Displaying items by tag: Saguaro National Park
Wednesday, 21 October 2020 20:31

The Empress Leilia and the Hackberry Emperor

I wanted to introduce you to the first butterflies that I learned to tell apart back in August. They are in the Nymphalidae family and are known to occur at Saguaro National Park so we had to learn to tell them apart early on. 

We were told that you should memorize their general pattern quickly and ID them as Nymphalidae - Asterocampa, but that to get down to species level (Asterocampa celtis vs Asterocampa leilia) would be hard. They are essentially identical except for one area of the forewing that has their distinguishing marks, visible when their wings are open or closed.

An Empress Leilia has two dark bars around a light bar, creating what I think of as an Oreo pattern.

A Hackberry Emperor has two dark spots and one dark bar, creating a trademark smiley face.

In the photo above can you find the Oreo on the Leilia and the smiley on the Hackberry? (Below my signature is the answer so you can check your educated guess!)

I am only now writing about these species because I had only photographed Leilia’s until just this week on 9/30/2020 when I finally got to meet the Emperor. I was so excited to get that observation and to be able to introduce you to these two as they are some of my favorite butterflies!

- Mallary (they)


Answer - Empress Leilia on the top and Hackberry Emperor on the bottom.


Published in EFTA intern blog
Tuesday, 20 October 2020 17:32

Desert Wildlife

I have been so amazed at the diversity of wildlife I have seen at the park during my internship. At the beginning, I thought it was too hot to see such diversity, but Saguaro National Park has proven me wrong. I have been able to see the diversity in habitats that the park offers, which allows for diversity of wildlife. When people think of the Sonoran Desert, they usually just think of dry cactus forests. While Saguaro National Park does have the cactus forest habitat, I have also seen such chaparral greenery in higher elevations, rocky slopes lower elevation, and even mid elevation green mesquite Bosque. I think Saguaro National Park has so much more to be discovered than many people realize. If people are up for challenging themselves, they would be able to see the different kinds of beauty Saguaro has to offer, rather than just the textbook desert vegetation and wildlife. 

Due to these differences in habitat, Saguaro National Park’s wildlife is flourishing. Since my team uses cameras for our survey of butterflies, we often take photos of wildlife we come across. Looking back at those photos always has me in awe that I was actually able to witness those beautiful creatures. One of the best memories I have is witnessing a big bird of prey ride the thermals in circles about 15 feet above me at the top of Wasson Peak. It was a nice sunny day and I could see the sky through the tips of its feathers. That sight was absolutely beautiful, and fellow intern Mallary actually got a stunning photo. Some of the other cool wildlife we have seen are coatis, coyotes, a skunk, tortoises, Gila monsters, javelina, deer, and snakes. We have also found bear tracks in the higher elevation which was so amazing. Sadly, some of the animals we saw were passed away, but it’s a natural habitat, so that is to be expected.


My favorite thing the park is doing to have the visitors engaged with the wildlife is encouraging the opportunity to participate in citizen science. The park is currently collecting a database on Gila monsters found in the park. Gila monsters are the largest lizards native to Southern Arizona. Each Gila monster has a unique pattern of beadlike skin which can be used to identify individuals. People are encouraged to take photos of the Gila monsters from a safe distance, since they are venomous. A bite from a Gila monster is dangerous and could easily land you in the hospital. But, once the photo is taken, visitors are encouraged to send them to the park’s Gila monster research email. The park’s researchers will then identify the individual and get back to the visitor about any information on the individual. If the individual has not been identified before, the park will name it after the person who took the photo. I have seen two Gila monsters during my time at the park, so I will definitely be sending in my photos to learn more about the individuals. I think it's such a cool and interesting opportunity for folks to participate in science at the park. Seeing the Gila monsters and other wildlife has brought me joy during my day-to-day hiking, and I hope other visitors will get the chance to experience all the beauty of Saguaro National Park’s habitats, just as I have.  


Published in EFTA intern blog
Tuesday, 22 September 2020 21:52

Time flies when you’re having fun!

Time flies when you’re having fun! We are now done with week 5 of fieldwork. Weeks 2-5 have been a wild ride of butterflies, tortoises, turtles, lizards, snakes, owls, hawks, insects, and water.

Week 2 - The week where I was stung by a bee.

We were reaching the halfway point of our survey on Monday when I felt that sharp, biting pain in my back that I knew was a bee sting. What a great way to start the week huh? Once we were away from the danger (there were multiple super aggressive bees there for some reason) we checked for the stinger and then cleaned it with some insect bite/sting pain-relieving wipes from our First Aid kit. I was grateful for those wipes because even though I am not allergic to bees their stings hurt and this one was right where my backpack rubbed it throughout the workday. 

The rest of the week went much better, there were no aggressive bees and we saw a great variety of butterflies on our surveys. We also saw a tortoise, it was my first time seeing one in the wild instead of at the Sonoran Desert Museum or at someone’s house. This tortoise is a fully grown female and was super chill about taking a selfie with me.


Week 3 - Rincon Creek is rewilding.

I want to focus on my favorite survey so far which was at Rincon Creek in an area that is being left alone for the most part. This was my favorite survey because when you leave an area alone, you allow it to rewild. You allow the elements to align themselves again. 

I love this - rewilding. 

I love letting nature relax back into space.

It was so easy to see this process because there were so many game trails, every 2 meters or so along the entire creek area we surveyed. It explains why we saw a huge squadron of Javelinas. Yes, a group of Javelina are called a squadron. It also explains why we saw so many bones of mammals large and small, if there are more prey in an area there are more predators too.

One of my favorite parts of the area was this deep dip in the creek created by enormous boulders. Here in this little dry cove, we found small bones and the shell of a native snail. As we explored it Lupe pointed out a little area that looked like it was being used as a den. I joked that I had wanted Lupe to explore it all first in case something was there and they laughed it off. A few minutes later I was standing where Lupe had been looking at the den when I turned a bit and saw fur. Black and white fur on what looked like a tail, it was a skunk for sure. I snapped a photo until it moved and then I ran out of the little cove. No way am I getting sprayed by a skunk! 

You would think this would be enough excitement for one survey, but there was one more really cool thing we saw, a red-tailed hawk. My dad always points them out, “Look, a red-tailed hawk! Keep looking at it and you’ll see the tail flash in the sunlight while it flies.” I was always so sad that I never saw it like I wasn’t allowed to see their namesake. BUT if you look through my photos in the album in the comments you’ll see the photo of the hawk flying, zoom in on it and look at that vibrant red tail. :)


Week 4 - Agua de Vida.

This is the week of water, agua. 

It should not come as a surprise that the day we were driving to work and heard the roar of water - we all got excited. Water in the desert is something you all need to see at some point but is something you might never appreciate at the level of someone native to a desert.

Raindrops are not just water, they are droplets of relief to dried soil, plants, animals, and souls.  We hiked between 12 and 13 miles that day, amid the constant whisper of water that is so ephemeral in the desert. The sound soothed the dried tierra of my soul and healed some of the chaffings that had been created by this incredibly dry and hot summer. The water murmured affirmations to me all day, and later that night I fell asleep to that sound and those feelings it evoked.


Week 5 - Appreciation. 

This week I took the time to recognize the growth our entire team has gone through that you can see in multiple ways. Our data sheets say “butterfly” less and say specific species names more. Our pictures are clearer. Our hiking endurance has increased, even through moments of fear such as on Monday when we were facing a 15 m wall of rock we had to climb up and then down. 

Even now as I write this there are other ways in which we have changed that are hard to express, but that I will try to find words for. There are still 6 more weeks of this internship and I cannot wait to see how much more we grow and how far we hike, stay tuned for more of our adventures!


-Mallary (they)


Published in EFTA intern blog

Life has been moving so fast while being a butterfly intern at Saguaro National Park, but it has been so fun and productive. I’m really enjoying my time working in the hot Sonoran Desert.

A typical day starts at 6 am, meeting at resources while we gather supplies such as a GPS, a kestrel for taking weather data, walkie talkies, batteries, and any other equipment we need for the specific survey. Then, we hike out in the field for most of the day, and input data at the end of the day, if time permits. Being about a month into the internship, we are wrapping up basic surveys, and we will be starting to repeat surveys to collect more data on specific trails. I have also had time to pick my favorite survey route! Last week we hiked to Bridal Wreath Falls and Ernie’s Falls. It was a very challenging hike, because it was fairly long and there was a lot of elevation gain, but the view was so worth it. Getting to Bridal Wreath was one of the best parts of the day. It’s basically a small nook with a fair amount of shade lots of green trees, and it looked as if it was supposed to be a waterfall. Since this monsoon season has been exceptionally dry in Tucson, Arizona, we haven’t encountered much water, but I was able to picture how magnificent Bridal Wreath Falls would have looked if there was running water in it. Another highlight of that day was also a frightening moment. I was leading the group to the next coordinate point, when all of the sudden we heard a loud rattling sound. I immediately jumped back and stayed still until we figured out where it was coming from. As it turns out, there was a rattlesnake about two feet to my left! We gave the snake some time to cool down, and we slowly proceeded on the trail, since there was no other way to get by. The snake seemed to like our slow, non-threatening behavior, so we were able to get a look at it before we continued to our next coordinate point. That was a scary moment, but it was so cool to see a rattlesnake, and we were lucky that it calmed down enough for us to get past it.

I highly encourage you to visit Bridal Wreath trail - just be cautious of wildlife! Since that day of hiking, we have visited other trails and have seen more and more species of butterflies. There are six families of butterflies, and we have seen at least one butterfly from each family! Everyday I wake up excited to go hiking, because it is a new and fun experience every time! I am having such a blast, and I can’t wait for what new adventures we encounter next!

Published in EFTA intern blog
Saturday, 22 August 2020 00:44

Saguaros, Leopard Frogs, and Butterflies - Oh My!

August 21, 2020

Section I - Pollard Walk Butterfly Surveys

We are surveying butterflies at Saguaro National Park East using a couple of different methods. The first is called a Pollard Walk. It involves slowing walking, hiking, or climbing over huge boulders in drainages while collection observations of butterflies. These observations are written down and photos are taken when possible to use as vouchers. Photo vouchers include key characteristics of each species so that they can be distinguished from each other. We will use these photo vouchers to create a guide to the butterfly species at the park for members of the community to use.  

Section II - Stationary Butterfly Surveys

The second type of survey we conducted this week was Stationary. It involved navigation to a predetermined coordinate and collecting data over a long period of time in that area. This allows other data to be collected such as any caterpillars that can found. We searched for them in nearby vegetation taking care to look at plants that showed signs of herbivory. We did not find any caterpillars and did not see many butterflies, hopefully after the rain yesterday this area will green up and we will see more activity when we repeat this survey soon.

Section III - Pollinator Garden Work

My interpretive component of this research will involve Pollinator Gardens. In the Sonoran Desert there are many different pollinators (see section in poster below) that must be accommodated in pollinator gardens. These gardens must also utilize passive rainwater harvesting techniques because conserving water is essential. We will be developing more pollinator gardens around the visitors center and eventually some in Saguaro National Park West. These gardens are in the early stages of planning so I will get to help other folx and interns do rock work (passive water harvesting), restoration work (native seed collection in certain areas of the park), and interpretive work (signs in Spanish and English identifying pollinators that may come to the gardens and how they can participate in our community science projects).

I am truly grateful for the opportunity to participate in the project and for how the folx in this internship and at the Park have supported my passion for this work. ¡Muchas gracias!

Section IV - Dragonfly Larvae Collection

This internship also encourages and enables us to participate in other research projects. This week we helped collect dragonfly larvae from Tenajas. Tenajas (from the Spanish, tinaja, which is a large clay pot/vessel) are large pools of perennial water in our deserts. These pools are carved into stone in mountain drainages over long periods of time through erosion processes. The pools we collected in were so perfect, sitting in some of the largest and beautifully flowing rock formations I have ever seen. They looked like water frozen in mid flow and then transformed into red, black, brown, purple, white, and gray rock. The color variation is what is truly amazing. I know many folx think the desert is drab - a series of dulled browns and greens where all plants are dead, dried and crisped by the heat and sun. This is not what our desert looks like. I am hoping to record video of these types of areas soon so you all can see it for yourself.

During this dragonfly larvae survey we learned about other parts of the ecosystems (the Tenajas and the dragonflies) and about different survey methods. The dragonfly larvae live in the silt in these Tenajas for sometimes as long as 6-7 years depending on the species. During this time they act as some of the top predators consuming large amounts of the other inhabitants of these pools. During this time they can bioaccumulate things such as Mercury that can then be measured and used as indicators of the Mercury levels in the environment.

Section IV - Miscellaneous Observations

Below are some really beautiful and gnarly things we saw such as a spider predating a butterfly, a dessicated Sonoran Desert Toad, cactus blooms, a tiny Canyon treefrog, tiny tadpoles, and Tenaja ecosystems.

Section V - Some Poetry

The smell of creosote blowing on a hot wind down the paths that so many have walked for so many generations. From the traditional inhabitants of this land, to migrants, to NPS enthusiasts, to bike riders, and horse riders. All their stories are what I heard on that wind carrying the scent of creosote. All their culture, laughter, blisters, run-ins with cactus, songs, footsteps, bike wheels turning, and their hoofbeats. I could feel the warmth of the sun, the lifegiving sun, the same sun that carries the power of growth and the fear of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. I could touch the earth below my feet and the air on that wind, but it also connected me to the fire, water, and spirit within - uniting all the elements. All this was carried to me on a simple, lazy breeze at the end of the first day of surveying at Saguaro National Park East. Then to close out my thoughts, I saw one of the most magnificent Saguaros. Saguaros are our sacred protectors here in our desert among the creosote and the sage and each other.

-Mallary (They) 

Published in EFTA intern blog
Tuesday, 14 July 2020 13:26

Eager Anticipation!

Hello everyone! I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself; my name is Ana Murrieta. I am a student, artist, dog-lover, and Harry Potter fanatic! This fall I will be transferring from Pima Community College to the University of Arizona to pursue my dream degree of Natural Resources with an emphasis in Conservation Biology, and I am so grateful for this internship opportunity to start getting experience in my field!

Starting in August I will be working at Saguaro National Park with a small group of researchers, including fellow LHIP intern Mallary Parker, and I could not be more excited! We are going to be studying species of butterflies we find in Saguaro National Park. We will be creating a photographic log of the species, and this research is going to be a baseline for future research. It’s pretty cool to know that I will be contributing to something significant, and that this research will be used in the future. But, I am a little nervous about the new COVID-19 protocols. Wearing a mask is absolutely necessary, but wearing one while working in the Arizona sunshine and 110° heat--Yikes! I am also nervous about handling the butterflies, they seem so fragile. Before the COVID-19 shut down, I was volunteering at the Tucson Botanical Gardens to get experience handling butterflies. It was so awesome to be able to log how many butterflies emerged from their chrysalises and admire their beauty. The butterfly I included is one of my favorite ones I logged! It’s a Swallowtail, and while it isn’t native to Arizona, I’m glad I have the opportunity to admire beautiful species like these when I visit the Botanical Gardens. 

As the days inch closer to my internship start date, I am filled with more and more enthusiasm and eagerness to learn as much as I can! I know I will never forget this experience, and I will definitely be encouraging my friends to apply for this amazing program!

Published in EFTA intern blog
Friday, 24 April 2020 00:13

Adrianna Murrieta

I will be transferring to the University of Arizona in the fall where I will be working towards a bachelor's degree in Conservation Biology. I am interested in LHIP because it gives Latino students a chance to gain access to the skills and knowledge that they may not have previously had. Latinos are an underrepresented community and it is chances like this that allow Latinos to get their foot in the door and earn their way to having a better life. For me, this program, in particular, stood out because it is a chance to learn how to do professional work in the field, as opposed to many other internships that are lab-based. It is my goal and dream to work as a scientist, and this program is allowing me to take the first step in my journey of learning and practicing science. Because I am interested in Conservation Biology as well as marine science, I hope to one day do my own research or work for the National Park Service, which is why I am very grateful and excited for this opportunity. Some of the skills I hope to gain from this experience are teamwork, observation, logging, and communication skills. These are skills that I can take with me and use throughout my career as well as when finishing my degree. This opportunity is one I will never forget, and I am excited to learn as much as I can.

Published in Intern Bios
Friday, 24 April 2020 00:12

Mallary Rae Parker

I studied Natural Resources with an emphasis in Conservation Biology at the University of Arizona and graduated in May 2019. I got a minor in MCB, Molecular and Cellular Biology, and another in Anthropology. I can do research on animals, plants, genetics, and cultures and hope to eventually find a position that combines all of those passions into work that empowers communities to conserve their environment.

I have done research on plant genetics, the biodiversity of the Kimberly region in Western Australia, frog genetics, lizard behavior patterns on the UA campus, and the bird diversity of Tumamoc Hill. I really enjoy fieldwork and have always had an interest in learning more about insects so I am truly grateful to be researching butterflies with LHIP. I have been to national parks in Arizona, California, Florida, New York, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington and my favorite park is still in my home town of Tucson, AZ - Saguaro National Park East, where I have had the good fortune to get this internship! I am more than grateful to everyone who helped me get this position and look forward to working with everyone in this wonderful program and park.

Published in Intern Bios
Thursday, 25 July 2019 18:18

Una aventura inesperada

Afortunadamente, desde que estoy en el parque he tenido varias aventuras inesperadas. Les voy a contar sobre mi fin de semana de aventuras con unos de mis colegas- Alexis, Jesús y Hannah. Mi jefe nos dio información para viajar, conocer y reunirnos con los guardabosques del monumento nacional de Coronado y las montañas Chiricahua. Como equipo, salimos temprano del parque hacia Coronado, que esta ubicado en las montañas de Huachuca. Me sorprendió ver la frontera entre México y los Estados Unidos tan cerca y clara. El propósito de ir a Coronado era conocer su centro de visitantes, conocer los guardabosques y los pasantes (Zac, Estefanía, Miguel, Kelsey, Brooke, Cody, Erin y otros) y además limpiar la cueva. Siendo lo último uno de mis sueños. Me parecio gracioso, porque recuerdo haber dicho hacía tres o cuatro semanas atrás que yo deseaba ir a dentro de una cueva pues hace más de diez años que no estaba en una- y mi sueño se cumplió. Yo deseaba ésto porque el calor de Tucson esta al máximo (más de 110 grados F) y las cuevas ofrecen un escape del poderoso sol .

Yo pensé que el objetivo de limpiar la cueva era para recoger basura, pero esto no fue la única razón. Cada año, los parques reúnen guardabosques y pasantes para limpiar los grafitis y vandalismo dentro de las cuevas ya que éstas sufren cuando no hacemos nada. Entonces, hicimos un gran equipo realizando una caminata por un sendero que fue corto, pero intenso. Caminamos 0,5 millas, alcanzando una buena elevación cual estuviéramos subiendo muchas escaleras. Nuestro punto para recuperarnos fue en la entrada de la cueva. Allí, hablábamos sobre los riesgos de entrar a la cueva, los murciélagos y las instrucciones en cómo a limpiar los grafitis (cepillos y botellas de agua). También, cada persona que entraba tenía que usar un casco con linterna. Fue increíble  estar dentro de una cueva tan profunda y grande. No lo puedo describir bien, pero fue como si yo entraba en un mar de piedras;  sentía como si estaba nadando en la oscuridad hasta el momento que prendí mi linterna. Hicimos un ejercicio antes de empezar la limpieza en donde nos sentamos juntos en medio de la cueva y apagamos todos las linternas sin un propósito claro. Yo elegí tomar este tiempo para meditar y agradecer este momento para estar en una cueva linda con amistades. Pero te digo que la oscuridad de una cueva es totalmente algo único- es tan, tan oscuro que no puedes ver a nada o nadie, ni tu propia mano en frente de tu cara. Después empezó la limpieza de la cueva, que duró hasta la tarde. El cambio de clima cuando salíamos de la cueva fue un poco intenso- la cueva era más fría, comparada con el desierto afuera. Honestamente, yo estaba un poco medio nerviosa cuando entre a la cueva la primera vez, pero me sentí más cómoda cuando estábamos todos juntos con nuestro equipo. Después de la limpieza, fuimos al centro de visitantes, donde todo esta completamente bilingüe e interesante- las exhibiciones incluyen algo de nuestra comida del área, una ofrenda y los conquistadores. Junto a mi equipo de Saguaro, salimos a las 3:30 de la tarde, para llegar a Tucson a las 5.

Al siguiente día, nos reunimos otra vez (Alexis, Jesús, Hannah y yo) para manejar hacia las montañas de Chiricahua. Las montañas de Huachuca están ubicadas al sur este de Saguaro y las montañas de Chiricahua están completamente al este. Llegamos a las 9 de la mañana para explorar el centro de visitantes y reunirnos con Zac, Miguel, Ynes, Estefanía, Cody, Brooke, Kelsey y Erin. Hicimos una caminata de 4,5 millas por el sendero llamado “Echo Trail”. En medio de nuestra caminata, hicimos una actividad de interpretación pues todos nosotros, incluidos las personas que vivían en el parque, tienen historias para compartir. Primeramente, hicimos una actividad que fue una mezcla de “Pictionary” y “Telephone”- que yo ya había hecho antes y después hicimos una actividad en donde escogimos una cita de personas famosas y discutimos los sentidos de estas citas. La caminata fue increíble y quisiera regresar muy pronto. Salimos de allí a las 4 y llegamos a Tucson a las 6. El sábado fue nuestro último día juntos y nos reunimos una vez más en Coronado. Muchas personas faltaron- solamente fueron Zac, Cody, Erin, Miguel, Ynes, Estefanía, Karly y yo. Hicimos una actividad de interpretación, en donde teníamos dos versiones de la historia de cómo esa tierra fue conquistada y tuvimos una discusión sobre ésto. Después, Karly, Miguel, Ynes y yo hicimos una caminata de 3 millas hasta la cima de una montaña y fue maravilloso. Esta caminata también fue increíble y quisiera regresar muy pronto. Es muy, muy bueno que nos reuniéramos en varios parques para aprender más sobre el sureste de Arizona y además ahora tengo nuevos amigos. Finalmente, voy a trabajar con Miguel, Ynes y Estefanía porque ellos son estudiantes de biología en Agua Prieta, México y van a estar en Tucson hasta finales de julio. Un elemento adicional de nuestros viajes es que ellos tres no hablan inglés y algunos de nuestros alumnos no hablan español, entonces Zac, Alexis, Jesús y yo fuimos traductores- y esto me gustó mucho. A veces, es difícil  tener discusiones profundas, pero al mismo tiempo estoy muy agradecida y aprendí mucho más.

Published in EFTA intern blog
Wednesday, 24 July 2019 17:19

Lupe- Next Gen Ranger y Una Persona Influyente

En mi corto tiempo como pasante, he conocido muchas personas que son amables e inteligentes. Pero, la persona más influyente para mi desde el comienzo ha sido Lupe. Con Lupe me entrevisté para esta pasantía,  también, fue la primera persona que conocí el primer día trabajando para el parque. Se puede decir que Lupe es mi colega  y mi jefe al mismo tiempo, aunque tenemos casi la mi edad. Yo trabajo con Lupe más que otras personas, porque estamos involucradas en el mismo proyecto. En el mes de julio, yo voy a estar encargada del proyecto de fenología de los saguaros. Lupe es un Next Gen Ranger y  trabaja para el parque desde el 2017. Ell@ también trabaja con Ironwood Tree Experience, una organización sin fines de lucro local. Me gustaría comenzar en una trayectoria en donde me pueda desarrollar como un Next Gen Ranger, como Lupe, y así continuar mi carrera en el parque. Lupe es alguien que siento muy cercana, porque compartimos ideas similares sobre la diversidad en el parque. El parque exige ser apolítico, sin embargo, es muy importante reconocer las controversias y tener discusiones intelectuales sobre estos temas. Especialmente si consideramos cómo mejorar nuestros proyectos, ser más inclusivos hacia nuestra comunidad y diversificar nuestra metodologías. Mi sueño es a trabajar junto a Lupe en el parque, durante el próximo año.

Published in EFTA intern blog
Page 1 of 3