Since my last entry the field season has really picked up. We have started to camp and really started to pick up on plant id now that everything is starting to flower and seed out. I am really surprised at the amount of diversity there is in a desert. From a distance everything is sagebrush or PJ forest, but once you start to take a look the diversity it’s really incredible. It has really been challenging (and equally rewarding) to learn about these plants and really work on my botanical skills for ID’ing their characteristics. Each new plant is like a small mystery waiting to be solved; every characteristic is like a different clue and it’s great to have those light bulb moments where it all comes together and you know what the plant is (bonus points if you don’t have to use a key!).
Aside from normal field work, we attended a rangeland indicator health conference. It was really interesting to see what goes into evaluating rangeland health. There was some stuff I thought was subjective and it was difficult for me to understand and agree with everything, but overall it was a really good experience, and I came away with a better understanding of what goes into range work. The biggest take away was soil. I know very little about soil science, but after the conference I was really inspired to learn more.
So far the only downside to this internship has been the sequester. The restrictions due to budgets isn’t anything new and I know in every job there will be limited funds, but it is grossly apparent with the sequester. It is still fairly early in the field season, but I am curious to see if we are able to meet deadlines and collect the necessary data with the current restrictions in place. The worst part is that if the data isn’t collected, agencies will essentially be flying blind when making decisions which could really adversely affect the land and the people that enjoy and depend on it. I suppose it’s too early in the season for doom and gloom, but I am not optimistic about it.