I clearly remember the moment when I received a phone call from Peter Stegen offering me the internship with the Platte Basin Timelapse project. It was the summer before my freshman year of college at UNL, and I was casually hiking in the Colorado Rockies in preparation for the next morning’s hike to the top of Long’s Peak. I told Peter that I was thrilled to accept the position and soon joined the PBT team as an eager shiny new storyteller. 

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Taken at Nymph Lake seconds after ending the call with Pete Stegen, and accepting the internship with PBT.

I have now been with the Platte Basin Timelapse project for over a year. At first, my work focused on building time-lapse videos, which required that I scan thousands of images and make selections that would tell a story from a single camera location over time. Admittedly, the volume of images was intimidating, and as I sat flipping through image after image after image, my eagerness dwindled a bit. I soon began to wonder: “Why am I doing this? Who is interested in seeing a single point on Earth change over time? What is the story we are trying to tell? What’s the point?

 

It wasn’t until I went into the field with the PBT team that I was able to see what it was all about. I was finding answers to these questions. On my first outing, we joined Andy Caven, lead biologist at the Crane Trust, on a bird and vegetation survey. I found his meticulous and full attention demanding work to be very impressive. The diversity of even a square meter plot or the many previously unnoticed birds flying through my field of vision was astonishing.

Since then, I’ve watched and supported the team and have been along for the ride through this busy year of projects. I’ve witness the team travel up to the Switzer Ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills to photograph a cattle drive and their Annual Prairie Chicken Festival. Just recently, I returned from a nine-day stay to shoot the heterogeneity in the Sandhills.  The team has finished education pieces on terns and plovers and Platte River prairies, began a new project with beavers, visited sandhill crane blinds, gone out to photograph flooding through the basin, recently welcomed back Michael Forsberg and Pete Stegen from their two-month Braided Journey down the watershed, and everything in between.

 

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At the Crane Trust, Andy Caven and others perform a meticulous grass species survey during my first field day last fall. (Carlee Koehler) Within the first week of crane season, I was able to head back to the Crane Trust and have my first look out a crane blind. (Mariah Lundgren)

 

 

 

Over my time I’ve seen team members go, and new ones join. I’ve witnessed slower times in the office and hectic days in the spring. As I scanned thousands of images of the Platte Basin through the seasons– seeing the rivers rise and fall and shrink and stretch over time– I realize that each image is an ingredient for the larger story. It is now so clear to me what this is all about. I get the point. 

 

 

My work on the PBT project has been an invaluable experience and has shown me that stories are complex; that the Platte Basin is a dynamic system. Water is a critical resource on which all species depend; that we take our natural resources for granted; that it’s important to understand the hidden life of plants and animals who share our environment; that the world never stops changing.

 

The point is to bring this beautiful process of change to attention.

 

 

Located 5 miles north of Granby, Colorado, the Willow Creek Reservoir holds water as part of the Bureau of Reclamation's Colorado-Big Thompson Project, pumping water from the upper reaches of the Colorado River watershed on the West Slope to the Front Range and urban metro on the East Slope. While not in the Platte Basin, the water in Willow Creek Reservoir is eventually pumped into the South Platte watershed where it waters a growing urban population and serves agricultural needs on Colorado's eastern plains.
Willow Creek. Captured by the time-lapse camera

 

What the PBT team is trying to accomplish is to capture the story and importance of the basin and bring it forward for others to see and experience. I genuinely feel fortunate to work on the PBT team with so many incredible people. I look forward to the next adventures and to continue sharing the grand story of the Platte Basin. 

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