Biting the Hand that Feeds by Field Team Member Keva Pariyar

Any amount of time spent outdoors will land even the most prepared with a couple bug bites. The summer brings with it mosquitos, black flies, and all the flies named after mammals with cloven-hooves (deer, horse, and moose). Annoying, painful, and itchy as they are, I would like to think that there is a point to the insects that bite so liberally. Because I am a realist, not an optimist, I decided to research the little buggers in the hope that I would get some answers as to why they bite and the importance of them.

Since most people are bothered by mosquitos and the like, there isn’t much flattering research out there. Most of it focuses on how to control populations without harming other organisms within the ecosystem, but I did scrounge up a few facts. Many people know it is only the females that bite to obtain blood. This blood is used for its protein to help grow and support eggs. I’m not going to go into the detail of how each type of flying annoyance gets to the blood supply, trust me seeing diagrams will not make you feel better about it. Males, on the other hand, sip on nectar rather than humans to get their nutrients. Because of this they do contribute to pollination, so that is one plus.

On top of that, there is always the fall back explanation that I always disliked in school: they are part of a complex ecosystem and food web. As unsatisfactory as that answer is, it’s the truth. Every organism plays its part in the food chain and these bloodsuckers are no different, they are eaten by a variety of bigger (not that being bigger is difficult) predators. As for mosquitos and black flies, the larvae also play a part in the aquatic food webs in the habitat. They eat microorganisms, detritus, and some species eat algae as well (Edwards and Meyer, 1987; Merritt et al. 1992). Fish and birds feed on the larvae, then larger organisms can prey on the fish and birds, and the sun rises and sets, and the earth goes around the sun and everything is all peachy.

Interestingly, one review found that though mosquitos have many functions, there are other organisms that do the same thing could take their place (Fang, 2010). I’d like to think this is true, but no one can really predict what would happen if the entire group of bloodsuckers was removed from their respective ecosystems. Basically, what I found is that no one likes these pests, we just aren’t sure the most effective and safe way to get rid of them. So my best advices is put some bug spray on and get out there and enjoy nature anyways!

Literature Cited

Edwards, R.T., and Meyer, J.L., (1987) Bacteria as a Food Source for Black Fly Larvae in a Blackwater River. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 6, no. 4: 241-250.

Fang, J. (2010). Ecology: a world without mosquitoes. Nature News466(7305), 432-434.

Merritt, R.W., Dadd, R.H., & Walker, E.D. (1992). Feeding behavior, natural food, and nutritional relationships of larval mosquitoes. Annual review of entomology37(1), 349-374.

 

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About Keva Pariyar

Keva is a 2017 Maine Conservation Corps Field Team Member. Massachusetts raised, over caffeinated, hiking and trail enthusiast. Lover of all things bunny or salamander.

 

 

What to Expect during Your First Hitch! By Field Team Member Keva Paryiar

I am a planner, I like to know the when and what of everything I might be doing; I even have three planners. With orientation all wrapped up, I had the basic knowledge of what I was going to be doing, but working on a trail crew is very much a learn on the job kind of experience. Our first team task was meal planning, since everyone takes turns making dinner. We have two vegetarians on MCC 3 which I thought was going to be really difficult for me since I’m basically a carnivore and never grew out of the toddler stage of disliking vegetables. But as the hitch continued it worked out just fine, and it turns out I was hungry enough at the end of the day that I ate all my vegetables without even blinking.

I would be lying if I said my first hitch went off without a hitch (I think I’m funny). The hitch was spent clearing blowdowns in the north part of Baxter State Park; in fact that is what we did for the first 4 hitches. During school, I worked at an accounting office, so the switch from business causal and sitting at a desk to working outside near chainsaws and hiking many miles a day was a big one for sure. Because I was not able to make it to chainsaw training, my job was to pick up all the pieces that one of my certified chainsaw-wielding friends had cut and move it off the trail. Though the concept is easy, it was hard work. One day a group of three of us cleared 101 blowdowns! I know I was sore after my first day, and more so after the second, but it’s amazing how quickly your body adapts to being able work hard every day and by the end of the week I was feeling good. It also feels pretty awesome to be able to pick up trunks of trees bigger than you and drag them into the woods. Not only do you become stronger physically, but mentally as well.

For me, the work was hard, but living and working with the same people constantly was a bigger adjustment. I am an only child, and had the house to myself many afternoons growing up before college where it is easy to get time to yourself. Not so much on hitch. The first couple days were difficult, between being tired from the work and still not knowing team members very well. The beauty of spending so much time together is that you get to know your crew so fast. Not to mention when you have to rely on each other for food, it really brings you together. By the end of the first hitch I couldn’t imagine having anyone else on my crew. We would all read, or talk, or play cards while dinner was getting ready and talk about the cool things we did and saw that day.

Whether you have been on a crew before or not, it doesn’t take long to get into the swing of things and get to know and love your crew members. I hang out with my team off hitch too because they are such a fun group of people! And the icing on the cake is that you get to work with friends all day in some of the most beautiful places; places that people go on vacation to in order to get away from their job.

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About Keva Pariyar

Keva is a 2017 Maine Conservation Corps Field Team Member. Massachusetts raised, over caffeinated, hiking and trail enthusiast. Lover of all things bunny or salamander.

What to Expect When You are Expecting…to go to Orientation! By Field Team Member Keva Pariyar

You were accepted to be a team member, you received your packet of paperwork and packing list, and now you are just anxiously waiting to go to orientation and start your next adventure (and I promise you it is an adventure). Before you hit the trails, MCC has a weeklong intro to all the fun things that you will be doing over the season. Each day you learn components of what will soon become your everyday life.

Every morning starts off with breakfast and making lunch for the day. From there everyone heads to stretch circle, which is a ritual that is continued throughout the term. During stretch circle there is a question of the day (start thinking of some because as the term continues it becomes harder to come up with them). After everyone goes around and gives a stretch and answers the question, the floor is opened up for community concerns. This could be anything that you believe that the entire community should be aware of, hence “community concerns”. After making sure all concerns are addressed the rest of the day begins!

Things that are covered during the days of orientation include:

  • The always thrilling membership agreements
  • First Aid and CPR training
  • Leave No Trace Principles (for a preview, read the article all about them and be super prepared when this day rolls around)
  • Basics of backcountry living
  • Basics of the types of trail work that you could be doing

Don’t worry, although there is a lot of information being thrown at you, there are two breaks and a lunch break and the day is over at 4:30. Every night a group of people are signed up to make dinner for everyone and everyone eats together. After that another group of people are in charge of getting all the dishes washed and ready for the next day. Of course one of the most important aspects of orientation is getting to know each other, and there is plenty of downtime to meet all your fellow field team members before you are all assigned to your respective field teams.

Finally, on the last day, the day everyone is waiting for, you find out who your team leader and team members will be! Once you find out your team, you spend a little time with them and get to find out all the fun projects you will be working on during the term.

From all of us already here, we are so excited to meet you and work with you over the fall!!

 

 

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About Keva Pariyar

Keva is a 2017 Maine Conservation Corps Field Team Member. Massachusetts raised, over caffeinated, hiking and trail enthusiast. Lover of all things bunny or salamander.

Day Pack Essentials by Field Team Member Keva Pariyar

Thankfully it isn’t necessary to bring our backpacking packs with us every day when we are out on hitch (living and working in the woods). Day packs are used to carry just the essentials for each day. So what goes into a day pack in the morning?

  1. WATER! Staying hydrated is extremely important during the work day. Not only because you are hiking, but you are working hard all day. I always bring 3 liters, but some hot days it doesn’t seem like that much. It’s also not a bad idea to bring another way to treat water such as a filter, iodine tabs, or bleach.
  2. Thankfully, this one isn’t too hard to remember. A couple of snacks for breaks and lunch for the day go into my bag every morning. Making sure to be eating enough to keep your energy up though the day is vital to not only being able to work, but enjoying it as well.
  3. Rain Gear. Weather in the mountains can be pretty unpredictable, and working in wet clothes is uncomfortable. Bringing a rain coat, rain pants, and a pack cover help when a rain storm sneaks up on you.
  4. First aid kit. Accidents happen, and if you are me, they happen a lot because I never know where my feet are. Having a first aid kit helps with everything from minor cuts and blisters to sprained ankles. When you are with your crew, someone always brings a first aid kit supplied by MCC full of all sorts of goodies.
  5. Map and Compass. It’s always a good idea to know where you are and where you are going during a work day. Some projects, like when you are remarking a trail, tend to make getting turned around a little more likely. A map is a good safety net for those confusing times.
  6. Personal protective equipment (PPE). Because we work with both hand tools and power tools, we have to make sure that we are properly dressed to limit chance of injury. Gloves, eye protection, ear protection, and hard hats are all worn when working. I have a couple pairs of gloves in my bag in case I want more grip when it’s raining or the handles of the tools are slippery.
  7. Poop bag. Since we are out working in the woods, Leave No Trace principles apply 24/7. Which means when you have to go during the workday, you need to dig a cat hole and pack any toilet paper out with you. A shovel, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and a separate bag for used toilet paper should all be in the bag.

 

 

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About Keva Pariyar

Keva is a 2017 Maine Conservation Corps Field Team Member. Massachusetts raised, over caffeinated, hiking and trail enthusiast. Lover of all things bunny or salamander.

 

Team Leader Taylor Deely’s MCC Experience

“This summer my Crew has been working hard to improve drainage and erosion on the AT. From stone stairs and water bars to turnpikes and retaining walls, we build structures that will last decades using hand tools such as rock bars, mattocks, mash and Spaulding hammers, and our favorite, the grip hoist. 

Working on a team is rewarding, challenging, and full of unforgettable moments. We swim in the lake after work, cook potatoes over the fire, work ourselves silly, summit mountains, laugh through hail storms and downpours, wind and sunshine, mosquitos and flies. This crew has built a community that is a safe space to grow, learn, fail, recover, and succeed. We constantly work on communication, healthy balances, and providing opportunities to take on leadership roles. 

This crew is from all over the place. From Maine to Indiana to Nova Scotia we have members of all ages, backgrounds and experience levels. Together we work towards a common goal and that’s what blends us together so well. 

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I have been serving with MCC since 2014. MCC provides me with stability, adventure, constant personal growth, and meaningful work that is so desperately needed to conserve all of what Maine has to offer. I’d like to thank the members on my Crew (Emily LeGrand, Asa Kerr, Anna Smedley, Ian Van Twistern, Will Lightfoot, Joy Fitzgerald) for their continued dedication, hard work, and positive attitude. Peace!”

-Taylor Deely

The Principles of Leave No Trace By MCC Field Team Member, Keva Pariyar

Here at MCC we care about conserving the environment! If you have done any sort of camping, hiking, or backpacking you have probably at least peripherally heard of Leave No Trace (LNT hereafter); but what is it and why should we follow the principles of LNT? There are seven principles of LNT, and after a little explanation of each hopefully it will make sense as to why we follow them.

  1. Plan ahead and prepare

Sometimes spontaneity can be fun, but if you are headed into the backcountry that can spell disaster. Before heading off on an adventure, make an itinerary and give it to family or friends so someone knows when you should be back. While you are at it, make one and put in on the dashboard of your car with emergency contact information in case you should’ve been back 2 days ago and still aren’t. Do things like look at the weather so you can dress appropriately, and always bring rain gear because if you don’t there WILL be a surprise storm. Make sure that you have enough water and food. If you are like me and are constantly hungry, maybe some extra snacks too. Finally, at the risk of sounding like my mother, double check that you packed everything you thought you were going to.

  1. Travel and camp on durable surfaces

LNT1First things first, what is a durable surface? Durable surfaces include rock, gravel, dry grasses, snow, and, of course, already established camps and trails. With that definition out of the way, the principle becomes pretty easy to follow. Hike and camp on those surfaces. If that is absolutely not possible, try to disperse so as to not form trails or camps. Repeated use of the same area will have a larger impact, think water creating canyons because it is running on the same spot eroding away at rock.

  1. Dispose of waste properly

This principle is simple enough. If you brought it in, you should bring it back out with you. This includes trash like wrappers, food waste and some less desirable items like used toilet paper. On that note, trash isn’t the only kind of waste. If you need to go to the bathroom make sure you are 200 feet away from the trail, camp, and any potential water sources. For solid waste, dig a cat hole. What’s a cat hole you ask? It’s a hole that is 6 to 8 inches deep. When you are finished with your business, fill the hole in with dirt and mark it with sticks or a rock so other people don’t try to dig a cat hole where yours is. This is a time when X does not mark a desirable spot. If you have to do dishes or wash yourself, the 200 feet from water rule still applies. Strain food waste out and scatter the soapy water.

  1. Leave what you find

You know when you see a really cool flower, rock, or leaf on the trail and you want to bring it home? Please, don’t! If you take it, the next person won’t get to see it. Take a photo, or just live in the moment, allowing the next person the opportunity to see the thing and think it’s equally as cool as you did. Furthermore, it could be of historic importance or value (look up who to contact for that and help preserve history!).

  1. Minimize campfire impacts

LNT2It’s the end of the day of hiking and you are settling in at camp; but what’s camp without a fire, right? While I am completely of that camp (see what I did there), fires have huge impacts on the environment. First, only make a fire where it’s permitted. Some parks allow them, others don’t (this goes back to principle one, know if you will be able to have a fire). Use fire rings, pans, or mound fires in places that you are allowed to make fires. Maine also has a rule that you have to buy the wood where you burn it, this helps stop the transport of invasive species which is a whole other issue that we will get into at somepoint.

  1. Respect wildlife 

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Wildlife is just that, WILD. Use the rule of thumb; if you close one eye and put your thumb in front of whatever the creature is, your thumb should completely eclipse the animal. Other things you shouldn’t do include: feed the animals, try to pet the animals, and follow the animals. Another consideration is to stay away from wildlife during times like mating, nesting, and raising their offspring. Take a picture if you can, but avoid flash and shutter sounds as they can be disturbing to the animals.

  1. Be considerate of other visitors

Often we go out into nature to get out of the hustle and bustle of daily life. Blaring music and talking really loud diminishes the serene quality of nature that many people are seeking so be aware of that. Share the trail with others, simply move over so there is enough room for them on the trail.

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For more information on Leave No Trace visit: https://lnt.org/

 

 

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About Keva Pariyar

Keva is a 2017 Maine Conservation Corps Field Team Member. Massachusetts raised, over caffeinated, hiking and trail enthusiast. Lover of all things bunny or salamander.

Alumni Spotlight: Chuck Davis

We love hearing from our Alumni! For this blog post we are putting a spotlight on MCC Alum Chuck Davis! In 2008 Chuck was an Assistant Team Leader working at Acadia National Park and Mt. Blue State Park. In 2010, he was a Team Leader for a summer team working at Bradbury State Park, Mackworth Island, and Portland Trails and finally in fall 2010 he was a Team Leader working at Acadia National Park, Caribou MTN/Donnell Region, and Cutler State Park. Chuck is now working at L.L. Bean as a Systems Analyst!

My dreams became reality, but I also gain new skills and above all new friendships that will last my whole life.”

How did serving with MCC affect your personal and professional growth?

“Serving in the MCC help me become a better leader. When I became in ATL in 2008, it was my first time being in a leadership position. My communication skills and decision making skills were put to the test and help become a leader in my position today. In 2010, I was the team leader and it was my first time being responsible for a crew and their wellbeing. All these skills I have really started with working with the MCC.”

What is your favorite memory with MCC?

“There are so many memories; it’s hard to just pick one. In 2008, one of the best memories I can recall is when it rained 28 of the 31 days in July and we were all soaked, tired and just wanted to not work. We all decided to go to one of the team member’s homes that was less than 30 minutes away from where we were staying at MT Blue State Park. The team member’s parents cook us a huge meal and it really lifted everyone’s spirits up. In 2010, I had the pleasure of being a Team Leader for two teams. The first memory was from my summer team. During the second to last week before the season was done I got a few teams to come together to climb Tumbledown Mountain. We all made it and after we were done we drove back to my house and had a big BBQ and everyone camp in my backyard. One of the best memories from my fall team was when we work in Cutler State Park. We were able to stay in a cabin at Cobscook State Park. We had so many laughs and made pretty extravagant meals.”

What was your reasoning for joining the MCC?

“I joined because I love the outdoors and love to be able to fix trails, so others can enjoy without damaging the trails too much. I also joined because I wanted to gain leadership skills that would benefit me the rest of my life.”

Why should prospective members join?

“To this day I still tell people or you want to get out of the normal routine and do something different go do a summer or fall season with the MCC. If you love the outdoors and having a lot of laughs, then this is the place for you.”

 

Volunteer Shoreline Restoration Day

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On Saturday, June 10th, MCC Environmental Steward Robin Gropp coordinated a Volunteer Shoreline Restoration Day at Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery in Orland to help restore the shore and protect the waters of Alamoosook Lake. Volunteers came together to plant native shrubs and improve beach access.

35079895400_f85eb39835_oThe event was an amazing success and Robin thanked the 42 volunteers for attending and for their help accomplishing the following:

“We planted 75 hearty native shrubs to stimulate bank revegetation and stabilization along 300 feet of shoreline. Installed 2 sets of sturdy rot-resistant steps that will provide designated and durable access points to the lake. The steps were completed in the days following the event by resident Hatchery volunteer superstars Dan Barna and Dave Folce along with District staff. The final products look and feel great. Logged 187 hours of cumulative volunteer time, which enables continued grant support for more projects throughout the watershed in the coming two years.

These measures help to block polluted runoff from entering our lake, and to maintain a stable and healthy shoreline for continued public access.”

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Additionally Robin thanked all the partners for helping make the event a success:

“We would also like to again thank our many project partners who made this event possible, and with whom we collaborate with on many similar projects throughout the Alamoosook Lake Watershed and Hancock County. Check out the links to their websites below for information about what they do and upcoming events:

The project measures aim to stabilize the eroding banks, focus public access to durable locations, and serve as a filter for soil and pollutants which would otherwise run straight in to the lake. To learn more about keeping your lake healthy and protect your favorite lake, pond or river. You can listen to WERU’s Maine Currents: Avoiding and Mitigating Watershed pollution that originally aired on June 13th. The radio broadcast has guest speakers:

  • Zack Steele, Exec. Dir. Hancock Cty. S.W.C.District
  • Chip Stubbs, Alamoosook Lake resident, past president of the Alamoosook Lake Association
  • John Wedin, Watershed Stewart for the Ellsworth, ME Water District
  • Art Grindle, Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District

and interviews with Robin and members of the Maine Conservation Corps from the volunteer workday event.

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Maine Conservation Corps is thankful that Hancock County Soil and Water Conservation District is such an amazing partner and we were happy to be part of such an successful volunteer event. It is inspiring to work with so many dedicated volunteers who care about the community, environment, and impact they can create.

 

Strong Presence of Successful MCC Alumni at Unity College Environmental Career Fair

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MCC Training Coordinator Amie Daniels with Alumni Jackie Stratton now of Coastal Mountain Land Trust

The Maine Conservation Corps (MCC), an AmeriCorps program through the Maine Commission for Community Service, housed in the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry was thrilled to connect with an abundance of MCC Alumni who identified as students, teachers, community organization and nonprofit leaders at the Unity College Environmental Career Fair.

As an AmeriCorps initiative, MCC is part of a nation-wide effort to bring volunteerism and positive impact to communities throughout the US. When taking on a term of service, dedicated individuals who are 18 and older dedicate anywhere from 300-1700 hours of volunteer capacity to identified areas of need. Once someone begins their term of service, the ever expanding network of Alumni continues to grow and make valuable connections.

This network of past members was ever-present on Unity’s campus, as current MCC Training Coordinator, Amie Daniels, met with dozens of  MCC alumni having served as recent as 2016 all the way back through 1998. “We had set up our table of information and were excited to be present with so many Environmental enthusiasts and organizations around us.” Daniels remarked, “Further than that, we were thrilled to discover that the table right next to us was actually being represented by MCC alumni, Jackie Stratton, who had served as an Environmental Educator just a few years back.” Stratton is now the Stewardship Project Manager for the Coastal Mountains Land Trust and relates her acquired skills, efforts and successes of her current position to have stemmed from her service with MCC. Continue reading Strong Presence of Successful MCC Alumni at Unity College Environmental Career Fair

Successful Connections: MCC at the UMaine Orono Career Fair

The Maine Conservation Corps attended the University of Maine Orono Campus Career Fair on Wednesday, February 1st as one of over 150 employers ready to connect with students seeking summer internships, part-time exposure to an area of their studies, or full time employment to transition into society after graduation.

As the largest Career Fair in Maine, this all day event was made possible through the UMaine Orono campus Career Center, who organized, advertised and prepared students in all levels of their education path, to attend the employment event. The Career Center, a free and readily accessible resource for all Orono students, is open every day for ongoing efforts to produce confident, capable, student-lead successes toward their next steps.

Beginning as early as their freshman enrollment, the Career Center is made available and begins to build a connection as a skill-building support system for UMaine students. Through classroom presentations, an introduction to the various resources available at the Career Center is exposed with an open door policy for students to meet one on one with certified career counselors. Students are then able to create content for their resumes, participate in mock interviews and incorporate the feedback of their counselors to strengthen output, as they continue to meet, practice and target their efforts toward successfully connecting with employment opportunities. Continue reading Successful Connections: MCC at the UMaine Orono Career Fair

An AmeriCorps State Program