Greetings CLM interns,
After a wonderful and wild ride as a CLM intern in Fairbanks, I am here to tell you that this will be my last blog post.
I will be moving on from the Bureau of Land Management but will be staying in the Golden Heart City of Fairbanks, Alaska. Life has taken me across town to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife where I will be the new botany biotech for Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
As such, this post will be bittersweet. I’ve immensely enjoyed my year at the BLM, but I am also incredibly excited to botanize and explore in Arctic refuge this summer and beyond.
My last few weeks working at BLM were jam packed.
I first headed to Central, AK to finally set up the little brown bat monitoring project that I had been planning for months and months. The plan was drive our trusty steed Big Blue (also known as an F250 Dodge Ram) to Central, transition to our other trusty steeds (King Quad 4-wheelers) and ride along the Harrison Creek trail up and over a ridge and down into a creek valley, deploying ultrasonic bat detectors along the way. Anticipation was high as this was a project and field outing I had planned pretty much entirely by myself. But alas, we arrived in Central and rode to the top of the ridge only to find the trail still snowed in. An extremely unfortunate outcome but in Alaska the remoteness of these areas makes field work particularly unpredictable. Nothing we could do but enact plan B and place the detectors closer to the main road. Disappointment sat heavy, but in the end the project was passed along to the next intern in what I believe and hope to be a good state.
Immediately after this trip north, I turned around and headed south to spend a few days in Chicken, AK doing raptor surveys. We flew via helicopter along the narrow river valleys of the Fortymile area and searched the cliffs and tree tops for Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and Common Raven nests. When spotted, we noted whether there were eggs, chicks and/or adults present and how many of each. The weather was perfect and it was a gorgeous and productive several days.
I raced back to Fairbanks for my last day on Friday, and there ended my CLM intern adventure.
And now some reflections on the Life and Times of a CLM Intern in Alaska.
Looking back I am in awe of how much I’ve learned and experienced working with the BLM. At times my experience was different than I expected, at times the same. So without further ado…
- Alaska itself. Although I found it extremely exciting to be in the midst of such a pure and wild area, it was still a shock sometimes how remote Alaska is. From things like grocery prices; to driving on a highway for several hours without seeing store, person, car or sign; to the concept of towns accessible only by plane, it was initially a very odd place indeed. And of course -40 degree winter temperatures were rather extreme.
- Working for a multiple-use agency. I have immense respect for my colleagues and the agency for striving to make intelligent and informed decisions on land use while considering many different views. It was interesting to see how this functioned at the office level and how decision making ramped up from there and/or came down from higher levels and affected operations at the local level. It was also very exciting to have so many different types of folks in the office—it really allowed me to get a broad range of experiences over the course of my internship.
- Meeting and interacting with many wonderful people from all walks of life.
- Assisting with many types of different tasks/field outings. I was able to do not only my regular job (which included invasive species inventory and monitoring, herbarium management, GIS, raptor surveys and bat project planning) but also experience the worlds of our hydrologist (through snow surveys), our mining compliance staff (through a combination invasive plant/mining compliance float trip), NPS biologists (through moose surveys) and many more.
- Living in a wonderful town surrounded by endless outdoor play land.
- Being able to work under an amazing boss.
- Witnessing 2 young black bears wrestle right outside our field station.
- Meeting many remarkable people.
- Looking at many interesting plants via herbarium preparations and plant ID.
- Flying over the entirety of Gates of the Arctic National Park for moose surveys.
- Getting lots of GIS practice.
- Driving to the Arctic twice—during the summer and the winter—and getting to see the difference.
- Doing a multi-day float trip down the Fortymile River doing invasive plant inventory.
- Flying in a helicopter along the Fortymile counting raptors.
- I could go on all day…
I am a very lucky person to have had this opportunity. It allowed me to be placed in a community I now love and allowed me to get my foot in the door for federal employment. I’m not entirely convinced that government work is for me, and graduate school is still a looming possibility, but for now I am going to try another federal agency on for size. I’m eager to see how things change while working for an agency with a single, more directed mission (vs. multiple use).