Slogging through the Shutdown

I have unfortunately hit the point of mentally shutting down trying to grapple with the current political climate.

I can’t process the reasons why I am separated from my job, new career, calling (not a lot of people take up this line of work for the money, there is something deeper. Intrinsic to personality, or ethos, life-long calling…). I just became comfortable with my new duties, trying to balance the work of two vacant positions. I feel as if, while told to be apolitical while on duty or in uniform, working for the government has become equivalent to being a living political bargaining chip.

Frustration is the underlying current in my household. We both are impacted. While I am not carrying out my work, my husband is going to work unpaid and hindered in his duties. A mountain of meetings, conference calls, and trainings are going unattended, since they are not legal activities under the shutdown. Adding to the madness is watching many of the shutdown agencies traverse the slippery slope of bringing back staff to better hobble along. I’m willing to guess if this shutdown extends into the next month, there will be legal implications being sorted through for years to come.

This shutdown is different for many reasons (for comparison, read a dear colleague’s musings, rest her soul). On a personal level, I usually didn’t work during the winter as a seasonal. I could watch from a dispassionate distance, merely fascinated by the confusion. Neglected work duties weren’t mounding up and my earnings were so meager that I wasn’t financially contributing much at all. Another glaring difference: the national parks are mostly open during this shutdown. Flying in the face of the mission of the National Park Service to preserve parks unimpaired for future generations, this round of furloughing has kept parks open without support staff  This, for many reasons, has brought a slew of issues that have resulted in parks having to close in part or full to mitigate the damage (Example #1, #2, #3, #4, #5). It is surmisable that this damage will take months, if not years, to repair, if at all reparable. Not only the smellier side of things, but the impact on wildlife. Imagine, with all the overflowing trash, the new and exciting buffet available to wildlife during this time of year in which food sources are normally scarce. Conditioning happens quickly in bears, and isn’t something easily undone. Bears with a trash problem often become marks on the conscience of wildlife managers.

On the sunnier and more personal side of things, a lot has changed since I last posted (two years ago?!?). I had a baby and changed jobs twice, all of which happened in the last year (I am having trouble accounting for what happened the year previous to that). I left the seasonal ranger scene for a state transportation PIO job. I was a little naive in assuming all public service jobs are the same. I came back to the park, in a permanent position, but behind the scenes. While I am cherishing the bright points of extra time* I get to spend with my little guy and reveling in this new life path of motherhood (I’ll admit, surprisingly more than I could have imagined!), it comes with the inky dark backdrop of resource damage, unpaid workers, and uncertainty.

(*full disclosure: the little guy is at daycare today. He likes it [more toys! more faces! somehow more activity than this house of 5 pets and mom!]. I never thought I’d have mixed feelings about my child liking daycare, lol, but here we are. And housework, errands, and grad school work, here I come.)


The Lonely Stars

Seeing as I haven’t blogged since January, it seems prime time to write something. This is the first weekend since that last post in which I didn’t feel buried by projects and class. It’s kinda tough finding precisely where to draw that “line in the sand” between personal time and work time when it’s all at home. Especially when you have a really driven husband who says “You just keep working ’til you’re done. That’s when you can stop.”  Gee…thanks! ;)

Anyway, enough about me. There are sea stars feeling LONELY out therein the Pacific!

High and Dry

High and Dry

Joking aside, they are indeed sparsely dispersed. Yesterday, I saw around 7. None of which were touching a neighbor. They were all separated by tens of feet. Maybe they are now avoiding contact with each other for fear of spreading cooties. (Can’t you tell I’ve been inside way too much?! We now return you to your regularly scheduled seriousness. Because, this is actually serious.)

The ochre sea stars (Pisaster ochraceus) are suffering from what has been labeled Sea Star Wasting Syndrome. ‘Syndrome’ because for a long time, scientists couldn’t figure out what was causing the disintegration of living sea stars. For some gruesome photos of the chronology of symptoms, click over to the University of California, Santa Cruz’s page.

Just last summer, they pinned down a likely culprit, a densovirus in the large Parvoviridae family, that has been present since 1942. Now, the elusive details are the variables that allow this virus to run rampant through various sea star and sea urchin populations.

While it’s tempting to shrug and say they are just sea stars, just like us, they are keystone species. They are capable of influencing the population sizes of other animals, of who lives where. Mussels serve as their primary prey. Keeping those numbers in check, other, more squishy-bodied animals, like the colonial anemones present in both the below photos, can have a chance at clinging to prime rocky real estate.

Sea Stars with their Mussel Prey

Ochre Sea Stars with their Mussel Prey

Ochre Stars between Mussels and Anemones

Ochre Stars between Mussels and Anemones

While scientists know the population crash is going to have rippling effects, what is unknown is what’s in store for the future. What else will ride in on the tides of change? Here’s likely a sneak peak of things to come: warm water this winter brought us these wandering beauties.

Lonely Sea Star 1

Lonely Sea Star 1

Lonely Sea Star 2

Lonely Sea Star 2

On Being a Visitor on a Soapbox

I’ve been doing a bit of thinking, stemming from starting a class about conservation and public land history plus having the chance to be on the other side of the Visitor Center desk–in other words, the one with all the questions.

I don’t like the term ‘visitor,’ as in, “You are a visitor to Yosemite National Park,” or “Yosemite National Park has 4 million visitors a year.”

On the one side, using the word ‘visitor’ conveys the brevity that most people experience inside their national parks. At most, a day, maybe a week are spent inside the boundaries. In Yosemite’s case, ‘visitor’ could imply that entering the valley is traversing on land that someone else occupied, a little paradise occupied by a tribe whose home was converted into parkland through an act of force.

While ‘visitor’ might serve the purpose of reminding us that our natural cathedrals were once places many people before us called home, the conditions of present-day conservation ethics might warrant a different term for those that visit THEIR public lands. That’s right, YOU own Yosemite National Park [as much as a monolithic chunk of granite and a valley carved by glaciers can be “owned”]. YOU, with the rest of the nation’s citizens, are responsible for the upkeep, preservation, and integrity of all 401 units of the National Park Service, whether or not you’ve been to them [if that seems like a lot, just think about all the land that’s designated by the BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, etc. That’s all YOUR land, as well]. This ownership we have, you see, isn’t conveyed well in the term ‘visitor’. ‘Visitor’ does not say “I’m responsible for keeping this park free of trash,” or “I am tasked with letting others know that feeding the wildlife is detrimental to their health,” or “It’s my responsibility to preserve everything in this park for the people that arrive tomorrow as well as future generations.” All of these tasks can happen in tangible or intangible ways, but they are the duty of every citizen of the United States.

So with that daunting responsibility staring you in the face, what term would YOU use in place of ‘visitor’?
Half Dome

Solitude, but Not Alone

Solitude, but Not Alone

Trying out a new way to post blogs, since I have so much trouble with the wordpress formatter. It will be interesting to see how it pans out with regard to SEO. To me, this manner lets me add more of a personal touch that I can tailor according to how much time I have. Hope you enjoy!

2014-3-29 Houda Point Post


I was just recently introduced to the fascinating world of lichens! So much complexity in such little packages. They are often needlessly vilified and still not fully-understood.

I was also recently introduced to InDesign and since starting the class, I’ve not found much time to blog. I combined lichens and InDesign today [trying to get a feel for upcoming homework] and here is the result:

Nerd-dom on a sizable scale!

lichen Lichen is a complex relationship of different parts. Fungus is one of the parts of a lichen. A photobiont, a living organism that can create food like plants do, completes the partnership. Photobionts can be an algae or cyanobacteria. In most cases, the fungus and photobiont can exist outside the lichen form. Occasionally, multiple species of fungus can exist in a lichen ‘co-op’.New lichen, depending on the species, starts from a piece breaking off and establishing in a new area or the fungus part of lichen releases spores through disc-shaped structures [see right]. These spores, once established on a surface, hope to entangle a photobiont partner already living on that surface. After entrapping a photobiont, a lichen forms!   Lichen can take many forms, from powder that can be removed just by touching it [dustose or leprose], to crusty growths that are completely attached to their growing surface [crustose], to lobes of growth only attached at one point [foliose], and even forms that look like miniature branched trees or dangling bunches of thread [fruticose]. See if you can spot some of these forms in the photos.

Feel free to use at your will.