As I wonder if each snow fall will be the last of the season, my need to return back into the field grows. I have spent the winter knowing that my job will continue onto the next season, all the while I have been patiently waiting on news for a possible new adventure. Perhaps the grandest of them all…. thus far. And finally my future adventures have been confirmed.
I have fed my cravings for nature with random hikes in nearby state parks. Some to Raccoon Creek State Park to trudge through inches of snow on the trails and admire the layered icicles of the frozen mineral springs. Another trip on that off day where the snow melted as the temperature rose to a warm 60 degrees in the midst of winter. None of this has been quite enough to battle the 40+ hours a week of working in front of the computer. Even now I feel guilty as I type this, as it only means that I am yet again, in front of my computer. But then I cough uncontrollably for a moment, a reminder of the fatigue this bronchitis has caused- cough attacks are constant, and increasing as I breath in the cold air- making hiking next to impossible. But the cough will fade and hopefully it will be replaced with an increase of energy and ambition.
Next weekend I will return to the forest, as our searches for bat and bird carcasses will soon begin. My return will also mark 1 year in Pennsylvania. My time in Pennsylvania has been balanced with 2/3 of my time in the forest and a 1/3 of my time in Braddock. Through the winter in Braddock, friendships have grown. We’ve shared vegan meals, some large potlucks and many last minute dinners and lunches in one house or the next. Laughter over cartoons while eating cookies, candy and breakfast anytime of the day. Hikes through the forest and around the city. Long talks with cats in our laps. Bowls of popcorn and mugs of tea. Punk shows in the city and in the warehouse with the sounds of skateboards between sets. Lifting weights and holding planks. Friendships that will last even though I have to add this place to the long list of places I have once lived.
Ready for a new chapter in my life. One that I have dreamed of reaching since a very young age and now I have the opportunity. The opportunity to earn a PhD in biology. My field research begins in May. Summer adventures (research!) in the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee in search of Indiana bats and then to Terre Haute, Indiana in August to study at Indiana State University under the advisement of Dr. Joy O’Keefe. I have really missed academia since graduating with my master’s in 2010 and am looking forward to the challenges ahead. More details soon, but this next month is going to be a busy one with moving around and training the new PA wind energy crew before I depart. I am quite excited about all of this!