All Shook Up

Alaska harbors a world of depths — deep oceans, interminable skies, mountains so high and snowy you could mistake them, at a distance, for clouds. Atop a mountain road, you can stare across a sea of black spruce that stretches miles unbroken to the horizon. The Last Frontier is also a place of great dangers to pair those depths, including big game (bears, moose, and wolves), active volcanoes, avalanches, biting cold, isolation, massive wildfires, Fata Morganas that create false landforms in front of your eyes, and more. On Friday morning, I was sauntering around an icy downtown Anchorage bus-stop when I heard a heavy cracking noise, like cement splitting. Seconds later the streetlights and surrounding buildings began to sway. The shaking that followed lasted all of 30 seconds but it jolted everything in the city to life.

I have learned in the past few months that Alaska is a place of natural wonders I could have never fully imagined without living here. When the earthquake hit, I knew we were in the midst of one of those stupefying Alaska moments — when you realize that despite all we as people know and can do, we live at the mercy of the world and its complex meteorology, geology, and tectonic shifts. As the world shook violently around me that late November morning, the Pacific plate was subducting beneath the North American plate, causing a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that began 10 miles north of Anchorage. Half an hour later, when I arrived downtown to report for work (oblivious as any East-coaster would be to the severity of the quake), the streets were dark and office workers had flooded out onto the sidewalks. Still reeling from the 1964 megathrust earthquake, which caused tsunamis and registered a magnitude of 9.2, (the most powerful recorded in North America), older Alaskans I met seemed especially on edge.

It is now Wednesday, December 5th. We have had thousands of aftershocks, including a 4.5 magnitude earthquake early this morning. The federal building where I work is damaged and still closed, but also still standing. So are most of the buildings downtown. It might not be the prettiest city, but Anchorage, like the Alaskan people, is resilient and strong. The world shakes like a snow globe in a child’s hands, almost no-one dies, and people move on. (For reference, it is estimated that over 200,000 people died in the 2010 Haiti earthquake of the same magnitude — eight years later, the island nation is still recovering).

After the 1964 quake that devastated southeast AK, the city was rebuilt for an event like this, and, despite the heavy vibrations we have received over the past week, life has resumed for most in a remarkably normal fashion. Alaska residents seem less daunted by challenges or unexpected events than those living in any other place I have lived. The ethic of self-resiliency in the state can be contagious, and while living here, I have found that I prefer a lifestyle and work environment that forces me to think and innovate independently. Big, new challenges make us smarter, stronger people.

Earthquakes aside, I would be remiss if I did not reflect on my CLM internship that brought me to this magnificent place. As I hinted in previous posts, I had a rocky start. When I arrived, there was little work initially planned for me and I began a motley range of assignments to fill my days — fixing picnic tables, trimming foliage on trails, random office work, et cetera. However, even on rough days out in my little outpost in Glennallen, AK, I did not regret the choice to come here. I lived in a beautiful wonderscape of clear lakes and immense mountains. I biked weekly along the surrounding highways through some of the most incredible terrain I have ever seen before. I learned to do things that had nothing to do with forestry, but were useful life skills nonetheless.

Things improved in the fall. CLM and BLM gave me the incredible opportunity to attend the National Society of American Forester’s Conference (an educational candy-land for us forestry folks) and to write my own forest management plan. I have spent the past couple of months working on (and struggling with) this management plan for BLM and have learned a great deal about Alaskan silviculture, subsistence hunting, and the history of public and private land in the state. I also refreshed my ArcGIS skills, made valuable contacts with people from a range of different fields in natural resources, and most importantly — learned that I am capable of researching and teaching myself more than I thought I could. If there is anything I have gained from this internship, it is a firm belief that self-reliance is not only important, but highly attainable. I feel more confident in my field and the idea that I do not need to be ashamed of what I do not know — I just need to be willing to learn.

My CLM internship ends in about two days, but the Alaskan landscape has wooed me to stay.  Next week, I will move into a remote dry cabin (without water or electricity) next to a glacier for a temporary job with the Park’s Service while I figure out my next steps. I feel good about it. Whatever happens, I am confident that I will rise to the challenge.

In the near future, I am hoping to continue to learn more about Alaska’s history and current environmental issues. While writing my current forest management plan, a number of articles I read mentioned that boreal forests are experiencing some of the most dramatic impacts of climate change. Not only has the landscape been significantly altered in recent years (it is hard not to notice a shrinking glacier), but there are more exceptional temperature increases in this part of the world compared to southern latitudes (different climate projections predict temperature increases between (6.3 – 13.5 °F by 2100). Boreal forests also store a significant amount of global terrestrial carbon — at least 24 percent — and warming in the Arctic is already contributing to a positive feedback loop of global climate change. These relationships are important to think about when we as a country are seriously considering an increase in mineral and oil exploration in places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. At the moment, the economic benefits of such a project do not outweigh the costs — and those costs (including loss of habitat for porcupine caribou, permanently damaged tundra, and increased CO2 emissions) could be very great. Meanwhile, Alaskans are already experiencing the negative effects of climate change. This summer saw some of the worst returns of salmon in years (an important source of income and food for many Alaskans), while rising seas are rapidly swallowing up coastal villages like Newtok and archeological sites in Nunalleq. There is a deep part of me that hopes that the inherent strength, resilience, and innovation that I have seen in Alaska so far will continue to work to find mitigative solutions to the most pernicious effects of climate change. In the meantime, I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to see Alaska as it is now. The incredible natural beauty and human diversity of the state is truly inspiring. It would be a shame to not do anything about the anthropogenically-caused climatic shifts that threatens that.

I want to send a big thank you to Krissa Skogen and Chris Woolridge from CLM and to my mentor Eric Geisler from BLM for giving me this incredible internship opportunity. I have learned so much and I am so grateful that I had the chance to begin my forestry career in Alaska!

November hoarfrost outside of Anchorage, AK.

Closing thoughts


Lil blue beauty

A chill is setting in the air in Carlsbad. Mornings are colder, nights are coming earlier, and our time in Carlsbad is almost up. Our seed collections have slowed down substantially as most plants are done for the year. We have been collecting a lot of Bouteloua species, and recently found populations of Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) and Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) in the sand dunes in our resource area. Some other sand species, like Annual Buckwheat (Erigonum annum) and Sand Sagebrush (Artemesia filifolia) are still holding out on producing seed.

We are finishing out the last of our collections now as we only have two weeks left of our internship. One fun collection was from the Madrona tree, a beautiful, tropical looking tree that can be found near the Guadalupe Mountains. Naturally, I felt the need to climb the trees to reach the somewhat out of reach seeds. Luckily no falls were had.

The rare Chihuahuan Desert Madrone tree monkey…oh wait no that’s just me in a tree.

With the end of my internship approaching, I have been reflecting a lot on the past five months. It’s crazy to think that it was only five months ago that I arrived in Carlsbad, and thrown right into the fire (literally, it was 100 degrees—nothing prepares you for that). While finding and collecting seeds was overwhelming back then, now it is coming naturally. Where everything was unfamiliar when I arrived, now I can look at the landscape and see plant species that have become familiar—maybe even dear—to me. Since starting this internship, I have become substantially better at identifying grass genuses (not an especially amazing feat considering I came in with NO knowledge of grass genuses—but I am proud of it nonetheless). I definitely would not have had such a great experience if I hadn’t been placed with such a patient, enthusiastic, and passionate mentor.

On a personal level, moving away from the cornfields and forests of the Midwest (I missed trees so much!) to the open ranges and scrubland of the Southwest lead to a great deal of growth in my independence. Though I went away to college, this was a MUCH further move away from my family and friends—to an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. Though this was scary at first, I gradually became more confident and comfortable doing things on my own. Fortunately, I wasn’t totally alone out here. I got to know some really fantastic and interesting people working in the BLM office from all over the country. With them, I was able to experience my first rodeo, explore Albuquerque, and gradually made Carlsbad feel like home.

Being in an oil boom town has been particularly eye-opening. Before, I never really thought about where the gas I was filling my car with was coming from. I was aware of the impact oil has, but actually became tangible when I could witness the oilfield firsthand. Now that I have had this experience, I feel that I really can understand the importance of what conservation programs like Seeds of Success and others do to help protect and recover the environment from practices like these. Moreover, it has made me think critically about how I can make my lifestyle more sustainable and actions I can take to mitigate the impacts of oil and gas extraction on the environment. All in all, I’m glad I had this opportunity to meet some amazing people and find beauty in an overlooked part of the country.

Drive a little ways south of Carlsbad, and you’ll be greeted by this view. Big blue skies, defined mountain ridges, desert scrub. I will miss it.

-Lucy Schroeder, BLM, Carlsbad NM Field Office

Farewell Carlsbad

Hi everyone,

As my internship comes to an end, I am starting to really think about all of the skills that I have learned and friendships that I have formed during the past few months. I am so grateful for this fantastic opportunity to work alongside some amazing people in the Carlsbad Field Office (BLM). The truth of the matter is that Carlsbad is one of the most difficult and busy field offices to work in due to the high oil and gas activity in the area. Thankfully, they have a great team that does their best to make the work environment as great as it can be and show that they really do care about each of their employees, even the interns.

Throughout the entirety of this internship, I have gotten to experience so many different things, both good and bad. I have helped monitor Bureau Sensitive Species, experienced just how hot the desert can get, hike in the beautiful Guadalupe Mountains, find out what it feels like to have prickly pear spines stuck in my leg, collect from some really amazing plants, and many more! Although field work can really test your patience and push your limits, it also allows you to get out and experience an ecosystem that you might not have had the opportunity otherwise.

I am truly thankful for the practical work experience that I have gotten from this internship. I am especially grateful for being placed in a Bureau of Land Management Office. Being from Kansas, I had no idea that the BLM even existed. If I had not had the opportunity to work in this office, I may have never pursued this federal agency. Now that I have been in a BLM office, I would love the chance to work in this area of government again. It has sincerely been a fantastic experience.

Below are just a few pictures taken in our resource area:

A collection of Riddell’s Ragwort (Senecio riddellii) that we were able to do.

A really fun collection of Texas Madrone (Arbutus xalapensis) that we were able to do just last week!

More Texas Madrone

Some of the Texas Madrone seeds collected.

We found some Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) in the dunes of our resource area! I was particularly excited about this one because of my previous work in the prairies of Kansas.


This little Manybristle Chinchweed (Pectis papposa) was a cool find because of its lemon aroma.

You can often find some really cool animal tracks in the dunes of our research area. Maybe this guy was a Greater Roadrunner?

Speaking of Greater Roadrunners, we had a surprise visit while wrapping up a collection.

Below are more pictures from the area, but not in our county:

A hike taken through the Lincoln National Forest.

Another picture from the Lincoln National Forest.

This was taken at the “Top of Texas,” which is in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Another picture of the Guadalupe Peak.

As I finish up the next two weeks and begin my trek back to the sunflower state, I will be thinking about all the experiences I’ve had here in Carlsbad, New Mexico. I just want to thank the Chicago Botanic Garden for allowing me to be apart of the Conservation and Land Management Internship Program, it was an experience I will not forget. I also want to give a huge thank you to my new Carlsbad family for making the last five months fantastic, I am so grateful for the time I have had here.

Signing out,


Seeds of Success

Carlsbad Field Office (BLM)


P.S. I also can thank Carlsbad for a very special new member to the family, Ollie:

All Grown Up

We’ve been growing a bunch of plants for restoration projects, and now many of them are all grown up and ready to be out-planted here in Oregon. We take them out of their nice sheltered greenhouses and throw them out into the harsh world by putting them out on the raised beds. Though we do not have the most extreme winters over here, it is regularly below freezing at night (as evidenced by the nice dusting of frosty dew on the spiderwebs draped across various plants).

With the changing fall colors, it means that the raised beds are gorgeous. I sometimes walk out there on my lunch breaks just to admire some of the plants we have tended out there, getting ready to go out into the world.

We have already sent off many of them to be planted and we are carrying some over into next year. However, we are getting to plant some of them ourselves in the next few months at a wetland/riparian restoration site. Personally, I am a fan of waders so I am looking forward to the out-planting. To get a sense, here are some photos of the restoration as it is now:

We will be lugging boxes of plants for half a mile or longer through marshes so it may be a bit of an adventure. People have suggested using llamas or horses only half-jokingly. We’ll see how that goes.

With winter coming along most of our plant propagation has slowed to a halt. However, we are having to hold over around 12,000 huckleberry unexpectedly. While this may not seem like a big deal, plants grow. The problem with that is that they need more space as they get bigger. More space means bigger pots. Bigger pots means transplanting. 12 THOUSAND huckleberry plants. One at a time. It’s going to take a while. Luckily, our crew is fun to work with and everyone has a good attitude. That and, personally, I love the chance to work outside, even if I may need the occasional break to heat up my hands.

We also have been continuing to clean and process seed. That is an ongoing process and will likely not be done when I leave in January. The amount of Douglas Fir seeds alone is staggering.

Doug-fir seeds

We also process various other species (Port-Orford Cedar, Limber Pine, Whitebark Pine, Western White Pine, Sugar Pine, etc.). The POC (Port-Orford Cedar) cones are from our own greenhouses, which is exciting.

POC Seeds

That said, they are challenging to clean because the male cones (which we are trying to remove) are small but not small enough to easily sieve and they tend to break into little pieces. Patience is handy when cleaning seed. Patience and some good podcasts. Then again, I suppose the same thing could be said of life.

Farewell Wyoming, I Hope We Meet Again

Sadly, I’m wrapping up my season working for Seeds of Success with the BLM in Lander, WY.  I knew halfway into the internship that this was one of the best decisions I had ever made, but I’m still surprised at how much I’ve fallen in love with Wyoming and its plants and wildlife!  I’m sad to say goodbye, but I can’t help but hope/believe that I’ll have more opportunities to work in such a vast and marvelous place like central Wyoming.  Never have I been so perplexed by the weather systems, than in Wyoming.  One minute you think your going to get rained out, and the next, winds change and it’s a beautiful, sunny day…or vice versa.  And the MOUNTAINS!!  I am so thankful the internship was extended a month because it wasn’t until mid October that we finally got some snow; and waking up to a fresh dusting of snow on the Wind River Mountain range, is one of the most picturesque landscapes I’ve ever seen!

The experience and skills I’ve gained throughout this internship are invaluable!  Because this was my first internship outside of my undergrad, I really appreciated how much safety training we were put through.  From safe driving and general first aid and safety procedures, to other types of training, like computer and internet safety, I felt very confident and prepared out in the field.  Our field office also offered additional bear safety training, and other training more specific to wildlife threats concerning central Wyoming, such as tics, snakes, heat exhaustion and altitude sickness.  In a profession that calls for so much time spent out in the field, I didn’t realize how essential some seemingly simple skills were, like working with an intricate radio system, driving on back country two tracks, or maintaining vehicle/equipment logs.  I appreciate this job and the wonderful mentor I had for providing me with such an encouraging environment to grow and improve these kinds of skills, which I know will be applicable to any job related in conservation.

But the wealth of skills and experience I gained, far extends that of the everyday workings of a government facility.  The confidence this job has instilled in me, concerning practices in field botany, is irreplaceable.  My ability to identify plants using a dichotomous key has improved ten-fold, as well as my general knowledge of Wyoming’s flora and the various kinds of habitats your likely to find them.  I realized how crucial timing is in a job like SOS.  Fruit maturation differers from plant to plant, and some plants seed out more quickly than others; I experienced how challenging this could be first hand, and have a new found appreciation for truly understanding plant lifecycles and how they differ from organism to organism.

I’m finding that, typically, that kind of knowledge can only be gained through shear doing…experience.  And that’s exactly what this job allowed me to do!  I couldn’t have asked for a better partner and mentor (I know I was spoiled in that regard) for being so approachable and open to questions and curiosities.  With such a secure and enjoyable work atmosphere, I was really able to take advantage of every opportunity this internship had to offer and walk away with incredible memories, dear friendships, and an abundance of experience.

Land of Enchantment

When I arrived in Santa Fe a cool mountain drizzle welcomed me with a much-needed car wash and the intoxicating smell of juniper and pinyon pine in the air. In an instance, I was convinced that it I would be here to stay. However, this rain did not seem to return. Months went by and I would soon learn about the realities of drought, fire restrictions, and of course, unhappy plants. This became the theme of my summer.

During this period of drought dormancy, I found community around Santa Fe and started learning the landscape. This began with my favorite BLM past time, drive by botany. At 60 miles an hour, my crew mate Sam would rattle off Latin name of plant skeletons that to me were just blurs on the side of the road, who knew this would prepare me for what was about to come.

Unlike my home in the Midwest, where April showers would bring May flowers, the Southwest created its own rule book and in order to survive species have to adapt to these ever-changing weather extremes. By late July, the rain finally arrived, but the desert is not gentle, and when it rains, it pores. On July 24, the monsoons arrived with 3.5 inches of rainfall in one delirious night; this night marked a turning point in our collection season. The high plateau landscape transformed overnight from brown to green with plants emerging from the sandy soils anywhere with a hint of moisture. Like the animals, our crew adapted to the weather of the Southwest to survive and we collected whatever we could get our hands on. Within a few weeks, my desk was buried in a mountain of seeds awaiting their journey to the Bend Extractory.

This season was riddled with many lessons about the resilience of desert plants, the challenges of ever increasingly unpredictable weather, the struggle of racing DOT mowers, and the search for annuals that seem to move miles in a season. If you get a chance to work with CLM you might not share these same experiences but you will walk away with a wealth of stories and experiences unique to your season. Working in the BLM New Mexico State Office presented a variety of opportunities to learn about careers in conservation and receive cross training in a variety of fields. Even if you do not gain something from working with a diverse group of professionals, there is never an absence of lessons to be gleaned from desert plants and the incredible ecosystems they live in.

Cleome serrulata camouflage in the Gila National Forest\

Take care CLM,

Luke Knaggs Santa Fe BLM office

Extracurricular Activities

As we approach the end of August and seed collecting is winding down a bit, our mentor has provided us with opportunities to expand our knowledge and experience past seed collecting.  Throughout the summer, but particularly now, we’ve had the opportunity to survey and monitor various endemic or rare plants in the Fremont Co. area.  Earlier in the year, we were tasked with monitoring the phenology of a rare plant called Yermo xanthocephalus, commonly known as desert yellowhead, which only occurs in two areas of Wyoming.  We collaborated with a botanist performing studies to understand what pollinates this rare plant and at what frequency, as well as perform paternity analyses.   My partner and I helped her set up pollinator traps and checked on the maturity of fruits for her on a weekly basis.

Setting up experimental pollinator traps

Another rare plant we spent a few days mapping out was Cleome multicaulis, a beautifully tiny, spindly little forb apart of the mustard family.  It only occurs in or near very alkaline, dried lake beds.  Even though its flowers are purple and it’s about a foot tall, they’re still somewhat hard to spot at first, because they are so thin and delicate.  We typically found them along the perimeter of these dried lake beds, usually near or under a group of sagebrush.  One of the days we spent scouting for this plant, my partner and I had three separate encounters with rattle snakes.  We’d definitely ran into them before, being in Wyoming, but I’ll say after the third rattle… we were both a bit on the jumpy side.  I believe we called it a little earlier than we might have usually, because our nerves were shot by then.

One of my favorite areas we spent time at was in the badlands of Chalk hills, where we scouted and mapped out a rare sagebrush, Artemisia porteri, commonly called Porter’s sagebrush.  I realize it’s a bit bizarre for someone who loves botany to also enjoy an area so void of vegetation, but I did 🙂  Perhaps it’s because I’ve just never been exposed to such a drastic habitat, part of me felt like I was on Mars…or at least the closest I’ll ever get to being on Mars.  Surprisingly, we saw a lot of Jack rabbits in the area, which was really cool.  We were successful in identifying the rare sagebrush, and once we got a better feel for the distinct areas they occurred, it was a very pleasant way to spend a day out in the field, in a habitat that I was so unfamiliar with.

Badlands of Chalk hills, where we found Artemisia porteri

We recently received very exciting news; our internship was approved for a month extension, so instead of finishing up in late September, my partner and I will work a the BLM- Lander Field Office until the end of October, which is wonderful!  Any extra employment I can get, especially during the off-season for field work, is very welcomed.  And I’m especially excited to have an opportunity to see what Lander’s like in the Fall 🙂  I feel very grateful right now, and look forward to the upcoming months!

Becca Cross,

BLM- Lander Field Office

In Full Swing of Things

It’s mid July and we are fully immersed in seed collecting.  For the last couple weeks, and for our unforeseeable future, all my partner and I do is check in at the field office, drive out to a field site, pick whatever wildflower seeds we are targeting that day for roughly six to seven hours, and then return and go home and pass out.  Sometimes we spend the entire day both picking the same seeds, for instance with Comandra umbellata, which produces a single seeded fruit, so for us to reach a target of 20,000 seeds, it could take an entire week.  If we are collecting something in the Apiaceae or Asteraceae family, which can produce anywhere from 75-150 seeds per plant, we can complete an entire collection and then some within an afternoon.  These collections are by no means more significant, but as the person making the physical collections…I love those days! The satisfaction one gets  from collecting 35,000 in one day is incredible.

Seeds collected from Perideridia gairdneri ssp. borealis 

We’ve strategically selected field sites with more than one species seeding out, making what we call opportunistic collections along the way.  Recently we spent the entire week at one particular field site called Miner’s Delight because there were four viable collections seeding out all at once.  My partner would tackle one species, while I focused on another, and then midday we might switch, to avoid becoming bored or sloppy.  They’re long days, but it’s also very pleasant once you allow yourself to become fully immersed in your work and nature.  One collection we made during that week that I am particularly proud of was Penstemon radicosus, which is very beneficial for native pollinators in the area 🙂

This little guy caught my attention while I was collecting Lomatium simplex var. simplex at Miner’s Delight that same week, I had to take a few minutes to bask in his/her colorful glory.  I’m finding the proximity that seed collecting allows me to have with so many different bugs, is one of my favorite perks about this job.  I’ve watched beetles oviposite eggs, dragon flies mating, and a slew of incredible spiders.  My phone is quickly filling up with just pictures of plants and insects…

Caterpillar hanging out on the branch of Lomatium simplex var. simplex

A colorful caterpillar hanging out on the branch of Lomatium simplex var. simplex

An enormous spider with a hefty meal, found on Polanisia dodecandra ssp. trachysperma

We’re a little more than halfway through our internship and we’ve made about ten or eleven collections so far and have many more in front of us.  Right now I can’t imagine life void of seed collecting…which is a good thing, I guess!

Rough Start

After the first six weeks of our internship, we are finally ready to begin seed collecting!! Almost…not quite.  Unlike the previous Spring, when our field office apparently experienced record high amounts of precipitation, this year was quite the opposite.  We did experience some precipitation, but mostly in the form of rain, and much later than to be expected.  So, we were a bit dismayed, as there were a handful of days our mentor would send us somewhere to look for a specific population, that perhaps the year before had bloomed out phenomenally, but this year, practically nonexistent.  It wasn’t too frustrating, but rather a bit unnerving for my partner and I, as this was both our first SOS internship, and we were worried that maybe we were missing something or weren’t looking in the right habitats.  However, anytime our mentor was out in the field, she reported the same lack of spectacular blooms she’d seen at this time of year in previous seasons, which gave us some comfort.

Unfortunately, the timing of our CLM internship training also played into an overall loss of potential seed collections.  It’s a bit of a conundrum, because the training was truly excellent.  It was loads of fun getting to familiarize ourselves and work at the Chicago Botanic Garden for a whole week, and the speakers were all personable and full of useful information!  It just ended up falling on a week that was a prime seed collecting window for where we’re at in Wyoming.  Not to mention, the week before our training in Chicago, our mentor had a training of her own that she needed to attend, so we missed both the first and second week of June for collecting seeds.  And the first two weeks of June are pretty critical for many of the potential collections we’d spent the last three to four weeks scouting for.

So as of now, we’ve only made a couple full collections.  Many of the populations we revisited had either already seeded out, or been severely damaged due to insects.  BUT our mentor seems very determined that we’ll find more populations in habitats of higher elevation, and makes the point that this is a good opportunity for the SOS team to branch out and try to make collections that have never been made before 😀 Keep your fingers crossed that next time I report, we’ll have made more progress!


Becca Cross,

BLM- Lander Field Office.

“Don’t be in a hurry.”

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 went for the longest hike of my life in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness and was able to call it work! It was 18 miles of some beautiful country.

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