USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station
Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

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Meet Annie Mix, greenhouse manager and restoration specialist

A photo of Annie Mix in the mountains of Colorado.
Annie Mix, U.S. Forest Service

When Annie Mix graduated from high school, her dad told her she needed to either go to college or get a job. Annie, who readily admits that school wasnít something she particularly enjoyed, joined the local Young Adult Conservation Corps to work in the outdoors.

She parlayed that experience into a science career where sheís been a long-time greenhouse manager at the U.S. Forest Serviceís Institute of Forest Genetics in her hometown of Placerville, California, and recently has expanded her role to restoring the grounds and arboretums at the Institute.

  • When and why did you come to work for the Pacific Southwest Research Station?

    I first came to the Institute of Forest Genetics in 1978 as a member of the Young Adult Conservation Corps on a tree planting crew. I had just graduated from high school, and my dad said that if I wasn’t going to go to college, then I needed to find a job. At the time, not a lot of women did that type of work, but I had grown up in it. My family owns an orchard, and ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been playing in the dirt.

    Although my job wasn’t with the greenhouse, I was always drawn to it. Every spare moment I had, I’d hang out there, visit with the greenhouse manager, and learn everything I could about it.

    The following summer, I was hired by the Forest Service on a seasonal planting crew, making $2.86 an hour. I loved it. We worked all over the Sierras in the summer, and then I had the winters off to go skiing. I still spent as much time as I could in the greenhouse, though.

    In the early ’80s, the greenhouse manager retired. I started taking care of the greenhouse, and in 1986, I was hired officially as greenhouse manager.

  • What is a typical workday like for you?

    In the greenhouse, there’s watering, fertilizing and observing the plants for any insects and diseases. I’m making sure the heating or cooling systems are operating properly and that things aren’t getting too hot or too cold for the plants.

    I also do a lot of organizing and coordinating with the various researchers and groups who use the greenhouse. I make sure we have all the supplies needed to carry out whatever research is being done, as well as making sure we have the space in the greenhouse to accommodate everything. I keep the researchers informed on how their plants are doing or if I think something might be going wrong.

    I also champion or advocate for the greenhouse within the scientific community. I think we have a great Institute and a great greenhouse, and I want as many people to take advantage of it as possible.

  • Have you had any unexpected, unusual or exciting opportunities or experiences as a result of your work?

    In 2014, I was asked to set up two 7-acre test gardens for the study and genetic conservation of white oaks. One garden was to be at the Institute in Placerville, and the other 120 miles away in Chico. Each garden had 7,000 trees, all of which I grew in the greenhouse from acorns collected across the species’ range.

    It was a lot of land and a lot of responsibility, especially keeping 14,000 acorns organized and monitored. It was a huge undertaking, and at first, I wasn’t sure if I could do it. But I could, and it’s something I’m very proud about.

  • What do you enjoy most about your work?

    I love being outside and being independent. My supervisors discuss their projects with me, and then I set my own course to get the job done. I enjoy being given that freedom, but it’s a trust you have to earn.

    I’ve recently begun overseeing interns through the Student Conservation Association. It’s a lot of work, but very rewarding. I get to work with and watch these bright young people who are champing at the bit to save the world. I love hearing back from them when they tell me their experience here has opened doors for them to get future jobs.

    I never thought I could make a living doing something like this, but it turned out that I could.

  • Who has inspired you in your career?

    My father. He was the Agricultural Commissioner for El Dorado County. I got to work with him all the time, and he was so proud of me working here. He was my inspiration and my resource. His expertise helped me with a number of things I worked on here.

    I also feel a great sense of pride and loyalty to the people who worked at the Institute before me. I didn’t work with the original founders, but with that second generation. I like to say I learned from the masters. I feel very responsible for preserving the history and research that was done before me, so that it’s never forgotten. It’s what drives me to organize and relabel our historic seed bank of more than 15,000 seeds, as well as map and relabel the trees in our three arboretums, and then enter everything into an electronic database. I’m the last of that generation.

  • What advice do you have for others interested in this field or another field in science?

    If you have the desire and determination to pursue something that interests you, you can do some pretty cool things. Things donít just jump in your lap; you have to look for it and go after it. Whenever I saw something that interested me, Iíd ask if I could try it. People get this idea that they need a Ph.D. to be involved in science, but it takes all types of talent to do good science. A good biological technician is as important to a science project as the Ph.D., and itís a fun and rewarding career.

Last Modified: Mar 14, 2017 10:15:53 AM