2022 in Review...Here we come 2023

Warning: This is probably way too long. Sorry.

What a year. Personally and professionally it was a lots happened. I did a lot and learned a lot. I failed some, which I'm proud of. My wife and I welcomed a daughter. 2022 will be the year my life changed forever. Here are some highlights, some things I was thinking about and some things that just happened.

The Personal Bits

At the end of this year, my wife and I welcomed a little girl. I've always wanted to be a father. On December 4th, at 2:26 pm I got my wish. So far being a father has been easier in some ways and harder in others. I sleep more than I expected. But keeping the nugget (my daughters current nickname) happy has been more work than I expected. When she is awake she needs my wife or I every minute. My wife and I are very much trying to figure things out. Some days are wonderful. Some days end in tears. My wife and I are helping each other more than ever and that feels good. But how much I code on the side, how much I exercise, and how much I socialize are all in flux at the moment. My wife and I are both trying to go back to work as well. I get 3 months of paternity leave that I can take throughout the year. My wife has a flexible schedule. It's been hard though. I don't know how folks did it before parental leave existed.

Other than welcoming the nugget in my personal life my wife and I designed an addition that we hope to get underway this spring. We want to add on a master bedroom, master bathroom and office to our very non-traditional barndominium. More and more I feel lucky to live where I do. Living in rural Colorado with nice views and little bit of property just feel right.


The biggest thing for me this year was that I applied for several jobs. I didn't get any of them — at least so far — but it had been a while since I applied for a job and I needed to nock some rust off of my resume, my interview skills and my application. I applied to a non-government job for the first time with a tech/science water data and research organization. It would have been a full time programming job. I got two interviews, one of which was a coding interview. I did not get the job. I didn't have a lot of the skills that they needed and did a pretty poorly in the first interview with the person who would have been my boss. In the end though, I was glad I applied. It was painfully clear that I needed to get some experience interviewing outside of the government.

I also applied for several government jobs and details. One of the details I applied for would have been as a data analyst for the AIM program with the Bureau of Land Management National Operations Center. I didn't get the job as well but was surprised that I was even considered. It was a reminder that it is good to put yourself out there because you never know who folks are looking for and who else is going to apply. The other detail I applied for was also with the NOC as a remote sensing specialist. I was selected for the position but ultimately turned it down because I would have been on parental leave for much of the time that I was in the role.

I applied for one job with the Forest Service as a Wildlife Biologist and was denied because my performance appraisal that I submitted was 20 months old, two months too old apparently (gotta read that fine print). Luckily the Forest Service didn't have enough candidates and I have applied again for the position. However, I recently got notice that my performance appraisal was not accepted again. This time I have no idea why. It is from December 2021 so it should be within the right time. I've appealed their decision. Federal hiring is frustrated. I've applied for three positions in the last month and haven't made it past the screening part based on technicalities. It has nothing to do with my experience or my skills.

I also just applied to be an Ecologist at Mesa Verde National Park — we'll see how that goes — and to be the Colorado Monitoring Coordinator for the BLM which I didn't qualify due to time and grade which I expected.

I'm happy I applied for all of these rolls. I'm kind of two minds right now about my career. I really like my current roll and I don't want to leave it for something that I don't like. But I've been in this position as a Wildlife Biologist for 7 year now. I'm starting to get antsy and sometimes board. I can always find interesting things to work on, but it is a fine line between working on interesting things and not getting the things I need to done.

Speaking of interesting things. I've really gotten into the nitty gritty of R and GIS at work lately. In the last month I've been diving into our offices Assessment, Inventory and Monitoring (AIM) data. We just finished our fifth year of monitoring concluding our first Field Office wide sample. I built several packages to help me load and QA/QC the data from various sources (found here and here)and I've been using the {targets} package to help manage my workflow for the analysis. In the next couple of months I'll be summarizing the data for all five years. In the mean time, to prepare for our next five year sample, which I will be wrapping up here in the next few weeks, I built vegetation benchmarks stratified by Ecological Site Group and based on all existing AIM data. If you are familiar with Ecological Site Descriptions, Ecological Site Groups are very similar. Where Ecological Site Descriptions are very analogue and were created using on the ground data collection, Ecological Site Groups were predicted using machine learning (If you are interested the full paper can be found here). I hope to put something up here with more detail the next few weeks but time isn't really on my side these days. The idea, though, is that with the benchmarks we will have something to compare the data we collected too. And these benchmarks come from actual data and are not just professional judgement.

On the GIS side I learned how to deploy mobile workflows in ESRIs Field Maps for my field crews to collect data. For the most part it was fairly easy to learn. ESRI likes to hide gotchas everywhere though. Their motto must be: "does not work by default, must uncheck 12 hidden boxes". Field maps is nice though because you can normalize your data collection and the user interface is easy to use once set up.

I also fixed our historic raptor nest database. I've been working with a group from the state to normalize how raptor nest data is collected. Moving from Version 1 to Version 2 there were some cross-walking errors that left much of our data as NULL. We discovered the cross-walking errors occurred because the new db lumped how we collected nest activity. Our old db just said "Occupied" for nest activity and the quantified that occupancy with other fields. But with the new db, one of the options was all inclusive, something like: "Adults, young, or eggs present or nearby". Way to ambiguous to determine occupancy, or not, definitively. So we broke it up into two new options: "Adults, young or eggs present" to determine nest occupancy and "Adults or young nearby" to determine possible occupancy but not definitive. Once these errors are fixed we I will be working on monitoring based on territories and not by nest like we have been doing in the past.

So, all in all, a lot. I didn't cover a ton, but these are the things I've been working on lately that are exciting to me. I still manage two field crews and do lots of other wildlife related stuff.


Outside of work, but still kind of work, the kids bike non-profit that my wife and I started and run with the help of a bunch of amazing people grew into a full fledged program. High Desert Devo added an elementary school program to our existing middle and high school programs. We hired an Executive Director full time and a Program Director part time. It's great to see a program that we have spent so much of our free time building take off. And it's nice to know that the program is in good hands while we start to take a step back due to the Nugget.

Another semi-pro area I made big decisions about in 2022 is I've decided to stop providing web services as a side gig. I don't have time and I haven't been doing a very good job for a few years. I feel like for those that I do provide services top I offer bad service but good enough that they don't want to change. I'm cheap and easy, but most of my clients would be better served building something themselves or finding someone who could be more dedicated.


Not sure what 2023 will bring. I'm kind of at the whim of the little one. A continuous goal for me has been to share what I do more. I've been bad at that. I have imposter syndrome a lot of the time. I share little things that I'm tinkering with but not the major things that I've put a lot of time and though into. Taking care of a toddler may impede that goal and that is OK. Flexibility is key.

I'd also like to say "No" to more. Like I said above I took a step back from web development last year and it felt good. I'd also like to step back from other things too. Maybe it's time to step back from High Desert Devo. We'll see. I believe in addition through subtraction at this point and it's become clear to me that I do too much. I'd like to enjoy the things I do a little more but do a little less.

The last thing is I'd like to continue to learn new things. I'm always tinkering away with code and I'd like to continue to do that. This year I got a lot better at javascript. Next year I'd like to get better at statistical analysis. I'm reading "Ecological Models and Data in R" right now. I'm enjoying it so far. I tend to get about 2 chapters into text books and give up. Hopefully that doesn't happen this year.

Anyway, thanks for reading.