“I came here feeling like a mere stranger but I’m leaving feeling as if I’ve gained a family. The hospitality I received from the park rangers, park hosts, and the landlord and her son has exceeded all my expectations. The people I met here in New England have been wonderful, there was this one older gentleman at Buffumville’s boat ramp that offered us a Klondike ice cream bar because it was scorching hot outside. I appreciate everyone that I have met and I give a big 'thank you' for welcoming us with open arms. I’ll miss this place and the people, thanks for all the crazy memories and stories. Special thanks to Nicole Giles, Jesse Caney, and Jared Gagnon.”
Her next big adventure will be spent in the Mojave Desert of southern California as part of the Desert Restoration Corps, doing conservation projects for the Bureau of Land Management. After living and working in the Mojave for eight months, she will be taking a mini detour home to Salt Lake City by flying to Anchorage instead and spending the summer there with her friend. Traveling, discovering new places and people on her excursions, and seizing the various opportunities life has to offer are just a few things Suradee is looking forward to.
“There were some interesting people in New England, the ‘Mass of crazies’ yelling at each other. Even when the weather was bad, you get a good laugh during your survey period time. I enjoyed those times which made our survey periods fly by.”
While working in New England, she decided that she would like to pursue higher education and get certified in GIS (Geographic Information System). She learned this summer that an undergraduate degree will open doors but that alone will not help her land the job she wants without furthering her education and gaining more experiences.
“I am glad I got the chance to live an area that I have never been before with some really cool people. It is nice to be able to say that I survived the Texas summer heat".
Following his stay in Texas he plans to join the Desert Restoration Corps in Ridgecrest California. He will be in Ridgecrest for eight months, living out in the desert for the majority of the time, working on building fences to prevent off-road vehicle from going on protected land. Following his stay in California, Matt hopes to be accepted into the Peace Corps, where he is currently a candidate for a position in Sub-Saharan Africa, working with the AIDS program, which is scheduled for June of 2013.
“I loved the hospitality of the south and from Texas. The people are so kind and humble. The majority of the gatekeepers are loving people and the workers at the core are awesome in to showing us the true beauty of their lakes. I will in the future come back to vacation down here in the lakes. The tranquility is something that can’t be beat”
He plans to take all the information he learned about the USACE and the dams with him as he pursues a degree in civil engineering. In particular, the knowledge he gained about how the Army Corps functions and the roles and responsibilities of different folks within the USACE.
“I really enjoyed the opportunity to live in central Texas for the summer. I was able to experience the area so much more thoroughly then if I had simply been visiting and got to meet some really interesting people along the way.”
From her time with the Army Corps of Engineers Visitor Use Survey program, Jill developed her ability to always remain gracious and friendly when communicating with visitors and realized the importance of building connections with those around her. Additionally, getting a look into the day to day workings of the Corps-controlled lakes made her increasingly aware of the importance of keeping our natural resources clean.
Hey everyone, this is the final hitch report for the Texas team and the summer is winding down slowly. Throughout the survey year, here in Texas, we have obtained valued skills which will plan on applying in our future endeavors.
In these last two weeks we had the chance to participate and some cool conservations projects, working with the Waco Parks and Wildlife. John Tibbs, John Provine, and Michael Baird, form Waco Parks and wildlife, were nice enough to let us tag along with them to Lake Aquilla, near Whitney Lake, and Belton Lake and assist them in planting some water willow, which helps maintain the shore line and wildlife on the lakes. It was really great working with these guys because of their willingness to answer any questions we had about the lakes and their friendliness.
After finishing up our final project with the two Johns and Michael, they were kind enough to treat us to some good ‘ole Cajun style food at a place called Razzoo’s near Killeen Texas. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed what they got, so if you’re in Killeen Razzoo’s isn’t a bad spot to stop.
It is sad to say that this is our last Hitch report, but it is nice to be able to say we enjoyed our time we spent in Texas. All of us in Texas hope that we are able to have more enjoyable adventures like the ones we here. Texas out.
Goodbye, New England!
As we’re wrapping up the last couple of weeks here, we look back at
all the things we have accomplished this summer. It all began on May
21, 2012 when the various teams arrived in Seattle, Washington. After
all the SCA training, delicious home cooked meals, team-building
activities, and first aid trainings; the individual teams parted ways
after saying our bittersweet goodbyes. For us here in New England, we
not only parted ways with the new friends we made in Washington, but
also the other 2/3 of our team (including our Project Leader) who went
to Waco, Texas. After months of collecting recreational data, we have
developed many close relationships with the wonderful park rangers we
had the pleasure of working with. The park hosts were also equally
great and very welcoming; we will truly miss everyone who made us feel
In addition to the fond memories we made while working at various dam
sites, we also made more memories by going on excursions. I can
officially say I have visited and enjoyed Boston, Cape Cod, and the
lovely but chaotic New York City. The different conservation projects
we had the privilege of participating in has been both a fun and
educational experience. The opportunity to receive applicable hands-on
work experience in the environmental field, working with extremely
knowledgeable rangers, and travelling to different places has been an
honor and a blessing.
Thank you, SCA, for everything you have provided for us. This is by
far, the most memorable summer we’ve had.
Many thanks to the amazing park rangers and park hosts of the U.S.
Army Corps New England District, you have been wonderful to us!
New England will be missed, but alas, it is time we part ways and head
home. Another journey awaits…
Suradee Thongkiattikul and Mercedes Woods
New England Team, Summer 2012
These last 2 months we have discovered different ways to apply ourselves during conservation days. Yes, our summer doing surveys for SCA is coming to an end, but we still have a few fun exciting weeks left. Suradee and I just, the team of two in New England, has faced many different challenges but have overcome many. We have laughed at how far we have come in this journey and how many great outdoor experiences we’ve had in the field. During our surveying days, we’ve encountered many of the same visitors; they even know us by name. Each park has brought a different vibe; even the park rangers we’ve worked with are all different in their own ways.
We’ve had the privilege to have two wonderful celebrations of our birthdays. We had three days off, so we took advantage of that and planned a trip to New York City. It was an amazing trip, with many great memories. The trip was much needed, we felt cooped up in our small town and this mini vacation was exactly what the doctor ordered. We are grateful for the opportunities that SCA has given us. The various conservation projects taught us real hands-on experiences that could be used in our future careers, and surveying has improved our communication and intrapersonal skills.
We really enjoyed all of our conservation days and recently, we went into the field at Mansfield Hollow Dam in Connecticut to assist the head ranger, Ed Greenough, cutting down invasive plants around these protected bushes called New Jersey Tea Berry. The head ranger noticed over the years that deer have been grazing on these plant and he wanted to put prevent this from continuing. Our objective was to remove the fence that were currently there, cut and trim any invasive plants around the area, and then to expand the surrounding area around each bundle of New Jersey Tea Berry and place in new fence. This was a two-day project due to how much work was required. After we enjoyed our time there at Mansfield Hollow, we had our next conservation day at West Hill Dam in Massachusetts. Here we experienced something different by staining a wooden bridge with water sealant paint. The bridge extended from one parking lot to the next, which was their beach area. As much as we enjoy being in direct sunlight, we were glad we started early in the morning because it was incredibly hot by noon.
Summer is coming to an end down here in Texas and the surveys have been slowing down at all of our areas. As we continue our work here, we are reminded of the hospitality and the consideration of the employees who work for the Core.
On Wednesday August 1, 2012 we were able to shadow Ranger Brad Ellis at Waco Lake. We were able to get more information about the dam’s history, the parks, the general makeup of the people who uses the parks and the uses of the water that Waco provides to its citizens. We also asked more about their backgrounds, education, and reasons of why they wanted to become Park rangers to get a idea of what a average park ranger is and what do they bring to the army core.
We also got to work with Waco Wetlands which is a co-op between the city of Waco and the core of engineers to restore much of the destroyed land from a previous pool rise. We started early that morning taking out farmed raised aquatic native plants to the lake. They help out erosion and provide habitat to the fish and will make the lake look more scenic for years to come.
While we are enjoying our last month down here, we are pressed for time to get around to see what else Texas has to offer in terms of entertainment, adventure, excitement, and education
Summer has begun to wind down here in Texas. As the weather gets hotter, the parks and beaches have slowed down a bit from our chart-topping frequency numbers of the first six weeks. We were interested to hear that our team frequency results from Texas and Massachusetts make us the busiest team but those hectic Saturday afternoons when it feels as if everyone in the state is at our survey location definitely feel like it.
Outside of surveying, our team has had a great couple weeks of interesting conservation-focused activities and relaxing summer fun. On July 26th we headed out to Waco Lake to do a deer count with Rangers Eric and Brad along with our fellow SCA interns working at the lake. After arriving at the Project Office at 8:30pm we headed out to Higginbotham and Flat Rock hunting areas. We spent the next few hours riding around in the bed of an off road vehicle shining hand-held spot lights at any shiny pair of deer eyes we could see. We only counted about a dozen deer but thoroughly enjoyed being out in the woods on a beautiful summer night.
The very next day all four of us had the day off so we decided to venture out to Tyler, Texas to see some very big cats. After a lengthy drive through central Texas we arrived at Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge where we were greeted by a smiling intern and given a tour of the facility. Tiger Creek takes in abused, neglected, or displaced big cats giving them a safe place to live out the rest of their lives and providing interested visitors like us a chance to see and learn about them. Ania, our knowledgeable guide, introduced us to some of the tigers, lions, leopards, and bobcats that live at Tiger Creek before we were set free to wander around and gawk at the cats. Unfortunately, petting the cats is strongly discouraged.
For our next conservation day we headed down to Stillhouse Lake where we were given a tour of the Stillhouse dam and were able to explore some of the lake’s hiking trails. We learned about everything from how they open and shut the gates to the hourly visual inspections of the dam that the rangers have to do during flooding.
Most recently, team Texas enjoyed an afternoon of barbequing and swimming at Whitney Lake’s Lofers Bend camping area with a fellow SCA intern, Sean. After a morning of surveying, we met up with Sean at his campsite where we grilled up some burgers and kebobs and cooled off in Whitney Lake. All in all, a great summer day.
July has been a great month for us thus far. We’ve done many conservation projects at Westville Dam in Massachusetts. The projects range from building/restoring trails to pulling out debris (i.e. logs and various trash) from the water source that is entering the dam area. All the park rangers we’ve had the privilege of working with have been wonderful; they are all friendly, incredibly helpful, and welcoming. Our survey days have been going by really quickly, compared to the first few days. Since we have established ourselves at various locations, we have met many of the “regular” visitors who are glad to see us again. Being away from home and not knowing anyone here in New England, it is comforting to be able to see familiar faces and establish a good rapport with them.
Our off days have consisted of many great adventures, especially “big city” excursions. We rode on the T from Worcester to Boston because one of us had a job interview, so that was a new experience altogether. We had three days off, so we decided to explore New York City. That itself would probably be a highlight of our adventures. It is always so nice to see new places and meet new people, while learning the historical value of different locations and seeing famous buildings and monuments.
Once again, we are so grateful to have such a wonderful experience with SCA. Not only have we gained applicable hands-on skills by doing conservation projects, we have gained networking through the people we work with and people we survey, and the city adventures have served as a cherry on top.
Texas BirdHouses 
New England Rocks! 
July 10, 2012: Conservation Day #4
For our fourth conservation project, we went back to Westville Dam to
resume the previous project we were working on (i.e.
building/restoring the trail) with park ranger, Jesse Caney. We
accomplished quite a bit by shoveling fresh soil and smoothing it out
to make a “curved bend” for the trail. Jesse shoveled the soil while
Mercedes and I raked it, but we all took turns doing different tasks.
While the three of us were working, we spotted some wildlife. There
were two cottontail rabbits that kept on dashing by us, and then
followed by a third one not too long after that. As Mercedes was
shoveling, she found a garter snake that slithered out from under the
mulch; this was the second garter snake she has encountered here at
Westville. We also learned from Jesse about the creature called Fisher
Cat, which neither Mercedes or I have ever heard of. This animal could
be found in the forests of New England; it is really aggressive and
knows how to climb trees. It is vaguely similar to a badger and strong
enough to take down a deer by itself. After a good session of trail
restoration in the hot sun, we took a 15 minute break by the stream to
eat some chilled watermelon slices. We went back to work on the trail
for another hour, and we ended up working for a total of two hours
July 14, 2012: Conservation Day #5
Our fifth conservation project took place at the Grand Trunk Trail
Brimfield Section, which is part of Westville Dam. This time we had
two park rangers, Jesse Caney and Jared Gagnon, leading the projects.
We focused on plant revitalization along the trails because a tornado
went through this region, uprooting many trees and causing a lot of
damage. The Westville rangers have recently planted new trees and
seedlings, so we had to make sure they were still in good condition
and thriving in the heat. After we completed with that project, the
rangers drove us to Lake Siog for some land observation. During our
drive to Lake Siog, Jesse spotted a turtle in the middle of the road;
he pulled over to go save the turtle by placing it back into the
stream. At Lake Siog, we met with a couple of the park
hosts/volunteers who gave us a mini tour around Lake Siog. To top it
off, they gave us a harmonica lesson, which was definitely the
highlight of our day.
July 15, 2012: Conservation Day #6
For our sixth day, we continued with the plant revitalization project
at Grand Trunk Trail Brimfield Section with the same rangers, Jesse
Caney and Jared Gagnon. Jared drove the truck this time and he
spotted a woodchuck running across the street towards our truck, so
Jared dodged the poor creature and spared its life for another day. We
watered the new planted trees and seedlings along the trail, it was
definitely nice to feel the cold water in the scorching hot sun. After
we finished, the rangers made a quick pit stop at Dunkin’ Donuts
because they wanted some “Oreo Coolatas” before we headed back to
Westville Dam to start the second project. The second part of the day
consisted of debris removal from the lake, preventing logs and other
items to enter the dam’s water system and ruin the machine. This
required the rangers to use a chainsaw to make the logs smaller and
more manageable to remove out of the water. We will admit, this was
definitely a tough task because the logs were still heavy despite of
its size. With great teamwork skills, all four of us removed quite a
bit of debris. We spent a total of 2 hours working with them that day.
Hitch 2 
Hey yall, coming from Waco, TX. Things are going great down here in the Waco. We have the visitor use surveys down to a science and we are also beginning to get used to the Texas weather… 90 degrees beginning to feel more like 80 degrees and 70 degrees is too cold to go into the water. For our conservation day we helped the Lake Waco SCA interns with trail maintenance. We cleared about four hundred yards of trail using a weed eater, loppers, and our hands. Then the SCA interns were kind enough to give us a tour of the rest of the parks on Lake Waco and explain what they do on a day to day basis.
For our off time we decided to head on up to Dallas for the day:
• We explored the Dallas Aquarium
• We visited the John F. Kennedy Memorial and Museum
• We went to a Texas Rangers baseball game in the evening.
The JFK memorial and museum was incredible and very moving. We learned a lot about his life history and the assassination in Dallas.
The Rangers the faced off with the Detroit Tigers… which two of our team member are diehard fans. At the aquarium we saw an assortment of animals, including monkeys, lizards, leopards, sharks, birds, and the list goes on. The baseball game was fun, although, extremely hot with the temperature nearing 107 degrees Fahrenheit. Things started out good for the Tigers, holding a 2-1 lead during the first three innings. In the 4th inning the Texas scored four runs of which the Tigers were not quite able to recover from, losing 7-5. Even though the Tigers came out on the losing end, for our two Michiganders, everyone seemed to of had fun. The more time we spend down here we discover more and more exciting things to do.
Conservation Days! 
The Texas Team toured Stillhouse and Belton Lakes with Park Ranger Tood Spivey. It was a lot of fun and we learned all about the area, lakes, and dam systems.
New England Team
We started are day with a smooth ride to Hodges village near the canoe launch which was connected to French river. Are location was at the Green Briar, we met up with ranger Nicole and Coby and they took us over and told us that we will be working on invasive species called yellow iris. Are job was to cut them down or pull them from the roots out. The yellow iris is a long leaf plant that has pretty yellow flowers. These beautiful flower bushes spread in the shallow and deep areas of Hodges canoe launch area and started to take over. For a few hours we worked in a small area but as the sun rose it became very hot heating up to 97 degrees and we ran out of trash bags filling the ones we had. At the end of the day we lost weight wearing the water waders in the sun and we got very familiar with the yellow iris and how they aren’t good for the dam environment.
Hitch Report 1
Welcome to Waco, Texas. Central Texas home of the roaming cattle ranchers. I believe Texas have the most ranches, pickup trucks and the most hospitable people in this country. Since landing down in Texas three weeks ago, the people down here have been the nicest and most humble people I have ever met. This started when we started to check out the project lakes we were to survey. Meeting with the rangers and the administration at the project lakes was great. Learning about each dam and every one of them has a different secondary mission. Whitney has a hydroelectric plant installed inside of it. While Waco and Still house Provides water to all the counties within a 100 miles range. Belton and Still house are the only dams that are natural earthen dams and they are specifically built for total flood control.
While we were visiting Whitney we were able to take a tour of the dam there and it was like walking through a time machine but even though it was built in the fifties it was still high tech but simple technology. We enjoyed our visit. On June 14 the head ranger asked us to survey and give feedback on their newly built 1-3/4 mile long bike and jogging trail to see if there was needed changes or improvements to the trail before it opened. The new trail was beautiful and needed only minor improvements dealing with proper drainage of water.
During that time, we took a day trip to Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge where we hiked around the beautiful scenery for 12 miles in the sub desert area. But we didn’t stop there we continued straight down to Austin to go sightseeing and learn more about the state history and culture. We first went to The University of Texas to visit the Lyndon J. Johnson Library Museum to learn more about him and his wife, Lady Bird. Then we walked to the state capital to learn more about the beginning of the state and the diversity of people who helped make Texas what it is now. We walked about their downtown area to see the daily commotions of native Austin citizens. The visit to the city was great and hope we get another chance to see more of it soon!
Our first day of official surveying was June 13. One group started early in the morning at 8:20am at Soldier Bluff at Whitney lake while our second group had to start at 1:40pm to start at Westcliff at Belton lake. At the end of the day, everything went through smoothly and we are hoping that it will continue to be a fun and exciting experience.
New England Hitch Report 1
Greetings from New England! After settling down in Massachusetts, we started off by making appointments with different USACE project managers located at the sites we will be surveying throughout the summer. We wanted to get the ball rolling by making sure we have a conservation project scheduled every week. The first site we went to was Buffumville Dam, there we met with park ranger and project manager, Tim Russell. We discussed some possible conservation projects and ended up agreeing to work on the cranberry bog island, dealing with invasive species.
On June 11, 2012, we met with Tim Russell’s fellow park rangers, Nicole and Jean. They took us out to the cranberry bog on a motor boat. We were equipped with camouflage-colored water waders, pair of gloves, and an endless supply of garbage bags. The environment was marshy and the island was really small. This was our first experience working in this type of environment. We enjoyed stomping around in mud and water, carefully seeking out the invasive plant called loosestrife and making sure to pluck out the entire plant (roots included). There were many wildlife on the island, and we even saw a duck’s nest with 7 eggs. We took a mini lunch break, which consisted of peanut butter jelly sandwiches. The overall time we spent on the bog was 3 hours, and we are currently scheduling another project at that location because the experience was wonderful and the park rangers were great to work with.
On June 14, 2012, we began our very first day surveying. We began our Thursday morning by leaving our house at 5:00AM so we can arrive at our site in Connecticut (Mansfield Hollow Dam and West Thompson Dam) before 7:00. We were really excited to start working, and the first day went really smoothly. The second day took place at the same two locations, and it went even better because now we are more comfortable with the locations and surveying.
On our off days we enjoy sight-seeing and being typical tourists. We have gone to downtown Hartford, Connecticut and also the very beautiful and historical city of Boston. This entire SCA internship has taught us many valuable things. From the wonderful training in Carnation, Washington to the various hands on experience we’ve received doing conservation projects, our time working with the SCA has been amazing. We are grateful to be placed in New England, the people and weather are both great. We are looking forward to more adventures and learning new things in the months to come.
Matthew Bemis 
Matthew Bemis recently graduated from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, with a M.S. in Exercise Science. He has also recently completed an internship at Hazelton General Hospital in Pennsylvania working in the Cardiac Rehab Center. Some of his duties included the ECG telemetry system for monitoring heart activity, obtaining resting and exercise blood pressure, and educating patients on exercise safety and ways to live a healthier life.
Throughout school he helped coordinate a study examining the physical fitness and activity levels in young healthy adults. Also, in 2010 he gave a research presentation at the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine Conference in Harrisburg, PA and in 2011 a free-communications presentation at the American College of Sports Medicine National Conference in Denver, CO on the “Assessment of Dietary Creatine in Healthy Adults”.
He has experience in various outdoor activities including backpacking, mountain biking, kayaking, and driving off-road vehicles. Matthew has always had great respect for the outdoors and is willing to make sacrifices necessary to help better the environment. He also hopes to work with The Peace Corp in the near future.
Xavier Ricky Love 
Ricky is the youngest member on the Mikva Alumni Board. A 2008 graduate from Amundsen High School, Ricky now has his associate's degree and is working on his bachelors in civil engineering. Since beginning his Mikva years in 2004, he has worked for a number of local political campaigns, volunteered for organizations and lobbying efforts. He has also been volunteering his time to help Westside Community residents - working with teenagers, single parents, and the elderly. Ricky hopes to use his engineering degree to enter a public service field.
Mercedes Woods 
My name is Mercedes K. Woods, I’m from Cleveland Ohio a recent Graduate from Central State University majoring in Geography. I spent that last five years in college studying a variety of cultural diversity, Land uses, and GIS (geographic Information system). Some of the projects consist of the placement of benchmarks, and mapping them for the University.
During the time spent in college I have lived in Hawaii, Maui were I experienced the difference in religion and also studied abroad in Costa Rica going to multiple locations to study the growth of mangroves. Most recently I was the first minority student to start a Latino and Caribbean organization Called T.L.C “Today’s Latino and Caribbean” on Central State campus. Our objective is to spread diversity and the knowledge of the “Dream act”. I’m very couragageous and have a determined spirit. I work to overcome life changing battles; I’m the first grandchild out of forty-two to graduate from college. I have conducted over 15 different programs with my mentor over the years for the campus in leadership, communication and how to become a future mentor. I also volunteer for heartland hospice spending time with the elderly a couple times a week.
This is the first time working with SCA and I’m looking forward to every moment!
Jillian Jablonski 
Jill is a graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Comparative Culture and Politics. While at Michigan State, Jill was employed by the University from 2009-2012 in a variety of positions. These include one year each as a fundraising telemarketer, Resident Mentor, and desk receptionist.
Most recently, Jill has spent time in Mexico and India working with rural communities regarding issues of health and sustainability. In Mexico, she both assisted in the building of environmentally friendly and affordable housing and community education regarding access to clean water. These initiatives acted as important avenues toward the self sufficiency of a rural village outside Cholula, Mexico. In 2011, Jill spent three months living and working in Northern India. Responsibilities included surveying local villagers regarding access to clean drinking water and the health issues they were experiencing due to water contamination. Jill also organized and executed a health camp to provide check-ups to villagers unable to regularly see a doctor.
I was born in Thailand but Utah is where I call home. I grew up in
Salt Lake City, surrounded by majestic mountains and endless supply of outdoor adventures. Some of the most awesome years were spent at
Westminster College where I received my undergrad in Environmental
My favorite pastimes includes hiking, meeting new people, reading,
learning about different cultures, and widening my perspective on
things. I believe that a little spontaneity always makes life much more interesting.
I'm grateful for this opportunity to work with The SCA and I'm looking forward to meeting everyone!
Welcome to The SCA 
Army Corps Surveys 2012
Texas and New England