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Refuges on Water

Refuges on Water

By: Justin Gole and Nicole Stagg

We arrived at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge in Rhode Island after a short drive from Delaware. At only 244 acres, this refuge is the smallest we will visit all year. On top of being one of the most picturesque, it is surrounded by water on three sides and has a unique geological history. The coastline of Sachuest Point NWR has a point known as the Price Neck Formation that is over six hundred million years old and has been proven to have been a part of Africa before Pangaea split. Outside of cool topography and geology, this refuge has a fascinating history; it served as farmland, a landfill, and even as an U.S. Navy radio receiver station during WWII!

The Island Rocks, waves, and double-crested cormorants at Sachuest Point NWR. July 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg.

While at Sachuest Point NWR, Justin spent a day working with the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) at the refuge and got to break a sweat working on trimming growth along trails, watering pollinator gardens, and spreading gravel. YCC is a summer youth employment program, for ages 15-18, that allows young people to engage in meaningful work experiences with federal lands. He bonded with the young team and leader Tabatha Hawkins and even ate lunch out on the rocks that used to part of Africa with them!

Justin watering plants with the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC). July 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg.

Nicole visited four of the five national wildlife refuges in Rhode Island. She walked all of the trails and took pictures of the viewpoints and wildlife she came across. While Trustom Pond NWR was beautiful and had many birds and water features, her favorite refuge in Rhode Island remains Sachuest Point NWR for its uniqueness in both formation and wildlife. She hopes to one day come back to Rhode Island to see the harlequin ducks, red-breasted mergansers, harbor seals, and snowy owls that live on the refuge during the winter months.

A monarch butterfly perched on common milkweed at Trustom Pond NWR. July 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg.

Upon departure from Sachuest Point, Nicole flew home for a visit and Justin ventured on towards Ohio River Islands NWR where he had a handful of unique experiences. He met Visitor Services Chief Michael Schramm for orientation and they put their heads together to scheme about how to survey more visitors than the first sampling period at the refuge.

The refuge counts visitors from the Valley Gem Sternwheeler who take a tour around Buckley Island as part of their annual visitation, so Refuge Manager Rebecca Young and Justin went to visit the riverboat captains to see about surveying on the boat. They were more than happy to oblige and said he could come back and survey whenever he needed!

Justin “driving” the Valley Gem Sternwheeler on the Ohio River. July 2018.

That Sunday, Michael and Justin boarded the Valley Gem and Michael gave a speech about activities at the refuge. Justin took in the sights on the boat and paid attention to Michael’s talk since he would have to give the same speech during future sampling shifts. The refuge now has a working relationship with the Valley Gem for mutual exposure and benefit as a result of this survey effort!

On one of the final evenings at the refuge, Rebecca took Justin out on the river with the Friends Group President Sue Flowers and her husband. We rounded two islands and he even got to set foot on Buckley and Muskingum Islands. The group saw two bald eagles, an osprey, and one of the most beautiful sunsets around!

Night out with refuge staff and volunteers. July 2018.

Regrouping back at Great Meadows NWR for the refuge’s second sampling period, we both came back to find the invasive American Lotus at the Concord Unit in full bloom. While this plant acts as a weed by taking over wetland habitats, it was a major draw for the local Asiatic community, as families and organizations came out in droves to see this spiritually and culturally significant plant. We did have to admit there was an aesthetically pleasing draw to the plant, invasive aspects aside.

American Lotus at the Concord Unit of Great Meadows NWR. August 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg.

While in Massachusetts, Nicole’s parents flew into Boston for a birthday visit. They went on a whale watching trip with the New England Aquarium to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to see humpback whales! On the boat, Nicole met interns working the aquarium doing wildlife surveys at the sanctuary and got to learn about working at the aquarium and the information gathered about the marine life outside the Boston Harbor.

A male humpback whale at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary outside Boston Harbor. August 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg.

At Great Meadows NWR, we got to stay at the bunkhouse with the rest of the seasonal interns and Visitor Services employee Kelsey Mackey. The whole household bonded going out for pizza the first night and we ended our stay with a group movie night before heading back to Delaware!

For the final stop of these four refuges, we arrived back at Prime Hook NWR. On the first day of sampling, we got to help see off trailer volunteers Jay and Carol Tavor who we had randomly contacted for the visitor survey on their day off during the first sampling period. We enjoyed a pizza party with the refuge staff to wish Jay and Carol safe travels back home.

Going away party for the Travors. August 2018. (from left) Carol Travor, Nicole Stagg, intern Stormy, refuge manager Arthur Coppola, LE officer Sterling Valentine, Justin Gole, Jay Travor. Photo by Al Rizzo.

During our first go-round at Prime Hook, we were too busy to make it up to Bombay Hook NWR. However, on a rainy day during this visit, we finally made the trip to this beautiful refuge! It wasn’t all play; while we were there as we verified all the major points at the refuge for a GIS project. We also got to have a lot of fun taking pictures and hiking to overlooks along the wildlife drive. While the welcoming staff of Prime Hook NWR made our sampling destination our favorite in Delaware, missing out on Bombay Hook NWR would have been a mistake!

Greater yellowlegs and a snowy egret at Bombay Hook NWR. August 2018. Photo by Nicole Stagg.

This year we have had the chance to indulge in local cuisine including alligator, crawfish, shrimp, and Philly cheesesteaks, so to add to our foodie checklist we needed to have Maryland crab. After a long morning of watching people catch crabs at Fowler Beach, we decided it was time for us to try some crabs for ourselves. We picked up a dozen on the way home, and seafood veteran Nicole finished hers over twice as fast as Justin. Motivated by the meal, we wrote this blog post and started to dream about the local foods we’ll get to try at our next set of refuges. With any luck, that will include another authentic Philly cheesesteak!

Until next time,

Justin and Nicole

A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life

By: Michelle Ferguson and Angelica Varela

Welcome back readers! Halfway through our internship, we are now welcoming our first round of repeat refuges. We’re looking forward to reconnecting with staff and seeing familiar refuges in a different season. Our most recent refuges included a second visit at both Sullys Hill National Game Preserve in North Dakota and Balcones Canyonlands NWR in Texas. We also sampled at Canaan Valley NWR in West Virginia.

Freeland Boardwalk, Canaan Valley NWR. July 2018. Photo by Angelica Varela.

One of the most common questions we get along our journey is, “What do you actually do as visitor survey interns?” Join us on a typical day in the life of a budding social scientist on the National Visitor Survey ACE-EPIC project.

At each refuge we visit, we first meet with refuge staff to help orient ourselves to the refuge. The staff helps us scope out sampling locations, where we will station ourselves to intercept visitors and ask for their participation in a survey about their trip to the refuge. During orientation we often get to see parts of the refuge that aren’t accessible to the public. At Sullys Hill, we drove around the gated refuge perimeter on an ATV, getting our own private view of the wildlife and landscape. Our favorite part of the planning process is finding a day to hike refuge trails to better connect with the visitor experience. This is normally when we decide to become photographers, snapping pictures for later use.

Sullys Hill National Game Preserve entrance. July 2018. Photo by Angelica Varela.

Each refuge and its visitors are unique and it is our job to be flexible in our communication strategies. Sometimes a more direct method works and other times a casual approach is better received. In a typical shift, we strategize the most efficient way to find and contact visitors at certain times and locations. For instance, towards the end of our stay in Texas, hunters at the annual refuge dove hunt became the hunted as we tracked down the camo-clad visitors preparing for their hunts. We also adapt quickly to learning the local lingo. Most recently we learned that when you’re in West Virginia, if a visitor says they’re from “Washington,” it refers to Washington, D.C., not the state in the Pacific Northwest.

Of course we’ve had our fair share of unexpected weather and unforeseen factors, always keeping us on our toes navigating throughout any given day. At Sullys Hill we acquired the unexpected skill of strategically maneuvering around large ungulates who took over our sampling site (see below).

Bison herd, Sullys Hill National Game Preserve. August 2018. Photo by Michelle Ferguson.

A large part of our job is interacting with the public. We are lucky to have the opportunity to travel all over the U.S. and meet  individuals from all walks of life. Most of this includes visitors we encounter during our sampling shifts. At Sullys Hill, we met a visitor who fondly recalled volunteering for the refuge as a youngster and now brings his own children to see the bison. We also meet visitors with a fierce passion for the local area. Many enjoy sharing their knowledge of the geography and fun spots in the area with us. One of our favorite treasures was getting to know the gem that is Thomas, a charming small mountain town hidden in the pine trees of West Virginia, full of wild blueberries and fawns. After several locals exclaimed that we must go to The Purple Fiddle while in town we decided to check it out. To our pleasant surprise we enjoyed a groovy night of brass funk jams at this local music venue.

We are empowered by the visitors who’ve vocalized their appreciation for the visitor survey project, grateful that these landscapes continue to exist. Recently at Balcones Canyonlands NWR, we gushed over a couple who got engaged 2 years ago that very same evening at the Warbler Vista Sunset Deck on the refuge. These refuges represent a strong emotional connection to many visitors, and it’s humbling to share that experience.

Michelle sampling visitors driving through the wildlife auto tour at Sullys Hill national Game Preserve. August 2018. Photo by Angelica Varela.

Visitors at the dover hunt in Balcones Canyonlands NWR examine a map of the area to choose the best hunting spot. August 2018. Photo by Michelle Ferguson.

Along with our National Visitor Survey efforts, a part of our job is engaging directly with refuges on projects where they need an extra pair of hands. After we wrap up sampling, we’ve enjoyed giving our time to help out with sidework ranging from biology projects to trash clean up. In Canaan Valley, we traded in our surveying iPads for boots and trucked our way through muddy forest trails at midnight to look for the threatened Cheat Mountain salamander and record any other species in the area. At Sullys Hill NGP we assisted in a pollinator inventory and monitoring survey, becoming North Dakota butterfly masters.

Left: Baby Cheat Mountain salamander at Canaan Valley NWR, found during our night out on the conservation project. July 2018. Photo by Zach Dykema. Right: Angelica Varela assists salamander conservation project by setting up markers for the sampling area. July 2018. Photo by Michelle Ferguson.

Angelica Varela and Michelle Ferguson prepare bee bowls along a transect with The Habitat and Population Evaluation Team in North Dakota. August 2018. Photo by Simon Doneski.

From surveying, to connecting with visitors, and helping with extra projects, this is our experience in a day on the visitor survey team. It is a treat to work with the Refuge System through several avenues, always learning more about what it means to both the wildlife that depend on these ecosystems and the visitors who enjoy them.

New Experiences in Every Time Zone

New Experiences in Every Time Zone

By: Kylie Campbell and James Puckett

From the cool coastline of the Pacific Northwest to the hot and humid riparian forests of the Ohio River Valley, it’s been a busy two months for this team of Visitor Survey Interns! We started off this leg of the journey in the Nisqually Delta near Olympia, the capital of Washington. Then we made our way clear across the country to West Virginia and finally southern Illinois. Read on to hear about the places we saw, the people we met, and the things we learned!

Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually NWR

At Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually NWR, we learned about the importance of salmon and the inspiring partnerships needed to protect this critically important species. The area around the refuge is a mosaic of federal, state, and tribal lands with all partners cooperating together to enhance habitat for salmon in the Nisqually Delta. This urban refuge is found right off of busy I-5, and is full of a variety of visitors everyday! Since we were easily able to reach our target number of visitors to sample, we had plenty of time to help the refuge with other tasks.

Aside from the visitor survey, the project that we spent the most time on was trail maintenance; we worked to cut back and remove invasive Himalayan blackberries which encroach on the trail with their thorny vines. Visitors and staff were extremely happy to see the paths clear of these vines. While out on the trails, we were happy to answer questions from visitors and enjoyed sharing the interesting history of Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually NWR.  

James trims blackberry vines along the dike path at Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually NWR. July 2018. Photo by Kylie Campbell.

Another project we were able to work on was picking up trash alongside the main entrance road to the refuge. The refuge staff was very appreciative of this roadside clean up because it helped beautify the area.

James poses with his bounty of collected trash. July 2018. Photo by Kylie Campbell.

The most enjoyable project that we helped with was locating marsh wren nests for a children’s program in the education center. After a few hours of searching, we were successful in locating three marsh wren nests. We learned a lot about the busy little birds in the process: male marsh wrens remarkably build up to 20 nests to mark their territory and the female bird picks just one to fill with more building materials and lay her eggs!

Kylie poses with two marsh wren nests. July 2018. Photo by James Puckett.

A unique program that the visitor center hosts is a weekly summer lecture series where each week a different speaker shares information on topics related to natural resources. We really enjoyed the first lecture in the series: So You Want to Be a Park Ranger. In the lecture, a former national park ranger shared stories from his career. We were able to learn about the history of the National Park Service and definitely added a few of the places he worked to our bucket list.

While in Olympia, we also had the opportunity to kayak in the Puget Sound. We spoke with visitors who love to kayak around the refuge and had to try it out for ourselves. We saw countless seals playing in the water and resting on floating logs, and it was definitely a highlight of our time in Washington!

Visitors kayak through the Nisqually Delta at low tide. July 2018. Photo by Kylie Campbell.

Sleepy seals watch as James and Kylie kayak through the Puget Sound. July 2018. Photo by Kylie Campbell.

Dungeness NWR

Our next stop was at Dungeness NWR. We had previously visited Dungeness and were happy to see familiar faces. Dungeness was by far the most popular refuge we have sampled at. Visitors from all around the country, and even the world, make their way to Sequim, WA, to hike the Dungeness Spit. Like Nisqually NWR, we found plenty of people to survey, so we had extra time to help with projects and explore the area. The projects we helped with were wonderful opportunities and experiences.

The beautiful bluffs along the coast at Dungeness NWR are enticing for young people to climb, but they erode easily and can be very hazardous. To protect wildlife habitat and ensure visitors’ safety we installed new boundary signs along the bluffs. Through this project we got an interesting lesson in the value of modern technology. For most of the installations we were able to use a gas powered post pounder which made the job quick and efficient. However, there was one instance where the gas powered machine was unable to be placed on top of the signpost. We then had to use a manual post pounder for this sign which really made us appreciate the convenience of today’s technology!

James uses a manual post pounder to install a boundary sigh, this was hard work! July 2018. Photo by Kylie Campbell.

During our time off, we were able to explore more of the Washington coast and made our way to the most northwestern point in the lower 48: Cape Flattery! This area is located on the Makah Indian Reservation and we loved learning about the indigenous history of the area. Camping on nearby Shi-Shi Beach and exploring the extensive tide pools was a major highlight of our internship thus far.

Tide pools on Shi Shi Beach that we were able to explore in our off time! July 2018. Photo by Kylie Campbell.

Towards the end of our stay we were invited to a picnic held by the Friends of Dungeness NWR. Everyone we had worked with over the past month was there, and Dave, our point of contact, was kind enough to give us a gift of departure. We were very grateful and happy to experience Dungeness NWR and hope to one day return!

After departing Dungeness, we enjoyed a week long journey back to the East Coast! Along the way we were able to see the Milky Way from our secluded campsite in Montana and listen to the prairie dogs chirp in Badlands National Park. Our time in Badlands National Park provided ample opportunities for us to reflect on the power of nature and the mindblowing history of this planet: we even found and documented our own fossil!

Kylie poses with Badlands formations in South Dakota. August 2018. Photo by James Puckett.

While camping in the Badlands we woke up to a local resident strolling through our campsite — a giant bison just feet from our tent! He was just one of the many awe inspiring creatures that we saw that day. Watching bison in the national park definitely made us yearn to see what America looked like when millions of them freely roamed the endless plains, but it also made us deeply appreciative of the conservation efforts that have ensured bison still exist.

Bison in Sage Creek Campground, Badlands National Park. August 2018. Photo by Kylie Campbell.

Ohio River Islands NWR

Our first stop back east was Ohio River Islands NWR in Williamstown, WV. Our favorite river from our college days, the New River, flows into the Ohio River so being at this refuge felt like we were back at home! We were also closer to our families and were able to spend time with them on our days off, which was a welcome treat after being in different time zones for so long. Since this refuge is made up of a string of islands in the Ohio River, the majority of visitors are out on the water which made sampling a bit of a challenge. Still, we were able to find plenty of people out fishing and joyriding on their pontoon boats.

Paddlewheel of the Valley Gem chuns up water on the Ohio River with refuge island in the background. August 2018. Photo by Kylie Campbell.

An interesting aspect of our time at this refuge was learning about the history of the area. The nearby town of Marietta traces its history back to the Revolutionary era; we learned all this and more while taking the a tour on Valley Gem along the Muskingham River, which flows into the Ohio River. The Valley Gem is the largest sternwheeler between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and is powered only by the large paddle wheel on the back. As the Valley Gem cruised by islands within the refuge, we were able to give an educational talk about the history and ecology of the area as well as the management strategies that refuge staff use to improve habitat for the many resident bird and mussel species. Sampling visitors aboard the Valley Gem was definitely one of our most enjoyable work days so far!

James and Kylie pose aboard the Valley Gem. August 2018. Photo by Rob Campbell.

Crab Orchard NWR

Our final stop in this stretch of the journey was Crab Orchard NWR in Marion, IL. We enjoyed learning about the unique history and management of this refuge. Before the refuge was established, local industry thrived in the area and many manufacturing firms existed to support World War II. Crab Orchard still allows for mixed usage of refuge lands including industry and agriculture, and many unique recreational opportunities also exist on the refuge. It was exciting to see that so many different types of users enjoy time at Crab Orchard, from people exercising on the trails to people relaxing on their boats!

Even while off the refuge, we were able to see first hand how special Crab Orchard is to the local community. From the grocery store to the auto mechanic shop, everyone we interacted with was quick to suggest that we check out the refuge while we were in the area! Every visitor loves it here and they are very proud of the unique history of the refuge.

James surveys a visitor at the Grassy Lake Marina, which was full of families visiting for Labor Day weekend. August 2018. Photo by Kylie Campbell.

One fun event that we had the opportunity to participate in at Crab Orchard NWR was a kayak tour. While visitors kayaked through Devil’s Kitchen Lake, Ranger Dona shared interesting tidbits about the unique history of the refuge, such as how the lake got its curious name. Legend has it that when pioneers first arrived in the area they saw smoke rising from the deep canyon where the lake now exists. The smoke was likely from the cooking fires of Native Americans, but the people were not visible from a distance and the pioneers termed the spooky sight “The Devil’s Kitchen.”

While in Illinois, we were also able to help out with a project at Cypress Creek NWR. We tagged along with a team of AmeriCorps interns, one of whom was our roommate. We shadowed them while they continued work on a forest inventory project that aims to quantify native and invasive plant species. We gained a deeper appreciation for the forests by learning about the immense diversity around us and even learned a few plant IDs by the end of the day!

While helping Cypress Creek interns with an inventory of native and invasive plants, we saw lots of evidence of busy beavers! This chewed tree told a story of beavers taking advantage of flooding. September 2018. Photo by Kylie Campbell.

From the rugged coastline of the Pacific Northwest to the charming Heartland, we were able to make lifelong memories across four time zones over the past two months. We continue to be amazed by the diversity of wildlife we encountered and the friendliness of people from all walks of life. Thankfully we still have many more places to explore and people to meet so be sure to check back in with us in a few months!

Work Smarter Not Harder: Secondary Research

Work Smarter Not Harder: Secondary Research

By Alysha Page

After going through the Probate Records and the newspaper articles at the Library of Congress I decided that perhaps it was time to go back to the secondary sources. It was time to work smarter, not harder, and go back to the bibliographies and indexes of already compiled works of the Black military regiments. The text that I am still going through is The Black Regulars 1866- 1898 by William A Dobak and Thomas D. Phillips. Even though the text is outside of the scope of my project it did have a great deal of record groups that may be helpful for the Klondike Gold Rush Company L project.


I am not trained as a military historian so navigating a subject built around the military has a bit of a learning curve. Reaching out to my colleagues with expertise in African American military history and utilizing secondary sources was the best way to figure out where else to search for useful information.


Descriptive Book of Noncommissioned Officers, Fort Missoula, 1902.

These conversations and secondary sources yielded a great deal of possible information within the U.S. Regular Army Mobile Unit and Adjutant General’s Office. One of the most interesting, and I hope useful, resources are the Descriptive Books. They detail the soldier’s birthplace, enlistment, various assignments, physical attributes, injuries, transfers, etc. I hope to utilize these books to better understand how these Black men were classified and described by their white counterparts, also I am being optimistic that perhaps these books will give me some leads on their personal life and background.


Reaching out to fellow researchers and using the hundreds of secondary sources available to us is a wonderful way to freshen up your research if you get stuck. Remember work smarter not harder. Use all tools available to you.


Repeat Season and Familiar Refuges

Repeat Season and Familiar Refuges

By: Nicole Stagg and Justin Gole

Thanks for coming back to read about the next four refuges on our awesome adventure! This period starts what we affectionately refer to as the “repeat season,” as we will visit all four of these refuges more than once, and vicariously, so will you!

We arrived at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) on Lake Erie after a long drive from Maryland. We learned that we had just missed out on “The Biggest Week in Birding,” when an estimated 70,000 visitors flowed through the refuge and surrounding lands to view the migrating neotropical birds that pass through every year. While we missed the heaviest influx of visitors, we did not miss the neotropical birds. Nicole has been trying to add at least one new bird species to her ID guide at each refuge we have visited. Ottawa so far holds the record for new birds in her book. Birds she has added include the Baltimore Oriole, the Blackpoll Warbler and Warbling Vireo.

Baltimore Oriole on feeder behind Ottawa’s Visitor Center, May 2018. Photo: Nicole Stagg

 When not surveying, we spent some time trimming the grass around the refuge and Nicole earned the nickname “Weed Whacker” from the refuge volunteers. The wildlife drive is open sporadically, but we made the most out of the time we were able to spend out there, and were lucky enough to see a bald eagle and a sandhill crane in flight at the same time! We were not able to capture a great picture of either of them but we did let a visitor with a longer distance lens know where the eagle was, and he appreciated the tip!

Bald eagle at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, May 2018. Photo by: Nicole Stagg

The following weekend Justin’s parents visited Ottawa NWR and drove through the wildlife drive. They managed to get stuck behind a road block of trumpeter swans, and after listening to a symphony of swans for about a half hour, a truck came through and broke up the traffic jam.

Trumpeter Swans on the Wildlife Drive at Ottawa NWR, May 2018. Photo by: Nicole Stagg

Our next stop was the first urban refuge opened in America, John Heinz NWR at Tinicum. This thousand-acre refuge, located right next to Philadelphia International Airport, was truly was a unique experience. While the drive was only a few hundred miles from Ohio, we were in an entirely different world. Every single day at John Heinz there was one or more school groups that visited, and we helped supervise and guide them through activities such as archery, fishing, dipnetting, and wildlife identification. We even got to participate in archery ourselves, although we realized we should not quit our day jobs!

After one of the school groups left, Justin got to practice a few rounds with refuge staff and interns before the evening crowd showed up, June 2018. Video by: Nicole Stagg

We have had great experiences with visitor service programs at all of the refuges we’ve visited, but we were especially blown away by the volume of outreach and education work that is done at John Heinz. Virtually every single day there was at least one different group that showed up, but what really made an impression on us was the “Philly Nature Kids” program. These school groups make multiple visits throughout the year, and refuge interns and staff go to the schools for educational programs and the end of year graduation ceremonies.

The students were given a budget and free reign to come up with a project of their choice. We were lucky enough to be there at the end of the school year to see many of these finished projects, including a trash cleanup project, a pollinator garden, bird houses built on school grounds, and an educational booklet created and “mass-produced” for students in lower grades. It was truly inspiring to see the passion for nature being instilled in the Philly Nature Kids!

Ranger Sean Brinninger teaching a school group about trees and how to identify them, June 2018. Photo: Nicole Stagg

Since we were staying in the great city of Philadelphia, we had to do some tourist activities! We started by getting Philly cheesesteaks at the Reading Market before walking downtown to see the Constitution Center, Liberty Bell, and other historical landmarks. At the Benjamin Franklin Museum, we saw how an old fashioned printing press works. We took plenty of pictures at each place we visited, but the best photo of the day was probably the one we took at Love Park.

Nicole and Justin at Love Park in Philadelphia, June 2018.

Next we took a trip through the heart of the northeast, driving through New York City and eventually winding up at Great Meadows NWR right outside of Boston. The most visited section of the refuge, the Concord Unit, is located just minutes away from historic locations such as Minuteman National Park and Walden Pond, which is famous for being the home of Henry David Thoreau while he wrote his book Walden.

We got to experience the annual River Fest at Great Meadows NWR, which is a large outreach program they hold at their headquarters location as part of a larger weeklong event hosted with several other organizations. Dozens upon dozens of people poured in to go fishing with their families as well as participate in other activities such as yoga, animal exhibits, singing, and painting. Rick Roth and the Cape Ann Vernal Pool Team took the stage at the end of the event, and we got to witness one of the best educational programs of our young lives, and made a long yellow friend in the process!

Justin and Nicole posing with a yellow burmese python at River Fest, June 2018. Photo: Nicole Stagg, Justin Gole

Justin had the opportunity to tag along for Blanding’s turtle nest monitoring and was lucky enough to witness one turtle’s egg laying efforts first hand. A night spent walking miles in search for these important four legged friends was well worth it, and the coolest part of this learning opportunity was relocating the eggs about a meter because they had been laid in an ant hill.

Blanding’s Turtle with tracking code on shell and freshly laid eggs, June 2018. Photos: Justin Gole

From Massachusetts, we drove south along the coast to Prime Hook NWR in Delaware. We were lucky enough to be staying two blocks from the ocean in Rehoboth Beach and spent many mornings and evenings on the sand. Justin got to spend his birthday, July 4th, baking like a crab on the seashore.

One of the primary user groups at Prime Hook were crabbers, and we managed to make many friends on lazy Delaware mornings sitting out at Fowler Beach. We watched many different techniques for catching crabs including: standard crab traps, fishing with chicken wings, and simply scooping them up in the current from the bridge.

Atlantic Blue Crab too small for harvest in the Fowler Beach parking lot at Prime Hook NWR, July 2018. Photo: Nicole Stagg

Perhaps the highlight of our time in Delaware was running into our old roommates from Blackwater NWR, Dan and Lindsay! They are part of the Rapid Demo team for the Saltmarsh Habitat & Avian Research Program (SHARP, We had spent a few days with them at Blackwater, and we managed to see them on first day at Prime Hook and then again the next morning as they were emerging from the marshes. The following day we got together with them and enjoyed some merriment at Dogfish Head Brewery.

Reunion at Dogfish Head Brewery, July 2018.
(from left) Chris Sayers, Dan Rochocinco, Justin Gole, Emily, Nicole Stagg, Lindsay Forrette
Photo: Lindsay Forrette

We will be visiting all of these refuges again starting in August with what we call our “Season of Repeats”. We can’t wait to see how these refuges will change while we are gone and we look forward to reuniting with the friends we have made. We are excited for our next batch of refuges and can’t wait to start the repeat season with our second visit to Great Meadows in our next blog!


Spinning Your Wheels: Changing your Research Plan

Spinning Your Wheels: Changing your Research Plan

By Alysha Page

After a couple of months of research it became very clear to me that going through the War Department records was not yielding any new information. Essentially, I felt that I was spinning my wheels in the mud. I went through records of the District of the Columbia, District of the Lynn Canal, Camp Dyea, and Camp Skagway. I thought that perhaps going through correspondence from all of the districts connected to Camp Skagway might give me a fuller image of what happened in Skagway or perhaps even hear a voice other than Captain H.W. Hovey, Commanding Officer of the 24th Infantry, but it unfortunately turned out just to be the same correspondence (letters and telegrams) recorded by multiple districts. Turns out, the War Department is very through and repetitive. It was time to refresh my research area.


My first stop was looking through the probate records of Alaska. Probate records are complied after the death of an individual and relate to how the court has decided to distribute the deceased estate to their heirs or the state. I knew that the likelihood of soldiers from Company L, 24th Infantry still residing in Alaska was slim after 1902 and even slimmer was that these African American men would have owned property in that area in the early twentieth century. Given all the issues that Black men faced in the United States at that time, and even more specific in the military. This search ended up being fruitless.


After searching the probate records I branched out into “Chronicling America,” the newspapers compiled by the Library of Congress.  With all the records and correspondence about disciplinary actions taken against these African American soldiers in Skagway, Alaska I wanted to get a better understanding of how they were received by African American newspapers and other newspapers throughout the United States.

Newspaper detailing the arrival of Company L and Capt. Hovey as they make their journey Skagway, Alaska.

Public reception is important to fill in the blanks about the narrative of the African American military experience in Skagway and the U.S. The online chronicle dealt a great deal with movement of the 24
th Infantry to the Philippines and only some mention of Company L directly.


The Spanish American War and the War in the Philippines overshadowed the happenings of Company L, 24th Infantry. These articles do give us some wider context of African American Military reception. Our hope with this project is to illuminate an extremely neglected portion of the African American experience, patriots protecting and serving the nation. The more I research, and even search through the archives, the more it is impressed upon me the importance of the history I am writing. Company L has been neglected in the history of the 24th Infantry and it’s time to shine a light on them.


Gators and Eagles and Bison, Oh My!

Gators and Eagles and Bison, Oh My!

By: Angelica Varela and Michelle Ferguson

The Road Warriors are back with our second round of four new refuges. We were excited to dive into these locations where the wildlife was a bit bigger than the little songbirds we’d become accustomed to. This stretch of visitor surveying took us down to Louisiana, up through Kansas and North Dakota and over to Michigan, adding roughly 3000 miles to our journey.

Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge

We were met with a large batch of southern hospitality at Big Branch Marsh NWR in Louisiana. Complete with a crawfish boil, coffee, and beignets, we quickly felt welcomed in. An ecosystem new to both of us, we were in awe of the Spanish moss decorating the marshland. One of the primary activities visitors enjoyed here on the refuge was kayaking. Early one Monday morning, we went kayaking for ourselves on the bayou out to Lake Pontchartrain. Belting Disney songs along the way, we turned around the riverbend and came face to face with the resident 12-foot American alligator, Joe. This was the furthest up the river anyone had seen him this season. The locals were all fairly calm and snapping photos as Joe sauntered past, while the two of us had utter shock painted across our faces. The rest of our of time in Louisiana we enjoyed exploring the French Quarter and Magazine Street in New Orleans, soaking up the rich historic culture before heading to the prairies of Kansas.

Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, May 21, 2018. Photo by: Kevin, Canoe and Trail Adventures

Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge

Kansas greeted us with beautiful rolling grasslands and some amazing wildlife. Our backyard was hustling and bustling with the familiar sound of the Bobwhite quail. Although the bunkhouse did not have TV or Wi-Fi, we found that our back porch was a much better alternative as we watched the white-tailed deer, ring-necked pheasants, and cottontails munch away in the prairies. We were also visited by a bull snake that lingered outside of our porch soaking up the sun during the day. The staff told us of some bald eagles that made residence at the wildlife refuge, so we kept our eyes to the sky in hopes of seeing such a prideful bird. After spending an afternoon driving around Kirwin Reservoir, we not only discovered the tree that was home to the bald eagle nests but also witnessed one eagle fly right over our car holding a fish in its talons!

Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge, June 4, 2018. Photo by: Angelica Varela

Belted Kingfisher looking over Kirwin Reservoir, Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge. June 7, 2018. Photo by: Michelle Ferguson

Sullys Hill National Game Preserve

We quickly fell in love with Sullys Hill NGP as we drove in the first day and found that the bison had been waiting for us to arrive. The herd had four new calves with them, which we learned are called “red dogs.” We grew awfully fond of the herd, making sure to go through the wildlife drive each evening to say goodnight to our bison friends as well as the elk, pelicans, and prairie dogs. Seriously, we drove it every night, 14 days in a row. We were not the only ones who were fond saying goodnight to the refuge wildlife, many of the the visitors we encountered during our evening sampling shifts also drove through the refuge after work to say their farewells. We enjoyed watching the sun set over the rolling plains around Devils Lake; North Dakota had some of the best sunsets we’ve seen on our journey thus far. When we weren’t sampling for the visitor survey, we discovered fun places to visit around the area, including the Geological Center of North America in Rugby, ND. We also stepped into Canada for a few hours and spent an afternoon enjoying the International Peace Gardens.

Bison herd at Sullys Hill National Game Preserve, June 15, 2018. Photo by: Angelica Varela

Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

On our drive to Shiawassee NWR in Michigan, we decided to make a much needed rest stop in Duluth, Minnesota. We enjoyed the cool air and the pine trees along Lake Superior, and stretched our legs by touring around the Lake Superior Maritime Museum. It poured rain for our first 24 hours at Shiawassee. We took a driving tour around the wildlife refuge, an activity most visitors we met partook in here. Fawns, muskrats, and goslings were out, thankful for the wet weather. Cass River was one of our visitor sampling locations for our project, and on the 4th of July after a morning of surveying we got the chance to be visitors ourselves. To celebrate the holiday the refuge staff invited us onto a boat on the Cass River where we watched the fireworks display sparkle above us. We also participated in the refuge’s family backyard day event where the community came out to explore Shiawassee NWR.

Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, June 29, 2018. Photo By: Michelle Ferguson

It is humbling the places we have gotten to visit so far for this project, and to see how vastly different the ecosystems are in each refuge we work. From alligators and pheasants to bison and eagles, we are getting a chance to see everything the National Wildlife Refuge System has to offer. With the diversity of each refuge, we’ve found they are each united by adventurous visitors, many of whom have graciously participated in our survey efforts and have been a joy to talk to. We are excited to let you into our world so stay tuned for more fun and unique adventures.

From yours truly,

Angelica Varela and Michelle Ferguson, Road Warriors

It’s Not “Goodbye,” It’s “See You Later”!

It’s Not “Goodbye,” It’s “See You Later”!

by: Mariah Walzer

I can’t believe that it’s been ten weeks since I first saw the rolling fields of Monocacy National Battlefield. Time has flown by so fast! Unfortunately, the rain on that first day was a foretaste of things to come, weather-wise, but not even this summer of flooding can dampen my love for this park and the people I’ve met here.

Battlefields may not be known for their natural beauty, but amidst the hustle and bustle, concrete buildings and skyscrapers, of industrialized and commercialized America, I find great beauty in the corn fields and historic buildings. Monocacy NB feels like this little piece of tranquility just south of busy Frederick, Maryland. And the sunsets… oh the sunsets! Whoever decided to make the building I lived in seasonal housing definitely wanted the occupants to stick around. I could sit on my porch in the evenings and watch the sun fade into brilliant colors beyond the mountains and a historic barn. What more could you ask for?

Who would ever want to leave when the view is this stunning?

Great coworkers, you say? Well, I got lucky with those too. My mentor, Alex, and supervisor, Andrew, were always interested in my thoughts and ideas, sought to make sure I got the most out of this internship I could, and have been a great resource already in furthering my career. So many other people, both at Monocacy NB and in the National Capital Region, welcomed me into the Park Service family as well.

My parents always said that the National Park Service was full of “odd ducks.” They meant that Park Service life attracts a special type of person: people who are generally willing and excited to interact with visitors on a daily basis regardless of their formal position, to move around the country, to live and work in a variety of landscapes, and to work with people from many diverse backgrounds towards the shared goal of preserving this country’s natural and cultural resources. Not everyone is cut out for Park Service life – it’s not always as glamorous as many people think – but after this summer, I’ve decided I want to give it a try for real someday.

I came into this internship with big question marks in my life plan – I knew I liked archaeology and I loved educating people about the past, but I didn’t know what that would look like as a career. I left with a new goal: to wear the green and gray NPS uniform.  And I have a pretty good idea of how to get there!

My face says it all, but I know I’ll be back someday, and hopefully I’ll be in green and gray then!

As to my actual work, I rounded out my summer at Monocacy with my favorite activity: talking to people about archaeology! Among other small projects, I spent my last two weeks finishing up the educational presentations I’ve been writing about. In addition to putting the finishing touches on my PowerPoint slides, I also catalogued the Interpretive Division’s collection of educational Civil War artifacts. Identifying buttons and bullets was a whole new ball game for me, but I dove head first into the challenge and thoroughly enjoyed it! There’s no greater rush in archaeology than pinpointing exactly what an artifact is, where it came from, and when it was made and used.

This canteen has a stamped inscription on the neck that identifies the manufacturer and date. It was made in Philadelphia in 1864, under the new style requirements for US military canteens (the concentric rings).

What does one do when one knows next to nothing about Civil War artifacts? Raid the bookshelves, of course!

I was pretty proud of myself for identifying this time fuse that was used to delay cannon shell explosions. This one has certainly been fired.

The contents of the coffee can full of bullets laid out and initially separated by shape.

I also finally got to finish cleaning and conserving the Pennsylvania Monument (we got rained out part way through the project in June). I learned about using patina and waxes on bronze plates, which was pretty cool!

First round of cleaning the Pennsylvania Monument in June.

Painting the chemical for patination (color change) on the oxidized (greenish) areas of the bronze plaque.

A layer of hot wax is applied to protect the plaque by heating the bronze with a torch and then brushing on the wax, which melts in the heat.

I stuck around an extra day in order to give my presentation a test run. Monocacy NB hosted an Infantry Day on August 11th in which reenactors gave demonstrations of infantry firing techniques for the enjoyment and education of the public. I jumped in to talk about archaeology at Monocacy NB, trading off every other hour with the reenactors. I generally had ten to twenty people for each session, and people seemed very interested. Most people never realized that the land had been occupied for over 10,000 years! I really enjoy getting to challenge and add to people’s understanding of a place. As I’ve talked about before, archaeology’s greatest strength and purpose, in my opinion, is in telling the untold stories.

Ready for my presentation. They gave me a fancy NPS tablecloth and everything!

Presenting to a group of visitors.

The Interpretive staff was very happy with the public reception, and I was just happy to have the opportunity to geek out about the things I love. It was a perfect end to a great summer!


Lights, Camera, Action: Perfecting My Research Method in the National Archives, D.C.

Lights, Camera, Action: Perfecting My Research Method in the National Archives, D.C.

by: Alysha Page

Example of the Size of Registers I have been reading through. Letters Sent, District of the Columbia

Hello All! We are officially moving into the fourth (maybe fifth…? I’m in a time warp) week of research at the National Archives. One thing has become abundantly clear, slow and steady does indeed win the research race. In a mad rush to get as much information as possible before I fly off to Alaska in a few months I realized that I needed to create a more detailed research template. A way to gather information quickly whilst also not missing any important details. This way I don’t have to go back over files I’ve already looked at or retake photos. In this process, shortcuts aren’t of service to anyone. The three main areas that I revised were my research template, data entry/backing up information, and my photographing techniques.

Research Template

The Company L project is a team project which means that whatever information my fellow researcher collects I have to be able to read and understand thousands of miles away from D.C.. After taking a second look at my original research template I realized that I needed to add a much more detailed cover sheet for any data collected. With the help of the NARA Reference Service slip I expanded the Record Identification details to include the series name, volume number, and specific Inventory Entry Number for each file collected. I also realized that for each new Record there should be a general overview. This way without actually reading the file I would have a clear idea of its purpose, relationship to the project, and any important information that stood out to the researcher. Furthermore, each image collected should be attached to a separate page with detailed notes and transcription if time allows. Revising my research template has really helped to streamline the process of data collection. I am really looking forward to seeing how this new template has helped my fellow researcher.

Photographing Documents

Lighting is so important when photographing archival information. You can not use the flash on your camera because that type of exposure can damage the records and cause fading over time. So your options are either taking photographs in the dim lighting of the archives or being very diligent and making sure you reserve time to use the shooting table with LED lighting. The difference between the general lighting and the shooting table lighting is staggering. If and when at all possible I will use the scanners available at the archive, but for now with the larger letter and telegram registries the photo booth is the safest bet.

The shooting table at NARA with Letters Sent, Camp Skagway, Vol. 1

Example of photograph taken under general lighting.

Example of photograph taken under LED lighting. The difference is remarkable! Lighting can mean the difference between reading documents easily and hours of straining to transcribe.

Backing Up Data

Backup up your research! This can’t be emphasized enough. Throughout my academic career I have not had the best luck with technology, so I have learned the importance of ALWAYS backing up your data. Oh, and also having a personal relationship with the folks in the IT department. I am working with the Klondike Gold Rush NPS team all the way in Skagway, Alaska so files must be shared through multiple databases. I have made it a point to save my research on multiple platforms from the drive that connects to my team in Alaska, to flash drives, and honestly contemplating getting an external hard drive. Nothing is worse than losing all your hard work because your computer decided to act up. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Until next time, Farewell!

Boston, It’s Been ACE

Boston, It’s Been ACE

by: Danielle Kronmiller

As I begin this final blog post, I am nearing the end of my last week as Curator’s Assistant at Boston National Historical Park. The curator and I have just officially wrapped up this year’s annual collection’s inventory; during the course of my time as a CRDIP intern, I have physically located more than one thousand items within the park’s museum collection!

What the working desk of an intern in the final days of a large collections inventory looks like – certainly no shortage of notes

The final days of the inventory process proved to be some of the most difficult, returning to specific items and objects across the lists that had previously eluded discovery. I spent an entire afternoon within archival storage looking for one item – and in the process discovered others. We reboarded the USS Cassin Young and, with the help of volunteer crew, descended multiple decks into engine rooms and tiny storage compartments. The random sample inventory selected one cataloged tool out of many within a large tool chest on display in the Navy Yard visitor’s center, and of course, it turned out to be the smallest item at the very bottom of the chest! Every item, large and small, is an important element of the story of the Charlestown Navy Yard, providing context for interpretation and resources for researchers. Effectively managing collections is truly such an important and fulfilling process; museum professionals are trusted with stewardship of the artifacts and records that tell the stories which make up our past.

The final stack of a completed collections inventory!

Though this year has been a great success, it was inevitable that we would not see every item on the inventory lists. It is an unfortunate fact that museum objects go missing from time to time, a result of damage or incomplete documentation. But that is why we undertake projects like the annual collections inventory. It is generally not the case that these objects or items are truly missing. Often, they will have been moved to a different location long ago, and the paperwork did not quite make it into the accession file. In completing this year’s inventory, I helped locate items that had not been found in previous years, improving upon their documentation each time. Year after year, successive interns will help locate even more of the items we did not see this year.

The very tiny, specific object we were required to locate, and the large, full tool chest we were required to locate it in!

The frame where Rembrandt’s stolen work once was still hangs in its gallery

Museum objects do sometimes go missing another way – theft – bringing me to the final museum visit I will have the pleasure of sharing with you. In 1990, thirteen works of art valued at a combined total of $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum here in Boston – and they have not yet been recovered. One of the most widely known museum thefts, there is a reward of $10 million offered for information leading to the recovery of these artworks, which include works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, and Manet. Although this theft makes for a gripping and convenient blogging segue, the Gardner Museum is fascinating in so many other ways. Within the museum, there are no labels alongside the artworks, and the galleries do not feature white walls with equal spaces between each work. There is also a greenhouse and lovely, open garden courtyard at the center of the original building. The founder of the museum, Isabella Stewart

Postcard of Rembrandt’s Sea of Galilee, one of the stolen works and his only known seascape

Gardner, wanted visitors to have their own experiences with the art, a departure from the traditional museum model many people expect. The galleries feature impressive tapestries, exquisite furniture, stained glass, architectural details, paintings, and more that are arranged in a more decorative fashion; the collections furnish the spaces as a whole, as much as they are on display individually. The museum provides numbered room guides for visitors that wish to learn more about a specific piece, but it is certainly an immersive experience to take in each gallery wholly, noting how artworks complement and support each other. It is interpretative choices such as this that allow visitors a unique experience at different museums. Feeling and viewing is as much a part of visiting museums as reading and learning.

A view of another sadly empty frame in the context of the gallery and the central courtyard at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

My time as an ACE CRDIP intern has been truly incredible. I am very grateful to this program, the National Park Service, my supervisor, and all those who have helped me along this journey that has further prepared and excited me for my career in the museum world. The experiences I have had in Boston extended far beyond my expectations. Accomplishing such a task as the collections inventory has given me the confidence to undertake any large project that comes my way in the future. I have never had the opportunity to visit so many different cultural institutions with such frequency, and being able to do so in an area saturated with such history and significance is indescribable. Learning and growing in new environments provides the framework for fulfillment and innovation, and I will take my ideas and the skills I have learned on to my next venture as I continue to pursue curiosity, knowledge, and creativity through museum work, and endeavor to inspire this pursuit in others. I will be sad to move on from Boston and my time as a CRDIP intern, but it is on to the next adventure, and I have never felt more prepared.


Letters, Tours, Data, and Inventory

Letters, Tours, Data, and Inventory

by: Marjorie Anne Portillo

Hello all! It’s been a few weeks and I wanted to give you guys a little update on my internship here at the four National Park sites of Contra Costa County.

Eugene O’Neill Manuscript Update

As of now, I have finished scanning most of the letters. I just need to finish transcribing the letters as well as summarizing and coming up with keywords for each of them. The keywords are essential for research purposes. There are also a few greeting cards and telegrams that I need to digitize as soon as I finish working on the letters.

One thing I have noticed from these letters was just how much Carlotta Monterey O’Neill loved Eugene O’Neill. After his death, she dedicated the rest of her life to making sure her late husband got the recognition he deserved for his work—even going so far as to having “Long Day’s Journey into Night” published soon after his death despite his wishes that it not be published until 25 years after his death. This play turned out to be his most successful and critically acclaimed. And the timing of its release played a role in its success. When it came to the opening of the play in Sweden, Carlotta refused to attend. In a letter to her friend Robert Sisk, she writes, “Charming of them [to invite me] – but, of course, I couldn’t do that- all honours should go to O’Neill. I don’t believe in literary widows taking bows for their husband’s works!”

Eugene O’Neill & Tao House

On the third week of my internship, I was given the opportunity to visit and tour the Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site in Danville, CA. After reading all these letters, I was really excited to get a visual on the life the O’Neills lived. It’s the best thing about museums–you get to walk around and experience history. It’s a whole nother way of learning and you get so much more out of it compared to reading about it or looking at pictures!

This tour, in particular, was very significant because a member of the Carlson family (the family that purchased Tao House from the O’Neills) was taking the very same tour as well! During the tour, he told us little stories about the house and his experience as a little boy after the O’Neills moved out. It gave the tour a more personal touch since he and his family briefly interacted with the O’Neills.

The home was heavily influenced by Taoism. Many aspects of their home was arranged and decorated by Feng Shui principles. Their walkway, for example, is not in a straight line. The purpose of this is to ward off the bad spirits and bad energy from their home.

My favorite room was Eugene O’Neill’s study. This was the very room where he wrote his last few plays. It is pretty amazing knowing that he sat here at one point and wrote his most memorable work! The room is so secluded, that it is separated from the rest of the house by three doors. This is to ensure that his creativity is not disturbed. Just from this, you can see just how dedicated he was to his work.

I had a great experience visiting the site. The house was very beautiful and the surrounding area is so quiet and peaceful – it’s no wonder the O’Neills decided to live there!

Pretty soon, the National Park Service will be having an All-Staff Meeting here followed by a Staff Appreciation Lunch where we’ll be able to eat, hang out, and swim in the O’Neills’ pool! How fun!

Environmental Tasks in a Museum

In addition to my manuscript project, I get to assist Virginia–the Museum Technician of the four parks–with some of her everyday duties. When I went to the John Muir National Historic Site during my first week, I helped Virginia with housekeeping by removing cobwebs throughout the John Muir’s house. I also helped replace pest traps throughout the house for Integrated Pest Management (IPM for short). This is an important task because it helps the museum prevent pest damage to the collections. It also helps the staff figure out what kinds of pests are being attracted to the site and how to keep more from coming.

A few weeks later, I learned more about collecting environmental data around our collections. Virginia showed me how to collect visual light and UV data around the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center. This task is important because it helps the staff monitor the light exposure in a room for the sole purpose of protecting the artifacts. Too much exposure to light can end up damaging a historic object and finishes. This is why you might notice that some rooms are darker than others in a museum.

Left: Light Log for RORI & the Light Monitoring Device; Right: A Temperature Logger sitting pretty in the RORI Collections Room!

Temperature and humidity can also cause damage to an artifact. Damages can include warping, cracking, mold growth, etc. This is why it is important to monitor the changes in temperature and humidity anywhere there is a historical artifact. While collecting light readings around the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center, we also extracted data from Temperature Logger devices. What I didn’t realize was that in every exhibit case and room, there was a device sitting there collecting all the data about its surrounding environment. It’s crazy how you don’t really notice things until it’s pointed out to you! Each park site has these devices to make sure that the artifacts are safe in its environment–the Rosie the Riveter Collections Room (where I spend the majority of my time) has a few as well!

Inventory, Inventory, Inventory!

Virginia searching for an artifact

One of the other tasks I got to assist with was completing annual inventory. By completing inventory, the museum staff is able to make sure that every object in the collection is accounted for. This was a pretty fun task for me, because it gave me the opportunity to take a closer look at the collections that I don’t work with on an everyday basis. Since I primarily work with the Eugene O’Neill manuscripts, I don’t really get to look at or handle any of the other artifacts or archives that we have in the Rosie the Riveter Collections Room. It was pretty cool to see all the artifacts from the WWII era! One of the craziest things I saw was a Nazi knife that was brought home by a soldier after he returned from the war. I never thought I’d ever see that in person!

Until next time…

It’s been a great internship so far… I’ve had the opportunity to attend two big events, the Port Chicago Memorial Ceremony and, just recently, the Rosie Rally Home Front Festival. I will definitely be writing more on that next!



by: Colleen Truskey

It’s been several weeks since my last blog post, and I’ve been busy in that time. The Salem Maritime Festival was this past weekend, and just yesterday the Draken Harald Hårfagre (the world’s largest operating Viking ship) docked at Central Wharf. Allison Anholt and Jessica Plance from ACE stopped by last week on their tour of the region, as did Paloma Bolasney from NPS. A couple of times now I’ve helped Emily Murphy, Salem Maritime’s curator, with inventory (which involved crawling beneath eighteenth century bedroom furniture). I’ve also visited the Salem Farmers’ Market a number of times with my officemate and fellow CRDIP intern, Jess Analoro, and continue to explore the region on my weekends off. Too much to see, and not enough time to see it!

I’ve been just as busy at the office. Cody O’Dale (my partner in this work) and I have spoken with more people than I can count about our project. There have been plenty of conversations with folks throughout NPS (and throughout the country), of course, but we’ve also talked to folks from Fish & Wildlife, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, in addition to continued conversations with the Forest Service and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The conversations have covered everything from technical GIS applications, to the legal requirements of Section 106 and NAGPRA, to the practical needs and experiences of those who might potentially use this application. There are a number of stakeholders invested in this project, which is important to remember as Cody and I draft out our final design for the application. In addition to the technical and political challenges, however, it’s also important that we deal with the challenges presented by the medium in which we’re working — maps.

Maps are man-made, and like any man-made object they are subject to a number of distinctly human faults and limitations. A map is an interpretation of the world as we experience it–an approximation of the environment we encounter on a daily basis. Every map highlights that which its creator felt was important and omits that which was considered irrelevant. In other words, we can often learn more about ourselves from maps that we can learn about its subject places. There is no such thing as an “unbiased” map.

(Most folks are familiar with this issue as it’s framed within the debate over the use of the Mercator projection, succinctly described in this clip from “The West Wing.” You can also explore how common maps misrepresent the relative size of countries using “The True Size Of…” website.)

A map of the North American continent with country and state boundaries depicts a very particular socio-political understanding of that landscape, for example. However, we could divide the continent in any number of ways–perhaps by watershed, or by biome, or by major linguistic divisions, or by relative economic circumstances. Each of these maps would tell us something different, but there is no map that could capture all of these elements (along with others) in their entirety effectively.

The Sail Loft on Derby Wharf during the Salem Maritime Festival and the arrival of the Draken Harald Hårfagre to Central Wharf. Both events were great opportunities to explore maritime history and culture.

When it comes to indigenous peoples and maps, the conversation is only further complicated. Think of the most popular understanding of the “frontier” — a place unknown, undeveloped, and uninhabited, at least by “civilized” men. The frontier is home to uncharted wilderness, and, at least in the American imagination, the unmapped frontier is also home to “Indians.” When the frontier is replaced by territories and states, when those nascent borderlines are drawn on maps for the first time, the landscape is irrevocably transformed. The map would have you believe the land is now settled, comfortably nestled in the idealized experience of the United States of America. There is no room for sovereign indigenous nations on such a map.

In this context, the project Cody and I have been assigned represents a unique way of “rethinking” how maps are used to speak with and about indigenous peoples. By highlighting tribal areas of interest–lands that are meaningful to a community based on their historical and contemporary experiences of those places–we are, in essence, reimagining the American landscape as a “tribal” landscape.

The Public Garden in Boston. If you were to map a city like this one, what would you include? What would you exclude? How might your interpretation of the city change based on what you chose to illustrate on the map?

Of course, the final application won’t be perfect. It can’t be perfect. The conversation surrounding how land is experienced, valued, and claimed is ongoing. Our data is both incomplete and dynamic, and is presently bound to databases in a variety of formats and a number of locations. A number of technical, theoretical, and experiential challenges remain to be tackled. How and where will data be stored? What will be considered “accurate” data? How will the application be updated? How can we avoid the potential misuse or misapplication of this product? How can we best meet multiple disparate needs, ranging from the needs of tribal communities to park superintendents?

Our first go at a map that displays tribal areas of interest by county, based on data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This map represents several hundred layered interest areas, and will be used as the basis of our final application.

These are questions Cody and I’ll continue to tackle as the weeks wind down. There’s a lot to be done, but I’m confident we’ll produce a valuable application. ‘Til next post!

Boots on The Ground and Shovels in Hand!

Boots on the ground and shovels in hand!

By Alicia Gonzales

It’s your friendly neighborhood archaeologist writing in from Ohio again, with some updates on some very exciting work at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  Inadvertent discoveries is the topic of today, so let’s get into it. Inadvertent discoveries are just that, inadvertent, unexpected and with good management often times a catalyst for innovative thought and efficient action.  Archaeological monitoring and discovery plans are guided and executed both at the Federal and State level when it comes to any ground disturbing activity (especially in areas with cultural resources and natural resources). The intent of having these strategies/plans in place are to anticipate the unexpected and ultimately reduce the potential effect on resources.  Here at CUVA I got to see and participate in these plans burst into action and protect a piece of history that was previously lost in historic documentation. The locally loved and frequently used Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, in my time here has been undergoing some much needed improvements and routine maintenance.  Improvements and routine maintenance, what could go wrong? So far the Towpath Trail has been under construction in various locations which need the love and attention, but from this writers perspective it has become a bit of a sore spot for visitors whose usual recreational activities must detour around these zones. The voice of the people have been heard, I’ve seen Park staff and partner agencies work tirelessly to address the needs of visitors while trying to complete these projects thoroughly and efficiently.

Damaged handworked sandstone block

But again, this is where inadvertent discovery comes into play.  Included in this endeavor was the replacement of four bridges, and at one of these construction sites an inadvertent discovery was…you guessed it discovered, or in this case rediscovered.  During routine excavating activity within the project guidance, an top-notch operator noticed soil change and very rectangular stone. The crew immediately stopped work per the plan and our cultural resource management team of 2: Big Bad Bill and I got to spring into action.  With Bills extensive knowledge of the geography and canal history, my familiarity with archaeological investigation it became apparent that the crew had inadvertently rediscovered the original 1825 Historic hand worked sandstone canal culvert.  What a find, what a challenge and inevitably what do we do?!  Creativity and collaboration were the answer.

Making a soil profile

The cultural resource management team, engineers, renowned regional and state archaeologist, the contract crew, maintenance division and engineers all put their heads together to find a solution. This process took a bit of time given the slow pace in which projects such as this become bureaucraztized.   However, the initial emergency archaeological investigation phase was the first step to see what exactly was in the ground and how the project as a whole could move forward.  Luckily, I got to learn and work as the right hand to a much respected archaeologist in the Ohio region. I thank him for his willingness to educate me some on old-school techniques. With the archaeological investigation phase and extent of the resource analyzed, the cross-divisional and cross agency team were able to get the rehabilitation project back on track. Much to the delight of visitors and staff alike, the Towpath trail will be up and running in the foreseeable future.

Taking measurements and making a map.

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.

ArcGIS based Oil Spill Indigenous Mapping Project Update

ArcGIS based Oil Spill Indigenous Mapping Project Update

by: Cody O’Dale

Figure 1 – Me in Idaho

Hi, I’m Cody O’Dale and I’m currently based in the Bureau of Indian Affairs Fort Hall Agency office in Fort Hall, Idaho. I recently graduated with my masters in Geographic Information Science from Idaho State University. During the course of my study I worked with NASA DEVELOP and NASA RECOVER developing remote sensing techniques for wildfire mitigation and recovery.

Figure 2 – Me at Boott Cotton Mills in Lowell, MA

This summer I have been working with the National Park Services Tribal and Cultural Affairs -Northeast Region. In June I was given the opportunity to fly to Lowell, MA and visit the host agency and meet my partner Colleen Truskey and other stakeholders in the project.

Our internship tasked us with research, sourcing and creating spatial data, while adding new data to the ArcGIS based Oil Spill Indigenous Mapping Project following established NPS GIS guidelines. By collaborating with cultural resource specialists, tribal cultural and natural resource officers we have created and updated GIS layers for ethnographic, archaeological, and geophysical data sets for park and other reserve lands across the country.

Figure 3 – BIA Leadership Data

Rain, Rain Go Away

Rain, Rain Go Away

by: Mariah Walzer

Let’s start with the bad news. The site I was supposed to help excavate this summer is down this path:

That’s right. It’s underwater. It’s been raining for the past week, and the forecast calls for even more rain this week. But as a teacher of mine pointed out, this is all just part of being an archaeologist. Sometimes your site floods, sometimes you have to evacuate due to fires, and sometimes your site gets destroyed by ISIS (true story for one of the PhD students I met at University of Chicago). You get pretty good at rolling with the punches.

Silver lining: I did find a projectile point in the not-flooded part of the field!

Now, on to the good news: I picked up another project! Remember all those projectile points I identified from that donated collection? At the end of my last post, I had just started creating an educational presentation using the artifacts. Well, with all this indoors time, I completed one presentation on archaeology at Monocacy National Battlefield in general, and I am finishing up another on lithic technology and analysis.

(Pop quiz! What does “lithic” mean? See the end of my post for the answer.)

One of my first slides tackles some common misconceptions about archaeology, especially the infamous dinosaur comments. (No, archaeologists do not study dinosaurs.)

I really enjoyed this project, because archaeology education is one of my passions. History can seem boring and feel very distant from us, if not taught well. Archaeology has a special opportunity to bring history to life because of its focus on artifacts, tangible pieces of the past.

Here’s a quick story to illustrate. On my first field school, we visited Kettle Falls, Washington, which used to be a major salmon fishery before the Grand Coulee Dam permanently flooded the Falls and stopped the salmon from swimming up river. On the bluff above the river, there is a very large sharpening stone that was moved to preserve it shortly before the dam became operational. I ran my fingers along the many grooves in that rock. It was amazing to think that my hands could touch the same rock that other people touched potentially thousands of years ago. It was a very powerful moment for me. I always think about that stone when I consider the power of artifacts to make a connection between the past and the present.

The sharpening stone at Kettle Falls

Grooves worn into the stone from years and years of indigenous people sharpening their spears and other tools here.

Looking through other CRDIP-ers’ posts, I noticed a theme echoing around: telling untold stories. I also emphasize this theme in my presentation, because I believe it is one of the most important goals of archaeology. Written history is only part of the story, set down by those with the means and ability to write. It often ignores the voices of the illiterate, the “losers,” and those who live(d) in cultures focused on oral tradition. Archaeology gives us opportunities to give those people a voice, retroactively at least.

At Monocacy NB, excavations in 2010 – 2012 sought to learn about a group of people that we know little about: enslaved persons in Maryland. The area currently known as Best Farm was called L’Hermitage from 1794 to 1827, when it was owned by the Vincendières, French plantation owner refugees from Saint Domingue (now Haiti). The Vincendières were the second largest slaveholders in Frederick, Maryland, with somewhere between 50 and 90 enslaved persons at their maximum. Survey in 2004 discovered the approximate location of slave quarters that were mentioned in historical documents. The 2010-2012 excavations sought to learn about the structure of the houses and the organization of the village, as well as uncover any artifacts related to the slaves’ lives. Six nearly identical structures were found and many artifacts. This project offered the chance to tell another of the many stories that played out on park land. After all, the Civil War was only four years and the Battle of Monocacy one day, yet people have been living in this area for over 10,000 years.

Photo from Monocacy NB’s exhibit on the L’Hermitage Slave Village. Artifacts such as coins, pottery and glass pieces, pipe stems, and the handle of a pair of scissors give us a glimpse into the lives of the enslaved persons at L’Hermitage.


3D reconstruction of the L’Hermitage Slave Village from Monocacy NB. The six slave houses (bottom right) were very uniformly placed and constructed, showcasing the heavy restrictions placed on the enslaved persons. The overseer may have lived in the white and stone house closest to the center, and the Vincendière family would have lived in the main house (the all-white building in the top left).

I gave a test run of my presentation to the Youth Conservation Corps kids working at the park this summer. Then, on one of the few sunny days we’ve had, the YCC joined us to dig some shovel test pits for a project to move a fence to better reflect its probable location at the time of the war. The high schoolers told me that they really enjoyed their Archaeology Day, so mission accomplished!

That’s me in the red ACE shirt shoveling dirt into the screen for the YCC kids to shift through!

I’m looking forward to presenting to the public at Infantry Day on August 11th! It’s hard to believe I have less than two weeks left here, though. Time flies so fast when you’re having fun!

Pop quiz answer: “Lithic” means stone. When archaeologists talk about lithic technology, or “lithics” for short, we’re referring to stone tools like projectile points and groundstone (mortar & pestle, axes, hammerstones, etc.)

Brown Paper Packages all Type Up With String: Research at the National Archives, D.C.

Stateside Adjustments

by: Alysha Page

Diving Into the Archives

My study area right before I pull records at NARA.

After a few weeks of secondary research, the next step was dive into the archival research. I knew from the beginning that there would be a scarcity of archival information when dealing with African American subjects. That reality is not negated when researching African American military personnel from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. I went in understanding that if I did find specifics about the soldiers it would be from injury reports, court marshals, census records, deployment information, and similar records. It will be a process of sussing out what research avenues are useful and which should be abandoned. My hope is to least trace the movements of Company L, 24th Infantry before arrival in Skagway, Alaska in May 1899 and after they left Skagway. To do this I started researching through one of the largest record groups of the “U.S. Continental Army from 1817-1947.” I made use of The KLGO Historic Resource Study from 1970 as my primary lead to hunting down some possible useful places to look for information regarding the Company L, 24th Infantry. This portion of historic research is very much like sleuthing, real Indiana Jones meets Sherlock Holmes (minus the misogyny and destruction of artifacts).

The first step to hunting down what could possibly yield useful information was determining what department within the War Department would have information on Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. Even though the writer of the KLGO Historic Resource Study had a clear biased against the Black soldiers of Company L, the footnotes were an invaluable tool in pinpointing record groups. Using one of the citations I decided to search the NARA database for “The Department of the Columbia.” The Department of the Columbia includes territories of Washington, Idaho, and later the district of Alaska following the purchase of Alaska in 1867. I also have found sources from Camp Dyea where Captain Henry Hovey and the soldiers were stationed when they first arrived in Skagway in May of 1899. Also, Camp Skagway where they were stationed the majority of their time in Alaska from 1899- 1902. I later expanded my search to Fort Wrangel, the fort where 46 soldiers along with Lieutenant Isaac Jenks were stationed. That was a very fruitful search. The easy part is over, now the more difficult part of actually finding useful information began.

How I feel going through documents in the National Archives, D.C.

Going through archival material is my favorite part of being a historian. Having the chance to search in the National Archives (NARA) is best part of researching in D.C. Unfortunately, my first two weeks in the archives didn’t yield as much information as I would have hoped, but I did realize that I am at least searching in the right area! I was able to find some mention of Company L and some correspondence of Lieu. Isaac Jenks and Captain Hovey in a record of Monthly Returns from Dyea.

Being Realistic with Research Goals

As hopeful as I am about finding sources that speak directly to the experience of the soldiers of Company L, 24th Infantry at the National Archives, I am very aware of shortcomings of military documentation or Archival material as a whole. As was mentioned in a previous blog the lives of African Americans have been historically undervalued, therefore any documentation accumulated from our existence in the U.S. is deemed lacking intrinsic value. This is why Black families save their own records or created their own museums to preserve our stories. If I do find further correspondence in Record Group 393 it will most likely be from Captain Hovey and Lieut. Jenks. It would be a miracle to find any accounts from soldiers in NARA War Department Records. I do hope, however, to be able to trace soldiers movements through payroll reports, drills, and the like. This will help me better understand which soldiers stayed in Skagway, Alaska for the majority of the Company’s deployment and then later find out where they went after deployment.

Why, you ask? Well, if I can find where they went after they left Skagway I may be able to track down their families who may have saved their loved one’s stories through oral history or material culture (keepsakes, photos, letters, uniforms, etc.). From the records at NARA, it is my desire to get some idea of how soldiers were treated by their white counterparts. To gain a better understanding of the lives of Black military men in a predominately white environment. To further illuminate the two years spent in Skagway during this very little discussed part of American history. The War Department is a jumping off point for what I hope to be a very fruitful next five months in Washington, D.C.

Until next time, Farewell!

Ships, Historic Homes, and Robots – Oh my!

Ships, Historic Homes, and Robots – Oh my!

by: Danielle Kronmiller

On the navigation bridge of the USS Cassin Young

The progress of the annual collections inventory at Boston National Historical Park is sailing along quite nicely! With the final weeks of my internship in view, we have really closed in on the final items on the inventory lists. Recently, we undertook one of the most exciting, and tiring, days of inventory thus far – locating collections artifacts on board the USS Cassin Young. An impressive Fletcher-class World War II destroyer, she survived two kamikaze hits, went on to serve in the Korean War, and, after years in the US Navy’s mothball fleet, came to the Charlestown Navy Yard – where she was repaired several times during the wars – to be preserved as a floating museum. As a part of Boston National Historical Park, the USS Cassin Young represents the Navy Yard’s 20th century significance, complementing the shipyard’s earlier history represented by the USS Constitution docked just across the pier. While the main deck is always open to visitors, you can only really access the lower and upper decks by guided tour – or to take inventory of the many original artifacts on board the ship!

Myself below deck in one of the crew berthing areas, inventory list in tow

Catalog number on a reproduction mattress used to interpret the berthing areas

This includes items as large as 20 and 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, down to items as small as ships clocks and battle lanterns, and many things in between. The inventory also includes some reproduction items that have been placed onboard USS Cassin Young by the National Park Service for interpretative purposes, like mattresses in the berthing areas. It was incredible to explore such a storied ship in order to check off items on the inventory, but the experience was also striking in another way. Below deck, with poor ventilation and tight spaces, it gets hot very quickly. The day itself was a bit warmer, but the difference descending below the main deck was marked, and I have a feeling that Boston, even in the summer, is a bit cooler than the South Pacific! The experience really gave me a greater appreciation of the men who lived and worked on the USS Cassin Young for many months and years.

A view of the Stone Library and part of the Old House at Peace field, part of Adams National Historical Park

One of the most incredible things about working in and visiting museums is the variety – there really is something for everyone. This was really drawn into focus for me on two consecutive visits, one to Adams National Historical Park just outside of Boston in Quincy, Massachusetts, and the other to the MIT Museum. Adams National Historical Park, another NPS site, comprises of multiple locations – the birthplaces of presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and the Old House at Peace field, the residence of four generations of the Adams family.

Inside the Stone Library

A visit to the Park begins at the Visitor’s Center, where, following an introductory film, a trolley takes you to two 17th-century farmhouses, the birthplaces of the two presidents. The group was guided through both historic buildings by an NPS ranger, where we learned about the early involvement Adams’ in shaping US history. From there, we hopped back on the trolley and visited Peace field, the residence purchased by John Adams following his rise to prominence. Again, a ranger guided us through the historic home, filled with the original belongings of four generations of the Adams family, providing interpretation and history along the way. A personal highlight was the tour’s conclusion in the Stone Library located in the garden next to the house, built by John Quincy Adams’ son Charles. There is a certain feeling of immersion when visiting and touring historic homes and buildings, and I believe this kind of guided interpretation is very successful in bringing history to life.

‘Troody’ a robotic dinosaur on display at the MIT Museum

The following day, I headed to Cambridge for a visit to the MIT Museum, a completely different, but equally as fascinating experience. Interpreting scientific and technological history and advancement is much different than recounting, for example, social and political history. Often with topics like robotics or neuroscience – as in two major exhibits at the MIT Museum – visitors will either possess specialized knowledge, or know nothing more than the basics. In this case, I certainly fall into the latter category! The MIT Museum, from my point of view, did a wonderful job at making the information comprehensible by all audiences. Interpretative texts simplified concepts enough that they were accessible individuals who are less familiar with subjects like programming or mechanical engineering, but did so in a way that was engaging. There was also a fascinating intersection between art and science present in the museum. A special exhibit featuring groundbreaking drawings of the anatomy of the brain not only focused on their scientific significance, but their artistic merit. Another gallery showcased an artist’s whimsical mechanical sculptures, both creatively intriguing and mechanically complex.

These mechanical sculptures were some of the most fascinating objects in the museum. A foot pedal on the floor makes them start moving. The contraption on the right made the wishbone ‘walk’ back and forth!

Though these two institutions are vastly different in their form and content, each preserves and presents invaluable information for the public, providing diverse and complementary lenses through which to view the world. I am very fortunate that my internship has given me the opportunity to explore so many collections in different contexts, both behind the scenes and as a visitor!

Dispatches from Washington, DC

Dispatches from Washington, DC

by: Megan Bailey

Trained as an archaeologist, I normally spend my summers engaged in some type of fieldwork, whether it’s excavating a historic site or cleaning, identifying, and processing artifacts. This summer, however, I’m spending most of my time in an office building, sitting in front of a computer. This may sound uninteresting, but to the contrary, I’ve found plenty of things to get excited about.

I’m interning in the Cultural Resources Office of Interpretation and Education at the NPS headquarters in Washington, DC (usually referred to as WASO). Having worked in a national park before, I thought I knew the ins and outs of how the NPS operated…but now that I’m at the main building, I’m learning so much about how NPS policies are crafted and enacted, how priorities are developed, and, in short, why the NPS does what it does. Because I’m a policy nerd, I love seeing this process in motion — how the laws and current administration dictate priorities, which are then crafted into policies at WASO, which are then handed down to the NPS regional offices, which oversee their execution at individual parks, sites, and monuments (admittedly, this is an oversimplified description).

So, what is my role in all this? The WASO Cultural Resources Office of Interpretation and Education is spearheading the national coordination of the 19th Amendment Centennial Commemoration, which will take place in 2020 (ratified in 1920, the 19th Amendment gave (white) women the right to vote). I am assisting with these efforts by researching the history of the 19th Amendment as well as the 15th Amendment (which gave Black men the right to vote in 1870) and connecting these histories to stories, places, and people within national parks. I will be writing a series of articles on the topic of voting rights– addressing citizenship, civic engagement, activism, and other aspects of the struggle for universal suffrage– and will publish these articles on the NPS website.

After spending MANY years in school (I earned a B.A., M.A., and PhD., all in Anthropology), I am thrilled to have the opportunity to exercise my academic skills in the “real world.” The NPS is faster-paced than academia and has different philosophies and values, so that required some adjustment on my part, but overall I am enjoying my work, where I must use the research skills I picked up in graduate school and apply them to topics that I know very little about. In addition, my research has taken me to all kinds of places — the Library of Congress and the National Archives, for example– and I am constantly amazed by the incredible historical resources we have in the U.S.

Currently, I am at the stage in the research process where I have piles of books everywhere, tons of notes strewn about my desk, and a million tabs open on my computer. In a couple of weeks I should be able to report on some of my findings, but right now I’m simply trying to organize the overwhelming amount of resources I’ve collected. This chaotic scene is not very photogenic, so instead I will focus on my office building for the visual portion of this blog post.

Dept. of the Interior Building at night, ca. 1930-1945, courtesy of the Tichnor Brothers Collection at the Boston Public Library.

Constructed between 1935 and 1936, the Main Interior Building houses the headquarters of the Department of the Interior and all of its federal agencies, such as the NPS, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The building is enormous, spanning two city blocks, and is a maze of corridors inside, housing hundreds of offices.

One of many NPS corridors.

One of my favorite things about this building is that there is art everywhere. For example, there are 26 prints of the 200+ images that the photographer and conservationist Ansel Adams produced for the Interior Mural Project of 1941. These gorgeous photographs document Interior-managed resources, such as parks and reclamation projects.

“Formations along the wall of the Big Room, near Crystal Spring Home, Carlsbad Caverns National Park,” New Mexico, by Ansel Adams, ca, 1933-1942.

Full View of Cactus and Surround Shrubs, “In Saguaro National Monument,” Arizona, by Ansel Adams, ca. 1933-1942,

View of Valley from Mountain, “Canyon de Chally” National Monument, Arizona, by Ansel Adams, ca. 1933-1942.

The DOI building also features over 40 murals painted by a variety of artists during the Great Depression as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

“Construction of the Dam” by William Gropper, 1940.

“Desert” by Nicolai Cikovsky, 1938.

“Replanting the Wasteland” by Ernest Fiene, 1938.

In addition to paintings and photographs, the building also has several marble sculptures.

“American Bison” by Boris Gilbertson, 1939.

No tour of the DOI building would be complete without a view from the rooftop. From there, one can easily see noteworthy structures and monuments such as the White House, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Washington Monument.

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.

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