Goodbye Central OR, back to Jersey

Last winter I was depressed and unemployed, and I jumped at the chance to accept the CLM internship and move from central New Jersey to central Oregon, a strange place I never even heard of, to a town called Bend… a town known for beer (as previously stated) and access to outdoor activities. Although nervous to move to a new place, I was excited that I would get to work outside in remote areas for the Prineville District, but live in Bend, a bustling town of almost 100,000 people.

I cannot say enough good things about the Prineville BLM. My supervisors Cassandra Hummel and Digger Anthony were extremely welcoming and great teachers. I was able to connect with many coworkers and work on a variety of great projects throughout the summer.

Because I have previous experience working with bats, I was made crew lead of a telemetry project with Western Long-eared Bats (Myotis evotis). This was my favorite project and I gained valuable skills using radio-telemetry.
Other projects included wildlife clearances in Westerm Juniper stands that are set to be thinned next year, elk and deer hiding cover measurements in Ponderosa and Lodgepole pine forests, Habitat Framework Assessment for sage grouse, golden and bald eagle nest monitoring, and removing/adding signage to hiking trails.

Not only did I gain professional experience working on these projects, I learned a ton of practical skills which I will now list in no real order – driving extremely large pick up trucks, using 4WD, using a compass, reading a map (I’m from NJ where every road actually has a name), using GIS, using a Juno GPS, how to set up a mist net to catch bats, how to climb a butte in the pitch dark, how to drink enough water in the desert, how to ride an ATV, how to back up a trailer, what a rattlesnake sounds like, how to listen to country music, how to use a radio, etc.

Some random things I learned living in Central Oregon… how to yield to pedestrians (pedestrian yield to cars in NJ), how to react when a stranger is genuinely interested in your well-being, how to react to a mean bull, how to float down a river on an air mattress, how to talk back to coyotes, how to look for arrowheads, how to never trust Yelp reviews because everyone in Oregon is so nice and never tells the truth, how to pack for a backpack trip, how to become known at a local bar, the list goes on.

I highly recommend the CLM internship to anyone that is right out of school and looking for an adventure and practical experience. I’m sad to leave this friendly beautiful land of central OR, but ready to see my family again in NJ. My next step is to probably take a job at Rutgers University working on more bat research. Hopefully I make it back to Oregon somewhere down the line. To everyone with more time left on their internships, enjoy every minute!

Thank you to everyone who makes the CLM internship possible.

-Kathleen Kerwin
Prineville, BLM





Bat burrito


middle of the night telemetry fun


Thinking About Fire

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Hello Everybody!

If you’ve been paying attention to the news from the western part of the country in recent months, then you’ve probably heard about fire. Yep, there’s been lots of it. Washington, Montana, California, all over the place. Thankfully, for people anyway, fire activity here in the eastern Sierra’s has slowed of late, as we’ve received some rain and snow.

BurnedArea_SpringPeak_2015.09.09 (1)

Oh, I’m sorry, you wanted a close-up shot of this mahogany forest WHILE it was actively burning? Yeah, you’re on your own for that one.

The Bishop Field Office, where I work, has had only a couple of fairly small fires near our border this year, but fire elsewhere has dramatically affected us. The Rough Fire started on July 31st on the western side of the Sierra’s, in and around Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks. We caught a lot of the smoke from that fire as it drifted east over the mountains and then settled down into the Owens Valley, and it put quite the damper on the late summer. 13,000-foot mountains are just 10 miles away from Bishop, but on many days we weren’t able to see them at all. And occasional days of snowing ashes aren’t much fun either. Cooler weather and rain finally knocked this 150,000-acre fire back a few weeks ago. Wildfires like that one may be a danger and an annoyance, but they are an inevitable, and even necessary, part of life out here.

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“Moonscaped” seems to be the best way to describe this site that burned in 2012.

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It’s hard to say exactly what happened here. Typically, there would be new plants coming in after a fire, but here there was absolutely nothing. The fire may have been exceptionally hot, and killed everything. The soil is very sandy and ashy, and now it is blown around by the wind so much that there aren’t any new plants that have been able to establish.

Most of my workdays in recent months have revolved around fire, but I’ve been focused on past fires instead of active ones. My co-intern, Tyler, and I have spent much of our time visiting the sites of old fires, and recording data about their condition as part of an ongoing monitoring project. Most of the data we collect measures different traits about the presence, abundance, and size of different plant species that show up at these burned sites. Some sites that we’ve visited burned all the way back in the 1950’s, and others burned as recently as 2 years ago. What makes the project so important, and interesting for us, is that different sites will react to fire in dramatically variable ways. The data we collect is meant to help managers determine what causes these sites to respond differently to fire, and to track how sites change through time in the years following a fire.

Hey, you know what's fun? Getting to drive an ATV to your work site. My job rocks.

Hey, you know what’s fun? Getting to drive an ATV to your work site. My job rocks.


AND we get to use lasers for collecting data at old fire sites. I know it’s hard, but try to contain your jealousy.

Fire ecology is fascinating. We spend most of our time working in lands that fall in the western portion of the Great Basin Desert, and this is an area that has adapted to burn. The estimates I’ve heard vary quite a bit, but suggest that local shrub communities would probably have burned every 50-200 years historically. Lighting would have caused some of those fires, and others would be the result of intentional burning by native people. There seems to be plenty of disagreement about just how much fire activity we can attribute to Native Americans, but it could be a whole lot. Whatever their cause, fires here were common, and the plants have adapted to deal with them.

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The burn areas we work in often have these skeletons of old, burned-out shrubs still standing amidst the new plants that have come in. Seems like a nice little snapshot of death and new life and all that good stuff. Cue “The Circle of Life”

Most of the Great Basin plant communities we work with are dominated by woody shrubs (especially bitterbrush and big sagebrush) and perennial bunchgrasses (Indian ricegrass, western needlegrass, needle-and-thread grass, and Great Basin wild rye). When one of these shrublands burns, the woody shrubs are killed, but the deep-rooted grasses may survive, and are able to resprout and come back quickly after fire. Other species that disperse and establish quickly in recently burned areas move in as well. Yellow and rubber rabbitbrush, both woody shrubs with bright yellow flowers, are good examples of species that show up soon after fire. The previously dominant sagebrush and bitterbrush will repopulate the area eventually, but they grow and disperse more slowly. So, after an area burns, the plant community growing there will change over time, with different species exchanging dominance. When small to medium-sized fires burn intermittently across a landscape, as they typically would have a couple hundred years ago, the result is a mosaic of plant communities of different ages, and with different associations of plant species. That sort of variety is good for biodiversity, and good for the resiliency and “health” of the landscape.

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Here’s an area that burned in 2003. You can see the bright yellow rabbitbrush, as well as the smaller bunches of perennial grasses. These probably established and grew pretty quickly in this area right after the fire. The green/gray shrubs are sagebrush and bitterbrush, and have come back in this area more slowly.


Here’s a closer look at some of those native perennial bunchgrasses. These guys are champions among the restoration and land management communities out here, because they are great at stabilizing soil and retaining water in burned areas where erosion and water runoff are big concerns.

Unfortunately, that natural process of fire and ecosystem response has changed quite a bit in the last 150 years as this area has become more densely settled and managed by not-so-native American settlers. We don’t seem to like fire very much, and have tried to suppress and put out wildfires ever since we got here. That’s perfectly understandable, as fires are dangerous and destroy most of what gets in their way, but the problem is that suppressing fire has allowed woody plants and plant litter to build up, when it would usually be burning off more regularly. So, when fires burn now, there is more fuel available to them, and they burn hotter, faster, and bigger than they did in the past. That makes them more dangerous for us, and the more severe fires may sometimes be too destructive for the fire-adapted plant communities here, so that burned areas aren’t able to recover as well. Invasive species, especially cheatgrass, are also part of the problem, as they burn easily but also move in quickly to dominate areas that have recently burned.

Here's another area that burned in 2003. You can see that some shrubs are growing here, b

Here’s another area that burned in 2003. You can see that some shrubs are growing, but it’s also an unfortunate example of how well invasive cheatgrass can take over a site after it burns. Most of the faded, brown, grass covering the ground is cheatgrass. Stupid plant.

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So much cheatgrass. I’m sure that most of my fellow CLM Interns can confirm that this stuff is a huge pain to work in. It’s bad for the landscape, and it’s just plain annoying. If you have to walk through this stuff in the Fall, your socks will inevitably become full of the itchy seeds. That’s a problem not just because it’s uncomfortable, but also because you’ll end up carrying this invasive scourge to new places if you’re not diligent about picking them out.

How do deal with and manage wildfires is a complicated issue, and I won’t claim to know what is the right way for us to go about it. But hopefully the data I’ve been collecting about burned areas will become helpful information about how natural areas here are responding to fire.

Until Next Time,

Steve Tillman

Bishop BLM Office


Steve the Pirate, signing off.

Bad weather, good views

Greetings again from North Carolina!  The past couple weeks have been full of adventure for our Seeds of Success East crew.  We got to try something new and collect seeds from a boat at the National Park Service’s Dyke Marsh Preserve outside of Washington D.C.  As a large chunk of our target species are semi-aquatic, we have been longing to use a boat for collections for most of the season.  We finally got our chance, and even had a captain to chauffeur us around in a motorboat.  We worked with National Park Service staff to collect Fraxinus profunda, or pumpkin ash.  The seeds of the ash will be banked in order to provide a genetic repository and a means of replanting after the devastating ash borer insect moves on out of the area.  Brent Steury, a Natural Resources Program Manager from the Park Service who we worked with on this project, filled us in on the threat.  The bugs seem to be just beginning to move into the area, but due to their exotic origins, the trees have little to no defense against them and almost 100% mortality is expected as they begin to prey on area ash populations.  The future looks grim for these trees, but it was gratifying to know that we are working well ahead to ensure that the genetics will not be lost.

The crew wading around outside our collection boat at Dyke Marsh

The crew wading around outside our collection boat at Dyke Marsh

During a quiet moment before the rain hit, we collected Polygonum arifolium in  the surreal beauty of this baldcypress swamp at Pettigrew State Park in NC.

During a quiet moment before the rain hit, we collected Polygonum arifolium in the surreal beauty of this baldcypress swamp at Pettigrew State Park in NC.

The week after that, we had to face the threat of Hurricane Joaquin!  Most of the state of North Carolina was already expecting heavy rains for the few days that Joaquin was cooking up in the Atlantic to our southeast.  As my collection partner and I prepared to head to the Outer Banks, we packed extra rain gear and continuously monitored the coastal weather to make sure we weren’t driving into a dangerous situation.  As it was, we got lucky and didn’t work in anything worse than a light drizzle.  We drove north to Currituck Banks, to check on the maturity of the Sea Oats (Uniola paniculata) that we are planning to collect in that area.  We were greeted by a tumultuous sea and high winds.  We stayed only long enough to take a peek at the Uniola and see that where there is normally a wide, flat, beach that 4×4 trucks use as a road, there were only angry gray waves breaking just below the primary dunes.  We had only spent one day at the Outer Banks when rain, high tides, and wind-driven currents started to flood the roads.  We quickly decided to get off the barrier islands before anything could happen that would leave us stranded out there on what is basically a very thin strip of sand off the mainland.

Winds whip a "No Swimming" flag as the ocean becomes tumultuous ahead of Joaquin's arrival.

Winds whip a “No Swimming” flag as the ocean becomes tumultuous ahead of Joaquin’s arrival.

We kept watching Joaquin, not sure yet if he would hit the coast or veer east out to sea.  We headed north to Virginia and got a head start on the storm.  While we were there, the rain subsided a bit, but again, high winds, heavy rains in the area, and higher-than-normal tides were causing minor flooding all over the place.  We had to cancel visits to all of our National Wildlife Refuge sites, as they closed due to flooding.  We went to a few more sites during the week, but high water made some of our potential collections impossible.  In the end, we headed back to Chapel Hill early and spent more time than normal working on species research and keying out some unknowns.  It was actually great to spend the time identifying some of the unknown plants we have been encountering.  Now we know more of the species that we are looking for in our seed scavenger hunt.

Next week, the weather is supposed to be clear and I’m sure we will be very busy collecting everything that we didn’t get to last time around.  I hope everyone else is staying safe as the weather becomes a bit more tumultuous this month.  Until next time, peace outside!

Emily Driskill

SOS East: North Carolina Botanical Garden


Tut, tut, looks like rain

Greetings from the Ridgecrest Field Office! Over the last few weeks the temperatures here in the Mojave have become more “reasonable” by my standards, and today it is even chilly and raining! Seems like we’ll get two days of “fall” weather before it’s back in the 80s and 90s. So that’s been nice. What else has happened around here? Many things! We’ve made several seed collections over the last few weeks, but that activity (as you can guess) certainly is waning. Our field office now has a wildlife biologist, and I’m quite excited for the opportunity to work with and learn from her.

Recently I was able to visit a wind farm with the biologist, along with BLM employees from another field office and some folks from the Fish and Wildlife Service. The purpose of the visit was to examine the wind farm’s proposed system for California Condor detection and emergency turbine shutdowns. It was very interesting to see the collaboration between the company and agencies.


It turns out, if you look close enough, plants really do have hearts. These are some leaves from an Atriplex species from which we recently collected seed at Olancha Dunes.


The week before last, I attended my alternate training opportunity, which was Fire Ecology of the Sierra Nevada put on by the Jepson Herbarium. It was a 3-day workshop at Yosemite National Park, and it was fantastic. I went up a couple days early to camp, hike, and explore the park as well–which was fortunate timing because one week later, the high elevations are now covered in snow and Tioga Pass closed.


Our workshop was led by several grad students from UC Berkeley, each with research pertaining to different aspects of fire ecology. The first day was about historical fire in the area, changes in policies over the decades, and the effects of fire suppression. The second day consisted of talking about fire regimes and field visits to places where the fire regime has been restored, to look at the forest structure/vegetation communities found there. We also heard about pollinator responses to fire, which was interesting. An aha moment from that day: thinking of “rare” plants/wildflowers, how many of those are really just early successional species that we rarely see because of fire suppression? And when an area finally burns, in some areas the fuel load is so high that the severity of the fire kills the seed bank.


Our final day was spent with one specific case study: the Rim Fire from 2013. We heard from Kelly (with BLM Fire) and June (a fire archaeologist). They were incredibly interesting to talk to. Kelly led us through Tuolomne Grove (where I got to see my first giant sequoia!!!) and talked us through their strategy for preventing the Rim Fire from ripping through the area–which was a combination of having treated the area previously with prescribed burns so that recurring burns were mostly of low severity, protecting the giant sequoias through duff removal and wetting, and backburning starting at the grove and letting it continue onwards to meet the head fire. June told us what it was like being a resource advisor on fires, the processes and considerations that go into planning strategies when fighting fires or deciding to allow them to burn. Ultimately the Rim Fire burned ~250,000 acres of land in Yosemite NP and Stanislaus NF, and the areas of high severity burn were very substantial. Here, we are at a site in Stanislaus talking about how landscape, weather, and fuel load affect fire severity, the difference between low/moderate/high severity burns and what that means for stand replacement, as well as post-fire salvage logging.


I had the opportunity to volunteer for the BLM in the Great American Outdoors exhibit at the LA County fair. Most of the day, we worked at the game table where people had to answer trivia questions to win prizes. I got to hold a rosy boa as we were sitting on the float waiting for the parade to start; and we got to ride with Mohave Maxine, Woodsy Owl, Smokey the Bear, and Seymour Antelope. It was a really fun day.


During a field visit last week, I saw my first Mojave rattlesnake. Unfortunately, he was quite crispy.20150928_150923

After just over two months, I am still seeing new things almost every time we go out into the field. Last week we went to collect information for an EA that is being written. We went out to Robber’s Roost (pictured here) to see if cattle access to a state threatened plant would be reduced by the proposed fenceline.

20151001_110312 And something I was personally excited for: I finished creating the digital record of the RIFO Herbarium. I think this was the prettiest sheet I saw.20150824_164733



Mail Day: Shipping Seed for Cleaning

Hi again!

I’m happy to have the time to post so quickly after my long over-due post just last week. Today we focused on one part of our internship that we haven’t done before: shipping seed.

As a team we have been so busy with field days and collecting seed, but now it’s time to begin the other part of our project which is to ship our collections to Cape May Plant Materials Center in Cape May, New Jersey.

I wanted to focus my blog today about shipping seed because it was my first time partaking in this part of the Seeds of Success protocol and it is quite detailed and important to our goals.

Before we can send out our seed collections the seed needs to be dried and free of pests. We typically allow for seeds to dry for 2 to 3 weeks and place pest strips in the containers we use to dry seeds (typically baking sheets). Whenever we make a collection we immediately fill out the data sheet that records all the necessary information related to our collection and make sure that the data sheet follows the seed wherever it ends up.

The combination of dried seed properly contained in a cotton bag and the associated field data sheet are what we send to Cape May. It is important that the package is lined with bubble wrap/newspaper/packing peanuts/etc. so that the seed is safely cushioned during its travels to New Jersey. The preferred shipment days are Mondays and Tuesdays so that the seed arrives in 2 days and is not left out during the weekend.

So far I only have experience with dry seed, but we do have a few collections of fleshy seed, which requires a different protocol due to the risk of mold. I currently have Peltandra virginica (Arrow Arum) in my refrigerator and will need to ship that collection immediately.

Once Cape May received our seeds they are cleaned and returned back to us. Depending on the size of the collection, portions of the collection are divided between restoration projects with an immediate need for seed, long term storage in Pullman, WA and short term storage at Garden in the Woods.

It has been interesting to finally process the dried seed because so much focus has been on finding and collecting seed in the field. As our internship continues into its final stages, the drying and shipping component of Seeds of Success will become just as familiar as the initial collecting has become.

For now I will continue to tape up boxes clumsily and triple check the protocol as I learn the ropes of this process.

Til next time!

Rolling in Seeds

Hello there!

This past month has been a busy one for the New England Seeds of Success team, we have just reached 140 seed collections! These marks puts us at 70% of the way done to reaching our goal of 200 collections by the end of November. In order to reach this point we have been on the move traveling to collection sites up and down the coast from Maine to Rhode Island. We have been spending a lot of time in the salt marshes and are starting to smell like one too.


In the process of organizing and drying the large amount of seed collections


Monarch Caterpillar feeding on a Milkweed leaf


Monarch butterfly eggs on the underside of a Milkweed leaf

Last month we had the opportunity to be interviewed by Sam Evans-Brown with the New Hampshire Public Radio. We spent the morning with Sam at the Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge collecting the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and explaining the goals and collection procedure of the Seeds of Success Program. For more information about our interview check out the following link.

As you can imagine, we have collected seeds from a variety of plant species so far and each different plant requires a unique method of collection. For example, the spice bush (Lindera benzoin) requires the pluck method, salt marsh cordgrass (Spartian alterniflora) involves the use of a sickle, where as most sedges and grasses require a grab and pull method. My personal favorite seed to collect is from the switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), due to the easiness and state of satisfaction you receive when pulling seed off of it’s panicle inflorescence. Before making a collection we first have to take a closer look at the seed to determine if it is ripe. In this process I enjoy observing the minute details of each seed and have realized there is amazing diversity of seed design among each species.


Windy day at Plum Island National WIldlife Refuge, Newburyport MA

It has been nice and warm in New England through out the month of September. As the month of October has come, the temperatures have become much colder with rainy conditions. This may be the point in time we trade in our t-shirts for hoodies and jackets.

Cheers to the Fall!


Chasing Wild Horses

As with many life experiences, I’m sure it will take some time to recognize all the learning that has taken place over the last few months, but there are a few things that I can point to now, knowing that they are significantly changed from when I arrived in Wyoming. For one thing, I have a much fuller understanding of what it means to manage land period, let alone manage it for multiple uses. Land management has always seemed an abstraction discussed in college courses or job descriptions, but now I have a close up picture and have hours spent fulfilling various duties required to manage land. First, it entails knowing what is present on the land – vegetation, soil, livestock, wildlife, abiotic and biotic processes. This, when you’re talking about a field office of 2.5 million acres, requires lots of driving and gathering of data – and still there are places that won’t see a soul for years. Then, after the data gathering, comes decision making and consequential implementation of those decisions. From my observations of this process, decision making has appeared formal at times and yet less formal than I imagined when working for the federal government. Meetings in the field for example are often relaxed without a huge sense of urgency or debate. Many times evaluations are subjective and the outcome rests on a casual conversation about the state of things and possibilities for the future. In our field office the decisions being made affect the content of permits given to ranchers for grazing cattle, the fate of wild horses from year to year, the prescribed treatment plan for dwindling stands of aspen.

Monitoring: Erin measuring stubble height in a riparian area.

Monitoring: Erin measuring stubble height in a riparian area.

Recently, Erin and I had the opportunity to observe a bit of interagency collaboration between Wyoming Game & Fish, the Forest Service, and the BLM. Decisions had already been made about how to manage the areas of land that included both national forest and BLM by the time Erin and I entered the picture, but it was still very interesting to finally see how collaboration between agencies works and who is involved. We had a team of four wildlife biologists (including one from each agency) as well as several ecologists on hand to look at old growth aspens stands that were being encroached upon by more competitive conifers. The Game and Fish department had mapped sections of the aspen stands for us to flag the perimeter of for easy visibility by contractors when they come in next year to cut the conifers.

Another land management issue that Erin and I have been working on is the hot topic of wild horse management. We’ve spent the majority of our time lately chasing down wild horses within the northern “horse management areas” (HMAs) in our field office. Despite many hours spent in the truck, this has been a rewarding endeavor. The horses are enchanting. Many times, when we get close enough and the horses have adjusted to our presence, Erin and I will spend our lunch break just sitting and watching them from a short distance. We’ve begun to pick up on key elements of their behavior and look for trends in when and where they are spending their time.

Wild Horse Monitoring

Some herds are less concerned with human presence than others.

A lone paint stud - one of my favorites

A lone paint stud, healthy and strong

There are close to 50,000 horses currently on BLM land in the western US and a comparable number in holding. The Appropriate Management Level (AML) as stated by the BLM is ~26,000. Controversy on the topic lies in management of public land for multiple uses. While environmentalists advocate for the horses’ rights to life, health and freedom, the ranching community would like their numbers to be kept much lower for preservation of rangeland health for their cattle. Erin and I monitor the horses by visual counts, recording location, behavior, and health and taking photographs. Monitoring should allow BLM staff to make more accurate estimates of horse numbers and track their behavior in certain areas to make decisions about when to round up horses and remove them from the HMAs.

We've learned how to earn the horses trust and what will make them run.

We’ve learned how to earn the horses’ trust and what will make them run.

Our SOS season is winding down quickly. There are still a few collections left to be made, but it is no longer taking the majority of our time. We are waiting for four species of sagebrush seed to be ready to collect, as well as a population of winterfat. All of this, including the processing of all of our SOS data, should take us right up until the end of our season in two months!

Farewell, summer.

Summer has come and gone, and what do we have to show for it? Well, the SOS team at the NC Botanical Garden has over 100 collections of native seed!

In anticipation of the Emerald Ash Borer, we helped collect pumpkin ash, Fraxinus profunda, at Dyke Marsh in Alexandria, VA. Little did we know that Pope-a-polooza was upon us! Wading through the traffic, we made it to our field site and finally got to collect on a boat!

Collecting Fraxinus profunda.

Collecting Fraxinus profunda.


The most recent update for the east coast is Hurricane Joaquin. While it looks like he’ll be avoiding landfall with the U.S., we are getting a lot of rain and wind. We moved off of the NC Outer Banks and onto the mainland in Virginia to wait out some of the weather before resuming our seed collection.

I’ll leave you with some photos of our beautiful collection sites.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, MD

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, MD

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, NC

Blue mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum, at Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge, NC

Blue mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum, at Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge, NC

Jockeys Ridge State Park, NC

Jockeys Ridge State Park, NC




It’s almost over!

Hi all,

Things have been busy, busy, busy here at the Lockeford PMC so this, regrettably, will be a shorter post (but I will come back to edit and add pictures when I get the time)! This week was very cool for many reasons. First, Jeff and I started herbiciding the invasive blackberries (Rubus armeniacus) in our restoration area. On Tuesday we spot sprayed in the more woody areas with backpacks, while today (Thursday), we used a large Case tractor with a tank to get the large areas. I genuinely dislike herbicides, but they are useful for managing invasives during the site-prep stage of a restoration project. I personally believe they should be phased out during maintenance if a restoration is performed correctly.

Another thing I have been working on is preparing for our cover crop adaptation trial. Jeff and I figured out seeding rates for different cover crops, weighed out the seed, created a randomized design and organized our seed packets so everything will go very smoothly when we start planting, which should be very soon.

This Tuesday, Dr. David Morell from the Sonoma Ecology Center came to the PMC to discuss with Margaret the possibility of holding biochar trials at the PMC. I was fortunate enough to be invited to that meeting, which was a great learning experience in seeing the thought process that goes into making management decisions, and also learning more about biochar, which is very interesting thing.

Again, I hope to post pictures soon. I have two weeks left with the NRCS and I expect them to be very hectic. Cheers!



USDA-NRCS, California

The amazing Big Horns


The fall is firmly here, leaves are changing and the workload is tapering down.  I got to spend a week in the Big Horns working on a timber sale.  It was a great experience, as we got to see some of the issues facing forests elsewhere.  The Big Horns have a lot of diversity when it comes to their tree species.  Trees like douglas-fir, limber pine, ponderosa pine, subalpine fir, and lodgepole pine and exists in very close proximity, all with different needs and issues.  While in the Black Hills the predominate tree species, by far, is ponderosa pine.  Ponderosas in the Black Hills have been hit hard by mountain pine beetle while the Big Horns has been largely spared this fate.

Seeing how a mixed conifer forest is managed, balancing different light tolerances and regeneration levels reminds me of the issues facing Eastern forests.  One thing that I had not anticipated is the destruction being caused by white pine blister rust.  Limber pine is a white pine, generally having five needled, and there was not one stand that we saw which was not infected.  As such, there have been a lot of sanitation harvests to stimulate regeneration and reduce fuel loads.  This is one of the main purposes behind the timber sale we worked on, improving the health of the forest.  The douglas-fir are showing their age as well as some massive lodge pole pine; these trees are reaching the end of their natural life and instead of creating excessive down woody debris a useful product can be created.

Besides the fun new trees to look at there was so much wildlife.  Just driving to our work site we saw a huge bull moose eating some willow.  It’s amazing just how big they are.  There was also amazing raptors present; we saw countless hawks as well as a bald, golden eagle and a northern harrier.


A great place to spend the week in the Big Horns

A great place to spend the week in the Big Horns

Our final day in the big horns.  Checking out a burn site and firewood sale.  Such a great ending to a great week

Our final day in the Big Horns, a great view of Cloud Peak. Checking out a burn site and firewood sale. Such a great ending to a great week.

While in the Big Horns we were able to go to a Society of American Foresters meeting.  This is a great organization that provides a lot of information on what is happening within the forestry arena.  We met at and got a tour of the Tensleep Nature Conservancy Preserve.  This is a great place to visit, amazing views and an abundance of petroglyphs. If you are in the area it is worth a stop.

Back in the Black Hills the end of the tourist season finally came and with it the last hurrahs of many of the places that have been so much fun over the summer.  Custer State Park, home of one of the largest bison herds, has an annual roundup where they collect the bison and preform health checkups and have an auction.  It was amazing seeing 25 people on horseback trying to corral wild animals, at times the bison were very uncooperative. I just can’t believe that the summer is almost over and I have to go back to real life.

Bull Moose eating willow

Bull Moose eating willow


Hazelton Peaks, this is just some of the great views and settings that I get to experience.