It’s hard to believe I’ve only been working in Carlsbad, New Mexico for three weeks as it’s gone by in a flash. My first week at the BLM here in Carlsbad was mostly spent training on things such as field safety when Hydrogen Sulfide is a fearsome risk and getting to know the lovely people in the office. While a lot of my days that first week were spent learning how not to die in a freak lightning storm, on Friday we got to go caving with Jim and Stan from the cave department. The BLM in Carlsbad not only has two CLM interns for the next five months, but also interns through a program called HACU who will be with us until August. Our caving experience was wild, and took us through relatively tall passages with breathtaking evidence of the water that flows through the caves at varying levels, to passes where we found ourselves on our hands and knees in the thickest of mud. At one point in the cave, we sat and turned off our headlamps to experience the total and complete darkness, which was incredibly peaceful though somewhat eerie. As we neared the exit, we found ourselves flat on our bellies in a very tight space, slowly attempting to exit the cave. Claustrophobia, spiders, crickets, an alarmed pack rat momma, and rapidly ensuing panic made for a very tense atmosphere as we waited for each person to wriggle out of the tiny opening that was the cave’s exit.
After an eventful Friday in the field, it was time to head off to Chicago for the training workshop. Being surrounded by so many other plant and wildlife enthusiasts was very refreshing, as was a break from the 100 degree desert weather back in Carlsbad. The Chicago Botanic Garden provided a labyrinth of botanical beauty to discover, from a tiny model railroad garden to a captivating butterfly garden.
Before I knew it, it was time to say goodbye to Chicago and return to the desert. The second week at the BLM allowed for more field excursions, this time with visiting botanists and interns from Taos and Las Cruces. This allowed us to become familiar with many of the local plants, which I was largely unfamiliar with having moved to New Mexico from Tennessee. It also allowed us to visit future collection sites, collect vouchers for flowering target species, and note populations that were soon to be ready to have seed collected.
The most recent week here at the BLM concluded in completing our defensive driving course and taking the truck out in the field for the first time on our own. Our mentor, Johnny, made sure to teach us how to change a tire before letting us set off into the desert alone.
I’m very excited for my next week in Carlsbad, where we will be setting up pitfall traps to determine the absence/presence of lizard species in certain locations.
Meridith McClure- Carlsbad, New Mexico BLM