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Posts from ‘Cynthia Alonso’


The End of Summer

Seeing as the leaves are now turning different colors and falling off the trees, it’s certainly hit me that summer has been over for more than just a little while, which also means that I’m no longer spending my days seeking out invasive plants or collecting macroinvertebrates in 80 – 90 degree weather for Mount Grace. As I look over my last post, not only do I yearn to be back at a stream under the hot sun, but I also realize that I’ve neglected my poor blog for quite a while.

Hopefully I can make up for it by summarizing what’s happened ever since the wood duck boxes.

Let’s see… Well, July was mostly spent doing invasive plant surveys at six different properties protected by Mount Grace. Doing invasive plant surveys is kind of similar to doing CR monitoring in that it entails walking through the woods without following trails. However, unlike CR monitoring, the surveys we conducted were done by walking several north-south and east-west transects of the properties (basically drawing a grid on a map and walking the lines of the grid), which can be quite a difficult task, as you never really know what you will encounter. Thinking back though, I realize that this is a very effective way of getting to know a property. Luckily, we did not find invasive plants in the majority of the properties, and hopefully the data we collected on the invasive plants we did find will aid Mt. Grace in approaching the issue on these properties.

That month we also had the opportunity to help Tom and Meghan with some  conifer swamp delineation at the Arthur Iverson Conservation Area. Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures of this place, but I remember feeling as if I was in the setting of a fairy tale story. When we were there, the ground was entirely covered by moss (mostly sphagnum if I remember correctly). Had it not been so moist, it would have been perfect for a nap! There were also several other types of mosses growing everywhere along with many ferns and small flowering plants, and of course, conifers. The delineation involved looking at several aspects of the swamp, such as percent ground cover of different types of vegetation and percent canopy cover.  I hope I get to do that again!

August was a bit hectic. Before our internship ended in the second week, we had to do our last round of macroinvertebrate sampling at the four streams we were working on, identify our samples and do the metrics for the month, as well as finish up our invasive species surveys and then write up the reports for both of these projects. On the last day of our internship, Tom, Davis, and Meghan took Doug and me kayaking at Tully Lake. Needless to say, this was a perfect way to end our internship (well, we still had reports to finish up…). We spent several hours at this gorgeous lake; first exploring around, then had lunch in our kayaks (with an amazing view of course), relaxed for a while (still in the kayaks), and explored some more before finally deciding that we were too numb to keep going.

A couple days later, I headed back to Austin, TX to spend some time at home with my parents and dogs before the start of classes a couple of weeks later. During the first few days, Doug and I finished up what was left to write up of the reports. I then got to enjoy the wonderful dry Texas heat and explore the trails and streams around my house, which differ largely in vegetation from those in MA of course.

My dog Fabio


Now that I’m back at Clark,  I get to continue learning about CR monitoring in my Small-Scale Land Conservation class, which involves going to conserved areas in Petersham once a week. It’s almost as if my summer has been extended, except for without all of the mosquitoes! In a couple of weeks, Doug and I will be presenting our LEEP projects for Mt. Grace at Fall Fest. Our presentation will involve  our results from our water quality monitoring at the Otter River watershed as well as our invasive plant surveys. We’ll start preparing for that quite soon!

I think that about sums up the last couple of months.



Wood Duck Boxes

"The office" - Doug

I hope these pictures provide an idea of how eventful my week has been.  Monday and Tuesday were spent collecting macroinvertebrates back at the four streams we are monitoring, and Wednesday was all about the Wood Ducks.

Healthiest stream of the month (June monitoring)

Lake Rohunta




Side note: After several of these types of trips, I have become quite skilled at walking around in waders that are entirely too large for me. When my adviser asked me what size shoe I wore so that he could order my waders, he joked that he would order me XXL, extra tall waders (I’m 5’2 and wear a women’s 7.5 shoe size ); while my waders may not be XXL, they are a men’s size 8 and meant for someone much taller than myself, which makes them challenging to walk with on land, never mind water.

Hard at work

Installing our first wood duck box


First wood duck box of the day


Anyway, Wednesday we (my mentors Davis and Meghan, Tom, Mike, Doug, and I) spent several hours installing nesting boxes for Wood Ducks at the beautiful Lake Rohunta. Installing the boxes themselves is pretty simple once a suitable spot is found, but it does take a while to get to each location with all of the necessary materials and to make sure that the chosen spot is appropriate, both for the actual box installation and for the wood ducks to nest in. That said, this experience was a lot of fun, and was made even better by the spectacular views and bountiful quantities of delicious blueberries!




My mentors at Mount Grace, Davis and Meghan are part of the MassLIFT – AmeriCorps (Massachusetts Land Initiative for Tomorrow) program, which is managed by Mount Grace.  The AmeriCorps members that serve in this excellent program are working to increase land and watershed protection in Massachusetts through land conservation projects, land stewardship, outreach to the broader community, and meeting other community needs for land protection. In its first year, the program initiated 49 land protection projects, engaged 2080 volunteers, and stewarded 13,337 acres of protected land. Not bad! To learn more about MassLIFT – Americorps, follow this link:


Wading around









CR Monitoring

When I first learned that I would be accompanying Meghan on a field visit to monitor a  property with a Conservation Restriction, I had visions of a pleasant walk around the woods.  

Areas that have CRs are monitored every year to make sure that the terms of the CR are being followed, and luckily, they usually are. Naturally, I was happy to partake in such an activity, as walking around the woods is something that I enjoy and do on an almost daily basis. 

However, this turned out to be much more of an adventure than I had envisioned, for the images in my mind did not include walking through areas with dense vegetation often taller than myself (not so difficult when you’re 5’2″ I guess),maneuvering around fallen trees, and jumping from rock to rock to avoid getting all muddy – as so happens when you walk around forests with no trails.

Fortunately, both field visits were successful in that we did not discover any violations of the CRs, and although we were all quite sweaty by the end of our second field visit (it was ninety-something degrees that day), it was an eventful and fun experience.


The drive to work


Davenport Pond and Macroinvertebrates

Through the dissecting scope lens

Last night I went to bed after several hours of macroinvertebrate identification. When I closed my eyes, I spent those few minutes before falling asleep seeing tweezer tips picking out tiny insects from large amounts of sand and algae, and I’m pretty sure they also made their way into my dreams. I experienced a similar situation last Wednesday when we first started identifying the macroinvertebrates we collected from the four streams that we’re doing water quality monitoring on. Today, we finally finished identifying our 12 samples, and while it is certainly fascinating to look at macroinvertebrates under a dissecting scope and see how intricate these minuscule creatures can be, we were very glad to be finished! We will be visiting these sites once a month to check for water quality and continue collecting macroinvertebrates to gain a better idea about the condition of these streams.

This past Friday, we went to Harvard Forest to help clear the path around Davenport Pond so that people can enjoy walking around this beautiful place. There were about eight other people volunteering with us, and I felt privileged to have the opportunity to work with such a wonderful group. I was especially inspired by the Chair of the Petersham Conservation Commission, Bob Clark – one of the most enthusiastic and hardest working people there. During the four hours that we spent there, Bob enlightened us with his expansive knowledge of the land and many of the plants we encountered and did not take a single break (I think he’s in his seventies). During our lunch break, which we took overlooking the pond, one of the volunteers brought us all fresh goat cheese with herbs and spices (it had just finished the cheese-making process!) and honey from his farm and some other delicious treats, which we enjoyed while getting to know a bit more about each other (not even this convinced Bob to stop working!).

Doug and I can’t get over how lucky we are to have gotten this “job”.



It is day ten of my internship with the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, and so far it has been awesome! What does my internship involve you ask? Well, so far, along with my fellow intern Doug, I have been introduced to the work that land conservation trusts do, learned quite a bit about stream ecology, worn waders for the first time (I had no idea they were so fun!), participated in a Bioblitz, collected macroinvertebrates in four beautiful streams, done water quality monitoring in these streams, learned to use a GPS and compass to find my way around the woods, and had a bit of invasive plant species training; and it hasn’t even been two weeks! And what makes this all even better is that it entails spending hours in the beautiful areas protected by Mount Grace. As you can probably tell, I’m quite enthused to have the opportunity to work with such an amazing organization, especially since it fulfills two of my main goals: to work outside and to form part of the environmental movement.

I guess a bit of background information is in order. I am Environmental Science major with an Environmental and Conservation Biology track and a Math minor going into my junior year at Clark. I hope this internship will help me gain an idea of the type of research I would like to conduct next summer as part of my Traina Scholarship and ultimately during my fifth year, when I plan to get my Master’s.

And now, time for bed as I have to be up bright and early tomorrow to assist with some service work in Harvard Forest (I’m not quite sure what that means yet).


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