Environmental Studies 220
December 12, 2003
Weed Control Manual - Whitman Mission
The goal of my internship was to compile a weed control manual for the National Park Service employees stationed at the Whitman Mission. The would eventually use this manual to exterminate the non-native species on the property to preserve it’s natural historic appearance. When I was assigned my position as an intern at the Whitman Mission, I was given the following job description to follow; “intern will create a reference manual for 8-10 of the most common invasive weeds at Whitman Mission. For each one the manual should contain images of the plant at various stages of life, and methods to control the plant that include burning, chemical, biological, and cultural control, and a recommendation on the best method of control.” The specific weeds I was told to research included yellow star thistle, poison hemlock, cheat grass, Canada thistle, spike weed, kochia, reed canary grass, and prickly lettuce. My assignment was to research these weeds and to organize the material I found for each into a three-ring binder that would be a portable resource for any fieldwork at the Whitman Mission. Overall, my job completed the initial step toward the goal of restoring the mission to the way it looked when the Whitman family inhabited the area.
The majority of my research for this project was done online. I was able to fulfill the requirements of the job description by an enormous supply of information on websites found through simple searches. The web was also a convenient place to locate pictures that were needed in the manual to identify each weed. One trip to the library validated my opinion that the Internet could supply me with enough current, thorough, and specific resources to complete my project. Some of the books at Penrose were out of date and did not include modern chemicals used for weed control.
Once I began collecting information, I compiled an organized folder on my hard drive for each plant and divided each folder into an area focused on images, background characteristics and biology, and management controls. Each picture page included 4-8 images for the respective weed. The background and biology pages included information about the origins of the plant, how it spreads, its germination process, and the structure of the plant. The management pages contained a variety of techniques suggested to exterminate the weed or at least manage current populations. Once most of this was completed, I began to compile the information into a binder divided into sections for each weed. The sections each included a page on the subjects listed above.
Other Aspects of the Internship
In addition to researching weeds independently online, I made several trips
to the Whitman Mission to meet with Roger Trick, my internship sponsor. My first
trip was immediately after I was assigned my position. At the mission, Roger
introduced me to the staff and had a meeting with me to discuss the specifics
of the project, to give me some background information on the historic site,
and explained to me which weeds I would be focusing on. The following week,
I returned for a tour of the site from Roger to identify the weeds I would be
researching. We walked around the entire property and I was amazed at the amount
of invasive weeds they hoped to exterminate. The weeds were everywhere! It made
me realize the importance of my project as a valuable resource to the National
Park Service employees actually controlling the weeds. I visited the site once
more for a general meeting with Roger so he could evaluate my progress. Roger
was a wonderful sponsor. He always promptly returned emails I sent him with
questions or comments and was constantly available for support and information.
It was fairly simple to actually compile the manual once I had the information organized. A quick trip to the Whitman College Bookstore provided me with the supplies I needed and the multimedia lab on campus was helpful when I needed color copies of the weed images.
This was a fantastic internship for a busy student. This semester I was faced with a rather large course load, so I was very appreciative of the flexibility of this project. Most of the time, I researched weeds online and compiled the manual. This could be done whenever I had free time to devote to the project, and I never had a strict schedule to follow. Though I enjoyed my trips to the mission and was thankful to have the experience of working with the National Park Service, trips to the Whitman Mission itself were unnecessary except for the first two initial meetings with Roger. At one point later in the semester, Roger wanted to meet with me again to see the progress of the manual. Since I didn’t have any source of transportation to the mission at this point, he offered to meet me at the Reid campus center!
Researching weeds seemed to be a fairly boring and simple task when I was first informed of my internship. However, throughout the semester, I became much more interested with the structure and biology of some of the weeds. Though most people consider these plants to be ugly and unwanted, I found them fascinating. For example, poison hemlock was brought to the United States because it produces attractive flowers, but even consuming a small amount of the plant can be fatal to a horse. Also, the efficiency and heartiness of some of the weeds was amazing. Nearly 93% of the seeds produced by spikeweed germinate within one year and Kochia can be planted in soil temperatures as low as fifty degrees Fahrenheit!
I encountered relatively few problems throughout my internship. As I mentioned above, the multimedia lab was helpful with color copies, but only at certain hours. When I went the first time, it was full of students and I waited a half an hour only to find out that the machine I could use couldn’t print to the color printer. I had to try three computer labs on campus to find a working color printer, and eventually resorted back to the multimedia lab for better quality the next day. Though the Internet was a great tool for my research, some of the weeds were difficult to find information for. I only found one decent article for spikeweed and little or no materials for “China lettuce,” which I eventually realized was also known as “prickly lettuce.” Under the new name, I was able to find the information I needed, though.
Recommendations for the Future
If this project were continued in the future, I would recommend reading through
as much of the management controls offered as possible. A lot of the research
I did produced several methods of exterminating a specific weed, but it was
difficult to determine which would work best. I was working without an understanding
of how large the National Park Service’s budget was for this project,
so I couldn’t make a good decision on which chemicals would be best since
some were fairly expensive. I would also suggest trying out some of these control
methods in a sample population. It would have been exciting to see if the management
techniques I recommended actually worked! Otherwise, I feel that this internship
was clear, organized, and straightforward. My job description was well defined
and I think I fulfilled the requirements set out for me!