Mid-Week – Conservation Corps

Mid-Week – Courtesy of Moraine Crew

Outline of the Week:

  • Monday – Career Tour of NPS and Invasive Species Management 
  • Tuesday – Educational Day – Field Classes: Alpine Ecology [Anna, Hayley, Max, Randy] Environmental Change in RMNP [Will], and Predator-Prey Relations [Barnabas]
  • Wednesday – Happy 4th of July (Day Off)
  • Thursday – Educational Day – Field Classes: Fire Ecology [Hayley and Barnabas attended], Edible and Medicinal Plants [Will attended], and Women of the Rocky Mountains [Randy, Max, and Anna attended]
  • Friday – Mid-Season Evaluations, Crew Feedback Meetings, and Poster Project

Last week was Mid-Week!!! We had a week packed full of education, personal growth, and fun.

On Monday, we participated in both a Career Tour and a conservation project with Resource Stewardship. The Career Tour was lead by the Education Director or RMC, Ms. Rachel Balduzzi. We toured different offices including the Wilderness Office, SAR Cache, Fire Cache, Greenhouse, and Office of Interpretation to learn about career opportunities with the National Park System. It was an awesome opportunity to see the wide range of careers within the NPS. After our tour, we had lunch with the all of the crews and then headed to participate in a Resource Stewardship project involving removing invasive species. We geared up with gloves, reflective vests, and shovels to extract musk thistle. It was a successful afternoon of removing invasive plants in the Park. We found an elk antler during our mission to remove all non-native plants.

A person in a hat and reflective vest holding a snake in a grassy field with trees in the background.
Elk Antler!

On Tuesday, we participated in education classes including Alpine Tundra Ecology. Anna, Hayley, Max, and Randy spent their day on the alpine tundra learning about the plants and animals that live there. The plants have to endure extreme weather conditions such as wind, snow and freezing temperatures, and harsh sunlight. Many of the plants have short growing seasons and take years to mature, which can easily be damaged if visitors go off trail. This class helped us understand the importance of following some park regulations that may otherwise seem silly like “keep off the tundra.

A person with a green backpack hiking on a mountain trail overlooking distant snowy peaks and a clear blue sky.
Alpine Tundra Hike

Will got the opportunity to learn about the geologic history of RMNP and how that relates to the modern vegetation communities that attracted trappers and settlers that altered the history of land use.  Activities like trapping beavers, hunting wolves and logging had had land legacy effects in changing how streams flow and altering the natural fire cycles. The effects of this land use is now something that RMNP manages to mitigate with activities like thinning forest stands to decrease fuel and implementing exclosures to allow vegetation around rivers to come back.

Barnabas was a part of the Predator and Prey class on Tuesday, learning about the relationships and the dependence predators and prey in the Rocky Mountain National Parks have on each other. A part of the program also consisted of labeling which predators and prey in the park are native or non-native, or even historically present and whether their species are endangered or not. We were taught that just because a species may have received endangered designation nationwide does not necessarily mean that the species is endangered in specific states. We hiked along parts of the montane forest and identified scats of various animals. Size, texture, color, and other factors help determine an animal’s scat. Even the season and recent meals also determining features of the scat. For example, moose in the springtime, have wetter scat due to eating from the wetlands and simply drinking more water.


Wednesday was the 4th of July, We all had the day off to enjoy ourselves and celebrate the holiday. Randy, Max and Anna went down to the Front Range to spend the day in Fort Collins and watch fireworks while Barnabas and Hayley stayed in Estes Park hanging out with some of the other crews. Will took the opportunity to do his first 14er and climbed Longs Peak with one of his high school friends from Colorado.

Thursday was similar to Tuesday with education classes, but the topics were different and included Fire Ecology, Women of the Rocky Mountains, and Edible and Medicinal Plants. Barnabas and Hayley learned about fire ecology and were able to hike part of the Fern Lake Trail to study the effects of a fire that occurred in the park in 2013. They learned about plants that are adapted to fire activity and others that do not do so well with fire. They also learned the process of fires, how they spread, how they are started, how they affect the environment they occur in, and how the environment influences fire activity. At the end of their day, they created posters that promote the use of prescribed fires or that have the purpose to alter the public’s view of fires that was created by the Smokey the Bear campaign.

Will had a great day learning medicinal uses for the plethora of native plants that can be found in RMNP. He was amazed at the amount of plants that can be used as beneficial medicine to help cure ailments from smallpox to upset stomachs and eye washes.

Friday was both a sad and happy day. It was our last day together with all the other crews, but we were able to focus on personal development and work on our crew posters that will be presented at the end of the season. We met with Tommy (Field Coordinator), Morgan(Field Coordinator), or Geoff (Program Director) to discuss our mid-season rose-bud-thorn and group dynamics. Then separately we met one-on-one to go over our personal goals, identify steps we can take to achieve these goals, share how staff can contribute to these goals, or create new goals for the second half of our season. After these meetings, we worked on our End-of-Season poster for the Moraine Crew. Anna had a creative idea to display our poster as a window sash with a different aspect of our season together expressed in each of the lights.

It is amazing to think about how we are now more than halfway done with the season! Although this week was a nice change of pace and opportunity for some R and R, we are all excited to get back to work on Monday and start some of our bigger projects for the season. These are the ADA trails at Glacier Gorge/ Moraine Park Campgrounds and the Ranger Station log replacement! See you all next week!

-Barnabas (Moraine Crew Member)

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