Desiree Espericueta, a recent graduate of California State University, Los Angeles, is a biology cataloger with Blueprint. Here she shares some details of her experience on her second field expedition in the Mojave Desert.
I volunteer with Blueprint to keep learning and to keep my science brain active.
On this trip one of the things we did was counting and cataloging mice. We do a catch and release—we don’t harm any! We used a net bag to catch them and then we measured the foot and tail size. It was really fun.
We hiked every day. We looked at flowers and noticed their different properties, like scent, and petal size and shape, such as smooth, serrated, oval, and heart-shaped. Flowers are a lot more complicated than most people assume.
I didn’t expect to find so much life in the desert. There are so many different flowers and bushes, and so many different colors—it’s amazing. We found a desert five-spot flower—beautiful!
One of the nice things about being out in the field is the unexpected surprises and discoveries. We take these random quadrats [a plot of land marked off for the study of plants and animals], and we get down on our knees with magnifying glasses and cameras, taking pictures of every single life we find in there. To common eyes, you’re just walking over dirt and rocks, but there is so much living in that square.
You feel the heat when you’re on the basalt rock and plateaus, but we hike into valleys, and get shade and breezes at times. You kind of forget about it, because it’s all worth it.
Out in the field, you keep learning. As a biologist, I have never really liked lab work. After volunteering with Blueprint, I realized biology doesn’t just involve being inside a lab. There are positions where you can be in nature and discover things, and that’s exactly what I’m passionate about. I’m also an anatomy buff, and out here you get to see skeletons and vertebrae and skulls.
You learn from others. Doing this work, you intermingle with different scientists, and it’s really mind opening. You realize how everything is connected. It’s also important professionally to get to know a wide range of people and to network with other scientists and nonscientists.
My favorite tool in the field is a little magnifying glass with two sides. You have to get about an inch away from the ground and adjust your eye. It looks like I’m kissing the ground! You get to see little specks, tiny bugs, every small detail. It’s just amazing.
Explaining why plants are so important to friends, family, and coworkers has been exciting. I see how they take that knowledge and then spread it to others.
Are we too late in these kinds of efforts to help our planet? No, it’s definitely not too late.
—As told to Jane Falla, Blueprint Earth contributor