Tuesday, May 26, 2015

WMNF Bear Patrol: Week One

So here's the beginning of my weekly blog posts for my internship with the USFS in the White Mountains National Forest. This past week was filled with orientation and lots of training to prepare me for duties on the forest as a representative of the Forest Service. I gained a lot of insight to the upcoming weeks' projects such as grouse surveying, visitor information services, high elevation bird surveying, acoustic bat surveying, and campground food storage patrol. 
First day of the job (Mon 5/18) was orientation and everyone introduced themselves, went over the safety culture that has become predominant throughout the Forest Service, and us interns were given our first cubicle, keys, uniforms, and our fleet vehicle (the only minivan in the garage!) Because of my lack of license, I will be navigating my partner, Emily, around the forest. However, we have yet to be sent out on our own, besides to and from headquarters...                

Tuesday (5/19) morning we left for the Saco district and completed a CPR course (which I am already certified in) and a front country First-Aid course (I just took WFA with Nancy Zane, so that was not monotonous at all...). Upon returning to HQ, we completed a JHA (Job Hazard Analysis) for driving and for grouse surveying that we will be conducting on Thursday (5/21).  These JHA's will be a preliminary part before participating in any projects.  
Wednesday (5/20) we participated and completed a defensive driving course (even though I don't have a licence but it was actually quite helpful, and I think confidently prepared me for driving when I do attain the opportunity). 
Thursday (5/21) we reported to the office at 4am to get our fleet vehicle and drive to the grouse survey site (Tripoli Rd, Thorton). We were listening for individual drumming events and individuals gobblers within a 4 minute observation period every mile of the road. We heard a total of four drumming events, no turkeys, but it was a great learning experience! I will be conducting another study in a different location this upcoming Wednesday (5/27). 
We had Friday (5/22) off and Saturday (5/23) we shadowed one of the FPO's on routine rounds through a troublesome campground that has witnessed a few bear incidents. By doing so, we got a first hand understanding of how to strategically converse with visitors about proper food storage and met campground hosts.  
This past holiday (Sun 5/24 and Mon 5/25), we went back and forth between the White Mountain Visitor Information Center, Hancock Campground and Lincoln Woods Trail Head promoting bear canisters and directing hikers to the proper trail heads. We realized there were many disoriented visitors because of the lack of Trail Head signage and mentioned it to the FPO who would be speaking at the district briefing in the coming weeks. The pamphlet handouts also have some complications, so I mentioned that to Clara, our supervisor and district wildlife biologist. We might have a tedious "office day" fixing all of them so they're more explicit in their food storage directions and camp ground protocol. 
I'm excited to perform a second grouse survey and to be more independent with our routine visits to campsites. Now that we understand the FS approach to public interaction, I think we will effectively balance the needs of the public with the critical importance of keeping black bears wild. 
 Setting up signage for the beginning of the season and to help with promotion of bear canisters at Lincoln Woods..

Food Storage Boxes are usually available only at the backcountry areas. This one at Hancock Campground was installed because this specific campground had multiple bear encounters last year and FS wanted to make proper food storage even more accessible to visitors previously negligent.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

CMZ Week 5

So here ends my fifth week here at CMZ. It’s hard to believe I have one full week left. A lot has happened this week, namely lots and lots of practice for my final keeper talk. I have been presenting in front of a live group of guests almost every day in preparation for the official day, which is still yet to be decided. Each and every single time I do this I realize I am slightly less nervous than the time before, and though there is not much time left I hope that will make some sort of difference.

Other than that, this week the lot of us had to make do without mice, rats, or fuzzies for the snakes and the alligators. We had to work around that, so we gave the gators chicken and gator gel, and we fed pinkies to some of the snakes. It was a difficult week for that because we were also afraid we would run out of pinkies before a new supply of mice would show up. Luckily that didn’t happen.
One of the keepers and I cleaned Wally’s tank this week for the first time. Wally is a three-year-old runt alligator that is kept in the reptile house (called Scutes Family Gallery) basement. She lives in this large, hard plastic tub filled with water and rocks, so the water had to be drained and refilled and the rocks cleaned and put back in…not while Wally is in there, of course.

I watched our Rio Grande turkey named Laredo get his medicine for the first time this week, in addition to working on chicken identifications. There sure are a whole bunch of them.

 It seems to me like the joeys have already doubled in size since I have started working here. I suppose that is to be expected. Babies grow up so fast, and I have definitely become attached to them. I know I will really miss them.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

CMZ Week 4

After the end of this fourth week, I will have my second evaluation. Every intern has his or her evaluation after every 80 hours at the zoo, and in my case that is every two weeks since I am there 40 hours per week. I am looking forward to this because I know I can only improve from the last time, and I want to see specifically how and know what I can do to keep improving. Two weeks later I expect to see an even bigger change.

This week the keepers and I talked about reptile handling, so we got to practice that with some of the more easygoing animals. We started out with the turtles, but as the week progressed, we went down the list. My favorites so far are Kate, a bearded dragon, and Toothless, a Mali uromastyx, since he is usually very calm. Another new task with reptiles included taking their temperatures at the end of the day in addition to when I would take back their food dishes. After that I would write all these temperatures for the reptiles down in the daily log book, which also lists how much each animal ate, if anything at all, and what they ate. I had been cleaning snake tanks nearly every day. Sometimes two would have to be cleaned per day, since there are eight snake tanks on display total.

I am getting better with judging how much of a food item is left so I can either write it down to be ordered, or I can either make more of it. For example, I make the joey formula after looking at the current supply and can tell that more is needed. I have also been making more repashy for the geckos, gator gel, and tree monitor meat mix.

Something that I have never done before was disinfecting the wallaby enclosure. Of course this was a strenuous task, so luckily I did not have to do it on my own. The other intern in my department and I tackled it together. We were warned it was going to take two hours, and that was a correct assumption. This procedure consists of sweeping up the leftover hay, hosing the floor and the mats, then draining the excess water, then disinfecting the floor and mats, scrubbing them, and rinsing everything all over again.

It astounded me that it took me this long to hear it, but this week was the first time I had heard one of the keepers say, “I love this job.” I thought that was really profound since I had never heard anyone say something like that. It reaffirmed how much I like the work that I do as well, but overall it made me want to work even harder.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

MCINWR with Rose Zoller

Hey Everyone!

Sorry it has been a while since I have posted, with all this moving around and change in staff things have been a bit hectic, but still very fun! I am back on my original island (Ship) and I was here just in time for the remains of Arther to hit us on the 5th. This storm resulted in us having a Black Skimmer on the island and they are only seen this far north after tropical storms!
Black Skimmer!!

While away on the other island, our chicks here all seemed to have hatched! I have gotten a lot of banding experience int the past week. My supervisor, Mary, also had a 3 day break off the island and I was able to train an SCA student who was working most of her summer at Maine's Moosehorn Refuge. The experience was a lot of fun and it was great for me to have the opportunity to take on a leadership role with collecting and recording data.
Three chicks we monitor for provisioning.

Currently we are performing provisioning and productivity surveys on our chicks. For productivity, we have set up plots and record the weight and wing cord for every chick in the plot. For provisioning we conduct 3 hour blind stints and we ID and record the types of fish being brought in. This data is crucial to the refuge, as we are finding trends in the available fish over the years to help determine healthy populations in the area.

Two Herring, our most common fish.
Measuring wing chord!
Till Next Time!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Maine Coastal Islands NWR with Rose Zoller

Hey Everyone! It’s Rose here.

My past week has been filled with new experiences and it has been a lot of fun. Last Tuesday I was switched to work on Eastern and Western Brothers’ Islands with another intern. The Brother’s Islands are off the coast of Maine near Jonesport. The terrain here is mostly cliffs dropping off into the ocean, ideal habitat for some alcids. This Island is vastly different from Ship Island however, in that it had previously not had an established tern colony. Here they focus on Black Guillemot nests and attracting Razorbills and Puffins to the island. This year however, after years of trying to attract terns, the Brothers finally have a nesting tern pair and I was able to witness the hatching of one of the eggs. Currently we have two healthy chicks. Another pair appears to be nesting, fingers crossed!
First Tern chicks on Eastern Brothers!

Since arriving I have been climbing cliffs in an attempt to find new Guillemot nests and learning about the nesting traits and behavior for the bird. I have also seen several Razorbills approach and flock to our decoys. There have been no puffins as of yet but we have our fingers crossed. Below to the left is a Guillemot in her nest and to the right is a Razorbill on the water. 

For the nine days that I am out here I have been able to take on supervisor responsibilities and create data records for the species and all that we record on the island. Since we have two islands I have also been able use our small boat to get to our neighboring island. It has been a fulfilling experience so far and it is truly beautiful out here. Next time I post I should be back on Ship Island. Till then!

My house is the little box on the right side there.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

CMZ week 3

This week I have been doing a lot of the same procedures I was already introduced to. I think this is because with repetition comes confidence, and the keepers always will tell me that I should be more confident in my abilities and trust myself that I have the knowledge to know what to do and how to do it. So now they trust me to give me the keys to the reptile cages and feed them by myself. It took me a while the first time I fed out the food dishes only because some of the locks are hard to open. I also cleaned the barn three days in a row, and it still takes me about an hour and fifteen minutes, which I know I need to improve on.

Some new things I was introduced to this week was preparing out diets for the emu, Damien, and I was given a short talk on his enrichment schedule and all of the different items he can get. I was introduced to medical sheets, and unfortunately one of the goats needed to put one of the sheets to good use. She unexpectedly started limping badly one day, but she seems to be improving now. Another thing I was introduced to this week was snake handling. The keepers showed me into the downstairs reptile room and had me observe as they each picked up one of the non-venomous snakes and put it into a box on a scale to be weighed. The snakes are weighed before they eat, which can be either adult or young mice, depending on the individual.

As I prepare for my keeper talk at the end, I have been observing these talks more and learning about different styles of public speaking. Each of the three keepers has her own style of performing the gator talk, and they have been telling me to find my own that I feel comfortable with. Looks like I’ll have to get rid of this stage fright sooner or later.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Discovery Reef and Stingray Bay

Week 6 is already done! I am halfway through my internship already and I can't believe it. Time is flying by. I am still enjoying it here at Discovery Reef, and still learning something new every day. 

We have been getting a lot of male cardinal fish brooding eggs lately. It is pretty exciting. Part of my internship includes a personal project that I must complete by the end of the internship. This week I decided on a project with the help of the aquarists. Occasionally when we try to move the male cardinal fish to a different tank to hatch the eggs in, the males will become stressed and spit out the egg mass. My project is to determine a way to effectively count the eggs so that we can keep a record of the average number of eggs a female cardinal fish will lay. The egg mass is held together by a sticky casing so I will be researching possible ways to remove that casing so that the eggs separate individually without destroying the eggs. I might try and come up with my own ideas as well. I will only be studying egg masses that the male spits out because once he disposes them, they will not hatch. 

We set up a new tank this week to hatch the larvae in. Hopefully it will be more successful. The previous tank that we would hatch cardinal fish larvae in had three white sides and one glass side. This new tank has black walls instead. The idea is that the larvae are phototaxic and instead of swimming to the white walls like in the previous tank, they will swim to the surface on the new tank, making it easier to rear them and less stressful for the larvae. I am going to try and take some pictures next week to post. 

The zoo has been really busy and weather has been hot and humid here the last couple of weeks. I've also been really busy working at Discovery Reef and also working as a lifeguard a few days a week. Because my internship is unpaid I decided to get a job working at Zoombezi Bay, which is the water park at the zoo. I am having fun with it and it is making my summer even more enjoyable!

I hope everyone is having a good summer! I'll post some more pictures of animals at the zoo below and will post pictures of the cardinal fish and tanks soon. Hope you enjoy!