By Brigid McCreery
Caylyn Newcomb grew up among the flowers.
Her mother recreated the lush scenery from her own childhood in Panama by gardening in the Virginia home where Newcomb grew up. Her mother’s foxglove, hibiscus, and hyacinth flowers sparked a lifelong interest in botany for her.
‘I just want to know the flowers’
Newcomb, who now formally studies rangeland ecology at Warner College of Natural Resources, has, in many ways, always been a restoration ecologist. From the time she was young, she would go to the stream near her house and tend to its waters, making sure the flow was clear of leaves and that the tadpoles were doing well.
“I just like looking at plants and splashing in puddles,” she said.
Now, as a field technician and unofficial botanist for the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, she has found a passion for plant identification.
“I wanted to be able to know all the plants,” she said. “I have a really good memory and plant identification is a good way to exercise that skill. Plus, I like looking at flowers with a magnifying glass.”
Comfortable with uncertainty
Newcomb’s exceptional plant identification skills aren’t her only talent. She’s been a musician since she was in sixth grade, and has learned a range of instruments from the cello to trombone to euphonium. She participated in the Colorado State University marching band. She also likes to teach music to her friends, make maps in GIS, draw, and even fly planes.
From honing all these skills and interests in her time at CSU, she has grown to become comfortable with the uncertainty of the future. She may pursue education. Or GIS. Or even a pilot’s license.
“I’ve really enjoyed all of my classes,” she said. “I like that I have a deep interest in this field, but I’m more of a ‘see what happens’ kind of person. I like how comfortable I’ve gotten with the uncertainty of things.”
And for now, she’s okay with not knowing.