Another Month, Another Post

With about a month left to go, I have started to reflect on all that has happened since I made the move to come out here. I’ll save those reflections for my last post though.

The past month has consisted of office work for the most part. I’m getting (slightly) better at finding and mapping fences on GIS, which has been the main project these days. I’m grateful that Google Earth exists for the times the map layer on GIS isn’t ideal. When I’m not fence mapping, it seems like the office is a-buzz with someone’s birthday or a going-away gathering. I’ve come to enjoy the atmosphere in this field office. Everyone I have talked to has been extremely friendly and willing to help if I ask them a question.

The few times I have been able to get out of the office were to finish weeding the last plot up at Welch (wooooo!) and to help my mentor with the (re)installation of a gate at a frustrating fence site. It’s safe to say that that was my first time installing a gate of any kind and while it wasn’t rocket science, it did require some thought, measurements, and re-adjustments (as well as some girl muscle!). The gate day also reminded me that unfortunately, people can be really disappointing. Our gate-duty doubled as a chance for my mentor to look at and address some issues she had with a contractor who was supposed to put in a new fence around some BLM property. To make a long story short, the contractors did a horrendous job, tried to hide a huge pile of garbage, and were super rude (in my opinion) when my mentor was speaking to them. Their behavior reminded me of some unsavory customers I often had to deal with when I was working as a barista. Needless to say, I was impressed at how she handled the situation, as sometimes it is hard to maintain your cool when these things happen.

Gate installation complete!

Gate installation complete!

Not much else to report except that I am taking full advantage of this unseasonably warm weather to squeeze in some hikes before some serious snow falls on the Bighorns.

Until Next Time,

Corinne Schroeder
Buffalo, Wyoming BLM Field Office

Inspirational mugs

Hey guys,

Wow. Last blog post. This isn’t real, right? Thanksgiving is in two weeks. I will have moved to NC 5 1/2 months ago. THAT’S ALMOST HALF A YEAR. Half a year I’ve been here, working with Seeds of Success at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Half a year of traveling through Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, browsing through the flora and scouting out seed. Half a year of learning about new plants and new people. Half a year of long drives and long hours… but now, it seems so short.What a great half a year!

I’ve always considered myself as someone who is okay with moving away and okay with change. And I am… to an extent. Honestly, on a more personal note, a huge thing I learned from this opportunity is that change is good, yes, but a LOT of change at one time may be a bit overwhelming! In six months, I graduated college, moved out of state where I knew no one (living with roommates I did not know), started a 40 hours/week job (internship), have visited 60+ national wildlife refuges and state parks, have visited 3 states I had never been to, and learned about 100+ plants of which I had no previous knowledge (coastal). Luckily, I had a pretty great group of people to go through all of this with, as well as a good support group back home. It was a great experience – one I would recommend to anyone. It teaches you a lot, not only about technical things – like how to assess a population size or how to properly care for seeds after collection – but also what you are made of. You learn how you handle certain situations, like being farther away from home, or putting effort into making new friends. Sometimes it was hard! I would miss the mountains or my friends and family. I’ve been home more times living 7 hours away than I would go home an entire semester when I was in school (an hour and a half from home). This internship has taught me a lot about the field I would love to dive into as a career but also about how much I’m willing to change for that kind of opportunity.

Making a seed shipment! Confusing stuff! (even when you make an excel file - ha!)

Making a seed shipment! Confusing stuff! (even when you make an excel file – ha!)

Cenchrus tribuloides - sandbur! Ouch.

Cenchrus tribuloides – sandbur! Ouch.

Chamaecyparis thyoides - Atlantic white cedar. Looks like we have a lot of money, right? :) This stuff smells like CHRISTMAS!

Chamaecyparis thyoides – Atlantic white cedar. Looks like we have a lot of money, right? 🙂 This stuff smells like CHRISTMAS!

This is Audubon Pine Island Sanctuary & Center in the outer banks. It MIGHT be haunted, but it's lovely.

This is Audubon Pine Island Sanctuary & Center in the outer banks. It MIGHT be haunted, but it’s lovely.

I've never studied mycology, but this fella was found in the dunes, and the inside was purple.

I’ve never studied mycology, but this fella was found in the dunes, and the inside was purple.

Bright colored Liquidambar styriciflua - sweetgum in Maryland!

Bright colored Liquidambar styriciflua – sweetgum in Maryland!

Little baby plant embryo :)

Little baby plant embryo :)

A beautiful sunset while collecting Solidago sempervirens - seaside goldenrod.

A beautiful sunset while collecting Solidago sempervirens – seaside goldenrod.

20161102_180149 20161102_181653 20161104_101133

All of the paper bags and trays were filled with plants/seeds from a week of collection!

All of the paper bags and trays were filled with plants/seeds from a week of collection!

Beautiful color from Ilex glabra - inkberry. My hands are still stained from cleaning this :)

Beautiful color from Ilex glabra – inkberry. My hands are still stained from cleaning this :)

All in all, this was truly a great experience. I learned so so much, and I met some really great people along the way. It doesn’t feel like it should be ending just yet. But, I will say that I’m ready to spend the holiday season with my friends and family back home:)

To anyone reading this who may be thinking about taking a CLM internship – do it. It’s an amazing opportunity to learn and grow as a person and a conservation worker. Don’t let anything I’ve said scare you. It’s GOOD to put yourself out there and discover what you are made of and what you hold dear to your heart. You will meet like minded people who want the same things as you! That’s special. Plus, the change is exciting! You won’t regret it.

Good luck to everyone with their future endeavors!

Melanie

My Time in Casper, Wyoming.

I cannot believe this internship is over. I am going to miss the friends and people that I met on this journey in Wyoming. Everyone here was welcoming and caring toward me and I am sad to leave this place.

While I was here I have been able to take part in so many wonderful things through work and on weekends. Work has made me realize that I have chosen the right career path. I cannot wait for what the future holds. I have been able to help out different resource departments within the Bureau of Land Management. Other than working with the Wildlife Biologists in Casper I have also worked with the Range Land Health staff, the Forester, the Archaeologists, and RMG staff. This job has given me so many experiences.

While out west I have been able to visit so many National Parks that I otherwise would not have been able to see from New Jersey. These beautiful places hold such a huge place in my heart.

South Bighorn

Hike through the South Bighorns

Hanging out in the Tetons

Grand Teton National Park

Watching the sunset over the Grand Teton Mountains

Hovenweep National Monument

Watching the sunrise from my tent in Hovenweep National Monument

Valley of the Gods

Driving through the Valley of the Gods

I cannot wait to start my trek back to the East Coast, but Wyoming will stay a large part in my life and I hope to get a career our West so I can come back to this amazing place.

My Final Month in Casper

My last month working for the BLM in Casper, WY has been very busy and productive.  There has certainly been less field work, but the small amount that I have done has been important and rewarding.  I helped prepare a five-acre section of land for native sagebrush planting and restoration; I also performed wildlife surveys for proposed forestry projects and evaluated areas for prescribed burns and herbicide treatments.  These projects allowed me to become involved with the decision making process that occurs before any large conservation action initiated by the BLM.

Most of my time was spent preparing a report on all cheatgrass herbicide treatments and the vegetation monitoring that has been done to evaluate the ecosystem’s response to these treatments.  This project required me to create maps of specific grazing allotments with layers displaying the areas and years of cheatgrass treatments, along with the locations of every permanent vegetation monitoring transects.  I then used the Access database to summarize cheatgrass percent cover from any monitoring transect located within the treatment areas.  At that point I could use R to visualize the behavior of cheatgrass cover before and after the treatments.  I submitted the report to my mentor and it has been adopted by resources as the living document at the field office to track all cheatgrass treatments and results.  It was a very rewarding project and it allowed me to hone and develop skills gained both from working with the BLM and my education.

Looking back, I believe that this CLM internship has been one of the most productive and career defining experiences of my life so far.  I was able to get a comprehensive view of the workings of a BLM field office and gain hands-on work experience as a wildlife biologist, botanist, and many other valuable disciplines within the conservation field.  I leave the BLM feeling very confident that I chose the correct career path, and would happily work for the BLM full time.

One of the most valuable things I take away from this internship is a much more complete understanding of regulatory actions (such as NEPA, ESA, BGEPA, etc.) and how they influence human development, conservation actions, and management of public land.  The BLMs mission to manage land for “multiple-use” often means reviewing development plans and taking action to mitigate ecological damage.  This idea may take some getting used to for the traditional conservationists among us, but after experiencing the process first hand, it is a very rewarding and ecologically beneficial practice.  It was also refreshing and encouraging to find that land management professionals of many different beliefs and personal philosophies find public land conservation to be important and worthwhile.

In addition to affirming my drive to work in conservation and land management, this internship also gave me the skills needed to be successful in that profession.  I was able to dip my toes into an incredible variety of management disciplines, from wildlife and archaeology to inspecting coal mines.  I received on-the-job training in activities from GPS devices, to plant ID, to GIS analysis, to skid steer operation, to many other valuable skills.  I feel significantly more confident in my professional abilities and in applying to career positions.  Ultimately, this internship has provided me with an amazing foundation on which to build my career as a conservation professional, and I would recommend this experience to anyone thinking about pursuing a career in conservation.

Lander, WY

Though the weather in Lander, Wyoming has remained warm and sunny, unusual for early November, many other aspects of life here have changed; Hunting season has mostly wrapped up, all of the leaves have fallen, Halloween costumes came and went, seasonal shops have closed their blinds. Though my internship won’t finish until the end of November, many of the other seasonal workers in the Lander Bureau of Land Management Field Office have packed up and left. While some nights are a little quiet, I’ve been able to spend time with friends from town, taking pottery classes, playing trivia, going hiking and whittling down my reading list. It was great to have out-of-town visitors as I showed them the life I’ve established here and educated them on the amazing system of public lands in this country.

My work life has also changed these past weeks. The amount of fieldwork necessary for my rangeland monitoring position diminished very quickly as the grazing period concluded. With our final stubble height measurements complete, we patrolled for lost or forgotten cows hiding in ravines or beyond nolls. With the cows deemed gone, I helped other range specialists cross off fieldwork on their to-do list. I went out in the field for two days to work with out-of-office remote sensing and rangeland specialists to assist on a long-term monitoring project of theirs. They have been collecting soil temperature and production data on six sites, each with a grazed and un-grazed treatment section, to assess the effects of grazing on water retention capabilities. The working hypothesis, in essence, is that an un-grazed area will remain frozen longer into the spring, thus melting and retaining moisture later into the spring. I helped by clipping vegetation within the grazed and un-grazed plots at each site, and drying and weighing the clippings. I visited, and helped restore, a site where a long-term experiment is being conducted; they are analyzing the effects of faux beaver damns on the water retention abilities on grazed and un-grazed areas. The scientists hypothesized that a faux beaver damn, in flooding the creek, would return the area to a bog, increasing the water retention capability of the area.

sagebrush-9

Frost on sage brush on a particularly cool morning

Three of the other projects I helped out with in the field were: fixing a fence around a pasture in order to ensure the removal of livestock and wild horses before a prescribed burn (which I’ll hopefully watch!), seeding native seeds as part of a post-burn rehabilitation project with the fire crew, and seeding native seeds and planting sagebrush seedlings to help the botanist and archeologists restore a petroglyph site. In the office I’ve been assisting the remote sensing specialist in the categorization of vegetation type in images along transects. I’ve assisted the GIS specialist with digitizing range improvement projects, and edited NEPA documents. I went to a local school to help present on the BLM to 4th graders (4th graders in the parks) and 8th graders (a geological hazard presentation). Definitely one of the best parts of the internship has been working with, assisting, and learning from a large range of specialists!

At work planting sage brush seedlings at the Castle Gardens petroglyph site.

At work planting sage brush seedlings at the Castle Gardens petroglyph site.

As my personal and work lives have shifted, and will continue to shift, so has the political environment. With every political transition in Washington D.C., though this one may be more significant than others, there is a transition in the BLM. While it is impossible to predict how these changes will be felt across the country and the DOI, we need to advocate for our public lands. Though I barely knew anything about the vast system six months ago, I now feel that they are one of the United States’ largest assets. In the wake of the Malheur trial and the election it is imperative to protect and work for our public lands!

Bureau of Land Management

Lander Field Office

Lander, Wyoming

Final Thoughts

You don’t know what you don’t know- has pretty much been the motto of the summer. The amount of knowledge, both botanical and general, this summer has just been incredible. To illustrate this I have a pretty funny story from the beginning of the summer…..

It was during the second week of our internship, and it was me and my partner’s first day out in the field alone. We were doing some rare plant monitoring and we were working off of directions from a map, well neither of us had done any work like this before and working in the west was a completely new experience for us both.

Well we were coming up to one of the populations and we were driving up a dirt road, and all of a sudden right in the middle of the road was a fence. We had no idea what to do. We got out of the truck and looked at the fence and we were just shocked. How could someone just fence right across the road? It was crazy.

So we got back in the truck and drove back to the office ready to tell our mentor about this ridiculous fence that prevented us from getting to the rare plants.

When we retold this to our mentor she began to laugh and laugh, and we were so confused because how was a fence funny? I mean it was right in the middle of the road, blocking us from where we needed to go! When she finally calmed down, she told us it was a gate and all we had to do was open.

Needless to say we spent the next day going out with our mentor opening and closing different types of gates. But you simply don’t know what you don’t know! Looking back on this memory is easily one of the funniest memories from the summer, and really shows how much we learn.

Cheers to the rest of the interns still left out there!

Sierra Sampson

Salmon ID BLM

The CLM Intern’s Fall Odyssey

CLM: R&R (Research and Relaxation)

Hello everyone!! Sorry for the lack of blog posts lately! I have been ultra-busy with work and traveling!! I have been giving presentations on my cheatgrass project to Buffalo BLM office staff and officials from outside organizations. There were many small projects I was able to work on during the Fall time. I had NISIMS and a vectorization project to do during the slower days of October and November. Another major work project was to help out the BLM Recreation Department with middle and high school education field days! After all of the major work tasks, I used my comp time to go on two vacations. The first vacation was a week in the Grand Tetons and the other vacation was in New Mexico! The rest of the blog would be dedicated to the following subjects! Brace yourselves!!

Vectorization of Ecosites
This was a busy project for the late Fall era of my internship! I received an old map of ecosites in our area. My goal was to vectorize and digitize the map for future use. The scanned raster map was given to me at the beginning of the project. I was supposed to draw polygons around each of the ecosites. After tracing the polygons around each ecosite, I assigned attribute values to the traced polygons. The scanned maps had range types and capacities written in purple. I transferred that information to the attribute table of the polygons. This project was pretty straight forward, but had many challenges. The scanned map had many holes and missing text. I had to view the original ecosite map and fill in the blanks.

Step 1

Map 1

Scanned map/ raster

Step 2

Map 2

Develop polygons by tracing the lines of the scanned map.

Step 3

Map 3

Create polygons with attribute values based on the Ecosite Numbering System on the Scanned map.

For the Sake of NISIMS

Another side project I have been working on was NISIMS at Welch Recreation Area. Corrine, Nick, and myself have been going to Welch Recreation Area to look for invasive plants. Luckily, we only encountered a few bad invasive plants like houndstongue (Cynoglossum officinale) and bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare). Smooth brome (Bromus inermis) was literally everywhere in this area, but this grass was not really bad and was planted with the alfalfa (Medicago sativa) apparently by the landowner. I did encounter reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) along some of the smaller tributaries of the Tongue River. A new plant that I encountered here was European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)! (Bum bummm BUUUUUMM!!!) Yes, apparently this bad invasive shrub that could be found in the understory of Chicago along highways has been found here in Wyoming! I noticed a large patch near the parking area, but apparently, this shrub was not in the Wyoming NISIMS database, so I developed my own shapefile and attribute data and gave it to BLM Legend Dusty to deal with in the future. There were only twelve plants, and only four of those were seeding. Dusty told us to look for whitetop (Lepidium/Cardaria  draba) and Dalmatian toadflax (Linaria dalmatica), which could be found in the western sector of the recreation area. I think we will not be able to make it to the western section this internship…so there will be work for the next intern! Some plants I did notice were field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), common mullein (Verbascum thapsus), and common tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) growing along the river. Thankfully, we did not encounter any really bad plants.

This is a map of Welch Recreation Area! The starting points represent where we would begin each of our NISIMS routes.

This is a map of Welch Recreation Area! The starting points represent where we would begin each of our NISIMS routes. Each route is spaced out in 50 meter increments.

Showtime!!

The final stage of my cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) project was near completion! After developing large cheatgrass density maps for the field office, I was supposed to present my results of the project. The main goal was to show what I did and how the results could benefit the BLM staff. This was supposed to be a forty-five minute presentation to the Resources and NRS Divisions of our office. People from the County Weed Office and University of Wyoming Employees were welcome to attend as well. The presentation was focused on methodology and results in case other people wanted to use this project for their own field office. My first presentation was in October. Unfortunately, the presentation date fell on hunting season, so some of the BLM employees were not able to come. On November 10th, I would have the rest of the employees attend if they were not able to make it to the first presentation.

The first presentation went great! I was able to talk about the overall layout of the project, the methodology, the calculations, the results, and future applications. The presentation had to be simple, because people from the outside community may not know about raster calculations or supervised classification. Many of the employees were excited over the results and the overall meeting lasted an hour and twenty minutes. The Resources and Fire Planning Divisions at work were especially happy about the outcome.
Soon, the raster data along with the vector cheatgrass density layer would be available for everyone in the office to use. This data would help with NEPA documents, future spraying projects, and fire planning.

There was a major issue I did encounter while working on this cheatgrass density project for the BLM…. I was called and emailed a multitude of times by the State Office or the NOC in Denver, Colorado. You may be asking, why I got all of these calls or messages. Apparently, this GIS project took up a large amount of bandwidth and data from the state servers. Many Computer IT people were baffled at first and were always asking what I am up to.  I guess I was taking up the most amount of bandwidth in the BLM agency working on this project. Terabytes of data and hours of processing was pretty taxing to the system. I had a few conference calls and had to show them all of the data I produced. This project was able to help prepare National Internet servers and IT people in terms of planning for future projects. It was an interesting experience overall talking with the NOC! ^_^;;;

Bromus tectorum, keepin' it real in America since 1861. Fun Fact: Chukar and grey partridge actually feed on the seed in the Spring time!

Bromus tectorum Infestation. Fun Fact: Chukar (Alectoris chukar) and grey partridge (Perdix perdix) actually feed on the seed in the Spring time!

Educating the Masses: The Field’s A Stage

Towards the end of September, I volunteered to help out the BLM Recreation Department with educating middle and high school students! The first two days involved educating the high school students. Large groups from Sheridan High School came to learn about Nature in a park near the Montana border! During the mornings, I was in charge of bug collection and identification. The BLM and Forest Service would cycle through eight groups of twelve students and give a lecture at each station. Whenever the students came to my station, I would give the students jars and nets and have them run out into the field and capture insects. Towards the end, I would call them in and discuss about the Insect Orders everyone encountered. I was very enthusiastic with the students. Many of them did not like insects or the colder weather. By the end of each group, all the students were really excited about capturing insects. When they were out in the field collecting, I would run up to each group and look in their bugs nets. Most of the time people caught various grasshoppers (Orthoptera), bees (Hymenoptera), and leafhoppers (Hemiptera). The more unique insects were temporarily put in a jar for the students to look at. Some students found mantids (Mantodea), large spiders (Araneae), gall wasps (Hymenoptera), and moths (Lepidoptera), which was always a treat to see! One of my favorite things to do would be to run up to someone that was hardly trying to capture insects in the net and congratulate them on the successful capture of various insects. They would say, “I did not capture anything…” Then I showed them their net full of small insects and leafhoppers. They become slightly motivated and begin to capture various insects.

Different insects that were found on the field days.

Different insects that were found on the field days. Upper Left: Tiger beetle (Family: Carabidae), Upper Right: Moth (Order: Lepidoptera), Bottom Left: Pregnant Praying Mantis (Order: Mantodea), Bottom Right: Salmonfly Nypmh (Family: Pteronarcyidae)

In the afternoon, we would take the students to Welch Recreation Area. Each group would talk about what the BLM does for work! Damen and I were in charge of showing the high schoolers what we do for vegetation monitoring. This was a slightly dry subject and the kids loved to hop back and forth along the transect even after we instructed them how to properly monitor for plants. I established two small transects and groups of two people would walk along the transect and record the plant and ground cover. It would take around fifteen minutes for the students to look at ten points. (It would take me under two minutes to do the same thing.) After everyone collected their data, Damen would lecture the students on calculating groundcover and talk to them about the importance of vegetation monitoring on public lands. Overall, the high school education experience was amazing and I was fortunate enough to do this twice!!

Damen giving a lecture about the importance of public lands to the students!

Damen giving a lecture about the importance of public lands to the students!

The last day, we got to go to Middle Fork Campground up in the mountains and talk about various sciences to middle schoolers. Different forest service and BLM staff lectured on subjects such as water ecology, photography, ornithology, and cleaning up trash. My exciting education subject was geology! Since I am a rock hounder and have a degree in geology, I was pretty excited to teach about one of my passions. I brought a bag full of rocks from around the Buffalo Field Office. I brought various rocks, minerals, and fossils with me to entertain the middle schoolers. I decided to talk about the geologic time and history of the region from the Cambrian Period up to the present and talk about how each of these rocks were made. I found out fast that the children did not like geology…at all. The first two presentations were very rocky (no pun intended). The kids looked bored or gave me death stares. This was the first time I encountered this, so I had to quickly evolve my teaching style and subjects. By the third group, I talked quickly about geologic time and rocks, but then I lectured on volcanoes, earthquakes, and other interesting geologic events of Wyoming. With each group, I honed in my lecture. By the fifth group, all the children were participating and were amazed about rocks and earthquake events. Even when it was raining, they would ask questions and take notes, which excited me! By the last group, the lecture was a work of art and all of the children were excited about rocks, geologic time, and Wyoming’s dynamic past!  Phew!!! Tough crowd. I learned a lot from this day and how to lecture to a younger audience! My past experience in education was teaching high schoolers, first graders, and college students. Teaching middle schoolers was a different ball game for me! Overall, I really enjoyed this day! I learned a great deal about educating middle schoolers and adapting my teaching style to interest kids!

Welch Recreation Area, Keepin' it real since 2005!

Welch Recreation Area, Keepin’ it real since 2005!

Grand Tetons

I was very fortunate to take a small vacation before my major vacation at the end of September!! My parents, along with myself, went to the Grand Tetons National Park! This was during peak fall color, so every deciduous shrub and tree was a yellow- orange- red color. Most of the days had perfect weather. I had many opportunities to go bird watching and go fishing! During this time, the Yellowstone cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki bouvieri) and Snake River fine spotted cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii behnkei?) were active! My parents and I caught a lot of nice sized cutthroat trout! I usually catch and release but my Dad wanted to keep all the large fish for future fish fillets. Beyond fishing, we did hiking and bird watching! One of the most common birds to see was the white crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) and the dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis). As I was bird watching, I was able to see many moose (Alces alces), which were active in the park at this time. The Yellowstone wildfires this year pushed different mammal species into the Grand Tetons, so we saw a larger number of large ungulates. Overall, this small mini-cation was great! The Grand Tetons is my favorite National Park and I was happy I got to visit them again!!

Fall Color in the Grand Tetons. Picture taken by Patricia Chappelle

Fall Color in the Grand Tetons. Picture taken by Patricia Chappelle

New Mexico: Beyond the Sands and Deserts

There was a lot of comp time I had left, so I decided to take a large trip down to Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas! I wanted to go during peak bird migration times in New Mexico! For the first few days, I went down to my sister’s place in Denver to celebrate my nephew’s birthday! From there I was able to travel with my parents down to New Mexico to areas like Roswell, Carlsbad Caverns, the Guadalupe Mountains, White Sand Dunes, and Bosque del Apache!

Our first major stop was in Roswell, New Mexico! I was able to go to the International Museum for UFO Study and Research. I learned all about the Truth and how is way out there! Even within a couple of years since the last time I went to this town, the area greatly expanded due to oil and gas development. You could tell that the town got a large upgrade!

The truth is out there...

The truth is out there…

...found the truth...it was way out there.

…found the truth…it was way out there.

After Roswell, I went to the town of Carlsbad! This town was great and I never expected it to be so large! I visited the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park, which was great to see! There were many cacti (Family: Cactaceae), ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), and cholla (Genus: Cylindropuntia) everywhere! To the south of town, I was able to go to Carlsbad Caverns! This MASSIVE cave system existed underneath the desert. I have been to many caves in my life, but I never visited a cave system so large before! There were many amazing stalactites and stalagmites everywhere! With all of the great views this cavern had to offer, we left a little earlier so we could make it down to the Guadalupe Mountains down in Texas. We did miss the bats (Order: Chiroptera), but I have seen bats fly out of caves in great numbers before.

Some plants you could find in the Chihuanhuan Desert!

Some plants you could find in the Chihuanhuan Desert!

Stalagmite!

A limestone column in Carlsbad Caverns!

Down in Texas, I was able to visit the Guadalupe Mountains! This place had many migrating birds and I was able to do a lot of bird watching here! Hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus), white crowned sparrows, western bluebirds (Sialia mexicana), white winged doves (Zenaida asiatica), verdin (Auriparus flaviceps), various quails (Family: Odontophoridae), red tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), and marsh wrens (Cistothorus palustris) were the most common species I saw down in the park! It was baffling for me as a bird watcher. I recognized all of the bird songs, but I had trouble identifying the birds due to the environment I was in. I usually associate a hermit thrush melody with a forest or a marsh wren song with a wetland, but down in the yucca and shrubland areas these birds were hard to pick out. I would hear a hermit thrush but my brain had trouble connecting the song with the bird, because I was in a totally different habitat. The Guadalupe Mountains had great trails and I was able to find Apache plumes (Fallugia paradoxa), which were my favorite southwestern plant.

Apache Plume!! (Fallugia paradoxa)

Apache Plume!! (Fallugia paradoxa)

Guadalupe Mountains and a dry arroyo. Somewhere there are SOS interns collecting seed in this area.

Guadalupe Mountains and a dry arroyo. Somewhere there are SOS interns collecting seed in this area.

After the Guadalupe Mountains, we made our way to Alamogordo, New Mexico! This area had the New Mexico Museum of Space History and the White Sands National Monument. The museum was interesting! I learned all about the history of the World’s space programs. I learned how to accidentally destroy a $145 million dollar device in a flight simulator! Beyond the simulator, I learned about the rocket tests and important people who contributed to space science! I even got to try on a space suit!

The future for a CLM Intern. Doing monitoring on the moon.

That is one large step for the CLM program, one giant leap for intern-kind.

One of my favorite locations to visit was the White Sands National Monument. This area was a large expanse of white gypsum sand that had specialized plants and animals! You definitely had to wear sunglasses during the day! The albedo from the sand and the sunlight was very intense! It was like walking on a different planet! I have been to this location five years ago and I noticed a great change in the southern dune systems! Plants were colonizing like crazy! Alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and various yucca plants were growing all over the shallow dunes! In the past I really did not see this! Another interesting thing to notice was the wildlife! Many of the grasshoppers and Southwestern fence lizards (Sceleporus cowlesi) were a white to grey color! The only thing that stood out was the darkling beetles (Genus: Eleodes), which were black. I loved climbing on the sand dunes and looking for plants and animals. Unfortunately, many people used the dunes for recreation, which is great, but they left their trash behind which was not great.

White Sands Monument!!

White Sands Monument!!

One of our last major stops was Bosque del Apache! This area was one of my favorite birding places! I always love looking for black phoebe (Sayornis nigricans), greater roadrunners (Geococcyx californianus), and Gambel’s quail (Callipepla gambelii). This time of year, I got to see a huge amount of migrating waterfowl! Northern pintails (Anas acuta), American coots (Fulica americana), mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), Northern shovelers (Anas clypeata), lesser scaup (Aythya affinis), snow geese (Chen caerulescens), Canada geese (Branta canadensis), and western grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis)! In the fields, I saw many sandhill crane (Grus canadensis)! These cranes were everywhere and were increasing in number every day!

Various waterfowl!!!

Various waterfowl!!!

This larger vacation was just what I needed! Even if I was sick for most of the time, I really enjoyed visiting different ecosystems, exploring caves, and bird watching! New Mexico has been great and I was fortunate to have the comp time to visit many areas and view different flora and fauna!

Halloween!!

After my vacation, I arrived just in time for Halloween! The Buffalo Field Office invites young trick or treaters to come to the office and receive candy. The parents were just as excited, because they got to scope out potential candies they could tax from their children. I dressed up as an Australian DAWR (Department of Agriculture and Water Resource) Legend…basically the Australian version of a BLM Legend. I got to wear my j-hat and my safari clothes for the event. I handed out Lindor candy and tootsie roll pops as well! When the pre-school kids did come, they were overwhelmed by the whole experience. They were sort of confused why their parents made them dress up and walk around a dark office receiving candy. Many of the BLM employees brought their children as well! They were more used to the office and people! For the rest of the day, we continued our work and celebrated BLM Legend Charlotte’s birthday towards the end of the day!

Picture of my Halloween costume, my phone and various candies.

Picture of my Halloween costume, my phone and various candies.

Grand Slam of Fishing

Grand slam for trout I caught on this internship!! Brown trout, Brook trout, Rainbow trout, Western slope cutthroat trout, and Snake River Fine Spotted Cutthroat trout!

This is my grand slam for trout I caught on this internship!! Brown trout, Brook trout, Rainbow trout, Yellowstone cutthroat trout???, and Snake River fine spotted cutthroat trout!

Moment of Zen

Cactus flowers!!

Cactus flowers!!

Fall Reflection: Last weeks as a Seed Collection Intern

It is November, and the New York weather is finally turning chilly and staying that way. The landscape is transformed by the fiery hues of fall foliage.

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Gardiner County Park, Suffolk, NY

Here at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seedbank, we CLM interns are wrapping up the last few weeks of work. Bundled up in hats, gloves and wool socks, my field partner Laura and I brave the cold for the last choice native seed collections. Our six months of work have gone by quickly, but were jam-packed full of productive work and memorable adventures.

As of the day I write this, I’ve been a part of a NY field team that has collected:

  • 110 collections of native plant seeds in Long Island (10,000-30,000 seeds per collection)
  • Over 60 species
  • 145 pounds of salt marsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), a crucial part of the marsh ecosystem
  • Data, pictures and herbarium specimen for all these collections, and intel on collections to make next year!

We’ve had our ups and downs, but overall I am extremely proud of the efforts and achievements of my team. Here are some superlatives that highlight different moments we experienced along the way.

Handiest Item: Duct tape. I could write a love poem to duct tape. It comes in handy in so many situations! Tent poles you bought from Amazon break on your second camping trip? Duct tape. Seed collection bag ripping from moisture or tension? Duct tape. Strap holding your waders up by your belt disintegrates? Duct tape! I could go on, but you get the idea.

Toughest Field Day: mid-July collections at Wertheim NWR and Gardiner Cty Park. These were some of our best sites, but I remember a particular day in July when our collections there really tested us. We got several salt marsh species in the expanses of wetland at Wertheim, then scoured the forested areas of Gardiner for elderberry and viburnum shrubs in the afternoon. The temperature was in the 100s with high humidity, and the mosquitoes were in literal swarms. Luckily we had netted hats, but I remember struggling to pour water through my face net so that I could stay hydrated while being actively swarmed by mosquitoes. At the end of the day, I think I felt the most tired I’ve ever been, but I was really glad we made those collections.

Most Helpful Landowner: Robin at US Fish & Wildlife. This was a tough one! We couldn’t have made the collections we did without the amazing knowledge and support of staff members at our various sites. Robin was always prompt in our communications about collection sites. He took time to drive out and show us the salt marsh at Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge. In general he was just super helpful and great to work with. Honorable mention/shout out to Terry at Connetquot State Park and Andy and Andy of Easthampton Town Parks who are also fantastic!

Best View from a Seed Collection Site: Accabonac Harbor, Easthampton NY. We collected salt marsh plants here late in the field season. The site sits on a peninsula jutting out into the sea off of the South fork of Long Island. The early morning light glowing through fog over the ocean made the boundary between sea and sky indistinguishable. I wish I had photos so I could back this up, but I was honestly too breathtaken to think to get my phone out!

Favorite Collection: Nyssa sylvatica at Connetquot River State Park. This collection is memorable to me (and am getting a tattoo of this plant!) because I feel like it encapsulates my CLM internship experience as a whole. Nyssa sylvatica, or black tupelo, is a native tree that likes to grow near wet areas like pond or stream edges. The collection was quite challenging to make. Since each fruit has one seed, we needed to collect a large volume of fruit, and the trees were well dispersed throughout a system of streams. We snaked along the trails and climbed over downed pine trees to find fruit-bearing tupelos. Then we would use a clipper on the edge of a long poll (called a pull-pruner) to cut branches and harvest the precious fruit. In spite of, or maybe because of the challenge, we loved making this collection. The woods and streams were so beautiful, and every time we found a tree it was like a treasure trove of ripe fruit.

So in short, this collection and my internship experience as a whole boil down to this: challenging, but fruitful.

Back in the Herbarium

In the process of mounting, glue is painted onto the back side of pressed plants and then affixed to an herbarium sheet. Washers can act as weights to hold down unruly plants.

In the process of mounting, glue is painted onto the back side of pressed plants and then affixed to an herbarium sheet. Washers can act as weights to hold down unruly plants.

As snow begins to descend on Anchorage, our SOS focus has returned to the herbarium. We’ve gotten to visit many spectacular places around the state and now it’s time to process the data. While that includes the curation of excel spreadsheets and confirming digital records with our field notes, it also includes managing the voucher specimens.

A voucher specimen is like a cross between a library book and a museum archive: they hold a wealth of information for the public about a specific time and place. At each site, we took plants for identification purposes. Back at the camp, these plants were identified then pressed and dried. In the herbarium, we take these voucher specimens, assign it a herbarium accession number that references information collected about the specimen– such as where it was found, what other species were there, and when it was taken—and then we mount the specimen. Mounting is a process of affixing the specimen permanently to a thick, herbarium sheet. We use special glue that won’t discolor the specimen, but the Smithsonian herbarium sews the specimen to the sheet.

All 2016 SOS specimens in various states of drying.

All 2016 SOS specimens in various states of drying.

All voucher specimens need a label. This label is the condensed version of the numerous notes taken in the field and kept in the herbarium digital records. It has the most currently accepted scientific name, who collected the specimen, and a brief summary of location and habitat information. This helps researchers and herbarium keepers answer questions while looking through specimens, and was the best way to keep quick access records before the rise of digital archival software.Triglochin palustris specimenParnassia specimen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chamerion VoucherNo voucher specimen would be complete without a rubber stamp of the official herbarium seal and accession number. This is the number that connects the specimen to the digital archive. Before the specimen can be stamped, it has to be completely dry – the plant, the glue, and the ink from the label. But once it’s stamped, it can join the ever-growing herbarium collection.

Mounted, labeled, and stamped, this specimen is ready to join the herbarium collection.

Mounted, labeled, and stamped, this specimen is ready to join the herbarium collection.

If you’re wondering why herbarium specimens are important to research, I recommend you read this article.

Justin Fulkerson peruses through herbarium specimens destined for mounting

Justin Fulkerson peruses through herbarium specimens destined for mounting

I would like to take a moment and thank the wonderful people of the UAA herbarium who have been so supportive and open in teaching me the ways of the herbarium: Justin Fulkerson, Matt Carlson, Tim, and Bonnie. Thank you for creating such a lively and welcoming office.

A Week of Exploration

It is mind blowing to think that My team and I only have about 3.5 weeks left with SOS East. During the past month we have been traveling almost every week trying to gather as many seeds as possible. It has finally begun to feel like things are winding down with only 1 more week of collecting trips left. During this past week my coworker and I traveled to 6 sites around Maryland and Virginia. With a list of places and species to look for we set out to make as many collections as possible, but our hopes were met with a lot of mowing and unforeseen circumstances. At more than half of our sites, fields that we were planning to collect from were mowed to the ground. It seems that the moment November hits everyone grabs their lawn mowers and hits every field possible. However, with all of our newly handed free time, we got to walk around and do some exploring at locations we had not looked around yet. We got to take our time and key out new species and learn some new plants and collect species we would have not seen otherwise.

Riverside forest at Seneca Creek State Park that we explored and found some wonderful treasures.

Riverside forest at Seneca Creek State Park that we explored and found some wonderful treasures.

Seeds from Ludwigia alterniflora that we found in our exploring.

Seeds from Ludwigia alterniflora that we found in our exploring. These seed boxes as they are called are beyond awesome.

Our trip ended with a long morning collecting Spartina cynosuroides and Distchlis spicata at a beautiful salt marsh that I had not yet been to at York River State Park in Virginia. While it did not feel like fall at all (it was about 80 degrees out and boy it felt even hotter than that), it was a wonderful productive morning in a setting I love the most. When we arrived back at home base (North Carolina Botanical Garden) we realized that we had our work cut out for us the following week. The room was almost bursting at the seams with seeds and our team’s hard work really showed. As overwhelmed as I was about the amount of work we have in terms of seed cleaning and shipping, I was so happy with how much we have collected and really felt like we all have played a role in helping to restore these extremely important ecosystems.

 

Scutellaria integrifolia we collected.

Scutellaria integrifolia we collected.

Beautiful beach at Belle Isle State Park where we collected Sueada linearis

Beautiful beach at Belle Isle State Park where we collected Sueada linearis

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A mandatory fall leaf picture because this season is too beautiful not to commemorate

A mandatory fall leaf picture because this season is too beautiful not to commemorate