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EPIC Experience | Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge

The Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is now also home to two USFWS EPIC interns! This is the first group of interns to have the opportunity to work with USFWS biologist, Angela Dedrickson at this particular refuge. Interns Rose Caplan, and Shannon Finnerty started their year-long internship in September of 2018. During their time with the refuge, they have been an integral part of the US Fish and Wildlife Service team.

Interns in the bird blind to conduct monitoring with a refuge volunteer.

Mississippi sandhill cranes in their temporary enclosure.

The refuge was established in 1975 under the authority of the Endangered Species Act to protect the critically endangered Mississippi sandhill cranes and their unique, and itself endangered, wet pine savanna habitat.The population was once at a low of 30-35 individuals, however, with the efforts of the refuge they have been brought up to over a hundred individuals as of 2019. The 20,000 acres of the refuge also protects the critically endangered Mississippi gopher frog, more commonly known as the dusky gopher frog.

Intern Rose and Shannon check camera traps and fill feeds to monitor and track the wild cranes on the refuge.

Each morning the interns monitor the new cranes which are brought in from another facility to be released on the refuge. Through captive rearing and reintroduction to the area, as well as wild birds nesting in the savannas, the crane population continues to grow. The interns monitor their behavior and reactions to potential threats, as well as monitoring the wild population through camera traps. Rose and Shannon have also played a roll in the dusky gopher frog project from the time they arrived as tadpoles to their eventual release later this year. 

A intern dons a “crane suit” which allows her to approach the crane enclosure in somewhat of a disguise. This is done to prevent the cranes from becoming comfortable with humans.

Interns work with USFWS biologist, Angela Dedrickson to survey the potential release site of the dusky gopher frogs.

Interns on the refuge bayou conducting wildlife surveys from a boat.

A squirrel tree frog.

Both ACE and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are excited to see the partnership grow and continue into the future. An in-depth video for follow on the refuge and the role ACE EPIC interns are playing in the protection of these species.

Corps to Career – EPIC Edition

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

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

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

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

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

IamACE | Deirdre Apple

Deirdre Apple was placed at the Red Canyon Visitor Center in Panguitch, UT as a Visitor Center Management Fellow. As an ACE EPIC Fellow, Deirdre was responsible for supporting the management of daily operations of the visitor center, including outreach, education, volunteer management, permitting, budgeting, staffing, and overall visitor services for over 130,000 guests. Upon successfully completing over 640 hours and her internship, Deirdre earned a USFS PLC Certificate. With this certificate, Deirdre was able to apply for her first merit-based federal position, and in December of 2018, Deirdre was hired on as a full-time, permanent USFS employee working out of the same Powell Ranger District office on the Dixie NF. Congratulations to Deirdre!

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/dixie/recarea/?recid=24942

Western States Trail

 

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

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

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

http://wstrail.org/

Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge | Sonoran Pronghorn Boma Construction

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Hunting Island State Park | Diamondback Rattlesnake Trail

       Hunting Island, South Carolina gives life to non-typical work environment for our ACE Southeast branch. The island’s semi-tropical climate is home to cabbage palmetto, live oaks draped in Spanish moss and towering slash pines, which paint a different picture for the corps members whose office usually take the form of the Appalachian Mountains and deciduous forests.

 

This past August, a Southeast crew led by ACE Crew Leader, Nicole MacNamee was in charge of the rehabilitation of the Diamondback Rattlesnake trail at Hunting Island State Park over the course of two project weeks. This trail, which is 2.3 miles, connects the southern end Nature Center to the northern end Park Office. However, the trail has been out of commission in the aftermath of hurricane Matthew. The hurricane brought down trees and debris leaving the trail almost indistinguishable. Flooding and the lack of regular cyclical maintenance have caused the trail to become overgrown with vegetation as well.

The ACE crew brushed back vegetation and grubbed out roots where necessary with a combination of chainsaws, brush cutters and hand tools to open up the corridor to 6 feet wide and 8 feet high. Much of the tread surface, comprised of sand, has been covered by a thick layer of duff made of pine needles and oak leaves. The tread was re-exposed by raking off the duff layer using a combination of leaf blowers, McCleods, and hand rakes.

To avoid the heat of the day, the crew started work at 6:30 am but were fortunate to camp on the beach for a post-work reprieve. This state park is very popular, bringing in upwards of a million visitors each year to hike its trails and witness the areas’ wildlife and beaches. ACE is proud to be a part of rehabilitating this trail to allow visitors to hike along its ancient sand dunes and semi-tropical maritime forest once more.

https://southcarolinaparks.com/hunting-island

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