Thursday, 23 July 2020 07:54

Getting Away from the Chaos

In nature, we connect with ourselves. The crowded cities and urban chaos often cloud our inner peace. Although we are in the midst of a pandemic and fighting against social injustices, we must reset, take a breath of fresh air, and enjoy the sun on our skin. We are alive, and we are human. Whether you are at home, out exploring your park or the outdoors, you matter and what you do matters. Your story matters, and each chapter in your life is another opportunity to grow and learn, despite the circumstances. 

¡Tu importas y no dejes que nadie te diga lo contrario!

Before delving into specifics about the park and the work I’ll be doing, I wanted to share a personal bit of information about myself. Prior to this internship, I was in a toxic environment. I had to endure racist comments, vandalism to my property, and even death threats. I felt trapped, and the situation had gotten so bad that my mental health was spiraling. During that time, I tried my hardest to remain positive, and I finally found the courage to articulate these feelings through this blog. You can truly begin to lose yourself when you’re stuck and the target of hate, but know that there are people who believe in you. We must listen and use our voices; do not dwell on the hate, and most importantly, never lose faith in yourself. No pierdas la fe en ti mismo, tienes valor y cuentas en este mundo. 

Now, I feel free to pursue my passion and free to be myself without having to deal with constant belittlement…all thanks to the Latino Heritage Internship Program! Dalia Dorta and Susan Bonfield with the Environment for the Americas, have been so kind and helpful. Without them, I wouldn’t have known about this internship. I can’t begin to explain how thrilled and relieved I was when I was selected to be an intern for LHIP. All of my hardwork had finally culminated into this amazing moment. Your experiences and memories belong to you. No one can take that away from you, nor diminish your accomplishments because they’re yours! This internship has made me regain power over my life. By reconnecting with myself in nature and taking the time to self-reflect far away from the chaos, I’ve realized how resilient I am and how far I’ve come.  

A resilient tree grows in the middle of the trail

Since my arrival to Colorado, I have been welcomed with open arms. My supervisor, Ranger Jeff Wolin is such an inspirational and positive person. FLFO (which is the NPS abbreviation for Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument) is one of the richest fossil sites with some of the most diverse fossils known. To protect this area, the community came together in an effort to designate FLFO a national monument in 1969. A difference between a national monument and national park is what’s being protected. National monuments aim to preserve at least one unique resource, which in this case is the fossils! 

In addition to the diversity of the fossils discovered here, I greatly admire this park for continuously working towards increasing diversity in their staff and visitors. Jeff also stays in touch with former interns over the years. I haven’t been here long, but I’m already feeling like a part of the FLFO family. During my first week at the park, I had to get myself acquainted. I met the staff, hiked the trails, completed some training, and I learned about the geology and paleontology of the park. Although many of our summer programs such as the Fishing, Fossils, y Familia and the geology / paleontology camp had to be cancelled, we’re still making efforts to connect with the general public. We do so through informal interpretation, pop-up programs, and virtual outreach to connect visitors to the park. Through LHIP, I’ve been able to offer my cultural perspective. I’ve had a few ideas for upcoming projects to engage Latino audiences, which I will elaborate on in my following post.  

Leaving FLFO after a rainy first day

During these times, this is what visitors should expect when coming to FLFO. Upon arriving, visitors are greeted either by a Park Ranger or an intern such as myself or my roommate who is here through Geoscientists-in-the-Parks. After paying a small entry fee or showing a pass, they’re directed through the visitor center (which is mostly closed). There’s about 15 miles of trails here. The most commonly used trails are the 1 mile Petrified Forest Loop and the ½ mile Ponderosa Loop. Both are self-guided with educational exhibits that describe the history and geology of the park. Behind the visitor center there are stump shelters that house our nicest petrified redwood (Sequoia Affinis) stumps, including the only known petrified trio of ancient redwood clones. These are the main fossils that can be seen by visitors, with the petrified stumps being ~10-12 feet wide in diameter. Beginning in the late 1870’s, there have been 1,800 different species identified here of fossilized insects, plants, and including more than thirty species of vertebrates, such as birds, fish, and small rodents are preserved in the paper shale. However, most of the fossils here remain buried. Through the analysis of these fossils, scientists have been able to put together a story of what this region was like during the late Eocene epoch, roughly 34 million years ago. Aside from the geologic history, there’s extensive human history here as well. Beginning with prehistoric hunter-gatherers, to the Ute and Jicarilla Apache peoples, to the homesteaders, scientists, and conservationists, Florissant Valley holds these stories. 

Petrified Redwood Trio

The Big Stump, which has a rusty old saw broken into it seen along the Petrified Forest Loop

Trail exhibit along the 1-mile Petrified Forest Loop

Hornbek Homestead

Humans are but a blink in the eye of geologic time, and our choices whether good or bad can make a lasting impact. Although my internship is temporary, this program is instrumental in my career development and helps to develop skills that I can use later in life. LHIP has also empowered me to grow personally. I was physically able to leave a bad situation. Now, I'm able to share my passion for the geosciences with adults and children of all backgrounds. 

Published in EFTA intern blog
Saturday, 11 July 2020 05:13

¡Hasta luego California y hola Colorado!

As I said my goodbyes to family, friends and my red-lored Amazon parrot, Bonita, I looked forward to the long journey before me. Just as we encounter obstacles on the road, we also do so in our lives. El camino que llevamos puede estar lleno de obstáculos, pero así es la vida. We must enjoy the trip along the way to our destination, regardless of what happens.

I am thankful for everyone who has helped me throughout my life. I wouldn’t be who I am without the experiences and memories I’ve made, especially if my parents hadn’t decided to make the perilous trek from their hometown of Manzanillo, Colima in Mexico to the U.S. They’ve made numerous sacrifices and have always been supportive of my goals despite their status in this country. Quiero decir muchas gracias a mis padres por todo lo que hicieron por mi. Sin ellos no estuviera la persona quién soy ahora. 

Fortunately, my parents are now legal citizens, but I understand the fear of being separated from the ones you love most. Hopefully my story will show others the importance of supporting those who are often voiceless and vulnerable, to achieve their potential. I’m grateful for the Latino Heritage Internship Program, Environment for the Americas, Hispanic Access Foundation, and the National Park Service for investing in young scientists of color such as myself to learn, explore, and enjoy nature. ¡La naturaleza es para todos y tenemos que compartir nuestras historias!

The journey from Riverside, California to Florissant, Colorado took about four days and three nights. I highly recommend taking a long road trip with your loved ones as a way to bond. My boyfriend of five years accompanied me on the road. We met on a geology trip six years ago, and we both recently graduated from UCR with geology degrees. We enjoy off-roading, hiking, camping, and rock hounding. Needless to say, we share a passion for the outdoors and the sciences! For anyone interested in the route we took and where we camped, I have included a map with pins in this blog. We mainly just followed the route listed on Google Maps to get from point A to point B. 

The first night we camped just outside of the Mojave National Preserve on BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) about 14 miles north of the Cima Dome and Volcanic Field, and about an hour southwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. We were tired from the long day of last-minute packing, so we looked at satellite imagery to find the nearest dirt trail off of Excelsior Mine Road, where we could pull over to camp. The desert nights are freezing, so we quickly pitched our tent. In the morning, I noticed a basalt flow which looked almost like obsidian because of its glassy surface. Atop the flow was an old ore processing mill. We hiked a little further and noticed cabins built into the hillsides, remnants of an old mine camp. As a safety precaution, we didn’t venture inside these cabins for obvious reasons (such as collapse). Yet, the construction of these cabins was fascinating. Some were nicer than others, having multiple windows, benches and even screened doors. They also had primitive chimneys.  

 

 

Day two of our trip, we drove through Las Vegas and stopped by the largest Bass Pro Shops store I have ever visited. From there we only stopped to get gas. We drove through Nevada, and northwestern Arizona until...our car started to have issues.

We made it to Beaver, Utah and decided to not go further until we saw a mechanic. Fortunately, there was a AAA auto service center in the Beaver Chevron just off the highway. Since we got there after 5 pm, the mechanic, Rick was busy but he still greeted us and asked what issues we had. We decided to stay in Beaver to resolve the problem, and he even gave us suggestions on where to camp. Our car made it to Fishlake National Forest. We didn’t venture too far and found a nice place to set up for the evening. We even came across very considerate cows that were grazing in the area. We brought pizza and heated it up in our portable oven (set-up on top of an old Coleman stove). There wasn’t any service, so we hiked uphill in hopes to get a signal after we ate dinner. Along the dirt road, someone had littered the entire hillside with toilet paper and baby wipes. We enjoy keeping nature natural, so we took the time to pick up the trash. Remember to recreate responsibly and leave no trace! 

The following day, Rick got us back on the road. We continued driving through Utah, and stopped at Salina which was known for its abundant salt deposits, hence the name. We continued driving east, until we decided to camp on BLM land near Westwater, Utah along the Mel’s loop singletrack, just an hour west of Grand Junction, Colorado. When the sun rose, we noticed a sandstone outcrop and decided to explore. Somehow, our internal compass took us to unique locations where we could appreciate the geology. 

We got back on the road shortly after, and I was relieved when we finally reached the Utah-Colorado state line. From there we only stopped at a few places such as the scenic overlook near Gypsum and at Hoosier Pass, the Continental Divide. During the drive through the White River National Forest, while I had service I listened in on LHIP's guest speaker Juan Martinez discuss the importance of diversity, equality and inclusivity in our public spaces. His talk was definitely inspirational considering that I was headed for Teller County which has very few minority groups.

As I arrived closer to my new home, I stopped to take pictures in front of the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument sign. My new mountain getaway is rural to say the least, our closest neighbors are definitely wild! 

Although my road trip didn't go originally as planned, I still enjoyed the adventure along the way. Your life rarely goes as planned, but that's the adventure that comes with our human experiences. 

 

Published in EFTA intern blog
Friday, 24 April 2020 00:06

Astrid Garcia

I recently received a B.S. in general geology from the University of California, Riverside. I transferred from Riverside City College after participating in the Geoscientist Development (GEODE) Program, which connects RCC students to UCR faculty in the earth science department. I worked with my mentor Dr. Gareth Funning to research earthquake detectability using interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR). This technology uses satellites to globally detect ground deformation on a centimeter scale. As an undergraduate at UCR, I expanded on our published research to conduct a case study of a single earthquake for my senior thesis.

My hometown is Hesperia, California where my parents immigrated to from Colima, Mexico. Growing up in the Mojave Desert, I’ve seen how the desert landscape is easily trashed by people who fail to appreciate and understand the importance of these areas. Prior to college, I wasn’t aware of my local geology until taking introductory courses. Through my education, I realized the importance of the geologic sciences in relation to my surroundings. My interests range from the application of remote sensing technology to tectonics geomorphology to land conservation and educational advocacy of the earth sciences. I spend my time participating and volunteering with local organizations with clean-ups, habitat restoration projects, and community outreach.

I'm thankful to LHIP for allowing me to combine my passion and knowledge to inspire families to treasure the rich geologic history at Florissant Fossil Beds NM. I look forward to facilitating the enjoyment and respect of our national parks this summer!

 

Published in Intern Bios

Hello!

My name is Kevin Jauregui, and I am interning at Florissant Fossil Bed National Monument through the Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP). I am extremely excited to start! I have not stop talking about it since I received the wonderful news.

Published in Blog
Friday, 15 June 2018 20:17

Week 1...CHECK!

Training…Training…Training. Oh, and did I mention training? This first week has been a blur…between learning the curriculum and the National Park Service (NPS) rules, this week has flown by! What pushed me through was knowing I was one step closer to working with the kids for the summer.

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 19 June 2018 20:15

Time For Some Fun Under the Sun

Hello ?

I finally got to work with a group of kids! I usually tag-team with another intern, but there is a bug going around the Fossil Beds (and it’s not the palaeovespa!). This week I had the opportunity to work with 17 upper elementary school students from the Colorado Springs, Colorado, area and they were a blast! I have never worked with such a bright group of kids. They were all very passionate about the sciences and were eager to learn!

Published in Blog

This week we had the Boys and Girls Club of America from Colorado Springs, Colorado, come and experience the Geology and Paleontology Camp. We had nine 4th and 5th graders come, ready to learn. These future scientists were all very passionate and super knowledgeable in the geosciences. Our time with them was short, as we were cut by an hour, but thanks to their smart brains the only impact that had on the camp was rain, thunder and lightning.

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 03 July 2018 20:12

Halfway Mark!

It’s been five weeks here and, man, have I learned so much! First, not every group of kids is the same. We’ve been teaching the same material to different students weekly, and what works one week may not work the next week, which forces us to find different ways to explain the curriculum. 

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 11 July 2018 20:09

Cross Training Week

Hello!

This past week has been a busy week! I got the opportunity to do more than just the camp curriculum. To start, on Monday I enjoyed one of our many weekly programs and that was our Yoga Hike. We went on about a mile and half hike, and stopped along the way and did some yoga poses. Later that day, I assisted the Biological Science Technician with pulling invasive plants out of our meadows. This ended up being a tedious task because the plants were small and already had seeds that were ready to fall and disperse. I helped her with this task multiple times during the week. 

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 17 July 2018 20:07

Last Week off Before Camp Starts Again

Hello there!

Monday was a packed day! I was excited to do the Yoga Hike again to stretch, but when I got there it turned out I was the leader. Our instructor was on vacation, the substitute had to leave for an emergency, and since I have group fitness instruction under my belt, I was next in line to teach. Very enjoyable experience! I had the group (which was over 30, mind you) collaborate and help me with some poses, as I’ve only taken yoga twice my whole life. At the end, I received very positive feedback. After yoga, we had a guest instructor come and educate us on some of the different insect species we have and their role in our society. The take home message from this presenter was that there is a diverse community of insects from different parts of the world in our backyard, so take pictures and notes on the insect and post it online to get more information about it. Another point was that insects play a huge role in keeping other pests away, provide a food source to other animals, and keep our plants healthy.

Published in Blog
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