06 March 2021

The Valley Oak

Last week, one of my co-workers and I went to Chico, California to measure more Valley oaks (Quercus lobata) at a property that is part of the Mendocino National Forest.

It’s very similar to the Institute of Forest Genetics (IFG), but much larger in size and with more trees to measure. I was going back and forth from one row to the next taking measurements with a digital caliper. As I was measuring, I heard bird calls and songs all around me. Many of them were woodpeckers, some nuthatches, and Oak titmice. It was a very sunny and warm day and signs of an early Spring were everywhere. I had to pause for a moment and listen and take in as much sunshine as I could. There was a small breeze and I could hear cars driving by in the distance.

As I moved to the next tree, my eyes got watery and I started to get that weird feeling when you’re about to cry. I asked why, why now, and why here? I remember getting that feeling other times in my life. Once when I was in Peru and another time when I was in the field looking for snowy plovers in Oregon. A few seconds later, I recognized that feeling. It was a feeling of not wanting to let go of a place and time, of people you’ve come to know well and become friends with. I stared up at the clear blue sky, looked down at my feet on the ground touching the grass, and moved to the next tree. I will miss you Q. lobata

My last day working with the Forest Service as a Resource Assistant is coming up soon. It’s been an incredible learning experience for me. At the beginning I thought I had figured out this agency and that I knew all the acronyms there was to know. Well, that was a big mistake. I joined the RA program the same year I finished my master’s program. I didn’t expect my first work experience to come with the challenges that it did. Someone once told me that when things get difficult, it’s a good thing because you never learn when something is easy.

Thanks to this program I have a better understanding of the steps I need to take to advance professionally while keeping in mind that life can change unexpectedly, therefore, flexibility is key. Additionally, I have come to really appreciate and deeply value the agency mission and want to genuinely contribute to some of the amazing natural resources work. I will take all that I gained here, apply all these skills in my next adventure, and I know that it will be difficult; challenges will certainly arise. But I have a different mindset than when I came here, and this will aid me in my journey. I am beyond grateful to MANO, the FS staff here at IFG, and to the Pacific Southwest Research Station for providing this opportunity.

Agency: U.S Forest Service

Program: Resource Assistant Program (RAP)

Location: USFS Headquarters, Washington Office

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