In this tiny town in Southern Arizona, unheard of to many, I spent an entire summer staring at mountain ranges from any spot in town, learned the beauty of a cactus flower, experienced nightly sunset watching instead of screen watching, absorbed at least some ecological knowledge of the high biodiversity of this region, and was inspired by the constant efforts of both the staff of Borderlands—whose projects would take pages to list—and the citizens of Patagonia. View from the Arizona Trail.
Photo Essay by: Karen Gravely, BR Summer Intern 2015
Before stepping into this internship with Borderlands Restoration, I cleared my head of any expectations, good and bad. I had never been to Arizona, never had an environmental internship, never immersed myself so much into the ecology of a region, and never lived on my own outside of Wofford’s small campus. I learned that the Borderlands staff was almost as unsure as I was of what to expect from the new interns as well. They had never met their new summer interns, Sam Parrott & I, in person and never had any internship program, but they did the best they could to prepare. On the first day, Dr. Pulliam told us that we were fairly in control of our own schedule and should try to participate in as many projects as we could before focusing on one or two particular projects. This turned out to be an amazing idea, and with Dr. Pulliam as my mentor for the summer, I have been able to take in an incredible amount of knowledge by exploring this landscape in many capacities. Never one for whipping out my smart phone to take pictures, I soon realized that this summer was one that I would want to remember as well as possible, and have since done my best to capture my experiences on a screen.
I filled my days with different activities every week, beyond work with BR, I helped with the Hummingbird Monitoring Network, bossing around the Borderland Earth Care Youth (BECY) kids, and exploring this unique and diverse world of Southern Arizona. Here are some of the highlights:
Fun in the Dirt: At least on Volunteer Tuesdays, but often more, I got to play in the dirt at the nursery for a few hours. I learned how to grow native grasses and a few different species of milkweed—which actually germinated, as you can see on the left—transplant various plants, take cuttings, and even became familiar with some Latin names. By adding a few hours in the seed lab to my week, I learned the complete process of propagating native plants, from seed collecting through cleaning to planting at the greenhouse.
Permaculture Lessons: Once a week, Sam & I helped Kate Tirion at Deep Dirt Farm Institute. I soaked up the art of permaculture through weeding pollinator beds, touring the area and helping to build a tiny adobe house with a sod roof. I became quite the water harvester, enjoying collecting rocks from the side of the road and building basins, berms, and swells, such as this one on the right. It holds water during heavy rains, serves as a walking path, will hopefully be a bed for grasses and flowers, and, in my opinion, looks beautiful.
Expanding Perspectives: A marshy area of the San Pedro River is pictured, taken when I helped with a wet-dry survey of the Babocamari Ranch. That weekend challenged my previous ideas that all of Arizona was dry and depleted, as well as showed me that not all ranchers are the bad guys, as many are attempting to protect resources and some are trying to restore the land.
Antelope on the Sonoita Plains. I became fascinated with the pronghorn after seeing a few prance across a dirt road on the Sonoita plains, and have been continuously enthralled by their conservation story and the history of issues surrounding them. I am helping out the Arizona Antelope Foundation and the Game and Fish Department to survey landowners and business owners in Sonoita and Elgin regarding their value of the pronghorn as a case study for my senior Capstone project.
Not All Bees Nest in Hives: Wooden bee boxes have been placed around Patagonia in an experiment to measure the success of restoration plantings in support of pollinators. A group effort of intern Sam Parrott, Dr. Pulliam, the BECY Institute, and myself. I would have never guessed how excited I would get to walk around and watch bees.
Cat or Dog: I was originally interested in BR, after hearing a talk of big cats and the Wildlife Corridor, so I took advantage of the opportunity to help identify tracks in Finley-Adams and Little Casa Blanca Canyons for Sky Island Alliance. This picture shows the difference in a domestic dog track (bottom) and a juvenile mountain lion (top). This summer, I’ve been trying to identify every track I’ve seen, even it turns out just to be a skunk.
Renewing a Past Interest: I’ve also fallen in love with the butterflies of this region, reviving a fascination I’ve had since I was younger. I can identify most of the common ones, and have also learned about some of the ones harder to find, such as this juniper hairstreak, pictured above on Milkweed.
The Pleasures of Field Work: Sam and I were able to visit El Coronado Ranch to help Molly McCormick with restoration plant monitoring; the trip became so much more. I was inspired by the feeling of cool creek water flowing through my toes. The creek in this photo had not been running only a few decades earlier, and has now been restored, transforming the area into a lush landscape. This was the result of compassion for the environment (and a lot of hard work).
Adventuring: I was fortunate enough to meet people this summer that wanted to take me exploring outside of Patagonia, whether monsoon watching in Cascabel, where I finally found the red rock and Saguaro landscape I was expecting, to amateur rock climbing near Meadow Valley and hiking into mountain lion territory to look out into Mexico.
Fishhook Barrel Cactus
Arizona Sunset, from Harshaw Road.
Karen Gravely comes all the way from Pickens, South Carolina to join BR for the summer. She ventured to Patagonia in search of a theme for her senior capstone project. She is interested in wildlife corridor connectivity and the policy that makes conservation happen. A plant enthusiast, Karen is enjoying her time exploring the various facets of BR: from greenhouse to invasive species to collaborative conservation and pollination ecology. She is hopeful that not only will this opportunity lead up to an awesome senior project, but will inspire future students to branch out and investigate the world of conservation. Karen is a double major in environmental studies and government at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC. BR was so happy to have her help this summer!