Out West Blog

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

A Quieter Side of Yosemite

Image: Not your typical valley view- a butterfly approaches a field of California Cornflowers in Mariposa Grove.

By Emilia Schrier
B.A., English, 2016
Archives and Records Management 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.

I am not a morning person—9am class was always too early to handle. But there are some rare occasions when I don’t mind losing a few hours of sleep… case in point, last Tuesday. 4am and the pre-dawn darkness saw me jolting awake, wriggling into some hiking clothes, and stumbling out the door with pack and camera in hand. By 5am I was in government vehicle with the park videographer, literally racing the sunrise. Our goal: capture the Mariposa Grove in early morning light.

The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is home to several hundred giant sequoia trees—the world’s largest single tree and largest living thing by volume. The grove, currently being restored to protect the trees, is closed to the public until Spring 2017. (To learn more about the restoration, visit https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/mariposagrove.htm) But Kristin (the videographer) had come to document the restoration, so we were waived through the gates.

Always a peaceful place even with the crowds of visitors, the empty grove seemed imbued with a different kind of life that morning, bordering on spiritual. The sun streamed in through the trees and we watched as the rising light slowly illuminated the meadow. We didn’t speak much, as the camera was rolling, so the only sounds were the playful calls of birds flitting around us and the constant hum of bees in the wildflower meadow. We spent the entire morning in this serene lull and when we finally left in time for a late lunch, I felt like I was returning from a different world.

This is not my typical day—I am an intern for the Yosemite Archives and not the videographer, after all. At the archive, the general description of my job is to catalogue, describe, organize, and conserve collections pertaining to park history. Archival holdings are mostly 2D documents, while historical objects go to the museum. These documents can be anything from handwritten letters to photographs to old maps. Because there is always work to be done in an archive, my day to day work is always varied. At any point in time, I’m working on at least 4 big projects, plus 3-4 side projects!

But it’s surprising how often my projects at the archive lead me to opportunities in other areas of the park. Researching the background of one collection led me to spend two days working in the Research library, and I’m scheduled to work for a week in the museum as well. After cataloguing maps of the park that showed changing forest boundaries, I attended a forum hosted by the US Forest Service to learn more about the role of wildfires in forest change. And I got the chance to accompany Kristin on her video assignment because I’ve been preparing video gear for an upcoming oral history project.

I thought this summer would pass slowly, living away from fast-paced Silicon Valley. Instead, five weeks of this internship have flown by in a hectic whirl of paper, projects, and the ever-present summer traffic. So I like to spend my days off on some shady trail up in the high country, or continuing my search for the perfect swim hole (must have: privacy; deep, calm water; sun and shade; granite slabs, dirt, or sand for easy access; and nice napping/reading stones). I find that I’m happiest in some quiet corner of this beautiful park.

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

A Whale of a Time

Image: On the hunt for some concrete

By Jaclyn Marcatili
B.A., International Relations, 2016
Historic Preservation Intern at Golden Gate National Recreation Area

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 first week on the job was a great crash course in heritage documentation. I got to see three methods of documentation in action in the Citadel at Alcatraz and observe how they all worked on certain scales: laser scanning for an entire building, photogrammetry for an object, and photographing and recording smaller features that are 2D. My supervisor and I were working on this smallest scale, as we were documenting graffiti in the citadel from both the days when it was a military prison and more recent markings from the Indian Occupation, Meanwhile, I got to pick up some tidbits about laser scanning and photogrammetry from the folks at the Historic American Buildings Survey who had gotten a grant to do this rigorous documentation. Though I didn’t get to run the laser scanner, I did try my hand at photogrammetry which is essentially taking a bunch of photos of an object in a systematic way so that when they’re thrown into a software program you get a 3D model in return. I have yet to ask HABS for the data I created so that I can try my hand at post-processing.

My commute for that week consisted of taking the ferry to Alcatraz. The employee ferry which leaves Pier 33 at 8:20 is an entirely different experience from taking the ferry with tourists. Because all of the employees sit quietly inside the boat drinking their coffee, the deck is completely empty. I got this vantage point to myself every morning to unsuccessfully search for whales in the bay.

Now my commute to the Headlands is equally lovely. Some mornings are gloriously sunny, and some mornings are so foggy that I cannot visibly see that I am on the Golden Gate Bridge. After waiting at a 5-minute red light to drive through a one-way tunnel, I reach my office by the beach. While most of the cultural resources team (including historians, architects, and archivists) work at Fort Mason in San Francisco proper, the archeologists are housed in the building that was the former Enlisted Men’s Club at Fort Cronkhite. What used to be the dance hall now has rows of shelving with archeological artifacts stored within. What used to be the stage for USO entertainers is now the library. I share this drafty building, the largest of the fort, with only three other employees and some raccoons in the attic.

I usually spend at least half of my day in the field, though, as my main task now is to find and record anti-aircraft positions from WWII. It is hard to imagine, even as I wander through batteries and find fire control stations on various ridges, the state of military readiness that San Francisco used to be in. I feel such a profound sense of calm in the rolling hills of the Marin Headlands, listening to crashing waves and foghorns and buoys clanging in the distance. But the San Francisco Bay and harbor has been an incredibly strategic point for anyone who has held it, and it has certainly been fortified as such for centuries. I feel like this contradiction – natural beauty juxtaposed so heavily with a military history that includes a restored Nike missile launch site – is the great problem this park poses for the NPS. There are so many layers to this natural and cultural landscape that are not only difficult to retain but also difficult to convey to the average park-goer.

While the Bay has been fortified since the Spanish built a fort at the Presidio in 1776, the height of coastal defense was certainly during WWII. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the military was afraid that San Francisco would be next. To try to get a handle on the hasty fortifications made during this period, I’ve taken maps from a Harbor Defense manual for Forts Baker, Barry, and Cronkhite. After georeferencing and rectifying them in ArcMap, I have digitized their features that delineate sites for 40 MM anti-aircraft positions, 50-caliber anti-aircraft positions, search lights, batteries, radar, and more. For now, I am focusing on attempts to find the remains of these 40 MM anti-aircraft positions in the field. It is proving to be difficult. Not all 40 MM positions appear to be constructed in the same way, and sometimes I cannot find a single piece of cement on a ridge that should have supposedly had two positions. I feel like the more I learn, the less I know, but I am attempting to be comfortable with this ambiguity that professionals call archeology.

I really do relish that fact that I get to go clambering all over the Headlands for my job, though. The best memories from these outings has been getting to watch whales on three separate occasions! The most spectacular was when I spent about an hour at Battery Spencer watching twelve or so whales file under the Golden Gate Bridge and make their way toward the ocean. There was nothing ambiguous about that.

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

For the Love of Books

Image: The examined life of Steve Wasserman

By Iain Espey
B.A., Philosophy, 2018
Sales and Marketing 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.

Outside my office window teems the benign rabble of the People’s Republic of Berkeley: rush hour road rage on University Avenue, yuppies on bicycles (of whom, I confess, I am one), mothers speaking softly in Spanish or Chinese as they lead their children to school, street artists hawking spray paint portraits of our Lord and Savior (Bernie, that is), endless construction on Milvia Street, and the variously inebriated, hippified masses. A most unruly city, but one with a certain dirty aliveness that’s slowly grown on me.

I mention this for context. I could not say much about my summer without giving you a sense of the place where I have spent it. It’s equally impossible for me to get at what Heyday is like without first mentioning the place it’s called home for the last forty years.

Since mid June I’ve been working at a non-profit publisher called Heyday. Heyday makes books, specifically, books about California. Okay, pause. Let’s unpack that statement. Unless you’ve worked in publishing, when you’re at the Stanford bookstore picking up your paperback copy of Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality for spring quarter SLE, you probably have no idea what all goes into the making of that slim little paperback.

Behind every book Heyday puts out is an unseen web of interlocking tasks and responsibilities. On the front end, you have the editors and designers who take a manuscript – or even just an idea – and identify its potential, and cultivate it, grow and refine it until, like a child, it has a life of its own. Then come decisions you’d never even consider: What size should it be? What about the weight of the paper? How much does a waterproof cover cost? Should it be printed overseas or domestically? Then there’s the area where I’ve spent most of my time this summer: how do we get people to buy it? For my part, I am in charge of events planning (or as in charge as a twenty-year-old intern can be). I take, say, a history of sequoia trees or a guide to sustainable sea foraging, and pitch events with the authors to venues like museums, bookstores, and historical societies.

This is my primary, ongoing responsibility, but I take on other projects too. For the past week, I have been writing copy for the catalog of next spring’s releases. First, I skim each book to get a sense of it: what it’s about, how the author approaches the material, what sort of person might read it. When it’s time to really focus, I put in my earbuds and blast something brutal, hoping that my officemate is into Young Thug too, or, at very least, doesn’t hear my foot tapping. Then I produce a less-than-200-word paragraph in which I describe and “sell” the book. Sometimes I’m given specific points to hit on or quotes to include. What I like about writing copy is the combination of creativity and control that it requires. By the time I finish on a book, I have a tightly structured, information-dense piece of writing that will (hopefully) make whoever reads it say, “Wow, I do want to read the memoirs of a Barbary Coast prostitute!” and then shell out eighteen dollars for the book. Writing copy for the catalog is my favorite project I’ve undertaken this summer. It is, in the words of my freshman roommate and close compañero, “a job for a humanist.”

But we’ve skipped over a larger question: what constitutes a book about California? In some ways, an easy question to answer. Specialty nurseries in California? Why, yes. Political murals in the Mission District? Definitely. Maidu Indian myths? Without a doubt. What unifies the books Heyday publishes, however, is not just geography, but a keen sense of place. There are as many Californias as there are people who have called this state home, and probably many, many more. Illuminating the richness and distinctness of each of these Californian experiences is Heyday’s goal, one I admire and strive toward too.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I have spent much of the summer thinking about place. Now, as I cut through the fog at unbelievable speeds on my 100 percent downhill bike ride to work, I no longer grumble that it is 54 degrees in July, and this fact confirms to me that Berkeley and Heyday have become my place, if only for the summer. As I sweat through my 100 percent uphill bike ride home from work, People’s Park glows in the afternoon sunlight, and for a little while it stops looking like a campground or a battlefield. There is a strange beauty in this too, if you are interested in seeing it. You wouldn’t believe this place, or maybe you would. I still don’t.

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

The Summit After Freshman Year

Image: A photo from the top of Cloud's Rest (9,930 feet from the ground).

By Rachel Lam
Undeclared, 2019
Museum 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.

I am nineteen years old. Last June I finished my first year at Stanford University and then promptly began an internship at Yosemite National Park. I work in Yosemite Valley at the park’s museum. Over 5 million natural and cultural objects make up our collections – including paintings and prints by Thomas Hill and Chiura Obata, negatives and photographs by Carleton Watkins and Ansel Adams, Paiute and Miwok basketry, native herbarium, native biological and geological specimens, and other Yosemite artifacts like historic park ranger gear.

Though I’m not exactly sure what I will major in or what jobs I’ll hold in the future, last winter I decided that this summer I would work in a museum. Three interests of mine intersect in museums: art, history, and anthropology. I wanted to see if museum work was something I might want to do as a career. So I applied to a few internships and decided to work in the museum at Yosemite.

So far my work has comprised of inventorying, cataloging, rehousing, researching, and writing descriptions for exhibits. I like the latter two tasks the most. The first three are interesting because I get to handle fascinating objects, but the actual tasks are a bit too repetitive for my tastes. I like how when I research or write, every word I read or make is new. My internship allows for a special project which I create and complete myself. I’ve decided to research the park service’s relationship with the seven American Indian tribes traditionally associated with the Yosemite area. I hope to revise several web pages on the official Yosemite National Park website and perhaps lay the groundwork for a future exhibit. It’s a very complex topic with a lot of conflict. I have been reading books on the subject and was able to attend the 14th Annual All Tribes Meeting - where Yosemite National Park Service leaders meet with leaders from the local native communities. I’ve learned a lot of the history of their relations and some of it is quite sad, for example the last native eviction by the park service was in 1969 and involved burning native homes. However, the meeting gave me a sense of hope. All of the people in attendance were very respectful of each other. It seems like today’s park service and tribal leaders have begun to forge better relationships. They are attempting to work together to care for area they all love immensely.

After a busy (and sometimes very stressful) year at Stanford, this internship feels a bit like a retreat. I have a lot of time to think, hike, read, swim, draw, adventure, and journal. All activities I love, but didn’t really do as much as I’d have liked this school year. One of my favorite hikes so far has been Cloud’s Rest. It’s a challenging hike - 14.4 miles round trip. It leads to one of the best views in the park. I’ve never been able to see so far in all directions before. From that vantage, the earth seems to want to impress upon her viewers a sense of adventure, appreciation, and acceptance. The summit of Cloud’s Rest feels a bit like my internship at Yosemite and this summer in general. I can see how far I’ve come in nineteen years of life. I can see the many directions in which one can go. I’m not sure what I will do in the future, but somehow I know that it'll be okay.

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

When Looking Forward Requires Looking Back: Historical Ecology at the San Francisco Estuary Institute

Image: Cattails at dawn in Big Break Park. Taken on a photo assignment in the San Joaquin Delta earlier this summer.

By Kate Roberts
B.S., Earth Systems, 2017
Resilient Landscapes 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.

The pages feel fragile in my hands, browned and brittle with age, as I carefully leaf through them. Flyers from the Sebastopol Apple Festival, postcards from Santa Rosa, newspapers from Petaluma, each carefully inspected and skimmed before moving onto the next. Every once in a while, something will grab my eye, a sentence about flooding, soil, or irrigation, and I’ll snap a picture of the page, before moving on to the next piece of history. It’s my third day at the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI), and I already feel deeply immersed in the history of the Petaluma River, buried deep in the stacks of Sonoma State University.

I’m working with SFEI’s Resilient Landscapes Program this summer on a number of projects. In order to restore a landscape or ecosystem, scientists need to know what a “restored” ecosystem would look like, and how it would function. One way that SFEI decided do this is through Historical Ecology (Check out more info in this NYTimes article http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/26/science/in-napa-valley-future-landscap...). It involves digging through dozens of archives and historical documents. Sentences here and there are compiled with maps and other pieces of data to create an image of both how the landscape looked, and also of the important ecosystem functions that could help this region adapt to climate change. One such project is the Petaluma River, and I’ve been working on collecting data from archives, book searches and online databases on everything from the river itself to its tributaries and marshes.

The program also works with many other organizations to combine modern data with advanced tools and cultural knowledge to reshape other landscapes around the bay. One such project is a plan to plant Oak trees in Santa Clara County, once a vast Oak Savannah, now a bustling city. I’ve been helping collect and compile data on the species that would be impacted by bringing the Oaks back. Oaks are incredibly important for biodiversity, hosting hundreds of native species from birds to mammals to butterflies. I’ve been using online databases like GBIF and Vertnet to find data to map how the species’ populations have shifted over the past years. Later on, we will use GIS to create visual maps of the species’ shifts, to better inform the planting of the Oaks. My typical day here varies from data analysis, transcribing and finding historical data, managing images for an upcoming report, getting lost in different libraries and archives, and sitting in on meetings with all sorts of different organizations around the bay. One day I even got to go out and take pictures for hours throughout the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta (see picture above)!

As an environmental scientist, I’ve found that I’m constantly looking ahead, thinking about climate change, development, invasive species, sea level rise, etc. But at SFEI, they’ve realized that sometimes the best way of preparing for the future is by studying the past. This is a totally different approach than I’ve ever thought about taking, and each day I feel like I’m learning more and more how important understanding the past is for making important environmental change for the future.

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

Should I Fill My Room With Plants? And Other Questions Asked in a Heat Wave

Image: The green alley in question, located in south LA

By Caroline Spears
B.S., Atmosphere and Energy Engineering, 2017
Climate-Smart Cities Intern at The Trust for Public Land

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 second day on the job, I found myself braving a summer heatwave on a concrete construction site with palm trees pulsing against a 106-degree sky. The past few days had been an intense welcome to LA – one of the every-more-frequent heat domes had settled itself across the southwestern United States, slowly baking everything underneath. As the sweltering days turned to stifling nights, my roommates and I had taken to dragging our mattresses in a semicircle around our window-box A/C unit and eating excessive amounts of ice cream.

Fortunately, the concrete construction site wasn’t just ordinary construction – and the concrete wasn’t too ordinary either. This was a “green alley,” a community-based urban cooling and greening project, and the concrete wasn’t of the fry-an-egg-on-it variety. Instead, through light, reflective surfaces, porous surfaces, and carefully placed vines and fruit trees, the alley throws sunlight back into the air, providing a center of cool air for the surrounding community.

As my roommates and I settled into our LA apartment, where the carpeting released little pockets of hot air every time we took a step, I came back each day with little tidbits of information from my internship in the Climate-Smart Cities division of The Trust for Public Land. For example – urban parks can be 10 degrees colder than the surrounding buildings thanks to water evaporation from plants. New apartment redecorating idea = DIY rainforest??? Another – white and “cool” roofs lower building temperatures (black roofs can get up to 50 degrees hotter). A hypothetical question: How angry would our Airbnb host be if she returned and found her roof spray painted white?

More seriously, as temperatures get hotter these and other cooling strategies will be necessary to adapt to a warming world – especially in cities, which are already around 6 degrees warmer than surrounding areas. This is the new field of climate adaptation: hot temperatures are here, they’re rising, and they aren’t going away. In fact, hot temps cause more deaths than all other forms of weather combined. So while we work on solutions like PVs, batteries, and wind farms, it’s worth looking at what we can do to cool ourselves down in the meantime.

As for the rest of my time in LA – well, next week’s supposed to bring the second record-breaking heat wave of the summer (yep, we’re on track to break the same record twice in one year), so I’ll get back to you when my room is full of plants.

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

Sondes, Servers, and Summits

Image: View of Grand Teton and Cascade Canyon from Table Mountain

By Justin Appleby
B.S. Civil and Environmental Engineering
Environmental Modeling 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.

I've been in Ashton for exactly a month now, meaning I am nearing the halfway point of my summer, next Tuesday.  It's been a wonderful month and I've learned so much about HFF and the area.  I've made leaps and bounds in learning how I am going to complete my project, but most of the technical work still lies in front of me as I look to implement my idea.  Remember from my last blog that I am trying to automate the data transmission from HFF's water quality sensors called sondes, which monitor water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity.  (If you want to learn more about the importance of these sondes, look out for an informational video from Reid, another summer intern, in the coming weeks.)  The sondes will transmit the data over Verizon's cellular network straight to the office, and that data will appear on an interactive website.

As you might guess from that last sentence, this project now has three main components:

1. The sondes and the data loggers.

We have 10 sondes set up along the river, and are planning to order devices called data loggers, which can send data remotely.  I researched and chose the best option, based on capability, price, and means of power.  The data loggers, essentially a small box with a circuit board enclosed, will each be plugged into a sonde and housed near the river.  They translate data from our sondes into a cellular signa format l that a computer can easily receive and read, called File Transfer Protocol (FTP).  Unfortunately, delivery will have to take a little longer than we expected, due to unforeseen circumstances on the manufacturer's end.  We are expecting the first logger to arrive in two weeks.  

2. A web server in the office

While we wait for the loggers, however, there is more to do.  We have ordered a desktop computer, whose sole purpose will be to host the new website.  Once it arrives, we'll be able to set it up to be a LAMP server, powered by the Linux operating system.  When the data loggers arrive, we will plug them into the sondes and configure them to send their data to the IP address of this new computer.  We'll have codes in the statistical programming language ""R"" that will process this data upon its arrival to the computer.  The data will then be ready to be displayed on a website.

3. The website

This is the part that is most exciting but also likely to be the most challenging.  I'm hoping to create our own website that can display the data in a variety of formats, including graphs and charts, while also displaying educational information that explains the significance of the data.  I am learning more about  the programming languages I need to accomplish this, HTML, Javascript, CSS, and Angular JS, on my spare time.  The website will probably start out as something simple, displaying the most recent data, and then as I grow more comfortable with the coding, I'll be able to make incremental improvements.  Our end goal is to have a map showing the entire watershed, with buttons to click on at each sonde site, which will then open separate pages to show data at each sonde.  There are many possibilities!

It's exciting to be working on a project that could affect the daily lives of so many fishers in this area.  Access to real-time data as well as archives of past months and years would give anglers an edge in knowing where the best places to go at different times of day, seasons, and years.  

Since working on the project has been in the office most of the time, I have had little field time lately.  Every Wednesday, however, I do go to the Chester Dam fish ladder and clean out the macrophtes, or aquatic plants, that clog up the fishes' pathway up and down the dam.  This Monday, we went to the Parker-Salem boat ramp to pick up copious amounts of litter as well.  Two weeks ago, we helped Harriman State Park put up about 5 miles of cattle fencing, to protect the river from erosion due to approaching cattle.

Ashton is feeling like home, as I am getting into routines like exercising in the backyard, cooking myself big(ish) Sunday breakfasts, enjoying taco (sometimes pizza) Fridays in the office, planning weekend trips, and living off Chinese food leftovers for half the week.  

Outside the office, I have had no shortage of great adventures.  It seems every weekend I litterally reach higher.  In the three weekends since my last blog, I have hiked peaks that reach elevations of 9777', 10300', and 11106'.  In the process, I have visited the famous Wind Cave in the Tetons, Cave Falls in Southwest Yellowstone, and Table Mountain.  Next weekend I am planning to summit the 11938' Buck Mountain!  With five more weekends and a roadtrip back to Stanford to go, there's plenty more adventure in store.  

Thus far, the biggest mistake of my summer was forgetting bug spray on the hike to Cave Falls, and the biggest highlight was eating lunch atop Table Mountain, the Grand Teton staring back at me from less than two and a half miles away. 

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

On the Trail in the Inland Northwest

Image: The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail runs 1,200 miles from Glacier National Park in Montana to the Pacific Ocean. Here, the trail as it winds through Northeastern Washington.

By Courtney Pal
B.S., Earth Systems: Anthrosphere and B.A., Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, 2018
Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail Intern in Colville, Washington

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 first time I set foot on the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail (PNT), I didn’t even realize I was on the trail. It was my second day on the job after arriving in Colville, Washington, a small town of 4,700 people in the northeastern corner of the state. A coworker from the Forest Service was taking me out to see a new land parcel that the Colville National Forest had just acquired. We were talking about the economics of land acquisition, driving down a muddy forest road, when he pulled out a map and looked at it quizzically: “You know, I think we’ve actually been on the PNT for the past twenty minutes,” he told me. The fact that the old road we were driving on just happened to also be part of America’s newest National Scenic Trail – and what had brought me to northeastern Washington – certainly surprised me. Excitedly, I stepped out of the rig to take a look around.

Not many people know about the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail, but it’s a gem of the National Scenic Trails system. The trail stretches 1,200 miles from Glacier National Park in Montana to the Pacific Ocean. While parts of the PNT have wilderness that rivals its fellow long-distance trails, like the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail, what I love most about the trail is its deep history and culture.

Walking the PNT tells a story of the economic forces that have shaped the Pacific Northwest for the past few decades. The trail is not spared from view sheds that show the impact of clear cut timber harvest, and it isn’t unusual to meet some of the inhabitants of the grazing allotments that dot this National Forest. But what’s really special about the trail is the towns that it passes through: in the part where I’m working, that means the towns of Metaline Falls (pop. 200), Northport (pop. 300), and Republic (pop. 1000). These towns tell stories too, from the old-schoolhouse-turned-theatre in Metaline Falls, to the Wild West architecture on Main Street in Republic.

My work this summer focuses on connecting small businesses in these towns to the trail and the economic opportunities that it offers. My first step will be going door-to-door downtown to speak with business owners about the trail. I spent my first week here creating a “hiker friendly business guide” for just that purpose. Many people here don’t know about the trail or what hikers want to purchase while they’re in town, so I’m hopeful that this guide will start to raise awareness about this opportunity. After I have these one-on-one conversations, I’ll be hosting a community meeting in each of the trail towns to get feedback from the broader public about how they see the role of the trail in their community. I strongly believe that the future direction of the trail should lie in the hands of community members, and I’m planning these meetings to reflect that vision.

Next week, I’ll begin venturing out into the trail towns with my meticulously prepared materials and friendly pitches about the trial. For now, most of my work has been either in the office of the Tri-County Economic Development District, or out in the field with the Forest Service. I’ve been surprised at how easily I’ve been able to transition between these two very different agencies, but I’m loving every second of the interdisciplinary and connective work that I’m doing. I’m looking forward to the rest of my summer in this community.

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

The Human-Wildlife Interface

Image: Cooper's hawk concussed by striking window

By Julia Goolsby
B.S., Earth Systems, 2018
Wildlife Ecology Intern at the Santa Lucia Conservancy

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.

Fifteen minutes down the road from Monterey, plus an extra fifteen alarmingly windy minutes down another small one lane ‘road,’ lies the house where I’m living this summer, on the Santa Lucia Preserve. For the past four weeks, I’ve been assisting the resident wildlife ecologist, Christy Wyckoff, in maintaining various animal populations in this 20,000 acre nature preserve.

The projects I’m working on are particularly interesting because the Preserve is a little different from your typical state park. It has all the requisites for a beautiful central Californian park – rolling grasslands, majestic valley oaks, a smattering of redwoods, an enchanted forest featured in a Muppets movie – but it also sports one hundred mansion-like homes, a herd of grass-munching cows, and a golf course. The Santa Lucia Conservancy, where I work, exists to manage the unique interface between humans and wildlife that exists on the Preserve. Since I’m the only full time intern, I usually spend my mornings in the field work with my fellow interns, and my afternoons tinkering on the computer, making maps using GIS or doing research.

One of my main research projects involves finding new ways to reduce human-wildlife conflict on Preserve homes. Directed by Christy, who has always wanted to create this guide for new homeowners, I’ve learned about everything from bird-proof glass to reduce bird strikes, to designing pools and fountains with escape ramps for small animals. The coolest part about my research is that when I go out on the Preserve, I see real-life (and really cute) examples of these wildlife problems. The other day, I held a Cooper’s hawk in a beach towel while Christy drove it to the local wildlife rehabilitation center. It had flown straight into a transparent glass-covered breezeway, and glared at me for the whole ride.

Out in the field, one of the projects I help with is a camera trap study. For every camera placed near a house on the Preserve, there’s another out in undisturbed areas further away from the houses. By comparing animal presence captured by the two sets of cameras, we hope to understand how the houses affect animal movement throughout the Preserve. The best part about this project, other than the insight it will lend into environmental planning, is that I get to hike all over the Preserve collecting data from the cameras!

Although I’ve grown up around nature parks, and have hiked around California before, my first few weeks at the Santa Lucia Preserve have been entirely unique, and really exciting – an up-close look at how nature parks operate, and an opportunity to experience (and even hold) the awesome Californian wildlife. I’ve learned a lot about the area so far, including how distinguish a vulture from a hawk by it’s v-shaped wing angle, and that any socks that come into contact with California grasses can and will be destroyed by stickers. I’m excited to see what new adventures the Preserve will bring in the coming weeks.

Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns » 

Starting the Day in the Field


By Justin Appleby
Civil and Environmental Engineering, 2017
Environmental Modeling Intern, The 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.

It is hard to believe where I was two weeks ago this morning – Palo Alto, California – and where I am now – Ashton, Idaho. Like [fellow HFF intern] Reid Calhoun, I went on a road trip of my own. It took me to Lassen Volcanic National Park, Crater Lake, Craters of the Moon, as well as a few other beautiful places. It was great to start off the summer seeing a part of the country I hadn’t seen before, the Pacific Northwest. After almost 1,700 miles of driving that took 29 hours over the span of four nights, after reaching a top speed I do not feel comfortable sharing here, and after visiting two national parks, a national monument, and four state parks, I came to the Northeast corner of Idaho.

Upon arriving in Ashton, I found myself in a new but not so unfamiliar place. With my family, I have often traveled to – and fallen in love with – Jackson Hole, Wyoming, just an hour and a half drive away on the other side of the Tetons. I had never been to this side, the west side of the Tetons, until now. Although this side is less populated and less visited by tourists, it is clear that there is no shortage of wonder.

One of my goals this summer was to “do cool outdoorsy stuff every weekend.” Before I even arrived, I had a list of places I wanted to see. It started with the obvious: Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole, Targhee National Forest. Little did I know I’d be driving up and down highway 20, cutting through the National Forest, almost every day. Since the moment I arrived, that list has grown. Borah Peak (the tallest peak in Idaho), Cave Falls, Sawtell Peak, Table Rock, and driving the Mesa Falls byway, to name a few. I even found out you can snowboard this late in the season, if you find the right places at high enough elevations! And let’s not forget fishing.

I’ve been on one fly fishing trip, last August down the Snake River. With the aid of a guide I must have caught over twenty fish that day. I was in for a shock when, this summer, I threw up a big zero on my first day fishing the Henry’s Fork with Reid, HFF’s Washington & Lee intern and Jack, a graduate student conducting research with the foundation this summer. While they were reeling fish in left and right, I was casting, untangling knots, and eventually giving up and going for a swim instead. Still, it was a fun time and I hope to go again soon. There are few things as peaceful as hanging out on the river, with the backdrop of the sun setting on the Tetons. On my first day at HFF, I went out into the field to take water quality samples with the other interns. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my first day than putting on my waders and getting tossed headfirst – figuratively, not literally – into the river, while learning from Reid and Jack, who had arrived earlier this summer, everything they knew from their first couple weeks on the job. The second day, I went with Christina, last year’s Stanford intern and current research assistant, and Reid to the Buffalo Dam Fish Ladder to count the number of fish migrating up the ladder. Again from the outset, somebody had to jump into the fish ladder to wrangle up the fish, and Christina turned to me and said something along the lines of “you’re the new intern, you’re doing this.” It had been a while since I handled any fish with my hands, let alone nine. I measured each of them and then sent them on their way up the river. Christina uses this data for HFF’s annual monitoring of the fish ladder and presented on her findings here during the Henry’s Fork Day membership meeting.

Henry’s Fork Day was a great way for me to grasp the true importance of what our work here is doing to the people of the Henry’s Fork watershed. When six-hundred people gather under a tent for dinner, celebration, and donation, all in the name of one thing, fishing the Henry's Fork, it’s a powerful thing for a relative outsider to see. Everyone talks about their fishing experiences, some from that very same day. Once Henry’s Fork Day finished I was able to settle into the office this Monday and get started on my project for the summer.

As I have typed in at least ten emails in the last four days, HFF has ten water-quality monitors, called sondes, installed along about 80 miles of river. The way they are set up right now, we have to drive to each one individually and download the data by plugging it into a small laptop. Between the highway, dirt roads, and trudging through bushes, it takes about a full day to do all of them. That’s a full day taken away from time that could be spend actually analyzing the data. My mission is to install products called data loggers at each site to transmit the data over cellular service directly to the office. Using this data, we will create an interactive webpage to display whatever data the user wants, whether it be water temperature, depth, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and more, over whatever dates and times the user chooses. This live data will allow fishers to find the places and times with the right conditions for fishing.

Undertaking this project seems like a mountain to climb, but in the end it comes down to three steps:

  1. Researching and eventually ordering the product that works best for us, weighing several products’ functionality and price. This will be done by early next week.
  2. Installing this data logger at one site and mastering the details of communication between the sonde, the logger, and the office.
  3. Coding a website to display this data, while scaling up the operation to include all ten (and eventually twelve) sites.

I have narrowed our options down to two or three, while learning a lot about these data loggers. They’re essentially complicated circuit boards that attach to antennae and need to be protected inside fiberglass or plastic enclosures, to stay safe from vandals and from the elements. At the end of the day, as the amount of tech work we do on our own increases – wiring, coding, and the like – the price decreases. It’s going to be a matter of finding the right balance between our skillsets in the office and how much we are able to pay.

To round out a typical week in and out of the office, I’ll be going on some more field trips like the ones I did on days #1 and #2. It’s only been two weeks since I left Stanford campus and I already have seen and learned so much. I still have over eight weeks of taking in this fresh air, chasing mountains, and enjoying these sunsets.

Center Interns Go Out West for the Summer

Top row: Emily Santhanam, Seth Chambers, Rachel Lam, Justin Appleby; Middle row: Emilia Schrier, Jaclyn Marcatili, Kate Roberts, Courtney Pal; Bottom row: Julia Goolsby, Sarah Flamm, Iain Espey, Princess Umodu
Not pictured: Caroline Spears (Click image to enlarge)

As summer begins, the Bill Lane Center will once again send a group of students off for a unique set of Western adventures. This year’s cohort includes 13 undergraduates and co-terms who will be spending their summers working in national parks, nature conservancies, hiking trails, rivers, or cities of the West. Stay tuned for blog posts from each of our interns as they chronicle their experiences throughout the summer.

2016 Interns in the West

Location Topic Intern
Henry's Fork Foundation Environmental Modeling Internship Justin Appleby
Heyday Books Sales and Marketing Internship Iain Espey
San Francisco Estuary Institute Resilient Landscapes Program Internship Kate Roberts
Yellowstone National Park Archaeology Internship Seth Chambers
Yellowstone National Park Curatorial Internship Emily Santhanam
Yosemite National Park Archives & Records Management Internship Emilia Schrier
Yosemite National Park Museum Internship Rachel Lam
National Conference of State Legislatures Legislative Studies Internship Princess Umodu
Trust for Public Land Government Affairs Internship Sarah Flamm
Trust for Public Land Climate-Smart Cities Internship Caroline Spears
Santa Lucia Conservancy Adaptive Management and Conservation Internship Julia Goolsby
Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trial Trail and Community Development Internship Courtney Pal
Golden Gate National Recreation Area Historic Landscape Documentation Intern Jaclyn Marcatili

This summer, read about our interns on the Out West student blog. During the summer quarter, Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their work at organizations thoughout the West.

Learn more about our summer internships »

Summer 2016 Internships Open for Applications

We are pleased to announce that our Summer 2016 internship offerings are now online. This year, we have added three new internship host organizations: the Trust for Public Lands, the Pacific Northwest Scenic Trail and the Santa Lucia Conservancy. In addition, we are debuting a brand new program called Stanford Energy Internships in California, aimed at exposing Stanford students to the complex world of energy policy in Sacramento. Stipends for our internships range from $4,000 to $6,000. 

Internships offer students an immersive experience to learn hands-on about a variety of issues facing our diverse region. Undergraduates should apply by Tuesday, February 9 at 5 pm.

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