stimulating part of the inventory process. As it turns out, collections inventory can feel quite like detective work at times, and I am starting to feel a bit like a bonafide Sherlock ‘Helms’. Navy Yard? Ship puns?…Forgive me?

A list of over one hundred catalog numbers for an accession of battle helmets from the USS Cassin Young. Each one has to be located!

The accessions inventory, by its nature, does not always include catalog numbers for items or straightforward location information. Some accessions are only partially cataloged (sometimes not at all), very large, or stored in different locations – or even partially cataloged, very large, AND stored in different locations. This is when accession files and catalog cards, which I mentioned in my first post, become even more precious. Typically, my day as an intern consists of a continuous process of alternating between physically locating items and doing research on their location to facilitate this. Sometimes, the curator and I will check a location that is supposed to house a specific item, but the object in question is nowhere to be found. When this happens, I go back in to records and notes, further researching other possible locations; occasionally, a location will be listed incorrectly in the computer, but is accurate on the catalog card, and vice versa. All of these discrepancies are noted and corrected on the inventory lists, and it is always very satisfying to finally check off a particularly difficult accession as ‘found’! This process of continuous research and cross-reference predictably generates an impressive amount of handwritten notes, but – as my stack of notes continues to grow and my pencil continues to shorten – each successful location brings us one step closer to completing the annual inventory!

As my note pile grows, my pencil dwindles. It was nearly brand new when we started!

Looking small, but lovely, among modern skyscrapers, the Old State House was once one of the largest and most imposing buildings in Boston

Since my last post, I have made many more visits to other cultural sites around Boston. Though they all stand out, I wanted to highlight a few more that left a particular impression. First to come to mind is the Old State House, where the Declaration of Independence was first read to Bostonians in 1776 and outside of which the Boston Massacre occurred. It is now operated as a museum with well-done exhibits chronicling the early revolutionary history of this nation. However, what particularly struck me was an exhibit on the top floor that dealt with the major question that is often posed to museums and historic sites: why is this being preserved? It addressed the various things that make particular items ‘worth’ the cost and effort of conserving and interpreting them, and noted that, for many of the significant historical sites around Boston, it has often been the initiative of the community that has ensured their survival. For me, it served as an inspiring reminder of the value of the career I have chosen to pursue!

I also visited the National Park Service’s own Bunker Hill Museum and, yes, climbed the monument – all 294 stairs (worth it, but I’ll spare you the exhausted selfie!). The interpretation of the exhibits in the museum is fantastic, but I particularly enjoyed seeing items from BNHP’s collection on display, putting the work I am doing on the collections inventory into a more public context. Further on in the inventory process, I will be back at the Bunker Hill Museum, as many of the objects on display appear on the lists!

Partial view of the exhibit on the Battle of Bunker Hill on the second floor of the Bunker Hill Museum. The exhibits on the first floor focus on the monument and the history of Charlestown. The Bunker Hill Monument always makes for an impressive picture – and a great navigational point!

I want to mention one final visit before signing off for now – the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. All of my previous visits in the area had been to historical museums and sites, so I really enjoyed the fresh experience of discovering such an extensive fine arts collection. I spent an entire day making my way through the many galleries, viewing art from all over the world. The MFA has a particularly impressive collection of American art, much of it to do with Boston and its revolutionary history. This made me think about the numerous ways different museums and collections create unique experiences for visitors. Individuals can have a more personally meaningful learning experience when looking through different lenses; one person may prefer a tour of the USS Constitution, while another better appreciates a painting of the famous ship out at sea. Museums of all kinds offer such a variety of experience, and I am so grateful that I have to opportunity to explore the incredible sites and institutions of Boston.

One of the many incredible galleries at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Yachts and Tannins

Yachts and Tannins

by: Alexa Rose

Hi! This is Alexa again the ACE/CRDIP intern from the San Francisco Maritime Museum. For the past two weeks I have really delved into my research with the yacht “Ku’uipo”. The Baby Bird/Golden Gate class yacht “Ku’uipo” was designed to be a racing yacht based on the original Bird class design. It was originally made we think in 1937 by George Wayland, which I found the original receipt for the vessels construction. It has been hours of pouring through yachting magazines of the time, architectural folders and yachting yearbooks as seen below with me in the park’s library.

I have also been searching through all the local newspapers looking for any mention of the yacht. I was able to find many articles featuring the yacht’s racing history and all of her numerous wins (see below for some of the articles I found)! It is absolutely incredible to look through the pages of history and find an artifact I work on everyday.

I plan to continue researching this craft by going through the original architects folders more and then finally writing the history up in a final artifact report for the vessel. But, within conservation not all the work is researching in libraries. On a daily basis I can go from doing work with tanic acid to prevent rust (pictured below), putting borates in the vessel to prevent wood rot or simply trying to find the best way to photograph the vessel (also pictured below)

My day to day life is varied and full of adventure. One of my favorite parts of the week has been talking to the lead conservator about tannic acid. I thought it was really interesting that the natural tannins in trees could help prevent the natural rust. It foams and becomes black when it is ready (see below for a demonstration). This is what we use to treat all of the bolts in the Ku’uipo before it’s conservation is complete to preserve the historic fabric and provide future care for the metal.

I can not express how much joy it gives me to care for this piece of history. Every day I remember I am helping future generations be able to see and understand these artifacts. As so much of our history fades every day it is reassuring to know that I can help this artifact survive.

Where Do Artifacts Go?

Where Do Artifacts Go?

by: Mariah Walzer

These past two weeks have been a jumble of different duties and experiences, so trying to find a theme for this week’s blog post felt a little daunting. But then I realized that much of the work centered on what happens to artifacts and other objects after they are discovered.

For example, I spent a day doing my best to identify the artifacts we found during our surveys the last few weeks. As I mentioned in my previous post, identifying the types of projectile points can be very useful, because the types can suggest or confirm dates for the site. I managed to identify fairly confidently two of the projectile points (a Madison point and a Bare Island point) but the quartzite point could be any of four different types. We also found some pieces of bone that I think are turtle shell fragments, though I’m not 100% sure.

Bone fragments found during survey. The jagged edges (known as sutures, where bones will eventually fuse together) and the shallow lines across the top of the bones suggest that these may be pieces of a turtle shell.

Microscopic close-up of the suture edge of one of the bone pieces.

In archaeology, you learn to be okay with unknowns and maybes. We can’t go back in time and ask the peoples we study, so often we are just throwing out our best guesses based on the things we do know, observed behaviors of other people (called ethnography), and our own common sense. It’s kind of like trying to draw the missing piece in a puzzle – you know roughly what it should be based on the pieces around it, but you can never know exactly what it looked like. Because of this, critical thinking and a healthy amount of skepticism are essential for an archaeologist!

My notes from trying to identify this quartzite point. Its common shape and broken tip and left shoulder contribute to the difficulty in identifying this point.

This past week, I spent time at the Museum Resource Center for the Capital Region of the NPS. I learned how to clean artifacts to prepare them for study and storage. Each artifact material type – faunal, lithic, ceramic, fabric, metal, and more – has to be cleaned and cared for in the best way to preserve it. For tough materials like lithics and glass, they can be washed with water and a toothbrush. But bone and metal should not be exposed to water, so they must be dry-brushed.

Projectile points are cleaned with water and gentle toothbrush scrubbing.

After artifacts are cleaned, they are put in bags that are labelled with locational information. The bags also have holes poked in them so that changes in humidity will not hurt the artifacts.

Then I learned how to catalogue artifacts, so that we know what have, where the artifacts came from, and where we can find them in the storage facility. This is a tedious process, but it is very useful for future researchers. There are millions of artifacts stored in the Museum Research Center so knowing where to find the horseshoes from Monocacy, for example, is essential.

In addition to these artifact-centered experiences, I also helped clean a monument, attended an orientation for NPS Cultural Resources interns in Washington DC, and dug my first shovel test pits (small holes dug to determine the soil layers of an area and to check for the presence of significant archaeological sites). Every day really is a new experience here!

The Pennsylvania Monument post-cleaning. The bronze plaque near the bottom still needs to be re-waxed; the greenish areas on the horses’ backs are where the wax has come off due to sun exposure.

A shovel test pit (STP).

All the dirt from an STP is screened for artifacts. When we finish digging and documenting a test pit, the screened dirt goes back into the hole.

It’s been a great start to my summer!

It’s been a great start to my summer!

By: Jessica Analoro

Photo taken on Derby Wharf

It’s been a great start to my summer so far in Salem, Massachusetts! As a brief introduction, my name is Jessica Analoro, and I am currently an education/interpretation and public history intern at Salem Maritime National Historic Site. As I just finished the third week of this internship, there has definitely been a lot to reflect on and I have accomplished so much so far. This internship centers mainly on research, but I have also been observing school groups for education programs and workshops, meeting all of the staff at different levels at the park and have been able to visit a couple of really awesome places. What my role is for the duration of this internship is to do research on a compilation of crew lists assembled for an American merchant vessel called Friendship, which sailed from 1797-1812 on 15 international voyages.

My supervisor at the park gave me this book (amongst many others) to make me more familiar with the subject matter (and as you can see by my multi-colored sticky-notes, I have been utilizing it as my main secondary reference material, which has been especially helpful before beginning archival research).

The park currently maintains the replica of the 1797 vessel (which is actually off site at the moment as it is being repaired). The ship represents an important part of our national history, as Salem was one of the leading international trading ports in the United States by the end of the 1800s. The park currently has an education program in place that allows for students to reflect and learn about international trade and to interact with what would have been sailor’s objects at the time. However, we are hoping to put some real names and information about some of the people who were on the ship—who they were, where they came from, who their family was—in order for students to better connect to the history of the Friendship.

I have been fortunate enough to be close to several local and regional resources that will help me for commit to exciting research. I have started looking through crew lists, ship and fishing licenses, vital records and genealogical resources in order to try and pinpoint some of the names that we have. I have already visited the National Archives and Records Administration in Waltham, Massachusetts to help me get started. They were wonderful in assisting me and guiding me through some of the material. The photo to the left is a crew list from 1806 for the Friendship.

Another great local resource has been the Philips Library, a research library which is part of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem Massachusetts. After recently re-opening in a new location, the library invited park staff to visit and look at part of the collection related to the park’s history. I took advantage of this wonderful opportunity to go through the finding aids to determine if any of the family papers they maintain could be used for my research (photo below). They have been gracious enough to allow me to return to continue my research. I am hoping it will help in the process of detangling the early genealogical research—where 99% of the time, five generations of males of course have the same first and last name.

Between archival resource and program observation, I have had the awesome opportunity to work in an office building which was built in 1780.

The next several weeks will consist of more research and hopefully many more great experiences and interactions with the park staff and the outstanding historical resources the North Shore has to offer!

The Klondike Gold Rush in Washington, D.C.

The Klondike Gold Rush

By: Alysha Page

Introduction: A Medievalist turned Afro-Americanist

My first day out on assignment to view how the public interacts with National Parks. FDR Monument, Washington, D.C

First things first, I guess I should introduce myself. My name is Alysha Page, I am a current PhD student at Howard University, Washington D.C. I received both my B.A. and M.A. from Ball State University in Medieval history before obtaining my M.A. in Art History and Museum Studies from Tufts University (Yes, I am very aware I have been in school too long). I changed my area of study from the periphery of Medieval English history to the periphery of American history because the voices of so many people of color are still lost in the archives or are being silenced by the lack archival material and interest. It is my civic duty as a Black historian to give these men and women a space to speak through the records and material culture they left behind.

I am the incoming Research Historian working with the Klondike Gold Rush National Park Service with their Buffalo Soldiers 24 th Infantry, Company L project. Over the last few months I have done quite a bit of work on the Buffalo Soldiers and am excited to continue my work doing ground breaking research into one of the many groups of heroes in American history. For the next few months I will be researching in Washington, D.C. before I travel to Skagway, Alaska to work onsite with the wonderful members of NPS.

Untold Stories of American Heroes

I would also like to introduce the Buffalo Soldiers, the first all-Black Army regiment in U.S. history. The Buffalo soldiers were among the first park rangers patrolling untamed terrain and parts of the West. Following the  Civil War and the Emancipation proclamation, in 1866 Congress authorized the formation of six all Black regiments (from The United States Colored Troops) which would later be consolidated down to just four regiments (9th, 10th, 24th, & 25th). From the 1860s to the early 1890s four black regiments were stationed in the West to protect white settlers whilst also protecting themselves from the harsh realities of being Black in a nation that had not accepted or welcomed their existence. The Buffalo Soldiers were sent to harsher climates and terrains from extreme heat to extreme cold. They were paradoxically considered resilient and strong as well as lazy, undisciplined, and cowardly by their white counterparts. Even with low expectations and low funding and resources they laid the foundations for many National Parks and surpassed all expectations.

Buffalo Soldiers in Dyea prepare halibut for a fresh meal for their army unit.
Photo courtesy of the https://www.nps.gov/klgo/learn/historyculture/buffalo-soldiers.htm

History has nearly forgotten the Buffalo Soldiers and the wonderful leaders like Col. Charles Young and their service in Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, and most important for my project Skagway and Dyea Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. The NPS is doing wonderful work to reveal and retell these stories. I will be looking at the lives and service of Company L, 24th Infantry on “the Last Frontier” in Southeast Alaska. During my time working with the Klondike Gold Rush NPS I hope to be able to help bring to life the stories and everyday lives of hundreds of soldiers and families that once called Skagway, Alaska home starting in 1899.

To find out more on the Buffalo Soldiers in Skagway, please visit https://www.nps.gov/klgo/learn/historyculture/buffalo-soldiers.htm

My American Conservation Experience Swag and the Smoked Salmon from Skagway, Alaska (yumm)

My first two weeks of my position at the Department of the Interior was very short but sweet. I was introduced to all my wonderful coworkers and future friends. Unfortunately, for my first blog post I don’t have much to share. The days and hours were spent navigating the technological hurdles of becoming a part of the team as well as the varied ways to communicate with the three institutions I must be in contact with for my position (NPS, CRDIP, ACE). The lesson learned is never remain quite when concerned or confused about the goals of your project or your role. Seek clarity and always be transparent. Your team is there to help you succeed. I also learned ends and outs of the building as well as navigating working and research in Washington D.C. while my team are thousands of miles away in Alaska. I am pleased to have such a wonderful team and I can’t wait to see how the project develops.

The lovely view of Washington, D.C. from the top of the DOI building where I’ll be working for the next few months.

One last thing before I go, I did want to note that this week (20 June-27 June) I am blessed to be able to be in Preston, UK to present at a Women’s conference. I say this to let any incoming intern know that even though we are starting new positions never be afraid to ask your team and administration to pursue other career paths and dreams. They are amazingly helpful and supportive. GO FOR IT!