Rollin’ On the River

Stewardship is an important part of our mission here at National Park Trust, and Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah Hullihen is a great example of what a park steward should be! She recently returned to the Maurice River, a National Scenic and Recreational River, where she participated in the South Jersey Waterways Cleanup to collect trash and beautify the area. Sarah is even organizing a litter pick-up challenge for Kids to Parks Day! Read more about her project below:

“As a Buddy Bison Student Ambassador, I love volunteering at parks. One of my favorite projects to help with at parks are park cleanups. It’s so important to keep litter out of parks because litter is harmful to plants and animals, and you don’t want to see trash around when you are visiting a park. Recently, I got to volunteer to help clean up different places near the Maurice River in New Jersey for the South Jersey Waterways Cleanup.

The Maurice River is a very special place, and I am lucky to live close by. It is a National Scenic and Recreational River, and it is protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. This year, 2018, happens to be the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The river is a great place to see all kinds of wildlife, especially birds like osprey, and one of my favorite animals, the bald eagle. Last year I got to see a whole family of bald eagles in their nest! There are also many endangered plants and animals that depend on the Maurice River, so it is definitely an important and special place. I have been able to go kayaking and also boating on the river, and it is amazing! There are also lots of great places to hike near different parts of the Maurice River.

There are many homes and businesses near different parts of the Maurice River, and unfortunately a lot of litter too. Litter that gets into the river can eventually go all the way to the Delaware Bay and then into the ocean. At the South Jersey Waterways Cleanup we spent time cleaning trash from a few different areas around the river, and we even found litter in the river too. Many of the things that we collected could be recycled, so we had different bags for those things and other bags for things that had to go in the trash. Even though the parks near the river all have trash and recycling containers, many people don’t use them.

When my family and I visit parks and other outdoor places, we bring along bags and gloves so that we can pick up any litter if we see it. One of the activities that I am planning for Kids to Parks Day this year is a litter pick-up challenge. The challenge will be to see who can pick up the most litter and things that can be recycled. I hope that everyone will realize how important it is to keep our parks and outdoor places clean, and they will want to help with a park cleanup too.

Want to participate in park clean up near you? Search for stewardship-themed Kids to Park Day events here!

Citizen Scientist Sarah

Citizen science projects let anyone become a scientist for a day! In 2017, Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah Hullihen volunteered at the Maurice River (NJ), which is a part of the National Wild and Scenic River System. Sarah helped National Park Service staff and local scientists collected dragonfly larvae for an ongoing national project that investigates mercury levels in dragonflies. Read more about Sarah’s contributions below:

One of my favorite things about being a Buddy Bison Student Ambassador is volunteering to help in different parks.  One of the great places that I have gotten to volunteer at is the Maurice Wild and Scenic River here in New Jersey. A project that I got to help with was a citizen science project collecting dragonfly larvae for a National Park Service nationwide study. The group that I volunteered with is called the Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and its Tributaries. They work with the National Park Service to help protect the Maurice River and the places around it.

My favorite part of volunteering with the dragonfly sampling project was getting to paddle a canoe out on the river and using nets to collect dragonfly larvae. Sometimes the larvae were hard to find since they are really well camouflaged! I also helped collect dragonfly larvae from around the water plants near the edge of the water. After we collected the larvae, we brought them back to the shore and put them into tubs of water. While the larvae were in the tubs, we had to identify what type of dragonfly larvae they were. This was a little difficult, but we had pictures to help out. The larvae also need to be a certain size to be sent for mercury testing, so we had to use rulers to measure them. We then had to label a bag for each dragonfly larvae so that it could be sent to a lab. The dragonfly that I helped collect were sent to a lab to be tested for mercury. The mercury builds up in different animals and is then passed along the food chain. I learned that mercury can be harmful to all different types of wildlife, which is why the National Park Service is doing this research project. There are different parks all across the United States that collect dragonfly larvae for this project.  

The Maurice River is a beautiful place to visit, and It was really interesting learning about different types of dragonflies. I also saw lots of other wildlife, like turtles, monarch butterflies, fish, and birds.  I had a great time, and I’m really looking forward to volunteering again next year!

Follow Sarah’s adventures on social media @jrrangersarah.

On Patrol With the Crayfish Corps

Earlier this summer, Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah Hullihen who lives in southern New Jersey, volunteered with the Crayfish Corps to help remove invasive rusty crayfish from a stream in Valley Forge National Historical Park (PA). An invasive species is a plant or animal that gets introduced into an area but is not native to it. Over time, the invasive species begin to out-compete native plants or animals for resources. Read about Sarah’s experience below.

“In August, I went to Valley Forge National Historical Park to volunteer for the Crayfish Corps. Back in 2008, the rusty crayfish became an invasive species in Valley Creek, and soon started to dominate over the native crayfish. Rusty crayfish are originally from the Ohio River Basin. The rusty crayfish were harming the native crayfish population very badly. They ate too much of the food that the natives ate, and were also overpopulating the creek. So, to try and solve that problem, the Crayfish Corps has to try and take out rusty crayfish from the creek . The park tries to have one or less rusty crayfish for every four native crayfish in the creek.

The crayfish live under rocks in the creek, so I would lift up a rock and put the net downstream so that the crayfish would move into the net. I then had to identify the crayfish. I learned that the rusty crayfish has rusty-colored spots on its sides and black bands on the claws. After I identified the crayfish, if it was a native, I would count it and put it back in the creek. If it was rusty, it would be put in a bucket. The rusty crayfish would then be frozen and put in the forest to dispose of. In about two hours, our group found about 44 native crayfish and about 10 rusty crayfish. We did find many more native crayfish than rusty crayfish, so that is a really good sign. I had a lot of fun volunteering, so if are ever in Valley Forge National Historical Park, make sure to find out about the Crayfish Corps!

Thanks Sarah for giving back to YOUR local park!

Adventures in Archaeology

Our Buddy Bison Student Ambassador, Sarah Hullihen, visited Brandywine Springs Park in Delaware this month to take part in an archeological dig with The Friends of Brandywine Springs. Not only are parks a great place to explore outdoors, but they also help protect and preserve our shared history and culture. Read Sarah’s story below to find out what  “dazzling” history Sarah helped unearth:

“When you visit Brandywine Springs Park in New Castle County, Delaware, you will see tall trees, a beautiful creek, and many different types of wildlife. But what you might not know is that there once an amusement park here, with a boardwalk, roller coaster, carousel, and much more.

This park and historical site is one of my favorites so far. In the early 1800’s, there was a hotel where the parking lot of the park is today. People came to drink water from the Chalybeate Spring, and the water there was supposed to help keep you healthy. Later in the 1800’s, the amusement park opened and stayed open until 1924.

The Friends of Brandywine Springs is a volunteer group that does archaeological digs in the park. They have put up signs with pictures around the park to show the locations of different rides and buildings from the amusement park. When I was there, I helped with an archaeological dig to find the location of a ride called the Razzle Dazzle. The ride would be pulled manually with ropes for the ride to go up, down, and around.

During the dig, we were looking for a curb to show where the Razzle Dazzle ride would have been. We used tools, such as shovels, trowels, and brushes to dig around the area. We eventually did find it, and some other cool things too, like the end of a lightbulb, some electrical wire, and pieces of roofing. I also found out that archaeology can be very challenging, and many times when I thought that I had found something it turned out to just be a rock. The Friends of Brandywine Springs will be back to continue the dig here. The entire dig was a lot of fun and a great experience for me, so if you have a chance to do an archaeological dig like I did, I hope you give it a try!”

Ambassador Sarah: Promoting Kids to Parks Day in Vineland, NJ

For Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah Hullihen, May 20th was a particularly meaningful day. Sarah hosted a Kids to Parks Day event in her hometown of Vineland, NJ, and even engaged the city to help!

“To make this event possible, I met with the Vineland Environmental Commission to help get everything ready and set up to plan different activities. National Park Trust also suggested that we get a proclamation from our mayor for this special event. A few weeks before the event, I met with Mayor Fanucci to receive Vineland’s Kids to Parks Day 2017 Proclamation.

[At our event] we had a great activity sheet with 7 fun outdoor activities on it and a station for each activity. Some of the activities were “Art In The Park,” which featured art supplies where you could color, draw, paint, and do leaf rubbings; “Color Hike” where you had to find something on your hike that matched with different colors; “100 Things to do at Parks” poster where people wrote ideas of activities to do at parks; and my favorite, the “Read It Forward” station, where you took a book and when you are finished reading it, you “Read It Forward” by giving someone else the book. The Vineland Environmental Commission also had information about all of the great parks and natural areas that we have here in Vineland.

I also led hikes during our Vineland Kids to Parks Day event. On the hikes, we took along supplies to pick up litter and help keep the park clean. Another hike that I led was an “A to Z Hike” where we had to find something that started with each letter of the alphabet. We had to be very creative to find some of the letters.”

Wow, Sarah! Your leadership made this day memorable for your local kids – thank you!