“If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it…

… The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.

I will dispense this advice now.”

I’m not sure how many of the CLM interns or other people reading this blog are old enough to remember Baz Lurhman’s 1999 hit “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” or the 1997 commencement speech, written by the Chicago Tribune’s Mary Schmich, that inspired it. If you are unfamiliar with this little piece of 90s pop culture, please go ahead and look it up.

As this is my last blog post of my internship, I have decided to focus on offering some insights and advice for current and future interns. The majority of CLM blog posts focus on the fantastic new people, places, and things that interns are experiencing. This is great! However, as with all social media, the rose-colored glasses people use can block out some of the more challenging aspects of life. So, without further ado:

Wear sunscreen

This advice is solid, no matter where you are located for your internship. And, really, this is good advice for any time you’ll be outside, working or not.

Don’t dwell on other interns’ blog posts

It can be fun to see what everyone else in the program is doing and learning. It can also sometimes seem like other people are receiving more/better opportunities or training than you are. What the blog posts tend not to show are the periods of frustration, stress, loneliness, etc. that everyone experiences. Don’t focus on other people’s internships. Focus on making the most out of your own.

Communication is KEY

I consider this as important as wearing sunscreen. Poor communication skills are the source of many of life’s frustrations, and cause strain on personal and professional relationships. If you are working with other people, make sure everyone is on board with schedules and plans, and that everyone has a chance to contribute. Listen to other people’s concerns, and if you have concerns or frustrations of your own, speak up! No one can help you if you don’t ask for it.

Stay where you are…

…within reason. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take advantage of weekend trips to places fairly close by. I’m saying don’t use your vacation and personal time to keep going home or keep taking trips to meet friends or significant others halfway across the country. You’ll squander your opportunities to discover the places around your internship location and your opportunities to build relationships with your fellow interns and coworkers.

Use your support system

This likely consists mainly of your fellow interns. Many internships are in smaller towns or rural areas, which means your main social options are who you work with. Build relationships with your teammates and support each other. Spend time together and go on adventures. Isolating yourself not only lessens your own experience, but can also leave your fellow interns on their own.

Be aware of expectations vs. reality, and be proactive

Many times things don’t turn out the way we expect them to. Is your project not what you thought it would be? Is your location not as exciting as you’d hoped? That sucks, but you’re going to have to deal with it. Being perpetually negative won’t fix anything. Being proactive will. Start asking around the office to get involved with other activities. Start networking where you can. Opportunities usually exist, but sometimes they require effort.

Take advantage of and appreciate your time here

Whether you are loving your internship or have hit a rough patch, focus on making the most of your time. You are in (probably) a new and unfamiliar place. Appreciate experiencing a different environment. Appreciate experiencing a different cultural region of the country. Appreciate meeting new people. Appreciate experiencing struggles you may not have faced before, and the personal growth that comes from that.

Take advantage of your time here.

BlankCanvas

Oh no… I’ve been too busy for an illustrated version of my adventures this time around. 🙁

In a nutshell, everything is drying up as we move into weeks with high temps in the 100s everyday. We’re collecting as much and as fast as we can, and spotting some later-blooming shrubs as well.

We’ve moved into the second half of our internship now. I’ve been getting to know our new office geologist and wildlife biologist, who have been able to teach me some interesting things about their duties and lines of work for the BLM. I’ve also busied myself with data entry battles while my fellow interns are at the CLM workshop in Chicago. My own training workshop is in a couple weeks in Montana and will be focused on AIM rangeland health methods.

And finally, I’ve been busy trying to figure out what I’ll be doing after this position ends in August. Luckily, I’ve been successful and now have a new job in place to look forward to!

Needles Field Office

#DesertFieldwork

HeatIt’s 90 degrees out by 9 a.m


Yellow_Aster

The Asters conspire against you.


Brome

Your ankles are constantly under attack by Bromus madtritensis.


Rocks

Sitting down without getting burned is a struggle.


Burro

And you get startled by the monsters in the canyons… that turn out to just be the wild burros braying at you.


— BLM Needles Field Office —

Every rose has its… prickle?

I’ve just ended my first week as a Seeds of Success botany intern with the Needles, CA field office of the BLM. It’s been very busy and feels like I’ve been here for far more than 5 days! Getting to know my fellow interns, our mentor, and the other staff at this small office has been great, and I’m looking forward to my five months here in the “Heart of the Mojave”.

So far I’ve completed various training courses that will help my team and myself stay safe while doing field work out in the 3.2 million acres of land that the Needles office encompasses. The range of wilderness and other land that we’ll be working in is impressive, including desert, mountains, and even a volcanic crater! I’ve also begun to learn some of the many plants in the area, and some of the plants I’ll be scouting for and collecting seed from. Some favorites so far include ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), a desert giant that can reach heights of up to 10 feet, and the beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris) which some of us refer to, affectionately, as “basilisk” because of its species name.

Fouquieria splendens towering over other desert species.

Fouquieria splendens towering over other desert species.

A "basilisk" in bloom!

A “basilisk” in bloom!

This week I have had the chance to see some of the interesting desert wildlife out in the field. Various lizard species were running around the rocks alongside us earlier in the week as we collected seeds at a site. I also spotted my first group of wild burros while out driving, which was exciting! One of the wildlife cameras our biologist set up captured some fun pictures of a packrat running around a borough as well.

A chuckwalla sunning itself on the rocks.

A chuckwalla sunning itself on the rocks.

A packrat caught by one of our wildlife cameras.

A packrat caught by one of our wildlife cameras.

I think one of the highlights of the week, though, was attending a cultural presentation given by a Chemehuevi elder about the history of their tribe, traditional uses for native plants, and their people’s connection to the land, which is adjacent to our field office. We were shown a couple of petroglyph sites and then were also invited to the Chemehuevi cultural center for some more in-depth education. I feel it is important for myself and my fellow interns to learn about the cultural history of the area we will be working in, as well as meet the indigenous people of the area who the BLM work with, so it was a very enriching experience.

Chemehuevi petroglyphs.

Chemehuevi petroglyphs.

Bureau of Land Management

Needles, CA