31 October 2020

My First Month In Phoenix

Written by: Kenny Orihuela

As I rolled into Phoenix for the first time, I realized how hot the city really is.

I was lucky to come in at the tail end of the summer season, but I found out that even in October, Phoenix can reach temperatures that resemble a summer heat wave back home in LA. Nevertheless, I was eager to start my year-long residency with the Tonto National Forest and get to know a little more about Arizona and the world of water science and hydrology.

I got introduced to the Tonto Supervisor’s Office by Kelly, the forest hydrologist and my supervisor for the year. She made me feel very welcome, and helped me reduce my stress of moving to a new city. Alex is the other hydrologist in the team: he is also very welcoming and patient with teaching me the basics. While these two make up the entirety of the Supervisor’s Office watershed team, these two are very talented and are often seen working on other disciplines and details when there’s a lot of work to be done. I’m looking forward to my year helping out Kelly and Alex!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve gone on many field trips doing hydrological work, including flow measurements and river cross sections. A collection of flow measurements and cross sections over time allow for hydrologists to see if there’s a change in a river’s flow and erosion rate. If the river in national forest land is eroding too much, forest personnel are called in to come up with a plan to mitigate the erosion. For example, fences can help keep out animals that graze and stomp over a riparian area, or walls are put against the river to help slow down the water flow. There are areas all over the Tonto that need erosion control. Controlling erosion helps with keeping a river ecosystem healthy by keeping the sediment load low and reducing landslides and mass wasting failures. After taking notes in the field, scientists need to input the data into the steam database. This process ensures that the data can be accessed electronically for future reference.

Although I’ve only been here for a month, I’ve learned so much about hydrology in the Forest Service. I can only wonder what I still have to learn for the rest of my fellowship. Thanks to the HAF and the Forest Service, I am gaining unique experience that will help me into my future endeavors.

Agency: U.S Forest Service

Program: Resource Assistant Program (RAP)

Location: Tonto National Forest 

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