30 October 2020

Into the Woods: A New Adventure with the Forest Service

resouAbout five months ago, I returned home to North Carolina to be with my family before moving on to my next adventure.

I had just graduated with my Masters in Science in Conservation Ecology but as with everything else, the Covid-19 pandemic impacted every plan/job opportunity you could imagine. As the months progressed however, I began to be thankful and more appreciative of this special moment in time where I could spend the mornings and afternoons hiking and gardening with my parents and playing soccer with my brothers.

As a Latina, family means a lot to me so when it came time for me to move to California, I contemplated the idea of leaving my parents during these difficult times. However, my family was extremely supportive. They know that one of my lifelong goals is to be a conservation professional working for a land management agency and they have always pushed my brothers and I to take advantage of all the opportunities that come our way.

It’s been about a month now since I moved to California to join the U.S. Forest Service and intern as a Resource Assistant at the Institute of Forest Genetics. Following strict quarantine and health guidelines, I came to the institute to gain exposure to the different components of the Research and Development organization of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). I am incredibly thankful and feel even luckier to be here. As the days go by, I am learning to appreciate this new and incredible landscape.

In the past couple of weeks, I got to explore the institute and walk through the Eddy Arboretum which at one point had the greatest collection of pine species in the world! One of my favorite pines is the Mexican weeping pine (Pinus patula) with its long and low hanging needles and branches. James G. Eddy was the founder of the Institute; his goal was to use genetics to improve forest health and growth. After successfully establishing what would become the first facility dedicated to forest genetics, Mr. Eddy donated the institute to the US Forest Service and the American public in 1935. The entire property itself is a calm and beautiful place with lots of wildlife including wild turkey, deer, a variety of songbirds (Nuthatches, White-crowned Sparrow, California Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Oak Titmouse, California Quail, Western Blue Bird, and many more). The sunsets and sunrises are even more spectacular and add a shimmer of gold and orange color to the property as the sun rays pass through the tall and majestic pines.

rsz 1rsz gianttrees

Giant Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) are also planted in the Eddy Arboretum. Their incredible size and magnitude give me hope, joy and wonder. The individuals here are relatively young and small in comparison to the ones further south in the Sequoia National Forest but I still become paralyzed every time I stand next to them and look up.

In addition to the incredible species of pine trees and wildlife, working at the institute has given me the opportunity thus far to learn about the staff and the main projects that they coordinate. For example, I got a better understanding of the common garden projects happening at the institute when I helped the botanist take measurements of oak trees. Researchers here are growing cottonwoods and oaks to understand how growth and development of different varieties (trees of the same species but with different genotypes) respond to various environmental factors such as drought and disease. As a Resource Assistant, I also get to participate in meetings and discussions about current research focused on forest disturbance and resilience in the Sierra Nevada region. Much of this research is being spearheaded by scientists in the USFS-Pacific Southwest Research Station in partnership with academic and nonprofit organizations.  

With that said, I am really looking forward to the months ahead as I continue assisting the staff here at the Institute while gaining as much experience as possible in this new adventure with the Forest Service.

Agency: U.S Forest Service

Program: Resource Assistant Program (RAP)

Location: Institute of Forest Genetics

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