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 (4.25 hours) –  I was finally able to go back to Saguaro National Park last Wednesday for the first time in about a month and a half. While out there, my mentor and I put out wildlife cameras to continue my research project on a newly acquired plot of land. It was pretty windy and cold out but the desert looked very beautiful. The area where we placed the cameras is a plot of land which visitor can’t access, so it’s very quiet. Luke, another intern also went out with us to install the cameras because he is very experienced in placing wildlife cameras in strategic places. It was really cool being able to learn how to set up wildlife cameras from someone who has been doing similar projects for years. I now know how to find a good place to set up a wildlife camera by finding areas with “game trails” and also places with not a lot of vegetation that will cause the camera to go off whenever a blade of grass blows in front of the sensor.

When I first started working at the park, I had no idea how I would ever come up with an idea for a goal that I wanted to accomplish since there were so many amazing opportunities that I could be a part of at the park. However, I eventually started working on more wildlife camera projects and I knew that I was interested in working on my own project with wildlife cameras. Because of this, my first SMART goal was to research wildlife camera use at Saguaro National Park by looking through files of previous wildlife camera photos and the locations at which they were taken. I also wanted to explore how camera data is collected and the methods they used for previous projects. Basically, I wanted to get informed on how wildlife camera projects are generally carried out at the park so that I could eventually do my own project. I chose this goal because I knew it was vital for me to get a foundation on wildlife camera research projects before I tried to carry out my own project. There is no way I’d be able to start working with wildlife cameras without knowing how to design a project around them first. In order to go about completing my goal, I first helped my mentor take down and reset cameras that had been set up by someone in a different area of the park. This area is beautiful and is full of rock pools were a variety of frogs and fish make their homes. This helped me learn how to turn off and on the cameras and also adjust the setting to what I need them to be. I have to say, it was very interesting trying to find the cameras. We had the locations of the cameras, but they had been hidden so well they were hard to spot at first. It was an amazing experience bushwacking through the trees and bushes in order to reach the expertly hidden cameras. After we had collected them, I began the long process of going through more than 5,000 photos, most of which were of grass blowing in front of the camera and a sunny reflection off of the water. Besides this, the cameras were also able to catch some incredible pictures of a mountain lion and her baby, a bunch of different species of skunks, and many more animals. Seeing all of those animals walking across the pictures reminded me of how wild and diverse the desert is and I was excited to start my own project to explore the life of the desert. While working on this goal, there was, unfortunately, a hurdle I had to overcome. While I was started getting into my project, the over-a-month-long government shutdown started. Because of this, I had to look through the pictures at home over winter break instead of working at the park, something that really disappointed me. I lost a lot of time that I could’ve been continuing my research and exploring locations to set up my wildlife cameras. Since I was able to bring the pictures home on a flash drive and the park also has a profile on Shutterfly where they upload their wildlife camera pictures and the locations they were taken at, I was able to continue my research despite the park being closed. Despite the government shutdown, I was able to complete my goal successfully. The last step in completing my goal was to learn the optimum locations to set up wildlife cameras, which I learned a few days ago from another intern named Luke. I now have the general knowledge I needed in order to design an amazing project utilizing wildlife cameras, so I believe that completing my goal went well. I accomplished all I wanted to do. Now that I have this information, I can continue onto my own project. The valuable information that I have learned from this experience will help me immensely in the future as I pursue a career in sustainability and environmental science because I have experience in wildlife camera set up projects that have to do with the use of these cameras.

One vocabulary word that I’ve learned is the word “nurse tree”. I overheard this word while one of the other interns was talking about a research project they were working on. A nurse tree is a fast-growing tree that shelters a shorter or slower growing plant/tree. In the desert, cacti often grow best in the shade of a nurse palo verde or mesquite because they are protected from the elements.

February 12th – February 25th (8.17 hours) –  Recently, I got to participate in my first buffelgrass pull with a few other interns and some volunteers. Buffelgrass is an invasive grass species that has basically taken over the park and it harms native species, like saguaro, because it sucks up all the water and nutrients from the soil so other plants are unable to live. It was perfect weather to pull buffelgrass because it had just rained the night before, so the soil was soft and it wasn’t hot at all. It was really fun hiking up to our pull area and then getting to satisfyingly rip out the invasive plant and get all the roots out of the ground. We worked out there for two hours, but I was having so much fun that it really didn’t feel that long. I learned how a buffelgrass pull is organized and also how to handle volunteers by making sure they stay informed and safe while out pulling. I have been wanting to organize a buffelgrass pull with my school and now that I have actually done one myself, I feel more comfortable telling people how to do it and making sure everyone stays safe. Hopefully we’ll be able to plan a pull for Empire High School soon because I can’t wait to show others how to get rid of this very destructive invasive plant.

I heard the vocabulary word “social trail” while I was doing a buffelgrass pull this weekend. Within the National Parks System, social trails are basically non-designated trails between places that are caused by people wandering off of the set park paths and trampling through the area. By going off the trail, people disturb the rocks and trample plants, which ends up creating an informal trail that other people might be tempted to follow. Social trails can also be made by animals when they take the same route over and over again in order to reach a specific location like a river.

February 26th – March 11th (7.27 hours) –  Recently, I got to participate in another buffelgrass pull at Saguaro National Park. We were able to hike along a beautiful running stream and pull as we went. I have helped out with about 4 buffelgrass pulls so far and they are really fun. The last one I did, a bunch of Cienega NHS students came out for a pull day. I usually help by piling up the buffelgrass in a way that the seeds won’t be able to spread in the wind. I really enjoy these buffelgrass pulls because it has allowed me to get closer with some of the interns at Saguaro who regularly help to lead and organize the invasive pulls. I am also able to learn about how these invasive plants such as buffelgrass, fountain grass, and malta starthistle. For example, these plants crowd out native plants along stream beds and take nutrients out of the soil.

I want to start off by saying that I have thoroughly been enjoying these last few months working at Saguaro National Park as a Vail Internship Program student. It has been especially beautiful out at the park right now since it is starting to warm up so the flowers are blooming and the streams that travel through the park are full of water from the mountain snow melt. Both of my SMART goals for the year have involved working with wildlife cameras. For my second and final SMART goal, I decided that I wanted to set up my own wildlife cameras in order to monitor and collect species data from a newly donated area to Saguaro National Park. After helping other interns work on their research projects at the park, I decided that I wanted to start my own project. At the beginning of the year, I had gone out with my mentor, Kara, to collect wildlife cameras from the Chiminea pools that are located in an area of the park that the public is unable to access. While we went through the pictures on those cameras, I was fascinated by the diversity of the animal species that the cameras caught. There were bobcats, coyotes, javelina and many other animals crossing the paths of the wildlife cameras and it was really amazing. From that point, I decided that I wanted to work with wildlife cameras to see what type of wildlife I would be able to catch. In order to complete my goal, Kara and I first started by creating a map in a mapping program of the area of the park that had just been donated to the park. From there, we used a random point generator to plot three random camera location points on the map. Then we went out and actually set the cameras up. For my project, I decided to set up three random camera locations (the ones we got from the random point generator), and three cameras that were set up biasedly, meaning I chose the camera locations based on where I though they would do best. When Kara and I went out to set up the cameras we brought along the wildlife camera guru, Luke, who has a lot of experience setting up wildlife cameras in the optimal locations. We did the setting up of the cameras after winter break because, as with my first SMART goal, my second SMART goal also got interrupted by the government shutdown. I actually wanted to submit my project to the SARSEF science fair, but because of the shutdown, my research project needed to be put on hold for a month and a half. This was the biggest hurdle when trying to accomplish my goal because I lost a lot of time I could have had to set out the cameras multiple times over a few months to see how the seasonal shifts affect the wildlife seen in a specific area. I am still working to complete my goal since I lost time with the government shutdown and bad weather. However, so far, I have been able to complete what I have wanted to. While working to complete my goal, the thing that has gone the best is our camera set-up. The areas that were chosen both randomly and biasedly were great locations that did not grow over with too many perennial foliage. We did lose one camera to the flooding during the winter storms, however, which was bad. Luckily, all the other cameras seem to be undamaged. I believe that completing my wildlife camera research report will give me the experience needed to do future field research projects both at Saguaro National Park and in college. Aside from the required science fair projects that I have done for school, I had never really had experience in completing a long term research project that would really benefit others. My wildlife camera project at the park will not only help me learn how to complete a National Park project from start to finish, but it will also help inform others of the species inventory on our newly acquired piece of land.

I learned the vocabulary term “fountain grass” while participating in another Saturday buffelgrass pull at Saguaro National Park. While pulling buffelgrass by a stream, my mentor pointed out that there was also invasive fountain grass around that people could help pull. Fountain grass is a perennial bunch grass that grows pretty purple or green flowers and it is still sold in some plant nurseries, which has caused it to spread to other areas. It is a close relative to buffelgrass and is also a big problem at Saguaro National Park because it competes with native species and is highly flammable.

March 12th – March 25th (40.79 hours) –  Recently, I got to help with a kids camp at the Tucson Mountain District. They do a lot of kids camps and educational outreach programs over there which I had been dying to help with. The camps that I helped out with were both 12 hour camps and it was really fun. I got to sit at base camp for most of the time and talk with the woman who does a lot of programs, Heather. I also got to go on hikes with the children and I felt optimistic seeing all those children get so interested in the facts they were learning. I really enjoyed helping the education team and I hope to come back and work with them again because they were all incredibly nice people. Overall, I learned that there are so many different teams that work within Saguaro National Park to keep it protected. At the Tucson Mountain District, they work to inform kids on how they can be advocates for nature and conserve it in the future.

I heard the vocabulary word “zuni bowl” while I was doing a historic water tour with some of the other interns. Zuni bowls are shallow bowls made in the ground in order to slow water flow down and allow the water to seep into the ground. They are used to slow erosion and keep water on the land, which is especially useful in Arizona where water tends to sit on the surface of the ground and evaporate away.

March 26th – April 8th (1.88 hours) –  Since I have already gotten all my hours in for the Internship program and school has been very busy at the end of the year, I have not been to my internship very often. However, I still plan on trying to make it out to the park at least once a week for the remainder of the school year. The one day I went these past two weeks involved sorting through the picture on my wildlife cameras and deleting everything that wasn’t an animal. It was fun getting to look at all the animals the camera picked up (including a bobcat and some javelina) and entering in data so I can finish up my wildlife camera project at Saguaro National Park. It’s an amazing feeling being close to completing a project that I have been working on for months. I was also saddened by the realization that my time as a high school intern at both Saguaro National Park and in the Vail Internship Program is coming to an end. I have grown so much from every experience I’ve had as an intern and I can’t believe that SEP presentations are less than a month away!

I had to think about this question for a while because I haven’t really taken the opportunity to step back and look at how I’ve really grown after being in the program for a whole year. I would say that the most important newly-discovered trait that I’ve found in myself is perseverance. I have been working on a wildlife camera research project for months and it has definitely taken more time and frustration than I thought it would. After going through the government shutdown, bad weather, and many other obstacles that often hinder projects at the park, I feel like I have much more of a drive to actually complete a project that I had wanted to embark on. Before the program, I often got sidetracked from projects that I had started and they usually ended up getting forgotten or pushed to the side. One trait I’m surprised that I still have to improve at is independence in my work. I had thought of myself as a fairly independent person, but while working at the park, I realize that I definitely looked to my mentor for ideas and help, which I suppose is understandable since working at the park in an actual work environment was a very different experience for me, especially since I’m still in high school and everyone else already had more experience than I did. In the future, though, I would like to try and do more by myself and learn as I make “aha-moment” mistakes.

The first and probably most obvious tip is to not procrastinate on work for the internship program and your specific internship site. I know that life gets busy with school, extracurriculars, sports, and other activities, but it is essential to find balance between your work for the internship and everything else that has to be done. Along with that, keeping a written daily planner/schedule and taking it everywhere with me really helped me to stay organized and ensure that I was setting aside enough time everyday for each assignment/project I had to do. It’s easy for dates to slip your mind, so having everything written down is very helpful in making sure you don’t miss a reflection log or a duty you have to fulfill at your internship site. My last recommendation is to really immerse yourself in the internship site you end up in. The Vail Internship Program is an amazing opportunity for you to really get a feel for a future career you’re interested in and also make connections along the way, so take notes, introduce yourself to everyone and make sure they remember your name even after you’re gone (for being a good intern, or course).

I saw the word, “crepuscular” in a mammal field guide that we use in the park for identification purposes. The word was used to describe the times of day that the desert cottontail is most active. Crepuscular means that an animal is active/appears at twilight.

April 9th – April 22nd (5 hours) –  Recently, I have been finishing up my wildlife camera project by entering in all of the data from the cameras. This includes recording the animal (or animals) seen in the picture, their scientific name, the date and time the picture was taken, and the photo ID number. While it is tedious work, it’s very rewarding for me to be able to see the diverse animals that are being caught on my cameras. So far, the most interesting picture I have gotten in a bobcat who came right up to the camera and appears to be smiling for his picture. The variety of animals that I captured on camera is astounding and it always surprises me how many different species cross the paths of the cameras. One of the main things I have learned this year through the internship program is to find meaningful, amazing experiences in everyday tasks. While the act of entering wildlife camera data isn’t necessarily exciting work, it’s always interesting and worthwhile to see the animals pop up onto the screen and have the knowledge that they are walking around the park somewhere!

My mentor mentioned the term “bat mist-netting” last week while I was at my internship. “Bat mist-netting” is a project that occurs at the park every once in a while, during which bat researchers and Saguaro National Park workers come together to catch and identify bats. The mist-netting occurs at the Chiminea Pools within the park and the bats are trapped in a net, measured, recorded, and released.

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.