Out West Blog

Notes, photos and updates from the Center's student researchers and summer interns working at organizations across the region.


Americans’ Last Frontier

By Katie Kramon
B.S. Earth Systems and Modern Languages minor, 2015
Summer Intern at American Prairie Reserve

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

The American Prairie Reserve wants to restore wildlife populations to numbers that haven’t been seen in a hundred years or more, but how do they know what was there? That is the question that my predecessor, Michelle Berry, worked with for ten weeks last summer, and I have continued with for the past ten weeks. The word “prairie” traditionally doesn’t bring to mind the abundance of natural habitat and biodiversity found in America’s national parks, but rather cornfields, agriculture, perhaps windswept wheat, but not much more than that. APR is here to change that perception, and demonstrate the incredible value of the Great Plains—as a natural habitat, and one that Americans will want to keep around for the future. 

A large part of this value is in the wildlife that used to thrive on the plains, and in some cases, still does. Michelle and I hoped to enrich APR’s story by giving an idea of what used to be out on the prairie, and the plethora of animals that encountered Lewis and Clark, the fur trappers, and others who had the good fortune of visiting the Great Plains before many populations were wiped out. 

On arrival at APR, I had no concept of what the Great Plains once had to offer. I could guess they had prairie dogs, coyotes, the occasional sage grouse, but was ignorant of the variety of species and sheer quantity that called the prairie home—everything from the iconic bison to the grizzly bear, the pronghorn antelope, and the elk.

Reflecting on a Busy Summer Researching Election Laws

By Yoseph Desta
B.S. Political Science Research Honors Track, 2014
Summer Intern at National Conference of State Legislatures

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

My summer working at the NCSL was an amazing and enriching experience. For the past ten weeks I worked in the Legislative Management department of the NCSL, where I had the opportunity to work alongside passionate and dedicated policy experts and become immersed in the fascinating world of state politics and election law.

To say that I’ve learned a lot about election law would be an understatement. Take, for instance, my most recent research projects this summer. In the past weeks alone, I was asked to write an article and create a webpage on preregistration of youth voters, create 50-state reports on requirements for poll workers and polling places, and respond to an information request regarding campaign contributions from PACs. These topics, although only a brief glimpse into my research this summer, illustrate just how broad and diverse election laws and research requests regarding these laws can be. Moreover, with 2013 bringing a slew of election law changes at the national level (e.g. the Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Act decision) and state level (e.g. North Carolina’s recently passed elections bill), the research that I have conducted with the NCSL Elections Team has been constantly evolving and expanding.

Historical Detectives at Work


Image: Watercolor map of the Tijuana River, courtesy of Stamen Designs

By Rachel Powell
B.S. Biology, 2013
Summer Intern at San Francisco Estuary Institute

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

It is hard to believe that my summer internship at the San Francisco Estuary institute is over, or that I managed to accomplish so much in just 10 weeks. I worked on several ongoing projects during my time at SFEI this summer, one of which I mentioned in my last post—a study on the extent of tidal influence in Bay Area creeks, which I participated in by helping with field work and writing a literature review for the final report. I also collected and read sources for the Tijuana River historical ecology study, wrote parts of a historical ecology report on the north San Diego county lagoons, went on a site visit to the John Muir National Monument in Martinez, CA (soon to be the subject of a historical ecology study), and mapped coastal waterways for the South Coast wetland change analysis.

The Historical Ecology team at SFEI works on a number of projects at any given time, some which are very large and span several years (San Diego lagoons, Tijuana River), and others which are on a much smaller time scale (John Muir, Novato Creek). During my internship I had the opportunity to participate in nearly all of their current projects, doing a wide range of tasks which gave me a sense of how the typical historical ecology study progresses from start to completion. They first gather a wide range of historical documents and current scientific research relevant to their study area, then use these sources to build a textual description of what the historical landscape looked like. In addition, they use historical maps, past and current aerial imagery, and photographs to map with a high degree of certainty where different habitat types existed 200 years ago, and where they are found today.

Finding Myself in Yellowstone


Image: Backpacking in Glacier National Park.

By Maddie Graham
B.S. Biomechanical Engineering, 2015
Summer Intern at Yellowstone National Park

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

It is amazing how fast time flies. During my drive home from a summer spent in Yellowstone National Park I began tearing up, but I wasn’t quite sure why. I will definitely miss the people I met and the park, but I realized that the biggest reason for the tears was because of how fast the summer went. There were so many things still to do and see, so hopefully I can return someday soon. Similarly, everyone says that we need to enjoy college because it goes fast, and it truly does! I am already halfway done with my time at Stanford and there are still so many things left to explore. This summer was an experience of a lifetime and I am so thankful for the opportunity to work in Yellowstone. I discovered a newfound love of the outdoors and an appreciation for the history of our national parks.

This summer, the majority of my job was spent cataloging artifacts to add to the growing collection of Yellowstone memorabilia, as well as lead tours of the facility. During these tours, numerous people asked me why I chose to work at the heritage and research center if I was majoring in biomechanical engineering. Although engineering is very different from museum and curatorial work, I actually learned a lot about myself and what I might want to do following my time at Stanford. My summer job taught me how to be proactive, seeking out and finding projects to do and new items to catalog. I learned how to get along with coworkers and really reach out and get to know new people. The experiences I had this summer were not limited to the research center, but actually extended to my living situation in the YCC dorm and the relationships I formed with the other park service employees I met there. It is amazing how all walks of life came together to work in Yellowstone National Park; I met some interesting people and heard some great stories. Through it all, though, I learned the importance of being true to yourself and holding strong to your beliefs, but also getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things.

Where the Wild Things Were


Image: Bisons, perhaps the most iconic of APR’s wildlife, and the most impressive example of the work they have accomplished in the past decade. APR now has 270 bison, two of which are pictured here.

By Katie Kramon
B.S. Earth Systems and Modern Languages minor, 2015
Summer Intern at American Prairie Reserve

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

Greetings from Bozeman, Montana, where the distant mountains just got their first dusting of snow, the leaves are beginning to change, and the air is taking on the crispness of autumn. I’ve had a fantastic beginning to my internship with the American Prairie Reserve—devoted to the creation of a wildlife refuge that will protect and allow access to the pristine prairie landscape of Northeastern Montana. The reserve has made rapid and impressive progress since its’ founding in 2001, when the need to protect the perhaps less famed but equally important prairie landscape revealed itself. We now own and lease a total of 274,000 acres of deeded and public land. Their goal is to link public and private lands in the region into the largest wildlife reserve in the lower 48, and create an unimpeded natural landscape similar to what existed in the days of Lewis and Clark.

As the Historical Wildlife Populations Intern for APR, I have spent much of my office time so far immersed in the tales of that visionary pair. They kept copious notes on their travels, and especially on their encounters with wildlife--which were not occasional. Between about March and July 1805, they crossed the region now home to the American Prairie Reserve. Their journals are an invaluable and unrivaled lens into what wildlife looked like on the Montana plains two hundred years ago—before hunting and habitat destruction drastically reduced populations. Their accounts serve as some of our only windows into the state of the land at that time—when few records were kept, and much of the American prairie remained unexplored and untouched. The prevalence of wildlife in their accounts is astounding—especially when compared to what remains today. Hardly a day goes by that they don’t mention spotting a grizzly, buffalo, or elk, a beaver, a wolf, a fox. On April 22, 1805, Lewis described “I had a most delightfull view of the country, the whole of which except the vally formed by the Missouri is void of timber or underbrush, exposing to the first glance of the spectator immence herds of Buffaloe, Elk, deer, and Antelopes feeding in one common and boundless pasture.” A couple weeks later, they wrote “Great numbers of Buffalow, Elk, Deer, antelope, beaver, Procupins, and water fowls seen to day, such as, Geese, ducks of dift. Kinds, and a few swan.”

Appreciating the Human Element in Land Conservation


Image: Nancy Vail and Jered Lawson of Pie Ranch -- a farm that POST helped to protect -- are just a few of the members of the human ecosystem that POST constantly interacts with. Photo Credit: Anne Duwe, POST.

By Caroline Hodge
B.A. Psychology and B.A. Philosophy & Religious Studies, 2013
Summer Intern at Peninsula Open Space Trust

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

When you hear the term land conservation you might think of well, land: mountains, rivers, valleys, and wildlife. Perhaps you might guess that working in land conservation involves activities such as monitoring plant populations, counting birds, and maintaining trails.

My time at the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) this summer, however, illustrated that actual land conservation work is far more complex. While biologic factors such as topography and watersheds are important, what might be even more essential are the ecosystems of human forces that help protect, maintain, and utilize the land. My colleagues and I at POST were in constant communication with various nodes of this human system: officials at the California State Park system, ranchers interested in leasing POST land, contractors assessing buildings on POST land, and landowners interested in conserving their land. It is through these interactions and relationships—some of which have been built over the course of decades—that POST has been able to achieve its mission of protecting and caring for land in and around Silicon Valley.

A Display, Dirt, and Databases: A Summer in Yellowstone


Image: Meghan Gewerth and her display about archeology in Yellowstone.

By Meghan Gewerth
B.A. Archaeology (honors) and English minor, 2013
Summer Intern at Yellowstone National Park

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

This summer I worked mainly in three different areas for my archeology internship at Yellowstone National Park. The first was creating a display about archeology in the park; as far as my supervisor and I are aware there's never been a display about archeology in the park. I developed the idea with my supervisor, chose the artifacts, wrote the labels, and put together the display. I also worked on the backlog of artifacts and records in the lab, including entering information into the ICMS database, resolving duplicate catalogue numbers, and reducing the number of records in the temporary database by over 1,000 records. Lastly, I assisted with various field projects, including a historic structures survey and trail site assessment.

This summer internship was important to me because it exposed me to a different side of archeology than what I learned about as an undergraduate. This archeology focused on compliance work and what it’s like to work for the federal government. This experience was valuable because I learned about different applications of archeology and the various stakeholders that may be involved in a project. However, I was also able to use my previous archeology and lab experience to really help my supervisor. My summer work had tangible, measureable results, and I’m proud and honored to have worked for Yellowstone and the National Park Service.

I also experienced what it’s like to have a proper nine-to-five style job (in this case seven-to-five-thirty!). I learned that I work best when meeting a deadline with tangible results. I’m also glad that I had the opportunity to create a display about archeology in Yellowstone. This combined two areas I’m passionate about – archeology and museums/displays – and contributed to archeology at Yellowstone. This made me excited about bringing archeology to the public, which I will probable pursue further through a masters in Museum Studies.

Looking Down the Stream

By Zachary Zapata
B.S. Management Science & Engineering, 2016
Summer Intern at Yosemite National Park

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

When I arrived in Yosemite National Park earlier this summer, I was given my project task. I was to tackle cabinets full of unorganized files. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to complete it. By the end of the summer, I created and implemented both a File Plan and Container List for the Land Resources Management Office. The File Plan will help future employees organize paperwork in an appropriate manner while the Container List will help to locate files more easily. To my surprise, after completing these documents, I still had time to spare before my summer in Yosemite ended. I decided to take my project further and created my "Next Steps" document. I laid out tasks, tips, and directions for next summer's intern (a document I wish was available to me).

Throughout my summer I learned the importance of communication, a valuable skill my supervisor has just about perfected. I admired his ability to seamlessly weave work talk into informal conversations with his colleagues. He was able to take care of business around the workplace while keeping a lighthearted and calm work environment. I hope to develop this skill and implement it one day into my future jobs, especially if I am to be in a supervisory position.

Working for the National Park Service has shown me the pros and cons of holding a government job. While they are very secure and promotions are available, politics do play a major role in daily activities and the ripples from decisions made on Capitol Hill are felt immediately. However, I think the benefit of helping and providing service to people definitely outweighs the difficulties caused by politics. Therefore, I have been looking more into the public sector recently for a possible career.

Yosemite Summer and A Lesson of the Weight of Cultural Heritage

Photo: Lucy Telles, basket maker and cultural demonstrator

By Kevin Chow
B.S. Material Science and Engineering, 2013
Summer Intern at Yosemite Museum

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

As I type this blog entry, the 150,000-acre Rim Fire continues to burn through wilderness and threatens the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias, one of Yosemite National Park’s most precious and celebrated natural resources. Hundreds of firefighters and rangers are struggling to contain the blaze, which luckily remains a safe 20-mile distance from Yosemite Valley. While the fire poses little risk to the Yosemite Museum, I feel that a similar sense of gravitas and urgency is required in the park’s treatment of the irreplaceable cultural resources in the park. After a busy summer of preservation work (e.g. cleaning a diorama, freezing objects, cleaning basketry, re-housing Ansel Adams prints) at the Yosemite Museum, I feel more strongly than ever about the importance of cultural heritage work and conservation. While I gained a lot of experience with preservation practices, I learned even more about interpreting a collection and makings sure that an exhibit can effectively reach out to an audience.

The Yosemite Museum’s Indian Cultural Exhibit displays a portion of the museum’s considerable ethnographic collection as a way to present a cultural history of Yosemite's native American Indian peoples. Showcasing examples of practical, yet artistically expressive objects that speak across time, the Indian Cultural Exhibit seeks to preserve and interpret the diverse material culture of the Yosemite area Indian peoples. While Indian cultural history in the Yosemite region spans several millenia, the Indian Cultural Exhibit primarily documents the changes that have occurred since initial contact with Anglo-Americans in 1851 up to the present. Getting to work with the objects up close and being tasked with protecting them, I began to think about the significance of conserving these artifacts. What meaning can an old artifact like a basket generate for modern park visitors, many of whom only enter the air-conditioned museum to escape the summer heat outside?

A Tapestry of California

 
 
By Emmerich Anklam

Summer Intern at Heyday Institute

Read about our summer research projects on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

There’s a romantic but dangerous belief about the American West. We see it in cowboy movies and old paintings and some retellings of history. It’s the belief that the story of the West is one of individuality, isolation, and self-reliance. When we look at the West more closely, though, we see stories of community everywhere. We find them in the evolution of tribal life (see my co-worker Vincent’s awesome blog “Being Ohlone in the 21st Century”), in the proliferation of public art, in the preservation of historic buildings, in the push for a better environment. 

At its core, Heyday is a place dedicated to making these stories known to the broader world. It’s also a vibrant group of open-minded and open-hearted people. When we publish a book, we’re acting as midwives for someone’s dream, and we need everyone’s participation and care as we  make that dream a reality. Even when we don’t have meetings, we talk to one another on a day-to-day basis to make sure we know what we need to do. We crack jokes, we argue, we eat lunch together, and we panic together.

In my ten weeks as an intern, I spent most of my time doing marketing (contacting possible customers) and publicity (contacting media). But as I helped with more books and projects, I found myself working with the majority of the staff. I talked to one person about mailing books to reviewers, another person about sending letters, another person about contacting stores, and yet another person about helping to build a new website. I sent hundreds of emails, mailed hundreds of letters, and met too many wonderful people to count.

Over time, I immersed myself in the dense patchwork of cultures and movements that collide at Heyday. I’d spend one day thinking about architectural preservation and the next thinking about Hetch Hetchy. No two books I worked on are alike, and each one gave me a unique lens to view California through. As I read and talked to people, I gained an entirely new appreciation of the vastness and complexity of my home state.   

Deborah Miranda begins her memoir Bad Indians by saying, “California is a story. California is many stories.” And with every day at work I saw these stories unfold before me like parts of an infinite tapestry. California is the union of thousands of communities, and to spend time at Heyday is to see how those communities grow, change, break apart and come together. 

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

Adventures in Archeology

Image: A bison interrupts traffic in Yellowstone National Park 

 
By Meghan Gewerth

B.A. Archaeology, 2013
Summer Intern at Yellowstone National Park

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

I never quite know what I’ll stumble upon at my archeology internship at Yellowstone National Park.  I’ve worked with everything from obsidian artifacts, a gun powder flask, old glass bottles, and an old barn. I work with the Park Archeologist and another volunteer in the archeology lab, located at the Heritage and Resource Center in Gardiner, Montana. We work on a wide variety of projects, but so far I’ve mostly been working on cataloguing artifacts in the lab and helping out with a survey of historic structures. 

As far as cataloguing artifacts goes, we’re focusing on the miscellaneous and problematic objects around the lab.  This includes those that have all the necessary information and just need a record created in the system, those that need catalogue numbers written on them, those that have a duplicate catalogue number, missing artifacts, and other problems.  We’re also trying to decrease the amount of artifact records in the temporary databases, meaning we go and check to see if the artifact is in the correct box if it’s listed.  If it is the record can be transferred to the main database.

I’m also helping out on a historic structures survey.  All of the historic structures in the park (over 270) are assessed every five years for condition, and photos are taken as well.  After many long hours (including a narrowly-avoided hailstorm) we’re almost done, and have completed over 240 of the structures (mostly buildings).

It’s been great gaining experience and insight into government archeology, which is very different from my previous experience in academic archeology. The work here is much more compliance driven – Section 106 and Section 110 of the NHPA (National Historic Preservation Act) dictate the circumstances when archeology must be done in the park. I’ll probably continue getting out into the park in the coming month as there are a couple of field projects planned – one involving a trail assessment and the other enlarging a compound.  Everyone I’ve met here has been so friendly and knowledgeable, and I’m really excited to see what comes up as my summer continues! 

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

Discovering America’s Wonderland

Image: Deb Guernsey, Maddie Graham, and Caitlin Gill pose in front of an exhibit they designed for the Lake Hotel in Yellowstone National Park. 

 
By Maddie Graham

B.S. Biomechanical Engineering, 2015
Summer Intern at Yellowstone National Park

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

I love the outdoors and hiking, so when I heard about the curatorial internship in Yellowstone National Park I was thrilled. This would be a new experience for me and I looked forward to learning more about the world’s first national park. I wasn’t quite sure what I would find, but so far it has exceeded any expectations I may have had. There is so much variety in landscape and places to visit! I am worried I won’t have enough time to see everything before my time is up here in America’s “Wonderland.”

Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my coworker and I were both from western Washington. The two of us have had a great time joking about the intense thunder storms that roll through here compared to the drizzle we get back home. Our main job at the Heritage and Research Center is to catalog new artifacts to be added to the collection. There are about 400,000 Yellowstone related artifacts stored in a giant warehouse that only a few of us have access to. During our first week we explored the room, looking for places to house future objects. You wouldn’t believe the stuff we found! A researcher could find anything from old uniforms, to invitations and postcards from the late 19th century, to huge pieces of furniture and taxidermied animals. No matter how many times I walk back there, I don’t think I will ever be comfortable with the stuffed bear watching me from the middle of the room. My favorite discovery, though, being a competitive athlete, was an Olympic torch from the 2002 Olympics when the athletes ran through the park.

The best part about working here is being able to handle so many historical artifacts. The other day I cataloged an invitation to an officers’ ball from 1896 when the military was still in the park.  I love learning new things about the park and reliving what tourists experienced a hundred years ago through the items they left behind. This week we even designed an exhibit for the Lake Hotel, searching for articles that could give visitors a general overview of the hotel’s history and take them back in time to see what it was like for tourists in the early twentieth century. Sometimes we have researchers call in requesting copies of certain scrapbooks and photographs, so I enjoy going on scavenger hunts to retrieve the items because they provide opportunities to make new discoveries about the history of the Park. There is so much I have yet to learn and I can’t wait to see what the rest of my time here brings!

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

Fun with State Statutes

Image: States in dark blue allow individuals younger than 18 years old to vote in primary elections, provided they will be 18 years old by the general election (Created by: Yoseph Desta)

 
By Yoseph Desta

B.A. Political Science Research Honors Track, 2014
Summer Intern at the National Council of State Legislatures

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

When I arrived at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) in Denver for my first day as an elections research intern, I didn’t know what to expect. As I sat at my desk waiting for my first project, I found myself wondering—how much research on elections could there possibly be? The answer, as it turns out, is quite a lot of research. In fact, the subject of election law is both vast and nuanced, and far more interesting than I could have ever imagined. For the past five weeks, I have been completely immersed in discovering the fascinating nuances in election laws across the U.S.

In my time at the NCSL, I have had the opportunity to research a number of different topics and perform a number of different tasks. For instance, on one particularly busy day last week, I spent the morning creating a chronology of early voting laws in the U.S., the mid afternoon writing an article about voter registration for young people, and the rest of the day responding to an information request from a state legislator about primary election laws. As you can see, the research I do can vary dramatically depending on the day.

What is usually a constant in my day to day is that I spend most of my time looking for and reading state statutes about elections. Although poring over state statutes may not sound interesting to you, it is absolutely fascinating to me. The tasks I’m given always keep me on my feet and expose me to the different aspects of election law and the work of the NCSL. Perhaps the best part of working at the NCSL is that, for the first time, I feel as though I am not just studying politics and public policy; instead, I am actually able to actively participate and experience the political world firsthand. And, another thing about the NCSL is that, once I am done with the workday, I get to hang out and enjoy the great things Denver has to offer. Highlights so far include watching films outdoors at the Red Rocks amphitheater and attending a Rockies game. 

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

Diorama Trauma: A Summer in the Yosemite Museum

Image: Inventorying with flash (Photo credit: Kevin Chow)

 
By Kevin Chow

B.S. Material Science and Engineering, 2013
Summer Intern at Yosemite Museum

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

On my first morning at the National Park Service’s Yosemite Museum, I was handed a screwdriver and asked to go to work adjusting objects and didactic panels in a display case.  I would try to describe the typical workday at the Yosemite Museum, but each day seems to present something different.   Because of the small staff at the museum, I get to encounter all types of challenges, learning new skills along the way.  

In these five weeks, I have refashioned mounts, re-housed glass lantern slides, improved storage for baskets and mammoth-sized photographic prints, and helped to inventory objects in the Yosemite Museum’s diverse collection, which includes ethnographic objects, natural history specimens, historic records, fine art, as well as park-related material, publications, memorabilia and souvenirs.  The mission of the Yosemite Museum is to make these objects accessible for research, public enjoyment and education, and to preserve these irreplaceable resources for future generations.  During the summer, the museum stays busy and receives 65,000 – 80,000 visitors from all over the globe.  It has been fun interacting with visitors and seeing the impact of our museum work on their experiences in the park.

My main project is a major clean-up and restoration of the museum’s diorama, part of the Yosemite museum’s Indian Cultural Exhibit.  With over a hundred catalogued objects on display, the project presents a major logistical challenge in terms of safety and conservation.  Wear in the diorama’s weatherstripping seal has allowed dust and pests to invade the diorama.  A small hole for electrical wiring has also resulted in mouse infestation. 

In order to eliminate the risk of hantavirus contamination, we have begun to double bag the objects to isolate the virus for a period of two weeks, which is more than enough time for the virus to become inactive.  A quaternary ammonia solution will allow us to clean all surfaces and non-museum objects in the diorama.  To kill any insects that may have infested the materials, we then use a freezer for smaller basketry or custom anoxic envelopes for larger objects.  Finally, a thorough brush cleaning with high-efficiency particle air (HEPA) vacuum will help to clean the objects, prevent further infestation, and conserve the baskets for years to come.  

 

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

Currents of Change in the Neighborhood Creek

Image: Sonoma Creek at high tide (Photo credit: Rachel Powell)

 
By Rachel Powell

B.S. Biology, 2013
Summer Intern at the San Francisco Estuary Institute 

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

When I came to work at the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI), I never thought I would be knee deep in brackish water and mud surveying creeks all over the Bay Area. Yet that’s exactly what I found myself doing just my second week on the job.  

SFEI is a non-profit based in Richmond that helps define environmental problems in the Bay Area and throughout California, then develops the scientific tools to facilitate sound policy and management decisions.  One of their better-known programs is the Historical Ecology program, which uses a combination of historical sources and current scientific research to reconstruct past ecological landscapes and inform restoration and management practices.   As part of the Historical Ecology team, I have been working on a number of projects including an assessment of historical wetlands on the Southern California Coast using U.S. Coast Survey maps, a historical ecology study of the Tijuana River valley, and a study of the John Muir National Historic Monument in Martinez, CA.

I found myself standing in a creek as part of the Head of Tide study, which seeks to develop a standard methodology to define the maximum extent of tides in each of the many small watersheds surrounding the Bay. The zone of tidal influence marks an important ecological boundary which will continue to expand with rising sea level, yet little is known about how this zone functions in the Bay Area and what defining characteristics mark the upper limit of the tides.   

In order to find the answer to this problem, we donned waders and set out with an RTK-GPS unit to take precise measurements of the slope and elevation of five local creeks as they drain into the Bay.  We also tried to characterize the channel morphology as the creeks transitioned from tidal to fluvial, and looked for key vegetation indicators of tidal influence or a lack thereof.  

Now that I’m back in the office, I am working on a literature review looking at how others have defined the head of tide in the past and how sea level rise is likely to affect this transition zone. I find this project really interesting because small, coastal watersheds like these are often overlooked in the literature, and I can see just how necessary our study is from the sources I have read and the fieldwork in which I participated.  

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

The River Runs Wild

Image: Zachary Kuzniar and Chau Ho on the river measuring flow speeds (Photo credit: Anne Marie Emery)

 
By Minh Chau Ho

B.S. Biology, 2013
Summer Intern at Henry's Fork Foundation

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

There is much to accomplish in a summer with the Henry’s Fork Foundation.  The star of the show is a Master’s thesis aiming to understand the habitat selection of rainbow trout.  Then there are the annual population surveys, which monitors the health of the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout in the watershed.  Occasionally, we check-in on the Buffalo fish ladder, which simultaneously help trout migrate upstream to spawn and provide another opportunity to survey the trout population.  Twice weekly we volunteer with Fremont County Weed Control to check for invasive species on recreational boats.  Lastly, there’s always a fence to be fixed, weeds to control, or other upkeep tasks that help the Foundation operate.

Six other interns and I pair off each day and rotate through these various projects. I enjoy the diversity of projects, all of which contribute to our understanding of the Henry’s Fork watershed.  The Henry’s Fork is world-famous amongst fly-fishermen.  It was founded in 1984 by Bill Manlove and others who were passionate about protecting the river, especially from the immediate threat of ranchers grazing their cows too close to the river’s bank.  Today, fishermen, ranchers, and environmentalists are just some of the stakeholders invested in the water rights and management of this area.

The Henry’s Fork Foundation is the only non-profit organization advocating for the conservation of this watershed.  As head scientist Rob Van Kirk puts it, the research and survey that the Foundation performs, in addition to educational outreach and collaboration with the community and government agencies, gives the Foundation a place at the table when head stakeholders and water-users discuss current and future water management.

For example, this is the first fieldwork summer for Grand Valley State University’s graduate student, Zachary Kuzniar.  His behavioral study on adult rainbow trout habitat selection will, hopefully, inform habitat management to maximize suitable trout micro-habitats and improve the fishing experience for anglers.  All the interns pitch in to help Zach.  Once a week I help measure a variety of site characteristics, including flow rate, dissolved oxygen levels, and substrate coverage, at randomly selected points along the river.  The field experiences I have seem tame compared to data collection in the middle of a rushing river: after a few dunks in the freezing water, I have gained a healthy respect for the currents.  Falling in also threatens our electronic equipments, so I am careful to watch my step on the rocky bottom of these strong rivers.

After a day of river work, I settle down for an evening of coding in R for hydrological modeling, a side project for Dr. Van Kirk and a personal interest in ecological modeling for me.  I am analyzing water level data from the past 35 years to see how water management regimes have changed over time in the Henry’s Fork.  We can use these statistics to model future management regimes.  Weekends are spent exploring the natural treasures surrounding the Henry’s Fork, such as the Grand Teton National Park.  But honestly, everywhere I go in the Henry’s Fork watershed, even the view outside my summer home, takes my breath away; I see the majesty of nature here in a way that’s unrivaled by the Bay Area.  It is a gift to be in Ashton, Idaho, so I work hard and remember to pause periodically to take a deep breath and listen to the songbirds, the river, or just pure silence of it all. 

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

A Changing Bay Area Conservation Landscape

Image: Erik and Doniga Markegard lease POST-protected ranch land for their grassfed beef operation, Markegard Gamily Grass-Fed. The Markegards use planned grazing, a technique that aims to mimic ancient herd patterns and to minimize negative environmental impact. Above: A herd of Belted Galloways on Cloverdale Ranch prepare to move to their next pasture. (Photo credit: Caroline Hodge)

 
By Caroline Hodge

B.A. Psychology; B.A. in Philosophy & Religious Studies, 2013
Summer Intern at Peninsula Open Space Trust

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

Whenever I would drive down Highway 1 along California’s central coast during my time at Stanford, I would often wonder how it was that there was so much darned open space. There were fields of Brussels sprouts and artichokes, swaths of summer-yellow grasses, jagged bluffs, and tucked away ranches, but very few buildings. What a miracle, I would think to myself, that somehow no one had built houses or hotels along the coast.

A month into my internship at the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), however, I know that this wasn’t a miracle at all. It is only because of the tireless work of POST and its partners that miles of land along the coastline remain largely undeveloped.

POST was founded more than 30 years ago by a group of prescient Bay Area residents who wished to guard against rapid development. POST protects and cares for open space, farms, and parkland in and around Silicon Valley. The organization has preserved more than 70,000 acres from Half Moon Bay down to Santa Cruz, including coastal farms and ranches, redwood forests, wildlife corridors, and oak woodlands.  POST does this by purchasing properties outright (called in-fee purchases), or through conservation easements, a legal tool that restricts development and ensures that conservation values are protected in perpetuity.

One of my favorite parts of my internship so far has been assisting with the Farmland Protection Program, a POST initiative that aims to keep agricultural lands in production. I’ve researched loan options for farmers to purchase land, summarized farmers' and ranchers' proposals for new agricultural operations on POST properties, and explored innovative lease structures POST could offer to agricultural tenants to help them build equity.

What I love about working at POST is witnessing the evolution of the organization as it adapts to the changing circumstances of land conservation. As funding sources are shrinking, many land trusts like POST are being forced to move beyond just purchasing pieces of land and transferring them, subject to conservation easements. As the pace and volume of land acquisition slows, land trusts are having to think creatively about how they can continue to protect critical landscapes for wildlife corridors, habitat, agricultural, and recreation purposes, while ensuring that previously protected properties are cared for in perpetuity. The Farmland Protection Program is one part of POST’s response to this challenge. The organization has also started to place a greater emphasis on stewardship (managing and restoring land over the long term) and working landscapes as vital tools to keep ecosystems both healthy and productive.  I look forward to learning more about how this dynamic organization fulfills its mission and blends its traditional approach with innovative strategies to meet today’s challenges. 

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

A Walk in the Park

Image: The Yosemite Superintendent Staff (Photo credit: Kristen Kosick)

 
By Zachary Zapata

B.S. Management Science & Engineering, 2016
Summer Intern at Yosemite National Park

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

Although the Lands Resources Management Office here in Yosemite National Park is only made up of four employees, including myself, it has a function that is integral to the very existence of this wonderful place. The Lands Office is responsible for a variety of tasks including land acquisitions, permit distributions, and right-of-way permissions. While I am exposed to this kind of information on a daily basis, my project this summer is focused more on the organization of said information. My goal for the summer is to inventory all of the Lands Records and create a file plan that will aid future employees in filing their paperwork appropriately. My job gives me the opportunity to read and to handle files dating back to the early 20th century, a very unique experience.

Work starts for me at 8 a.m.  Fortunately, it is only a two-minute walking commute (many of my friends are envious). Once I arrive, I keep an eye out for “The Daily” to show up in my email. This is a newsletter that talks about the current events going on in and around the Park. Then my day of work begins, interspersed with walks through Yosemite Village and conversations with Park employees and visitors. 

After work I dedicate a large amount of time to planning my dinner. This is the first time I have been responsible to cook all of my meals, so putting me in the kitchen can get a little dicey. In only my second week I accidentally set off the smoke detector while cooking. Did I mention I live in a building that is named a National Historic Landmark? Needless to say, I was terribly embarrassed when the firefighters arrived to shut off the alarm (my housemates still poke fun at me every now and again).

Other than learning the function of the Lands Office and how to cook, I have learned about the management of the Park itself. During my first week, I was able to attend the Superintendent’s Retreat with all of the other Superintendent Staff. We toured the park and stopped to talk with different employees about how things are going and what they think could be improved. We even got to go inside of the O’Shaughnessy Dam at the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir! This trip was incredibly fun and eye opening. Although we had laughs along the way, the trip’s main purpose was to check the status of the Park in order to see where improvements could be made. The staff here in Yosemite put in countless hours of unseen work to give park visitors the most enjoyable and memorable experience possible. I am very much looking forward to the coming weeks of my internship.

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

A Continuing Heyday

Image: Malcolm Margolin, founder and executive director of Heyday Books at an event in Point Reyes (Photo credit: Richard Stangl)

 
By Emmerich Anklam

B.A. English, 2015
Summer Intern at Heyday

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

Malcolm Margolin, the founder and publisher of Heyday Books, is my newest hero. In fact, I’ve found Heyday to be full of heroes. Not the sensational, individualistic characters who populate pop culture, but people who, in working together, shed light on the wondrousness of everything around them. Heyday’s publications focus on California issues, but the company’s scope is massive. The constant underlying theme—across novels, poetry collections, documentations of native Californian culture, nature guides, photo books, environmental calls to action—is highlighting those aspects of the state that deserve to be better heard. To loosely quote Malcolm, “When I see a fire, I want to add to its warmth.”

At Heyday, I work with marketing, publicity, and event planning. After the long process of creating books, it’s the job of my boss, Lillian, to help get them into the world. Our staff is small, so Lillian and I always have our hands in several projects. In the last several days, I have written to airline magazines about one upcoming book (Saltscapes, a photographic exploration of the South Bay salt flats), sent out special promotional copies of a second book (Hetch Hetchy: Undoing a Great American Mistake, a controversial work for sure), and begun planning events for a third book (Vital Signs, a breathtaking collaborative work of poetry and photography about San Bernardino). Papers and beautiful books pile up on my desk with a vengeance. I love it.

As I’ve learned about the sheer amount of teamwork that accompanies publishing (meetings abound here), I’ve been lucky to see the process by which a company carves its own identity. Even after forty years, people at Heyday constantly discuss the big-picture purpose of their work. How does a book fit into Heyday’s larger publishing philosophy? How can we stay open to new ideas for books and the publishing process? Especially as Malcolm approaches his mid-seventies, everyone is working together to articulate the way forward. To remain idiosyncratic and also build communities across California, to embrace ambitious and unusual projects, to laugh along the way—these principles rest deep in Heyday’s fabric. I’m glad to help with the weaving.

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

Understanding Resilience in an Age of Change

 
 

By Jenny Rempel

B.S. in Earth Systems, 2012
Summer Intern at the San Francisco Estuary Institute

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

Had you asked me four months ago about “the new ecological world order,” I might have given you a blank stare – even after graduating with a degree in the environmental sciences. Luckily, my Bill Lane Center internship at the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) gave me a chance to study Anthropocene-era conservation. I quickly learned how much climate change has altered the ecological world order, such that conventional conservation and restoration approaches are often inappropriate and even unsuccessful. With the SFEI team, I addressed this problem by donning a new mask, metaphorically at least. Together, my SFEI advisors and I adopted the two-faced gaze of Janus, the Roman god of gateways, looking both forward and backward in efforts to understand how we might design functional landscapes in a changing world.

SFEI is in the process of developing an interdisciplinary research institute called the Center for Resilient Landscapes, and my somewhat daunting summer task was to clarify what “resilient landscapes” really are. The new Center will build on the strengths of existing SFEI programs in historical ecology, watershed and wetland science, and conservation biology, combining these programs‘ individual strengths to focus on creating dynamically functioning landscapes. Though ecologists, social scientists, and policymakers intuitively know what “resilience” means, it‘s hard to pinpoint a definition that renders the term useful to local managers. Thus, I spent a good portion of my summer reviewing the relevant literature – analyzing, annotating, and summarizing what “resilience” might mean to the SFEI team.

Resilience is a paradox of change and persistence. At SFEI, we consider resilient landscapes to be capable of recovering dynamically from perturbations, maintaining their basic function and structure in the face of change. The new Center will focus on building resilience by developing locally appropriate, long-term restoration strategies at sufficient scale for adaptation over time. Working with government agencies, land trusts, and local communities, the SFEI team will attempt to design landscapes that sustain natural hydrologic processes, support native species, and provide ecological services. This type of nuanced conservation work is challenging but important. It draws upon historical patterns and processes with an eye toward modern values and future conditions.

My time on SFEI‘s historical ecology team gave me a small taste of what the new Center will be capable of accomplishing. I focused my research on understanding historic species distributions in a handful of key watersheds and riverine systems in California. Using archival materials, I helped the team understand how California watersheds functioned in the early nineteenth century and how they might best function in the future. In addition to my literature reviews, I analyzed species collection databases, visited archives, digitized California maps, reviewed papers, and copyedited reports. These activities gave me a taste of the different kinds of work that go into historical ecology projects.

Whether the team at SFEI was analyzing old maps or proposing new restoration strategies, they consistently brought a critical eye and an optimistic approach to their work. As my first summer spent almost entirely in an office, I had to get used to sitting in a desk for eight or nine or even ten hours a day. I‘m glad my first desk job was at SFEI. With afternoon walks, yoga classes, and a social group of people surrounding me, I had a great work environment. The people at SFEI were curious about my aspirations and goals, and they cared about the trivial stuff of my day-to-day well being. Though I maintained a smile throughout my going-away lunch, it was hard not to cry. The team was dedicated, creative, encouraging, and just plain kind. Working at SFEI taught me about the type of colleagues I will search out in the future, and I only wish I could have stayed to help inaugurate the Center for Resilient Landscapes.

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

Fighting the Good Fight

Photo: The 2012 Yellowstone Archaeology Team (left to right): Staffan Peterson, Mary Meagher, John Reynolds, Robin Park, Ann Johnson, Daniel Perret, and Bob Flanthers
 
By Daniel Perret

B.A. in Biology, 2013
Summer Intern at Yellowstone National Park

Read about our summer research projects on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

I started the summer with next to no knowledge about North American lithic technology, plains archaeology, Yellowstone National Park, or cultural resources management. Now, I can identify and date diagnostic projectile points up to 10,500 years old, hold an intelligent conversation about prehistoric plains chronology, navigate my way through a bison jam, and appreciate the subtler points of Section 106 and Section 104 mandates. It’s hard to imagine that I’ve already been here for three months, and that it’s now time to leave. I feel like I could spend the rest of my life in Yellowstone and just begin to scratch the surface.

The mountain of work bequeathed to the archaeologists in Yellowstone is enormous. Most of the work comes in the form of compliance requests – every federal project that could feasibly affect cultural resources in the park needs to be approved by the park archaeologist. In a place as culturally rich as Yellowstone, the projects seeking approval pile up quickly. Additionally, there are boxes upon boxes of backlogged ‘problem artifacts’—remnants from bygone contracted archaeologists who never finished analyzing and cataloging their finds (or in some cases cataloged them incorrectly, which presents a host of new problems). A single person could occupy themselves for years trying to sort through the thousands of backlogged artifacts and projects. The job descriptions of Staffan and Robin, the park archaeologists, could read like war plans – defeat the compliance requests, conquer the mess of incomplete reports, do battle with the backlog.

Conservation in Action at the American Prairie Reserve

Photo: The Great Bison Range via Flickr
 
 
By Michelle Berry

M.S. Earth Systems, 2014
Summer Intern at the American Prairie Reserve

Read about our summer research projects on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

Last week I made my final trip up to the prairie reserve. On the evening before I left, I went for a run to saturate my senses with the landscape. I eventually came to a valley where I decided to perch on a cottonwood tree and watch the sun go down. I closed my eyes for a few moments, and when I opened them, I saw a buffalo bull a few hundred yards in the distance that must have wandered off on his own. I then turned full circle and realized that I was surrounded by four other bulls that were quickly approaching me. I was overcome with excitement: All of the journals I had read by Lewis and Clark, Edwin Denig, George Catlin and others suddenly came alive, and I imagined an endless grass-filled landscape bursting with millions of buffalo, elk, and antelope and thousands of cougars, wolves, and bears.

In his book Last Stand, Michael Punke writes, “For emigrants traveling west, sighting the first buffalo marked a signature moment in their voyage – true arrival on the frontier”. Seeing those five buffalo that night represented a frontier for me as well. This frontier is partly physical; I come from mountains and evergreens. Before this summer I had never been to Montana nor had I seen a prairie landscape. In fact, the prairie did not immediately make a big impression on me. At first it seemed like a large expanse of barren nothingness. But then I spent time tearing down a century-old ranch corral, and created just a little more open space so that those bison can roam freely. I also spent a night driving around with a spotlight searching for black-footed ferrets, North America’s most endangered mammal. At 3:30 AM I finally saw a pair of those narrow-set, green eyes peer up at me, and I knew I was seeing one of only 750 in the wild. I came to understand that nature is often invisible to us, but those parts are no less extraordinary than the parts that are conspicuous. I now feel a closer connection to this land than any other I have ever experienced.

Heyday Love

Photo: Soul Calling press release, Joel Pickford, via Heyday Institute
 
By Sandy Chang


B.A. Candidate in English, 2013
Summer Intern at Heyday Institute

Read about our summer research projects on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

I had a magical summer in Berkeley, working for Heyday Institute. As the Events and Marketing intern, I learned a lot about planning and communication as well as about the publishing process.

What I enjoyed:

1. Meetings. I was able to attend different types of meetings and observe how various parts of a publishing company work together. At marketing meetings, the publicity and events directors would meet with authors to discuss possible marketing strategies. At development meetings, the board of directors, publisher, development director, and events director would meet to discuss fundraising events for the organization. My favorites were launch meetings. There, everyone would get together to discuss book cover designs and titles. It was interesting to hear about the politics in making book covers. For example, if an author was working on a biography with the person the book is about, it is better to have just the author’s name on the book rather than adding “by.”

2. Experience. I received a lot of hands on experience in writing pitch letters and press releases for books. I was also able to have a lot of control over the events planning project for Soul Calling, being able to decide where and when I wanted events. Whenever I needed guidance, I knew I could ask my supervisors for help.

3. The environment. Although I had a main project to work on, every day was a surprise. For example, one day when I came to work Malcolm walked into the office and asked me to make a diorama of old California when current extinct animals were still alive. For the rest of the morning, I played with animal cutouts and fake grass. I was also able to attend events, such as the after party for the News for Native California Anniversary and Basket celebration. There, I was able to meet many people from the Heyday community.

Conclusions from working at the Yosemite Museum

 
 

By Molly O’Connor
B.S. Candidate in Computational Imaging, 2014
Summer Intern at the Yosemite Museum

Read about our summer research projects on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

When I was about to head up to the Yosemite Museum at the beginning of the summer, one of the most confounding questions people asked me was what I was going to be doing there. I had vague ideas of researching things and putting them online, but I was also under the impression that I might be emptying mousetraps for eight hours a day.

Two months after my initial confusion, you might ask again what exactly I’ve been doing all summer. And the answer (besides chain-drinking tea) is, well, everything. Because that’s what the people who take care of the museum’s collections need to do – everything. I dusted cabinets, changed lightbulbs, covered shelves with tyvec, and gathered climate monitors. I researched, asked questions, cataloged an Eadweard Muybridge photograph, and photographed nearly one hundred rocks so that I could select a dozen or so to put on a web page about the geological collection. It might have felt like grunt work some of the time, but even the little operations are necessary to take care of the collections. I may have spent hours plugging information about baskets into spreadsheets, but those spreadsheets were the necessary first step before designing a cultural exhibition for the next summer.

Yellowstone Over Time

Photo: Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone NPS, via Flickr

 

By Quinn Walker
B.S. Candidate in Human Biology
Summer Intern with Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center

Read about our summer research projects on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

At the beginning of the summer, family and friends kept asking me what exactly I was doing in Yellowstone National Park. “Well,” I said, “I’m working in the Heritage and Research Center.” “Mmhmm…” they would doubtfully reply. “In the museum collection,” I’d add. “Um…” they would say. “You are so skeptical,” I’d sigh. “How can I put this? I catalog artifacts (clean, photograph, and label them before entering the details into the database and storing them), do inventory of items we already have, design exhibits, and give tours to visitors. I deal with pests, vacuum the processing room, and make perfectly sized boxes out of cardboard and a box cutter.” By this point there is silence. “That’s nice,” they say. And yes, it is nice. It’s also beautiful, fascinating, and an incredibly valuable experience.

I will never forget my summer in Yellowstone (or, probably, the hundreds of random facts I now know about the nation’s first national park). I learned why the park holds such an important place in the world’s conservation efforts. Of course, Yellowstone couldn’t have happened without the contributions of countless individuals, such as Thomas Moran, John Colter, and Horace Albright. For my final exhibit, I chose to elaborate on one of those people. Ole Anderson was a Swedish implant to the park in its very early days. He set up wooden racks within the hot spring terraces. The hot springs, which are part of Yellowstone’s impressive thermal features, would coat specimens with layers of travertine (limestone) and create an impressive and unique souvenir. When I saw some of the horseshoes we have in the collection, I knew this was what I wanted to do. As I studied, I fell in love with the stories in the collection. The people who explored the park became my companions, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Working for a Watershed; Conservation on the Henry’s Fork River

By Nessarose Schear
B.S. Earth Systems, Biosphere
Summer Intern with Henry's Fork Foundation

Read about our summer research projects on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

It feels strange to be back in a city after spending the whole summer with the Tetons and Yellowstone as my backyard. After weeks of a smoky skyline and blood red sunsets, caused by nearby forest fires, the clear New England sky of Massachusetts is disorienting.

This summer was an incredible opportunity to participate in important conservation work and research and I look forward to seeing how the data we collected impacts the future management of the Henry’s Fork Watershed. This summer the crew of five interns and I, under the guidance of the excellent field leader Matt Cahoon, surveyed tributaries to the Henry’s Fork River. We worked mostly in Grand Targhee National Forest and Harriman State Park. Our work was focused on the native trout species, the Yellowstone Cutthroat trout, checking in on populations that had been surveyed around ten years ago. The cutthroat are threatened by invasive rainbow and brook trout that were introduced historically by anglers and by human activity such as cattle gazing and irrigation. In addition to research we also worked on some conservation projects to mitigate and reverse erosion, putting up fences and planting native willows and grasses along the banks of the Henry’s Fork. Luckily for the Fork, Henry’s Fork Foundation (HFF) is working hard on all fronts to make sure the river and its ecologic services are preserved.

What Do People Talk About When They Talk About Parks?

Photo: Rio de Los Angeles State Park, The City Project, via Flickr

 

By Monica Climaco
B.A. Candidate in Urban Studies, 2013

Read about the CityNature project on the OutWest student blog. Over the summer, a team of undergraduate student researchers combined spatial analysis with innovative mining of planning document text, photographs, social media, and published historical narratives to explain why nature is unevenly distributed in and across cities.

One of the projects that I have been working on during my time here at the Bill Lane Center for the American West is answering the question that makes up the title of this post: What do people talk about when they talk about parks? As an Urban Studies major, I have read my share of works both endorsing and attacking parks and natural spaces in urban areas. From local politicians, to critics and activists, to members of non-profit organizations, to researchers and professors, it seems that everybody has something to say about what is good and what is bad about parks, or how parks should be. I myself am an advocate for parks and natural spaces in cities; I don’t think the City Nature team would have allowed me to join them if I were not. However, there is an argument against parks that resonates with me: Stanton Jones and Arthur Graves reasoned that public parks (and those who design and manage them) do not really take people’s needs into consideration. Therefore, these spaces are misunderstood and misused. Jones’ and Graves’ argument spurred me to determine what people—those who actually use and visit the parks often—are saying about parks. What features do they look for in a park? What makes them come back? Conversely, what are characteristics of a park are not attractive to them? What causes them to never want to return?

To answer these questions, I decided to scour Yelp.com for reviews of parks in the City of Los Angeles, one of the areas that the City Nature team is focusing on. Not all of the parks that are listed under the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks appear on Yelp.com. However, more than 100 parks (big and small, famous and hidden gems, alike) are reviewed on the website. That number is plenty to work with for this project. Using a social networking site to gather data for research may not seem like the best choice, but it’s a cheap (read: free) and efficient alternative to conducting surveys at the hundreds of parks and natural spaces in LA. The Department of Recreation and Parks does not seem to have its own reviews, which adds to Yelp.com’s appeal. Plus, I thought that a social media platform that allowed users to write as they pleased would yield more varied and more interesting answers than a set of questions would.

Year of the Bay

By Anna Garbier
B.A. in Linguistics, 2012

Read about our summer research projects on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

I’m sailing across the San Francisco Bay, on an 1891 scow schooner, operated by the San Francisco National Maritime Museum. It’s a public sail with fifteen or so passengers, including myself, and a few crewmembers. The historic vessel I’m on will soon become the physical centerpiece to an otherwise virtual crowdsourcing project headed by Jon Christensen at the Bill Lane Center for the American West.

I’ve been invited onto the ship by the Captain, who now introduces me to the crew. He tells the crew that I’m a research assistant for a project called the Year of the Bay at the Bill Lane Center. He leaves it at that, and directs his attention towards the waters.

We round Angel Island and, in a lull of action, a crewmember turns to me. “So, what’s this Year of the Bay project?”

Inside the Bill Lane Center, we speak the language of corpus data, information mapping, geo-referencing, and crowdsourcing. We know what it means to create data-driven narratives, and what it means to conduct digital humanities research.

To digital humanities researchers, I say this: The Year of the Bay is a project that tests how crowdsourcing can be used to help humanities researchers obtain, tag, clean, and analyze a wide range of information. The project examines how crowdsourcing works by tracking and mapping the public’s interactions with a particular website (soon to be launched) that is designed and built for this experiment.

Vintage Motorcycles and Haunted Clocks

By Katrina Pura
B.A. Science Technology Society, 2013
Summer Intern with Yosemite Archives and Museum

Read about our summer research projects on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

Prepare for the unexpected when you enter the Yosemite Museum collection room. The first time I was shown through the vault-like door and my supervisor switched on the lights in a manner reminiscent of the velociraptor scene in Jurassic Park, I was confronted with the oddest assortment of objects I had seen in my life. Amidst the bulk of the collection, a large pickled fish floated in yellow liquid, waterfall paintings were hung on racks all around the walls and the edge of a disused stone fireplace could be seen peaking halfway around a cabinet. Seemingly at random, my supervisor started pulling open drawers full of cups, weapons, feathers, jewelry and animal skins. Although I have since grown accustomed to this fascinating room, the novelty of my first visit set the tone of the internship for the summer. Because I spent two days in the museum and three in the Land Resources office, I was able to work on new and unexpected tasks every week.

One of the highlights of my time in the museum occurred when my supervisor asked me to rewrite a label for a 1914 Indian Motorcycle. The label needed to detail the history of the Indian motorcycle company while also explaining the racist connotations of the brand name in a way that a middle school student could understand. Oh, and it needed to be five sentences or less. The assignment made me hyper-conscious of my word choice and gave me the opportunity to research something that I had never heard of before. Likewise, in creating a Wikipedia article on the early California artist, Chris Jorgensen and in updating the existing Yosemite Museum wiki I was able to greatly expand my knowledge of Yosemite history. In addition to these tasks, another highlight involved re-shelving rows of the Native American basket collection. I felt very lucky to handle such beautiful objects whose makers had invested months and even years of time and care into.

Running With the Wolves

By Julia Barrero
B.A. Candidate in History, 2014

Read about our summer research projects on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

Maybe it was fate, or just serendipitous, or maybe I was subconsciously searching for it after spending weeks researching wolves this summer. However it happened, I recently stumbled across a song on YouTube: “Running With the Wolves” by Cloud Cult, which is precisely what I feel like I’ve been doing for the last ten weeks of this summer. Back in June, when I settled on studying Idaho’s wolf management policy as part of my independent research project for the Bill Lane Center, I also entered myself into a several month-long marathon; racing to absorb anything and everything about a subject about which I knew absolutely nothing.

Why? Well, first off, I got this research gig as a bonus when I was offered the amazing opportunity to be a TA for the BLC’s Sophomore College Seminar on natural resource issues in the American West. This September, along with twelve rising sophomores, and five other faculty members, we’ll be studying fire policy, the health of fisheries, and land use, with southern Idaho as our backdrop. It’s an opportunity I am so grateful and excited to have, especially after having participated in the BLC’s last Sophomore College Seminar last summer, but as a student.

Mapping the Global Urban Water Crisis

By Jennifer Farman
B.A. Candidate in History, 2014

Read about the CityNature project on the OutWest student blog. Over the summer, a team of undergraduate student researchers combined spatial analysis with innovative mining of planning document text, photographs, social media, and published historical narratives to explain why nature is unevenly distributed in and across cities.

I first became interested in water issues last summer during my time exploring the complex role of water in the western United States as part of a Sophomore College course sponsored by the Bill Lane Center. This summer I have had the opportunity to investigate water issues on a global scale as a Research Assistant at the Center, where I have been exploring some exciting data on urban water availability as part of the “Global Cities” team of the City Nature project. With some excellent research from the Nature Conservancy as our base, my co-workers and I have spent the summer looking at many of the interesting interactions between urban growth and water availability. My research has focused on cities with current populations between 50,000 and 1 million people, as these cities will experience some of the most dramatic growth in the next 50 years. As the global urban majority continues to grow, these cities will face significant challenges in the areas of water quantity and quality, as well as in their capacity to deliver this water.

A Growing World Without Water

By Isabella Akker
B.S. in Earth Systems, 2013

Read about the CityNature project on the OutWest student blog. Over the summer, a team of undergraduate student researchers combined spatial analysis with innovative mining of planning document text, photographs, social media, and published historical narratives to explain why nature is unevenly distributed in and across cities.

Thirsty? Go to a water fountain, grab a bottle of water, or walk to a river. But what will you do thirty years from now? I’ve spent the last eight weeks looking for answers to questions surrounding what many of us take for granted—adequate, easy access to clean water.

Armed with a large dataset for over 6,000 cities worldwide, all with populations between 50,000 and 1 million, I worked to visualize and quantify worldwide water “stress” through a combination of proxy variables for measuring water quantity, water quality, and water delivery in these 6,000 cities. In turn, my team and I hope that this would demonstrate how prepared these cities are for growth both economically and socially.

Unsatisfied with the three variables’ inability to truly reflect the conditions “on the ground” for the more than 6,000 cities and over 195 countries, I decided to go further, and combined these three variables with others—including foreign investment, freshwater withdrawals, improved urban water and sanitation access, and population growth in a given country—to get a better sense of the challenges ahead of us as a global society dependent on water for survival. I am now working on visualizing the results of this model and creating an interactive webpage for others to modify my model and come to their own conclusions.

438 Miles Up: Analyzing Urban Nature from Orbit

By Alex Kindel
B.S. Symbolic Systems (Learning), 2014

Read about the CityNature project on the OutWest student blog. Over the summer, a team of undergraduate student researchers combined spatial analysis with innovative mining of planning document text, photographs, social media, and published historical narratives to explain why nature is unevenly distributed in and across cities.

How is nature distributed in cities? In what ways can we understand the quality and experience of urban nature? These are just some of the many questions tackled by the interdisciplinary City Nature project this summer, which I've had the great fortune to be a part of.

To answer these questions, we've taken a variety of approaches, from historical explorations of city parks to data mining on city planning documents. For my portion of the project, I chose to take a quantitative approach, primarily using methods from remote sensing. My main data source is Landsat 5, a satellite orbiting 438 miles above Earth. Landsat 5 carries an instrument called the Thematic Mapper (TM), which captures and processes numerous wavelengths of light reflected from the planet's surface. Using this imagery, I've spent the summer exploring and quantifying greenness for 36 of the largest cities in the United States.

My typical day in the office starts early in the morning in the computer lab, where I do the kinds of analysis that require a lot of heavy lifting on the computer's part. Landsat imagery is corrected for satellite conditions, transformed to generate greenness measures, split into smaller zones, and analyzed for statistical error. After spending a few hours in the lab, I take a lunch break, then head back to the shared office where the summer research assistants usually work. In the afternoon, I take the measures I've generated and explore different ways of categorizing and visualizing them.

Visualizing California's Water

By Christopher Kremer
Class of 2015

Read about our summer interns on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

Over the past ten weeks, I have worked with Geoff McGhee, the Bill Lane Center’s Creative Director for Media and Communications, to create an interactive information dashboard about California water management and conservation. I have used D3 and other Javascript data visualization libraries to develop interactive charts and graphs based on models from our partner Mitch Tobin at California Environmental Associates. I have also used geographic information systems technologies such as Quantum GIS to prototype maps about endangered species conservation and natural resource extraction, among other topics related to California’s water. Since we moved into the new office at the beginning of the summer, the once relatively empty workspace has grown up around us. We have added several top of the line computers for data visualization, as well as ample desk space for various creative projects. While our office, sandwiched between two others, was at first fairly quiet, it now hosts members of the City Nature team, too. It has been exciting to see the project evolve from the initial design, a constantly updated information panel with at-a-glance facts, to its current form, an interactive narrative platform that will see larger, more periodic additions. I have learned quite a lot from my summer work and am very excited to see our project in action.

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

Digitizing Historic Roads of the Bay Area

By Alice Avery
B.A. in History, 2012

Read about the CityNature project on the OutWest student blog. Over the summer, a team of undergraduate student researchers combined spatial analysis with an innovative mining of planning documents, photographs, social media, and published historical narratives, in order to explain why nature is unevenly distributed in and across cities.

I’ll be honest: I was a little nervous about a summer internship under the Bill Lane Center for the American West because my worst grade at Stanford was in the most introductory of Earth Systems classes. The kind of grade from a supposedly easy class that makes people ask incredulously, “Really?” Despite being very interdisciplinary, the center is housed in the environmental sciences building. As a history major, I’m used to using texts, interviews, diaries, and other static written sources to answer research questions. Given the prompt to research conservation history in California on my own, using a search engine would have been the most technological thing I did. But in July, armed with a handful of tutorials in GIS and four CDs of high-resolution historic road maps, I set out to analyze conservation history in the Bay Area through road and open space development in digital decade snapshots.

LA EJ (Environmental Justice)

By Jared Naimark
B.S. Candidate Earth Systems, 2014

Read about the CityNature project on the OutWest student blog. Over the summer, a team of undergraduate student researchers combined spatial analysis with innovative mining of planning document text, photographs, social media, and published historical narratives to explain why nature is unevenly distributed in and across cities.

Because of international travels at the beginning of the summer, I arrived back on campus for my research on the City Nature Project a few weeks late. I was surprised to find out that in my absence, I had been assigned to the history team and tasked with investigating the history of urban parks in Los Angeles. At first I was nervous and disappointed. I knew nothing about historical research, and even less about LA - I thought I would rather research anywhere else. However, I realized that Los Angeles must have been chosen for a reason, and so I delved into the books and articles, searching for a way to approach my task through the lens of my own interests in environmentalism, human rights, and activism.

I quickly found my connection in the subject of Environmental Justice, EJ, for short. The EJ movement, with roots in the occupational health movement of the early 20th century as well as in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, links environmental sustainability to the health of urban dwellers. Throughout history and today, environmental health hazards such as toxic wastes and air pollution have disproportionately impacted low-income and minority communities. In response to this injustice, grassroots activists have come together to prevent the further pollution of their communities. After discovering what seems to be an unofficial EJ section in Green Library (see photo), I learned that many of the most important EJ battles have been waged in and around Los Angeles. From the superfund clean-up of the Stringfellow Acid Pits in the ‘80s, to the citizen inspired halting of the Nueva Azalea power plant in 2001, these pivotal activist victories not only ensured safe and sustainable local communities, but also put EJ on the map as a national issue.

Mining the Museum, Curating California, Pinning Down Public Memory

By George Philip LeBourdais
Ph.D. Candidate in Art History

Read about our summer research projects on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

On a balmy spring day in Palo Alto, one of my fellow art historians gloomily contemplated the contemporary usage of the word “curate.” What passes for “curating” today, she lamented? Often a sporadic relationship between a tumblr account and dramatic photography culled from a fashion magazine, designer’s website, or lust-worthy food blog.

My research this summer for the Bill Lane Center in downtown San Francisco at the California Historical Society (CHS) thus arrived like a breath of fresh air, even while I shuffled through low-lit underground vaults poring over old books, paintings, and photographs. In fact, “Curating California,” an ongoing project that Jon Christensen, Executive Director of the Bill Lane Center, conceived in collaboration with Anthea Hartig, the inspiring Director of CHS, demands that we refresh our understanding of the term:

Curate, in its nominative form, means one who cares for the development of souls, reminding us that a central mission of “curators” should be preserving things that help us understand our collective past and might positively affect our growth as social beings. Curating, in that sense, means caring about community.

Unsolved Mysteries and the Making of an Exhibit

By Maritza Urquiza
B.A Candidate in History

Read about our summer research projects on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

Anyone who has been around me this summer has surely heard me talking, perhaps rambling once in a while, about Juana Briones. A friend commented on how I talk about her as if I had once known her. For the past seven weeks, I have been getting to know this incredible historical figure through my internship with the California Historical Society (CHS). I have been working with Marie Silva, an amazing CHS staff member, to research and locate primary sources for a future exhibit on the life and times of Juana Briones. Juana Briones was a fascinating nineteenth century California pioneer, who was also humanitarian, a landowner, a healer, and an early feminist, just to name a few words that would describe her.

My summer has consisted of asking a wide range of research questions, uncovering sources and searching for clues that shed light on Juana Briones’ incredibly complex and captivating life. I have visited numerous repositories throughout the Bay area, searching through mission records, lithographs, maps, portraits, legal and land transaction documents, as well as translating nineteenth century Spanish manuscripts. Since sources that relate directly to Juana Briones are limited, I often have to search for other material that would shed light on an aspect of Juana Briones’ world. For instance, a potential visual that I found searching through a CHS collection includes an 1847 account book of Indian sailors (pictured above). Juana Briones was known for her humanitarian aid to sailors and this source can give us a clue to some of the sailors that Juana Briones might have come in contact with and even harbored in her house.

Mapping Los Angeles’ Park History

By Nicholas Biddle
B.S Candidate in IDMEN Energy ad Materials Engineering, 2014

Read about the CityNature project on the OutWest student blog. Over the summer, a team of undergraduate student researchers combined spatial analysis with innovative mining of planning document text, photographs, social media, and published historical narratives to explain why nature is unevenly distributed in and across cities.

How does a park system come to be? What is the motivation behind park creation? These are just two of the many questions that led us to create the City of Los Angeles park development map.

The idea of the project was to build a historical map of Los Angeles parks. Since the start, the methodology has taken many turns and the vision of the final deliverable has greatly changed. We ran into our first roadblock when we could not find the establishment dates of Los Angeles’ parks. It soon became apparent that the city was not available to help with our request, so we took our research to the archives. From there, we gathered park opening dates from Los Angeles Times online archives and municipal annual reports with reasonable success. The vision and storyboard went through many evolutions based on the visualization service we were planning on using. In the end we decided to go with Neatline, a new program in need of a project daring enough to test it out. We were up for the job and have not looked back since.

How do Cities Measure "Social Capital"?

By Sarah Quartey
B.A. Candidate in Urban Studies, 2014

Read about the CityNature project on the OutWest student blog. Over the summer, a team of undergraduate student researchers combined spatial analysis with innovative mining of planning document text, photographs, social media, and published historical narratives to explain why nature is unevenly distributed in and across cities.

Here’s something that wasn’t initially on my bucket list: read the comprehensive plans for each of the 40 largest cities in the United States. It’s kind of funny how things like that happen. Anyway, let’s back up and explain how I found myself knee deep in the ever-so inspiring "Envision San Jose."

The CityNature research group is exploring why access to nature (defined as tree-lined boulevards, urban parks, backyard gardens) doesn’t scale up with population. We took a variety of approaches, and I found myself on the Semantics Team. The Semantics Team sought to understand how cities talk about nature – Is nature aesthetic? Economic? Recreational? Or is it something else altogether? In doing so, my other undergraduate teammate and I built a plain text corpus out of the 37 comprehensive plans we were able to get our hands on. This turned out to be no small task. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to talk about the social causes and effects of the physical urban design of city nature, and I realized I could use this painstakingly pieced-together corpus just for that purpose.

My research has focused on what city comprehensive plans refer to as “social capital.” Social capital is a collective term for “social networks and the associated norms of reciprocity” – it is, essentially, the power of human relationships rather than the power of an individual or even a collective group (Putnam, 2000). Social capital lies between the influence and capital of a single person and the power in a great number of people – social capital refers to neither Martin Luther King, Jr. nor the sum of the March on Washington, but instead to the congregation that attended in full force because of the strong ties between its members. I know, I know, it’s a mouthful.

A Trip to the Delta

By Jenny Rempel
B.S. in Earth Systems, 2012

Read about our summer interns on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

As we nibbled on sack lunches in the minivan, I found myself asking if it was opposites day. Liquid gold from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta was flowing through a leveed canal some 20 feet above us. Somehow things were reversed: how had the islands wound up beneath the very water that made them islands? On my first field day with the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI), it felt like I was following the Historical Ecology Team down the rabbit hole into a wonderland landscape. Luckily, this was just the team to help me understand the history behind this baffling locale.

Having spent the previous week copyediting a 400-page report on the region, I was eager to see this labyrinth inland delta in person. Reading of sunken islands and ever-taller levees does not fully convey just how whimsical this landscape looks today. But the 400-page report published by the Historical Ecology Program does not attempt to describe things as they are in the present. Instead, it focuses on what this landscape looked like 200 years ago. Four years of research revealed, from south to north in broad brushstroke generalizations: a series of broad riverine floodplains, tule-choked marshes laced with tidal channels, and tidal wetlands with rich riparian forests. Pretty different from the deep-set cornfields we were passing in our minivan.

The report is a tour-de-force from Alison Whipple, Robin Grossinger, Ruth Askevold, and the whip-smart team at SFEI. I’ve been lucky enough to join their ranks in Richmond, CA for a few brief summer months.

Filling in the Gaps: Mapping LA Park History

By  Claudia Preciado
B.A. Urban Studies, 2012

Read about the CityNature project on the OutWest student blog. Over the summer, a team of undergraduate student researchers combined spatial analysis with innovative mining of planning document text, photographs, social media, and published historical narratives to explain why nature is unevenly distributed in and across cities.

Los Angeles has been home for me my entire life, which makes me one of the biggest proponents for public spaces and green spaces. Growing up in the city for me meant having my parents drive me to softball practice at the nearest park. That alone was reason enough to become a part of the City Nature project focused on Los Angeles parks. As part of the historical team, we were motivated by the question of how people use and interact with LA parks, through time and across boundaries.

Our research began with finding out more about the park system and how it evolved over time. By researching park histories, we hoped to find out more about why the public wanted parks to begin with (i.e. potential and previous uses). Through this research, we came across articles discussing the concept of usable parks for the people instead of perfectly groomed (stay off the) lawns. Issues of social equity and access were relevant across the 1920s and 1930s when Los Angeles witnessed a surge of parks.

From the initial research, our team decided to create a public, interactive way of accessing the information, articles, and photos we were finding. An accessible history, along with current information, on Los Angeles parks would allow others to also add and take ownership of their local parks. Creating a way to display this information became another task in the process.

Unearthing the Histories of Montana's Prairie Wildlife

By Michelle Berry
M.S. Earth Systems, 2014

Read about our summer interns on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

“Immense” was the word Meriwether Lewis used consistently to describe the extent of prairie wildlife during his great transcontinental expedition; “We saw immense quantities of game in every direction around us as we passed up the river: consisting of herds of Buffalo, Elk and antelopes with some deer and wolves” (April 17th, 1805). Today, the plains are barely recognizable from the descriptions provided by Lewis. During the late 1800’s and early 1900s, the combined actions of homesteaders, fur trappers, and ranchers lead to a massive defaunation of the American prairie. Populations of bison, wolves, and grizzly bears went entirely extinct. Since 2001, the American Prairie Reserve (APR) has been working to restore the prairie ecosystem in northeastern Montana and create an educational nature reserve that will be open to the public. As part of their vision, the completed reserve will incorporate all the wildlife species that once inhabited the area in their natural abundances.

Getting into California

By Sandy Chang
B.A. Candidate in English, 2013

Read about our summer interns on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

On my second day at Heyday, Lillian, one of my supervisors, turned around from the passenger seat of the car and smiled, “Today is a great day for research. Let’s go hiking at a preserve one of our fall books is based on.”

Natalie, Lillian, and I had just finished a marketing meeting with authors Colburn Wilbur and Fred Setterberg about their upcoming book, Giving with Confidence: A Guide to Savvy Philanthropy. The meeting had lasted two hours, and we were all tired after a long discussion about ways to market their book through social networking, public media, and events. Therefore, we stopped by Pulgas Ridge for an hour of hiking before driving back to work. It’s moments like these that make working at Heyday a great experience. Although Heyday contributes amazing books to the literary world, the work environment is friendly and relaxing.

Heyday is a small non-profit publisher located in Berkeley, California. The organization exists to promote awareness and celebration of California’s many cultures, landscapes, and boundary-breaking ideas. It was originally founded by Malcom Margolin in 1974.

Gone Fishin'

By Daniel Perret
B.A. in Biology, 2013

Read about our summer interns on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

Yellowstone National Park is an international destination for people who love to fish, from casual stick-and-string dock anglers to hardcore wader-wearing fly-fishers. For thousands of years, people have utilized the bountiful piscine resources of the many creeks, lakes, and rivers that pepper the Yellowstone countryside.

Hang on a second! Until very recently, no evidence of prehistoric (defined as pre-1750) fishing activity has ever been found within the park. Theories abounded as to the reason. Maybe the prehistoric Native American residents of the park held a cultural taboo against fish consumption? Did they simply lack the technology to exploit the resource? Or have our best archaeological efforts simply missed the traces?

In 2006, an excavation at an important new site near the northern park boundary proved the third option correct. The excavation team found two net-sinker weights, one on each side of the Yellowstone River. The net-sinkers are heavy, impressive affairs; large, ovate river cobbles with considerable notches worked into opposite sides. Subsequent excavations of the site reached a depth of four meters, where Paleo-Indian knives were recovered, indicating that the site had been occupied as early as 10,500 years before present (YBP). Although the net-sinkers themselves probably date to the late pre-historic period (3,000 YBP – 300 YBP), they represented the first evidence of fishing ever recovered in Yellowstone.

Fast forward six years. Two park archaeologists and I are back at this important area, performing a site condition assessment. We walk transects, eyes on the ground, on the prowl for lithic artifacts and possible threats to the site. I spot a large rock that looks suspiciously out of place, eroding out of the riverbank. I pick it up, dust it off, and see that this is no ordinary rock. Another net-sinker, and the third ever recovered!

Seeing Yosemite Through New Eyes

Photo: Sergio Rodriguez via Flickr

By Katrina Pura

B.A. Science Technology Society, 2013

Read about our summer interns on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

Before my eight week internship began in the Land Resources Office of Yosemite National Park, I couldn’t have told you what exactly I would be doing. Vague ideas of filing papers and reading musty government maps filled my head. I had no idea what managing the land in a park nearly the size of Rhode Island would entail, but four weeks in with four more exciting weeks before me I can say that I do now. I realized the extent of what I have learned while reading an article my supervisor sent me last Monday. Titled “Land Rush at National Parks” from the Wall Street Journal, the article dealt with such issues as buying inholdings (private properties inside the park), using a reduced Land and Water Conservation Fund (the government mechanism for buying land) to purchase these properties and the necessity in some cases of working through third party conservation trusts to negotiate the deals. These references would have been unintelligible to me at the start of the internship but after their involvement in day-to-day discussion in the office, you can imagine how familiar they have become.

Stories from Team Trout

Read about our summer interns on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work. We’re excited to highlight their work with that of our distinguished partners: American Prairie Foundation, Henry’s Fork Foundation, Heyday, Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite Archives and Museum, and the San Francisco Estuary Institute.

By Nessarose Schear
B.S. Earth Systems, Biosphere

Every morning the five other co-interns and I pack our packs, load up the ancient Suburban with field gear, and head out to remote creeks in the Henry’s Fork watershed. This area, especially the Henry’s Fork river, is considered some of the absolute best fly-fishing because of the huge wild rainbow and brook trout. Henry’s Fork Foundation (HFF) is the only organization advocating for the conservation of the watershed. They do everything; research, restoration, education, and negotiation with local farmers and businesses to make sure the watershed stays healthy.

A big indication of the health of the system is the health of the trout. That’s where we interns come into the picture. We are helping HFF re-survey streams that were surveyed around 10 years ago, to check in on the trout populations. While we care about the rainbow and brook trout, we really want to study the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout, which are easily outcompeted by the nonnative species.

Learning and Teaching Yellowstone’s History

By Quinn Walker
B.A. Candidate in Human Biology, 2015

Read about our summer interns on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

As Jon, one of Yellowstone’s museum technicians, led a tour of the collection, I stood behind the tables. Jon had called me in to this group from Elderhostel, training for the day I would lead a tour on my own. I listened attentively, noting key historical points and interesting facts I could use in the future.

Then one of the gentlemen in the group asked Jon about an artifact on the table. Jon grinned and turned to me. “I belieeeeeve I will let my lovely assistant, Sophia Snuffleupagus, answer this one. Sophia, they’ve got a question about the coated specimens.” I laughed. “Well, first of all, I only wish that was my name. But yes, I’d be super excited to tell you about them!”

Jon knew that I had begun planning my exhibit, as had the other two interns in the Curatorial Department of the Heritage and Research Center. Different members of the staff had taken us through the vast Yellowstone collections. We’d seen old jail doors, photo albums, mini-skirt uniforms from the 60’s, and full size mounted bears—and that’s just from the curatorial collections. The three-story HRC, as it’s fondly known, also houses a research library, archives, and geology, botany, and archeology labs (each with its own collection of artifacts).

Many objects are so distinct they require a new box be made for their storage from the materials down in the archive room. I’ve spent hours down in the basement, measuring, cutting, and gluing pieces together. We’ve become old hands at packaging--the objects vary in size, shape, and weight and this information all goes into the preparation for storage. Next Christmas is going to be a piece of cake.

As soon as I had seen the artifacts, I knew what I wanted to do for my exhibit. In the early days of the park, entrepreneurs had swooped in quickly, eager to make money off the majesty of ‘Wonderland’. One of these opportunists, Ole Anderson, had set up wooden racks within Mammoth Hot Springs. Visitors would place wire objects on these racks and, over five days, the Hot Springs coated them with layers of travertine (limestone) leaving visitors with glistening white souvenirs of their visit.

Jon looked on as I described the artifacts and Anderson’s life, and even went on to talk about the biology of the wolf skulls out on the table. With over 3.5 million visitors each year, the importance of educating Yellowstone’s public has never been higher. The Museum collection, and even just being in Yellowstone, gives one an amazing appreciation of both the history of the West and the beautiful and remarkable land that we sometimes take for granted.

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

Baskets on Baskets in the Yosemite Museum

By Molly O'Connor
B.S. Candidate in Computational Imaging, 2014

Read about our summer interns on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work. 

It’s possible there’s something wrong with me. I’m starting to like making spreadsheets. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the only thing I’ve been doing here at the Yosemite Museum. I know the location of every bug trap, and the little research projects are particularly fun. Who’d have thought that a name of a man who taught at a Los Angeles community college fifty years ago would lead me to the achievements and love packed away into the yearbook of the 1950 class of the Yosemite Field School, shared with me after six decades of being tucked, lonely, in the dark of a shelf? Or that I’d graduate college with a halfway-decent knowledge of the number and placement of machine guns on WWII fighter jets?

But my main job at the Yosemite Museum is working with American Indian woven baskets. My part-time counterpart, Katrina, and I are removing all of the baskets from their shelves in the Collections Room, covering each shelf with Tyvec so the baskets won’t catch on the foam padding, then replacing the baskets. My largest basketry responsibility, however, is to create spreadsheets with catalog numbers, details, and images of every single basket that each of the three Paiute/Miwok Indian demonstrators for the Museum have ever made.

There are literally hundreds.