SCA Natural Resource Interns
The Natural Resource Interns will assist the park's Natural Resource Management staff with several projects at the Barataria Preserve Unit. Interns will undertake field work, lab work and office work in support of establishing environmental monitoring instrumentation (including water level loggers, surface elevation assessment installations, a weather station …), implementing natural resource assessment programs (including feral pig impacts, breeding bird monitoring, invasive plant species monitoring and management, and developing aspects of a ‘citizen science’ environmental monitoring program) and assisting with various research projects. In addition, these interns will play a key role in supporting the “science” field operations of the 2013 National Park Service/National Geographic Society BioBlitz which will take place at the Preserve on May 17th and 18th.
These positions will entail field work across the matrix of coastal wetland ecosystems that comprise the Barataria Preserve, including off-trail work in swamps and marshes and travel by foot and small boat, during late Spring and Summer – times of high heat and humidity when biting insects are abundant. Field activities will range from low skill low expertise tasks like invasive species removal and basic sampling to high skill and/or high expertise tasks like datalogger communications, identifying birds by call and operating power tools in remote settings. Lab type work will include small scale construction, sample processing, some microscopy, instrument calibration and data acquisition. Office work will include data management, programming dataloggers and the like.
Useful skills include the ability to navigate in terrestrial systems using a compass and/or a gps unit, experience working/playing in subtropical coastal wetland landscapes, familiarity with some of the biota of these ecosystems, work with simple dataloggers, power tool use, small boat operation, lab task skills, data collection &/or data management skills, and the ability to work in teams and independently. Interested interns may be able to complete the Department of the Interior Motorboat Operator Certification Course.
Student Conservation Association (SCA) position ID's (both for 'natural resource management interns'; begin now through early May; 16 weeks) (url is http://mysca.force.com/member/MemberPositionsScout):
AMERICORPS ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARD POSITIONS
Over the past few decades a suite of invasive floating aquatic plant species have invaded waterways in the Barataria Preserve of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, so that their mats now prevent boat access to large areas of the Preserve for much of the year. Focal species include the Water Hyacinth – introduced about 100 years ago, Giant Salvinia – a comparatively recent invasive species in the northern Gulf Coast with an exceptionally rapid rate of population growth, and ‘Cuban’ nutsedge – another newer invader in the Preserve that utilizes mats made of other invasive floating aquatic species to establish. As a group, these are among the most problematic invasive species in the region and much effort is directed toward their control. Besides impeding boat access through waterways, these invasive plant species compete with native floating aquatic vegetation and change the quality of food available to wetland- and waterway inhabitants. While it is easy to detect their impact on the composition of floating aquatic plant communities, we suspect these invasive species dominated mats have cascading impacts on community structure and biological diversity and on ecosystem properties ranging from light penetration into the water column to patterns of productivity in the aquatic and adjacent terrestrial ecosystems.
Located just 15 miles south of New Orleans, Louisiana, the Barataria Preserve protects 23,000 acres of coastal wetlands in the Mississippi River delta. These wetlands are among the most biologically productive ecosystems in the nation, and they sustain some of the most productive fisheries and waterfowl populations on the planet. People have altered this wetland landscape substantially, including by digging canals in order to access and extract these natural resources as well as the abundant fossil fuel resources. The coast is now dissected by networks of canals and several aggressive invasive species – including Water Hyacinth, Giant Salvinia, ‘Cuban’ Nutsedge and others – are rapidly colonizing the surfaces of many of these waterways.
The Preserve (and the Park as a whole) aims to protect and conserve this natural landscape, its biological diversity, human history and the diverse cultural traditions it has inspired and nurtured. Invasive species – including these floating aquatic species – threaten both the biological integrity of Preserve ecosystems and the cultural use and enjoyment of waterway access via canoes and other small boats. The Park’s Resource Management and Interpretation staff are charged with trying to control invasive species, and with effectively communicating the problem and our approaches to managing it to the public. We also wish to involve the public directly – via volunteer service – in our efforts to reduce invasive species populations and their impacts on these natural and cultural resources.
Options for reducing invasive floating aquatic species’ populations and the extent of their waterway coverage include herbicide application, mechanical removal and biological control. All of these approaches require frequent and spatially extensive effort, and the latter two require intensive investment of labor. Because herbicide treatment impacts most or all of the floating aquatic vegetation to which it is applied – not just the invasive species – as well as the diverse biota living in Preserve waterways, and because herbicide residues may remain in the ecosystem for decades, Resource Management staff prefer other alternatives. While mechanical removal is straightforward, it requires substantial investments in equipment and labor and it also impacts all of the floating aquatic vegetation. Biological control targets focal species only and requires no specialized equipment. For example, over the past several years researchers and natural resource managers throughout the tropics and subtropics have employed a specific insect herbivore – a species of weevil – to control and reduce invasive Salvinia populations. Agricultural extension experts and researchers at Louisiana State University have developed a biocontrol approach using this weevil in which they introduce weevil-infested Giant Salvinia to waterways with Giant Salvinia invasions. As it needs more food, the weevil moves from the plants on which it is introduced to the Salvinia in the waterway, eating the growing points of these plants. Over time, weevil populations increase and their consumption of Salvinia can reduce, and potentially stop, the spread of this aggressive invader. These weevils specialize in eating Salvinia and they have not been observed changing their diet and moving to other plant species, so they are not considered a threat to native vegetation or to the native food web. In late summer 2011 Park Resource Management staff, with the assistance of Park volunteers (VIPs), initiated weevil introduction into selected waterways in the Preserve. With the assistance of two Americorps Environmental Stewards during summer 2012, we developed this effort into a robust Giant Salvinia biocontrol program including dynamic interpretive outreach. We seek to extend our bio-control effort to other aggressive floating aquatic invasive species, beginning with Water Hyacinth, for which two bio-control agents are being tested and used in Louisiana.
Working closely with the Park’s Natural Resource Management and Interpretation staff, the Environmental Stewards will develop this effort into a vibrant integrative program addressing Park needs and involving Park volunteers. Key elements of this floating aquatic invasive species biocontrol program – and of the Steward’s summer work – include sustaining the introduction and re-distribution of bio-control agents in selected waterways, transferring (from our ongoing Giant Salvinia bio-control program) and implementing monitoring protocols assessing spatial coverage of floating aquatic invasive species and bio-control agent populations in these waterways, organizing and leading Park volunteer effort on this project, producing weekly reports on waterway accessibility for Park staff and the public, and developing interpretive media and/or programs communicating the need for, aims of, and status of this Park project.
Americorps Environmental Steward positions (10 weeks beginning June 2nd; invasive floating aquatic vegetation bio-control project is focus) (url is http://sccorps.org/join/environmental-stewards-summer-intern/).