21 Jun Let’s Catch Up!
Before we start...THE COUNTDOWN CONTINUES!
SO...Whatcha Been up to?
So firstly, my supervisor, Max, is the paddle ranger here at the park, and since I work under him, I’ve gotten to get out on the water A LOT! It is so much fun to kayak/canoe in the Thicket because it is so beautiful and diverse! I’ve gotten to do some birding with visitors on the water, which is super cool! I always try to focus on not tipping… but when the water allows, I love imparting some of my limited bird knowledge! Along the same lines, Max and I hope to implement the first canoeing/kayaking fishing program here in the Thicket! We have scoped out a few places, but mostly, we are trying to comprehend risk management!
Continuing the trend, I have also worked closely with the resource management team for more field experience! The Scientist in the Parks intern, Nic, is a super chill dude, and he has some incredible research he is doing, allowing me to come out and see what it is about. The field research focuses on documenting and finding mussels in the waterways of the Big Thicket! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife is considering putting two species of mussels, the Louisana Pigtoe and Texas Heelpilitter, on the endangered species list, so we are also noting that data! When we went out recently, it was fantastic. We found many species, like the Texas Lilliput and the Louisiana Fatmucket, with some invasive species, like the Asian Clam. Other than the mussel research, I would like to help with some dragonfly larve testing later in the summer, and later on in the summer, there will be some bat surveying I will be participating in! The last cool project I would like to help resource management with is a long-term project. The team is hoping to reintroduce the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker into the Thicket eventually. This process has started before me and will likely continue long after I am gone, but to be a part of this little segment is amazing!
Lastly, what I am putting most of my focus on is the fishing program! I have had the unique opportunity at the Thicket to host and create many fishing programs! I have created pop-up fishing clinics and a larger clinic for Texas Free Fishing Day. At these events, we have interactive games like the backyard bass game, where we teach about the environments in that fish in the Thicket can live! In these events, we have been focusing on fishing ethics. I was born and raised in the south. We have a large culture of hunting and fishing, all-in-all living from and off the land. Still, as I have encountered more education on better practices, I have been trying to teach that to people I come across. Because of my experience, I can translate and teach how to be better and more respectful to these waterways providing us joy our entire lives. I am changing the culture and fishing ethics here at Big Thicket.
I am most proud of our push for inclusivity within the fishing program. Above is a quote from one of my favorite books, the Intersectional Environmentalist by Leah Thomas. I have often used this quote to describe how I view my work, so it was fitting! At the beginning of July, we are hosting a large ASL-accessible fishing event in Beaumont. This is so special because we have two deaf interns, which provides a beautiful opportunity to bridge a community that is sometimes overlooked in outdoor spaces. Likewise, I will be working on a program that will begin to try and bridge the black communities in Houston to the outdoors through fishing. This is something that resonates so deeply in my soul. As mentioned before, I was exposed to the outdoors through my family. However, for many young BIPOCs, the outdoors is considered something far away from them. In the past, this beautiful land was less open and welcoming to us than it is now. But, as a black woman in this field, I feel I must do my part in showing representation, but mostly showing that this land, although still divided in many ways, was paid for in blood for each of us. The mission of the NPS, as stated below, is to preserve these resources for the enjoyment and inspiration of future generations. In my small way, through fishing, I hope to bridge that gap!