Six months have flown by and I am now looking at my last day as an SOS intern. Last week my field partner and I said our farewells to the state of Delaware. As we visited some of our favorite field sites for the last time, it dawned on me just how far we had come. The plants living in our field sites were strangers to us the first time we scouted the terrain. Now we recognize each plant the way we recognize the faces of our family members and friends. They are familiar, and that familiarity is oddly comforting.
Our very last collection was of Baccharis halimifolia (commonly groundsel bush), the first plant I committed to memory at the start of this internship. Unlike our Spartina alterniflora collections, or some of the berry collections we had made this season, groundsel bush was an easy collection. The fluffy seeds designed to travel with the wind came off by the handful. After 20 minutes of collecting, just like that, we were done with the field season.
On our way back to NYC, my field partner and I decided to stop by a carwash. We had been using my field partner’s car for the past two weeks of field work, and it was absolutely filthy inside and out. After driving through the wash, the outside of the car was looking good. The same could not be said for inside of the car. A graveyard of squashed mosquitoes decorated the front windshield. In the back seats, spiders and yellow backed beetles crawled out of our seed collection bags and darkened the windows.
The carwash experience concluded with our car being hand-dried by a young man who must have been very confused by the state of our car. As he wiped the front windshield with a small towel, he scrubbed hard at the mosquito remains. It took him a moment to realize the remains were inside the car. As he proceeded to wipe off the back windows, my field partner and I burst into laughter. We could only imagine what he was thinking. Hundreds of bugs crawled all over the back windows, and spiders periodically dropped down from the ceiling. Our back seat was chaotic; it was covered in trash bags full of seeds, loose strips of newspaper from pressing plant samples, muddy waders, and granola bar wrappers. I bet the young man wondered why we even bothered going through the carwash when we sat in a pile of insects and dirt.
Back in the office, this final week has been a blur. We have been working quickly to finish shipping off seeds, gluing herbarium specimen, and finalizing data sheets. With one day left to our internship, writing this blog post was the last item on my to-do list. It’s such a relief having everything done. There were so many days during this internship when I felt anxious that we wouldn’t reach our collection goal, overwhelmed when we had too many collections planned for a single week of work, or simply tiered from spending 12 hours straight in the field. Now I sit in our Staten Island office, checking off the final item from my to-do list. We did it. My field partner and I actually did it. Not only that, in the end we surpassed our collection goal.
It has been an eventful 6 months to say the least. I definitely owe my field partner a big thank you. Without her, life in Delaware would not have been as interesting. Together we managed to make getting attacked by swarms of green-headed flies, sinking hip deep into marsh muck, and spending our days smelling of rotten-eggs and looking like we had crawled out of a dumpster something to laugh about. It might have sucked while it was happening, but looking back it makes me giggle to think of how ridiculous these past 6 months have been. So thank you Barbara, and thank you CLM for an incredible experience.