Biology at Tonto National Monument

New Capps Lab team member, Emily Martin, reflects on her time as a biological technician at Tonto National Monument in Roosevelt, Arizona.

For the past year, I worked as a biological technician at Tonto National Monument in Roosevelt, Arizona for the National Park Service through the Student Conservation Association. Tonto is a small park located in the northern part of the Sonoran Desert. Known for its 700-year old cliff dwellings, the park primarily attracts visitors interested in the archeology and cultural significance of the area. However, Tonto has some fascinating ecology, including wildlife and plants specific to the Sonoran Desert.

One of my primary roles at Tonto was to maintain the wildlife monitoring program, which included setting remote cameras throughout the park, identifying wildlife species, and leading wildlife crews on camera deployments and retrievals. 

In June of 2019, 88% of the Park burned in the Woodbury wildfire, and another main job of mine was to help develop, manage, and implement an ongoing post-fire ecological restoration project. For this project, I worked in the field to help implement restoration efforts, oversaw trail and fuel crews, and worked towards cultivating partnerships and obtaining funding to achieve our restoration goals. This project is involved, with concerns related to wildfire mitigation, invasive grasses, visitor safety, wildlife habitat, soil erosion, preservation of archaeological sites, and flood prevention. 

One of the most fascinating aspects of my job was to work closely with Park archaeologists, assisting with archeological site monitoring, post-fire assessments, remote sensing using drones, LiDAR, and GPR, and preservation of sensitive cultural sites. In my time at Tonto, I gained a new perspective on cultural resource management in National Parks and learned an immense amount about Southwest archeology. 

In addition to my duties related to wildlife, restoration, and archeology, it was also my responsibility to maintain and operate the climatic research station, create all maps related to natural resources in ArcMap, manage the Park greenhouse, and collaborate with interpretive staff on programs.