Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ending Where I Began

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. 



  1. This is a lovely flower.I hope the change in your career will be for your good and that you will enjoy this new page in your life.

  2. Hate to see you go Tom. I have really enjoyed working with you. Good luck with DOW.

  3. Gorgeous orchid Tom. Such a sad time in Ohio history. -Renee

  4. Great ending piece, Tom! How ironic that you would start and end with the dragon's-mouth orchid! It is a favorite plant of mine too and one I used to monitor. It is a very sad chapter to see the end of DNAP, but I know you will do well in DOW and have new opportunities to explore the great natural habitat of Ohio.

  5. Congrats! And best wishes for another chapter!

  6. Wonderful, and yet, sad post Tom. Wishing you the best on your new carreer with DOW... and hoping for the best for Ohio's Nature Preserves.


  7. I don't have much different to say, but I feel the same as the other responders. This is such a sad and beautiful post. Thanks for the orchid pics. Good luck at the DOW and I hope for the best for our natural areas and preserves. It feels so wrong to type that in lower case...


  8. Thank you for your beautiful post. I'm so sad about DNAP.

  9. Great post, Tom. Good luck with the new position at DOW.

  10. Tommy, this post brought back so many wonderful memories, and yes, some tears. It has flown by. And now, you have been able to do what you always wanted to do , explore nature, what you ALWAYS did as a little boy out in the back yard, or in the creek, or even on the golf course, when you brought home turtles instead of lost balls! You have been able to achieve your dreams, and I am so thankful for that. I'm also thankful for those early mentors like Emliss Ricks and Ron Etling who helped guide you along the way. I'm so proud of you, and know you will continue your journey wholeheartedly and successfully in your new opportunity at DOW.
    Much love,

  11. Thank you everyone- All of your words are much appreciated.

  12. Tom, very cool story. And I'm glad I got to share part of it with you.


    P.S. Great pics. Yours put mine to shame.

  13. Hi Tom-
    Those were wonderful times as we discovered the beauty of our natural areas; I am glad to have been able to share them with you. Your intelligence and sensitivity will be great assets for DOW. I only hope that we can continue to protect the rarities that we monitored and cared for all those years.