Everyone is excited to welcome Andrew Ehlert to our team as he fills a new position at Eastern Sierra Land Trust – Land Stewardship Associate! As we successfully protect more and more critical land, our stewardship team also grows. Andrew will work alongside Land Stewardship Manager Sara Kokkelenberg to check in on and care for our properties.

I recently sat down with Andrew to ask some standard get-to-know-you questions, for which he had witty and inspired responses up his sleeve. Along with great reading recommendations!

Tell me about your roots!

Carrots are probably my favorite roots, especially the purple varieties. I really like pickled radishes, and sweet potatoes are up there as a favorite too, but I suppose they’re a tuber.

Ha, ha!

Okay, joking aside, I grew up in a rural part of New Jersey in Hunterdon County. As a kid I went to nature themed camp, skipped rocks in the river, hiked with my family, and played in the creek with my brother and my friend. As a young adult I moved to Durham, North Carolina, where I spent my formative years hiking and foraging along the Eno River.

What makes you most excited about living in the Eastern Sierra?

I’m really excited to spend time in the mountains exploring different habitat and learning about the plants here. In particular, I’m looking forward to visiting the bristlecone pines and the areas with alkaline soils and unique plant populations. I also am excited to do more stargazing here. I’ve been out most nights since I came here and it’s fantastic how much you can see.

Where does your interest in conservation stem from?

That’s a stellar pun. I think the root of my interest developed as I began to watch plants and insects more closely. As I watched farmers try to figure their way through the season, the intense, mind-boggling complexity of the soil started to become apparent to me. I intended to learn how to grow things in weed-free perfectly straight rows, but the more time I spent with plants, the less tenable that seemed. This led me to shift my focus to studying how plants and fungi grow in wild systems, in order to learn about how we can preserve those systems as well as emulate them in spaces where we do cause disruption.

Those are some inspiring thoughts about plants! What about wildlife – do you have favorite fauna?

It’s hard to choose just one. I really enjoy watching squirrels; I think their behavior is incredibly fascinating and they’re super cute. My all-time favorite, though, has to be snails. I can’t get over how uniquely interesting they are. Everything about them is so cool, especially how they eat. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey (public library) is a compelling read even if you aren’t particularly curious about snails and, I think, will probably help you learn to love them.

Wow! And when you’re finished studying the fungi and snails, do you enjoy other activities outside of work?

I love to cook, especially to experiment and try new things. I also enjoy walking, hiking, and running. I’m coming to enjoy photography more and more.

And you’re a reader – do you have other favorite books about nature?

Lately I’ve been really excited about fungal relationships with plants and how trees have used these relationships to build networks of communication. So my highest recommended book is The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben (public library). It’s a wonderful reminder of how interconnected and complex our world is and how little we know about some of the most fundamental pieces of our environment that we see in our everyday lives. Beyond that, I think this book also invites the reader to reevaluate our anthropocentric perspectives on intention, communication, and consciousness.