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The last two weeks in the Carson City BLM office have been action packed!

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 4:28pm

For the last few weeks our field team has been scouting for an appropriate site on which to conduct our mountain mahogany reforestation initiative. The week before last we finally identified an ideal burn spot in the mountains where lots of mountain mahogany had previously grown. After delineating our proposed reforestation boundaries with our GPS units, we then submitted the data to our archaeology department heads so that they could access our proposed reforestation site for its cultural relevancy. Towards the end of that week however, we received clearance and our reforestation went swimmingly (300+ trees)!
We have also had the opportunity to partake in a two day Poaceae identification workshop at the University of Nevada. This was a most enjoyable experience which allowed us to gain hands on experience identifying over 50 different species in the grass family, including some sedges and rushes! While many of us have prior experience in the identification of species in this family, the professors at UN and their high quality microscopes made for a truly engaging learning experience. One we all wish could be replicated for other families that are commonly found on BLM property in Nevada!
Until next month,

The first two weeks in the Mojave Desert

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 4:27pm

Hello, it’s been awhile since my last blog entry. I can’t say there was much happening during the inter-CLM times, which resembles to me a sort of dormancy period that I experienced the last two winters – very similar to plants’ strategy so to say. And, of course, another parallel that I find with myself is that after a long sleep full of hope and excitement for the productive and successful year each plant sprouts its leaves and builds a strategy for the year based on resources available. For me, the beginning of this season started two weeks ago, March 16, but this time instead of BLM’s botanical work I am in Mojave Desert, working with US Geological Survey as a plant ecology intern (I think this is the best definition of our role here for the time being). After a couple of orientation hours and introduction to the office organization we were left to prepare for the week out in the field starting the next day. It turned out to be the best start of a new job that I’ve ever had. The next day, we started our first measurements in the field. It was a super long day but full of emotional rewards and positive impressions. In general the idea of the project itself is very interesting, looking into how common species from different locations of southwestern deserts respond to Mojave Desert climate conditions and how suitable they are for restoration purposes. It was our first week, which of course was full of discoveries, learning, and for sure bright moments. To word, the Mojave Desert is now very close to its most beautiful period, when most of native species bloom. And I’m certainly very happy to be able to visit places around Henderson to enjoy their beauty during weekends. Well, it’s been a busy week and hopefully the tendency will remain in such current as it provides just an outstanding insight into Mojave Desert plants’ live. Until, next time!


Henderson, USGS

Part of the Mojave Desert landscape

Part of the Mojave Desert landscape

Soaring to New Heights!! The Search for the Golden Eagle!

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 4:24pm

Welcome to the City of Apples

Wenatchee Apple Capital
Hello everyone!! This is Justin Chappelle reporting from BLM Wenatchee Field Office in Washington State! This is my third internship with the CLM and I am very excited to have this great opportunity!

Wenatchee, Washington is considered the Apple Capital of the World. Everywhere you look, you see apple trees or something apple related. The hillsides for miles have orchards of cherry, pear, apricot, and of course apple trees. Apple advertising is everywhere! They even have an Applebees!  We are in pre-spring and everything is ready to bloom! The magnolias, fruit trees, and forsythia are already blooming, and farmers are beginning to spray the orchards with various sprays to make the fruit last longer, grow bigger, and have the flowers bloom for the pollination process. ^_^;

Fruit Trees!!

There are a huge amount of fruit tree cultivars that could be found in the Wenatchee Valley!

My previous internships were in Burns, Oregon and Buffalo, Wyoming. Both of these small towns were peaceful and had a population around 4-5,000. Wenatchee thinks of itself as a small town as well, but there are 40,000 people living in the area! They had the World’s shortest parade route for St. Patrick’s Day. Essentially, the parade was a block long and they did the parade twice to extend the duration. Wenatchee is a new adventure and I am very excited about working for the BLM in this town!

The Essentials

Every internship begins with the essentials in order to work for the Government. We had to be certified, watch all of the safety videos, and take all of the computer exams! This process went pretty smooth and we were certified for everything within a few days! I did have a problem with the FISAA+ exam. Every time I completed the exam, the computer would not print out my certification. I had to take the exam over three more times until I was able to get my certification. By that time, I also found out that the computer was sending the print work to another section of the BLM office, so now I am 4 times FISSA+ certified! No worries about computer safety tactics and malware, I am a pro at all of the computer documentation!

There were a variety of meetings that we had last week regarding weekly updates, visiting bosses, a potluck, and EEO. Everyone here was super friendly and welcoming! Jenny (The other intern) and I were thrown into the thick of everything and learned a great deal about politics, policy work, and all of the jobs each employee at this BLM had. Despite a smaller sized staff, each of the employees were doing all sorts of jobs and tasks! For Jenny and I, we found out that we would be doing a lot for our field season, which was exciting to hear!!! (I am a little nervous, but in a good way! ^_^;;)

This is a horned lizard we found!!

This is a horned lizard we found!!

Enter Into The Palisades

We had our first field day last Tuesday! The field biologist (Erik) and the botanist (Molly) took us to the Palisades, which was an area located to the East of Wentachee. This place had amazing topography, which was carved out by prehistoric floods. Recently, there was a fire that occurred in this area the previous year. We were checking on the seeding efforts that were going on. There was a tractor pulling three seeding devices. These devices made indents into the ground and planted the seeds at the same time. This process looked amazing! The actual process did not till up a lot of soil, but just enough to plant the seeds. The machines even ran over a glass bottle and it was not broken!

The till and seeding process

The till and seeding process

The fire was not very intense, and a majority of plants were recovering nicely. Molly, our botanist, was showing us all of the plants in our area. Normally in March, the other field offices had a different calendar for Spring time and many flowers would start to bloom at the end of April. In Washington, there were many flower species that were blooming. Lomatium, Dodecatheon, and Rancuclaceae flowers were everywhere! I was impressed about the diversity at this time of year. I even saw a sagebrush species I have never seen before, the stiff sagebrush (Artemisia rigida). Jenny and I found a horned lizard that was crawling on the ground and we took pictures with it. Haha!! The Palisades were an interesting place to visit and we were probably going to come back to this area for ESR activities later in the season.

Ranunculus glaberrimus!!!

Ranunculus glaberrimus!!!

The Rundown

Our bosses, J.A. and Erik, were extraordinarily helpful for our first week of the internship. They made sure we were set up and kept us busy for the first week. We recently had a meeting with both of them about the activities Jenny and myself would be doing this field season. They gave us a lot of tasks, which sound fantastic!! Our top priority goal was to perform Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) surveys throughout the massive Washington District. We would travel to the southern border by Oregon to the Canadian border for different nest locations. We would make note if the eagle nests were occupied, if there were chicks present, and if the nest was being used through the whole nesting season. We were to make note of any other bird of prey nest that would be located on the BLM lands of Washington. We were also tasked with doing sage grouse, Washington ground squirrel, and pygmy rabbit surveys. We would be doing various field methods and make elaborate notes on what we would see. These tasks would require a lot of use of GPS systems and the various GIS programs. Combining my skills of GIS with my love for nature, makes this a dream job for me! I am very excited to be doing these tasks for the first section of my internship.

The rest of the tasks would be performing habitat assessments, working with the Great Basin Institute, GPS fence lines, do watershed assessments, make allotment visits, GIS geodatabase organization, and develop ESR reports. Another main focus would be to do sage grouse surveys. Different vegetation surveys would be completed during the Summer time. As you can see, we have been given many huge tasks to undertake! We will do the best we can for this internship, and learn a lot of techniques that will help us in our future careers!!

A local marmot sends her regards.

A local marmot sends her regards.

Can You Find the Golden Eagle Nest?

This is what we first see when we come to a site...Can you find the eagle nest???

This is what we first see when we come to a site…Can you find the eagle nest???

An example of a Golden Eagle Nest

Congrats!!! You found an active Golden Eagle Nest!

On the Search for the Golden Eagle!

Our second week of our internship was to go to various golden eagle nests close to the city of Wenatchee. Some of the eagle nests were built next to each other and had a history of occupation. The first site we went to was the Three Devils. We definitely found one nest, but the other one could not be seen. There was whitewash (bird poop), but we saw no evidence of any golden eagle using this site anymore. We went down to the Douglas Creek site, which had five nesting areas along this butte structure. This area was very slippery from the rain, so we could not drive up the narrow road. We eventually hiked up to the area and scouted to see if we could find any nests. Haha, the eagle nests were very hard to find and we found out that the battery life on our GPS was very short. We headed back to the office and planned for the next day!

Three Devils Nesting Site

Three Devils Nesting Site. The little white splotch towards the top of the rock structure was the whitewash.

The slippery mountain roads we had to deal with on our first day.

The slippery mountain roads we had to deal with on our first day.

The next day provided better results. We went to two sites north of town known as the Wenatchee Game Office nests. At first we drove along the cliffs, but there was nowhere to pull off to search for golden eagles. We eventually went across the Columbia River and visited many fruit stand parking lots that had a view of the cliffs. Again, finding each of the nests proved to be difficult. Our last observation point was in a taxidermy shop’s parking lot. We did see a golden eagle pass through the area and there was a red tailed hawk that thought of itself as an eagle. We could definitely tell the difference. ;)  We did find out later that most of the nests were abandoned the previous years due to the hot summers. Maybe they would return in the future to this area.

Our next stop was in Rock Island. The small town to the south had a huge dam and many steep cliffs. We tried to get a good vantage point, but the nest was hard to see. We did see a golden eagle fly near the nesting area, so we promised ourselves that we would come back after we talk with the electric company, so we could have access to see the potential eagle nest. The last nesting site we visited was the Douglas Creek area. When we exited the car, a sub adult and an adult Golden Eagle glided closely overhead!! We were very excited!!! We looked to see where they were going, but they flew away. We scanned the cliffs for possible nesting sites, but we did not see any activity for hours. During this time we saw two Northern Harriers doing a courtship display….well the male was doing the courtship and the female was just flying around looking uninterested. We also saw American Kestrels, Red Tailed hawks, and Prairie Falcons in the area. Canyon Wrens, Western Meadowlarks, Mountain Bluebirds, Brewer’s Sparrows, and White Throated Swifts were flying all over the place, singing. European Starling and American Robins were also noted. After an hour of scanning the cliffs for eagles and potential nesting sites, we saw a Golden Eagle soaring near the nesting site!!! O_O Yay!!!!! It flew right over the area where the nests were supposed to be, but then a murder of American Crows flew at the Golden Eagle and were pestering it! D: Come on, American Crows!!!! Stop bothering the eagle. We want to see where it lands!!! The eagle flew away into the distance and out of site. :/ When we did our office day research session, we found out that there were many active nests in Douglas Creek last year, so we will try this site again to see if we could find those Golden Eagles.

Douglas Creek Nesting Sites

Douglas Creek Nesting Site Area

The next day we were venturing up North near the town of Chelan! Our first site was called Chelan Concrete. They said it was occupied twenty years ago, but the nest was destroyed recently. We could not find a nest here, but we did watch a golden eagle male fly along the cliffs for a good hour. It landed a few times to preen and look for chukars. We made many notes about this site and a possible nesting area nearby. We made our way to the Ice Caves afterwards! This site was on a huge granitic structure located north of the Chelan Airport. After searching the cliffs for thirty minutes, we saw a male Golden Eagle fly around. Then we actually found a nest!! We watched the male swoop by the nest and we saw a female rise and communicate from the nesting site!!!!!!!! We were both ecstatic that we actually found an active nesting site with a Golden Eagle couple!!! \(OoO)/We watched the site for almost two hours. After taking many notes, we moved onto the next nesting site by the Chelan Airport. The documents said this nest was abandoned in 1981. After a lot of searching, we concluded that the nest was destroyed and was within the territory of the eagle couple by the Ice Caves, so no eagle would like to nest there now. The final project for the day was to do a small ES&R monitoring project on our way back home. The burned site recovered nicely from the low intensity fire. Overall, this day was fantastic!!!

The Ice Caves Site with an active eagle nest...somewhere on the mountain.

The Ice Caves Site with an active eagle nest…somewhere on the mountain.

I was reading many of the blogs recently and it sounds like everyone is having a great time with their internship!!! I hope all is well on your end!

Justin Chappelle: Wenatchee BLM

And now….Your Moment of Spring Zen

Narcissus/ Daffodils!!

Narcissus/ Daffodils!!

Repotting Season for the Bonsai Collection

Garden Blog - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 10:12am

For many bonsai tree species, early spring is the best time for repotting.

As the days get longer and the temperatures slowly increase, the roots of a bonsai gradually become active. During this time, the energy of the tree that was stored in the roots over the winter begins to move back up into the tree branches. As this happens, the dormant buds begin to swell. This swelling is the first sign that the tree is beginning to break dormancy. Over the next few weeks, the amount of energy from the roots to the branches increases, and the buds go through a transformation from dormant nub to a fully-opened leaf.

 Dormant bud on bonsai.

Dormant bud

 Swelling bud on bonsai.

Swelling bud

 Extending bud on bonsai.

Extending bud

 Opening bud on bonsai.

Opening bud

The best time to repot is generally in the middle of this process, when the roots are active, and the buds are in the swelling and extending stage. All repotting should be done by the time the trees are in the opening stage.

The tree set to be repotted today is this wonderful crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica). The first step is removing the tree from the pot.

 Bonsai ready to be repotted.

Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Using the root hook and saw, we slowly and carefully create a gap between the root ball and the sides of the pot. Creating this space will allow us to safely remove the tree from the pot.

 Loosening a bonsai from its pot with a root hook before repotting.

Use the root hook to carefully loosen the plant from the pot.

 Use a root saw to carefully remove the bonsai from its pot.

Once a furrow has been created with the root hook, use the saw to free the bonsai from the pot.

This tree was certainly in need of being repotted! You can see the abundance of roots on the sides and the bottom of the root ball (below). You can even see where the roots started to grow down through the drainage holes in the pot. These “root plugs” prevent proper drainage, which is very important for tree health.

 Root plugs—where the roots started to grow down through the drainage holes in the pot—prevent proper drainage.

Root plugs—where the roots started to grow down through the drainage holes in the pot—prevent proper drainage.

 Bonsai drainage screen covered by root mat.

Drainage screen covered by root mat

The frequency of repotting is determined by a number of factors, including species, stage of development, and pot size. Vigorous root growers like maples need to be repotted and root pruned more frequently than pine trees of the same developmental stage (which grow roots more slowly). Though root pruning is important to bonsai health, it can be stressful to a tree if the roots are disturbed too frequently. Knowing the tree species you have and how it grows is important in making the decision of when to repot and root prune. 

 Bonsai volunteer Ester Bannier assists in root trimming.

Volunteer Ester Bannier assists in root trimming.

 Root hook working bonsai roots free.

Use a root hook to work roots free.

Using root hooks, scissors, and chopsticks, the roots are teased out and pruned as needed. Cutting the roots back removes large woody roots, allowing more space for fine feeder roots to grow. The woody roots act only as transporters of energy. Woody roots do not absorb water, food, or oxygen; only the fine feeder roots do that. Having primarily fine feeder roots in our pots is what allows us to keep bonsai in such shallow containers. If the woody roots take up too much space, then the tree cannot absorb enough water, food, and oxygen to support the large amounts of foliage they have, and the trees’ health will suffer.

 The bonsai, carefully removed from its pot.

The bonsai, pre-trimming

 The bonsai rootball after pruning.

The bonsai root ball after pruning

While the tree work is going on, the soil and pot are being prepared for its return.

Bonsai soil is one of the most important aspects of growing bonsai trees. There are many different soil mixes and combinations that can be used based upon your tree species, the region in which you live, the amount of time you have to water, and many other factors. No matter what mix you choose, a good bonsai soil should support vigorous root growth, a healthy microbe balance, and have good drainage. Here at the Chicago Botanic Garden, we use a variety of mixes based on tree species and stage of development. For this tree, we will be using our base mix of akadama (a clay-like material mined in Japan), pumice, and lava rock. Our soil mix is sifted to remove any small particles and dust that could clog up the drainage holes, decreasing drainage.

 Soil mix of akadama, pumice and lava rock is used on this tree.

A soil mix of akadama, pumice, and lava rock is used on this tree.

 Volunteer Dick Anderson sifts soil for repotting the bonsai collection.

Volunteer Dick Anderson sifts soil for repotting the bonsai collection.

Once the pot has been cleaned, screens have been secured over drainage holes, and tie-down wires have been added, a layer of lava rock is placed to aid with drainage. After the drainage layer is placed, a small amount of soil is added to bring the tree up to grade and help position it in place.

 Bonsai pot prepped and ready for drainage.

Fresh mesh and tie-downs have been placed over drainage holes in the pot.

 Bonsai pot with drainage layer.

Drainage has been added in a single layer.

 Once the tree is in place and secured, soil is added and chopsticks are used to push the soil into all the open spaces in and around the root system. Any open gaps left in the pot will result in dead space where roots will not grow. The soil should be firmly in place but not packed too tightly; otherwise, the drainage will be affected, and it will be difficult for roots to grow.

 Adding soil to repotted bonsai.

Adding soil to repotted bonsai

 Chopsticks are used to push soil into open spaces around roots.

Chopsticks are used to push soil into open spaces around roots.

When the soil is set, the tree is soaked in a tub of water and a liquid product called K-L-N, which promotes root growth and reduces stress from the repotting process.

After a good soaking, the tree is removed and allowed to drain, then returned to its bench in the greenhouse. It will remain there until it is warm enough to go outside on the benches. Not all trees are moved to the greenhouse after repotting; most will return to the over-wintering storage. However, this tree was stressed at the end of the growing season, and I wanted to give it a jump-start on the year and give it more time to recover and gain back some of its vigor.

 Soaking the repotted bonsai in water and K-L-N.

Soaking the repotted bonsai in water and K-L-N

 Bonsai "benched" in the greenhouse until spring.

Bonsai “benched” in the greenhouse until spring

In just a couple of weeks, the tree is fully leafed out, and has had a slight pruning to help balance the new growth throughout all the branches.

This tree is just the beginning of a busy repotting season here at the Bonsai Collection. We will most likely be repotting nearly 100 trees this year—nearly half the collection! Thanks for reading, and be sure to look out for more bonsai blogs to come in the months ahead.

 A leafed-out bonsai, ready to display for the season.

A leafed-out bonsai, ready to display for the season

Upcoming bonsai events:

Tropical bonsai are installed in the Subtropical Greenhouse: Tuesday, March 31.

Trees return to the Regenstein Center’s two courtyards for the season: Tuesday, April 22.

Join us May 9 for World Bonsai Day demonstrations, and a tour of the courtyards.

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