Kruse Control

Written by Pam Garrettson
Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Pam Garrettson.We completed the eastern Dakotas survey last Thursday, May 19th, a record early finish. We started early and only had two weather days. Conversely, the western Dakotas ground crew, led by Tony Roberts, got snowed on in Montana, and that, plus a few other complications, delayed them a week, so they finished the same day we did. We both found, contrary to last year, much wetter conditions in southern South Dakota, then drier conditions as we moved north. So we all met up in Minot, sent two of my crew back to Denver with the Eastern Dakotas truck (thanks to Dave Olson in the region 6 office), and Tony and I began the two-day drive back to Maryland.

A couple of years ago I learned how to use cruise control on one of the long drives from Maryland to South Dakota. In the hilly, crowded east, I have little use for it, but in the middle of Iowa, it’s less fatiguing. It also helps prevent cases of “I’m not used to driving a big V-8 diesel and “Born to Run” came on the radio, and suddenly I was doing 90, officer, I swear…”

On the long trip back I had time to reflect on the survey, this year’s excellent crew, and all the people I have been privileged to work with over the years. For the first time since 2003, Kammie Kruse didn’t participate on a BPOP ground crew because she took a new job as an FWS biologist in Region 2 in Albuquerque. Each year the survey brings together different people with diverse backgrounds and skill sets from across the US and Canada, and they work together for a common purpose. I always learn a lot from my crew. For instance, Stephen Lejuene is an expert at firefighting and performing prescribed burns, so we all learned a lot about the on-the-ground application of this important habitat management tool.

Having a diverse team can be great, because ideally, you get different perspectives, skills and ideas (I call it neurological diversity) that can be leveraged to help solve a problem. Provided you don’t drive each other nuts in the process. Kammie and I both care deeply about and have worked hard to improve the survey, but we are, shall we say, “neurologically diverse.” Kammie is very organized, meticulous, and methodical. I am none of these things. I have a brain that likes to chase ideas like a border collie herding butterflies.

She’s better with numbers; I’m better with words. I’m not exactly a morning person, but Kammie definitely isn’t. We learned to leverage each others' strengths and hopefully made the survey better. She thought of details I never even thought to think of, and I urged her to forget the ones that didn’t matter. She learned to at least listen to my “90-mph” ideas. She put the brakes on some (“Ummm, no…”) but took others to heart and usually vastly improved them. The survey is better because of Kammie’s work, and I’m a better person for having worked with her. It was great to know we could call her if a question came up. Just not at 6 in the morning (though we were soooo tempted). Thanks Kammie.

Kammie Kruse crunching numbers during the 2014 ground survey in South Dakota. After twelve years of involvement, Kammie's presence is sorely missed after taking a new position with the FWS in Albuquerque. Photo Credit: Kammie Kruse, USFWS.

Kammie Kruse crunching numbers during the 2014 ground survey in South Dakota. After twelve years of involvement, Kammie's presence is sorely missed after taking a new position with the FWS in Albuquerque. Photo Credit: Kammie Kruse, USFWS.

Clay Edmondson surveying a wetland from the truck near Plaza, North Dakota. Photo Credit: Pam Garrettson, USFWS.

Clay Edmondson surveying a wetland from the truck near Plaza, North Dakota. Photo Credit: Pam Garrettson, USFWS.

Clay Edmondson walking along a wetland near Plaza, North Dakota. Photo Credit: Pam Garrettson, USFWS.

Clay Edmondson walking along a wetland near Plaza, North Dakota. Photo Credit: Pam Garrettson, USFWS.

Helina Alvarez surveying a large wetland near Kenmare, North Dakota. Photo Credit: Pam Garrettson, USFWS.

Helina Alvarez surveying a large wetland near Kenmare, North Dakota. Photo Credit: Pam Garrettson, USFWS.

Stephen Lejuene surveying a wetland near Plaza, North Dakota. Photo Credit: Pam Garrettson, USFWS.

Stephen Lejuene surveying a wetland near Plaza, North Dakota. Photo Credit: Pam Garrettson, USFWS.