After a two week extension, I have come to my last day at the Dillon Field Office.
It’s been quite a season. One of my favorite things about this job has been the variety. In the past five and a half months, I have collected for Seeds of Success, learned and practiced Assessment Inventory and Monitoring (AIM) protocol, and participated in a variety of typical rangeland technician duties including assessments of watersheds, rangeland, riparian areas, and lentic streams and a variety of other historic monitoring methods for the Dillon Field Office, some of which were established as much as 60 years ago.
I’ve also gotten to take a walk on the wildlife side by jumping in on habitat improvement projects (i.e. rolling up barbed wire fence), conducting spring eagles nest surveys, scouting for new sage grouse leks (i.e. looking for large amounts of bird poop that resembles white cheeto puffs) and observing the flamboyant birds strut their stuff before dawn.
One of my most satisfying and rewarding side projects this season has been reorganizing and updating the office herbarium.
This was something I got to dig into toward the beginning of the season, after I’d collected all of my vouchers for Seeds of Success and was waiting for them to go to seed — but before I jumped in with the rangeland techs. It ended up being a solid week and a half of work just to reorganize the collections, make an inventory/reference list, key out the unlabeled specimens, correct identifications and update taxonomy to follow what is currently accepted by NRCS.
I attempted to organize the herbarium so that it would be useful and accessible to anyone who may need to use it. I also made blank herbarium cards so that more people can contribute interesting and useful specimens that they encounter in the field. My hope is that this revamped herbarium will become a more practical and useful tool for reference and documentation in future years.
As various people brought me plants to identify, I made a habit of recording collection information and throwing them in my plant press. Between my SOS vouchers and all of the other plants I pressed throughout this field season, I was able to submit quite a few specimens to the field office herbarium.
In a fitting end to my fieldwork on Friday, I got caught in a minor snow storm while doing a riparian vegetation inventory at Bull Creek. The smoky summer ended quite suddenly in mid-September with sudden and prolonged snowfall, but the season since has evened out into the beautiful, cold, and sunny autumn everyone promised me when I first moved here. Especially after doing data entry and inside work, it is a treat to work outside again.
Life in Dillon hasn’t always been easy. I feel really lucky to have been placed a mere five hours away from friends who proved to be excellent adventure buddies on many a three-day weekend. Even so, I’ve frequently felt lonesome and isolated living in Dillon, especially after the excitement of living in a new place wore off a few months into the summer.
All in all, this internship has provided me with excellent experience in the year after graduating from college. I’m happy to have gotten to work with some amazing people in a jaw-droppingly beautiful place! I hope in the future this will lead to employment closer to home.