This 50th Earth Day is unlike any other and Katie Wareham is celebrating in similarly unique fashion: she’s exiting a self-imposed 14-day quarantine.
But before we get to the end, let’s start at the beginning.
Katie, a 23-year old from Frederick, MD, is and has been healthy since starting as an education and outreach intern at Dinosaur National Monument last January. Fellow SCAs Austin Kelley and Corey Sobotka began the same day. Charged with creating online curricula and virtual field trips, soon the trio was Skyping into classrooms around Jensen, UT and around the world.
“We were ahead of the curve,” Katie notes, referring to the video conferencing that’s become ubiquitous during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In mid-March, before the outbreak disrupted air travel and prompted telework directives, Katie flew to South Carolina to spend a free weekend with a friend. That’s when her supervisor phoned. “She said they were closing the monument and asked what I wanted to do,” Katie recalls. “So I decided I might as well stay there [in South Carolina] and wait for this to blow over. But it didn’t blow over, it just kept getting worse.”
Katie had her laptop, so she was able to work from 2,000 miles away, and after 20 days of sheltering in place, she was permitted to return to Utah, where she’s been continuing her duties, in isolation, for the past two weeks.
Although she’s not been able to work directly with her cohorts, technology has allowed Katie to collaborate with Austin, Corey, and park staff. Together, they’ve responded to inquiries from other parks looking to launch their own online outreach programs while off-limits to visitors. Teachers and parents have also been calling, looking for educational diversions for children.
And now, after five weeks of separation, Katie finally gets to reunite with her Dinosaur colleagues. There’s just one thing. Her internship concludes in 48 hours. Friday is her last day.
When she first arrived in January, much of the park was inaccessible due to winter snow. Then, as it warmed up, the virus caused a shutdown and Katie went into lockdown, so she hasn’t personally experienced much of Dinosaur’s rugged landscape. But through yet another quirk, she’s hoping that will change later this year.
“My boyfriend’s dad won the lottery for a river permit this summer,” she says, “so we’re planning on a river trip through monument in July. I’m hoping that things will be a little more normal by then, and I can come back and see what I missed out on.”
Top photo: National Park Service