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.
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.
-Lucy Schroeder, BLM, Carlsbad NM Field Office