Last updated: June 19, 2016
Today was spent with the natural resources division at Tuzigoot. The day started off with me and three employees from natural resources going out into the marshlands around Tuzigoot. I had the pleasure of hiking around the area with Hannah Siroky to take snake surveys. We were looking for Mexican Garter Snakes, and to find them we lifted up multiple boards/ pieces of sheet metal that were placed around the marsh by the Park Service for the specific purpose of finding snakes. The Park Service wants to keep tabs on this specific snake because it is an endangered species. Unfortunately, there were no snakes, but I still enjoyed being able to explore the dense thickets of marshland around Tuzigoot National Monument. The other two Park Service employees, Dan Batha and Greg Vandas, were going around the same area checking mosquito traps. The traps are meant to lower the mosquito population to reduce the spread of diseases that some mosquitoes can carry.
Next, Hanna Siroky and I moved over to a different location in the Tuzigoot area to switch out the memory cards of multiple cameras. The cameras are used to spot various species of wildlife in an effort to keep tabs on the wildlife roaming about the national park. It is extremely gorgeous back in the marshlands of Tuzigoot and I had a great time trekking through the area to check the cameras. The whole area is surrounded by green vegetation; there are tall reeds along the marshy shores of sparkling ponds, and lofty sycamore trees with leaves that shake in the breeze, along with countless mesquite trees. The dirt in the area is slightly red, and when paired with green plants and a blue sky, it makes for an overall serene landscape.
After the cameras were all set and ready to go, Hannah and I joined the Arizona Conservation Corps group from the previous day to pull some weeds. The weeds we were pulling are called Kocha, which is a tall, green weed unlike the brown small weeds from yesterday. After we had rid most of the area of Kocha, we moved back the the Natural Resource office to pull more weeds. This time we were pulling Russian Thistle, which is a bluish/ green weed with lines along the stem. Once most of the weeds were eradicated from that area, it was time to move onto some larvae hunting.
The Park Service employees from earlier in the day, along with an intern named Richard Lory, another park service employee named Fraser Watson, and myself, all got into a couple of small ATVs called "Mules" and headed to the Verde River. The Mules are pretty slow and bumpy, but the ride was still very entertaining because it kind of felt like a ride from an amusement park as we went through the densely vegetated area around the river. We stopped at a bridge to meet up with the Conservation Corps group, and then headed the the river by foot. The task was to find dragonfly larvae in the river; this was done by wading into the river with nets and extracting mud from the murky bottom, and then sifting through the mud to find the larvae. Once found, the larvae are then sent to a lab to be tested for mercury. Mercury can cause huge problems for an aquatic ecosystem such as the Verde River, so the larvae that are found play a huge role in the determining if the river is healthy. I had a great time wading through the cool waters of the Verde River, and it seemed as if everyone else was having a good time as well. It turned into a friendly competition to see who could find the most larvae, which added some motivation to the task. All in all, we found seven dragonfly larvae ranging from 13 mm long to 36 mm long. I found the 36 mm larvae under a floating log;it was super fat and was even starting to grow wings! Along with the seven dragonfly larvae, we also found different bug species' larvae, a mysterious swimming worm, a large slug, clams, crayfish, and small fish. I had a blast, and can't wait to see what the natural resources division has in store for tomorrow!