Since returning from member training in the beautiful La Vergne, Tennessee, the Mississippi team has been busy like bees. During the first week of Oxford living, members helped furnish the house, created risk management documents for each survey site, visited the lakes for survey site assessments and practice and spent all kinds of time practicing giving the survey itself. Throughout the whole process, members also began to discover the wonders of Oxford, Mississippi and the surrounding areas. Group meals and campfires, guitar pickin’ and a whole lot of down time was definitely necessary. On Friday, May 31st, Amanda, John and Brendan decided to join the Nashville team for a mini conservation project with the Nashville Food Project. As expected, they loved the work, enjoyed getting their hands dirty and strengthened connections with friends made during training. In the evening, this wonderful Tennessee/Mississippi hybrid hit the town in Nashville and enjoyed the big city and bright lights of beautiful Music City. Nakeda, Keith and I decided that big adventures were not our fancy and decided to enjoy our first free weekend in Oxford. On Saturday, Clayton came from Georgia and Mike came from Tennessee to enjoy some Arkansas home cooking thanks to Nakeda. We also lit the first backyard fire of the season, strummed guitar and hoped not to get blown away during one of the biggest storms of the season thus far.
Monday June 3rd marked our first day of summer surveys. Keith joined Amanda. Nakeda joined John and I joined Brendan to make up 3 survey power teams. From sunshine and heat to rain and wind, the Mississippi team was happy to finally start the work they had been trained to do. The parks were real easy to find and all the visitors were just as interesting as expected. Heavy rainfall had filled the lakes to the brim during the wet months and gave all visitors something to smile about. Fishermen and their families visited for recreation throughout the week and Saturday was host to family reunions, tournaments and general leisure activities that kept all surveyors busy.
For our first conservation day, we went to Sardis Lake to walk a boardwalk nature trail along the wetland. With camera in hand, Keith was immediately excited about the beauty of the area. Keith has spent a lot of time in Kentucky and Arkansas while studying and knows a whole lot about the native trees in the area and was able to give the Mississippi team an insider’s look at the forest. Thanks to John, we were given the lowdown on invasive animals including the dreaded nutria and the impacts the species has on wetland areas in the southern United States.
An unusual hiccup in our randomized survey schedule gave the whole team a day off together on Friday, June 7th (Happy Birthday to my beautiful sister Claire!!) and since Keith and I had the early shift on Thursday, we decided to make an adventure of our time. After survey work at Sardis Lake, Keith and I loaded the vehicle with camping gear and set out for adventures in Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and Delta National Forest, both conveniently located within 20 minutes of each other. As a Californian, I had never visited any swamp before and was very excited to explore a new part of the natural landscape of the southern United States. Awesome wildlife sightings, an exploration in elementary swamp botany, butane explosions as deer repellant, battling the loudest swarm of mosquitoes ever, lightning bug laser shows, swamp houses on stilts and some midnight guitar pickin’ were only a few amazing pieces of our humid rainforest adventure. Surely something I will never forget.
We ended our hitch with a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO BRENDAN on Sunday June 9!! After a long day of surveys, Brendan’s first torrential downpour and the magical experience of being surrounded by rainbows on all sides while listening to the album In Rainbows by Radiohead, the Mississippi team surprised Brendan with a volcano cake topped by 22 birthday candles! Of course the sweet sweet meal was followed by an epic game of Munchkin. What an awesome first hitch, Mississippi!
Written by Sophie Louis