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The sun sets on an intern’s time at Mono Lake

September 12th, 2017 by Mono Lake Committee Staff

This post was written by Molly Casey, 2017 Mono Lake Intern.

I had been in the computer lab at Colorado State University all day working on my final GIS project when I received the call that I was being offered a position as an intern with the Mono Lake Committee for the summer. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to hear that I would be spending my summer with the Mono Lake Committee. I got an A on that project, graduated with my BS in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, and moved to Lee Vining in a flash.

During this beautiful day of training early in the summer, all the new seasonal staff were learning about Mono Lake’s ecology from Education Director Bartshe Miller. Photo by Ava Stavros.

I had never been to Mono Lake before so I really didn’t know what I was in for, but my expectations for the summer were exceeded ten-fold. I will never forget the first time I saw Mono Lake: I was driving in from Highway 120 East and when the lake came into my view I couldn’t believe how huge it was. I knew it was going to be big, but it is truly vast. My first thought was “this is where I work now,” and I was ecstatic at that moment that I had earned this amazing opportunity and that I got to live here all summer.

I kept driving, moved into my summer home at the Mono Basin Field Station, and met my new roommates. The next morning I took a drive through the June Lake Loop, hiked until I met snow (which wasn’t very far at the end of May) and thought to myself “this is where I live now.” This was my first time in the Eastern Sierra so I hadn’t realized how gorgeous they were going to be and how lucky I was. I knew then that my summer would be full of exploration and adventure, and I was right.

We started training soon after I arrived. Training was two weeks long and I learned more about the Mono Basin than I believed was possible. We all quickly became experts and the daunting task of giving tours and directions to visitors quickly became second nature. The thorough training we received not only taught me about the lake’s ecology, history, and politics, but also connected me with Mono Lake in all its fragility and individuality.

One of my canoe trips ready to take off from Navy Beach, featuring my partner, Jack (back passenger), who came to visit for the weekend all the way from Salt Lake City. Photo by Julissa Rosales.

I was able to connect others with the lake by giving walking and canoe tours at South Tufa. It was so rewarding to be able to teach people about the lake, to see their faces when they taste an alkali fly pupa, to hear their amazement that brine shrimp are only found in Mono Lake, and to inspire thoughtfulness when I tell them that the migratory birds at Mono Lake affect ecosystems throughout the hemisphere.

I was able to get out on Grant Lake Reservoir a few times this summer to assist with the Committee’s monitoring project. Our four-legged crew member, Taz, was always very eager to help—he loves science. Photo by Robbie DiPaolo.

I also organized our weekly Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists talks where local researchers presented their studies every Wednesday. It was really fun to see our lovely volunteers, members, and visitors at the presentations. As I sat in on the talks every week, I was so impressed by the incredible research that is happening all around this area. I learned a lot from the different scientists who donated their time in our gallery. It will definitely feel like something is missing on Wednesday afternoons when my time here is over.

I took this photo on a hazy South Tufa tour. My group was able to share this incredible moment when the bright pink sun fell behind the Sierra Nevada. Photo by Molly Casey.

My next move is to Lake Tahoe. I will be a naturalist at Great Basin Outdoor School through the end of October. I am excited to continue to connect people to the natural world and educate about the importance of preserving our natural resources.

I am thankful to the Mono Lake Committee for helping me continue to learn and grow after I earned my degree, for creating a safe home for the summer of 2017, and for standing by their commitment to protect, restore, and educate about Mono Lake. Words can only begin to express how grateful I am for the opportunity to be a part of amazing non-profit like this one.

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