Adrianna Murrieta

Adrianna Murrieta

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.  


Friday, 18 September 2020 19:03

Save the Butterflies!

As I am going through my internship, I’m getting better at identifying the six butterfly families and I would like to share what I know. The six families are Papilionidae, Nymphalidae, Lycaenidae, Riodinidae, Pieridae, and Hesperiidae. I feel that Papilionidae and Nymphalidae are the most common in terms of well known butterflies. Papilionidae contains swallowtails, which have a flowy flight pattern and have broad fore wings. Nymphalidae contains monarchs and queens-which everyone loves. My favorite is Lycaenidae. This is the family of blues and hairstreaks. Blues are some of the smallest butterflies we have seen out in the field, and they have a beautiful blue interior of their wings. My favorite blue is the marine blue. It has two prominent eyespots and stripes all over the wings that resemble zebra stripes. I just think it looks so cute. I’ll include a photo taken by Lupe Sotelo of one we spotted in the East district of Saguaro National Park. The family Pieridae are the beautiful yellow and white butterflies that never seem to land. They are so energetic, always flying around their territory. The last two families Riodinidae and Hesperiidae are the most unique and fun to find, in my opinion. Riodinidaes are metalmarks, meaning they have a metallic sheen to them, and the Hesperiidae are the skippers. Skippers are so unlike regular butterflies, they actually resemble moths more, with their big bodies, eyes, antennae and wing shape. I have had such a fun time finding so many butterfly species in the park. 

Our work surveying is also a really important job. This group of interns along with Lupe Sotelo, who is our field lead, is the first to research the butterfly population at Saguaro National Park. Butterflies are a natural bioindicator, so their populations around the park can give us an indication of how the climate is changing and affecting the species populations. Once the butterflies start disappearing, we know something is wrong. I have found out that not many people know of this fact, but the Monarch population has been struggling recently. In 2017, the monarch population hit an all time low and had been struggling ever since. In December of 2020, the Fish and Wildlife Service will decide if Monarchs will be listed as an endangered species. The research I am contributing to is helping us learn about our own butterfly populations, so we could potentially do something to reduce climate changes and save them in the future. Saguaro National Park hopes to continue this research, and collect data throughout the year and years to follow in order to compile a trend about Tucson’s climate changes. I feel so honored to be able to participate in this project, it has been one of the best experiences I’ve had. I hope to see some data publications about this project in the future, and I will be able to say that I helped collect the first data sets of the project. How cool!

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!

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!

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.