Several months after I began to study the native pollinators of Colorado rare plants, I have completed the “thesis I never wrote.” Last week I submitted my final draft to my mentor, the Colorado State Botanist. Upon her approval, it was sent along to the Fish and Wildlife Service Botanist, as well as to several botanists at various BLM field offices. The ultimate purpose of my research was to make recommendations about the best way to conserve native pollinators (generally bees) when protecting rare plants. At this point, I am confident that I made a very reasonable recommendation, and am very hopeful that it will be implemented statewide. It’s exciting to have worked on something that is potentially so far reaching, and I’m very happy that my mentor trusted me with this project. In the process I’ve really learned a lot about what goes into applied conservation.
Of course, sending off my lengthy persuasive document is only the first step, albeit a large one. I am looking forward to the feedback it receives, and to defending various parts of my argument if need be. At first glance, some of my recommendations appear to offer less protection than recommendations that FWS has already presented. While I know that my suggestions are backed up by a good deal of research, and I am hopeful that this research is summarized succinctly enough to convince anyone reading my paper of its truthfulness, I recognize that inherently the FWS wishes to err on the side of more protection (as they are mandated). On the other hand, some of the field offices may feel that my recommendations are too stringent, and will create more work for the diverse interests that lease our land than is warranted. While I recognized these competing interests during the creation of my recommendations and worked to maintain a balance between the two, my main purpose was to remain objective and simply report what was warranted by the available research. Thus, I feel ready to defend my recommendations from either side.
This document represents the culmination of my winter project, and the reason that my internship was originally extended. The timing seems perfect, as our first field work of the 2012 season is scheduled for next week. I couldn’t be more excited to get out of the office and get my hands dirty again! Desk work is fine, and obviously important, but simply can’t compare to the field season when we get to spend nearly every day outside. Next week we will be collecting data to continue long-term monitoring of Astragalus debequaeuson the western slope of the Rockies. I’m particularly excited because this is a new species for me, since last year I arrived after my mentors had already done this monitoring.
So there we have it: finishing up my winter work, starting the summer work, and always grateful that my mentor has seen fit to extend my internship through this field season.
BLM CO State Office