Yeah, it was some time ago – 1999 to 2001. And it’s not like I had a whole lot of responsibility – I was a file clerk.
So what did I do during the nearly 2 years I worked at the USFWS in Helena before moving to Missoula to go to school?
Filed endless amounts of paperwork;
- Opened mail;
- Sent mail;
- Answered phones;
- Organized USGS maps;
- Transferred contaminants database onto the computers;
- Catalogued Helena USFWS biological library;
- Watered plants each Friday.
Yeah, I had a lot of duties, but it wasn’t all boring office stuff. Every once in a while they’d let me outside to do some fieldwork.
Now, at the time I was fresh out of high school (I started working there my senior year). So that means I really had no qualifications to do fieldwork.
But do you need qualifications to go out and do manual labor, lots of carrying, and doing this and that at the biologists’ instructions? Not really.
Here are a few of the more memorable jobs I worked on:
They were catching small birds, putting little choke collars on them (which made it impossible to swallow the food mom gave them), and then testing that food. We could tell what level of contamination was in the ground from that, and sometimes they’d even dissect a bird to see the level of contaminants in its brain.
Mainly I carried a lot of stuff and took notes for the grad students.
Anyways, we did more bird testing there, and also testing of really small invertebrates, you know, the kind you see swimming around in ponds.
We had to get into this salt water and it totally ruined my favorite Led Zeppelin shirt. Oh well!
I headed there with a couple wolf biologists to put up some electric fencing on three acres of this sheep ranch.
The family had had some deprivations so this was really a good way to help solve that for them, while also getting some good PR for the wolf re-introduction program, which was still controversial at that point, even though it was already 3 to 5 years old.
To give you an idea of the date, check out the backside of the article:
Getting Things Done
And I also like to think I have the attitude that many biologists had, one that recognizes the complex problems and the people that line up on both sides of them.
We never would have gotten anywhere at the USFWS without compromising. While it might not seem like that happened a lot, we did it. For instance, I made it a point in one meeting that we had to get a more efficient way to approve cell towers.
All of these contraptions had to be signed-off by USFWS since they posed a potential risk to birds.
The problem was that we were getting dozens of requests a week, and each required our director’s signature, even though they were all the same. I convinced them to rubber stamp them (I went out and got one designed for us) so those companies could get on with their business all the sooner. No one likes waiting around for the government.
Sure, it might have been a small thing, and maybe some people didn’t like it, but it got things done.
Too often when it comes to environmental policies and procedures, nothing gets done. You won’t get that with me – make a decision, see it through, and move on to the next problem, that’s my philosophy.