Today – my last day of work – is one of the rare days that I am sitting inside at a desk. I sat down to write a fitting conclusion to the last five months, which is every bit as difficult as it sounds. I decided to start by making a graph. To anyone who knows me well, this would come as no surprise – my background is in quantitative biology, and I am a big nerd about data visualization. As silly as it sounds, I wanted to answer the question: what exactly have I been doing for five months?
In short, I have been treating weeds and collecting seeds. I have learned this summer that the hard work of creating and managing healthy ecosystems requires dedicated people on the ground doing work that – if I am being honest – can often by repetitive and tedious. However, I have gained some valuable skills during this process: plant identification, navigating and recording data with a handheld GPS, and herbicide application, to name a few. I even got to help mark trees for a timber sale (in case you were wondering what went under that “other” category). In addition, I got to spend my days in some truly beautiful places.
Spending all of my time outdoors gave me a greater appreciation for the conservation work that I am doing alongside so many other interns, volunteers, and professionals past and present. As often as I found myself in tedium, I also found myself reflective and immensely satisfied to be a part of something much bigger than my small efforts. That kind of perspective helped me stay patient with some of my more unexciting tasks, like pulling out false brome or driving all day to search for native plant populations.
I moved out to Oregon after graduating from college with two goals in mind: I wanted to refine my research interests before I committed to a graduate program and gain experience working with a federal agency. I have really enjoyed working with such dedicated and good-natured people here in the Roseburg office, and I will be sad to leave the BLM – for the time being, anyway. I would certainly like to work with a federal agency again after my experience here. As for my research interests, I have a much better idea of what I want to study going forward, and I am currently in the process of talking to potential advisors and applying to graduate schools. Working on BLM land has gotten me interested in the ways that changes in landscapes – particularly human driven land use changes – drive community composition and overall ecosystem stability, and I want to apply ecological data analysis and modelling tools to explore this. I hope that I will soon be pursuing my Master’s and doing research along those lines.
I am grateful for the opportunities I had to explore Oregon and contribute to conservation efforts out here. Although I am ready to move on and get back to school, I certainly will not forget the valuable experiences and new skills that I have gained. Now, before it starts raining again, it is time for me to leave the Pacific Northwest. Until next time!