Maya T.

January 7th – January 14th (0 hours) –  Unfortunately, due to the government shutdown, I have been unable to go to my internship site for the past three weeks. I’m very upset about this because I was looking forward to working at the park over my winter break. However, with my time off from being at Saguaro National Park, I was able to think back on past experiences I had had during first semester. Actually, the week before winter break, I was able to go out with my mentor, Kara, and collect the wildlife cameras we had set out a month before, which I am using to write a report about the different species of animals that can be found within the different habitats in a specific area of the park. While out there, I was reminded of why I wanted to work at Saguaro National Park in the first place. It was slightly cold out and it had rained the day before so the desert smelled wonderful and it was so green and calm. It’s beautiful out in the desert and I really hope that I can continue working within the National Parks System for a while because I admire everything they do out there, all the work and effort they put into protecting and exploring the land all over the country.

A technical skill I have developed from being in my internship at Saguaro National Park is I have learned how to work the parks GIS tracking device, which includes setting points and routes. It can be compared to a GPS device because it tells us where we are in the park given longitude and latitude while also allowing us to store important points to later upload onto a computer. This skill is very important to have when working at Saguaro because location is an important part of taking data for different projects in the park. For example, while working on my wildlife camera project we recorded the locations of each individual wildlife camera in the GIS tracking device and later downloaded that data onto a digital map so we could keep track of where the cameras were in the area. I developed the skill through using the device multiple times, along with having help from Kara and a few other interns. They taught me how to record points and how to put a location in the device in order to map a route. However, I am just learning how to use GIS and there is definitely way more to learn about it. I can improve on this skill by continuing to use the device and seeking help and asking questions in order to get to know the program better to use it to its full potential.

I think that this skill can be applied to my career and most likely college. GIS is a fairly universal system that many different organizations use. It is especially useful for plotting data points in terms of location, so I feel as though this skill can be applied to a lot of different research careers. Also, GIS devices are used in the National Parks System very regularly, so if I were to take a career in any of the National Parks, I would already feel comfortable handling at least this part of the job. So far, I have used GIS devices many times (I don’t think there’s a time we haven’t taken one out to a project) for jobs that range from finding previous sites that people had recorded in the past to setting routes to get back to our vehicles. As far as college goes, I don’t think this particular skill will be something that I will be using everyday, unless I am in a class where we are taking data from a big area of land and are using GIS to record location points.

While collecting our wildlife cameras, Kara and I spotted some rocks that looked like they had been moved and rearranged in a specific patter. Kara mentioned the word “pothunters”, which are people who seek artifacts from past civilizations for personal use, sometimes by illegal means. The park sometimes has to deal with people like this coming on to the land and taking artifacts such as pieces of broken, ancient pots. This practice takes the culture and history away from the park.

January 15th – January 28th (0 hours) –  Thankfully, as of Friday, the government shutdown is over for at least a few weeks. However, I have still not been able to get any hours so far since the staff has to go back to the park next week and assess damage. Hopefully I will be able to get back to work sometime within the next week. I would like to take this reflection to explain how I feel about not being at the park for a while and also how I feel going into the second semester as a student in the Vail Internship Program. I’m very disappointed that I haven’t been able to work at Saguaro for over a month because I truly enjoy being there. I can’t wait to go back, but I’m also worried about what the park has been through for the past month since there’s been no one there to monitor visitors and clean the park every day; there are probably a lot of trails that need cleaning. I’m actually hoping to get some of the NHS students and our school’s green club together to help with park cleanup after I get permission from my mentor. As for the Vail Internship Program, I’m glad I got to participate in it this amazing experience because it has allowed me to get work somewhere I’ve been dreaming to work. I only hope that this isn’t my last few months working at Saguaro National Park.

I saw the word “non-essential worker” in an email sent out by Saguaro National Park to its staff; all National Park System staff are considered non-essential. A non-essential worker is federal worker whom the government deems as not important to continue paying during a government shutdown. The park has been closed since the staff is not required to show up during the shutdown and they do not receive pay checks at this time either, something that is very sad and detrimental to everyone who works in our parks.

January 29th – February 11th () –

February 12th – February 25th () –

February 26th – March 11th () – 

March 12th – March 25th () – 

March 26th – April 8th () – 

April 9th – April 22nd () – 

July 20th – August 13th (3.35 hours) – One meaningful experience I have had in the internship program so far was the first time I went to my internship site. Mr.Swann, my mentor is really nice and understanding. I also have already met a lot of the people who work in the Resource Management department and everyone is really friendly and told me that they would be there to help if I needed it. I also got taken on a tour around the park to some of the different locations I could work at ad also to see some of the projects people have been working on. I got to see parts of the park that most other people don’t and that was an amazing experience. There are many different educational programs and research trips I have the opportunity to participate in and I’m excited for this coming year in the program.

From Mrs. Wahl, I hope to learn how to handle work place problems. The internship program is good at addressing how to handle yourself professionally while at your internship site and I hope that Mrs. Wahl goes deeper into how to handle problems such as miscommunication, disagreements and other issues. I believe problem management skills are important to have, especially when we go on to college and other internship programs. From my mentor, I hope to learn more about the different fields of science and how they all connect. In the park, they work with many scientists of varying fields and I hope to learn how each one uses the research it does to help others in various other fields. It will also be helpful learning how to use the different scientific equipment each scientist uses in their data collection. From what I’ve been learning from my past visits to my internship site, most people work in a lot of different fields.

As a professional, I learned that I am not as professional as I thought I was. Being told you’re professional in high school is way different than being professional in an office setting with people who have been doing their jobs for years. For example, I was given the handbook for Saguaro National Park to read and there are so many various rules and expectations that everyone working in the park is expected to follow and I felt like there were things I would definitely forget. As a student, I learned that it’s better to get assignments done earlier than I think is best. For example, since my schedule for the park is still undecided, I had to make sure I got my first day paperwork filled out ahead of time in case I couldn’t come in. However, I am doing good not procrastinating on sending out emails to my internship site and completing tasks for the program.

August 14th – August 27th (6.55 hours) – Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to go out on a hike and check up on some wildlife cameras that the park had put out. It was an amazing experience because I got to drive to a part of the park that is only accessible through private property, so only some people are allowed out there. On the way up there I saw a desert tortoise, a rattlesnake, a deer, and a whip snake, which was really cool since it’s unlikely that you’d see any of these animals wandering around the neighborhoods in Rita and Vail. It was an area where there are a lot of rock pools and I had to climb up a bunch of rocks to get up there. It was really peaceful and quiet and I liked it because I got to be outside and do my work and not have to worry about anyone coming by and interrupting. I learned how to change out the wildlife camera film and also how to upload everything to their computers and go through the pictures to find anything interesting. There were a few pictures of some bobcats and a bunch of deer. I think I gained a better appreciation of the park since I got to go to this beautiful place that I had never even known existed.

August 28th – September 10th (7.02 hours) – Last Saturday I got to go out early in the morning and help two other interns finish a project they were working on. They were measuring the distance that mortars, carved out by Native Americans, were from the nearest water source. This water source was the carved out area of a river that has since dried up but had been used hundreds of years ago by Native Americans. The experience was interesting for me because I got to learn about Native American history and how the geography of the land affected where they settled down. At one point, the two girls that I was helping realized that they had taken inaccurate data for one of the sites they had been to previously so we had to redo that site. This helped me learn that it’s okay if I mess something up because it’s not the end of the world because data can be recollected and reports can be updated and changed.

Since I work in a National Park where people don’t really have set tasks to do daily, the environment is much more different than working in an office setting. In many ways, our office is a very laid back setting with everyone working as a team, rather than one “boss” delegating tasks to everyone else. It is essential that I be able to work alongside others and listen to their input. The most important thing to remember at my site in terms of behavior is to always be willing to help someone with a project and also make sure that, especially when out in the field, you respect what others think and also keep each other safe. Safety is a major concern because there are a lot of dangerous situations that can occur within a National Park. It is a requirement to take precaution when doing anything and it is expected that you call someone when you need help. There is a big emphasis on not letting the day go to waste; there is always some kind of assignment or project that can be improved.

I think that interning for the National Park is a natural fit for my conduct and personality. I love working with others because I think that much more can be accomplished, so I don’t have problems with working as a team. I also understand that it is necessary to communicate with others around you and make sure that everyone knows what is going on at all times. I think that the aspect that I would have to work the hardest on is making sure that I am prepared for the different days when I go out into the field. For example, I did not have a good hiking backpack like my mentor and the other people that work in the building. Luckily, my mentor gave me an old pack that they had in the garage and I have been using that ever since.

Two other mentors I was working with mentioned the word “mortars” before we went out to collect data for the day. Mortars are perfectly round, carved out holes within rocks that Native Americans made while grinding herbs and other things up. We were measuring the distance between mortars and the closest sources of water that Natives might have used.

September 11th – September 24th (8.61 hours) – This week at Saguaro National Park, I got to help two other interns, Olivia and Emily, do some social media work on the park’s Instagram. We went out to the picnic area and filmed what they called “Wildlife Wednesday”, which is where they talk about an animal that can be found in the park and give information about it for people to learn. I filmed them acting and giving facts about the desert gecko, which is very common in the park. It was really fun and I think I felt like it showed that Research Management work is not all serious business. It was really amazing to see what I filmed on their Instagram story the next day because I knew that I had helped make that and I felt really important. I also learned that I like the social media outreach aspect of the job because you get to be creative.

When talking about some of the projects we work on, my mentor describes them as “bioblitz” activities. The most recent time she used this term was when she invited me to come to a quail release bioblitz. A bioblitz is a period of intense research and data collection over a specific species. This usually includes catching and tagging a species in a set area.

September 25th – October 8th (35.86 hours) – On Saturday night, I was able to participate in my first-night bioblitz at the Madrona Pools in Saguaro National Park. A few other interns and I went out at 5 pm and joined some students from the University of Sonora in a bat survey to record the different species of bats in the park. The bat team that was doing studies down at the park set up two large nets over two pools of water so that bats flying down to catch insects would get caught in the net. They then bagged them and measured, took pictures, and identified them. I helped take pictures of the bats that we caught. We only got three bats this time around and one of them escaped so we only actually got data on two. The experience was fun for me, even though we only caught three bats over the span of three hours because I got to talk with the other interns and they gave me advice about college and told me about the courses they’re taking. I felt like I really got to get close to my fellow interns and get to know them better. I learned that sometimes surveys don’t turn out as you want them to but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time being out in the field and working with your team.

The form of communication I and everyone else in the department uses is an in-person conversation. Since everyone works in the same small building, we all just talk face-to-face, especially because most questions need to be answered pronto. If I need to communicate with someone, they are usually just a chair away, unless they are in the field. In that case, it’s almost mandatory to keep your cell phone and a radio on you while out in the field collecting data or doing surveys, so it’s not difficult to call or text with others. The policy at the park is to always have at least two forms of communication that can be used in case of emergency. This is appropriate because sometimes there will be groups of people heading out to different locations in the park and it is best to have two forms of communication that can be used in case we have no service for cell phones or the radios run out of battery.

For me, it’s really easy and comfortable to communicate with my mentors Kara and Don, along with anyone else in the office. I usually talk to them in person when it comes to planning out when I’ll be working and any activities that are coming up just because I get a faster response. I’m also comfortable with texting my mentors and my team group chats when I have a question because they like to put emphasis on the fact that they respond faster to texts, so its best to text them. When it comes to preplanning what I’m going to say, I usually don’t spend much time on this because I’m comfortable just having a regular unscripted conversation with the people I work with. I usually only plan out what I have to say if I’m writing an email about a scheduling change or for more information, or if I am communicating with a new person from the park who has a project for me to work on. No matter which way I choose to communicate, I try to initiate communication as soon as possible so I know how to plan my schedule for the week.

I learned the term glochid when I accidentally walked into a prickly pear cactus. Glochids are the thinner, barbed bristles that surround the bigger spines on a cactus. They are harder to get out and cause the most irritation.

October 9th – October 22nd (2.2 hours) – This week I got to set up some wildlife cameras and I also started looking for a possible science fair project. My mentor and I went to one of the trail heads in Loop Drive at the park and set up a wildlife camera near a night-blooming cereus plant to see what kinds of animals were interested in eating its fruit. I learned that the park has to plan where the wildlife cameras go because a lot of cameras have been stolen by visitors to the park, which is really sad. She also told me that I could work on a research project with the wildlife cameras. I was excited about the experience because my mentor gave me the opportunity to design my own project with wildlife cameras that I will be able to use in my school science fair. She showed me how to access all of the previous pictures that the park had caught on the wildlife cameras so that I could find a topic that I’m interested in studying with the cameras. My site visit was also last week and I thought it was interesting to show Mrs. Polivchak the areas of the park that I’ve worked at.

I heard another intern mention the word “buffelgrass” when talking about one of the projects she is working on. Buffelgrass is an invasive grass from Africa, which was introduced to increase forage for livestock and for erosion control. The park does buffelgrass pulls with volunteers and aerial sprays with helicopters in order to get rid of this obnoxious grass.

October 23rd – November 5th (2.45 hours) – The most recent time I went to my internship, my mentor and I went out and collected my two wildlife cameras that I had set up a few months ago. It was a really nice day and luckily, our wildlife cameras weren’t moved by anyone or messed up by the rainy weather in the area. When we went back to the office, we looked through the pictures to see if we had caught any new animals in the area. It was really amazing looking through the pictures because I got to see everything that walked through the same area I had walked through. On the first wildlife camera, there was a really cool picture of a mountain lion walking past, along with some pictures of a skunk. The second camera was kind of disappointing because, although we had over 15,000 pictures, most of them were pictures of grass blowing in the wind that had grown around the camera after the October rain. However, we got really clear pictures of a mountain lion and her baby on that camera. I learned that sometimes you have to be patient and scroll through thousands of grass pictures in order to get that one special, amazing picture of a mountain lion.

I help a lot of the interns with their projects out at the park so I do communicate quite a bit with coworkers for professional reasons. For example, I helped another intern named Emily with a project studying mortars in the parks bedrock areas. She initiated the communication by talking to me face to face while we out working on the project. She asked me to help her measure the distance of a valley that a river had carved out. I helped her record the distance of the river from bank to bank and we were able to accomplish the task faster by working together. I think it’s beneficial to communicate with my coworkers, no matter who initiates it, when working on a lot of the projects at the park because when we communicate, we are able to accomplish tasks more efficiently.

The time I remember the most where I interacted with coworkers socially was during a bat catching and tagging night at the park. I was sitting with some of my coworkers and they were discussing their college graduation in December. We started talking and they gave me tips about college and the types of classes that would help me the most. I was moderately comfortable talking to them, but I didn’t say much because I didn’t know them very well and I’m much younger than a lot of the people who work at the park. I don’t normally interact with my coworkers on a social level mostly because there is not enough time to. When I’m with my coworkers, we are usually trying to finish a project and then by the time we are finished, we’re all tired and it’s time to go home. Also, I majority of the time I go out there over the weekdays, I work with my mentor Kara.

While talking about a trip up to a cabin in the mountains called Manning Camp that some of the members of Resource Management go on, my mentor mentioned the term “mule-train”. A mule-train is a connected line of mules that carries supplies or people to a destination. Since vehicles and other machinery aren’t allowed up on the mountain, the mule-train is used to bring supplies without everyone having to carry a lot of weight on their backs.

November 6th – November 19th (5.38 hours) – One of the things I got to do recently was start my wildlife camera science project at Saguaro National Park. The park has fairly recently acquired a huge portion of land that includes a riparian corridor area with lots of trees and also a large flat desert area. I am setting up an experiment in that area to see what kinds of species are present in this portion of land. Last Tuesday, my mentor, Kara, showed me how to randomly plot points within the boundaries of the area so that wildlife cameras could be set up using a non-biased approach. We also plotted points that we had gone out and chosen as places that could potentially see a lot of animal traffic, which was a really fun experience because I got to go out with Kara, her son, and another high school intern. The computer program that we were using to plot the points was fairly hard for me to get used to but I learned to be patient and listen carefully to what Kara was saying.

Keeping an exact schedule while working at Saguaro is kind of difficult to do since plans can change based on things such as weather. However, despite this, I think that my mentor, Kara, would say that I did well at establishing a schedule at the beginning of the semester and sticking to it. I am usually scheduled to work on Tuesdays or Wednesdays after school until 5 pm and on Saturdays for a few hours. If I am not able to make it a day, I let my mentor know at least a week in advance. At the same time, if something comes up for her, Kara always lets me know if we have to reschedule a day or change the time. I usually don’t have to do this though because Kara asks me which days I will be able to work before she makes the schedule, which gives me time to look at my schedule for the week to make sure nothing will come up the days I work at the park. I was also able to succeed because I put the days I would be working into my calendar with a reminder so that I would not forget.

I feel that I was able to balance school, homework, extracurricular activities, and my internship successfully. This year, I chose not to participate in so many after-school clubs because I knew that I would have to commit a lot of time to my internship and homework this year. This helped me have more time after school to work at Saguaro without being stressed out over missing a day of one of my clubs. I was also able to not procrastinate as much this semester, especially on the day before I knew I would have to go to my internship. Since I generally work from 3pm-5pm or 5:30 pm on Wednesdays, it was very beneficial to me to finish as much homework as possible on Tuesday so I would have less to do when I came home late on Wednesday. I think I can still improve on this, though, because I still felt myself getting stressed out Wednesday night. It would help to try and finish more assignments on maybe Sunday and Monday when I can so that I have even less to do on Wednesday.

My mentor mentioned the word, or acronym, “GSI” while we were placing wildlife cameras at set locations one Saturday. GSI stands for geographic information system and is used for mapping. GSI was used to create a map of the area that we wanted to set cameras up at and also to set random points for camera location. GSI and GPS are not the same things, which is something that I didn’t know.