As my last few days approach I am adding all of the finishing touches to my internship. It is not as exciting as being in the field exploring new areas and finding all sorts of treasure but it is an adventure in its own. Finishing up and putting together reports at the end of the year is just as important as gathering the data itself.
The most recent project that I have been working on is making herbarium vouchers for the local herbarium, the Oregon State University herbarium, and the Smithsonian herbarium. Some of these do not require being glued down, but a good portion of them do. This is one sticky job!
Looking back on the season brings back good memories. One major highlight being a thistle chop. It required two days of floating down the Deschutes River in a boat and camping all while uprooting Scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium). Another great adventure was traveling by UTV to a sage grouse Habitat Assessment Framework (HAF) site. I drove the truck and trailer to the unloading site, then got to drive the UTV to and from our destination.
My second year as a CLM intern was just as exciting and rewarding as the first. I was able to live in a new area, work on new projects, make new friends, and gain new skills and qualities to add to my resume. Overall I had a great time and made lasting memories in Prineville.
Where have the last five months gone? It’s my last day at the BLM in Vernal and it’s strange to think I probably won’t ever be back here. Well, in this office, that is. The way it stands right now, I’m going to hang around Vernal until I find a permanent job or I’m accepted to a graduate school program.
That sentence itself demonstrates how much my mindset has changed over the past five months. My original intention for this internship was to gain experience that would enable me to land a seasonal GS-5 position next field season. After that, I had a vague plan of working up the seasonal ladder before landing a full-time, permanent position with the federal government. I worked as a Biological Science Technician (GS-0404-04) for the USGS in South Dakota a couple years ago and since then, I’ve had tunnel vision about working for the feds.
As I stated above, though, that’s no longer my plan. As much as I would love to continue to living a transient life, working as a seasonal for the government, I won’t. Part of it is my personal family situation. The largest part, though, is that I don’t want to. I’ve learned so much during this internship and I’ve definitely felt challenged, but I plateaued around the halfway point. I’ve enjoyed participating in Seeds of Success and helping the weed crew tackle invasives, but I need more challenges. I can bring so much more to the table if given the chance. And it seems the fastest way to be given a chance is to get my Master’s. It’s always been my intention to do so, but this internship has just spurred me to expedite the process.
This internship has also given me more perspective on working for the federal government and I gotta admit, it’s not my dream any more. Don’t get me wrong, I would still work for the government if given the chance. After working in this office, I’ve become more familiar with positions I could qualify for and I’ve made some professional connections so my odds are better. I’ve experienced the downsides to it, though, and I’ve let go of my idolization. My internship has grounded me and forced me to become more realistic. And I’m grateful for it. I’ve been able to use the tools provided by the program to expand my job search to include other entities besides the federal government.
To be clear, I’ve definitely enjoyed this internship! I would (and will) highly recommend it! This has been my first position that’s actually forced me to use a dichotomous key to (sometimes laboriously) key out a species. I’ve learned to identify so many plants, but have also realized that I’ll never know all of them. And while I should be confident in my identification, I should never be afraid to check myself and admit if I’m wrong.
I’ve never actively protested herbicide application to control invasive plants, but I worked in an environmental chemistry lab so sometimes it’s difficult for me to think about where all those chemicals could be leaching. After walking through stands of Russian olive and swaths of teasel, though, I’ve realized that a lot of the time, herbicide application is the only way to control infestations.
Since I’ll be working odd jobs until my next career move, I’ve definitely appreciated the normal hours (and the pay) of the internship. One downside, though, is the copious amounts of driving necessary to cover this area. I’m sure other interns also experienced this, but I am so over driving 2+ hours just to get to a site. I would rather stay closer to the office and hike around, but I realize that’s rather unrealistic in the West.
I’m really happy that I landed a position in Utah as I’ve always been enamored with this state. In and outside of work, I’ve seen a lot of cool things and I’m very grateful for that. I feel like I can move on to other states now and feel content with my Utah experience. As for Vernal itself, however, I haven’t fallen in love with it. I’ve discovered some gems, but in general the town seems geared toward fast food, big trucks, oil and gas, and church – none of which is my scene. After this, I’m aiming to live in a college town again, where I hope I’ll be around more like-minded people.
This has been an amazing experience and I’m immensely grateful to all those who helped me apply for an internship and make the most of it. A big thank you to Nadia, Tim, Amy, Jessi, Krissa, and Rebecca!
Stay classy, fellow interns.
“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”
II John Muir II
This is my final blogpost!
I have gained so many new skills at this position. I feel proficient at using ArcMap now and entering element occurrence data into the Natural Resources Information System (NRIS). My driving skills have also gotten so much better. I am now very experienced driving so many different kinds and sizes of vehicles on on some pretty bad forest roads. The terrain here is very difficult to traverse because it is so steep and rocky. I also spent a ton of time writing our invasive plant guide. Writing is something I am not very good at and I have a hard time reading over and editing my work. I definitely feel more like a real botanist now.
I got to do something I have wanted to do since college this year. I got to design and implement a lichen air quality study. I fell in love with lichens when I took a class on lichens and bryophytes. Lichens are so cool because they are great indicators of presence or absence of air pollution. They also accumulate pollutants in their thalli. The levels of pollutants can be measured in a lab. I set up a system of plots throughout the San Bernardino mountains and collected two target lichen species: Umbilicaria phaea and Rhizoplaca melanopthalma. I have sent the samples off to a Forest Service lab and when the results come back then the SBNF will have a better idea what kinds of pollutants can be found throughout the forest.
One of my major goals in this job was to improve my computer skills. I still have a long way to go, but I feel so much more competent using the Microsoft software, understanding computer terminology and being able to do things to make my computer run better. I have definitely met that goal and want to continue learning.
I made some great friends in my office and my mentor was great as well. This has given me a completely different outlook on Southern California. I always associated with the cities, but am so glad that I have had the opportunity to explore these beautiful mountains and deserts.
Here are the last of my photos to enjoy: