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In the last few days of the 2015 conservation research field season, there is much to reminisce upon. Over the past four and a half months we have tackled over 19 projects, each week took us to a new site and a new rare plant or ecosystem. We traveled the state from the Pacific coast to the eastern edge where the Snake River flows. Between all these trips we managed to rack up over 8,406 miles of driving (even more if we counted all the driving between sites and to and from our campground). We were on the road the entire month of May, covering over 2000 miles.
All this is possible through the cooperation of our entire crew. When you spend this much time on the road and in the field together as we do, teamwork is what holds us together when things get tough and dusty. While we learned about and monitored a huge array of plants and habitats, we also learned lots about each other along the way. Each one of our crew members brought something to the group dynamic that helped make this season a success. Ceci was a plant community whiz, and acted as our podcast DJ on many trips. Sara was a demography demigod and mixmaster extraordinaire as DJ Blueballs, aptly named due to her inability to sit through an entire song. Connor was our photo point and solar pathfinder photographer. His laugh and cheery disposition could usually lift the rest of the crew up when things got tough. Hannah was our superstar ASE intern. She was a great midseason addition to the team, cheerful and helpful on all projects, even in the face of 100+ degree heat. And finally, our crew lead Emma, led us into the fray with confidence and showed us the ropes with that fiery wit we all have grown to know and love very well. Without her we would have been a lost cause!
To be sure we also gave each other fair shares of grief and good natured heckling.
Here’s a “behind-the-scenes” look into some of our best moments of the season.
What is your favorite memory or trip of the season?
Emma: Our project with Mulford’s milkvetch (Astragalus mulfordiae) in Vale, OR was my favorite trip this year. Our sites are really beautiful plus we got to see so much cool wildlife: hawks, pronghorns, badgers, and horny toads to name a few. We got to experience the full range of weather that eastern Oregon has to offer- nearly 100 degree heat and torrential rainstorms followed by DOUBLE RAINBOWS. Also, one of us (who shall remain unnamed) made Erin gag with a fart. Now that takes skill, right?
Sara: There was so many wonderful trips that it truly is hard to choose from. I think a highlight was definitely staying with the folks from the Siskiyou Field Institute monitoring Cook’s lomatium (Lomatium cookii). While the project itself was challenging, it was in such a beautiful area and staying at the old dude ranch was so much fun! There was also some epic Cards Against Humanity games that Tom’s mom probably won hands down. I laughed a lot this summer, learned a lot, and will miss IAE a ton! But I will for sure not miss the stench of Keith the van!
Connor: My favorite trip was surveying arrow-leaf thelypody (Thelypodium eucosmum) near John Day, OR. Hiking several miles off trail through rocky ravines and scrambling up cliff faces and waterfalls was physically demanding, but rewarded us with some of the most gorgeous and remote scenery I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in Oregon. Second to that, going to Coos Bay, seeing the tidal pools, and going to sleep to the pleasant sound of sea lions barking into the night made for an extremely memorable trip.
Ceci: My favorite trip was when we went down to Coos Bay to monitor Point Reyes bird’s beak (Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. palustris) and western marsh rosemary (Limonium californicum). Being right on the bay and breathing the fresh sea air while working in some of the most interesting habitats of the season was pretty perfect. Not to mention, the ocean waves and calls of distant sea lions were particularly peaceful in the evenings. In our down time, we visited tide pools and Shore Acres State Park, a former estate with a beautiful garden and high cliffs along Cape Arago. So beautiful and so much fun!
Hannah: I’m going to have to agree with Ceci on this one: our trip to monitor Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. palustris was definitely a highlight of the summer. Another of my favorites was our repeated jaunts to the Cascade foothills near Cottage Grove to monitor Umpqua green gentian (Frasera umpquaensis). Working in a more forested habitat was a beautiful change of scenery, and a stop to jump in the river at the end of the project was the perfect way to end our field work for the season.
Now that the field season is over, where are we off to now?
Emma MacDonald, the crew lead this year for the conservation research team, will be moving on to a job in Hawaii monitoring sea turtles. None of us are jealous of that.
Sara Newman, one of the interns, is moving back to Durango, CO for an admissions counselor job at Fort Lewis College.
Connor Whitaker, another intern, is planning an EPIC trip to New Zealand and will probably be out of the country as soon as possible.
Ceci Welch, the last of the interns, is going to work as a lab technician testing water filters for Cascade Designs, Inc., an outdoor products company in Seattle, WA. And also studying for the GRE in preparation for graduate school next year. She is hoping to use many of the skills she acquired while working for IAE in grad school!
Hannah Gilbert, our high school intern with the Apprenticeships in Science and Engineering (ASE) program, will be going into her third year of high school and doing everything that comes along with that: SATs, applying for college, etc. We’re all positive that she’s going to carve a very big and influential path in whatever field she decides to go into.
Emma, Hannah, Ceci, Connor, and Sara
Sleep tight, Dream Team 2015