Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Week one of Theo's internship with Sustainable Princeton

This is my first week of my summer internship at Sustainable Princeton in my home town of Princeton, New Jersey. Sustainable Princeton’s mission is to make the Princeton community more sustainable through the reduction of its energy consumption from fossil fuels and the waste sent to our landfill. In my opinion, the internship has been off to a wonderful start. I’ve currently been working on helping Sustainable Princeton update the Municipality of Princeton’s Sustainable Jersey certification. Sustainable Jersey is a state wide non-profit organization whose goals are to provide tools, training and financial incentives to assist communities in creating their own sustainability programs. The Sustainable Jersey certification program is a rigorous assessment that if passed, lasts three years and shows achievements towards creating a sustainable community. The current section of the certification I am working on is calculating the emissions released by the Municipality of Princeton’s fleet of vehicles, as well as the average fuel efficiency and annual fuel usage of the vehicles.
               This week I also attended one of the Princeton Environmental Commission’s monthly meetings. This was very interesting as it allowed me to learn about the sustainability developments around town such as the creation of Princeton’s first charging station for electric cars and the potential environmental impacts of some new development planned by Princeton University. Attending this meeting was also quite interesting as it gave me a glimpse of a future career as a sustainability officer would look like both through observation and participation.
I’m really excited about next week as I am going to liaise with the Princeton merchant association and the local grocery store MCafferys to help local businesses divert their plastic waste in the form of plastic bags and plastic shipping materials from the landfills to a recycling program. This is because MCafferys is taking all this plastic to be recycled for free!

Monday, May 1, 2017

MDIFW Regional Wildlife Biologist Intern Week 14

April 24 - May 1 "Righting the Wrongs"

This is it... this is the last week of my internship already. I can't believe it came so fast. It seems like just yesterday when I stopped into the office to grab my uniform and Keel taught me how to tag furs on my way out.

This week, I'd be able to visit Swan Island one last time, which I'm really glad about because I have developed a strong affection for the place. It's such beautiful property and there's so many cool projects going on there - I hope this isn't my last time there ever.

Upon arriving to the newly constructed state parking lot across from the island, we saw John approaching from the island on the new barge that will transport visitors to and from the island. Let me tell you, that thing was really impressive and cool.

We used this barge, as well as a bulldozer, to position and set up docks for visitors to enter and exit the barge from. It was quite a feat of engineering and coordination that only someone like John could manage. The man is truly a jack of all trades, something I recall a sign within the Swan Island employee housing referencing.

Step 1: Use bulldozer to push dock pieces into water using improvised log-chute system.
Step 2: Use barge to push dock pieces around in the water and line them up to the dock. Also, abandon the other intern on the dock piece, floating away at the whim of the Kennebec.

Once those were secure, we mounted up on the ATVs (one of which was outfitted with a water tank that I put together a few weeks ago for a controlled burn happening soon) and took a spin around the island to put some finishing touches on the tour maps to ensure the measurements were all correct. I'm going to miss driving around the island, seeing the deer bounding through the woods, owls swooping down from the branches, porcupines appearing from within the houses, and wood ducks taking off from the quiet pools within.

I'm really fond of these views from the beautiful meadows on Swan Island. I'll miss them.

And then, it was my last day. Keel was the only man in the office, and he informed me that even though it was my last day, it wouldn't necessarily be a fun one because we would be picking up trash around a WMA parking lot in St. Albans (which happened to be the one that Zach and I zoomed around on the first time we got the sleds). This was fine with me, even though it involved picking up anything from condoms to makeshift bowls for smoking marijuana. The place was a pretty bad mess, but by the time we left, we had four or five trash bags full and the place looked pretty sharp.

And then my final task; bringing the dent out of the truck that I left in it all that time ago. I slapped on some goggles, some face protection, donned my hammer, and crawled under the truck. I carefully placed my wacks and did what I could. All in all, the dent wasn't entirely gone, but certainly looked much better. It felt good to get that finally taken care of, even though visitors looked at me like some fool.
And that's it. That's how my internship ended; not with any particular bang or excitement. It just faded out. I only got to say goodbye to Keel and Kendall; everyone else, even the receptionist Heather and my co-intern Zach, were out. There was an ethics class for folks who lost their hunting licenses due to violations going on upstairs, but that was it. I had entered my last page on NED, punched my last push pin onto the map marking a completed duck box location, would never have to struggle to start a half dead snowmobile again, would never enjoy the trails of Swan Island on an ATV, or collar another deer, all while donning the bold red patch.

I want to thank the department and Sidney office for all of their time and efforts to give me something to do; I hope my work benefits them as well. In particular, I'd like to thank the fisheries biologists Jason Seiders, Wes Ashe, and Scott Davis, as well as the wildlife biologists, John Pratte, Kendall Marden, and Keel Kemper. I enjoyed working alongside you all in the field and am thankful for the skills that you facilitated for my development. I hope to work alongside you all again soon!

In closing, here is a picture of a plaque that is beside the front entrance of the office that stands above a taxidermied loon that always caught my eye.

MDIFW Regional Wildlife Biologist Intern Week 13

April 17 - April 23 "Mopping Up"

Winter has finally come to its end. The land is free of snow, the ice is gone on the lakes, the frogs are calling and the birds are chirping. With that comes our transition from winter activities to spring/summer. This means that our WSI's have one last step- collecting the weather monitors. These are little sensors left inside of water bottles that are locked within what are essentially duck boxes. This information contains barometric and temperature data that can be compared against our snow depths, sinking depths, and deer data to determine how winters impact our white-tails.

The WSI monitor we had to retrieve was way out in Appleton, which is another town that I never knew existed, is not far from Augusta, and is truly a remote area. I'm always surprised at these little areas that I always thought only existed well north of Augusta, even Bangor.

I had no idea where I was going, but thankfully my co-intern had been there once (just once, in the winter when there was all sorts of snow and ice) and somehow pinpointed its location after driving down some dirt roads and hiking through some truly gorgeous woods. 

Within these woods was a large rock outcrop with some signs of familiar faces; porcupines.
Look at all that dung... it's seriously several feet deep.

And it appeared that one of them was not so lucky. This guy was at the base of a tree and slouched over. I'm not exactly sure what happened to him, but my guess is he fell out of the tree during one of our recent storms.

What was likely his mate was looking down at us from the tree that they likely hung out in for a long time. I kind've felt bad for this porcupine widow. 

This transition period also allowed for some proper "spring cleaning", which allowed me to challenge the remaining forestry data. I took several solid wacks at it throughout the semester, but this week, I felt confident. I felt like I could do it. Especially since when I got to work and nobody had any clue as to what I could do, I knew that I could spend all day chiseling away at it.

And so I did. The data was finally defeated; I was out of busy work. From here on out, it should be nothing but field work!