Friday, March 27, 2009

ahh, Springville

The following are signs that Springville, Utah is a boring place to live:
1. I am planning to drive an hour to Salt Lake City next Friday night to go to shabbat services because it is something to do, there will be (normal) people there, and drinking is not considered a grievous sin.
2. I read the Provo area classified craigslist adds, delighting in the multitude of ones that read “I am bored, let’s make out” (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, for an interesting look at local culture, see the M4M section…)
3. Sneaking into a LDS church sounded like fun
4. I thought about responding to some of those craigslist adds
5. I get bored studying for the GRE, try to procrastinate but can’t find anything more enthralling then studying for the GRE
6. I watched figure skating on TV
7. I look forward to going back to work on Monday.

I am sure once I make friends and it gets warm enough to be outside comfortably, living in Springville, Utah will become more appealing. But for now, thank goodness work is really awesome… because Springville sure isn’t.

And, stay tuned for future episodes featuring: polygamist pizza, fish handling techniques, gas station romance, and carp genetics.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I have moved to Utah

Some mud really stinks. I am not talking about your everyday, take dirt and add water variety: that just smells like wet dirt. I am talking about the black stuff that oozes up around your waders, gurgling as it slowly swallows your ankles, then knees, and then squelchingly threatens to suck you down to some anoxic netherworld. For being mostly desert Utah has a lot of mud. I might be a tad biased in this assessment as my new job involves frog surveys. Aquatic frogs like water and water is a key ingredient in mud. While practicing mud wading I am also gaining new skills like farm animal evasion, barbed wire fence climbing, and fish grabbing. And I get paid for this, sweet!
Officially, I am a wildlife technician working for the aquatics division of the Utah department of wildlife resources. Our main focus is to survey endangered amphibians and nonsport fish in the central region of Utah (which turns out to be most of the state). Occasionally we (there are two techs) are borrowed by one of the other fish biologists when they need extra hands. Yesterday the June Sucker (an endangered fish with a funny looking mouth) biologists wanted help tagging 5,000 captive bred fish so the suckers could be released. Tagging a fish with a coded metal wire tag involves grabbing a fish from the bucket, holding the slimy wriggling thing still, then jamming a bit of wire into it before chucking it into the fish run, and repeat…… for another 4,999 fish. This is definitely a new skill for the resume.
Work is a lot of fun. We jump between tasks and field sites almost daily so I think it should continue to be interesting. The Aquatics division is predominantly staffed by fish biologists and I think I might be the token “amphibian biologist”. We are going to be doing some chytrid swabbing later in the summer and the bosses are thrilled that I already know what a swab is. As the amphibian person I have an excuse for my complete deficiency in fisheries knowledge and skills. So, in trade for being a walking source of amphibian chytrid information I get to learn how to be a fishery biologist, not a bad deal at all.
I made it to Utah on Sunday night and started work at 7am Monday morning. We work 10 hour days (with three day weekends) and I haven’t really had time to experience much of the area. I live in Springville, about an hour south of Salt Lake City. The town itself is flat but the mountains begin along the eastern edge where the houses end. There are lakes on the western side, but I am not entirely sure where…. They take street numbering very seriously here; it is so ordered that I keep getting lost. There is always a Center St perpendicular to a Main St, and all the streets are numbered going off in the cardinal directions from there (i.e. the corner of 200 S and 1350 W). Sure this sounds straightforward but if you need to find 130 E it is probably a dead end somewhere that can only be reached by zigzagging across every prime numbered integer between 3 and infinity. I can see the benefits of the system, but I do seem to spend a chunk of each day lost (which is also because they are doing some major road construction and have closed a few very important streets- and nobody told google maps!).
Things to do, streets to get lost on, and a town house to move into….