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Transition Into Winter

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 4:38pm

Winter is rapidly setting in and it feels as if it has been nudging me out of the field and back into the office.  Well the weather isn’t solely to blame for this, it is also due to my appointment coming to an end and needing to catch up on miscellaneous office work that I have put off for the past 8 months and working on the SOS end of the year wrap up.  But I like to think of if more as the forceful winter chill laying down its icy fist and forbidding me from collecting anymore seeds…

My time working for the Medford, OR BLM is rapidly coming to an end.  It has been a great season of opportunity for me to expand my botanical knowledge and learn about how difference agencies function, bureaucratically as well as biologically.  I gained valuable skills pertaining to surveying, report writing, and communicating with the public as well as other employees within the agencies, all while upholding a professional demeanor.

I spent over 3 weeks in October leading a crew of 8 convicts in a reseeding project of a burnt up forest.  We reseeded some BLM plots within the 36,000 burn zone.  We successfully reseeded over 1,100 of those acres, using  over 14,000 pounds of native grass and forb seeds.  This was a great learning experience both being a crew leader, as well as working with convicts.  This may have been the most enjoyable project I have worked on since starting this internship.  I definitely feel it was the most enriching, granting me an opportunity that I don’t think I would otherwise have been able to experience. This project did not only help me gain people skills but I also utilized some scientific method by setting up 50 picture plot points in order to to back for the next few years and monitor the successes of the project.   It is too bad I won’t be around to watch these grasses grow!

IMG_6784 IMG_6797 IMG_6793


CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 4:36pm

Greetings fellow interns,

Another lovely California central valley winter has begun.  I have really gotten used to the pleasant 60-70 degree days.  It will be quite the shock returning home to the Midwest over Thanksgiving, where highs have been consistently in the 10-20 degree range.  I will be packing every article of clothing I own (and hand warmers).  Christmas visits are pretty much out of the question except via Skype.

I am still primarily working on permitting for a large scale restoration project I have been tasked with.  This project seems to require every permit known to man (federal, state and county).  I have, however, had the opportunity to work on some side projects.

Last fall, my mentor was informed that there was a machine shed style building on a parcel of land within our field office jurisdiction that was going to be torn down.  It seems that the parcel had been leased for several  years by an educational institution while they were conducting research in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.  They had the building constructed during that time.  After the lease and research had concluded the building was left in place, with no plans for removal.  Due to BLM policies, the building needed to be removed prior to taking control of the property once again.  As the Preserve I work for is constantly searching for space to store and protect our equipment, we saw an opportunity to prevent the unnecessary waste of a perfectly good structure and provide more much-needed storage space for our facility.

With a crew of four guys we deconstructed the entire building in two 12-hour days, loaded it on to a trailer, hauled it to the Preserve, and unloaded it into storage.  This fall a new cement pad was poured at the Preserve where the new structure was to be installed, and in October of this year, we rebuilt the building.  We had no instructions, and lots of pieces.  Based on the pictures we took prior to deconstruction, and a numbering system we used to mark the pieces, we were able to reconstruct the shed in about 3 days.  We are still waiting for new skylight panels that we had to order and a few final steps to complete the building, but for the most part the construction process went very smoothly!  It was a great opportunity to learn some basic construction skills.

Stay warm-


Extending the Good Times

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 4:34pm

Things have been winding down a bit here in Susanville.  The field work has slowed down and my extension has begun.  I have been working on several different projects recently, helping out different employees at the Eagle Lake Field Office.  I helped install a soil monitoring data tower with the hydrologist/soil scientist and folks from the NRCS.  This tower uses solar energy to power several instruments that measure air temperature, soil temperature, wind speed, soil moisture, and air pressure.  The tower then sends the data back by bouncing signals off the tails of meteors!  I had no idea that meteor tails could be used in place of satellites, but this technology is great for gathering data in remote areas where satellite signals aren’t reliable.

I also finished up packaging and shipping out all of the SOS collections I made this year.  It was bittersweet to send out the final box, knowing I won’t be collecting seed anymore.  Some of the best days of the internship were spent collecting seed; it can be relaxing and productive at the same time.  However, I now have a lot more space in my office cubicle with all the boxes of seed gone.

With field work slowing down, I have been spending a lot of time using ArcMap to complete various projects and make maps for other employees in the office.  It isn’t as exciting as field work, but my skills in ArcGIS have greatly improved over the course of this internship.

In my spare time I have gone on a lot of cool adventures recently.  I hiked to the top of Sonora Peak in the Sierras, went to Santa Cruz to see Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit Concert, and took a trip up to Enterprise, Oregon.  Every weekend has been a new adventure with great friends.  I thought coming to a small cow town in the middle of nowhere would be pretty boring, but I met a great group of people and have traveled to some awesome places.  I am truly grateful for the friends I have made and the times we have shared.

I will leave off with some pictures from the last few weeks.


Bighorn Sheep on the way to Enterprise


Sunset over the Pacific in Santa Cruz


Spelunking in some caves near Eagle Lake


Old ranch building


View from the top of Sonora Peak


Sam Gersie

BLM Eagle Lake Field Office

Susanville, CA

Checking the Weather? So Are We.

Garden Blog - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 10:00am

It’s the humblest patch of green at the Garden, yet the information gathered there has national implications—and, though you may not realize it, it’s part of your daily prep for work, school, and play.

Although dealing with the weather is part of everyone’s job here, there is no meteorologist on staff at the Garden. Got questions about weather specifics or cooperative weather stations?

In a small, sunny, grassy, flat, fenced-in plot (there’s a reason for that), located on the outer road that encircles the Garden, stands an official National Weather Service Cooperative Station—a collection of instruments that measures the atmospheric conditions of the day. And every morning at 8 a.m., rain (or snow) or shine, a dedicated Garden staff member steps into the plot to read the instruments and record the results, then heads back indoors to transfer the information to the National Weather Service (NWS).

I got to tag along with Celeste VanderMey, Plant Records supervisor, on a recent fall morning for the daily readings.

 Celeste at the weather station temperature booth.

Celeste VanderMey explains that its beehive appearance might deter curious critters from poking around inside the weather shelter.

Reading #1: Temperature

Though it looks vaguely like a beehive, the little white structure is a weather shelter that houses two temperature gauges. The maximum temperature thermometer’s mercury rises to the high temperature mark of each day, then stays at the setting until it’s read the next morning. To reset it, Celeste just gives it a spin and the mercury drops.

An alcohol thermometer records the low temperature of each day: pure alcohol molecules move closer together as the temperature drops, shifting a tiny bar that marks the number.

Why no digital thermometers? “Not considered as reliably accurate,” Celeste says.

 The weather station rain gauge.

A long metal cylinder like a tiny rocket ship turns out to be a rain gauge. Celeste removes the lid and takes a reading.

Reading #2: Dew

Admittedly the least scientific of the daily measurements, dewfall is indicated as low, moderate, or heavy, simply by examining a surface: the top of the weather shelter, or the grass itself.

Reading #3: Rain

The National Weather Service provided us with the rain canister, which can hold up to 10 inches of precipitation (not that we’ve ever had that amount—see records below). Inside is a plastic funnel that directs rainwater into a smaller brass tin. A measuring stick—like a car’s oil dipstick—is inserted, then pulled out and read for rain depth—one-tenth inch of rain equals one inch on the stick.

Reading #4: Soil Temperature

A soil thermometer is as handy for home gardeners as it is for us—especially in spring, when it tells gardeners if it’s warm enough to put seeds in the ground. We measure the high and low temperatures of both bare soil and soil under sod/grass (that’s why the plot is flat, sunny, and grassy). An interesting fact: no matter what the air temperature in winter, the soil seldom drops below 26 degrees (it’s measured at 4-inch depth). 

 Weather station soil temperature gauge.

This gauge takes a reading of bare soil temperatures. Five feet over, another gauge measures the temperature under grass. It’s important information for farmers germinating seed.

Reading #5: Snowfall

It’s low tech, but it works: a white plastic board catches a winter day’s snowfall, which is measured with a yardstick to the tenth of an inch. Two or more inches of snow? Then a core sampling is taken down to the ground, and the core is brought indoors to melt for a water equivalency reading. As mentioned below, the NWS uses this information to predict flooding.

Reading #6: Evaporation

Next we moved to the 4-foot in diameter evaporation pan. Its three readings tell forecasters how much water has been absorbed into the atmosphere at this location.

An instrument with an intriguing name, a six’s thermometer, measures both high and low daily temperature of the water in the pan. An anemometer (wind meter) tells how many miles’ worth of wind has passed this spot. And a hook gauge in a stilling well measures the amount of water lost to evaporation (or added by rain).

 An anemometer measures wind speed.

The anemometer attached to the evaporation pan measures the wind speed at an exact height. All weather station gear must meet siting requirements, so that data are measured consistently from station to station.

 The hook gauge which usually rests in a container inside the evaporation pan.

The hook gauge rests in a standard-size stilling well inside the evaporation pan—the structure the anemometer is attached to in the previous photo.

Reading #7: River and Lake Levels

Finally, we take a short walk across the road to the South Bridge, and the weir (dam) beneath, where the waters of the Garden Lakes meet the Skokie River. Along the banks on each side of the bridge are measurement markers that are read (bring the binoculars!) and recorded daily, although they’re for the Garden’s own record keeping rather than the NWS.

Why track the lake and river levels? Flooding is always a threat in our lake system, says Bob Kirschner, director of Restoration Ecology. “We look at the levels every day,” he explains, “and we can adjust the lake level in anticipation of excessively wet or dry weather forecasts.” All of the Garden’s property is irrigated with water drawn from our lakes. Water levels matter to the half-million lakeshore plants that line the lakes, too—all installed with our normal lake level (623.95 feet above mean sea level) in mind.

 Fall in the Great Basin

Fall in the Great Basin

It takes just a few minutes’ time to record the morning’s numbers. Indoors, Celeste logs on to the NWS site and inputs the results, adding noteworthy conditions as needed: fog…haze…ice…thunderstorms.

Staff has been keeping records since 1982. That’s the year that then-Garden president Dr. Roy Mecklenburg, who was keenly interested in meteorology, arranged for the Garden to become a weather station. Stations existed at the time at Midway Airport and in Antioch, with none in between. A few notable numbers since then (again, note that all are since 1982, when our record keeping began):

  • January 2014 holds our record for snowiest January with 28.7 inches (1967 snowfall was higher).
  • February 2014 holds the record for coldest February: 26.6 degrees average high, usually 35.6 degrees.
  • 1993 holds the record for shortest growing season (number of days between last frost and first frost) at only 123 days. The average? 163 days.
  • August 14, 1987, holds the record for most rainfall in one day: 5.54 inches.

It’s fascinating to think that the Garden contributes daily to the national weather picture and that there’s always an eye on the weather here (thanks to Celeste, Veronica, Gabriella, Therese, and Lauren). Next time you check on the weather and hear a forecaster say, “and the Chicago Botanic Garden reported “x” inches of rain yesterday,” you’ll know where the information came from: a humble patch of green.

A Bit of Weather-Station History

Although it dates back to 1989, the preface of the official National Weather Service Observing Handbook (No. 2) is so wonderfully interesting that it’s blog-worthy on its own. Here’s the text, from page ii, with thanks to the unknown writer:

John Companius Holm’s weather records, taken without the benefit of instruments in 1644 and 1645, were the earliest known observations in the United States. Subsequently such famous personages as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin maintained weather records spanning many years.

The first extensive network of cooperative stations was set up in the 1890s as the result of an act of Congress in 1890 that established the Weather Bureau. Today, there are over 11,000 volunteer cooperative observers scattered over the 50 states, taking observations seven days a week throughout the year.

The above observers regularly and conscientiously contribute their time so that their observations can provide the vital information needed to define the climate in their areas. The records are also used constantly to answer questions and guide the actions of public agencies, agricultural and commercial organizations, and individuals. Their records also form a basis for preparedness for national and local emergencies, such as flooding.


Our most frequently asked question this summer at the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden: why no apples?

Turns out the weather played a major role.

Last winter’s long, deep cold meant very few flower buds. Then, in spring, when pollinators should have been out to feast on apple flower nectar, the weather was chilly. Since bees don’t fly when it’s less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, little pollination took place. No pollination means no fruit.

Add to that a second factor: apples typically have a two-year boom-bust cycle for fruit bearing. After a bumper crop in 2013, we expected a smaller harvest this year—made even less by the weather conditions above.

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Star Appeal for the Holidays

Garden Blog - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 10:00am

You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to fashion this charming star-shaped wreath from branches, raffia, zip ties, and a little duct tape.

 Heather models the finished star wreath.

Heather models the finished star wreath.

Find additional inspiration with a selection of wreaths created by Chicago Botanic Garden staff in 2013. See this year’s staff wreaths in our Greenhouse Gallery during Wonderland Express

Just follow these step-by-step instructions from Heather Sherwood, one of our very creative senior horticulturists, to get your own star appeal for the holidays. Heather has selected red-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea) for its warm, cheery color, but the star can be made from any combination of branches and natural materials, including evergreens (such as junipers) and corkscrew willows. If taste dictates, you can bling out with bells, bows, glitter, or other embellishments. Here’s how Heather does it:

Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Time Needed: Two Hours


  • Heavy scissors
  • Pruning shears
  • A large working surface
  • Five heavier red-twig dogwood branches roughly 3/8” in diameter, cut into equal lengths. Heather recommends 30-inch lengths for a front door wreath. You can use shorter lengths to make a smaller star. This will use less plant material and may be quicker and easier to assemble. The base can also be constructed of wooden dowels.
  • Five 4-inch lengths of duct tape  (Heather recommends black.)
  • 20 plastic zip ties (Heather likes 6-inch ties, but shorter ones will do.)
  • Five 1½-inch bundles of red-twig dogwood branches cut in roughly 22-inch lengths (or slightly more than two-thirds of the length of the base branches)
  • Five 1½-inch bundles of twigs cut in roughly 11-inch lengths (or slightly more than one-third of the length of the base twigs)
  • Roughly 90 36-inch lengths of raffia
  • An 8-inch length of floral wire to create a loop for hanging
  • A strand of Christmas lights and additional 8-inch lengths of floral wire (optional)

To Make the Base:

You will need the five heavier branches, duct tape, and zip ties:

  1. Connect the five base branches into one long strand, using the duct tape to create “knuckle” joints: Place the end of the first branch 1 inch away from the top of the duct tape. Position the branch so it covers one-third of the width of the strip. Place the second branch opposite the first branch, leaving a gap between the two branches. Wrap the 1-inch end of the duct tape around the branch ends. Take the longer length of duct tape and wind it around the ends in the other direction. The joint should bend at the gap in the tape between the two branch ends. Create three more joints so that the five base branches form one very long, bendy stick.
  2. Twist into a star: Hold each end of the long, connected stick and bend the first and last joints, creating a rough pentagon shape. Fold the right side of the pentagon over, then the left side. The base twigs should fall into a rough star shape.
  3. Create the final joint in the star: Notch both ends of the last piece of duct tape so it resembles a knuckle bandage. Hold the loose ends of the base sticks together, forming the last point in the star. Center the duct tape under this point. Wrap duct tape ends, one by one, around the point.
  4. Check to see that all five arms of the star are level and even. Rotate star to double check spacing of the points. Adjust as needed.
  5. Use zip ties to secure the base: You’ll see that the base branches intersect to create a pentagram in the center of the star. Loosely wrap a zip tie around each of the intersecting branches at each of the five angles of the pentagram, making sure the ties pull to the back of the star. Check again to make sure the star points are level and even. Tighten the zip locks. If you’re using freshly cut wood, remember that it will shrink and lose diameter.
 Place two branch ends together with a gap of 1/2 inch, and tape together with duct tape.

When creating the branch joints, leave a gap between the ends when taping them together, so that the finished joint will bend.

 Hold both ends of the long, bendy stick to create a rough pentagon shape.

Hold both ends of the long, bendy stick to create a rough pentagon shape.

 Cross the ends over to form the star shape.

Cross the ends over to form the star shape; tape the final joint together.

 Secure the inner joints of the base star with zip ties.

Secure the inner joints of the base star with zip ties.

Make the top layer:

You will need the longer and shorter bundles of branches, zip ties, raffia, floral wire, and optional Christmas lights.

  1. Start with the longer bundles of twigs: Lay the first bundle along a base branch, positioning the cut edges just past the inner edge of the inner pentagram. The uncut edges should extend 2 to 3 inches past the point of the star. “I want the stems to ooze around the base,” explains Heather. Secure the bundle with zip ties at two points, the middle of the pentagon, and the middle of the star point. Make sure the zip ties pull to the back of the work. Continue around the base branches, so that the pentagram and one side of each star point are covered with branches.  
  2. Secure the shorter twigs. You’ll arrange the shorter twigs in a similar fashion, laying the cut edges on the outside edge of the pentagram with the natural edges covering the star point. Blend the cut edges, to give the star a woven look, and fan out the natural edges to soften each star point. Secure the shorter branches with one zip tie in the center of the star point.
  3. Double-check the placement of the bundles. Tighten and trim the zip ties.
  4. Cover the zip ties with raffia: Heather has chosen a simple look, tying the raffia in the back with a square knot. You may decide to pull the knots to the front, tie the raffia in a bow, substitute ribbon for the raffia, or add other types of embellishments.
  5. Using four to five strands held together, wrap raffia around once and tie in the back. Continue winding the raffia around and around until it completely covers the zip ties and creates a nice, thick band around the bundle. Tie in the back and trim. Continue until all the zip ties are covered.
  6. Use floral wire to create a loop to hang your star.
 Start with longer twigs; uncut edges point outwards towards the star tips.

Start with longer twigs; uncut edges point outward toward the star tips.

 Continue placing bundles; one to each side of each star point.

Continue placing bundles; one to each side of each star point.

 Next, position and secure shorter bundles of twigs until the base is completely covered.

Next, position and secure shorter bundles of twigs until the base is completely covered.

 Cover zip ties with raffia.

Cover the zip ties with raffia or ribbon. Knot in back.

Add lights!

You can backlight your wreath by securing a strand of holiday lights along the back of the base branches. Lay the strand along the star outline and secure it with floral wire threaded between the base sticks and the stick bundles.

 Add lights by tying them to the back of the frame with floral wire.

Add lights by tying them to the back of the frame with floral wire.

For more holiday decorating ideas, consider Heather’s classes on Holiday Lighting Techniques or Winter Containers at the Garden.

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Wrapping up in the Land of Enchantment

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 2:22pm

The autumnal chill in the air is a sure sign that the field season is coming to a close. Thus, this is my last blog post from my internship in Farmington, NM. My co-intern finished last week so it’s just me for the next few weeks. Although today is the last official day of my CLM internship, I will be staying on for a few extra weeks as a volunteer to help whip our herbarium into shape and possibly assist with some other ecological monitoring around the office. We are working to wrap up our season and will be finishing up our last SOS collection next week, which should bring our total to 32 SOS Collections for this season. It may not sound like a lot to some, but I consider each one of those collections a hard-won victory due to the continuing drought in Northwest New Mexico.

Range Management Specialist Angela Yemma prepares to collect Typha latifolia (broadleaf cattail) complete with plastic bag booties!

Range Management Specialist Angela Yemma prepares to collect Typha latifolia (broadleaf cattail) complete with plastic bag booties! Note: The plastic baggies failed spectacularly and we ended up with wet feet that day. Next time we will definitely wear waders

This internship has greatly improved my plant identification skills. Although I completed some botany coursework in college, this internship was a place to put what I learned in school to use and expand greatly upon those skills. Back in Massachusetts, I spent a great deal of time studying trees, only to work in a place where there are very few trees.  Although I struggled at first, I think I truly rose to the challenge and learned a lot along the way.

I will definitely come away from this internship with a greater appreciation for the desert! It’s incredible how everything just comes alive after the slightest bit of rain. I will miss the enormous skies and beautiful landscapes I’ve been privileged to work in and visit this field season. The Four Corners region is an incredibly diverse and special place.

Some beautiful badlands in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona

Some beautiful badlands in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona

I would like to thank the folks at the BLM Farmington Field Office for a wonderful season. I was made to feel welcome here and like a member of the team. The biggest thanks go to my wonderful mentor, Sheila Williams. She took me under her wing and showed me the ways of a botany ninja, as well as gave me a candid look at what working for the federal government would be like. An additional thanks to Hannah, my CLM sister and buddy throughout the internship. She dealt with my eccentricities way more than anyone should have to and was a joy to work with.

Hannah, Sunny and I enjoying the sights in Coyote Buttes, Arizona

Hannah, Sunny and I enjoying the sights in Coyote Buttes, Arizona

After I leave the Land of Enchantment next month, I will be headed for South Florida to enjoy a warm winter and (hopefully) find more fieldwork. We’ll see what the future has in store for me.

Winding down, but not yet done

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 2:21pm

Hello my fellow CLMers,

Originally I believed this internship at the Buffalo Field Office (BFO), Wyoming, would last me until November and then I planned on heading back to Vermont.  Plans changed last month when I got offered an extension till January. After talking to my co-workers, I realized myself and one other were the only people interested in the extension.  I thought, “hey, more for us!” But, as the other interns slowly leave, one after the other, I am left alone and lonely in the small 4,500+ town.

Justin C. left last month and having been a CLM intern in Burns, Oregon 2013, he mentally prepared me that it would get slow.  Overly enthusiastic I thought, “hey, I would love to have that period in my life where things slow down”. Although, things haven’t really slowed down, the opportunities are there, but I have limited myself. I don’t want to over-commit and spread myself thin. Consequentially, I have had and am bound for slow days.

My time is divided between two projects;

One of those projects being my own, Powder River Basin Restoration Initiative (PRBRI) work, restoring Wyoming’s native habitat in the Greater Sage Grouse (GSG) ‘core’ area.

The ‘core’ area is determined by multiple GIS layers indicating where the GSG migrate, brood, and lek. These numbers are determined by ocular estimation, telemetry and other field methods.  I have not gone out on a GSG survey yet, but hope to sometime with the Wildlife Biologists.

My work for PRBRI is to compare the vegetation seen in aerial imagery (classification), captured this past summer,  to what’s on the ground, also known as ‘ground-truthing’. With snow cover now on the ground, I can’t map vegetation outside, so this will be strictly GIS work until snow melt.

The other project is for the Range Specialists, it has the acronym RIPS-Range Improvement Project something-heehee. This is when Sara, Jill and I, with our mentor, Charlotte, have gone out to BLM land, via F-150 trucks, to map data points for fence lines, stock tanks, reservoirs and counted cattle herds, with GPS Trimble. We have a range improvement data dictionary that was created by previous CLM intern, Nicholas Dove. Also, we record weed encroachment on the aforementioned data points. This will be a winter long project and an easy way to get in the field instead of another office day.

Outside of work, I am hanging with what’s left of my friends/co-workers in town. One of them being this lovely lady;

Puggle=Pug+Beagle  This 10-year old is still spunky and dresses in warm apparel. She fashions the latest faux fur lined hoodie with skull and cross bones on the back. Her purple plastic footwear keeps her paws warm from the snowy and freezing outdoor temps.


This 10-year old is still spunky and dresses in warm apparel. She fashions the latest faux fur-lined hoodie with skull and cross bones on the back. Her purple plastic footwear keeps her paws warm from the snowy and freezing outdoor temps. Seriously, freezing (see below)!

It's been cold, very cold. Check out that -8F reading!

Check out that -8F reading!

Aside, from the freezing temps, it has snowed here in Buffalo, Wyoming.

Snowy. Thankfully snow removal is included in the rent-speaking of rent is CHEAP in Buffalo, WY.

:: My apartment’s      parking-lot::

Thankfully snow removal is included in the rent..speaking of rent it is CHEAP in Buffalo, WY. Especially when you split a 2-bedroom apartment between 4 people! There have been times we have all needed space but now that 2 of them are leaving it’ll be bittersweet with all that open space.

After all the slow days, I still have a lovely apartment to sleep and eat in. It’ll be desolate after everyone’s departure from Wyoming, but it’s home.  My Plan: put up my feet and drink some hot cocoa once the place is cleared.  Also, working out at the YMCA around the corner and visiting my local library are all good things to keep a college town gal busy in a small town.

Hope you enjoyed,

Heather B.



Plant Evolution Infographic

Plant Science and Conservation - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 11:53am

It’s like having a time machine—supercomputers and gene sequencing allow scientists to study early events in plant evolution. 

One of our conservation scientists, Norman Wickett, Ph.D., is co-leader of a global initiative involving some 40 researchers on four continents. The team has spent the past five years analyzing 852 genes from 103 types of land plants to tease out early events in plant evolution. The results, published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, expand our knowledge of relationships among the earliest plants on land.

An Infographic About Plant Evolution

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Plant Evolution Infographic

Garden Blog - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 11:53am

It’s like having a time machine—supercomputers and gene sequencing allow scientists to study early events in plant evolution. 

One of our conservation scientists, Norman Wickett, Ph.D., is co-leader of a global initiative involving some 40 researchers on four continents. The team has spent the past five years analyzing 852 genes from 103 types of land plants to tease out early events in plant evolution. The results, published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, expand our knowledge of relationships among the earliest plants on land.

An Infographic About Plant Evolution

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Short Days in Nevada

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 9:39am

The days are growing short here in Nevada and so does the length of our internship as we have only 2 weeks left. Funny enough 10 months has gone by fairly quickly and now winter is returning to the area as the leaves have fallen and early snow has come to the Sierras. It has been very nice to see the Cottonwoods and Aspens turn this fall and hopefully this last collecting trip will still have some fall colors in the canyons of the mountains.


Lewisia rediviva

I have had the opportunity to learn many things this year, but the most exciting has been learning and studying the flora of the Great Basin and the Sierra Nevada Mountains! As a botanist it is simply fascinating to learn about new species of plants in habitats that are totally foreign to you. This gives countless opportunities to learn more and more about all kinds of plants in some amazing country from low deserts to high alpine summits; not to mention all of the amazing wildlife that you encounter.


Bright yellow fall colors of Populus tremuloides near Sonora Pass

Bright yellow fall colors of Populus tremuloides near Sonora Pass

This opportunity of working in Nevada has really encouraged me to continue to seek opportunities in the west for work or graduate studies. I look forward to seeing where the skills that I have gained and the experiences I have had will take me in the future. I have some exciting opportunities in the works and look forward to see where they will lead. It has been great to work with friends who are also botanizers and appreciators of the outdoors. Nevada has been a splendid place to explore the beauties of the natural world and make some great friends.

A large friend in the Toiyabe National Forest

A large friend in the Toiyabe National Forest

May the sun always brighten your tomorrow friends,


Sunrise over Death Valley

Sunrise over Death Valley

A quick western jaunt

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 9:37am

I dismounted from my trusty steed, Bronzie, and crunched down onto the hardened gumbo. So this is what they mean by the word desolate. A northerly wind whipped at my dry lips as I scanned the horizon for signs of life. Luckily, I wasn’t the only sign of life this time. My partner had taken it upon himself to accompany me on my journey; a recon mission to get a lay of the land and to see if the treasure is abundant enough to make it worthwhile.

I hadn’t been to these parts before and a strange, low humming sound caught me off guard. Futilely craning my neck to try to see past the lonely buttes, I was surprised to see a low flying aircraft coming towards me. Instinctively, I ducked and buried myself in the sagebrush, a remnant of my days as a thieving vagabond. I waited as the aircraft flew by and then doubled back over me. Was I being paranoid or am I actually being accosted for trespassing on some kind of sacred ground? Thankfully, my partner was there to reassure me that we were on safe land where we were supposed to be. I reluctantly stood up and began to focus on why we were here in the first place, although I felt a twinge of unease as the plane circled overhead a third time.

“So, it looks like we got a good bunch here,” my partner said, a waiver of excitement in his voice. “You don’t say,” I agreed as I guided my hands through the dry branches feeling hundreds of our treasure falling into my palms and onto the ground. On closer inspection I could see we had some good ones, really good ones.

“Looks like we hit the jackpot,” I said hoisting the strap of my brand new Seed Sucker 2000 over my shoulder. My partner had come up with the idea to use this new tool and so we’re in on this adventure together sharing in the rewards and glory.

We went straight to work and within an hour or so had decided that the new tool was the best idea since toaster ovens. Pretty soon, long after I had forgotten about the aircraft, we had a new set of spectators. A group of ladies had come to the edge of the road to get a closer look at the two orange freaks. Feeling quite proud of myself at the moment, I tipped my hat and blew them a kiss. If only I didn’t already have a family back at home… Who knew Montana was brimming in such riches. I remounted Bronzie and took a last look at the landscape before heading in for the night. I’m not sure why I had originally called this place desolate, she just hides her secrets well. As I began the long journey home, a low humming sound began to stir somewhere off in the horizon.

ARTRW_MT060-53_A DSCN2157

Veterans Grow at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Garden Blog - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 7:40am

It was on a seasonably pleasant day this past May, that 15 Veterans from the Thresholds Veteran Project program began a journey to be well in the Buehler Enabling Garden.

 Chalkboard plant pot.

Inspirations: “Keep Going” planter, with a side of coffee.

We toured the garden, got to know each other, and sipped on coffee. Lots of coffee. The activity I led was called, “Inspirational Herb Dish Gardens,” and was intended to provide these vets with a lovely planter of kitchen herbs to cook with, as well as a message of encouragement they could reference for inspiration in their daily life. After the first retreat was done, I thought to myself, “Wow! That was a really good program!” And it was. It was really good. Over the course of the summer, these vets returned to the Garden five more times to participate in various retreats all focused on wellness and using nature to heal.

To date, over 2.7 million people have served our country during the most recent conflicts (OIF, OEF, and OND). Approximately 1 million of these veterans have accessed the VA healthcare system for war-related injuries. Many of the injuries sustained on these missions are unique in that they are “invisible” wounds of war—Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are difficult to diagnose, and have large impacts on a veteran’s life. Symptoms range from mild to severe and include anxiety, hyper vigilance, insomnia, irritability, and physical pain. Other common injuries sustained from these missions are musculoskeletal injuries and missing limbs. For some, reintegration into civilian life, family, society, and employment may be difficult. In fact, even vets who were not technically injured in war often experience anxiety, hyper vigilance, insomnia, and other stresses that inhibit their readjustment.

 Vets gather in the garden, discussing plans.

Growing more than plants in the garden; friendships and individuals flourished this summer.

Veterans who have not had success with traditional medicine often begin to seek out alternative ways to heal. That is where the Garden comes into play. We believe beautiful gardens and natural environments are fundamentally important to the mental and physical well-being of all people. We also believe people live better, healthier lives when they can create, care for, and enjoy gardens. I witnessed the amazing effects interacting with nature has on people this summer as veterans—some on the verge of homelessness—planted the Buehler Enabling Garden with summer annuals, overjoyed to return and observe the garden flourishing throughout the season. I witnessed veterans—some participating in in-patient psych programs—get a pass from the hospital to come to the Garden and learn to rake a dry garden in the Malott Japanese Garden. I witnessed veterans—some clinically depressed—smile and laugh, as they dug potatoes from the ground in the Regenstein Fruit and Vegetable Garden.

 Vets digging with pitchforks.

Vets dig deep for potatoes and for well-being.

Each of our six retreats was filled with creativity, education, companionship, and joy. As the summer progressed, so did the veterans; each of them growing stronger and more healthy in their special way, each of them changing and striving to be well. Our group started to call the Buehler Enabling Garden “our garden” and the plantings we planted were “our plants.” Participants would tell me that this day (the day they came to the Garden) was the day they looked forward to the most. They would tell me how amazing the Garden is, and how safe they felt here. It was music to my ears, and I felt so proud of them.

It was easy to draw comparisons to healing, being well, and growing to the garden this summer. Gardens start small and respond to weather and temperature. They grow and change with the season. Sometimes they start to fail or get crowded out, or overgrown, sometimes they need to be watered or groomed to flush out new growth and blooms. With care and attention however, they grow, and flourish, and bloom. They are like us. We are small sometimes. We are big sometimes. We respond to things that happen to us or things we do. But with love and care and attention, we can grow, we can bloom, we can be well. Gardens start over and each year is a new year. We can start over too and each day is a new day.

 Veterans planting in the rain.

Vets plant rain or shine in Operation Summer Change-out.

I saw this summer how powerful gardens can be in healing and in being well. Our program was effective because it created a sense of belonging, comradery, and fostered a feeling of continuing to serve, which is an important value to many vets.

As Veterans Day approaches, remember the people who have served, put their life on the line, and who are still fighting today. Thank them, salute them and honor them.

I was honored to work with this amazing group of vets; resilient, strong and hardworking, they became an inspiration in my own life, and inspired me to be grateful to have the opportunity to deliver such a wonderful program.

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org


CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 10:08am

Hello stranger,

In an attempt to reflect on the past 6 months, I will recount the events of just one day – Thursday, November 6, 2014 – and elaborate on the thoughts this provokes.

I woke up at 5 AM, and prepared my backpack for the day.  I was ready for sun, rain, and snow.  I got to the office at 6 AM, gathered the navigation equipment, scraped ice off of the truck, and set out on the familiar drive to the field office.

Let’s stop there.  Waking up before the sunrise has become a habit.  I feel well prepared to work in a variety of weather conditions.  I feel confident driving a pickup truck over difficult terrain.  I can navigate with Trimble GPS units, and if they ever malfunction, then I can still reach my destination with a map and compass.  These abilities are largely a product of my CLM internship experience.

I love the sunrise, and it has been a pleasure to see the majority of them for the past 6 months.  I will miss this sight tremendously:

The sun rises as I enter the field office.

The sun rises as I enter the field office

Soon after entering the field office, I turned onto a gravel road, and then again onto a two-track road where I was met by rocks, barbed wire fences, and loitering cattle.

Let’s stop again.  I was not expecting to learn so much about livestock during this internship.  However, they are a major player in rangeland dynamics, and I am grateful to have seen where our Nation’s beef comes from.

I’m going to miss these gals.

I’m going to miss these gals.

I pulled over by the stretch of land where I would walk approximately 10 miles of slickspot peppergrass transects.  Some may find this task monotonous, but there is nothing else I would rather do.

Allow me to explain.  The internship began with sage-grouse habitat assessments, which required identifying an abundance of new plants, and mastering new monitoring techniques.  The focus shifted to locating remotely-sensed wetlands, and describing their vegetation composition and water source.  This task allowed us to explore some amazing country, where we often wondered if anyone else had ever been.  Next we downloaded thermographs for water temperature data collection in streams, which were quite welcome in the heat of the summer.  These priority projects were broken up with various trainings and other opportunities such as mineral pit compliance inspections, frog searches, and rain gauge measuring.

After working hard to internalize all of this new knowledge and skill, it was nice to just soak it all in while walking around looking for slickspot peppergrass – to just be out there.

Happy to be out there, and start walking

Happy to be out there, and start walking

I listened to the coyotes howl as I began my walk.  Their howling was lost in the wind, which was sometimes interrupted by chirping birds.  I flushed sage-grouse every once in a while, and smiled at the thought that these birds are what brought me out here.  While walking, I proudly distinguished between about 10 different species of dead grass, and marveled at the recently snow-covered mountains.

So while it is time to go home, I leave not just with new botanical skills and land management experience, but also with a strong relationship with a landscape that I could have never imagined.  I am proud to have helped sustainably manage and conserve our Nation’s land, and am surer than ever that I want to keep doing this for the duration of my career.

Thank you,

Jonathan Kleinman

Jarbidge Field Office

Bureau of Land Management


Big Bear Lake, October-November

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 9:54am
A view of the San Bernardino Mountains, north from the lower slopes of the San Jacintos

A view of the San Bernardino Mountains, north from the lower slopes of the San Jacintos

Aphids on a pod of climbing milkweed (Funastrum cynanchoides hartwegii)

Aphids on a pod of climbing milkweed (Funastrum cynanchoides hartwegii)

My field season wound down in mid-October, although many of our threatened, endangered, and sensitive plants are still detectable.  We got the first winter storm of the season on Halloween night; mostly rain, but a bit of snow and sleet at higher elevations. 

The photos in this post are from a (personal) backpacking trip I took down to the San Jacinto Mountains in mid-October.  I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from the village of Snow Creek.  This section of trail has gorgeous views of the steep, forbidding north face of San Jacinto Mountain and is also an interesting passage through different vegetation types.  The trail begins on the desert floor, dominated by creosote bush (Larrea tridentataand brittlebush (Encelia sp.), and winds up into montane conifer woodland (with white fir, Jeffrey pine, and Quercus species). 

I have been doing a lot of database work, entering the season’s finds into the Forest Service database.  Last week I helped our Restoration crew plant at one of our restoration sites.  I’ve also been spending time in the herbarium, processing collections from this season and seasons past.  The herbarium work has turned up some interesting collections from this field season, including an intriguing Nama species (more later, if it turns out to be something good).

Mountaintop Ranger District

San Bernardino National Forest



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