I Got to Go Outside! By Caroline Becker

My first time out in the field with our botanists.

The great thing about having an office job is that I can hide from the summer heat by staying cool inside. However, as someone who also loves being outside any chance I can get, I tend to get restless after spending a few weeks in the office. Now that Fall temperatures are rolling in, I am feeling much more inclined to want to be outside all day. Luckily, I have great opportunities to be able to work outdoors with the US Forest Service.

This past Friday, I was invited by our botanist to go out with their team to monitor a certain plant species. I jumped at the chance to get out and be able to see the forest I’ve been working on for the past few months and, of course, said yes. Using the stipend provided by Environment for the Americas, I was able to be fully prepared with new hiking boots and a daypack, (things I had never owned before) to go out into the field and be comfortable for the whole day. I was super excited to finally be getting outside and collecting data with my coworkers.

First, we met up at the office early in the morning to make sure we had all of our gear and everyone was accounted for. Then we split up into two cars and headed out. We went up to Roan Mountain, about an hour and a half drive from the office, where we stopped in a parking lot and got out so the botanist could explain to me what kind of landscape we were in and give me information on the types of plants we could find there. Learning about that specific area and its history gave me a new sense of place that I didn’t have before, something that I had been looking for since leaving the mountains I grew up with in New York.

The rest of the day was spent with me trailing behind the botanists while they showed me all of the plants they knew, which was a lot. I am honestly astounded by how much knowledge they have, especially when two plants can look so similar but have one minute detail that differentiates one from another. It was an amazing experience to go out and learn a lot from people who know so much, and are so willing to share that information with you. I can’t wait to get back out there!

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