Thursday, May 27, 2010
Driving back from northeast Ohio today, I had one of those "ah-ha" moments, and it was all sparked by one little pink flower that grows in a fen in Portage County.
Exactly eleven years ago right now, I was preparing to start my conservation career with State of Ohio. I had just been hired by Preserve Manager Emliss Ricks as a college intern. I'd be assisting with the care of a system of State Nature Preserves across northeast Ohio. I would come to learn that the preserves in this system harbored some of the rarest plants and animals in the state, and after a week on the job or so, I was hooked, and knew what I wanted to do the rest of my life.
The very first day in the field, Emliss brought me to a wonderful place called a fen. And in this fen grew an orchid that grew nowhere else in Ohio. An orchid so rare that sometimes only one or two individual flowers are seen each year. I knew this orchid was special, because people came drove two and half hours from Columbus just to see it.
Fast forward eleven years and I'm that person driving from Columbus. Two years as a summer worker, two years of graduate school, and seven years working in the central office of the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves has flashed by like a lightning bolt. I've had the fantastic opportunity to explore Ohio's most interesting natural areas. And today I returned to where it all started. And this day was my last day in the field as an employee of the Division of Natural Areas & Preserves. Tomorrow, I move my office to the Olentangy Wildlife Research Station, where I'll begin a new page in my career with the Division of Wildlife.
The purpose of today's field outing, which I had scheduled long before I had figured out my moving date, was to document two other rare species- one called lesser panicled sedge and another called bog bluegrass. We needed updated information on these populations, and I chose late May to catch them when they were both easily viewable. The orchid wouldn't be ready yet, or so I thought- I'd be about 10 days too early.
But as you can see, the orchid was blooming- everything is early this year and the Arethusa bulbosa was holding true to that pattern. And then it hit me on the drive back to Columbus. I had ended my career in the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves exactly where it started 11 years ago...standing in a fen in portage county, admiring the beauty of the dragon's mouth orchid.