In this post, Ashley Oblander, one of our current Hubbard Fellows, reflects upon some of the more memorable moments in her conservation career so far. She’s going to have many more as she leaves us in January and goes on to whatever her next step is (anyone looking for an outstanding land steward?). Ashley and her fellow Fellow, Dat Ha, have both pushed through what has been a more complicated Fellowship year than any of us had anticipated. The pandemic has hindered our ability to provide all the experiences we were hoping, but they’re still having a great year and have provided us with much needed optimism and energy. If you or someone you know would be interested in being one of our 2021 Fellows, applications are being accepted through September 30, 2020. Read more here and share this opportunity widely!
A couple weeks ago, Chris, Dat and I went out to set up an experiment. We’ve done a few of those during our time here, it might not seem out of the ordinary, but this one was different. We went out to part of the preserve with a big group of cattle and started our search. What were we looking for? Their poop. Yep, you read that right. We were on a hunt for fresh cow poop. We were setting up an experiment to examine the effects of cow manure on plant and soil communities, and that would be hard to do without manure.
The fun didn’t stop at collection. Once we got the almost 30 samples that we thought would be sufficient, we took them back to the shop and mixed them together to standardize them. Then we went out to our test plots and constructed our own cow pies. After a day of this smelly task, I caught myself thinking “Who would’ve thought that I would spend a day of work doing this?”
I started reminiscing about other times I thought “I can’t believe this is my job..” While there are a few unusual days, like collecting cow poop for science, most of the time this thought comes when I’m overcome by how lucky I am to do what I do. I think the best way to show this is to share some photos and the stories associated with them.
I never thought that I would be surrounded by 200 bison, explore and take pictures of gorgeous landscapes, or watch a crane migration and call it work. This job definitely has it’s tough and sweaty days, but the good days consistently outshine the bad. Even through the bug bites and sunburns, when you know your hard work is part of a bigger picture and you’re doing what you love, you can end the day with a smile on your face. Thanks for reading my moments of wonderment, and I would love to hear your favorite stories in the comments below.
Ashley, Thank you so much for writing about your experiences this year. I grew up on the prairie and miss it greatly. I too am energized each time I get back to Nebraska. You have worked in all sorts of hardships and glory days. Sometimes on the same day! All I can say now is, “Go forth and do great things!”
“Who would’ve thought that I would spend a day of work doing this?”
Just the night prior to your post I was running composted cow manure through a screen and spreading it on my garden.
I sure hope you find the cow manure helps plants grow better. I would sure hate to have spent all this time over the years spreading it over my garden to only learn later it doesn’t make a difference.
Love your enthusiasm. Stay with it, we need you, my grandchildren need you.
Ashley, I’m retired now but I too had the privilege of setting fires and managing a bison herd as part of my duties. Most days I had the same feeling of “I can’t believe they are paying me to do this”. I wish you all the best in your future career, and don’t forget to pay it forward to the next generation.
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