Business Trip #3

I have written previously about business trips I have taken here and here. I undertook business trip #3 (hence this post's title) this past weekend to central Utah. Yes, it was Memorial Day weekend, and it was on short notice, because the originally-scheduled workers couldn't make it. Me and one of the bosses helped out with owl surveys on National Forest land slated for oil and gas exploration. Since owls are nocturnal, we began the surveys at 7:30 pm, ending at 3:45 am the first two nights, and 2 am the last night. The protocol for the surveys was as follows.
  • Hike along transect to survey point (points are located at 1/4 mile intervals).
  • Listen for owls for two minutes
  • Play 30-second recording of owl calls.
  • Listen for two minutes.
  • Repeat steps 3 and 4.
  • Proceed to next point.
We navigated from point to point using a handheld computer with GPS software and topographic maps on it. The transect lines were also flagged, but the flags were sometimes hard to find. My boss/survey partner did some navigation by stars as well.

The highlight of the weekend was the helicopter rides. Oh yes, helicopter. We hired it to expedite the surveying process. Instead of hiking several miles to the starting point of our night's work, the helicopter took us there, saving lots of time. I wasn't nervous about the rides until the pre-flight briefing, during which I was told to make sure I put my head directly into the chopper after climbing up the step, because otherwise my head would be "close to the rotor assembly." I made sure to heed that advice.

The lowlight of the weekend was all the dead trees we had to climb over. Much of our midnight hiking took place off-trail, and the brush was thick in many places. I was tempted to start a fire to clear things out, but that would have put me in danger.

In general, the work was long, arduous, and, to me, kind of pointless. But I earned some points at work, and since I worked on Memorial Day, I now have a make-up vacation day to use at my discretion.

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