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Confessions of a Seasonal: A Learning Experience

Written on: September 5th, 2016 in Wetland Assessments

Tess taking the wetlands boat for a spin.

Tess taking the wetlands boat for a spin.

by Tess Strayer

This summer has truly been a summer for the books. I have not only garnered knowledge and skills for my future career but I have also learned a lot of practical life lessons. I was recently asked, what was one thing you have done on this job that you hadn’t expected to learn or do? At first, I thought that I had pretty much followed the job description and hadn’t been thrown any curve balls. Then I got to thinking about all the little things that make our job possible. Some I picked up really easily, others were a #fieldworkfail at first.

One of the coolest things I learned this summer was how to drive our boat, a modest 16 ft. shallow bottom metal dinghy. I learned steering a boat is extremely different than driving a car and turning the boat means pointing the tiller in the opposite direction. I also learned how important it is to stay calm when the motor shuts off and you are careening towards a bridge and a dock. (The thing to do is to restart the motor, calmly, not screaming and flailing.)

With boating comes trailering, a skill that I am determined to perfect maybe on some real boat ramps. It seems that all boat ramps that we used this summer were barely more than a small slab of cement. However sketchy the boat ramp, I am slowly but surely backing the trailer (kind of) straight down the ramp.

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Cattail plant

Plant ID has been one of the most challenging skills I have been working on this summer to master. It is quite challenging as the plants at each site are very different and scientific names are tricky in themselves. Not only do you have to learn what the plant looks like (and remember it), you also have to learn Latin! Not only have I been learning many of Delaware’s wetland plants, I have also been learning what plants you can eat and what plants will slice you and draw blood. Fun Fact: you can eat every part of a cattail.

All in all, I ended up learning and doing so much more than what I bargained for this summer and so much more than what my job description called for. The full time staff do not get the credit they deserve for the hard work do and the dedication they show into protecting Delaware’s wetlands. This is not a job for those aren’t passionate about science and wetland protection.



Delaware Wetland Management & Assessment Program
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