The five months of my life as a CLM intern have come and gone and with it, so have many new experiences. I did not really know what I would be getting myself into when I decided to commit to the CLM internship nor did I know what to expect before moving out to Idaho. For the most part, I anticipated spending most of my time outside, hunting for wildflowers; I was also hoping to determine where my professional career might head in the future. Seed collecting was definitely the focus of my internship, but I was also privileged to experience many other areas of work within the Forest Service as well. These opportunities allowed me to explore many of my interests within conservation work, but I can’t say I have figured out the rest of my life just yet.
If I wasn’t meandering through the desert, searching for various flowers in the aster family, I could still be found working outside. I spent a day completing a horsemanship training class, which included a 4 hour ride through the back country. That was basically my first time on a horse and it was an incredible experience. I was also quite sore the rest of the week. I had a few opportunities to shadow range specialists throughout the summer and fall as they monitored areas that had been grazed by cattle or sheep. It was interesting to see how a landscape might change over time, as was the case when sheep and beetles were used to control leafy spurge in certain rangelands. It was also neat to understand how the intensity of grazing could be determined by looking at a landscape.
Other opportunities that arose for me included participating in environmental education and volunteer outreach events, hiking through the Jedidiah Smith Wilderness to inspect campsites and their respective bear boxes, surveying land with an archaeologist, and visiting a phosphate mine with a soil scientist. (I have spent some time at a couple of other mine sites before this internship, but I have never experienced anything as massive as this phosphate mine operation. Talk about a slice of humble pie.)
I am currently interested in a LOT of different aspects of conservation work, so I still don’t quite know where my life is headed in the long-term. I do know I would like to spend a bit more time exploring my interests before eventually returning to school for a graduate program. For now, I’m not quite sure what my next step will be in life. However, when I mentioned this in the office one day, someone merely told me, “Don’t be in a hurry.” It was encouraging to hear that as I begin to enter another period of transition. I may not have experienced any major epiphanies while working in Idaho this field season, but I have learned to be more comfortable with taking life one step at a time.
Cheers to more adventures!
USFS Idaho Falls, ID