My time in Carlsbad is quickly drawing to a close. I decided to take a break from packing to take a minute to reflect on the five months I’ve spent here…
There’s a hill on the north side of town with a gravel trail I frequent. This morning I decided to visit once more before I depart. The weather’s been atypical. Dreary, cold, and hardly a glimpse of the sun. The last time I had visited this trail, the mariola hadn’t quite started blooming. Today, the hillside was covered in a blanket of creamy composite flowers with a fragrance unlike anything else. Every so often, a dayflower would fight for pollinator attention with its striking azure flowers.
While I’m relieved to be returning home to my loved ones, I realized this place and the work I’ve done here have left a profound mark on me. I have learned so much from my coworkers, my mentor, and the landscape. I can only hope I’ve left a similarly positive impression on this place.
This season has been one of the shortest chapters in my life, but I believe it has also been the most profound.
I would encourage people to take some time to explore the land should they ever find themselves in the Desert Southwest. While the climate can be less welcoming than the forests found in other parts of the region, this area has its own distinct beauty. The richness of life and colorful essence of the land will move anyone who stops to take it in.
My time here was not without challenges, but I suspect that element persists wherever one ends up. I am excited to take all the knowledge and experiences with me as I continue this journey. I’m also happy to proclaim my love of plants has not wavered. It has grown exponentially since my arrival in Carlsbad. Furthermore, I’ve come to the conclusion people who don’t like plants can’t be trusted… But that’s a different soapbox.
To anyone thinking about applying for CLM, I would say this: It won’t be easy. The work conditions and expectations will test your limits. However, this work is some of the most rewarding work I’ve done, and the connections I’ve made with people and landscapes will remain with me for a long time. I can’t think of a better opportunity to learn and grow. I’m deeply grateful to have had this opportunity with CLM.
Adventures in the Chihuahuan Desert have exposed me to some bizarre organisms… At least, they seem that way initially. The harsh conditions require remarkable adaptations that call to attention the tenacity of life.
Recent encounters with some perils of this ecosystem have bequeathed me with strength and a tenacity reminiscent of a truly spectacular angiosperm.
Koeberliniaspinosa, a native to harsh climates in the Southwestern US and Mexico with unrelenting spines but delicate flowers, permits pollinator passage. While the plant can bear leaves, photosynthesis is carried out in young stems and thorns most prominently. Some might consider this ~3m tall shrub unsightly and unwelcoming. I, however, have come to recognize it as the ingenuity and strength needed for survival in a challenging environment.
In the same way this plant has a strategy for not being eaten and avoiding desiccation, one must adapt in order to thrive in life’s many challenges. This internship has introduced me to many obstacles I had to overcome using creativity, bravery, and teamwork. While these solutions may not come naturally and can seem a little awkward, they each have a unique beauty far more impressive than anything armed with delicateness alone.
It is in such a way I hope to continue addressing obstacles as I navigate life. I owe a lot to this internship and this place for giving me this experience. And I am particularly indebted to the plants, animals, and landscapes that have served as a canvas on which I could learn these valuable lessons. Without them, this story would have no color.
This month in southeastern New Mexico has reminded me of the tenacity of life by displays of brilliance in what many would consider an arid wasteland. I am grateful for each of these moments and their valuable lessons…
I hope that everyone else’s internship is progressing positively. Mind the summer heat.
This week was off to a good start as I returned from the CLM Workshop feeling energized about the field work (and super happy to be away from poison ivy and ticks!).
The view out the window as we begun the descent into Hobbs, NM. If you look close, you’ll catch the moon. Feelings were mixed… A return to a familiar place that isn’t quite home.
Monday saw Linum allredii seed collecting, which required a healthy dose of hiking in terrain. I’m still trying to get used to the frequent changes in elevation as I’m from plains country, but the sights were spectacular.
Trekking to the site
View from atop a hill near the collection site. It was a few hours into the collection that I stopped to take in this landscape. Regret I didn’t pay attention sooner.
Tuesday was an office day, familiarizing ourselves with our targets and where to find them, then scouting on Wednesday. That was where we came across this horse crippler…
Today involved cross-training with the archaeology crew, which was pretty great. We hiked 8 miles along a fence line proposed for re-constructing. Temperature was 104F; the heat is reminiscent of home, so I like it. I tried to look for artifacts, but I mostly looked for plants… There were so many hills…
Every hill we crested, the next was taunting us in the distance…
Was admiring my favorite forb (Hoffmannseggia glauca) when I spotted a hopper pal doing the same.
All in all, a great past couple of weeks. But Alex is tired and going back to Texas… At least for the weekend.
I didn’t have many expectations of what my internship in the BLM Carlsbad Field Office would be like as I left Texas. My first week still had some pretty exciting ( and some not-so-exciting) adventures!
South of the office field day. I had to stop and look up occasionally to soak up this view!
Safety first! Two whole days of safety training/ driver training/ getting to know the office… Very important if nothing else! And I learned a thing or two in the process. I even drove this giant truck on some not-so-developed country roads (eek!). Everyone in the vehicle survived (I like to think) because I did my safety training.
Later in the week we made it out into the field a bit. The first outing was to learn the procedure for conducting rangeland plot surveys. There are plots that have been established for monitoring, and we will be specifically examining effects of grazing by sampling pre-season and post-season forbs and grasses. There also might be time to collect pronghorn fecal samples!!
Yesterday we spent the day exploring the range of an endemic species of flax (Linum allredii) that has only been found to occur on a single ridge line thus far. That was pretty great! I got to meet a rare plant and also get introduced to some of the plants I’ll be working with later in the season (and their look-alikes!).
Trekkng through the landscape as we searched for L. allredii
The plant of interest for Thursday. (The waterproof phone case had trapped moisture that didn’t agree with the heat; sorry about the quality)
This week I’ve met new plants, revisited a few familiar ones, learned driving and navigation skills, and safety, safety, safety! Though the official assignment is seed collecting with SOS, these exercises are helping us distinguish local flora so we can hit the ground running with seed collecting!