When I arrived to the Pacific Northwest as a member of the VetsWork Environment program, the word spring was on the horizon. It had been a mild winter; locals could only fret on how such a mild winter would affect the hatcheries and the salmon come dead heat of summer. Then came the blob. What is a blob? A mass of unusual warm air over the ocean that causes crazy weather patterns. The next place I found myself was digging my gregarious dog out of 10” of fresh snow. When I was selected for the AmeriCorps program, I knew I would potentially have to deal with a bit of icy early morning, but this? Coming from Florida, I had not prepared in my entire life, for what lay before me. The sun, a laser of wide girth, reflected off the fresh snow into my eyes, blinding me. My fingers laid numb at my side. I couldn’t feel my nose, but I sure could feel the trickle of watery substance threatening to inform me of how it tasted. Was this worth leaving my beachside, warm, and sunny life? Was this worth separating from my significant other for the next 10 and a half months? I smiled, whistled to my dog, and grabbed my net. You bet it’s worth it.
It has been three weeks since I arrived to introduce myself to the other members of the Mt. Adams Institute’s VetsWork program. I was nervous at first; extroverted personality is not my strong suit (quite the opposite). I came prepared to champion my way to the top to reach the goal of a new career. Now I realize that the value isn’t in the end goal, but the journey itself. It’s true that this experience is what you make of it. So, in three weeks, I have learned the basic requirements of a biology technician, feeding juvenile fish, collecting “morts” (deceased juveniles), cleaning egg trays, and cleaning raceways. But I have also had numerous hours shadowing a PHD fish health manager, dissecting juvenile salmon, learning about fish diseases such as Mortierella (a deadly fungus) and Renibacterium (the cause of the deadly Bacterial Kidney Disease). I’ve spent time in water quality and water chemistry. I’ve traveled to many school events, helping to teach children about salmon adaptations to their environment, and also the connection between hatcheries and Native Americans.
My next steps in this journey include learning how Oregonians keep themselves warm with fabulous hair (mine looks dry and frizzy daily) and stemming out into the community to begin laying the foundation for volunteer work. Volunteering is so rewarding in itself, but imagine the possibilities for networking. Within my second week here, I managed to pull three valuable networking resources who are now prepping me with knowledge of fish health, pointing the secrets out to me of what to do to make myself more valuable, and including me in bigger conservation efforts that would not have been available to me otherwise. If you’ve ever played Magic the Gathering, this is equivalent to Ponder, so much #value. 🙂 – Ciao! From Me & my dog, PW