Thursday, June 23, 2011

Week 5 at Antietam National Battlefield

This week Cailin and I had the honor of working with the awesome Natural Resources Staff.  Monday we began by checking the insect traps around the park for an invasive species know as the Emerald Ash Borer.  Luckily none were found in the traps.  Next we began working on the riparian buffer at the Mumma Spring.  A riparian buffer is the interface between land and a river or stream.  We started by removing all of the the invasive species of plant that we taking over the area and by clearing the feeder spring of debris.  .  

We next planted Witch-hazel and silver Maple Trees and spread native wildflower seeds around the area.  Planting these species is important since they will assist in keeping any run-off from the neighboring farm from entering the spring.

The trees were then protected by tree tubes to keep the native animals from eating the small trees.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday we assisted the Natural Resources Staff in clearing other non-native species of trees that began to sprout in the Poffenberger Farm area.  We helped haul the felled trees to a new wood pile that will be burned at a later date.  Wednesday and Friday mornings we headed in early to assist the Natural Resources Staff conduct a grassland bird survey.  We spent the last few minutes of Monday and Tuesday studying the birds to be able to assist the Natural Resources staff in the identification.    The survey helps determine if the prescribed burns brought back the necessary warm-season grasses for the uncommon birds of Antietam.  We helped by identifying the uncommon birds by their calls and by sight.  Thursday we an especially fun day as we spent it at Antietam creek.  In the morning we helped Rangers Andrew and Briana conduct an amphibian and reptile survey along the creek.  After the survey we meet up with Ranger Brian from the Interpretive division and Ranger Chris of Natural Resources for a guided talk with visitors about the Otto Farm area and the prescribed burn that took place there to restore the warm-season grasses.  It happened to be filmed by the local news paper that day for their online site.  
That afternoon we actually got to go into the Antietam creek with Rangers Andrew, Katie, and Briana hunting an invasive species of crayfish called the Rusty Crayfish.  This crayfish will out compete the native crayfish of the creek and even some fish.  They are extremely aggressive.  The captured crayfish will be sent to a Biologist at Hood College for DNA testing to see if they are spreading from the Potomac River or were breeding from the ones tossed into the river by a fisherman using them as bait. 
Cailin and I had a lot of fun and learned a lot about the job of a parks Natural Resource Staff.  Next week we will be spending time with the Interpretive Division and look forward to all of the knowledge we will gain from them.

Good Luck to all the other ProRangers,
Jim and Cailin  

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