It has been a while...I think one of the reasons I’ve been putting off working on my blog is that most of my day to day work consists of being on the computer, so I guess I inherently am tired of so much screen time...BUT WHO ISN'T?!?! Right! Haha.  

I am a lover of the night sky. Recently two beautiful astronomical events occurred:


Comet Neowise was visible over Southern California throughout July as it traversed the inner solar system. The next time it’d be visible would be in another 6,800 years!!!!!!!! Being a once in a lifetime event, there was no way I was going to miss seeing it fly by (though it looks rather stationary from Earth. Intriguing how time and distance works)! According to NASA, Comet Neowise was closest to earth July 23rd. It was only recently discovered on March 27th of this year by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission. Amazing!

I am surrounded by light pollution in Downtown Anaheim, and it’s rather difficult to find any locations in Orange County with decently dark skies. As such, my older sister, mom, and I headed out to the Santa Rosa Ecological Preserve, about an hour away. Unfortunately, the preserve itself has been closed since it was ravaged by a fire last Summer, but you can stop anywhere along the highway to observe the night sky. 

We went to view the Comet three days in a row. Yeup. The first day we were able to easily identify it by locating the constellation commonly known as the Big Dipper. July 21st-23rd, it was directly beneath the ladle. We were mesmerized by it’s simple beauty, and the faint glow of its tail. Wanting to get a better view, my sister decided that she was going to buy a beginner’s telescope. Boy was that a challenge!! Apparently all night sky lovers stuck at home were buying all of the available telescopes ¡como pan caliente! 

The next day, July 22nd, we once again headed out to the plateau, but this time with a telescope! We arrived, set up our portable table, took out our chairs, the telescope...and then we realized that we forgot the eyepieces. WHAT A FAIL. I guess it wasn’t meant to be because twenty minutes later some fog (who knows from where?! We were rather inland, far away from the coast) started to roll in.

July 23rd we made sure we packed up all of the telescope gear and headed out!! That was the best night yet! The moon was beautiful too.

Comet Neowise is midway down to the left of the largest electricity poleA cropped image of the right side of my torso, pointing up to the sky. The sign to my left reads" "No Hunting, Se Prohibe Cazar"

 A sign posted on the gate of the Santa Rosa Ecological Preserve. It reads: "Reserve Closed, Hazardous Conditions"

A picture of the night's stars taken with a Samsung phone. The image was edited to have a blue hue

A picture of the moon's craters taken with my sister's new beginners telescope



The yearly Perseid Meteor Shower was visible early August. The Perseid's are noted as one of the best meteors showers because of the amount of visible meteors, about 50-100 per hour. The best part is that you don’t need any gear to view them! You just want to get away from as much light pollution as possible, but they're actually visible from your backyard in the city too. As a teenager my sister and I would climb onto the house’s slightly angled patio roof and set out some blankets to lay on and watch them. As adults, our yearly tradition has been to head out to Red Rock Canyon State Park out near the Mojave desert and stay overnight to view the shower. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been able to come along for the past four years because the academic school year has already begun for her by the time they’re viewable (my sister is a 7th grade science teacher). The past few years I have been going with friends and the rest of my family. Due to Covid, my sister is teaching virtually. This was a blessing in our eyes because it meant that right after teaching on Wednesday we could drive out to the desert, stay the night, and then drive back early in the morning for her to make it to class (aka have an OK wifi signal). But…...she had had foot surgery the week before and she was still in too much pain to comfortably bear a 4 hour car ride with her leg elevated. HAHA. Until next year I guess! :)


The following images are of the campground at Red Rock. They were taken about three year's ago with a 35 mm camera (film).

Lenticular clouds fill the evening sky over Red Rock

Our campground

My dog and my sister

Published in EFTA intern blog

Hello good people!

I am happy to report that I’ve officially begun my internship!...but not as planned. Ç’est la vie ( French for “That’s life” o cómo decimos en Español, “Así  es la vida”). Although I’m a little bummed to not be able to experience INDU’s beauty and work alongside park staff irl (in real life), I’m ready to get down to work. Plus, it’s not like I won’t be able to visit INDU sometime in the future (hopefully sooner rather than later).

Due to my situation I have been doing a lot of online reading to learn about INDU. I’d like to share some quick facts about INDU’s history and individuals' persistent work to establish the park. Think of this as a history cheat sheet. Ready? Let’s learn!


INDU History 101



Henry Cowles, a botanist and graduate student from the University of Chicago, discovered the process of succession at Indiana Dunes. He published his findings in the article titled Ecological Relations of the Vegetation on the Sand Dunes of Lake Michigan . His findings put INDU on the international radar as INDU became the birthplace of the science of ecology.



Cowles, The Prairie Club, Chicago businessman Stephen Mather (the first director of the NPS), and others proposed Sand Dunes National Park, but their proposition was not approved by Congress. WWI made industrial development and national defense the priority, thus a lot of South Lake Michigan's land was developed for such.

Even today, the park's is surrounded by industrial facilities making it's location rather unique. “Today the park surrounds three residential communities, about three major steel mills and two fossil fuel electricity-generating stations, includes three major railroads, numerous transmission lines, pipelines, two U.S. highways, one toll road, one interstate highway, and miles of roads and streets within or adjacent to its boundary” (N.P.S., & D.O.I. (2016, July 01). Foundation Document Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore [PDF]).



Indiana Dunes State Park was established after a 10-year petition by the State of Indiana 



English teacher and Ogden Dunes resident Dorothy Buell established “Save the Dunes Council”, a non-profit advocating the preservation of the remaining dunes in Northwest Indiana 



Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore- The dunes were established as a national lakeshore as a result of Buell’s and many others tireless efforts (including her partnerships with  Dr. Rueben Strong—Chicago Conservation Council President— and U.S. Senator of Illinois, Paul H. Douglas)


February 15, 2019 

Congress authorized the name change from Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to Indiana Dunes National Park, making INDU the 61st national park. HOO-RAY!!!!


With that said, I want to invite you to travel with me to INDU at the click of a button!


Here is a video to introduce you to the dunes:


Plant Succession at INDU:


This is a summary of INDU's foundation document (every national park has one):


Indu's full Foundation document:


More extensive history of Indiana Dunes National Park


Learn more about Dorothy R. Buell!!!


Save the Dunes Council

Published in EFTA intern blog
Monday, 13 July 2020 00:59

A Lesson on Patience and Flexibility

Forced to pause

As time kept passing by.


24 hours in a day,

But lacking the mobility of yesterday.

Uncertainty the new normality,

The future?

An ambiguous concept.


In this new pace,

A chance to reflect.

More time than ever;

Fight your battles

And find yourself.



What a ride the past few months have been; we are living in an unprecedented time. With that being said, I hope that you are safe and well!

I am still at home in Anaheim, C.A. , waiting to hear if I will be able to begin my internship onsite at Indiana Dunes National Park (INDU) in mid-August. Now don’t think for a second that by “waiting” I am lazily letting my days go by. I have been reading plenty of articles about INDU (I have yet to neatly organize all of my notes), researching the demographics of surrounding cities, and yes, I have to admit that I have also been reading reviews of local restaurants like the foodie I am. In June I began working at my day job--an art gallery--after being initially let go due to Coronavirus back in March.  On July 1st new closures were announced and I was once again temporarily let go. Between those main responsibilities I split my free time studying Spanish and Korean, helping my mom tend to her vegetable and butterfly garden, making several trips with my dogs to the veterinarian, worked on some art commissions, and most recently tried to sort out my insurance to schedule my wisdom tooth extraction. 

Although, I am unsure if my internship will take place as scheduled, I am grateful for the supportive community that LHIP, EFTA, HAF, and NPS have created. Every week I look forward to the LHIP team meeting; eager to learn about my fellow interns' adventures and projects. The webinars I have attended have been inspiring and thought provoking. 

This past Thursday I had my first Zoom meeting with my immediate supervisor, Park Ranger and Outreach Program Coordinator Kipton V. Walton. It left me more eager to begin my work as Outreach Assistant. At the same time I feel a bit lost and inadequate due to my late internship start date and because we have not discussed specific projects or goals.  Nonetheless, I am excited to confront the communication challenges that Coronavirus has created with innovative solutions.

LHIP- Latino Heritage Internship Program

EFTA- Environment for the Americas

HAF- Hispanic Access Foundation

NPS- National Park Service


P.S. I wish I could upload images of the garden, butterflies, and artwork I created, but my computer keeps on freezing. For the past two hours I've been trying to resize the photos on Photoshop to no avail. I also tried downloading GIMP, but my computer just froze some more. So, here is the only photo that I was able to successfully resize.


Image: I am sitting at my desk typing away as my thirteen year old toy poodle sits on my lap. The walls of my room are light blue. It is dimly lit by a desk lamp to my right and a sliver of sunlight entering from the window to my left.

Published in EFTA intern blog
Friday, 24 April 2020 00:08

Araceli Figueroa

I graduated in May of 2017 from Cal State University, Fullerton with a BFA in Creative Photography and coursework in Art Education. I constantly seek educational opportunities outside of formal educational institutions. In 2018, I took a six-week-long course on launching a food business from the local county’s small business development center. In addition, I continue to take advantage of the courses and certification programs my city job offers. I work in the art complex of the Orange County Great Park, a former Marine Corps Air Station, now converted into a developed park of more than 200 acres. Most recently, I became a Certified Emergency Response Team member, received front desk/reception safety training, and training from the police department on interacting with the park’s homeless population. I applied for the LHIP Outreach Assistant Internship because it aligns with my personal interests in expanding community development, communication/marketing, environmental education, and resource equity. This program will also allow me to better understand my specific interests and career goals. In addition, I will be able to focus on employing my Spanish speaking skills, making valuable cultural connections, and using my graphic design and technical editing skills to create new educational materials. As an outreach assistant, I will have the humbling opportunity to work on increasing park visitor diversity and inspire individuals, especially Latinx folks, to recognize the important role they have in advocating for our parks’ conservancy. My professional interest is to creatively promote conservancy and environmental education, regardless of what field my chosen profession is in. I’d like to excite individuals of all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds to find quotidian ways to lessen their environmental footprint. I want to foster collaboration between industries to increase the sense of environmental responsibility and highlight the benefits that the natural world has on both our physical and mental health; all while increasing my interpersonal, organizational, and leadership skills.


Published in Intern Bios