Alas! A lass in Lassen County

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My first few weeks with the Eagle Lake Field Office have been nothing short of an adventure! The first week was full of training and refreshers to get me back in the swing of things since my last internship with the CLM in the Buffalo Field Office.

Our advisor took us out a few times and showed us the ropes. She gave us a couple quick botany lessons about the local flora, went over major landmarks, familiarized us with the maps and sent us on our way.

It took us a while to get the hang of the field office, but with only a few minor missed turns and vehicle lock-outs, we have started to get the hang of the whole intern thing. It also only took a few days driving in our trusty Wrangler, Mango Jerry, to determine this field season would be one of productivity, laughter, and inside jokes about our most abundant collection of the Bottlebrush Squirreltail.

So far, we have made a whopping 14 collections, with many more to come. It is a lot of fun collecting in such a large group. With three other interns, the days pass by so quickly! My favorite collection so far has been this trefoil species (or sage grouse sundaes as we called them) we collected in the Nevada part of our field office. The location was absolutely gorgeous and the seed was so easy to collect.

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Lillie and Andrea collecting some seed from one of our sites.

Lillie and Andrea collecting some seed from one of our sites.

 

In addition to the SOS collections we have done, we have also had a chance to learn a little bit about other projects throughout the field office. We have learned to monitor populations of special status plants within our field office. We were also given the opportunity to learn about the feral horses in the area and what the BLM has done to ensure the health of the field office!

When visiting the BLM corrals, we got up close and personal with this happy fella. He looks a little feisty, but was more than happy to get a pat on the nose.

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In addition to all the working in the field office, we have had the chance to go on some amazing weekend adventures. From Napa, where we met Natalie Portman, to San Fran, where we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, to our own backyard in Susanville, where I rock climbed for the first time, I can honestly say I am having the best of times on this adventure!

 

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Rock Climbing in Susanville!

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After climbing to the top of Mount Lassen in Lassen National Volcanic Park

 

 

And if all else fails, and the day in the sun is hot and rough, I always have a beautiful backyard view to come home to!

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Until next time!

Jill

Seeds, Bats, and Lizard Ropin’!

The plants in Escalante have finally started seeding! The spring showers brought a flood

Nelson’s Globemallow (Sphaeralcea parvifolia),

Nelson’s Globemallow (Sphaeralcea parvifolia),

of blooming flowers. Nelson’s Globemallow (Sphaeralcea parvifolia), is one of my favorite plants that my co-intern Elise and I are collecting. The Hopi Indians used this plant for multiple purposes, some of which include curing sores, cuts, and wounds (Colton 1974). I even found a rare white S. parvifolia! Another fun

A rare white Nelson’s Globemallow (Sphaeralcea parvifolia),

A rare white Nelson’s Globemallow (Sphaeralcea parvifolia),

plant that we have to collect is Indian Rice Grass (Achnatherum hymenoides). Apache Indians used this plant to make bread (Reagan 1929) and it is an important plant for cattle grazing (Ogle et al. 2013).

 

Besides seed collecting, I also joined the wildlife biologist for the Forest Service, Lisa Young, and the wildlife biologist for the BLM, Terry Tolbert, when they went bat trapping! We traveled to the Last Chance wash near Lake Powell and set up two, thirty foot

Lisa holding a Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat (Tadarida brasiliensis)

Lisa holding a Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat (Tadarida brasiliensis)

high nets above the creek. When the bats swooped down to drink water, they would get caught in the nets. Terry and Lisa would then go untangle the bats and then collect data on them. Data collection included identification, tarsus measurements, wingspan, and weight. After the data was collected on a bat, they were then released.

 

Terry has also been showing Elise and me how to rope lizards. We take simple fishing polls, string them with fly fishing string, make a loop at the end and then the hunt begins! After hunting in the hot desert sun, searching under sage brush and cliff rose, it is

BLM Wildlife Biologist Terry Tolbert releasing a Desert Spiny (Sceloporus magister) that I caught

BLM Wildlife Biologist Terry Tolbert releasing a Desert Spiny (Sceloporus magister) that I caught

most satisfying to catch a lizard. The lizards we catch are

Desert Spiny (Sceloporus magister)

Desert Spiny (Sceloporus magister)

measured from snout to anus and then from snout to the tip of their tail. After the lizards are weighed, they are released and a GPS coordinate is taken so we can estimate their range of habitat.
This internship has so far allowed me to expand my knowledge of plants and has given me the opportunity to work with wildlife. I cannot wait to see what else my time in Escalante will bring!

Me with a Desert Spiny (Sceloporus magister)

Me with a Desert Spiny (Sceloporus magister)

July in Buffalo: the seed collections begin!

Since my last blog post, the weeks have become a whirlwind of work! I have really started focusing on SOS, and figuring out how to determine seed readiness and collection strategies. I think the biggest challenge so far has been adjusting to the level of variety in the work, as collections for virtually every plant species is performed differently. It has been helpful to have resources like the SOS flickr page that showcases past collections, as well as the office’s own data files from past SOS interns, but overall it appears that most of my job is learned in the field and as I go.

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Gaillardia aristata- one of the populations that I will (hopefully!) be collecting sometime this week

During the first part of this month, myself and the office’s two range interns, Jade and Sara, performed the first seed collections of the season! This first collection was Needle and Thread grass. It definitely was a learning experience, as on the day of the collection we found that much of the seed had actually dropped over the weekend. :( We collected what we could, but overall it was a lot less productive than what I was planning for. But like I said, I’m finding that a lot of my job is “learn-as-you-go”. Plants definitely work on their own schedule, which means that monitoring populations for readiness requires a lot of travel to-and-from the office and a healthy amount of estimation. That being said, the next week was a lot more productive as far as seed collecting! With the help of Jade and Sara, three more collections were performed all in ONE day (& all in the same allotment thankfully!) Bluebunch Wheatgrass, Lewis Flax, and a boatload of Miner’s Candle (~120,000 seed)…shout out to Sara for her enthusiasm for collecting Miner’s Candle! Just this week, I have sent out the shipment to Bend of these species and continue to monitor other populations I have found. Hopefully all goes well in processing the collected seed!

On a personal note, over the Fourth of July weekend, myself and some of the other interns made a road trip to Yellowstone, Jackson WY and the Tetons. This was my first trip out to this area, and I had a blast! We spent four nights camping in the area and sightseeing during the day. It was exhausting to say the least, but we saw so much wildlife during these four days including elk, pronghorn, bear (grizzly and black), mule and white-tail deer and even a moose! I’d say our time in the Tetons was definitely my favorite part of the trip, and I’m already dying to get back there to explore more trails and sites!!

Our view of the Tetons from our campsite over the fourth of July weekend.

Our view of the Tetons from our campsite over the fourth of July weekend.

A bear we came across in Yellowstone one early morning.

A bear we came across in Yellowstone one early morning.

-Katie

Buffalo Field Office, WY

 

 

Bat Month

This month I am working on a project involving Western Long-eared Bats (Myotis evotis) in central Oregon.

The goal of the project is to learn more about the bat’s roost selection in juniper/sagebrush habitat, specifically lactating females. We use radio telemetry to track where the bats roost during the day, and then locate the bats while they forage for insects night.

I am done with week #2 of day shifts, and tomorrow I start 2 weeks of night shifts.
So far, the majority of bats I have located roost in rock crevices. I feel like a detective with a big antenna looking for hidden treasure in the rocks. It’s been my favorite part of this internship so far.

Some other notable wildlife I’ve seen while working with the bats: family of red tail hawks, 2 juvenile ferruginous hawks, a Cooper’s hawk nest with 2 juveniles and adult, American kestrel,Greater sagegrouse, loggerhead shrike, summer tanagers, and pronghorn antelope.

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A ‘bat burrito’ – this bat is patiently getting a radio transmitter fitted to her back

Me, listening for bats

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An awesome encounter with a ferruginous hawk

Finishing Up

I’ve been working really hard on my grasshopper survey in the Panoche hills region of the central coast valley. I do back to back surveys during the week in 100+ degree heat, but I don’t really mind it too much. The data is starting to shape up and I’m enjoying reviewing the results with my peers.

I’ve also been traveling to the Monvero Dunes to collect specimens from malaise traps for the UC David Bohart Museum of Entomology. The picture you see below is the south face of the dune. The other side is a doozy to climb too!

I will be finishing the survey over the next few weeks and then preparing for my departure to Hawaii for grad school. I’m really looking forward to the journey.

J

It's a doozy to climb even on the other side!

It’s a doozy to climb even on the other side!

Land Pieces

We are well into our second month here at the Four Rivers Field Office. The days aren’t routine, but they have become a bit more predictable. The week in Chicago was delightful. It was a pleasure to put so many names to faces. The experience infused a new sense of admiration for, and added value to the work we are all doing; the long days in the field under the sun aren’t just occurring in a vacuum. As well, the workshop and symposium spurred me to revisit my views on the value of conservation and restoration in the landscapes we work.

Much of the private land and BLM allotments in and around Boise once was, or is, prime Greater Sage-grouse habitat (A critically endangered and very controversial species at the moment). As the largest public lands manager, the BLM oversees those rangelands and habitat that dominate the majority of the West’s open space. The same low-lying rangelands are conveniently located and ideal lands for human purposes. Conversion, grazing, and extraction are not the exception on a significant portion of public lands: yes, indeed that is what the Taylor Grazing Act legislated “in order to promote the highest use of the public lands pending its final disposal” (43 U.S. Code § 315). Though the TGA did bring much needed regulation to a chaotic situation, the term “highest use” only relatively recently encompassed considerations for habitat and species protection. I am not against the use of these lands. In fact, I advocate for working landscapes; however, landscape-scale ecological integrity on public lands depends on us reconciling our role, needs, and behavior within natural systems. Certainly, we can see we have taken more than our fair share.

It is a week after the workshop.  Joe, Dan, and I are walking across Williams allotment outside of Midvale, ID to collect some vouchers and see how some post-fire sage brush plugs from a few years back are fairing. The heat is consuming and our sweat beads. We don’t see cows but there are signs of them everywhere. The fire occurred years ago but the evidence lingers. Medusa heads and stunted grasses crunch beneath our feet like snow, a sobering reminder of their fiery potential. I wonder, “who cares for this piece of Earth?” It is true, places like these do little to inspire conservation and restoration action. Though, it is not lost on me that we, humans have directly and indirectly played a central role in what this land looks like today.

I think back to an air-conditioned plane enroute to Chicago and reading a piece in Brain Pickings. The brief article is a review of Elizabeth Alexander’s The Light of the World in which she explores “love, loss, and the boundaries of the soul.” The work is her response to the death of her beloved husband. An excerpted quote seemed a poignant way to frame any tragedy or loss:

“The story seems to begin with catastrophe but in fact began earlier and is not a tragedy but rather a love story. Perhaps tragedies are only tragedies in the presence of love, which confers meaning to loss. Loss is not felt in the absence of love.”

Elizabeth Alexander

Our relationship with the land should in part be a reflection of this sentiment. If love helps us better grapple and understand the magnitude of loss and tragedy, then there is a dire need to inject love into our land use dialogues. How would our collective land use decisions look if they were more informed by love? Would our response to degradation be different? With the sixth mass extinction in our hands more than ever we need to experience the loss of ecological integrity and Earth’s diversity as a tragedy. The loss of ecological richness and functioning is akin to losing a loved one. Like a loved one, land and its functioning sustains us, and when it is lost it is often irreparable. And Alexander is right, the story does begin earlier; in this case, it begins with our ancestors’ relationship and history with the land. I have no personal connection to Williams allotment and I understand a fraction of its human and natural history. How do we come to know a place so that we may viscerally feel the value of what is lost?

Generally, as a society we are removed from our environmental infractions. We don’t often recognize the gravity of what is lost when we alter our more marginalized landscapes. In one way or another, we have all blinked and moved on. Restoration becomes too expensive. We grow our cities and developments and psychologically sever an area from the larger landscape, but that rationalization does not remove us from the consequences. As I write this, I recognize that I don’t have the answers. Regardless, I am inclined to believe love is, and continues to be, behind some of the greatest conservation battles, such as the Pebble Mine fight in Alaska and Hetch Hetchy Dam. But who wouldn’t be stirred to battle with just a photograph of those picturesque landscapes? While there is a need to prioritize conservation targets and places of greatest value, I hope we won’t forget that ultimately every land piece is vital to the connectivity and overall health of the greater landscape mosaic. Even those pieces deemed “worthless.”  We need to see our land use for what it is: a tragedy. And even in the face of a changing climate, I don’t believe the story has to end that way. Mr. Berry said it best, “we can only begin with what has happened.” So we must take account of our history, only then we can begin to payback the debt of our land use. After meeting so many of you in Chicago I do not despair for the work ahead, in fact I am confident. We may not have all the answers, but we are rich in the love of land and the spirit of change.

Emile Newman

Boise District Four Rivers Field Office

A great start

Greetings!

A lot has happened in only two short weeks in Susanville, CA. I joined a team of three other CLM interns at the BLM Eagle Lake office. We are having a blast! We have done a lot of special status plant monitoring, and I have already helped with 9 seed collections for the Seeds of Success Program. We have collected Trefoil, Mint, Bluebunch Wheatgrass, Desert Yellow Fleabane, and Squirreltail. There are also some populations of Rock Buckwheat that should be ready to collect within the next week.

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The work itself is fun, and there are many other things that make our days so enjoyable. While checking the status of some Buffaloberry, I happened to notice several owl nests with at least 100 pellets beneath them.  It was also really neat to see wild horses and burros for the first time. We were even lucky enough to witness a newborn calf take its first steps!

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My first 2 weeks went by so fast, and I am excited for all the adventures still to come. I love working in such a beautiful place!

Eager in Eagle Lake~

Hello!

I’ve been working in the Eagle Lake BLM office here in Susanville, CA for maybe two months now. Probably more like a month and a half. I work with three other interns, and we’ve had so many wonderful adventures! We’ve done over thirteen seed collections so far, and we have monitored quite a few special status plant populations.

The landscape is very rocky! Lassen County, where we work, has a volcanic legacy that manifests in surprisingly and often suddenly rocky terrain

The landscape is very rocky! Lassen County, where we work, has a volcanic legacy that manifests in surprisingly and often suddenly rocky terrain.

A picture of me at my first ever plant collection, purple sage. It's a very fragrant plant!

A picture of me at my first ever plant collection, purple sage. It’s a very fragrant plant!

We often refer to the plants we are collecting by their NCRS (maybe that's not the acronym?) code, and this is me with one of our favorites, CRAC.

We often refer to the plants we are collecting by their NCRS (maybe that’s not the acronym?) code, and this is me with one of our favorites, CRAC.

We often run into grazing livestock on our journeys. This mama cow is squaring up in the road to fight off our jeep. Thankfully, the confrontation ended peacefully-- the cows moved off the join the rest of their herd in the adjacent field.

We often run into grazing livestock on our journeys. This mama cow is squaring up in the road to fight off our jeep. Thankfully, the confrontation ended peacefully– the cows moved off to join the rest of their herd in the adjacent field.

Rachel, Jill, Andrea, and I got to go to the horse corrals and see the wild horses that are up for adoption. We got a tour of the facilities. It was a very informative day!

Rachel, Jill, Andrea, and I got to go to the horse corrals and see the wild horses that are up for adoption. We got a tour of the facilities. It was a very informative day!

It's always exciting to see the real thing, though, even if the horses are a nuisance and tear up the landscape. They're so majestic! But there are quite a few out there, beyond this picture there were maybe fifty horses in the dry lake bed we were visiting.

It’s always exciting to see the real thing, though, even if the horses are a nuisance and tear up the landscape. They’re so majestic! But there are quite a few out there, beyond this picture there were maybe fifty horses in the dry lake bed we were visiting.

 

An exciting thing happened! We were driving and I spotted the freshest little calf on earth. He was so new, we accidentally frightened his first steps out of him, I think. It was magical!

An exciting thing happened! We were driving and I spotted the freshest little calf on earth. He was so new, we accidentally frightened his first steps out of him, I think. It was magical!

I am really enjoying myself and this job. We go on so many adventures every day, it’s almost as if we’re not working! (But we definitely are working)

Anyway, until next time!

Lillie P.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shipping Up to Boston

After reading the other CLM interns blog posts, I’ve discovered that everyone has been placed in some amazing locations throughout the U.S. I find myself in the city of Boston working for the East coast Seeds of Success (SOS) program, where I am stationed out of the New England Wild Flower Society. It is my first time in Boston and so far I love it here. Whenever I am traveling through the city I always seem find a new quaint area to hang out or find a new ethic restaurant with delicious food. Boston is also in a central location that will allow me to escape for the weekend from the intense traffic and fast paced city life. I am less than a days drive to a variety of beautiful retreats, including the White Mountains, Adirondack mountains, Acadia National park, and Stowe Vermont… all places I wish to see while living in Boston.

More then a mouth ago all the East Coast Seeds of Success interns and mentors met in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for our training. The training was hosted by the NC botanic gardens, who provided us with a great classroom for our training and did a wonderful job feeding us! I enjoyed learning about the history of the SOS program and discovering that this will be the first year for the East coast to be involved with the program. It was great meeting the other 14 East coast interns who all have their own unique stories of how they’ve become interested in plant conservation. I am thankful to have landed such a great internship where I can continue to learn about conservation / ecology while working with a great group of people!

James working to identify some grasses

James working to identify some grasses

Over the pass month my fellow New England interns and I have been calling and emailing project leaders of coastal restoration projects funded through the Sandy Supplemental Mitigation Fund. Since the SOS East program is just getting off the ground, it is important for us to make connections with project leaders and land owners so we can determine what seeds are needed for restoration projects and secondly so we can gain permission from land owners to collect seeds within their property.  

Flowing SunDew (Drosera intermedia) found while surveying at Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge.

Flowering SunDew (Drosera intermedia) found while surveying at Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge in Rhode Island.

Sites New England that we have surveyed so far

Location in New England that we have visited so far

Enjoying the nice breeze.

Enjoying the nice breeze among the vibrant Spartina patens.

As of now we have visited 17 sites through out the New England states. The majority of the sites have been coastal salt marshes, with exceptions being riparian areas related to dam removals. At all these sites we have began surveying and identifying species that we could possibly collect seeds from. This process includes a lot of time with the dichotomous key and plant identification books (have grown quite fond of the Sedges of Maine book). Keying out species has been great practice to get us familiar with the plant species at our collection sites. At this point in time we have made two seed collections: one of Triglochin maritima (Seaside Arrow-grass) and the other Carex scoparia (Pointed Broom Sedge). I am excited to collect more seeds in the up coming months as more species’ fruit begin to ripen.

That all for now, Cheers

Josh

Wood gnome house, never know what you will find in the woods....

A home of a wood gnome. You never know what you will find in the woods….

 

Second Month Happenings

I have been pleasantly busy these last few weeks traveling for work and leisure. In late June, one of my roommate and I went to Bend, OR to attend a Grass ID workshop hosted by the Carex Working Group. During this two day workshop, I learned about grass morphology in order to better identify grasses! In addition, we were supplied with a comprehensive grass key of Oregon and Washington, which has been much desired by my fellow interns and me during our vegetation surveys.

Identifying grasses on a rocky hill as part of our Grass ID workshop.

Identifying grasses on a rocky hill as part of our Grass ID workshop.

Moreover, I have made several trips for work to a ranger cabin that is located two hours away in Fields, Oregon- a town that has a population of 8 people. However, Fields has world-famous milkshake, so, naturally, I love going there. We have continued our ES&R (emergency stabilization and rehabilitation) vegetation monitoring on fire rehab sites in Fields. A lot of the trend sites are inaccessible via a rig, necessitating the use of a UTV, which is a blast to ride on. Even though I have been here for over two months, I am still astonished by the vastness of open land.

Unloading the UTV at the allotment where we will have to do trend.

Unloading the UTV at the allotment where we will have to do trend.

The Fourth of July weekend I went backpacking for my first time! A group of friends and I went to the Strawberry Mountains and did a two day, 18 mile loop up and down the mountain. It was the most beautiful hike I had ever been on! The landscape alternated between conifer forests and rocky alpine hillsides covered with wildflowers, many of which I could identify! We even hiked past snow! I’m not really used to camping yet, but I’m getting the hang of it.

Backpacking in the Strawberries!

Backpacking in the Strawberries!

The weekend after we made a trip to the Oregon Country Fair in Eugene, OR- a town that is known for its wackiness. Never before had I seen so many different flavors of people and forms of expression. The fair was nestled in a forest on a winding path, and it was set up almost like a craft fair, with rows upon rows of booths of handmade, sustainable items. Afterwards, we traveled to the coast of Oregon. The beaches there are unlike any that I had ever been to; cold, windy, cloudy, sea-salt mist choking the air, conifer forests running adjacent to the white sand beaches, and dark, cold water. It was hauntingly beautiful! We went at high tide to see the famous landmark: Thor’s Well. At low tide we went back to check out all of the tide pools. I felt like a child as I ran from pool to pool, squealing at all of the sea organisms. I feverously tickled every lime green sea anemone I could find, watching them curl up in anticipation of food. In addition, there were royal purple sea urchins, hermit crabs, regular crabs, chitins, barnacles, mussels, limpets, and snails. My favorite was all of the starfish, which ranged in colors (from deep pink to pale yellow to orange) and sizes.

Thor's Well!

Thor’s Well!

I’m excited for what is in store for the rest of my stay in Burns! We anticipate starting our riparian monitoring within the next month, which I am entirely enthused about!

 

Until next time,

Megan Hoff

Burns, OR BLM