After graduating from The University of Virginia with a masters in conservation biology, I moved back to California where I spent two years learning a very different side of conservation: the implementation and regulation of environmental law.
As an assistant biologist for LSA Associates, an environmental consulting firm, I spent the majority of my time writing, re-writing, and writing again. The process of filling for environmental permits, and showing compliance to said permits, can feel like an unending march of hundred page reports, meetings with the clients, and a very persnickety governmental review board. At times this could seem quite arduous, but in truth, I do love to write. So I instead left LSA feeling as if I had completed a graduate course in how to show patience, accept criticism, and simply just write better.
Outside of my office work, I also managed to land myself in some unique field situations.
One night, for example, saw me trudging up the LA river under an overpass in Compton, awkwardly stumbling over trash and rocks in my waiter-covered feet, as I clung one hand tightly around the small black sonic computer, and the other attempted to steadily wave left to right high above my head while it held the transmitter antennas. We were listening for bats.
Another night found me under a different freeway in the middle of nowhere-California wrapped in a flannel blanket, sitting on a piece of cardboard, and pretending not to notice the clear vagabond vibe I was emitting as I monitored a bird nest. I remember the construction workers on top of the bridge seeming very far away from my post in the darkened cold. It was a long night.
These moments, along with many more, enriched another lesson that LSA taught me: the importance of loving the people you work with. I had amazing coworkers, and their support, humor, guidance, and general friendship were the most difficult things to leave when I moved to Thailand. They made the long days in the office, or the challenging moments in the field, less like a burden and more like an adventure. I can only hope that my future occupations will support as much camaraderie.