Might be more than a month ago, our motley crew mistakenly maneuvered into much muck. We managed to master the mire with much more matter and mustered moxie. Marinated in mud and muck, magnificently messy, but made merry by make-shift mastery, we maintained our march.
Silver shadows sent us shivering. The sunlight shriveled silently and swiftly. Storms snuck south, suddenly sullying our satisfied spirits. Still, us seven shouldn’t stop, said someone with stout-hearted sense. So, six settled somewhat skeptically.
Soon we saw a shimmering suspension of snow specks at summit. The sky suggested we’d see no sunset nor stars, and some suspected sleepy shivers. Seems we soon might not set sight on seed supply sites or small shrubs. Shouldn’t such slight snow soften by sunrise? Supposedly.
We woke warm and not wet with wild water; this weather had worked well for wanted winks. When watching the wondrous whiteness, we wandered while waiting. Work wavered as weeds withdrew in whirls of white. The white-wash world made our worthy work worthless! Wow Weather, why wouldn’t you wait?! This Wednesday, Weather won.
Carson City BLM
Now over two months into my internship, I have gained more experience in water quality monitoring as well as begun training on riparian surveys. We have covered much of our resource area in the past month from the sub-alpine forests near the Wallowa Mountains to the lower elevation canyons along the Grande Ronde and Snake River. We had to camp out for a few sites along the Grande Ronde and awoke to a chorus of coyotes and the brilliant night sky. One of our sites, Joseph Creek, winds through a stark basalt canyon in contrast to its lush banks of alders, blackberries, and many species of wildflowers. Joseph Creek is one of our long term monitoring sites, where the BLM uses these long term trends to adjust management of the surrounding area, be it grazing intensity or off road vehicle usage. Some of these sites are also Section 7 ESA streams, meaning they are habitat for state and federal listed fish species such as the Chinook salmon and the Steelhead trout. At these sites along with the usual water quality protocol, we also deploy temperature loggers for the season to measure the daily maximum and minimum so we can have a thermal regime for each stream.
Recently we had another intern, Zoe, start with us from the local watershed council and she is a wonderful addition to the team. She is new to ecology and natural resources studies for the most part, so my mentor and I are teaching her the ways of fieldwork and the science behind our projects. Zoe is from the area and has already been informing me of more places to explore!
Speaking of exploring, I’ve had a few more adventures in and around the gorgeous local mountains. I had the fortunate chance of seeing a Great Grey owl hunting in a private ecological reserve in the foothills of the Wallowas! I also went hiking in both the Elkhorns and Wallowa mountains and am eager to go back to both, which contain many miles of backcountry trails.
Also a couple weeks ago, I attended the CLM Workshop at the Chicago Botanic Garden, which was an inspiring experience. I got a chance to learn more about plant taxonomy and how important a role it plays in restoration projects. For someone new to the plant world, the information was a bit overwhelming, but it gave me a glimpse of what distinguishing characteristics are used to key out a species and how seeds are collected and raised for establishing or maintaining a species.The symposium that brought speakers from various backgrounds was most relevant to my interest as they discussed restoration at the large scale, including wetlands as well as entire watersheds. It was a real privilege to hear Professor Joy Zedler, a prominent leader in watershed restoration, speak on the potential framework for future studies, through looking back on her own projects. I left the conference feeling a better sense of purpose in my own work with the BLM, understanding monitoring’s importance in recognizing shifts in ecosystems and through successful collaboration with stakeholders management plans can mitigate loss of species as well as ecosystem function. In conclusion, I have to say the conference was also a great opportunity to explore Chicago, as well as meet the fabulous set of individuals that are my fellow CBG-ers.
Alternative Training: Boot Camp for Grasses!
Since I have already attended the CBG training two years ago, I was fortunate enough to go on an alternative training opportunity in the city of Seattle. The opportunity involved an intense three day course on grass identification. We were given a plethora of grasses to observe and identify throughout the three day period. The first day involved a few lectures on grass identification and the importance of grasses. We were given over fifty samples of grasses to look at. Glumes, awns, ligules, paleas, anthers, culms, and every part relating to grasses was observed! By the end of the day, I was exhausted due to the shear amount of key features per grass I identified. This session really helped me out! In the past, all my botany classes concentrated on forb, shrub, and tree identification and always skipped over grasses.
The second day brought us out in the field to Discovery Park! We identified all the invasive and native grasses in the area. There were many interesting grasses that even grew in Illinois (where I am from) that grew in the fields here! Some of the grasses that stood out were ripgut (Bromus diandrus), quackgrass (Elytrigia repens)…..the genus has changed considerably, and American dune grass (Leymus mollis). Ripgut was a brome species and basically looks like a cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) on steroids. Thank goodness I don’t see this in the field at work! Quackgrass was a particularly nasty invasive I have always encountered. If you grab the tip of the grass and pull the culm in the opposite direction, you could make all the seed heads move in a quacking fashion like a duck! ^_^ American dune grass was a massive grass found along the shorelines of the Sound and was planted to control the erosion of beaches. Overall, the day required a lot of walking and identification, but I loved it!!
The third day began with lectures and a chance to look at the herbarium they had at Washington State University. I had the privilege to look at many herbarium grasses that were collected along the Northwest corridor. Some of the collections were over 100 years old!! We met an artist that was working on the new taxonomic key for the Hitchcock guide book. There were other people that were working on the herbarium website. I use the Hitchcock guide book and the website all the time for plant identification and now I got to meet the people who actually worked on it all! I was so happy!! At the end of the class, I learned over 80 genera of grasses. The huge amount of species I have learned would help me in the future when I begin plant monitoring soon. Hopefully, I will see more grasses beyond the Stipa, Elymus, Leymus, Bromus, and Festuca species.
The eaglets have hatched and were very active in their nests recently. Some have started to explore the perimeters of their nest and beyond! O_O Recently, Jenny and I have been doing revisits and have observed many of the eaglets in action. I gave them names that suited them. I am sure you recognize Boo from my previous blog! Most of the active nests were up north towards the Canadian border. The central and southern nests did have some success as well!! Here are the names for the eaglets.
Site Name Eaglet
Bridgeport Bar East: Bosmin
Douglas Creek: Roseluck
Enloe Dam: Wyatt
Francis Canyon: Eclipse
Grimes Lake: Boo
Hull Mt: Moonshine
Ice Caves: Dipper
Palisades North: Lily
Saddle Mts: Star Buck
Sheep Creek: Mable
Sinlahekin Loomis: Fig Newton
Siwash Creek: Truffle Shuffle
Rock and Mineral Adventures
I have been busy on the rock hounding front around Wentachee, Washington. From petrified wood to opal to geode nodules, Washington state has it all! My favorite rock hounding spots were the Saddle Mountains, Douglas Creek, Red Top Mountain, and Crystal Mountain!
The Saddle Mountains were known for their petrified wood. Limbcasts and large logs of petrified wood were littering the ground on top of the mountains. This area had so much petrified wood, it was incredible. There were calcite and silica deposits as well near the petrified wood, so you could collect neat specimens!
Douglas Creek has a lot of silica/ opal deposits at the top of the hills. The colors of the rocks vary from red, orange, pink, green, and white. The opal rocks look constantly wet and with cleaning they turned out to be top quality stones!
Red Top Mountain has Ellensburg Blue Agate. Those rocks could be easily dug up from the ground from the breccia deposits. The nodules and agates have a vivid blue color that could be used for jewelry. I went after a thunderstorm in search of the nodules. People left piles of dirt next to the holes and left everything. When I came after the storm, the nodules were exposed and washed by the rain. I could easily find the nodules in the piles. I spent a few hours early in the morning collecting samples.
Crystal Mountain was an amazing place to search for blue nodules, agates, and other various large crystals. I hiked in and slid down the talus slopes to the geode piles. The talus slopes I was sliding on had many agates and blue striped nodules, so I quickly grabbed as much as possible while sliding down. At the bottom of the talus slopes, you could find huge geodes and nodules weighing 10 to 15 pounds! Geodes literally covered the ground in a few areas. Thanks to a fire in the previous year and the sheep eating grass in the area, everything was exposed! I hiked out of the area with 40 pounds of rocks! ^_^; The hardest part was carrying everything up the talus slopes. Haha!!
The Great Transition: NISIMS
We were finishing up in Sulfur Canyon on NISIMS reports. Jenny and I have been going into the depths of Sulfur Canyon and recording wildlife observations, anthills, various bird species, and invasive plants. Cheatgrass, tall tumble mustard (Sisymbrium altissimum), Dalmatian toadflax (Linaria dalmatica), whitetop (Lepidium draba), Russian knapweed (Acroptilon repens), diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa), and common woolly mullein (Verbascum thapsus) were the most prevalent weeds that were growing in the area. We hiked up various hillsides and narrow ravines to get to some of the most isolated sections of the allotment. By the end of each day, my shoes and pants would be covered with needle and thread (Hesperostipa comata) and cheat grass seeds. The area in my shoes and pants that were exposed were pierced by seed, which was pretty painful, but I survived. <_<
In the future, we will be transitioning to many sites that had a fire within the last three to five years. These ESR sites would have basic transects that would help identify the plant population and the amount of invasive plants in that allotment. We will be traveling all over the state, including the other resource area to monitor the sites. In Burns, OR or Buffalo, WY, some of the sites would be two to three hours away. In Washington, some of the sites would be a lot further, because the Spokane District of BLM is basically the entire state. After the July 4th weekend, we will be starting with Watermelon Hills to do NISIMS and to monitor a rare SIlene species!!
Moment of Zen
Bonus Sheep Herd:
Moving to New York City from Bloomington, Indiana has been full of challenges. After 15 hours of driving and exiting the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, I was immediately rear ended, though this is New York and this doesn’t qualify as an actual accident. Learning. I had a day to settle in before I had to go to the internship training in Chapel Hill, NC. The training itself went fine, the North Carolina Botanic Garden staff were fantastic hosts. We made a couple collections and ate quite well the entire time we were there. Unfortunately, the week came to an end and we had to return to NYC.
Upon arriving at the airport in Chapel Hill, I received a text from my roommate letting me know my whip had been towed. Great. I had left my car with my new roommates to move my car due to the twice a week street cleaning. They moved my car, though I found out it was to a no standing zone. So after a couple hours dealing with the Brooklyn Navy Yard tow people (they had no record of my vehicle), I finally got my car out, but not before $400 in fees and an additional $230 in tickets were paid. Learning.
The internship has otherwise gone okay. I don’t know my species as well as I would like, though that is fixable. I’ve learned that tents don’t actually keep you dry and when it rains (frequently), sleep is hard to come by. I’ve been to Long Island, New Jersey, and Delaware so far, all new places. I’ve explored unfamiliar habitats and been exposed to plants previously not encountered in my home oak-hickory forests. I get to hike most days and spend plenty of days on the beach. As a group, we’ve made a handful of collections. I believe the count is currently five, so only 295 more to go for the season. It’s a seemingly daunting number at this point, though I’m sure easily obtainable as the season progresses.
While this month has been one of my most trying, full of financial despair and exhaustion, I have to imagine it should get better. Things can’t go wrong all the time, right?
It’s been about 5 weeks ish since I’ve moved from my home in Baltimore, Maryland to a small rural town in Burns, Oregon. The act of moving to Burns was hard at first since I basically packed my bags the night of graduation and flew here immediately, meaning I missed a lot of grad parties and celebrations with friends. However, I wouldn’t really have it any other way. I can honestly say I really adore life here in my double wide trailer and with my 3 other CLM intern roommates. I open my front door in the morning to donkeys Duncan and Fiona, and horses Chester and…. I forget the other one’s name. At night I have 2 pretty kitties that love to cuddle and be pet. I miss rain though. It’s very hot and dry here, and now that its hitting over 100 during the day, there is no relief. In a way Burns is its own cultural immersion experience. Cowboy life is real here, the big brimmed hats, cowboy boots, rodeos and bull riders, and high-waisted wrangler jeans are legit and not just for fashion. I’ve seen cow brandings and got a taste of Rocky Mountain oysters. All that “organic”, “grass fed” beef you like so much? It’s bred out here on the range in this way that’s not necessarily meant to be environmentally friendly, but is more or less anyway. The cows frolic all day on the range. Be wary though, because if you hit one, you pay out $5,000 to the farmer. Being a black girl moving from a city to a small conservative town, I was not sure exactly what to expect in coming to Burns. But let me tell you, everyone in this town is super friendly. I have literally not met one mean boned person here. Also I learned the BLM doesn’t slaughter/cull horses, which is nice to know because that was my only impression of the organization before coming here.
By the end of my time here I shall be a botany goddess (at least when it come to identifying grasses of Oregon). So far my work has mainly been emergency stabilization and rehabilitation monitoring. In other words, I visit areas that have burned in the last few years and determine which plants (mostly perennials) have reestablished themselves. Sites vary from a decent mix of sagebrush and other natives to mostly invasive cheat grass. Sagebrush and high desert county are very different from the deciduous forests I grew up in, but I fancy the vastness of the range. I work 4/10s so 4 10hour work days a week. This schedule is necessary, as it takes almost 2 hours to commute to any one field site. Actually, a 2 hour commute is generally a rule of thumb to get anywhere out side of Burns, thereby a 4/10s schedule is awesome because it also gives us 3 day weekends, which we have used to adventure to the steens, the city of Bend, and nearby lakes.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this snapchat of a CLMer’s life!
Wow. I cannot believe it has been a month already. I’ve spent a lot of time surveying for Applegate’s Milk-vetch at the airport. We did a full census in the footprint of the construction areas and surveyed randomly selected transects in others. After spending 9+ hours a day looking for the plants, I could see them when I closed my eyes. WEIRD.
It was crazy cool to see F-15s fighter jets take off and land so close to us. This airport is the only place in the US that has F-15 training.
This milk-vetch is also found in a couple other areas of Klamath Falls. The Ewauna Flat Preserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy, has ongoing efforts of monitoring and outplanting for the milk-vetch. I went there to assist Kerry (a professor at Oregon Tech) with the monitoring of milk-vetch that had been planted within the past few years. This was my first time working with plants and I really liked it.
At the ponds, we monitored for predators and fish. We found a couple of coyote tracks and saw two pelicans. We are still waiting to have the ponds stocked. There is some weird algae growing in the smaller ponds, but it may be beneficial.
Alia and I went to check on our net pens at Rocky Point. Everything seemed to be going okay there. There might be some type of minnows in one of the nets though. We saw a ton of dragonflies and damselflies! Josh took us electrofishing recently. We saw a couple suckers but couldn’t seem to catch them. We caught a lot of Speckled Dace and Chubs. Other than all the field work, I have been labeling sucker fish that have been in alcohol for a few years and doing some office work.
One weekend we went to Portland and stopped at the Rose Garden. It is so beautiful. Last weekend we went to Medford and Ashland. On our way back we saw a Great Gray Owl. I really like Oregon so far!
Till next time,
My first month of my CLM internship with the Lakeview BLM has been a whirlwind of experiences. It has been a bit of a culture shock moving from the bustling city of Minneapolis to the quiet cattle town of Lakeview within a week of graduating from college. I’m getting the hang of the “Western Wave”” and getting used to the never ending jokes about my Wisconsin accent (no, I will not say “bag” again for you).
From my experiences so far, I think the desert is the perfect place to begin my endeavors into the wonderful world of botany. The plant communities are diverse, but what you see is what is there. Other than the few forbs hiding in the sagebrush, most plants present themselves obviously to you. This is contrasting the overgrowth seen in many midwestern forest and prairie communities where you have to dig through all the green to find the plants you are searching for.
The last few weeks have been all about training. This past weekend my internship partner and I had the opportunity to travel to Bend, OR for a grass identification workshop put on by the Carex Working Group. It was an invaluable experience working alongside fellow interns from Burns as well as other colleagues from around Eastern Oregon with varying levels of knowledge and experience. We worked together to identify the characteristics of different groups of grasses and practiced keying out several specimens to species. Who knew such simple plants could have such intricate structures and specialized modifications. After all our training, all I can say is – bring on the Poas.
Fun fact for the day: Poa in Swahili means cool. Grasses ARE cool.
With the commencement of Safety Week here in Lakeview, I can now confidently say I am certified in CPR and I can change a spare tire, so that is pretty neat.
I’m excited to continue on with the Seeds of Success program and hopefully make successful collections of the Eriogonum heracleoides, Astragalus lentiginosus, Salvia dorii, and all the other fun plant populations that we have scouted out so far.
All the best,
The past month has been a whirlwind of maneuvering through airports, packing and unpacking duffle bags, and riding in cars. The week of June 8-12 was our CLM training workshop at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. My fellow interns and I spent the weekend beforehand exploring Boise, ID (we tried Basque food!) before flying out to Chicago. Once at the Gardens, we were treated to a week of nonstop learning. We had lectures on conservation genetics and graduate school options, as well as crash courses in botany of the west and monitoring/inventory methods. Best of all, we got to go to a symposium and listen to presentations on large-scale ecosystem restoration efforts.
Aside from the useful tips we received for success in the field, what I took away from the workshop was a reaffirmed love for learning and research, and a confirmed desire to further my education by pursuing a PhD. I stayed in the city through the weekend with my boyfriend to check out the Field Museum (free admission with my employee ID!), the University of Chicago, and Chinatown.
After being back in good ol’ Burns for just three days, Megan (my roommate/co-intern) and I were off to Bend, OR for a two-day grass identification workshop. Although that might sound about as exciting as watching paint dry, it was actually extremely useful. The first day was spent learning grass morphology and picking apart the seed heads under a dissecting microscope. By the second day, we were fairly proficient in keying out grass species, and we got to apply our newly acquired knowledge in the field. I now feel much more confident in my ability to ID grasses, which will be very helpful when doing trend sites. Megan and I stayed in town for the weekend and enjoyed live music along the river, the Bite of Bend, and camping/hiking in Ochoco National Forest.
The day after we returned from Bend we drove two hours to Fields, OR, a town with a population of 8 (yes, 8, that’s not a typo). We spent two days zipping around on a UTV to some of our more southern trend sites, which was a blast. The surrounding area was breathtaking – snowcapped mountains, a lake, and an expansive desert were all within sight. We spent the night at a field station which is affectionately referred to as “the Hilton” because it has air conditioning and a TV. Now that’s luxury.
Now that I’m back in Burns, I’m recalling some words I saw on the wall of the Tourist Information Center in Bend: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Thinking back on the last month, it’s hard not to smile with appreciation for the experiences I’ve had, and the hope that I am truly making the most of this one life.
I’m back at it again. When we last left off in the life of Michal, CLM intern extraordinaire, I was doing maintenance here at the Plant Materials Center (PMC). During the last couple of weeks though, I’ve been spending a lot more time working in the office, in part because of the heat but mostly because I’ve been tending to some other matters.
The PMC is going through a year of abundant funding, which I’ve been told happens approximately every 5 years – the other 4 they are underfunded, and that’s just the way it is. Because of this, the administration here is stocking up on everything and making big purchases now, kind of like a pre-hibernation bear making sure it can last the winter. This means good things are happening: we are purchasing new equipment, a brand new tractor, and making infrastructure improvements.
The riparian corridor along our levee is heavily infested with Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus).
But before I get into that, I want to share some experiences with you! Being from the city of Chicago, until now I never really been exposed to Native Americans. But being out west, I feel fortunate to come across natives and to be exposed to their culture. As an ethnic group, they have largely been swept under the rug in this country, especially in California. They have lost access to their lands, their culture, and their identity and I really feel empathy for them. Jeff, I, and a volunteer, Sarah, had the pleasure of helping a Dee, a woman from the Miwok tribe, collect Santa Barbara sedge (Carex barbarae) roots in the riparian corridor between our levee and the Mokelumne river. Historically, indians collected the long rhizomes of the sedge and wove baskets for water with them. We knelt and dug in the soil with our bare hands, following the roots by touch to see where they lead in order to collect the longest segment. Also, a guy by the name of Isidro came to the PMC to collect eucalyptus wood to use for a healing ceremony at a sweat lodge for tribal men dealing with alcoholism and other addictions. I helped him and some friends cut up dry branches and load them into their truck.
I have always appreciated our natural resources, and have devoted myself to understanding their ecological value, and their roles in our ecosystems. For the first time however, I am appreciating the cultural value that they can provide, the role they play in the identity and spiritual lives of people. Plants are also cultural resources as well, and that human dimension is amazing to me.
So back to the blackberry – these things grow everywhere. I decided to take it upon myself to restore the riparian zone, especially since that’s what most of my work experience has been so far. Jeff had the same idea so we’re working together to make this happen. During the past two weeks, I have been doing a lot of research and in the process have become much more familiar with the plants in the central valley. I have put together a proposal for the project. It covers all the planning, scheduling and logistics, invasive removal and native plantings (what and quantity), instructions for maintenance, and so forth. We will also be propagating our own plugs in the greenhouse. Successful restoration is hard to accomplish, but I feel confident and excited about this!
I don’t want to rant about everything so I’ll stop here for now. Please feel free to comment if you would like to share any ideas. Happy interning everyone.
In the meanwhile, here’s a photo of me visiting Eldorado National Forest
NRCS – California
Simplicity is critical in creating a striking Instagram photo. Here are some tips to help you reduce distractions and bring focus to your pictures.
Show us your reds, whites, and blues on Instagram June 29 through July 7! Go outside and snap a pic of any red, white, or blue flower or plant for a chance to be featured on our feed and website. Tag @chicagobotanic in your post and use #CBGcontest15.
The most important thing to keep in mind when photographing for Instagram, is that your photo will be viewed at a relatively small scale. Your composition needs to grab the viewers’ attention as they scroll through their feed. Nature is full of beautiful detail, intricate patterns, and delicate textures. However, keep in mind that once a picture is posted, the subtlety and tiny details of the subject matter may be lost.
Consider placing subject matter that has very small details in a context. A close-up of these penstemon flowers alone makes for a very chaotic image, but when the surrounding landscape is included, the flowers form a shape that mirrors the line of trees above.
The opposite is also true. Removing context by getting closer to your subject usually simplifies your composition. In the case, of these penstemon flowers, most phones will not focus close enough to capture just one.
Avoid dappled sunlight to allow viewers to focus their attention on your subject matter. Try finding shade if you are photographing on a sunny day, or take pictures during the morning and evening when the light is softer.
Choose a point of view for your subject where light falls on the subject but not the background. This will emphasize the shape of your subject and increase contrast between it and the background. Keep your eye out for this lighting situation at the edge of large shadows cast by buildings where tall flowers pop out into the light.
These two photos are of the same flower but taken from different perspectives. You can see the edge of the shadow cast by a building in the first photo. The second photo was taken after stepping to the right and facing toward the building.
Instagram is a great place to get and share ideas; don’t hesitate to experiment and try new things.
Most importantly, have fun!
©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org
It has been a whirlwind of a month. Moving out to Wyoming has been both interesting and fun. I am stationed in the Newcastle Field Office, which is 17 miles west of the South Dakota border. My fellow intern and I are lucky in that we have access to government housing. It just has a few drawbacks, like no internet or cell phone service, but we have gotten used to it. This just means finding creative ways to spend free time. It is great living here because with the lack of internet I tend to explore the area more. It is an amazing area. There are several National Forests, National Parks, and National Monuments outside the door. These places include Devils Tower, the Black Hills, Jewel Cave, Wind Cave, Yellowstone, the Big Horns and many others.
Every year our office hosts a weeklong camp for middle schoolers showing what field science is like and the different opportunities out there. Everyone had a fun week with the kids camping out and the adults in a small cabin, and let me tell you the cabin was very nice when thunderstorms came rolling in.
There was a lot to do every day; we had surveying, astronomy lessons, forest inventory, fire ecology, water and stream health, and wildland firefighters. The firefighters got the kids really excited, there was a huge truck and they got to try on field packs and roll out hoses. The kids had a lot of fun trying to outdo each other in what they could carry; it was funny seeing a ten year old carrying 50 pounds of gear. While helping the kids was fun, one of the highlights for me was climbing to the top of a fire tower at sunset, this is something that you just don’t get in the East. Overall helping the kids discover new ways to enjoy the outdoors was very rewarding.
Much of the past few weeks have been fun. It is nice to start getting into the meat of our summer projects. We have three projects all at different stages of completion. As the internship is focused on forestry, the projects concern different types of forest management objectives. Of the three projects, one is almost competed and is almost ready to be summited for bid. This means that loggers are going to be bidding on the right to harvest the tract of land. All of this is within the overall goal of reducing the forests susceptibility to mountain pine beetle and promote wildlife habitat. The other two projects, one a meadow restoration and wildlife habitat improvement and the other a timber sale to promote forest health are where the bulk of the field work will be focused on. Can’t wait to to see how the summer will turn out.
I’ve been living and working in Idaho for almost 2 months now, and time seems to be going by reasonably fast. Most days I get up very early for work, drive 30 miles each way to and from the office, and come home around 5 pm. By the time I get home, I only have the energy to eat, shower, watch some Netflix, and go to sleep. I enjoy this routine sometimes because I’m busy and time flies, but it also makes me eager for adventure and relaxation on the weekends.
I haven’t had the chance to go out and explore very much outside of Twin Falls. I did take a mini road trip to Pocatello to visit a friend from school. Two other CBG interns came with me, and none of us had ever been to Pocatello, so it was good to explore a new area. However, there are still things to do in Twin Falls! I finally went kayaking down the Snake River with some friends and it was a relaxing day on the water.
Almost 2 months into this internship, I can already tell that the rest of my time here with the BLM in Shoshone will be extremely valuable. Most of my time here has been spent training and learning about the botany and wildlife found in our field office. I’m starting to feel more comfortable identifying plants, but there is still so much more for me to learn and apply in the next 4 months.
In the near future, I would like to get more involved in the GIS work happening in our office. By the looks of it, many other interns are using GIS in their work, and I’m jealous. I enjoy collecting data and then analyzing it in GIS because it offers such a unique visualization. I’m always amazed by what GIS can do and I want to continue to improve my skills. If I were to go into a graduate program, I would likely focus on spatial analysis or some type of environmental informatics (GIS/remote sensing/modeling).
For now, I know that I want to improve my applied ecology and botany skills. Before studying something on the large scale, I want to have on-the-ground experience. Field work is the perfect way of acquiring those skills. Our training workshop in Chicago was somewhat helpful in learning about botany. It was made very clear that all of the CBG interns have varying levels of botany expertise. So when it came to the botany lesson, some people could follow along and identify plant families quickly, while several of us struggled to keep up. My school doesn’t even offer a botany or plant systematics class. I guess most of my western botany knowledge and skills will have to be acquired on my own time and on the job. Thankfully, hands-on learning is one of the best ways for me to learn.
The training workshop was a great way to meet other CBG interns, and I am so thankful for that opportunity! I met some great people that I would love to spend more time with. It was great to see so many people with similar interests in terms of conservation and land management. I know that many of you will go on to do great things.
The workshop was also scheduled at a perfect time for me because my graduation was that weekend. I went to college in Chicago, so I got to see most of my friends and family. After a month of being in Idaho, I was so so so thankful to see the people near and dear to my heart. It was a perfect refresher. I got on the L after arriving in Chicago, and I never thought I would be so happy to smell the lingering odor of urine on the train. I know it’s gross, but it was a reminder of the last 4 years I spent in that beautiful urban city.
But now I am back in Idaho, and I want to enjoy my time here while it lasts. I’ve never spent this much time in a rural area, nor have I done this much field work. This area is growing on me and I’m starting to feel more at home. I’m so glad I have other interns here with me because we can share the new experience with each other.
Until next time,
As one of Colorado’s largest Western cities Grand Junction has proven to provide not only interesting geographical features but valuable cultural experiences as well. The areas surrounding Grand Junction contain some of the most beautiful semi-arid landscapes that I have ever had the fortune of witnessing. Locations such as the Colorado National Monument, Hanging lake, and the legendary Moab area, located not even two hours away from Western Colorado, have provided an endless mountainous region in which to explore. As the majority of my work so far in the field office has involved varying methods of rare plant and hydrological data collection I confidently believe that I will enjoy every day of “work” in these areas.
In addition to its geographical inspiration, I have encountered character building interactions with many of the city’s 59,000 inhabitants. Having spent the majority of my life in Chicago, Illinois, I hope the readers of this post can believe I have never witnessed anything quite like “Country Jam” or pop country music for that matter. Even though I typically find myself disagreeing with the common populous on many issues, I have still grown to appreciate and love the cowboy country atmosphere of this region. For example, I used to typically believe that hunters are individuals who simply enjoy killing animals for fun; I now understand that this belief could not be farther from the truth. The outdoorsman and women who I have had the pleasure of meeting are some of the most dedicated environmentalists that I have met in Colorado. I have developed a much greater respect for someone who acquires their own food through a hard days work in nature.
Apart from the culture of this area, as well as its noticeable beauty, I also have truly been enjoying my interactions with the Bureau of Land Management staff. I find that almost everyone I meet is equally concerned with the well being of these areas, many of the staff in the Grand Junction Field Office were actually born right here in Grand Junction. Due to the amount of time that many of the employees have spent in this region, I have an endless amount of fruitful recommendations in which to plan my next adventure.
I can’t believe it’s already the end of my 7th week here in Idaho. It seems like it was just a few days ago that I was scrambling from thrift store to thrift store looking for the cheapest and least-likely-to-have-bed-bugs mattress I could find for my first night in Twin and worrying about my cat, Leopold, who I cruelly had flown with me from Florida and was completely zonked out from the cat-Xanax his vet prescribed. Now, we are living in an almost-furnished apartment (an armchair and a love seat almost makes a couch, right?) and Leopold louder and fatter than ever.
Since my last post, we’ve had lots and lots of training. We attended a 2-day forb workshop hosted by Fish & Game which was a lot of fun. We learned about native seed collection, the importance of different kinds of forbs to sage grouse diets and their chicks, insect diversity, and we visited a private botanic garden filled with native and exotic plants ranging from Joshua trees to North African/SW European spiny pillows (Ptilotrichum spinosum). My favorite part of that tour were the brilliantly colored cacti, specifically the Black Knight Pricklypear (Opuntia rhodantha).
During the field portion of the training we identified many ‘new’ plants with the help of the former state botanist, who was not only incredibly entertaining but the most impressive walking botanical encyclopedia I’ve ever met. We were also able to look at a variety of different sagebrush species and I got to handle my first horny toads! Words cannot describe the feeling one is overcome with when holding a pudgy, inert, horny toad. It was love at first toad. I don’t think these are the blood-spurting-out-of-their-eyeballs variety, but if I encounter one, this blog will be the first to know.
Our mentor arranged for us to shadow the office’s archaeologist, Lisa, for a day, which was really exciting. Lisa gave us a tour of some of her allotments, including a graveyard from the 1800s, Native American rock art just feet away from grazing cattle, lava tubes where human remains have been found, and told us stories about working with the Bannock Shoshone Native Americans and recording their oral history and learning about the different medicinal uses of native plants, such as camas. I studied human dimensions of natural resources and environmental policy, and ethnobotany & ethnoecology has always been a subject I’ve thought about pursuing, but unfortunately there aren’t many graduate programs for it. Luckily, I met an Ethnobotany PhD candidate from the University of Kent, UK who was at the Chicago workshop, who I plan on keeping in contact with and following her research. I also had the pleasure of meeting the Jarbidge office’s archaeologist, Shane, who offered helpful advice for pursuing a career in archaeology during a fuel’s ecology tour.
We also helped out with HAF (Habitat Assessment Framework) monitoring with some of the other range cons (which we hadn’t done since our first day of work). We went up to a loamy hillside allotment that was lush, green, full of new (and living!) forbs. It was absolutely beautiful and the weather was beyond perfect at a cool ~70 F. We gathered data on shrub canopy cover (line intercept) and forb diversity/availability, and soil type. On our way back to the trucks we stumbled upon a sage grouse nest with some chicks and more horny toads.
Carla (fellow CBG-er) and I also got to drive out and do trend by ourselves for the first time, which was really exciting. We only did one site that day because it took a bit longer than we thought to find, but we managed to finish the monitoring (while racing a looming thunderstorm) and not get stuck in any muddy roads, so it was a success!
And lastly, we returned from the Chicago Botanic Garden workshop a few weeks ago– which was really, really, amazing. First we went over general HR/safety information, career/graduate school advice, safety, sampling techniques, plant identification/terminology, Seeds of Success (and some basic collection protocols), and lastly a symposium from a variety of conservationists that discussed various projects ranging from altered fire regimes and the resulting spread of invasive species to the largest prairie and wetland reconstruction project in America (Glacial Ridge Project, which was my favorite lecture).
I also got to explore different parts of the city such as Clybourn (for Jamaican food), Roger’s Park (where we had ‘the best Indian food in Chicago’– apparently Chicago has the 2nd highest combined population in the US of Indians and Pakistanis after NYC), downtown, the Art Institute, and the diner Big and Littles (many thanks to Carla and her boyfriend who showed me around)!
But the best part about the workshop was the opportunity to get to know the other interns and speak with the instructors and organizers and find out what their projects, locations, and backgrounds were. It gave me a lot of insight and perspective on my own path as I navigate the waters of post-undergraduate life. It’s really humbling to think about how lucky I am to have met all these different people (apparently we are the most diverse group of interns they’ve had in terms of ethnicity, age, and gender). I can’t wait to see what the next 3 months have in store for us!
Until next time,
BLM , Shoshone ID Field Office
Taos has held up to its reputation of being a quaint mountain town full of eclectic residents and unconventional life styles. I’ve had the chance to check out the famous Taos Earth Ships, and I’ve hung out with some of their residents. For those unfamiliar, the Earth Ships are off the grid homes that are made primarily of recycled building materials and exhibit energy efficient designs. Because most of them utilize locally found soil to construct adobe-like mud walls for the structures, I find them to closely resemble life-sized sand castles. As you drive past them on the main road, it appears as if giants have constructed sand castles with various types of artistic designs all across the desert horizon. Apart from its interesting communities, Taos has also proven to supply an ample amount of outdoor entertainment. The town is riddled with fantastic Mountain bike and hiking trails. I’ve also had the opportunity to try out white water rafting on the Rio Grande.
Apart from my social life in Taos, my Internship has proven to be extremely educational and exciting thus far. I spent the majority of my first weeks in Taos helping with an invasive species mitigation project at a local camp ground. The project is being undertaken by a local youth conservation core. To aid the conservation core in their efforts to mitigate invasive species at the campground, I created a field guide of commonly found invasive species in the Taos area, and helped in locating and prioritizing work areas at the campground.
I have also gotten two SOS collections under my belt. Our first collection was Chaetopappa ericoides. The collection was memorable to me as we deployed the use of hand held vacuums to collect our seeds. Due to the fluffy nature of the plant’s seeds, vacuums proved to be an effective means of collecting many seeds in a small amount of time. They simply sucked right up into the vacuum. Our second collection was Hesperostipa comata. Although we resorted to a more traditional hand picking method, we still managed to collect well over the 10,000 seed minimum.
Shortly after our Hesperostipa collection, we were informed that a rare species of Astragalus was found on a parcel of land that was scheduled to be treated in the near future. The proposed treatment involves disking the entire parcel of land. Upon completion of the proposed disking, all of the existing flora will be uprooted, and the soil will be tilled up to about 6 inches depth. The rationale behind carrying out such a treatment is to decrease sage brush abundance, and increase the abundance of grasses and forbs on the site. This management tool has not always proven to yield such outcomes however, and in some cases has increased the abundance of invasives. Despite the controversy however, our crew was given the responsibility of surveying the entire 300 plus acres of land for populations of Astragalus ripleyi. This task is still ongoing, and involves combing the entire proposed treatment area by walking quarter mile to mile long transects that are spaced 10 meters apart across the entire treatment area. So far we have been at it for 7 days, and have found about 6 populations of ripleyi. We hope to be finished with the survey by the end of the week, and resume SOS collections shortly after.
Just two weeks ago we were arriving in Chicago for our week of training at the CBG. The training, as well as the symposium that was held at the end of the week, served as a great opportunity to grab hold of the cause that we are working for during this internship. It’s always helpful to widen your perspective to a bigger picture of the conservation goals at stake and to identify your role in making those become reality. It’s great to continue on into the season with this vision - knowing that some of our days may be long, hot and tiring, but also knowing that we’re making a contribution toward the progress of largescale native plant restoration and to the science that will keep these western ecosystems healthy.
Despite the fun we had exploring the city and the botanical gardens during our week of training, I was relieved to arrive back in Lander, WY and breathe in the fresh air of the wide open spaces! The season seems to be progressing quickly already too, augmented by the fact that each time we go out in the field, the grasses have lifted a few feet (it’s been a heavy year for rain), and are a constant kaleidoscope of color as they change from green to gold and red with the sun and heat.
Now armed with our matching muck boots, we’ve begun collecting rangeland monitoring data, measuring the stubble height of key species in riparian areas to determine if grazing has been too heavy in an area. Eventually Erin and I will be on a monitoring rotation, visiting the same sites every couple of weeks. The riparian sites we’re collecting data from are where cattle particularly love to spend their time mowing the grass to the ground, but which are also some of the most important sites ecologically. Other than grazing the grass down too short, the cattle also have the potential to cause something called hummocking, which is severe small-scale mounding of the ground (see photo). Since the soil in riparian areas is so wet, the cattle’s hooves cause depressions where they walk, leaving mounds around the areas where they have not stepped. Over time these will worsen and water loss can become a problem. Less water is held in the soil and protected from evaporation or simply flowing down stream, which changes the function of the ecosystem on an essential level.
This past week we went out in the field for the first time with Tanya, the botanist in our office. She took us to Dubois, WY in the northern part of our field office to monitor a rare Astragalus sp. which is endemic to the area. Finding this particular species requires walking out on the crumbling red and gray slopes of the badland hills, overlooking a mess stripes and color and mountains beyond. I had so many questions for Tanya because it was exciting to be involved in this new and unfamiliar process, let alone get to explore such a beautiful piece of country. We found our species surprisingly quickly, took our samples and data and tried to get a good estimate of the population size. All in all it made for a pretty successful day.
The field season is getting rolling! Our schedule has Emma and I doing roughly three days a week doing vegetation monitoring and two days doing Seeds of Success seed collection work. The vegetation monitoring involves identifying key species and evaluating how grazing is affecting them. This is done by taking stubble height readings across a specific area and taking an average. From this information, we can decide how much grazing can continue in a certain area and when the cows need to be moved. We have a handful of sites that we visit in rotation every couple weeks. I enjoy visiting these sites because we travel on the ACTUAL Oregon trail to get to some of them. I think this is incredibly cool because the landscape in this area is unaltered and would have been exactly what the pioneers would have seen on their journey.
Our Seeds of Success work has just gotten off the ground. We are learning the target species list, and trying to find big enough populations of each plant in the field. For each seed collection we make we need at least 20,000 seeds, so we need to find fairly large populations. We also are only allowed to take 20% of the available seed so we don’t decimate the population. This week we found a large population of a Cryptantha species while monitoring, I think it will be perfect for a Seeds of Success collection!
We also went into the field one day to help our botanist search for a rare species, Dubois milkvetch (Astragalus giviflorus var. purpureus). It is a species that is endemic to Dubois, Wyoming and grows on steep hillsides. We actually found the plant without much trouble, and found a good sized healthy population.
We have seen much more wildlife in the field. I have seen many sage grouse, which are much bigger than I expected them to be! We have also started to see many baby pronghorn. My favorite, though, has been the wild horses. One day we saw a herd of about 100 horses, it was a very cool thing to see.
This month also included our week long workshop week in Chicago. The workshop was held at Chicago Botanic Garden, which is absolutely beautiful. We attended classes such as botany of the west, inventory and monitoring methods, and S.O.S. instruction. We received career and graduate school advice, and attended a symposium on large scale restoration efforts. When not in session, we explored the 385 acre botanical garden and visited downtown Chicago. Overall it was a wonderful week, it got me really excited to be a part of the natural resource field.
I have also been exploring the Lander area more extensively. The road into the mountains was just opened last week, and luckily my family was visiting this weekend. I took them up to the alpine lakes in the mountains, which were stunning. It is very nice that we are able to escape the heat by going up in elevation! I can’t wait to explore the mountains more.
Lander is a beautiful place to live, and it is pretty wonderful to be able to work amidst all this beauty. I feel pretty lucky to be able to call this place my office. Until next time!
- Erin Lander Field Office, BLM – Wyoming
Think about this vegetable fact: In 1903, 544 varieties of cabbage were listed by seed houses across the United States. By 1983, just 28 of those varieties were represented in our national seed bank at the National Seed Storage Laboratory (now the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation).
Hundreds of other varieties have disappeared—not only of cabbages, but also of lettuce and corn and tomatoes and too many other crops to list. And that, in a nutshell, is why it continues to be important to plant heirloom varieties.
Still in Vogue
Heirlooms have special meaning at the Garden this year, as we celebrate the 125th anniversary of our parent organization, the Chicago Horticultural Society, which was officially established in 1890.
What was growing in Chicago vegetable gardens that year? Two big and beautiful beds at the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden honor the tried-and-true midwestern varieties that were the staples of our great- and great-great-grandparents. The cabbages beloved by the immigrants who flocked to the Midwest, like ‘Early Jersey Wakefield’ and ‘Mammoth Red Rock’. The beans that could be canned to sustain the family, like ‘Henderson’s Bush’. The root vegetables that could overwinter, like parsnip ‘Mammoth Sandwich Island’ and rutabaga ‘Laurentian’. And the onions and lovage and cutting celery that were the flavor enhancers of the day.
Horticulturist Lisa Hilgenberg tracked down the varieties by going to the source: the seed catalogs that nurserymen, farmers, and gardeners ordered from and depended on. In the Rare Book Collection of our Lenhardt Library, she pored over an 1891 Storr’s & Harrison catalog, a Burpee’s from 1901, and numerous Vaughan’s Seed Store catalogs. (Vaughan’s started on the East Coast, then became one of the leading Chicago seed houses.) Recognizing that some varieties from the turn of the twentieth century were still available today (‘Bull Nose’ pepper, ‘Philadelphia White Box’ radish, ‘Wapsipinicon Peach’ tomato), she sought out those seeds from sources like Seed Savers Exchange, the D. Landreth Seed Company, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
As seedlings arrived at the Fruit & Vegetable Garden from the production nursery this spring, Lisa planted them in a classic bed layout inspired by the vegetable gardens at Monticello: 4-foot by 6-foot beds (easy to harvest from either side) separated by mulched paths made with wood chips that would have been straw in earlier centuries. As one crop is harvested, the next crop is planted—a nod to the constant production that was a matter of survival for our forefathers and foremothers.
Heirloom fruits and vegetables are more than interesting food ingredients—they represent the voices of each generation informing the next. Think about that as you tour the beds (turn left past the breezeway), and as you plan to grow heirloom varieties in your own vegetable garden this year.
©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org
2 months have flown by in Prineville, Oregon. The last few weeks (besides the CLM Workshop) I have been working on many different projects including eagle monitoring, habitat assessment for sage grouse, GIS training webinars, and lifting wildlife closures on trails.
Every year the Prineville district hosts an environmental education day for Crook County 4th graders, located at a beautiful campground by the Crooked River. Luckily, I got to help run the wildlife station this year. We had pelts and/or skulls from cougar, porcupine, wood chuck, coyote, beaver, badger, and red fox. We taught the kids all about habitat, and what different animals need to survive. Some of the 4th graders were extremely knowledgeable.
I’m living in Bend, OR, about 45 minutes away from Prineville. It’s a pretty big town with almost 90,000 people and I’ve been making awesome friends. Weekends have included hiking, birding, camping, boating on Lake Billy Chinook, exploring Bend, and of course watching the Women’s World Cup (GO USA!!)
Coming up in July, I’ll be working exclusively on a Western Long Eared Bat telemetry project, but more on that next month.
Central Oregon has been a blast so far and I love it more here every day. If it’s outdoors, we’ve got it. There are endless places to explore; obsidian flows, ponderosa forests, scenic riverways, mountain biking hotspots, and the list goes on. The landscape is varied and with all this volcanic geology, never boring. On the cultural side, there is the happening city of Bend, real rodeos, breweries, great local food scene, good music and friendly people. There are these little espresso shacks all over the place, even in the tiniest towns. I’m told it’s a northwest thing. It’s kind of dangerous because I never had a coffee habit, but am steadily developing one here. Who could resist?
Work life in my second internship has been fulfilling and informative. I’m swamped with seed collections and spend 95% of my time in field, which is great! I am particularly excited about some surprise plant populations I found that will be collected for pollinator conservation. I’m also learning a lot about invasive plant species here and how to control them. One of particular interest is medusahead rye, Taeniatherum caput-medusae. It is a shrimpy little annual with crazy long awns and packs a wallop. When it dies off, the dead material creates a mat that does not break down quickly in this dry environment. The mat prevents other plants from competing and encourages a medusahead monoculture. It’s also a wildfire hazard. Part of my time in the field is spent hiking remote areas that burned in last year’s wildfires and mapping the weed infestations that have moved into these areas. These are long, sometimes hard several mile days, but I am thrilled to be getting so much more familiar with how to use the GPS units, spend the day observing wildlife and flowers, and soaking up sun and cool breezes on desolate ridgetops (all while seeking out those nasty plant invaders). Plus it’s pretty good exercise! I have seen 3 rattlesnakes so far, after never meeting any my whole season last year. I reviewed first aid procedures for an encounter with these fellows, although so far they have been politely reserved. They are beautiful animals to see at a respectful distance, so I consider myself lucky. Anyway, it’s back to work for me! There are seeds that need a’collectin’, and I’m the gal for the job!