Natural Resource Management

Candace Makowski, Bio 92, Spring 2014


    My academic internship with GGNRA has been one the most fulfilling experiences in my entire life. Working for the federal government requires different qualifications and offers tons of training to keep employees productive and motivated in their work efforts. It has opened my world up to future career paths in the field of Natural Resource management and Habitat Restoration.

    Lessingia germanorum, WikipediaAn interesting aspect of my job was monitoring species where I accompanied Park Biologist and Natural Resource specialist. I learned how to gather information in the field and boil it down into quantifiable data that can be easily referenced elsewhere, like population sizes for endangered plants and animals such as the snowy plover, Lessinga flower, Lupinus albifrons and Clarkia francisciana, (which only exists locally). Having all the data on record makes preservation attempts more efficient and manageable. Much of the work we do is based around the protection of the federally listed Mission Blue butterfly. This dainty blue butterfly flew by the hundreds through California's open grasslands and wildflowers areas for centuries before housing developments and road construction took over. Monitoring work does in fact involve some more complex problem solving skills and I realized that to go further in this field I would like to refine my math skills and take some statistics classes. It is very important that the information from the field is documented accurately especially since this information is used by U.S. Fish and Wildlife to assess endangered or rare species.

    Another main objective was to become familiar with as much local flora as possible including native and nonnative plant species. I started working on my identification skills by simply going out into the field with my supervisor Coty and asking him about every plant I didn’t know. This opportunity was priceless because I got first hand knowledge from someone who has experience and was willing to share techniques and tips. I learned quickly to always carry some sort of reference material with me in the field since this is when you encounter plants. Having a camera and taking photos is also a great way to learn plants as well. I furthered my experience by working on plant lists for selected grassland and woodland project sites for future
restoration plantings. I became familiar with using online reference tools like CalFlora for finding what species are naturally found in certain areas while providing plant life history information.

    erosion in GGNRAAn important discovery for me while doing habitat restoration work was noticing the subtle complexities that removal of plants (non natives) can have on ecosystems. There are a number of variables that come along with species removal projects so you are always adapting to how a system may respond over time and figuring out how to cause the least amount of damage to non target species. I did find it challenging to work in more fragile habitats removing invasives like French broom due to the fact that you can create a lot of ground disturbance.

    Ground disturbances can lead to degradation of the soil itself along with it’s biological activity, erosion and potentially open up the area to other invasives. You have to pay close attention to detail when working in sensitive habitat for example being aware of any bird nesting areas and trying not to damage any native plants especially the Mission Blues host plant Lupinus albifrons. To mitigate areas that have been degraded by anthropogenic processes including land management issues the Marin Headlands Native plant nursery collects seeds and grows and array plants from local watersheds. I’ve been working with the nursery on transplanting, sowing seed, soil, and volunteer coordinating for the course of my internship. Nurturing plants has been quite a rewarding. By having the chance to see plants go through various life stages in a controlled setting I was able to learn about their needs at different growth stages which was very educational. Working at the native Plant nursery can be almost meditative at points or very interactive and energetic but has proven always enjoyable. The staff is very fun and understanding which is super important for making the volunteer programs so pleasant and efficient for everyone involved.

    Safety concerns and classes on Outdoor first aid, CPR, emergency situations, and overall preparedness is thoroughly covered by the Park Service to keep everyone as safe on the job as possible. These safety skills will come with me throughout my life and especially into a desired job involving outdoor environmental work. Managing of my time has definitely improved as promptness and work start times are very important to get work done on schedule. When working in teams or groups I’ve learned that you have to arrive early to really prepare for the activities and make sure all tools, supplies, first aid, and snacks are accessible.

    I would highly recommend this internship to anyone interested in working with people, plants, animals, or connecting to park lands and experiencing it’s many uses. I’ve met several people who work for the park or it’s affiliates that have backgrounds ranging from psychology, child development, ecology to engineering etc.. The possibilities for work in Natural Resources seems to keep expanding. As climate change is becoming a bigger issue even more research is needed to keep habitat intact and protect species diversity.

    The Parks and natural areas are for everyone to enjoy and connect with. The more people volunteer or visit new places and get to know what makes their surrounding landscapes unique the better we understand ourselves and how we fit into the picture and what we can do to help. I would like to thank CCSF for providing the academic internship program for students like me to get out and get experience in career I’m interested in and to experience the work I enjoy. I will be continuing my internship for the rest of summer and will have been at my current work site which is Fort Baker for a full year! I plan on finishing my Associates in Environmental Science at CCSF within the next two semesters.