Considering Next Steps

I’m missing the field season these days. Although I feel lucky to have had my internship extended and the opportunity to further my knowledge of things like GIS and NEPA, it’s hard not to feel antsy after a summer of intense activity. Soon, the field office will begin planning for the 2018 field season, and I’ll begin to uproot my lifestyle and move on to the next one. My daydreams of wandering around Wyoming’s public lands will dwell as I zone out to aerial images from 1976 that need to be georeferenced.

The Thanksgiving holiday was a nice break. I traveled from Wyoming to the Pacific coast of Washington where I was reminded how dark canopies can make the forest floor, the smell of wet soil, and what precipitation feels like. Hiking in Deception Pass State Park reignited my interest in ecosystem diversity and forest ecology. I am now a firm believer in the importance of stepping away from your (temporary) home to gain some perspective. Although I’ve managed to travel a fair amount during my time in Wyoming, pushing yourself out of your element, or back into your element after stepping away for a while, serves as an excellent reminder that no matter where in the world you are, there’s still more world out there.

Viewpoint off a Washington beach in Deception Pass State Park.

Deception Pass State Park bridge.

In a few weeks, I’ll be off to new places. I’m not sure where yet. Reading some of the other CLM blog posts feels discouraging. Complaints of not finding another job to move on to or applying to graduate school as a result of not having other options seems all too common in environmental and botanical fields. I am also pondering the thought of graduate school, only to shrug and put the thought away. There are seasonal opportunities in warmer climates where plants continue to bloom through the winter, but it seems to be competitive for a full-time permanent position in a generation where people are arguably over-educated, a graduate degree might be necessary in this field. Please somebody correct me if I’m wrong.

Mission Accomplished!

Hey everyone,

It has been about 2 weeks since my internship officially ended. The last month was a whirlwind of data management.

Labeling bags of seed after a very successful day of collecting towards the end of the season

First we had data sheets to complete and enter onto Seinet, a regional herbarium database. We also had some remaining seed collections to send off for cleaning and storage.

Sorting seeds by collection before sending them off to Oregon to be cleaned

Then we had to mount all the plant samples associated with our seed collections, which was my favorite part. I loved trimming the plants, positioning them on the paper, and gluing them down to make a beautiful herbarium sheet.

Fallugia paradoxa herbarium sheet

Heterotheca villosa herbarium sheet

Once the herbarium sheets were done, we sent some off to the herbaria at the University of New Mexico and the Smithsonian. The remaining third, we kept for our own office. This process included a large chunk of time spent trying to track down FedEx boxes large enough to fit them, before realizing that we could use non FedEx boxes.

In addition we had to write up an end of the year report for the field season, summarizing our collections, challenges, and accomplishments.

We went above and beyond and even left several helpful guides for next year’s crew, including a guide to future collection sites, general tips for internship duties, and a phenology chart to show when seeds mature on different plant species in the Taos area.

After we had finished all our Seeds of Success duties, we undertook the big project of organizing the office herbarium, which was in complete disarray. We made folders for each family, and alphabetized them. The herbarium cabinets looked great after we finished!

The herbarium cabinet looked infinitely better after we organized the collection by plant family.

Overall, I’m glad that I did this internship. It was a good way to experience field work, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It was my first exposure to identifying herbaceous plants, since previously I had only taken a class on woody plant identification. I feel more confident about my ability to key plants and I’m definitely lot more familiar with the plants in the Taos area.

It was fun to be able to explore a new part of the country, and I enjoyed seeing various beautiful places. I really enjoyed the sub-culture of lifestyle medicine and healthy living in Taos.

Hiking up Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico, was one of my favorite things that I did while in Taos.

William’s Lake was one of my favorite places that I visited during my internship.

I was proud to have been part of such an important mission as an SOS intern. I take pride in the fact that what I did during the last five months will help make a tangible difference in the world. I’d like to thank my mentor Lillis Urban for her guidance and positivity. I’d especially like to thank my co-worker, who prefers to remain nameless, for her enthusiasm, vast amounts of plant knowledge, and patience with my occasional bouts of grumpiness. Without her, I would have been lost without someone to consult with and bounce ideas off. I was very fortunate to be paired with someone who complimented my weaknesses and benefited from my strengths.

Me with my mentor, Lillis Urban

As time passes, I will definitely miss things from my time in Taos. Lillis. The health food store, Cid’s, which I fell in love with. The farmer’s market. The mountains. The beautiful aspens. Taos left it’s mark on my heart, and I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon.