Posts Tagged 'Personal Stories'

Day to Day: Wildfires!

From left, Jan, Ron and Duke position themselves to take in the fire.

With all the wildfires in California, we thought we’d post our own little slice of life.

A small hillside fire broke out approximately two miles west of the Rincon-Vitova Insectaries (RVI) around 4:45pm on Tuesday, October 22, 2008. While the late day skeleton crew clicked away at computer monitors, Kyra and Gabe had left early and called in from the road. “You could see the fire from the [RVI] driveway,” Kyra explains. “It looked really close, but driving towards it we realized just how far it was.”

“It was the perspective. At first we thought we might have to evacuate,” said Gabe thinking back on the fire. “We joked about picking which DVDs to leave behind.”

The fire’s distance from the insectaries didn’t ease everyone’s mind. Duke lives nearby and was initially worried his house would be threatened, but it didn’t take long to notice the winds were blowing the opposite direction. “I did make a call to check, though” he said.

About five years ago, Duke’s neighborhood was evacuated during a hillside fire emergency. “…the authorities were pounding on the door and my girlfriend was trying to grab the cat and go. The cat, though, was not compliant.” So she grabbed a pillowcase, threw the cat in, and jumped into the car. “It’s kind of a funny story now,” Duke concludes.

When asked if he was worried about the fire’s proximity, Ron shook his head no. “I used to live at the base of that hill 6 years ago. Conditions in the area are ripe. It’s a reminder to be prepared. Fire is part of the ecology and learning to live with it and having contingency plans is essential.” Ron went on to describe priority boxes or even fire wells to store information below ground.

“It’s about what’s important. We’d shut down the server and grab the basic computer units. If we had more time we’d take the [insect] cages with all the mother cultures. We could take a few trays of [fly] pupae, but if we didn’t get back in three days we’d have a fly problem,” Ron laughs.

In the end, the fire burned approximately 5 acres, accrued no property damage and the unnamed hill stands with a black eye to the north. If there was any common thread felt here at the insectary, it was the realization of choice and priority. Insects may be small, but not everything can fit in a pillowcase.

For more info, check out the Ventura County Star article.

*Second Image: Kyra snapped this with her cell phone on the way home.


An American Tale: Kyra Goes West

Hi, my name is Kyra. I’m from Fort Wayne, Indiana and I’ve been with Rincon-Vitova Insectaries since May 2006. I wound up at Rincon-Vitova rather serendipitously; I was in my last year (last 3 weeks to be exact) of my undergraduate degree, working at the local butcher shop, without any idea of what I was going to do after graduation.

I was taking an Invertebrate Biology course from Dr. James Haddock (awesome professor), with whom I’d already had an entomology course and lab during my freshman year. We were working in the insect chapter, and to be honest I was daydreaming in the back of the room, because what we were covering was a review from his previous course. He started talking about places called insectaries, where people “actually rear insects!” This of course got my attention and I headed straight for the computer lab to Google insectaries during the break.

I found Rincon-Vitova and saw an employment opportunity for an biological control intern. Wouldn’t it figure that the exact day I was viewing this posting was the last day that resumes were being accepted for consideration! I whipped up a cover letter and emailed my resume immediately before I went back to the second half of the lecture. I hadn’t received a reply by the time class let out, but my parents urged me to call the office. I got right through, thanks to the time difference, and ended up talking with Jan for about 45 minutes. The next week, after submitting a writing sample, and having a lengthier phone conversation with Jan and Ron, I was offered the job. That’s when the fun began.

In that span of three weeks, I somehow managed to finish my classes, take my finals, and get my affairs in order such that I’d be ready to pick up and move to California. Graduation day was a blur of excitement; I had divided and packed my things into boxes marked “take to California” and “store in attic,” my Dad crammed as much of my stuff into my car that would fit, and the next morning (well, morning was the plan, it turned out being closer to noon) I was headed west.


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