Our Final Field Days in the Desert

The past few weeks here in Carlsbad have been ultra busy getting in as many collections as we can! After getting a late start on collections with the late rainy season here, we ended up doing 46 collections this season! We were especially lucky to get permission to collect at Guadalupe Mountain National Park in collaboration with the National Park Service.

Ipomoea lindheimeri nestled in Sotol at the GMNP

Ipomoea lindheimeri nestled in Sotol at the GMNP

Spaeralcea angustifolia by the Black River in Carlsbad

Spaeralcea angustifolia by the Black River in Carlsbad

This month, I also got to participate in Wildlife Water inspections with a couple of my coworkers. This involved cleaning out the waters, inspecting and repairing any broken fences, and sometimes repairing water tanks! We did six sites in a day, finding lots of interesting wildlife along the way.

One of several black widow spiders found at several of the sites we inspected

One of several black widow spiders found at several of the sites we inspected

A juvenile black widow spider-may had built webs in the corners of the Wildlife Waters.

A juvenile black widow spider-may had built webs in the corners of the Wildlife Waters.

An oil well against the sunrise on the way to inspect Wildlife Waters

An oil well against the sunrise on the way to inspect Wildlife Waters\

We found a huge field of milkweed at the first site! Brooke and I are going back to the site to do a collection this week.

We found a huge field of milkweed at the first site! Brooke and I are going back to the site to do a collection this week.

Only two weeks are left for me and Brooke here in Carlsbad, with only two more collections remaining this week! We’ll be doing a lot of office work after that, mounting vouchers and wrapping up paper work here at the field office. I will definitely miss this wonderful place and the people I’ve met here!

-Meridith, Carlsbad, NM BLM

Oh, the places you’ll go!

I cannot wrap my head around the fact that only 8 months ago, sitting in the concrete jungle of Quito, Ecuador, I had my first interview for the CLM internship and was referred to work with the National Park Service in Wrangell-St. Elias NP, AK. Fast forward to late October, I find myself in Anchorage, snowboard in hand, anxiously waiting for snow to fall in the mountains. In the time interval between these two moments, my CLM internship both brought me to Alaska and provided me with professional skills important to my developing career. My personal “internship” was unlike any of the past, and certain job responsibilities forced us to grow professionally and meet expectations within the resource department of a government agency.

Skills I developed during this season will, with certainty, carry-over to future employment in natural resource management.

  • Experience with ArcMap
  • Data collection and processing with Trimble units and Pathfinder Office
  • Writing professional reports
  • Public outreach and an understanding of its importance to government work
  • Backcountry logistics, which is especially valuable to fieldwork in Alaska
  • Further experience in identification of plant species using keys, particularly grasses
  • Various applications of Microsoft Office products

Of equal importance to the skills above, which transfer well to paper, are the planning and preparation experience one can only acquire with trial and error. Some invaluable learning experiences of the summer are listed below.

  • Proper field preparation and checklists are crucial and never to be underestimated. There is no “Oh, we forgot THAT?! Let us skip back to the office and grab it!” after being dropped off via bushplane in the Alaskan backcountry.
  • Trip reports are very helpful for future reference and should always be completed if time allows.
  • Always be ready for the worst possible situation, and understand that forces out of your control will occasionally crush your plans, although every conceivable precaution has been taken.
  • Humility is important for getting over mistakes, and having healthy, happy work relationships with your coworkers.

Among the skills acquired/honed and lessons learned, this season was rich with work-facilitated experiences to be appreciated for the rest of my life.

  • Laying eyes upon Iceberg Lake of the Tana Glacier was a breathtaking moment, and promptly reminded us of how lucky we are to work in a field with exposure to such beautiful, wild places.
  • Surfing for the first time in Yakatat, Alaska (believe it or not, a 6/5 mm hooded wetsuit is a bit too warm for the Gulf of Alaska during summer).
  • Organizing and weighing seed collected during the 2016 season.
  • Writing the 2016 summary report with the my fellow CLM intern, Natalie.
  • Building cartographic skills while developing maps to help describe our field season.
  • Pressing, mounting, and developing herbarium labels for over 60 aquatic plant specimen.

Above is a sample of my experience as a CLM intern in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska. Each individual intern likely received an overlapping, but occasionally different and equally beneficial wealth of skills and personal lessons. I am a firm believer in this program and feel fortunate CBG provides young botanists and conservationists with such incredibly diverse and beneficial internships. Let us hope that environmental policy continues to swing in our favor, increasing permanent employment opportunities to meet our skilled pool of qualified field biologists and technicians.



Rain in Susanville, CA

People said that the rain would come this fall, and it is finally here! This weekend we are getting three days of rain. After finishing the Tahoe Rim Trail this past weekend, it is almost a reward to get to relax and stay at home. It is also nice to get the chance to use my umbrella and raincoat that I brought all the way from the east coast. Going out in the field next week should be interesting after a few inches of rain. We have mainly been working on water rights and juniper mapping for the past month. Our first snow on the mountains in town came on September 22, and we got to experience snow in Desolation wilderness on a backpacking trip over the first weekend of October. Earlier in October, we also got the chance to help run a session on pH and DO water sampling at the Lassen County Youth Camp for 6th graders. It was really fun to spend the morning with the kids and try to understand where all of their energy comes from. This was my second time at the camp, since the week earlier I had helped at the previous session with a binocular walk to look for birds. Lassen County Youth Camp is located on the east side of Eagle Lake, and is down a very long, bumpy road. The kids all walk in the last 4 miles because the road is so bad that buses won’t go down it. Even though the funding for the camp has been cut, there are still a few determined teachers who get help from parents and figure out a way to make the camp happen for a few days in the fall. While the kids are at camp, their studies focus on science curriculum and they have the opportunity to attend guest programs from people with the forest service, Cal fire, and other natural resource organizations. Over the past few weeks we have also packaged all of our seed and sent it to Bend. We have also packaged all of our herbarium vouchers. It is very satisfying to have completed our collections. All that remains now is to send in our photos.
A few weeks ago we went out to rake Atriplex seed in to the ground. The 4-winged saltbrush is a great forage plant, and a local rancher had given the BLM 6 large bags of seed. It was hard to find suitable locations for the seed, which was collected at around 5,000 ft. Hopefully it will germinate in the locations where we raked it in. The same day we were out scouting for sites, we found cows had been let in to an upland plant exclosure. Apparently ranchers will drive by, see their hungry looking cows, open the gates and then blame it on the hunters. We had fun chasing cows out of the exclosure; they knew they weren’t supposed to be in there, but who knows when someone will open the gate again. Last week we went to the pine dunes past Ravendale. Sand dunes formed in the middle of the sagebrush basin plant community from an ancient lake that dried up. There are Washoe and ponderosa pines up to 100 years old in this rare community, but there has not been reproduction in the pine stand recently. We walked the perimeter of the fence exclosure, which unfortunately had been cut in several places, and picked up cones that will be checked for viability. There was an eagle nest in one of the pines, and we got a chance to see it fly over us while we were walking in the dunes. The trip to the pine dunes was especially memorable because on our first attempt we ended up getting the truck stuck in the sand. To our surprise, a small kitten managed to find us out in the middle of no where, it must have come from one of the small houses out on the nearby road, and stayed with us until the BLM fire crew came to help us out. It was pretty skinny, so it probably would have died after a few more 30 degree nights if we had not happened to cross paths out in the pine dunes. Luckily one of the BLM fire guys decided to take it home with him!
With just three weeks left, the end is coming near. The days are much shorter, and the field work projects are wrapping up. There seems to be rain in the forecast more often now and it’s hard to get out on the roads when things are wet. The Diamond mountains in town have had snow on them for a week now. I am hoping to make a trip up to Oregon next weekend, which leaves just one other full weekend in November before we get ready to part ways in mid-November.
BLM Eagle Lake Field Office
Susanville, CA

Winter Is Coming!

As this field season comes to a cold abrupt end, I reflect on the past couple of months with a smile on my face. There have been so many changes in my life this season and some have made it challenging to hold that smile in place, but there are so many things to be grateful for that I’d be selfish not to keep living life on the lighter side. There are too many highlights to list them all but I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

I’ve had the opportunity to spend most of the summer work with two wonderful human beings that have taught me so much. One is my mentor that is very knowledgeable with the flora here in Colorado. She often knew every plant on our plot, which made it easy to collect data and familiarize myself with the plants in a new ecosystem. She also knew how to butter us up with snacks on long work days, those salty treats kept us going strong throughout the season. My other coworker or PIC (partner in crime) as I like to call her, was an avid bird watcher and pun master, which turned out to be a great combo out in the field. This is my first field season and one of my fears was working closely with people that clashed, which would just make work a drag, but I got lucky and had a great time getting to know these two.

Amongst all the beauty that Colorado has to offer, I caught a glimpse life on the wild side. We were camping near our plot out in the boondocks of Garfield County Colorado and I decided to go on a jog. My plan was to head East on a nearby two-track road for about 45 minutes and then come back to the campsite. The sun was quickly setting so there I was, speeding along grooving to jams with a single headphone in (because I like to be semi aware of my surroundings). Approximately 35 minutes into my jog I noticed I hadn’t seen a single soul and I liked that, my own jogging trail; the dream of an active city girl, but that feeling was soon to shift. All of a sudden I hear wrestling in a tree followed by a loud thud 2-3 feet away from me. I swiftly turned my head and immediately froze to see the butt or a furry creature scurry away; after crossing a small stream, it stopped on the opposite bank and turned around. It was a Black Bear! There it was in all its glory, sitting on its hind legs looking me dead in the eye. We stared at each other for a solid 3 seconds before I softly started cursing and took a couple slow steps back. While I was still in its sight, I turned around and started running only to hear the worst sound of my life (for the moment)! I heard it cross the river and follow me! I was literally seconds away from emptying my bowls right then and there! We all know not to run if we see a black bear but the trick is to remember that when you’re in a panic! I immediately turned around when I heard it and it stopped in its tracks about 15 feet from me. There we were face to face again. I skittishly raised my hands in the air and made the most animalistic sound that could never be recreated even if I tried. It was a mix between a yell, growl and a howl. The guy immediately turned in the other direction and ran. My next thought was “Ugh, I wish I had a Go Pro attached to me right now!”, followed by “OMG, what if this baby goes and gets mama bear and then they’re both after me!” and by baby I mean toddler, it was about 5’6” while sitting so I don’t know, you tell me if it was a baby or toddler, either was scaaaryyy! I freaked myself out even more when I remember that nobody was around to team up with me if needed. I ran back to the campsite at full speed, I probably took half the time to get back. Every couple feet I would turn around to check if anything was following me and ran faster. To my luck I never saw the bear again. I really wanted to tell someone about it when I got back but my PICs had already caved out in their tent by the time I got back. I had dinner in the truck that evening because I was still so freaked out, I couldn’t believe it. I swore off jogging in boon dock trails but looking back on it, if I know that there aren’t any grizzly bears in the area I would probably go trail jogging again, although I’ll probably think about that bear every time. It was scary but oh so gratifying to have been in the presence of such a majestic creature.

I’ve had some unforgettable memories this summer and I’m grateful for everything I’ve learned, especially plant species, a skill I know I need to continue to practice because it’s easy to forget those Latin names. I’m not sure what my future holds after this internship is over, job searching is not in my favor lately but I know that life is full of surprises. My priority right now is to try my hardest not to stress about it and let it come as it may. I don’t necessarily mean just sit back and wait for opportunities to come, but remind myself that as long as I am trying to seek out what I’d like my future to hold, the rest will fall into place. I’m not promised tomorrow, so I’d rather not waste my time stressing today.


All Done

We ended up getting 27 SOS collections completed, not to mention a handful of smaller collections that were for other purposes.  Since our original goal was 30 collections I would have to call these past 5 months a success.  We still didn’t manage to get those Artemisia collections; it seems like no one ever stays long enough for that, but at least those are all close enough to where the whole collection could be done in an hour or so on a slow day by Jessi, Matt, or Christene.

I had a great 5 months in Vernal.  There were so many places to go and so many things to see.  The whole area, even Vernal itself, was beautiful.   However, I couldn’t deny feeling an overwhelming sense of relief when the trees started closing in around southern Illinois as I was driving back.  There is just something about being completely surrounded by green that has a powerful relaxing effect.

I can’t get too relaxed though.  I haven’t yet gotten a new job and that will have to be my number 1 priority for as long as that takes.

Freeze-up in Fairbanks

I sit by the fire in my slowly warming cabin and listen to the trees blowing in the wind of changing seasons. It is 7:09 am and still dark outside. The sun won’t rise for almost another two hours. This time a month ago, near solstice, there were three hours more daylight, and in August we had seven more hours of light and not a thought of cold temperatures or the looming winter around.

Up here, summer flies by like a fast-moving train, people bustling about and sometimes not even stopping to sleep at night. Fairbanks, only one degree of latitude south of the Arctic Circle, has no darkness until late August. We forget about the stars and the moon, and know that since summer is so fleeting we must not let a moment go by wasted. We take full advantage of the availability of liquid water, of daylight, of thawed soils, of green plants and especially the flowers to identify them by. The nights start to get darker in August and sometimes we forget to appreciate them because we’re still so busy working, and in our little spare time, harvesting meat and fish for the freezer. I had to force myself to stay up late to watch the best aurora of my life in early September because I was so tired from hauling a Sitka black-tail deer off of the top of a mountain in Prince William Sound and all I wanted to do was crawl into my tent and sleep. Dragging my sleeping bag onto the tundra awarded dancing beams of red and purple across the giant Alaska sky, not a man-made light in sight.


Once the meat is put away and the gardens are harvested and the last of the kale is wilting away in the hard-freezing nights, all of Alaska takes a giant breath in and out. For us field technicians, our data is collected and starts to get entered into machines and filed away. Summer is over, and winter is here.

Now that the summer field season is officially finished, I have time for one last note of reflection. I have not had much more than a spare minute or two to think about writing for the past three months. I live in Fairbanks, and was drawn to this internship because it offered me more chances to explore this great state and gain experience doing lots of different work and make connections with various agencies and organizations. The majority of my summer was spent on soil surveys with the NRCS, but I also worked on AIM (Assessment Inventory and Monitoring) projects with the Alaska Center for Conservation Science, and mine reclamation monitoring on placer mines and forestry and weed monitoring with the BLM. I hacked through permafrost with a sharpshooter shovel in frost-wedge polygonal tundra. I identified countless new asters and brassicas on the Bering Sea-influenced alpine hills on the west coast near Unalakleet. I floated 30 miles down a Wild and Scenic River to survey soils, and measured trees in a historic Yukon River town.

One highlight of the summer was spending a hitch rafting down the remote Beaver Creek in interior Alaska accessing floodplain and terrace communities to map for the impressive undertaking of a soil survey that will cover 35 million acres (that’s the size of the state of New York, folks). We piled our sling-loaded gear onto a 14-foot raft and used small lightweight inflatable packrafts to cross sloughs and beaver ponds to get to the hard-to-access areas of the survey, and slogged through miles of willow thickets and tussock-ridden terraces. Floating serenely down the river secure on our rafts, we were playfully chased by a black bear and a surprised grizzly snorted and scuffed the ground at us, standing up on its hind legs before turning and galloping away through the willows. 20160804_kopp_128520160811_kopp_1372 20160811_kopp_1376

My mentor, Eric Geisler, and I spent a few days in the Fortymile region of eastern interior Alaska accessing targeted AIM sites on pristine creeks by helicopter. The project is in conjunction with the University of Alaska’s Center for Conservation Science and the sites we sampled will be used as baselines for monitoring placer mining on Jack Wade Creek near the small town of Chicken.

As the fall colors on the sub-arctic tundra were peaking, I spent three days canoeing to popular campsites in the Tangle Lakes near the Denali Highway surveying for invasive weeds, which fortunately have not spread from their isolated territories around the boat ramp and road-side campgrounds.

After all of the leaves had senesced, two other CLM interns and I traveled to the historic Yukon River town of Eagle, once the gateway into Alaska’s gold rush, to inventory timber resources and fuel loads in the cold frosty forests surrounding the town.

Over the course of this five-month internship, I’ve worked with some amazing people, learned valuable skills, and traveled and gotten to know intimately some of the most incredible wild places on the planet. I have helped collect ground-breaking data in never-before-surveyed parts of the state. I have grown to understand the incredible importance of the relationship between soils and vegetation. I have assisted in an effort to establish monitoring protocols to preserve Alaska’s streams from degradation due to improper reclamation after gold mining. And I have made connections with incredible folks all over the state.

Now, as ice encroaches from the banks of the creek by my cabin and grows ever outward from the sticks and logs half-emerged from the water, my thoughts turn south towards travel, relaxation, and reflection. It is the season of pot-lucks, hotsprings, evenings at the brewery, and the last few afternoon bike rides when the sun takes off the morning’s chill. Soon I will travel to see friends and family “Outside” Alaska, and explore new mountains and rivers in South America. Time to plan spring ski trips and summer canoe trips and eventually, what to do next summer. Who knows where next spring will take me, but if it’s anything like this summer, I know I don’t have to worry.

The Hunt For The Washoe Pine

Washoe pine is only found in a few sections in the North Western corner of Nevada and part of the Warner Mountain Range. Many of the populations of the pine contain only a few individuals and in the Surprise Resource Area, are often found in association with aspen, snowberry, chokecherry, gooseberry, and wax current. Also in these areas is Wyoming big sagebrush, bitterbrush, and pose. We have populations of this species in at least two sites of the Hays Mountain Range and several along the southern stretch of the Warner Mountains.

Alejandro, Garth (Range Technician), and I went to a population of pine that is located near Bally Mountain and overlooks Mosquito Lake. Many of the pine trees were in wet areas and contained rock outcrops. We were unsure as to when the pine cones would be ready and how many pine trees were actually in this population so we set off to survey the area for pine trees and to collect seed from the mature plants for future use. Our hope is to at some point be able to plant Washoe Pine in more areas along the Hay’s Range.

Getting to the pine tree involved hiking through several aspen groves along the rock ledge until we found our first pine tree which was over fifty feet tall. We collected seeds from this tree and then continued farther along the ridge following several aspen groves. Within these aspens, we found more mature trees and many baby trees sheltered within these canopies.


The Washoe Pine with Mosquito Lake in the background.

With two boxes full of pine cones we decided that we would need to return at a later date to collect more seeds as we started a seed bank for our region. On our way out we decided to have lunch at an overlook that looked back at our pine collection area as well as the valley below. While having lunch we realized that we were sitting above a mother bobcat with her two kittens that were playing on the rocks. Below them and moving across the valley was a herd of antelope. It was a great day on the Great Basin.

The Collection Area

The Collection Area

What’s a seed collection intern?

Most people are curious (and a bit confused) when I tell them that I’m a seed collection intern, so I thought I’d explain it in this blog post. I work for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank (MARSB), a regional partner of the national Seeds of Success program. Seed banks are controlled environments in which seed can remain dormant and viable for long periods of time. Seed banking helps ensure the long-term survival and genetic diversity of stored species. MARSB is a mid-term storage seed bank in which seeds can remain dormant and viable for several years. In long-term seed banks, like the well-guarded seed bank in Fort Collins, Colorado, seeds can remain viable for decades.

As MARSB interns, my field partner, Emily, and I spend much of our time collecting seed for Seeds of Success East’s coastal restoration efforts. We have a list of twenty foundation species that grow in coastal areas that were harmed by Hurricane Sandy. These species are used in immediate restoration projects and/or stored for future restoration projects, which is especially important as climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of storm events. We spend a lot of time collecting species that grow in salt marshes, beaches/sand dunes, coastal freshwater wetlands, and coastal forests. Here are a few of the foundation species we’ve collected so far:

Hudsonia tomentosa (woolly beach heather) is a short, shrubby plant found on back dunes in the rock rose family (Cistaceae). Hudsonia’s spreading growth habit and widespread roots help prevent dune erosion. We collect Hudsonia by massaging seed off of the stems into a cloth bag or by scooping up fallen seed from the sand. Hudsonia was the first species I collected seed from during our training trip in June, and I got a bit overzealous with my scooping method – I wound up collecting more sand than seed. However, by my second and third Hudsonia collection I had perfected my scooping method and Emily and I made some great Hudsonia collections.

Dunes carpeted with Hudsonia tomentosa (woolly beach heather)

Teucrium canadense (Canada germander) is a cute little forb in the mint family (Lamiaceae) that’s found on the edges of salt marshes. It was easy for Emily and I to find populations of Teucrium once our mentor Clara taught us that it’s often associated with Phragmites australis, a common and highly invasive reed that also grows along salt marsh edges. Despite sometimes having to bush-whack through Phragmites, Emily and I loved collecting Teucrium because each plant has a ton of seed and it was easy (and satisfying) to strip handfulls of seed heads from each plant.

Teucrium canadense in seed (Canada germander)


Teucrium canadense (Canada germander) in bloom – image via Minnesota wildflowers

Hibiscus moscheutos (crimsoneyed rose mallow) is a salt marsh plant with big, beautiful flowers in the mallow family (Malvaceae). We only had one collection site for Hibiscus, but it had thousands of plants – it was really beautiful when they were all in bloom. Like Teucrium, Hibiscus has many seeds per flower head, so it was easy to collect. However, once we got the Hibiscus back to the seed lab, we had to treat it with anti-pest strips because we wound up collecting all the little bugs that live in the seed heads – the prettiest plants sometimes hide the creepiest critters.


Hibiscus moscheutos (crimsoneyed rose mallow)


Hibiscus moscheutos (crimsoneyed rose mallow) flower close up – because one picture is not enough. Sorry it doesn’t have a crimson eye!

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) is a tall, common grass (Poaceae) found in open fields, forest path edges, salt marsh edges, and on sand dunes. It’s fun and easy to collect because you can strip handfuls of seed from every plant, and by the end of our six collections, I had some pretty tough finger callouses (and a few cuts). It’s a great restoration plant because of its heartiness and ability to grow in multiple environments.

Handfull of Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) seed

Cakile edentula (American searocket) is a small, fleshy plant in the mustard family (Brassicaceae). Like Hudsonia, it has a deep root system and is a good dune stabilizer. When Cakile’s seeds are ripe the whole plant dries up and rolls around in the wind dispersing its seed, like a tumble weed. This dispersal method led to a long collection day, because the population just kept going along the beach!

Partially dried up Cakile edentula (American searocket)

Cakile edentula (American searocket) is a lot prettier before its leaves fall off and it dries up. Image via California florae.

Until next time,


The Buffalo Life

Things have slowed down a decent amount in the last month. With colder weather creeping in and office work taking over, time blurs together, yet to my amazement we are now near the end of October. Time in the office has been spent mostly mapping fencing across our field office, primarily for grazing allotments monitored from this year. Some of the allotments done this year will be part of a broader range-land health report on a watershed scale. And in order to accurately state the extent of the report we need to know the real size of the allotments based off of where the fences actually lie. While mapping fencing may not sound thrilling, there is something calming and rewarding about finding those many lines that cross the landscape.


Atop Mosier Gulch trail, looking ahead to the Bighorn Mountains. A great day for some mountain biking.

But mapping fencing is not the only thing to be done. Weeding of course is still on the to do list. The same weeding found on the vegetation plots mentioned last blog. Yet incredibly the end of that is on the horizon! Only 5 out of the 24 plots remain. We have also recently opened the door to range-land improvements. These improvements include fences, wells, spring developments, reservoirs, roads, etc. that are located on BLM land. These need to be located through mapping or in the field, they ideally need to be regularly inspected, they need to contain a physical file, and also need to be included in an online database. Since so many factors involve each improvement there is of course work to be done resolving discrepancies and conducting inspections in the field.

Beyond the excitement of work has been the last of the warmer activities in the mountains. One weekend I had the chance to meet up with the many Lander, WY interns for a trip in the Western Bighorn Mountains. To my luck I received a call about the trip minutes before heading out on a backpacking trip of my own. I met up with them at the trailhead later on in the day and we had set up camp not far from West Tensleep Lake. This had been the first night I’ve ever slept atop a tarp with nothing overhead. And what a night it was to do so. That night we had dew collect upon everything exposed, and the temperature had dropped below freezing.


Waking up to a frost covered sleeping bag was certainly a first for me, although miraculously it was a toasty night in the bag. After a hearty breakfast we ventured off to the next location down-trail. At Helen Lake we set up the next camp and I had time to do some fly fishing for the day. It was a beautiful day and I even got to nap in in the hammock after fishing. Beyond the nice weather hid looming overnight storms. And to my shock (which shouldn’t have been unexpected in early October) was some late night and early morning snow. Frost on the sleeping the first night, and a snowy tent the second. Both firsts for me. But even though it was as cold as it looks, the valley was gorgeous with all the snow.


Lake Helen up West Tensleep Trail


A gorgeous view just waiting to be snowed on


First time waking up to a snowy campsite!

After all the fun of camping in a large group, the next weekend I planned to continue the initial backpacking trip I had sought after. The destination was the Firehole Lakes up near Bighorn Peak on the Eastern side of the mountains. This 5-6 mile hike including an off trail section crossing boulder fields. Finding a site to camp up near the bottoms of the high peaks is difficult due to the rockiness of the Bighorns. But after finding an adequate sight I had noticed the plethora of moose activity in the area. Stripped bark, chomped young trees, and no shortage of moose poo. All this activity led to the unsurprising, yet still unnerving calls of an animal near the tent before bed. While exciting to hear the moose nearby, I was also reconsidering placing my tent on this moose’s favorite tree chomping spot. But nevertheless the moose had moved on and/or found a resting spot for the night, and wasn’t heard again.


After a night of waking up nearly every hour (the wind was obscene that night) I was awoken to an absolutely incredible sunrise. I may have missed the reddest moments of the sunrise but I got quite the show when I walked down to the lake. This trip also initially had the goal of catching some of the larger fish found in these lakes. But with no luck the day before or the morning after, I eventually started working my way out, only to finally catch a small fish in a tiny stream a mile back.



A stream on the way out of the Firehole Lakes. And of course the only place where I catch a fish that weekend.

The last month has primarily been spent in the near and dear Buffalo area, but it’s hard to complain with the Bighorns just minutes away. With the cold weather setting in I’ll hopefully take advantage of the nicer days left before the near sedentary life sets in. Til next time!

Nick Melone

Buffalo, WY

The Ups and Downs of Carlsbad

I am now at the close of my internship here in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and it has been filled with ups and downs. Although leaving will be bittersweet, I must say that this month especially has been an incredible roller coaster ride that I think I am ready to get off of.

The normal scenery of a field day in the sand dunes ecotype of late September.

The normal scenery of a field day in the sand dunes ecotype of late September. Photo taken by B. Palmer

Where did I leave off…oh yes, what better place to pick up what I have been up to than that of the Seeds of Success collections that have finally matured into existence. Like I mentioned, Carlsbad got a bout of a very late rainy season, but it came nonetheless. With this precious rain, we were blessed with fields of wildflowers and the emergence of late summer grasses. Oh we have done so many collections in the last month! To date we have done 39 collections; a few months ago we were not even sure we would hit 30. We are even planning on nearly 10 more in the next week! AND we will be missing out on a lot of collections because the internship is ending in merely a few weeks.

The dunes were absolutely covered in little white and yellow flowers

The dunes were absolutely covered in little white and yellow flowers. I did a collection of the little white ones, Melampodium leucanthum. Photo taken by B. Palmer

I became the human pollinator on a collection day in the gypsum soil!

I became the human pollinator on a collection day in the gypsum soil walking through snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae) and glowworts (Sartwellia flaveriae)! Photo taken by B. Palmer

This is CLM intern Meridith McClure, excited to be collecting

This is CLM intern Meridith McClure, excited to be collecting Oenothera elata near the Black River. Photo taken by B. Palmer

Because we were all the sudden less stressed about getting to our goal number of collections, Meridith and I decided it would be good to go out with other departments to get a sense of other things we can be a part of working for the BLM. We were fortunate enough to be invited out on a bat survey! From the cave and karst department, we went out with the “Living Legend,” BLM resource explorer Jim Goodbar. This was one of the men that took us out caving on our first week, and we were excited to go out again with him. We went to a little karst feature on nearby BLM land named “Tea Kettle” at dusk of one evening after a long field day, and waited near the cave entrance with our clicker counters as the sun went down. As the group of us waited, Mr. Goodbar gave us tips to counting bats as the emerge from the cave to feed. He mentioned that often times the bats come out flying in such large groups it can be difficult to count, so he estimates them by 5’s or 10’s as they come. As we waited, the desert sunset came and went, and it continued to get darker. We got a little nervous that we would miss the bats, as we had only seen a few scouts fly out just before it was nearly dark. However, our patience was rewarded with thousands of bats that flew out of the little cave. My, it was difficult to count, but quite a sight to see! After about 30 minutes of counting, we stopped and compared numbers. The group of us ended up counting about 6,000 bats! What a feat! This bat emergence is no comparison of the hundreds of thousands that come out at the Carlsbad Caverns (if you ever get the chance to see you should), but it was still an amazing part of this internship that I am happy to have been a part of.

The group of us patiently waiting for the sun to set. Photo taken by F. Banos

The group of us patiently waiting for the sun to set and for the bats to emerge. Photo taken by F. Banos

We had a wonderful photographer along with us for the survey. Turns out we were counting a species of the Molossidae, likely Mexican freetail bats. Photo taken by F. Banos

We had a wonderful photographer of the office  along with us for the survey. Turns out we were counting a species of the Molossidae, likely Mexican freetail bats. Photo taken by F. Banos

This month we were also put into touch with Guadalupe Mountains National Park, in Salt Flat, Texas. The Guadalupe mountains is a small range goes from Southern New Mexico and dips into Western Texas (fun fact: the tallest point in Texas is Guadalupe Peak at 8750 feet, and found in the park). They were gracious enough to let us collect for SOS in the park, as long as we followed their requests: We were only to collect from large populations that we would not impact the ecosystem or populations in any way (which is SOS protocol anyway), and that we collect enough that they can take back the extra to store for their own restoration uses. We found this to be a very beneficial partnership for a number of reasons. The Guadalupe mountains features unique ecosystems of the Chihuahuan Desert, from salt basins, to riparian rocky drainages, to shortgrass prairie. We are also proud to be partnering with them because there is currently very little collaboration between the National Park Service and Seeds of Success. We are very happy to find a partner that has lots to offer to the native seed initiative of SOS, and is also happy to be collaborating with us.

Some Agave along the trail of McKittrick Canyon in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Photo taken by B. Palmer

Some Agave along the trail of McKittrick Canyon in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Photo taken by B. Palmer

We were scouting for potential populations to collect from in the Park when we stumbled upon a group of desert ferns! Photo taken by B. Palmer

We were scouting for potential populations to collect from in the Park when we stumbled upon a bunch of desert ferns! Photo taken by B. Palmer

The grass,

The grass, Muhlenbergia emersleyi, was found in McKittrick canyon and became one of our collections from the Park, also a collection I did on my own. Photo taken by B. Palmer

We have done two collection days out of three so far at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and the second day was far more memorable. I ended up getting three collections on my own, after Meridith had called in sick that day. Not only that, but I walked out of my apartment to go to work that morning and it was thundering with pouring rain. It did not deter me, however, and after a quick look at the weather of the National Park went on ahead to collect. It was a foggy, cool, and damp day, but in the end made for a rather enjoyable collection day. The trail of McKittrick Canyon was peaceful, and the air was cool and fresh. My fingers cold and the fruits wet, I still was able to manage three collections that day, all on my own.

The morning was cool, damp, and foggy in McKittrick Canyon. However, it made for a rather pleasant hike up to the collection areas. Photo taken by B. Palmer

The morning was cool, damp, and foggy in McKittrick Canyon. However, it made for a rather pleasant hike up to the collection areas. Photo taken by B. Palmer

The seeds were soaking wet when I collected them, and ended up having to lay them out to dry overnight...we don't want any moldy unviable collections! Photo taken by B. Palmer

The seeds were soaking wet when I collected them, and I ended up having to lay them out to dry overnight…we don’t want any moldy unviable collections! Photo taken by B. Palmer

Oh, I have an update on the pressed cactus! In my last post, I talked about successfully pressing cactus, and what a painful and tedious job it was. Well, after continuously changing out blotting paper, and cardboard in the press, a few weeks into the drying process I found out that ALL the cacti collections molded! Mold to the point of throwing everything away and forced to try again. All that hard work and handfuls of glochids did not matter, and had to be thrown out. We decided to be more cautious the second time around. We went and collected even more specimens, and this time, handled everything very carefully. After cutting the cacti in half and cautiously scooping them out, we laid them out in the sun to dry before pressing.

The last time we cut open the cacti to press, we did it inside at my desk...and I am still finding glochids everywhere! This time we worked from the back of our BLM truck, to avoid bringing in any unwanted prickly's! Photo taken by B. Palmer

The last time we cut open the cacti to press, we did it inside at my desk…and I am still finding glochids everywhere! This time we worked from the back of our BLM truck, to avoid bringing in any unwanted prickly’s! Photo taken by B. Palmer

While they were laying out in the sun, we got word that the BLM fire crew had a dehydrator that we could use! They typically use it to determine the moisture content in grasses and figure out the fire danger potential in given areas. I was a little skeptical at fist, having dried specimens in an oven before in school. I was warned back then to never leave specimens in an oven that was too hot or for too long, or else they may burn to a crisp. When I asked how hot this oven would get, I was reassured and told that they leave plants in there up to 24 hours without any issues. With this said, I assumed it would be a low heat and we were excited to use it. It turns out I assumed wrong. After leaving the cacti specimens in there no more than a few hours, we checked on them to see how they were drying. Low and behold, instead of dried-up cactus we were hoping for, had remnants of what used to be cactus…now biochar. Turns out that oven gets to be pretty hot! Once again we were hit in the face of yet another silly trial and error moment. We will be attempting to press cactus for a third time in the next few days, one last hoorah of drying specimens for the collection. The first try was too moist, the second too dry, so the third try should be a charm and just right…right?

Here we have biochar cactus.

Here we have biochar cactus; an unfortunate discovery on take #2 of pressing cactus. We will be trying again…with more expertise on take #3! I wonder if other people have the same issues we have pressing cactus, or if it is just us and our inexperienced ways…Photo taken by B. Palmer

On that note I find myself at the end of my internship, merely two weeks away from finishing. This is were the post started, and where everything is coming to a close. I cannot lie, this has been the longest five months of my twenty-six years; the craziest year of life yet. The things I have done in a single year seems absolutely unreal. I acquired my undergraduate degree. I worked my first job remotely close to the field I want to pursue, at the Denver Botanic Gardens. I was accepted into this internship. I got to spend a week in Chicago at a workshop to learn how to do this job well. I spent one crazy, dry, hot summer working in the Chihuahuan Desert with the Bureau of Land Management. I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Savannah, Georgia at the Botany 2016 Conference. I got married to my rock, my high school sweetheart, the one and only love of my life. And after even all of that, I came back to the little gas and oil town of Carlsbad, NM in the Chihuahuan Desert to finish out this internship. I learned all sorts of trades of the office, from caving and bat surveys, to soil erosion control and wildlife water maintenence. Better yet, I am proud to say I was a part of something bigger, working with Seeds of Success. Every collection became more rewarding than the next. In the end, this internship has probably been the most mentally challenging thing I have ever done. Yet, I don’t regret this exhilarating experience that I have been a part of the last five or so months. I will warn you, if you are thinking about applying to the CLM, or becoming a future Carlsbad intern, it is not easy. It is also not meant for everyone; it takes a special kind of person to pursue this field. But it will also be an experience of a lifetime.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

I come back to this wonderful quote by Mark Twain that I mentioned in one of my earlier blog posts because I still believe it is something that everyone should experience. It is important to see the world, make your own opinions, learn what is out there for yourself…even for an introverted, OCD, and even at times socially awkward hermit such as myself. This internship has helped me get out of my shell and explore, even if just a little.

If you ask me about where I am going next, I will answer you by saying, I am unsure. I do not have a job lined up when I get back home to Colorado. I can’t tell you where I will be two months from now, or a year from now. Maybe I will be continuing work as a field technician for a federal agency, or maybe I will be back in school in a graduate program. But whatever I decide to do, I am eager to continue in field botany, plant conservation, and research. If we have any chance at preserving the ecosystems we have on this beautiful earth, it starts with the soil and the plants that take root in that soil. Without flora, the fauna that so many people adore cannot exist. With this in mind and this CLM experience under my belt, I am ready to take on the world. I am very happy I was able to have the chance and wonderful opportunity to be a part of this program. It will be something that I will take with me for the rest of my career as a botanist, and for the rest of my life. Thank you, CLM, for helping me become the person I am today.

I am a field botanist, and ready for the next adventure that awaits for me.

I am a field botanist, and ready for the next adventure that awaits for me.

Yours truly,

Brooke Palmer

Conservation and Land Management Intern

Bureau of Land Management, Carlsbad, New Mexico