My Time in the Desert

Let’s set the scene.

The date is July 27th, 2020 in Boulder City, Nevada. The air, well over 100 degrees, feels like you’re standing in an oven on full blast. The roads are littered with tumbleweeds, like actual tumbleweeds straight out of a cartoon. Surrounded by a desert filled with coyotes, rattlesnakes, and tarantulas. This is what I walked into as a newly recruited intern for the Joshua Tree Genome Project at the USGS.
After losing an internship due to COVID-19, I was desperate, scratch that, very desperate, to find work anywhere I could. Call it fate, divine intervention, or just dumb luck, I received an email late May informing me of a position open in a little town just minutes away from Las Vegas. So, I packed up my Jeep and made the 26-hour drive from Northwest Arkansas to the Mojave Desert, having no idea what I was in for. Little did I know that it would be one of the most rewarding and enriching times of my life.
Over the past 6 months, me and my fellow interns have put blood, sweat, and tears into the Joshua Tree Genome Project. From breaking open pods and counting thousands of seeds in a basement, to working in a greenhouse until 2 am planting those same seeds, our time on this project has been nothing short of an epic adventure. We have spent countless hours mauling over massive excel datasheets, so much so that we began to dream about data, pivot tables, formulas, and Rstudio scripts. We spent days upon days camping in the desert where, much to my extreme delight, I was able to encounter the Mojave Green Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus) for the first time. We camped under the stars and worked in the blazing heat, assessing the growth of plants that interns in previous years had planted. We met incredible people along the way, but none more so than Dr. Lesley DeFalco and Dr. Todd Esque.
Dr. DeFalco and Dr. Esque, or as we now call them, Lesley and Todd, have been the most amazing mentors I could have ever asked for. Through their guidance and leadership, we have been able to achieve things I would never have imagined 6 months ago, and their attention to detail and effective communication skills have left a lasting impression on all the interns. They have been patient, understanding, unfathomably useful, and a joy to work with.
I have nothing but praise for my fellow interns as well. Moving across the country can be a culture shock in and of itself, but add on three strangers from very different locations, the move can seem much more daunting. However, I wasn’t prepared for some of the nicest, smartest, and most hardworking group of people I would have the privilege to call my fellow interns. They have taught me so much and have been a great “quarantine” squad over the past 6 months. My roommate, Nick, has been a constant source of laughter, inspiration, and random nonsense, I a will look back at my time at 629 Avenue L fondly because of him.
My time in the desert has been the time of my life. I have learned from experts, gained some valuable contacts, and made lifelong friends. I look forward to reading the papers that our work will produce, and I can’t wait to see how our findings are used in the future.
Well, that’s all for me, I have lots of work to do, and my time in Boulder City is limited.

Thank you CBG and the USGS for a wonderful experience