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Brazilian Peppertree Removal – Padre Island National Seashore

This past summer, ACE Texas – Gulf Coast worked with the National Park Service (NPS) to remove invasive Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthefolia) on Padre Island National Seashore, located off the Gulf Coast of Texas. At 70 miles long, Padre Island remains the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world and boasts a rich cultural history of nomadic hunters and gatherers, Spanish shipwreck survivors and ranchers, among others.  Beginning in 1941, Padre Island was established as a Naval Air Station and aerial bombing range, serving as the largest naval pilot training facility in the world through WWII. Today, the island is both a popular tourist destination and crucial habitat for a diverse number of animals and insects, including over 380 bird species and several endangered sea turtles.

The Texas crew, directed by Crew Leader Stefan Brisita, poses in the middle of a fresh-cut stand of Brazilian peppertree before applying chemical treatment.

For this project, the ACE – Texas crew spent a few days on the main island working with NPS botanists and ecologists to search for Brazilian peppertree seedlings in areas that were once completely inundated prior to treatment. Corpsmembers formed a walking grid in order to track and eradicate any new growth of peppertree in its earliest stage. The team gridded almost 200 acres while hand pulling invasive seedlings before moving to the adjacent Pepper Island to begin chemical treatment.

Originally from South America, the Brazilian peppertree, or “Florida holly”, was favored for its ornamental flowers and pink-red berries. While beautiful, these berries cause minor to severe allergic reactions in humans and are extremely toxic to bird species. The tree’s sap can produce skin reactions similar to those associated with poison ivy in sensitive individuals and will release particle toxins into the air when burned. The tree itself is considered highly invasive due to its toxicity to native soil and plants, along with its ability to spread quickly via seed dispersion and create independent basal shoots from stumps and horizontal root.

Southwest Texas Project Manager Josh Kalman stands next to a mature stand of Brazilian peppertree.

For the Texas division’s first official backcountry project, the crew took six trips via small boat to transport all necessary gear and supplies to the work site. Members used chainsaws and herbicide to slash and treat invasive Brazilian peppertree via the cut-stump method—a selective, systemic treatment designed to kill the tree at the roots with minimal impact to the surrounding area. Cut trunks and limbs were stacked into piles to avoid further dispersion, as well as to allow for new growth of native vegetation. Over 480 work hours on Pepper Island, the crew took out just under an acre of densely-packed peppertree.

While completing work on Padre Island National Seashore, the Texas corpsmembers also had the unique opportunity to attend an official turtle release with NPS, where 11 juvenile Pacific Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) were released  to begin their journey into the surf. Padre Island provides safe nesting areas for all five species of sea turtles found in the Gulf of Mexico, including the endangered kemp’s ridley, hawksbill, green, and leatherback sea turtles, as well as the classified threatened loggerhead sea turtle.

A corpsmember uses gloves to carefully release a green sea turtle into the water.

 

Green turtles are transported safely in large totes before being released.

To find out more about Padre Island National Seashore’s history, nature, and activities, please visit the NPS website here.

El Yunque National Forest | Puerto Rico

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, ACE Puerto Rico has been hard at work to reopen trails in the El Yunque National Forest. To give some background, ACE Puerto Rico was established in 2015 with its first project partner at San Juan National Historic Site (NPS). The branch has now expanded its’ reach to the east side of the island. Hurricane Maria hit soon after ACE and the US Forest Service began its partnership in El Yunque and fixing the damage has been the primary focus for the ACE crew. The crew members at this branch are all Puerto Rican locals, many of whom grew up in communities surrounding the forest. 

El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rainforest within the US national forest system and provides 10% of the water for the whole island. The forest is located in the northeastern region of the island on the slopes of the Sierra de Luquillo mountains. At 28,000 acres, it is the largest block of public land in Puerto Rico. “This forest is a powerful symbol for this community,” said crew leader Alberto Rivera, “I think for the rest of the island, the east is the Yunque.” The heavy rainfall creates a jungle-like setting with tree ferns, palms, and lush foliage as well as waterfalls and forest creatures, including the critically endangered Puerto Rican amazon parrot.

 In September of 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated many areas around the island, including El Yunque. Many of the buildings and trails in the forest that were closed for repairs have since been reopened through the efforts of the US Forest Service and the ACE crew! El Yunque is a resilient forest that has recovered tremendously on its own from the initial damage of the hurricane but continues to see the effects of the immense rainfall and high winds. These impacts include down trees, debris clogging drains along the trail and road, and damage to the facilities within the forest. 

For some of the crew members this is their first job, Rivera stated, “ACE El Yunque has given the opportunity for young adults to learn valuable life skills, connect with nature, and create a second family. We’ve had the opportunity to learn and work side by side with El Yunque’s watershed, heritage, ecosystem, operations, and public services team on different projects.” The crew is comprised of Rivera and four community members, Estefany Gonzalez, Jan Carrasquillo, Wesley Santos, and Bryan Carrasquillo, who recently began employment with the US Forest Service. Over the last year, the crew has repainted the Yokahu Tower, performed trail maintenance on 13 miles of trail and helped open over six different trails, logged out over 70 trees, maintained forest roads and facilities, and assisted with volunteer groups. It’s safe to say that it has been a very busy and productive first year for this crew. ACE is so proud to be a part of El Yunque’s recovery and continued grandeur.

 

https://www.fs.usda.gov/elyunque/

Conducting an Annual Inventory

By Juan Davila

In this past week, we have worked solely on the Annual inventory of CHAM. Our team leader, Mark Calamia, asked for the help of Rodney Souter a conservator in Chamizal to help us on the process and teach us along the way. After a meeting and being briefed on what encompasses an Annual inventory and the 3 parts that separate the workload. The Annual Inventory is done every year, although I was told before it was done every 3 years in the NPS. It consists of three lists: Controlled Items,
Randomized Items and Accessioned items.

Once we had been briefed and given a reminder for how to handle and take care of the possible items we would find, we headed over to the vault and moved out all the big objects so that we could walk with ease. Along with my team, we prepared our cotton gloves and started to look for the items.  Controlled inventory was fast, since ICMS picked only paintings, and they were easy to find in the racks.

The randomized inventory was a whole other adventure that took us two days to complete. The items were stored in several locations and somewhere on the warehouse that I had mentioned in my previous blog. My team was very grateful that we had taken time in the summer to organize the warehouse because if not the random object would have been an even bigger task. We found many interesting objects, including a ring from U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. LBJ’s daughter gifted the ring to Chamizal because she felt it would honor her father and wanted it to be exposed in an exhibit of the Memorial. I also found correspondence between U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Mexican President Lopez Mateos concerning the treaty of Chamizal and the conversation that followed between Lopez Mateos and Lyndon B. Johnson after Kennedy’s assassination.

Figure 1: Working with my team at CHAM

After we finished the randomized  items list, we passed over to the non-accessioned items. This list was a headache because they had been wrongfully registered in the past. Instead of archival collections, each page or flyer was cataloged as its own item. To make it worst most items had inconsistent descriptions and we discovered many had the description of a different object. Most of the items were flyers or pamphlets from recitals or pianos. I got to see several flyers from the early 60’s promoting black face plays. This was shocking to me, I had read and seen them in class but once I saw the art in the posters, I could comprehend how atrocious those plays were. This week was a great learning experience. I gained valuable skills and knowledge from my peers and had a lot of fun finding objects in the vault.  I never expected I would find random pamphlets and signed documents from presidents.

Figure 2: Discovering Pamphlets and Documents from Signed Presidents

Discovering Women’s Suffrage Specific to Missouri

By Elizabeth Eikmann

Weeks 2 and 3 were filled with visits to the archive, with a few more visits to the archive, and ending with a visit to the archive! I spent the majority of the past few weeks diving into women’s suffrage related ephemera–images, objects, and papers.

My first archive visit was to the Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center. The building was constructed in 1926 and was home to one of the largest Jewish synagogues in the nation for 62 years. In 1989, MHS purchased the building, renovating it to house their collections and archives. For more on the history of the building and to see a selection of historic images visit their website here.

Here are some images of the building I took while researching there:

Figure 1: Missouri History Museum Library

Figure: Beautiful Ceiling of Missouri History Museum Library

While at the Missouri History Museum Library and Research center, I explored the papers of the Couzin’s family–a nineteenth century St. Louis family with multiple family women involved in local and national suffrage activities. I reviewed the Civil War Claims books of Francis Minor, husband of suffragist Virginia Minor. I also sifted through what seems like hundreds of letters, pamphlets, and images related to suffrage.

Figure 3: Exploring the Papers of the Couzin’s family

Figure 4: St. Louis Public Library

Next I visited the St. Louis Public Library Central Branch, the first public library built in the city in 1865. The original building still houses the library and all of its archival collections. Though small, their women’s suffrage newspaper clippings and ephemera proved to be a mighty selection with some wonderful references and resources.

 

Here is a bird’s eye view of just a fraction of everything I uncovered the past two weeks:

Figure 5: Image of images!

Figure 6: Just a fraction of what I uncovered at the Library

…Now, back to work!

Figure 7: My work space

 

 

 

 

 

Minute Man National Historic Park Blog Post #3

By Allison Hillman

 

July 7th-13th 

This work week was full of Junior Ranger initiations, Parker’s Revenge tours, and North Bridge talks.

Junior Rangers, July 7th 

I mentioned in the last blog post that I get to swear in Junior Rangers and help them complete their activity books, and this week was no different. I got to help these adorable siblings aged four and six years old complete their activity books. The little girl insisted on calling me “teacher” and refused to let anybody but me help her, which was really sweet. This photo was taken by my supervisor who posted it on the official Minute Man Facebook page. If you can’t tell from my hair, it was very humid that day. The siblings got their badges and clutched their Junior Ranger certificates as they were leaving, and the little girl contemplated where she would hide it so that nobody would steal it from her.

Figure 1: Swearing in the Sweetest Junior Rangers!

Parker’s Revenge Talk, July 12th 

One of my duties as an intern ranger here is to give tours of the Parker’s Revenge archaeological site. A few years ago, a team of archaeologists came to Minute Man and excavated a site where it was speculated that a group of Minute Men ambushed the retreating British army. This talk is about thirty minutes and I get to take people on a short walk to the site itself. We have the thirty-two musket balls excavated from the site on display in the Minute Man Visitor’s Center. This talk pictured below was attended by over forty people which was by far the largest crowd I’ve had. We had people from California as far as Spain on this talk, which is part of the reason why I love this job so much. It is a delight to talk to these people and get their perspective on the history.

Figure 2: Guiding Tours on the Parker’s Revenge Archaeological Site

North Bridge Talk, July 13th 

I gave a few talks at the North Bridge in Concord where the “shot heard round the world” was fired. It is a twenty minute talk that details the events that took place at the bridge on April 19, 1775. The talk pictured here was attended by about fifteen people who were very interested in the history. This is the site where the colonists were ordered to fire against their own British army for the very first time, committing treason, and officially starting the Revolutionary War. This was the second talk I gave here at the bridge and I was very pleased with how it went.

Figure 3: Giving a Talk About “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”.

Cleaning Up and Moving Forward

By Anna Tiburzi

Another couple weeks have come and gone and I’ve been working near exclusively on model development. I’m going to go into a bit of what I’ve been focused on recently and, for those of you unfamiliar with SketchUp, I’ll describe a few of the tools and methods I’ve used.

One of the biggest challenges this past week has been cleaning up the meshes which I generated a couple weeks ago. These meshes act as the terrain for each model and are created from the existing contour information and layers from the CAD files for each of the six models. These contours can be brought into SketchUp from CAD and using the “From Contours” tool in the Sandbox Toolbar, can be turned into landforms.

 

Figure 1: The 1952 model before and after the mesh generation

While the meshes were informative and smoothed out much of the terrain, there were several areas in each model that had inconsistencies or generated incorrectly. Walkways were bumpy when they should be smooth, edges where the seawalls are were all over the place – anywhere where planar geometry was supposed to be (walls, stairs, etc.) didn’t quite generate accurately.

Figure 2: Errors in the mesh generation at the sea wall, before and after (1952 model)

I tried a couple different methods to smooth them out, but as tends to be the case, the hard way proved the most effective method – entering the terrain mesh groups and going in by hand to clean them up. Terrains generated in SketchUp result in a mesh “group” which you can enter and alter from inside without compromising the rest of the model.  Once inside, I erased incorrect connections and generated smaller terrain meshes in certain areas to patch them back up. There’s a certain amount of satisfaction when you fix up a mesh and see it fall back into place cleanly. I also started putting in some of that missing planar geometry, though there’s still a ways to go on that front, especially with the seawall.

Figure 3: Errors in the mesh generation are often associated with intersecting planar geometry such as stairs (top) and walls along paths (bottom). Here I’ve addressed the issues and resolved the geometry.

Now that the meshes are good to go, the next task I wanted to tackle was pathways. Going back to the CAD files once again for each model, I isolated the path information that I wanted and erased any extra data that wouldn’t be helpful and saved them each as new CAD files to be imported into the models. Like meshes, CAD files come in as a group. Using the “drape” tool, these lines can be dropped onto the new terrain mesh. This will make it possible later to add colors and textures to certain areas to separate out where different materials will go.

Figure 4: An axonometric of the 1952 model showing the model base (bottom), the terrain mesh with materials added (middle), and paths layer that was draped onto the mesh (top).

Unfortunately, not all of the paths draped successfully. This happens sometimes, it just means that the paths weren’t quite connected at all their corners and intersections. That’s easy enough to clean up – either redrawing lines with “hidden geometry” turned on (which makes it possible to see all the triangular planes that make up a mesh surface) or by drawing new lines and draping those down onto the mesh to connect back up all the gaps. Once they’re all connected up, materials (colors and textures) can be added to differentiate the surfaces.

Figure 5: Sometimes the lines that make up the paths aren’t quite connected at all their intersections, causing selections to be inaccurate. By closing the gaps, areas are separated and ready for material and texture fills.

I haven’t finished putting the meshes and materials together completely for each model, but they’re all well underway. While the before and after from two weeks ago to today may not look drastically different for each model, the time put in to clean them up and apply materials will make it much easier later on for when they’re brought into another program for further rendering.

Figure 6: Before and after of the 1937 model (top) and the 1952 model (bottom).

Finally, the last little bit I’ve been working on are building treatments. The buildings in the models aren’t very detailed and with a little work here and there they could be made more convincing. To get each one perfectly accurate however, would require a fair amount of legwork and time. Another option is to create general building “treatments” which could be applied quickly, relatively speaking, to the buildings. Going back through the historical photos, I’ve found general styles and ideas that could be added. Treatment options right now are focused on roofs, window style, and chimneys. Deciding what treatments we’re going to move forward with hasn’t been finalized or discussed yet – I’ll be working on that with my mentor, Professor Aidan Ackerman (at SUNY ESF), and the folks at NPS – but I’ve been collecting and creating some options that can be picked from or mixed and matched to keep the character of the buildings during each time period.

 

Figure 7: Examples of buildings from the historical photos and conceptual treatments to be further developed and applied at a later date.

There’s more to be done before the models are ready for rendering, but they’re coming along. Some days and tasks prove more challenging than others, but there’s a lot to be learned from them, both about my own skills and the nuances of the programs that I’m using. For now, I’ll keep moving the models along and getting them ready for the next stage.

 

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minute Man National Historic Park, Blog Post #2

By Allison Hillman

Black Powder Musket Training

The most exciting thing to take place these last few weeks was the black powder musket training we had. As part of my job here at Minute Man, I get to dress in traditional colonial garb and give musket firing demonstrations at Hartwell Tavern. So far, this is one of my favorite things I’ve done. However, getting dressed is incredibly complicated. There are more than thirteen costume pieces and a lot of steps to put on traditional colonial women’s clothing. It takes at least ten minutes every time to get dressed. A big part of this is because of the stay (corset). Lacing that up takes a majority of my time. We had two days of musket training. We learned all the steps in preparing to fire, of which there are fifteen. I had a fellow ranger take these pictures of me in my colonials. Clearly, I felt too cool to smile. Besides musket firing, one of the things we do at the tavern is wander about the home and tell visitors the history of the Hartwell family and their role in the war. We do not play specific characters which is nice, so we can talk to visitors freely and openly about a plethora of subjects.

Figure 1: Too cool to smile. Me in colonial garb.

Minute Man Visitors Center 

When I’m not doing the colonial reenactments, I spend a majority of my time at the Minute Man Visitor’s Center. We get between 400-1000 visitors a day depending on the day of the week, Friday through Sunday being the most busy. As the ranger on duty there, I have the wonderful honor of helping the Junior Rangers. They are primarily aged four through twelve and the activity books differ in difficulty based on age. This little girl, aged four, needed some help counting in order to finish the connect-the-dots activity in her Junior Ranger packet. Once the packet is complete, we get to swear them in and give them their badge. Most kids take this very seriously and are over the moon when they earn their badge. It is as cute as it sounds. I usually get to swear in a few Junior Rangers a day, and it is by far one of my favorite things about working at Minute Man.

Figure 2: Swearing in Junior Rangers. By far, my favorite task at Minute Man

The North Bridge 

I will typically spend one day a week at North Bridge and the North Bridge Visitor’s Center. I generally give people directions, tell them about the park, and take a plethora of family photos. Everyone is very kind and I’ve met people from all corners of the world. I’ve heard Spanish, Arabic, Russian, French, German, Swedish, and more spoken at the park since I’ve started. I have even had the chance to converse with a Deaf couple in ASL. It was nice to make that connection and they said they appreciated my help. I love being surrounded by so much diversity, I learn something new every day.

Figure 3: Surrounded by Diversity and Guiding those visiting is a daily task when I am at the North Bridge

Lincoln Home Blog

By Christian Rice

When I found out that I would need to write a few blog posts throughout the summer for this internship, I was … worried. Worried about making the posts interesting, and informative, and funny. And then I realized I would have to do them no matter what, so I just said … well, I don’t think I can repeat what I said, but you probably get the gist.

Now enter stage going-to-invoke-mid-2000s-peak-hipster-blogging-realness. 

The Goal:  Find a cute coffee shop with decent coffee and good Wi-Fi, set up shop in said coffee house and let the creative genius flow, instantaneously become world-wide blogging sensation (because are you really a member of our generation if you’re not seeking instant gratification?), look cute while doing all the above.

The Reality:  My plan started out great; it was like divine intervention. Right across the street from the Lincoln Home site is the historic Lindsey/Maisenbacher home which houses Wm. Van’s Coffee House. It has everything: the coffee, the internet, it’s a short walk from work, and as a bonus they even serve great, vegetarian friendly food. (The veggie naan is amazing).

FUN FACT: Lindsey borrowed money from Abraham Lincoln to help cover the down payment on the house.

Figure 1: Inside Wm. Van’s Coffee House. Photo courtesy of EnjoyIllinois

Unfortunately, that’s about as far into the checklist as I got. The endless flow of creative genius I was hoping for? More like a dried-up creek. I, for the life of me, could not think of anything to write. I’d get a sentence or two, read it over, delete it. It was like that for a good half hour or so until I finally gave up.

That was a week ago, when this post probably should have been turned in. Fast forward to today, and I am on the couch writing this, in my pajamas, hair in a bun, and reruns of Bones are playing on the TV in the background.

Is it the blog-writing experience I was gunning for? No.

Have the words been spilling onto the page? Also no. This is taking forever.

Is there a moral to this story that you should walk away with? Yes.

And that is? Don’t wait until the last minute to turn your -ish in.

No, but in all seriousness, what little advice I do have is this: Don’t let your expectations, whether they be high or low, rule your experiences.

Okay, with that little preface out of the way, I can finally share what the first few weeks of my internship have been like.

The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is in Springfield, Illinois. This site, which consists of 13 historic homes on four-and-a-half square blocks within the city, was authorized by President Richard Nixon in 1971 and was officially established on October 9, 1972.

Figure 2: The Lincoln Home Photo courtesy of NPS

Whether it be through a tour of the Lincoln Home, or by exploring the many indoor and outdoor exhibits, visitors can uniquely discover what life was like in 1860s Springfield.

 

I grew up in southern Illinois, only a couple of hours from Springfield. I think I can speak for many of us who have grown up in Illinois when I say that, no matter what part of the state we are from, we often feel a sense of pride in the connection we have to Lincoln and his story. So, when I discovered this CRDIP internship opportunity at the Lincoln Home Site, I applied for it immediately. Not only would I have the chance to work close to home, but I would be doing work related to my academic studies (anthropology/archaeology), and I could feed off that “hometown” pride associated with Lincoln.  

FUN FACT:Lincoln and his family lived in this home for 17 years, and it is the only home Lincoln owned.

 

My job at Lincoln Home is to catalog and store artifacts collected from the restoration of the homes and outbuildings at the site. Some of the artifacts I work with include doors, windows, plaster, nails, and other building materials.

My supervisor, Susan Haake, didn’t hold back when she assigned me my first task at the site. It was tough. It was back breaking. It was … picking up tiny rocks off the floor of the Lincoln Home. You laugh, but what I said is true. Spend several minutes hunched over the floor and then come back. You’ll see.

Figure 3: An example of the types of Artifacts I work with

My next job involved the artifacts housed in storage. I was tasked with pulling out all the artifacts that came from the DuBois House and sorting through them. We’re talking windows, and boards, and plaster (piece of cake after those Lincoln Home rocks). I then wrote down detailed descriptions of each artifact and gave them catalog numbers, both of which I will be entering into the online database as the next step.

My background in archaeology mainly focuses on pre- contact peoples and associated artifacts. I’ve had limited interaction with historic artifacts before this internship, so there’s been a bit of a learning curve, but I’ve enjoyed learning about these new-to-me artifacts and the insight they hold into Lincoln’s life.

Figure 4: DuBois House Photo courtesy of NPS

Over the past three weeks, I’ve also had the opportunity to visit some of the other Lincoln- centered attractions in Springfield. My first weekend in town, I spent some time walking through the beautiful Lincoln Memorial Gardens. I also had the opportunity to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential museum.

 

Figure 5: Areas features around the Lincoln Memorial site

My First Days at Chamizal National Memorial

By Juan Davila

Hello everybody!!

My name is Juan Davila I am a recent college graduate. I graduated in May 2019 from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). I graduated with a bachelors in World History and a minor in Museum Studies. Most of my career courses I took them in border studies and the history in the border.

In May I started an Internship in as a Museum Curator at the Chamizal National Memorial (CHAM)and it has been a very interesting experience. The park was created to commemorate the harmonious settlement of a 100-year dispute between United States and Mexico as to where the border started and ended. The park was created at the same time with a sister park in the side of Mexico with the mission to celebrate the cultures of the borderland and promote mutual respect between both countries.

 

Figure 1: Chamizal National Memorial

I was not able to work the first week due to my background check not being processed on time. Since June started and our backgrounds checks had not been processed I was tasked to help with the Centennial Museum at UTEP. I was tasked with translating oral interviews for an exhibition that will be exposed in august. The interviews are from people who lived in Smeltertown or worked in the Asarco an American Smelting and Refining Company. The smelter opened in 1894 and closed in 2013. The smelter closed because the city of El Paso grew around the smelter and its pollution was affecting its citizens. It was really eye opening to read all the hardships people lived while working in the company and living in the small town created outside the company called Smeltertown.

 

Figure 2: Asarco, an American Smelting and Refining Company

On June 10 my background check passed, and I was able to start working inside the CHAM premises. I was tasked with the duty of assisting in the augmentation of the list of non-accessioned items. The museum has a really big collection that needs organizing and one of the firsts steps towards it is to realize just how big its collection is. Along with my team we finished listing all accessioned items on June 22 and moved on to organizing the warehouse to be able to store more objects inside of it. The warehouse is where all things come to end and its been fun and tiring organizing the artifacts and finding random things in weird places.

 

My First Days at Lowell National Historic Park

By Chaya Sophon

During this time, I did not get access to use the NPS computers yet to work on the digital tab of the Lowell National Historic Park’s 40th Anniversary. I had to head into Boston in order to get my fingerprint scanned, so that was an opportunity to explore the other National Park Service areas: the Boston National Historic Park and the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. Unfortunately while getting my fingerprint service done, there was an I.T. problem and the appointment lasted longer than anticipated. I did not get the time to explore the Boston National Historic Park, but I knew the Harbor Islands were still a possibility. When I arrived at Long Wharf, the day already was already overcast gray and raining pretty hard. The entire ferry boat just had me and two couples as the only visitors aboard. Despite living in the Greater Boston Area my whole life, this was only the second time I ever got to be on the water. The industrial ports transitioned to islands after islands, until the ferry got to Georges Island. By the time of my ferry ride, kids on school trips were taking the boat back to Boston, so the only other humans on the island were me, the two couples, and two park rangers. I got a glimpse of the visitor center’s film and displays.

Figure 1: Chaya Sophon, me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So began my first week as the Visual Information Assistant Intern here at the Lowell National Historic Park (LHNP). I can consider myself rather lucky for being able to get a deeper dive into the history of my hometown, and to make a footprint in how its history will be seen: as I am going to be working on making a digital tab for a past exhibit, the Museum’s 40th anniversary.

As a Cambodian-American, Lowell is one of the largest homes for my people in America after the diaspora of wars and genocide. The Cultural Resources Diversity Internship Program (CRDIP) aims to benefit diverse minority groups, and by having a Khmer American being able to work on interpreting part of Lowell’s history is great. Lowell has integrated many of its immigrant and refugee populations, and for example, the Angkor Dance Troupe which practices classical Khmer dance is in the same building (the Patrick J. Mogan Cultural Center) where I did my first week of inventory for the LHNP’s collections, because it is in a partnership with the LNHP and the University of Massachusetts to promote the cultures of this city.

With the curatorial department, I got to experience checking on the conditions of items for one of the main museum floor’s items, and items in the “Mill Girls and Immigrants” exhibit. This was once a corporate boardinghouse used to house the mill girls that went to work in the textile industries. Capital had to rely on women, that often came from the country, for their labor force, and the companies wanted to mimic domestic homelife as much as they could in these boarding houses. The exhibit is a walk-in experience, and seeing the rooms as they would have been showed just how over-crowded these quarters were. What I really enjoy about Lowell’s history is how pivotal it is in the US’s labor history, with the Bread and Roses strike happening a city over in Lawrence.

Figure 1: Pawtucket Falls Dam

Also for this week, I’ve been attending the seasonal trainings with the park’s interpretive staff, so I’m getting a lot of different talks on Lowell’s multifaceted history. I got to see the full scope from Women’s History 101, how historic preservation is looking to work with redevelopment in Lowell, and a tour of the Pawtucket Falls Dam, which has been providing hydropower from the 1820’s to today. The image in this diary is of that dam I’ve seen most of my life.

 

Three Sisters Trail | US Forest Service

In the Cleveland National Forest, ACE Pacific West South partnered with the US Forest Service to work on the Three Sisters Trail. The trail is located just outside of Descanso, CA and leads to a beautiful waterfall.

Specifically, in 2018, American Conservation Experience crews completed a reroute of the final 0.5 miles of the Three Sisters Falls Trail. The trail was previously unsustainable and dangerous, leading to an increase in injuries and evacuations. In particular, the last mile of the trail required ropes to scale down a steep, quickly eroding slope which was causing many of the injuries on the trail. The erosion from hikers was impacting the hillside and the creekbed below.

During the second half of 2018, the crew finished the final 0.2 miles of the reroute and widened and stabilized the tread and benching work. The crew also built rock structures such as junk walls, retaining walls, and rock steps. At the end of 2018, the crew had put in 0.56 miles of new tread, brushed 1.09 miles of corridor, and built 10 retaining walls, 5 junk walls, and 31 rock steps! ACE is continuing work with Cleveland National Forest in 2019!

 

https://www.fs.usda.gov/cleveland/

 

 

Congratulations to Porsha Dossie

Today ACE is celebrating the achievements of ACE/EPIC Fellow, Porsha Ra’Chelle Dossie.  Porsha is an emerging public historian from Miami, Florida specializing in black history, urban studies, and the postwar era.

She is currently serving at the National Park Service, Park History Program in Washington, D.C., serving as the lead program assistant for the African American Civil Rights Network (AACRN), a national network charged with engaging the public in the rich history of the Civil Rights Movement through historical sites. 

The President of the National Council for Public History, Marla Miller handing Porsha the New Professional Award.

Porsha was recently awarded the National Council on Public History’s New Professional Award. She was also just awarded the Governor LeRoy Collins Award for Best Post-Graduate Thesis from the Florida Historical Society.

Pictured left to right: Porsha Dossie, Dr. Turkiya Lowe, NPS Chief Historian, Dr. Kelly Spradley-Kurowski, Staff Historian and National Coordinator for the African American Civil Rights Network.

Porsha’s passion for representation and equity in our cultural institutions led her to the
Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016 where
she was a Minority Awards Fellow in the Curatorial Affairs department. In January 2018
she joined the National Park Service as a National Council for Preservation Education Intern.

Porsha with her fellow student project award winners.

Porsha received her Bachelor of Arts degree in History (2014) and Master of Arts in Public History (2018) both at the University of Central Florida (UCF). Her scholarship, community service, and teaching practice have won her numerous accolades, including various grants, fellowships, and the Order of Pegasus, the University of Central Florida’s most prestigious student award.

Porsha received the Governor LeRoy Collins Award for best postgraduate thesis in Cape Canaveral, Florida this past week.

ACE/EPIC is thrilled to see Porsha’s hard work and dedication recognized.  Congratulations Porsha!
For more information on the Park History Program through the National Park Service click here: NPS Park History Program

 

Dan and Amelia’s Most Awesome FWS Adventure

Dan & Amelia’s Most Awesome FWS Adventure

By: Dan Shahar and Amelia Liberatore

In late February, two strangers hopped into a truck. They were on a mission with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to meet and greet visitors at National Wildlife Refuges across the country. These are their adventures.


Dan Shahar and Amelia Liberatore hiking Charon Gardens trail in Wichita Mountains NWR. March 2019. Photo by Dan Shahar.

Bill Williams River NWR

Bill Williams River NWR is about 6,000 acres of riparian habitat located in the mountainous desert of western Arizona. It features the southernmost end of Lake Havasu and the Bill Williams River; the refuge is shaded by cottonwood forest, willows, and saguaro cacti. We were fortunate to arrive after a wet winter and witness the typically red-brown desert bloom with yellow and purple – a display far beyond the reach of recent memory. While we were sitting in our “office” (two camp chairs and collapsible shade tent) we couldn’t help but notice that all of the butterflies were flying with a direct purpose, headed southwest. Unfortunately, they refused to take our survey or answer any questions about where they were going or why. We guessed they might be migrating, and therefore wouldn’t have been able to provide permanent addresses for the survey postcard anyway. It was quite a sight to see them pouring endlessly over the bank, through our office lobby, and into the distance.

Lupine (Lupinus arizonicus) blooming in front of the ridgeline on Bill Williams River NWR. March 2019. Photo by Dan Shahar.

The majority of the people we sampled were self-identified “snowbirds”. For those of you who don’t know, a snowbird is a person with the means to migrate seasonally from their northern summer homes to winter in the southern warmth. They can easily be identified by their white plumage, RVs, sunny demeanor, and far-flung mailing addresses.

At this wildlife refuge we had the unique opportunity to sample anglers and kayakers from the water itself. We went out on a refuge boat with the refuge biologist, and flagged down boaters as they came by. For the most part, recreators didn’t mind being interrupted or maneuvering their craft close to ours. Sampling from the water was a creative way to reach people that did not come into the refuge from land.

Dan Shahar is happy to approach anglers and boaters on Lake Havasu and the Bill Williams River. March 2019. Photo by Amelia Liberatore.

While stationed at Bill Williams NWR, we lived happily at Achii Hanyo Native Fish Facility on the Colorado River Indian Tribe’s Reservation. Our housing was simple: comfortable, remote, and sulfuric. Our water supply came from an on-site well that was pumped through a sulphur deposit, so we quickly learned how to conserve water when washing dishes and bathing to limit our exposure to the smell of rotten eggs. Thanks to our host and his connections, we had the great pleasure of learning the art of mesquite barbequing and off-roading, as well as touring Ahkahav Tribal Preserve.

Ahkahav Tribal Preserve Backwater canoe excursion. March 2019. Photo by Dan Shahar.

Our other adventures included a trip to the La Paz County Fair, where we saw a 4-H livestock show, rickety rides, award-winning home arts and crafts, and the county beauty pageant. It was here that we realized that there was more to the local culture than we were seeing in our work at Bill Williams NWR.

Festive lights of the La Paz County Fair. March 2019. Photo by Dan Shahar.

Wichita Mountains NWR

Our next stop, Wichita Mountains NWR, was a complete 180 from Bill Williams, with ten times the acreage and perhaps 100 times the visitation. The Wichita Mountains rise from the Southern Plains, and are the only significantly elevated landform in the region dominated by rolling plains. Buffalo and longhorn cattle roam free within the boundary of the refuge, and prairie dogs colonize the landscape. People regularly flock to the refuge from the nearby area, Houston, Kansas City and all corners of Oklahoma, to hike and view wildlife. Lichens paint the rocks day-glow hues of orange and yellow. The refuge is not only home to creatures of the land and lakes, but also hosts significant historical sites.

A resident of Wichita Mountains NWR (Bison bison) grazes the roadside. March 2019. Photo by Amelia Liberatore.


Thirteen lakes and dams, as well as the striking and long forgotten figure of the Jed Johnson Tower, stand as reminders of the New Deal Era of American labor and infrastructure. The refuge also hosts the “longest running outdoor Passion play in America”, according to the Holy City of the Wichitas, an organization that cares for the historic stone buildings of the Holy City. We were fascinated to explore the Holy City’s chapel and grounds on the refuge.

Jed Johnson Tower “towers” over Jed Johnson Lake at sunset just before a thunderstorm. March 2019. Photo by Dan Shahar.

Other explorations took us to the trails and boulder sweeps, so that we could get a sense of what visitors were experiencing on the refuge. Our favorite hike was Trail 15 – Charons Garden – it not only presented a fantastic view of the valley and led us to a magical rock room, but also provided an opportunity to get lost and navigate the boulders.

The view from Charons Garden trail features boulders “Apple and Pear” and the plains from which they rise. March 2019. Photo by Dan Shahar.

During our orientation to the refuge, we went to lunch with Park Ranger Quinton Smith and Visitor Services Manager Lynn Cartmell. It was a meal to remember, not only because it was filling and delicious, but because we learned that at Anne’s Country Kitchen, mac ‘n’ cheese is considered a vegetable. Another cultural experience we enjoyed in Oklahoma was attending Parkstomp Bluegrass Festival, the “New Year’s Eve of Medicine Park.” Locals and spring breakers gathered free of charge on the main street of Medicine Park to toast to the live bluegrass performances, support the local shops, and stomp in rhythm underneath the moon. Unlike our experience at the La Paz County Fair, we recognized some folks at Parkstomp that we had sampled on the refuge.

Bon Secour NWR

Bon Secour NWR is similar to Bill Williams NWR in that it is a small, peninsular refuge featuring neotropical migrating birds with habitat that is protected from surrounding development. Bon Secour’s unique characteristics include proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, lush live oak and pine forests, and alligators found in freshwater wetlands. Besides human activity, the main natural disturbances are hurricanes. We encountered lots of locals, a small population of snowbirds (which we saw plenty of at Bill Williams) and a related species, the northern spring break families. The northern spring break families can be easily identified by the presence of small children, sun-starved skin, and SUVs displaying license plates from states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

A heron seeks dinner and a quiet evening in Gator Lake on Bon Secour NWR. April 2019. Photo by Dan Shahar.

During our stay at Bon Secour NWR, we lived with two other research teams in the on-site bunkhouse. One team was occupied with banding the neotropical migrating birds for research at the University of Southern Mississippi. The other team was serving the USFWS by assisting the refuge biologist with Alabama beach mouse surveys. From the bunkhouse we were able to enjoy peaceful views of the bay. Bird watching in the morning yielded diving pelicans, soaring osprey, and statue-like herons.We were also exposed to not-so-enjoyable creatures, namely chiggers, who found Dan delectable, as well as biting gnats and mosquitoes.

Dan enjoys making contacts at the Pine Street Beach access. April 2019. Photo by Amelia Liberatore.

One of our favorite adventures in Alabama was the Elberta German Sausage Festival. We ventured inland to find a boisterous community filling the central park grounds of Elberta with craft booths, two musical performance stages, and a billowing cloud of smoke from the delicious sausages cooking in a tent. Just one kind (of sausage) fit all; the young, the old, and the merry ate and sang and danced together in the early summer heat.

So far, we have seen that wildlife refuges are unique places that provide wildlife with much-needed habitat. Refuges also provide a natural space for people to connect to open air and greenery and with their loved ones. We feel extremely lucky to be able to visit these special features in America and learn from locals. Next, we will spend extensive time in the Southeast and we’re excited for the adventures ahead of us.

Kolomoki State Park | Trails

This April, ACE Southeast worked with Kolomoki Mounds State Park in southwestern Georgia near the Chattahoochee River. Kolomoki Mounds is one of the largest and earliest Woodland period earthwork mound complexes in the Southeastern United States. The mounds were inhabited by Woodland Indians from 350 to 750 AD. The Iroquois, Cherokee, and Mound Builders are referred to as Eastern Woodland Indians because they inhabited the forests of the East.

The historic significance draws people into the park but there is also a wide range of outdoor activities to take part in once you are there including fishing, boating, camping, and hiking. ACE is partnering with this state park for the first time to work on trails that were impacted by Hurricane Micheal in October of 2018. Hurricane Micheal was the first class five hurricane to hit the contiguous United States since 1992. The high winds caused trees to blow over on the trail resulting in temporary trail closure.

The crew worked at the site for five days with chainsaws, handsaws and other brushing hand tools. The crew, led by ACE crew leader, Nicole Macnamee cleared 105 logs along 3.5 miles of the Spruce Pine and Trillium trails. The remainder of the work will be completed later this spring. ACE is excited to have the opportunity to work with Kolomoki State Park and to be contributing to its beautification.

 

https://gastateparks.org/KolomokiMounds

Riparian Planting | Fletcher, NC

This spring, American Conservation Experience partnered with the local green landscape architecture and engineering company, Equinox Environmental, to work on a riparian/wetland planting restoration project in Western North Carolina. Wetland and Riparian habitats are among some of the most diverse in the ecosystem. Their plants provide multiple ecological and economic benefits including filtering sediment and run-off, controlling erosion, mitigating flooding, sequestering carbon and much, much more.

The ACE crew worked alongside project partners to plant wetland plant species in bare root form and live-stake forms as well. The planting site was along Fletcher Creek in Fletcher, NC. Crew members utilized tools such as dibble bars, shovels, trowels, and mallets for plant installation.

Totals include planting 16,000 bare roots and 5,450 live stakes over approximately 35 acres along Fletcher Creek and in the floodplain zone. It doesn’t get much more barebones conservation than planting and ACE is excited to have contributed these plants to their own backyard in Fletcher, NC!

Back Country Land Trust | Alpine, CA


This past fall, ACE Pacific West South worked in Alpine, CA removing invasive plants and performing fuels reduction as a part of an ongoing 30-year restoration project managed by the Back Country Land Trust (BCLT). The ACE crew worked on removing four acres of the giant reed (Arundo donax). BCLT’s goal is to remove six acres of Arundo in riparian habitats over the next several years.

Arundo is native to eastern Asia, but can now be found globally. In the 1820s, it was introduced to Los Angeles as a roofing material and erosion control in drainage canals but has since escaped and become overgrown. It is one of the fastest growing terrestrial plants, growing as much as 10cm a day. Arundo is not only rapidly spreading but it is also highly flammable, making it a priority for removal as wildfires become more prevalent in the west. It also impacts freshwater sources and water tables, as it has been documented to use 300% more water than native plants in similar habitats.

Ultimately, this project will protect the San Diego watershed through invasive species removal, fuels reduction, and trash clean up. The work is ten years in, with five years to go and is then projected to be monitored for another twenty years. Secondary work completed by the crew included the removal of other known invasive plants, planting of native species in treated areas and the collection and removal of trash found at the worksites. ACE is proud to be a part of this important project with the BCLT! 

 

http://www.backcountrylandtrust.org/

 

Corps to Career – EPIC Edition

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

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

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

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

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

Exploring Dyea: A Boom Town Then and Now

By Alysha Page

Within the first three weeks of being in Alaska, I had the opportunity to go out to Dyea, Alaska. The location of the first landing port of the “Stampeders”, men and women that traded and settled during the Gold Rush.

Figure 1: Standing in front of Long Bay in Dyea, Alaska on my way back into Dyea where the once boomtown stood.

In the fall of 1897, it was a Boomtown thanks to the large influx of those searching for gold.. Prior to the Gold Rush, the Chilkat Tlingit people used this location as a trading post. The name Dayéi means “to pack,” and was one of three locations where one could obtain access to the Chilkoot pass (the pass that was crossed to get to Dawson to search for Gold). 

Figure 2: Dyea the port town of the Chilkoot Trail, and the landing location of Company l, 24th Infantry. This was not only the town where tens of thousands of stampeders descended upon Alaska in the hunt for gold but also the first sight of Military presence in the yukon (14th Infantry).

Camp Dyea was established upon the U.S. Army Troops armies’ arrival in March 1898 and would later be the location where Company L arrived later in May. The town after a huge increase in the population began to decline in the spring of 1899 due to weather slowing transportation. According to Letters Received in the District of the Lynn Canal from the National Archives in D.C., a fire broke out and destroyed the U.S. Army Campgrounds. Captain Hovey said, “the wind and conditions were unfavorable we would have then been forced to leave; this opened a new element of dangers not hitherto considered in the use of that place as a post and gave me cause for so much anxiety for the possibility of the future that I made it a rule to be out and about several times during the night.”  The conditions were so poor that Captain Hovey requested that they abandon the town.

 

 

A once thriving boom town was soon deserted and by 1900 there were only about 250 living in Dyea and 71 by 1901. Today the land is mostly flat and empty, with placards to remind us of what once was. 

Figure 3: “Busted and Gone” All that remains of what once was a thriving town is this False front of the A.M. Gregg Real Estate office.

Standing on that ground made me think of the determination of these fortune seekers and even more the courage of this all Black military regiment to come to enforce order in a mostly white territory. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find out more about Dyea here: https://www.nps.gov/klgo/learn/historyculture/dyea.htm

 

Figure 4: A view of Long Bay, the last resting place of the merchant ship Bark Canada which can only be seen at low tide. More information can be found here: https://www.nps.gov/klgo/learn/news/barkcanadastudy.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 5: Deb Boettcher, KLGO Museum Technician and my tour guide for the day, reading the sign “Maintaining Order” about the presence of the Buffalo Soldiers (Company L, 24th Regiment) stationed Dyea.

Figure 6: Standing in the space that men and women stood and started an adventure some hundred years ago was a surreal feeling. Once there stood a booming town and one of the largest hotels in Dyea, the Olympic Hotel. A wonderful representation of how quickly Dyea rose and fell, built in March 1898 it was soon gone without a trace. Dyea was affected by the building of the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad, the Spanish American War (which took attention from the Klondike Gold Rush), and poor weather.

 

Figure 7: “A Busy Boomtown” A the height the Gold Rush anywhere from 30,000- 40.000 stampeders migrated to this area for the hunt for gold.

 

Western States Trail

 

This past June ACE’s Pacific West Northern branch worked on the Western States Trail for two weeks. The Western States Trail is most well-known for hosting the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run and the Tevis Cup, a 100-Mile race on horseback. Drawing in people from across the country and world, the trail begins in Squaw Valley and runs over rugged mountains and deep canyons before finishing at Placer High School in Auburn.

The crew was led by ACE Crew Leader, Jessica Paterson in partnership with the US Forest Service and the Western States Trail Foundation. Over the course of the project, the crew primarily focused on tread maintenance and corridor clearing. Equestrians and mountain bikers utilize the trail along with runners and hikers and in some locations off-highway vehicles. This broad variety of use and challenging terrain requires extensive maintenance to keep the trail safe and passable, while also reducing erosion.  Higher vegetation clearance for horseback riders is essential and the removal of berms to help shed water will help keep the watershed healthy. The crew performed this trail work on switchbacks deep in the remote Canyons near Devils Thumb, which is challenging to access and was in need of maintenance.

The Western States Run is a test of human endurance along beautiful views of central California through canyons and across the Middle Fork of the American River. This ACE crew got to contribute to the sustainability and longevity of this trail that bears witness each year to the capacity of some of the worlds most spirited long distance runners.

http://wstrail.org/

Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge | Sonoran Pronghorn Boma Construction

The Phoenix Field School program, a major collaborative effort between ACE, BLM Phoenix District Office, Phoenix College, Arizona Center for Youth Resources (ACYR), and Arizona@Work, selects five students each semester to attend weekly integrative college classes and field projects, focusing on local conservation efforts.

In mid-October of 2018, the Field School crew worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge near Ajo, AZ to construct “bomas” (fenced enclosures) for threatened Sonoran pronghorn.

Due to human influence and habitat fragmentation, along with extreme drought conditions, the Sonoran pronghorn range and population has decreased dramatically in the past few decades. As a response, the USFWS began a rehabilitative captive-breeding program in 2003, using bomas to temporarily house pronghorn before transferring the animals in pairs to pre-planned areas where population growth is desired. The Cabeza Prieta NWR has also provided additional resources to support safe pronghorn population growth for decades, including multiple foraging plots and water catchments supplied by rain.

The Field School crew worked with Cabeza Prieta NWR and Arizona Game and Fish staff, along with local volunteers, to outline the fenced bomas with several layers of hanging blankets, aiming to protect the pronghorn from injury, as well as to allow for shade inside the enclosure. Each layer was intricately secured with sturdy hog rings and fencing pliers, ensuring a safe space for the animals to graze in the weeks leading up to capture.

At the end of the project, the crew was able to use a telescopic lens to view an existing boma filled with Sonoran pronghorn. A member of Arizona Game and Fish discussed how pronghorn and other wildlife can be collared and tracked using telemetry, or the automatic communication transmission of data, which assists in measuring population dynamics and redistribution efforts.

 

For more information on Phoenix Field School, in partnership with ACE, BLM, ACYR, and Phoenix College click here: ACE Youth and Community Programming

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