I left home 6 months ago with a definite uncertainty of what was to come. As a recent graduate, it seemed like the world was beckoning for me to come calling. I had just finished up a degree, which had my entire focus up to its completion, and the opportunities all looked quite enticing. Ultimately, I chose to leave my home and embrace what California had to offer with open, albeit anxious arms. I knew I was in for hard work in a challenging and unfamiliar environment, especially arriving amidst one of the Central Valley’s many summer heat waves. I knew that I was going to be without the family that has been such a crucial aspect of my upbringing. I also knew that I was going to be living in what some people consider to be the middle of nowhere.
What came next was one of the most rewarding learning experiences I have ever been engaged in. Even beyond college. Every day was truly something new. New problems to solve and trouble to shoot. Frustrating at times. On the whole, it was an experience in very hands-on management that sometimes meant long hours of hard labor in a seemingly unrelenting heat.
There were many days I came home absolutely exhausted. Enough energy to fully rehydrate, cook a quick meal, and then retire to the comfort of a chair to clear my mind with the guitar that accompanied me on this cross-country expedition. Weekends of adventure were numerous. In a short period of time I managed to see the Pacific Coast in its summer glory, Big Sur in particular, Yosemite, the Desolation Wilderness, Lassen, and many other fantastic places. It’s not hard to see what Muir and many others since have been on about when it comes to this state’s beautiful places. I learned to adventure and make new friends through these adventures, something I was previously disinclined to do.
I learned what it means to have a job that you take, and are expected to take very seriously. This thanks to my mentor, who taught me to have confidence and trust in my abilities to figure out what needed to be done and when with minimal interference. I also learned just how incredible it is to manage wetlands and see the changes of such a system through the seasons. In summer the ponds are dry and don’t really resemble a pond at all. Of course, by looking at the vegetation you can see their purpose. Once flood-up starts you quickly learn that fresh water being pumped into these ponds really brings them to life. Cranes and egrets begin to poke around and then more geese and ducks as the ponds continue to fill to their planned levels. There are intricacies to every pond that I don’t think I even began to scratch the surface on understanding, but that are certainly observable given enough time and the eye to spot them. To me there is still nothing quite as rewarding as seeing ponds go from dry ground to wetlands with thousands of birds in them. It isn’t hard to feel like your work is appreciated by the birds in whatever way they might feel appreciation.
I don’t know if I truly understand all the ways in which I grew through this internship, or even all the ways in which I have changed or learned. I do know, however, just how inspired I feel to continue to go forth and engage in conservation as a full-time focus of my life. Who can say where it will take me, but I am certainly excited for the ride. There will always be my found memories of this time no matter where I end up and it will undoubtedly be a crucial step in the story that is yet to unfold.
With that, I am very grateful for this opportunity and all that are involved in making it possible for young folks like myself and so many others that are hoping to put their love and appreciation for the land and beings around us to good use. I am very appreciative for all the wonderful people I met, worked with, and was mentored by along the way. It’s reassuring to know that there are people working hard to set a precedent upon which those of us just recently entering the “real world” can build on and learn from.
Cosumnes River Preserve
Galt, CA (Mother Lode Field Office–Folsom, CA)