Thursday, July 30, 2009

Better Late than Never!

Hello, I’m Amber Behn and this is my internship blog. Amanda Smith, a fellow third year Unity College student, and myself did our internship for five weeks at a small wildlife rescue center called Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand, better known as WFFT. Our introduction day to the center was a startling realization that we were actually in Thailand and that we would really be experiencing the work involved in our potential career fields. It was when we were given a tour of the center and its facilities, the cultural shock truly settled in. Our bedrooms could be described as simple at best, including three beds, a cupboard, a cart, an overhead light and a fan. The walls in the adjoining bathroom weren’t connected to the ceiling, making it a wonderful home for all manner of salamanders, geckos, millipedes, ants, spiders and the occasional scorpion. There was no sink or mirror, simply a toilet that didn’t flush (making a bucket of water and scoop necessary to rid the contents of the toilet) and a shower head attached to the wall next to the toilet and bucket. However, after less than a week of hard work in average temperatures of 93 degrees Fahrenheit, you begin to long for any form of relaxation, even that which you find in the hard, lumpy bed and pillow, complete with mosquito netting. Especially after what transpired on just our fourth day at the center, I would’ve loved to have just given up and gone home, but ten thousand miles is a long way, and I still had weeks left to go. Stay tuned for what happens next!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

July is Almost Over

I can't believe it is almost August. Well the other day something very sad happened. My baby bird that I was raising died. He was doing so well and what happened was very sudden and traumatic. Our iguana, Sammy, who free roams our office, tipped over the bird's cage and the bird hit his head and died instantly. I was doing an animal presentation when it happened, but one of the other keepers heard a bang in the office and walked in to see what had happened. I was really mad at Sammy but he has a tendency of getting into trouble. I was so upset when I found out and I didn't know how I was going to get through the rest of the day, then I thought of who could cheer me up...Jasper. I immediately went to see Jasper and I spent some quality time with my favorite red-tailed hawk. Right away he brought a smile to my face and I felt much better. I can't even begin to explain the bond that Jasper and I have made in the past few months, but he has definitely been my biggest inspiration, and I am so glad I get to show him to all the guests at the zoo and inspire them by telling about his story. Jasper is the perfect example of the kind of animals I want to help for the rest of my life.

A beautiful day, with some little surprises!

Well I wrote this up a few days ago but I've been having some technical difficulties! Looks like its all set now though.

Yesterday I spent the day working on Matiu/Somes Island which is located in the Wellington harbour. The island is rich with history and amazing wildlife. The island has been used for animal and human quarantine (some of the human quarantine stories are quite sad and shocking). It also has military history (both in early Maori times and in both world wars) as well as many other interesting little titbits (a particularly interesting story dealing with leprosy). I could probably write pages about all the history and the biodiversity of the island so instead I’m going to post a link to a short video on the island at the end of this blog…I STRONGLY suggest you check it out!

In the morning I hopped onto the ferry to transport me to the island. I was accompanied by 5 volunteers from ANZ (a bank in New Zealand) who were going to work with myself and the historic ranger on the island. The first thing we did upon arrival was a mandatory self bag check in case any pests like mice or an invasive species of ant, were hiding in our packs. Once cleared we learned about what our mission for the day was. In the morning we would be clearing out the degaussing station on the island (more on what that is in a minute) and in the afternoon we would be helping prepare the old maximum security animal quarantine station to be opened to the public as an exhibit on the island this coming summer.

Now you are probably wondering what the heck a degaussing station is….I know at least I was! In World War II the German’s developed magnetic mines that were wreaking havoc on their enemy ships. Degaussing is the process of decreasing the magnetic fields of ships by using coils. All that is left of this station is the foundation and our job was to clear away all the overgrowth of vegetation around the site (which included rather evil vines!).
It could not have been a more perfect day to be working out on the island. The sun was shining and we were working in T-Shirts….a rare occurrence since New Zealand is in its winter season!
Everything was going well when I started clearing out a large pile of woody debris. I lifted up a large fallen branch and I discovered a Little Blue Penguin nest with two Little Blues cozying up together in it! I was shocked and jumped about a foot. Little Blue Penguins are (like their name) the tiniest breed of penguins but they are also the most vicious. The penguins I found however were far from vicious and more scared then anything. I ran to grab my camera but they the time they got back they had retreated farther into their nest. I snapped a few photos anyway and resumed work. However the volunteers working with us were quite distracted by the tiny creatures which ended up being a problem. The poor penguins were frightened and we were blocking their pathway to the sea if they wanted to escape back into the big blue ocean. With all this going on, the Ranger and I decided it was time to move to a different location and let the little blue penguins be. The rest of the morning consisted of breaking down the larger tree branches into smaller pieces for the chipper.
(My horrible picture attempt...I put a red box around the penguin)
Once work was done at the degaussing station we moved up to the maximum security animal quarantine station. The first task was to move the original items from the vet’s office in the station and place them back in their original spot. Unfortunately the desk and filing cabinets were extremely heavy and they needed to be moved from the island’s Visitor Centre (old hospital) which was 300 feet down the hill. Doesn’t sound that far but after lugging all that stuff my back wouldn't agree with you. We then proceeded to the old animal holding pens. Depending on what type of livestock was kept in the pen at the time, different wooden pallets had to be put on the ground. We setup pens that were once used for cows. We also found out the hard way that each pen had to have its own specific numbered pallets. A lot of guesswork and back breaking work went into this. As a result of our team efforts everything looked great and it was pretty cool to have help set up an exhibit that visitors from all over the world will be seeing for years to come,
After all the day’s work was done it felt so good to get back on that ferry. I left with a feeling of accomplishment and I think working outside released all my happy emotions I was a little tired but all smiles! I could definitely see myself working in this type of setting because I love the outdoors and places with rich historical significance. Working on Matiu/Somes Island is a great mix of the two!

Click this link to see the video!

Week 4

This week had to have been the best week yet! My cabin was so amazing and we got along famously!Every single girl in my cabin got along well, better than well. I had no problems whatsoever with my cabin and we even performed in the weekly talent show, which was such a fun time. I allowed myself to be open and honest with my campers about my own life and they responded well. We talked about each other's home life and I felt so bad for one of my campers in particular. Her home life was pretty bad, but she has turned out to be such an awesome person. That's one thing I took away from this week; no matter your obstacles you decide what type of person that you want to be. By blaming all of your problems on external sources, you are only amplifiying the sadness in your life and never gaining any peace. I will miss my campers deeply and hope that this week is a good one.

I had a tough tim during ropes this week. A few of the girls in my group decided to join ropes only to be with a boy. When that boy dropped out of ropes they continually disrupted the games. They ruined a few games for all of my other willing campers and felt no remorse for it. Now that I think about it I should have removed them from the games until they were ready to participate, but I kept holding on. Sometimes I become so determined that I lose sight of how my actions may be affecting the people around me. That would be a learning to take away from this week. Sometimes everything is telling you to let go, but your stubborness won't allow you to. I hope to apply this to my futre groups and my own life as well.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

July is Really Flying By

Well I didn't get a chance to post yesterday like I was going to, but the reptile weekend at the zoo was a lot of fun. Rainforest Reptiles brought a bunch of awesome creatures. Besides the albino alligator they brought a yellow anaconda, a 15 ft Burmese python, a Gaboon viper, cobras, rattlesnakes, a gila monster, and so much more. It was really neat.

I have been very busy everyday at the zoo with my shows. Today I did three shows. It can get pretty exhausting, especially when you're standing out in the sun for the presentation, which can last anywhere from 20-30 minutes usually, with an animal who is not happy about being out there in the heat in front of a bunch of people.

Here is a picture of me doing a presentation with Jasper.

Well working at a zoo definitely has its up and downs. Dealing with your co-workers everyday is one thing. Another is dealing with death everyday. Today I was opening an area of our zoo and found our Himalayan rabbit was dead. That was sad. But there are always rewarding things that happen everyday as well. Zephyr, the other hawk I started working with is doing great coming to my hand for food. Also I am raising a baby bird right now. I believe it is a sparrow chick, but he just got his tiny little flight feathers on his wings and he is starting to fly around a little bit. Once he is fully weened and can fly, I will be releasing him back into the wild.

Update 8 from Germany!

Heavy thunderstorms knocked down many branches into the roadways crisscrossing our forest so much of my time this week was spent clearing up the mess to make the roads accessible again. When clearing one road tucked into a back corner of the property I had not spent allot of time on yet we came upon the remnants of a large bunker left over from World War II. The massive walls of the bunker where collapsed into the interior in a way that could not have been caused simply by erosion. Either it was hit by a bomb back in the fighting or, more likely (and a bit less exiting), it was destroyed by allied forces after the war ended. I spent a good time exploring the bunker overgrown and long forgotten before I remembered I was expected to help clear the road. My interest must have been obvious because Mr. Brecht gave me a brief history lesson on the area as soon as I returned. This place was one of the last fighting fronts when German troops where retreating and, in his words, “only a few desperate idiots where left fighting” on the German side.
After we were done with that road Mr. Brecht led me into another part of the property that I’d worked at before on a seat. We went a bit farther into the brush and right there in our serene woods where two giant crater holes. Lots of water and mud had collected at the bottom and where now obviously being used as Suele by the wild boar. Mr. Brecht then went on to tell me they were aiming for the Germersheim Bridge. A good 2 miles short of target. A bit of a miss. He told me that bombing back then was basically dropping a cluster of bombs while flying over an area that was target and that far worse misses where common back then. He told me a story of a US bomber that used a river to lead them to a German industry area but mistakenly took a side stream that led them “slightly off target”…to Switzerland. Where they promptly dropped their bombs on the first industries town they came upon. That in his mind was quite a miss.
In other news Feh, Mr. Brecht’s excellent hunting dog almost lost an eye when she cornered a large Nutria that did not want to be cornered. Nutria’s look like a cross between a beaver and a rat. They have the very large front teeth like beavers and these where used to put two severe gashes around the dogs left eye. They had to be stitched and were extremely swollen all week but towards the end of the week all signs where pointing to a healthy recovery.
We are still keeping very busy putting up fences. It is a process that has not been helped by the frequent summer storms that have hit us of late. Today the weather is great so I will try to make some good progress this afternoon.

Photos From Thailand

Amanda and Amber just finished up their internships in Thailand. Here's some great photos they just sent me. Thanks for the great posts Amanda, it's been so good hear from you.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ata Whenua, Land of shadows...and earthquakes?!

Hello Everyone! This week I had the opportunity to do some travel down to the South Island and work in the Te Anau Area Office. The Te Anau office looks after Fiordland National Park or as the Maoris' call it Ata Whenua (Shadow Land).

Monday I got a tour of the office and was introduced to everyone. Afterwards I went over to the wildlife sanctuary just through the woods from the office. There my boss showed me some of New Zealand's native bird species including the Takahë (there are only 220 of these left) and the Kakapo, (only 123 of these birds remain) a flightless parrot. In fact many of New Zealand's birds are flightless due to the fact that the only native mammals here are two species of bats and many birds lost the use of their wings due to the lack of predators. This all changed however when Europeans introduced the rabbit because of the lack of mammals in the country. When the rabbits began to overpopulate and destroy the natural vegetation stoats and weasels were introduced...this was a BIG mistake. They did kill of some of the rabbits but they also had a thirst for New Zealand's birds. It has been a huge chore ever since to rid the country of these pests. I also learned about all the Stoat trapping programs that have been put in place by DOC throughout the country. It was really amazing to be able to see some of these birds up close and personal.On Tuesday I had the opportunity to work with two other Department of Conservation employees at a local school teaching elementary school kids about marine reserves. This involved me dressing up in a diver's suit and one of the Department of Conservation rangers dressing up as "Rocky" the Rock Lobster. The kids absolutely loved the program and it was so cool to be able to excite these kids about the marine reserves right in their backyard.

Wednesday was probably the most exciting day I have had since I have been in New Zealand! I got to spend some time working in Milford Sound, which is one of the seven natural wonders of the world! I investigated the probability of attaching a kayak landing to the Piopiotahi Marine Reserve/ Milford Sound underwater observatory. It turns out that the marine reserve I had been teaching the kids about the day before was the one I ended up visiting. The reason we had to check out the area was because to operate any kind of commercial activity on conservation managed lands you need a concession (a permit). The kayak landing would be on top of a marine reserve and in Fiordland National Park it must get approved by the Department of Conservation first. After checking out where the floating dock would be and talking with the employees of the Observatory & Reserve, it looks like the concession will be approved. We then hopped back onto the boat and headed towards land.The real excitement however happened that night. I was in my room around 9:30 pm at night when I thought I heard what sounded like a car crashing through the building. All of a sudden the entire room began to shake back and forth violently, like being out on a ship in stormy seas. Well, it doesn't take a genius to guess that an earthquake had just occurred. The next day I found out it was 7.8 on the Richter Scale! It was the biggest earthquake New Zealand has had in over 70 years. The earthquake was reported to be a wave type and not a sudden drop in the earths plates. The epi-center was reported to be 60 km south of where I was located. Scientists believe that the nearby glaciers buffered the shock wave. Thankfully no one was hurt and minimal damaged occurred. It was definitely one of those unique travel stories!

With the area was so indescribably beautiful, I have taken over 150 pictures. I loved that I was able to gain work experience and do a bit of sightseeing at the same time! This was definitely an experience I will never forget!

Thursday was my last day down south and I spent the majority of the day in the Department of Conservation Visitors Centre. The interpretation used in the Centre along with the knowledge of the staff made this one of the best Visitor Centres I have ever visited. I learned a lot about visitor safety. From avalanches to flooding and just being downright prepared, the staff has a very important duty to advise travelers how to best be prepared when hiking in these remarkable areas.That is all I have for you now! I can't wait to see what my last two weeks have in store!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Very Busy

Sorry I have taken so long to post, I have been extremely busy. I have been working almost 13 hour days everyday because I'm working another job besides the zoo. We have also been very busy at the zoo as well. Rainforest Reptiles from Beverly MA is at the zoo this weekend and I will post more about their visit tomorrow. We have even been in the news this week because they brought their rare albino alligator with them. He is one of 30 in the world. Here is a link to the newspaper article from today:

Well besides that exciting stuff going on, I have been trying to do a lot of enrichment with the animals. Recently I gave our bobcats some catnip in balls of hemp that they played with in their enclosure. I also gave our raccoons paper towel tubes filled with peanut butter and bananas. They LOVED them!

I have also been working with another one of our red-tailed hawks named Zephyr, and it has only been about a week that I have been working with him and he is already coming to my gloved hand for food. Today we put jesses on him so I can start using him for programs too besides using Jasper.

Oh yeah! Last week, a woman who used to take care of Jasper at the rehabilitation center where he came from came to visit. She wanted to see how he was doing. She did not even know that I had been working with him and when she met me I took him out on the glove and she could not believe it. It almost brought her to tears, especially when she was explaining to me how Jasper was going to be put down that week that ZooQuarium accepted to take him in. I am so glad that he didn't have to die, and instead he has become such a great educational animal. Now I know that I want to work with animals like Jasper who do not have a chance at surviving in the wild, but can become animal ambassadors and help teach many people how magnificent they are.

Well I will post more tomorrow along with some pictures of the reptiles from Rainforest Reptiles.

Week 3 at Camp Farley

Greetings from another great week in Mashpee! This week was a bit frustrating, but I feel as though I have progressed because of it. This past week at Camp Farley 20 kids signed up for ropes which is unusual for our ropes team and we had to eliminate a day of games. We usually facilitate trust games and group-solving games on Monday and Tuesday, but we only had room for one day. Later on in the week we realized that we could have and probably should have spent two days on games. All of them mastered the rock wall in one day and the zipline was flying by so we had to come up with something for them to do on Friday. I also felt as though I did not know my group as well as I had the previous weeks. On day four I still did not know some of their names which seems horible in my own opinion. I did learn that you have to be ready to roll with the punches and think quick on your feet. I also learned that I should not be afraid to recieve help and constructive criticism. I am so sensitive that I view healthy criticism as a punch in my face when it is really not. It is a way for me to better my leadership skills and approach. I am grateful for self reflection because you really start to realize things about yourself and your personality.

My cabin this past week was very....loud. No, they were nice kids, just extremely outspoken. A few of them did feel homesick and again I felt helpless, but I did learn something. I learned that each week I need to give my campers a great time. I was often apprehensive to soothe them when they were feeling sad and I felt horrible. I need to give my campers all of my positive effort to help create a safe and happy environment for them. You only get what you put into it so hopefully next will be even better. I had so much fun this week! The kids were so energetic and it made the games so much fun! Until next week!

Monday, July 13, 2009

The second week of camp flew was rough at the beginning, but became smoother towards the end of the week. I had a lot of trouble helping my cabin work together because three of the girls were really close friends. The other two girls in my cabin felt left out at many times and I had to figure out something immediately. We did have a few explosions, but we were able to contain them with an ABUNDANCE of talking. By the middle of the week the girls were closer than before and they started to enjoy each other’s company. By the end all of them were inseparable and I was so happy that they were finally having fun. Two of my girls became really homesick, but after a few phone calls they decided to finish the week and they might even be back for another week this summer! This week was especially challenging for me because I am so quiet during first encounters as were these girls, so I had to step out of my comfort zone and get the ball rolling. It was great to talk and I liked engaging in different types of conversation with them. One night we talked for quite a while about a variety of things like Billy Mays, commercials, hiking, and animals. It turned out to be a great week and I am making plans for an even better week for my next campers. I will have a multitude of activities planned for them so that they are always active and interacting with each other.
This week ropes went well. This week the group connected on a better level than the previous group and I took many things into consideration when planning this week’s games. Even though they are kids I have to remember to choose a pace that fits their age. If it is too slow they will be bored and become distracted, if it is too fast they will not grasp the concept of our games altogether. I think that is the hardest part of ropes; receiving a new group every week and finding games that work. As opposed to sticking with the same group and constantly tailoring the program to their needs. I am learning new things every week and I hope the next week is filled with new learning’s and dare I say more challenges.

Hello Again from Thailand

Hello everyone! I am on my last two days of my internship at the Wildlife Rescue Center in Thailand. The day have just flown by. This week I switched over from the wildlife project to the elephant project. The work days aren't as long, but some of the work is a lot more labor intensive. The center has 6 elephants on site, 4 of them are owned by Mahouts, and the other two were bought by the center. The mahouts do a lot of the work for the elephants because they still belong to them, but the highlight of my week so far has definitely been the experience of giving one of the elephants a bath in the lake. It was scary at first, but then I just got used to being up on something that weighed 4+ tons. Tomorrow is our last working day, and we are scheduled to do pineapple picking for the elephants. Doesn't sound too terrible, right? Well, just factor in that it's usually around 100 degrees here and the pineapple plants just cut you to pieces when you touch them. But I'm excited, it's something I never thought I'd do before.
When I return home, plan to see plenty of pictures from me!

Amanda Smith

Another Great Update from Erik

Hi There All!
Hope that everyone is doing a-okay. I'm doing pretty darn well.
I guess I'll cut to the chase and tell you all what's been going on.
Monday: Julie, one of her friends and I went down to SE MN to swap out bugs, collect water from the auto-samplers and wander around the woods. It was pretty darn good. It was a shorter than a normal field day, but it was very productive.
Tuesday: I went with Cale to the UMore site to put in a few more data loggers, upload data and meet some locals. It was a good day.
Wednesday: Julie and I ran a bunch of samples through the spec. had a lunch time meeting and took it easy. I also meet with Josh Feinberg the guy in the Institute for Rock Magnetism (IRM) we discussed my mud thesis and started running some analyses. Oh boy!
Thursday: We ran some more samples in the spec and that was really about all that we did. It was a really easy day. In the evening I went out with Ben, Mike, and Alissa to the Guthrie Theatre where we saw "When We Are Married" written by J.B. Priestley. It was a really good play.
Friday: We went out on Lake Superior as a whole group on the R/V Blue Heron, owned by the U. Out there we cored the lake a few times using different methods: a gravity corer, a dredge, and this nifty thing that settles down to the bottom and inertia drives 4 tubes into the lake sediment, then when it is lifted up, it trips and closes the ends of the cores. Pretty cool. We also did some basic water chemistry. Finally we ran a few passes of sonar to map the lake bottom. Pretty neat stuff. In the evening when we got back I also ran some more magnetics samples for my thesis.
Saturday: I spent almost the whole day in the lab running magnetics samples. Oh boy. In the evening I went contra-dancing with Ben, Liz, Becky, and Alissa. That was a lot of fun. After that we went back to the U picked up Angela and Mike and went over to Julie's house for a party.
Today: Well, I spent almost all day in the lab running my magnetics samples again. Oh boy. I finished all of my samples for susceptibility and have about 5/8 of the ARM samples completed. I wasn't actually going to write tonite because I was planning on working in the lab this evening but the ARM machine isn't working as of this evening.... I didn't do it for the record, the post-doc touched it, not me, as he was trying to set it up for me. I feel kinda bad about it. Now I'm in a world of hurt to get my samples done, we'll see how it goes! Hopefully they can fix it tomorrow.
No real plans for the rest of the week. I am going out in the field tomorrow to change some more bugs. Besides that I'm meeting with Scott to discuss my project so I can start working on that. About time.... Calvin and Scott are going to be out for the next three weeks, so I better be in good shape pretty soon, or I'm in a world of hurt.
I think that I'm going to be taking some swing dancing lessons this week, so that should be lots of fun.
I guess that's really about it. Taking it easy. Hope everyone is having a great time!! Only four weeks to go. Cripes!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Week 2 at Camp Farley

The first week of camp flew by like all good things! When I first met my campers I was extremely nervous, but they turned out to be amazing. They were talkative and so much fun to be around! Not to mention they got along with each other and always listened to their counselors. The transition into cabin life was so smooth, although we did encounter a few snags along the way. On Wednesday was the camp’s talent show and the girls were stoked to participant. Before the show, one of the girls felt that she did not have enough time to perform her song to the capacity of her liking and completely broke down. She cried, ran, and refused to talk to anyone. After a talk she eventually came around ad performed her song. She did such a great job and the crowd loved it! Our cabin sat down for a long discussion and everything was okay by the time they went to bad. Every time an obstacle occurred I did not feel unprepared because of my previous camp experience. I handled each one with great patience and a soft voice. Each problem was settled and the kids went home with all smiles. The camp was great this week and even though the kids complained they had a good time.
During the first week I got the chance to conduct, organize, and prepare several games that would allow my group to communicate and work together. The first two days are name games, group-solving games, and trust falls. The last three days are spent on the climbing wall and the zip line. The point of this weekly structure is to stimulate team work between groups of kids that have not spent time together. The first day is quite exhausting because the kids are bent on not participating. We have to constantly push them, but by the second day I feel that it really pays off. They start to get along with each other and support one another. These skills are pertinent to the success of the high ropes elements. I love watching the kids work together and strategize each step of the way! It makes the tiring moments so worth and I am grateful to be able to experience them.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Update from the Cape Cod Canal

Now that the summer season has officially started, I spend most of my time working in the Visitor Center. Working there is pretty predictable most of the time, so I don't have many shenanigans to report. The last three days we have had groups of 50 junior-high students come in from a summer enrichment program at Mass Maritime Academy, so we have been giving tours to them. We have been getting a lot of questions about tall ships, since many people hope to see them coming through the canal. A few have come through, including one today, one yesterday, and five one of the days I was off. A lot of people ask if any tall ships are planning to come through, which is a question we can't answer, since we -- or at least, Marine Traffic Control -- don't find out until about an hour before they arrive, when they call and ask permission to transit the Canal.

This morning was the first time I led the Sagamore Hill Hike. Before it was time to leave for that, I found myself accompanying Roger and JP out to the Bourne Bridge approach to pick up a box of nails that had fallen out of a passing truck and gotten all over the street. These nails were huge -- about six inches long and as thick as a pencil, and there must have been hundreds of them lying in the road. We used two large pickup trucks and a bunch of cones to block the traffic, and then set about collecting nails. One unfortunate driver got a flat tire from one of the nails, so she had to call AAA to come and help her out. We got all the nails picked up fairly quickly, but we still caused a major traffic jam in the process. Of course, the traffic is an almost constant jam on Cape Cod anyway, so any traffic incidents -- or nail incidents, for that matter -- just make things worse.

I did get to Sagamore Hill on time, nails or no nails. It turns out that I will have an Interpreter from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation accompanying me on each tour, which is a good thing for safety reasons. The Interpreter they sent, Sarah, is very nice, and it will be great to have her along. Today we had one visitor, so the three of us had a grand old time walking up Sagamore Hill. We even met Sam on the way, who was doing some other job on Sagamore Hill at the time.

(This is a picture of me at work on Water Safety Day. This event took place a few weeks ago, but it took me a while to figure out the size requirements so I could post pictures. I'll try some more next week. )

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Kia Ora from Aotearoa!

Which means; Hello from New Zealand (Land of the Long White Cloud) in Te Reo. Te Reo is the language of the indigenous people from New Zealand called the Maori’s.

I meant to write earlier this week but I was really sick the last few days. With New Zealand being Swine Flu central at the moment, I was a little nervous. In the end it all turned out fine. It is winter here in the Southern Hemisphere and the daytime temperatures in Wellington have been averaging between the high 30's to low 50's, a little colder then back in Maine this time of year.

New Zealand has been amazing and I am really enjoying working as an intern for The Department of Conservation. I am mostly working in the Recreation & Historic Unit which has proved to be very interesting. I am learning new things every day, especially in the areas of eco tourism. I am anxious to learn about the native people, their culture, historic sites and the county's national parks.

I am currently undertaking an important survey project on what makes a well managed, quality recreation site. I have been e-mailing and doing phone interviews with different Department of Conservation offices from all over the country. Through a series of questions I developed, I'm establishing a list of the sites that the employees feel are popular with visitors and well managed. I'm also developing specific recommendations for improving sites,such as highway turoffs that provide scenic views. The idea is to create a table that identifies consistent factors that make a recreational site successful.

Employees have ranked the Fiordland Great Walks in the Southland Region very high. This area of New Zealand is arguably the most beautiful and a well known tourist destination for the entire country, Matiu/Somes Island in the Wellington Region is rich in European and Maori history. Cape Reinga located in the northernmost tip of New Zealand is held as scared ground to the Maori people.

All of this research makes me want to go out and see these amazing places! That’s probably the one downside to the job so far. I have only been out of the office once to do any type of fieldwork. We installed visitor counters in Holdsworth by burying them below treks (trails) in the Wairarapa Region of the country. It is a beautiful area. The counters were also placed at the main entrance on the eastern side of Tararau Forest Park and at Cross Creek. Cross Creek is an abandoned community that is now a nice hiking area and an access point to the Rimutaka Incline. This is a very popular tramping (hiking) destination. The eerie thing is there is NO evidence of there having been a vibrant community in the past.

As I have said before, it is a little frustrating that I am in such a beautiful country and I have been stuck in an office the majority of the time for the first four weeks of my internship. A combination of it being winter and lower visitation has contributed to a significant amount of time spent in the office.

However next week I am traveling down to the Southland Region. The South Island is much colder then the North Island. As you travel south in New Zealand you are closer to the South Pole. My agenda includes working on Milford Sound! I can’t believe I'm halfway through my internship. I plan on taking allot more photographs of working activities and the beautiful scenery. On days off I have been keeping myself plenty busy. There are a lot of fun activities to do here. I have visited the Te Papa National Museum which includes may displays of the native people and their culture. There is even a fully mounted Giant Squid that was the first live specimen caught last year by Japanese fisherman in very cold and deep waters off of southern New Zealand.I can't wait to report back on my experiences next week from the Southland.


Monday, July 6, 2009

MTR Last Full Week Plus a Few Days

Our humble little house and the Kashi box I'm hiding behind.

Week 5

16 June
Day 3 (31)
I’ve been here for a month and have a half a month left! I used a really big table saw today to cut wood for garden posts. It took me a half hour to find the unlock button, figure out how to move the unlock button, and then find how to change the angle. It was interesting but successful. I put most of the posts in the garden, but stopped when I realized that we have to buy more. The rabbit is eating our cabbage, so it has to be soon. I did budget work today: I made a spreadsheet to outline our costs and who needs to be reimbursed and such. So far I have faced the nitty gritty details that make a group work and succeed and the big obvious things that we learn about in classes. Doing it all is much more fun than learning about it. I’m really glad I did this internship because it’s been an internship on life: specifically my life. I have not only learned what is necessary to run an action advocacy group (the obvious and the unseen details like bookkeeping), many life skills. I can build things comfortably (use the tools), I’ve designed a house, planned, prepared, and planted gardens, done yard work, learned how to keep weeds away, identified local plants and what they are good for, when to eat road kill and when to not, how to connect to opposing groups, how to talk with media (I forgot to mention I had an interview at one point for a Reader’s Digest magazine), how to avoid making angry miners more angry, how to shut down opposing groups using administrative resources (court appeals, site visits, comments on permits, and using illegal actions against the company), planning direct actions, cleaning up after direct actions (raising money to get people out of jail and plugging into the media), making screens for a house, how to reuse almost anything, how to make cleaning and hygiene products, how to make tinctures and use herbal medicines, how to email and connect to senators and representatives. It’s been so much! It’s been a big glimpse of my life. This is the work I will be doing, this is how I will have to live since I’m allergic to everything in the grocery store, and now I’ve learned how to do it all. The great thing about this internship is that it wasn’t an internship. I did everything everyone else was doing: it was like being submerged into the job. I was never overwhelmed though, because I had good training (thank you Nancy and Mountain Justice Summer Camp).

17 June
Day 4 (32)
Didn't do a whole lot today. There was hail! Downpour, thunder, and lightening. It was so thick that the mountain ridge – less than 1/4 mile away – disappeared! It was quite the sight. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the Early church recently: the way Jesus instructed the Apostles to make church and the way they formed it until it got changed. It’s all about love. Nothing is more important than loving everyone, even your enemies, because Jesus loved everyone. I’m enjoying it a lot. There is a lobby week in DC in September for MTR: anyone interested?

18 June
Day 5 (33)
I got the rest of the garden posts today, so I can finish the garden fence sometime tomorrow. There’s a big protest next week that I’m really excited about. To prepare for it, a couple people from the Coal River action group climbed a dragline – these are gigantic, really, tall pieces of equipment that help to move the mountain. They are camping up there until the police go up to get them down. They didn’t quite finish hanging the banner against MTR. A miner there started having blood pressure and heart problems, so they charged to Coal River folks with battery! Completely ridiculous. We can only pray that, that one doesn’t pass in court. Logically it shouldn’t, but you wouldn’t believe some of the crazy stuff that goes on down here; most high officials are paid off by the coal companies.

20 June
Day 7 (35)
I finished the garden fence tonight: no more rabbits or deer. I spent the day volunteering for the local historical society at the fair. I met a lot of townsfolk and the mayor, so some good connections were made between them and the organization. The people are very into what we are doing and are trying to turn the area into a national park complex – this means the lands are protected but there are camping, hunting, fishing, and recreation areas. These connections are really important especially since Christians for the Mountains does a lot of community outreach, organizing, surveys, and health assistance. Funny story: I locked myself out of our houses, had to break into one to get water and find keys. I didn’t find keys so I called my friends that were hiking and hiked to go get keys to let myself in. It was concerning, however, because it was so easy for someone like me to break into the houses.

22 June
Day 2 (37)
The last garden rows for the coming moon cycle were made so that the corn and cucumbers could be planted tonight or tomorrow. The guests arrived: Sandra and Celie have been here before and are always a joy (Celie is seven). There were a couple folks from Appalachian Voices – a lobbying non-profit in DC for Appalachian environmental concerns. They came down for a big protest happening at Marshfork Elementary School against MTR tomorrow. Marshfork is an elementary school feet away from a Massey strip mine and down ‘stream’ from a sludge pond that leaks. If it breaks they die. Also, the stream smells horrid and the fish have scabs. Jim Hensen, Daryl Hannah, and Ken Heckler are supposed to be there to protests and get arrested.

23 June
Day 3 (38)
The protest was a success. Everyone who wanted to get arrested got arrested, which means great publicity on our part. Last time they wouldn’t arrest Ken Heckler because they knew it would be great publicity. A strip-miner’s wife got arrested for assaulting Goldman Environmental Prize winner Judy Bonds, who also got arrested for trespassing with the other protesters. Sandra, Celie, and I marched, but did not trespass. The press was all over the event and we are very excited for that. I have not heard anything about additional charges or bail rates. Last time the bail wash cash-only and way passed the legal maximum for trespassing crimes (2000 cash-bail only a piece). Those that scaled the dragline earlier in the week got charged with battery because a mine worker that tried to get them down started having heart problems. This movement is completely ridiculous at times. Those that support MTR and many of the law enforcement officers break the law and constitution on a daily basis. The miners break hundreds of regulations and get away with it even when it’s cited and the officers place ridiculous charges that either don’t make sense or is unlawful. However, there are great exceptions here and there. Some that got arrested at the last protest had wonderful luck. Those that trespassed by crossing the property line and those that trespassed onto the sludge damn by canoe and ‘littered’ with a banner on it got the really high charges and bails, but those that trespassed and locked themselves to the machinery at Kayford ‘Mountain’ got fed lunch and offered coffee by the miners and got let off on their own recognizance from the drunk on-call magistrate because he “likes squirrels.” They were fortunate enough to have just barely crossed the county line that the others got arrested in.

24 June
Day 4 (39)
My internship is pretty much done. I left West Virginia today with Sandra and Celie for Virginia. I’m staying with them to swim, peruse Lexington, and play for a couple days, then I’m staying in Harrisonburg to have a final meeting with my supervisor, go to the Early Church, a ‘soup kitchen’ that serves three meals a day to anyone with a bellybutton, then trying to get a ride back to West Virginia on the 1st to catch my flight.
It was good :D


Hi All,

Hope that everyone is going great and had a fantastic week. Hope that you all had a great 4th of July as well.

So I guess it is time for that weekly installment. Lucky you! I am now officially past the half way point of the program. Yikes, where has the time gone?!?!

I guess I better get busy writing what I've done this week before all the time blows away... so here we go.

So at the beginning of the week I took time to get ready for the last half of the week... sound familiar, it sure did to me. On Monday Cale and I went down to the UMore site to put some more data loggers down in the wells and try and make some temperature depth profiles. On Tuesday Calvin and I went went up north to Preston to a Lapidary shop to pick up a diamond saw blade. We needed it for the last half of the week to cut some flow stone from a Mystery Cave. That was a good trip. We mostly talked about grad school on our drive. It was very informative and good to hear about how it all works from the professor side of it, and what all the procedures are. In the afternoon I worked with Julie on making some maps of our bug locations and writing up directions for how to get to them. I can unfortunately remember what I did on Wednesday. I cleaned the lab, prepared for field work, presented at the mid program meeting what I've been up to, and worked in the attic. Julie and I were lucky enough to get told to go up to the attic and empty how many thousand vials and restack them. That was very mind numbing. So, needless to say we took breaks from that and explored the attic, there are lots of neat things up there. On Thursday the week became much more busy in a hurry. We left for SE MN at 7am. When we arrived we waited for some more people to come from the IRM (Institute for Rock Magnetism). We then all went down into Mystery Cave and took some samples. Calvin and I cut some flow stone to date. Josh and company took some sediment cores from the caves to age. It was fun. We were then suppose to go back farther into the cave, but the ranger thought that there were too many of us, so Julie, Becky, Alissa and myself (all the interns that were there, how interesting) were told to leave and go to Freiheit Spring where they were doing a quantitative dye trace. So I got us over there. Then we mostly sat around as they had already dumped dye and were just recording what was going on using the data loggers. I guess they had the dye come out of the spring in about 15 minutes, the sinkhole was located about 200 meters away, that's pretty fast transport!! So, we did that for a bit. After a few hours Calvin and caving company showed up and we then got to go replace bugs and dump dye (mind you Calvin and company showed up at 6pm). So by the time we finished changing bugs and dumping dye it was 10:30pm. We ended up spending the nite down there. We got to bed at about midnight. On Friday we started work at 7. We went back to Frieheit to change the samplers, download data, and tear down some equipment. So after two hours there... we went to change some more bugs for Julies project. At the first site some man came up to us with some horses, handed Calvin the reins and told him to walk the horses up the road! So Calvin did that, turns out the horses jumped/broke a fence and the guy was trying to bring them home. Then the guy wanted to show us a stream and his well, so we lost an hour there. We then changed out the rest of the bugs. That was fun. By now it is early afternoon. We still had yet to dump dye at two sites and there are two more bugs to change that are back in the woods at some springs. So we went to the state park there because we were to borrow their dump truck with a 500 gallon tank of water in it that was suppose to be full. It wasn't, and the hoses weren't there like they were suppose to be. So Julie and I spent about 1.5 hrs filling the tank while Calvin went hose hunting. Basically I got to drive a dump truck all around on Friday afternoon. Pretty much a lot of fun. So we dumped dye in a sinkhole. Then needed to refill the tank to do another dump. So instead of driving back to the park we went to Alerd's house to ask to fill the tank there. Alerd is by far Julie and my favorite person down in SE MN. He's a retired farmer, a die hard republican, really funny, and just an awesome guy. We actually formed a club of Alerd fans, so anyone that meets him can join. So we started filling the tank at his house then went and changed the last few bugs. At about 6 we finished dumping the last load of dye and water. We then went back to the park to return the dump truck. Oh boy. We caught a quick dinner and got back to UofM at 11. What fun. So needless to say I was really tired. Haha.

On Saturday we had a party!! We went to Calvin's house (a bunch of us interns), to celebrate. We basically had a BBQ. It was pretty good. It also happened to be Calvin's birthday, though I suspect he didn't want anyone to know, so I didn't tell anyone. Hope that was the right move, still wished him a happy birthday anyways. He turned 66. Yikes!! We then went to see some fireworks from the river. That was nice I suppose. I can't remember the last time I saw fireworks. We then went down to a beach on the river and just lay back and watched the world cruise on by. It was good. It was a late nite again! Today, I haven't really done too much. I did some laundry and went grocery shopping. What fun. I'm just exhusted though, I suspect I'll be turning early tonite, especially since Julie and I are going back down to SE MN tomorrow.

I am going to start really working on my project this week with any luck as Scott will now be back to get me set up with a place to work...hopefully. I will also be meeting with Josh Feinberg about working in the IRM to run the magnetics samples for my lake core. What fun!!!

I suspect that is about all that is going on. Lots and lots for sure. Well, I suppose I ought to go take care of some other stuff. Hope everyone is doing well.



Our Hunting Dogs

Two characters I have yet to introduce are Fee and Angie. They are two hardworking gals that have a diverse range of skills and always accompany us to the woods. They are our two mainstay hunting dogs belonging to hunter Julias and my boss, Jagdpaechter Dieter Brecht. The dark brown is a Deutscher Drahthaar – a dog specifically bred for hunting with a very good reputation and the other white and brown one is Julias’s and I believe it is mostly Springer Spaniel.

Both are well trained and very friendly. They are mostly used to track injured animals but also prove their worth for bird and rabbit hunting. One of the pictures I have included is Julias with Angie inspecting a field for game damage. Angie and Feh are particularly helpful in this because their keen noses help them pickup game trails that are often hard for us to see and these often lead to areas of crop that has been eaten by wild boar or sometimes reh deer.

We’ve had a very warm humid few weeks here lately and the corn has grown and sprouted surprisingly fast. The cost of the Wildschaden- game damage to the crops is adding up as more and more crops are starting to fruit drawing the animals out of the forest to easier feed.
I already have my work cut out for me for next week as I have a crop field of my own to fence in. With all honesty I am not overly excited for the rather tedious work but I have little experience laying fence and I’m sure it will be a useful experience. Either way it needs to be done.
Have a good one Unity!