Back in Vale!

I’m back in Vale, Oregon and I will be doing botany this field season! These first few weeks have involved lots of mandatory training and practice in Access databases.

Last week, I was able to go out all week and monitor sage grouse leks with our horse and burro specialist! It involved long days of early mornings and rough driving, but it was worth it since we got to see 4 leks with sage grouse actively lekking on them. I had never seen them in person before and it was awesome to be so close!  I even got to practice driving the manual rig off-road for the first time and I only stalled like 10 times, so I’d call it a success!

I’ve been out in the field a few times now and I’ve been working on learning the native plants. Sagebrush has always all looked the same to me, but I am finally able to tell a few species apart. I have even discovered a species that I actually enjoy the smell of!!! Additionally, we’ve come across a decent amount of plants that have already begun to bloom. Mainly, we’ve seen ranunculus and phlox with a few other species mixed in. It’s scary how early they’re blooming, but at the same time it’s nice to see the flowers which hint that spring is finally arriving.

 This week, I’ve been working trying to get the ESI team’s Access database containing soil descriptions and the species composition of sites to spatial data.  It is a work in progress, but once the database has spatial attributes we will be able to query out species of interest, find areas where they were found in abundance, and use that data to navigate to the sites to potentially collect seeds.

I’m so excited for this upcoming field season and I can’t wait to start collecting!  Hopefully, by my next post I will have completed a few collections!

Month 1-CO State BLM Office

This is my second CLM internship. Last year I worked in Vale, Oregon, and this year I have been given the opportunity to work with Carol Dawson at the Colorado State BLM office. I’m so glad and thankful to be here. I’m really looking forward to my work, and love living in Colorado. This year I will do some Seeds of Success collections, but most of my work will entail rare plant monitoring. So this month I have been familiarizing myself with several of the rare species we will be monitoring over the summer. I’ve become most familiar with a few Penstemon species, P. grahamii, P. scariosus var. albifluvis, P. gibbsenii, and P. debilis.

The BLM has been monitoring P. grahamii yearly since 2005, excluding 2006-2008 and 2013, using a permanent macroplot and restricted random sampling method. Last year the study population had been decimated, with only 16 individuals remaining, as compared to 148 in 2012. The severe decline is presumed to be from a herd of sheep mistakenly allowed to graze in the area. This year we will return to the location in order to evaluate whether or not continued monitoring is possible. Most likely, a new, larger population will need to be located and a new study site set up. The other CLM intern here, Nathan, has been working on new population locations for us to consider. P. grahamii is one of the species for which I have been preparing a status report.

Penstemon grahamii

A photo of P. grahamii I found online-I’m hoping to see it in flower this season, but is unlikely

The other species for which I’ve been preparing a status report is Penstemon scariosus var. albifluvis. This species shares a very similar habitat to P. grahamii. Both are endemic to the oil shale barrens of the geologic Green River Formation in the Uinta Basin, and face the threat of oil and gas exploration. The CO BLM has yet to initiate any demographic monitoring study for this species. We plan on implementing such a study this summer.
P. gibbensii and P. debilis are two more rare Colorado species and congeners of P. grahamii and P. scariosus var. albifluvis. There is extremely limited genetic information about P. grahamii and P. scariosus var. albifluvis, so I’ve been reading through the available information on P. gibbensii and P. debilis in order to gain a better understanding of their genetic structure, which may shed light on the possible genetic structures of P. grahamii and P. scariosus var. albifluvis.

Penstemon scriosus var. albifluvis

A photo of P. scariosus var. albifluvis I found online-I’m looking forward to posting my own pictures soon.

I have also been brushing up on my statistic skills. I won’t really be analyzing any data until after the field season, but I’ve been making some box plots and normal probability plots with the data from previous years of Penstemon grahamii monitoring. This allows me to see if the collected data follows a normal distribution, and thus how accurate statistical estimates are.

Sorry this is such a boring post. Until next time!


Colleen Sullivan


Big Bear Lake February-March


Dark red onion


Desert five spot

We spent three days in the Deep Creek area in mid-March with a 10 person Urban Conservation Corps crew, slashing and seeding unauthorized OHV trails.  The area is a challenging one to work in becuase it’s open, relatively remote, and not regularly patrolled.  Right now, we are focusing on “defensible” sites, where we can do work that won’t be moved or bypassed.

We’ve had several great volunteer events this month.  In partnership with the Southern California Mountains Foundation, SBNF restoration staff hosted a work day for a local community college ecology class at our Lytle Creek nursery.  Yesterday was our first yearly Green Thumbs volunteer day at the Mountaintop greenhouse, an event we host montly beginning in March.

I spent three (personal) days last week in the Newberry Mountians Wilderness, and am headed to the Orocopia Mountains as we speak.  There’s a lot blooming out in the desert right now, such as the charasmatic desert five spot (Erelmanche rotundifoila) and dark red onion (Allium a great time to go botanizing!

Mountaintop Ranger District

San Bernardino National Forest

Grass Class and Fire Restoration

The Sierra Front District BLM botany team is now complete. Stevie, the final member of our team, and my roommate arrived last weekend. The six of us interns are now gearing up for a busy field season. Of course, in this first month we have all been busy completing various trainings. Much time has also been spent on processing herbarium specimens from previous years.

During the beginning of this past week, we all attended a grass identification course at the University of Nevada Reno. As part of the class, we dissected and examined under the microscope 49 different genera of Poaceae, as well as several genera in Juncaceae and Cyperaceae. I have done work with grass in the past but have never had such a comprehensive overview of the family. I’m sure the information I learned in this class will prove to be quite useful going forward.

Field activities over the past couple of weeks have revolved around post-fire restoration. As reported by Olivia and Maggie, we spent a good deal of time scouting for locations to plant Mountain Mahogany seedlings at the TRE fire site. We found a site with a bunch of charred Mahogany remnants and determined that it would be suitable for planting the seedlings. We were all excited for our first camping trip of the season and the trip did not disappoint. Just fewer than 300 seedlings were planted successfully and the crew was treated to some amazing views of the Sierra and Sweetwater ranges.

Today the six of us will depart for Boise for the Integrated Pest Management and Pesticide Application Training and Certification. This certification is valid across all government agencies and will likely be very valuable in future job hunting endeavors.

My First Month in the Great Basin Desert and Sierras

It has been three weeks since I left Colorado and moved to Carson City, Nevada. I hadn’t spent much time in Nevada or in the Tahoe area before. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I first arrived here. As I drove westerly across Nevada on Highway 50 – the Loneliest Road in America – I kept thinking how I was going further into the desert and more into the unknown. The Great Basin Desert is unique and far from any desert that I’m familiar with. It is different than the red sandstone arches and pillars of southeastern Utah, the petrified forests and badlands of New Mexico, and the Saguaro deserts of southern Arizona. At first glance, one might think of the Great Basin Desert as a barren and desolate landscape, devoid of life and water. But, as I have pleasantly discovered, the farther you venture into the desert, the more life you find. Multiple species of sagebrush, salt brush, greasewood, grass, and herbaceous forbs are scattered across the landscape. In less than a month, I have gained a great respect for the Great Basin Desert and an appreciation for the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The time has flown by quickly. My days are packed full with learning and working. I have learned more about the Bureau of Land Management, the various land management practices and protocols, the pressing and archiving of herbarium specimens, as well as local geology and botany. This past week was busy. We spent the first portion of the week looking at grasses through microscopes and the second portion of the week planting seedlings.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we attended a Basic Grass Identification Class in Reno. Before attending this course, grass identification was a weakness of mine. In the past, I could readily classify grasses and grass-like plants to basic groups and families based on key characteristics (e.g., the two-ranked leaves of Poaceae [Grass Family], the usually triangular stem of Cyperaceae [Sedge Family]). But I had found it quite difficult to key grasses to genus and species. Grasses comprise a major component of the environment and can indicate the health and status of an ecosystem. Therefore, it is vital to understand how to identify grasses. The class involved identifying over 45 species of Poaceae and several species of Juncaceae and Cyperaceae. We learned how to identify grasses and grass-like plants based on floret structures (i.e., presence versus absence of awns, bearded versus non-bearded calluses, number of florets within a spikelet, etc.). We applied our knowledge to dichotomous keys and were able to determine the genera and, most of the time, species. The course has provided me with more confidence as a biologist and botany intern. I can use my knowledge to determine the presence or absence of certain native grass species, which could influence the collection or planting of native grass seeds.

Thursday and Friday involved the planting of Mountain Mahogany seedlings. On May 22, 2012, flames from a fire in a residence’s backyard were released into the foothills of the southern Pine Mountains. The escaped embers resulted in the TRE Fire – a fire that burned for five consecutive days and burned more than 7,000 acres. A majority of the fire encompassed BLM land. Native perennial plant species were burned in the fire, including Single-leaf Piñon (Pinus monophylla), Western Juniper (Juniperus occidentalis), Desert Peach (Prunus andersonii), and Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius). Our job this past week was to plant about 300 Mountain Mahogany seedlings in a portion of the burn area where the tree used to thrive. The seedlings were grown from seeds collected by previous Seeds of Success Interns. It took two days, an overnight camping trip, and six interns to complete the planting. The beautiful weather, positive attitudes, and laughter made the planting gratifying! The project contained no impasses and was relatively smooth. When I was in the midst of planting some of the seedlings, I looked around at my fellow comrades and smiled from delight and zeal. Not only were we having a good time, but we were also restoring a species to a recently disturbed area. We were making a difference in the world of ecology and our work was important. I was encouraged to see how the collection of seeds can be used to restore and ameliorate an ecosystem. This project is a great story for the Seeds of Success program and emphasizes the importance of collecting seeds for future restoration efforts.

TRE Fire, Pine Nut Mountains, NV - This north-facing slope is where we planted the 280 Mountain Mahogany seedlings.

TRE Fire, Pine Nut Mountains, NV – This north-facing slope is where we planted about 300 Mountain Mahogany seedlings.

CLM intern team planting Mountain Mahogany.

CLM intern team planting Mountain Mahogany.

Aaron Rosenblum carrying a bag of Mountain Mahogany seedlings.

Aaron Rosenblum carrying a bag of Mountain Mahogany seedlings.

John White planting Mountain Mahogany.

John White planting Mountain Mahogany.

Maggie Grey planting Mountain Mahogany.

Maggie Grey planting Mountain Mahogany.

Olivia Schilling planting Mountain Mahogany.

Olivia Schilling planting Mountain Mahogany.

A view of the Sweetwater Range and the Sierras.

A view of the Sweetwater Range and the Sierras.

Burned Mountain Mahogany.

Burned Mountain Mahogany.

Steven Jesselson planting Mountain Mahogany.

Steven Jesselson planting Mountain Mahogany.

A Mountain Mahogany seedling in the foreground  and a burned Mountain Mahogany in the background.

A Mountain Mahogany seedling in the foreground and a burned Mountain Mahogany in the background.

My seasonal allergies are beginning. Sneezing, runny nose, and swollen, itchy eyes – it must be spring! The leaves on trees are budding, rosettes are appearing more and more, and flowers are beginning to bloom. I’m immensely looking forward to more days out in the field, surveying plant species and collecting seeds.

Beginning work at the Cosumnes River Preserve (Again)

Hello everyone,

It has been an interesting few weeks here at the Cosumnes River Preserve, a wonderful 50,000 acre conservation partnership in California’s Central Valley. I began working here in the Federal Pathways Program in 2011 and thought my time here was ending when I graduated in January. As I was wrapping up my projects and prepping my resume, a co-worker and former CLM intern informed the staff that he was leaving to take a new position in his home state of Iowa. This as it turned out was very fortunate timing for me (though I will miss working with him, great person and great employee) as I was able to take over his position as the Project Manager of a giant garter snake restoration project that is scheduled to begin in late summer of 2015.

After graduation I had the month of February off and used that time to do some travelling. My wife and I went to Park City, Utah for a week, then did some backpacking in the beautiful Desolation Wilderness, and finished with a trip to the Big Island in Hawaii. Needless to say there was a brief struggle in returning to work, but I have jumped in head first and am moving forward with the Badger Creek Restoration Project here at the Preserve.

Though it has only been a few weeks, I am already getting some excellent (and not so excellent) introductions to the wonderful world of state and federal permitting. I have written a few NEPA documents in the past, mostly for small projects/actions here at the Preserve, but this new project is a significant step up in complexity. I am currently working on wrapping up a joint NEPA/CEQA document that will cover both the state and federal requirements necessary to obtain proper permits and complete the project. This should be finished in the next few days (the previous CLMer had already completed a good portion of the document) and we will begin the review process. I will have much more to discuss in the coming weeks regarding the process but I thought I might end with a brief description about what we are doing at Badger Creek (I just realized that this post may end up looking like a Tarantino movie by the time it is over, introduction last?).

The Badger creek restoration project involves two separate but connected parcels of preserve lands that will be restored to provide habitat for the federal and state listed threatened giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas). The western parcel, known as Horseshoe Lake, is infested with yellow water primrose which will treated and/or mechanically removed to restore open-water foraging habitat. The eastern parcel, the Bjelland Unit, currently exists as ag land with a channelized portion of Badger Creek running along the southern property boundary. This parcel is going to be recontoured to create wetland and upland habitat which connects to the Horseshoe Lake Unit. The final product will be an additional 1.5 miles of restored habitat, and restored connectivity to the existing Badger Creek population of giant garter snakes. I am very excited to be working on this project and will check back in soon with an update.


Sand dunes and science fairs

Greetings from Arcata, CA and the Humboldt County sand dunes! I have just wrapped up my first week as a foredune conservation/rangeland monitoring intern under Jennifer Wheeler at the Bureau of Land Management, and what a week it was. In seven days I had my first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge as my plane landed from Canada, my first drive up the famous California coastline, my first chance to botanize in a sand dune ecosystem (Yes, I made botany a verb), and my first time judging an elementary school science fair. It couldn’t have been more fun!

The BLM of Arcata is responsible for the conservation and management of more than 200,000 acres of land in Northern California, including the unique dune system that makes up the coastline of Humboldt County. I jumped right in to this sandbox after a bit of bureaucratic orientation and spent everyday at a new monitoring site, learning the flora and performing transect monitoring. Though European beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria) and Ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis) are a continuous menace to the native species, the level of restoration that the BLM, in concert with their partners, has managed to achieve is a bright beacon of hope in the sometimes dark world of ecosystem conservation. I was thrilled to see the amount of diversity (over thirty species in one transect!), curious to see the effect of the competition between the natives and the invasives, and enamored with the two special status endemic plants, the Humboldt County wallflower (Erysimum menziesii ssp. eurekense) and beach layia (Layia carnosa). These charismatic little guys are a conservation priority and their persistence in this damaged and ever changing system is in large part due to the ongoing restoration efforts of the BLM.

It's a common misconception that nothing grows in the sand. There is an impressive  community assemblage of native dune species in Humboldt County.

It’s a common misconception that nothing grows in the sand. There is an impressive community assemblage of native dune species in Humboldt County.

Jennifer Wheeler at the Samoa Dunes site

Jennifer Wheeler at the Samoa Dunes site

Humboldt County Wallflower (Erysimum menziesii ssp. eurekense)

Humboldt County Wallflower (Erysimum menziesii ssp. eurekense)

While I could have happily spent the entire week on the beach, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a judge for the local science fair. Over 130 students from fourth grade through high school participated, with the winners advancing to county and state fairs. The curiosity and ingenuity displayed by the students was a colourful and fun reminder of why we all got into science. Who hasn’t wondered which type of fruit will fly the furthest?! A sense of wonder, anticipation of the unexpected, the thrill of a discovery. These are the simple things that we must nurture to form our future scientists and they’re the things that the most fortunate of us retain through our entire career. I for one plan to approach my entire summer with this mentality!

This student understands that good science is accessible to the general public.

This student understands that good science is accessible to the general public.

This student wants to inform the public and improve our health with her science.

This student wants to inform the public and improve our health with her science.

This student who appreciates the cost of science!

This student who appreciates the cost of science!

Chiroptera & Ungulates Galore

Greetings from the land where there is still snow!  Fairbanks is still covered with the white stuff so botanizing and wildlife-ing will have to wait until the green emerges.  Temperatures had been on an upward trend but a week of -30 harshly reminded us what Mother Nature is capable of.

We are gearing up for a busy and exciting field season.  In addition to the projects I mentioned in my last post (raptor surveys, bat monitoring, invasive species reconnaissance) I will also be planning and teaching some Invasive Plant Species Identification classes—should be a good chance to practice my public speaking and presentation skills, not to mention wax poetic about botany.

As of late I have mostly been researching, researching, researching for our little brown bat project (Myotis lucifungus).  I am used to monitoring things that don’t move (or don’t move fast) i.e. plants so these batty guys are new to me.  I’ve been reading a lot about bats, wildlife monitoring study design, echolocation, occupancy modeling etc. and chatting with many bat experts.  Hopefully all this information will be put to good use this summer.

There are a few opportunities for field work before “break-up” and one of those is moose surveys.  This Friday I will be taking off to go to Bettles, AK for the week.  There we will be flying transects over Gates of the Arctic National Park looking for moose.  The survey uses what is called the Geospatial Population Estimator (GSPE) method.  Basically, GSPE uses spatial correlation in moose populations to increase precision and flexibility in survey methods.  A certain number of sample grids from a study area are selected and transects are flown over them.  The spatial correlation among these samples is calculated and this relationship is modeled as a function of distance.  This model can them be used to predict moose densities in un-sampled areas.

Usually, less intensive stratification flights are done before the actual survey to identify areas of high and low moose density.  More survey effort is then dedicated to the high moose density stratum.

Here is a dizzying depiction of contour transects flown in mountainous terrain.


In other news, snow in Fairbanks allowed for two delightful winter activities these past weeks.  First, a lovely ski trip to Tolovana Hot Springs with Anchorage friends including CLM counterpart Charlotte and former CLM counterpart Bonnie!  And secondly, the IDITAROD!  Moved to Fairbanks for only the second time in history due to lack of snow in Anchorage.  A few choice pictures of both below.


Fairbanks, AK


Views from the way up–Tolovana Hot Springs trail


Home sweet home


Views from the hot springs–not too shabby


Lance Mackey and the Ninjas


No one would give me a ride to Nome…



Fall to Spring… No Winter this year.


Hello my fellow CLMers,

I am back on for my second round as an intern in the Medford, OR BLM office.  I started about a month and a half earlier this year as a result of getting into grad school at Humboldt State University and will be having to move in June.  I got accepted into the Biology program and will be focusing on insect community ecology.  I strongly feel that my 10 month internship doing botanical work here with the Medford BLM really solidified my wanting to go back to school, and helped with my acceptance.

Even though I have begun early in order to get a few months of my internship in before I have to leave, it has proved to be quite productive.  No intern in the 13 year history of the Seeds of Success program at the Medford BLM has ever started this early.  That means a whole new set of early blooming plants that are ready and waiting to be vouchered and added to our extensive herbarium of over 3,500 specimen.  I have been out and about a few times already this year to many locations I went to last year, and I am witnessing an entirely knew community of flora.  Also, the fact that we have had a horrible winter (snow-pack being at 19% of normal average as of last month) has also been a factor that proves my early start date has been beneficial, as everything is popping up early.  I have also been scouting out new places and keeping me eye on what species will start to seed.  I am hoping to make my first SOS collection sometime in early April.

It is nice coming back to a second term after already getting the hang of things here in the office and in the field.  I spent the first 2 months last year trying to figure out the protocol and get caught up to speed on basic botanical jargon, but now I have just hit the ground running and I am feeling good about the productivity of this year.  We have another SOS intern coming on in April, so fortunately there will be some overlap with us and I can teach him what I know about the program, and he can take over the work load from there.



Final Post for 2014 Internship

Man, did this internship fly by. Even though I was extended twice, I still cannot believe that that in 3 months I would have been living and working in Buffalo, Wyoming for a year. I have grown so much and become so independent. No longer do 4, 5, 6 hours driving trips seem long. I have many new skills to add to my resume. GIS, 4X4, GPS, NRS, are just a few subjects that I have gained invaluable experience in. I will never forget when Justin Chappelle and I’s 4X4 training would be put to the ultimate test. Going beyond the limit and soaring past with flying colors. Some of my favorite memories are with my fellow interns. There is no bigger relief than when you meet your new roommates for the first time, and realize they are AWESOME!!! There are so many rewarding experiences that I have had during this internship. I do not believe that I could fit them all on a blog post. A compact list will just have to do for now. :)

Favorite Memories!!!!

1. First night at the Occidental Hotel Saloon on a Thursday night with Heather Bromberg, Sean Casler, and Jill Pastick.

2. First trip to Yellowstone seeing Old Faithful and being trapped in a heard of Bison with Sean Casler and his friend Jeff.

3. First day out in the field when Jill was almost struck by lightning.

4. The day Justin and I saved a baby elk from a barb-wire fence. (Note to new interns: ALWAYS bring a multi-tool with you)

5. UTV training day!!! So fun to drive those things around.

6. Girl’s Grilling Night with the Hot Tub!

7. The ghost in the house opening the basement door (we figured out is wasn’t a ghost, just the house was so old the latch did not always close completely, or was it a ghost….OOOoooooOOoooo!)

8. First camping night for work, when all 4 of us interns slack-lined with Dusty Kavitz, Charlotte Darling, and Don Brewer.

9. Longmire Days street party! (Who knew a small town like Buffalo would have a street party inspired by the books and TV show that in turn was inspired by Buffalo, WY!!! Mind Blown!!!)

10. First trip to the Grand Tetons Park!!

11. Road trips to Casper, Ft. Collins, and Thermopolis.

12. White Water Rafting! (My younger brother was visiting and was able to enjoy this experience with us)

13. My first plot where it was mostly bare ground. (That went by so fast and helped us finish our work day earlier than expected!! I know, that is selfish, and bare ground is actually bad for an allotment, but when you have 65 to do in a few months, you are willing to sacrifice one.)

14. Coffee stops at the Mavericks Gas station before heading out to the field.

15. Putting water in a gas generator. (First of all, this was an accident. Second, the water container was beside a gas container and the water smelled like fuel. It was my fault, but not completely, even the others thought it was fuel as well. Long story short, things were fine, Dusty Kavitz fixed it.)

16. 4th of July in Teton Villiage, where I had Thai food for the first time at the Teton Thai Tent. Yummmm!!!

17. The first day that I slept on a real mattress I had ordered off of Amazon. I spent the first few weeks sleeping on the floor on a thin sleeping mat. Best $100 I ever spent.

18. Intern Dinner night. All 4 of us interns, plus 1 seasonal had dinner together.

19. The First time I identified an unknown plant. I had seen this plant at almost every site, no one knew what it was, no one in the office knew what it was. After 2 weeks of searching the databases, books, dichotomous keys, I discovered what plant. Rough False Penneyroyal!! Hedeoma hispida! This certain plant was challenging. When I began trying to identify, the flowering time had already passed, most specimens were not complete, and were brown. This moment is for sure one of my top “Ah-Ha” moments.

20. Many more of our trips. Visiting Devil’s Tower (SO COOL!), going to Sturgis (Really wanted a vest there, but it was $120!!! Too rich for this intern’s blood.), and hiking at Circle Park.

21. First time skiing with Heather Bromberg. :)

There are so many great memories that I will have forever from my time in Wyoming. The people were so nice, the office so welcoming, and outdoor activities only limited by our own minds and imaginations. There is a certain energy in the hundreds of miles of open air in Wyoming. The Wild West surely earns its name. Was my time perfect here? No, but close. 100 degree work days, 3 girls sharing 1 bathroom, missing my family and dogs back home, no house with AC in the summer, tensions between interns, the 2 months before we were actually able to hang out with coworkers around our own age, and the long road trips taking a brutal toll on my 15 year old Honda ( I spent at least $2,000 on repairs, and two major oil leaks later, finally traded the poor thing in). I wouldn’t trade any of these experiences, well, maybe the car one. RIP Honda!

This life, this experience out here, has challenged me, molded me, carved me from the stubborn stone of my old life and transformed me into a stronger, more confident, and more understanding person. There is no monetary value to be had for such a gift. This internship, above the work experience, above the new lands to be charted, above everything, it is utmost, a gift. One to be cherished, savored, and appreciated.

I had no expectations going into this internship. I knew nothing of what I should expect from the people or places I would go. But somehow, this small, old, dusty town of 4,500 people has left a forever stamp on my heart. I am forever indebted to the CBG and CLM program and the staff of the Buffalo Field Office. I am so appreciative for the transformations this opportunity has made to my resume, and the transformations to my character. Thank you.