Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Nation's Christmas Trees

Happy Holidays from the National Park Service.
The Natural Tree
Over 200 people participated in the annual Trek to the Nation’s Christmas Tree ceremony at the General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon National Park on the afternoon of Sunday, December 8th.
President Calvin Coolidge designated the General Grant as the Nation's Christmas Tree in 1926.
The event, which was sponsored by the Sanger District Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with the National Park Service, included performances by the Jubilation Singers and Sanger High School Choir and a non-denominational holiday message.
The White House Tree

The White House Tree is part of a legacy that extends back to 1923, when then-President Calvin Coolidge participated in the first annual National Christmas Tree lighting. 
Through the years, the National Christmas Tree has been situated in different locations in President’s Park and on the White House grounds. But since 1973, the tree has been located in the same site in the northeast quadrant of the Ellipse, carrying on a 90 year tradition of bringing citizens together to share in a message of hope and peace.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Alternative Help

Everglades National Park (ENP) hosts many Alternative Break (AB) student groups that arrive during the winter holidays and between late February and the beginning of April.  These enthusiastic students volunteer in multiple divisions and in all districts.  By accomplishing volunteer projects park wide, ASB students bring new energy and perspective to ENP.
AB groups typically range from 10-15 individuals, but can be as many as thirty.  They stay from two to five days and generally work from 9a-3p, but some are willing to work a full eight hours.  AB groups can work on any park project, but they normally request to be outdoors.
One brave AB group actually came in the summer. Seven Kansas University (KU) students, coming from different academic backgrounds, experienced ENP’s ecosystem and contributed their time and efforts to complete volunteer projects.

During their week-long trip, the KU students embraced the mosquitoes as they camped in the Flamingo Campground. Their volunteer work included removing exotic Brazilian Pepper from the Hole-in-the-Donut Restoration area, trail maintenance, clearing vegetation to help restore the historic Nike Missile Base, moving benches into storage, and trimming overgrown plants from vistas for better bird viewing. The KU students also enjoyed ranger-led programs and a canoe trip in Florida Bay.

This week, three AB groups from Vanderbilt, Central Michigan University, and Georgia Southern University will volunteer to improve ENP for the enjoyment of current and future generations.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

December Artist-in-Residence-in-Everglades

Photo of Mathias by Jan A. Bielinski

December may become chilly, but not for our Austrian AIRIE Fellow Mathias Kessler. For nearly ten years Mathias Kessler has been exploring the concept and history of “nature” within the Western Eurocentric context of capitalism, humanism, and representation. In his works, he not only exposes the many interventions of human culture that have threatened, remade, and shaped what nature is, but plays with our longing for an apparently untouched environment.

In particular, he investigates the complex movement of man and nature across two important notions: natura naturans (self-creating nature) and natura naturata (created nature) as explored by Dieter Buchart.
Kessler uses photography to abstract nature (as a condition of human perception) rather than document it, in order to draw an arc from visible topography to the social, economic and cultural realities that underlie the seemingly blank surface of nature.

In my photographs or computer-generated landscapes,” Kessler explains, “I work within the historical interface between the private living room and the adjoining public room of the natural order; between memory and its image; authenticity and alienation. With nuance and subtlety, I expose the way human intervention reconstructs the natural to the point that it is just another “fiction of the 18th and 19th century” as Robert Smithson put it.

For the AIRE residency he wants to work with the Rangers to create guided tours that will speak of representation. It will bring back a visceral experience in nature and deconstruct the image we have and replace it with the known and unknown that we encounter out there. All the tours will end in the sunset and no cameras will be allowed. Each participant will receive a guide to the sunset as a document to keep.

To read Mathias Kessler’s entire biography,

Thursday, December 5, 2013

From Wolftrap to Everglades

For the past 14 weeks, Clara Pittleman has been the newest intern in the Pine Island District of Everglades National Park (ENP). Clara's parents work at Wolftrap, the National Park Service for the Arts.  Her mother is the superintendent and knows Dan Kimball, the Superintendent of ENP.  Through their friendship, Clara was able to find an internship at the Everglades.
Originally from Maryland, Clara attends SUNY Cortland in New York. She is pursuing a degree in Outdoor Recreation with a concentration in Environmental and Cultural Interpretation.  Both of her parents are NPS employees, and through her mother’s friendship with Dan Kimball, Clara discovered the internship potential at ENP.
Clara giving an interpretive program.
Clara has been working with everyone in the Interpretation division over the past 3 months and has enjoyed her time in the Visitor Center and on the trails educating visitors about what ENP has to offer. Clara appreciates the uniqueness of the Everglades since this part of the country was new to her when she arrived. Clara was glad to learn about each new species she encountered and relay that information to first-time visitors. She was also able to cross-train with other park staff members by helping check hydro sites in the western part of the park, and participating in a beach cleanup on East Cape Sable. Clara’s favorite part of her internship was seeing the changes from summer into winter, especially seeing the birds starting to arrive at the Anhinga Trail. Since she was only here through November, Clara looks forward to coming back in the future to see the Everglades in the winter time.