06 Jun Welcome Home!
First, a farewell to Friends
As I have finished my first week of work, I can’t help but to reflect on all of the amazing opportunities the Environment for the Americas and the Fish and Feathers programs have given me in such a short amount of time. I was first offered this position on Wednesday, March 29, 2023, at 12:30 PM. I was sitting in my lab, looking through a microscope at a thin section of the Mount Kenya Alkalic lava. I was so excited I hit my head against the view holes! From then on, it was full steam ahead towards something that, although I have just started, I know will change my life. My supervisor, Megan Urban. was so amazing and relaxing to talk to which made me very happy and excited to come to the Thicket. During my time here, I would think to myself- what about the other interns? I’ve met them in our webinars, but they seemed so distant from me. They were so experienced in the things I felt I lacked. I was genuinely nervous and almost intimidated by the thought of meeting them, especially in a place I have never been before, but time waits for no one, so I hoped for the best, and got even better! I was astonished by the connections I made with the other interns. From the moment we sat near each other at the airport and laughed together for the first time, I knew it would be okay! I have never claimed to be the world’s best fisher(wo)man, and I’ve never even claimed to be a birder, but having such a large group of funny and talented people to guide me relieved so much anxiety. We fished together, birded together, laughed
together and ate together. We struggled in the elevation together, got rained on, and caught in a hailstorm together. We even saw a moose together, thanks to Simon’s photo. There was something so special about every moment I had with y’all.
From the wonders of Shake Shack in the airport when we first landed, to the strange van conversations, first impressions, learning to fly fish, and hearing Kai’s wild stories. From surprising everyone with my girly pop drop split, “binocs” pictures, Jose’s driving skills, our unintentional sweeping of jeopardy, to playing card games into the latest hours of the night to try to make the fun last just one more moment… To Kyra, Rafi, Bri, Julia, Hannah, Abraham, Alanna, Amy, Anya, Avery, Blanca, Diane, Itzamar, Jacob, Jessica, Joe, Kaylie, Kiana, Leona, Patrick, Shane, Simon and even Shanelle, Stephanie, Jose, Kai…Thank y’all for an amazing experience. I will carry it to Big Thicket, and it will always be with me. <3
Beaumont? Where is heck is Beaumont?
I hope you all enjoyed the Footloose reference in the title, and if you are too young to get the reference- you just called me old for the first time. Either way, here we are! Finally making the long drive to my site (yay!), the place I will call home for the next 60-ish days! I will say that the drive was actually quite nice, but I did almost fall asleep, so that’s not good, but on the other hand, my father and I got the chance to try SO much boudin (Boudin, pronounced “BOO-dan,” at least in Cajun country. It is a cooked sausage made from pork meat and rice, plus various vegetables and seasonings, all stuffed in a natural pork casing). My dad is from Louisiana, so he knows all the best places to go! It was fun to be able to bond with him over this road trip, especially before being gone for so long! Here are some pictures of us on the drive and when I finally made it to the Thicket!
The Big Thicket has always been a unique place. This peculiar patch of forest offers a habitat for an amazing abundance of life. Thanks to glaciers that pushed all forms of life south towards livable zones, this subtropical climate now supports a vast array of species. The term “thicket” is used because the woods are so dense, with an abundance of plant growth. Historically the woods were a meat market, acting as an ideal hunting landscape for various American Indian tribes. Early European settlers could survive off only what the Big Thicket had to offer, and it would eventually draw industry because of its vastness of riches. In the end, after nearly a decade of proposed bills and over 50 years of pushing for a park, it was not a national park that was established. Nor was it a monument or recreation area, or biological reserve. Instead, something entirely new was born: the national preserve. While a national preserve retains many of the functionalities and protections of a national park, it also allows for a certain level of resource extraction, like hunting and fishing. The preserve attempts to balance the needs and desires of both conservation and the people that interact intimately with that space.
Let's get this show on the road!
So here we are! I have finished my first two weeks at the job and I couldn’t ask for a more positive experience! I’ve had the opportunity to be thrust into so many new situations that I cannot even explain. On my first day we had hurricane training. That lowkey freaked me out, but reminded me where exactly I was in the United States, we also got cookie dough, pizza and ice cream! There I got the chance to meet my best friend and future housemate Lorna! She is so much fun to be around, it’s crazy, she and I have so many similar interests that it’s hard to say that we haven’t met each other before. Funny enough we have, in a sense, I attended the Louisiana ComicCon this past April and she was there too! We didn’t know each other at the time but I wish that we had! It would have been so much fun to hang out with her in that space! Here we are though becoming inseperatable! Likewise, in my first week I got to meet the indigenous intern Laine, he is definitely a character, but we have a very similar sense of humor and a lot of common music so that is a plus! The Friday of my first week I did my first kayak training and let me tell you it was great! I had a lot of fun, but also a lot of anxiety to get over about being on the water. My supervisor, Max, was amazing though! I was really scared that I wouldn’t be able to get in the vessel, but he reassured me every step of the way! The day was perfect, other than Laine or I mean my “kayak” pushing me into the water. I mean I’m not really complaining, because we were learning water recovery anyway but still! I finally ended up jumping back in the vessel because of some alligator gar that was jumping right near me…let’s just say I got some motivation from that! Later on I was able to host my first paddle clinic and my first fishing clinic! Below are just some pictures of life recently!