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Tying Up Loose Ends

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 9:45am

Yesterday was my last day with Fish and Wildlife. Since my last post, we’ve been busy trying to finish all the end of the season chores like data analysis, write-ups, and gear cleaning. We didn’t get to everything though because a few things came up. One day we spent with USGS sampling adult suckers in Clear Lake, CA. It consisted of pulling a seine net between two boats and then pulling it up to shore and collecting all the fish from it. We also pulled up a few trammel nets that were set out at specific spots to get fish swimming in the area.

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Releasing tagged juvenile sucker fish!

We also had to tag and release our last net-pen of fish and we were able to take a reporter out with us so she could do a write-up of our season. We were lucky to have zero mortality from tagging and released a few hundred healthy juvenile suckers between all of our net-pens. So hopefully in a few years we’ll see them spawning!

Overall, I had a great season out here and learned a lot about sucker fish, lake systems, the west and all the challenges it presents. I’ve never worked in an area where water was such an issue, so it was definitely interesting to see how water availability affected things over the season. I have a background in marine science, but after this season I’m definitely more open to working with freshwater resources. I’ve also realized that I want to go into a more active management career such as working for Fish and Wildlife or USGS instead of working in academia, which is what I previously thought I wanted to do.

I got to work with a great crew this season and I’m sad to leave them, but I’m definitely ready for the next thing, which I don’t actually know what that is yet. But I also feel much more prepared for grad school or another job, whichever comes first, after learning all sorts of great new skills. I feel like thanks to CLM and everyone at my office I’m more confident and ready to take on anything new!

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Sucker fish lips!

The Pine Dunes: A Tree-lover’s Oasis in the Desert

CLM Internship Blog - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 1:50pm

I will start off this post by saying how happy I am to be working for the BLM and the Chicago Botanic Garden.  However, when I first applied to this internship, it was with the hope that I would be offered a position with the U.S. Forest Service.  I studied forestry in school, and it is a passion of mine.  Being from the Northeast, I am used to being surrounded by hardwood forests filled with trees of several different species.  I was a little disappointed when I first came to Susanville and discovered that the field office was pretty barren of trees, except for the occasional grove of Western Junipers.  Nonetheless, I have made the most of my opportunity here and have come to appreciate the High Desert ecosystem and the plants that reside here.  But still, it would be nice to see some trees…

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The East Grove of the Pine Dunes

Enter the Pine Dunes Research Natural Area.  I first saw the pine dunes in July, when I drove past them on the way to another project.  ”Wow, those pine trees seem out of place,” I stated.  A co-worker explained that the pines are growing on sand dunes that are the result of an old lake bed in the area.  After the lake dried up, the sand from the bottom blew across the valley and piled up at the base of some hills.  The resulting dunes are a perfect, yet unusual, site for ponderosa pines to grow.  The nearest pine tree is 15 miles north of the site, and is at an elevation 1000 feet higher.  The nearest pine forest is 20 miles to the north, in the south Warner Mountains.  It is not fully understood how the pine groves came to be, but it is estimated that they are at least 300 years old.

The pine dunes was designated as a Research Natural Area in 1987 by the BLM.  The area on BLM land was fenced off from livestock and motor vehicle use, and signs were posted to inform visitors of the uniqueness of the site.  Some of the pines are growing on private land, right outside the BLM fence.  The hope was that the site would be monitored every year, and that each tree would be monitored every five years.  After digging through documents dating back to the 1970′s, I could not find any evidence that the site had been monitored in the past 20 years.  Monitoring the site is important because the trees have not been reproducing in the past 40 years, and it is important to understand why.

I, along with the other CLM intern at the Eagle Lake Field Office, Natalie, were tasked with monitoring the site.  I was excited to finally do some work involving forestry.  Our job the past two weeks has been to measure the DBH (diameter at breast height) using DBH tape, and height, using a clinometer, of every tree in the grove.  There are about 90 trees at the site, so this is no small task.  We also fill out a data sheet for each tree that involves measuring an ovulate (female), and staminate (male) cone from each tree, measuring the length of the seed and of the needles, and indicating the health of the tree based on its bark and evidence of insect infestation.

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Monitoring one of the pines

We have currently monitored 61 of the trees at the site.  So far the thickest tree has a DBH of 148 cm, and the tallest tree is almost 32 meters tall.  These are impressive numbers, but the largest ponderosa pines in the U.S. can grow to a DBH of 263 cm, and height of 70.7 meters!  Most of the trees seem to be healthy and producing plenty of seeds.  However, we have not found any evidence of seedlings at the site, indicating that the trees are still not reproducing.  This may be a natural occurrence, as the site is sort of an anomaly and was not meant to last long.  It could also be that rodents or insects are getting to the seeds before they have the chance to germinate. We did discover some ponderosa pine cone beetles in some of the cones. Deer, rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks may be eating the seeds and seedlings as well.   My theory is that since the site is restricted from fire, too much duff and debris has built up under the trees and the seeds are not able to reach the soil to germinate.

Whatever the cause for the lack of reproduction, I hope that the trees are able to overcome it.  The pine dunes is such a great spot in the Eagle Lake Field Office, and a very rare and unique site for ponderosa pines in general.  Even if the trees are unable to reproduce, the trees there now may be able to survive for another 300 years, as ponderosa pines have been known to grow that old.  No matter how long they survive, I am grateful that they are there now, and that I have been given the opportunity to monitor them.  After spending all summer in the desert, it has been a relief to be working in the shade of a forest.

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My favorite tree in the grove, this tree was once hit by lightning, and was once home to a nest of golden eagles. (These events occurred at separate times, thankfully).

-Sam, BLM

Eagle Lake Field Office

Susanville, CA

NEPA Analysis

CLM Internship Blog - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 11:31am

With the last of the 2014 season’s seed collections wrapped-up and shipped away, our attentions have turned to other projects. A major portion of the work now involves the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). During the past few months I have had the good fortune to work on several interesting NEPA projects.

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Kelso Peak Grazing Allotment, within the Bright Star Wilderness

One such project involves developing and analyzing alternatives to determine the level of future grazing use, within the Kelso Peak Allotment. The allotment is situated mostly within the Bright Star Wilderness, an especially interesting location that receives influences from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Great Basin Desert, and the Mohave Desert, making the location extremely diverse botanically. One of the many interesting plant species of the project area is the Kelso Creek monkeyflower (Mimulus shevockii), a BLM sensitive plant species, which is known to occur in only a total of eleven populations on the planet.

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Cottonwood Creek, National Wild and Scenic River

Work for another NEPA project is set alongside Cottonwood Creek, the only National Wild and Scenic River in the Ridgecrest Field Office. Here our field office is assessing the impacts and requirements of conducting a fuels reduction burn in an area of old-growth sagebrush.

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‘Old growth’ sagebrush at Cottonwood Creek

A third Environmental Assessment (EA), to which I am contributing, analyzes proposed range improvements within the Deep Springs Valley and South Oasis grazing allotments, at the northern end of the Ridgecrest Field Office. This project area, located in the Great Basin Desert, offers an interesting change of plants and other scenery, compared to the Mohave Desert that forms the majority of our work area. One of the highlights of the field work required to prepare this EA involved trekking cross-country through the wilderness, in order to locate, assess, and document a spring, which no present BLM employees had ever visited. A less pleasant aspect involved discovering approximately 125 contiguous acres of Russian thistle associated with a water trough site, on one of the above mentioned allotments.

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Russian thistle (a.k.a. tumbleweed) infestation on the South Oasis Allotment

As far as NEPA writing is involved, I have mainly contributed to the vegetation and non-native, invasive species sections, two areas for which I possess a high level of interest. The NEPA process required for an EA requires the consideration of a range of reasonable alternatives. I enjoy the process of looking at issues from various perspectives, in order to analyze different scenarios and their possible effects on the multiple resources stewarded by BLM.

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Non-functional watering trough at One Tub Spring, on the South Oasis Allotment. BLM is considering repairing this and other grazing allotment improvements.

Another important and useful part of the process of performing NEPA analysis has involved using GIS. Examples include consulting the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB) for the known occurrences of Special Status Species and NISIMS (National Invasive Species Information Management System) for the locations of invasive plants. A related aspect, which I also enjoy, involves the utilization of mobile GIS. For each of these NEPA projects I have used a Trimble device, running ArcPad, to collect geodata of features such as fencelines, burn piles, springs, watering troughs, and invasive species infestations.

Wildlife utilizes available water from One Tub Spring

Wildlife utilizes available water from One Tub Spring

I have also used GIS to create several maps for EAs, which display project areas and the measures that would be implemented under each of the possible alternatives. These maps generally undergo changes as projects develop, enabling BLM staff and members of the public to understand proposed actions.  This, and all NEPA work, is intended to contribute towards the making of well-informed decisions, better decisions being the ultimate goal of the NEPA process. Viva NEPA!

 

Marcus Lorusso

BLM Ridgecrest Field Office

 

Bobcat

CLM Internship Blog - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 11:26am

Hello Stranger,

I’m happy to report that this is not my final blog post, and that I get to spend another exciting month working for the BLM, Jarbidge Field Office.

As interns, our primary objective has shifted to conducting transect inventories for the proposed endangered slickspot peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum), and mapping its critical habitat (slick spots).  These slick spots create a unique heterogeneity in our field office, and have been compromised by common rangeland threats such as fires, trampling, and invasive species.  We have mapped many slick spots, but have not found any slickspot peppergrass.

Walking through the high desert all day has proven to be a very meditative experience.  I enjoy listening to music and taking in the vastness of the sagebrush steppe.  Fall on the range is beautiful.  Everything is golden.  The air is smoky and crisp.  To top things off, I saw a bobcat last week!  I followed it with the pickup before it jumped into the brush to crouch down and stare at us.  Talk about a once in a lifetime experience.

As always, thank you for reading.  This continues to be an incredible internship.

Jonathan Kleinman

Jarbidge Field Office

Bureau of Land Management

Golden grass

Golden grass: A picture I took while inventorying wetlands

Goodbyes, Thanks, and Praise!

CLM Internship Blog - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 11:25am

This has been fun. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and I am grateful looking back at all the people, plants, and places I’ve had the privilege of experiencing. Seasonal work is pretty cool, too. A lot of my time here in Boise has been spent talking with Cara, our mentor, Joe, and many other people from the office about where we want to go or where we’ve been as far as jobs and careers are concerned. I think there’s an unfortunate expectation and pressure for young adults to have an idea of what they want to be and how they plan on getting there as fast as possible. From a financial standpoint I understand this mentality if you are in debt or want to avoid debt in the future or even if you just need to know that you can afford to live and maybe one day afford to support a family. Personally, I am so incredibly grateful for the privilege to not need to stress about whether I have something lined up next. But that’s a hard thing to be okay with. I often have to make a concerted effort to remind myself that it’s okay to not know what I’m doing or even where I’m going. It’s okay to not know if I want to go back to Grad School. It’s okay to not know if I want to embark upon another internship. It’s even okay if I don’t want to go into land conservation and anything remotely involved in Biology as a field of work! Who knows maybe I’ll go into culinary arts or physical therapy or criminal justice.

All of this is to say that as much as I’ve truly appreciated learning to ID plant species, remembering the plant codes, and so many other skills for land management/conservation work, above everything else, I have appreciated being a part of something genuine. This wasn’t some cookie-cutter, superficial, resume-boosting couple of months. This was hard work. Physically and mentally, we invested ourselves into this experience just as others, both people and plants, invested in us. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the things I’m most excited about from this internship is being able to return to the allotments we worked on in ten, twenty, even sixty years and hopefully see the actual efforts in the land. Who knows, maybe I’ll just throw on some gloves and start planting sagebrush plugs when I’m ninety.

Anyhow, much respect to all of you fellow interns for your tales and toils and I look forward to seeing where we all go from here! A big thanks to the Four Rivers Field Office staff and our mentor, Joe, for your friendships and knowledge. And many thanks to the CBG staff that are really the source for the sincerity and meaning that this program holds for me.

All my best,

Zander,

Four Rivers Field Office, Boise, ID

Osage oranges near Anderson Reservoir at the border with Oregon.

Osage oranges near Anderson Reservoir at the border with Oregon.

A banded orb-weaving spider (Argiope trifasciata) found while collecting Eriogonum strictum.

A banded orb-weaving spider (Argiope trifasciata) found while collecting Eriogonum strictum.

National Public Lands Day in the Owyhees.

National Public Lands Day in the Owyhees.

The Snake River at Swan Falls Dam.

The Snake River at Swan Falls Dam.

Full moon setting after the lunar eclipse.

Full moon setting after the lunar eclipse.

Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) hanging out while collecting Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus.

Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) hanging out while collecting Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus.

Fall on the Prairie

Garden Blog - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 9:12am

While summer blooms elsewhere are winding down, the Dixon Prairie is still alive with many fall flowers.

 Red Admiral butterfly.

Warm fall days bring out the butterflies; this red admiral is enjoying a New England aster. ©Carol Freeman

Asters, sawtooth sunflowers, gaura, and goldenrod are going strong. All of them are abuzz with bees and other insects. Grasshoppers dance from plant to plant. Butterflies fuel up for a last fling or long journey.

Dewy milkweed seeds blow in the wind. ©Carol Freeman

Dewy milkweed seeds blow in the wind. ©Carol Freeman

Grasses, some with tiny fragrant flowers, sway gracefully; many have grown more than 7 feet tall in this one growing season. Early morning dew transforms the seedheads into works of art. Silken strands of unseen spiders glow in the sunlight. Flocks of goldfinches munch on seeds, stocking up for winter, chirping their happy tunes, while shy sparrows occasionally pop up from the shadows, giving us a glimpse of their subtle beauty. Milkweed seeds blow gracefully in the wind.

The prairie truly must be walked to be appreciated. There is so much diversity, and so many stories to tell.

Touch a compass plant leaf on even the hottest day and it will be cool to the touch—with roots going down 14 feet, they pull up water that is chilled underground.

Monarchs live in symbiosis with milkweed plants (as do many other insects). Look closely and you may see a whole world on a milkweed plant.

Surprises can be anywhere—a hummingbird zipping by for a quick sip, a great blue heron flying overhead, drama as a hawk dives down to grab a vole. Fall on the prairie is colorful, alive, and a place of great wonder not to be missed.

Unseen spiders create artwork that catches the early morning dew. ©Carol Freeman

Unseen spiders create artwork that catches the early morning dew. ©Carol Freeman

Seed heads magically transformed with early morning dew. ©Carol Freeman

Seedheads are magically transformed with early morning dew. ©Carol Freeman

Grasshoppers dance from plant to plant. ©Carol Freeman

Grasshoppers dance from plant to plant. ©Carol Freeman

Gaura flowers still attract hover flies. ©Carol Freeman

Gaura flowers still attract hover flies. ©Carol Freeman

Resident Goldfinch stock up on the abundant seeds in the prairie. ©Carol Freeman.

Resident goldfinches stock up on the abundant seeds in the prairie. ©Carol Freeman.

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Adriana’s Bird of the Day is the Kingfisher

Garden Blog - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 4:20pm

A partial transcript of my first official bird walk:

Me: What was that call?

Expert birder: A chipmunk.

Me: What’s that big brown thing in the branches? It’s shaped kinda like a hawk.

Expert: Dead leaves. We call that a fake-out.

Me: Right.

Expert: Do you hear that rattle? I hear a kingfisher!

I really do not hear the rattle, but I feel a rush of excitement as I chase my guide along the trail of the Barbara Brown Nature Reserve at the southeast corner of the Chicago Botanic Garden. The tree-lined pond is one of many different habitats that make the Garden an excellent place for birders experienced and otherwise. Adding to my great fortune are golden sunshine—lighting the first red, orange, and yellow leaves of autumn—and the presence of Al Stokie, who comes to the Garden every week to report on shorebirds and other avian visitors. I’m tagging along on one of his early morning surveys and gleaning basic principles of birding.

Several area bird clubs—including the Lake County Audubon Society (an Illinois Chapter of the National Audubon Society) and the Evanston North Shore Bird Club—welcome beginning birders to their regular meetings and field trips.

 Al the birder.

Al Stokie comes to the Garden weekly to monitor bird populations. He files his counts on the IBET website.

It’s seasonal

Our first stop was the expansive deck of the Kleinman Family Cove, one of Al’s favorite spots for viewing the North Lake. In just a few weeks the surface would be filling with ducks stopping to rest on their way south for the winter. They’ll be followed in November by grebes and red-breasted mergansers. Native plants surrounding the cove attract a variety of birds, but most of the tiny warblers left for warmer climes weeks ago. McDonald Woods, a restored native oak woodland, is the place to go in the spring to catch the warblers’ return and, if you’ve got really good eyes, a place to spot owls in the winter.

“It’s all seasonal,” says Stokie. “Every month of the year you can go out and see different things.” I like that idea: The Garden as an ever-changing landscape of birds.

It’s all about the food

We continue along the North Lake road and find two more potential hot spots for birds. A peninsula of land supports a grove of evergreens loaded with cones—a big draw for wintering pine siskins and—if you’re lucky—crossbills. Down the road a bit, you come to an Emergency Call Box. Look past it and you’ll see large junipers growing along the exterior wall near the Garden’s northwest corner. That’s where a very rare Bohemian waxwing, feasting on the juniper berries, was last seen in the Garden.

 

 Egret in flight.

An egret in flight at the Barbara Brown Nature Reserve at the Garden

Walk early, and walk often

We are heading south now, along the Garden’s West Road, past a restored streambed, lush with native plants—a habitat that provides lots of seeds and insects. The best time for birding tends to be the four hours or so following sunrise, so getting up early can have its rewards. Persistence also pays off, Al explains: “It’s a matter of odds. If you look in one spot ten times, you’ll probably see something.” Just then we catch sight of movement in the shrubs. Al first identifies the little bird by the way it waves its tail up and down—an (ahem) telltale sign of the palm warbler, one of the last warblers to head south for the winter.

The Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School of the Chicago Botanic Garden also offers guided bird walks. Learn more about bird walks taking place at the Garden this fall.

 Bird enjoying seeds from dried seedheads.

Seedheads from native plantings along the restored Skokie River corridor provide ample food for birds.

It ain’t easy—even for the experts

Flocks of goldfinches—displaying olive drab winter plumage—are diving in and out of the tall forbs and grasses of the Dixon Prairie. Niche ecosystems within the prairie provide food and shelter for many different types of birds at different times of the year. Hummingbirds are drawn to the red blooms of royal catchfly (Silene regia) that flower on the dry gravel hills in the summer, while the prairie wetlands attract swamp and other types of sparrows. Turns out sparrows can be tricky to identify, unless—as it happened—one stops to feed on the path in front of you. Al identifies it as a white-crowned sparrow. “For every bird you identify, there are probably five or six you do not get a look at—or you get a lousy look and don’t know what it is,” Al Stokie.

Watch the weather

Shorebirds are drawn to the southwest corner of the Garden, an overflow area for the Skokie River with plenty of muddy shores. “Old Faithful,” a white egret nicknamed by Stokie, comes in for a landing, joining a well-camouflaged green heron and a killdeer, the hardiest of the shorebirds and a late migrator. Most of the sandpipers—Al’s particular interest—have left already. In a flash of movement, the heron fishes a frog out of the water. We witness its slow death through our binoculars, though I have to admit I am still struggling to focus and aim mine. Standing on the sunny, breezy path it’s hard to believe a cold front will be moving through in a few days. That’s likely to bring in a new wave of migratory birds, in this case, sparrows.

Find a mentor

A beginning birder who comes out on his own with a bird book and a pair of binoculars is likely to be overwhelmed, Stokie said. This makes perfect sense to me. Without Al at my side, so much of the experience would have…er…flown right over my head. Take that belted kingfisher back at the Barbara Brown Nature Reserve. While I was still craning around, listening for the rattle, Al had sighted the bird perched in dead branches across the pond. Handing me his binoculars, he asked, “Do you see something, blue?” I saw flashes of blue and white, and the shape of a stocky bird, with a big head.” Okay, it was still slightly blurry, and I had to close one eye to make it out, but I saw it! The moment was recorded for posterity when Al filed his count online. I felt a ridiculous burst of pride when I read the mention, “Adriana’s bird of the day is the kingfisher.”

Join us from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, November 14, for an Owl Prowl at Ryerson Woods. Click here to register online.

 Another great birding location.

Al looks across the North Lake toward the Fruit & Vegetable Garden for signs of bird activity.

For more information:

Experienced birders David Johnson, Jeffrey Sanders, and Alan Anderson, as well as Jim Steffen, the Garden’s senior ecologist, also helped me gather information for this report. To follow sightings by Al and other local birders, you can go to several websites, including eBird (ebird.org/ebird/places), which designates the Garden as a hot spot, and IBET (groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/ILbirds/info).

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Final Days at Four Rivers

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 2:11pm

The past month everything has moved so quickly. Maybe it’s the shorter span of sunlight, or the dwindling days of that familiar summer sun. Perhaps, it was the realization that this internship was coming to an end. It seemed so weird to me, that just like that, I was going to be out on my way, on to the next adventure.

When I moved to Boise I literally knew no one, and was in the same situation as most interns probably were in. However my situation slightly differed than some in the fact I was living completely by myself, in a neighborhood that was full of retired people and young families. No roommates, no college housing that was around. Which was fine with me, but I will admit, it was much more of a conscience personal challenge to go out and make friends with random people than I had ever dealt with before. I learned from this experience that moving to a new place, or really facing any new experience should be taken as an opportunity and it is what you make of it. At first I was hesitant to go out to restaurants and dine by myself and to join in on events in the community–but I’m so glad I did. On a whim I started going to yoga classes in a park and happened to meet a girl who was a nursing student at BSU and told her I was new to the town and didn’t know anybody and asked her to join me in grabbing some coffee at the local saturday market. She was very welcoming and introduced me to several of her friends and great local places in town. For a semi-introvert like myself this was definitely pushing my comfort zone but I’m so glad I personally challenged myself this way. I hear and know of seasonals who move to new places and never go out and experience it. From this effort I made to do so, Boise will always have a special place in my heart.

My co-workers at Four Rivers also will have a special place in my heart. Each and every person in our field office truly wanted us as interns to succeed and learn. I know this sounds silly but I never thought people would be so willing to go out of their way to help a couple of newbies gain experience. I appreciate the positive attitude and support the members of the Four Rivers Field Office gave to us more than they know. It also was an eye-opening experience that no matter how much experience or time you have under your belt, managing natural resources is a constant and ever changing learning experience. This, and working with various people who have different and varying opinions has really helped further form my natural resource opinions.

One thing that was most rewarding to me was the plantings we just did. As a hands-on learner I have always gotten the most out of physically doing things, but something I enjoy most is physically being able to see the results of work I have done. I have come to that realization over the course of this internship. Over the past two weeks Zander and I have planted several hundred plants for both landscaping and habitat improvement. In the process we were able to see Idaho’s rarest plant–Packard’s Milk Vetch–which only occurs in a 10 miles radius around Emmett, ID. We also had the opportunity to work with several volunteers and at one point, 140 volunteers from the Lineman school nearby. During this experience I learned that I really enjoyed teaching people with little or no background about the world around them and why it was important. Those volunteers planted nearly 1,400 sagebrush yearlings in approximately 2 1/2 hours which was incredible!

I’m so grateful for this experience working as a Conservation and Land Management Intern and would like to thank all of you at CBG for the wonderful program you have created and being so accessible to communicate with.

Boise–it’s been real. I’ll miss your amazing food scene, microbreweries, Saturday city market, rolling hills and rushing rivers, that giant white neon cross that looks over the city and meets the stars, and most of all, the wonderful people that live there. Something I won’t miss? Medusa-head and cheatgrass. Cheers.

-Cara Thompson
Four Rivers Field Office–Boise District BLM

Atop the Hills near Emmett looking for Packard's Milk Vetch--a scenic view that summarizes what most of the Boise area looks like

Atop the Hills near Emmett looking for Packard’s Milk Vetch–a scenic view that summarizes what most of the Boise area looks like

The complex geologic history of Idaho is seen everywhere. The grey patch in the center is where we hiked in to do our plantings to increase native pollinators to the area

The complex geologic history of Idaho is seen everywhere. The grey patch in the center is where we hiked in to do our plantings to increase native pollinators to the area

The rarest plant in Idaho! Packard's Milk Vetch in all of its post-seed glory

The rarest plant in Idaho! Packard’s Milk Vetch in all of its post-seed glory

San Bernardino National Forest

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 2:07pm
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Parry’s alpinegold (Hulsea vestita parryi)

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A late-blooming San Bernardino Mountains bladderpod (Physaria kingii subsp bernardina)

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Rock loving oxytrope (Oxytropis oreophila var. oreophila). This species occurs in AZ and UT, but in California it’s known only from high elevations in the San Bernardinos. This picture was taken at a new population in southern California.

 

In my last blog post, I mentioned a potential new location of fringed chocolate chip lichen, Solorina spongiosa, which is rare in California.  Kerry Knudsen, a lichenologist and curator of the lichen herbarium at University of California Riverside, verified the specimen in September.  This is a new record of the species in the San Bernardino Mountains; the other known locations are in the Sierras.     

I’ve been continuing to monitor populations of T&E in areas around the Mountaintop Ranger District, and especially focusing on older occurrences.  San Bernardino Mountains bladderpod (Physaria kingii subsp. bernardina, pictured) is one species that I’ve been monitoring; it is federally endanged and grows on carbonate slopes around Bear Valley.  In mid-September, I spent a few days working with the Urban Conservation Corps in the Bighorn Mountains Wilderness; we surveyed the wilderness for recreation impacts and removed weeds.  The Bighorn Mountains Wilderness is a little-used and little-known wilderness, but it’s one of my favorites.  The view over the desert from the relatively inaccessible Granite Peaks is amazing.  Many of our plant species endemic to carbonate soils occur in areas of this Wilderness.    

Mountaintop Ranger District

San Bernardino National Forest

Farewell Alaska

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 2:05pm

We’ve returned from Central in one piece, and it was definitely an interesting stint. We were out in the field from September 11-22, which proved to be well into the Alaskan autumn. When we arrived, the birch leaves were aglow in all their ochre glory, and by the time we left, the trees were bare and the flurries were falling.

Central, as seen from the helicopter

Central, as seen from the helicopter

It was a bit challenging (and admittedly sometimes frustrating) to ID Salix spp. that lacked catkins entirely, and sometimes with senescing leaves.

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Mornings were often in the mid- to lower-20s (Fahrenheit), and midday rarely exceeded the mid-60s. It was a dream come true. And, to add to the whimsicality of it all, I saw my first aurora borealis!

photo 3-2

 

But the wonder doesn’t stop there. The ranges surrounding Central — the White Mountains, the Crazy Mountains, the Victoria Mountains, etc– are interesting because that region of Alaska was never glaciated. Thus, the rolling topography there hasn’t been scoured by glacial retreat or carved into arrêtés and valleys. It isn’t the scenery one typically envisions when imagining Alaska, but its shrub-dwarf/lichen expanses are majestic in their own right.

 

Still, there remain many exciting things ahead in our final 90 hours as CLM interns. Today we checked the final box on our SOS-organizing checklist (at least from the herbarium end), and our vouchers are on their way to the Smithsonian (and to Fairbanks) as I type.

And, at the end of this month, there will be not one but TWO conferences at which to publicly botanize! The first is the Alaska Invasive Species Conference, for which Katie, our co-intern in Fairbanks, will be visiting! The second is the 2014 Alaska Botanical Forum, at which Charlotte and I will be presenting on our CLM adventures. Good stuff, no?

Hope all is well in the lower 48!

BB

Not quite finished yet

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 2:00pm

Today would have been my official last day of the five month internship, but luckily I am here for 6 months and possibly more thanks to the princess sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata var. wyomingensis and A. cana). One of the big goals of this internship, according to my mentor, is to acquire huge sagebrush collections and since seeds won’t be ready until November sometime, I get to wait until they do. And according to all the rumors, they are late bloomers this year; they are just so special.

The sagebrush seeds will hopefully be used for restoration projects; I am hoping for crested conversion fields and other weed-infested plots of land where straight up broadcasting of seeds wouldn’t be enough. The plan is to grow up seeds so that 2-3 year old plants can be transplanted (by willing volunteers). I wish I could stay on to see this come into fruition. Although I may not be here for that, I did recently get to observe and take part a little in the second process after seed collecting; the growing. The BLM has a partnership with Special K Ranch, a working community for high functioning adults with mental disabilities. It turns out for the past several years they have been able to help out BLM offices in Montana with the space and labor it takes to grow up seedlings for restoration projects.

I met up with some folks from the Dillon and Missoula field offices as well as Wendy, our state botanist, who heads up this partnership and cheerfully describes it as her rogue operation.  I was amazed to see an entire greenhouse filled with 2 year old baby sagebrush plants, which actually were destined to be transplanted by a MCC crew this fall in northern Montana. Woohoo! So good to see stuff getting done. Not only were there sagebrush, but a few river birch and other wetland plants to be used for riparian stabilization next year. They, too, were collecting seeds at the ranch, although from grow-out plants (so they were at least all in one easy to get to place) the fall forbs being some asters such as Prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera) and Hairy golden aster (Heterotheca villosa). I left after helping lay out a weed cloth for next year’s garden (it’s expanding!) feeling refreshed and inspired by the wonderful people and the wonderful work they are doing.

I recently was granted another opportunity to interact with the public outside of BLM. I volunteered for the 7th grade science teacher at the local junior high school to help with a river monitoring field trip at the local Big Spring Creek. This was an amazing science experiment that the teacher, Mr. Paulson, had been conducting for the past 22 years! Measuring things like stream depth, velocity, macroinvertebrates, dissolved oxygen content, total phosphorus and nitrogen, and total fecal coliform, his science class has collected a fairly good amount of historical data. Not only have they collected the data, but their findings have been used to make important changes. One year when the total fecal coliform levels were extra high, they brought it to the attention of the town who quickly found out there was a sewage leak that had gone undetected.

I got to play the part of resident “scientist” for the day and perform the chemistry tests with some of the students. I have to say, I was really nervous at first not having dealt with 7th graders in a while, but they were surprisingly fascinated by what we were doing, were really fun, and super well-behaved thanks to their teacher.  If there are seeds left in the next couple of weeks, I plan on taking the students out for another hands-on experience to help me with seed collecting (yes! Free labor!).

These past few opportunities along with working at the BLM have allowed me to explore a few different avenues within science/botany, since I’m not totally sure if working for the BLM is for me. Although, now that I see there can be more to the BLM than policies and NEPA documents, maybe it is.

A few random photos because I didn’t take any of what I talked about.

DSCN1992

In the North Moccasin Mountains

IMG_20141006_214008

Bugling elk at the Missouri River Breaks, and yes, I did take this picture with my phone.

IMG_20140928_105712904

Theodore Roosevelt statue at TR National Park in ND

DSC_0278

IMG_20140912_165054123

A prairie dog t-shirt found at the local sports store

 

Season’s End!

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 1:56pm

I have now finished my work as a Conservation Land Management intern for the BLM Bishop Field Office. In the 2014 field season I successfully completed the target amount of 15 seed collections. This was probably my favorite task for the season. I was given the independence to scout over an approximately 750,000 acre area and make my own decisions on what to collect and when. This project helped me to improve my individual organization of field notes, data, photographs, and voucher specimens. It was also perhaps the most official work I have been a part of; this gave me a great sense of pride in what I was doing, especially when it came time to submit all of my vouchers to The Smithsonian. I feel honored to have been a part of the Seeds of Success program.

Sage grouse are a topic of major concern in the Bishop Field Office; which contains a majority of the population and habitat for the distinct population segment of the Greater sage-grouse, which is currently a candidate for listing on the Federal Threatened/Endangered Species Act. I was tasked with measuring vegetation monitoring plots at sage-grouse nest sites, one of the top three priorities for the field office. These plots are a thorough method of observing vegetation specifics in and around birds that nested this year. Data collection involved locating the nest site; which required driving many miles on rough dirt roads, hiking off-trail through dense shrub covered hills, and finding the nest itself upon arrival. Reading these plots called for the following of a strict protocol. After becoming familiar with the protocol by working with my mentor, I was able to lead a volunteer in data collection. It was a good feeling to be given this responsibility. Similar to gathering nest plot data for sage-grouse, I also completed or established post fire vegetation monitoring plots and riparian condition monitoring transects. For theses plots I was also given the responsibility of leading a volunteer or co-worker.

I worked on many other projects over the course of the season as well: rare plant surveys, invasive plant survey/treatment, sage-grouse radio telemetry tracking, boundary marking for fuels reduction treatments, bat-surveys, educational youth outreach, stream restoration construction, herbicide spray treatment vegetation transects, greenhouse construction, baseline wilderness survey, and many more. It has been an inspiring and engaging field season filled with personal development and skill building. I knew coming in to this internship that I had been offered an amazing opportunity, and it has gone above and beyond my expectations. My mentor, Martin, and I got along exceptionally well, and he truly is someone I aspire to be like. Thus I have been offered the chance to return next season, I have proudly excepted and am already anxious to build upon all that I learned this year. Until then it will be Tamarisk removal all day, everyday. Preserve the good, remove the bad is now my season to season dichotomy. I would highly recommend the Conservation Land Management internship to anyone looking to expand their relationship and appreciation for public lands. Thank you to the Chicago Botanic Garden for supporting such a meaningful and productive program.

Tyler

Fall Color Infographic

Garden Blog - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 3:03pm

If days stay cool and sunny, fall color will continue, peaking this next week. Here’s how it works:

 An infographic on how leaves get their fall color.

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Clicking Through Time

Plant Science and Conservation - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 11:20am

In 1860s New Hampshire, botanical artist Ellen Robbins perched before her canvas, creating wildly popular watercolors of fall leaves. Books of her paintings sold well, landing in the hands of high society members such as fellow artist Gertrude Graves, a cousin of poet Emily Dickinson. Graves presented her copy of one such volume, Autumnal Leaves, to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 1923, where it remained until being acquired by the Chicago Botanic Garden in 2002. Today, the historic, storied volume is accessible to us all via a visually crisp, easily navigated online library.

 autumnal leaves.

Selection from Autumnal Leaves by Ellen Robbins

Autumnal Leaves is one of the historic books, postcards, and similar materials digitized and conserved by the Garden in recent years and now accessible via the Internet.

“It just opens up the opportunities for more people to see the wonderful pieces that we have,” said Leora Siegel, director of the Garden’s Lenhardt Library, which was established by the Woman’s Board of the Chicago Horticultural Society in 1951.

The Lenhardt Library’s impressive collection includes materials dating from 1483 to 1917, which are now available online to an expanded audience.

“In this age of e-books, these primary resources are something different. They are something really important to our civilization and culture,” said Siegel, who is delighted to help the public, scientists, historians, and artists from around the world access the remarkable materials.

 Leora Siegel.

Leora Siegel directs the Garden libraries.

Publications originating in North America are predominant in the collection. Western European books that once resided in the private family libraries of dukes and earls are also included. In some cases, bookplates were traced back to their original owners.

“They were in private libraries and only the family could read them, and now they are on the web and anyone can get to them,” remarked Siegel. The international component of the digitized collection also includes ikebana illustrations from Japan.

These materials were part of a collection of some 2,000 rare books and 2,000 historic periodical titles collected by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society of Boston before being purchased by the Garden in 2002. Since that time, grants including a $172,000 award from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2011, allowed the Garden to digitize 45 of the books that have traveled time and distance to reach us today.

What did South America’s tropical vegetation look like to illustrator Baron Alexander von Humboldt in the 1850s? How was the Horticultural Building portrayed in Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition?

The answers can be found in the preserved volumes and vintage postcards accessible via the Illinois Digital Archives and the Garden’s new digitized illustrations website, launched in September.

Front of advertising card showing the Horticultural Building at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, with inset of company logo.

Front of advertising card showing the Horticultural Building at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, with inset of company logo.

Front of postcard showing a rowboat on a lake in front of the Horticultural Building at the World's Fair grounds in Chicago, 1934.

Front of postcard showing a rowboat on a lake in front of the Horticultural Building at the World’s Fair grounds in Chicago, 1934.

The new site houses illustrations from a significant number of titles and interpretive notes, and it is continuously updated with material. From books on grafting plants to postcards from flower shows, there is much to discover with cultural and scientific relevance.

 Selection from Water-color Sketched of Plants of North America 1888 to 1910.

Selection from Water-color Sketches of Plants of North America 1888 to 1910 by Helen Sharp, Volume 08

“The botanical illustrations come close to our herbarium specimens in many cases because you really see the roots and the life cycle of the plant,” noted Siegel.

The majority of materials were digitized offsite by the premier art conservation center in the United States, the Northeast Document Conservation Center. When the processed files arrive at the Garden, metadata is added by Garden librarian Christine Schmidt. She then adds the files to a software program that allows them to be accessed through either website. A volunteer photographer also contributes to the files. In the most recent set of 45 digitized volumes, 18 are currently being processed and prepared for the site.

While the rare books are still available by appointment to those who can make it into the library, many of the books are delicate and will benefit from an increased percentage of online viewing into the future.

 Bookplate from "Physiognomy of Tropical Vegetation in South America"

Selection from Physiognomy of Tropical Vegetation in South America: a series of views illustrating the primeval forests on the river Magdalena, and in the Andes of New Grenada

Allowing access to these materials online has yielded many rewards for those who made it possible, from contributing to research around the world to the reproduction of selected images in new book publications, which is done with special permission from the Lenhardt Library.

“People are really blown away,” according to Siegel. Garden exhibitions have benefited from the collection as well, such as the winter Orchid Show exhibition, which was enhanced by complimentary full-text access to some of the rare books from the online portal.

Next, Siegel hopes to digitize the Garden’s collection of an estimated 20,000 pages of manuscripts of scientists’ field notes.

“We have some unique one-of-a-kind manuscripts that no one else has,” she said. “This is just the start.”

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Clicking Through Time

Garden Blog - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 11:20am

In 1860s New Hampshire, botanical artist Ellen Robbins perched before her canvas, creating wildly popular watercolors of fall leaves. Books of her paintings sold well, landing in the hands of high society members such as fellow artist Gertrude Graves, a cousin of poet Emily Dickinson. Graves presented her copy of one such volume, Autumnal Leaves, to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 1923, where it remained until being acquired by the Chicago Botanic Garden in 2002. Today, the historic, storied volume is accessible to us all via a visually crisp, easily navigated online library.

 autumnal leaves.

Selection from Autumnal Leaves by Ellen Robbins

Autumnal Leaves is one of the historic books, postcards, and similar materials digitized and conserved by the Garden in recent years and now accessible via the Internet.

“It just opens up the opportunities for more people to see the wonderful pieces that we have,” said Leora Siegel, director of the Garden’s Lenhardt Library, which was established by the Woman’s Board of the Chicago Horticultural Society in 1951.

The Lenhardt Library’s impressive collection includes materials dating from 1483 to 1917, which are now available online to an expanded audience.

“In this age of e-books, these primary resources are something different. They are something really important to our civilization and culture,” said Siegel, who is delighted to help the public, scientists, historians, and artists from around the world access the remarkable materials.

 Leora Siegel.

Leora Siegel directs the Garden libraries.

Publications originating in North America are predominant in the collection. Western European books that once resided in the private family libraries of dukes and earls are also included. In some cases, bookplates were traced back to their original owners.

“They were in private libraries and only the family could read them, and now they are on the web and anyone can get to them,” remarked Siegel. The international component of the digitized collection also includes ikebana illustrations from Japan.

These materials were part of a collection of some 2,000 rare books and 2,000 historic periodical titles collected by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society of Boston before being purchased by the Garden in 2002. Since that time, grants including a $172,000 award from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2011, allowed the Garden to digitize 45 of the books that have traveled time and distance to reach us today.

What did South America’s tropical vegetation look like to illustrator Baron Alexander von Humboldt in the 1850s? How was the Horticultural Building portrayed in Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition?

The answers can be found in the preserved volumes and vintage postcards accessible via the Illinois Digital Archives and the Garden’s new digitized illustrations website, launched in September.

Front of advertising card showing the Horticultural Building at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, with inset of company logo.

Front of advertising card showing the Horticultural Building at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, with inset of company logo.

Front of postcard showing a rowboat on a lake in front of the Horticultural Building at the World's Fair grounds in Chicago, 1934.

Front of postcard showing a rowboat on a lake in front of the Horticultural Building at the World’s Fair grounds in Chicago, 1934.

The new site houses illustrations from a significant number of titles and interpretive notes, and it is continuously updated with material. From books on grafting plants to postcards from flower shows, there is much to discover with cultural and scientific relevance.

 Selection from Water-color Sketched of Plants of North America 1888 to 1910.

Selection from Water-color Sketches of Plants of North America 1888 to 1910 by Helen Sharp, Volume 08

“The botanical illustrations come close to our herbarium specimens in many cases because you really see the roots and the life cycle of the plant,” noted Siegel.

The majority of materials was digitized offsite by the premier art conservation center in the United States, the Northeast Document Conservation Center. When the processed files arrive at the Garden, metadata is added by Garden librarian Christine Schmidt. She then adds the files to a software program that allows them to be accessed through either website. A volunteer photographer also contributes to the files. In the most recent set of 45 digitized volumes, 18 are currently being processed and prepared for the site.

While the rare books are still available by appointment to those who can make it into the library, many of the books are delicate and will benefit from an increased percentage of online viewing into the future.

 Bookplate from "Physiognomy of Tropical Vegetation in South America"

Selection from Physiognomy of Tropical Vegetation in South America: a series of views illustrating the primeval forests on the river Magdalena, and in the Andes of New Grenada

Allowing access to these materials online has yielded many rewards for those who made it possible, from contributing to research around the world to the reproduction of selected images in new book publications, which is done with special permission from the Lenhardt Library.

“People are really blown away,” according to Siegel. Garden exhibitions have benefited from the collection as well, such as the winter Orchid Show exhibition, which was enhanced by complimentary full-text access to some of the rare books from the online portal.

Next, Siegel hopes to digitize the Garden’s collection of an estimated 20,000 pages of manuscripts of scientists’ field notes.

“We have some unique one-of-a-kind manuscripts that no one else has,” she said. “This is just the start.”

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Scurfpeas!

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 11:01am

Greetings all,

I spent the previous five weeks walking the desert surveying for rare plants. As I’ve mentioned before, I was doing surveys for rare plants on areas where herbicide treatments intended to restore grassland in areas that have been converted to shrubland through grazing as part of the Restore New Mexico program. In my previous posts on the subject, I’ve mostly talked about Peniocereus greggii, partly because that is all I was finding and partly because that is all I expected to find. However, since then we’ve found the other, and much more exciting, of our target species: Pediomelum pentaphyllum, a.k.a. Chihuahuan scurfpea, a.k.a. (for those who like USDA codes) PEPE27!

Pediomelum pentaphyllum is quite rare. As of 2008, there were a grand total of two known populations, one near the small community of Sunizona in southeastern Arizona and one in Hachita Valley in southwestern New Mexico. In 2010, a third population was found, southeast of Safford in southeastern Arizona. These three populations gave us a total of around 2,000 known individuals. There are also historical records from additional sites in southeastern Arizona, northern Chihuahua, and, maybe, western Texas. However, searches to rediscover these additional populations have failed, and none of them have been seen in the last 50 years. Maybe they’re still out there, who knows?

That western Texas record is a story in itself. A specimen was collected during the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey in 1853, but the locality is very uncertain. The specimen’s label says it was collected “chiefly in the Valley of the Rio Grande, below Doñana”. A note anonymously handwritten in pencil says “Fields nr the Presidio del Norte, August, Presidio Co., Texas”. This presents multiple problems: Doña Ana (in southern New Mexico) and Presidio del Norte (now called Ojinaga) are 240 miles apart; Ojinaga is in Chihuahua, Mexico, not Texas (although of course “fields near” Ojinaga might be in Texas); we have no idea where that “Fields nr the Presidio del Norte” locality comes from or on what basis we should take it to be accurate. That last problem turns out to be relatively easily solved. The “Presidio del Norte” locality comes from the Report on the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey. We’re still left with the first two problems and no good way to resolve them. I’ve encountered this kind of confusion before; specimens from the boundary survey have one locality on the specimen label and a different locality in the report and you don’t know which one (if any) is correct. So far as I can tell, locality information on boundary survey specimens just isn’t particularly reliable. So, we don’t know if that specimen came from New Mexico, Texas, or Chihuahua and it is our only basis for believing Pediomelum pentaphyllum has ever been seen in Texas. Ugh. By the way, you can see this specimen for yourself:

It’s amazing how easily things like this can be tracked down these days. The report is online, a photograph of the specimen is online, it’s all right there! I’m still left with an irritating uncertainty, but at least it didn’t take me weeks of waiting for letters back and forth and schlepping things from the library.

OK, back to Pediomelum pentaphyllum. It’s rare, and most of the surveys for it have come up empty-handed. I did a couple of weeks of surveying back in 2010, for instance, during which I did not see a single individual except for a few at the Hachita Valley population to familiarize myself with the species at a known population. More extensive surveys for the Restore New Mexico program in 2012 had the same result. For this year’s surveys, I basically expected that we’d get to wander around in the desert for a few weeks, see some wonderful places, put a couple hundred miles on our shoes, and not see any Pediomelum pentaphyllum. So it took a while for me to believe what I was seeing when I stumbled across the first one:

And another:

And another:

By the end of the day, the crew and I had found 29 of them. By the end of the survey, we had found about 270 across an area about 8 miles long and 2 miles wide northwest of Lordsburg on Lordsburg Mesa. Now we have four known, extant populations of Pediomelum pentaphyllum. This should also help us determine what habitat it likes. Our new population was in looser, dunier sand than the previously known populations, in Prosopis glandulosa / Atriplex canescens / Artemisia filifolia shrubland with a number of sand specialist plants that are uncommon in the area, including Amaranthus acanthochiton, Heliotropium convolvulaceum, Chamaesyce parryi, and Dalea lanata var. terminalis. Conveniently his habitat is fairly easy to spot on aerial imagery, so I’ve put together a list of similar areas to check. Maybe we can find a fifth population!

Some of the Pediomelum pentaphyllum was in flower, too, allowing me finally to get a good series of photographs of it:

Other notable events in the field surveys:

First, I had the best field crew ever. Seriously, these folks were awesome. Here’s one of them (Jeanne Tenorio) taking notes Pediomelum pentaphyllum:

Second, we found a lot more Peniocereus greggii as well. I’ll spare you all the photos of them… at least for now.

Third, we found a bunch of other uncommon species, including four that are new records for Luna County, New Mexico: Simsia lagasceiformis, Mortonia scabrella, Ipomoea cardiophylla, and Anoda pentaschista. I also got to photograph a half-dozen species I hadn’t photographed before.

Fourth, we got stuck in the mud a couple more times. I forgot to take a picture of the first one, but here’s the second:

That’s the Mexican border at the left. On the border road, they’ve put in concrete blocks through the muddier parts and I was hoping these would be shallow enough that we wouldn’t just sink into the mud. I was wrong. Luckily, we had two vehicles and the second could quickly pull us out.

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