Annie Stencil Student Conservation Association Project Leader Saguaro National Park 3693 South Old Spanish Trail Tucson, Arizona 85730 Start 1/10/2011 End 10/14/2011 (208) 608 6320 email@example.com 
On Thursday, the crew spend the day at the Arizona - Sonora Desert Museum located in the Tucson Mountains. We attended the "raptor free flight" demonstration, as well as watched random animals, such as a porcupine, skunk, and pelican, take a "spin on the cat walk"...pretty interesting day! The Sonoran Desert Museum has inside and outside components, and it literally takes all day to get your fill. Such an amazing place. Check out our photos, and go to the website if you're interested about learning more!
Goodbye, Coronado National Memorial. Until we meet again...
We just finished up our last week of work at Coronado National Memorial. As a whole, the team flush-cut and limbed 80 percent of the trees and shrubs surrounding a 160 acre prescribed burn unit. Pretty good for a crew of six with little to no fire experience! The vegetation consisted of mostly Arizona White Oak (Quercus arizonica), Manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp), and Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa).
Although we will miss Coronado (our sweet government housing, the manzanita, oak, alligator juniper, agave, yucca, sotol and grassland landscape, the vultures, and the proximity to Mexico), we are excited to move on to our next destination; Fort Bowie National Historic Site!
Because I forgot the team camera this week (my bad), we only have a few pictures that we were able to take with Josh's camera, which only turned on long enough to take a single picture and then pooped out on us. The Law Enforcement in the park were kind enough to take us down to the border wall, to see what it looked like close-up. From far away, it looks tiny. But from two feet away, it's a whole nother story...
The crew took a break from Coronado and spent the past week working at Saguaro National Park in the Tucson Mountain District. Surrounded by Saguaro Cacti for miles in every direction, it was a nice change in latitude for us. We spent ten hour days in the desert doing systematic mapping of buffelgrass; a highly invasive/fuel loading/desert loving grass. This type of mapping involves using a GPS to track your coordinates. Each person spreads out 20 meters apart, creating a starting line. We move forward in the same direction, looking for, mapping, and removing buffelgrass. Once we hit our stopping point, we spread out in a line with different cooridinates and head in another direction; eventually creating a grid of mapped desert. At one point I looked over my shoulder to see all of us spread out, roaming through the desert like a pack of wild animals. Later on, we heard coyotes calling out to one another. It's times like these when you realize how truly connected to nature you are if you let your consciousness allow it.
When we came upon a plant or a patch of buffelgrass, we used rock hammers to remove them and piled the grasses, roots and seeds under rocks to prevent seed spread. Buffelgrass is a threat to the desert in many different ways, and projects at Saguaro National Park to remove them are ongoing. Although manual removal and chemical treatment doesn't fully eradicate the species, it slows down the population and dispersal of new plants, allowing native vegetation (such as Saguaro Cacti) a chance to thrive.
Please enjoy some photographs of our adventures as a pack of wild animals...
As we roamed the desert this past week, I was mesmerized by the unfamiliar territory and all the life that surrounded me. However, the desert is not only filled with life, but with death as well. As I looked around I began to see more and more skeletons of plants continuing to be a part of the desert dynamic. After going a bit camera-crazy taking pictures of plant skeletons, I decided to share with everyone what I often forget; dead does not mean gone.
Moon Over Mexico 
During our third hitch at Coronado, the moon was at its fullest. And every night, we'd stare at the Moon Over Mexico. So incredible how you can be looking at two different countries in one spot...standing still.
We spent the week continuing on our prep work for the prescribed burn. We are about halfway through the perimeter of the 160 acre polygon, and have another week of work ahead of us the last week in March. We have been limbing some large oak stands, pushing our way through sharp Acacia to get to Mesquite, and carrying limbs through a sea of Lehmans lovegrass. The days are long and the work is plenty, but we love what we do and wouldn't have it any other way!
After our last hitch at Coronado, we will post maps of the burn unit with information about the work we've completed; such as species of trees and plants, acreage and percent covered, etc. We are looking forward to the completion of this project and our first taste of prescribed fire!
We ended the week with an 11 mile hike to the highest peak in the Huachuca Wilderness -- Miller Peak. Climbing switchbacks uphill, only to lift our heads and see the peak off in the distance, we were mesmerized by the way the desert united with a forest of Douglas Fir and Pine, blending its colors and mystery together. When we reached the peak, we felt like we were on top of the world. It was an incredible bonding experience for the crew and, once again, reminded us of how lucky we are to be right here, right now!
Please enjoy some photographs of our work hitch, followed by an arrangement from our hike; sights that moved us into perpetual bliss.
We are STOKED to enter this unofficial, slightly peculiar food blog competition. Bring it on, Corps Teams!
Here is our first entry.
1. The photos of our meal are posted below. We forgot to take a "before" shot of the meal preparation, but the detailed description should give you an idea of what colors filled the kitchen counter.
2. Josh Ulrich and Annie Stencil prepared this glorious dinner. I think it is important to understand that although we washed our hands before we started, our faces were literally caked with dirt from using the chainsaw all day. First, we diced all the vegetables that were to go into the pan to sautee. Onions, zucchini, carrots, garlic, and tomatoes. Then, we brought a pot of water to a boil before adding spinach fettuccini (spelling?) pasta. AKA pasta from heaven. Then, we unintentionally cooked the pasta for too long, creating a finished product that was cooked way past "al dente". However, we didn't mind. We were so tired from a long day out in the field that it was beneficial not to have to use our chewing muscles. After the vegetable medely was sauteed and garlic aroma filled the air, we added a can of whole tomatoes and let it reduce and simmer with the vegetables. THEN we grated an entire block of white cheddar to put on top of the finished product. With dirt still on our faces, we enjoyed the most delicious mushy pasta ever made.
We are nearing the end of our second hitch at Coronado National Memorial! We started out the week with prep work along the east side of the prescribed burn perimeter; limbing large mesquite trees and removing ladder fuel.
Ladder Fuels: Low lying shrubs underneath or surrounding trees that could ignite and create crown fires. Crown fires are dangerous because embers could travel from the "crown" of the tree and create spot fires in new areas. This is especially important to prevent when dealing with prescribed burns because the last thing you want is for the fire to get out of control and require suppression tactics.
We continued prep work along the perimeter on Tuesday with some help from Jay, a firefighter from Tucson who offered to come down and work with us. With his help we covered a lot of ground, and had a blast working with and learning from someone with so much experience in the fire world.
On Wednesday we took a break from the perimeter and worked inside the burn unit with 5 National Park Service Arcaheology gurus. We limbed trees (Mesquite and Oak), removed ladder fuels (Manzanita), and cut high fire intensity grasses (Lehmann's lovegrass) from in and around archaic rock structures. The rock structures are believed to be remnants of an old corral; dwellings, walls, stoves etc. As we worked, we would take breaks periodically to stop, look, and listen...Not only are we working on a hill with a panoramic view of Mexico, but we are also standing where Native Americans dwelled over 6,000 years ago. If you stop for a moment, you can feel the history overlapping with the present. If you look, you can see Mexico. If you listen, you can hear Mother Nature and ancestral spirits saying "Thank You" in the wind. Now that's a trip.
On our off time this week, we explored Coronado Cave (pictures below), made some incredible rice and veggie bombs (hitch slang for enormous amounts of rice and veggies) and enjoyed listening to music, reading good books, learning about local plants and basking in each others company. We love our jobs and love even more that we can share them with you!
Most people who meet him find him rather odd on first impression. Those privileged enough to get to know him better find out they were absolutely correct. Born in the Shenandoah Valley, he has returned to the Sonoran Desert, where he previously lived for 9 ½ years, bringing a special element of depravity to the invasive-plant-"removal" activities of the Native Plant Corps Saguaro Team. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a B.S. in Wildlife Conservation, proving that any individual possessing the right amount of self-discipline can suppress the urge to reduce nonnative plants to pathetic piles of ash and sawdust just long enough to appear mentally stable and worthy of a degree in the eyes of a prestigious institution…the wait was long but revenge is sweet. Josh excels at a number of projectile-related skills including dirt clods, ninja stars, and skipping stones. He likes football, endings where the good guy dies, and climbing trees—he does not like shoes. If possible he enjoys eating locally within his “foodshed,” but will gladly settle for a Five Dollar Box from Taco Bell when he can’t. Nickname: Birdman
Greetings and salutations! I am Sarah Timber Jenny Seiler and I hale from the hot and wet city of Redding, or the Dirty 530, in Northern California. I am an avid hiker, a wanderer, and a daydreamer. My interests include learning, working/being outside, collecting VHS’s, going to shows, and hanging with my friends and family. I spent my first two years of college soaking up the sun at San Diego State University and my last two studying geography and sustainability at Portland State University. Recently I left the beautiful Pacific Northwest to join the Saguaro Native Plant Corps and serve my second time around with the SCA. This season I am looking forward to working at various parks in southern Arizona, using chainsaws, learning plant IDs, and learning how to Two-step with my awesome crew. Now is all you have! So come, take a walk on the wild side, and discover the extreme and intriguing Southwest.
Here I am in the Sonoran Desert of southeast Arizona. Although it’s a far cry from my water saturated, moss dripping forests of the Pacific Northwest, I couldn’t be more excited to be here! I am absolutely enthralled with the alien landscape of cacti and other heavily armored desert dwelling vegetation. This season is going to fulfill my desire to experience some of the many ecological fancies of the Sonoran Desert, from the water starved desert lowlands to the cool and lofty coniferous forests of the many mountain ranges. I’m absolutely pumped to destroy some invasive plants, restore some historic battlefields and bask in the glory of a hundred spectacular sunsets. And cowboy hats…lots of cowboy hats.
North Carolina will always be home to me. I love cats, though I don’t imitate them like some people. I always want a cheeseburger and a backrub. People getting left behind and loud chewing make me irritable. I do not disbelieve in fairies, and I am interested in learning about different individual and cultural perspectives on the value of nature.
After gleefully and warily escaping the world of formal education, I landed safely in Tucson, Arizona. So far I’m still really excited to get my hands dirty and do some serious work, but the real challenge and learning will be in getting to know some awesome people with significantly different points of view and various interests. While I’m excited about getting outdoors and basking in country music, when allowed, the best part of this experience has got to be the hardest. That is living and working with the same people for 8 months. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and jump.
On Monday, the team began training to become Wildland Firefighters! I exclamate this point because we are SO EXCITED. The class is identified as S130/190 and L180. So far we have been in the audience to some very experienced National Park Service and Forest Service Firefighters, learning technical terms, strategies and tactics and hearing awesome (and sometimes terrifying) stories from the field. We have also learned how to set up AND crawl into a personal fire shelter in less than 25 seconds! On Thursday we practiced digging a fireline for a "simulated" fire and got some hands-on training with tools. Then, just in case we haven't had enough, we will train even MORE with a pack test; 3 miles, 45 pounds, in under 45 minutes. And both feet have to stay on the ground at all times. AKA No Running! As we continue our training, we'd be more than happy for you to check out our photos and send as much positive pack test energy as possible in our direction. Which is most likely South and West :)
P.S. Further down are some pictures from a free lecture at the University of Arizona on Black Holes. We are now not only into conservation and wildland firefighting, but hyperspace as well! AND to top it off, we ended the Night of Black Holes with some free short stack pancakes at IHOP. Life is good.
We are on our first hitch at Coronado National Memorial, about 2 hours south of Tucson. The border of Mexico is within sight, sometimes close enough to seem surreal.
Our field work at Coronado National Memorial consists of fuel reduction processes to prepare for a prescribed burn that we will help with in April. We are using chainsaws to limb or cut mesquite, manzanita and varieties of oak (depending on the location and size). The purpose of this removal is to create buffer zones to control the perimeters of the burn.
We arrived here on Tuesday to meet with the National Park Service Archeologist, who took us to the sites within the prescribed burn unit that are historically unique and sensitive. They have found Native Americans artifacts that date from 4 to 8 thousand years ago. We learned archaeological terms (is it a shert? a chert? a sherd?) and have developed trained eyes in spotting artifacts. Although sometimes, it really is just a rock.
It's an awesome bonus to field work knowing that we are not only conserving the land, but history as well.
Posted below are some pictures from our time here at Coronado so far...more to come!
Saguaro National Park 
The Sonoran Desert is a mysterious element of the Southwest. The geology, aroma, vegetation and spirit out here creates a web of natural interaction, and it is beyond what we may comprehend. A legend that I've become fond of is that our ancestors have been preserved in each and every Saguaro Cactus, and if you look long enough, you can actually see them. I am proud to say that we will be working towards protecting these wonderful spirit plants for the next 10 months!
Our team will be traveling and working throughout Southeastern Arizona. Below is a short description of our worksites:
Saguaro National Park
*Invasive grass removal to reduce fire hazard fuel loads and conserve habitat for the Saguaro Cactus
Coronado National Memorial
*Chainsaw prep work to control the peremiter for a prescribed burn in April
Fort Bowie National Historic Park
*Removing mesquite trees (a major fire hazard tree) using mechanical and chemical methods
Chiricahuah National Monument
*Invasive grass removal to reduce fire hazard fuel loads
You can find details about our specific projects from our progress reports from the field.
We will be based out of Tucson, Arizona but will travel to these National Park Service lands, conduct field work, collect data, implement and teach conservation ethics and give back to Mother Earth!
Follow our trail to keep up with the progress of the team, join us on hitches (virtually) and view pictures of our work!
From February 8th to February 19th, the SCA Native Plant Corps Team at Saguaro National Park was at a YMCA camp for Corps Member Training in Oracle, Arizona (about an hour and a half north of Tucson).
The Corps Members were trained in SCA Field Operations Standards and Risk Management, Botany and Plant Identification, Date Collection and Reporting, Tool and Body Mechanics, Base Camp Set-Up and Backcountry Standards, Leave No Trace Ethics, Wilderness First Aid, CPR and Chainsaw/Game of Logging (among other things).
Among approximately 50 other SCA Field Staff, Admin Staff and other Corps Members, we had an amazing time. Not only was the training informative and practical, but we also formed great friendships with like-minded people and were surrounded by a sense of humor and participated in fun, interactive games. All in all, the 2 week training was spectacular.
We are now, as a team of 6, back in Southeastern Arizona and eager to put our skills to work.
Here are a few pictures from Corps Member Training so you can see the smiles on our faces!