All Good Things Must Come to an End

Farewells can be difficult, especially when you’ve enjoyed yourself so much. The end to my CBG internship in Lander, WY is bittersweet. I remember driving to Lander from Iowa. Approaching the mountains was exhilarating. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself moving to a place next to the mountains. The breathtaking views were indescribable and I will greatly miss them.

During the last few weeks of my internship, I spent time doing a variety of projects. My partner and I spent countless days letting down a fence to aid in elk migration. We also got to assist with two sage projects: a reclamation on Green Mountain and a restoration at Castle Gardens.

Reflecting back on my CBG internship, I never would have thought I would gain so much knowledge. Coming from a tallgrass prairie to sagebrush steppe was both intimidating and exciting. Exciting when I could actually recognize some plants from my time in central Nebraska and encouraging when I started recognizing plants that I had just learned. Though the short green season made identifying plants hard once they browned (literally everything just looked like dead grass haha).

I now leave Lander (for the most part) with a sense of accomplishment. I’ve learned so many new things, both from my mentor and from the CBG conference. I will miss working in the BLM office but I hope to return someday to visit or work.

Until next time,

– James Noyama
Bureau of Land Management – Lander Field Office                                                 Lander, Wyoming

And then there was one…

Well, what began as a group of six original CBG interns at the Lander Field Office in Wyoming has dwindled down to single ol’ me (luckily Gwen, our co-worker who started out with the Great Basin Institute was recently hired on through CBG and I am not without a field buddy). It has been an awesome summer getting to know my fellow interns who hail from all over the country. Along with our adventures in the field, we all shared a penchant for Thai food, “Just Dance,” and movie nights, all of which I will miss!
We have been having surprisingly nice weather in this part of Wyoming, with a taste of snow that only lasted for a couple days. The cold and clear days mean that the last month has still been full of field projects. Some last cow scouting was done to make sure there were no stragglers left behind and with our riparian monitoring mostly finished we became jack-of-all-trades interns, working on sagebrush planting, fence mending, and even some sheep tracking. My biggest task for the next week is to mark an approx. 8 mile fence with sage grouse clips to make it more visible for grouse and other wildlife this winter.
Another project that I recently started working on is a template for an Environmental Assessment that looks at the potential impacts of a proposed conifer removal project. I have learned a ton about the NEPA process and was excited to be brought in on a more policy oriented project for the BLM which will also lend itself to a future career in environmental consulting.
It is bittersweet to be facing my last couple weeks as a CLM intern but I’m happy to be kept busy until the very end. Until next time…

– Coli
Lander Field Office
Lander, Wyoming

Farewell Carson

Goodbyes are difficult. New beginnings are exhilarating. The conclusion of a wonderful internship experience with the CLM program is indescribably bittersweet.

I believe it was yesterday when I rolled into Carson City, Nevada after a 32 hour drive from Lexington, Kentucky. The snow-capped mountains and the vast oceans of sagebrush were surreal to me. The realization that I would be spending the next ten months here had yet to set in. Now, those ten months have past, the last page of the chapter turned.

Generally, I am not the luckiest person in the world. I don’t win at monopoly. Nine times out of ten if I call a coin flip, I lose. I know, I know. 50/50 odds, but sometimes, thats just the way the cookie crumbles. However, I hit the jackpot when I landed this internship. I was able to  experience the Great Basin, the Sierras, and Lake Tahoe and I had a stellar group of co-interns to put the icing on the top.

Last sunset at Lake Tahoe

Now that my days in Carson are over, I realize that accepting a CLM internship was one of the best decision of my life. For the first time, I was able to move away from home, experience a side of the U.S. I had never seen, and work in an environment that I was totally unfamiliar with. I now leave Carson with a sense of accomplishment, with friendships that will last a lifetime and a new appreciation for life.

“…There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of The Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.”

 

 

 

Every Field Season Must End

Like every field season, 2017 is coming to an end. As I found myself in the midst of cool fall air, crunchy leaves under my feet, and spontaneous Colorado snow, I was still blessed with a few cool season SOS collections before packing my plant press away for the winter.

Garden Park, Marsh Quarry Trail, just north of Canon City. The landscape is riddled with Boulteloua gracilis and Bouteloua curtipendula, both of which I collected for Seeds of Success. Photo: B. Palmer

Bouteloua gracilis is quite possibly the easiest grass to identify, thanks to its one-sided rachis! Thus, probably making it one of my favorite grasses. I was able to make three separate B. gracilis collections before the season ended. Photo: B. Palmer

We also spent one of our last field days on a day trip up to Walden, CO, a three-hour drive from the State Office, not for seed collecting, but to install moisture sensors. My mentor had ordered soil moisture sensors/probes to have installed for one of the species the BLM monitors, the federally endangered Phacelia formosula, North Park phacelia. Of all the species we have monitored this summer, this is one that has really taken a downward spiral – we hardly saw any while we were there earlier in the summer. We are hoping that keeping track of the soil moisture content of the different areas will help explain the mysterious disappearance of the little rare and endangered North Park phacelia. So we installed these soil moisture sensors at the five sites that are monitored, because collecting a little more data couldn’t hurt!

CLM intern Taryn Contento is digging a hole in the semi-frozen ground of mid-October, where the sensors were eventually inserted into the ground. Taryn did most of the digging, I did most of the recording! Probes were set at 6″ and 12″ below ground, and buried with the console just outside each Phacelia formosula plot, which will record the data of the sensors over the year, until checked up on. Photo: B. Palmer

The HOBO soil moisture sensor equipment. The heavy-duty plastic box contains the console recording the data, and sitting on top of it is one of two soil moisture probes that goes with each unit. Photo: B. Palmer

But with the end of all field seasons follows the office work that got put off during that season. All important and crucial of course, but easy to put aside when you could enjoy a beautiful day outside in the field instead. However, because it is getting more brisk, I find myself enjoying a hot drink at my computer in my cubicle more and more…that is, with small walking breaks up and down the stairs every once in a while, since the sedentary lifestyle is obviously not for me on a full-time basis.

I have spent a lot of time preparing things for the next season, and identifying plants I have pressed and brought back to the office. Over two months ago, our crew worked on Modified Whittiker plots, species diversity plots that are associated with T&E work of Eutrema penlandii, an uncommon endemic to the Mosquito Range of the Southern Rockies. These plots are set up near areas we monitor for E. penlandii, and we try to determine all the species found within a given area to see how the plant diversity/richness changes over time. We then keep a record of the species found, and update the record in the form of a book of alpine plants in that range to use in future years. For things we could not identify while in the field, we took voucher specimens to look at later…and lo, it is now later! The difficult ones consisted of plants from the Asteraceae, grasses, sedges, and Drabas. The task was tedious and daunting (though not impossible), at least at first, because our office does not have a dissecting scope. Crazy, right? Thankfully, the other CLM intern that is also working in the Colorado State Office, Taryn, was willing to bring in her scope to the office to let me use! And my, how things changed once I got to use that dissecting scope, and I flew through the dichotomous keys with ease. I forgot how fun it is to key things out…when you know the terminology, and can see the parts, from the depths of plant identification, all the sudden everything becomes clear!

Using the dissecting scope, I was able to get a good look of the 2mm long peryginia, and easily determine this sedge to be the uncommon Western single-spike sedge, Carex scirpoidea ssp. pseudoscirpoidea! Woo! Photo: B. Palmer

I have also stayed busy enough wrapping up the Seeds of Success paperwork. Editing and entering data forms, writing the annual report, downloading collection pictures, and making herbarium voucher labels are all a part of end-of season wrap-up. I even started an extensive Target list for the 2018 CLM intern (you lucky dog, you!) to hopefully make the their life easier when it comes to scouting for plant populations. As an intern that may not have had all the experience in the world when I first started, I would have found it helpful to have a little more information about areas to scout for SOS when I started. For those of you that don’t know Colorado very well, we have an extensive range of ecoregions and zones within a small portion of the state. So I decided to enhance next year’s target list, so that maybe whoever is in my shoes next year can have a better idea of how to plan their summer. I made the list to include: interested species, phenology, habitat, and general areas of where one would typically find them, based on the BLM field office and associated counties. No one should have problems finding populations next year! I hope. That is, as long as it isn’t too far a drive for them.

Any person meant to be in the field may often feel the balls and chains of office work dragging them down, but I decided to break it up this past week with a trip to the University of Colorado Boulder. When looking at the list of regional herbaria to send my SOS vouchers to, I decided to go with CU because (1) I went to CU for my undergraduate degree, so I was familiar with their herbarium; and (2) the curator of the COLO herbarium was my plant systematics professor…so I could show off the plant-pressing skills I learned from her when I was a student! So off I went to the CU herbarium, with CLM intern Taryn, to check out the COLO herbarium once again. Taryn had not seen this herbarium yet, so I thought it would be a treat to bring her along. Can you believe they have 560,000 specimens stored there?! I got to drop off my SOS specimens, and we got a wonderful tour of the herbarium. Can you think of a better way to spend an afternoon?

Penstemon osterhoutii specimen I expertly pressed for one of my collections that will consider the University of Colorado herbarium home for the next few hundred years. What an honor! Photo: B. Palmer

Like all things, my second year as a Conservation and Land Management intern is coming to an end. What a wonderful experience it has been! I was blessed to work outside, with a delightful, refreshing crew, in the clean mountain air of Colorado, practicing plant conservation and the other duties of a botanist. Being here in this internship has once again firmly established that this is a line of work I would love to do for many, many years to come.

A beautiful day and magnificent view from earlier in the season, from Mosquito Pass in the Southern Rocky Mountains. We live in a beautiful world, and need to preserve what we can! This has been one fantastic field season!

-Brooke Palmer, Colorado State Office, Lakewood, CO.

Switching Gears for an Ending Field Season

Greetings,

A lot has happened since I last blogged. The Taos area saw snow in the mountains in early October. It was a beautiful and saddening sight since the event signaled the end of the field season.

Snow could be seen in the Mountains in Early October from the Ute Mountian area

My coworker and I have been working diligently to finish our end of the season work. We have sent off the rest of our seed to bend, mounted our specimens, and finished the annual report. We have a couple of things left to do.

Coworker Organizing Herbarium Specimens

Our last field day was October 18th at San Antonio mountain. It was a glorious autumn day. We made two collections, Artemisia frigida and Ericameria nauseosa.

San Antonio Mt, New Mexico on a beautiful October day

Artemisia frigida collected on a beautiful October day at San Antonio Mt.

Last field day, pressing herbarium vouchers for Ericameria nauseosa.

Around mid-September, we attended the Native Plant Society of New Mexico conference. The conference was amazing! The presentations and field trips acquainted me with the rich history of the area, plants used by the prehistoric Pueblo people, and local research projects. My favorite part of the conference was the Paleoecology of Fort Burgwin field trip. The leader, Richard Ford, show us examples of how prehistoric Pueblo people controlled water flow, areas where houses used to exist, and a mulch garden with Liatris punctata. 

Cute Alpaca for your viewing pleasure! This adorable fuzzy creature is a resident of the Benson Ranch we visited during the Range Restoration Field Trip.

Sierras & Great Basin, V.

As the crisp weeks of fall in the Sierra roll on, I find myself reflecting on what a wonderful summer field season this internship has provided and look forward to adventures beyond CLM. Seed collections here at the Carson City BLM office are piling up as a new host of late season species go to seed. Sitting around 86 current collections, my team and I aim to knock out 14 more to hit our 100 collection goal within the last two weeks of our internship.

We are gearing up to make our last collections of Atriplex, Artemisia, Krascheninnikovia, Ericameria, and Chrysothamnus seed. These collections make up a set of species that flower in late summer and fruit in the fall. Luckily for us, chenopods, sage and rabbit brushes put on large amounts of easily collectible seed so these last several collections should go smoothly.  We are also in the process of the wrapping up the year with data entry into the SOS Data Portal, verifying and labelling herbarium vouchers, and writing annual reports.

Fall colors ft. Populus tremuloides

Earlier this month we had the amazing opportunity to attend a Rapid Vegetation Assessment/Relevé course at the Bodega Bay Marine Lab in California! Taking advantage of the trip to California, our team left early to explore San Francisco, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and Angel Island. The training course was held by the California Native Plant Society as an overview to the official protocol for RVA/Relevé  to determine the “Vegetation Type” of a stand. Vegetation types are used in mapping and designating conservation areas for critical habitat because they concisely describe vegetation communities and relevant ecosystem characteristics. The instructors were knowledgeable and made the course an enjoyable positive training!

SF

I experienced so much more throughout my 9 months with the Carson City BLM than I ever imagined. From technical skills in plant identification and restoration ecology to ESR and NEPA work, the program exposed me to a range of work experience that will be extremely useful moving forward. Bittersweet goodbyes to the Great Basin and Sierras, but I’m confident that I’ll make it back soon. To all the future CLMers, good luck and enjoy!

<3

Carson City District Office – BLM

Connor Kotte

Just Getting Started

While it seems that everyone else is packing it up and getting ready to leave, I’m only just beginning my time with CBG in Lander, WY as a Botany intern! Although I’ve been living in Lander for over a year, I’m new to CBG and will be hanging out until mid-January. I have to say, I’m pretty excited to see what CBG can teach me about my home. I’ve already learned about Wyoming’s rarest endangered plant, desert yellowhead (Yermo xanthocephalus), and have gotten a taste (and a smell) of our many varieties of sagebrush. I’ve also gotten to experience the joys of finding a bountiful seed set, the frustrations of searching endlessly for viable seed, and the cross-eyedness of trying to count tiny seeds only to sneeze and blow them all over the table. I’m enjoying the work though. I love getting lost in the meditative trance of collection, cleaning, and seeding. Despite the small frustrations, I find the process undeniably pleasant and I feel fortunate that we are able to have such great resources at our disposal! My last job working with seeds did not go as easily and is a stark comparison to the Seeds of Success (SOS) project I’ve been working on.

I came to Lander via Senegal, West Africa. I was stationed in Senegal for three years with the United States Peace Corps working as a sustainable agriculture extension agent. My job mostly consisted of consulting with farmers and working with local villages to create fruit orchards, community gardens, and improve sustainable cultivation practices. A large part of my job was also seed extension. The idea was to give improved seed varieties to farmers in exchange for them returning double the amount to me at the end of the year. The extra seed I received back would be given to other farmers to expand and grow the program. When I began my service, I had grandiose dreams of extending seeds across the region. I dreamt that my seed extension program would be so successful that it would evolve into a region wide seed collection effort in which, hand-in-hand, villages would skip into the African bush, collect seed, and together we would sow a new African forest, thus preventing desertification, increasing vital habitat, and increasing plant diversification across the country. It’s probably not a surprise that my big dreams did not come to fruition. In fact, in my first year of doing seed extension only half of the farmers I worked with returned seed to me. I spent hours collecting and cleaning seed by myself, only to have it blow away in a gust of wind, get eaten by insects, or in the off-chance that it actually made it to planting season, my new germinates would[delete] get eaten by merciless greedy goats. It seemed like so much work for such little gain. But the work was hard because I lacked resources. I wasn’t partnered with a government bureau. I didn’t have a car that could take me to remote areas where the best seed was. I didn’t even have a good pair of hand pruners. All this is to say, that I didn’t fail because I was a bad person, I failed because seed work can be hard. It’s hard to make a difference when one person is working by themselves.

The next year I clung to the farmers who had returned seed to me. They were my helpers and together we found more people who were interested in establishing a local seed bank. Although the seed program didn’t reach the region-wide scope I had envisioned, that year eighty percent of my farmers returned seed to me and they were excited to grow the program the next year. All of this opened my eyes to how important it is to work together on projects of this magnitude – it isn’t something that anyone can do alone. It takes a lot of people, and a lot of resources to collect and distribute that much seed.

And now I’m an SOS Botany intern tasked with collecting seeds to save and distribute for national reclamation projects. The great thing is, I’m not alone in this endeavor. I am one of many working on this momentous project. This is why I am so thrilled to be a part of this national effort as a CLM intern. Together, we really can make a difference.

-Gwen BLM, Lander Field Office

Gwen in 2015 creating seed bags to extend to farmers

Long leaf sage seed moments before sneezing it all over the table.

 

Another CBG Season Comes to an End

Well, my final days as a CBG intern at the Salt Lake Field Office have come and gone. Once I wrapped up the last of the collections and entered all the data, I had the chance to work on some side projects. One of these was to greatly spruce up the office herbarium. The old herbarium was contained in two old, fake wood cabinets that were literally falling apart. Every time I opened them, it seemed like a chunk of weird, spongy material fell out of the inside. One of the doors was completely off its hinges. There was hardly any space left either. By some miracle, we had enough room in the budget to order a shiny, new, and huge herbarium cabinet. What’s more, we were able to convince the powers that be to put it in the “intern bullpen” area so that next year all the seasonal teams can have access to it. The old herbarium was located in a part of the office that not many people visit and a majority of the office had no idea we even had an herbarium. Not anymore!

New herbarium cabinet with all specimens inside!

It was quite comical to hear everyone’s opinions of the new herbarium. Some people called it an eyesore. Others were very enthusiastic. The other herbarium side project was to digitize all the plant specimens in case some disaster happened or if someone wanted to do a quick look up of a species. This involved stamping and photographing every single specimen, which amounted to 1390 vouchers! Some were in horrible shape, some were very old, and then I got to add the ones I made this SOS field season in to the mix. It felt very satisfying to accomplish all that.

One of the vouchers I made from this year’s collections

During my very last week, I got the opportunity to help out the new wildlife biologist with a Bat Week presentation at a local elementary school. This turned out to be a cool experience and we were relieved to find that the kids were super attentive and willing to participate. Their curiosity was very refreshing! I’m sure the teachers enjoyed a break from their regular schedule as well.

Reflecting back on the entirety of this field season, I am proud of what I and my coworker accomplished. Despite some difficulty along the way, we surpassed our collection goals, camped in awesome places, and improved on many botany skills. Having a good coworker certainly makes or breaks a field season, so I felt really lucky to once again have an awesome field partner. It also helps to have a good mentor, and ours was definitely a great one, striking a good balance between being available when we needed guidance and also trusting us to get work done on our own(and not micro-managing!). Hopefully next year the communication between the various organizations doing seed collections will exist and that next year’s crew will have a less confusing time of things on that end.

As far as the next step in life goes, I am in a state of limbo. I definitely want to spend the winter in Utah and see how that goes. I’m conflicted as to weather to pursue other seasonal opportunities or try and get the elusive full-time job. This field can be frustrating at times, but I am determined to keep pursuing it at the moment. I can’t thank the CBG enough for giving me two amazing field seasons in two great locations, and for opening my eyes to all that the West has to offer!

So long Sagebrush, Shoshone, and Southern Idaho.

It is now my turn to say goodbye to Shoshone, Idaho. As everyone else has stated, this internship has flown by. But in hopes to truly appreciate and learn from the growth that I have experienced here – I am going to attempt to reflect on it all. Wish me luck.

The Adventures:

Looking back on my calendar from these past few months, I can confidently say that I’ve tried my best to explore the area as much as I could. Camping and road trips stacked up nearly every weekend. It would be an understatement to say that Southern Idaho is a beautiful and adventurous place. No doubt, if you are an outdoorsy individual, don’t overlook Shoshone. During the summertime, this area is truly a dream. A quick escape to forests, mountains, rivers, canyons, and so much more.

The 360 degree sunset on top Hyndman’s Peak (12,000 Ft) during the 2017 Eclipse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Internship:

I have already reflected a little bit about this in my most recent post, but to reiterate: for me, this CLM internship has provided me with extensive opportunity to immerse myself in government work culture, further develop my communication, project management, and problem-solving skills, and gain the valuable insight I needed to help me decide where and what I would like to do next and further down the road.

I’ve decided that after two seasons of fieldwork – first with the Forest Service and then this summer with the BLM -I do not want to continue working in ecological research and instead, I am going to navigate towards community outreach and development work. This doesn’t at all mean that I did not enjoy my internship this summer. It simply shows that I’ve been able to learn more about myself. I have had the problem of having too many interests. I love the environmental field, but there are so many things you can do! So yes – I’ve had a hard time figuring out what I like, but with every new opportunity (especially seasonal work), you are given the chance to explore your interests, and really narrow it down. And, even though, I am going to be going in a different direction – I stand very confidently as a candidate, knowing I have this experience to speak of.

Communication. Time Management. Project management. Reliability.
 Willingness to take the Initiative. Independent and Team Worker.

Just to name a few – these are skills I strengthened this summer, and they are all extremely valuable in any field. For a future employer, I can not only emphasize that I have these skills, but I have a personal/unique experience and reference that I may use to back it up. At the end of the day, even if you don’t 100% like what you are doing, you need to perform and accomplish the work that you were brought there to do. Employers are going to remember your attitude and willingness. Plus, nothing is ever permanent, and I’ve experienced way more good than bad days this summer. Life is all about learning and adapting, and for me, simply coming to sense with that, made this summer 110% worth it.

  

Overall Highlights:

Because looking back, calls for remembering all my favorite moments 🙂

  • Taking a chance and finding my housing through Craigslist – rooming with a complete stranger, and it turning out to be the best situation I could have ever gambled for. (My boyfriend did drive up with me to scope out the situation…so if you are going this route too.. do whatever you need to make you feel comfortable.)
  • Backpacking trip to Hyndman’s Peak in Sun Valley, Idaho to watch the totality from 12,000 ft.
  • Girls Goat Lake Backpacking Trip
  • 1st time rock climbing outside-  all the amazing places I got to climb around Twin Falls: City of Rocks, The Fins, The Basalt Channel in Shoshone, Boulderfest in Dierkes Lake
  • Stanley, Idaho camping trips
  • Grand Tetons and Yellowstone
  • Chicago for Training Workshop – This work trip allowed me to visit family in Chicago that I haven’t seen in years! I got to reunite with my cousins (for free!) and we went to the Blues Festival in the park (also a free event in the city!)
  • Boise – really awesome city that I would highly consider moving to
  • Rafting in Buhl
  • When my little sister and boyfriend flew out to visit me 🙂
  • Getting together with highschool friends in Ketchum (small world)

Thank you for the amazing opportunity CBG!

Thank you Danelle for your mentorship!!

Wishing all the best to all future CLM interns and all my fellow interns that I was so lucky to have worked with this summer.

Goodbye Shoshone, Sagebrush, and Southern Idaho. You’ve treated me well.

~Patricia

Update from the High Desert

It has been a while since I have posted, so I am going to try to make up for lost time.  Things have been fairly consistent over the course of the summer.  I have been doing juniper clearances for most of the summer, interspersed with with setting up bat detectors and a couple of days of building fences.  I got to explore some of the farthest reaches of the district in search of bats.  Along the windy dusty roads I drove my old chevy for the last time and broke in my new Ford-150.  Parting is such sweet sorrow, but I have gotten to like my new Ford F-150 with its new car smell and USB charging cord.

I have continued with my juniper clearances and have actually made great strides.  I managed to finish huge section that I was assigned over a year ago, only to be assigned to help design the next one.  No good deed goes unpunished eh?  Finishing this lifted a weight off my shoulder and now I can start doing small clearances on a project by project basis instead of having another massive workload hanging over my head.  Some highlights of the juniper clearances include walking miles down a slow babbling brook.  It was a beautiful warm fall day with the fall colors finally starting to come into their own along the river.  I finished all of the clearances I had in store and got to eat a relaxing lunch along the stream.  Other clearances have yielded numerous sheds (in this case mule deer antlers).  The best day I found three as you can see from the pictures below.  

Besides juniper clearances I have continued to deploy bat detectors.  This brought me out to the far reaches of the district and to some real beautiful hidden gems.  I also got to head out with some of the range staff to help construct a fence to protect a post-fire restoration area.  Although I am comfortable working with my hands and with tools, it was great to have the opportunity to go outside my comfort zone and tackle a new challenge and learn a new skill.  We quickly got things started with a nice flat section of fence that we finished quickly the first day.  The second day proved to be much more of a challenge as we were working down a steep hill.  We also had some technical difficulties which arose due to the very sandy soil.  IT ended up being a long exhausting day, but we managed to finish the fence up in the nick of time.  I really enjoyed my time with the range staff building fence as cross-training is always valuable and it was enriching to see another perspective on the problems that the Prineville office faces.  It was also a great break from the day to day grind and it is great to accomplish something tangible instead of completing a project with an immaterial or delayed result.

I currently am finishing up for this field season with a lot of time indoors both due to work load and to poor weather.  I am going to be headed home for the holidays for an extended period of time and cannot wait to spend time with my family.

-Andrew