27 Jun Updates From the Siuslaw – Ascensy Perez
Welcome back to my blog! I’ve officially been at the Siuslaw for about two months now and it has been amazing! Even though the two months have flown by, I am amazed at how much I have been able to accomplish during this timeframe. And so, I figured I’d take the time to give you all an update on some of the important work I’ve been involved in.
Education & Outreach
In my last blog post, I shared that I wanted to find an impactful and meaningful way to educate the public on the importance of protecting Marbled Murrelets. In creating my program, I decided that the best way to make people want to protect the land and its wildlife was to take a laissez-faire approach. My guided hike program, titled “Get Your Beak Into Birding,” takes place on a trail that transitions from the forest to the sea – the switch in habitats is intended to teach people how to appreciate the differences between bird groups (forest vs. sea birds) and families. By teaching people how to use field marks like beak shape (and adaptive function), feet design (webbed vs. unwebbed toes), and body structure, visitors can begin to develop observational skills I believe are necessary to understand and appreciate the unique features that make birds so special. The ID skills I want to convey are universal: wherever the visitors go next, they can use what they’ve learned at Cape Perpetua to pinpoint what bird belongs to which family. Although my approach to the program was more hands-off, I made sure to weave in the “leave no trace/keep it crumb clean” messaging, as well as a brief discussion on the Marbled Murrelet.
At the end of the first execution of my program, all 6 people in attendance had expressed how enlightened and connected they felt to the birds of the forest and sea. I was elated to see that my laissez-faire approach had worked! By refraining from explicitly saying “you have to care about this issue,” the visitors were able to forge a deeper sense of responsibility for protecting wildlife. It made me feel great to see that my ultimate goal for the program was achieved, and I cannot wait to see how the program evolves throughout the rest of my season!
In addition to my guided hike, I am currently working on developing a tabling program that focuses on bird adaptations. I want to include an interactive element that involves people matching bird eggs (I’ll be making a lot of bird egg replicas for this activity) to the right bird to discuss some important differences about bird reproduction. I will also be including some bird skulls to discuss beak adaptations. The goal of the table will be very similar to my guided hike, but I am definitely planning on emphasizing the Marbled Murrelet’s adaptations in relation to why they are currently a struggling species in Oregon.
I have also been participating in a number of outreach field trips with some local schools. For example, a few weeks ago, I did an interpretive talk about the importance of coastal meadow habitats and pollinators like the Western Bumble Bee at Mary’s Peak. I also ran a Western Snowy Plover station at the Oregon Dunes for a Spanish immersion school – here, I discussed some important threats to the Plover and led a game that helped enforce how those threats can very easily prevent Plover’s from successfully reproducing.
My position as an intern interpretive ranger does not limit me to only educational opportunities! Over the last two months, I’ve actually been able to help out the Wildlife team with a few of their projects. Last week, for example, we went on a beetle survey at the Oregon Dunes. The purpose of the survey is to assess if the Siuslaw Hairy Necked Tiger Beetle is in need of being protected under the Endangered Species Act. As someone who has been afraid of bugs their whole life, I can say that I was not looking forward to this survey. But as the further we hiked, and the more beetles we saw, I can confidently say I can now tolerate some bugs. All jokes aside, this experience taught me to push myself out of my comfort zone – in doing so, I learned so much about beetle physiology, how to ID various beetle species, and how to capture the fast-flying little creatures.
I was also able to help build habitat enclosures for the Oregon Silverspot Butterfly (OSB) at the Coastal Meadows at Rock Creek. The OSB is a threatened species that relies on the Early Blue Violets of coastal meadow ecosystems. The creation of OSB habitats is part of a large effort to research how invasive species and human impact have affected OSB habitat and survival. The larvae were super tiny and it was truly amazing to be able to help contribute to such an important recovery project!
Overall, this internship has granted me so many opportunities to further explore my passions and build the experience necessary to continue pursuing a conservation-oriented career in the future. I am so excited to see what the rest of the season holds and to continue sharing my new adventures with you! 😀