The best BYU job is in the middle of nowhere in Southern Utah

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Dallin Leota gives a tour on the Lytle Ranch Preserve. He lives on the preserve with his family. (Jonas Wright)

Dallin Leota, a New Zealand-born Samoan, has worked remotely for the last two years on the BYU-owned Lytle Ranch Preserve in Southern Utah, with goals to protect the environment and amplify indigenous voices.

Leota lives with his wife and two kids on the Lytle Ranch Preserve. In the middle of nowhere, he said the closest town is Mesquite, Nevada, about 40 minutes away, where they go into town once a week.

After graduating from BYU-Hawaii with a degree in business, Leota and his family moved to Utah, where he worked at the Bean Life Science Museum and eventually applied to live and work remotely on the Lytle Ranch Preserve.

The preserve is about 600 acres of land owned and preserved for the last 30 years by BYU as a “life science field station,” Leota said.

The Lytle Ranch Preserve. The preserve has been owned by BYU for around 30 years. (Jonas Wright)

Taylor Probst, a senior at BYU double majoring in genetics, genomics and biotechnology, has been to the preserve several times.

He said what makes Lytle Ranch Preserve unique is the geological diversity that isn’t found anywhere else in Utah, located at the point where the Colorado River Plateau comes together with the Mojave Desert.

Students and faculty can go to the preserve to receive a tour, have classes or even have a retreat at the lodge.

“It really gives students a hands on opportunity to sort of get out there, experience the nature, understand, you know, what collecting is like, what research is like, that isn’t really available anywhere else,” Probst said.

Leota said his role goes beyond managing these areas and students.

The Lytle Ranch Preserve. The preserve has been owned by BYU for around 30 years. (Jonas Wright)

“My focus has also been to restore … things that are significant for our native and indigenous,” Leota said.

Coming from Samoan descent and having experience doing restoration work for the indigenous people in Hawaii, Leota said he would like to “amplify their voice to give them a platform to share their story.”

Living far away is a challenge for Leota and his family, especially having grown up close to family. However, he said it has given them the opportunity to establish their home and work together, focusing on what’s most important without the distractions of the world.

“It’s so easy to get caught up with, you know, schedules, programs and things like that, that we forget about the important relationships, which are our family,” he said.

Leota said it also gives him an opportunity to teach his kids survival skills because of the unique wildlife and environment they live in.

Michael Whiting, Bean Life Science Museum director, said he invites students from all departments to visit the Lytle Ranch Preserve.

“Please come. Please come. You can come with classes; you can come by yourself … One of the roles of Dallin Leota is to help with the education which goes down there, to help be a guide and help explain the different kinds of trails you can go on and things you can observe.”

Dallin Leota gives a tour on the Lytle Ranch Preserve. He lives on the preserve with his family. (Jonas Wright)
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