Blueprint Earth is getting ready this week for its next field expedition in the Mojave Desert. Here, three returning volunteers share their thoughts about coming back, and a new volunteer shares her inspiration for joining the team. Together, they encourage us to create our own explorations—right in our own backyards—by being in tune with the nature all around us.—Comments compiled by Kay Kim, Blueprint Earth Volunteer Coordinator
California State University, Los Angeles
I applied to Blueprint Earth last year because I love the Mojave Desert and wanted to gain some more geological field experience while networking with people of different fields.
I am returning this year for the aforementioned reasons and to gain new skills by not only making geological observations but also learning how to make hydrological and biological observations.
During my previous BE trip, I remember when Austin and I were making geological observations, Austin stumbled upon a sedimentary rock with tube worms. It is always super exciting to find fossils within a rock.
My advice to new BE volunteers is to talk to everyone and not only focus on your own field of study, but also learn about all the other disciplines and how they pertain to the Mojave Desert.
I love the environment because it has existed before humans.
As citizens of the environment, we can be more observant in nature by putting down our phones, climbing the tallest peak, listening to our surroundings, and realizing the complexity of all the interrelated parts of the ecosystems that sustain nature.
Alexander V. Hernandez
California State University, Long Beach
I applied to Blueprint Earth last year initially to gain some experience outside of the classroom, but also to be a part of something scientific. Since then, it's been such an amazing journey with Blueprint Earth. I've come to embrace the goals and focus that BE represents, as well as gain some awesome friendships with everyone who has been a part of this organization.
I am returning this year because I want to assist BE and because I enjoy working with them. I love everything they do. Jess and Carlos are awesome people; they really make the experience fun and engaging at the same time.
During my previous BE trip, I remember many things, from the bees that wouldn't leave Martin alone to digging out the truck stuck in the sand. Through it all, it was always a good time. One specific memory is when, instead of using my hand lens to view minerals in a rock specimen, I used it to view tiny plants while assisting the biology team. I had never looked at the world this way through a hand lens—it was an entirely different world.
My advice to new BE volunteers is to be open-minded and learn as much as you can, even if it seems unproductive at times.
I love the environment [of the Mojave] because it is untouched.
As citizens of the environment, we can be more observant in nature by not walking by things or driving by parks and forests, but by taking the time to really look at things. Just as with my experience as a geologist working with the biology team, I never appreciated looking at the micro side of plants. There’s a picture of me on Blueprint's Facebook page of when I was using my hand lens to look at plants. There are things right beneath us, that if we only took the time to see them, we would appreciate them.
It's important to not only understand the environment we live in, but also to strive to retain it. It was here before we arrived; let's make sure it's here when we're gone.
Teresa Cabrera Vera
California State University, Fullerton
Biology and Chemistry
I applied to Blueprint Earth last year because I had previously been exposed to the Mojave Desert from biology courses at college. I greatly enjoyed having weekend trips to the desert, where I spent my time generating experiments, performing data analyses, and presenting my results to my peers. I found field research to be stimulating and enjoyable.
I am returning this year because I enjoyed the experience and loved being able to collaborate with other disciplines, such as geology and engineering. I am constantly searching to be challenged and hope that this trip will do so again.
During my previous BE trip, I remember arriving at the site and being completely surprised by a flowing stream in the middle of the desert. I later came to realize that the desert, despite common misconceptions, is a home to a variety of organisms, big and small.
My advice to new BE volunteers is to be willing to be challenged and go outside your comfort zone. Always be open to new opportunities.
I love the environment because it makes me feel at peace.
As citizens of the environment, we can be more observant in nature by always being respectful to everything in the environment, despite its size. Every organism plays a vital role in contributing to the overall ecological makeup of a greater community.
California State University, Northridge
I’m so excited to be invited to participate in my first outing with Mission Mojave!
I’ve been applying for over a year because it seems like it will be a great experience and an interesting project.
I am in love with all aspects of earth science, from academic research to getting dirty out in the wilderness.
I love the environment because I feel like I owe it so much. The Earth literally gave us life and sustains us, so I feel that we are indebted to sustain the environment. I also love how there are so many scientific mysteries in the world that we can investigate.
When I’m out in the field, or collecting data on a GIS using aerial imagery, I feel like a detective finding clues to solve a great problem. Some problems are extremely important for us to solve, like anthropogenic climate change and ways to reduce the use of polluting fossil fuels.
As citizens of the environment, it’s important for us to be more observant in nature because we are 100 percent part of nature, and if we carelessly turn our backs and change our environment too much to make it more “comfortable” for humans, we are going to paint ourselves into a corner that may be very difficult or impossible to get out of.
We have the power to change our environment in a big way. Unlike all other life forms, we really have to take that responsibility seriously in every aspect of our lives.