Cenizo Journal Summer 2021 - Page 26

Desert Lessons on Life Transformation An intimate conversation with conservationist Tara Poloskey , The Nature Conservancy ’ s West Texas Education and Outreach Coordinator .

by Carolyn Campbell
Just over a year ago , as COVID struck , I found brief refuge in Fort Davis . While there , a friend introduced me to Tara Poloskey , the education and outreach coordinator for The Nature Conservancy . An ardent conservationist , equestrian , singer , animal lover and motorcycle rider , Tara has spent nearly two decades educating people while preserving and restoring desert habitat in the Trans- Pecos region .
Tara came to Alpine in 2004 as a graduate student at Sul Ross University after realizing that laboratory work testing water and solids for pollutants didn ’ t suit her yearning for a wilderness life . At first , she felt intimidated by the remoteness of the region and the darkness of the night . She missed the Detroit-ish , big city conveniences of stores being five minutes away . By the end of that first semester though , her love for the desert took root in her bones .
Now , nearly 17 years later , Tara , her two dogs and her tuxedo cat Buddha are making their sojourn back to the land of endless water and city-bright skies , the Great Lakes of Michigan . On a grey , misty day in preparation for her move , Tara reflects on how this West Texas region has impacted her view of the desert , the conservancy , and her own view of the world .
On life in the desert : “ Coming from the Michigan marshes where the noise is neverending , there ' s always something moving . The desert ’ s not always like that , it can be extremely quiet . At first , I thought the desert was just a lot of death . But it ’ s teeming with life . Every inch of the desert has some life in it . You just have to take time to stop and look . Wildlife is everywhere .”
On rattlesnakes :
“ Rattlesnakes are a beautiful gift if you have a chance to see one , just not too up close and personal .”
On why conservancy is vital to this remote region :
“ The Chihuahuan Desert is one of the most biodiverse areas in the entire world due to the
Tara Polosky region ’ s sky island phenomena . There are grasslands interrupted by dramatic mountain ranges that seem to appear out of nowhere . The distance from the lower grasslands to the top of that mountain is short and steep , resulting in cooler , wetter conditions in the higher regions . This topography provides enormous habitat diversity and ecological stability , enabling plants and animals to better withstand climate change and human-caused disturbances , as well as disasters like wildfires .
“ Nature Conservancy and other organizations protect those habitats by creating resting places — places for plants and animals to thrive ; to breed , feed , and communicate with other animals of the same species . Birds come from Alaska , from Mexico , from Central America using our sky islands to jump back and forth from breeding grounds to wintering grounds . Along with the Big Bend Conservation Alliance , Respect Big Bend , the Borderlands Research

26 Cenizo Summer 2021