Nebraska: Not in a Coffee Table Book

March 4, 2014

I’ve been asked to document my educational experience with PBT, so here is my introduction. My name is Emma and I was born and raised in Connecticut (not the argyle & tie section of the state, but the Appalachian trail, FFA-loving, small town part- yes that exists), and arrived in the Midwest to attend graduate school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I had no experience, no connection, and no expectations of Nebraska.

My first prairie experience in Nebraska. Photo by Emma Brinley Buckley.

A little bit about me: I’m a masters student in the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at UNL studying Natural Resources with a concentration in Applied Ecology. The research I am involved with uses the Platte Basin Timelapse’s images as a foundation for communicating complex system changes. It also incorporates bioacoustics, remote sensing, and water quality monitoring. I am an only child (but my cousin is like my sister), when I was little my best friend was a tree (still might be), and I thought spinach was a dessert. What brought me here was the opportunity to further my education through the combination of two of my passions, photography and the natural environment. Living in a place I had never been (driving on I-80 is not visiting) seemed like a perk to me; a new place, new adventures, new people. Before arriving in Nebraska I suppose I questioned my decision to move here, a little. What I knew of Nebraska was corn, flat, square, football.

My cousin informed me she had read a coffee table book about places to visit in the United States. “There wasn’t mention of Nebraska.”

My mom’s response was similar. “Oh, I’ve always wanted to go to Nebraska!” “Why?” “Because I have no idea what is there.”

My first night in Lincoln was the last home football game of 2012. I went downtown to grab a drink, watch the game, and become a Husker. There were more people in the bar than the population of the last town I lived in. People kept saying hi, holding doors, talking to me about football stats like it was common knowledge, and acting like we were neighbors growing up. Where was I?

My first-weekend trip was a drive to the Sandhills. Some of my first thoughts consisted of, “There are cacti in Nebraska?” “How do you go sledding?” “I guess train crossing bars aren’t necessary in Nebraska because you can see so far.” “I understand Western movies.” I drove around investigating the horizon for hours (“just a little further down this dirt road… just over this hill.”), amazed at the endless quietness, clouds, and rolling sandhills. When the day started to end and the sun began to dissipate on the straight-line of an endless sky-line, I was sold.

One of my field sites at Plum Creek. Photo by Emma Brinley Buckley.

I’ve been in Nebraska a little over a year now and am continuously surprised at what Nebraska has to offer; the views, opportunities, education, nightlife, people. Call me greedy but I’m thankful that Nebraska isn’t in every coffee table book and I’m appreciative so many people have no idea what is here (besides I-80, corn, truck-stops & children of the corn). It’s calming, serene, and relaxing- the solitude that the Nebraska landscape brings. When I visit my field sites in the Central Platte I can go an entire weekend without seeing anyone (besides deer, hawks, waterfowl, turkeys, pheasants, cranes, rabbit, otter and bobcat tracks, beavers, fish…). I like that Nebraska isn’t over-popularized, a dirty/busy tourist attraction, and that there is mystery most people aren’t aware of behind the curtain of cornfields seen from I-80, and that I am just starting to discover. The slight hesitation I had about moving to the Midwest has transformed into appreciation and a blessing to not only have the phenomenal (and fun) opportunity to explore innovative scientific methods and a critical river system but to work with some pretty amazing people in a pretty great place.

These excerpts are an account of my research, adventures, and experience in Nebraska.




PBT team photo. Summer 2023

About PBT

We are a group of storytellers using timelapse photography and multimedia storytelling to explore watersheds. PBT has been in motion since 2011.

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