Oh, the places you’ll go – A field perspective

NEW MEXICO — What did you want to be when you grew up? How did your youthful aspirations impact your choices as a professional adult? As a resource assistant in the Southwestern Region’s Office of Communication & Engagement, I have the opportunity to ask many professionals such questions in the development of an interactive display and supporting educational materials, which can be used in classrooms, at career fairs and other events interacting with the public. The trunk will be an interactive resource to teach about careers in the Forest Service. The answers have of course varied from person to person. A forest health specialist said “my path was not necessarily straight and involved luck and some serendipity.” A biologist, once a pathways student, shared "I was hired when I completed my Ph. D. in wildlife ecology…”

Recently, while working on the development of these educational materials, I was able to join Dr. Tolani Francisco, Region 3 Wild Horse and Burro Coordinator, in the field. She was excited to be involved in the project because she wants people to know about career possibilities in the Forest Service. Her path has been anything but traditional. “I graduated from veterinary school thinking the only route for me was clinical practice. I started out in a mixed animal practice in Nevada. Since then, I have spent time working as a Veterinary Medical Officer for USDA APHIS in New Mexico and Montana, as well as Bolivia where I worked on Foot and Mouth Disease. I went on active duty with the US Air Force as a Public Health Officer and then returned to APHIS as an epidemiologist in Colorado. I never thought I could apply for not-traditional veterinary medicine jobs like GS-0401 or 0454 range manager positions."

In mid-May, Dr. Francisco and I were able to spend some time in the field together checking on wild horse territory. Our day included traveling to water troughs, checking vegetation and seeing several groups of cattle. She was interested in the health of the cattle, even though that doesn’t fall under her duties. Dr. Francisco says “it is our duty to care for our Mother, not one of her creations is more important than another. In my position, I am charged to focus on the horses and their interactions but also how we need to care for our Mother, the Earth.” On Saturdays, she spends her time at her not-for-profit veterinary clinic just west of Albuquerque. Her clinic facility serves the Pueblos of Acoma, Laguna and Isleta as well as the Navajos from Tojajalii (Canoncito) and the Spanish Land Grants of Seboletta and Cubero. 

After the field day with Dr. Francisco and meeting with the other employees, I have been able to incorporate many new pieces of information into the educational resources I’m developing. Creating resources such as this is vital to the work that we do in the Office of Communication & Engagement. The goal is to cultivate knowledge and values about our nation’s forests and to help inspire the next generation of conservation leaders and Forest Service employees.


Wild Horse and Burro Coordinator Dr. Tolani Francisco and Resource Assistant Morgan Brandenburg, along with the rangeland program manager inspect one of the water holding tanks during their day in the field. May 09, 2018. Forest Service photo by Julie Luetzelschwab.

Resource Assistant Morgan Brandenburg stands near the border of the Wild Horse Territory. Brandenburg is a resource assistant in partnership with Southwest Conservation Corps. Forest Service photo by Julie Luetzelschwab.

Morgan Bradenburg is a resource assistant in the Southwestern Region’s Office of Communication & Engagement