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ACE California | Pacific Crest Trail

ACE’s Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crews just wrapped up another season on the trail! These unique crews get to travel throughout California working on various parts of the iconic PCT, creating a safer and more sustainable trail for thousands to enjoy each year.

The PCT is a 2,654 mile trail that runs from the border of Mexico to Canada. The trail was first proposed in 1932 by Clinton C. Clarke. By 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson defined the PCT and the Appalachian Trail with the National Trails System Act and the trail was officially declared finished in 1993. The trail was built in cooperation with the federal government and volunteers organized by the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA). The PCTA continues to work on the trail and since 2013 has brought on ACE crews to work alongside them!

Approximately 700-800 hikers attempt to thru-hike the PCT each year, but the PCT also hosts weekend backpackers and day hikers all the same. The trail passes through the Laguna, Santa Rosa, San Jacinto, San Bernardino, San Gabriel, Liebre, Tehachapi, Sierra Nevada, and Klamath ranges in California, and the Cascade Range in California, Oregon, and Washington.

The ACE crew began work this past spring, working on southern parts of the trail and made their way north as the California summer weather crept in. We caught up with the crew while they were working out of the ACE Pacific West North branch in South Lake Tahoe in various locations including the Sierra Buttes, Donner Peak, and Echo Summit.

The work included everything from general trail maintenance to reroutes. The rugged terrain and bare mountain tops along the PCT brought a lot of complicated rockwork for the ACE crews this season. The crews were led by ACE crew leaders Matthew Rump and Sarah Phillips and ACE’s traveling project manager, Ginger Wojciechowski.

It’s not easy to sum up a season of work especially on a trail like the PCT but ACE crew leader, Matthew Rump reflected on the “why” of trail work, a concept that might be overlooked by many. 

Why do trail work? Don’t animals make the trails that we hike on? It’s remarkable how much is hidden from the user enjoying a hike on an established trail. The subtle changes in grade, cleared brush, buried retaining structures, or sneaky steps; all meticulously engineered to create a sustainable travel surface that allows the user to focus on the surrounding scenery, rather than the burn in their legs. Most well-designed trails will hardly look as though human hands carved them into a landscape.”

“Inevitably nature always has the final say, she may wish to move her rivers and replace your trail with a 15ft cliff. In these cases, the subtlety of trail work is pushed to the wayside and the evidence of our work is revealed. This is the process of creating a safe, sustainable passage for those wishing to explore the Sand to Snow National Monument and San Gorgonio Wilderness. Eliminating erosive scrambles up the cliff, sediment deposition into the nearby Whitewater River, and user-damage of the sensitive desert riparian area. A staircase of native rock, carried by hand, set without mortar. The work is backbreaking and occasionally makes one neurotic. This was an appropriate capstone to mine and my crew’s trail-building season.”

ACE crews are already looking forward to the next season on the PCT.

Trail Inventory and Maintenance | San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, CA

In 2019, ACE Pacific West South was awarded funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) for trail restoration and trail improvement activities within the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (SGMNM). Together, the San Gabriel Mountains and nearby Angeles National Forest (ANF) are a tremendous resource for the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, accounting for a combined 70% of the region’s open space and providing roughly a third of Los Angeles’ drinking water. Each year, millions of visitors take advantage of a wide variety of recreational opportunities, including hiking, fishing, horseback riding, OHV use, and wildlife watching in the area. 

The ACE Pacific West South crew poses while completing trail work in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.

This wild and rugged landscape, only 90 minutes away or less from over 15 million people, is also home to rare and unique wildlife like California condor, spotted owl, bighorn sheep, and 1000-year old limber pine. The grizzly bear, proudly displayed on the California State flag, used to roam these mountains in high density, but were hunted to extinction in the early 1900’s. Surprisingly, the black bear, which our crews encountered on several occasions during this project, are not native to Southern California. In an effort to put bears back into the “food chain” after the grizzlies were gone, as well as move some problematic “garbage bears” from Yosemite Valley, over a dozen black bears were transplanted from Yosemite into the San Gabriel Mountains near Crystal Lake in November 1933. 

Members enjoy the mountain view from the work site on a short break.

The project’s primary goals were to restore or maintain system trails to U.S. Forest Service standards, to improve habitat and water quality to support healthy ecosystems, and to create or enhance opportunities for trail users to understand and appreciate the natural and cultural heritage of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. In March 2019, ACE National Trails Coordinator, Mark Loseth, assisted Pacific West South staff with conducting a trail assessment and inventory to determine the scope of work needed to reach project goals. Due to an unprecedented amount of snow and rainfall in Southern California over the previous winter, area trails saw heavy impact, with a great deal of trees blown down onto the trail. Before beginning work on specific trail features, the crew was tasked with removing a bulk of these trees from trail paths in the San Gabriel Mountains area. Effects of inclement weather, as well as heavy trail use and deferred maintenance, meant the crew had their work cut out for them!

Members work to remove downed trees from the trail using crosscut saws.


Members carefully coordinate the movement of cut rounds out of the trail.

Even with the winter damage, the crews maintained 10 trails that totaled more than 45 miles over 11 weeks. By the end of the project, twenty-nine logs, ranging from 10 inches to 48 inches in diameter and from Jefferson Pine to Ponderosa Pine, were bucked from the trail. The crew maintained almost five miles of trail, installed or repaired 52 grade dips, and installed more than 20 square feet of rock retaining wall. The ACE team had the amazing opportunity to work alongside volunteers from San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders, learning crosscut saw techniques and valuable trail knowledge from experienced trail workers and C-level crosscut buckers.

Washington State | Access Fund

One very lucky ACE Southwest crew was sent to Washington state on an extended project at the end of this summer. The crew recently returned to Flagstaff after spending six project weeks working with the North Cascade Mountains backdrop. Led by ACE crew leader, AnnaMarie Rodenhausen, and in partnership with the Access Fund, the crew worked to create a more sustainable route to several climbing spots off of the Blue Lake Trail in the popular Liberty Bell climbing area. 

 The Access Fund is a not-for-profit rock climbing advocacy group in the US. Their mission is to keep climbing areas open and to gain access to currently closed climbing areas as well as promoting an ethic of responsible climbing and conservation of climbing. Many popular rock climbing areas are discovered unofficially by climbers resulting in many social trails leading up to the base of these rock walls. Social trails are typically not sustainable and usually where there is one, there are many. By establishing one main route up to these spots, the impact of hikers and climbers is concentrated on one sustainable path. This is especially important in areas such as the North Cascades which is a sensitive alpine environment. 

The crew worked closely alongside the Access Fund partners to build rock staircases, reroutes, and rock walls to armor switchbacks. Gathering rocks for these projects involved transporting rocks longer distances. The crew utilized nets and advanced rigging systems to move rocks from their source to the building sites. After the new route was established the crew worked to naturalize and rehabilitate the old social trails to enable vegetation regrowth. ACE is grateful to have been able to spend an extended amount of time in one of the most beautiful places in the US!

An EPIC Summer in Providence, RI | April Alix

This summer, ACE EPIC member April Alix worked with the Partnership for Providence Parks (PPP) in Providence, Rhode Island. The Partnership was established in the Spring of 2012 in order to bring the Parks Department and area Friends Groups together with nearby businesses, nonprofits and schools committed to their local neighborhoods and the value of flourishing community green spaces. April assisted the organization as an Urban Educator, focused on creating free and open play for children, as well as offering innovative programs and events to get children and adults healthy, moving, and inspired. Through an Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Partnership for Providence Parks is able to continuously reach a wide-range of audiences and offer authentic outdoor experiences using city parks as exploratory spaces. 

Member April Alix interacts with a sloth at the Teacher Institute during her ACE EPIC term with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

During the program, April helped with a variety of trainings and programs connecting urban children and families to the outdoors. Partnering with the Roger Williams Park Zoo, she helped facilitate outdoor play dates at local libraries and parks that allowed children to play and explore. April also participated in an annual BioBlitz run by the RI Natural History Survey, in which volunteers, working scientists, and avocational naturalists worked to tally as many species of organisms as possible in 24 hours on a particular parcel of land. This year, the BioBlitz took place in a large city park with more than 1,127 species recorded! Through another collaboration with the Zoo, April took part in the Teacher Institute, a program engaging 10 Providence Public School teachers-in-training in the best practices for teaching outdoors. Teachers had the opportunity to learn about local biodiversity, conservation projects in the state, climate change education practices, and urban ecology. A fan favorite of this program was setting pit-fall traps to capture carrion beetles, baiting them with rotting chicken in the heat of July! 

Member April Alix works with the Teacher Institute to bait carrion beetles.


Member April Alix holds a container full of captured carrion beetles.

Throughout her term, April routinely assisted with field trips on Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, inspiring local Providence youth through activities such as hiking and seining in a salt pond. In the community event Cops and Bobbers, April joined partner organizations and local police officers to teach children how to fish while making positive interactions and meaningful conversation. 

Member April Alix works on conservation crafts with local youth.

Overall, it was exciting to see these urban spaces activated with so many programs! April thoroughly enjoyed working as an Urban Educator with a variety of partners throughout Rhode Island that make these meaningful programs possible. 

National Wildlife Day

These are the creatures that could disappear from each U.S. state


When you think of endangered animals, species found far inside a tropical rain forest or deep below the ocean’s surface might to spring to mind. However, each state in the U.S. is also home to its own unique animal at risk of going extinct.


“Recovering species is a biological question, not an economic question […] The new rules completely undermine the strength of the ESA. The point of the act is to prevent extinction; this is going to do the opposite. It’s going to undermine efforts to recover species.”

Leah Gerber
Prof. of Conservation Science, Arizona State University


To tie in with National Wildlife Day on September 4th, NetCredit has launched an illustrated tribute to shed light, and a bit of love, on those less-famous endangered species highlighted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service:


Alabama Alabama beach mouse Louisiana Louisiana pine snake Ohio Copperbelly water snake
Alaska Blue whale Maine New England cottontail Oklahoma American burying beetle
Arizona Mount Graham red squirrel Maryland Maryland darter Oregon Loggerhead sea turtle
Arkansas Ivory billed woodpecker Massachusetts Humpback whale Pennsylvania Short-eared owl
California Point Arena mountain beaver Michigan Kirtland’s warbler Rhode Island Hawksbill sea turtle
Colorado Uncompahgre fritillary butterfly Minnesota Rusty patched bumble bee South Carolina Frosted flatwoods salamander
Connecticut Bog turtle Mississippi Mississippi sandhill crane South Dakota Black-footed ferret
Delaware Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel Missouri Ozark hellbender Tennessee Nashville crayfish
Florida: Red wolf Montana Whooping crane Texas Northern Aplomado falcon
Georgia Etowah darter Nebraska Salt creek tiger beetle Utah Utah prairie dog
Hawaii Akikiki Nevada Mount Charleston blue butterfly Vermont Spotted turtle
Idaho Woodland caribou New Hampshire Blanding’s turtle Virginia Shenandoah salamander
Indiana Indiana bat New Jersey Sei whale Washington Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit
Illinois Illinois cave amphipod New Mexico New Mexico meadow jumping mouse West Virginia Virginia big-eared bat
Iowa Iowa pleistocene snail New York Eastern massasauga Wisconsin Piping plover
Kansas Neosho mucket North Carolina Carolina northern flying squirrel Wyoming Wyoming toad
Kentucky Kentucky arrow darter North Dakota Least tern    





San Juan National Historic Site | Puerto Rico

In 2015, ACE Puerto Rico was established through a partnership with San Juan National Historic Site. The site is managed by the National Park Service and its’ mission is to protect and interpret colonial-era forts, bastions, powder houses, and three-fourths of the old city wall. The ACE crew primarily works at the two forts, Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro. 

Due to the sites’ location in Puerto Rico’s capital, and given its’ great historical value, the site receives over a million visitors each year. The partnership began to assist the site in maintaining the facilities, including cleaning litter from the grounds. Since the onset of this partnership, the work has expanded into trail building and historic restoration. A new nature trail now exists around the perimeter of the old city wall that ends at a spectacular view of the ocean. 

A daily, ongoing part of the maintenance division’s duties at San Juan National Historic Site is preserving and repairing the two-and-a-half miles of fortress walls and three forts. Hurricane Maria accelerated the natural erosion that takes place from rain and wind and has caused a higher demand for repairs.

The NPS staff have been conducting an in-depth study of the historic materials used to build the walls including sandstone, limestone, and brick, as well as learning the traditional construction techniques used in the original construction of the forts. This work is a finetuned science since modern materials, such as cement, are not compatible with the original structure. Using a mixture of lime, sand, water, and crushed brick and traditional application techniques, the NPS staff have been gracious enough to take ACE corps members under their wing and teach them this invaluable skill. 

Several of ACE members have moved onto NPS positions, including the NPS staff member pictured above, Kenneth De Graciani. “That is our goal, that we will work alongside the ACE crew members, train them, and then hire them on with the National Park Service,” stated Jose Santiago. ACE is so thankful that our corps members are treated as members of the team at the San Juan National Historic Site and are continuing to gain skills and experiences through this partnership. 

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.

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!



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.

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