Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia’

Training Round 2

outdoor classroom

outdoor classroom

The biggest event this week was another teacher training conference, this time at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education–conveniently located in Philadelphia. The other interns and myself attended the conference, and it was their first time at the Center. I’ve been there a lot over the years, because I participated in the Philadelphia Envirothon, a high school competition about environmental science. It was pretty awesome to see the Center again, especially with all of the changes they have made. The visitor center has been expanded, with a new exhibit all about rainfall. There is also a new sculpture of slides, which capture rainfall and allow it to filter into a rain garden located just below it. This training event focused on how to bring environmental science into the classroom. We went over lesson plans that could be used, such as creating nature journals and conducting observations. Our favorite part of the conference was the outdoor classroom that the Schuylkill Center has. The classroom is a section of the forest enclosed in deer fencing, which delineates the classroom’s boundaries, but allows visitors to still see the overall forest. There is an actual door set into the deer fencing, with a doormat and everything, so that when you step into the classroom, it feels as though you really are going into someone’s home. The goal of the classroom is to impress upon visitors that the forest is a safe place, an open place, and it deserves to be respected just like your own home.

a cool water snake we saw on a walk

a cool water snake we saw on a walk



Never-Ending Paint Fumes

The last week has been mostly indoors, partly because of the weather, and partly because of the project I’ve been working on. The refuge has a boardwalk stretching over the Impoundment, with a series of paintings of birds and turtles known to be seen around there. The paintings are a few years old, and extremely faded from the rain and heat. So, over the last week I have been repainting the signs. It’s slow going– even with Jenelle and another volunteer painting as well, only two are fully completed, and another two are half completed. The paintings look so much better for it though; just sanding down the wood made them look newer, and the touched up colors make the birds almost look real. I think it’s kind of funny that I get to do this project. I wanted to be an artist when I was younger, and I still draw and make stuff in my free time. Once I decided to pursue environmental science as a career though, I told myself that I would figure out a way to do art in my job, whether it was just for my own amusement or for the field I ended up working in. I thought this would be years down the road, when I had more control over my work. Instead, I get to fulfill that promise–which I made around age 14–right now, in an internship, because the refuge staff saw it was a project I would really enjoy doing, and they thought I could do a good job with it. So, thank you, John Heinz staff!!!

This past week was also the start of the Student Conservation Association community crew program for Philadelphia high school students. About 50 students came to the refuge for training on Monday and Tuesday, so that they could finish paperwork and get an idea of the work they would be doing this summer. On Tuesday, the refuge staff had to talk to the students, so that they could learn more about the refuge and the kinds of careers that could be available to them. This meant I had to talk as well, since I am an alumni of the community program and still a part of SCA for this internship. The funniest part of the day was introducing the students to the Teddy Roosevelt mascot of John Heinz refuge. Every year, someone has to dress up in the bear costume for the SCA event, and this year an alumni did it. The students thought it was pretty funny, especially when Mariana revealed who was in the costume. Ha ha!IMG_1452 IMG_1455 IMG_1479 IMG_1484 IMG_1470

Week One

Today ends the first week of my internship, luckily with no injuries (knock on wood). Philadelphia’s getting some rain from the tropical storm coming up the coast, so I’m inside in my awesome cubicle working on this blog. It’s been a great week so far. I’ve gone on tours of the refuge with each employee, who covered different topics. Gary, the Refuge Manager, taught me some basic wildlife identification, mostly songbirds and tree species. I’m still working on remembering everything he identified, but it’s progress. We saw a blue-phase snow goose, the first that Gary has ever seen on the refuge. The blue-phase snow goose used to be considered a different species from the traditional white-feathered snow goose, but is now regarded as merely a different color morph. Tom and Mike, affectionately called “the boys” by the staff, showed me around the different projects going on in the refuge in maintenance. There’s a lot of cleaning up that needs to be done, which we’ll be tackling throughout the summer. The wildlife biologist, Brenda Lee, pointed out the different invasive species all over the refuge, particularly Phragmites and Japanese Knotweed. We’re hoping to get some of it under control throughout the summer.

I got to take part in a few different projects this week. The first was in Visitor Services, starting off with some visiting Drexel University students. The class came to the refuge to do an identification scavenger hunt, and I worked with a few of the groups in identifying turtles and other animals. The students were really interested in exploring the refuge, but they were on a time limit, unfortunately. I also got to work with a class of 50 first grade students in the refuge’s Pollinator Garden. Their teacher, Chuck, was my Student Conservation Association (SCA) crew leader last year, so it was a blast to work with him again. Back in 2010, he, the Friends of John Heinz, and the refuge worked together to build this garden, and his class has been taking care of it ever since. Those kids were amazing. Their project was to pull weeds and mulch the beds, and they treated it as if it were the greatest project ever. Some of those kids had never even been outdoors in nature before, yet here they were, discovering bugs and taking care of those plants like it was an adventure. I loved working with them and hearing what they thought of the project. We took the kids on a nature walk after the garden was finished, and I had a few of them grouped around me wanting to hold my hand. I never met those students before that day, yet they completely trusted me and wanted to tell me about their lives as we walked. I hope that they continue to come out to the refuge, both with their class and their families, and continue to have an interest in nature.

On the maintenance side of the refuge, we completed a project of our own. The refuge’s dike was built up and restored, which resulted in a lot of the grass dying and needing to be replaced. I worked with Mike, Tom, and Brenda Lee to spread new soil over the areas needing to be regrown, and spreading grass seed. Because of the impending storm, we also covered the ground in mats of straw, to keep the soil and seeds from washing away. A few visitors stopped to ask what we were doing, and I got to explain the project to them. They told me we were doing a great job, and they were grateful that we were working so hard, which was pretty nice to hear.

In between projects, I got to explore the refuge and see some wildlife. John Heinz has a pair of nesting bald eagles, who this year had two babies. The eaglets are full grown now, and will be taking their first flights soon. Telescopes were set up so that visitors could see the eaglets, and I was able to see them a few times. I don’t think I’ve ever seen eagles before coming to the refuge this summer, so I’m really glad I got such a good view. Groundhogs, snapping turtles, and goose families like to travel the trails, so I’ve gotten some good views of them. The best moment of the week was coming to work Wednesday morning, where I was stopped by a group of turkeys. The turkeys were gathered around the doors of the refuge, staring at themselves in the glass. I couldn’t get into the building until they moved, which they took their good old time in doing, silly birds. It was pretty awesome being so close to them, though. I was about five feet away before they noticed me, and even then they mostly ignored me.

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Orientation, Camping Style

great places to sleep!

great places to sleep!

Okay, so orientation at a summer camp? Best idea, ever! For any (hopefully) future followers of my blog who don’t know, I just started my summer internship as a Career Discovery Intern with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Student Conservation Association. The program places students into intern positions at National Wildlife Refuges across the country, so that they can learn more about working in the USFWS in Biologist or Visitor Services positions. Region 5 of the country (basically, the upper northeast of the U.S.) had our orientation at the Forrestel Summer Camp in Medina, New York. It is a family owned camp that is largely used as a girls’ horseback-riding camp, but they allowed us to camp there for the week, and it was honestly the best camp I have ever stayed in. We lived in platform tents, right next to the horse paddock, where we could hear the horses run around at night. The food was amazing, as all of the hungry teenage interns will attest to–and most of the adults, too. We were a short drive from the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, and traveled there every day for training. There were lots of long lectures and presentations, but they were full of important information, and the mentors did their best to make training fun. In addition to the lectures, we also got to have a field bio training day, where we planted over a hundred trees in a 4-acre clearing, so that it will grow to become part of the forest again. It was a hot, muggy day, but you could see how much better the clearing looked after planting. I hope to come back at some point and see how the trees are doing. In addition to training, each intern was also paired with a mentor, an adult in the USFWS field who can guide us and help us through issues along with our supervisors. My mentor’s name is Kofi, a wonderful fisheries guru and overall great man. Kofi has traveled everywhere it seems, from Florida to Philadelphia (where I live) to Ithaca (where I go to school) and so much more. He worked with myself and his other mentees on a Challenge Project during the week about Marcellus Shale drilling, and he was such a great leader. He guided us to our decisions about the issue without interfering, and gave us useful information whenever we needed it. The final activity of the week was a trip up to Niagara Falls! Most of us had never seen the Falls before, so it was a great time. I took as many photos as I could, and attempted to use the Panorama setting on my camera to capture the entire Falls–it wasn’t as successful as I could have hoped. My orientation ended with a 6 hour drive back to Philadelphia with my supervisor, Mariana. We talked so much throughout the trip, I didn’t even notice the time pass! Mariana is such a great person and a great supervisor. She answered all of my questions–which is saying something, seeing as I never run out of questions. I already know that this is going to be an amazing summer, and I can’t wait to write my next post about the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge!

awesome trip! Niagara FallsNiagara FallsUniforms!!Horses! IMG_1254 IMG_1154 IMG_1159