Buy Parking  |  Shop  |  Join

Feed aggregator

July in Maryland

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 10:20am

There has been a prolonged stretch of hot, humid days here in Maryland.  This weather can make field work unpleasant at times but there is a silver lining.  The decrease in the amount of rain, which is normal for this time of year, allows the Potomac River to drop to lower levels.  This drop has implications for the rare plant survey work I am tasked with for my internship.  River scour habitats were a new concept to me when I first got here and read about them.  The idea of grassland maintained by erosion from flood waters on river islands and river edge habitats was something I never really thought about.  With the drop in water levels on the Potomac, surveying these river habitats has gone to the forefront in my mind.  In particular, the historical records of the federally-endangered Haperella (Ptilimnium nodosum) within the canal have caught my interest.  The last time this plant was seen on the Potomac was around 20 years ago.  Even though I know the chances of finding it are remote, I still can’t help but hold out a little hope.  This plant has a habit of popping up in random river scour bars one year and disappearing the next.  From the little exposure I have to these scour bars it seems apparent that the invasive plant Japanese Knotweed (among several other invasives) also thrives in this disturbed soil.  One of the harder parts of my internship is seeing situations where rare plants are under assault from invasives and knowing how best to contribute to dealing with the problem in a meaningful way in light of the limited time I will be here.

IMG_8540

Looking upstream on the Potomac in western Maryland. The plant at the bottom of the photo is Water Willow (Justicia americana) which is very fond of growing on the edges of these scour bars.

The development of a Weed Warrior program was also one of the tasks of my internship.  Another intern and I will be giving a presentation on several invasive plants commonly found in the canal as well as control methods and native look-alikes for each.  I read a statistic in a published paper that stated 33% of the flora of the Mid-Atlantic region is considered non-native to the region or North America.  I was surprised by that number honestly.  It really underlines the importance of efforts like this for the National Park Service moving forward.  It also poses some difficulties in prioritizing how to develop a program such as this with limited time and resources to train volunteers.

This experience will no doubt be valuable to me as a person that wants to be a nature preserve manager one day.  The part I am looking forward to most is meeting one on one with the individuals afterwards and learning the challenges of maintaining a volunteer-led invasive control effort.  I also hope to learn how to tailor future educational exercises for volunteers interested in invasive removal as well as knowing who these people are and why they chose to volunteer in this particular way.

I haven’t done as much botanical surveying since my last post.  One reason for this is because I participated in a wetland plant identification course at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia last week.  This was a great experience.  Of the three instructors for the course, one was an author for Flora of North America and another had a major hand in developing the wetland indicator codes assigned by the USDA.  He also founded a herbarium.  Needless to say it was great being around so many knowledgeable botanists.  It was also nice talking to the other students in the class, many with permanent federal jobs, who had some helpful advice about seasonal work and graduate schools.

On one of the few trips I made into the field recently I snapped a couple interesting photos.

IMG_8607

Purple Cliffbrake (Pellaea atropurpurea) This cool looking fern was growing in the masonry walls of one of the canal locks.

IMG_8658

Common Water Snake. When I stumbled upon this snake I thought for sure it was a Copperhead. However, after seeing the rounded pupils of the eyes I knew it was not vemonous.

Coleman Minney

Field Botany Intern

Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park

 

 

 

Seeds, Plants, and Birds

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 10:17am

As July comes to an end, things are beginning to transition here in Lander, WY. Most of the forbs are done flowering, and the seed collecting is in full force. In the past three days, Rachael and I made five collections. My favorite collection by far was the Geum triflorum var. ciliatum. The achenes are wind-dispersed and have long, soft hairs that give it the common name prairie smoke. Every time we put seeds in the bag, it felt like sticking your hand in a very light blanket. As a bonus, each plant is about 2 feet tall, which meant that we didn’t need to bend over to collect the seeds!

IMG_0904

As the forbs finish flowering, we are starting to scout grasses and shrubs. As our list of potential collections grows and changes, we decided that it was time for better organization.

Our drying cabinet turned whiteboard

Our drying cabinet turned whiteboard

Even with the seed collections ramping up, we have still found time to help with side projects around the office.

Last week, we went out with one of the archaeologists in the office to Dubois, in the far northwestern corner of the field office. We went to survey for the Dubois milkvetch, a rare plant that occurs in that area. A group of paleontologists have a dig planned there in the coming weeks and so we wanted to flag the milkvetches that they will need to avoid. When we got out to the site, we found several species and varieties of milkvetches, all of them well past flowering. Since the flowers are the only way to tell several of the varieties apart, Rachael and I ended up on our hands and knees looking at the dried up remains of the flowers, trying to determine which were previously purple and which were only purple-tipped. Needless to say, it was a very difficult task. However, it was great to work with another employee in the office and to see other aspects of what the BLM does. Rachael and I are hopeful that we will get to go out on the dig when the paleontologists arrive.

IMG_0866

This week, Rachael and I helped our mentor by going out to survey raptor nests. There were three areas with nests documented in the past that were near a cell tower that the company wanted to do work on. However, because of their contract, the company wasn’t allowed to work on the tower until the end of July unless we conducted a survey to ensure that the nests were no longer occupied. Of the three sites, one had no sign of a nest, one had a nest that looked like it was abandoned early on, and one had a very impressive nest that had definitely been used this season. It was fun to see a part of the field office that we hadn’t been to yet and to get a little bit of a feel for what kind of work our mentor does.

IMG_0916

My second month in Lander has been fantastic, and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Lara G.

BLM Lander, WY

 

 

Alaska Bluebird Days

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 10:15am

I’m lounging—literally lounging—on the tundra, reindeer lichens crunching under my Xtratuffs, and I’m not wearing a bug net. I’m not wearing rain gear either. Or a down puffy jacket, or even a hat. And I’m lying belly down on the cushy tundra staring at the mucronate involucral bracts of a Luzula through my hand lens.20160625_kopp_138520160628_kopp_1463

Above me, puffy cumulous clouds float through blue sky. Below, a creek rushes through
alders into a series of beaver ponds and the robotic starship song of a gray-cheeked thrush carries up on the wind. We didn’t even have to thrash through those alders to get here. We flew—at 100 knots per hour—on a Robinson 44 helicopter over rolling lichen-covered hills and frost-wedge polygon patterned tundra and streams choked so full of chum salmon you can’t even see the bottom. We sent a grizzly sow and her two cubs romping over the tundra, watched two moose calves follow their mother into an alder thicket, and, tucked in a steep drainage, caught a glimpse of a big lone muskox bull, his long shaggy coat waving in the breeze. Flying along the beach, we saw a bloated dead walrus, its tusks not yet harvested by the local natives who scan the beaches every day for treasures to collect and sell or turn into artwork.

Mind you—this is NOT normal. This is the kind of day we live for in Alaska, the day we can’t stop thinking about for weeks afterward, the day we earn through hundreds of less ideal days in trade. The day we dream of during weeks of office drudgery in December when it’s 40-below and dark at 10:00am.

DSCF0128This is the day I’ve earned by countless others spent soaked to the bone in cold driving rain that deems my Rite-in-the-Rain datasheets un-writable, which doesn’t really matter anyway because my fingers have lost all motor functionality for writing. The days spent tussock-hopping over ankle-twisting towers of cottongrass wearing a suffocating headnet and rain gear not because it’s raining but to guard against the pursuit of a persistent buzzing cloud of mosquitoes that find their way into my shirt sleeves and munch at the gap between my headnet and the collar of my shirt. The days of stifling heat and wildfire smoke that boil the sweat in my muck boots and give me black crusty nostrils and a splitting headache. The miles spent thrashing through alders, balancing on flexible stems and trying in vain to find the “grain” to travel with, toting a 10-foot soil auger in one hand, wondering if I’m due up yet for a surprise bear encounter after five seasons of luck.

None of this is to say that I don’t thoroughly appreciate a good ass-kicking every once in a while. Deep down, even the most timid Alaskan will admit to feeling a sense of pleasure after a day of humbling defeat in a stand of dog-hair spruce and boot-sucking muck.

***

The challenge of getting through this country is one of many reasons I am currently lounging on a hillside overlooking miles of untouched valleys and hills in western Alaska, mapping its soils and vegetation communities for the first time in history, with not a cabin or cut tree or trail in sight. Alaskans are a tough and stubborn breed, and talking to us you may be led to believe that this state is one of majestic wild terrain with megafauna and endless treasures awaiting around every corner. That we eat salmon and moose for every meal and blueberries stain every pocket. Well, it’s true. You just might find our comfort standards to be a bit skewed from the social norm.

***20160620_kopp_1270

As I wrap up the last touches on this post, I am watching rain sheet off the windows of our bunkhouse and roofing on the shack next door rattles with the wind blowing off the Bering Sea. It is back to the daily grind of waiting out weather and preparing for another week of wet field work. But as a co-worker and I learned in the evening calm last night, the blustery wind provides luxurious relief from the mosquitoes that frequent the tundra outside town, and we profited with two gallons of blueberries picked in the lovely afternoon light of 10:00pm. Up here, you learn to appreciate the little things. And, well, the little things are pretty freaking amazing.

20160626_kopp_141920160626_kopp_1410

“Quick-Guide” to the Plants of the West Eugene Wetlands

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 10:10am

The monitoring season has come to a pause until next spring. We have checked off all but one of the R/T/E plants (Sericocarpus rigidus) this season and have actually come out ahead of schedule. S. rigidus is just beginning to flower, while others such as Lomatium bradshawii have succumbed to mere litter and thatch, completely indiscernible.  So, for now, I had to come up with some sort of project to work on among the more intermittent tasks I’ll be doing such as seed collecting, site maintenance, monitoring youth crew, etc. For the time being I will be working on a plant identification guide of the West Eugene wetland plants for future interns. We already have a list of all known wetland plants in Eugene, so I am basically building the guide off of that by figuring out their primary habitat type (emergent, wet prairie, upland) based on their wetland indicator status as well as where I’ve seen them primarily in the field, and sorting them by those categories and by family. I have a total of 384 species that I am finding notable characteristics for quick identification in the field.  Part of the idea is that since this is meant for only the West Eugene wetlands, you don’t have to key them out, but instead go to the section according to the habitat type you are currently in, or the index in the back with the species list and page numbers, or use the list of family characteristics I will be providing to verify the species you are looking at. And of course there will be photos associated with each species so if you’re not sure if the description fits, just see if it looks like it.  Since this is for only Eugene and there are only 384 plants to discern between (most of which look nothing alike), the photo you are looking at and the plant in front of you are likely going to be the same species.  I’m hoping this will be an easy, quick, and educational way for future interns to learn all the plants in the West Eugene wetlands.

Here are the main rare and endangered plant and insect species we monitored this season that will also be included in the “quick-guide”:

Lupinus oreganus

Lupinus oreganus

Icaricia icarioides fenderi

Icaricia icarioides fenderi

Lomatium bradshawii

Lomatium bradshawii

Horkelia congesta

Horkelia congesta

Sericocarpus rigidus

Sericocarpus rigidus

Erigeron decumbens

Erigeron decumbens

Until next time!

Danica Maloney

BLM West Eugene Wetlands

Oregon

Studying the cryptic and beautiful Mompha moths

Plant Science and Conservation - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 10:50am

Most butterflies and moths featured in popular magazines and other media are large, well-known species, such as monarchs and luna moths.

Within scientific communities as well, species descriptions are biased toward larger moths, overlooking the multitude of tiny ones. Despite this tendency to favor larger species, the average moth is actually quite small, though far from nondescript!

 Mompha species moth; photo taken in Utah.

Mompha species moth; photo taken in Utah

My research at the Chicago Botanic Garden focuses on an insufficiently studied moth group called Mompha, the largest genus within the family Momphidae. Mompha are tiny moths characterized by 4- to 8-millimeter tufted forewings and distinct color patterns.

 Mompha stellella and M. eloisella moths

Specimens up close: Mompha stellella on the left and Mompha eloisella on the right. Both are found in Illinois, typically during the month of August. Photo credit: Terry Harrison

In North America, there are approximately 40 described species, or taxa, of Mompha. In addition to these identified species, a number of undescribed taxa are located throughout the North American West and Southwest. Mompha larvae feed on the reproductive (i.e., flowers, buds, and fruits) and vegetative (i.e., leaves, stems, and roots) structures of members of the Lythraceae, Cistaceae, Rubiaceae, and, most commonly, Onagraceae (evening primroses). In Illinois, Mompha can be collected in your backyard from Oenothera biennis (common evening primrose).

 Mompha feeding and caterpillars.

Examples of Mompha bud-feeding and Mompha fruit-feeding caterpillars

Because many Mompha species share the same coloration, the only morphological characteristics—size, shape, and structure of an organism or one of its parts—that accurately differentiate taxa are unique genitalia. Experienced lepidopterists—butterfly and moth researchers or collectors—are able to carefully dissect moths in order to view their genitalia. However, due to the unique skills involved in moth dissection and genitalia identification, few scientists are qualified to identify different Mompha species.

 Closeup of Mompha species caterpillar.

Close-up of Mompha species caterpillar

Instead of conducting genitalia dissections, I am sequencing six genes from hundreds of Mompha collected over the span of three years from the Western and Southwestern United States. DNA, like morphological characteristics, can be used to identify and characterize differences between species. To analyze the differences within Mompha DNA, I modeled phylogenetic trees.

 Tubes of moth DNA samples.

Tubes and tubes of Mompha moth DNA samples

Phylogenetic trees depict evolutionary relationships between species in regard to genetic characteristic; closely related species share similar DNA and are thus placed close together on a phylogenetic tree. These trees will allow me to describe the natural history of Mompha in North America. This means that I will be able to identify new Mompha species, as well as Mompha host plant preferences, plant structure preferences, emergence times, and geographic isolation.

Check back here in a couple of months to read about the results of my analyses!

Select photos by Donald Hobern (Flickr: Mompha epilobiella) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons, and Rick Overson.
©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Studying the cryptic and beautiful Mompha moths

Garden Blog - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 10:50am

Most butterflies and moths featured in popular magazines and other media are large, well-known species, such as monarchs and luna moths.

Within scientific communities as well, species descriptions are biased toward larger moths, overlooking the multitude of tiny ones. Despite this tendency to favor larger species, the average moth is actually quite small, though far from nondescript!

 Mompha species moth; photo taken in Utah.

Mompha species moth; photo taken in Utah

My research at the Chicago Botanic Garden focuses on an insufficiently studied moth group called Mompha, the largest genus within the family Momphidae. Mompha are tiny moths characterized by 4- to 8-millimeter tufted forewings and distinct color patterns.

 Mompha stellella and M. eloisella moths

Specimens up close: Mompha stellella on the left and Mompha eloisella on the right. Both are found in Illinois, typically during the month of August. Photo credit: Terry Harrison

In North America, there are approximately 40 described species, or taxa, of Mompha. In addition to these identified species, a number of undescribed taxa are located throughout the North American West and Southwest. Mompha larvae feed on the reproductive (i.e., flowers, buds, and fruits) and vegetative (i.e., leaves, stems, and roots) structures of members of the Lythraceae, Cistaceae, Rubiaceae, and, most commonly, Onagraceae (evening primroses). In Illinois, Mompha can be collected in your backyard from Oenothera biennis (common evening primrose).

 Mompha feeding and caterpillars.

Examples of Mompha bud-feeding and Mompha fruit-feeding caterpillars

Because many Mompha species share the same coloration, the only morphological characteristics—size, shape, and structure of an organism or one of its parts—that accurately differentiate taxa are unique genitalia. Experienced lepidopterists—butterfly and moth researchers or collectors—are able to carefully dissect moths in order to view their genitalia. However, due to the unique skills involved in moth dissection and genitalia identification, few scientists are qualified to identify different Mompha species.

 Closeup of Mompha species caterpillar.

Close-up of Mompha species caterpillar

Instead of conducting genitalia dissections, I am sequencing six genes from hundreds of Mompha collected over the span of three years from the Western and Southwestern United States. DNA, like morphological characteristics, can be used to identify and characterize differences between species. To analyze the differences within Mompha DNA, I modeled phylogenetic trees.

 Tubes of moth DNA samples.

Tubes and tubes of Mompha moth DNA samples

Phylogenetic trees depict evolutionary relationships between species in regard to genetic characteristic; closely related species share similar DNA and are thus placed close together on a phylogenetic tree. These trees will allow me to describe the natural history of Mompha in North America. This means that I will be able to identify new Mompha species, as well as Mompha host plant preferences, plant structure preferences, emergence times, and geographic isolation.

Check back here in a couple of months to read about the results of my analyses!

Select photos by Donald Hobern (Flickr: Mompha epilobiella) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons, and Rick Overson.
©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Brookfield Zoo Big Year Birding Field Trip

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sun, 07/24/2016 - 7:00am

Bird the grounds at Brookfield Zoo and search for migrants along the Forest Preserve Nature Trail at Swan Lake. Contact team leader James: james.mckinney@czs.org or 708.688.8475. Trips last 2 hours.

The post Brookfield Zoo Big Year Birding Field Trip appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Orland Grassland Volunteers Big Year Birding Field Trip

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sat, 07/23/2016 - 9:00am

Bring your family for a 30-minute walk. Binoculars available. Wear long pants, hat. Updates: orlandgrassland.org Register with Mike McNamee: 773-573-5158.

The post Orland Grassland Volunteers Big Year Birding Field Trip appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

The Nocturnal Nuance of Moths

Garden Blog - Sat, 07/23/2016 - 8:51am

With more than 1,850 known species of moths in the state of Illinois—more than ten times the diversity of butterflies—it is a real adventure sampling the moth species inhabiting the McDonald Woods at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Using a combination of light and bait traps along with visual searches, I have been investigating the diversity of moth species found in the restored portions of our oak woodland. Moths are removed from the traps and then photographed before being released back to the woodland.

 Ctenucha virginica (Virginia Ctenucha) moth.

The metallic scales of Ctenucha virginica (Virginia Ctenucha moth) are striking—even its wings have a metallic sheen.

My interest in moths stems from the fact that many of the species are dependent on one or just a few native plant species for their survival, and as a result, may serve as valuable indicators of the health of our recovering, once-degraded oak woodland. The larval stages—the caterpillars—primarily feed on the roots, stems, and leaves of the plants. Adult moth species are very important pollinators. White-flowered and night-fragrant plant species are often what they seek. There are day-flying moths also, like some of the hawk moths (which are often mistaken for hummingbirds) that are seen visiting a variety of flowers in full daylight. Moths are also a tremendously important part of the food chain. Entomologist Doug Tallamy tabulated the number of caterpillars that were utilized to support one nest of black-capped chickadees and found that they consumed between 6,000 and 9,000 caterpillars, most of which were moth species. Adding even a few native plant species to your yard can benefit a multitude of these valuable invertebrates.

 Smerinthus jamaicensis (Twin-spotted sphinx moth).

Smerinthus jamaicensis (Twin-spotted sphinx moth)

 Plusia contexta (Connected looper moth).

Plusia contexta (Connected looper moth)

 Ponometia erastrioides (Small bird-dropping moth).

Ponometia erastrioides (Small bird-dropping moth)

 Plagodis phlogosaria (Straight-lined Plagodis moth).

Plagodis phlogosaria (Straight-lined Plagodis moth)

It is a never-ending surprise to see what new species will show up each time traps are placed.

Some species are so small (usually referred to by lepidopterists as micromoths) that most people would pass them off as gnats or pesky flies. Some micromoths are only 3-4 millimeters long. One in particular I like to refer to as the “Nemo” moth, as in Finding Nemo. I gave this species that name because its colorful pattern reminds me of a clown fish.

 A cryptically-colored Noctua pronuba (Large yellow underwing moth).

A cryptically colored Noctua pronuba (Large yellow underwing moth)

At the other end of the spectrum are the moth species that are quite large. The giant silkworm moths, like the luna and Cecropia moths, have a wingspan of more than 140 millimeters. Starting in mid-July and going through September, a group of medium to large moths known as underwing moths starts appearing in the woods. These delta-shaped species are usually very cryptically colored on their forewing and brightly and starkly colored on their hind wing. The cryptic forewing allows them to blend in with the tree trunks they are resting on; the hindwing only becomes visible when they spread their wings to fly. It is thought to be a distraction or scare tactic to foil predators.

Although there is a subtle nuance of shapes, colors, and textures that distinguish many species, there are also those that are in-your-face with shockingly bright colors, metallic ornamentation, stark patterns, and jagged ridges of scales—much like a mountain range on six legs—that never fail to impress me. The looper moths are one good example. Many have stigmas (distinctive white patches and scrolling) on the surface of the wing and spectacular assortments of peaks, crowns, and ridges of scales on the thorax and inner edges of the wings. The scale patterns most likely evolved to break up the silhouette of the moth to make it less visible. One of the hooded owlet moths has a tall patch of scales on its thorax that looks like a witches hat when erect, but it can also be laid down over the moths head to make it look like a broken-off stick.

 Leucania pseudargyria (False wainscot moth).

Leucania pseudargyria (False wainscot moth)

In general, there is a new group of species that emerges about every two weeks during the year, with midsummer being the peak for species and abundance. Many moth species have relatively short flight periods and can only be seen at certain times of the year, but some have multiple broods that show up several times during the year. When I show some of these moths to colleagues, they almost always say, “I never knew these things existed.”

Under the cover of darkness, there is a world of beauty and fascination fluttering silently among the trees. It makes me wonder if the full moon doesn’t show up once a month just to shed a little light on the show, just so we don’t miss it completely.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

A dictionary of English names of plants : applied in England and among English-speaking people to cultivated and wild plants, trees and shrubs. / By William Miller. In two parts, English-Latin and Latin-English.

New Book Arrivals - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 1:45pm
A dictionary of English names of plants : applied in England and among English-speaking people to cultivated and wild plants, trees and shrubs. / By William Miller. In two parts, English-Latin and Latin-English.
Author: Miller, William.
Call Number: QK13.M55 1884

A treatise on the culture and management of fruit-trees : in which a new method of pruning and training is full described. To which is added, a new and improved edition of observations on the diseases, defects, and injuries, in all kinds of fruit and...

New Book Arrivals - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 1:45pm
A treatise on the culture and management of fruit-trees : in which a new method of pruning and training is full described. To which is added, a new and improved edition of observations on the diseases, defects, and injuries, in all kinds of fruit and forest trees : with an account of a particular method of cure ... / by William Forsyth ...
Author: Forsyth, William, 1737-1804.
Call Number: SB356.F67 1803

Rural architecture in the Chinese taste : being designs entirely new for the decoration of gardens, parks, forrests, insides of houses, &c., on sixty copper plates, with full instructions for workmen : also a near estimate of the charge, and hints...

New Book Arrivals - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 1:45pm
Rural architecture in the Chinese taste : being designs entirely new for the decoration of gardens, parks, forrests, insides of houses, &c., on sixty copper plates, with full instructions for workmen : also a near estimate of the charge, and hints where proper to be erected / the whole invented & drawn by Will.m & In.n Halfpenny ...
Author: Halfpenny, William, -1755.
Call Number: NA8450.H35 1755

Every man his own gardener : being a new, and much more complete gardener's kalendar than any one hitherto published ... / By Thomas Mawe and John Abercrombie ... and other gardeners.

New Book Arrivals - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 1:45pm
Every man his own gardener : being a new, and much more complete gardener's kalendar than any one hitherto published ... / By Thomas Mawe and John Abercrombie ... and other gardeners.
Author: Abercrombie, John, 1726-1806.
Call Number: SB46.A24 1782

First weeks

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 12:11pm

My first two weeks working at Fort Ord National Monument were exciting, extremely varied, and a tremendous amount of learning compressed in a short amount of time. In those two weeks I watered native plant restoration sites, exterminated stands of invasive mustard, hemlock, and thistle, mapped the location of oaks using GPS and GIS, tracked a collared ground squirrel using telemetry, attended meetings planning heavy equipment projects and a central California invasive weeds symposium, collected native lily, silk tassel, and venus thistle seeds, and drove 4wd trucks on dirt roads around Fort Ord, waving at passing hikers. Needless to say, it was a lot – something new every day, or sometimes every half day. Tiring, but also fun, challenging, and rewarding.

Watering a young oak within a stand of thistle

Watering a young oak in a stand of dried up thistle

One of the highlights of those first two weeks was using telemetry to find the ground squirrel collared by a research team from CSUMB (California State University, Monterey Bay). It involved hiking a steep canyon while carrying an antennae over my head and using the volume of a steady beeping as an indicator of proximity to the squirrel. In the end we were able to pinpoint the squirrel’s location to a tunnel underneath a bush, and laid down a trap baited with a smelly peanut butter and tuna sandwich.

In my second week, while hiking through rolling hills covered in yellow grass, we came across a few white praying mantises frolicking in the grass. They really are some odd creatures:

A beautiful and odd insect

A strange and beautiful insect

Another one

A whiter one

The purpose of the hike was to reach an old goat grazing plot where Ranger Manny had remembered seeing lily plants in need of seed collecting. However, when he last saw them it was springtime and the lilies were in full bloom, but now in the middle of summer the dried up lilies camouflaged perfectly with all the other dried up plants, so finding them was a bit of an easter egg hunt. But the whole time we were surrounded by beautiful sweeping views:

"KYAWW!" -red tailed hawk

Eye candy

More eye candy

“KYAAWW!”  -red tailed hawk

The landscape really evokes feelings of a cowboy roaming the wild west, what with the swaying yellow grasslands littered with coyote brush, the turkey vultures circling overhead, and the occasional cry of a red tailed hawk. That was the setting of a lot of my field work during those first two weeks, along with some oak woodland and maritime chaparral. Not too bad of an office.

Sean Pagnon, BLM Fort Ord National Monument, CA

 

Old home on the range

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 12:08pm

This post marks the first month of my employment with the CLM. I didn’t know what to expect as I packed my bags and drove from Kalamazoo, MI to Kremmling, CO to work with the BLM. Kremmling is a small ranching town located about two hours west of Denver and is radically different than the suburban Midwest. I am still wrapping my head around the sheer expanse of the country here. Kremmling features prime sagebrush habitat, diverse wildlife and you guessed it a lot of cows. There are limited housing options in Kremmling and it almost made me pass on the position. Fortunately, a co-worker at the office offered me a room at his place. The house is custom made and is heated in the winter using a radiant heating system, which is very cool.

My home away from home for the next 5 months. I did not expect to be staying in such a nice place, but I am not going to complain.

My home away from home for the next 5 months. I did not expect to be staying in such a nice place, but I am not going to complain.

My position involves working on the AIM project, which stands for Assessment, Inventory and Monitoring. AIM is an ambitious project intended to provide the BLM with up to date large sale ecological data. The new data is important as it will allow decision makers to better mange natural recourses and identify valuable habitats across field offices. Our main focus is identifying suitable habitat for the sage grouse, which has lost significant habitat to development in the west.

The great part about my position is that it allows me to explore Colorado. Each week we are assigned several plots that are scattered across the northwest quadrant of the state. My mentor, Amy, and I collect data on plant species richness, distribution and heights. We also collect data on abiotic conditions such the physical geography, soil texture, and soil stability. That data is used, mainly to determine the erosion susceptibility of a site.

Amy and I identifying plants along a transect. The blue avalanche poll in the upper left is used to measure plant height.

Amy and I identifying plants along a transect. The blue avalanche poll in the upper left is used to measure plant height.

Action shot of a soil pit, in a sage bruch site. The soil was very sandy here which made for easy digging. Sometimes getting to the standard 70cm can be a struggle.

Action shot of a soil pit, at a sagebrush site. The soil was very sandy here, which made for easy digging. Sometimes getting to the standard 70cm can be a struggle.

Each plot we are assigned can be located in various ecosystems, ranging from sagebrush, pinyon-juniper, aspen, gambel oak and others. This presents unique challenges when it comes to identifying plants. I have been sharpening my plant terminology skills to make plant ID more efficient. Luckily, Amy is familiar with many of the plants we encounter, and can at least narrow them down to the family. When we cannot identify a plant in the field I get to practice pressing and cataloging plants to be identified later in the office. The field guide we rely on the most is Flora of Colorado by Jennifer Ackerfield. This 818 page book is very comprehensive, I am impressed that anyone could compile such a catalog of plants in a single lifetime.

Camp site in some aspen forest. The cabin belongs to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Camp site in some aspen forest. The cabin belongs to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

 

I am happy to be doing something meaningful for work. I enjoy driving around Colorado, hanging out with plants, and camping in beautiful places. The job is not always easy, the sun can get pretty intense in the mountains and the mosquitoes are extra hungry at altitude. There is also the added weight of knowing that my data must be correct in order to serve its purpose effectively. That aside, the past four weeks have been great, and I am looking forward to the next time I get to share my experiences on the blog. Before I go here is a nice picture of some cows.

IMG_0314

Moo!

Kremmling CO, field office

Bureau of Land Management

Eli Lowry

4th of July in Lander, WY

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 11:59am

CLM interns came from Buffalo, WY and Pinedale to celebrate the 4th of July with those in Lander. Jack came all the way from Taos, New Mexico! Lander is a unique small town in Wyoming. With the presence of the National Outdoor Leadership School, Lander attracts a younger crowd of folks from all across the nation. There is a great Thai food restaurant (among many others) and a lively night life.

IMG_1836

If you like Thai food — this place was fantastic!

Rock climbing and bouldering is a popular recreation activity, one that I had yet to try before my visit. I only made it up a couple of the easier routes we climbed, but the mental and physical exercise was fulfilling, and the feeling at the top was remarkably gratifying. I look forward to practicing this sport more often.

Rachael and Jack conquer the "Cheese Grater" IMG_6227 bouldering near Sinks Canyon state park IMG_6221

IMG_1838

Saturday night led our crew of seasonal workers into the WInds.

IMG_6164 IMG_6179 IMG_6167

IMG_6173

One guitar and many good friends in the wilderness of the mountains created a night full of story-telling and laughter. Kumbaya was never on our playlist, but some of the group’s favorite songs echoed through our camp site as we sat around the fire. Yes, “Wagon Wheel” was the first one that came to mind for us, too. We roasted marshmallows and feasted on smores. We learned things about each other that were not allowed to leave the fire circle that night. We fell asleep to the sounds of the rushing river below us, and woke up to a peaceful sunrise over the lake.

IMG_6168

The morning of the 4th started off with the parade / water fight. As the floats, trucks, people and animals walk by with proud advertisement, water balloons flew from every direction. Many people even had super-soaker water guns. By no surprise, the Lander Fire Department won by a landslide. Every once in a while, some of us would bravely run out in the street, scrambling to grab Tootsie-Rolls and Fruities (no children were harmed).

After the parade, a few of us walked to the grocery store, where we filled a shopping cart with all of the necessities for a summer weekend cook-out. We all gathered outside of the apartment in the courtyard where the festivities began and lasted all afternoon. So many good people and good vibes; I could not have asked for a better way to celebrate.

IMG_6209 IMG_6207 IMG_6206 IMG_6212 IMG_6199

The grill-master and MVP of the weekend, Ryan

IMG_1847Many left in the afternoon to head back home; a bitter-sweet departure. With a few hours of daylight left, Rachael, Jack and I decided to go for a bouldering/hiking adventure back into Sinks Canyon. We hiked up to Sinks Falls, where there is a 15-foot natural slide into a pool of ice-cold water. I remember sitting at the top, thinking to myself, “why are we doing this!?” After one slight movement, gravity and loss-of-friction takes over, and there is no going back. Soon the cold water induces a scream as we came up for air, swimming a bit faster than usual to get back on shore. That submerge felt so incredibly refreshing and revitalizing, I remember thinking, “yes, this is why we do this.” 

IMG_1846

Though our fireworks could not compete with our neighbors, it was great fun to run around the streets with sparklers, snappers and fountains. One of the “flying” rockets we lit off was suppose to go into the air and spin rapidly. Instead, it fell to its side and shot off in the direction we were all standing. We all ran away frantically, a mix of fear and gut-wrenching laughter. I was overcome and filled with child-like joy.

IMG_6235 IMG_6263

After our shenanigans in the streets, we grabbed a bag of chips, our sweatshirts and blankets and headed up to the roof of the apartment to watch the rest of the show.

IMG_6231

Fireworks light up the sky around the entire city of Lander on the 4th of July. It was by far the most entertaining and extraordinary firework show I have ever seen. From the neighborhood streets to the fairgrounds, friends and family set up their stations for hours of colorful fire and explosions. Words truly cannot do this 4th of July celebration justice — a must see if you are ever in this part of the country for the holiday.

To future interns — if you are worried or concerned about being “in the middle of nowhere,” know that so many are in the same place as you. With a little planning and out-reach, you can create an incredible weekend of adventure and make good friends along the way. I cannot wait to go back to Lander and visit. However, this weekend is Rendezvous Weekend in Pinedale! Activities all day and all night long outside from Thursday – Friday.

 

Oregon Part 2

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 11:52am

When I left Burns last October I didn’t think I’d be back in Oregon for a long time. Yet, here I am again 8 months later living in the pretty green city that I passed through on my way to other adventures last summer. Compared to Burns, Prineville is a big city…. well its 3x bigger in population and only 45 minutes from Bend, the biggest city in central Oregon.

During my first CLM internship my job was emergency stabilization and rehabilitation monitoring. After a summer working in the high desert though, I realized that I missed being near water and decided to focus on getting jobs related to aquatic ecology. This summer I’m working as an aquatic AIM (Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring) technician. Basically, I take physical habitat and water quality measurements of streams on BLM lands. Learning the aquatic AIM protocol was fairly exciting for a number of reasons. The protocol, which is being developed by the National Aquatic Monitoring Center, Utah State University, and BLM is new (in-fact the official protocol is unpublished), so I felt privileged to be among the first technicians to be trained to use it and the very first to implement it for the Prineville BLM. I’ve never been to Utah, so of course traveling there and crossing off another state was a plus.
After a week of training in Utah it was time to implement AIM in the field. Our first site was on the North Fork of the John Day and unsurprisingly getting into the work flow was kind of slow. Reaches (the stream survey length) can range anywhere from 150m to 2km. On the North Fork of the John Day the reach was 800m long and consisted of pools so deep that were impossible for me to wade –least I top my waders. Remembering left bank and right bank and transect letters (where data is collected) was counter-intuitive at first. In AIM transects are labeled KA with K being the topmost part of the reach and A the bottommost point. Left and right bank orientation is considered while facing downstream, however data is collected starting at A and walking upstream.
Nine completed sites later and all of this is second nature. Hopefully next time I blog we will be 2/3 of the way through our monitoring.

-Jessica

 

There are secrets in New Jersey

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 11:49am

New Jersey has a secret. It wears an industrial mask and is draped in a costume made from the fabric of loud boardwalks, clubbers, and miscellaneous state stereotypes.

But, beneath the façade, there is something very—very different. The secret’s out, New Jersey is bursting at the seams with plant life and environmental diversity.

My partner, Robbie, and I have gained a lot of memorable and joyous experiences exploring NJ and its plant life. We have driven through rough and gritty dirt roads deep into the soul of the Pine Barrens. We did not find the Jersey Devil, but we did find adventure.

We camped under hearts of oaks and pines, nestled in the rib cages of blueberries and huckleberries. N.J. unveiled its rare Lysimachia terrestristhe and Pogonia opioglossoides to us in the summer’s boiling bogs brimming with sun dew and pitcher plants.Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 10.10.03 PM

We have taken shelter from the sobs of the earth and its storming pulse under the spiral bark of the Atlantic white cedar.

We’ve inhaled the aromatic scents of Rhododendron viscosum of the Appalachian Mountains tucked away in the northwest of the state.

IMG_0559

Rhododendron viscosum

We kayaked through the narrow veins of the creeks, and saw the Spartina species thriving on the scalps of muscle clams.

Egg Island, NJ

Egg Island, NJ

We escaped the vicious greenflies and their shocking vampiric bites.

We traced roads that evolved into thick, impassible tickets. We baked like potatoes in the summer’s oven. We searched through the labyrinth of dunes seeking beach plum (Prunus maritima), bear berry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) , and heather (Hudsonia sp.).

Endless Gaylussacia baccata

Endless under stories of Gaylussacia baccata

We saw proud bald eagles, and ravenous osprey gripping fish in their razor talons. We saw black face terns plummeting and breaking the skin of the sea. We eaves dropped into conversations of sand pipers and red winged black birds as they discussed territory defense strategy.

Turkey Beard (Xerophyllum asphodeloides)

Turkey Beard (Xerophyllum asphodeloides)

 

Our alarm clocks were not actual timepieces, but roaring torrential downpours, leaky tents, and whippoorwills gossiping into the night.

Our breath would escape our lungs from the snakes slithering across our boots.

We were freckled with ticks.

We waited patiently for nesting terrapins to cross the road.

We learned the language of the land and had the opportunity to listen closely. It spoke in gentle whispers. It said, “I have a secret. Can you guess what’s under this mask?”

The day-to-day, and the exceptions

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 11:42am

The day-to-day of my job monitoring riparian areas to analyze the effects of grazing for the rangelands section of the BLM in Lander, WY has been great thus far. I get to spend every day outside, learning a new landscape and wildlife. As summer sets in, I’m enjoying watching the changes within our study sites – less rain, less wildflowers, seeding grasses, more grazing, slightly older sage grouse and antelope fawns. I’m excited to see how the landscape changes as summer and fall progress. Despite the great day-to-day, my favorite part of the job thus far has been all of the opportunities to learn from other BLM employees.

A few weeks ago I went on a tour of the allotments I’ve been monitoring with the Cooperative Rangeland Management group – a team of people involving BLM and State lands employees, conservationists, ranching permitees, emeritus professors, and me. I learned about the land I’ve been working on from the experts – one of the rancher’s grandad moved there in 1919. For some perspective, that’s before the BLM even existed! It was so great to hear the open communication between those with such differing perspectives. The day truly drove home the idea of multi-use multi-value land. It is extremely difficult to have all of the values represented in each parcel of land, and often the values are competing, but I think the aim is admirable and it is possible.

Two weeks ago I got to go on a plant ID refresher field trip with our new field botanist (also a CLM graduate!) and a collection of others from the office. There were a few rangeland people, two fire guys, and some oil and gas folk. It was fascinating to hear the conversations between the different experts, and to see where their own experience lies. The rangeland people helped ID a lot of grasses and they all had different tips for recognizing them.  The fire guys were talking about the transitioning ecological systems post burn and what plants to look for there. The plant ID refresher was very helpful, but, even better, was getting to spend time with and being in the field with the pros.

The learning curve my first month here has been immense. It’s been full of learning many acronyms – HMA, CRM, NCS; driving on muddy two-tracks, remembering names and positions of those in the office, knowing which rock to turn left at, learning grass names. I’ve enjoyed learning the field office and getting better and faster at monitoring and my day-to-day work. It’s been such a privilege to work in an office where I can stray from my normal work and learn from the experts around me.

Abby

Bureau of Land Management

Lander Field Office

Lander, WY

The joys of being an intern

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 11:40am

It sure has been a busy summer so far, with a lot happening since CLM training in Chicago. Right after training ended my wife came to Chicago to visit for the weekend and we had a blast visiting the wonderful museums and enjoying the city. We were extremely lucky and managed to get a reservation at the world famous restaurant Alinea, one of the most innovative and exciting dining experiences in the world.

Onion flowers, garlic chips, and mint

Onion flowers, garlic chips, and mint

Wife enjoying a strawberry balloon filled with helium.

Wife enjoying a strawberry balloon filled with helium.

Unfortunately life cant be filled with fine dining and exploring museums. After returning to the Colorado State Office, we have been extremely busy with threatened and endangered plant monitoring all along the western slope of Colorado. We spent a week in Canon City Colorado to monitor populations of Eriogonum brandegeei, a species of buckwheat that is only found in the Canon City area of Colorado. Most of our time was spent in the washes near the foothills that had significant populations of E. brandegeei. 

A view from the field

A view from the field

I was able to pull away from our research group at the state office for a week to do some scouting and seed collection in the Pawnee National Grasslands. I was amazed at the amount of diversity that the grasslands contain. The flowers were in peak bloom and the colors popping up among the grasses were a beautiful sight. I unfortunately left my bird identification book at home, which was a big mistake because the grasslands are known for their amazing species richness. Hopefully I will be able to make it back later in the year and try to ID some of the species.

Traffic jam in the grasslands

Traffic jam in the grasslands

Coneflowers in bloom

Coneflowers in bloom

My field vehicle in the beautiful plains

My field vehicle in the beautiful plains

Population of Hesperostipa comata (needle and thread grass)

Population of Hesperostipa comata (needle and thread grass)

A small sampling of the H. comata seeds that were collected.

A small sampling of the H. comata seeds that were collected

This past week we joined a Field Botany course from the University of Northern Colorado to monitor populations of Astragalus osterhoutii. This was very exciting for me because taking the same course at UNC 2 years ago got me interested in a career doing field work. It was a great experience to interact with students new to field work, it is amazing to see how much I have grown personally and professionally in the last 2 years.

Penstemon penlandii

Penstemon penlandii

The crew doing field work

The crew doing field work

 

That is all for me, about to head back to the mountains and get some more work done.

Brennen

 

Pages

Subscribe to Chicago Botanic Garden aggregator