I <3 Buffalo…Wyoming

It’s been a busy summer and hard to believe it’s mid-August. Life in Buffalo has dramatically changed in my eyes since first moving here in June. Most of the snow melt from the mountains is gone and the rivers are lower. A town I didn’t think had much to offer is filled with outdoor recreation opportunities that makes me think that I could be here awhile.

Myself and the 3 other CLM interns just got offered an extension till end of December. Some of us may stay and some may go. It’s hard to choose but there is just so much to do at work! I’ve participated in seed collections, rangeland health assessments, habitat restoration, the cutting of Juniper trees, fish surveys, parks and recreation field work, weeding, mapping fence, and so much more to come! I particularly am working on the Powder River Basin Restorations program objective of visiting historic wildfire sites and visually estimating the ecosystem health. Thankfully this project is just kicking off so I will have plenty of field work till the beginning of October. Many CLM blogs written in the fall season mention having limited field work and some desk work. Less work=time slowing down and I am not a fan. I like to go, go, go and do, do, do. This project is just what I need. Buffalo is just what I need.

Other than work, our group of CLM interns went to Thermopolis mineral hot springs and white water rafted a section of the wind river canyon. Great experiences! I won a grill from our local grocery store and am looking forward to hooking that up this weekend, along with a color run, horseback riding, and possibly a 8-mile hike in the Big Horn mountains. Trying to be a busy bee in a small town of Wyoming is easily achievable! (***Get at me if you’re having difficulty in your respective small towns!)

Thank You

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
― John Muir

As my internship wraps up I want to give gratitude to Central Oregon in terms of its landscape and its people. Both personally and professionally I feel like I have taken as much advantage of Central Oregon as I possibly could. No evening was wasted and no time was spent wondering what was next on my plate. And what is next on my plate can only be described in one word: epic. I’ll be backpacking the 211 mile long John Muir Trail, which will give me some focus on what I should take on next in my life. I’m interested in the intersection of teaching and science, but there are so many places to wrestle with this nexus that the trail will hopefully give me some direction in which to go.

Focusing on the past, I’d like to highlight some parts of this internship that expanded who I am today. Though I’ve had previous botany jobs, there was always a mentor who knew all the species so my keying skills were not as sharp. My mentor Kristin is new to this area so I spent hours under a microscope looking at the fascinating features of taxonomy. Due to its minute flowers and complex Asteraceae terminology, my proudest moment was keying to species a Solidago canadensis. As part of keying to species, I learned how a herbarium is a valuable resource in verifying my ID skills and I feel much more confident in explaining the importance of them.

Enjoying and protecting nature’s beauty was a large part of this internship for me. From Forest Hills Natural Resource Area, to vast sagebrush ‘oceans’, to the paleontological wonders of the John Day region, there is a large amount of stunning landscape at the Prineville Field Office. I am blessed to have been part of the Seeds of Success program and the weeds infestation program in the Forest Hills NRA because this year a large portion of it was burned. Our data on both the biodiversity and the noxious weed populations allowed this fire to receive extra funding for restoration. The restoration of this gorgeous wilderness area would not have been possible without CLM interns on the ground.

Another project I worked on was organizing the monitoring of a rare plant in the mustard family called Thelypodium eucosmum. It lives on steep, rocky slopes and its monitoring program is governed by multiple agencies with different databases. These two challenges pushed me both physically and mentally which resulted in visiting species that had not been seen for decades. Hopefully the more organized paperwork will enable ranchers and land managers to have a better understanding of this species needs.

Overall I’d like to thank my mentor Kristin Williams, my co-worker Tiffany Druba, the CLM/CBG program manager Krissa Skogen, the staff and the guest speakers that put on the week-long conference in Chicago, and Megan Haidet who coordinates the Seeds of Success program in DC. It’s phenomenal how much coordination is put into this program and I am very proud to be part of it.

Best of success,
Debbie Pattison
Prineville, OR Field Office

Thelypodium eucosmum

Thelypodium eucosmum

TeatersForestHillNRA

TeatersForestHillNRA

Lichen it!

Lichen it!

"The Island"

“The Island”

Chicago Botanical Garden Bonsai exhibit

Chicago Botanic Garden Bonsai exhibit

Criterion

Criterion

Herbarium verification

Herbarium verification

ATV training

ATV training

Painted Hills

Forest Hills Natural Resource Area

Cool Columbine

Aside

A cool thing happened a few weeks ago.  A forester from our BLM office here in Dillon told us that a crazy bloom of Western Columbine – Aquilegia formosa was happening in a recent timber harvest area. Western Columbine happens to be on the sensitive species list, but the bloom was massive.  We got special permission from our Montana State BLM Botanist and the Seeds of Success Coordinators to collect the columbine.  The seed-pods were sticky as glue and the location was gorgeous- near the continental divide at the Montana / Idaho border.

I like these special moments of the Internship.  Today I will go on the last hurrah of seed collecting, and then I will start to help the Range Staff with Watershed Assessments. Riparian Systems are some of my favorite, from desert washes to montane streams I love the species of plants that grow near water.

For the Watershed Assessments we walk the streams and assess the health of them. We mostly do this to protect the riparian areas, as water is vital to the west.  Most of the stream reaches we walk are in sage brush areas and are stablized by willows and sedges.  Cattle and Occasional Wildlife have potential to destroy the streams by chomping on the willow (hedging) and stomping on the sedges (destabilizing).  Roads can also be a major factor in stream destabilization.  By closely monitoring these variables, we can help protect the vitality of these life-giving water sources.

Collection of Geum triflorum, Old Man's Beard - Photo By K. Savage

Collection of Geum triflorum, Old Man’s Beard Photo By K. Savage

IMG_6432

Delphinium occidentale, Larkspur                             Photo By K. Savage

IMG_6402

Aquilegia formosa, Western Columbine     Photo By K. Savage

IMG_6403

Aquilegia formosa                                             Photo By K. Savage

Well, fall sure is a coming, the antelope are already starting to form their harems. The thimble-berries, however, are just starting to ripen and I couldn’t be happier about this.

 

Survival Guide To The Wild West

Welcome To Wyoming

1. Be ready to work hard.

An eight hour work day is a privilege. Be prepared for long, hot, rough terrain work days. Water in mass quantities is a must. Wear long sleeves, not because you think you will be cold, but for sun protection. Smell bacon?

We Move Rocks!Rock Hounding Anyone?

 

Pack Mules15

 

2. Danger is your new middle name.

You will be given 4X4 training. Pay attention, you will need it. Uneven, up a rocky cliff terrain is just the beginning of many unexpected things you will encounter in the field.

Trapped By CowsAnkle BitersHide and Seek

 

3. Be Social.

Don’t get along with others? Have a bad attitude? Take life for granted? Hermit Crab is your spirit animal? This internship may not be for you. Take the time to enjoy and learn from your fellow interns if you are lucky enough to have others with you. Talk with the people in your office. They can teach you lots, not only professionally but for things to do locally.

We listen as a soil scientist explains what the soil indicates for this particular section of land.

We listen as a soil scientist explains what the soil indicates for this particular section of land.

Buffalo, Wy is the inspiration for the book and TV series Longmire. Once a year they have "Longmire Days" when the stars of the show visit with the locals.
Buffalo, Wy is the inspiration for the book and TV series Longmire. Once a year they have “Longmire Days” when the stars of the show visit with the locals.

 

Washington

Well here I am entering my last few weeks as a CLM Intern in Washington. Since my last blog, I’m mainly filled up my time with more rare plant monitoring (Silene Spaldingii), lynx habitat assessments and fire area mapping for severity.

Going out into the shrub-steppe at this time of year can be excruciatingly uncomfortable as I’m sure many of you are aware. Luckily, my field partner, Rosemary, and I have often found ourselves in a number of lush oases, trying to cling onto canyon wall corridors between data collection sites. Wildlife has the same brilliant idea and we’ve noticed these canyons are teaming with all sorts of creatures. In a span of only a few days, we were stopped in our tracks by a badger, porcupine, coyote and great horned owl. I’ve now seen firsthand the importance such corridors between natural ecosystems, particularly in an area so devastated by agriculture and human presence.

One of my recent highlights was trekking up to north-east WA, and exploring some cedar and Douglas-fir forests, searching for Lynx habitat. What a relief from the scorching shrub-steppe!

IMG_0715

The Wenatchee field office has been in chaos since the start of the fire season, causing most of our original field plans to be turned upside down. However, it’s been very exciting to adapt to the current situation. Last week I helped map over 6,000 acres of BLM land scorched by the Carlton Complex fire. The best and most exciting part was to actually go out to assess the landscape afterwards for potential restoration measures and fire severity records.

IMG_0387

P8130141

P8130142

It’s amazing how quickly some of the plants can regenerate, even in high severity areas. Here’s a shot of Asclepias spp., in an estimated population size of 10,000 – Yay for Monarchs!

P8130178

P8130172

Good wishes and happy adventuring to you all!

August 18, 2014

Hello fellow interns,

It is time to blog again. However, I don’t have much new news to report. I am still up to my neck in permits with deadlines quickly approaching. First and foremost, I am trying to finish a draft of a CEQA document to begin construction on the giant garter snake restoration project I am working on.

I recently took a leave of absence as I am also employed separately as a wildland firefighter. The handcrew I work on was assigned to small fire in the El Dorado National Forest later named the “Twin” fire. Access to the fire was a grueling trail that ascended 2200 feet in about 2 miles distance. We hiked in to this location and out every day for two days until the fire was completely contained and extinguished. After securing this fire we moved on to the Bald fire east of Redding. This fire ended up consuming nearly 40,000 acres and took several days to complete our portion of the line.

I returned to the Preserve and was immediately tasked with helping to prepare several or our wetland ponds for a methyl mercury study that is scheduled to begin here in less than two weeks. I am splitting my time between backhoe work in the morning and writing the Bjelland CEQA in the afternoons.

Hope everyone has been enjoying their summer internships!

There’s more than just rare plants to be found on the range…

This photo may ignite memories of a bygone-era, of “The Price is Right”, or some kind of rugged sales pitch for “life is great!” on the range. And yes it is, Summer of Fun 2014. Thank you to my photographer and fellow CLM intern, Brittany King, for getting the lighting, angles, and wardrobe just so. Hair and make-up, yeah right!

Couldn’t have used my time on the land this season in a more engaging way. Worked in 11 Eastern Washington counties and countless ecosystems including Ponderosa pine forest, interior Douglas fir forest along the Canadian border, the rolling hills of the Palouse, Juniper Sand Dunes, steep canyon lands, riparian coulees, countless lakes and wetland margins, and the remains of functioning sagebrush steppe. In addition, we had the worst fire season in WA state history which translated to far less road access, more hiking, and some uneasy moments with fire spotting. If that weren’t enough we wrestled with two flat tires, a badger, black bears, rattlesnakes, and getting caught in a lightning storm. I’m exhausted!

All that travel, all the logistics, and no one hurt. No major bumps in the road. Our rare plants were found and we gratefully contributed to efforts to conserve and restore them. If that wasn’t reward enough a last ditch search effort was made to recover a field friend of ours (Olympus Camedia C-5060 5.1 Mexapixel) last seen while hunting a rare pink, the federally listed Silene spaldingii (Spalding’s silene), near Spokane WA. Goes to show you that “not all cameras who wander are lost,” for long…(yes that is an original quote).
Wishing all you big and bright stars many blessings and transformations, the ability to see the path, know yourself, and always keep pushing out your greatness, your brilliance, your gifts in whatever form. Love and light!

Not All Cameras That Wander Are Lost.

Not All Cameras That Wander Are Lost.

R and other new things to try

In the past couple weeks we here at the BLM CO State Office have finished up several species monitoring for the year including the Astragalus osterhoutii, Penstemon penlandii,  Eutrema penlandii, Physaria congesta, Physaria obcordata, and Penstemon grahamii.  Traveling to the Kremmling, CO area then to the mountains near Fairplay to monitor the little arctic mustard, and finally out to Meeker, CO and almost to the Utah-Colorado border to Rangely, CO.  With all of the travel we came back to the state office to input the many pages of monitoring data to start the analysis and make any changes needed for next year (adding transects or if we are lucky get to remove a few and still get the same amount of certainty in the change of the populations or we can continue with the same number of transects which is just as good).  Along with the simple functions that we utilize in Microsoft Excel to show the necessary analysis of the monitoring data we are going to try and learn to use R and then hope to apply it to some of our monitoring data as well as the data we collected in the Modified Whittaker Plots in the alpine to create species area curves.  We will see what the learning curve is for R, I do have a little knowledge of C++ so if any of the programming I learned for C++ can be applied to R that would be great.  I have a feeling I am going to be learning a whole new syntax of programming and the crossover from C++ to R might be minimal at best but I will find out.  Since we are not specifically trying to create new programs, and just trying to call existing programs and functions to analyze our data that the learning curve will be acceptable to utilize the program.  Along with this new challenge we are continuing with our sensitive species monitoring with Phacelia formosula and Eriogonum pelinophilum coming up soon and then implementing the new monitoring protocol for Corispermum navicula sometime later.  While we are up in North Park for the Phacelia sp. monitoring we will assess the Corispermum sp site and the current stage of the species to better determine when the monitoring should take place to ensure that the best representation of the population is monitored.  In between all of this we might also be helping out Vail Botanic Gardens in a few seed collections.  Fun Stuff to come here in Colorado!!

Regards,

Nathan Redecker

Lakewood, CO

BLM Colorado State Office

Frogs and Fossils

It’s been raining an unusual amount in Twin Falls, Idaho for the past couple weeks and I’ve been absolutely thrilled about it. Coming from the Midwest, I have been feeling more than a little dried out in the arid sagebrush with the very harsh sun. Yes there’s no humidity, but that’s only a trade off part of the time. We’ve finished doing the Habitat Assessment Framework for Sage Grouse a couple weeks ago. At the end of HAF surverys we were up in the South Hills of the Jarbidge field office and saw grouse almost every day or at least several times a week. After months of seeing nothing more than droppings and some feathers, the actual birds were a great gift. A crew flushed eighteen birds along a single stream one day. As elegant as they are when displaying, they are ridiculous, noisy, and panicked when they take off from the sage.

Since then it’s been wetland inventories, thermograph data retrieval, and a variety of other activities depending on what’s needed in the office. One of the unusual days was when we got to help one of the Wildlife Biologists out with Spotted Frog monitoring down in a set of beaver ponds. The Frogs are very rare and only found in this one section of the Field office. A group of us lined up and started up the stream through the beaver ponds. I gave up on being dry very quickly and ended up chest deep in some places looking for frogs on the emergent vegetation. At first we saw absolutely nothing but by the end we had a decent count despite a local rancher pushing cows through to get them out of the canyon and away from the river. Caught a snake or two as well as the frogs.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most lately is the opportunity to shadow or talk with other staff in the office. Myself and Maria Paula were able to go out with our Recreation Coordinator, and we all got the chance to hear the Jeff, our archeologist, speak about his work. I’ve been very impressed with the people we’ve worked with both personally and professionally. I am always surprised when they accord great consideration to our time and schedules, since as interns, our schedules are fairly flexible and less packed than theirs. Additionally I am struck by the knowledge of their work as well as an awareness of the areas’ management as a whole. Both staff were able to speak to management concerns outside of their fields very knowledgeably and with a sense nuance that stuck. As someone looking to go into the management field somewhere along the way, I was really interested to hear what people who had been in the field for a while, considered to be good and bad qualities in a manager. It has helped bring a sense of reality to what I’m working towards and filled out the challenges a little more.

On a lighter note Maria Paula and I took a road trip to Wyoming to Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Cheyenne Rodeo. On the way back we stopped for the night in Dinosaur National Monument, did a bit of hiking and saw Colorado and Utah on the way. It was a fantastic trip. The scenery was desolate and beautiful by turns. Cheyenne Frontier days was an absolute trip with a strange assortment of people and a great rodeo. Mostly it was great to get out and go someplace. I get more than a little myopic during field seasons, especially right in the middle, so getting out of town was amazing. Dinosaur National Monument is incredibly beautiful and definitely underrated. We were able to see a huge wall of dinosaur fossils, pictographs, one of the most beautiful canyons I’ve ever encountered, and swim in the Green River. Of course, we also became Junior Rangers.

Spotted Frog looking a bit dazed

Spotted Frog looking a bit dazed

These Fine feathered fellows staring at the car

These Fine feathered fellows staring at the car

IMG_0510

Working on the Wild Side!!

("We are the Buffalo, WY CLM Group! We are determined to monitor and collect seeds!" ^_^) (Artwork by Jo Smith)

(“The Buffalo, Wyoming CLM Interns! Determined to monitor and collect seeds!” ^_^)      (Artwork by Jo Smith)

Monitoring and Seed Collecting in the Wild West

We were getting to the end of the line in terms of field monitoring! The grasses were drying out and the majority of the forbs would be dispersing their seed. Sara and I have been concentrating our monitoring efforts in two places. The Bighorn Mountains and the Cabin Canyon area near Gillette, Wyoming. There were many sites to monitor around Cabin Canyon, so we would be leaving early in the morning and camping over night to try to monitor all of the sites. Cabin Canyon was difficult to travel through. Due to the heavy rains we had recently, many of the roads and small bridges have been wiped out! Sometimes it would take us three times longer to get to a site, because the road had been washed away.  Some of the road locations that were digitally inputted into the GIS program in the past were really cow trails! We would be driving down a two track road only to find out that it was really a cow trail. Hahaha!! Despite all of our challenges we were encountering, we had a great time identifying forbs and grasses. Thanks to the rain, the plants held on a little longer, so we could properly identify most of the plants.

The bridge is out! O_O A common sight to see  around canyon sites after a rainstorm.

The bridge is out! O_O
A common sight to see around canyon sites after a rainstorm.

We have been seeing many cool birds out in the field. We would typically see all kinds of sparrows, kingbirds, grouse, and lark buntings. One of my favorites birds would be the sage grouse. They were not the smartest bird alive, but they were very interesting to watch in the field. They would typically stare at us while walking slowly in front of our truck. We were always cautious around them and made a note of where we saw them.

A sage grouse decided to stop in front of our truck and stare at us for a brief period of time.

A sage grouse decided to stop in front of our truck and stare at us for a brief period of time.

One of our side missions was to help Jill and Heather with seed collections for S.O.S. A large amount of seed collections had been completed so far! Sara and I would take a break on some of our work days to help with Jill’s S.O.S. seed collection. We have been collecting seed from needle and thread (Hesperostipa comata), bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), Hood’s phlox (Phlox hoodii), and Indian rice grass (Oryzopsis hymenoides/ Achnatherum hymenoides) to name a few. Some of the seeds were difficult to collect from, but we eventually made the goal that Jill set up. The S.O.S. collections were successful! Jill still has a couple of plant species she needs to collect from, so she might need our help in the future.

Time to collect needle and thread seeds!!...After we were done picking these seeds, we would find a large amount of them sticking to our socks and shoes. <_<

Time to collect needle and thread seeds!!…After we were done picking these seeds, we would find a large amount of them sticking to our socks and shoes. <_<

The Shadows that Roam

Sara and I would usually leave to monitor different sites around 4:00am. We could take advantage of the cooler temperatures and complete our projects before the intense afternoon sun would be overhead. Recently, we have been monitoring up in the Bighorn Mountains. The huge forests of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), limber pine (Pinus flexilis), and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) could hide a lot of animals and make the trip difficult if we were to hike over a mile through forested, uneven rocky terrain to a site. We would always monitor during daylight, but we would leave early so we could start monitoring immediately when the sun rises.

Everything was very quiet in the morning and we could begin to see signs of dawn approaching. We headed down the main county road known as Hazelton Road. We had to drive slowly due to the roaming shadows. You might be wondering, “What is a roaming shadow?” A roaming shadow was basically a very large animal walking through the darkness. All you could make out was a large shadow. With the intense full moon we have had lately, we would see a lot of shadows on the trip up the mountains. Sometimes you could tell what the creature would be and other times the large creature would appear briefly in your line of sight before heading into the dense forests on either side of the road and you would be asking yourself, “What was that!?” The truck does a good job at illuminating the area in front of us. We mostly see glowing eyes or fast moving shadows. When dawn approaches we could see what the shadows really are. Most of the time these shadows would be large mule deer, cows, elk, and even moose!  We would slow down and watch the elk herds cross in front of us or see a lonely moose forage for grasses. Before dawn, these shadows with glowing eyes look pretty intimidating, but when dawn comes, these shadowy creatures become majestic, furry animals.

Roaming shadows looking at our vehicle.

Roaming shadows looking at our vehicle.

As the sun rises, most of the deer, elk, and moose disappear. The lamb herds usually become active and we get to see fluffy Great Pyrenees guarding the sheep herds. Marmots would run across the road or sit on a rock, chirping at every passing truck. During the day time, the Bighorn Mountains would look totally different compared with the early morning. Monitoring in the mountains was awesome, especially when traveling in the early morning when we get to see the roaming shadows!

Great pyrenees resting near a herd of sheep. IT'S SO FLUFFY! \(O_O\)

Great pyrenees resting near a herd of sheep. IT’S SO FLUFFY! \(O_O\)

CLM Interns vs. Convolvulus arvensis: Field Bindweed All Out Attacks

A month ago, the BLM office had a field day where we would all go out to Welch Ranch Recreation Area and plant native seeds for future harvesting. We planted mostly green needlegrass (Nassella viridula) and bluebunch wheatgrass. One of our bosses wanted Jill, Heather, and I to go out to the site and do a routine maintenance check. We were told to check the water levels and weed all of the field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) and Russian thistle (Kali tragus/ Salsola kali?). When we got to the site, we were shocked!! There were weeds growing all over the place! One particular nasty weed was the field bindweed. The weed thought it was kudzu (Pueraria lobata)! D: Field bindweed was growing in the beds, strangling some of the native grasses. The weed was also growing along the beds creating dense mats of foliage covering the ground. Jill, Heather, and I began our attack.

Field bindweed growing around green needlegrass.

Field bindweed growing around green needlegrass.

The field bindweed was difficult to clear and took a lot of effort to remove without hurting the native grasses. I never seen field bindweed be this destructive. I usually saw it growing at the side of the road in a small patch. The field bindweed here tried to take over the north half of the field! After many hours in the intense sun, we cleared most of the field bindweed and created piles at the end of the rows. The Russian thistle to the south was our next destination. Luckily, the Russian thistle was still soft and not prickly when we removed it. Towards the end of the day, we cleaned up the field and were proud of our hard work. The field bindweed would probably return, but at least we cleared a lot of the bigger plants that were choking out the native grasses.

Weeding for field bindweed.

Weeding for field bindweed.

Misadventures

Sturgis Rally

On one of the weekends the Buffalo CLM interns traveled to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. There were a huge amount of motorcycles around and everyone was very active in the town. Mostly we took pictures, went shopping, visited different exhibits and went to different motorcycle rally attractions. There were so many interesting people that had some of the coolest motorcycles! We had a fun and exhausting day!!

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally!

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally!

When we were heading back to Wyoming, we encountered a thunderstorm! At the state border we got out of our vehicle to take pictures of the Wyoming State sign and the double rainbow that was behind us!

Wyoming Border!!

Wyoming Border!!

 And Now….. Your Moment of Zen….

OH WOW! O_O A double rainbow!! So intense...

OH WOW! O_O A double rainbow!! So intense.