A River In The Desert A River In The Desert
21 July 2021

A River In The Desert

Written by: Laura Plascencia

Hello everyone, my name is Laura Plascencia. This internship has brought me from Central California to Parker, Arizona to do inventory and monitoring of the northern Mexican garter snake, which is a federally threatened species. This is my first time in Arizona, and I have been surprised to see so many different things; much more than what I was expecting, from the topography to the culture. Since my time being here, I have been exposed to new biomes and ecosystems I had never seen before. The first time seeing the Bill Williams River and the valley it creates in the desert left me mesmerized by its beauty, and by the awareness of the potential water availability can provide an ecosystem even in extreme hot temperatures. 

At BWNWR I have learned that human impact has added great tension to aquatic native species habitats due to waterway channelization, harmful nonnative species introduction, and has overall caused significant habitat alterations putting their populations at higher isolation rates or possibly even made them extinct. Noting all the complications these species are already having, it highlights the importance of assessing and applying our biggest efforts now to try and reach healthy population levels before climate change conditions intensify and continue to bring about changes in our hydrologic cycle which can have many adverse effects. For this reason, I am so excited and grateful to get the opportunity to contribute to the project and determine the standing of the garter snake's population and that of the other aquatic organisms present in the Bill Williams river, for better conservation planning.

Working in the field has been an amazing experience, it even gets me to forget that I'm working. Being out in a remote area with little or no signal made me nervous initially. Back home I am used to having internet access to answer even the randomest question at any time. It is an adjustment process, although it has made time go by slower and has taken away distractions, allowing me to truly enjoy the moment. I'm beginning to feel excited about the progress I will make within my hobbies. In addition, it has given me the exposure and time to feel one with nature. I have felt connected with species in various ways I hadn't before. I get to smell the various plants, hear the birds chirping, the insects buzzing. Seeing the way we all experience, enjoy, or even stress about the heat has made me feel connected with the plants and animals in my surroundings.

Orientation was a truly influential experience for which made me feel grateful to be participating in an opportunity like this. It also made me feel proud that my nation, and region is paying attention to these environmental issues and working on mitigating them. Overall, I am very excited for the experiences I have gained in just these first few weeks, and I am very excited for everything I will continue to learn and all the progress I will make working with great biologists. 

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP

Location: Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge

MANO Project
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