Follow Me: SCA member blogs from the field

Follow Me is the place to read field dispatches from SCA members serving the planet all over the USA.

We spent our second day here in the Everglades cleaning the Long Pine Key campground. It’s on one of the Florida Keys – but it’s not an island at this time of year.

Our “before” picture on the social trail

Having been on two SCA trail crews, I usually associate SCA with trail construction (I spent the past two summers on high school crews building trails at Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania and Denali Alaska.) But today, my first full day with SCA’s alternate spring break crew in Everglades National Park, I did the opposite - I made a trail disappear.

If anyone had told me a year ago that I would spend spring break 2012 planting seedlings on a burned out hillside, yanking weeds from a sandy desert basin, or counting turtles in Southern California, I would probably have been skeptical; but, as things have turned out, this has been a great week.

In keeping with the application of much of our free time around camp, I’ll lead off today’s post with a trivia question: what weighs five pounds, looks like a pair of pie plates, and likes to hide next to Yuccas, under bushes, and in holes? Answer: the desert tortoise.

Our Joshua TreeHuggers were hard at work last week as they battled invasive Sahara Mustard and tracked desert tortoises.

Photographer Michelle Zafico caught up with our Joshua Tree crew last week. Check out the full set on SCA’s Flickr page and enjoy the highlights in this slideshow:

We are halfway through March, and two awesome crews have enjoyed the Alternative Spring Break projects in Everglades National Park and Joshua Tree National Park.

Have you ever pulled weeds in a flower or vegetable garden? If so, I’m sure you’re familiar with the aching feeling that develops in the small of your back and hands after a few hours labor. Now, picture a garden two miles square with weeds as big as a St. Bernard. Just such a land lies on Joshua Tree National Park’s eastern border.

Since all work and no play makes Alternative Spring Break the dull boy, today our crew spent the day enjoying all that Joshua Tree National Park offers its 1.7 million annual guests. After splitting into two groups, half of our team went rock climbing, and half went on a tour of Key’s Ranch.

It occurred to me after I finished yesterday’s post that you might wonder just how we went about planting trees across that burned out ridge. Since we spent today “plowing” the same ground, I decided to provide a step by step explanation of just what goes in to planting a Joshua Tree.

Step One
Dig a Hole.
It sounds simple, but, here in the desert, the ground fights back.

Picture, if you will, the site of a forest two years after a wild fire. In my mind’s eye, the scene is dotted with burned out pine hulks and heaps of ash, but is dominated by green undergrowth and leafy seedlings. While this might be consistent with the sites of eastern and northwestern blazes, fires in dry climates leave a different, more permanent, impact on the landscape.

Joshua Tree Photo © Jarek Tuszynski / Wikimedia Commons

After walking into the baggage claim area of Palm Springs Airport, I knew from the heap of camping equipment that greeted me that my spring break had begun. I introduced myself to Tyler, our group coordinator, and was shortly on the road to Joshua Tree with seven other students.

The Alternative Spring Break to the Everglades changed my life in so many ways. Not only did I meet an amazing group of people who I made real, lasting connections with, I learned about an ecosystem so unique and different than what I had ever experienced before.

The Everglades is a beautiful place and the national park really shows the diversity of the area.

Photos by Erika Barker

We worked at Lake Chekika yesterday, clearing brush and invasive plant species like the Brazilian Pepper Tree. We worked so hard the rangers had to kick us out—we were tiring them out! It was a good thing though because the pepper tree has overtaken the park and the native plant species.

Photos by Erika Barker

Two days have passed so far and I find myself more in love with this beautiful diverse ecosystem than ever before. I have never seen skies so blue or a sun so bright in my life.

If you’re in New York this month, make sure to check out this awesome Alternative Spring Break billboard at the American Eagle Outfitters store in Times Square. The 15,000 square foot LED display will run images from Alternative Spring Break four times per hour for the entire month of March. Thanks to American Eagle Outfitters for giving us some bright lights in the big city!

SCA and American Eagle Outfitter’s Alternative Spring Break kicked off yesterday with the arrival of 30 excited crew members at Everglades National Park! Over the next four weeks, 120 college students will be working in the Everglades and at Joshua Tree National Park to conserve some of the country’s most beautiful and endangered wild areas.

Washington, DC (PRWEB) February 29, 2012
The Teton Mountains. The Mojave Desert. The Everglades. These are not your typical Spring Break destinations. Then again, these are not your typical students.
Volunteers from colleges and universities across the U.S.

Grand opening is now over. The dignitaries have come and gone and we emerged basically unscathed from the hurricane. Now that things have calmed down enough to write a new blog the utter insanity of the last week comes into even better focus.

The first major hurdle that came up was all of the crap in the basement of our education building.

Art, education, and community made a comeback at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center this weekend. It was “Return to Prairie Days” (a Fergus Falls Signature Event, proclaims the town’s event calendar), bringing students, artists, locals and outsiders to the refuge for a pageant, duck banding, butterfly tagging, and prairie planting.

Generally, when we think of science we think of lab coats and test tubes. Sparkling, sterile laboratories where PhDs churn out new truths. At least when it comes to most environmental sciences this is not the case. While a large part of science will always take place in the lab, it has to start in the field.