100 years strong

There is something utterly humbling and eye opening about having this opportunity to be a part of a team in the National Park Service, especially when it comes to celebrating 100 years of preservation of natural and cultural resources across the country. Here at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, there is a clear dedication to the education of the public through conservation projects, free daily programs, and constant integration of the general public into the inner workings of what makes a National Park unique and beautiful. Efforts like these are reflected by the vast number of visitors the parks get across the country (275+ million).

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The resources team at Black Canyon is one of the crews that put a lot of effort into not only learning about the diverse ecosystems of the park, but helping to maintain them as well. This week at Black Canyon I got to spend my time on the vegetation crew, learning about the importance of eliminating invasive species around the park, as well as our neighboring sites at Curecanti NRA. The native vegetation of Black Canyon can be categorized as montane, temperate, and semi-desert.  Invasive plant species inhibit biodiversity in the park, which is vital to the health of various micro environments and overall ecosystem. Such invasive species can be introduced through the spread of seed via grazing, wildlife, and disturbed areas created by human developers. The vegetation crew has 10 hour days, most of which are spent spraying specifically picked herbicide on invasive species. Not only are they very well practiced in the art of on site plant identification, but they get to look like the ghost busters of the park service.

"Ghostbusters" in action

“Ghostbusters” in action

Next week, we begin a new project at Cooper Ranch, which is a site closer to Curecanti NRA where we will be targeting invasive plant species like Canada Thistle and Yellow Toed Flax. Joining us in this new project is the Western Colorado Conservation Corps. This will be a great chance to learn more about the chemistry and detailed processes that go into how to properly use herbicide. I never had an affinity for botany and to be completely honest, the idea of enduring hours of plant identification and memorizing the differences between different types of thistle, sounded like a snooze fest. Now that I am in the field and under the supervision of highly skilled vegetation techs, I have a whole new perspective and respect for the importance of what we are doing. I work under the ecologist for Black Canyon, Danguole, who is an incredibly kind and knowledgeable scientist who goes above and beyond in the safety and understanding of her crew. Every member of our 6 person crew is incredibly nice and willing to teach a novice like me when it comes to the herbicide basics. At first I was a little weary about carrying around 3 gallons of chemicals on my back, but with the reassurance of the crew, I was able to understand the basis for their “formula” and reassure that I am perfectly safe using it. One person on the crew that stood out, Jayme, really helped me understand the importance of how to properly spray and which plants are non-native. She also told me about her background in working on other vegetation crews all over the country at different parks and how every plant has a specific purpose and it is our job to discover these purposes and have an open mind when it comes to learning new things in the Park Service because having different ecological experience will help me in the long run. She was also the first person here to invite me out to the local brewery, Horsefly, which I greatly appreciate because living alone at the bottom of a canyon can get quite lonely. To conclude this post, I just want to say that when it comes to the National Park Service, always have an open mind and never be afraid to go out and explore! Happy Centennial NPS!

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