This is me on left with Natasha, Henry and Rich in a running Santa Fe River!

Hi! I’m Gaby Rael. I was born in Santa Fe and have lived here all my life. I go to Santa Fe Community College and it has given me so many opportunities to explore a variety of subjects. I am planning to head to UNM in the fall of 2020, to study environmental science or biology with a journalism minor. My River Source internship has been full of wonderful and educational experiences that have furthered my passion for the sciences. 

I found River Source in the fall of 2018 and the data manager intern position was open. I’ve been interested in preservation, restoration of – and education about – our environment for a while. I had a little work experience prior to River Source with Aaron Kauffman and The Masters Program to build, monitor and maintain rain gardens around Santa Fe. The volunteer work I did with my school and the community helped to spark my interest and my time at River Source has continued that. 

The main part of my job was the data migration project. We have been working on a new website that is easier for the public, educators and the River Source team to enter water quality data into. We needed our site to be secure and state of the art for our community. For months I worked with the data migration. It was very tedious work. I was downloading twenty-five years of data, transferring it to Google, then Excel, and reformatting it into one sheet. I then matched our benthic macroinvertebrate (aquatic insect) data to the time, date, and water quality data. I reexamined every set to make sure River Source’s work was not lost and in proper order. I finished the transfer in the spring of 2019, after months of work. I’ve been meeting with the team over video chats to communicate my progress and theirs. Our new website is almost complete! The team and I are very excited and relieved.

My experiences out in the field were fun and inspiring. We worked with elementary, middle and high school students to educate them on water quality. We test the pH, turbidity, phosphorus, nitrate, streamflow, and other elements that help us monitor watershed health. We talk about the importance of plant and animal life using riparian surveys and looking for macroinvertebrates (benthics). I tried to go on as many trips with the River Source team as I could. My first trip was to monitor The Santa Fe River at Partick Smith Park with a small group of Desert Academy middle school students. I learned a lot on that trip working with Emily Wolf. It was a very short field trip, so we did not get to examine the benthics of that water, but helped the students learn why we study benthics, and take all our chemistry measurements. It was a great first experience to observe how the trips work. 

My second trip was to Jemez Springs and Valles Caldera monitoring Jemez river with a class from Los Alamos Middle School. Rich, Emily, and I left early in the morning to meet Megan Rains’ class. The class was much bigger than the one I worked with at Desert. It was a very chilly day. When the students got to the location near the forest service ranger station, we went down to the freezing river to set up. As a whole we completed the riparian survey. We then broke the students into groups. Emily and I worked with them to test the temperature, pH, turbidity, nitrates, phosphorus and we estimated streamflow due to the high velocity and depth of the river making it unsafe to get in the river.  Megan’s class has been talking about the importance of native species. They were nurturing fingerling cutthroat trout to be released into the river on the day of our trip. One of our drones broke and dropped out of the sky as Rich tried to film the release of the fish. Despite that setback, it was a very sweet, hands-on experiences for the kids and myself. 

We moved on to our second location at Valles Caldera. A storm followed us as we arrived. It was snowing and the winds were extreme. We determined it was better to let the kids go and we do the work by ourselves. We endured the freezing weather and winds as we completed gathering data. My face was numb as we got into the car but it was worth seeing the beautiful Caldera and completing our work. 

Along with the data and field work I have been creating multimedia projects such as erosion control GIFS and a stormwater training certificate. I’m also starting to get more involved in River Source’s social media presence and influence. During the last school year I graded all the pre and post tests of Emily’s visits and trips with the younger students. 

I am so grateful for what working at River Source has given me and what I’ve given to the community and co-workers. Working here has given me the opportunity to explore my interests in the natural world and the betterment of it through outreach and education. I’ve learned about watershed health, erosion control, implementation of native species and xeriscaping, business and community collaboration, computer skills, and environmental education. I cherish my intern experience!