As a child, I was fortunate to grow up in a small Midwestern town. My younger years were spent being surrounded by the never-ending greenery of trees, grass, corn fields, and wildflowers. Each day I woke up to chirping birds and mooing cows, while eventually falling asleep to the yip yap of neighboring coyote families. My life changed once high school came to an end. After some time had passed, I moved to Florida where I attended college. It was a big change from where I had grown up. Palm trees, beaches, and the warm gulf waters had become the norm. With my college days coming to an end and graduation approaching, I made the decision to move to Las Vegas, Nevada.
While moving from Illinois to Florida was a big change, nothing could have prepared me for this next venture. When I first moved to Las Vegas the bright lights, unique buildings and people caught my attention. Anything you could ever want or imagine is here. Who would have thought that a city like Las Vegas could exist in the middle of the desert? What even comes to mind when someone says the word desert? Desolate? Lifeless? Inhospitable?
I had been living in Las Vegas, Nevada for about two years when I got accepted into the SCA’s Migratory Bird Project. Fortunately for me, the work we would be doing was within southern Nevada. While this was great for me, my other team members would have to adjust. It had taken me a good amount of time to get used to the long hot days that seemed to never disappear with the setting sun. I worried for them, as I knew how hot it would eventually get as the months progressed.
Almost two months have now passed, and I can say that they were not the only ones that had to re-adjust themselves to the desert climate. Our ten day hitches can and usually are brutal. My home during hitch is a small two-person tent. We get up around 5 am and walk on average about four miles a day in sometimes triple digit weather, while at the same time, hiking through steep mountainous terrain, avoiding spiny cacti, spiders, and snakes along our path in hopes of finding a mine marker.
Even though days can be difficult, I have been able to experience a lot of great things just within hitch four. Being an avid birder, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Amelia Savage (our BLM contact) would be taking us out to perform some bird count surveys, where we learned to identify Western birds by call and species. We also saw many other species of wildlife including the rare desert tortoise, roadrunner, golden eagle, coyotes, and a bobcat. And last but not least, we set up the green monster. This is a huge army tent that at first gave us some trouble, but the struggle was worth it because the tent provided us with an immense amount of shade throughout the last few days of the hitch.
While daily life has not been easy during this project, I have discovered through all of the ups and downs to be all worth it. I work with amazing crew members, save animal lives, and learn something new each day. I have found that there ultimately is beauty away from the bright lights of Las Vegas. I have come to respect the plants and animals that spend their entire lives surviving and thriving in an environment that I struggle in for a meager 10 days. If it was not for the Student Conservation Association, I may have never been able to discover this, and that I am truly thankful for.
Written by Leah Daniel