My internship is at an end. I was able to land an awesome job. I am going to miss Fort Ord more than I want to think about. I am already at my new position and I am loving it but it is still unfamiliar and a little scary. I am working on the campus of CsuFresno as their Biology Greenhouse manager/instructional tech support. I am surrounded by plants and people who like learning from them. I used to work in a greenhouse and I am very excited to be working in one again.
My 7 years in Monterey County seems to have come and gone in the blink of an eye. It feels like only yesterday I moved away from home and started my life there. I graduated from CSUMB, made friends, got my first real job in my field and had an internship at the place I loved to explore. I am hoping this place starts to feel like home again (I am from Fresno) because I feel like I need to be getting back to the bay everyday. (even though I am working here haha).
I am excited to be here and to have a job that I love and that is providing me security but I would have given a whole lot to stay on Fort Ord.
Thanks for the Memories,
Wendy E. Cooper
Seeding and strawing a restoration site before planting
My life the last month has consisted of goats, 1,497 to be exact. My mentor and I have been managing a goat grazing project on Fort Ord, measuring the effects goats have on heavy areas of brush. We set up t-posts where we want a pen to go, and the herder fences in the goats. Before the goats are placed in the pens, we set up 2 study plots: a grazed and a non-grazed plot. We take 3 transects in both plots to see what kind of vegetation is found in each and then the control plot is fenced and the grazed plot is left to the goats. So far we have 16 pens and the number continues to rise every few days. The goats are normally in a pen 2-3 days, depending on the density of the brush. We are finding that goats make a much higher impact on areas needing to be grazed than sheep.
This month has also brought the rain thank goodness!! We have so far planted about 2 thousand plants with school groups and local habitat restoration programs. The site has to be ripped by heavy equipment and contoured (Tom our heavy equipment operator usually does that). Then it is seeded with barley and a native purple needle grass seed, and then straw is thrown down to protect the seed from birds and other critters.
This last month I was involved in Fort Ord’s National Public Lands Day, the biggest community service day for Fort Ord National Monument. The event drew about 150 people from the Monterey County area and was a great success. The event had a few different service projects the public chose from. I was stationed at a project site where we were planting plants, cutting down brush and brushing trails.
At my previous job, I worked for a non-profit community based habitat restoration project. Being able to lead a planting event with kids and their parents was really awesome. This event solidified that I am in the right place. I love it. I want to continue working in environmental science and in public education. One of the kids I was working with on public lands day came up to me after we were wrapping things up to go to lunch. She said she remembered me from my previous job, as her group leader. She said that was 3 years prior, when she was in 5th grade. That one little girl gave me hope, that all the work we are doing in this field, is actually reaching people.
Casey brought her mom and little sister out that day with her. She has grown to care about her community and is teaching her family to as well. She is a perfect example of what we want our community to emulate. She has pride in her green spaces and has become a steward of the land, owning her responsibility to keep her community beautiful.
I was proud to be in this line of work, but Casey gave me hope for the future and the reassurance that I’m in the right place.
The last few weeks have been all about the the California Invasive Weed Symposium. The symposium happens every year around the same time and brings together weed warriors from all over California. This is the second time I have participated in this event and the first time being apart of the planning committee.
The symposium went off without a hitch and I was able to meet like minded people, all concerned with the health of the California landscape. Our keynote speaker, Ken Moore, said something that struck a cord in me.
“A sense of place means connecting with a place so strongly that it becomes an integral part of you, and you of it. There is also another kind of place, which each of us has within ourselves. Some call it the heart, others the soul. In this place resides the essence of who we really are, and what really matters to each of us. If we are to succeed in our goal of saving biodiversity by restoring ecosystem health, I will discuss how it may hinge on us understanding that these two places are, in fact — one.”
I have been living in Monterey County for the last 7 years and I realized that this area has become apart of me, as much as my home in Fresno. I have been learning and working in habitat restoration for the last four years and not until Ken said those words was it clear to me how much I love this work. The land I work everyday at the BLM is my home and I take pride in it. I want it to thrive and become healthier every day.
I attended college in this area and took many field trips out to the BLM for ecology projects, applied statistics, GIS AND GPS projects. I grew up in this area. This past week Monterey County voted down a proposition that would have put a race track, hotels, homes and businesses in the middle of oak woodland. This horse track would have taken out thousands of old oak trees. Ken put something into words that I couldn’t. I feel a true connection to this land. Its more than a national monument, it’s like a friend. I work and play in this area almost everyday.
The BLM is a part of me and I feel lucky to be this dedicated to something I feel is important.
Imagine going to work and not knowing what is in store for the day. Sure you have a schedule that you follow but things come up when you are out in the field.
My 2 weeks were awesome. My mentor Bruce and I scouted a lake that needs to be purged of invasive bullfrogs. We worked out a plan to remove the frogs and get them to people who will use them. We also watered willow tree saplings, which were planted by local school children 2 years ago. The trees line the shore of the dry Toro Creek for roughly a mile. Watering the willows is one of the many important ongoing projects of Fort Ord. Setting up the watering system is a project in itself. We have a giant bladder bag that holds about 150 gallons of water in the bed of our truck and we have to get as close as we can to the bank of the creek, which sometimes isn’t close at all. But that doesn’t matter because we have about 500 ft or more of hose that we run to water the trees. After we get to the creek in the truck, we set up this awesome little water pup that feeds off the battery of the truck. One end of the pump is attached to a regular garden hose and the other end is attached to a mini hose that is fed into the bladder bag. We water as far as we can with the amount of hose and then we move to a new spot up the creek. We also watered Badger Hills, a new public parking lot at the edge of Fort Ord. Weed eradication is also a big project. Black mustard and bull thistle are a few of the biggies. We take our volunteer groups from Paradigm out to do weeds, water oak trees and water 2 days a week.
Bruce was asked to go survey for red legged frogs and tiger salamanders at a future digital radio tower building site. That was awesome. Surveying for the animals consisted of marking active burrows and then putting a camera down the burrow and looking for the endangered species. The surveying was great in itself but also watching the interaction with all the parties involved. Bruce was the biologist, project leader David, the contractor Will, the onsite project leader Joe and the systems operator Chuck. Bruce had a list of objectives the contractors needed to abide by, in order of the project to proceed. I was not expecting the contractors to be as accommodating as they were. The men involved seemed to actually care about what we were trying to do. They asked good questions and were very engaging. We had lunch with them after everything was said and done. It made me realize that maybe things are changing for the better. That maybe environmentalists and builders can work together and come up with solutions, which will make everyone happy.
Interspersed in all of the above were meetings about Fort Ord Public Land Day and the 2013 Central California Invasive Weed Symposium. We also engaged in brushing trails, seed collecting, surveying trails and working with the Sierra club. The Sierra club was our last day before the furlough. It’s been a real bummer not getting to go to the BLM the last almost 2 weeks. Hopefully everything get’s resolved soon so we can get back out there and take care of our projects.