27 Jun Training, Interpretation and New Interns!
This week has been devoted to interpretation training for the entire FIIS division for the new interns and staff, as well as the seasoned rangers and officers. We started off the week by gaining some new interns and a new seasonal ranger! The interns come from various areas such as the SCA and the Proranger programs. They come from all over the country to work with the National Parks Service to run programs, help with outreach and to have the chance to consider a more permanent position with the National Parks Service. The out-of-state interns have the opportunity to stay in a dormitory that is located right next the Fire Island Lighthouse; talk about a room with a view! This week we got the opportunity to meet each other and the staff a bit more personally, while also becoming more acquainted with Fire Island and some of the programs that we will be participating in over the course of our internships. These programs include seining, Sunken Forest tours, and next week we will undergo canoe training to become certified in canoeing! We also began learning how to conduct a few of the hiking tours, including hiking to the breach as well as walking along the beach to find mating horseshoe crabs. On Friday, we had a short introduction into some of the history of Fire Island at the Wilderness Visitors Center, and then we had the chance to follow the procedures of a general walking tour that we could potentially run one day. We started from the Visitors Center and started our walk down a winding boardwalk, surrounded by the native flora. The experienced rangers explained the uses and special characteristics of each plant we could see, and also warned us of where ticks would be most prevalent, as well as how to spot poison ivy. To our dismay, there was poison ivy EVERYWHERE, but we were fortunate enough to have been spared that itchy nightmare during our hike. Finally we came up to the end of the boardwalk where the path splits into a sand walking trail towards the beach or a sand trail leading to the east. We followed the beach trail and had to weave through dunes, beach grass and piping plover protection areas in order to reach the ocean shore. It was pretty amazing to see the immediate change in the ecosystems in such a short walk; from a salt marsh-like mini forest, to the dunes and sand, to finally the ocean. Walking along the shoreline, we slowed a bit to pick up small treasures of the perfect shell, beach glass, or the coveted perfect sand dollar. Once our treasures were carefully stowed away, we continued on to meet up with some of the other interns and staff to finally see some piping plovers! Once we finally saw what the plovers were, we finally understood why we were working so hard to protect these sweet little critters. The piping plovers are incredibly tiny shore birds that are very easily startled and will, unfortunately, abandon their nests and babies if scared. The hatchlings are essentially little cotton balls with tiny little legs, but as they grow they begin to have the characteristic camouflage of the adults that allows them to blend in with then sand to escape predators. While this camouflage technique is great for hiding from predators, it is unfortunately too well hidden for humans as many plovers are run over by cars or trucks, eaten by dogs, or have their nests and eggs stepped on. On each of our training days, we were given the opportunity to attempt to communicate a more personal story into the lectures, which were called “30-second stories”. This method ensures that the audience gains some new insight or information in a very compact way so that the rangers don’t lose the attention of the listeners. Each story could be some kind of new fact, a personal experience, or a more hands-on type experience where the audience themselves are asked to interact with the environment in some way.
Overall, this week has been a bit hectic as we tried to learn everyone’s names and positions, but I can definitely see some friendships and bonds forming that will hopefully last for quite some time.