A Day in the Trees

By: Nathan Martin, SCRiM Intern

hardwoodI like to think I have a certain amount of self-awareness of my nerdy, business casual existence.  I’ve developed a routine that may sound pretty familiar to many of you.  Arrive at work, log into a computer, ease into some emails with a large cup of coffee.  Some polite conversations with co-workers about last night’s dinner or favorite tv show or upcoming weekend plans typically ensues.  Then that first meeting reminder pops up from your email calendar and 15 minutes of scrambled preparation ensues, and away you go on your merry work-day way.

Let’s avoid any deep Freudian subliminals when I say I’m sometime envious of the forester, the fireman, the rancher, anyone who has to strap on a tool belt and meld with the forces of nature while taking care of business.  So when I had the chance to accompany my fellow Ecological Data Collection interns out in the forest to stake out some trees and take measurements, I was all for it.  It was an opportunity to be one of the boys, walk through the woods, swat some mosquitoes, use a crow bar, and collect some field data.

The day already started out differently as I traded my khakis and dress shoes for some old jeans and tennis shoes.  Some heavy bug spray would be later added for some accentuation.  The drive was about 30 minutes into some pretty deep forests, the last 10 minutes being dirt roads, or rather trails.  A good sign that it would be a good day was the bald eagle swooping in front of our old Chevy Suburban and evading an agitated crows claws and beak.

As we hiked into the forest and began procedures, I was completely lost on what was going on, but thankfully, my crew did not give up on me and I started to understand what was going on.  I started marking off the edges of a plot with a long tape measure.  I could visualize the quadrants within the plots and I began to be able to identify trees by their leaves, bark, and other features.  I was removing tags nailed into the trunks and replacing it with some wire, forming a crude necklace around the tree’s base.  I like to think I earned my spot with the crew.  It was a great experience.  It really highlighted the need for teamwork and the importance of respect.  Sometimes it’s easy to hide our different working quirks and preferences behind the desk of our computers.  When you are side by side with a teammate using your hands and legs, as well as your mind, there is no hiding.  Your personality and habits are going to show.  You also have the ability to share knowledge, experiences, stories while working – in short, bonding.  Everybody has something to offer.  There are infinite ways to interpret the world and there is no way any one person can know everything.  The youngest crew member had the most familiarity with the land.  So while he might not have been far ahead of me in mastering procedures, he knew what a wild onion was.  They are delicious with a decent kick in case you were wondering.

One other thing I learned on the way back.  I was supremely satisfied with my day in the woods, but I did feel a twinge of happiness to be back at my keyboard.  And as my commute home came to an end, exhaustion set in.  Being on your feet moving around all day long should not be something to take lightly.  Probably especially if you are not light.  Perhaps, there is something to be said for a good balance between keyboard and tool belt.