A Great Experience

As I review my internship and the past five months here in northeastern California, I am extremely grateful for all of the wonderful experiences and memories. I am especially glad my work helped contribute, in a small way, to conserving the Great Basin ecosystem. My supervisor was always a pleasure to work with and I genuinely felt like a part of team at my BLM field office. However, I can definitely remember some highlights.

Every time the other intern and I found a special status plant population was exciting. One of the most memorable of these moments was when the other intern and I got to visit a population of Ponderosa pine trees. If the trees alone weren’t special, they were also growing in a unique habitat – sand dunes! Since the site has been fenced since the early 1990s, there were a lot of healthy and unique plant populations to explore and we even saw a bald eagle nesting in one of the pine trees.

Another highlight of my internship was the two nights I was able to volunteer and help trap sage grouse. The first night I went out, we didn’t catch a single bird; but on the second night, my partner and I alone caught nine! It was really cool to see and handle these birds up close since much we certainly dedicated to protecting this bird and its habitat.

Lastly, when the field season was slowing down, I am also really happy I decided to undertake digitalizing my field office’s herbarium. Yes, data entry can be tedious, but entering the last (of 2,958) herbarium specimens felt like a serious accomplishment. I know it will be useful for my supervisor, the field office, and maybe even future interns. It is nice to know I am leaving a little behind and giving a little back in exchange for all the great times I had these past five months.

To end, I would like to thank both the Chicago Botanical Gardens and the Eagle Lake Field Office for this great internship! I learned a lot, got to experience a great part of the country, and highly recommend to people who are considering applying for this internship in the future.

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October in the S.O.

Greetings from Medford. The fall colors are slowly becoming more and more prominent here and the changing weather is something I’ve long been waiting for. My favorite time to go out in the field is probably fall, so I’ve been going every chance I get.

Lately it’s been much of the same; lots of quarry and mining inspections, but I was able to partake in a recent reclamation project for a mining claim. A miner had left a rather large hole on the other side of a creek and our task was to fill it in since he has since abandoned his notice and operations. The problem was that since the hole was made, it had filled with water and a breach of the creek a few years ago allowed the hole to now be home to coho salmon. Before we could fill in the hole, we had to transfer as many fish as we could back into the creek, so we drained the hole down and then shocked many fish. Most were tiny coho, but the big winner of the day was an 18 inch steelhead who had somehow found his way to the hole. We transferred over 100 coho and several rather large Pacific Giant Salamanders. Once the fish were out, the hole was able to be filled in and reclaimed with heavy equipment. This is where I finally did something with a botanist! I was in charge of figuring out seeding the area, so I grabbed another intern here, Mason, and we went and seeded the area to hopefully eventually return to its natural floodplain state.

Fall seems to be the best time for adventures as well. I recently got to visit the Formosa Mine, a rather interesting Superfund site. The area is an abandoned nickel mine that is creating a lot of acid mine drainage. I believe the pH of the soil is around 2.5. Pretty gnarly stuff.

Formosa Mine. Yum.

Formosa Mine. Yum.

The Medford District also has around 2,000 abandoned mining features. Some of the adits or shafts often become bat habitat. Since nobody is allowed to go in these mines, Bat Conservation International comes out to survey the mines for us. These guys walk through the ancient portals in order to look for bats. Watching these guys crawl into the shady adits is pretty crazy, especially when they come out in a quarry on the other side! Our survey that day found several bats, which likely means the mine will need a bat gate on it to preserve habitat, rather than closing off the portal entirely. All in all, a good day in the woods.

A portal to an old limestone mine. No bats in this one though.

A portal to an old limestone mine. No bats in this one though.

 

Fall adventures hunting for chanterelles

Fall adventures hunting for chanterelles

 

View of Mt. McLoughlin

View of Mt. McLoughlin

 

Cheers,

Morgan

BLM Medford

Great Adventure

We all have less than a month of work left in Carson City, NV and we all went on a week-long seed collecting trip that took us next to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains. It was a unique botany experience to see the gnarled trunks of Pinus longaeva rise up out of the alkaline dolomite soil, in some cases the tangled roots wrap around large rocks forever keeping them from rolling downhill. The ancient P. longeava are a magnificent sight to behold.

Inyo Forest Bristlecone Pine Forest

Inyo Forest Bristlecone Pine Forest

At the top of the mountain I discovered a baby pine cone that held little nodules of sap between its tiny scales. As the sunlight reflected off of the little sap bubbles it gave the appearance of gold flakes resting between the tine blue scales.

A baby cone with glistening gold sap

A baby cone with glistening gold sap

Within the ancient P. longeava forest we chanced upon an old mine with dilapidated cabins and mine shafts still standing. Near one of the hidden dilapidated cabins there were trees that presented carved hearts in their trunks. Whoever carved these hearts carved them deep into the heartwood; they have left a lasting scar on the trees.

Old miners cabin

Old miners cabin

 

A heart carved deep into the trunk of a tree.

A heart carved deep into the trunk of a tree.

How Quickly Time Flies

It feels like I just arrived in Buffalo and I am already rapping up my time here. The countdown is on and there are only a brief three weeks left at the Buffalo Field Office. The office feels empty since one of our fellow interns, Justin Chappelle, left. However, there is a lot to do before my time is up and there is no time for sulking!

Since all but one seed collection has been sent in to Bend, and almost all of the herbarium specimens have been mailed to the Smithsonian, I have been able to participate in a series of new and interesting projects throughout the office. First, I have been assisting a fellow intern, Heather Bromberg, in working on her PRBR Historic Fire project, in which we have walked historic fires through the core sage grouse area, mapping invasive species throughout like cheatgrass within its perimeter. Second, I joined the Montana Conservation Crew in assisting with seeding and weed mapping at a controlled burn site up in the Big Horns! That was an awesome way to get out of the office and talk to other young individuals working in the conservation and land management field. We were able to walk around the cliffs, hang out, and enjoy the scenery with some really cool people, and I gained a great deal of useful mapping and GPS experience in the process!

Working at Billy Creek with the MCC

Working at Billy Creek with the MCC

Finally, we have started working on range improvements at the office, which means we basically get to go out and explore different patches of BLM land in various Allotments throughout our field office, while mapping different range improvements along the way. It is another great lesson on using GPS Trimble systems and Terrasync, as well as GIS. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to work Seed Collections for SOS this summer, but I am even more glad to have the opportunity to try out all of these other projects and to work with so many intelligent and interesting people!

Although the interns have been working hard, we have also been playing some to before I head back to Chicago for the winter! Last weekend we spent the chilly Saturday night backpacking to Lost Twin Lakes! It was both beautiful and exhausting, but well worth it for the view and the thrill.

A photo of the two of us over one of the Lost twin lakes!

A photo of the two of us over one of the Lost twin lakes!

Heather and I sporting the newest style for frozen backpackers.

Heather and I sporting the newest style for frozen backpackers.

 

Busy Bee in the Big Horns

Just an update to let you know I am still alive!

The season for most is winding down. Many interns are packing their bags and heading home as their internships come to a close. The Buffalo interns, however, have been offered extensions. One of our close knit group has left us already. Apparently the call of quality family time and the minor detail of bird watching in the Amazon was too loud to ignore. I mean, who would choose the boring Amazon Rain Forest over our exciting town of 4,500 people?? Not me, well, OK, that is a lie. On a more serious note, we have already felt the empty void left by our favorite, newly appointed BLM Legend, Justin Chappelle. WE MISS YOU, JUSTIN!!!

Our wonderful Jill Pastick has accepted a partial extension, but will only be in our company for less than one more month. Heather Bromberg and I are the last of the original four, and have plans to experience what Buffalo, Wyoming looks like in January. Kind of starts to feel like that book, And Then There Were None.

Many new opportunities have come our way since the Rangeland Health season has drawn to a close. Bird watching for population status, inspecting failed Sage grouse sites, providing local environmental and wildlife education to home and public schooled children, and inspecting retired gas wells are just a few of the various activities we have been provided to make our standard resumes transform into something spectacular.

Each week that passes our experience grows and so does our homesickness. The realization of being away from family and old friends starts to sink in when we realize we have been away for five months. Luckily, being busy has the perk of distracting us from this somber thought. Former intern from last year, Sean Casler, was able to get his hands on a vintage VHS documentary about the Big Horn Mountains. The remaining three of us have now made it our mission to locate some sort of device to be able to view this ancient time capsule of footage. Who knows what amazing secrets could be discovered in the twenty-three minutes of video dedicated to our own back yard.

A Brief Respite

After long weeks of collecting, we’ve almost hit our goal of 25. It was a truly mad rush for a number of weeks with long drives to the same spot, frequently picking seeds individually and keeping track of our count on pieces of paper shoved into our pockets, crawling or sitting to reach seeds, plus new projects in reclamation and unintentional 12-hour days on the regular. With that said, I maybe accrued some comp time and I maybe got to use a majority of it this last week. It was certainly a much needed break from all that is Rawlins.

After a whirl-wind loop from Rawlins into Colorado to Rocky Mountain NP, Denver (for the Timbers- Rapids match of course), the Roosevelt National Forest, and then back north to Dillon (hooray for visits with other CLMers!), Missoula, and the Rattlesnake Wilderness, it’s somewhat difficult to come back to reality. Come back I did. I finished another two collections this week for a grand total of 24!

Alpine hiking, RMNP

After being encouraged to explore off-trail in the alpine areas of RMNP by a helpful ranger, I put on my mountain goat persona and climbed from 11,000 to about 12,000 ft in elevation. Absolutely stunning views and some pretty decent rock formations.

Alpine hiking, RMNP 2

It could not have come at a better time. I have never been to Colorado or to Montana and my time in Rawlins is soon ending. It’s really a prime time to visit some beautiful country I might not have a chance to see again soon. Leaves are changing all over and the chill in the air is usually quite welcome. We’re already entering my favorite season and I had a blast exploring. I don’t think I’ve met nicer or friendlier people than those in Montana and I think I really fell in love with the land around Missoula… despite a lovely surprise gift from a cougar about a minute from my tent in the Rattlesnake Wilderness.

I had just walked this part of the path at dusk the night before: under cliffs and trees, through cougar country, I trekked, trying to make the wilderness border and get out of the recreation area. I had no idea how far I had gone. My headlamp (with new batteries no less) was dying and practically useless. Off to the left of the trail was a meadow, a meadow with a rectangular patch of vegetation flattened perfectly for a tent. Was this the campsite I’d been told of? No idea. Isn’t there supposed to be room for ten camp sites? Keep trekking, just to be sure. Trees closing in around me again, the cliffs rise up further, it’s getting darker, if I don’t set up soon, I won’t be having the best of nights. Well, crap, even if it’s not the wilderness boundary, I don’t see any other options, I need to set up before the last light fades. I was told it was fine, no-one would bother me, the locals all offered nothing but advice and help to make sure I had an enjoyable hike when I was down-trail. Turning around, I went back and set up my tent in that rectangular patch. At least I wouldn’t be flattening any new vegetation.

Tent set up, it’s dark, damp and cold. A nice rainstorm in the night but no bears come through, nothing more exciting than a slug on the door of my tent in the morning. So, I pack up and start hiking up the trail. Again. Past what I’d hiked at dusk. I’m curious; where is this boundary? Did I pass it? One minute from my campsite, bear sign. Obvious bear scat filled with berry seeds. A minute further, cougar scat. Oh, and this lovely leg, the remnants of some cougar’s dinner. Crap. Are you kidding? I’m just glad it found something else and didn’t need me. Was it following me in the night?

I still don’t even know how close I was to the wilderness but I had a lovely hike and a solid night’s sleep.

Update: (apparently I didn’t submit this last week)

Somehow, I can’t escape big cats lately. Two weeks back from my trip now, I got into the field with one of the staff archaeologists. During survey, she goes behind a tree and looks up. An antelope leg dangles from the limb above her. I begin to survey the rock formation nearby. No artifacts, no sign of non-natural formations, but certainly the rest of that antelope’s body. With pieces of meat in evidence. With flies buzzing around. Nice.

Continuing survey, I find another leg. With fur attached. It looks like it’s been scavenged, removed from wherever the rest of the body lies. Interestingly enough, it’s not the usual antelope or deer leg I’ve seen hundreds of times now. It’s a coyote paw.

Well, at least I know the adventure will always continue whether hiking in the wilderness or conducting surveys for work.

It’s bound to be an interesting final couple of weeks in Wyoming. I’ve already learned more this week than in the last few months. I enjoy seeds but expanding into new projects has been a blast and I look forward to wrapping things up.

25 collections done. Two sage populations to monitor. Final seeds to send to Bend. Stream surveys to conduct. MIMS and forest assessments to learn and assist with. Route back to Oregon to plan.

BLM Rawlins, 2014

Mono Lake Seed Collecting Trip

Tioga pass, near our SOS collection site.

Tioga pass, near our SOS collection site.

Last week, the Carson botany team and I went on a four day seed collecting excursion in the Mono Lake area. It was such an incredible experience for all, and was highly productive as well. The first day, we drove to the Inyo National Forest and made our way to the Ancient Bristle Forest. Many of you probably already know that this bristle cone pine forest is the home of Methuselah, the oldest known living organism in the world. We decided that as botanists, we should hike the Methuselah trail and observe these ancient trees, and take a gander on which one of these bristle cones could be the great Methuselah.

The team and I at the Ancient Bristle Cone Pine Forest

The team and I at the Ancient Bristle Cone Pine Forest

It is amazing that these bristle cone pines live thousands of years, and we were very fortunate to be able to see them in all their majesty.

The next couple days were just as exciting. We made several seed collections, and saw more breath taking sites. We drove a little bit up Tioga Pass, which is one of the passes that leads to Yosemite. We surveyed a lovely riperian area and also made a collection of Scirpis. There was a solar eclipse occuring on the third day of our trip, and were actually able to view the eclipse through a telescope outside the Mono Lake Visitor Center, which was fascinating. You could actually see several sun spots through the telescope!

The history of the Mono Lake area is quite fascinating. Not only was the area glaciated at one time, but it is also home to the Mono Craters, a volcanic chain stretching many miles. Seven hundred sixty thousand years ago, an eruption occurred near Mono Lake, creating a blast that was 2,500 times greater than the blast of Mt. Saint Helen. Ash from this blast has been found as far as Nebraska. Because this is an area of high geologic activity, there are many hot springs in the area. A friend of our supervisor’s allowed us to spend the night at her property in Benton, CA, a tiny town which resides over some of these hot springs. The property was quite lovely, and also had hot spring tubs, which was such a relaxing treat for us. We headed home the next day, making a few more SOS collections and also stopping to survey an old volcanic area near Luck Boy Pass, which is near the Walker Lake area. The trip was highly successful, as we made several SOS collections. It was also a wonderful experience, having had the privilege of working in such a beautiful part of the country.

October!!

Hello all!

October has been a great month!  Things have finally slowed down here and I’ve spent the past month mainly working on map requests and editing SDE data.

I’ve also had time to go out in the field with the Wild Horse and Burro Specialist and got to ride a horse for the first time, which was amazing… and I didn’t even fall off!!!  It was interesting to learn about the opposing viewpoints on wild horse management and the overpopulation problems that are easily visible on the landscape.

Of course, it would be crazy to think I was entirely done with fire rehab work.  We finished the ESR plan and the Environmental Analysis, so now we’ve jumped right into implementation of the ESR plan.  Most of the maps I am making now are large field maps so people can go out and mark where the treatments are to be conducted.  I’ve also been editing the treatment data as requested and loading it onto GPS units to be used in the field. It’s pretty awesome how quickly we have been able to implement the plan and hopefully the early treatment will help the environment heal faster!

 

My last days in Chihuhuan desert

One of the few pictures I have of people. This is me and my mentor heading out for Yellow Billed Cuckoo surveys.

One of the few pictures I have of people. This is me and my mentor heading out for Yellow Billed Cuckoo surveys.

Working for the BLM maintaing a local trail system I discovered my first ever hognose snake.

Working for the BLM maintaing a local trail system I discovered my first ever hognose snake.

While assessing the new course of river after a recent flood we found this guy in the middle of the trail.

While assessing the new course of river after a recent flood we found this guy in the middle of the trail.

The end is near. These are my last two weeks at the BLM. It has been a wonderful time, with memories that will last the rest of my life. I was involved in projects ranging from reptile pitfall trapping to early morning bird surveys. My mentor and I are now finishing up the final verbiage on our EA document for the Texas Hornshell Mussel and I have finished up my recommendations about the BLM using lignosulfonates on lease roads. I enjoyed my time in Carlsbad a lot more than I had originally thought. I have gained valuable experience that will make me a stronger applicant for both graduate schools and jobs. Most importantly, my time at the BLM has allowed me to realize my goals after graduate school. Ideally, I want to work in a government agency like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife or the BLM in conservation ecology/wildlife biology conducting research that conserves species and ecosystems. I would like to thank John Chopp, Jay Summers, Aaron Stockton, Ty Allen, and the rest of Carlsbad BLM for giving me great advice throughout my internship and making me feel welcomed. Who would have thought that a kid from Chicago would be successful in southeast New Mexico?

a good time had

I was very happy to be offered a position interning with the Burns District Office. I did not know anything about the area. I did not know it was desert filled with sagebrush and rabbitbrush. I did not know it was two hours from Bend, the nearest “city”. I did not really think much about the area. I was simply elated to be going to Oregon. What a cool place!!! I was also happy to be able to answer when the people asked what I would be doing after graduation. And after graduation I flew to California, learned to drive stick, and drove to Southeastern Oregon.

The landscape in Southeastern Oregon is thrilling. The land spreads out so far the eyes ache to find and take in the edges. It is colored in yellow-brown and the sky in varying shades of blue. Sometimes when I’m driving, and I look out through the open window, and I see the undulations, the sheer rock, the little farmsteads, I feel that it might be too beautiful to ever leave this place.

I learned many new plants since coming here. I shall certainly recall climbing about various and sometimes rather treacherous spots in Harney County to identify plants. The early spring and summer were my favorite times for identifying plants. In the second week I was sent out to do special status plant inventorying and I got to sit around all day and identify plants. It was really fun then because there were so many forbs and everything was bright and glowing and green and healthy. It was a comforting feeling when first coming here, and being sent out to pretty much identify every plant there was, to see an Allium or Rosa and have a place to start. Knowing plants is an amazing thing, and my skills in using dichotomous keys have improved exponentially. It is very exciting when, after you have checked and cross checked, you confirm that you have correctly identified a species. Wherever you go in the world you will have some familiarity with the flora. You will recognize family and genus even if you do not know the species, and you will never know all the species!

This internship has also made me realize how much I have yet to learn. Some personal goals are to learn to identify more grasses in Minnesota or Massachusetts, depending on where I end up living. I would also like to learn to identify more trees and to identify them by their bark, which is a great way to do it in the winter without leaves. Since I was in the sagebrush desert, we saw few trees except for junipers or around riparian areas. Whenever I went north I would keep wondering what all the pine trees were! I remember that I learned some of them in class, but have since forgotten. So that will be a goal to keep expanding my botanical identification skills when I return home.

Another thing I learned is that you will always learn a lot on the job. The skills you already have are merely a jumping off point. Ask a lot of questions and write down the answers. I have learned new plants, new monitoring methodologies, new GPS skills, how to drive a rig, how to drive off-road, and a little more about how to navigate USAJobs. I’m naturally a little skittish, and I have learned that you will get to do more if you ask to do more and just go find more to do.

All in all, it was a good time had, largely due to the efforts of my mentor, Caryn Burri, as well as our local guide for the summer Randy Tiller (also, a tiller is part of a grass). Thanks also to Krissa and Rebecca! I will enjoy showing a few of my favorite Harney County spots to my Mom when she comes to visit this week!

Signing off forever,

Marta LeFevre-Levy

Burns District BLM

Hines, OR

p.s. here are some picture from our last photo shoot. Ariana is a model, like true dawg. BEST FRIENDS!! <3 <3 <3 :D Also, Justin C. is a legend here. The end.

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