Working with the U.S. Geological Survey
Week 4: April 24-28, 2006
Week 4
Commuting to work, Part 1.

On my fourth week with the USGS, we headed to Mojave National Preserve again for the week. This time we worked in a remote area and camped in the open desert in the Mojave Desert Scrub Life Zone at about 4,000 feet elevation.

We worked on unburned sites for the first time this week. The shrub diversity was amazing and I learned to recognize several new species of shrubs. I also learned one shrub that I had been wondering about for some time. It turns out that the identification keys aren't that good in this case.

Week 4
Commuting to work, Part 2.

My boss's boss didn't go this time, another manager did (equal to the boss' boss), and the four of us had a great week. It is amazing how much one person can effect the moral of an entire group.

I had a couple of chances to talk with the other manager, and he seems to be a reasonable guy who thinks that working only 10 hours per day are enough. He also said that the other manager (The Pill) has a history of being a problem for workers, so it was reassuring to hear that it isn't just a problem with me. He and I got along just fine, and at the end of the week, he even thanked us for our hard work -- something The Pill never did. It is telling that in four years, they have only had one seasonal come back for a second season.

Week 4
Counting plants on an unburned site.

Even the boss turned out to be a nice person. I guess The Pill just had her all tense and upset. This week made me realize how fun this job can be, but it was so different from the previous weeks that I fear that I will be less tolerant of The Pill's behavior in the future.

It was nice to only work 10 hours per day because it gave me time to go hiking in the evenings and get away from everyone to relax. One evening I went birding and watched hundreds of White-crowned Sparrows trying to settle into a few unburned bushes for the night while several Scott's Oriole sang from the burned Joshua Trees.

Week 4
Working an unburned site -- a nice change from the burned sites. Poncho, the other GS-05, in the foreground.

The week was so nice, in fact more than I had hoped the job would be, that now I'm worried about how bad it can be. I guess I'll stick it out one week at a time. It sure is nice that I don't need this job. It turns out that everyone is having trouble hiring field staff this year, so my skills are in demand and I'll be able to go elsewhere if I want.

Week 4 Jim identifying tiny little green things. The plants are so small that you can't see them in this photo, but the ground is covered with hundreds of tiny plants.
Week 4 Camp in the desert.
Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
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