Speaking in Acronyms

I have only been inhabiting the small community of Kemmerer, WY, for a short two weeks thus far. However, I have learned much in this time. One of the first things I’ve learned is how to fit in with the locals. People knew I was from out of town when I said “Kemmer-er-er-er,” stuttering like I was driving over speed bumps. “No, it’s KEMMer,” a local was kind enough to correct my Midwestern translation.

In fact, I’ve learned many new short-cuts in the English language. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) loves to use acronyms to describe most anything that would take more than two syllables to state. I’ve been lost in conversations that are spoken nearly completely in letters rather than words. Like learning any new language, I’ve asked many questions and gradually retained the information I’ve received. Everyone has been very pleasant, understanding that I don’t naturally speak in code.

My mission thus far has been to map Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus) habitat using Trimble units. Another intern and I bounce down gravel roads, stopping occasionally to explore prairie dog towns, raptor nests, and potential plover habitat. The plover remains elusive to me, though we have seen many Horned Larks (Eremophila alpestris) which we have often excitedly mistaken for plovers upon first sighting. We have also seen a badger, ground squirrels, mule deer, prairie dogs, various raptors, and antelope/pronghorn–which my fellow intern and I have come to call prontelopes. At the end of the day, we download our GPS information onto a computer and use it to create polygon features using ArcMap to highlight potential plover habitat areas on a map. Our data will hopefully aid in the responsible planning of future projects such as well pads.

It takes some time to get used to the vast landscape that is the High Desert District of Wyoming. Coming from northern Wisconsin, rich with trees and other vegetation, I’m still trying to get my bearings. I am generally accustomed–and comfortable with–only seeing a couple miles ahead of me before my line of sight is cut off by a copse of trees. When I asked a BLM employee the distance to the Uinta mountains range sitting on the horizon in the distance, he replied, “50-60 miles.” It’s going to take some time before I’m able to judge distance and distinguish between one rolling sage brush hill and another, but I have plenty of people to help me and I am eager to learn.

I’ve learned a lot about the BLM already in these two short weeks and have met many interesting and knowledgeable individuals who have made long car rides and days in the field all the more exciting. I’m anticipating that I will gain many valuable experiences working with such a large, integrated government organization.

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