Author: Messervy, Julie Moir.
Call Number: SB473.M48 2009
P. Allen Smith's container gardens : 60 container recipes to accent your garden / photographs by Jane Colclasure and Kelly Quinn.
Author: Smith, P. Allen.
Call Number: SB418.S64 2005
Author: Gertley, Jan.
Call Number: TH4961.G48 1998
Call Number: SB473.E97 2001
Call Number: SB473.G36 2002
‘Twas noon before my last day, when all through the office,
Not an employee was stirring, not even the botanist.
The plants were stored in the cabinet with care,
in hopes that new interns soon would be there.’
Such is the atmosphere at the Carson City BLM Office while I wrap up my botany internship; most employees have already left for their vacations and those who are still here quietly work while waiting for the holidays to arrive. The past several weeks have been spent catching up from the busy field season, processing plant vouchers, and preparing helpful training materials for the next group of interns. So much time in the office has given me time to reflect on the internship and what I have learned while living and working in the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada mountains. I have broken into sections the various musings and reflections I have had over the past days.
Identifying plants is at once relaxing, fun, and painful. Often, you think you have the correct identification only to read through the description and illustrations to find you are way off the mark. As frustrating as this process is (which usually depends on the quality of your specimen), most times you find yourself delighted with the ease of identification (especially if you have a spectacular specimen)! Many hours have been spent at the microscope, blissfully and fretfully keying out plants from the 2015 season as well as from years past. Here is a link to a poem I wrote in the midst of working through the piles of plants to identify.
After I had processed most of the plant vouchers, I then set into updating the herbarium database for the Carson City office. The herbarium has vouchers dating back to the 1960s, providing valuable information about the plants of the area. My goal for organizing the data was to make a GIS shapefile available to the BLM Botanist and future interns so they could manipulate the data for their own conservation and land management purposes. I also used this data to build a list of ‘collection hot spots’ for future intern teams. I looked at vouchers collected over the years for Seeds of Success collections and found several heavily-scouted areas where seed collections were still waiting to be made. Being able to see where future intern teams could go for some quality seed collecting helped me connect the dots between the variety of work assignments I had completed this summer. At the beginning of my internship, I was so overwhelmed with the new area and the new plants to be able to settle down long enough to come up with a game plan for the season. Our team was still super productive under our supervisor’s guidance, cranking out 133 seed collections, but I hope my efforts at the end of this season will help next year’s group be even more efficient.
One final thought on botany: I hope I am able to see another desert spring in my lifetime. Again, I was so busy and overwhelmed in the spring and early summer to appreciate the beauty of the short-lived season of color here in the Great Basin. I would love to see the spring colors again so I can really take time to appreciate them.
Adjusting to the West
Learning my way around the western side of Nevada and the mid-eastern portion of California has taken the majority of the internship, but has been quite rewarding. Navigating to rural areas of Nevada for seed collecting and fire monitoring took a lot of spatial awareness as well as the ability to use common sense while following a not-always-so-accurate GPS. Just driving on some of the back roads of Nevada requires patience, stamina, and flexibility. Most roads are super bumpy and sometimes roads will be washed out too. Impassable roads (or getting stuck halfway down an unknowingly impassable road) delays the work day and the only thing you can do is pull yourself out of the predicament and find another route. Having flexibility in these situations is so helpful when everyone is stressed and worried.
Another adjustment to the west is the sheer size of the states. Being from the Midwest, I could travel between states within a few hours. Out here, it could take you a few hours just to travel from one county to another! Learning to allot several hours to travel anywhere definitely takes some of the spontaneity out of weekend trips, but the sites to see are so worth the time to get there!
One project I completed near the end of the internship was an ESRI Story Map journal that highlights the Carson City internship experience and leads viewers on a tour of some of the areas of interest throughout the range of the Carson City intern team. The Story Map web application is a powerful tool for telling your story or making information accessible and visually stimulating. It was exciting to be able to pull together the past twelve years of intern experiences into one place so future interns can acquaint themselves with the area before heading out into the field. While there is always value in self-exploration of a new area, having access to the Story Map resource will make it easier for future interns to plan field work and understand the large-scale scope of the Carson City internship. Check out the map at the link below!
Wildlife and Weather
While most days in the desert consist of cloudless, bright, sunny skies and breezy-to-gusty winds, sometimes the weather is unpredictable. One evening in May, our team was out doing rare plant monitoring and a snowstorm blew in as we were setting up camp for the night. I didn’t realize it was supposed to snow, so I didn’t have all of the layers with me I normally bring for cold nights. It was so cold that night, I ended up sleeping in one of the trucks so I could stay warm! I never forgot my layers after that experience! Always having enough layers for the surprise storm or just for the cold desert nights is a crucial part of being prepared in the desert. Surviving in this ecosystem requires more than just bringing enough water!
As for wildlife, nothing compares to waking up in the middle of the night to the stars shining above you and the sound of a coyote pack crying to the moon. I still get excited chills thinking about the countless nights this summer when I found myself in this situation. On the nights when I opted to sleep completely under the stars instead of in my tent (which never made it out of its bag as summer progressed), I was reminded of just how close the coyotes were and how exposed I was at that moment. As amazing as it is to hear coyotes howl, it is slightly unnerving to know they could run past you at any moment.
Another animal that is always neat to see is the wild horse. Running into a pack of horses grazing in the sage brush is quite an experience even when you realize the havoc they wreak on the environment. Our group was lucky to see a handful of different horse groups throughout the summer, but the most involved encounter was at the Palomino Horse and Burro Ranch north of Reno. While doing weed surveys here, we were able to interact with some of the horses who were begging for some pets.
As I wrap up my time in Carson City, taking time to reflect on all of the adventures I have had while here has been helpful as I transition into the next stage of my career. I do not know yet where I will be going after this, but I am excited about the possibilities that have opened up because of the skills I have learned through this internship. I am incredibly grateful to have been an intern with the BLM as well as the CLM and Seeds of Success program.
In a first-time summer internship research project, two college students set out to understand how plants were responding to the Garden’s shoreline restoration projects. They took a deep look into how variations in water levels may be affecting the health of the young plants. The results of their work will help others select the best plants for their own shorelines.
A silent troop of more than one-half million native plants stand watch alongside 4½ miles of restored Chicago Botanic Garden lakeshore. The tightly knit group of 242 taxa inhibit erosion along the shoreline, provide habitat for aquatic plants and animals, and create a tranquil aesthetic for 60 acres of lakes.
Now ranging from 2 to 15 years old, the plants grow up from tiered shelves on the sloping shores. Species lowest on the slope are always standing in water. At the top of the slope, the opposite is true, with only floods or intense downpours bringing the lake level up to their elevation.
Jannice Newson and Ben Girgenti moved through clusters of tightly knit foliage along the Garden shoreline from June through August, taking turns as map reader or measurement taker. On a tranquil summer day, one would step gingerly into the water, settling on a planting shelf, before lowering a 2-foot ruler into the water to take a depth measurement. The other, feet on dry land, would hold fast to an architectural map of the shoreline while calling out directions or making notes.
Newson, a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) intern and sophomore at the University of Missouri, and Girgenti, a Garden intern and senior at Brown University, worked under the guidance of Bob Kirschner, the Garden’s director of restoration ecology and Woman’s Board curator of aquatics.
When the summer began, Girgenti and Newson had hoped to locate and measure every single plant. But after the immense scope of the project became clear in their first weeks, they decided to focus on species that are most commonly used in shoreline rehabilitation, as that information would be most useful for others.
View the Garden’s current list of recommended plants for shoreline restoration.
“We’re interested in which plants do really badly and which do really well when they are experiencing different levels of flooding, with the overall idea of informing people who are designing detention basins,” explained Girgenti, who went on to say that data analysis of the Garden’s sophisticated shoreline development would be especially useful for others.
“The final utility of this research will be to inform other natural resource managers,” confirmed Kirschner, who added that successful Garden shoreline plants must be able to withstand water levels that can rise and fall by as many as 5 feet several times in one year.
Steering the Ship
Along the shoreline, the interns followed vertical iron posts that were installed as field markers during construction, in order to find specific plants shown on the maps. “The posts are pretty key to being able to map out the beds,” said Girgenti.
Once they found a target plant, they then counted clumps of it, and put it into one of six categories based on the amount of current coverage, ranging from nonexistent to area coverage of more than 95 percent.
They also measured the average depth of water for beds with plants below the water line, noting their elevation. For plants above the water line, the elevation was derived from the architectural drawings.
Data about the elevation and coverage level of each measured plant, together with daily lake water level readings dating back to the late 1990s, was then entered into a spreadsheet and prepared for analysis to identify correlations between planting bed elevation and plant survival.
Beneath the Surface
For her REU research project, Newson was careful to collect data for one species in particular, blue flag iris. “As a preliminary test of the project hypothesis, data relating to 101 planting beds of Iris virginica var. shrevei were analyzed to see if there was a significant correlation between the assessed plant condition and each planting bed’s elevation relative to normal water,” she explained in her final REU poster presentation in late August.
An environmental science major, she initially experienced science at the Garden as a participant in the Science First Program, and then as a Science First assistant, before becoming an REU intern.
Girgenti began his Garden work in the soil lab, where his mentor inspired him to focus on local, native flora. “I was kind of pushed up a little bit by the Garden,” he said. The following year he did more field work in the Aquatics department. “I wanted to come back because I really enjoyed being here the last two years,” he said. “Every year I’ve come back to the Garden, I’ve been very excited about what I’m going to do.”
Aside from the scientific discovery, the two also refined their professional interests. “I do enjoy being out in the field as opposed to maybe working in a lab; it’s a lot more interesting to me. And also just working in the water with native plants is very interesting,” said Newson.
“I was really interested in getting into more of the shoreline science and also learning which native species were planted there,” said Girgenti. “I really love working here. I’ve never really been involved this much in science, so this has been a really great experience—just all of the problem solving that we’ve had to do over the course of the summer.”
Newson also enjoyed the communication aspect of her work, as Garden visitors stopped to ask what work she and Girgenti were doing along the shoreline. She was especially excited to share with them and her fellow REU interns that “the purpose of why we are doing this is that it provides a beautiful site for visitors to see, it helps with erosion, and also improves aquatic habitat.”
Although the interns have left the Garden for now, the data they collected will have a lasting impact here and potentially elsewhere. Kirschner is currently working with his colleagues on the data analysis to complete a comprehensive set of recommendations for future use.
©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org
Sphaeralcea is, in many ways, a wonderful genus. It is found throughout the western United States, it’s pretty, pollinators like it, herbivores like it, it germinates well and is easy to cultivate, and thus it is one of the few native genera that is readily available commercially for restoration use. However, if you’ve tried to identify them you are probably painfully aware that, although the genus is very easy to identify, species within it are an awful muddled mess. Part of the problem is that, despite how ubiquitous and important Sphaeralcea is, taxonomists have avoided it like the plague. There has been no significant taxonomic research on Sphaeralcea since 1935. At that time, of course, there were relatively few herbarium specimens available and taxonomic techniques were rather crude, consisting essentially of “stare at plants for a long time and guess”. That approach seems to work dramatically better than it has any right to, and is still used, but in many genera it just won’t get you there.
I don’t have any insight to provide in solving the problem of Sphaeralcea taxonomy, so this is mostly just a plea for some hapless graduate student to sink into this particular mire. I do have some photographs and a pdf, though.
One of the Sphaeralcea I’ve been confused by this season is shown below. I had hoped to collect seed of this species, but phenology did not cooperate.
Those of you who are familiar with Sphaeralcea will probably think that this looks an awful lot like Sphaeralcea coccinea. That’s what I thought, too, and I’ve misidentified these in the past as Sphaeralcea coccinea. However, the anthers are dark and there is a well-developed epicalyx, neither of which is compatible with that species. Other possibilities that might come to mind are Sphaeralcea digitata, Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia (this was my next best guess once I decided it wasn’t Sphaeralcea coccinea), or Sphaeralcea laxa. However, there are various features, which I won’t go into here, that will eventually lead you to believe it cannot be any of those species. What will not occur to you, or at least didn’t occur to me, is that this could be Sphaeralcea hastulata, a species that has narrow, shallowly lobed leaves and pale anthers. But that is, apparently, what it is, at least in recent floristic works.
My plants are a very good match for the type specimen of Sphaeralcea pumila, a species named by Wooton and Standley back in 1909. You can see that type specimen here. Since 1909, that species has been moved to Sphaeralcea subhastata subsp. pumila, then Sphaeralcea subhastata var. pumila, and more recent floras will simply list Sphaeralcea subhastata, and by inference Sphaeralcea pumila along with it, as a synonym of Sphaeralcea hastulata without any further explanation. So, my plants are the same taxon as the type of Sphaeralcea pumila, therefore they are Sphaeralcea hastulata even though they don’t look like it and won’t go there in the key. Part of the problem here is that, as I mentioned before, there hasn’t been any significant taxonomic research on Sphaeralcea in the last 80 years. The best published work on the genus is still Thomas H. Kearney’s “The North American Species of the Genus Sphaeralcea Subgenus Eusphaeralcea“, published as an issue of the University of California Publications in Botany in 1935. Kearney calls this plant Sphaeralcea subhastata subsp. pumila. I tried for a little while to figure out why someone decided to dump Sphaeralcea subhastata and all its subspecies into Sphaeralcea hastulata, but I didn’t get anywhere. This is what happens to genera that go without research, subsequent botanists poke around a little, move some names, and generally muddy the waters in a piecemeal fashion, and there’s rarely any clear, easy-to-find record of who made what decision and why. However good or bad the last big treatment of the genus was, over time our understanding gets worse. And, of course, Kearney’s 1935 work isn’t carried by too many libraries (New Mexico State University’s library system doesn’t have it) and isn’t available online. Luckily, you can still buy old copies for a reasonable price. Some out-of-print botanical works are exorbitantly expensive, but I found Kearney’s for $20 or so, which isn’t too bad. Since it is still the best taxonomic treatment of Sphaeralcea in North America, I bought a copy and turned it into a pdf. I can never get paper books to be where I need them, when I need them. Pdfs are easier, I just stick them on my phone. If you like you can download it here. I’ll see if I can get it onto Biodiversity Heritage Library, too, but it isn’t there yet. It’s amazing how much you can find online these days. Also, I checked, and this work is not under copyright.
Over the past 8 months, I’ve had a lot of really amazing opportunities here with the BLM / CLM internship program. I’ve gained experience with rare species monitoring, seed mixing, data management, GIS mapping, restoration seeding, plant identification, and more. Although I didn’t get the experience of being in a new place like most CLM interns because I already lived in Eugene, I did get to experience the place I live in a very different way.
“When I’m on all fours pawing through blades of grass in search of the tiny seedlings of Lomatium Bradshawii (a listed wetland prairie species) I feel like I’m part of a private universe.
Few people take the time to look closely… really closely at their landbase.
To most, the minute details in that particular place are completely invisible. Although plot work can at times be tedious, I try to remember how special it is to be able to interact daily with plants and animals most people will never even see.” – Rare Plant & Butterfly Monitoring in the Wetland Prairies of Western Oregon, May 2015
Most of my work centered around counting rare plants but I was also lucky to learn how to identify a variety of common species as well.
“These surveys introduced me to more than a dozen non-native prairie species and refreshed my knowledge of an equal number of native species. I’m excited to continue to hone my skills as a botanist in the upcoming months of this internship!” – WEW Botanical Surveys, June 2015
I’m a quiet and reflective person by nature, and I don’t usually struggle with tedious activities. This internship forced me to push beyond my comfort zone and helped me to gain a renewed appreciation for all of the plant-monitoring work that is done on federal lands for conservation.
“Doing this much intensive and detail-oriented monitoring has been a challenge. There is usually a fleeting moment when I question a few life choices and fantasize about a desk job, or even my past as a bartender / waitress. I bribe myself with sips of coffee and the occasional stretch in an effort to ignore sore knees and the sharp florets poking through my socks and into my ankle bones. I agonize over my ability to detect each tiny plant and constantly push myself to look closer. My muscles strain and my mind wanders… only 30 more to go…
I’ve never meditated much but I imagine that the struggle to quiet one’s mind is similar to that of careful monotonous counting. In the end, my work equates to a few rows and columns of data; a collection of numbers to better know the trajectory of these rare species. As we walk to the car I notice my internal dialog with each step…1,2,3,4… I’m caught in a loop of numbers and when I close my eyes I can see those delicate leaves, the bashful flowering stem, and a particular shade of green that separates one plant from another in my mind’s eye.” – Counting Daisies, July 2015
Although it was sometimes a challenge, this position helped to solidify my future goals and gave me renewed motivation to pursue restoration as a career.
“Oddly, the notion that I could spend the rest of my life working to unlock the best possible way to restore native plant communities… and never truly find that answer… is one of the most appealing aspects of becoming a restoration practitioner. Unending challenge and the constant need to adapt, re-think, and start over, sounds like a lot of fun. Field work detached from that thought process will never hold my interest for more than the short term.” – An End to Vegetation Monitoring… The Beginning Of? August 2015
When I started this internship, I had already been working for over a year to put together a funded research project so that I could get my master’s degree. 8 months later, I’m finished with my first term of school and well on my way to designing several restoration-related research projects for my thesis. I’m thrilled to be one step closer to my goal of becoming a researcher and restoration practitioner.
“After several years of constantly feeling like everything was either just about to work out or blow up in my face I often look back and think of many things I wish I had known or done differently.
One of the hardest lessons I had to learn was how to tell the difference between things I had control over and those I didn’t… to put my future in the hands of my advisor and a host of strangers… and to just hope everything would work out.” – How Not to Start Graduate School, September 2015
One of my favorite activities of this internship was making wild seed mixes for restoration projects in the Willamette Valley. Doing this work solidified my desire to one day become an experienced grower of native plants.
“There is something truly amazing about being elbow deep in a bag full of Lomatium nudicaule seed that made the journey all the way from wild collection in a nearby remnant prairie, into a seed increase bed at a local native plant nursery, through an intense cleaning process, and finally back into the hands of the ecologists and botanists who will plant them into the threatened habitats they started in.” – Seed Castle October 2015
“While sprinkling the seed that I mixed while working at the “Seed Castle, I realized that this internship has allowed me to come full circle. Last spring and summer I spent my time quantifying the percent cover of native prairie species, then I learned to make seed mixes, and finally I got to spread seed on the ground for the next intern to quantify.” – Job Security, December 2015
The day is coming to an end and I’m turning in my ID card, keys, cleaning the hard drive, and compiling a list of accomplishments to add to my resume. I’m looking forward to devoting all of my time to my master’s degree and my research in the Great Basin this spring but will miss the meadowlark songs in the summer heat of the prairie, the hummocky wetland landscape, and the feeling of being at the beginning of this journey.
When you lift a rock in your garden and glimpse earthworms and tiny insects hustling for cover, you’ve just encountered the celebrities of soil. We all know them on sight. The leggy, the skinny, the pale…the surprisingly fast.
Behind this fleeting moment are what may be considered the producers, editors, and set designers of the mysterious and complex world of soil—fungi. They often go unrecognized, simply because most of us can’t see them.
Fortunately, new technologies are helping experts, like Chicago Botanic Garden scientist Louise Egerton-Warburton, Ph.D., get a better look at fungi than ever before, and discover vital information.
“One of the problems we have with soil science is that you can’t see into it so you really depend on a lot of techniques and methods to work out what’s happening,” explained Dr. Egerton-Warburton, associate conservation scientist in soil and microbial ecology.
In the last year, she has used high-throughput sequencing (also termed Next Generation Sequencing) to identify more than 120 species of mycorrhizal fungi in a single plant community. In contrast, previous reports suggested there were, at most, about 55 mycorrhizal species in a plant community. These tiny heroes are microscopic organisms that attach themselves to plant roots, for example, to carry out critical functions that support all life on earth. They are essential for the well-being of more than 85 percent of all plants, including those in your garden.
Mycorrhizal fungi are fungi that have a symbiotic relationship with roots of a vascular plant; from the Greek for “fungus” and “root.”
If climate change results in more intense rainfall and drought—as is predicted by climate change scientists—mycorrhizal fungi will also play an important role in processing varied levels of water in the soil.
Egerton-Warburton has just returned from November field work in the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico, where she has been testing the responses of mycorrhizal fungi to changes in rainfall and soil moisture, especially to drought. Will fungi be able to keep pace? Will they be able to survive? What does that mean for other plant life? “Fungi are really good indicators of any environmental problems. So they are more likely to show the effects of any environmental stress before the plants will,” she said.
Each type of fungi also has a specific role, according to Egerton-Warburton, with some specialized to take up nutrients from the soil, while others cooperate to complete a function, such as fully decomposing a leaf. A lot of fungi are needed to keep the system working. “You get 110 yards of fungal material in every teaspoon of soil,” she explained.
Aside from breaking down deceased plant material, fungi play a key role in many plant-soil interactions and the redistribution of resources in an ecosystem. They filter water that runs into the ground, cleaning it before it hits the bottom aquifers and drains out into rivers. Also, in the top few inches of soil, many fungi are respiring, along with their earthworm and other living counterparts, helping to filter gases and air that move through the system. Of growing interest, is also the fact that fungi could have a major role in soil carbon sequestration.
Soil carbon sequestration is the process of transferring carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the soil in a form that is not immediately reemitted.
For the past four years, Egerton-Warburton and colleagues at Northwestern University have been working to better understand the flow of carbon through fungal communities that results in long-term soil carbon sequestration. Soil’s capacity to store carbon is a reason for hope and a potential way to mitigate climate change. According to Egerton-Warburton, soil is known to hold three times more carbon than plants and trees above ground. “Maybe there are other ways we can manage the systems and enhance that capacity in the soil,” she said.
The study has required a lot of ‘getting to know you’, as the researchers first sought to identify each type of fungi involved in the process of carbon sequestration. As plant parts above ground are faced with absorbing and converting larger and larger amounts of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere into sugars, and sending it down into their roots, the more beneficial it will be to have a healthy suite of fungi waiting to receive it, use it, and move it along for future long-term storage.
Part of this equation has been to understand which fungi benefit from the increasing supply of sugar. Previous work by Egerton-Warburton has shown that mycorrhizal fungi respond to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide by producing large quantities of hyphae, a fine root-like structure, in the soil. This is because increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide allow a plant to produce more sugars during photosynthesis, and these sugars are shunted below ground for use by roots and their mycorrhizal fungi. At the other end of the equation are saprophytic and decomposer fungi, waiting to break down the new hyphae.
Recent work in the Dixon Prairie has used the high throughput sequencing and chemical fingerprinting to identify the fungi involved in this decomposition phase. Once that is resolved, they will be able to better understand how the fungi interact and balance the cycle carbon through specific pathways of activity.
The more the merrier, when it comes to fungi, and when it comes to people who are willing to help them endure, said Egerton-Warburton. The scientist often works with students who are interested in careers in the field, but encourages additional people to consider this critical line of work. “There’s a real need for soil ecologists in the country,” she said.
The good news is that the future story of fungi is one we can all help to script. Gardeners, she advised, can pay attention to the type of mulch they use in their garden, and plant lots of native species that will naturally enrich the function of that wonderful world that holds us up.
©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org
On our way out of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge a few weeks back, we spent a good ten minutes talking to a couple of women from the Midwest and Oregon who happened to be traveling around the country with their husbands after having sold their homes. We had a nice chat about conservation and restoration, and how the two of them had been academics.
We parted ways, at which point we came across another interesting character: a man who claimed to be working for the National Audubon Society taking photos of wildlife, namely birds, in the salt marshes. He said he had been a Marine Biologist and stressed the importance of having a wide skill set. His had helped him stay afloat – there wasn’t always a lot of money in Marine Biology, and having photography as a hobby paid off during the lulls in his main career.
He spoke to us about a trip he took with his wife during the summer in which they encountered a family that claimed to have fields and fields of Ginseng, which for any of you that are familiar with the plant know that it sells for a lot money. Apparently a lot of people in the mountains of NC (and probably elsewhere) make such claims to impress their friends, so take the story as you will.
Anyway, once we left his company we headed back to our car to stow our seeds and press our herbarium specimens. While getting everything packed up, one of the women we spoke to earlier came up to us and exclaimed, “have you two heard about the whale”? We obviously didn’t know what she was talking about since we had been in an interdune marsh all afternoon, so we asked what she meant. A whale had washed ashore and she and her friend went to see it, as there were many people stopping on the side of the road, pulling out their cameras, and hiking the dunes to gawk.
We assumed it was probably still alive, and maybe there would be a need for our new Marine Biologist friend to have a look at it and contact the necessary authorities to help it back into the ocean, if that’s what it needed. Much to our dismay, the whale was dead. Very dead. Like d-e-a-d dead. It must’ve been sitting there on the shore for well over a week, rotting in the sun and being eaten, inside and out, by who knows what.
The smell was awful, for one thing, and the sight of it was pretty bad too. For those of you that have smelled a dead animal before, but are not quite sure what a dead whale might smell like, imagine this: take a dead deer, for example, maybe roadkill. Stuff the body with all the seaweed you can find, throw a few fish in there for good measure, then let the corpse do its thing on the side of the road for a while in the heat. That’s about what this whale smelled like.
Once we got over the smell, we took a good look at this thing. The skin was mottled and stretched, full of holes like a balloon that’s been blown up too far and is wearing thinner and thinner. The entire back end was gone. The tail and what seemed like half the distance from the tail to the dorsal fins had been torn off. We’re not sure if it was a someone or a something that took it, but it made for an interesting view of the vertebrae. The head was mostly eaten away, but the big wide tongue remained.
Neither one of us knows a whole lot about whales, so maybe someone else can enlighten us on what type of whale it was. I’ll include one picture for that purpose, and I’ll spare the ones of the rotting flesh dripping from the skeleton.
We see a lot of interesting things on our travels. Maybe one of these days we’ll get to see a live whale!
Looking at posts from the other interns, I’m as surprised as they are how fast my internship has gone by. It seems like just last week I was driving out to California, stepping out of my car believing I was in the Mojave Desert and abruptly realizing I had moved to the surface of the sun. Overwhelmed by my new surroundings and immediately missing hills, trees, and water. Thankfully things have cooled off since then, I’ve been many unique places that most people never get a chance to see, and I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty the desert can offer. I’ve formed many valuable relationships in the office and truly appreciate the people that I’ve spent time with. As with everywhere else I have worked and gone to school, it’s the people that make a place feel more like home.
Since my last post, we’ve continued our rangeland surveys. We’ve also performed a few Proper Functioning Condition surveys with the help of a botanist who recently retired from the field office. He worked here in Ridgecrest for almost 40 years–he’s such an interesting person to talk to and is an immense bank of knowledge. He knows the field office like the back of his hand and can point at just about any mountain and tell you the last time he hiked it and what populations of rare plants are found there. He’s also very well-versed in geology and hydrology, and knows all about how the features in the field office formed. I wish I could listen to him tell stories about the mountains here all day.
We’ve moved out of the northern portion of the field office and into a new allotment in the southern portion, and it’s been great getting to explore new areas. We’ve gotten to go through the Walker Pass area and have been spending many days up around Kelso Valley. The Starks would say, “Winter is Coming,” but they’d be wrong, because it’s here–I’m regretting not packing more winter clothes but that was the last thing on my mind in July! Apparently they don’t get much snow here in the valley, but some of the higher elevation areas have been turning white. Hopefully the weather holds out for one more week until I go home for Christmas.
Some final-internship-month highlights in photographic form:
The New England Seeds of Success 2015 season has now come to an end and it’s time to reflect on what we were able to accomplish. Each of us on the team has learned so much about the local environment, native taxa and not the least of which, how to describe the Seeds of Success program.
Throughout the past season our team has traveled throughout New England collecting seeds for restoration projects that ranged from establishing salt marsh plants in the face of rising sea levels to proving seeds to help stabilize river banks after removing dams. The common theme between all of these species, regardless of state or habitat, are that these species are the building blocks for each plant community.
It is these common and often under appreciated species that create and define each habitat. By collecting and storing these familiar species we are able to provide locally sourced native plant seeds to conservation efforts in the future. Although it sounds more glamorous to work with rare and endangered species, it is crucial that we also work on the commonplace species, because they provide the structure to support everything else.
For one December session of our Plant Explorers after school program at Chicago International Charter School—Irving Park, the students made living ornaments for the holidays.
This tiny terrarium project can have a calming influence on a potentially hectic holiday, because green and growing plants make us feel more relaxed. It requires you to find some live moss, but it makes an extra special decoration for kids—and adults—who love plants.
To make your own “moss-some” terrarium ornament you will need:
- 3-inch or larger plastic sphere ornament that splits into two halves (available at craft stores)
- Live moss that you find growing in a shady place in your yard (or you can buy it from a garden store that sells terrarium supplies)
- Activated charcoal (sold in garden and aquarium stores)
- About 12 inches of decorative ribbon
- Any miniature item you want to add for whimsy (optional)
Separate the halves of the DIY ornament. If your ornament is like mine, it has little “loops” for attaching a hook at the top. Start by tying a 12-inch piece of ribbon to each half of the ornament through the loops.
In one half of the ornament, add about a teaspoon of activated charcoal. Fill the rest of that ornament half with very wet soil to about a half inch below the top.
Place the moss on top and gently press it into the soil. If you like, add a miniature object to add a little whimsy. Craft stores have lots of miniature objects that would look good in this ornament. We chose these woodcut reindeer to look like the animals were walking through a forest. And there were enough in the pack for all 15 students to get one. Use whatever you like!
If you have a spray bottle with water handy, it helps to give the moss leaves a gentle misting before closing the ornament.
Place the other half of the ornament on top, but instead of lining up the two loops, put them at opposite ends so that you can hang the ornament ball sideways and not disturb the arrangement. You can tape the two halves together with clear tape if you are concerned about them coming apart. I suggest only taping the sides near the loops rather than wrapping it all the way around so the tape is less obvious and you can open the ornament later if you want to.
The moss just needs light from your home to survive through the holidays. Moisture will evaporate from the soil and will collect on the insides of the ornament. It will roll back down to keep the moss watered indefinitely.
Now you’re wondering if (and how) the moss will survive. I have your answers: read on.
Some Facts About Moss
Mosses are simple plants that scientists classify as bryophytes.
What you see as a clump of velvety green carpet is actually hundreds of tiny individual moss plants clumped together. Botanists refer to these as gametophytes.
Mosses do not have true roots. They have rhizomes that anchor the plant to the soil and send up buds for new individual moss plants, but the rhizomes do not transport water like true roots. Mosses absorb water, nutrients, and carbon dioxide through their leaves.
The rhizomes are fine and grow at the surface of wherever they are planted, so they do not require deep soil. As a result, moss can grow in any porous surface, like tree bark or a stone (but maybe not on a rolling stone!). So moss can thrive in the small amount of soil in your ornament. The moisture sealed inside the globe will keep the air humid and supply the leaves with water.
Mosses also do not flower or make seeds. They produce tiny spores that are difficult to see without magnification. The spores are carried by wind until they fall, and there they wait for the right conditions to grow into new moss plants.
If your moss dries up or becomes dormant, do not despair! You can bring it back to life by soaking the dry clump in water and keeping it moist. This will reinvigorate the dormant moss and activate spores that are lying hidden in the dry moss, enabling them to grow into new moss.
©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org
Sorry for the delay. I have been traveling quiet a bit these past few weeks. I am still in shock as to how fast my internship went. During my last few days I helped BOR with the A Canal forebay salvage. BOR funneled the fish (via a seine) towards the fish screen and hoisted them up in large fish bins.
We sorted through thousands of fish looking for any suckers. The suckers were then processed by USGS. They took fin clips, measurements, and PIT tagged all suckers. Nearly 700 were salvaged this year, while last year had counts of 130. The suckers were relocated to a nearby spring-fed inlet of Upper Klamath Lake.
We went electrofishing for Klamath sucker genetic samples one last time with Josh and Nolan near the Klamath Marsh Refuge. On my last day, I helped Julie install the cover for the greenhouse at Gone Fishing.
This internship surpassed every expectation I had. I feel so fortunate to have worked with so many passionate and inspiring people. Josh is an amazing mentor. He has great life lessons and even better stories. I gained a multitude of skills in such a short time. The Motorboat Operations Certification Course (MOCC) was extremely helpful. I had no experience with trailer backing or boating prior to this internship. Now I feel very confident performing both. It was rewarding to work on Upper Klamath Lake for most of the summer. I really enjoyed being a part of the collaborative efforts that Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife Service has with other agencies. It was inspirational to see and hear about ongoing conservation efforts throughout the basin. One of the many highlights from my internship was seeing the suckers we raised school together as we released them. I’m glad that my roommates and I had the opportunities to explore the beautiful state of Oregon. I LOVE the Pacific Northwest and will definitely be back.
50+ hours, 2,950 miles, and countless stops later, Finn (my awesome dog) and I made it to our final destination of Chicago, IL. First, I had to travel to Lake Havasu, AZ to pick up a few things of mine. Next, I stopped in Las Vegas, NV to visit family. I had a great time there.
We went to Red Rocks Canyon National Conservation Area. The history, geology, wildlife, and recreation (so many rock climbers) of Red Rock Canyon are fascinating. I love the fact that this area is located about 20 miles from the strip. I also went to my first Cirque du Soleil, Mystère. It was spectacular. After visiting family, I cruised over to visit friends in Colorado. It was nice to catch up with them. I have been in IL for a few days now. I was fortunate to be offered a seasonal job at UPS until I find something in my field. My experience with CLM internship and KFFWO has been amazing!
Thanks for reading,
On the road near Independence Rock (WY).
It’s been just over a month now since I left Burns, Oregon. Sometimes one needs time and separation to get a proper perspective on past experiences, so it may be that my impression of Burns will change with time. Regardless, as I look back, there are a few key things that I think will be important for me going forward.
1) People. This is probably the go-to answer to the question of what is most important out of any experience. But I don’t think that makes it too cliche. It was easy to connect with my 3 fellow interns, especially since we were all the same age, worked and lived in the same place, hailed from generally suburban areas, and had all just graduated from college. It was sometimes harder to connect with people at work who were mostly older than me, disagreed with most of my political views, shared a much more rural background, and mostly disliked visiting cities let alone living near them. However, when you spend 10 hour days in a pickup truck in the hot, dry sagebrush with someone, there is plenty of time to talk about and get over differences. And I think that, for me, coming from a bastion of urban liberalism, it was vitally important to hear a different side of the story.
2) Systems. For an ecologist like myself, each new place is a new system, with similarities and differences to other systems. This was the third major system in which I have had the privilege to do fieldwork, and it spreads my understanding over a larger swath of the country. To the eastern coastal ecosystems and the Missouri forests and glades, I can add the vast sagebrush steppe system to my list. In a way, its fire suppression problem is similar to the problem of juniper encroachment in Missouri glades, however its current problems surrounding wildfire and invasive species are unlike any I have seen before.
The sagebrush steppe
3) Land. This internship gave me the chance to drive cross country twice- once from St. Louis, MO to Burns, OR and once from Burns, OR to Lexington, MA. These two trips took me through at least 17 different states, and my travels during the internship took me to two more; 5 were states I had never been to before. In all, the two cross country trips plus the internship allowed me to visit (if I’m not forgetting any) 6 national parks, 4 national monuments, 2 national historic parks, and many national forests, wilderness areas, BLM lands, and scenic areas. The amount of federally owned land in the US is enormous, far more than I realized at the beginning of the internship. The opportunity to see so much of it up close and in person was more than most people get. I can’t help but hope to spend more time traveling the country in the future.
The moon at sunset, Crater Lake National Park
So that’s it in a nutshell, whatever that means, but of course it was so much more… I hope some of the people I met in Burns enjoyed meeting a few outsiders, and perhaps learned something from conversing with someone so different from themselves.
This is it, my CLM internship has come to an end. I am so thankful that I had this opportunity straight out of school, and that I have the opportunity to return for another season of greatness. Both my internships, one in NM and one in OR, made me a much stronger and more confident botanist. I worked with great people and explored incredible places. I soaked in local knowledge of culture, food, and ecology. I got to do work that was meaningful and important, and that I felt proud of. I really improved my skills in fieldwork and gained an understanding of how federal land management agencies work. I’ve just signed up to do a term with Americorps, but after that I intend to continue a job search with USFS or NPS. I can prove on my resume that I have experience driving 4-wheel drive through sand, mud, and even over rocks :)… and I can tell you if the flower receptacle was chaffy or not, in a raceme or a panicle. I can’t believe I got paid to do all of these wonderful things that I loved, in places that I loved. Deciding to be a CLM intern is honestly one of the best choices I have ever made. I am grateful to the moon and back for this experience and will remember my time in this internship for all my years. To Krissa, Rebecca, the rest of the folks at CBG that make this possible, my mentors Sheila and Kristin, friends met along the way, THANK YOU, from the bottom of my CLM intern heart.
After an entire summer of plant monitoring it was a nice change of pace to help with a post-burn native seeding project on two BLM sites. When I was sprinkling the seed that I mixed while working at the “Seed Castle, I realized that this internship has allowed me to come full circle. Last spring and summer I spent my time quantifying the percent cover of native prairie species, then I learned to make seed mixes, and finally I got to spread seed on the ground for the next intern to quantify.
It took Christine and I 4 full days to seed nearly 40 acres of wetland prairie by hand. We would each carry two 5-gallon buckets filled with seeds and a corn husk filler material and try to distribute the seeds as evenly as possible. To keep track of where we had already been we worked in transects marked by pin-flags.
These two sites were both intentionally burned earlier in the fall. The reason behind controlled burning in this prairie system is to decrease encroachment from weedy grasses and small trees and shrubs. These ecosystems are utterly dependent on fire to maintain their open structure and the BLM and other agencies in the Willamette Valley use fire as a tool for restoration. Seeding after a burn gives native seeds a better chance of out-competing woody and invasive species.
As you can see, the recently burned soil surface produces a great environment for the germination of seeds and is also home to a variety of fungi. The bunchgrasses and carex species that grow in the prairies have adapted to frequent fire (a product of Native American management for thousands of years).
At the end of the day I got a dose of what I imagine the rest of you working in rangeland habitats encounter all the time.. cows! In the Willamette Valley there are very few public lands that still facilitate grazing and this herd of cows probably escaped from an adjacent private landowner’s property.
This was the first time I came in contact with cattle while doing restoration. My feelings about grazing-induced ecological collapse aside, being in the presence of these animals spawned a few unexpected realizations on my part. First, cows (especially with young calves nearby) are stubborn and kind of scary. I was especially concerned for my safety when I realized the sheer irony of a 12-year vegan being mauled by a meat cow while doing habitat restoration. Second, cows will eat native seeds right out of your wheelbarrow while your back is turned third, if you leave a five-gallon bucket unattended, cows will try to put their entire head inside, and finally, cows do not seem to understand my sarcasm when I refer to them as restorationist job security.
It’s the last day of my CLM Botany Internship with the Groveland Ranger District, and time has flown by. It’s been a pleasure to spend the past 5 1/2 months working on the Stanislaus National Forest.
I arrived in Groveland at the tail end of the field season and jumped on board with an awesome all-lady botany crew. My coworkers were extraordinary mentors for me- helping me get into the groove of field work in a new environment and showing me what the job entailed in terms of day to day tasks. I performed noxious weed and sensitive plant surveys for a number of projects in the Groveland Ranger District and have had the opportunity to foster many new skills.
Seeing as I began my position here long after a majority of the plants we were surveying for were fully senescent, I’ve become somewhat of a master at what I have deemed “forensic botany”. One of my goals coming into this job was to become more competent working with GIS software, and the last few months have provided ample learning opportunities. I have become well acquainted with the flora on Staunislaus National Forest, and have been able to partake in many adventures both on and off of the job.
The following photos are some highlights:
The following photos are from stochastic adventures I’ve been able to go off on during my weekends. Such fun!
Thank you to CLM and the Groveland Botany Crew for a great field season!
It is hard to believe that 5 months can pass so quickly. I came into this internship with high expectations, and yet this program managed to exceed those expectations! I have learned so much in ways I did not anticipate. I am very grateful for the experience working within the Bureau of Land Management. It was a great introduction for what to expect with a career in a government agency.
I have moved away from home before, but I always had a friend making the transition with me. For the first time in my life, I moved to a place where I knew absolutely no one. Yes it was scary, but it was a wonderful learning experience and an opportunity to grow as an individual. Throughout my time in Susanville I met so many wonderful people, and I am sad to say goodbye.
The West has really stolen my heart. From the mountains to the coast, I love it all.
My next goal is to work in a National Park. If anyone knows of any good opportunities, please let me know!