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Phoenix Field School Week 7: Aquatic Invasive Species Management

Project Location: Arivaca, Arizona

Project Partner: University of Arizona and US Fish and Wildlife Service

Hitch Accomplishments:  Removal of 6,988 invasive bullfrog tadpoles from critical habitat for the listed and endangered species.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018: For week seven of the 16-week Phoenix Field School program, the crew headed to southern Arizona to assist the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and research biologists from the University of Arizona (UA) with conducting vital aquatic invasive species management with the capture and removal of the invasive American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianu) to help native and endangered species, such as the endangered Chiricahua leopard frog, and the Northern mexican gartersnake flourish (species whose numbers have been drastically impacted and deteriorated due to predation from the invasive American bullfrog). On Tuesday morning, the crew met at ACYR at 7:00 a.m. and after conducting the weekly truck and trailer maintenance check, began the long drive down to Arivaca, AZ, located less than 20 miles from the US-Mexican border. After meeting with the Chris and Jace, field biologists from the UA (this week’s project sponsors), the crew dropped off the trailer at the campground located in Coronado National Forest before heading to the worksite. At the worksite – a cattle tank located 10 minutes southeast of the crew campsite- the crew conducted stretch and safety circle, led by Douglas, this week’s co-hitch leader. The crew then learned how to properly operate the seine net, as well as how to identify and handle the invasive and non native tadpoles and mosquito fish.  Chris and Jace demonstrated how to position and operate the net as well as how to move swiftly while handling the wildlife. After conducting a seine run, the crew collected the captured specimens. The mosquito fish were temporarily returned to the pond in order to reduce the number of mosquitoes present during the warmer months. Mosquito fish are also an introduced species in Arizona and are an unfortunate competitor to the endangered Gila topminnow. Both fish species appear the same and serve similar roles in the environment, however mosquito fish are cannibalistic and will ingest their young. Gila topminnow young will mistake adult mosquito fish as parents or a part of their community and end up being ingested which results in a major depletion to the native fish species population. Federal and state land agencies work together with ranchers to procure topminnow for tanks, though the process can be challenging and expensive due to its endangered status. The bullfrog tadpoles were removed from the net by the crew members and placed in five gallon buckets with water before further removal. The crew broke for lunch around 1pm before getting back to work around 1:30pm. The crew continued on working together with repeated hauls of the seine net across the tank until  5:00 p.m., removing 4007 with 14 seine net passes. The crew returned to the campsite, set up tents and the cooking area and debriefed the day. The crew enjoyed a dinner of grilled cheese and spinach orzo soup and awed at the glittery shimmer of the night sky.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018:  The Field School crew began their Wednesday workday at 8:30 am with a stretch and safety circle led by Douglas  prior to driving down to the day’s worksite (two tanks that had not yet been visited). Two passes with the seine net produced no finds (neither mosquito fish nor tadpoles) in the first tank. One pass produced no finds in the second tank. The crew decided to let the net dry out in the sun prior to returning to the larger tank from the previous day that yielded a large number of invasive tadpoles. While waiting for the net to dry, the crew took discussed the FWS Safe Harbor Agreement, as well as other initiatives that would encourage private landowners to modify or remediate parts of their property to accommodate endangered and native animals species. Once the net was dried, the crew returned to the tank from the previous day meeting  up with two BLM ACE interns, Kam and Sarah who came to join the project efforts. The crew, along with Kam and Sarah, jumped right back into project mode and began completing 11 seine passes collecting and removing 1124 invasive tadpoles before calling it a (successful) day and returning to camp for a dinner of coconut curry.

Thursday, March 8, 2018:  On Thursday morning, the crew began the workday once again at 8:30am with stretch and safety and returned to same stock tank to put in a final full day of work. The crew continued pulling tadpoles from the net and returning mosquito fish to the pond. The occasional juvenile bullfrog was scooped up and taken aside and disposed of by those who were comfortable with the task. The crew was met by BLM ACE interns and Field School Alumni, Kam and Sam around 11:00 am who assisted in the hauling of the seine net and the removal of the captured tadpoles. The crew broke for lunch around noon for thirty minutes before putting in three more hours of work, collecting and removing 1857 invasive tadpoles with 15 seine net passes. Kam and Sam assisted until they needed to leave at 2:00pm to return to the BLM. The crew continued until 3:30pm when Chris, UA Field Biologist and project sponsor declared a successful day and that the crew had already saved him and his field partner a solid month or so of labor. After saying thank yous and goodbyes, the crew headed back to camp as Chris headed back to Tucson to input the project data.  The crew settled down for the night, debriefing the project and the work week. The crew discussed different perspectives regarding invasive species management as well as the overall nature of plant and wildlife management. The crew ate a quick dinner of creamy avocado pasta, cleaned up camp, drove to a vantage point and enjoyed a beautiful sunset before returning to camp for some hot chocolate and laughs. The crew went to bed with some hot nalgenes for warmth for the chilly desert night to be ready for an early rise the next day.

Friday, March  9, 2018: On Friday morning, the Field School crew was up and at ‘em at 5:30am to break down camp, eat breakfast, pack lunch and road snacks and participate in Douglas’s education lesson on locating missing persons in the backcountry. After taking up the truck and trailer, the crew began the drive back to Phoenix, arriving at the BLM around lunch time. The crew separated to take on the various tasks of their first complete de-rig and finished up entirely by 2:30 pm. Afterwards, BLM Youth Coordinator, Lawrence and Associate District Manager, Patrick met with the students and debriefed the project and week before heading back to ACYR to complete timesheets to conclude the work week.


Phoenix Field School Week 6: Campground and Trails Stewardship

Grand Canyon South Rim Trail and Campground Stewardship and Maintenance

Project Location: Grand Canyon National Park

Project Partner:  National Park Service (NPS)

Hitch Accomplishments:  Collected and disposed of 61.4 lbs. of microtrash; Cleaned 174 campsites/firepits.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018:

This week, the Phoenix Field School headed northward to Grand Canyon National Park, one of the seven wonders of the natural world, to assist the National Park Service (NPS) with completing vital annual site stewardship efforts in the Park’s campground, visitor areas, and trails on the South Rim. Through completion of these projects, the Field School members directly aided the NPS with critical habitat management in high visitor use areas by removing micro-trash and litter that may endanger the health of the Park’s wildlife, such as the endangered California Condor which often mistake micro-trash as food which they cannot digest. The crew also completed routine maintenance of campground sites  by removing excess ash from fire pits at the popular Mather Ground helping keep the sites clean and enhancing the park experience for visitors. The Field School crew arrived at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon by 8:00 am on Tuesday morning after spending the night in Flagstaff Monday night to ensure an early arrival to the park for the start of the week’s project. After checking into the Park’s volunteer cabins, the crew’s homestead for the week, the students performed a stretch and safety circle, team building activity, and headed to the South Rim while waiting to meet with the project sponsor for the day’s work project. For Tuesday’s project, the crew worked around the South Rim Visitor Center and the famous Mather Point, collecting and removing 28.5 lbs of micro trash, while getting to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Grand Canyon.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018:

On Wednesday morning, the Field School crew headed to the Park’s Headquarters at 8:30 am for an hour long presentation regarding the impacts of micro-trash in the park as well as the impact of lead toxicity and bioaccumulation in wildlife due to micro-trash consumption, particularly in California condors who often end of dying of starvation or impaction as they cannot digest micro trash. Afterwards, the crew traveled to Desert View and hiked around with the NPS project sponsors learning more about the Park’s diverse resources before breaking for an early lunch. After lunch, the crew jumped into project mode and picked up micro-trash for several hours around the Desert View visitor center, parking lot and Watchtower enjoying the views of the canyon despite the cold temperature. On the way back to Park Headquarters for the close of the day, the crew stopped at Grandview Point, site of the first place on the rim to be developed for tourists, including a hotel, back in 1895, though now it is home to the trailhead of the Grandview Trail. After scouring the area for microtrash, properly disposed of the day’s collected 32.9 lbs. of micro trash.

Thursday, March 1, 2018:  

On Thursday morning, the Field School crew headed to the Park Headquarters for an hour long educational presentation on how the park is making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint (Park received over 6 million visitors in 2017!) by improving their trash disposal practices by transitioning to a single stream waste disposal system that would be sorted and processed at the park. After the presentation, the crew met with NPS Park Maintenance Staff, Dwayne and Mary, and followed them to the Mather Campground. After conducting the day’s safety circle,  the students paired up to remove limestone and excess ash from campsites and fire pits. Park visitors often throw limestone into the fire pits under the assumption that the heat may intensify or last longer or will also bury their fires with rocks thinking the flames will be extinguished. However, limestone does not hold much heat and rather will crack, crumble, and create excess matter that needs to be removed. Throughout the day’s project, the crew had the opportunity to observe several members of one of the Park’s most famous inhabitants, Rocky Mountain Elk (nonnative to Grand Canyon, introduced in the early 20th Century for game). The crew kept a safe distance from the present elk as they removed limestone and excess ash  from 174 campsite fire pits of the total of 184 sites within three of the campground’s main loops (Aspen, Fir, and Juniper). Ten sites were skipped as they were either occupied by campers or elk. By completing maintenance ad stewardship of three of the seven loops (a total of 326 campsites), the Field School crew helped save the Park’s maintenance staff nearly a week and a half of labor, helping ensure that the campground sites were maintained and safe for upcoming visitor use.

Friday, March  2, 2018:

On Friday morning, the Field School crew started the day by “breaking down camp,” conducting a thorough cleaning of the cabins generously provided by the NPS before heading over to the park’s Emergency Response Center at 9:30am. Here the crew participated in an hour long educational presentation learning about the requirements necessary to conduct search and response and how the NPS responds to medical emergencies in the park throughout the year. Also, the students were able to see and learn more about the rescue equipment used by the Park.  The students, with their WFA training, were able to be fully engaged in the tour and lessons. Additionally, the students learned more about how to begin a career with the NPS, highlighting volunteering and internships as opportunities to gain practical work experience and networking with the agency. After bidding goodbye to the Grand Canyon NP and the week’s project sponsor’s, the crew stopped by the South Rim Visitor Center to participate in an educational lesson led by Field School member, Jeff regarding animal tracking before beginning the long drive back to Phoenix for the close of the week.

Phoenix Field School Week 5: Wildland Chainsaw and Off-Road Vehicle Training

Project Location: Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Phoenix District Office and Agua Fria National Monument

Project Partner:  Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fire Program

Hitch Accomplishments: S-212 Wildland Chainsaw Training and Off-Road Vehicle (OHV/ATV) Training

Tuesday, February 20, 2018:  This week, the Phoenix Field School crew, in their 5th week of the program, completed the S-212 Wildland Chainsaw Training course led by the BLM Phoenix District Fire Program. This hands-on training course is designed to train and prepare individuals for proper use and maintenance of saws for resource and field projects. The hands-on course includes 16 hours of classroom instruction followed by a practical field training day.  On day one of the classroom instruction take the BLM Phoenix District Office, the Field School learned about the specific safety requirements for saw work including: identifying sources for chainsaw regulations and standards; examining Job Hazard Analyses (JHAs) associated with saw work; defining appropriate chainsaw PPE, and identifying situational awareness. Additionally, throughout the day, the students learned hands-on about the different chainsaw parts and associated maintenance and operation (including identifying basic chainsaw parts, adjustments) of tools and supplies to support chainsaw operation and use.  In the afternoon, the Field School began learning about fireline construction and Mop Up, defining the duties and responsibilities of the sawyer and swamper, explaining the tactical application of chainsaw use and methods in fireline and mop projects. It was a lot of new and exciting information but the crew’s previous wildland firefighting training experience (Week 2) allowed them to have a solid foundation going into the chainsaw training this week!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018:  On Wednesday, the Field School crew met at BLM for day two of the S-212 Wildland Fire Chainsaw training course. After briefly reviewing the lessons from yesterday, the students began learning about the various chainsaw techniques including proper methods and applications as well as common errors in saw work and how to prevent and mitigate such issues. The crew covered the following saw techniques: chainsaw handling, bucking, limbing, brushing, slashing and felling. Much of the day was committed to theoretical application of these techniques to prepare the students for tomorrow practical field cut day.

Thursday, February 22, 2018:  On Thursday morning, the Field School crew traveled to the BLM managed Agua Fria National Monument (located north of Phoenix, AZ) for the field day of the S-212 training course to practice handling and cutting with saws. In addition to gaining hands-on experience handling and running a saw, the site of the training is an active juniper thinning project working to restore the original grassland habitat of the Monument for Sonoran pronghorn migration. Throughout the day, each student worked alongside the BLM instructors with assistance with Crew Leader, Ian to practice surveying, limbing, bucking, and making face cuts. The students rotated tasks getting considerable amount of hands-on training and mentoring with instructors and Ian to put the classroom learning into practice. Despite the chilly winter weather and wind on the Monument, the crew practiced their new skills  sawing and stacking fuel piles for the habitat restoration effort. Then, the crew packed up saws and headed back to the BLM office to complete saw maintenance including sharpening chains, cleaning powerheads, filing and cleaning bars, and checking filters, spark plugs and grease bearings.. After debriefing the week’s training, the crew received their S-212 certifications.

Friday, February 23, 2018:  On Friday, the Field School crew participated in another program training course – Off Road Vehicle (OHV and ATV) training. After meeting at the BLM at to rig up, the crew traveled a half hour north to the Ben Avery Shooting Range, the AZ Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) OHV training site.  The crew began the morning with a pre-ride safety inspection checklist for the ATV/UTVs. Once all Off Road vehicles were inspected and proved to be in safe, working order, the instructors went over safety expectations and required PPE for OHV use. Then, the crew participated in a variety of practical driving exercises learning how to operate and safely maneuver the ATV/UTVs. After lots of practice on the even ground of the training course, the students advanced to safely maneuvering over uneven surfaces driving up and down steep hills, over rocky and uneven surfaces, and through water and mud.

Phoenix Field School Week 4: Leave No Trace and Wilderness First Aid Training

Project Location: Hackberry Springs Trail, Superstition Mountains, Tonto National Forest; Phoenix College

Project Partner: Phoenix College Outdoor Adventure Skills Instructor, Dave Brown (Leave No Trace Training); SOLO Wilderness Medicine, (Wilderness First Aid Training)

Hitch Accomplishments:   Completion of Wilderness First Aid (WFA) Certification Training; Leave No Trace Field Training; Introduction to Backcountry/Wilderness  Backpacking and Camping

Tuesday, February 13, 2018: Following last week’s completion of the BLM Wildland Fire Training, the Phoenix Field School crew headed into the backcountry this week to first complete Leave No Trace Training (LNT) and then Wilderness First Aid (WFA). On Tuesday morning, the crew met bright and early at ACYR and were ready to leave for the Superstition Mountains by 8:00am. After braving a little sprinkle of precipitation, the crew arrived at the Hackberry Springs Trailhead by 9:40 a.m. After divvying up gear, backpacks packed, boots on, the crew was ready to hit the trail! The crew hiked in three miles and were able to enjoy the incredible desert scenery as well as discuss wilderness trail maintenance along the way.  After arriving at the designated campsite by 12:30pm, the crew broke for a lunch. and then scouted the surrounding canyons for a water source. After first only finding a shallow pool, the crew came upon the spring which was teeming with plentiful water (and tadpoles). The crew relaxed knowing there was fresh water nearby as they all were initially skeptical of being encouraged to leave behind extra full water bladders that took up unnecessary room in their packs and added unnecessary weight. Following lunch, the crew gathered around the spring and discussed methods of purification and participated in a demo of Aquamira (a chlorine based chemical purifier) and the Katadyn 6L gravity filter. Following the lesson the crew enjoyed their fresh water and returned to camp to conduct a lesson on tarp shelters. The crew learned to construct a lean to and A-frame tarp shelter without the need for trees. Using a tarp, some cordage, stakes, and trekking poles the crew learned to assemble the items using clove hitches, trucker’s hitches, deadman anchors, and a cow hitch. The crew participated in the setup of the A-frame as it was being taught and then applied all of the knowledge learned in order to work together to construct a lean to. The crew discussed pros and cons and scenarios in which either would be useful as well as what other items that could be used in order to improvise. As the lesson was wrapping up, Phoenix College, Outdoor Adventure Skills Instructor, Dave Brown and his daughter Carolan arrived, greeted us and set up camp. Once they were settled, the crew circled up and began their LNT lessons. One by one the crew went around sharing their subjects. The lessons lasted well into the evening and concluded after dark. While the crew was conducting their lessons and discussing backcountry etiquette with Dave and exchanging stories, Ian prepped a dinner for the crew consisting of dehydrated refried beans and instant rice. After a lively dinner, the crew cleaned up camp and retired for the night.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018: Phoenix Field School had a relaxing and gradual start to the day on Wednesday morning, waking up between 7:30am and 8:00 am ready to take on the day. After a breakfast of oatmeal and instant coffee, the crew broke down their tents and packed their bags. David chatted with the crew about the upcoming semester and future pursuits/ interests before finishing his breakfast and hitting the trail along with his daughter back to the trailhead. The crew stuck behind at the campsite/LNT outdoor classroom a bit longer in order to go over a backcountry stove lesson in which they received a demonstration of the MSR Whisperlite and Pocket Rocket and Snow Peak LiteMax. They discussed the pros, cons, and applications of each as well as typical field maintenance and cooking protocols. Once water was boiled, the crew then participated in a backcountry dish cleaning demonstration in which the water was strained, food particles disposed of in a trash bag and grey water dumped in a pre-dug sump hole. Once the dishes were clean, the sump hole was filled, the crew swept the camp for micro-trash, enjoyed a final Chocolove bar, adjusted their packs and began the hike out to the trailhead. Once the crew arrived at the trailhead, they broke for lunch before returning to Phoenix. The crew returned to ACYR by 1:45pm and all got situated in the computer lab and worked on the online training portion of their OHV/UTV course (the field training day will be next week). Within two hours time, all crew members all were certified. The crew concluded the day with discussing logistics for the remainder of the week and were lined out with expectations for upcoming two day Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course.

Thursday, February 15, 2018:  On Thursday morning, the Field School crew, joined by three ACE BLM Phoenix District interns and four ACE AmeriCorps Conservation Corps members from Flagstaff, met at Phoenix College at 7:45 am and got settled into the classroom.  This week’s WFA training was taught by Mike Englund, a SOLO WFA  instructor with the Central Arizona Mountain Rescue Association. After going over introductions, Mike went over the expectations of the scenario-based WFA training which focuses on the basic skills of assessing and responding to various medical injuries and emergencies while in an outdoor, wilderness setting. During day one of the training,  Field School Students learned about surveying the scene, patient assessment, charting vitals, emergency and evacuation plans, spine and head injuries, shock, and wilderness wound management. The students worked together during team-based scenarios to correct assess and respond to the different types of medical emergencies and injuries while in a field setting, as well as how to to perform traction on fractured long bones, receiving a demonstration of how to splint and stabilize fractures.

Friday, February 16, 2018:  On Friday morning, the students met again at Phoenix College by 7:45 am for the second and final day of the WFA training course. The crew dove deeper into SAMPLE Hx, medical concerns, environmental exposure (heat and cold illness, allergies, burns, cuts, gashes, abrasions, blisters, and the what not. The crew practiced a wide variety of bandaging procedures. The day concluded with an elaborate scenario in which four groups (1 victim, 1 primary, and 1 secondary each) had to go through the complete routine of scene size up, patient assessment, treatment, and evacuation. Once finishing the scenario, the crew debriefed and returned to the classroom to take their final quiz, receive their certificates, and tidy up the room. The crew thanked Mike for the course, debriefed the week before breaking for the week.

Phoenix Field School Week 3: Conservation Trails Training

Project Location: Black Canyon National Recreational Trail

Project Partner:  Bureau of Land Management, Hassayampa Field Office; Black Canyon Trail Coalition; ACE Trails Program.  

Hitch Accomplishments: Trail maintenance and restoration of 20 meters of multi-use trail.  Trail Skills; Back-Slope establishment; Corridor Brushing; Vegetation removal; Rockwork; Crush and Fill; Bench widening; Tread leveling; Tool Maintenance;

Tuesday, February 6, 2018:

This week, the Phoenix Field School crew  hit the trail for their first full field project week! On Tuesday morning, the students met at ACYR at 8:00 am and set off to the BLM Phoenix District Office to rig up the trailer with all tools and supplies and touch base with the BLM staff before heading out to the project site.  The crew arrived at the Black Canyon City Trailhead of the Black Canyon National Recreational Trail (BCNRT) at 9:45 am and met with ACE National Trails Coordinator and Trainer, Mark Loseth who would be working with the crew with learning and developing practical trail skills. With packs on and tools in hand, the crew hiked over 2.5 miles to the worksite on the BCNRT. At the worksite, the crew met with project sponsor with the Black Canyon Trail Coalition, Bob Cothern to discuss in-depth project expectations for the trail project. After inspecting and assessing the 20-meter stretch of trail and determining the needs and priorities, under the guidance of ACE Trails Trainer Mark and ACE Crew Leader, Ian, the crew set to work. Throughout the afternoon, Mark and Ian worked closely with each crew member to provide one-on-one instruction and support on as the crew members performed the trail maintenance which included leveling the bench, chipping through stone, proper rockbar and doublejack use and technique, learning how to preserve the critical edge, and establishing backslope and widening of the tread. As the afternoon progressed, it became clear that the rest of the week’s projects would be heavy with rock work on the trail section! Around 3pm, the crew created a tool cache and began the hike  back out to the trailhead. Upon arriving at trailhead, after assessing possible campsites, the crew exchanged goodbyes with Mark and Hannah who headed back up to the ACE office and began setting up camp, learning how to properly pick a tent site and about the different camp spike equipment. After enjoying a dinner of burgers, the crew, sore, happy, and well-fed, headed into their tents for a good (and well-deserved) night sleep.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018:

On Wednesday morning, the Field School crew started the workday at  7:00am. After conducting a thorough foot check to wrap any blisters and hot spots acquired during the previous day’s hikes, the crew conducted a safety circle before hiking the 2.5 miles to the worksite. With PPE on, the crew members grabbed tools from the cache and got to work on the trail! Douglas and Jeff took on chipping away at a solid band of granite that divided the dense strata of shale as Jeremiah chipped away at the granite backslope in order to widen the trail bench. Nic began the process of digging out a boulder on the corridor that interfered with safe through travel on the trail as Shay steadilt shaved away at the granite that spilled up from the ground creating an unstable and narrowed bench that threatened to direct trail users down the steep slope. Throughout the day, the crew continued to build their practical trail skills and after lunch, continued with the various project tasks into the afternoon. At 2:45pm, the crew received a lesson on tool maintenance (proper technique for removing dirt and debri from the tools and how to use the files on the various tools to maintain a desired and safe working edge). After sharpening and cleaning tools, the crew began the 2.5 mile hike back to the trailhead. While tired and sore, the crew debriefed the day expressing happiness with their work and an eagerness to relax and stretch before making dinner, completing camp chores, and calling it a night.

Thursday, February 8, 2018:  

The Field School crew began the Thursday workday at 7:00 am beginning with a safety circle before hiking back to the week’s project worksite. The crew arrived at the worksite around, enjoyed some water and a quick snack and jumped back into project mode on the trail! The crew members worked hard on the 20 meter stretch with various trail maintenance tasks to level the tread and widen the bench for enhance visitor use and safety.. Around noon, the crew broke for lunch and enjoyed a nearby shaded area that offered a cool reprieve from the desert sun. During lunch, four mountain bikers passed through the worksite. They expressed gratitude for the work that the crew accomplished and shared that the trail was already far better and safer than it previously had been.  After lunch, the Field School crew was back on the trail working to continue to bash remove the rock and open up the trail corridor for multi-use travel. Bob stopped by the worksite in the afternoon to check on project progress and expressed that the trail was “100% better” and safer for the ultra-runners who would be racing along the corridor passage in the upcoming weeks for a race. The crew assessed the remaining trail needs and developed a work plan for Friday morning and agreed to give it their all to finish the priority work state by Bob including removing a boulder from the tread and removing overhead brush over the trail. After performing tool maintenance, the crew hiked back out to the trailhead. Upon returning to camp, the crew enjoyed from well-deserved pie from the nearby famous Rock Springs Cafe as they reviewed standard camp breakdown procedure before having dinner at camp before hitting the hay for the evening.

Friday, February 9, 2018:  

On Friday, the crew began their workday a bit earlier at 6:00am and began their hike to the worksite on the Black Canyon National recreational Trail in the faint dawn light. The cool air and stars made for an exciting hike and the crew made it to the worksite with an incredible amount of energy and commitment to finishing the job. The crew took full advantage of beating the heat and cranked out two and a half hours of uninterrupted hard work on the trail! Jeff and Jeremiah worked together to remove a beach ball sized boulder from the corridor using rock bars followed by the crew collaboratively used the crush-fill method to fill the hole on the tread. Taking turns, the students smashed down the granite and shale into tiny fragments to fill the hole, tamping down each layer with tools.  Then, Nic and Shay worked together using loppers, hand saws, and cutter mattocks to remove the dense acacia surrounding the trail as Douglas continued to shave away at the shale on the far end of the trail at the worksite as the others focused on cleaning up and designating the critical edge, as well as widening the bench. At 10:30am, the crew cleaned and sharpened tools, divied up the weight and hiked back out to the trailhead with all tools, encountering several friendly trail users along the way. After packing up the truck and trailer, the crew headed south to the BLM and were briefed on how to perform a de-rig. following debrief, the crew met with Lawrence before completing timesheets. It was a great and rewarding week with lots of new conservation skills acquired!

Phoenix Field School Week 2: Wildland Firefighting Training

Project Location: BLM National Training Center, Phoenix, AZ

Project Partner: Bureau of Land Management, Phoenix District Fire Program

Hitch Accomplishments: Wildland Firefighting Training: S-130 (Firefighter Training); S-190 (Wildland Fire Behavior); I-100 (Incident Command); S-110 (Basic Wildland Fire Orientation); L-180 (Human Factors in Wildland Fire).

Tuesday, January 30, 2018:
The Phoenix Field School crew began their first project week participating in the interactive and intensive four-day wildland firefighting certification training course, instructed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Phoenix District Office Fire Program. The classroom and field course trains individuals to become educated, prepared, and certified to work as Type II Wildland Firefighters on an engine or hand crew. The Field School crew met at the BLM National Training Center on Tuesday morning and after signing in, under the instruction of the BLM PDO Safety Officer, Dean Fernandez, jumped right into the training beginning with L-180, Human Factors in Wildland Fire, S-110, Basic Wildland Fire Orientation and S-190, Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior. Throughout the day, the students learned about more about the history of wildland firefighting, basic language and concepts of wildland fire, as well as the influence of fuel, weather, and topography and the basics of wildland fire behavior in different areas.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018:
On Wednesday, the Phoenix Field School crew returned to the BLM National Training Center and began coursework material for the S-130, Firefighter Training portion of the training. During this training component, the students learned all about firefighter preparedness and gear. Then, the students progressed to I-100, Incident Command going into depth regarding risk-management while on a fire including covering the 10 Fire Orders, the specific 18 Watchout Situations and LCES (Lookouts, Communication, Escape Routes, Safety Zones) followed by learning about Fire Shelters, potential hazards and human factors on the fireline.

Thursday, February 1, 2018:
On Thursday, the final day of classroom instruction, the Field School crew delved into training covering transportation safety while on a fire, fire devices and water use, lead by Field School Crew Leader, Ian Cockrill. Afterwards, the students learned more about the specific hands tools used on wildland fires, fire suppression, and mop up followed by covering fire patrolling and communication and discussing hazardous material awareness and wildland-urban interface safety before concluding the day with a final course examination.

Friday, February 2, 2018:
Friday Field Day! The Field School crew met at 7:15am on Friday morning and travelled to the BLM Phoenix District Office to pack PPE, stock up on water, and make lunches before driving out to the State Forestry compound for the day’s field experience exercises. Working alongside other BLM course participants, the students separated into four work groups – Burn Operations, Fire Shelters, Line Construction, and Engine Inspection. The students spend about 40 minutes participating in various practice exercises at each station. At the Engine Inspection station, the students received a briefing on the standard rigging and responsibilities of an engine crew and were able to acutely observe and inspect the layout of the fire engine while participating in a dialogue with the BLM instructor. At the Fire Shelter Stations, the students reviewed the conditions in which deploying a shelter would be necessary, discussed deployment techniques, communication, and hazards/concerns before actually practicing a timed deployment using old shelters that had been de-issued (as there was no active fire occurring). At the Burn Operations station, the students received hands-on experience with a fuse and drip torch and were able to practice what it would be like to initiate a burn for suppression efforts. The group then reviewed the necessary PPE, proper handling, associated hazards, proper communication, and extinguishing methods. At the fourth station- Line Construction- the students reviewed the various types of hands tools commonly used for line construction in the lower 48 states for wildland fire and then, with PPE secure, practiced constructing lines and communicating with their peers regarding the quality of the line. The students rotated through each station receiving direct hands-on instruction from the BLM Fire Instructors. Following completion of the station exercises, the Field School crew volunteered to re-organize and clean the equipment trailers before debriefing the course and learning more about wildland fire careers with Dean and the BLM Fire staff and receiving course certificates. Afterwards, the crew returned to the BLM to put away gear, fill out timesheets, and prepare for the upcoming project week-Trails Skills Training.

Phoenix Field School Week 1: Welcome Spring 2018 Crew!





Location: BLM Phoenix District Office, ACYR, Phoenix College

Project Partner: ACE, BLM, Phoenix College, ACYR

Hitch Accomplishments:
Field School Program Orientation; Backcountry/Outdoor Safety and Risk Management; Trails Theory and Training; Introduction to the BLM and Federal Land Agencies; Conservation 101 and Ecosystems of Arizona; Phoenix College Courses and Campus Orientation; Work Readiness Skills; Leadership Development; and Map Reading and GPS/Compass Training.

Monday, January 22, 2018:

On the first day of orientation, we welcomed the 14th cohort to the Phoenix Field School Program -Douglas, Shay, Nicole, Jeff, and Jeremiah! The new Field School crew met bright and early at Phoenix College for crew introductions and a campus tour before attending the first day of classes. During the morning session, the students learned about the available student resources and educational pursuits available at Phoenix College, as well as attended their Wildlife Management (BIO 274) class. After lunch, the students attended their Career and Work Experience Class and Outdoor Adventure Skills Class. It was a busy day but the students had the chance to learn all about the exciting topics to be covered in the upcoming 16 weeks!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018:

On Tuesday morning, the crew met at ACYR and jumped right into program orientation learning the in’s-and-out’s of the Field School Program including a history of the program, program expectations – both academic and field projects- and learning how to fully get the img_2150best of their academic and field semester. During the afternoon, the students participated in a Conservation 101 workshop led by ACE Crew Leader, Ian learning about all the diverse ecosystems of Arizona and a history of conservation and the different types of land management agencies. The students finished the day testing their knowledge with a lively game of Conservation Jeopardy!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018:

On Wednesday morning, the Field School crew continued their program orientation by actively participating in the ACE Outdoor Safety and Risk Management training learning about the potential risks associated with conservation field work in the southwest and how to stay safe throughout the program and on specific field projects. The crew also learned about the different types of hand tools they may be using in the field and how to properly use tools as well as how to mitigate environmental hazards in the field. After lunch, the crew was joined by Field School alum, Morgan (Fall 2016), who spoke with the crew about her experience with Field School and discussed with the students how to approach the many facets of Field School and the personal and professional opportunities that may arise. Afterwards, the crew participated in the afternoon workshop, “School, Work, and Life”, led by Ian, learning and discussing how individually, as well as collectively as a team, they can create a healthy balance between classes, field hitches, and personal time, as well as explored different strategies to aid them throughout the semester to ensure success in all aspects of Field School.

Thursday, January 25, 2018:

In full Field School uniforms and breaking in their new work field boots, the Field School crew headed up to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Phoenix District Office (PDO) to learn more about the BLM, its diverse programs, the history of BLM and Field School, and of course – more about the different opportunities of Field School! At the BLM, the students had the opportunity to meet and speak with the BLM Phoenix District Leadership Management team, including Associate District Manager, Patrick Putnam, and Angie Meece, PDO Administrative Officer, as well as BLM Youth Coordinator, Lawrence Harper to learn more about their BLM experiences, why they care about Field School, and the different responsibilities of the BLM in Arizona. After a tour of the Phoenix District Office, the crew participated in an in-depth, hands-on GPS, navigation, and map and compass lesson led by BLM Youth Coordinator, Lawrence and BLM Youth and Volunteer Programs Intern, Cici (2017 Field School Graduate!). After learning the theory of map and compass, as well as GPS, the crew concluded the by heading out into the field to practice hands-on navigating by map and compass.


screen-shot-2018-02-22-at-3-46-18-pmFriday, January 26, 2018:

The Field School crew started Friday morning off by participating in an interactive leadership development workshop, allowing each student to explore their personal leadership styles, determining the different strengths and how to employ various leadership tactics in different field situations. Around 11 am, the crew was joined by ACE Trails Trainer, Jack McMullin who engaged the crew in an interactive lesson regarding trails theory and overview of the different types of trail construction and maintenance. Afterwards, the students completed a time management activity during which they worked together to prioritize daily tasks, habits, and responsibilities in regards to the Field School program, helping visual how to dedicate time to the different aspects of the program. The crew ended the day reviewing the orientation week and preparing for the upcoming week – BLM Wildland Fighting School, as well as going over outdoor gear, packing techniques, and menu planning.

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