I graduated from my small liberal arts college in Ohio about a month ago and then almost immediately packed up and moved to Rawlins, WY to intern with the BLM for Seeds of Success. In my first few weeks here, I realized pretty quickly that I had a lot to learn. While I took plant taxonomy and botany classes as a part of my biology major at Oberlin College, I would not consider myself an expert in seed biology and plant identification. I guess in the next five months, I am going to become much more knowledgeable on those topics. Fortunately, my awesome mentor has been here to help, my amazing co-intern, Chloe, is incredibly capable and knowledgeable, and my funny and sweet boyfriend, Miguel, is cheering me on from Miami.
So far, my time here has had me thinking a lot about conservation, natural resources, and local versus global spheres of each. My project– collecting seeds for restoration– is very focused on the local scale. When habitats within our field office are disturbed (by oil and gas, wind fields, fires, etc), the seeds we collect will be used to assist in the restoration of those habitats. Seeds could also be used for research on the flora that grow here, or may just be banked. All of this is focused on conservation within the High Desert District of Wyoming. Considering the importance of restoration with native plants and how different populations tend to support individuals that are most adapted to their specific environment, our project is crucial for local conservation.
The global sphere within conservation, however, is also extremely important. It is becoming increasingly laughable to deny that humans actions, specifically greenhouse gas emissions, have lead to a global change in climate. With more severe weather, higher average temperature, and increasing extinction rates, we are at the beginning of what looks like will be Earth’s sixth mass extinction. Marine organisms that are indicators of healthy oceans are now quickly falling in number, as are amphibians and other vulnerable groups of organisms. These major global patterns are a result of the enhanced Greenhouse Effect. Human use of fossil fuels for energy since the industrial revolution have a major hand in disrupting the balance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Restoration botany can, in some ways, work to mitigate climate effects because plants can act as carbon sinks, but it would take a lot of planting to solve our problems and local communities can only do so much when large corporations are to blame for the grand majority of emissions. This is why, as I work in the local conservation sphere, I cannot forget about the global scale as well.
Global issues like climate change are hard to combat as one person who just graduated from college. However, our planet is a global community. What we do can affect everyone, so while it is easy to feel helpless and ignore what is happening at a global scale, we are responsible for maintaining awareness. We can encourage greener energy sources over fossil fuels, call government officials, and inform friends and family. I am going to hold myself accountable in doing those things, while I collect seeds for local restoration projects.