The hunt for Elodea in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

 

20140825_WRST_GrizzlyLakePan_01

Over the last couple of weeks I have visited 5 separate lakes in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the purpose of these visits was to conduct surveys for Elodea canadensis. Elodea is a commonly used aquarium plant and is used in many school science lab settings as its leaves are very thin and cells within the plant are easy to view with a microscope. It is thought elodea was originally introduced to lakes in Alaska through dumping of aquariums into lakes. Elodea is capable of asexually reproducing from small cuttings, and due to its brittle nature, even very small parts that break off from the mother plant are able to establish themselves. Float planes transporting the plant on rudders from infested lakes to clean lakes is a growing concern.

20140908_WRST_LongLake_MSW_01Elodea can quickly overtake lakes, blanketing the sun from reaching over native aquatic plants. The entire ecosystem of infested lakes can be greatly impacted in a relatively short period of time. Large changes in aquatic habitat can then create problems for fish species that are relied upon by many people, such as Alaskan salmon.

20140826_WRST_GrizzlyLake_16To ensure Elodea does not enter waterways within the park, we have begun to conduct surveys of lake commonly visited by float planes. This year we went to Grizzly Lake, Copper Lake, Tolsona Lake, Long Lake, and Twin Lakes. Luckily no Elodea specimens were found.

This is it

Well…My internship comes to an end in two weeks. I served my five months, then a two month extension at a neighboring BLM office and now in two weeks, I am released of my service. This summer has been an exciting and rewarding experience full of accomplishments and lessons. It seems like so long ago when I first came out here. There was snow on the ground and the morning temperatures were in the teens, then when summer hit the temperature pushed 100 degrees for days at a time and the dryness of the air seemed to suck the moisture right out of my body. Now as fall begins to set in, I have mornings in the low 40s and afternoons in the mid 80s.

It has become very hard to stay focused. My fiancee and I got a new house in Oregon where she will be starting her PhD. I want very much to go join her and start this new stage of life, but I have obligations to finish the work here. I dont mean to sound ungrateful, I think most people would feel similar in this situation. The important thing is that I come into work early, get my work done, and stay positive about what I to do.

I feel like a different person than when I got here. At the beginning of this internship, I left my home and family knowing that before my work was done, I would have a new home in Oregon. In addition to the experiences and character development I have attained in my internship, I have also said goodbye to my life in Ohio. Many of my friends…will I ever see them again? Some I am sure, but others who can say. I feel like while out here, I stepped out of a world of safety and security and into a world of responsibility. While I am ready for it, I have to wait a little longer while I finish this work.

Keep smiling and laughing, stay positive, and remember, you cant go back, once a time passes it is gone so enjoy it and give whatever you are doing your all because afterwards you can only look back at what you did.

September at the Provo Shrub Lab

Hello CLM folks, I am going to talk a little bit about what we were doing during the past month in the Provo Shrub Sciences Laboratory. Since my first post, I have talked every time about our smell experiments using the e-nose.  Now, after more than 9 months, we finally took a break from Big Sagebrush smells to continue with our experiments using imageJ applied to Big Sagebrush subspecies differentiation. We are still producing data information, but apparently the imageJ seams to be a good way to analyze some physical characteristics of Sagebrush. Additionally, we starting to collaborate with the USGS to analyze some Sagebrush samples using cytometry. There is a lot of desktop work, but eventually in the next week we will be working outside in the field collecting Sagebrush volatile again. We are two weeks from the SER Regional Conference in Redmond, Oregon, which makes me feel a little bit anxious. As always said in my previous posts, my mentor is teaching me many things, but most important to me, he is inviting me to go forward and learn and explore new things.

Thank you all CLM staff for your support.

Hector

Provo, UT

USDA-Forest Service RMRS, Shrub Sciences Laboratory

Final Weeks In Colorado..For Now

With only two weeks left in Kremmling, my internship is winding down. It has been an incredible time here and I am quite grateful to have had the opportunity to work here in Colorado.

Since my last post, temperatures have been dropping and the defrost button has become a morning routine. The trees are changing here to a beautiful golden yellow. I do miss the spectacular colors of upstate New York and the Adirondack Mountains, but I’ll give Colorado credit; the golden Aspen contrast with the evergreen is quite the sight as well. Fall here in Colorado meant it was time for a road trip to Moab to see Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. It was still quite hot, but totally worth the trip. Besides that, I travelled down to Montrose to work with Carol Dawson and her CLM intern for a week doing more rare plant monitoring on Eriogonum pelinophilum.

As this internship winds down, I have had time to reflect on the summer and my life trajectory. Coming into this summer I had experience in the NPS and thought I wanted to work as an Ecologist for the NPS. This summer I gained some more perspective on what it might be like to work for the Feds. After seeing how things are run and the amount of science that is done in the BLM, I’m not so sure it is what I want to end up doing. That’s not to say that I didn’t have an amazing internship though. I learned a whole lot about western plants, got to explore beautiful Colorado, and gained tons of valuable experience in several different fields. I recieved valuable training as well which will only help with other jobs in the future. I ended up gaining experience monitoring riparian areas, grasslands, and rare plants. I also spent a lot of time working the GPS and mapping out noxious weeds sites and spring/wells for grazing. One of the best parts of the internship was the fact that I was given so much freedom by my mentor. He really allowed me to take control and go out by myself most days. It’s nice to be given responsibility and be trusted to get things done. Another great part of the internship was the fact that I was able to tag along with state botanist Carol Dawson and her CLM interns to conduct rare plant surveys. The work they were doing was more of what I was looking to get experience in, and something I could see myself doing in the future.

With that said, I don’t think I could have had a better place to work. Kremmling may be small, but it is surrounded by ski towns and wilderness areas in all directions. The staff here at the office is relatively young, so we’re always having a good time in and out of the office. It also helps having 11 seasonals living at the bunkhouse. Not only are the people and the location a plus, but my job entailed riding UTV/ATVs up mountain sides and camping/rafting on the Colorado River. I had great co-workers, a cool mentor, and beautiful scenery – I think I got pretty lucky this summer.

I am heading back to New York for 2 months just in time for the Fall foliage to see my family and talk to some professors about graduate school. From there I will be heading back to Colorado to work at Keystone resort as a ski instructor and hopefully come back to Kremmling for a few months next summer before I head to graduate school. We will see what the future brings, but I am positive that this internship will play a big role in what my future holds.

canyonlands

Trip to Canyonlands NP

 

Canyonlands

Canyonlands

 

Canyonlands

Canyonlands

 

Spring Creek MIMS

Spring Creek MIMS hit hard by cattle

Grassland Utilization Surveys (line transect)

Grassland Utilization Surveys (line transect)

 

MIMS at Govt Creek

MIMS at Govt Creek

 

Well inventory

Well inventory

 

Spraying Black Henbane(Hyoscyamus niger)

Spraying Black Henbane(Hyoscyamus niger)

 

Things Discovered while Working

Within the stillness of a lake the surrounding hills can be clearly defining resulting in picturesque seed collecting. When the beauty around you is magnified within the moments of working, it reminds you that there are few jobs that provided such breath taking views. The lake picture is Walker Lake.  It is known for being dirty and rather nasty because it was used as target practice for missiles. In fact, as the water level lowers missiles are uncovered and have to be removed. While we were collecting at this undesirable lake we got to see the beauty within the ugliness.

Beauty found in the stillness.

Beauty found in the stillness.

On another seed collecting adventure within a riparian area I was privy to many delights. The first involved seeing a frog jumping around amongst that dense foliage of Carex and Juncus.

Frog

As we traveled to another riparian site the butterflies were out enjoying themselves on a pair of thistles. Within that same area a caterpillar was discovered munching on some leaves.

A pair of thistles with a pair of butterflies

A pair of thistles with a pair of butterflies

Hungry caterpillar munching on a leaf.

Hungry caterpillar munching on a leaf.

Again a delightful beauty was found within this riparian area, a pregnant Praying Mantis. Her engorged abdomen displayed be labored breathing.

Beautiful pregnant mantis

Beautiful pregnant mantis

After a morning full of fire monitoring, a group of us went seed scouting while the other group went back to the office. I was in the seed scouting group and to my surprise we stumbled upon something odd. A random cellar door in literally the middle of nowhere. Why is this cellar here? All sorts of stories have begun to form in my mind as to what the purpose of this cellar could be. In one story it the secret entrance to an underground laboratory where undesirable experiments take place.

What does this door lead?

What does this door lead?

These are just a few of the delightful things that I have been able to discover within the Nevada wilderness.

Models

Greetings!

Now that our Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation (ESR) plan has been submitted, we’ve moved right along and started writing an Environmental Analysis (EA) for the Buzzard Complex fires!

My main duties, as per usual, are building models to run reports and then making the maps for the Saddle Draw Fire portion of the plan.

One main skill I have gotten from this internship has been becoming comfortable in Model Builder. I had used it a few times in the past, but never on a regular basis. When you are running the same processes over and over again, it saves so much time if you can just go into the model, make a few changes, and run it again. Also, if someone wants to figure out how you came up with certain numbers, they can look at your models and understand what you did.

Model
Beautiful Model

In addition to making these final products, I’ve also cleaned up the file structure which is pretty complex.  Hopefully every folder now is named so that an outsider can figure out what it contains, and if not, I also went through and created a document that has a short description of the contents of each folder in the Buzzard Complex ESR folder (It’s about 3 pages long…).

I see many of you are wrapping up your internships and I wish you all the best of luck!!!  I’m still around through December and I’m excited to see what fall is like out here in the high desert!!!

 

 

Getting Sticky

As my last few days approach I am adding all of the finishing touches to my internship. It is not as exciting as being in the field exploring new areas and finding all sorts of treasure but it is an adventure in its own. Finishing up and putting together reports at the end of the year is just as important as gathering the data itself.

The most recent project that I have been working on is making herbarium vouchers for the local herbarium, the Oregon State University herbarium, and the Smithsonian herbarium. Some of these do not require being glued down, but a good portion of them do. This is one sticky job!

Looking back on the season brings back good memories. One major highlight being a thistle chop. It required two days of floating down the Deschutes River in a boat and camping all while uprooting Scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium). Another great adventure was traveling by UTV to a sage grouse Habitat Assessment Framework (HAF) site. I drove the truck and trailer to the unloading site, then got to drive the UTV to and from our destination.

My second year as a CLM intern was just as exciting and rewarding as the first. I was able to live in a new area, work on new projects, make new friends, and gain new skills and qualities to add to my resume. Overall I had a great time and made lasting memories in Prineville.

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Where have the last five months gone? It’s my last day at the BLM in Vernal and it’s strange to think I probably won’t ever be back here. Well, in this office, that is. The way it stands right now, I’m going to hang around Vernal until I find a permanent job or I’m accepted to a graduate school program.

That sentence itself demonstrates how much my mindset has changed over the past five months. My original intention for this internship was to gain experience that would enable me to land a seasonal GS-5 position next field season. After that, I had a vague plan of working up the seasonal ladder before landing a full-time, permanent position with the federal government. I worked as a Biological Science Technician (GS-0404-04) for the USGS in South Dakota a couple years ago and since then, I’ve had tunnel vision about working for the feds.

As I stated above, though, that’s no longer my plan. As much as I would love to continue to living a transient life, working as a seasonal for the government, I won’t. Part of it is my personal family situation. The largest part, though, is that I don’t want to. I’ve learned so much during this internship and I’ve definitely felt challenged, but I plateaued around the halfway point. I’ve enjoyed participating in Seeds of Success and helping the weed crew tackle invasives, but I need more challenges. I can bring so much more to the table if given the chance. And it seems the fastest way to be given a chance is to get my Master’s. It’s always been my intention to do so, but this internship has just spurred me to expedite the process.

This internship has also given me more perspective on working for the federal government and I gotta admit, it’s not my dream any more. Don’t get me wrong, I would still work for the government if given the chance. After working in this office, I’ve become more familiar with positions I could qualify for and I’ve made some professional connections so my odds are better. I’ve experienced the downsides to it, though, and I’ve let go of my idolization. My internship has grounded me and forced me to become more realistic. And I’m grateful for it. I’ve been able to use the tools provided by the program to expand my job search to include other entities besides the federal government.

To be clear, I’ve definitely enjoyed this internship! I would (and will) highly recommend it! This has been my first position that’s actually forced me to use a dichotomous key to (sometimes laboriously) key out a species. I’ve learned to identify so many plants, but have also realized that I’ll never know all of them. And while I should be confident in my identification, I should never be afraid to check myself and admit if I’m wrong.

I’ve never actively protested herbicide application to control invasive plants, but I worked in an environmental chemistry lab so sometimes it’s difficult for me to think about where all those chemicals could be leaching. After walking through stands of Russian olive and swaths of teasel, though, I’ve realized that a lot of the time, herbicide application is the only way to control infestations.

Since I’ll be working odd jobs until my next career move, I’ve definitely appreciated the normal hours (and the pay) of the internship. One downside, though, is the copious amounts of driving necessary to cover this area. I’m sure other interns also experienced this, but I am so over driving 2+ hours just to get to a site. I would rather stay closer to the office and hike around, but I realize that’s rather unrealistic in the West.

I’m really happy that I landed a position in Utah as I’ve always been enamored with this state. In and outside of work, I’ve seen a lot of cool things and I’m very grateful for that. I feel like I can move on to other states now and feel content with my Utah experience. As for Vernal itself, however, I haven’t fallen in love with it. I’ve discovered some gems, but in general the town seems geared toward fast food, big trucks, oil and gas, and church – none of which is my scene. After this, I’m aiming to live in a college town again, where I hope I’ll be around more like-minded people.

This has been an amazing experience and I’m immensely grateful to all those who helped me apply for an internship and make the most of it. A big thank you to Nadia, Tim, Amy, Jessi, Krissa, and Rebecca!

Stay classy, fellow interns.

-Dani

BLM

Vernal, UT

“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”

II John Muir II

The Pink Dino - my favorite landmark in Vernal.

The Pink Dino – my favorite landmark in Vernal.

Final Blogpost

This is my final blogpost!

I have gained so many new skills at this position. I feel proficient at using ArcMap now and entering element occurrence data into the Natural Resources Information System (NRIS). My driving skills have also gotten so much better. I am now very experienced driving so many different kinds and sizes of vehicles on on some pretty bad forest roads. The terrain here is very difficult to traverse because it is so steep and rocky. I also spent a ton of time writing our invasive plant guide. Writing is something I am not very good at and I have a hard time reading over and editing my work. I definitely feel more like a real botanist now.

I got to do something I have wanted to do since college this year. I got to design and implement a lichen air quality study. I fell in love with lichens when I took a class on lichens and bryophytes. Lichens are so cool because they are great indicators of presence or absence of air pollution. They also accumulate pollutants in their thalli. The levels of pollutants can be measured in a lab. I set up a system of plots throughout the San Bernardino mountains and collected two target lichen species: Umbilicaria phaea and Rhizoplaca melanopthalma. I have sent the samples off to a Forest Service lab and when the results come back then the SBNF will have a better idea what kinds of pollutants can be found throughout the forest.

One of my major goals in this job was to improve my computer skills. I still have a long way to go, but I feel so much more competent using the Microsoft software, understanding computer terminology and being able to do things to make my computer run better. I have definitely met that goal and want to continue learning.

I made some great friends in my office and my mentor was great as well. This has given me a completely different outlook on Southern California. I always associated with the cities, but am so glad that I have had the opportunity to explore these beautiful mountains and deserts.

Here are the last of my photos to enjoy:

The gorgeous rattlesnake we saw on a night survey for Arroyo toads

The gorgeous rattlesnake we saw on a night survey for Arroyo toads.

The FS sensitive Arenaria lanuginosa ssp. saxosa

The FS sensitive Arenaria lanuginosa ssp. saxosa.

The beautiful Banning Canyon where my last lichen collection plot was

The beautiful Banning Canyon where my last lichen collection plot was.

Umbilicaria phaea is my other target lichen

Umbilicaria phaea was my other target lichen.

The black oaks are starting to change color already, probably because of the drought

The black oaks are starting to change color already, probably because of the drought.

Another shot of Banning Canyon

Another shot of Banning Canyon.

A neat looking calcium carbonate rock

A neat looking calcium carbonate rock.

Rhizoplaca chrysoleuca was one of my target lichens for collecting

Rhizoplaca chrysoleuca was one of my target lichens for collecting.

My packaged lichens before I sent them off to the lab for testing.

My packaged lichens before I sent them off to the lab for testing.

The FS sensitive Horkelia wilderae

The FS sensitive Horkelia wilderae.

Falling Down an Avalanche

I’ve never been skilled at identifying grasses. In all of my botanical college courses, we focused on eudicots and I had little to no problem learning the language of plants. For some reason, though, grass terminology has never stuck with me. Any grasses I’ve learned have quickly been forgotten. This internship is the first time I’ve ever had to actually use a dichotomous key to identify a plant. And yet, I’ve successfully avoided keying grasses for the past 4 months. But this avoidance has finally come to an end. My mentor has officially gone on maternity leave and while Hector is well versed in grasses, I knew it was time for me to step up to the plate. A couple weeks ago, I discovered a wispy, cobwebby grass in the wetland Hector and I were scouting for Spiranthes diluvialis. It definitely had potential for an SOS collection and as we are becoming desperate for species to collect as the field season wanes, I was determined to identify it.

I spent two hours slowly making my way through the key, learning and relearning terms such as glume, spikelet, panicle, awn. This field office boasts a slew of PowerPoints dedicated to the plants of this area rife with photographs and descriptions. Every time I thought I had the answer, I would look it up in the PowerPoint. Time after time, I had to admit that my sample looked nothing like the grass I had keyed it to be. Finally, I had it: Muhlenbergia asperifolia or scratchgrass. This particular species is an oddball compared to the others in its genus and I had gotten severely confused by its unique open panicle inflorescence. Nonetheless, a success is a success.

With my mentor on maternity leave, Christine, a Natural Resource Specialist with a background in botany, has taken over as our supervisor. In mid-August, Christine and our usual gang headed to Green River, Utah for a 3 day River Rescue course. A large part of the remaining field season will be spent spraying weeds on the A, B, and C sections of the Green River. The most intense rapid in all three sections is a Class Three called “Red Creek Rapids,” but for the most part, floating the Green River is pretty easy and uneventful. My mentor, Jessi, is pretty safety minded, though, so she sent the five of us to this course.

 

Morning view from our campsite.

Morning view from our campsite.

The instructor, Nate Ostis, was a great teacher and he obviously had a lot of personal experience both rafting and rescuing on the river. He succeeded in terrifying me of all moving water, but not to the point that I’ll never raft or kayak again. He always referred to the river as a “lubricated mountain” or people boating on the river as “falling down an avalanche.” By using that language, he really changed my mindset on rivers. He has been a part of many rescues and even more recoveries so he’s acutely aware of the hazards of the river.

Me in my "avalanche" gear.

Me in my “avalanche” gear.

We spent half the time out of the water, learning knots, throwing throwbags, and talking safety. The rest of the time we spent in the water. Our first assignment in the river was to swim down some rapids! It was one of the best classes I have ever taken.  I highly recommend Nate Ostis and the River Rescue course to anyone interested in river safety.

 

Demonstrating the strength of our shore-based, 2 point load sharing anchor.

Demonstrating the strength of our shore-based, 2 point load sharing anchor.

We had the chance to put our newfound skills to the test with one last trip down the Green River. The four of us teamed up with two weed technicians from the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge to tackle the Canadian thistle and teasel on the “B” section. Along the way, we discovered a whole island full of Spiranthes diluvialis, in bloom over a month later than Jessi had originally estimated.

 

The "B" section of the Green River.

The “B” section of the Green River.

Red Creek Rapids are nearly visible upstream.

Red Creek Rapids are nearly visible upstream.

My other highlights include making it all the way out to the Book Cliffs! I’ve been close several times for seed collection or weed spraying, but I finally travelled those last 10 miles to see what all the fuss is about. Additionally, one last seed collection enabled me to make it out to Nine Mile Canyon – another gem of this area.

The Book Cliffs!

The Book Cliffs!

"The Great Hunt" petroglyph panel in Nine Mile Canyon.

“The Great Hunt” petroglyph panel in Nine Mile Canyon.

-Dani

BLM

Vernal, UT