Five-Minute Field Notes: Ruth Dickey-Chasins

If we don’t understand the world in which we live, how can we care for it properly?

Ruth Dickey-Chasins, a Blueprint Earth intern this summer, is learning about science, the desert, and cool life tricks, like "making a sand shovel out of a cooler."

Hello, world! My name is Ruth Dickey-Chasins, and this summer I am working with Blueprint Earth as an intern. I am a junior at Smith College, where I major in American Studies and French.

During my second week on the job, I was lucky enough to go on an expedition to the field site—a true introduction to California! Our team of five left at the crack of 4 a.m., hoping to escape the worst of the heat, but we ran into some traffic delays. However, the delays were quickly forgotten when we got to the desert. Seeing the Mojave Desert for the first time was an experience like no other, mainly because our truck spun itself up to the bumpers in sand, and the whole team uttered a few choice words.

I spent the majority of our trip on my stomach under the truck, scraping away sand from the axles. This wasn’t a bad experience, though, since I was able to use my smaller size to contribute to the team effort. Even though I am still finding sand in places I never knew existed, I was able to get up close and personal with the Mojave in the first 20 minutes.

As a young woman raised almost entirely in the cornfields of Iowa, my concept of “desert” was far from the reality: I was expecting lots of sand and not much else. I was surprised and intrigued by the abundance of plants and animals, and the rich geological history of the area.

The heat was staggering at first, but after a while I was too busy gaping at the desert around me and trying to take in everything that I could to be bothered by the heat. I’m pretty sure I asked “What’s that?” at least 50 times, but the other volunteers gladly shared their knowledge and were patient in answering my questions.

We spent several hours of our expedition digging our truck out of the sand, but that still didn’t detract from my experience. The field trip convinced me that science is not out of reach—it is something that is accessible and important for everyone. If we don’t understand the world in which we live, how can we care for it properly? Until that point, I had a very different concept of both the desert and scientific research itself. I didn’t realize that science learning could be so hands-on.

Visiting the field site made me want to go back to school and study biology—just so I can get back outside! I have always studied the humanities, accepting the common (and false) belief that scientific skill is innate, not learned.

However, my background in humanities doesn’t prohibit me from learning and getting involved with the important scientific work of Blueprint Earth. An interdisciplinary approach is exactly what makes the desert so fascinating. Each person on our team had a new perspective to contribute and something to teach, even if it was simply “this is how you make a sand shovel out of a cooler.”

So now my question is: When can I go back?



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