Super Science Students

I was fortunate enough to spend a week helping lead the BUDS camp in the Black Hills. Run through a joint cooperation by a local middle school and the BLM, this program had 10-20 middle school students spend a week in the Black Hills learning about various components of science through lessons, adventures, and games. While each day was themed – wildlife, water, geography – the whole week built upon itself to provide a lasting base of nature knowledge for this kids.

I was generally the plant person for the camp. The day before the camp, I had gone round to all of the flower shops in town in an attempt to find lilies, the ideal “perfect” flower to dissect due to the large size of all flower components – the stamen, style, petals, etc. Lilies acquired from the shop and a variety of other flower from my supervisor’s garden, we were all set to teach about plants. On the actual day, the kids loved dissecting the flowers, quizzing each other on the parts and generally exploring and observing, an activity that was…immediately overshadowed by spear throwing with atlatls. When asked at the end of the day what their favorite activity was, the atlatls were a universal win, although one student took pity on my and told me that the flowers were their second choice.

Over the course of the week, we collected and identified “herbarium specimens,” went Hiking with Lichen, discovered all of the weird designations for fruits, learned the stories behind the constellations (despite dense fog), did water tests, panned for gold, learned about maps and GIS from professionals, and played endless rounds of improv and tag games that made me thankful for my camp counselor background. Even though there were sometimes tears at the occasional fall during tag or frustrations with the other campers, our kids did really well. My favorite line was when one student said “It’s like science in school, except actually fun,” a testament to our efforts to make every child there comfortable, happy, and receptive to learning. Because, while a large part of being in the CLM is interacting with nature ourselves, it is doubly important to make sure the next generation of scientists discovers its joys and beauties while they still exist, pushing us all towards preserving what we have left.

Rec Intern, BLM Buffalo WY

Wilderness Medicine Right from the Start

There were bodies everywhere as we walked out into the sun. My partner and I made eye contact and walked over to the nearest patient, ready to follow the procedures we had just learned. One… is the area safe for us to operate. Two… what appears to be the Mechanism of Injury. Three… put on proper protective gear… By the time we finished our initial assessment of the scene, we were ready to address the simulated situation with calm, confidence and a supportive attitude.

I was extremely fortunate to start my internship with an intensive Wilderness Medicine training conducted by NOLS. After a week’s road trip out to my new position, I started Monday in Buffalo, WY at the BLM Field Office. I had hardly finished the initial tour of the place when a supervisor came up and asked how I would like to take the last open slot for a wilderness first aid course being offered a few hours away that a number of the office staff would be attending. I of course agreed and so began my week of training. The first two days at the office were filled with the basic safety training necessary to work for the BLM, especially driving and field pitfalls. When I was not in training sessions, I was at my computer, finishing the required online trainings on government policy and UTV prep. On Wednesday, several of the office headed out to Casper to begin the real deal: wilderness medicine training.

The three day session, lead by two extremely competent and supportive instructors, covered a remarkable number of topics. We learned how to assess the scene when arriving as one of the first responders, followed by the essential aspects of a patient assessment to ensure that airways, breathing and circulation were unimpaired. We became CPR certified and learned how to conduct head-to-toe patient exams, monitor vital signs, and collect important patient information to radio back to medical emergency establishments. Then came the lessons on evacuations, spine injuries, shock, head trauma, wound management, infection prevention and treatment, burns, blisters, splinting, musculoskeletal injuries, heat and cold illnesses, altitude sickness, lightning strikes, and more. Three days into the internship and while I may not have had any furniture in my apartment, I at  least had the knowledge to deal with a plethora of wilderness accidents.

The most important part of the training was definitely when these lessons were put into practice through simulations. The participants were divided into three groups, with each group respectively acting as patients that the other two groups would have to assess and treat. Even when frustrating, these were invaluable learning tools that really sought to take best field medical practices and make them muscle memory. After many hours spent either lying (as the patient) or kneeling (as the responder) in the sun, I felt much more prepared, in the case of a real emergency, to do my best for the patient in a calm, composed and professional manner.

As my first week ends, my training does not. While I do have further scheduled trainings on computer programs and UTV operation in the coming week, I don’t believe I will ever stop learning something new in this position, and am excited to see what the coming months bring.

Rec Intern, BLM, Buffalo WY