Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Busy Bee

When I first moved here I had plenty of time on my hands to keep this blog up to date, but that obviously hasn’t been the case during the past few weeks. My introductory and training days are over and now I’ve gotten into the full swing of things. Not to mention I don’t have internet access at the bunkhouse which makes updating this blog a tad difficult. Regardless, I would still like to keep people posted as little or as often as I can.

After a lonely week of having the entire bunkhouse to myself, I now have four other roommates. Three of the guys are from Minnesota so they usually leave me home alone on the weekends, but last Saturday another girl moved in who is from California so I will finally have someone to keep me company on the weekends. The two guys that share a room here were actually lab partners at Stevens Point in Wisconsin and didn’t realize they would be living and working together until they moved in! I guess it is a small world after all.

Speaking of it being a small world, get this! Last Saturday when I was working at the Bloomington Visitor Center, a guy walked up to the information desk and started asking questions about the trails. I noticed he had a University of Missouri hat on so I asked him if he went there. He said that he did and I told him that I went to Columbia College. Then he started talking about his summer job which dealt with him traveling to different airports and working on towers. His description sounded very similar to my friend’s boyfriend’s job. They both go to MU also so I asked the guy if he knew them and he did. Turns out I had actually met the guy who was in the visitor center at my friend’s house in Columbia, small world indeed.

Despite my lonesome weekends, I have been keeping pretty busy. My work days are typically jammed pack from the moment I walk in door. Since the Bloomington Visitor Center is in such in urban setting, the constant incoming of visitors and school groups keeps our hands’ full. Luckily, I really enjoy keeping busy, especially with the type of work I get to do. When I’m not working at the information desk with other staff and volunteers (who have been as entertaining as the job itself), I get to help out with interpretive and educational programs on the Refuge and at the Refuge Partner Schools. So far I’ve helped kids learn how to dip net for macro invertebrates, navigate around the Refuge using a compass, and bird watch among other things.

Yesterday we had two school groups come to the Refuge for bird watching activities. We also had a heat advisory all day and after trekking through trails and the woods with groups of 4th and 6th graders I was pretty worn out. Even though these groups of kids were only a few years apart in school, their level of interest was drastically different. The 4th graders were so excited to be in the woods looking for birds that I had trouble keeping up with them while the majority of the 6th graders could care less about birds and didn’t dare venture off the path in fear that they might get a tick. Two 6th grade boys were falling so far behind I had to tease them that they must not play sports or be very good athletes since they couldn’t keep up and even that didn’t work very well. They admitted that they were lazy. I guess that’s hormones for you.  

In addition to helping the visitor services staff with their programs, I also have a few projects of my own. Every Sunday afternoon I lead family friendly hikes called Refuge Rambles. Each week I develop a new theme for the hike. Last week my program was called “Neither Hide nor Tail.” During the hike I explained the difference between woodchucks (a.k.a. groundhogs), beavers, muskrats, otters, and minks. I had pelts available to show that neither the hides nor the tails of these animals are the same and pointed out spots along the trail that these animals might be found. A family of muskrats has been really active near a lookout point of the wetland on the Refuge. A volunteer and I saw an adult muskrat carrying its babies through the water one day and I was banking on us seeing a muskrat during the Refuge Ramble. Unfortunately I didn’t have a big turn out for my program but I did bump into plenty of people along the trails. I was able to show them the pelts and explain the difference between the mammals so it worked out well.

Some other projects that I have in the works are developing geocaching on the Refuge, leading a bicycle friendly wildlife observation tour of the Refuge, and providing an online outlet for Refuge visitors to upload their pictures. All of my ideas were accepted by the Visitor Services Specialist, which was a great feeling, and hopefully they will all be a success!

On my days off I have been spending a lot of time relaxing, biking, and figuring out what I want to do next with my life. I have been watching USA jobs closely and so far I’ve applied for a visitor services job with the Forest Service that did not have a specified location and an education technician at Rock Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado. I’m also looking into getting my masters’ in environmental education perhaps through the Peace Corp.’s Masters International program. The only two schools that have a master’s program for environmental education through Masters International are Stevens Point in Wisconsin (where some of my roomies go to school) and Colorado University in Boulder. Both of these are ideal locations so I will definitely be looking into them and possibly a SCEP position if I’m lucky.

For those of you that aren’t aware of what Masters International is, it’s basically a program sponsored by the Peace Corp. that allows you to begin your master’s program, and then commit to two years of the Peace Corp. while working on projects dealing with your master’s/thesis. After completing your two years of service, you then return to finish your masters program. I’ve always wanted to live in another country, specifically Latin America, but any country would do, to help those in need and really make a difference in people’s lives. It would be fantastic if I could do all of that while getting my master’s.

Another program that would be great to be nominated for if I go on to get my master’s is the SCEP or Student Career Experience Program. This program allows you to work for a government agency while completing your degree then almost guarantees you a position within that agency upon completion of your degree. I’m not sure if I could do both the SCEP and Masters International, but we’ll see what happens and I’ll be sure to keep you posted on what comes next.   

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