When I graduated from college last May, I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a job, but I knew that I wasn’t going to figure it out by just sitting around. As much as I’d tried to figure things out through job books and career surveys, I was pretty much at a loss. No, what I needed was a chance to try new things, and a lot of them. I wanted to strike out and explore my career possibilities hands-on, and that’s exactly what I’ve been able to do through the CLM internship.
In four days I will be halfway through my time out here in Arcata, CA working for the local BLM field office, and I’ve already lost count of the interesting and varied opportunities I’ve had. To begin with, there was plenty of dune monitoring—going out with quadrat and transect tape in hand and recording what plants were found out on the dunes and in what density (done using presence/absence within 200 quadrats located throughout a given transect). At first it’s pretty hard to tell the plants on the dunes apart, given that they’re all very small and grow low to the ground. I remember dropping down on my knees for every quadrat on my first transect, but after a month of monitoring, I have the rare and hard-won ability to identify tiny dune plants from 15 feet away. Envious? I understand.
Then there was mapping invasive weeds at Headwaters Forest Reserve, a nearby redwood forest that’s managed by the Arcata BLM. It was only acquired 10 years ago; before then it was logging land and a good portion of the reserve has former logging roads that wind their way through the colossal redwoods and douglas fir. Many of the logging roads have since been decommissioned; that is, they’ve been replanted with redwood saplings and had their river crossings removed in order to facilitate a faster return to the natural state of the land. These former roads are still vulnerable to weed infestations though, so I enter the scene—topographic map and lined paper at the ready—to record the locations and species of the unwanted immigrants so that they can be removed at a later date. In fact, I’ve already gotten to see the whole lifecycle of this project! Soon after I finished mapping the trails on the North side of the reserve there was a crew going out to remove English Ivy from that area, so I got to print out a nice GIS map, give it to them, and watch them head off to vanquish the intruders. There’s something pretty cool about seeing the results of your effort be put into use. Then again, there’s also something pretty cool about hiking in a redwood forest for weeks on end.
Being near the halfway point of my CLM internship, I can say that I’ve already experienced a ton of things and in the process feel like I’m making a lot of progress in figuring out what I want to do for a career. There’ve been no “Ah-Ha! Moments,” nor any moments of supreme nirvana, but what there has been is a lot of friendly co-workers, pieces of food for thought, and interesting experiences (ask me about when I ended up lost and had to ford a river). I didn’t come into this internship looking for a moment of truth, but rather looking to work towards a greater understanding of myself and my goals. That’s exactly what I’ve gotten, and I couldn’t be happier.