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Falling Down an Avalanche

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 10:07am

I’ve never been skilled at identifying grasses. In all of my botanical college courses, we focused on eudicots and I had little to no problem learning the language of plants. For some reason, though, grass terminology has never stuck with me. Any grasses I’ve learned have quickly been forgotten. This internship is the first time I’ve ever had to actually use a dichotomous key to identify a plant. And yet, I’ve successfully avoided keying grasses for the past 4 months. But this avoidance has finally come to an end. My mentor has officially gone on maternity leave and while Hector is well versed in grasses, I knew it was time for me to step up to the plate. A couple weeks ago, I discovered a wispy, cobwebby grass in the wetland Hector and I were scouting for Spiranthes diluvialis. It definitely had potential for an SOS collection and as we are becoming desperate for species to collect as the field season wanes, I was determined to identify it.

I spent two hours slowly making my way through the key, learning and relearning terms such as glume, spikelet, panicle, awn. This field office boasts a slew of PowerPoints dedicated to the plants of this area rife with photographs and descriptions. Every time I thought I had the answer, I would look it up in the PowerPoint. Time after time, I had to admit that my sample looked nothing like the grass I had keyed it to be. Finally, I had it: Muhlenbergia asperifolia or scratchgrass. This particular species is an oddball compared to the others in its genus and I had gotten severely confused by its unique open panicle inflorescence. Nonetheless, a success is a success.

With my mentor on maternity leave, Christine, a Natural Resource Specialist with a background in botany, has taken over as our supervisor. In mid-August, Christine and our usual gang headed to Green River, Utah for a 3 day River Rescue course. A large part of the remaining field season will be spent spraying weeds on the A, B, and C sections of the Green River. The most intense rapid in all three sections is a Class Three called “Red Creek Rapids,” but for the most part, floating the Green River is pretty easy and uneventful. My mentor, Jessi, is pretty safety minded, though, so she sent the five of us to this course.

 

Morning view from our campsite.

Morning view from our campsite.

The instructor, Nate Ostis, was a great teacher and he obviously had a lot of personal experience both rafting and rescuing on the river. He succeeded in terrifying me of all moving water, but not to the point that I’ll never raft or kayak again. He always referred to the river as a “lubricated mountain” or people boating on the river as “falling down an avalanche.” By using that language, he really changed my mindset on rivers. He has been a part of many rescues and even more recoveries so he’s acutely aware of the hazards of the river.

Me in my "avalanche" gear.

Me in my “avalanche” gear.

We spent half the time out of the water, learning knots, throwing throwbags, and talking safety. The rest of the time we spent in the water. Our first assignment in the river was to swim down some rapids! It was one of the best classes I have ever taken.  I highly recommend Nate Ostis and the River Rescue course to anyone interested in river safety.

 

Demonstrating the strength of our shore-based, 2 point load sharing anchor.

Demonstrating the strength of our shore-based, 2 point load sharing anchor.

We had the chance to put our newfound skills to the test with one last trip down the Green River. The four of us teamed up with two weed technicians from the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge to tackle the Canadian thistle and teasel on the “B” section. Along the way, we discovered a whole island full of Spiranthes diluvialis, in bloom over a month later than Jessi had originally estimated.

 

The "B" section of the Green River.

The “B” section of the Green River.

Red Creek Rapids are nearly visible upstream.

Red Creek Rapids are nearly visible upstream.

My other highlights include making it all the way out to the Book Cliffs! I’ve been close several times for seed collection or weed spraying, but I finally travelled those last 10 miles to see what all the fuss is about. Additionally, one last seed collection enabled me to make it out to Nine Mile Canyon – another gem of this area.

The Book Cliffs!

The Book Cliffs!

"The Great Hunt" petroglyph panel in Nine Mile Canyon.

“The Great Hunt” petroglyph panel in Nine Mile Canyon.

-Dani

BLM

Vernal, UT

Western drought not your problem? Think again

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 1:43pm

This will be my third winter here in the California Central Valley and so far I have yet to experience any significant precipitation.  California is in a serious drought, and currently there is no end in sight.  Climatologists are predicting another winter of less than average precipitation.  Conditions (for both plants and humans alike) are continuing to become more and more extreme, but it seems everywhere I look people are FAILING to acknowledge the gravity of the situation.  The ignorance and apathy I encounter every day in regards to these conditions is alarming.  I see irrigation systems running to irrigate non-native turf lawns ALL OVER TOWN, and, during mid day I might add.  I see excess runoff from irrigation systems and car washes running down the the street drainage for blocks and blocks.  I see people watering on days that are not allowed per the drought water restriction plan in effect throughout the city.  My own landlord was trying to tell me that I “had to” flood irrigate the lawn to keep the grass green “in accordance with the neighborhood”.  Seriously?!??????  It wasn’t until I cited city ordinances outlining the city-wide water use restrictions in effect, and called his attention to the fact that flood irrigation was currently a FINE-ABLE OFFENSE, that he finally stopped making lease violation threats.  What I’m wondering is, what is it going to take for people to realize that fresh water is a limited resource in the California ecosystem?  Honestly, I will probably not stick around long enough to find out.  Water reserves here are dwindling at an alarming rate with no predictions of recharge.

There are many cities throughout the state that are quickly running out of water (http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/08/02/cities-running-out-of-water/13443393).  In some cases, wells have been pumped dry and small communities have been forced to either pay absurd costs to have water trucked in, or relocate.  In a state like California with a 42.6 billion dollar agricultural industry (cdfa.ca.gov), you better believe that this water crisis is eventually going to be felt across the country.  Perhaps you have already been paying more for your produce; maybe even doing so unknowingly.

In my SOS collections this year I have noticed several large populations that have produced lots of seeds in years past have produced little to none this past season.  Could this be coincidental?  I doubt it.  Many of these native species have evolved genetically to be drought resistant, but even still show signs of stress in such extreme cases.  Part of my position at the Cosumnes River Preserve is managing restoration projects.   When native plants are installed for re-vegetation, drip irrigation is required in summer months for 2-3 years during the plant establishment period.  With water rights here continuing to tighten and the Department of Water Resources auditing every ounce of water pumped from the rivers and streams, I am concerned that the water we use for habitat restoration at the Preserve is eventually going to be reduced, or cut off.  People need water, our agricultural crops need water, and our environment needs water.  With a finite amount of water in the Western ecosystem, management is critical.  Would you be willing to spend more money on your groceries if you knew that by doing so water was being allocated to habitat conservation projects in California?

Home on the Prairie

Plant Science and Conservation - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 12:28pm

A delicate prairie bush clover extends its pink flowers toward the sun, like an early settler attempting to plant a flag on a piece of land to call home. Competition for space is intense where the native herb stands on one of the state’s last remaining prairie landscapes, Nachusa Grasslands, located in north-central Illinois.

The species’ juvenile plants must establish themselves rapidly to avoid being overtaken by dominant native grasses, such as little bluestem. Even if the wispy young herbs live to maturity, they may still struggle to survive the often deadly wake of litter the grass leaves behind.

 A view of Nachusa Grasslands taken from Dr. Vitt’s field site.

A view of Nachusa Grasslands taken from Dr. Vitt’s field site. Photo by Pati Vitt.

Chicago Botanic Garden conservation scientist Pati Vitt, Ph.D., has been studying the rivalry between the prairie bush clover and grass species at Nachusa over the past 14 years. Also the curator of the Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank, she has seen the herb species’ population rise and fall.

 A tiny, spindly stalk of prairie bush clover in spring.

Prairie bush clover ( Lespedeza leptostachya) grows at Nachusa Grasslands.

In Illinois, Nachusa Grasslands is one of the few remaining places where prairie bush clover (Lespedeza leptostachya) can still be found. The issues it faces there are not unusual to the species.

“It is a unique component of this very small subset of North American grasslands that exist nowhere else,” said Dr. Vitt. “Its presence is an indicator of high-quality, well-managed gravel hill prairie. It serves to increase the biodiversity of those types of habitats.”

After years of working to define the ideal environment for the prairie bush clover and getting to know its adversaries, she feels it is time to bring in the big guys.

Bison, 2,000-pound behemoths that are naturally adapted to Midwest weather and vegetation, will soon be arriving to help save the tiny plant. The rust-colored creatures, standing up to 6½ feet tall at the shoulder, are rather particular grazers, explained Vitt. Unlike cows, which graze broadly and without much discretion, bison selectively eat grass. That makes them the perfect friend of the prairie bush clover, which, Vitt has documented, needs a little more room to grow on the limited rocky portion of the 3,000-acre prairie it calls home.

Vitt spent much of her summer at Nachusa, a preserve managed by the Nature Conservancy in Illinois. She was hustling to document the status of prairie bush clover populations there before the arrival of a herd of bison in the fall of 2015.

 Little bluestem grass in seed.

Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) is a native grass.

Each morning of research she and her team, which included an REU intern, fellow Garden scientist Kay Havens, Ph.D., and additional technicians, were out in the field at daybreak. They worked in teams of two to count and identify all of the plants associated with Lespedeza leptostachya in six plots where it grows. They also took soil samples and did nutrient analysis to measure elements such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Lastly, they documented the slope of the land on which the prairie bush clover plants grew, and the aspect—the incline and direction at which they faced the sun. The team spent evenings at their temporary residence inspecting more challenging plants under a microscope to confirm the species identification. All of the data they gathered was recorded into GPS units and later downloaded into a database.

What did they find? Prairie bush clover performs best in soil that has 75 percent versus 82 to 89 percent sand, though all populations grow on soil with low organic matter. It suffers where levels of grass, and especially the litter the grass produces when it dies back each year, are high.

These findings support her research from previous years. Vitt studied the before-and-after status of the species during a one-year trial run with a cow as a grazer. She also investigated the impact of fire as a management tool.

“The more [grass] litter there is, the fewer seeds the [prairie bush clover] plants produce, which is both a function of size and probably nutrient status,” she explained. “Litter may not only serve to suppress the growth of the plant, but because it is carbon heavy it may actually decrease the available nitrogen in the soil.” One of the benefits of prairie bush clover, she theorizes, is that the healthy plants add nitrogen to the soil. That is an asset for surrounding plants.

A research plot where little bluestem is growing over smaller prairie bush clover plants. Photo by Pati Vitt.

A research plot where little bluestem is growing over smaller prairie bush clover plants. Photo by Pati Vitt.

When alternated with fire, grazing is a natural and effective management tool, noted Vitt. Fire, she explained, decreases the biomass of grass above soil, resulting in less grass litter. At the same time, it encourages new growth by stimulating meristems in the roots below the soil—areas where new cells are produced. After fire, said Vitt, clumps of grasses such as little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) tend to be larger. However, when they are also grazed, those clumps are less dense, and therefore less discouraging to growth of the prairie bush clover.

Vitt has collected seeds on other prairies in the Midwest where bison have been present. “I’ve seen firsthand how bison graze, and I’ve seen the results of bison grazing versus cattle grazing,” she said. “When they [the Conservancy] decided that they were going to release the bison, for me that was very exciting. It’s kind of an affirmation of the work that I’ve done there, and that’s really great. I can see the benefits of the management and I have every reason to conclude that it’s going to increase the population viability of Lespedeza leptostachya.”

Bison will soon graze the vast prairie. Photo by Pati Vitt.

Bison will soon graze the vast prairie. Photo by Pati Vitt.

Vitt is back at the Garden now, sorting through the data she collected this summer and writing about her findings. These data are essential, she said, because she will be back to check on the prairie bush clover after the bison have settled in. She is also planning for future experiments, such as building habitat models for prairie bush clover using remote sensed data.

For a little plant that exists in only four states and is federally threatened, a hero can come in many forms.

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Home on the Prairie

Garden Blog - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 12:28pm

A delicate prairie bush clover extends its pink flowers toward the sun, like an early settler attempting to plant a flag on a piece of land to call home. Competition for space is intense where the native herb stands on one of the state’s last remaining prairie landscapes, Nachusa Grasslands, located in north-central Illinois.

The species’ juvenile plants must establish themselves rapidly to avoid being overtaken by dominant native grasses, such as little bluestem. Even if the wispy young herbs live to maturity, they may still struggle to survive the often deadly wake of litter the grass leaves behind.

 A view of Nachusa Grasslands taken from Dr. Vitt’s field site.

A view of Nachusa Grasslands taken from Dr. Vitt’s field site. Photo by Pati Vitt.

Chicago Botanic Garden conservation scientist Pati Vitt, Ph.D., has been studying the rivalry between the prairie bush clover and grass species at Nachusa over the past 14 years. Also the curator of the Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank, she has seen the herb species’ population rise and fall.

 A tiny, spindly stalk of prairie bush clover in spring.

Prairie bush clover ( Lespedeza leptostachya) grows at Nachusa Grasslands.

In Illinois, Nachusa Grasslands is one of the few remaining places where prairie bush clover (Lespedeza leptostachya) can still be found. The issues it faces there are not unusual to the species.

“It is a unique component of this very small subset of North American grasslands that exist nowhere else,” said Dr. Vitt. “Its presence is an indicator of high-quality, well-managed gravel hill prairie. It serves to increase the biodiversity of those types of habitats.”

After years of working to define the ideal environment for the prairie bush clover and getting to know its adversaries, she feels it is time to bring in the big guys.

Bison, 2,000-pound behemoths that are naturally adapted to Midwest weather and vegetation, will soon be arriving to help save the tiny plant. The rust-colored creatures, standing up to 6½ feet tall at the shoulder, are rather particular grazers, explained Vitt. Unlike cows, which graze broadly and without much discretion, bison selectively eat grass. That makes them the perfect friend of the prairie bush clover, which, Vitt has documented, needs a little more room to grow on the limited rocky portion of the 3,000-acre prairie it calls home.

Vitt spent much of her summer at Nachusa, a preserve managed by the Nature Conservancy in Illinois. She was hustling to document the status of prairie bush clover populations there before the arrival of a herd of bison in the fall of 2015.

 Little bluestem grass in seed.

Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) is a native grass.

Each morning of research she and her team, which included an REU intern, fellow Garden scientist Kay Havens, Ph.D., and additional technicians, were out in the field at daybreak. They worked in teams of two to count and identify all of the plants associated with Lespedeza leptostachya in six plots where it grows. They also took soil samples and did nutrient analysis to measure elements such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Lastly, they documented the slope of the land on which the prairie bush clover plants grew, and the aspect—the incline and direction at which they faced the sun. The team spent evenings at their temporary residence inspecting more challenging plants under a microscope to confirm the species identification. All of the data they gathered was recorded into GPS units and later downloaded into a database.

What did they find? Prairie bush clover performs best in soil that has 75 percent versus 82 to 89 percent sand, though all populations grow on soil with low organic matter. It suffers where levels of grass, and especially the litter the grass produces when it dies back each year, are high.

These findings support her research from previous years. Vitt studied the before-and-after status of the species during a one-year trial run with a cow as a grazer. She also investigated the impact of fire as a management tool.

“The more [grass] litter there is, the fewer seeds the [prairie bush clover] plants produce, which is both a function of size and probably nutrient status,” she explained. “Litter may not only serve to suppress the growth of the plant, but because it is carbon heavy it may actually decrease the available nitrogen in the soil.” One of the benefits of prairie bush clover, she theorizes, is that the healthy plants add nitrogen to the soil. That is an asset for surrounding plants.

A research plot where little bluestem is growing over smaller prairie bush clover plants. Photo by Pati Vitt.

A research plot where little bluestem is growing over smaller prairie bush clover plants. Photo by Pati Vitt.

When alternated with fire, grazing is a natural and effective management tool, noted Vitt. Fire, she explained, decreases the biomass of grass above soil, resulting in less grass litter. At the same time, it encourages new growth by stimulating meristems in the roots below the soil—areas where new cells are produced. After fire, said Vitt, clumps of grasses such as little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) tend to be larger. However, when they are also grazed, those clumps are less dense, and therefore less discouraging to growth of the prairie bush clover.

Vitt has collected seeds on other prairies in the Midwest where bison have been present. “I’ve seen firsthand how bison graze, and I’ve seen the results of bison grazing versus cattle grazing,” she said. “When they [the Conservancy] decided that they were going to release the bison, for me that was very exciting. It’s kind of an affirmation of the work that I’ve done there, and that’s really great. I can see the benefits of the management and I have every reason to conclude that it’s going to increase the population viability of Lespedeza leptostachya.”

Bison will soon graze the vast prairie. Photo by Pati Vitt.

Bison will soon graze the vast prairie. Photo by Pati Vitt.

Vitt is back at the Garden now, sorting through the data she collected this summer and writing about her findings. These data are essential, she said, because she will be back to check on the prairie bush clover after the bison have settled in. She is also planning for future experiments, such as building habitat models for prairie bush clover using remote sensed data.

For a little plant that exists in only four states and is federally threatened, a hero can come in many forms.

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Seeds on seeds on seeds

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 11:03am

So far, my experience as a CLM internship has been fantastic.  It’s been the best of all worlds being out here in Wyoming! I have been to visit the Black Hills, the Tetons, and Yellowstone, I have rallied at Sturgis with the bikers, and I even had the chance to take time off and visit a friend in Jamaica! It was a nice break from the dry heat of Wyoming and I was able to see a lot of the country. I traveled everywhere from Falmouth to Montego Bay to Kingston, and finally, my favorite, Portland. I snorkeled and swam in glistening waters, ate breadfruit, and biked through historic plantations. She showed me the people and the buildings of Jamaica and it was nice to focus my attention on something other than plants for a while, even though I love them, and even though I did find myself focusing a lot of my attention on the tropical species I don’t get to see very often.

Beach in Boston Bay, Jamaica.

Surfers at the beach in Boston Bay, Jamaica; one of the only beaches that is really “surfable”!

Just a few of the bikes at Sturgis!

Just a few of the bikes at Sturgis!

Even with all the fun times I have been having and trips I have been taking, this has also been the learning experience of a lifetime.  Each day I gain a new piece of knowledge that is helping me to make decisions for my future career.

I have so far learned to:

1)      Run an irrigation system, guage water levels, and weed the evil bind weed at Whelch

2)      Monitor rangeland health using line point intercepts and daubenmire readings

3)      Measure habitat for sage grouse suitability using sagebrush intercept and walking transects

4)      Collect a variety of different seed types, ranging from fleshy fruits to tiny grass seeds

5)      Create herbarium specimens

6)      Read soil texture

7)      Communicate with individuals in other parts of the BFO and other offices in the area

8)      Contribute ideas and knowledge to the PRBR project conducted by another intern in the BFO office

9)       Attended the Wildlife Society Conference in Sheridan, WY!

The whole group and one of the great Wildlife Biologists from our office, DON!

The whole group and one of the great Wildlife Biologists from our office, DON!

This past week was an exciting one, as I mailed off a majority of seed collections from our office to Bend. It was like sending my children off for their first day of school. (I think I even teared up a bit) Bend confirmed that they had arrived and that everything was in order. In total the team has collected 16 full collections of seed, but there is still more to collect! Now to collect and ship out the rest!

Just a few of the collections I packed up to be sent off to Bend Seed Extractory!

Just a few of the collections I packed up to be sent off to Bend Seed Extractory!

Prairie Junegrass! Probably one of my favorite collections becuase of how simple it was to collect!

Prairie Junegrass! Probably one of my favorite collections becuase of how simple it was to collect!

 

Now that some of the seed has been sent to bend, I have also begun compiling and organizing the herbarium specimens to be sent to the Smithsonian. The grasses have been a pain to deal with, but I enjoy looking back at the old flowers we have collected and pressed. It’s awesome to have been able to follow full populations from flower to seeding and to have kept track of them along the way.

Winter has really started approaching quickly. The snow we received Wednesday and Thursday was brutal! A cruel joke in the form of a white blanket. Luckily, my roomies and I made the most of it using our hot tub, but being snowed into the office last week was not the most exciting thing!

 

Yes, It's septemeber. And yes, this was only the beginning of snow falling.

Yes, It’s septemeber. And yes, this was only the beginning of snow falling.

 

And yes, I did pretend to be an orca and swam in Lake De Smet four days after this snow!

And yes, I did pretend to be an orca and swam in Lake De Smet four days after this snow!

 

 

Vale Wrap-Up

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 1:55pm

Today is my last day at my internship. Five months at the BLM in Vale, Oregon has allowed me to grow immensely, professionally and personally. With this internship I aimed to strengthen my plant identification skills, become more familiar with the workings of a government agency, learn more about plant and soil interactions, and gain field monitoring and surveying experience. I am satisfied that my experience these past five months has allowed me to reach each of those goals.

I have been exposed to countless new plant species and quite a few animal species as well. I am now able to correctly identify numerous plants in the field, and confidently key forbs, rushes, sedges, and grasses to species using a dichotomous key. I will admit, rushes, sedges, and grasses take a bit more time and effort than forbs, but considering my lack of experience prior to this position I am pleased with my growth.

My familiarity with the workings of the BLM has come mostly from my interactions and conversations with coworkers. While I was not a part of the processes that determine funding, land management, species, range, etc. decisions, my in depth conversations with various employees have allowed me to paint a more complete picture of how the BLM in governed, and the current projects throughout the district.

I was able to spend a week with the Environmental Site Inventory crew performing soil and vegetation surveys in southeastern Oregon. I was not only taught how to perform both of these surveys, but learned several indicator plant species and soils types for various major land resource areas (MLRAs). I enjoyed using the soils information, present vegetation, geography, geology, and climate to determine the MLRA, determining from there the pre-described or newly discovered ecological site, and finally rating the health of the ecosystem. It was like solving a puzzle; highly enjoyable.

I have also greatly strengthened my ArcGIS skills. After frequently using ArcMap to locate our field sites, and taking a Basics of ArcMap10.2 and Geoprocessing course, I feel highly more competent at preforming a variety of ArcGIS tasks. I created a map of all previous SOS collections sites for future uses. It was a great way to practice my knowledge, and believe it will be useful.

I have grown personally as much as I have professionally. I have learned a lot more about which aspects in a job I do and do not enjoy, where I can improve at work, the kind of location I thrive best within, and where certain aspects of my life fall on my list of priorities. There are also several truly good-hearted people I have met here. They are the reason my experience has been so rich. As ready as I am to move forward, it is sad to say goodbye.

I do not have another job lined up right now. I have been/am actively seeking work; just have not snagged anything quite yet. I have made quite a few contacts during my internship, whom have been extremely helpful. I do plan to apply for another CLM internship. I feel I can still benefit from another round. I would like to have a more research oriented internship/job next, with more statistically sound monitoring, where I can analyze our data in an effort to help make wise land management decisions. My plans right now consist of a week or more trip to Portland, where I’ll meet up with my sister, and then return to Vale to continue the job hunt and gather my belongings. If I do not have a job by the end of October, I will most likely move to the Denver area. I have been looking for work in this area, and hope that making the move will help. I’m a bit nervous for what is next, but more excited than anything else.
Colleen Sullivan
Vale, OR BLM
colleen.sullivan781@gmail.com

Green Chile and Coyote Medicine

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 1:51pm

It’s now September in New Mexico, the days are pleasant, topping out around just 85 degrees. On our last SOS collectors call, many teams elsewhere are winding down, gathering the seeds of sagebrush and winterfat as their final haul. Here however, we are nowhere near the end of our season. We’re in the middle of several multi-visit collections with so many more on the horizon that we are busting booty to fit them in to the puny 40 hour week! Some of the latest collections have been a little frustrating, only because they require several seed-snatching passes and mature unevenly over a period of a few weeks. We claimed one collection on the Colorado Plateau target list, a grass named Sporobolus airoides. That was a fun break because each seed head can contain up to 10,000 seeds, making for a refreshingly simple one day deal!

Keeping track of collections

Keeping track of collections

 

Stealing seeds from a pretty little native sunflower

Stealing seeds from a pretty little native sunflower

September in New Mexico doesn’t just mean lots of seeds to collect, it’s also the time of the chile. People here just LOVE green chile, and red chile, and both colors together, referred to as “Christmas” if you are ordering it somewhere. New Mexico is the only state to have adopted an official state question: Red or Green? Chile is found in various forms and in any place you can imagine; green chile gravy on your mashers, green chile baked into bagels, green chile blended into milkshakes, and so on. As a newcomer in a foreign land, I intend to try to appreciate this part of the food culture. I am embracing the chile. I try it on/in anything I can. My fellow intern and I will be buying and sharing a 25 lb box of chile, which the supermarkets here roast in giant cages out front. You can smell it everywhere. When they first started roasting this year, you could feel the excitement in the air. Get to NM and try some yourself!
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With the weather cooling down a little it is time to squeeze in the last of the warm season Colorado mountain visits on weekends – which will soon be impassable with snow. The conditions are also less hostile for enjoying the desert, so there’s been plenty to do. My trusty companion, Sunny the dog, and I hiked up to Ice Lakes near Silverton, CO recently, and I have to say that was the most beautiful hike I’ve ever been on. We were also happy to find out that dogs are allowed at Monument Valley Tribal Park in AZ, so we took a little weekend jaunt there. Monument Valley is spectacular. I’m struck by the expansiveness of the skies out west, making every rainbow, thunderstorm, sunset, and brilliant milky way more amazing than ever before. I feel soothed by the desolation and harsh beauty of the desert. I’m considering hiking part of the Arizona National Scenic Trail at the end of my internship so that I might soak in and explore some more of the unique southwest. With cooling temperatures it’s time to start thinking about my next move, next job or adventure. I hope that all of us interns find the right thing for us in the future, winding as some of our paths might be, just enjoy the trip! The other day I was out collecting seeds and a coyote ran out in front of me, just 10 feet away, a rabbit gripped still kicking in its mouth. THAT was cool. Coyote medicine is all about not taking things too seriously, letting go of certainties, and enjoying the unexpected. So I hope we can all embrace a little coyote this summer’s end.

Sunny and I at Ice Lakes

Sunny and I at Ice Lakes

Late Summer Oaks and Chokes

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 1:45pm

Machines have dominated my internship lately. Machinery is a two faced technological innovation. The tractor replaced horses and allowed farmers to grow more food, but it also lessened the need for farmers and encouraged the growth of a fossil fuel driven system. Trains, planes, and automobiles gave us quick transportation and lowered the cost of goods, but people have lost touch with their communities and forgotten how to live simply. Although I would argue that a majority of these ingenious contraptions have warped our minds and our culture in the wrong direction brewing the perfect climate change recipe, they are now an important tool for genuine earth efforts like restoration. While it has rattled my nervous system, the blade trimmer has given me the power to mow down intimidating patches of invasive blackberry and scotch broom. Without this tool, we might be inclined to overuse the other common approach of glyphosate application. And by golly, I have to admit, it has been pretty fun and we have taken out a lot of invasives!

I was super stoked to venture out with a member of the Long Tom Watershed, one of our vital partners, yesterday to meet with a private landowner who is participating in a grant funded restoration project to restore degraded riparian, prairie, and oak savannah habitat. We discussed the current state of the project along with the next plan of action and associated funding challenges. Then we did some pre-treatment surveys in the oak savannah, carefully dodging the creeping poison oak. There are plans to remove a large portion of douglas fir to open of the canopy and free the oak trees whose canopy is suppressed. This will allow the oaks, now growing primarily in a vertical orientation, to spread out their branches and achieve a more diverse structure more conducive to biodiversity.
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Ripe For The Picking

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 1:43pm

We have still been out everyday scouting and collecting.  Although it has finally felt like things are starting to slow down here in Southern Oregon.  There are a few exceptions, which are lending themselves to unique species that are late bloomers.  These late bloomers appear to have slipped below the radar in past years and we are able to make some collections that have not been made in previous seasons.

We spent yesterday up on Mt. Ashland (the largest mountain in Oregon east of the Cascades) standing at 7,533 feet and were amazed to see how many species were still ripe for the picking.  Some flowers, such as Monardella villosa (coyote mint), were still flowering! We haven’t seen flowers on this plant for about a month and a half, so finding this ecological pocket of botanical wonder gave us hope that we might be able to keep on collecting for a few more weeks!

Monardella villosa

Monardella villosa

Mentzelia laevicaulis

Mentzelia laevicaulis

Rudbeckia glaucescens

Rudbeckia glaucescens

Mimulus cardinalis

Mimulus cardinalis

Fading Summer

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 1:37pm

The days of summer are waning but the air is still warm and the promises of fall are not far off. It has been a fast last month and we have had the opportunity to do several outreach events with the public. Also we are doing a lot of fire monitoring and seed collecting as the end of the growing season nears. It is good work and exciting to get to see some wonderful areas in the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada.

Last weekend we went to Crater Lake NP in Oregon and that was a great trip! It was a super cool place and the weather was perfect.

Enjoy the sweet days of summer’s end my friends,

Ethan Hughes CCDO BLM

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Crater Lake at dusk with a smoky sky because of a large wildfire burning nearby

 

 

Carrot Cake

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 1:36pm

Well hiya Stranger!

My mentor just sent me home with a carrot cake for my birthday.  Isn’t that awesome?  My mom makes me carrot cakes for my birthday back home in Georgia.  I’m so thankful for my mentor and other coworkers/friends for making Idaho feel like home.  “Idahome” to quote Avery’s last blog post.  In fact, I’m writing this post in a bit of a hurry so I can get a ticket to see our coworker, Peter, in a local musical. Avery, Taters and I will be departing for Yellowstone in the morning.

Tough life right?  I promise, I’ve been learning a tremendous amount of information recently, and doing good work.  Yesterday, we went out with the fire ecologist to see fire rehab projects at different stages of succession.  Talking with her about the fire mitigation and rehabilitation projects she is working on was extremely fascinating.  To continue the Idahome theme, it was heart warming to hear her perspective and well wishes for us young conservation scientists.

The four work days before that were spent training and working with local experts to identify and interpret wetland/riparian features, and to assess their current and potential functioning condition.  It was very rewarding to feel like an active part of their team, and to discuss management options to best conserve these sensitive areas.

The above only captures a fraction of the incredible experience that I am having during this internship.  To summarize, I’m feeling very inspired and grateful.  Thank you for reading.

Jonathan Kleinman

Jarbidge Field Office

Bureau of Land Management

Where’s the water?

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 1:35pm

With the plant field season coming to an end, it has been time to change gears.  I’ve been tasked with the impossible: Find water in the desert.  The hydrologist at the field office has a set of GPS points of possible water sources.  He used aerial imagery to search for areas of green vegetation, hoping that plants are growing there because water is present.  My new job is to go to these locations and ground truth them.  Although my success rate for finding water is pretty low, the job is actually quite fun and interesting.  Even though there isn’t much water to be found, I have gotten the chance to explore remote areas of the field office and I’ve seen a lot of cool things along the way.  In one week I saw wild horses, wild burros, a coyote, sage grouse, burrowing owls, and countless antelope.  I’ve also gotten the chance to summit a lot of the peaks in the field office and enjoy the views they offer.  One of the best was Hot Springs Peak, part of the Skedaddle Mountains.  It did not have any springs, let alone hot ones, but the view was still great.

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View of the field office from the top of Hot Springs Peak

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Wild burros near Lone Willow Spring

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Coyote

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Wild Horses grazing

I just found out this week that I am getting an extension added on to the end of my internship.  I will be staying in Susanville through January.  I am really excited to explore more of the field office, and to work on more interesting projects like this one.

-Sam

BLM Eagle Lake Field Office

Susanville, CA

Farewell Shoshone!

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 10:07am

Today is my last day in the Shoshone, ID field office. It is sad to say good bye to such a small town filled with wonderful people who treated me like family. Walking home from work the other day, a man in his garden offered me fresh carrots, peppers, and cucumbers and our lovely neighbors gave us beautiful ceramic bowls that their parents made. In only five months I feel like we have become part of this small community and I am grateful to have met everyone. One thing I will miss in an odd way is, the Union Pacific Railroad, which ran right through the center of town about 30 times a day. Though highly annoying when trying to make a phone call or at 3 in the morning when you’re sleeping, the railroad is why Shoshone was established and is fascinating to watch speeding by.
Railroad tracks through town

I will also miss our neighbors; Justine, Shelby, their dogs Bessie and Shimmer, and the cutest kitten in the world, Tater. Always down to BBQ or just hang out and drink a beer they made Shoshone feel like home. And just so everyone knows, Shelby’s softball team won the league championship…Booyeah!!

Tater

Shoshone has been such a pleasant surprise; full of vast landscapes, great people, and a productive field office filled with professionals who truly know how to manage the land out here. There was never a dull moment this summer and I could not have asked for a better internship. Ranging from vegetation monitoring to bat surveys to collecting native seed I have learned much more than I hoped for. I have become more familiar with GIS, identifying riparian vegetation and a better over all understanding of what it is like to work for a federal agency. I hope everyone is taking advantage of their internship, learning as much as possible, and leaving a positive impact where ever you go.

Here are a few of my favorite images from the Shoshone field office, enjoy!

Very clever

Very clever

Helianthus annus

Happy sheep dog

Happy sheep dog

Rainbow over Shoshone

Rainbow over Shoshone

Avery with our rescue lambs.

Avery with our rescue lambs.

Megan descending into Pot of Gold

Megan descending into Pot of Gold

Flat Top allotment

Flat Top allotment

Pot of Gold Cave

Pot of Gold Cave

Aragonite inside Pot of Gold Cave

Aragonite inside Pot of Gold Cave

Idahome

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 10:03am

Our time in Shoshone has come to a close, although luckily for both Alexi and I, our time in Idaho isn’t quite finished yet. After this week Alexi will be headed west to Boise and I will be heading north to Ketchum for a little bit. I think it’s safe to say that over the last five months we have both fallen in love with this unique and hidden gem of a state. Getting to know the species of the sagebrush steppe and all the idiosyncrasies of the the high desert has been a lot of fun. Working for the BLM Shoshone Field Office has been a great learning experience. Not only did we get to do a lot of botany-intensive projects such as nested frequency and seed collecting, but we also got to learn more about different methods of surveying bats and got to do a bit of GIS. I really appreciated our mentor’s effort to ensure we had a varied and interesting internship. I always felt like I was doing something that was useful to the office and that was important to conservation, which is essential in a field job like this.

My first impressions of Idaho have drastically changed over the last few months. When I first heard I was moving to Shoshone, I immediately looked it up on Google Earth and did a street view tour of the place (not a good idea!). The town of Shoshone isn’t exactly the most exciting town there ever was, but it is close to the beautiful mountains up north and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to live here. I will not miss the trains that come through town blaring their horns at ungodly hours of the night, the (still) mysterious siren that goes off every night at 10pm, or the crazy cat man neighbor yelling at his yowling cats at night. But I will miss our neighbors who made us feel welcome and the wonderful people in our BLM office. I would definitely recommend working in the Shoshone BLM Office to future CLM interns- especially if you enjoy hiking rocky peaks, fishing and swimming in alpine lakes, finding hidden hot springs, exploring lava caves and seeing incredible amounts of wildlife. All of this is at your fingertips if you live in Shoshone.

Overlooking my Idahome on top of Hyndman Peak outside of Ketchum, Idaho

Overlooking my Idahome on top of Hyndman Peak outside of Ketchum, Idaho

The sheer drop off on the other side of Hyndman Peak

The sheer drop off on the other side of Hyndman Peak

Fly fishing on the Big Lost River at dusk

Fly fishing on the Big Lost River at dusk

My next job will be in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks (SEKI) conducting winter cave surveys for bats. I start in November, so in the meantime I’ll be staying with a friend up in Ketchum, Idaho and working for a landscaping company to make a little extra money. I’m excited because there’s still many peaks I want to climb, rivers I want to fish, and trails I want to bike and run before I leave Idaho.

A raised relief map of my next home, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

A raised relief map of my next home, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks (SEKI). Found this at an antique fair in Ketchum, ID for $10!

Thanks for this awesome experience CLM and BLM. Come visit me in Ketchum or SEKI if you get the chance! And of course I shall leave y’all with a final E. Abbey quote:

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” -Edward Abbey

Until next time,

Avery Shawler

Shoshone BLM Office

Learning about Learning at the Garden

Youth Education - Wed, 09/10/2014 - 12:27pm

Meet Melyssa Guzman. She is one of 20 College First students who spent eight weeks learning about environmental science and doing a research project at the Chicago Botanic Garden. 

 College First student Mely G.

College First student Mely G. would like people to plant butterfly gardens in their yards.

Mely, as she likes to be called, is a junior in the Chicago Public Schools district. She’s kind of a “girlie” young woman who wears a lot of pink, and likes flowery, feminine things. Mely also loves science. Each student had a staff mentor; I was Mely’s. Her project was teaching the public about butterfly-attracting flowers.

Although drop-in programs and exhibitions may be considered more “education” than “science,” understanding how people learn is an area of social science research that can challenge a smart student like Mely. This summer, Mely learned that museums and public gardens often test exhibitions and learning activities, using methods similar to those practiced by conservation scientists, to see how visitors will respond.

Mely began by researching butterflies and the flowers they prefer. Then she decided to set up a display at the Butterflies & Blooms exhibition, where she would teach visitors what flowers to grow in their yards to attract butterflies. The display would have different kinds of flowers—real flowers and pictures—and she would stand and talk with people who were interested.

 Mely G. taking notes.

After each group of visitors, Mely recorded notes about how long they stayed at her table, and how interested they seemed.

As kids today would say, her first try was an “epic fail.” Most visitors looked at her display with curiosity, but they seemed perplexed and did not stop to learn more. The display was lovely, with fresh flowers and pictures of native butterflies, but it lacked a clear focus. It needed something else to draw visitors in. The display board kept blowing over, which was another big problem.

 Mely G. prepares a display.

Back to the drawing board: Mely made a new display— one that would stand up better and entice visitors with a title that asks: “What Is a Butterfly Flower?”

Mely brought the exhibit inside and modified the whole thing. Instead of using a folding display board, she mounted a poster board on a cardboard box so it would be more stable when taped to the table. She added a title, “What Is a Butterfly Flower?” as well as some facts about butterfly flowers. Then she tested the display again. After each group of visitors, she recorded the time they spent at her table, and gave them a score of 1 to 4 to rate how interested they were, the kinds of questions they asked, and things they talked about while looking at the display.

Museum exhibit developers call this process “rapid prototyping.” Inexpensive mock-ups of exhibits are tested to ensure they work—that visitors enjoy them and get the intended messages—before the museum invests a lot of money on a permanent display.

 2014 College First student Mely G. gives a demonstration.

A mother and daughter listen as Mely explains what colors, scents, and shapes attract butterflies to a flower.

Mely made a few more minor changes to her display. Then she tested a hypothesis. She observed that adults with children seemed more distracted than those without children; that they did not seem to talk to her as much as the childless groups. She hypothesized that adults without children would spend more time, ask more questions, and talk more about butterflies than mixed-generation groups. She used the data she gathered during prototyping the display, analyzing who stopped by her table, how long they spent, and how engaged they were.

Surprisingly, she discovered that families with children actually spent a little more time on average than adults alone. She thought this may be true because adults who brought children to her display spent their time explaining things to them instead of talking to her. In other words, the adults were not distracted, but were directing attention on their children to help them also learn from the display.

Mely does not fully realize that she has stumbled upon a very significant principle of learning: that learning is social. Educational research has shown that interaction between family members has a positive influence on learning in museums and in other environments. I’m very proud of Melyssa’s accomplishment this summer, and I look forward to seeing her expand her research next summer—because we both learned something!

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Learning about Learning at the Garden

Garden Blog - Wed, 09/10/2014 - 12:27pm

Meet Melyssa Guzman. She is one of 20 College First students who spent eight weeks learning about environmental science and doing a research project at the Chicago Botanic Garden. 

 College First student Mely G.

College First student Mely G. would like people to plant butterfly gardens in their yards.

Mely, as she likes to be called, is a junior in the Chicago Public Schools district. She’s kind of a “girlie” young woman who wears a lot of pink, and likes flowery, feminine things. Mely also loves science. Each student had a staff mentor; I was Mely’s. Her project was teaching the public about butterfly-attracting flowers.

Although drop-in programs and exhibitions may be considered more “education” than “science,” understanding how people learn is an area of social science research that can challenge a smart student like Mely. This summer, Mely learned that museums and public gardens often test exhibitions and learning activities, using methods similar to those practiced by conservation scientists, to see how visitors will respond.

Mely began by researching butterflies and the flowers they prefer. Then she decided to set up a display at the Butterflies & Blooms exhibition, where she would teach visitors what flowers to grow in their yards to attract butterflies. The display would have different kinds of flowers—real flowers and pictures—and she would stand and talk with people who were interested.

 Mely G. taking notes.

After each group of visitors, Mely recorded notes about how long they stayed at her table, and how interested they seemed.

As kids today would say, her first try was an “epic fail.” Most visitors looked at her display with curiosity, but they seemed perplexed and did not stop to learn more. The display was lovely, with fresh flowers and pictures of native butterflies, but it lacked a clear focus. It needed something else to draw visitors in. The display board kept blowing over, which was another big problem.

 Mely G. prepares a display.

Back to the drawing board: Mely made a new display— one that would stand up better and entice visitors with a title that asks: “What Is a Butterfly Flower?”

Mely brought the exhibit inside and modified the whole thing. Instead of using a folding display board, she mounted a poster board on a cardboard box so it would be more stable when taped to the table. She added a title, “What Is a Butterfly Flower?” as well as some facts about butterfly flowers. Then she tested the display again. After each group of visitors, she recorded the time they spent at her table, and gave them a score of 1 to 4 to rate how interested they were, the kinds of questions they asked, and things they talked about while looking at the display.

Museum exhibit developers call this process “rapid prototyping.” Inexpensive mock-ups of exhibits are tested to ensure they work—that visitors enjoy them and get the intended messages—before the museum invests a lot of money on a permanent display.

 2014 College First student Mely G. gives a demonstration.

A mother and daughter listen as Mely explains what colors, scents, and shapes attract butterflies to a flower.

Mely made a few more minor changes to her display. Then she tested a hypothesis. She observed that adults with children seemed more distracted than those without children; that they did not seem to talk to her as much as the childless groups. She hypothesized that adults without children would spend more time, ask more questions, and talk more about butterflies than mixed-generation groups. She used the data she gathered during prototyping the display, analyzing who stopped by her table, how long they spent, and how engaged they were.

Surprisingly, she discovered that families with children actually spent a little more time on average than adults alone. She thought this may be true because adults who brought children to her display spent their time explaining things to them instead of talking to her. In other words, the adults were not distracted, but were directing attention on their children to help them also learn from the display.

Mely does not fully realize that she has stumbled upon a very significant principle of learning: that learning is social. Educational research has shown that interaction between family members has a positive influence on learning in museums and in other environments. I’m very proud of Melyssa’s accomplishment this summer, and I look forward to seeing her expand her research next summer—because we both learned something!

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

The phone hummed…

CLM Internship Blog - Wed, 09/10/2014 - 9:35am

The phone hummed, buzzing on the book next to Cooper’s mattress. An electric guitar cried out the tune of “Up Around The Bend.” Cooper awoke with a start, frantic to subdue the noise before it woke up his housemate down the hall. Without a second thought about the dream he was having about biking through the woods of an old-growth forest, Cooper sat up on the side of his bed, feet planted firmly on the wooden floor.

Another day was unfolding before Cooper, another day that, even though he had a comfort and routine with his work as a CLM intern at the Four Rivers Field Office in Boise, would more than likely bring about something unexpected. Omelette with toast for breakfast, carrot sticks, trail mix, and rice and beans in his pack for lunch, Cooper slipped out into the cool early morning.

The sun illuminated the sky like a mother watching her son grow. More and more the sun would rise but only until you looked away would it become evident how quickly it was changing, how quickly it was rising to warm the earth below it. Cooper loved this moment of the day. He especially loved the days in the field that would have already begun well before sunrise, so that he could walk through the grasses and feel more than see the sunrise.

Today was no such day. Today Cooper arrived at the office to hear that both he and his co-explorer, Prairie, would be seated upon their thrones in the great hall that was their cubicle. The posters hung, woven from the finest fibers, the text books rested, breathing slowly with their old age, and the two computers blinked, waking from their slumber. A fresh stack of DIMA-data sat upon their desk, letting off a sweet aroma of printer ink and pencil lead. With the click of the mouse and the tap of the keys on their keyboards, they were off. Soaring through plant codes, ground cover types, and sagebrush heights, the two interns sat stoically perched upon their computer chairs. This data would be reported throughout all the lands, both public and private. It was of the utmost importance that it be entered with diligence and care. Cooper and Prairie had grown to love each plant code as their own, subspecies after subspecies, each more cherished than the last.

And so this glorious DIMA-data entry day came and went. A beautiful reminder of the things and places we hold dear, the moments of the day we look forward to, and the joys of what being a CLM intern brings.

*The character names in this piece were inspired by a couple of raptor friends that we were privileged to get to meet and see this past week. Thanks for letting me get a little prose-y. Thought it would be fun to re-imagine the office days that are sometimes harder to love than the field days. Hope all is well with everyone!

p.s. I apologize for the tardiness.

Banding a Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) near Snowbank Mountain, Idaho.

Banding a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) near Snowbank Mountain, Idaho.

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Top of a switchback along Alice Lake in the Sawtooth Wilderness Area.

Top of a switchback along Alice Lake in the Sawtooth Wilderness Area.

Campsite at Toxaway Lake for our weekend hike in the Sawtooth Range.

Campsite at Toxaway Lake for our weekend hike in the Sawtooth Range.

Working on a river in the desert

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 4:27pm
Heading out with my boss for cuckoo surveys

Me and my boss heading out at sunrise to do yellow billed cuckoo surveys

Round-tailed Horned Lizard

Round-tailed Horned Lizard. These lizards are rock mimics

Very hard to see but there is a burrowing owl in this picture

Very hard to see but there is a burrowing owl in this picture

Aloha from Carlsbad, New Mexico. A few weeks ago I finished my work on the Dune Sagebrush Lizard. I am proud to say that my team was able to catch 15 of these little guys and we were also able to catch some in areas where no one had ever got close to trapping before. It’s safe to say that after digging over 300 holes to set pitfall traps I have become quite good at digging holes.

I have now shifted my focus on several riparian areas near Carlsbad. Specifically, I have been conducting macro-invertebrate, substrate, and water quality samples to determine steam health and community composition in the Pecos, Delaware, and Black river systems. I also conducted multiple yellow billed cuckoo surveys across the aforementioned rivers to detect a presence or absence of the birds.

One of my favorite days was conducting burrowing owl surveys where a potential oil line may be placed through. Several burrowing owl colonies were discovered in the oil pipeline right of way, so the construction company will have to re-route the pipe so they do not disturb the birds. The owls are quite personal and I was able to observe some of their natural behaviors in a beautiful part of the state. Being a herp nerd, I was pretty excited about seeing my first round tailed horned lizard Phrynosoma modestum while conducting some of these burrowing owl surveys. In the next few weeks I should start work conducting prairie chicken surveys and capturing and tagging birds found in riparian areas around Carlsbad.

The weather is starting to cool down and I am still exploring as much of the state as possible, and thoroughly enjoying myself. I can’t believe this internship ends in about a month. Until next time.

The Eriogonum Epiphany

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 2:59pm

After a lull in collecting, we are at it again, this time with late season Eriogonum species (elatum and strictum), yellow rabbitbrush, and hoary tansyaster. We also are going to do a second collection of Erigonum umberllatum found from a late-blooming population up high. During my time here as a CLM intern I really have gained an appreciation for the rough-and-tough, grow-nearly-everywhere nature of buckwheats. From scorching desert rock outcrops to wind-whipped alpine tundra, from the ashes of recently burned areas to gravel substrate at a 65° slope, buckwheats prevail. This genus not only colonizes and thrives in areas other plants may be too picky, or too “high maintenance” for, but it is one of the most important plants to have around for beneficial insects, and it helps suppress weeds. My mentor recently found a paper published this past May elaborating on how fantastic buckwheats are for conservation, restoration, and pollination. You can read it here: http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1603/EN13342

I guess my love for buckwheats is a living metaphor for my love of the West.

Growing up in Colorado I may have taken the breathtaking mountains, the sweet, but bitter-sharp smell of the aspens, and the laid-back warmth of the people for granted. It was really never until this summer, traveling between Idaho and Wyoming, spending every single weekend climbing, hiking, or exploring new towns and new wilderness that I realized how amazing and special the West truly is. Eriogonums to me are a symbol of the West—ever progressing, gloriously rugged, resilient, adventurous, and determined in spirit. Their spherical pom-pom inflorescence is like something only from fable and are often overlooked by most, but are sought after by those who realize their importance and character. My eyes have opened to the workhorse that the West is, much like the buckwheat, and how important public land—just like the buckwheat—is to conservation and restoration and producing resources. So here is a sticker-clad worn water bottle toast to buckwheats and to the spirit of the West, and may both ever endure…

 This is El Capitan above Alice Lake in the Sawtooth Wilderness

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act being signed into congress, here are a few photos from my past two weekends: This is El Capitan above Alice Lake in the Sawtooth Wilderness

Did an awesome 21 mile backpacking trip through the Alice/Toxaway loop in the Sawtooth Wilderness with Joe, our mentor, and Zander. The moon was so bright, it was the first time we had experienced moon-shadows!

Did an awesome 21 mile backpacking trip through the Alice/Toxaway loop in the Sawtooth Wilderness with Joe, our mentor, and Zander. The moon was so bright, it was the first time we had experienced moon-shadows!

Over labor-day weekend I explored the Absarokas in Wyoming. This is on the way up to Franc's peak--the highest point.

Over labor-day weekend I explored the Absarokas in Wyoming. This is on the way up to Franc’s peak–the highest point.

Elk hunting in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness by the WY/MT border outside Yellowstone. Really trying not to get eaten by a Grizzly.

Elk hunting in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness by the WY/MT border outside Yellowstone. Really trying not to get eaten by a Grizzly.

The Panorama view from Sleeping Bear Peak in the Absarokas. This time I was trying to see Grizzlies at a moth site

The Panorama view from Sleeping Bear Peak in the Absarokas. This time I was trying to see Grizzlies at a moth site

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