Twenty-one days ago I drove into El Dorado Hills, California, after a three day drive from Sioux County in Iowa where I grew up as a farm girl. I attended Northwestern College in NW Iowa, taught high school biology for a few years in Nebraska, then worked in the Northwestern College admissions office for several years before deciding to go to grad school and get back into a biology career, specifically something involving ecology and/or conservation. This past year I stepped onto a path to get me there by attending grad school at the University of Northern Iowa.
This summer I will be serving as an intern at the BLM Mother Lode Field Office in El Dorado Hills, CA. Specifically, I have been working under the direction of Graciela Hinshaw, the manager of Pine Hill Preserve. Pine Hill Preserve has been established to protect several rare and endangered plant species. Three of these species are endemic to western El Dorado County which has a unique type of soil–gabbro soil of the Rescue series–to which these plants have specifically adapted.
The past 3 weeks I have been involved in a wide variety of tasks: meeting with members of the public to show them the rare plants and their protected habitat, surveying for rare plant populations, learning to identify native and invasive plant species, monitoring plants for seed collection and collecting seeds for the Seeds of Success program, pulling invasive species, mapping populations of rare plants species using GPS receivers and GIS, setting up for a public forum (the purpose of the forum was to initiate conversation for community-based planning for the development of a management plan for a newly acquired piece of land connecting two other sections of the Pine Hill Preserve), stocking restrooms with cleaning supplies (via access by river rafting), and attending staff meetings.