Five months. Five months in Southwestern Utah and this is my last day of my CLM internship. 48 hours from now I’ll once again have my life crammed back into my little blue Saturn ready to make the cross-country trek back home. I knew when I accepted this internship that I could expect great things, that my life would somehow be better for having done this. Never in a million years would I have guessed how much it would change my life.
Before I came to Utah…. I’d never seen the mountains. Never watched the sun rise over miles of open sagebrush. Never hiked a slot canyon. Never spent 40 hours a week, every week outside in the sunshine. Never saw it snow before Halloween. Never saw a cow crossing sign. Never electro-shocked or used a river seine. Never heard the constant static and long awaited beeps from a telemetry receiver. Never used a Trimble or an E-trex to navigate. Never had any experience with back road 4×4 driving. Never stood out in the middle of an open valley at one in the morning listening for the sounds of Nightjars. Never saw Aspens as they start to change colors in fall. Never had the “pleasure” of digging cheatgrass out of my socks at the end of the day. Never stood in the middle of a prairie dog colony. Never saw a Pronghorn, a Mule Deer, a Golden Eagle or a Sage Grouse.
Five months, 20 weeks. That’s all it took for me to experience all of those things. Five beautiful summer months that I wouldn’t trade for the world.I feel so lucky to have been given this opportunity. It’s helped me grow as a biologist and more importantly, as a person. I will never ever forget the people I met or the things I saw.
So for everyone out there, may you be as blessed as I have. May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back…
I’ve just made it into the 4th month of my internship and only have four weeks left until I make the journey back to my home state. Things have been busy lately and I welcome the change of scenery and projects. This last week, two of the seasonals that I worked with for the last 4 months left to go back to their homes. I will admit, it was a little sad. When I moved 22 hours across the country I knew full well that I would know absolutely no one. Over the last few months, the two wildlife seasonals, the other CBG intern and myself formed a family. A dysfunctional one at times, but none the less, a family.
Now its just me and Cory, the other CBG intern. With the loss of the others, our objectives and projects have shifted. For the first time all summer,we have the freedom to plan our own schedules, which I really enjoy. For the past 3 weeks Cory and I have been working on a artificial water project concerning the importance and placement of wildlife escape ramps and we will continue to survey local cattle troughs to collect data. We have also been given the opportunity to work on some riparian projects as well, which we are both excited about. I’m anxious as this field season comes to an end and look forward to what the future hold for all of us.
“Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars… and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy.”-Osho
The last month has been one of the most busy and rewarding times of my life. I’ve seen and done so many things and experienced opportunities many will never get to. The other seasonals and I have continued to work on our vegetation studies to determine suitable breeding habitat for the Greater Sage Grouse. We should finish our plots this week and I couldn’t be happier (mostly for the sense of accomplishment, but also because we have done so many that I am beginning to recite the scientific names of all the plants in my sleep.)
Recently, I have also been able to work on several projects in coordination with other agencies. Three weeks ago I went out with the Forest Service to conduct a trout population study in local streams using electroshocking. Not only did I learn the names and characteristics of both native and non-native species, I also learned that trout are way more slippery that the fish I’m used to back in Missouri.. and… I’m not the most graceful in waders. Two weeks ago I traveled to the Virgin River to work with the Department of Natural Resources on a seining project to help eradicate Red Shiners which have managed to work their way back up the river into Utah during this last spring. This was one of the most rewarding experiences and even though I fell into the river on several occasions and returned to my apartment smelling like 12 different sorts of stink, I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.
Like many other interns, I have reached the halfway point in my internship and while it is kind of sad to come to the realization that it will all come to an end soon, I anxiously await all the new experiences the next two months have in store for me. Everything is simply happy… and so am I 🙂
A little over a month and a half ago, I loaded up my little Saturn to the roof and began my two day, 19 hour trek from my home in Missouri to my new home in Southwestern Utah. I will admit, I was scared out of my mind. The furthest west I had ever been was Kansas and I wasn’t sure what to expect living alone, 1300 miles from everything I’ve known for 22 years. Despite my initial uncertainty and fear, the move ( and internship) have changed my life both professionally and personally in ways I never thought possible. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work with both western plants and animals. The projects that I am currently working on include assessing vegetation plots, using telemetry to track our local Greater Sage Grouse population and conducting fenceline surveys.
My most memorable experience thus far? Tracking and flushing my first Sage Grouse. I had never even seen a Sage Grouse and had no idea what I was getting myself into. It was a female and I spent about 30 minutes triangulating her position. I was completely estatic when the graduate student I was working with informed me that we were close enough that I could hop out of the truck and follow my female on foot. I wiggled and twisted my way up a hill scattered with sage brush, intently focused on the steady beeping coming from my telemetry set, letting me know I was closing in. Suddenly and unexpectedly she flushed about four feet in front of me, literally almost scaring me to death. The loud noise of her beating wings made me jump so bad that I scared the graduate student who was another ten feet behind me. I had done it! It was such a rewarding experience. I turned to the graduate student with the biggest smile on my face and she smiled back saying, ” Congrats, you just tracked and flushed your first bird.”
The feelings and experiences I’ve been blessed with are ones I will never forget and though I wouldn’t have guessed it two months ago, Southwestern Utah is exactly the place I want to be.
Petroglyphs near one of our sites