Toto, We’re Not in Florida Anymore…

Okay, so I will admit…it was a rough adjustment period. I am not the type that does well, sans-transitional periods, so being thrown into a new environment was…difficult, to say the least. On my first field day, I had to quickly adjust from walking at sea level on flat rock to essentially rock-climbing my way to the top of a mountain. My limbs despised me.

But boy, was that view worth it all. As we hiked to the first peak, you could see the pines (Pinus sp.) and blueberry bush (Vaccinium sp.) against the backdrop of great blue ridges and trees and rock all around, with the ridges stretching as far as the eye could see. It was a sight I hope I never tire of.

Today marks one week and a half since I began my internship here, at the USFS Supervisor’s Office in Asheville, NC. While this week-0.5 has come with its challenges–I was incredibly homesick the first week (still am) and definitely experienced some major imposter syndrome–I do not regret my decision to take up this position. I feel I am growing in ways I can’t even detect right now and I finally did what I said I would always do: I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and moved away from home. I am trying to ease my homesickness by remembering how cool it is I get to live in this place, like I always said I would eventually. Everything is new: the birds, the plants, the culture. I do miss home, but for now, I will make the most of this home.

As for work, I am definitely learning a lot!

Today, I attended a Forest Planning Meeting, and really felt like I was “in the room where it happened” in terms of seeing how the Forest Service makes decision regarding big-picture environmental analyses and plans. I gained access to the kinds of conversations I had been waiting to hear and be a part of for so long. I got to learn and understand a bit more of their planning process, which was very helpful and enriching.

I am excited to continue to learn more about the planning-side of things, partly directed by NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act), as well as how the experts do their biological field assessments. I am also excited to gain useful ecological tools–which my Mentor, as a Botanist, uses too–such as GIS.

Overall, a crazy week-0.5, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Until next time, I leave you with a word of advice: if you want to work in the mountains with no experience hiking mountains, go find somewhere to rock climb (even if it’s a gym, indoors) and go rock-climbing! Your limbs will thank you later.

The little bugger we were looking for on those first few field missions! Hudsonia montana, a federally threatened species. He likes to hang out on cliffs and high-elevation rocky outcrops–what a daredevil!
The terrain! Oh my!
The view!
Flagging individuals of H. montana–we do counts like this so we know how many are in each population, which helps us with monitoring!

#EnvironmentfortheAmericas #RAP7 #USFS

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