My First Week at PAIS

Hey! 

I just got back from a stamp ceremony and a turtle egg excavation for a sea camp, both part of the Texas State Aquarium. The day before, my supervisor and I did a “Reading with a Ranger” event at the local library. Being so busy with things, I almost forgot to write about my first week here at Padre Island National Seashore. 

My first week here has been a mix of webinars, online training, in person training and meeting new people. There’s always something to do here. The first couple of days have been observing and shadowing my coworkers. As I’ve watched and practiced, I’ve gotten comfortable enough to create a work routine here.

After I get to the island and pass the park sign, I say hi to Mickala at the entrance station. Since I am usually early, we have time to talk about our favorite books and shows. I learned that she’s a big sitcom fan and we both like New Girl. Once I head out and get to the Visitor’s Center, I focus on opening the store. This means unlocking the rocking chairs under the porch, cleaning the windows of saltwater, filling up the dog bowl, starting the park film, and putting UP2U bags out for guests. I also check the weather and flag status to prepare a PowerPoint we display for our guests. It has the forecast, tide charts, water temps, weather advisories, turtle nests found, and the Texas Sea Turtle Hotline. So far 330 Kemp Ridley’s nests have been found along the island! Turtle releases will be happening soon and I’m excited. I’m not excited about waking up so early for them. Another part of the opening is putting up the flag. It took an embarrassing number of times for me to figure it out. The flag almost flew away the first time and another time it fell way below half mast.

After opening, I put my safety vest on, take the NPS truck keys, and do stats! What’s stats, you ask? It’s when one of us goes out to the 4 marker boxes we have along the park and document the numbers shown. These indicate how many cars have passed by the area and are needed for the park’s statistics. Another part of stats, is to check campground availability and refill UP2U bags. UP2U bags are yellow, mesh bags we have at the park that encourage beachgoers to pick up any trash they see.

One thing I particularly enjoy about stats are all the animals I get to see on the drive. So far I have seen a male skink, a crested caracara, Harvestmen spiders, a keeled earless lizard, rough green snake a white tailed hawk, some deer, and of course many seagulls.

When I get back I either go straight to the front desk at the Visitor’s Center or work on my Fish and Feathers stuff in my cubicle. At the front desk I have multiple roles. I work the register, swear in junior rangers, answer phones, and talk about the touchbox.

PAIS Finds
A Museum in a Box
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The touchbox is an interactive exhibit that has items found here at my site. There’s shells, sea beans, egg cases, bones, tar, and even plastic bottles bitten by turtles. Although I don’t know every item in the box just yet, I share what I do know. I do know that the Texas state shell is a lightning whelk. I know that they are “left-handed” unlike most shells being “right-handed.” But if they ask me about something I have no idea about, then we look at the reference binder and learn together. I know, I won’t know everything right away but I hope to master the touchbox soon. 

Working at the front also means I get to swear in junior rangers. I like to see kids get as hype about nature as I do! One kid in particular came in and I noticed she had trouble doing the workbooks. She got most of the imagery-related activities but didn’t know what some of the words meant. As I was breaking down the information to her, she mentioned that she was from Mexico and English was not her first language. I offered our Underwater Explorer books (we only have these in Spanish). When I showed it to her, she was very happy and started opening up more. Looking over the activities together, she pointed out that crosswords were her favorite. That crosswords were originally a chore. She said that her mom would have her complete crosswords if she wanted to watch TV. Which is funny because I would have to do math problems as a kid if I wanted to stay up late. But now, she does it for the fun of it. I do not do math problems for fun. Getting to see her smile after receiving the golden badge was more touching than I expected. I may have dropped the flag earlier that day but I counted this as a win for the day.

If I’m not at the front, I’m in the back working on my Fish and Feathers program. Since my site is a beach, the main focus of my program will be surf fishing. Kelly, my supervisor, sent me IGFA online training to use and showed me what resources are accessible. I’ll be using these to work on the logistics of the program. Like what days work for the park? Time? Potential hazards? Volunteers available? As for the birding aspect, I was given some past projects to refer to. It’s pretty hot out so I know the birding activities will be mostly indoor. During office time, I work on blog drafts and read up on the 20+ pamphlets we have here. Lots of information to learn and lots to share.

It’s been a great week and will be updating again soon! Bye for now~

2 Comments
  • Brianna Stevens
    Posted at 15:09h, 25 June

    Hi Jasminn! I am so glad to hear that you are having an awesome start to the summer! The touchbox looks like a super cool, interactive exhibit. I am excited to read about more of your summer adventures in future blogs!

  • Jasminn Del Rio
    Posted at 09:59h, 05 July

    Thank you, Brianna! Stay warm over there~