This month, we want to talk about lobos with grit, and our 2018-2019 Wildland Plant Identification Team is an excellent example of grit. This competitive Sul Ross team participated in the National Society for Range Management Meeting in February to finish 10th out of 27 international teams. We had the chance to sit down with Erica Dunn ‘19 and Walter Flocke ’19 to talk about their competitions over the past year, and what leaving a legacy means to them.
When asked what drew them to plant identification Erica stated, “I wanted to do something apart from school, where I was still able to learn.” The first time that our natural resource management program lobos encounter plant identification, is in Dr. Bonnie Warnock’s Wildland Plants class. Erica mentioned the difference between the required class, which is heavily experiential with many days spent outside in the field, and learning about plants in a more autonomous and highly hands-on way.
As well as this instinct to learn, Erica and Walter cited a very convincing sales pitch from longtime plant ID coach, Roy Saffel, as one of the reasons they joined the team. “When you’re talking about leaving a legacy,” Walter said, “Roy is the person who has really revived this team.”
When we asked these students how participation with this team would help after graduation, they spoke about professionals in their industry stressing the importance of plant identification as a sought after skill. We also asked what the number one thing they have learned from their competitions. Erica says, “Don’t look at the next plant, focus on the one in front of you.” Walter added, “Don’t get discouraged, there are so many plants and you’re bound to make a few mistakes.”
There was one last burning question for these two plant enthusiasts, and that was what is your favorite West Texas native plant? Erica’s response, “Leptochloa dubia (Green Sprangletop),” and Walter said, “Pinus ponderosa, (Ponderosa pine),” when asked why Walter spoke of his admiration for all things tall.
Speaking with lobos who are leaving their legacy here at Sul Ross State, reminds us of the importance of learning outside of the classroom, and always continuing our education.
By Sarah Carsrud ’19