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The day started how one would expect when setting off for an exciting first day of outdoor field work.

It was pouring.

Skin-pelting water bombs and shoe-soaking waves,­ pouring.

Mariah, Ethan and I loaded up our gear into the back of the truck, stared up at the sky, willing it to cease fire, then set off, trying hard to focus on our 90s jams rather than think of the wetlands we’d be traipsing through in the morning.

Just when we thought it very well may rain this hard forever, the clouds silenced and the sun triumphed through just in time to paint every visible cloud and wrap it up nicely with a vibrant rainbow. The three of us didn’t waste a moment, leaping out to capture it as the colors faded to a dense grayscale. The sun had done its duty, we had done our duty, and it was time to finish the last part of the drive.

Upon arriving at the Crane Trust bunkhouse, Ethan and I were introduced to the lead biologist, Andy Caven. Andy was genuinely happy to have us there and briefly explained the morning’s events. After we were shown around, Mariah, Ethan and I grabbed the cameras and tripod and captured some starry sky photography before settling in for the night.

The sun rose and we were up and ready to go. The crew clambered into the truck again and started the off­-road drive to the survey location. There, Andy and his intern grabbed their gear and we observed as they performed their bird species assessing survey. I watched closely, amazed at Andy rattling off Latin species titles and his intern scribbling the data down in their charts.

Next on the list was the vegetation survey.  It was meticulous work. Andy began by stretching the tape measure from one post to the next and proceeded to lay the square plot at the first 10 meter mark. I was fascinated with their attempts of utmost accuracy as they crouched spreading grass clumps, examining and identifying the vegetation species, and calculating the density of each species in the area. The observation team singled out every detail using special tools and reference books before determining what it was they were looking at and recording the species into the data records.

While Mariah remained near Andy and his assistants, Ethan and I took a few moments to branch away and get some close up shots of the life we were surrounded by. My favorite was to focus on one blade of grass at a time before allowing my perspective to look just beyond, only to find a completely new species inches away. Taking time to really dig in and observe the grassland was eye-opening due to the incredible detail everywhere.

Before I knew it, the time had come for Mariah, Ethan and I to head back to NET and for me to return to college life on the UNL campus. The three of us thanked the team for making time and allowing us to capture a portion of their day. I regretfully packed up the camera, changed out of my soggy sneakers, and climbed into the car for the drive back.

So, here I am nearly two weeks later back in the office and working away on organizing images and building time-lapse videos. My first experience out in the field was a great one. I am encouraged by the people who work so hard to preserve these seemingly insignificant yet overwhelmingly important details of our local ecosystem and I am beyond excited to see where the Platte Basin Timelapse team will lead me next.

Carlee Koehler is a PBT intern and a freshman at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who plans to major in fisheries and wildlife.

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