Working with the U.S. Geological Survey
Week 3: April 17-21, 2006
Hackberry Fire
Arriving at work (burn area left of truck).

On my third week with the USGS, we worked in the office on Monday because we had a new kid join the crew who had to do paperwork, then we headed to Mojave National Preserve again for the rest of the week.

We camped in Hole in the Wall Campground in the Mojave Desert Scrub Life Zone at about 3,500 feet elevation. The area next to the campground burned in the 71,000 acre Hackberry Fire in June 2005.

Hackberry Fire
The office.

Work isn't turning out so well. These people are pretty unpleasant to work for, and I don't know if I will stick it out. I thought schedule over quality was a problem at Yucca Mountain, but it is nothing compared to these folks. These people want the data collected fast no matter what, and although they argue otherwise, their actions demonstrate that they don't want it collected carefully. There is no quality check, so it doesn't matter in the end because there is nothing to check the data against.

Company (Black-tailed Jack Rabbit)

They don't even know the plants very well. For example, there are are two kinds of yucca out there (Mojave Yucca and Banana Yucca), but they only recognize Mojave Yucca (they think everything is a Mojave Yucca). The two species are easy to tell apart: one is yellow-green and grows tall, the other is bluish and stays short. One day this week I said I thought they were misidentifying the yuccas (not recognizing banana yucca), and they got pissed because who am I to tell them anything? The next day I was able to convince them that there were two species, so they got pissed again because now they had to go back and change the data sheets! Nobody thanked me for teaching them something important.

They aren't happy with me because I go slowly and carefully trying to identify things correctly. In fact, almost everything about me annoys them: I ask too many hard questions; I identify shrubs they don't know; I find plants they can't identify; I can't talk about current movies or pop music; I can't see well out of one eye; I can't hear well out of one ear; I drink a lot of water and pee to often. It goes on and on, but I won't bother you with it.

Southern Desert Horned Lizard
A new friend (Southern Desert Horned Lizard)

I'm pretty unhappy with the situation too. So many little things that they said turn out to be untrue or not the full story. The main thing is that they said we would work an average of 10 hours per day with free time in the evening, but we are working virtually all of the daylight hours (11-12 hours per day), so there is no time for me to do the things I want to get done, let alone time to go hiking or birdwatching before dark.

The short version of the story is that I might soon have plenty of time to go hiking and do other things. I offered to resign when we got back to town Friday evening, but they are so short handed (only have 2 of the 6 workers they wanted) that they turned me down.

Hole in the Wall Campground
Camp. My tent is on the left.

I might add that in the four years that they have been doing these projects, they have only ever had one person return for a second season. So while it might be me that is the problem, these folks have a history of running people off.

I'll give it one more week to see how it goes. The most unpleasant person isn't going with us next week, so perhaps things will be tolerable.

We shall see...


Everyone but me eats cold food (mostly out of cans) because they say there isn't time to cook food or wash dishes (photo left). They don't even heat water in the morning for coffee or tea. It even seems to annoy them that I cook (or at least heat up) my food and make oatmeal and hot tea in the morning.

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
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