Melissa’s intern photo essay: canyons, cliffs, and grasslands

by Melissa Galindo, 2018 Doris Duke Conservation Scholar

Halfway through my internship with Sky Island Alliance, and I’ve seen so much already!

Is it hot out here?

My attempt to stay cool in the Arizona heat. The only water source was a spigot roughly a third of a mile from the field site. We carried water into Bear Canyon using containers and backpacks that could hold three gallons to help recently installed native plants make it through the dry weeks until monsoon season.

Native plant nursery

I enjoy greenhouses, so getting to visit Borderlands Restoration Greenhouse was a blast. I learned more about the native plants in Arizona and the difficulties in growing them. My favorite was an exhibition garden that was filled with butterflies and some massive agaves.

Exploring and restoring Gila Cliff

Working on invasive removal is always one of my favorite things. While up at the Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico, we removed mullein and cheatgrass and released native seeds into the area to restore a hillside scorched by wildfire.

Taking a break and just sitting still can lead to finding some cute creatures. This pocket gopher came out of its burrow to grab some of the surrounding vegetation and take it inside the burrow.

During a lunch break, I finally achieved my goal of visiting the Gila Cliff Dwellings (with my colleague, Tasia)! It was fun learning about how life may have been for the Mogollon people and all the mysteries they left behind.

Snuggling peccaries

My newfound appreciation for javelina shined through when I came across plushy versions of them at a roadside shop. I may have found and hugged all the plushies I could find!

South of the border

One of field visits took us to Sonora, Mexico. We stayed in Rancho Los Fresnos and worked with Naturalia, a group that manages the land. Our days were spent looking for invasive grasses and surveying agave. Searching for the agave among the tall grass and stumbling upon a tiny one felt like a great achievement. There was an agave that had flowered and released seeds, so we gathered a few that had remained in some pods. Learning more about agave and their life cycles made me realize how epic and important they are.