The Morning Report

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Recent Editions  

INCIDENTS



Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area (WA)
Strong Windstorm Strikes Park

On August 2nd, the third windstorm in as many weeks hit Lake Roosevelt, leading to numerous calls for help from boaters and causing significant damage and a wildland fire.

Staff from the park, the Colville Confederated Tribes and the Spokane Tribe of Indians responded to numerous calls of boaters in distress and property damage from wind gusts as high as 50 mph that created waves up to seven feet high. Miraculously, no one was injured or hurt inside the recreation area. 

Boaters were plucked out of the lake and swamped vessels were de-watered. Numerous trees were blown down in campgrounds, damaging several travel trailers, and the park sustained thousands of dollars of damage to boat docks and anchor systems. 

A lightning strike from the storm started a fire inside the park downstream of the Enterprise Boat-in Campground.  The Enterprise Fire was in steep and rough terrain.  Responding rangers did a GAR assessment to size up the fire safely.  A Type III incident command team was brought in to manage the multiagency effort, including NPS staff from Lake Roosevelt and North Cascades and personnel from the Forest Service, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the Stevens County Volunteer Fire Department.

Concentrated aerial operations and successful burnout efforts kept the fire from moving from a heavily timbered area into several homes and structures in the adjacent wildland/urban interface.

During aerial operations, a five-mile section of the Columbia River was closed by the superintendent and the U.S. Coast Guard utilizing the “captain of the port” authority. Park rangers utilized vessels to enforce this safety zone so fixed wing aircraft and helicopters could dip water for suppression activities.  They also transported firefighters across the water to and from the burned areas, and stayed close in case an evacuation was necessary.  

[Submitted by Marty Huseman, Chief Ranger]


Yellowstone National Park (ID,MT,WY)
Cause Of Concession Employee’s Death Determined

An autopsy has been completed on a Yellowstone concession employee whose body was found in the Old Faithful area earlier this week. The autopsy determined that the cause of death was suicide. 

Kassandra “Kassie” Wieferich was reported missing after failing to meet a family member on August 26th and after missing several shifts at work.

After a brief search that evening, the body of the 21-year-old Twin Bridges, Montana, woman was found in the Old Faithful Lodge area.

[Submitted by Al Nash, Public Affairs Officer]


NEWS AND NOTES



Death Valley National Park (CA)
Mystery Of The ‘Sailing Stones’ Solved

Racetrack Playa in Death Valley is home to one of the park’s most enduring mysteries. Littered across the flat, dry surface of this dry lake, also called a “playa’, are hundreds of rocks – some weighing as much as 700 pounds – that seem to have been dragged across the ground, often leaving synchronized trails that can stretch for hundreds of meters.

What powerful force could be moving them? Researchers have investigated this question since the 1940s, but no one has ever seen the process in action – until now.

In a new paper published in the August 27th edition of PLOS ONE, a team led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography paleobiologist Richard Norris report on first-hand observations of the phenomenon.

Because the stones can sit for a decade or more without moving, the researchers did not originally expect to see motion in person. Instead, they decided to monitor the rocks remotely by installing a high-resolution weather station capable of measuring gusts to one second intervals and fitting 15 rocks with custom-built, motion-activated GPS units (the NPS could not let them use native rocks, so they brought in similar rocks from an outside source).

The experiment was set up in the winter of 2011 with permission of the National Park Service. Then – in what Ralph Lorenz of the Applied Physics Laboratory at the Johns Hopkins University, one of the paper’s authors, suspected would be “the most boring experiment ever” – they waited for something to happen.

But in December of 2013 Norris and co-author James Norris of Interwoof – and Richard’s cousin – arrived in Death Valley to discover that the playa was covered with a shallow pond no more than seven centimeters (three inches) deep. Shortly after, the rocks began moving.

“Science sometimes has an element of luck,” Richard Norris said. “We expected to wait five or ten years without anything moving, but only two years into the project, we just happened to be there at the right time to see it happen in person.”

Their observations show that moving the rocks requires a rare combination of events. First, the playa fills with water, which must be deep enough to allow formation of floating ice during cold winter nights but shallow enough to expose the rocks. As nighttime temperatures plummet, the pond freezes to form sheets of “windowpane” ice, which must be thin enough to move freely but thick enough to maintain strength.

On sunny days, the ice begins to melt and break up into large floating panels, which light winds drive across the playa pool. The ice sheets shove rocks in front of them and the moving stones leave trails in the soft mud bed below the pool surface.

“On December 21st, 2013, ice breakup happened just before noon, with popping and cracking sounds coming from all over the frozen pond surface”, said Richard Norris. “I said to Jim, ‘This is it!’”

These observations were surprising in light of previous models, which had proposed hurricane-force winds, dust devils, slick algal films, or thick sheets of ice as likely contributors to rock motion. Instead, rocks moved under light winds of about three to five meters per second (10 miles per hour) and were driven by ice less than five millimeters (0.25 inches) – too thin to grip large rocks and lift them off the playa, which several papers had proposed as a mechanism to reduce friction.

Further, the rocks moved only a few inches per second (two to six m/minute), a speed that is almost imperceptible at a distance and without stationary reference points. “It’s possible that tourists have actually seen this happening without realizing it,” said Jim Norris. “It is really tough to gauge that a rock is in motion if all the rocks around it are also moving”.

Individual rocks remained in motion for anywhere from a few seconds to 16 minutes. In one event, the researchers observed that rocks three football fields apart began moving simultaneously and traveled over 60 meters (200 feet) before stopping. Rocks often moved multiple times before reaching their final resting place.

The researchers also observed rock-less trails formed by grounding ice panels – features that the Park Service had previously suspected were the result of tourists stealing rocks.

“The last suspected movement was in 2006, and so rocks may move only about one millionth of the time,” said Lorenz. “There is also evidence that the frequency of rock movement, which seems to require cold nights to form ice, may have declined since the 1970s due to climate change.”

Richard and Jim Norris, and co-author Jib Ray of Interwoof started studying the Racetrack’s moving rocks to solve the “public mystery’ and set up the “Slithering Stones Research Initiative” (“Science for the fun of it”) to engage a wide circle of friends in the effort. They needed the help to repeatedly visit the remote dry lake, quarry rocks for the GPS-instrumented stones, and design the custom-built instrumentation.

Ralph Lorenz and Brian Jackson of the Department of Physics, Boise State University, in contrast, started working on the phenomenon to study dust devils and other desert weather features that might have analogs to processes happening on other planets. “What is striking about prior research on the Racetrack is that almost everybody was doing the work not to gain fame or fortune, but because it is such a neat problem”, says Jim Norris.

So is the mystery of the sliding rocks finally solved?

“We documented five move events in the two-and-a-half months the pond existed and some involved hundreds of rocks”, says Richard Norris, “So we have seen that even in Death Valley, famous for its heat, floating ice is a powerful force driving rock motion. But we have not seen the really big boys move out there....does that work the same way?”

Click on a link below to see the text of the article.

[Submitted by Cheryl Chipman, Public Affairs Officer]

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Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division
Traffic Noise Outreach Project Launched In Two Parks

Late in July, the Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division (NSNSD) installed two traffic noise display signs on Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park as part of a broad effort to reduce vehicle noise impacts and raise awareness of the importance of natural sounds in national parks.

These custom-built, solar-powered signs display the sound level of passing vehicles using colored LEDs. To reach as many park visitors as possible, the signs were installed near the east and west entrance stations, and to better protect dark night skies, they were programmed to run only during daytime hours (7 a.m. - 7 p.m.).

NSNSD also produced printed materials to support the signs, including a site bulletin detailing Glacier’s efforts to protect natural sounds, a rack card describing the signs, and a motorcycle-specific rack card listing simple actions that motorcyclists can take to reduce their noise footprint.

These actions include turning off their motorcycles in parking areas and minimizing idling time, avoiding revving their engines and other unnecessary throttling, avoiding riding in large groups, and other measures. The motorcycle rack card was distributed to each rider as part of the entrance process. In addition, an iPad-based interactive display was placed in the east side visitor center to provide background on the project and invite visitors to learn more.

To provide an opportunity for visitors to ask questions, and to gauge public response to the traffic noise displays, NSNSD staffed an outreach tent at Logan Pass visitor center for several days. The comments received from park staff and visitors were overwhelmingly in support of the effort to reduce noise in the park.

Several park visitors showcased their sound level meter smartphone apps or shared stories of being either annoyed by noise or impressed by natural sounds they heard in the park during their visit. The purpose of this traffic noise outreach effort is to encourage motorcycle riders and other motorists to voluntarily adopt the principles of riding or driving respectfully.

In August, the vehicle noise outreach effort (signs, print materials, iPad) was featured at Devils Tower National Monument . Every August, the park recieves thousants of motorcycle riders participating in the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally about 80 miles to the east. During this year's event, more than 9,000 motorcyclists visited the park. NSNSD plans to return to Devils Tower to conduct a similar study in 2015. More photos of the project can be found here.

[Submitted by Frank Turina, frank_turina@nps.gov, (970) 225-3530]

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Office of the Associate Director for Information Resources
John Peterson Is Retiring This Month

John Peterson, who first conceived of InsideNPS, assigning Tim Cash and Ken Handwerger to its development then engaging Bill Halainen to manage the news features of the new website, is retiring in September after over 30 years in NPS.

For a year before Dom Nessi started as NPS chief information officer, Peterson was acting head of the Division of Information Resources (IR), reporting to Deputy Director Denny Galvin (the "best boss ever", he says).  

In various capacities in IR, John brought the web program in from interpretation and the GIS program from natural resources, started the NPS Servicewide library and digital library programs, originated InsideNPS and NPSFocus, managed the first development of PMIS and OFS, and committed NPS to developing Recreation.gov for the Department of the Interior.

One of his favorite projects was the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors (CWSS) system. He started a partnership with the Mormon Church and others to volunteer to automate 6.2 million soldier name records and conceived of a relational data base linking soldier names, regimental histories, and battles.

This project was completed with major participation by Superintendents Woody Harrell at Shiloh and Tim Good at Ulysses S. Grant and Wayne McLaughlin of IR and is now available on NPS.gov. John also hired Marilyn Nickels and Kati Engel to develop the first NPS Civil War thematic website and much of their work is on NPS.gov today.

In African American history, Peterson obtained $500,000 in funding from the Department of the Navy for Howard University to do the original research that resulted in a database of 20,000 African American sailors in the Union Navy during the Civil War, available today on NPS.gov.

And as a product of the CWSS, the names of 208,000 soldiers were inscribed on plaques for permanent display on the NPS African American Civil War Memorial in Washington DC. Those 208,000 names were also made available to the public on the first online internet database in NPS, the first phase of the CWSS online.

For natural resources, John conceived of, and proposed to NR, the park nature and science web pages, developed by Ken Handwerger, and now on NPS.gov. 

In information resources, he procured the first NPS copies of ColdFusion, CommonSpot Content Managment software, GIS internet server and software, and ProCite bibliographic software. But he says he's most proud of having hired Ken Handwerger, Tim Cash, Amalin Ferguson, Kass Evans, Tim Smith, Dave Duran, Ngu Nyindem, Paul Handley, Marilyn Nickels, and Kati Engel and assigning Helen Price to PMIS/OFS.

John was born and grew up in San Francisco, and studied history at Georgetown.  He was drafted and served as an infantry squad leader in the Americal Division in Viet Nam, where he was wounded and received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart in action near Chu Lai.  

Working on Capitol Hill in the 1970's, he was on the staff of the Senate Watergate Committee, the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment staff, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He also worked on the Carter presidential campaign in Atlanta in 1976.

In retirement, he hopes to continue working in African American history and will be travelling with friends, starting in Northern Italy in October.

John can be reached at JohnFPeterson33@comcast.net.

Canaveral National Seashore (FL)
Park Hosts International Sea Turtle Protection Meeting

Canaveral National Seashore recently hosted a gathering of international and regional sea turtle coordinators and others in the continuing effort to protect sea turtles globally.

Earl Possardt and Ann Marie Lauritsen from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service joined park staff in meeting with a delegation from Spain – a biologist, a long-lining fisherman, two teachers, a fisheries manager and a film maker – who came to Florida to observe and learn more about nesting loggerhead turtles that utilize the waters off the coast of Spain. 

This special visit was designed to highlight conservation efforts in Florida.  The visit was an outgrowth of the International Working Group for the Northwest Nesting Population of Loggerheads and was intended to show the Spanish Ministry Environment Fisheries, Spanish long-line industry, and fishing communities in Spain the extensive investment in conservation the National Park Service and other entities are making to protect loggerhead nesting beaches.

The main aims of the trip were to:

  • Reinforce the collaboration of the Spanish Mediterranean long-lining fishery targeting  swordfish that has reduced bycatch of Northwest Atlantic loggerheads by over 95% since 2008 by switching to deep sets and using mackerel bait.
  • Build on the positive momentum to influence the rest of the Spanish long-lining fleet, especially some 150 vessels operating throughout the Atlantic Ocean range of the Northwest Atlantic loggerhead nesting population. 
  • Reinforce international collaboration by highlighting “ambassadors” of the fishing, public policy, science, education and communication sectors of Spain to the magnitude of human and economic efforts involved in the recovery of marine turtles in the United States nesting beaches and coastal waters.  

This gathering demonstrated the problems nesting sea turtles face and how the United States is addressing them.  It gave the visitors the experience of witnessing nesting and hatchling emergence, showed them nest screening and predator protection programs, and strengthened the relationship for collaboration to address the issues of loggerhead bycatch in the Eastern Atlantic where U.S. loggerheads spend up to ten years as juveniles.  

Members of the group were able to exchange environmental education messages for protecting the sea turtle nesting beaches and in-water on a global scale.   This trip was intended to help the delegates from Spain, including a local fisherman, understand why their help is critical in recovering the Northwest Atlantic loggerhead nesting population and strengthen our collaborative relationship for loggerhead conservation.

[Submitted by Kristen Kneifl, Chief Of Resource Management]


Heritage Preservation Assistance Programs
National Heritage Areas: Conserving Places For People

Through innovative planning and outreach strategies, the National Heritage Areas and their partners have promoted creative and comprehensive approaches to conservation. These efforts have resulted in the type of holistic development and community engagement that NHAs were created to achieve. 

Last year alone the NHAs distributed over $4 million in grants for land and water conservation projects and collectively restored over 1,000 acres of land through invasive species removal, replanting and clean-up efforts.

In the Hudson River Valley NHA, the Rockland Farm Alliance (RFA) is aiming to increase the number of farms and sustainable farming educational programs. They help prepare land and provide guidance to emerging farmers. Similarly, Blue Ridge NHA (BRNHA) supports the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, which links new farmers to available land and stimulates farm tourism. BRNHA highlights traditional agricultural practices such as forestry and orchard keeping, as well as recent specialty crops like wine grapes and Christmas trees.

Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District's battlefield conservation plan incorporates environmental protection, watershed work, agricultural development, as well as historic preservation. Since 2000, Shenandoah Battlefields Foundation has worked with local governments and property owners to double the amount of protected acreage in the area. Much of the 6,000 acres are working farms, thus preserving the character of the battlefield while contributing to the economy.

In South Park National Heritage Area in Colorado, conservation is incorporated into educational programs. Staff partner with the Coalition for the Upper South Platte to bring middle school students to High Creek Fen, a rare, ecologically diverse wetland. Students learn about water quality monitoring and biological indicators in class before completing field work on World Water Monitoring Day. This unique program combines laboratory science with field ecology, while increasing students awareness of issues in their community.

Community organization is key in the Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor, where volunteers and staff work to maintain 116 miles of waterway. In 2013, 206 volunteers dedicated 1237 hours at over 200 locations to monitor water quality. Water cleanup activities involved 1,100 people retrieving 13,500 pounds of trash.

Ambitious wetland restorations in Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area resulted in restoration of 1500 acres of wetlands within the challenging desert environment. The project is the result of a partnership with the City of Yuma, the Quechan Indian Tribe, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and the Bureau of Reclamation. The partners signed an agreement to each maintain 350 acres of wetlands in the Multi-Species Conservation (MSCP) Program, ensuring 50 years of maintenance. 

Schuylkill River National Heritage Area manages the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund Grant program, a private and publicly funded grant program designed to improve the quality and quantity of water in the watershed. Since its inception in 2006, 23 projects were successfully completed and an additional 17 are in progress. Results include thousands of feet of repaired stream-bank, invasive species removed along riparian buffers, and more.

EXPLORE NATURE & CULTURE


  • Atchafalaya National Heritage Area -- Atchafalaya River Basin is the nation's largest river swamp, containing almost one million acres of America's most significant bottomland hardwoods, swamps, bayous, and backwater lakes.  
  • Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership -- This heritage area includes the interconnected waterways of Lake Champlain, Lake George, the Champlain Canal and portions of the  Upper Hudson River warershed in Vermont and New York. The area is the ancestral homeland of Algonquin and Iroquois peoples and, over the past 400 years, played a vital role in the establishment of the United States and Canada. Learn more about the Lake Champlain Basin Program.
  • Great Basin National Heritage Area -- Explore a section of the largest U.S. desert and see the Bristlecone pine trees, which can live to be 5,000 years old. Great Basin NHA celebrates the Indians, settlers, miners, and explorers that were shaped by this unique region.

Engage @HHPreservItNPS using #HeritageArea30. For more information on NHAs visit: http://www.nps.gov/heritageareas

[Submitted by Katie Durcan, katie_Durcan@nps.gov, 202-354-2268]

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CAREER OPPORTUNITIES



Natural Resource Stewardship and Science
GS-0560-11/12 Budget Analyst

Natural Resource Stewardship and Science has issued an announcement for a budget analyst. The duty station is in Washington, DC.

 

Click on the link below for a copy of the announcement with full details on duties, area information, and procedures for applying. It closes on September 15th.

 

For specific area and housing information or information directly pertaining to vacancy status, contact: Gary Mason, chief of the Office of Budget and Finance for NRSS, at 202-513-7204.

[Submitted by Amanda Burnham, AMANDA_BURNHAM@NPS.GOV, 970-267-2154]

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Natural Resource Stewardship and Science
GS-0560-9/11 Budget Analyst

Natural Resource Stewardship and Science has issued an announcement for a budget analyst. The duty station is in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Click on the link below for a copy of the announcement with full details on duties, area information, and procedures for applying. It closes on September 15th.

For more on Fort Collins, go to http://www.fcgov.com/. For specific area and housing information or information directly pertaining to the vacancy, contact Gary Mason, chief of the Office of Budget and Finance for NRSS, at 202-513-7204.

[Submitted by Amanda Burnham, AMANDA_BURNHAM@NPS.GOV, 970-267-2154]

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Herbert Hoover National Historic Site (IA)
GS-0090-4 Park Guide

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site has issued an announcement for a park guide.

Click on the link below for a copy of the announcement with full details on duties, area information, and procedures for applying.

The park is located in West Branch, Iowa (population 2300).  Schools (K-12), churches, medical care, and groceries are available in West Branch.  Iowa City (population 70,000) is located 10 miles west.  A diverse community, Iowa City offers excellent medical care, higher education (including two- and four-year colleges), cultural, and recreational activities.  Housing in West Branch is available, but limited. Housing in Iowa City is plentiful and moderately priced for purchase, but rental property can be limited. Park housing may be available.  

The announcement closes on September 5th.
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