The end of a good year

By Kelsey Brock, Southern District, Mankato Crew - 12/6/2018

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It’s hard to believe that our term is already coming to an end, but somehow it is. It has been a year full of amazing views, challenging but rewarding work, and some really good connections. There have been a lot of successes, along with some difficulties and tough days (where humor comes in handy). The number of positive things I can take away from the experience are too many to mention, but the thing I will take away most is the relationships I’ve built with other crew members. It’s such a valuable skill to learn how to work as part of a team, and I got really lucky with my crew, who I’ve come to learn a lot about over the last ten months.

First, there’s our crew leader, Micheal (first from left). Superpower: able to take (and give) a joke well. Weakness: prone to ripping his pants.

Next, Melissa (second from left). Superpower: tree climbing. Weakness: likes pineapple pizza.

Followed by Kayla (third from left). Superpower: making you laugh until you cry/getting you to see the humor in every situation. Weakness: she has none.

And last but not least, Gabe (fourth from left). Superpower: being the true muscle of our crew. Weakness: an unhealthy hot Cheetos obsession.

The crew is one of the biggest parts of the experience as a Corps member, I’m with these people more than I’m with family or friends and I’ve loved working with every one of them. You’re all beautiful human beings and I hope you get all the opportunities you’re seeking.

Lastly, I’d like to thank all the animals we’ve met during the year. We’ve had the unexpected surprise of meeting many private owner’s pets, stray cats, and even the occasional sleeping fawn. You were my favorite part.

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The Humanity In-Between

By Caroline Fazzio, Individual Placement Program – 12/3/2018

If working with the Corps has taught me one universal lesson, it’s that I will not always agree with my coworkers. Invariably there is disagreement on some level, whether it be as simple as a personality variance, or as complex as opposing core beliefs. Either way, the result is the same—I must work with this person, often every day, regardless. Typically all is fine, until that inevitable day when something comes up in conversation—a current event, a political stance, a religious belief, even a backhand comment—and suddenly those differences are triggered.

I guarantee I’m not the only one who’s ever faced this scenario.

Often in our work places, we play polite until our differences begin butting heads. Then, we usually decide to merely tolerate our coworkers out of necessity, or to vehemently avoid any subject that may underscore our differences. Neither is particularly healthy.

When we choose to simply tolerate someone, our attitude toward them can quickly shift. We begin to subconsciously, or even consciously, respect them less, disregard their ideas, or zone-in on their faults and forget their strengths. There is a fine line between a tolerating workplace and an unwelcoming one.

Avoiding subjects that highlight fundamental differences doesn’t always work either. It’s exhausting constantly trying to predict and avoid any potential conflict. I have found that even the smallest, seemingly insignificant comment from a coworker can trigger me. Unintentional as it may be, it reminds me of the differences that exist between myself and those I am surrounded by every day.

So how do we find success and joy in a job and a world where we may disagree with those with whom we constantly interact? I have pondered this dilemma since I started my position in January and found myself surrounded by a cohort of coworkers with whom I sometimes disagree. Now, ten months later, I still do not have an answer, nor do I believe that anyone is capable of getting along with others, hiccup-free, all the time.

So why do I bring this issue up?—because we cannot afford to be afraid of it. We cannot dismiss it, nor can we hope for a positive outcome if we are willing to settle for tolerance or avoidance. Now more than ever, we must not run away from the issue of how to work with and connect with someone fundamentally different from us.

I don’t have the solution, just what I have learned throughout my life, and especially the past two years as a Corpsmember. We cannot avoid the inevitable differences that will arise between us, but we can choose to consider each other’s humanity above our core differences. We can elect to recognize our divisions and the issues they produce, and be open to letting those differences inspire us and teach us.

Who knows, that person who bugs you the most may just be the source of your greatest growth.

A Year in Photos

By Caroline Fazzio, Individual Placement Program – 11/29/2018

As my term enters its final weeks, I reflect on the past eleven months and realize it’s impossible to sum them up in a mere 600 words. The people, places, and moments I have experienced cannot be defined within my meager vernacular. So for this final post I simply offer photos capturing a small handful of those moments.

January

Crystal Springs Scientific & Natural Area (SNA). A day of descending slippery slopes to find a quintessential winter waterfall.

Crystal Springs Scientific & Natural Area (SNA). A day of descending slippery slopes to find a quintessential winter waterfall.

February

Grasses weathering the cold of Minnesota at Lost Valley Prairie SNA. All the DNR IPs got a tour of this wintry wonderland.

Grasses weathering the cold of Minnesota at Lost Valley Prairie SNA. All the DNR IPs got a tour of this wintry wonderland.

March*

Prepping for field season starts early. Plant ID training (like the one set-up in the picture above) helps both DNR staff and partners prepare for the upcoming months of surveying.

Prepping for field season starts early. Plant ID training (like the one set-up in the picture above) helps both DNR staff and partners prepare for the upcoming months of surveying.

April*

As soon as ice-off, specialists are in the field armed with throw rakes and ready for surveying.

As soon as ice-off, specialists are in the field armed with throw rakes and ready for surveying.

May

Many adventures were had at Tettegouche State Park during the first CCMI retreat of the year. Crazy hikes, roaring waterfalls, and steep gulches were all conquered.

Many adventures were had at Tettegouche State Park during the first CCMI retreat of the year. Crazy hikes, roaring waterfalls, and steep gulches were all conquered.

June*

When the water temperatures rose, the SCUBA gear came out. Dive surveys for zebra mussels started early and continued through the entire field season.

When the water temperatures rose, the SCUBA gear came out. Dive surveys for zebra mussels started early and continued through the entire field season.

July

Making the most of the long days at the headwaters of the Mississippi in Itasca State Park.

Making the most of the long days at the headwaters of the Mississippi in Itasca State Park.

August*

More diving, more water, and more invasive species field adventures as summer hit the homestretch.

More diving, more water, and more invasive species field adventures as summer hit the homestretch.

September*

Starry stonewort was the topic of the summer’s end with multiple hand-pulling events (like the one pictured above) and a new infestation survey.

Starry stonewort was the topic of the summer’s end with multiple hand-pulling events (like the one pictured above) and a new infestation survey.

October

October was the month of conferences with multiple program meetings and the internationally-attended Upper Midwest Invasive Species Conference.

October was the month of conferences with multiple program meetings and the internationally-attended Upper Midwest Invasive Species Conference.

November

Despite the dropping temperatures, dropping leaves, and dropping daylight hours, it’s still a great time to get outside and enjoy the crisp autumn air.

Despite the dropping temperatures, dropping leaves, and dropping daylight hours, it’s still a great time to get outside and enjoy the crisp autumn air.

December

A time for reflection and quiet contemplation with the gentle repose of the wilderness. Stop, breathe, take in the moment, and look forward with joy to the coming of the next season.

A time for reflection and quiet contemplation with the gentle repose of the wilderness. Stop, breathe, take in the moment, and look forward with joy to the coming of the next season.

*Photos courtesy of the MN DNR.

Summer rewind...

By Harley Lott, Southern District, Mankato Crew - 10/26/2018

Hey there fellow corps blog followers, been a while since I have posted a blog about the crew. We were busy this fall with three, ten-day spike trips out of town. It’s been a little hard to stay on top of it all but here is the break down of what we did.

The month of August came in hot and sweaty with temps ranging anywhere from ninety degrees all the way to one hundred and fifteen degrees. The crew was out at Knife River Indian Villages historic site near Stanton, North Dakota. Most of our time was spent working on clearing trees that were brought down two weeks before our arrival by a tornado. Several storm-damaged trees lay twisted across the hiking trail system. In our down time we learned about the area’s history and about the people, which included a day trip to Teddy Roosevelt national park where we took in the vast scenery and wildlife the park had to offer.

Soon August was over and the month of September was upon us. We were back home for a few weeks working on various projects for the fish and wildlife service out of the Litchfield office. After some much need time at home we embarked on our next journey to Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Ellsworth, Nebraska. We spent our time working on vegetation plots to better understand if areas of the refuge would be suitable for grazing of cattle. We collected barn owl pellets so researchers at the fish and wildlife service could get a better understanding on what they were eating on the refuge. We learned how to install and maintain barbed wire fencing and maintain some of the hiking trails as well. We visited Chimney Rock historic site and learned about the Oregon trail and how the landmark served as a vital piece to settlers on the journey west.

Summer soon left us in a flash and the dreaded ninety to one hundred-degree days were over and it was time to embrace the cold as the we prepared for our last venture out west. Off to Devils Tower National Monument in the state of Wyoming. We spent most of our time helping track bats within the monument’s boundaries. Small radio transmitters had been attached to their little bodies with surgical glue, so the transmitter would eventually fall off. The purpose of the study was to understand if the bats were staying in the park to hibernate or not, so they could implement better management strategies if white nose syndrome was to take hold.

So that’s a wrap on what we have been up to for most of the summer, ‘till next time.