Spray, Survey, Repeat

One of the biggest perks of working at a national Wildlife Refuge as an SCA intern is the amount of opportunities available outside of the job description. Everyone at the Refuge, my supervisor in particular, have been incredibly supportive and active in making sure that I have a real taste of what’s available to me in the Service.

So today, instead of doing some serious water work, I got to drive around the refuge and spray for Phragmites. Most around the refuge call it Phrag, and say the word with a certain scowl, but this invasive species of reed that can absolutely take over if left unattended. The refuge has been involved in spraying, but it’s a constant problem. Today, the biology intern and I hopped into the diesel truck and drove to the gps waypoints the intern had plotted earlier in the summer.

It was pretty hot out today, so I’m glad my job was primarily driving. We would hit a point, spray, and take off. During our roaming, we visited a site where a new water control structure is being installed.

We watched as sheetpile was driven into the ditch upstream and downstream of the site. The linked sheetpile acts as a temporary dam, and after it’s set, the water is pumped out to allow for construction. The structure itself is a culvert attached to a six-foot stop riser. There are slots on the flat face of the six foot end for boards to be placed and removed, typical of most control structures. This sort of structure is used all over the refuge at various ditch intersections to control the water. These are also really useful for observing the behavior and levels of the water throughout the year- I’m sure later on a staff gage will be installed to monitor the water in relation to sea level elevation.

I hadn’t had the chance to watch any structures be installed, so I enjoyed seeing how it was done. Earlier in the summer, my supervisor and I stood (out in the rain, I told you- all sorts of wet!) and took elevations of the area using a known point, a tripod, a level, and what looks like a giant ruler. During a pause in construction, my supervisor and I hopped out to survey the structure as it was lowered into the ground. I was thrilled to see that I wasn’t soaked for nothing, and to have been a part of something that will remain in and help preserve the refuge for years to come.

While we were out, I also had the chance to chat with the maintenance guys a little, one of the men there had been working at the refuge when it was still being logged in the early seventies-before it was to be a refuge at all. He was so skilled the movements of the machinery seemed almost graceful.

Driving around the refuge is one of my favourite things to do- I always see and hear so many different animals, and there’s nothing that makes me feel like a lady more than walking through dozens of butterflies. There’s also not much cooler than driving a diesel engine all day.