Not to start out with a cliché, but time really is flying by! I have already been working at the Lander, Wyoming field office for a month and a half, which seems like a scary amount of time considering it is only a five-month stint overall. The drive over from my home north of Seattle was an awesome way to take in the scenery of the “West” (side note: it took me awhile to call it the West being from the West Coast). I drove through Idaho and Montana and then stopped over in Yellowstone for two nights for my first time in the park and fell in love…mostly with the bison. From Yellowstone, it was a four-hour drive to my new home and I will admit that the closer I got to Lander, the more nervous I became that there was not a single tree in sight! Luckily, that was not the case once I got into town and I am enjoying the contrast between Wyoming and Washington landscapes.
Starting as a rangeland monitoring intern, I had zero background in how grazing on federal lands worked and I have learned a ton in the last few weeks. On my third day, I was able to go out with a permittee who grazes his cattle on one of the allotments we monitor, which offered valuable perspective and insight into the work we do and how it can affect someone’s livelihood. Working for a multi-use agency has been eye opening and some of my opinions on conservation and land use have changed to be more flexible and open minded.
My botany skills have also grown immensely over time and my general idea of there being “lawn grass” and “not lawn grass” has broadened to the point that I am always bugging my partner to help me identify new (to me) species in the field. There is so much plant diversity in the sage steppe ecosystem and it has been fun to learn about their adaptations for such a dry environment. Since I have a background in wetland ecology I have been interested in seeing where things will grow and how the slightest changes in elevation and gradient can cause a total shift in the vegetation. I was also interested to learn that the majority of wetlands here are created from flood irrigation practices and the creation of reservoirs and that a shift to alternative irrigation methods could have some pretty negative consequences for the remote wetland ecosystems that provide great habitat for birds and other species.
Outside of work life has been pretty great as well. I am really thankful to be working in a town with so many social and recreational activities. The international climber’s festival was last week, which brought people from all over the country and beyond, and provided for some great activities to watch, such as the dyno comp and pull-up competitions. There is frequently live music at one of the various parks or bars in town and everyone congregates to dance with no concern for who is watching. I have done a couple local hikes and camped up in the Shoshone National Forest and will be planning a backpacking trip up to the Wind River Range soon as well. All in all, it has been a great summer so far and I only see that continuing!
Lander Field Office