Saturday, June 30, 2012

Shenandoah week 5&6

Week 5 I spent with Law Enforcement. Tuesday I got to witness an LE get her firearms qualification by district ranger Dixon Freeland. While we were at the gun range Dixon also taught me how to shoot a 40 caliber semi-automatic handgun. This was really exciting to me because I have never shot a gun before and I must say that I did really well for my first time. Dixon taught me a lot about carrying and using a gun and the safety that comes with it. 

Pretty good for my 1st time!

Earlier that day four people were backcountry camping. When they woke up they heated water for their coffee and one of the men saw a raccoon. The raccoon was about ten feet away from him when he noticed that it started approaching him. As the raccoon got about four feet from him it launched at his body and bit his leg. The man then tried to fight off the raccoon but was unsuccessful, he football kicked it and the raccoon came back again. The other members in the party as well as the man began to hit the raccoon with sticks until the raccoon finally left them alone. They hiked to safety and were able to call for help. The man went to the hospital and received his first dose of rabies shots. It is believed that the raccoon was rabid because of its behavior. 

The following day, Wednesday, I worked with Bill Cardwell an LE ranger in the North District and Justin Mills who works with the nuisance wildlife. We went searching for the raccoon so we could check it for rabies. We were unsuccessful in finding the raccoon, but this was an awesome experience for me and taught me a lot about what happens in these types of situations. 

I also got to watch a Search and Rescue (SAR) off of Old Rag Mountain from an overlook. Throughout the day I got to hear on the radio everything that happened with the SAR. The reason that I was not able to help out with the SAR was because we were out looking for the rabid raccoon. The SAR was in the Central District therefore the North and South District Rangers had to cover the grounds for the Central District Rangers. They are all like one big close-knit family and I appreciate that. I cannot wait to work in that kind of environment with such wonderful people.

On Thursday, I worked with Bill Cardwell again and we began the day by going to the gun range and I got to shoot a shotgun and a M16. These are very unique guns; Bill taught me a lot about them before he let me shoot them. Like Dixon he also taught me a lot about the safety of the guns and the safety of those around me when I am handling the guns.

When we were finished at the range Bill and I drove to the ranger station so we could service a gun. Bill is an armorer; there are 3 different courses you can take to become an armorer. First, you have to become a firearms instructor and then you can go to classes to become one. The three different courses consist of a handgun, rifle, or shotgun course; depending on what course you take depends on which firearm you can service. Whoever carries a gun in the Park Service needs to get their guns disassembled and serviced every five years. This consists of taking the gun apart and replacing anything that is worn and/or damaged. Taking apart the gun was really interesting and I learned some things about guns that I would have never even thought about before.
Disassembling the gun

My week with Law Enforcement was an overall success and made me realize that I cannot wait to start my career as a LE Ranger.    

“An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure” –Benjamin Franklin 

Week 6 I worked with Natural and Cultural Resources (NCR). Monday I got to listen to Jim Schaberal, Wendy Cass, and Rolf Gulber. They deal with natural science and management, cultural science and management, and backcountry and wilderness. Jim Schaberal gave me an overview of the Natural Resources; he talked about air and water pollution and the impacts that it has on the park. Their biggest issue is probably coal fire power plants and cars because they affect the visibility of the park. 80% of visibility is lost due to pollution. Wendy Cass gave me an overview of the Cultural Resources; she talked about the plant species within the park, long-term forest monitoring and rare plant monitoring. She also talked about how the Botany staff helps the LEs by recognizing prime plant poaching locations and when they complete off trail SARs the LEs lead them.
Rolf Gubler gave me an overview of nuisance wildlife and adverse conditioning. There are 500-600 bears in the park. Adverse conditioning is when they install fear in a habituated animal by using slingshots; paint ball guns, pepper spray, rubber buckshot, rubber slugs, cracker shells, and the most used are beanbag rounds. Adverse conditioning works best when the animals are young or in their early stages of habituation. In the backcountry it is harder to track animals so they put up a lot of signs.  
beanbag rounds

 During the next part of the day I worked with Abby and Merrit, we went to Big Meadows swamp area and looked for a rare species called garlic mustard. A professor from Eastern Michigan University did a study on the area and had some questions about it; so I assisted them in some of the fieldwork. Using a tremble GPS to locate and flag stakes we had to estimate a percentage of garlic mustard in the specific area. 

Lastly I worked with Chris and Justin who work with the nuisance wildlife. While we were eating lunch a volunteer told us about three different campsites that had unoccupied coolers. We drove in the campground at Big Meadows and went to the three different locations, which were all next to each other. We looked inside each cooler and two of the three coolers had only drinks in them so they received a warning. The third cooler had food inside of it so we took it away and placed it in a bear safe container located behind the registration office. We also left a impound notice at their campsite. Since this is bear country, and skunks, raccoons, and deer are here all year-round, the food storage policy is as follows; food, garbage, equipment used to prepare or store food, and all scented items must be kept in a vehicle when not being actively used. It is illegal to feed, frighten, or disturb wildlife. All resources such as wildflowers, plants, animals, and artifacts are protected by law in national parks. Please leave them for others to enjoy. This information can be found on the website and also on the back of the campground maps.
This was the warning that the first two coolers received. 

This was the third cooler that we took away.

This is the impound notice that we left at their campsite.
Tuesday I worked with the fish crew and we went to two different streams to shock the fish. After the fish were shocked they were then picked up in nets and transferred to someone who was carrying a bucket half full with water. When they finished that process the fish were then divided and separated so they can be weighed and counted. They were then placed into two different nets that were sitting in the water and the process happened two more times. Then we proceeded to go to another stream and did the same exact thing. The monitoring program is designed to provide site-specific information needed to understand and identify change in park ecosystems that are characterized by complexity, variability, and surprises, and to help determine whether observed changes are within natural levels of variability, or if they may be the result of unwanted human influences. The broad-based, scientifically sound results obtained through this systems-based, long-term ecological monitoring program has multiple applications for management decision making, research, education, and promoting public understanding of park resources.

This is what they shocked the fish with.

Weighing the eels.
Counting all the fish and separating them.

Wednesday and Thursday I attended Leave No Trace (LNT) training. This was a training course taught by Liz Garcia and Steve Bear that consisted of a classroom course as well as going with nine other people and spending the night sleeping in the backcountry.  We learned the history of LNT and the importance that it has on parks. We also learned about the seven principles and used them as we hiked to and from our campsite. They are 1) Plan Ahead and Prepare 2) Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces 3) Dispose of Waste Properly 4) Leave What You Find 5) Minimize Campfire Impacts 6) Respect Wildlife 7) Be Considerate of Other Visitors. This was very educational and helped me learn a lot about camping.  As we were learning the sixth principle we noticed a bear near our campsite. He did not bother us but it went really well with the principle. On Thursday, we hiked back and acted out different scenarios. I was involved in two scenarios the first one I got to act out was; I was a ranger and two men were feeding a fawn potato chips. I had to approach them and inform them of the dangers that come along with feeding wildlife. The second scenario I was the visitor and Danielle was the ranger I had to act like I took artifacts from a specific site and bring them to her. She had to inform me that you should leave what you find and to let other visitors experience it like I did. This was helpful and gave each and every one of us the opportunity to act out what we learned. I would definitely recommend this training for everyone that does/is going to work for the park service especially the individuals that have a lot of visitor contact.

The bear-our surprise visitor!
Our bear hang

Backcountry sign

Doing our scenarios.

Friday I worked with Liz Garcia and Kandace Muller. Liz taught me a lot about air quality and the importance that is has on the park. There is a camera located at Pinnacles overlook which shows you how far you can see on Skyline Drive. They are required to issue an ozone advisory when the levels reach 76 ppd. The mountains can change the ozone forecasting. Visibility is the biggest problem they have in the park because one of the reasons the park was created was for the beautiful views. Kandace taught me about the archeological sites and showed me some of the 600,000 museum items that they have here at Shenandoah. This was really interesting to me and made me appreciate the history of Shenandoah National Park much more than I already did. Looking at all the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) items that they have and all of the souvenirs from back then were really cool and gave me an understanding of what it was like before.  

Air quality site
Overall weeks 5 & 6 were very different and interesting. I love that I get to work with all the different divisions inside the park. This gives me a better understanding of what everyone does and it also makes me appreciate and understand the importance of each division.    

1 comment:

  1. That's awesome Joanna! You will be a pretty hardcore Ranger between handling both the guns and the bears. I think that picture of you next to the target should be your new profile picture!