My name is Bella Fucigna, and I’m a rising junior at Washington and Lee University. I grew up homeschooled in southern Florida, where my family and I would pack up our Volkswagon camper van and head out on the road to explore the country. My sister and I learned about how the world works through hands-on experiences, and were fortunate enough to have visited, camped in, and explored countless national and state parks and natural areas. Both of my parents are environmental scientists, and from a young age they taught me the importance of protecting and conserving our earth’s natural systems, and the animal and plant life within. From calling out native Florida scrub species as we drove along, to teaching us the names of the indigenous and invasive species of plants and animals, their passion for the earth inspired me to become the earth-lover I am today. Their love for the environment continues to have an impact on my life as I choose to study biology and environmental studies in college. Whether it’s swimming in oceans or streams, paddle boarding, doing yoga in a forest or backpacking through mountains – nature is most definitely my happy place.
The first week at HFF was an exciting one! We met all of the staff, got oriented to the office space and the goals of the foundation, and began work in our specific fields. I started working on my independent project by doing some research on how aquatic macrophytes provide ideal trout habitat by providing cover and food sources and increasing water depth. My supervisor Jack McLaren and I began planning out the logistics of my project, which aims to quantify the biomass of particulate organic matter being transported along the upper portion of the Henrys Fork River. We also looked into what chemical or physical factors might be limiting macrophyte growth, and I reviewed literature specific to this topic. I also joined Christina and HFF staff as we learned how to operate the ADCP device, which will help her gather more information about the lower Henry’s Fork for her Ph. D research.
Later in the week, we worked on setting up the fence on Harrimam State Park in preparation for the ranch opener, and the cattle that’ll be moved onto that land very soon. While working on the fences, I saw beautiful wildflowers and amazing plants with an amazing view of the Centennial Mountains, and I simply couldn’t believe this was called work! On Sunday, Ashly and I headed out to the field in Big Springs to conduct our recreational survey on the float from Big Springs to Mack’s Inn, and saw and moose and her calf walking across the crystal clear stream – it was super cool. After arriving in the snow the weekend before, the weather started to clear up and was absolutely sunny and beautiful. On Saturday morning my friends and I decided to go fishing on the ranch, and after learning a bit from them about technique and casting, I caught my first rainbow trout!!
Being surrounded by green grasses, wildflowers, and mountains all around was totally surreal.
We went hiking in Bear Gulch afterwards and enjoyed some sketching and journaling by the riverside.
After some sunset fishing, and witnessing the MOST glorious sunset I've ever seen, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world!
Since being in Ashton, we’ve made some trips down to Driggs to do some indoor rock climbing and bouldering, hiked the Table Mountain Trail in the Tetons and grabbed a huckleberry milkshake from the Victor Emporium!
After learning how to use the sondes to perform water quality tests in the Island Park reservoir, and an exciting weekend of Henry’s Fork Days events, we hiked the Darby Canyon Wind Cave Trail, and Targhee Creek Trail. We spotted a moose sow with her two calves, a fresh black bear paw print, robin’s eggs and learned about grizzlies and wolves at the West Yellowstone Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center!
So far the west is absolutely rocking my world, and I cannot wait to continue exploring and adventuring.