Hello CLM folks! I hope this message finds you well and warm wherever you may be. This is my final post as a CLM intern (at least in the foreseeable future, never say never). For the last two years, I have worked for the San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington State. It has been a deeply rewarding experience, one that has allowed me to learn and grow more than I could ever imagine.
During my time there, I’ve handled three projects for the monument: creating baseline vegetation monitoring system, starting a Seeds of Success program, and producing a map characterizing vegetative communities. My mentors have always given me a great deal of independence in my work. This opportunity for initiative has allowed me to put all my creativity and passion into projects to achieve more than expected. I have collaborated with other community organizations and land managers, presented in meetings, taught science and monitoring to kids, and tabled at many events to teach the public about the importance of our native plant community and the Seeds of Success program.
I was constantly learning during the last two years. From familiarizing myself with area botany to figuring how to communicate science to kids without boring them half to sleep, each day gave me something to think about. During my first year, I studied various BLM monitoring strategies, GIS and other data standards, and available plant related GIS datasets. My second year, I learned all about Seeds of Success. I worked with other land managers, met potential growers, created a target plant lists, and planned the collection season. I even had my own intern to help me collect seed. My second year taught me some invaluable lessons about communication, time management, partnership, and botany.
After my SOS summer, I moved to Seattle and started working remotely to create a vegetation map for the monument. The map used information that I collected in my first season to give an accurate picture of plant communities on its 970 acres for the monument’s resource management plan. It also allowed me to see a project to its completion, which, I gotta say, is very satisfying. Working from home created its own challenges however. I had to perfect my phone meeting, phone call, and email skills. It also forced me adopt a higher level of organization to get all tasks done in a timely manner.
Of course, CLM internships are not only about the work you accomplish but the experiences you have along the way. Thanks to my mentor and monument manager, I have worked with specialists throughout the Oregon/Washington BLM and the San Juan Islands community. I have met all manner of plant and wildlife folks as well as facilitation, recreation, outreach, management, and GIS gurus. I’ve gotten to travel a lot, within Washington and in other states. My favorite trip was to New Mexico for the 2015 National Native Seeds Conference. The dozens of talks and workshops filled my brain to bursting with info and inspiration. I got to meet so many plant passionate people, an experience that cemented my love of plant science and the plant folk.
In addition to amazing informative opportunities during my internship, I’ve had lots of chances for pure fun. Working on an island monument, I have had my fair share of kayak and boat trips. I have been lucky enough to camp on beautiful remote islands and to see spots many lifelong residents don’t get to visit.
By far the most rewarding parts of my internship were the people I saw every day in our little office. The San Juan Islands National Monument has only two full time employees, Nick Teague (recreation planner) and Marcia deChadenedes (monument manager). Nick has been with the San Juan Islands BLM for over ten years. In fact he was the sole employee until 2013. He does incredible work for the community, spearheading innumerable projects and often acting as the interface between the public and the government. What’s more, he does all this with unfaltering positivity and heart. Nick cares deeply about the land and each person he meets (I don’t know how he does it). I have watched many a Nick Teague interaction, trying to decipher his disturbing good person-ness. I haven’t quite solved that puzzle but I’ve yet to see someone leave a conversation with Nick without a little more smile on their face and just a tad more pep in their step.
The other full time actor in the monument office is Marcia deChadenedes. Marcia is a force to be reckoned with. She navigates the challenging worlds of bureaucracy and local politics with such grace and wit that sometimes I have to stop and stare. She constantly pushes for what’s best for the entire community and landscape, redefining what it means to be a public servant. Partnership, understanding, and mentorship are part of her every day. She pushes for collaboration, fosters progressive thinking and helps others to reach their potential. Marcia has the ability of quiet leadership as well as leadership through surprising people with chocolate in their desks. But more than a manager, Marcia is of course one of the most creative silliest broads I know. She is as likely to tell you an hilarious tale of unthinkable mishap as to drop a piece of sage wisdom. I deeply appreciate her for that. She is a constant source of inspiration for me and I’m so happy to have her as my mentor.
My time at the San Juan Islands National Monument has given me confidence and experience with plants and people. I have met great people and had priceless experiences. I’ve sincerely enjoyed working with the BLM and will likely pursue a position with the federal government in the future. However, I
am leaving the monument to follow another dream of mine: botany ice cream!! That’s right, I am starting a business selling ice cream at local farmers markets. My ice cream generally highlights some botanical; often local native plants. I love showcasing little known plant flavors and being able to show people plants they have seen a thousand times in a new light. My ice cream includes Douglas Fir and Yerba Buena Chip (plus more universally tempting flavors like caramelized brown cow and lemon vanilla cheesecake). As I prepare for this new adventure, I will remember all I have learned in my time as a CLM intern. I am thrilled to have had this experience and excited to see what comes next.