Six months ago, I had never even visited a desert, never experienced 110°F+ temperatures, and never heard of Needles, CA. I did have a B.A. in biology, some field experience, and a willingness to learn new things outside my comfort zone. My main goal when I accepted this internship was to gain field experience and skills that would help advance my career. I definitely checked those boxes during my time at the BLM Needles Field Office.
The most surprising thing to me when I first came to the Mojave was how alive it all was. I’d always thought of deserts as dry, sanding places with a few straggly tumbleweeds. And maybe a lizard or two. In reality, the Mojave supports tons of flora and fauna—some of which I had never even heard of. Case in point: ocotillo.
Ultimately, I’m really glad I accepted this internship. It gave me the opportunity to gain field experience within a government agency in an ecosystem that was completely different from anywhere I had ever been before. If you’re considering applying to the program, I definitely think you should go for it.
Advice for future interns:
As with any new experience, what you get out of it ultimately depends on you—your willingness to learn new skills, your openness to new ideas or ways of doing things, and your outlook on the internship at large.
Remember that you are part of something bigger. You may sometimes question whether what you’re doing actually matters, or you might feel like you’re not doing enough. Trust me, it matters. You may only make a few seed collections or map a small percentage of populations during your field season, but you are just one of many people doing that same thing in different places throughout the country over a period of several years. Any seeds or information or whatever it is that you can deliver during that time is adding to the overall seedbank or scientific knowledge. Don’t undersell that. Be proud.
Drink water. Lots of water. Lots and lots of water. And wear sunblock. And a hat.
Your fellow interns are your friends. If you’re lucky enough to be stationed somewhere with other interns, use that support system—especially if you’re in an isolated area like Needles.
Perspective is everything. If you start an internship and it doesn’t quite meet your original expectations, that doesn’t mean that you made a mistake or that you’re wasting your time. It just means that your internship will be a little different than what you thought it would be.
Don’t let the clicking creosote bushes scare you. It’s just a grasshopper.
BLM Needles Field Office