To wrap up the internship, myself and the other CBG interns have been assisting with cultural clearances on burned areas. As many of you know, there were many fires in the West this summer, and our field office was no exception. The BLM conducts ESR (Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation) on these burned areas through re-seeding and other efforts. In areas that equipment can access, this is often accomplished through drill seeding- this machine plants the seeds at equal distances and the correct depth and then recovers the seed with soil. Understandably, this disturbs the ground a fair bit so it is our job to ensure that no important cultural (archaeological) resources are disturbed or destroyed. To accomplish this, our crew lines up in 30 meter intervals (37 of my paces) and then walks across the landscape on transects searching for artifacts. Artifacts found have ranged from historic bottles and cans from sheep herders to projectile points (arrowheads) and pottery used by Native Americans. Our archaeologist has showed us how to date objects and important characteristics to record. It’s always exciting when we find a new site, but in reality a lot of our time is spent walking and staring at burned ground. If approached with the right mindset, this can be pretty enjoyable. The temperatures have cooled from the blistering heat we experienced earlier in the summer, and its amazing how much you can see when you’re paying attention, even in burned areas. Besides the artifacts, there are interesting bones and skulls scattered around, little baby lupines sprouting up, and the occasional rattlesnake warning us from its sunning perch on a rock. With one earbud left out to hear the snakes, I’ve also caught up on some podcasts. I listened to one called “Shifting Time” by TED Radio Hour and a particular quote from the show seemed especially relevant to the end of my internship here in Idaho.
“Poignancy increases. Tear in the eye tends to happen when we are thinking about chapters ending …These are positive events but they signal the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one. And those times in life are the very same events that bring a tear to our eye at the same time we are smiling. But can you imagine any emotional experience that is richer than that? Where you are seeing the past, you are in the present, you are thinking about the future. It’s all there. And its incredibly gratifying.” -Laura Carstensen
I kind of like endings for the reasons Laura mentioned. It affords you the time to stop and reflect, pay attention and cherish the growth and memories made. This internship was my first job after graduation, and I especially appreciated how well my mentor set me up with a variety of opportunities- I worked on projects ranging from vegetation monitoring for sage grouse, tagging monarch butterflies, monitoring livestock utilization, surveying riparian areas, electro-shocking fish, plant and cultural clearances, and many, many more. I’m still not sure which direction I want my career to go, but I definitely have a better understanding of my likes and dislikes, and also how I like to work.
I’m thankful for the variety of experiences, (especially for my first job) but hope to have a narrower focus during my next position. One thing that I missed this summer was having the opportunity to oversee my own project from start to finish. I realized that as boring as office work is, it’s satisfying to plan, collect the data, analyze, and synthesize everything and feel a sense of ownership and accomplishment from a project. I will also say that there were some projects this summer that I did not initially expect to be doing, such as GPS’ing fence and assessing range improvements. However, everything is really about how you frame it. Even though these tasks weren’t the most glamorous, I know that the work we were doing was valuable and useful to the agency. One thing that stands out to me about the BLM, and our office in particular, is the team attitude. Everyone pulls together to get the work done- archaeologists and range techs fight fires, seasonals will help in dispatch, and even staff from different offices will pull together to get pressing work done. I really admired this team attitude, and was happy to try new things and hopefully ease the workload for some of the staff.
All in all, I’ve had an incredible summer/fall here in Idaho. I had a great crew of interns, and its hard to overstate how valuable that is, especially when you sometimes spend 8 hours in a truck together. I’ve made the most of my free time- the beauty of Idaho and the surrounding states is really indescribable. I’ve gotten to climb 400 ft towers in City of Rocks, backpack to snow-covered alpine lakes in the Sawtooth Range, summit the highest peak in Idaho, and countless other breathtaking experiences. I was really lucky to find an amazing community here, thanks to the shared interest of rock climbing. To potential future interns- I know getting the offer to move to a random place you’ve never heard of can be intimidating, but it’s so rewarding to get out of your comfort zone, hear fresh perspectives, and explore a new place! And I promise your resume will thank you as well.
Well, thanks for reading if you made it to the end of this. I’m driving back home to Colorado tomorrow and then enjoying unemployment for a little bit by heading down to Honduras to scuba dive. Thanks to everyone at the Shoshone Field Office, especially my mentor Joanna, fellow interns Eileen, Barbara, and Soli, and partners in adventure- Jenny and Patricia.
Shoshone Field Office