One of the more difficult aspects of a career in wildlife is the temporary nature of our work. Thus far, I found myself here and there in each job for several months at a time. The problem is the unemployment between jobs. Sure, I love to be home but the financial hardship is stressful. Although I attended a public school, I still graduated with a large amount of debt. I often describe it as a small mortgage. Of course, in addition to that financial woe, we have the normal bills that must be paid — house, car, utilities, and the like. So, what do I do to make ends meet? This time, I tried driving for Uber. Continue reading “Making Ends Meet”
I left Yellowstone that day. That chapter concluded somewhere on the long drive between Gardiner and Bozeman. I escaped the snow by losing elevation. The road through Paradise Valley was only wet and the drive was not difficult. As I pushed towards my new destination, the moody sky would open and reveal snowy mountaintops. The view was spectacular. At that moment, I realized what I was leaving behind. Change may be bittersweet but I had great joy in my heart knowing that I would soon see Jill and begin our western adventure. Continue reading “Our Western Adventure”
I recall crossing the Missouri River. The landscape began to change. No longer was the ground flat and heavily farmed. Rolling hills began to pop up and soon, rugged rocks could be seen in the distance. I was getting closer to something different — something that I never experienced before in my life.
Travel should contain a good dose of tangent and so does my writing. The open road spawns adventure and introspection. I relish where I’m going and I take pride of where I’ve been. Truthfully however, the path from here to there is what is most rewarding.
When I tell people of my next adventure, I am often asked, “What about Jill?” People are often concerned about how the distance will affect our marriage. Some are curious about how we weather the separation for such lengthy periods of time. I am continuously thankful for those who offer their love and support. Continue reading “What About Jill?”
Escape to the Mountains
Congaree was wonderful; however, after five months of flat, homogeneous land, I yearned for the mountains. The mountains are home. I missed the northern hardwoods, spring ephemerals, and trout streams. Hell, I even missed the rocks and Ericaceous species that I so often complained about. Springtime of the coastal lowland simply isn’t the striking rebirth that we see at more northern latitudes or higher elevations.
April may be considered the “off-season” for visiting our national parks. Only the hardy folks come out to enjoy nature in its rawest form – early spring. Among those ranks, I enjoy the appeal of having the place almost all to myself. What may look like a lifeless, cold, and wet landscape is actually the beginnings of a rebirth. The Great Smoky Mountains was not only going to renew my spirit but would also open my eyes to the great divide in our country. Continue reading “Great Smoky Mountains National Park”
Early in our careers, many of us in the field of natural resources have grand thoughts of sliding into our dream job. We imagine ourselves working somewhere secluded in the landscape without having to interact with anyone. Many of us aren’t people persons anyway. Hell, we often identify more closely to our work than the people with whom we choose interact. Some biologists actually start looking like their focal species after a while. I sure hope that I don’t look like a bat these days. What I can say with certainty, however, is that I would have never imagined that I would have become an activist.
The holidays were great! I was happy to be back home in Pennsylvania for the week and it was nice to spend time with friends and family. I was hoping to get outdoors and experience some elevation for a change but I was content with spending time in my own house in the company of Jill and Eli, outside of the occasional trip for food and drink with a friend. Jill and I invited our parents over on Christmas day and continued the festivities the following Friday with the addition of my sister-in-law, niece, and nephew. Sadly, we canceled our anticipated New Year’s celebration plans because Jill and I experienced a terrible allergic reaction to our Christmas tree. Nonetheless, we still had a good evening together, even if we were in bed before the ball drop. Continue reading “Post-Holiday Update”
A typical day surveying vegetation for the Deer-Forest Study, that morning we were down Bull Hollow in Bald Eagle State Forest. On the steep side of a ridge, I was finishing up the repair of a deer exclusion fence and Danielle was heading back to plot-center. Suddenly from about 200 feet away I heard, “oh my god, Mike, something got my lunch!” I made haste towards Danielle to survey the scene. In the span of an hour, my colleague’s lunch box was destroyed and the contents went missing. Based on the evidence, large puncture marks and excessive use of force, we theorized that the perpetrator was a black bear.
After the commotion, we decided to take a break and have lunch. Well, I shared my lunch so my friend wouldn’t starve all afternoon. We laughed at our misfortune; certainly this was a brazen deed but surely the bear is long gone. Jokingly, I waved my salami sandwich in the air to entice the bear. “Hey bear, you forgot one,” I yelled. “Why don’t you come back for seconds,” I taunted. We finished our lunch and laughter and got back to work.
Our next survey site was located up slope, through some dense mountain laurel. Danielle stood at plot-center to shoot me an azimuth. Before heading out, I jested that maybe I would bump into the bear. She didn’t find that funny. As I navigated to the next survey site, I saw a black mass not 60 yards from me. I called back to Danielle, “No Joke, I see the bear!” At first I thought I could get a great photo; then the 300 pound black bear turned towards my direction and locked eyes with me. Then closer, it sat and stared. My colleague and I didn’t feel like socializing with the bear so we left and decided to return another day.
Upon arrival, I suited up and headed toward some marshy habitat. Hoping to puddle jump some ducks, I stealthily sloshed towards some open water. What suspense as I crept to the edge and slowly stood tall to survey the surroundings. To my dismay, nothing was paddling about.
After flooding my muck boots, I got out of the swamp and traversed the edge for a while. I found the small outlet and decided to follow it back into the swamp. Previous years, there was much beaver activity that resulted in many small ponds and good habitat. I had hoped to find some dabbling ducks on my second attempt but I found only blue sky and brightly colored leaves. I decided to sit by a tree at the breast of a dam. Maybe a duck would come by. But, today was too nice for duck hunting. They were off doing ducky things elsewhere. And maybe, I wasn’t hunting at all. Maybe, I was just going for a walk with shotgun in hand on this beautiful autumn day.