Idahoan souvenirs from Pocatello
I can’t believe it’s already the end of my 7th week here in Idaho. It seems like it was just a few days ago that I was scrambling from thrift store to thrift store looking for the cheapest and least-likely-to-have-bed-bugs mattress I could find for my first night in Twin and worrying about my cat, Leopold, who I cruelly had flown with me from Florida and was completely zonked out from the cat-Xanax his vet prescribed. Now, we are living in an almost-furnished apartment (an armchair and a love seat almost makes a couch, right?) and Leopold louder and fatter than ever.
Since my last post, we’ve had lots and lots of training. We attended a 2-day forb workshop hosted by Fish & Game which was a lot of fun. We learned about native seed collection, the importance of different kinds of forbs to sage grouse diets and their chicks, insect diversity, and we visited a private botanic garden filled with native and exotic plants ranging from Joshua trees to North African/SW European spiny pillows (Ptilotrichum spinosum). My favorite part of that tour were the brilliantly colored cacti, specifically the Black Knight Pricklypear (Opuntia rhodantha).
During the field portion of the training we identified many ‘new’ plants with the help of the former state botanist, who was not only incredibly entertaining but the most impressive walking botanical encyclopedia I’ve ever met. We were also able to look at a variety of different sagebrush species and I got to handle my first horny toads! Words cannot describe the feeling one is overcome with when holding a pudgy, inert, horny toad. It was love at first toad. I don’t think these are the blood-spurting-out-of-their-eyeballs variety, but if I encounter one, this blog will be the first to know.
Words cannot describe the feeling one is overcome with when holding a pudgy, inert, horny toad.
Our mentor arranged for us to shadow the office’s archaeologist, Lisa, for a day, which was really exciting. Lisa gave us a tour of some of her allotments, including a graveyard from the 1800s, Native American rock art just feet away from grazing cattle, lava tubes where human remains have been found, and told us stories about working with the Bannock Shoshone Native Americans and recording their oral history and learning about the different medicinal uses of native plants, such as camas. I studied human dimensions of natural resources and environmental policy, and ethnobotany & ethnoecology has always been a subject I’ve thought about pursuing, but unfortunately there aren’t many graduate programs for it. Luckily, I met an Ethnobotany PhD candidate from the University of Kent, UK who was at the Chicago workshop, who I plan on keeping in contact with and following her research. I also had the pleasure of meeting the Jarbidge office’s archaeologist, Shane, who offered helpful advice for pursuing a career in archaeology during a fuel’s ecology tour.
The grave, there were about 20 creepy cat-sized crows waiting for us when we arrived…
Lava tube where human remains were excavated from
We also helped out with HAF (Habitat Assessment Framework) monitoring with some of the other range cons (which we hadn’t done since our first day of work). We went up to a loamy hillside allotment that was lush, green, full of new (and living!) forbs. It was absolutely beautiful and the weather was beyond perfect at a cool ~70 F. We gathered data on shrub canopy cover (line intercept) and forb diversity/availability, and soil type. On our way back to the trucks we stumbled upon a sage grouse nest with some chicks and more horny toads.
HAF Monitoring at Poison Creek
Carla (fellow CBG-er) and I also got to drive out and do trend by ourselves for the first time, which was really exciting. We only did one site that day because it took a bit longer than we thought to find, but we managed to finish the monitoring (while racing a looming thunderstorm) and not get stuck in any muddy roads, so it was a success!
Sheep about to cross Swinging Bridge for the filming of its 50th anniversary that our mentor organized.
And lastly, we returned from the Chicago Botanic Garden workshop a few weeks ago– which was really, really, amazing. First we went over general HR/safety information, career/graduate school advice, safety, sampling techniques, plant identification/terminology, Seeds of Success (and some basic collection protocols), and lastly a symposium from a variety of conservationists that discussed various projects ranging from altered fire regimes and the resulting spread of invasive species to the largest prairie and wetland reconstruction project in America (Glacial Ridge Project, which was my favorite lecture).
Volcanic Sunset Cactus
I also got to explore different parts of the city such as Clybourn (for Jamaican food), Roger’s Park (where we had ‘the best Indian food in Chicago’– apparently Chicago has the 2nd highest combined population in the US of Indians and Pakistanis after NYC), downtown, the Art Institute, and the diner Big and Littles (many thanks to Carla and her boyfriend who showed me around)!
I think this was in a movie or something
But the best part about the workshop was the opportunity to get to know the other interns and speak with the instructors and organizers and find out what their projects, locations, and backgrounds were. It gave me a lot of insight and perspective on my own path as I navigate the waters of post-undergraduate life. It’s really humbling to think about how lucky I am to have met all these different people (apparently we are the most diverse group of interns they’ve had in terms of ethnicity, age, and gender). I can’t wait to see what the next 3 months have in store for us!
Until next time,
BLM , Shoshone ID Field Office