What’s in a Seed?

What’s in a seed? Endosperm. Embryo. Cotyledon. Radicle. Etcetera… The mysterious potential for new life. As our seed collection season slows in Santa Fe, I ponder our intimate connection to the vital rhythms of the natural world. Of course we are all intimately connected to the natural world in one way or another, but handling so many seeds has uniquely intensified my connection to the natural world. My appreciation for and understanding of seeds has grown tremendously. Beyond this appreciation and understanding, I have been forced to question our role in relation to the potential life embedded in the small seeds we handle each day.

Upon explaining the work and vision of Seeds of Success and related plant conservation strategies to a local ecologist, I was inundated with thought provoking questions. What does “local” mean and how does our potential misunderstanding of “local” impact the notion of local adaptation? Can we deny the relativity and subjectivity of this notion? What chance is there that “weed seeds” will get into desired seed? What is a “weed” in our changing world? Are there potential hazards that we may be introducing in our attempts to conserve or restore the environment? Are we a help or a hinderance in our conservation attempts? On a more spiritual level, what are the implications of removing native seeds from their natural habitats? Does the notion of belonging transcend ecology? Where does our instinct to interfere come from? How do we approach environmental conservation properly; is there a proper way to conserve? How can we make informed, adaptive conservation decisions when each ecosystem we are approaching is wholly unique; how can we come to conclusions when truly understanding a place takes decades of deep ecological integration.

These questions have been running through my mind, like a cascading waterfall that I am perpetually coming up against. I am working for what I believe in, while constantly questioning the roots of these beliefs. Through careful attention and criticism even my most deep-rooted beliefs become dynamic and take on an aura of complexity. I encourage all of us to engage in conversations around these issues to understand our perspectives related to the work we do, and the potential implications of those perspectives.

Kids at Fort Ord

This past week I led three outdoor education classes of children age 5-12 at Fort Ord National Monument. It was my first time directly interacting with children that age in what feels like years, and it was a really heartwarming experience. The young children were really unfiltered and enthusiastic, and it was really enjoyable and comedic at times to spend time with them. I led them on nature hikes pointing out any interesting animals, plants or fungi that I saw, and showed them BLM’s domestic California legless lizards and gopher snake, two reptiles found on Fort Ord.

Kids taking time to journal

Kids taking time to journal

Old man's beard

Old man’s beard

Before those nature classes, I was helping a group of CSUMB capstone students do transects of old restoration sites in order to monitor their vegetation coverage. While in the field, we stumbled upon a very large orb-weaver spider in one of the plant basins.

Orb-weaver spider with his meal

Orb-weaver spider with its meal

Here for the long haul and loving it

As I read the farewell posts of other CLM interns across the country, it’s hitting me that as far as botany goes, it’s basically the end of the field season. The sagebrush seeds are ready for collection, the wildflowers that had me constantly geeking out all spring and summer are fast becoming unrecognizable in their senescent states, and the steady sunshine and 90 degree heat I’d grown used to have been replaced with a perpetual dampness. Now, instead of slathering on sunscreen and making sure I have 3 liters of water every time I go out in the field, I’m bundling up and checking to make sure I remembered my raincoat and some extra pairs of socks.

Despite the way everything seems to be wrapping up, I’m glad to say that my time here in Wenatchee, and in the field, is far from over. My current internship won’t be finished until December 16th, and there’s already been talk of fence mapping and pygmy rabbit surveying in snowshoes! At this point, I’m up for anything–I’ve done so many things this summer that I previously thought I was incapable of, so why not experience four seasons of fieldwork? Even better, I’ve been rehired by my field office to repeat this internship next year, so after a short hiatus in Wisconsin for the holidays, I’ll be back to work starting in late January or early February so we can get in some early season sage grouse work! Though my heart belongs to botany, I’m thrilled that I’ll have the chance to gain some wildlife experience. My time in Wenatchee has already been the biggest adventure of my life, and I’m so glad I don’t have to say goodbye just yet.

The three months since I last blogged have flown by, in part because I’ve been traveling nearly every week! Starting in September, we got into a pretty steady rhythm of camping out one or two nights each week for work, and that, combined with weekend camping trips and the vacation home I took in early October, has put my life into a seemingly constant state of packing and unpacking. I love it this way, though! There is so much to see and do in Washington.

We went to take post-fire monitoring points at the Range 12 fire, so naturally these ash mustaches happened

We went to take post-fire monitoring points at the Range 12 fire, so naturally these ash mustaches happened.

Lakes next to a BLM parcel in northern WA, in the "lime belt" area. The alkaline water gives them that tropical color!

Lakes next to a BLM parcel in northern WA, in the “lime belt” area. The alkaline water gives them that tropical color!

One of our cozy campsites!

One of our cozy work campsites!

We went up to Little Chopaka Mountain to do LPI and bunchgrass monitoring. We were only a mile away from Canada!

We went up to Little Chopaka Mountain to do LPI and bunchgrass monitoring. We were only a mile away from Canada!

Walking through a patch of cynoglossum officinale is an ill-advised life choice...

Walking through a patch of Cynoglossum officinale is an ill-advised life choice…

The beautiful Ipomopsis aggregata

The beautiful Ipomopsis aggregata