Political Science Student Relishes Summer in Yosemite
Marie Armstrong, a UC Merced senior from Elk Grove, spent her teenage summers working in the Sacramento Zoo's summer camp programs, helping kids experience the zoo. So when she learned about the chance to help visitors experience Yosemite National Parkin UC Merced's Yosemite Leadership Program,she leaped at the chance to participate.
"It's right up my alley," she said.
That surprises some people, because Armstrong is majoring in political science. But there are actually abundant connections between her park experience and her studies.
"I'm looking for an environmental application for my degree, and I'm interested in outreach," she said. "Yosemite Village is pretty much a small city, with city planners and waste management. It makes sense."
Armstrong, who transferredfrom Cosumnes River College in fall 2007, now enjoys demanding but fulfilling days working as an intern in Yosemite, which she said requires a few different skills.
"I work in the Visitor's Center. You get behind that counter and do not stop speaking until you step outside - and even then, you're still in uniform and people have a lot of questions."
She's had to learn all Yosemite's tourist attractions, hikes and other activities for visitors. Fortunately, she knew the park through previous visits, and she's been able to keep exploring on her days off.
Along with other interns, Armstrong also takes part in bear roving. In the evening, rangers and interns roam campsites to educate visitors and chase off bears looking for food.
"Last night we chased Orange 9 out of Yellow Pines campground," she said. "Orange 9 is a tag - the bears we see very often are the ones we have problems with. They have a human habit. That's what we're trying to prevent."
Finally, Armstrong educates young visitors in the Junior Ranger program. There, she's been teaching kids about animal habitats.
"We tell the kids they're really lucky if they see a bear, but we have to be careful because it's the animals home first," she said.
She's found Yosemite is a place of change.
"You can almost feel it in the wind," she said. "Absolutely everybody has a story. Some people have amazingly profound stories. For other people, it's just seeing a deer in the snow. I'm still trying to figure out what my story is going to be."
Perhaps Armstrong will help residents of UC Merced's on-campus housing experience the park when she starts work as a resident advisor this fall. Or maybe it will influence her future career. In the meantime, she knows she's having fun.
"It's been a barrelful of monkeys," she said. "Or maybe I should say a barrelful of bears."