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Lessons learned


By Melissa Gearman

As with anything in life, working on a field crew with Conservation Corps has taught me many lessons. Some I can use in my everyday life while others don’t transfer so well. With the help of my crew I have created a list of some of the most important. This list is just the tip of the iceberg. Given time and some serious motivation I could probably write a book on the subject.

  1. Do not create more work for yourself. Does the opening in the log jam really need to be bigger? Is that tree really a hazard tree? Is it really going to fall on top of someone while they’re on the latrine? If the answer to these or similar questions is no, back away. We have learned the hard way that not following this piece of advice can create a bigger problem that is going to take more time and a field coordinator to help fix.
  2. Put the tortillas in a Ziploc bag!!! And this goes for any food that does not taste good soggy or wet. I don’t know how many times we’ve lost a perfectly good bag of tortillas or bread to the dreaded melted ice at the bottom of the cooler. Ziploc bags are a godsend.
  3. Keep your tools in good working condition. We learn this one at the beginning of the year but it is always a lesson best learned through experience. A poorly sharpened saw is a terrible tool to work with. Keeping the saw sharp keeps us happy.
  4. Keep a tight grip on the handsaws and loppers at all times. This year has been the year of the missing hand tools. Through one misstep or another we have watched a few handsaws and a couple loppers fall to the depths of the river never to be seen again.
  5. Don’t forget the bug spray. Sometimes it’s the most obvious things we tend to forget. There is nothing like lunch in a soggy place to make sure we never forget the bug juice again.
  6. Take time to find the perfect tent location. It will rain. In the wrong spot the rain will pool in the depression and you will wake up with wet being and soggy clothes.
  7. Under no circumstances is food to be left out overnight! One word: raccoons. Those guys are smart and devilish. No matter how well the food is hidden or placed in such a way that we think they can’t get into them they find a way. The coolers have claw and chew marks to prove that.
  8. Always keep the phone and other valuables in a safe location. Pockets are not considered safe locations in this line of work. They tend to force the item out at the most inconvenient times (like when you’re leaning over the boat… goodbye phone).
  9. Always keep a spare prop on the boat. If the prop breaks while we’re working on the river, we are straight out of luck and will have to paddle the boat back down the river. Heaven forbid if we’re downstream from the access. 
  10. Forgetting sunscreen will create some very interesting tan lines. Working on the river and having to take into consideration the sun’s reflection off the water made for some interesting sun burns early on.