Astrid Garcia

Astrid Garcia

Monday, 21 September 2020 02:28

Continuing my Colorado Chapter

As the fall approaches, the trembling aspen trees have begun displaying hues of yellows which will turn to orange and reds. Time is fleeting, and we’re existing in these unique yet temporary moments of our lives. As my internship approaches its inevitable end, I will always cherish the experiences I’ve made throughout my LHIP journey. 

Despite no longer being in LHIP, my time at FLFO will continue through an internship with the Student Conservation Association (SCA). I’ll be leaving Colorful Colorado in December, so I’ll be able to experience winter here. Lately, I have been feeling homesick, so hopefully my loved ones make a trip to visit me in the near future. Fortunately, technology makes it easy to keep in touch. I'm proud of all the progress I've made, and I'm excited for the final outcome of my work at Florissant Fossil Beds. I've connected with numerous people who have inspired me in multiple ways. I’ve networked with my colleagues and NPS superiors, new friends, along with visitors who all have their own stories and wisdom to part. I appreciate all of the people I’ve met and connected with thus far.

Despite this year’s circumstances, I've been creative in ways that would've otherwise not have been possible. I've been developing diversified activities that use proof of concepts for our virtual geology and paleontology camp curriculum. For example, my recent blog is about the Florissant formation enchiladas that includes the recipe, directions, and stratigraphic column. To further illustrate the process of making enchiladas I created a stop-motion video. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my projects. I created characters along with their backstories that kids can select for the interactive game I’m developing. Karen Ceballos, who I mentioned before created the graphics for those characters. She is a talented illustrator and Ranger at Organ Pipe National Monument. 

Meet Tomás, Imani, and Ava! These kids may be fictional, but there’s kids like them out in the world! I think it’s important to show diverse kids along with their unique interests that other kids can relate to. By dismantling preconceived notions of what scientists should look like then younger generations can become inspired to pursue their scientific interests and career goals. 

I also had an idea of depicting a Latino family in front of the “Big Stump,” and she illustrated a multi-generational family admiring the petrified Redwood stump. I’m thinking about using this image to accompany the poem Franklin Cruz and I are collaborating on. We’ve made great progress, and I think we have a truly powerful piece to share. 

In addition, I’ve listed terms for the scientific and scenic resources of FLFO to use for a Loteria game. Karen is illustrating these terms. I can’t wait to print-out these cards to play with my family, so that they can connect with the park. I hope families across the country do the same.  

Based on the artwork she’s done so far, I’m excited to see the rest of the completed projects! I can’t wait to share them with you all as well. If you’d like to see more of her artwork, follow her on Instagram @ka_wren_ceballos.   

On another note, this past month has been interesting. I was able to witness an unusually early snowstorm, in which the temperature suddenly dropped for three days then returned to the mid-70’so F. Throughout the past month, I’ve taken the time to explore the nearby areas to learn about the local history.

Astrid enjoying the snow while bundled up for the cold temperatures

A small set-up of granitic cobbles and pebbles at the entrance of the small town of Guffey, CO

According to local lore, the skeleton of the first mayor is seen along with the skeletal remains of two horses drawing the prison carriage (not sure if that's true but it definitely makes for a fun story).

I went to the town of Guffey, which is a small town that was once the center of the Freshwater mining district in the late 1890's. Copper, lead, zinc, mica, feldspar and small traces of gold and silver were extracted from the intrusive igneous and metamorphic Precambrian rocks in the area. However, mining wasn't profitable here. This region’s landscape was shaped by the volcanic activity of the Guffey volcanic center within the Thirty-nine Mile Volcanic Field that’s associated with the preservation of the fossils at Florissant Fossil Beds.

Entrance to the Florissant Cemetery

James Castello's grave at the Florissant Cemetery

I also visited the Florissant Cemetery and read about some of the Florissant pioneers. The small town of Florissant was founded by James Castello in 1870, which he named after his hometown of Florissant, Missouri. The word Florissant is the gerund for the French verb fleurir, which translates to flourish or blossom. However, it’s important to acknowledge that far before Anglo settlers “founded” this area, these were native lands. As stated by the FLFO NPS website, the Ute people considered the Florissant Fossil Beds part of their traditional use lands. Many Ute people live in the area and visit the Pikes Peak region because of their ongoing connection with the land here. There’s so much history in this region that I’m still learning about and that fascinates me.      

I’m going to continue blogging to share my ongoing experiences along with my presentation for the Geological Society of America’s annual conference, which will be held virtually on October 26th. I’ll also write about how I am further sharing these projects to organizations and educators across the nation. 

By documenting my adventures, I will have a record of all that I have accomplished and the places I’ve visited. I've been making steady progress on the projects I’ve created and developed. What I’ve enjoyed the most about my internship is the freedom. I wasn’t following an already established guideline, nor was I told what to do and how. My responsibility was to offer my cultural perspective to create distinct projects. During my internship at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument (FLFO), I’ve had a non-traditional experience, but regardless of the circumstances I’ve made the best of this opportunity. Anyway, I’d like to thank those who have been following my blogs so far. I’ve tried to be as detailed as possible for others to gain inspiration and ideas. I’m content knowing that a little piece of my mind and thoughts will forever exist in the LHIP website for future interns to read. 

Thursday, 27 August 2020 02:14

The Florissant Formation Enchiladas

¡Hola a todos! Les quiero presentar a los Yacimientos Fósiles de Florissant en Colorado. Éste lugar tiene muchísima importancia geológica la cual puede ser conectada con la cultura latina. Por ejemplo, puedes comparar comida con las diferentes capas de suelos. Les voy a enseñar cómo hacer enchiladas y asi podrán ver cómo este plato esta relacionado con las diferentes capas de roca en los Yacimientos Fósiles de Florissant. 

¡Espero que tengan hambre!

Hi everyone! I want to introduce you to the Florissant Fossil Beds! This area has a lot of geologic importance, and I can connect it to Latino culture. For example, you can compare food to different rock layers. I’m going to show you how to make enchiladas, and you’ll see how this dish relates to the rock units of Florissant Fossil Beds. I hope you’re hungry!  

This is an overview of one of the diversified activities that I’ve created for FLFO’s virtual geology and paleontology camp. I also created a stop motion video of the process that you can watch here: FLFO Formation Enchiladas

Enchiladas originated in Mexico. The Real Academia Española defines the word enchilada as a rolled maize tortilla that’s stuffed with meat and covered with a tomato or chile sauce. The world “enchilar” means to add/season with chili pepper. Rolling tortillas around food dates back to the times of the Aztecs. 

My mom taught me this particular recipe. I miss cooking with her. We would always talk about life while chopping vegetables and making our favorite dishes. She taught me many different recipes that I still make. This meal reminds me of my childhood, so I hope you enjoy it too! 

Try this traditional Mexican dish while also learning about geology! As you prepare the ingredients and assemble your enchiladas, think about the different ways the rocks and fossils of the Florissant formation are layered to form what we see today at Florissant Fossil Beds. 

Stratigraphic column illustrating the rock layers of the Florissant formation. The units at the bottom are the oldest, which are the Pikes Peak Granite and Wall Mountain Tuff. The units on top are the youngest. 

Feel free to substitute any of the ingredients for whatever you have at hand. You can always improvise the recipe to accommodate your taste. 

This recipe yields 20 enchiladas with a total cooking time of about 45 mins.


For Enchiladas:

  • 20 Corn tortillas 
  • 8 oz Ground beef/plant-based ‘beef’/chicken (shredded)
  • Cooking oil 
  • Seasonings 
    • Salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and your favorite spices 
  • 2 small Tomatoes 
  • ½ Onion
  • 2 small Potatoes 
  • 2 small Carrots 
  • Optional - add according to preference 
    • Almonds (chopped) 
    • Raisins (whole)
  • For toppings - 
    • Lettuce 
    • Queso fresco

For Red Chile Sauce: 

  • 6 Chiles 
    • 1 Pasilla  
    • 5 California 
  • 4 tbsp Sesame Seeds
  • 3 Whole Cloves
  • 1 clove Garlic 
  • 2 tbsp White Vinegar
  • 2 1/4 cups Leftover Beef Stock 
  • 2 squares Authentic Mexican Chocolate 


Prepare your Ingredients 

  • Peel potatoes and carrots then rinse vegetables
    • Dice/cube potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and onion 
    • To prepare almonds, heat them up to remove the outer skin and chop into smaller pieces - can also purchase already blanched almonds
  • Remove seeds from the chiles (Pasilla and California)

Meat and Veggies 

On stove top - cook on low to medium heat; Make sure your vent fan is on

  • Add diced potatoes and carrots to a pot of water to boil until tender then drain  
  • In a separate pot, boil ground beef/plant-based ‘beef’/chicken until fully cooked 
    • Set aside leftover beef/chicken stock for red chile sauce 
    • In a pan on medium heat, add cooking oil to sauté diced onions then add diced tomatoes after onions are sauteed and clear in color 
    • Add the ground beef or shredded chicken to the sauteed onion and tomato then cook altogether for several minutes then season with salt, pepper, and any spices of your choice   
    • Leave on very low heat to keep the meat filling warm  

Red Chile Sauce 

On stove top - low heat; 

  • On a comal, heat up the chiles until slightly toasted, do not burn!
  • Toast the sesame seeds
  • Once the chiles and sesame seeds are toasted, add to a blender with cloves, garlic, chocolate, vinegar, and your leftover beef or chicken stock
  • Blend until smooth. Make sure the sauce isn’t too thick. If so, then add a little more beef or chicken stock.     

Assemble the Enchiladas 

On stove top - medium heat; 

  • Heat up tortillas on oiled comal 

Once the tortillas are heated

  • Roll up the meat filling with potatoes, carrots, almonds and raisins (optional) into each tortilla that’s dipped in the red sauce (this can get very messy, you can either dip the tortilla entirely or cover the inside in the red chile sauce and cover the outside after rolling the tortilla). 
    • Make sure to not overfill!
    • Add extra red sauce on top 
    • Cover with crumbled queso fresco and chopped lettuce

Dig In! 

Now, you’ve learned a new recipe. Enjoy this delicious meal with your family and friends!

This stratigraphic column shows how the ingredients or layers of the enchiladas correlate to the units of the Florissant formation. 

Wednesday, 19 August 2020 01:59

People as Inspiration - Gente como Inspiración

Following the #2020Challenge trend, I’ve created a fun depiction of the year so far as illustrated by the petrified Redwood stumps of Florissant Fossil Beds. We started the year strong as shown by the towering coastal Redwoods, but challenges arose as pictured by the Guffey Volcanic Center. The ancient Redwoods became buried by a lahar and petrified with only the stumps left of the over 250 foot-tall trees. Yet, we grow from these challenges like the ponderosa pine did from this stump because we are resilient! Nosotros somos resilientes. 

Photo Credits for 2020 Challenge Image: Fred Blackburn (coastal Redwoods), Karen Carr (Guffey Volcano) and Astrid Garcia (petrified stumps) 

Throughout my time at FLFO, I’ve connected with numerous people from all over the country. I’m fascinated just talking to visitors and learning about them while also connecting the scientific resources of the park to them. I’ve learned different techniques from my colleagues, and I’m constantly adjusting and researching. There’s always questions that arise from visitors that make me think about the material in a different way, and oftentimes I realize how much more I have to learn. 

Astrid posing in front of the informal interpretation set-up of fossils under the stump shelter behind the Visitor Center at FLFO

About two weeks ago, I left Florissant for Boulder, Colorado to meet the Environment for the Americas team. I was able to gain a different perspective aside from that of an attendee of the LHIP Career and Leadership Workshop, which was held virtually. I appreciate all of the efforts the EFTA team made towards making this workshop successful. Especially considering that this conference hadn’t been virtual before. The EFTA team consists of genuine people who truly care about this program and the young people in it. The workshop itself was a great opportunity to speak with Latino leaders in the National Park Service and other professionals to empower us. We were also able to get to know the people in charge of these NPS youth programs. Throughout the workshop, former LHIP interns were invited to discuss their internship experiences and where they are in their careers now. Public Lands Corps interns such as myself presented their posters, and a few of which were building on research of previous interns. In other words, the new grows from the old which reminded me of the ponderosa pine growing tall out of an excavated petrified Redwood stump at FLFO. The roots of the modern tree wedge in between the cracks of the stone.  

A modern ponderosa pine growing from an excavated petrified stump seen on the Ponderosa Loop at FLFO

An exhibit at FLFO depicting the ponderosa pine growing from the petrified stump and the size relation of the modern tree to the towering ancient Redwood tree

There’s so much effort that goes into maintaining these youth programs, and I’m thankful to be in this position. Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American groups collectively comprise less than 20% of all full-time employees in the NPS. Considering these statistics, representation is vital. Although there are people who are not positive towards inclusion, we do have advocates for diversity and inclusion, some of which were present at the workshop. Moreover, through LHIP I’m able to advocate for Latino communities to encourage them to connect with nature in the public spaces that belong to everyone. 

The Friday following the workshop, I was already back to work at FLFO. Upon arriving, the superintendent Therese Johnson greeted me with good news. After my second week as an interpretation assistant, I spoke to a local couple who regularly visit the park. They were impressed by my interpretation and passion for geology. I remember talking to them about LHIP and my excitement to be at FLFO. They sent a heartfelt letter to Therese about meeting me. Receiving this letter made me feel so accomplished! On top of that, I met the Regional Deputy Director Kate Hammond and promoted this wonderful program to her. She was eager to learn about the projects I was working on. After her visit, she sent a nice email to Therese about the great work I’m doing. I also forgot to mention earlier that I received my first Mesohippus Award at the park. My supervisor and head of interpretation at FLFO, Ranger Jeff Wolin has been encouraging of all my ideas. I'm so grateful to be surrounded by such positive and encouraging people at all levels. 

The letter mailed to Astrid by two local visitors of FLFO who enjoyed meeting Astrid 

The Mesohippus Award given to Astrid for her efforts with diversity outreach at FLFO

I’ve been inspired by numerous people who have widened my perspective. During the workshop, I stayed with the Mosaics in Science program coordinator Sheylda Diaz-Mendez. Susan Bonfield and her encouraged me to submit an abstract to the Geologic Society of America’s annual conference. For my poster and presentation, I will be discussing the various Latino outreach projects that use the geology and paleontology of the park as a means of communication towards Latino audiences. I listed Jeff as my co-author and recently my abstract was approved. The main goal of these projects is to increase diversity specifically in visitors of Latino descent, which has been determined to be approximately 1-2% during the summer of 2020. While it can be attributable to other factors, this statistic is not substantially different from previous years. 

Astrid's LHIP poster for the Career and Leadership Workshop which describes her Latino outreach projects and geologic interpretation at FLFO

The efforts we’re making to increase Latino visitors include: the creation of artwork for activities that relates the geological resources of the park to Latino culture, diversified activities within the curriculum of our virtual geology and paleontology camp, translating park materials to Spanish, research of Latino settlers and descendants of the early Florissant pioneers to directly connect Latino heritage to the park. For the artwork, I’m collaborating with two people: Karen Ceballos and Franklin Cruz. With Karen, we’re designing Latino-inspired artwork of the petrified stumps, fossils and Latino history of FLFO, graphics for the Choose your own Eocene Adventure interactive game that I’m creating, and images for FLFO Lotería. I also recently reached out to Franklin following the LHIP workshop to collaborate with him on a poem that expresses the scientific resources of the fossil beds in an inspiring way to connect with Latino communities. 

Through the implementation of these techniques, we’re aiming to bring awareness of the park to local and nationwide Latino communities. The reception of these outreach strategies will have lasting and multiplying effects for future generations of Latino visitors that will aid in the overall efforts of diversifying National Park sites.   

Astrid representing the Latino Heritage Internship Program in front of a petrified Redwood stump behind the Visitor Center of FLFO

As an interpretation and outreach assistant, I’m working with visitors at the park to explain the geology, paleontology, and history of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, FLFO in an engaging and understandable way. While teleworking, I search for ideas I can use for Latino outreach on behalf of the park. In my next post, I will describe in detail what types of projects I’m currently working on. First, I want to focus on what interpretation is and what that looks like in the park during these times.  

I recognize that I’m fortunate to be at my site in-person for at least two days of the week. Yet, at that same time I must be cautious, especially since FLFO gets at least 100 and up to 300 visitors per day. On average, there are about 70,000 visitors per year. Due to the pandemic, the number of visitors has decreased, but for my position I still encounter dozens of people. During my days at the park I greet visitors on the front or back patio. At both interpretation stations, we're geared with our masks, hand sanitizer, sanitation spray and disinfectant wipes. Masks have recently become mandated by Colorado Governor Polis, yet we cannot enforce the use of masks to visitors. Luckily, the majority of people who visit wear their masks and social distance. 

Unfortunately, many of FLFO’s summer programs had to be cancelled. This includes the annual geology/paleontology in-person day camp, and the Fishing, Fossils y Familia program. Following COVID-19 mitigation procedures, we’re able to do informal interpretation and small pop-up programs. In front of the visitor center and at the back patio underneath the stump shelter, we have a small set-up displaying fossilized insects and leaves along with chunks of petrified wood and laminated figures that provide supplementary information. 

Informal interpretation display of fossils set-up in the back patio 

According to the Interpretive Development Program: Forging Connections through Audience Centered Experiences (ACE), the purpose of interpretation is to enrich people’s lives through meaningful learning experiences and recreation to protect natural and cultural resources by collaborating with the public to raise social awareness and community building.    

When I first started interpretive work, Jeff let me shadow him for a bit to learn the basic park "spiel" which is our short introduction to the park. It wasn't long before I was on my own giving my version of the spiel to visitors. Since my educational background is in geology, I caught on quickly. I also enjoyed learning about the history of the region and FLFO.  

Astrid explaining the permineralization process to visitors

Now for my favorite part...the geology and paleontology of the park! When visitors, particularly children ask questions about how the fossils formed, I enjoy conveying that information to them in the form of a story. I’m an imaginative person, so I like getting creative. Without further ado, I’m about to take you back in time...let’s hop into our time machines to travel 34 million years into the past to visit Eocene Florissant!

Now, we’re in a temperate and moist forest environment. Redwood trees (Sequoia Affinis) tower over us, as they’re thriving along Lake Florissant and the stream valley. It’s warm and humid, how about we check out the lake. Eck, it’s really slimy, so we won’t want to go swimming in that. Plus, there’s tons of bugs everywhere, including these huge mosquitoes, so we have to swat them away! Through the forest, we see these large mammals that stand over 8-feet tall and look like rhinoceros with two horns protruding from their face. Scurrying past us, are these two-and-a-half feet tall, three-toed horses. As we continue exploring our surroundings, the ground starts to rumble. In the distance we can see ash spewing from the Guffey volcanic center, which is roughly 18 miles southwest of us. We need to find cover because it’s raining hot ash! Wait, now it’s actually raining. That’s not good because when the ash mixes with heavy rainfall that forms a lahar, which is a volcanic mudflow. Uh oh, there’s one coming straight towards us from the slopes of the volcano at a speed over 150 mph! We have to run, otherwise we’ll turn into fossils! 

FLFO Visitor Center pictured in the distance across a grassy meadow, just imagine ancient Lake Florissant spanning across this area

Okay, we’re safe now...we’re back to the present. During the late Eocene, Florissant Valley was completely different compared to what we see today. The ancient Redwoods that once thrived in this region became preserved by a massive lahar, that likely originated from the Guffey volcanic complex within the Thirty-nine Mile volcanic field. The lahar rapidly buried the trunks of these trees while the force of the impact broke off the tops and ultimately suffocated the ancient Redwoods. The parts that weren’t buried decayed away over time. Groundwater percolated through into the buried trunks carrying minerals and silica from the ash, which slowly precipitated out into the cells of the trees maintaining their internal structure. This process is called permineralization AKA petrification. This process also applies to any bones buried. Fossils of now extinct mammals have also been identified in this area. For example parts of the small three-toed horse, the Mesohippus, and the rhinoceros-looking Brontotheres, which weighed over two tons have been excavated in this area. 

Astrid posing in front of a partially excavated petrified stump that has modern grasses and lichen growing on it 

Credit: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, FLFO

Part of a Brontothere vertebra 

Credit: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, FLFO

Lower jaw of Mesohippus

In slimy ancient Lake Florissant, insects, leaves, fish, birds, and small rodents that were unfortunate enough to drown in the lake became preserved in paper shale. This sedimentary rock forms in slow moving waters and is a result of compaction, consisting of consolidated mud, clay, volcanic ash, diatoms, and other minerals that were deposited in the ancient lake. This layered rock splits easily along parallel layers, and the paper shale of the Florissant Formation is very thin, hence the name. Many of these fossils exhibit delicate features, and there’s different types including carbon compressions and imprints. 

Credit: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, FLFO

Bowfin fish, Amia Scutata

Overall, these fossils tell us a story of Eocene Florissant and how different the climate and vegetation was in the past for this region. From what can be observed, a global cooling across the entire Earth likely happened. Now, modern Redwoods (Sequoia Sempervirens) are found only in certain parts of the world such as the coast of California and Oregon.

The FLFO mission is to protect and preserve these fossils, paleontological, geological, and scenic resources to provide for scientific research and interpretation for public understanding and stewardship. I hope you enjoyed traveling through time to explore Eocene Florissant. 

To give you a better idea of modern Florissant Valley versus Eocene Florissant, FLFO recently released an 18-minute film titled Shadows of the Past on our website, which I highly recommend.


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. 

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. 


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!