People as Inspiration – Gente como Inspiración

Following the #2020Challenge trend, I’ve created a fun depiction of the year so far as illustrated by the petrified Redwood stumps of Florissant Fossil Beds. We started the year strong as shown by the towering coastal Redwoods, but challenges arose as pictured by the Guffey Volcanic Center. The ancient Redwoods became buried by a lahar and petrified with only the stumps left of the over 250 foot-tall trees. Yet, we grow from these challenges like the ponderosa pine did from this stump because we are resilient! Nosotros somos resilientes. 

Photo Credits for 2020 Challenge Image: Fred Blackburn (coastal Redwoods), Karen Carr (Guffey Volcano) and Astrid Garcia (petrified stumps) 

Throughout my time at FLFO, I’ve connected with numerous people from all over the country. I’m fascinated just talking to visitors and learning about them while also connecting the scientific resources of the park to them. I’ve learned different techniques from my colleagues, and I’m constantly adjusting and researching. There’s always questions that arise from visitors that make me think about the material in a different way, and oftentimes I realize how much more I have to learn. 

Astrid posing in front of the informal interpretation set-up of fossils under the stump shelter behind the Visitor Center at FLFO

About two weeks ago, I left Florissant for Boulder, Colorado to meet the Environment for the Americas team. I was able to gain a different perspective aside from that of an attendee of the LHIP Career and Leadership Workshop, which was held virtually. I appreciate all of the efforts the EFTA team made towards making this workshop successful. Especially considering that this conference hadn’t been virtual before. The EFTA team consists of genuine people who truly care about this program and the young people in it. The workshop itself was a great opportunity to speak with Latino leaders in the National Park Service and other professionals to empower us. We were also able to get to know the people in charge of these NPS youth programs. Throughout the workshop, former LHIP interns were invited to discuss their internship experiences and where they are in their careers now. Public Lands Corps interns such as myself presented their posters, and a few of which were building on research of previous interns. In other words, the new grows from the old which reminded me of the ponderosa pine growing tall out of an excavated petrified Redwood stump at FLFO. The roots of the modern tree wedge in between the cracks of the stone.  

A modern ponderosa pine growing from an excavated petrified stump seen on the Ponderosa Loop at FLFO

An exhibit at FLFO depicting the ponderosa pine growing from the petrified stump and the size relation of the modern tree to the towering ancient Redwood tree

There’s so much effort that goes into maintaining these youth programs, and I’m thankful to be in this position. Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American groups collectively comprise less than 20% of all full-time employees in the NPS. Considering these statistics, representation is vital. Although there are people who are not positive towards inclusion, we do have advocates for diversity and inclusion, some of which were present at the workshop. Moreover, through LHIP I’m able to advocate for Latino communities to encourage them to connect with nature in the public spaces that belong to everyone. 

The Friday following the workshop, I was already back to work at FLFO. Upon arriving, the superintendent Therese Johnson greeted me with good news. After my second week as an interpretation assistant, I spoke to a local couple who regularly visit the park. They were impressed by my interpretation and passion for geology. I remember talking to them about LHIP and my excitement to be at FLFO. They sent a heartfelt letter to Therese about meeting me. Receiving this letter made me feel so accomplished! On top of that, I met the Regional Deputy Director Kate Hammond and promoted this wonderful program to her. She was eager to learn about the projects I was working on. After her visit, she sent a nice email to Therese about the great work I’m doing. I also forgot to mention earlier that I received my first Mesohippus Award at the park. My supervisor and head of interpretation at FLFO, Ranger Jeff Wolin has been encouraging of all my ideas. I’m so grateful to be surrounded by such positive and encouraging people at all levels. 

The letter mailed to Astrid by two local visitors of FLFO who enjoyed meeting Astrid 

The Mesohippus Award given to Astrid for her efforts with diversity outreach at FLFO

I’ve been inspired by numerous people who have widened my perspective. During the workshop, I stayed with the Mosaics in Science program coordinator Sheylda Diaz-Mendez. Susan Bonfield and her encouraged me to submit an abstract to the Geologic Society of America’s annual conference. For my poster and presentation, I will be discussing the various Latino outreach projects that use the geology and paleontology of the park as a means of communication towards Latino audiences. I listed Jeff as my co-author and recently my abstract was approved. The main goal of these projects is to increase diversity specifically in visitors of Latino descent, which has been determined to be approximately 1-2% during the summer of 2020. While it can be attributable to other factors, this statistic is not substantially different from previous years. 

Astrid’s LHIP poster for the Career and Leadership Workshop which describes her Latino outreach projects and geologic interpretation at FLFO

The efforts we’re making to increase Latino visitors include: the creation of artwork for activities that relates the geological resources of the park to Latino culture, diversified activities within the curriculum of our virtual geology and paleontology camp, translating park materials to Spanish, research of Latino settlers and descendants of the early Florissant pioneers to directly connect Latino heritage to the park. For the artwork, I’m collaborating with two people: Karen Ceballos and Franklin Cruz. With Karen, we’re designing Latino-inspired artwork of the petrified stumps, fossils and Latino history of FLFO, graphics for the Choose your own Eocene Adventure interactive game that I’m creating, and images for FLFO Lotería. I also recently reached out to Franklin following the LHIP workshop to collaborate with him on a poem that expresses the scientific resources of the fossil beds in an inspiring way to connect with Latino communities. 

Through the implementation of these techniques, we’re aiming to bring awareness of the park to local and nationwide Latino communities. The reception of these outreach strategies will have lasting and multiplying effects for future generations of Latino visitors that will aid in the overall efforts of diversifying National Park sites.   

Astrid representing the Latino Heritage Internship Program in front of a petrified Redwood stump behind the Visitor Center of FLFO

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