Last Days in the Last Frontier

Today, we drove to work in chilly, 29 degree weather. Snow covers the mountain tops surrounding Anchorage. Most of the ducks have left the partially frozen ponds. Yes, it is time for me to migrate as well.

When my mentor first offered me the SOS position with the BLM in Alaska, I agonized over the decision for a full week and a half. I also had an offer to teach English in Indonesia, and I couldn’t decide which position to accept. But now I know I made the right choice.┬áThe past four months have really been a whirlwind of activity and excitement. I can’t think of another job that I could have gotten right out of undergrad that would have allowed me to travel so frequently, learn so much, and come into contact with so many fantastic people– all while utilizing my education and setting me on the track to a great career.

Perhaps the best thing about this internship was the sense of independence that I had throughout much of it. Here I was, traveling to Alaska. No study abroad program was waiting at the airport to pick me up. No friends were waiting in the city to take me out. I was alone in the Last Frontier.

On the first day of work, we figured out what needed to be done. On the second day of work, we started doing it. We acquired permits, planned trips, drove (and flew!) to far corners of the state, analyzed ecosystems, and collected lots and lots of seeds. For the vast majority of the time, I felt like I was in charge of something new and exciting. I felt empowered to use my knowledge to make scientific decisions. I felt like I was making a difference.

Although I had never been to Alaska before, I really grew to love the state. Anchorage is not the million-person metropolis that I am used to, but its natural beauty is unsurpassed. Minutes from my house lies one of the largest state parks in the country, where backpacking, mountain-biking, hiking, and bears abound. Sea kayaking, water skiing, and pack-rafting lie just a bit further away. Coupled with an extremely active populace that utilizes every second of sunshine to its fullest, I really wanted to stay. But alas, the job market had other plans for me.

A big thanks to Marian and Krissa, without whom this internship would not have been possible. Their tireless work and patience was much appreciated. I also want to thank my mentors, Mike Duffy and Paul Krabacher, who were excellent teachers and friendly bosses. Finally, to Jordan, Chrissy, and Vania, my fellow interns, we actually survived living, working, commuting, traveling, and playing together for four whole months. I don’t think I could have done it with anyone else! You guys are my newest lifelong friends. I look forward to our reunions.

Dan Brickley

BLM State Office

Anchorage, AK

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