Anastacio is a biological science technician on the El Yunque National Forest on the Caribbean Island of Puerto Rico. He has spent 26 years on what is the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System. His job is to collect data on fisheries, vegetation, the Puerto Rican Parrott and other natural resources information for biologists to study as part of the management of the El Yunque. The forest is known for its biodiversity with 150 fern species and 240 trees species, 88 of which are endemic or rare and 23 found only on the El Yunque.
You are involved in a lot of work on the El Yunque. What is the favorite part of your job?
Fisheries. I really love working with the parrots, but I really love fisheries. I have lived right by the ocean since I was a little kid. I used to be in the water all the time, even when I came home from school. My mother used to spank me for being in the ocean. Every day I would get a spanking until they gave up and just let me play in the water. I love the water.
I have learned a lot of about our waters. It’s surprising the amount of life there is in the water. My family has been fishermen for a lot of years, so it’s easy for me to work in the streams and fisheries program. I enjoy doing it, especially when it comes to the rivers or the damage that is done by throwing garbage in the rivers, polluting our waters. I want people to know why they shouldn’t throw garbage in the rivers and destroying the life in those waters. They don’t know they are doing that. People don’t realize the damage they have done by polluting the rivers because they don’t really know how much life is in the water.
What are two memorable projects . . . one success and one failure.
The thing that I don’t have much success with is that people keep throwing trash in the water. They simply need a lot more education.
The successful project is how we worked with a species in our extinct category that we have been able to bring their numbers back up again. We have morePuerto Rican Parrots in our forest. We have been working on the project since 2002, and when we started there were just nine parrots. They were in the top 10 of endangered species. Now we have at least 200 in captivity and about 40 in the wild.
We work together with U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources. We breed them in the aviary, and we also make nests for the Puerto Rican Parrots to put their eggs. That’s helped to keep their eggs dry and raise their chicks safely.
But Puerto Rican parrots don’t build nests. They lay eggs in tree cavities. Hurricanes Hugo (1989) and Georges (1998) knocked down most of the trees where they lay their eggs. So now we build places out of PVC pipe and paint them to simulate trees. The nests each weight about 110 pounds, but we can divide them in half and put them back together when we get them to where we want them. But it takes time. We rope them up the trees 40 to 60 feet high and tie them to the tree to make them look like part of the tree. It’s a lot of work, but it is good work.
What would your resume not tell us about you?
I’m a fisherman, and I know how to use a surveyor’s equipment. I try to maintain a good relationship with my co-workers and even those people with other agencies. I try to help them out, and we work well together.
But most important is that I am good a fisherman. Tuna. Mackerel. King fish. Snapper. Sharks. The bigger the better.
The Faces of the Forest is a project of the U.S. Forest Service Office of Communication to showcase the people, places and professions within our agency, which is responsible for 193 million acres of forests and grasslands in 44 states and territories. If you know someone you would like to have profiled here, send an email with the person's name, work location and a bit about to Faces of the Forest.