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Brookfield Zoo Big Year Birding Field Trip

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 7:00am

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

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

Galloping Hill Big Year Birding Field Trip

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 7:00am

Get to know the birds of the vast Spring Creek Preserves with Barrington area naturalist Wendy Paulson. Sponsored by Citizens for Conservation and Audubon Chicago Region. Walks are free and open to the public though spaces are limited and RSVPs are required. This hike will be moderately strenuous. Waterproof boots are strongly recommended. Don’t forget your binoculars! Before you head out, please be sure to check citizensforconservation.org for any last minute changes or cancellations. Please register with Dan Jacobson at (312) 453-0230, Extension 2002 or djacobson@audubon.org.

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

Cynister Cypripedium

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 3:11pm

We have turned the focus of our rare plant revisits from the very showy Fritillaria gentneri to the fairly inconspicuous Cypripedium fasciculatum. In Oregon, the BLM has Cypripedium fasciculatum (CYFA), commonly known as the clustered lady’s slipper, on its Sensitive Species list. A population viability model completed by the Institute for Applied Ecology for CYFA predicts that sites with 10 or fewer CYFA plants, especially those at low elevation (< 3000 feet), are more at risk for population decline. We are visiting a subset of the CYFA sites composed of 15 low elevation sites and 15 high elevation sites, all of which have 10 or fewer plants, in order to determine if what we find in the field agrees with what the model predicts.

Two flowering Cypripedium fasciculatum

Two especially droopy flowering Cypripedium fasciculatum

Some more sad CYFA

Another sad CYFA

We get to be more selective with our site choice for CYFA, so we have mostly been revisiting sites that are close to the road. For efficiency’s sake of course. The CYFA sites are often very lovely, with locations near drainages populated by Douglas-fir, madrone, mountain dogwood, western chestnut, canyon live oak, tanoak, and more. The clustered lady’s slipper can be incredibly small and easy to miss, so Lillie and I make sure to really take our time during our site visits.

While looking for CYFA, we have encountered some other cool Orchidaceae species, including two sites that have another rare lady’s slipper called Cypripedium montanum, or mountain lady’s slipper. This is an exciting find because it’s rarer and, in my opinion, more beautiful than the clustered lady’s slipper.

Cypripedium montanum

Cypripedium montanum

Cephalanthera austinae, the phantom orchid!

Cephalanthera austinae, the phantom orchid!

A closer look at the phantom orchid's flower

A closer look at the phantom orchid’s flower

Corallorhiza maculata

Corallorhiza maculata

And a parasitic Ericaceae for good measure! Sarcodes sanguinea

And a parasitic Ericaceae for good measure! Sarcodes sanguinea

Though most of our days involve searching for CYFA, we have also been able to get out and help with seed collecting. One day we collected seeds from Alopecurus geniculatus and Agoseris grandiflora on top of Upper Table Rock, which has got to be one of the prettier collection sites out there. Since I hadn’t collected seed before this internship, I was excited to get the opportunity to do so. My internship continues to offer new opportunities for growth, and even though I think the time is going by WAY too quickly, I’m happy that I look forward to each day of work as much as I do!

Until next time,

Kiki, Grants Pass, OR

62° North.

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 3:09pm

Greetings!

I am happy to be reporting from the land of the midnight twilight where I have had a spectacular introduction to the Alaskan wilderness. I came here to work with plants, but with the impact of bear, moose, salmon and mosquitoes on life in Alaska, it appears my association with the animal kingdom is inevitable.

This summer I will be working for Wrangell-St. Elias National Park with the Exotic Plants Management Team. To shortly describe our summer activities, we will be focusing our efforts on surveying for the aquatic invasive Elodea spp., periodic management/surveying for newly discovered and prior existing invasive terrestrial plant populations, monitoring of aspen phenology and leaf miner damage, community outreach efforts and native seed collection for our restoration projects… We are certainly not void of projects. The last few weeks have been primarily focused on mandatory all-personal park training (aviation, bear and ATV training), and also specialized work training to get familiarized with navigating the NPS network drives and managing GPS and GIS data. It was a tremendously long process, but we are finally getting out into the field!

 Mt. Drum, Mt. Stanford and Mt. Wrangell.

A glimpse of the Wrangell range from Willow Lake in the Copper River Basin. From left to right: Mt. Drum, Mt. Stanford and Mt. Wrangell.

The two most recently visited field sites happen to be accessed by the mere two roads into our park, Nabesna and McCarthy. Given that Wrangell-St. Elias is the largest park and preserve in the United States with 13,275,799 acres, this presents a bit of a problem. The answer? Aviation. This park is SO remote that we will be flying via bush planes/floatplanes with frequency to backcountry field sites inaccessible by The Nabesna and McCarthy Roads (I’m quite excited about this).

Nabesna Road was our first destination where we convoyed ATVs into the backcountry to the Copper Lake Trail-Crew Camp. The trail is undergoing a serious rerouting project and we were there to assess the habitat damage during its construction and map potential sites for restoration and re-vegetation on unused or expired off-road vehicle and equipment trails. We even got our hands dirty cleaning up light inhibiting debris that was successfully choking out vegetation on many of these trails (see before/after photos).

Mapping restoration plots on the Trimble GeoXT.

Mapping restoration plots on the Trimble GeoXT.

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First stage restoration  – Before

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First stage restoration – After

In Alaska, many environmental hazards exist that have the power to seriously harm or kill if unprepared. Whether it’s the wildlife or weather (rain and freezing temperatures), it seems that this rugged wilderness is always testing the most seasoned of outdoorsmen/women. Despite these challenges, I’m convinced that insanity driven by mosquitoes is the most daunting obstacle in Alaska.  Somehow the experience of 200+ tiny dipterans piercing their proboscises of 21 micrometers in diameter through a material layer and into the flesh causes folks to lose their cool. The DEET-less summer is going to be more difficult than I ever imagined.

After Nabesna area our team visited McCarthy and the Kennecott Mines to scout more potential restoration sites along with a manual treatment of a Leucanthemum Vulgare population. From the mine are phenomenal views of the Kennicott Glacier, Root Glacier and Stairway Icefall.

Looking through the trees to Kennicott Glacier.

Looking through the trees to Kennicott Glacier.

Lateral rhizomatous sprouts of Leucanthemum Vulgare present quite the challenge for manual treatment.

Lateral rhizomatous sprouts of Leucanthemum Vulgare present quite the challenge for manual treatment.

In our spare time we have been busy botanizing, gardening, picking spruce tips and traveling outside the Copper River Basin. I arrived in Alaska during the pasque flower bloom and was lucky enough to stumble upon a calypso orchid my first week here.

A striking Calypso bulbosa in boreal forest of the Copper River Basin, AK.

A striking Calypso bulbosa growing in Sphagnum substrate of boreal forest understory in Copper River Basin, AK. Photo by Maura Shumacher.

Pulsatilla patens is a anxious spring wildflower. for it's brief period of bloom in Wrangell-St. Elias we found it most commonly on river bluffs and open patches of woodlands. Photo by Maura Schumacher.

Pulsatilla patens is an anxious spring wildflower. For it’s brief period of flowering in Wrangell-St. Elias we found it most commonly on river bluffs and open patches of woodlands. Photo by Maura Schumacher.

Life is sweet in Alaska and I am learning something new every day. Truly ecstatic to meet the other CLMs at training next week!

Hasta luego,

Jacob

Cactus Eyes

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 3:06pm

Hiking 40 transects throughout the central Utah desert in 100 degree weather, getting chased and bitten by deer flies and counting cacti – this has been my fieldwork experience in a nutshell. Recently, my fellow intern and I have had the opportunity to work without the supervision of our mentor. Along with two other ACE interns, we have been collecting data for a Sclerocactus population study. In addition to the amazing adventures that being outdoors naturally brings into our lives, this project has been the most eye-opening experience thus far at this internship. Before this point I have always felt like I am really good at working in groups, mainly because I have no problem taking directions and going with the flow of other people’s decisions. These past three weeks I set myself the goal to contribute more to the execution and collection process of the study. I forced myself to speak up and be more assertive about how I feel the data should be collected. I think that practicing this sort of leadership has helped me be more decisive and confident as a field scientist and I am looking forward more than ever to what else this internship has in store for me.

Here are a few photos of the desert terrain and a cactus species we encounter on our hikes:

 

 

The beautiful, Echinocereus triglochidiatus.

Until next time,

Rayna

BLM Richfield Field Office

 

 

One Month In

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 3:05pm

I have been working here in Idaho for just over a month now, and our crew is starting to really get rolling on our surveys. We are finishing up our work in the lower country just in time, this last week the heat started to set in and the plants are feeling it! The only thing harder than identifying plants that you aren’t familiar with is identifying plants that are unfamiliar AND dried up husks of their former selves. We will be moving up into higher country in the next few weeks which will allow us to work with some fresher specimens.

One of the things that is new to me being out west is the specter of fires. Many of the sites we have been working in have had a fire roll through them, and the lasting effects can be dramatic. We tagged along with the fuel monitoring crew for a field day travelling to different burn sites and seeing how the BLM restores the sites. It was neat to see how areas in different stages of restoration look differently, and hearing about the process was interesting. They do a mix of drill and aerial seeding to introduce native grasses and cover species back into the plots in an effort to stop the spread of invading annual grasses, cheat grass (Bromus tectorum) and medusa-head (Taeniatherum caput-medusae). These grasses can easily and densely colonize ground opened by fire disturbance. The kicker is that they mature and die quickly, which in turn increases the likelihood of fire breaking out again. Seeding select species, and treating weeds when necessary, can reduce the area these grasses can cover, as well as reintroducing diversity into the plots.

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This site has been overrun with cheat grass, already turning brown and drying out.

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This site hasn’t had a fire in a while, sagebrush and other species are present, and the open ground is covered with a biotic crust, which reduces the chance of invasive grasses moving in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also spent a day collecting seed for the Seeds of Success program. This program collects seed of native plant species for conservation purposes, as well as using them to re-seed sites hit by fire. The seeds we were looking for were false dandelion (Agoseris sp.) and false agoseris (Nothocalais troximoides). Yes, these plants are very similar. I was able to keep them straight thanks to guidance from our mentor, and once we learned the difference the collecting was pretty easy. I was literally paid to pick flowers for a day, and it was amazing.

Shoshone Field Office

Bureau of Land Management

Bock Packets

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 3:03pm

Hi guys! My name is Melanie and I’m from north Georgia. I’ve never written a blog before, but I’m pretty excited to attempt to share all of my experiences throughout this internship with anyone who is interested! I usually journal pretty often, so sorry if any emotional toll seems to be portrayed in these :)

It is only the second week of my internship in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, as a Seeds of Success East intern. This week is currently training week, which is really awesome because we have all of the interns from up north – The New England Wildflower Society (NEWFS) and Greenbelt Native Plant Conservancy (GNPC) – at our botanical garden here in NC! I have to say, everything has been really great so far. All of the interns that I’ve met have been amazing, and I’m already learning so much.

Since we haven’t had our first collection trip yet, I wanted to write a little about my transition from college student to intern. I graduated in May ’16 with a biology degree from a little university in north Georgia. It’s a weird feeling – leaving everything you’ve known for 16+ years and starting something completely new. I was nervous and excited. And nervous. And excited, etc. I moved up here to North Carolina by myself, knowing no one besides Jake (another intern) – barely. As you can imagine, moving away from your college and friends is a hard thing to do! I miss my college town so much, but I miss the mountains the most. I was in the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains, at the start of the Appalachian Trail. Now, here I am, in flat Orange county. It has definitely been an adjustment – getting up every morning for “work”, having long days, and being in a completely new place with all new people. But at the same time it is so insanely fun. I’m slowly but surely finding my way around, making friends, and learning a lot. You can’t let really great experiences pass you up just because they take you out of your comfort zone!

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is –  I’m drowning in the plants now. And it can be a little overwhelming… but I love it. Our species list is pretty large, and I feel as though I need to learn all of them right now. But everyone is assuring me that it will all come in time the more we make it into the field.

This week was so fun meeting everyone. I plan to post as much as possible to document this internship, so stay tuned!

(Also – my phone apparently takes outstanding pictures. According to the website, all of my pictures are too big to upload. This could be a problem!)

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Penstemon digitalis at Mason Farm Biological Reserve

Melanie

Two’s Company

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 3:01pm

At last!  A field partner!

The first month of my internship was, shall we say, eventful!  With over 3.5 million acres managed by the BLM Lakeview district office, I had a mind-boggling amount of potential locations to scout for seed collection.  My first month went by in a flash, doing recon, plant ID and even getting some experience with vegetation inventories.  I had a blast my first 4 weeks, with more learning compressed into those 16(!) days than I ever thought possible.  That said, I was ecstatic to get a field partner 2 weeks ago – just in time to get down to the real nitty-gritty!

Artemisia arbuscula, Eriogonum caespitosum, and Phlox hoodii.  It's so gorgeous out here!

With Kenyon’s arrival, as well as the timing of the early blooming plants, things went from 0 to 60 really fast.  Having made no collections during the first month, mostly due to phenology and some granivory, I was so stoked to start our first collection.  On his first day, no less!  My first week with a partner, we closed out 2 collections (Agoseris parviflora and Grayia spinosa).  Upon the end of our second week together, we are up to 5 collections total (add in Ionactis alpina, Erigeron bloomeri, and another of G. spinosa).  I couldn’t be more happy!  All that recon during my first month paid off immediately and should continue to do so.  We have so many collections coming up so quickly, my head is spinning.  It’s nice to have a crew mate, especially one I gel with so well.  I am really excited about our potential this field season.  We have some good months of collecting in front of us!

Agoseris parviflora Erigeron bloomeri

Work aside, I have really enjoyed being in Oregon during my time off.  I have been making new friends and reconnecting with family members I haven’t seen in a long time.  I’ve been getting out and about as much as possible, hiking, camping, and fishing (which is way easier here than in New Mexico!).  I’ve also been doing a lot of birding and I seem to add at least 1 lifer to my list every week!

Mountain Bluebird

Overall, I’m excited about what I have accomplished thus far, but even more excited about how much I have learned in such a short time.  My plant ID skills are immeasurably better than they were prior to this experience, and I have gotten a lot more comfortable planning and executing a field season – something that is far more difficult than I had originally expected.  I’m excited to see what comes in the months ahead!

  • Brennan Davis, BLM – Lakeview, OR

A New Frontier

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 2:49pm

As a Kentucky native, I have primarily remained on the eastern side of the US, and have never gone past the 90th meridian west, basically Chicago, IL. Before embarking on my journey to Oregon, I read up on the west, but nothing I read truly prepared me for the breath taking topography and abundant flora I have encountered. The most aberrant changes for me have been the lack of trees within the sagebrush habitat, the aridity, and high elevation.

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Working with the BLM here in Vale, OR has been amazing so far and am already very familiar with the local flora. My first week on the job we did some range and riparian assessments to get a feel for the area in which I’ll be working for the next 5 months. Now, the other interns and I are going to be focusing on sagebrush habitat that has burned in the last 5 years and assess it for whether or not there needs to be an intervention with sagebrush plantings or if they should allow it to recover on its own. We also are looking at lek sites in the area that Sage-Grouse have used in the past to see whether or not they are suitable for the bird.

I have really enjoyed my time here in Oregon. I cannot wait to continue moving forward with this internship and experience all of the wonderful opportunities it has in store.

BLM Vale, OR

A hill climb a day keeps the doctor away!

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 2:48pm

I have never been a particularly athletic person. I sweat a lot, pant a lot, and can’t do a push-up to save my life. Though I ran track and cross country in high school, it was always clear that I wasn’t really built for it, and though I tried my best, I wasn’t exactly competitive. (In my book, a win meant not coming in last place.) I never imagined that one day, I would be climbing 600 foot hills on a daily basis for my job! If someone had told me back in March how physically demanding this internship would be, I would have been terrified. But here’s the thing–after a week of weed mapping in 90 degree weather in some of the hilliest terrain I’ve worked in so far, I’ve realized that against all odds, I love it! Despite the general discomfort, there’s something incredibly satisfying about getting home each night covered in dust, sunscreen and sweat, sore from head to toe, and knowing that I gave my all to collect good data. Getting in the best shape of my life wasn’t on my agenda for this summer, but I guess it’s just part of the CLM package. This internship is challenging me in so many ways, and I couldn’t be happier.

In addition to the weed mapping we’ve been doing this past week, we’ve had some interesting educational experiences. Last Thursday, we drove down to Baker City, OR for a workshop about resistance and resilience of plant communities. We learned how different factors such as temperature regime, plant community composition, precipitation, and soil depth and texture can have profound effects on the way a site will respond to disturbance. We visited three different sites and calculated resistance and resilience scores using these factors. For me, the workshop highlighted the complexity of ecological interactions and reinforced the fact that climate and soil play just as important a role as the biotic community when it comes to land health.

One of the beautiful sites we visited near Baker City

One of the beautiful sites we visited near Baker City

Last Wednesday, we were lucky enough to be invited on a tour with Benson Farms, a native seed producer out of Moses Lake, WA. We visited five restoration sites, starting with one that had been seeded only a couple years ago and ending with one that had been seeded twelve years ago. It was interesting to track the progress of ecological restoration this way, and to see how, given enough time, native species will outcompete invasive species to reclaim an area. All it takes is some patience!

Penstemon species, seen at one of the restoration sites. So cool!

Penstemon species, seen at one of the restoration sites. So cool!

Chaenactis douglasii (Dusty maiden)

Chaenactis douglasii (Dusty maiden)

Because we’ve been working 10 hour days, we’ve had plenty of time off to take advantage of all the recreational opportunities the Pacific Northwest has to offer. On Memorial Day weekend, I took a trip with a friend to the Lochsa River in Idaho to go whitewater rafting (another thing I never imagined I could do!), and despite being flipped out of the boat into rapids and believing momentarily that I was doomed, I loved every minute of it. Then last weekend, we combated the intense heat wave by heading up to the beautiful Lake Chelan to spend a relaxing day at the beach. I have a feeling that with 100 degree weather already teasing, that lake is going to become a haven for us in the very near future.

Suited up and pumped up for whitewater rafting!

Suited up and pumped up for whitewater rafting!

This is what relaxation looks like.

This is what relaxation looks like.

Next week is going to be a big change of pace–we’re going to be training at the Chicago Botanic Garden! Midwest, I’m coming for you!

Katherine Schneider, BLM, Wenatchee WA Field Office

 

 

Down to Business

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 2:07pm

Hi there,

After weeks and weeks of training, shadowing, and traveling we’re finally getting to the point where we can go out on our own and get some valuable work done. We’ve fledged and have wondered from our nest. We’re mostly working in areas that were burned in the last couple of years. How it works: most of these areas have been treated in some sort of way ranging from aerial seeding/mulching to weed treatments. Our job is to basically go in each area and check out the progress. How the natives are doing and what the weeds are doing. We bring some field topo maps created via ArcMap to sketch anything out or just figure out where we are in the burned area. ArcPad has also become one of our best friends though it seems to be easily offended if we load too much at once. I find myself occasionally trying to sweet talk this inanimate object in the field to do what I want. And I think it may actually work…

We’ve just about completed 2 burned areas so far. Monument Hill and the South Douglas Complex burn. It’s really neat to see how life has just sprung back into these areas that burned only a year ago. Life always finds a way it would seem. And with it, so do weeds. The first obvious one that anyone could guess would be cheatgrass. It’s easily the first species to pop up after a disturbance such as fire, so it’s kinda everywhere at first. Along with cheatgrass, bulbous bluegrass is another invasive that can sometimes be just as pervasive. In fact, sometimes it’s even more dense than cheat and other times it’s only in small scattered patches. I had never even heard of this poa before this internship and am curious to know why it isn’t being discussed more. Anyways, other more common weeds we find include tall tumble mustard, prickly lettuce, thistle, whitetop, and knapweed. It’s funny how I never really noticed these species before I knew what they were and looked like. But now I see them everywhere! A little gravel area we have behind the house we live in has a diverse community of only invasives, several of which I just mentioned. Despite being unwanted and hated by most environmentalists, ya gotta admire how tenacious these suckers are. Popping up in areas most natives turn their noses up to. And I suppose their presence is the reason I’m working in this position so small shout out to the exotics, just kidding.

On another positive note, a lot of these places require hiking on foot to reach and I can feel myself getting in better shape with each passing week. My coworker and I came up with the saying “a hill a day keeps the doctor away”. I think that’s even her blog title this week hehe. We came up with some other chants about keeping rattle snakes away too since hiking up rocky areas this time a year is prime rattle snake territory. In fact we had a close call the other day, a coworker just about stepped on one in some thick grass. But fortunately the little guy gave a quick warning rattle before slithering on his way under a trough.

In other news, between mapping we got to go help the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife do some Pygmy Rabbit trapping. Listed as critically endangered, these extremely adorable little fluff balls are kept in a breeding exclosure in sagebrush steppe. The goal is to release the younger ones in the wild each year in an attempt to establish colonies. In order to do this, the rabbits need to be captured in the exclosures and this is done by ‘rabbit herding’. As in standing in a line and herding rabbits to a corner where a cage is placed for them to flee into. The whole experience was rewarding and entertaining!

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My coworker returning a rabbit to its container

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Unfortunately, I didn’t get a pic of us ‘herding’ the rabbits. It was rather funny because we had an empty pillow case in each hand and had to wildly flap our arms as we walked forward in a line to scare rabbits from under the sagebrush. The sad part was that my arms were sore the next day….

Until next time,

Kat

Elevation>Population

CLM Internship Blog - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 2:04pm

Beautiful Buffalo, Wyoming, where the elevation is greater than the population.

Buffalo, Wy

Buffalo, Wy

While Montana may have the title of “Big Sky Country,” my time spent here so far has caused me to believe that Wyoming is certainly giving them a run for their money. Whether it has been from the early morning sunrises while out helping with bird watching in the ocean of sagebrush, the mid afternoon hikes noticing the clouds roll in, or escaping to the mountains and watching the immeasurable amount of stars glide across the night, Wyoming too has some big skies.

4am Departure Sunrises

Wyoming Sunrise

Weston Hills

Weston Hills

Wyoming Nightlights

Wyoming Nightlights

So far – trainings aside – I have been learning about the Buffalo Field Office’s style of management and ways in which it collaborates with the local region in regards to the resources it is charged with. Through the course of this program I will be spending my time aiding with recreation planning and management, as well as providing help when possible to the wildlife portion of the resources department. This has included reading up on and visiting specific sections and trails, as well as learning the routes commonly used to access these areas.

Additionally, I am able to return to using a long lost friend, which comes in the form of ArcGIS. While it has been awhile since I have been afforded the opportunity to use this formidable software, it is a chance that I hope to make the best of.

Here are a few of the specific things I have been up:

  • Building out a list of attributes and other data points to gather while out in the field, which will later be pulled into ArcGIS, to work within the scope and guidelines of a Travel and Transportation Management Plan.
  • Creating and refining lesson plans to aid in the outreach and education of summer camps/classes.
  • Inventorying wildlife habitat, specifically: Sagebrush obligate bird species.

So far the past couple weeks have been a very welcomed change of pace from my previous work experiences. I can’t wait to see what the rest of this internship has in store.

D. Erf

BFO BLM

Heliconius: The Lovely Longwings

Garden Blog - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 12:17pm

Here at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Butterflies & Blooms, we have a variety of butterfly species that fall under the genus Heliconius. This fascinating group is commonly referred to as the longwings.

Longwings are native to the tropical and subtropical regions of the New World. This includes South America, Central America, and the southern United States. Florida’s state butterfly, the zebra longwing (Heliconius charithonia), has been found as far north as South Carolina.

Zebra longwing butterfly (Heliconius charithonia)

Zebra longwing butterfly (Heliconius charithonia)

Despite their diminutive size, zebra longwings are noted for their long lifespans, which can be several months rather than several days or weeks. This is thanks to their ability to use pollen as a food source. Unlike nectar, pollen is rich in protein, and this healthy diet allows them to remain fertile for a longer period of time.

Mimicry in butterflies illustrated on these plates showing four forms of Heliconius numata, two forms of H. melpomene, and the two corresponding mimicking forms of H. erato. Image by see Source, via Wikimedia Commons.

Mimicry in butterflies illustrated on these plates showing four forms of Heliconius numata, two forms of H. melpomene, and the two corresponding mimicking forms of H. erato. Image by see Source [CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons.

Heliconians are also known to be very “intelligent” and social insects. They roost together in large groups, respect their elders by giving them the best roosting spots, and even wake each other up in the morning by gently nudging one another. At Butterflies & Blooms, you can usually find them comingling in loose groups called “flutters,” roosting in long rows on our serviceberry trees, or even mating.

Like Darwin’s finches of the Galapagos Islands, the Heliconians have provided evolutionary biologists with a wealth of information and are studied more than any other butterfly. In the Amazon, Heliconians hybridize, form subspecies and local phenotypes, and mimic one another, confounding even the most seasoned lepidopterists.

Longwings have a unique and bizarre mating tactic called pupal mating that is not seen in most butterflies. Males will seek out female pupae and insert their abdomens into the chrysalids, fertilizing the females’ eggs before the butterflies finish emerging from the pupal stage. Scientists are currently studying the evolutionary effects that this tactic may have.

A Heliconius erato male is attracted by pheromones of a female pupa. He waits until she starts to emerge to attempt mating. Photo ©Holger Klee via Flickr.

A Heliconius erato male is attracted by pheromones of a female pupa. He waits until she starts to emerge to attempt mating. Photo ©Holger Klee via Flickr.

At Butterflies & Blooms we always have Heliconians flying around. You may find the postman, zebra longwing, Doris longwing, and many others. Ask us where to find them and we’ll point you in the right direction. Until next time, enjoy the gardens and keep your antenna up for future updates.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Prairie Blooms Beckon

Garden Blog - Wed, 06/15/2016 - 10:35am

It’s time for a visit to the Dixon Prairie to savor late spring flowers and the pollinators visiting these plants.

White wild indigo (Baptisia alba var. macrophylla)

White wild indigo (Baptisia alba var. macrophylla)

A standout plant, looking almost like a small shrub, is white wild indigo (Baptisia alba). This is the white-flowered cousin to blue wild indigo (Baptisia australis); this plant, not native to the Chicago region, was historically a source for blue dye. Both species are in the pea family. Many prairie plants belong to the pea family; other important families of the prairie are sunflower, sedge, and grass. Queen and worker bumblebees primarily pollinate white wild indigo. Their large size allows them to push down the lower part of the flower (the keel) and thus expose the pollen producing anthers. 

A rich palette of blue flowering plants from the Ohio spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) surrounds the white wild indigo plants. A variety of bees and butterflies might be seen visiting these plants, bumblebees being the primary pollinator. Butterflies, in their quest for nectar, will not be rewarded for their visit, however, since Ohio spiderwort doesn’t have nectar.

Spiderwort (Tradescantia 'Sweet Kate') and coneflowers bloom on the Prairie.

Spiderwort (Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’) and coneflowers bloom on the prairie.

The prairie also currently hosts numbers of white tubular flowers, foxglove beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis). On the lower half of the flower is a large hairy sterile stamen (the part of the flower that produces pollen); perhaps this feature is the origin of the plant’s common name. Pollinators, primarily bees, must work their way past this sterile stamen to reach pollen. This effort increases the likelihood of pollen being deposited on the stigma, the organ that is receptive to pollen. Those willing to observe these flowers for a while might be rewarded with witnessing some territory defending. The male of an introduced bee, the European wool carder bee, with sharp spines on their abdomens, will attack other males who come in the vicinity of the female when she is foraging for nectar. 

Pale coneflower (Echinacea pallida)

Pale coneflower (Echinacea pallida)

Just opening on the gravel hill prairie is the pale coneflower (Echinacea pallida). The narrower leaves of this plant distinguish it from the commonly planted purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) (sometimes called broad-leaved coneflower). Like other members of the sunflower or aster family, the coneflower has what appears to be a singular flower but is actually a head of many flowers. This species has what are called ray and disc flowers. Some sunflower plants have only disc flowers while others, such as dandelions, only ray flowers. This plant is a preferred nectar plant of both bees and butterflies. 

Moving into summer, this palette will change and reveal a new tapestry of grasses and wildflowers. To witness the full bounty of the prairie, a prairie visit should be a weekly affair.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Nesting Birds Walk

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sat, 06/11/2016 - 10:00am

Enjoy viewing local birds as they go about their important business of raising and feeding their young. Bring binoculars, or borrow ours. For adults and children 10 & up.

The post Nesting Birds Walk appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Birds at Baker’s Lake

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sat, 06/11/2016 - 10:00am

Hosted by Crabtree Nature Center. Join a naturalist to observe nesting birds at Baker’s Lake. Meet-up instructions provided during registration.

Bird the Preserves

Each month during our 2016 Bird the Preserves initiative, we’re giving you the opportunity to see some of the most interesting birds in the preserves. Learn more about the great egret.

The post Birds at Baker’s Lake appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Bird Walk: Summer Nesting Birds

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sat, 06/11/2016 - 7:30am

Join on a walk lead by Alan Anderson, Chicago Audubon Society. We’ll study the nesting birds of the Garden. We will start out at the Barbara Brown Nature Reserve, which has good variety of nesting birds and is a place most visitors to the Garden do not normally visit. Dress for the weather, and bring binoculars and a field guide, if you have one. Call 847-835-5440 for more information. $19 nonmember; members receive 20% discount.

The post Bird Walk: Summer Nesting Birds appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Bird Conservation Success Story and Birding Trip: Bergman Slough and Cap Sauers Holding

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sat, 06/11/2016 - 7:30am

Fifteen-year history of the grassland and its ecological restoration. Walk leaders: FPCC, Openlands, and Bird Conservation Network. Register with jpbobolink@gmail.com.

Meeting Location: Meet at the watchman’s residence located at 11301 Ford Road, Palos Park (just north of Bergman Slough). Parking is available in the gravel driveway of the watchman’s residence and on the south shoulder of Ford Road to the west.

The post Bird Conservation Success Story and Birding Trip: Bergman Slough and Cap Sauers Holding appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Penny Road Pond Big Year Birding Field Trip

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sat, 06/11/2016 - 6:30am

Highlights: osprey, shrublands, woodlands and grasslands. Wear long pants, hat. Updates: chicagoaudubon.org. Register with Craig Stettner: cstettne@harpercollege.edu, 847-925-6214.

The post Penny Road Pond Big Year Birding Field Trip appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Farming for Phacelia

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 06/10/2016 - 11:36am

Dear readers,

Greetings!

Wow, what a week. For two of my fellow interns, Monique and Alec, it was their last week here in Carson City. It seems pretty unreal that they’re both already gone, and I’m gonna miss ’em like crazy. Fortunately, I have the excitement and beauty of botany to ease me through this sad time! :'(

When I was about four years old, I was completely convinced that I was gonna grow up to be a farmer. I was young and innocent and looking forward to a lifetime of growing crops. I remember, as a youngster, opening up an ear of corn one day to find an enormous, grimy slug, slithering and writhing before my very eyes. Disgusted, I threw the corn as far as I could and ran back to the house screaming, and that was when my aspirations of becoming a farmer died.

Little did I know what the future would hold. If four-year-old Sam could see me now, I’m sure he’d be proud. As the weather warms here in Carson City, I have become increasingly involved with the Seeds of Success program. Last week we collected seeds from populations of Phacelia glandulifera and Amsinckia tessellata. We were blessed with heavy rains this growing season; harvest was bountiful. (Side note: Did you know that skin contact with Phacelia can cause dermatitis? Yeah, sure enough, it totally does!) Anyways, we collected over 10,000 seeds of each species, and made preparations to have them shipped north to Bend, Oregon, where they will be processed and distributed. Just like four-year-old farmer Sam planned it. Never give up on your dreams, kids.

Another species we will focus on collecting this year is Poa secunda. This is a great species to collect, because although it is native, it is found commonly throughout the western U.S., and can be planted just about anywhere. In the area surrounding Carson City, we often find it growing on north-facing slopes in communities with pinyons and junipers. As we have spent time scouting out locations where we will be able to collect seeds from Poa secunda, we also have stumbled across some other cool plants that we might be able to make collections from. I’ll keep ya updated and let you know how it goes!

Until next time,

Farmer Sam

I tried to take a picture of a Phacelia flower through a microscope.

I tried to take a picture of a Phacelia flower through a microscope.

One site where we potentially might collect Poa. I wouldn't mind coming back here...

One site where we potentially might collect Poa. I wouldn’t mind coming back here…

Lewisia rediviva is one of the cooler wildflowers I've come across so far. We've seen it a few times during our Poa-scouting trips.

Lewisia rediviva is one of the cooler wildflowers I’ve come across so far. We’ve seen it a few times during our Poa-scouting trips.

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