Just a field botanist and biologist sharing an assortment of daily bits, random thoughts, and adventures while working to improve writing.

Oops, My Bad

When places start getting short of staff, weird things happen.  Unfortunately, COVID is plowing through the office I have been based out of.  Lots of people out sick due to having it or exposure.  So I am making a mad dash to finish up the data work by the deadline.  I haven't been doing lunch this week which might be a no-no but I haven't been hungry and timelines are tight.  Also, the anxiety of the pandemic probably isn't helping. I hope I get some bonus points or an actual bonus out of this.  I will need a break soon.  I am not sure what day it is anymore. Not sure how my hours are going to play out this week. Oopsy

Current Mood: #CoyWeazel

Field Botanist Term of the Day: Senesce

Just as it is in the general definition, senesce is when plants wither. It is the end of the life cycle for those plants that are annuals. For perennials, this is when the seeds drop in hopes to bring about the next generation. This period tends to signify the end of the field season. There are very few plants to look at during the late fall and winter months in colder climates.

The Insect Invasion

There are a wide variety of insects that like to emerge in force during different times of year. Right now, I am dealing with a late season invasion from a certain insect that thrives on maple trees. They like to cluster in warm areas and invade homes to over winter. My current apartment has far too many ways for these little flying terrors to get inside. Being attracted to light and heat, these insects hang out on any light source. There is even one crawling on top of my screen as I type this out. One crossed the line getting squished in my kettle as I was heating up some water for a much desired hot chocolate. I have also, accidentally, cooked a few on the burners. This has only be noticed by a distinct smell. A scent that is a mix between a lighted match and burning hair.

I am currently keeping my apartment very cool to slow down their movements. I think it is working so far. Only time will tell I supposed.

Current Mood: #chillyweasel

Field Botanist Term of the Day: Prickle

Not to be confused with a thorn, these outgrowths on a plant are easily detached from the surface and do no damage to the plant. They are a protective feature of the plant and also very likely to get stuck in ones clothing or skin if touched or accidentally sat upon. (I have had them in my rear unfortunately)

I am currently pulling little prickles out of my hands and my knees from the field day. Some are only felt when I brush across something and I need a loupe to actually see it to remove it.

Current Mood: #pricklyweasel

Getting back into it

I took a little longer away from here than I had been planning but there has been a push to get last bits of data collected before the end of the season. The days have been long and the heat just doesn't want to full go away. The subtle tease of proper fall and then the simmering heat of summer creeps back in. As much of a plant person that I am, the cooler temperatures of fall and snows in winter are not coming soon enough. The biting insects are even making a final push of the year. The first hard frost needs to arrive.

Current Mood: #tiredweasel

Field Botanist Term of the Day: Green-Up

This term may not be just within the field of botany but in this case it is something that I was very much looking forward to this year. Green up is a second push of green vegetation, usually the cool season plants. This does happen more frequently in locations that are considered semi-arid or arid. The drier summer months will lead to crispy, brown vegetation. Late summer or early fall will bring a little more precipitation that gives a boost to the cooler, springtime vegetation so they have a second growth that will help feed the grazers and browsers through the winter. Right now I am seeing the green up and, due to it being a drought year, I am seeing some plants green for the first time this field season. There have already been a few "what is this thing" from me over the past week.

Oh technology

We are so dependent on technology anymore that when there are little glitches it can compromise any workflow.  My current situation is preparing for my next term of higher education.  It seems that a recent update for a certain OS is breaking all the things.  Granted this is my cheap, mainstream device so I am not too concerned.  It will still do what I need it to do, thankfully, but with just a hint of annoyance when it decides to be tempermental. Just some minor inconveniences that will hopefully get fixed before my more courseload heavy winter term. Oh well.

Current mood: #burntoutweasel

Anxiety driven co-workers

Co-workers with high anxiety that, while you respect their knowledge, question what you are doing can cause anxiety all around. I can understand the indecisiveness and even being concerned your are doing something correctly but sometimes you have to trust yourself and your coworkers to not be a general fuck up all the time. Today is one of those days that the anxiety ridden co-worker questioned and didn't trust my work. I am confident in what I do but when the job is challenging it is very easy to question the quality of ones work. Being questioned even more by one that hasn't been doing your job makes it really difficult to remain confident in the quality of your own work. It's almost like taking the anxiety out on the co-workers to spread the anxiety so it is all around. The more I think about it the more I am sure I was correct but I had to, for my own sanity, double check to be sure I am still seeing things correctly. In a way I will be relieved when this season is finally over.

Current mood: #waningweasel

All the chemicals

I was traveling mostly for work last year amid the pandemic. I tried to camp out as much as possible to avoid as many people as I could. One of the big things I saw was a huge influx of new campers that had no idea what they were doing. Some couldn't figure out their tents or the way to level their RV. Some legitimately brought their living room with them and set it up outside with the television included. I saw several put their food stuffs haphazardly out on a picnic table overnight or during the day and get upset that animals had their way with the food. The worst was cooking their food over a campfire. First, they had to make it a bonfire to cook on. To do this they used the fuel logs they sell for fireplaces and then added lighter fluid to get them started. The chemical smells at night while these 6-8 hour fuel logs burned was disgusting. The food also must have tasted horrible.

The reason I bring this up is another member of my apartment complex has decided to get themselves a grill to cook on. I have my windows open and I am forced to shut them as this person must be using the easy lighting charcoal and adding lighter fluid. The smells coming in my window is pure burning chemicals.

Current mood: #gasmaskedweasel


Feeling insecure can put a bit of strain on any job. I had my boss come out with me for the first time since early on in the season and I was feeling very unsure of my work even though I know I am doing my job well given the difficulties of identifying plant species when everything hasn't had water in months. It also doesn't help they were trying to improve how things were being done and making sure I didn't miss out on something or misidentify something. Your boss looking over your shoulder does not make the days work easy. It also does not help that I have this feeling that I messed up here somehow.  It feels like things have changed recently, I can't put my finger on it but something feels off.  Almost like I somehow fell out of favor in some way or just am not liked as much as some of the other members of the crew.  This is probably just my brain overthinking but it does still feel off.

Oh well.

Current mood: #uneasyweasel

Resume Building

It becomes a challenge when you decide to switch industries.  Catering the resume to the job can be a real chore.  Applying for a federal position is even worse.  After years of trying to make a resume as condensed as possible only to turn around and make it include EVERYTHING you have ever done even if it was just a few times, My humble two page resume that includes references is going to become a beast to look through. Going back and trying to list out everything I have done working for nonprofits is probably going to take a few days of my time to make sure I have covered everything.  I am not a fan of doing this but stable employment is appealing. This is going to be my task for the next week or so. Hopefully it will produce some results in the job application front, too.

Current mood: #procratinatingweasel

Staying fluid

I have always chuckled when an interviewer for a job talks about flexibility being necessary for the position. After years of nonprofit work and working with kids/animals I'd say my ability to be flexible is well honed. Here, it is called staying fluid as flexible is still too rigid. I am not going to lie, I really like the phrase. A change of plans occurred three times today and going with the flow is the only way that number of shifts is manageable. This whole season is a lesson in being fluid. Now I just need to convince myself I am doing good work.

Current mood: #fluidweasel

Fields of smoke

One of the pleasures of doing fieldwork is being able to enjoy the scenery. This year, the scenery is shrouded in smoke. A location I surveyed this week liket has amazing views off into the distance of rolling hills and rocky outcrops. A radius of ~2km is all I could see. Shadows of distant hills barely visible through the smoke.

On top of all of this my sinuses are raging due to allergies. The congestion is leading to sinus headaches and puffy, tender face.

I am ready for fire season to end but it's likely 2 months away.

Current mood: #stuffyweasel

Field Botanist term of the day: inclusion

An inclusion is a small area of different soil type within a larger area the soil type. Soil types dictate what types of plants will grow within the soils, we tend to call this an ecological site. An easy way to look at it is to think of a gold course. The main ecological site is the sod and the inclusion is the sand pit. Different plants grow in the sand versus the sod.

I bring this up because from an botanist's perspective these can be a nightmare. You can have an idea of an ecological site due to knowing what the expected soil type will be when you arrive to an area. The past several areas I have surveys have had multiple inclusions in my study area. My surveys consist of 3 transect lines that are 25m long. Yesterday I had an inclusion in each of the lines that were slightly different giving me plants that would be found in a standard grassland, a saline/alkaline soil, and a sandy soil. These all vary greatly. Today was another day of multiple inclusions and a heavy bout of grazing so I had to crouch down constantly to look at the bases of what was left of plants to identify. This was probably the roughest day I have had identifying plants this entire season. Something about trying to get grasses to species that are only 1-2cm tall with none of the primary identifying features. The plant fibers in my knees and hands indicate the rough day, along with the sore back. The Slav squat can only get one so close to the plants.

Current mood: #waningweasel

Never ending haze

Wildfire season is in full swing and with it comes a haze that lingers. The sun is red in the afternoon. The glow of hazy orange light peeks in the window. The smell of smoke isn't always around but it comes in waves causing enough concern to make sure nothing nearby is burning. Everything smells of it. If you are close enough to a large fire, ash falls from the sky. Intense fires create the pyrocumulonibus that are the darkest storm clouds I have ever seen. The burn scars blacken the landscape. On the plus side, nutrients returned to the soil and plants spring up with the next rains.

I am currently looking at my window to be sure there is not some structure fire in the neighborhood. The wildfire smoke has arrived again

Current mood: #smokeyweasel

The days madness

This was supposed to be just another field day. Turns out it was another day where the crew drove to a site then was unable to survey due to weather. The precipitation, while much needed, just wasn't going to break long enough to do any work in the field. When you are a field going crew, office days or down days are brutal. My other team mates were more antsy than I was but we are all frustrated on not being able to do the work we are supposed to be doing. Drive for several hours just to arrive in time for the rain to show up and build to the point that you can't work so you have to drive the several hours back without doing anything. We got back to the office and it seemed more like we were just slap happy. Hopefully we don't hear about our antics down the road but we just couldn't be productive mentally in the office today. It's been a week since we were able to do our actual work.

This field season has been oddly exhausting in ways I'm not sure I fully understand.

Current mood: #frustratedweasel