Every week in the climate, science, social justice, and environmental spaces is as diverse as Uproot’s membership. Field Notes are snapshots of the varied experiences that make our community so vibrant.
Name: Neel Dhanesha
Location: Washington, DC
Job description: I’m a founding staff writer at Heatmap, a climate journalism startup.
Years of experience in your job: 4
Social media handles: @neel_dhan on Twitter
One word to describe your week: Unusual!
A Week in the Life
This isn’t a typical week for me — I’m joining the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources for their workshop on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. We started in Boise after SEJ (where I attended the first Uproot National Convening) and headed east, spending Sunday night at a gorgeous guest ranch outside Salmon, Idaho. Our destination for Monday night is West Yellowstone, Montana, and we all pile onto a bus to get there. Along the way, we meet with people working to conserve the eponymous salmon in the town of Salmon and, later in the day, with Shane Doyle of Native Nexus, who talks to us about the indigenous history of the area now known as Yellowstone National Park.
We start the day by joining USGS and NPS bear biologists on a short hike on a trail that’s still thick with snow, even in late April — I sink up to my calves, trying my best to listen to them tell us about the hard task of creating migration corridors for the bears while trying to keep snow out of my boots. But it’s a gorgeous day, and the bears are so fascinating that I eventually just embrace the snow. Back on the bus, we all kick off our boots as we leave for the Fort Hall reservation in Idaho, home of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes. When we reach the reservation, members of the tribe talk us through efforts to conserve animals on their own lands before we spend the night at the casino on the reservation. I finally get a chance to peel off my damp socks and check my email; cell service has been sporadic, and while I’m not expected to work while I’m on this trip, I like to make sure I’m not missing anything important.
This is the last day of our workshop, but it doesn’t mean it’s any less busy. We start with a visit to the Minidoka National Historic Landmark, where we meet with some of the local stakeholders in an ongoing, extremely contentious fight over a proposed wind farm (my friend and fellow participant in this workshop, Rachel Cohen, has been covering this for a couple of years, and I highly recommend checking out her work for more information). After we leave Minidoka, we go to a nearby ranch for lunch and a conversation with the ranchers about how they’re using their grazing allotments as a tool for conservation. Afterwards, we head back to Boise, where we get one last group dinner.
Traveling from Boise to DC is a daylong affair; I’ve got about eight hours of travel, and I use my time to catch up on Slack and emails. Heatmap is a very new publication — we launched in March — that is slowly bringing on more writers, and I set up a time to talk with one potential writer for tomorrow. I spend a little time looking over my notes and transferring my photos from my camera to my laptop and external hard drives (always have a backup!) but mostly read and sleep on the plane.
I’m back at work, and my day starts with an edit meeting at 9:30. I chat with the writer we’re planning to hire — for now, the team is so small that we’re all taking the time to make our own impressions of whomever else we want to bring on, but I imagine that will change as we grow. A study about indoor heat that I’ve been wanting to write about is finally out, so I set up a couple of calls for Monday while I go through the study myself. At the end of the day, I reward myself for a long week of socializing by staying in, putting my phone on do not disturb, and playing a video game.
Saturday and Sunday:
A friend and fellow journalist who I usually go climbing with convinced me to sign up for sailing lessons with her, and they start this weekend. Between climbing, sailing, and — I hope — field reporting, I’ve decided it’s going to be a summer of outdoor adventure.
From the Wild:
What’s your current beverage of choice?
South Indian filter coffee, now and forever.
Three most-used emojis?
What do you never leave home without?
Eye drops – allergy season is upon us, and my contacts aren’t happy.
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