First week at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Rapid City, SD

My first week at work for the Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) in Rapid City, SD for Dr. Jacqueline Ott, a US Forest Service Research Ecologist, was full of new experiences. I got set up with a work station – two monitors and all! I filled out important paperwork, listened to Risk Assessment forms, and slowly got adjusted to using Windows applications and downloading all software for work, which took a bit of time too… The most interesting part was probably starting to learn how to identify plants, specifically grassland plant species.

By the end of the week I had tasks and started to familiarize myself with my mentor’s grassland research. As a Biological Science Technician my job is to help collect field data, organize said field data, and do basic tasks to increase the productivity of our research group. Besides being important habitats, grasslands provide food and space for our nation’s cattle and meat supply. Managing the grasslands is imperative to preserve this chain of food security. I feel fortunate to be a part of this research studying how climate change drivers will impact these ecosystems.

The weekend

Devil’s Bathtub Trail. The stream is frozen over.

Over the weekend, I traveled to Spearfish, SD 50 minutes Northwest of Rapid City. Spearfish is near a beautiful part of the Black Hills. I went with my new coworker, Myesa Legendre-Fixx. We met up with her friend Darlene who was finishing her Master’s at Black Hills State University. Darlene was kind enough on a cold, windy day to take us exploring around Spearfish. First, we went to Devil’s Bath Tub which was a short 30-40 minute hike in and out along a stream. Crossing the frozen stream 11 times was really fun! Then we did a quick little climb into 11th hour gorge which was right off Spearfish Canyon Hwy. The waterfall was frozen and majestic.

Waterfall in 11th Hour Gorge off Spearfish Canyon Highway, From left to right: Myesa, Darlene, and Philip.

I also went to the Museum of Geology in Rapid City which surprised me with the displays they had (I had no idea South Dakota was such a center for fossil and rock discovery – but it makes sense now). Below is picture of a T. Rex’s head (left) and the skull and tusks of a Mammoth (right)! These two guys are helping me feel more at home in Rapid City! I’m sure I’ll have lots more to talk about next month.

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