Singing Dunes

Last week we headed out to the remote Eureka Valley in the northwest corner of Death Valley National Park to collect data on two endemic species – Swallenia alexandrae (Eureka Valley dune grass) and Oenothera californica ssp. eurekensis (Eureka Valley Evening Primrose) – which are both federally listed as endangered species. It was gorgeous there, but it was also one of the hottest places I’ve ever been! I’ve been told (many times) “it’s only going to get worse”, so I tried to go along with the idea that we were actually experiencing fairly mild temperatures while we were there. Anyway, the views from atop the dunes and getting to work with these beautiful endemic plant species definitely made it all worth it!

We went to three different sites in Eureka Valley – Eureka Dune, Saline Spur, and Marble Canyon. Eureka Dune was absolutely breathtaking! It is the tallest sand dune in the state of California, rising more than 680 feet above the lake bed at its base. At each site we located tagged Swallenia alexandrae and Oenothera californica ssp. eurekensis and recorded data on their growth and reproductive effort; these plants are being monitored over a three-year period, with this being the second year of data collection. Swallenia alexandrae has a dense root system which catches and holds drifting sand, thus forming stable hummocks that can be found even on the steepest slopes of the dunes. Using our GPS units, we traversed up and down dunes searching for our study plants, which were sometimes high up on these steep slopes. It was definitely an adventure! 

the large, white night-blooming flowers of the Eureka Valley evening primrose!

the large, white night-blooming flowers of the Eureka Valley evening primrose (pollinated by moths!!)

Eureka Valley evening primrose in bloom!

Eureka Valley evening primrose in bloom!

orange sea of blooming Sphaeralcea ambigua (if you recall from my last blog post - one of the species we planted at our "common garden" sites!) <3

orange sea of blooming Sphaeralcea ambigua (if you recall from my last blog post – one of the species we planted at our “common garden” sites!) <3

satellite image of the Eureka dune!

satellite image of the Eureka dune!


Eureka Dune under the setting sun

Eureka Dune under the setting sun

Happy Earth Day! Thanks for reading!

– Meaghan

Las Vegas Field Office, USGS


Spring Profusion

As snow melts throughout much of the American Northeast, Southeastern Arizona is experiencing its second wave of spring. The first wildflowers have come and gone. Cottonwoods flowered over a month ago and many weeks have passed since they first set fruit. Winter rainfall brought the first wave, the fabulous Arizona heat leads the way for the next wave of flowers and their associated pollinators.


Rains grace the Santa Rita Mountains


The added moisture allows plants to put energy into creating flowers to reproduce all along the elevational gradient.


Fallugia paradoxa (Apache plume)

More flowers means more nectar for pollinators. Pollinators become abundant in the profusion of food.


Oenothera spp. (Evening Primrose)

More pollinators (bees/butterflies/hummingbirds/moths/bats) means that there is a larger readily available food source for other creatures along the food web.


Calliandra eriophylla (Pink Fairy Duster)

More water = more pollinators = more life


Fouquieria splendens (Ocotillo)

Plant Monitoring Across the Mojave

As the temperatures begin to climb and plants are in full bloom, we are approaching our busiest time for fieldwork here in the Mojave. We recently traveled to every common garden site (St. George, UT, Fort Irwin, CA, and Joshua Tree, CA) to monitor the survival of our transplants and get some baseline cover measurements. We were pleased to see that most of our plants are still alive, with many putting on new growth and some are even flowering! Soon we will start monitoring different traits to determine if the source population has any effect on plant success.

This past week we traveled back to Eureka Valley to start growth measurements for Swallenia alexandrae – Eureka Valley dune grass – and continue measuring Oenothera californica ssp. eurekensis – Eureka Valley Evening Primrose. It has only been two weeks since our previous monitoring trip, but some of the primrose had doubled in size and completely covered the tags we had marking them! They are loaded with flowers, and some have even started producing seed pods. Additionally, the Sphaeralcea ambigua and Baileya pleniradiata at the dunes are in full bloom, and created a beautiful sea of orange and yellow flowers that were visible from miles away. It’s amazing how much life these dunes can support! Walking through the dunes we saw desert iguanas darting from shrub to shrub, a horned lizard, a leopard lizard, and a yellow headed blackbird. The desert is truly starting to come to life.

Finally, my fellow interns and I have done some exploring around Las Vegas, and went to a restored wetland park for birdwatching and on a quest to find desert bighorn sheep. We saw several different species of water birds in the wetland, turtles, hummingbirds, and even a couple baby gallinules! There is a park in Boulder City that is well known for the bighorn sheep that come and graze there, and we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one just before the sun went down, and it returned to the mountains for the night. All in all, it has been a very busy but exciting two weeks and I’m looking forward to continuing the projects in the weeks to come.


Marble Canyon dunes in Eureka Valley, one of the three dunes where we study Oenothera califonica ssp. eurekensis and Swallenia alexandrae


Desert bighorn making his way back up to the mountains for the evening


Craters of Shoshone, ID

Hi all!

I have been in Shoshone, ID for six days now and just finished up my first work week. The BLM office is full of wonderful people who have taken Avery (fellow CLM intern) and I out in the field to explore the Shoshone field office district.

A little blurb about Shoshone: Avery and I are living together in the oldest house in Shoshone, built in 1886! Mary L Gooding Park and the Little Wood River are right in our backyard (literally). There are about 1402 people who live here and an old school movie theatre. We are one hour away from the Sawtooth Mountains and Sun Valley (Awesome!).

We have been in the field identifying plants and getting to know our sage brush! It seems like this season we will be getting to do a lot of tasks including; vegetation monitoring, updating previous monitoring sites, herbarium organization, and seed collecting.

Today, we explored Craters of the Moon National Monument in search for sage grouse leks! It was a six AM start with binoculars and cameras to see this so called amazing process. Unfortunately, we did not see any leks but did flush about eight grouse!

I am looking forward to my season here in Shoshone, this place is a hidden gem in Idaho!

Spring is here

Spring is here! The weather here in Boise has been great the last few weeks. Everything is in bloom and the weather has been great in the high 60’s and low 70’s. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Before I know it though, it will be in the high 90’s and I will be waiting for it to cool down. Regardless, I am enjoying the spring weather at its best.

Now that my schedule has changed and I have gone to part time, it has taken me a little longer to complete the different projects.  I finished gathering information for the sagebrush project that entailed locating sagebrush lots that have been bought and sold, along with where they have been planted in the last 20 years. Once that was completed, I went back to going through all of the lots of seed in the warehouse and identifying what seed lots needed to be retested. Fortunately, of the hundreds of different lots in the warehouse, less than 30 issues were identified. Now that the Boise inventory is completed and up to date, I will begin focusing on the Ely warehouse these next few days in an attempt to finalize the inventory, update all of the seed lots, and identify test dates and current PLS. This task, however, will be more difficult for many different reasons, one of which is that fact that I am not down in Nevada at the warehouse. Considering the amount of time I have left with CLM, and the projects I have left to complete, time is definitely valuable. These next few weeks, I will be working diligently in my attempt to finish the workload in a timely manner. I am confident that I can finish what I have started in ample time. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Boise Regional Seed Warehouse

Bureau of Land Management

Southern California Adventures!

Hello Everyone!

I am now entering week three working with the BLM Hollister office in California and it has been an exciting and interesting time so far! Everyone is so welcoming and helpful out here and there is a lot of interesting research coming out of this office. It definitely helps working with such friendly people when transitioning to a new job and to a new home!

I am conducting all of my research at the beautiful Panoche Hills Recreation Area which is a semi-arid scrubland. This area is dominated by the shrub Ephedra californica and I have been working closely with a Ph.D. student testing plant-plant interactions between Ephedra and annuals as well as plant-animal interactions between Ephedra and kangaroo rats. Together we have set up a number of experiments including seed trapping experiments, herbivore exclosures to remove biotic stress, and kangaroo rat granivory trials. This year was an extremely dry year for California, so it is very interesting testing interactions in an abnormal year.

One thing that I would like to investigate further after the above mentioned experiments are complete is how the highly invasive grass species red brome has impacted the area. Specifically, there are two endangered species present at Panoche Hills, the giant kangaroo rat and the blunt nosed leopard lizard and I would like to know if/how the invasion by red brome has impacted their populations and potential ways to mitigate this impact.

I am looking forward to continuing this amazing experience!

Here are some photos of my adventures so far!


BLM Holister Field Office, California

Herbivory exclosure to reduce biotic stress Seed trapping experiment Kangaroo rat granivory experiment Beautiful Panoche Hills Horn Lizard

Identifying Southern Oregon


I am coming to the end of my second week here in the Medford District BLM office. So far it has been a crash course in general botany as we get geared up for what looks like is going to be a busy seed collecting season.  The Medford District office is the largest BLM office in the United States, which means we have quite a large region to collect from.  Not only are we dealing with a grand scale of space, but the Southern Oregon landscape is all over the place when it comes to ecosystem diverseness. The species richness and biodiversity appears to me, at this point in the season, to be endless.  The Siskiyou Mountains, Klamath Mountains, Lower Cascade Mountains, and  the Rogue Valley are notoriously known for their unique soils which equate to many rare and endemic plant species.  This creates an exciting challenge when it comes to plant identification.

So far in this short week and a half, I have gone on about 5 scouting missions in the surrounding areas, collecting plants, practicing my identification skills, and bring specimens back to the lab for further examination.  We have been taking notes about when we assume these plants will start to go to seed and plan on going back and checking these locations, as well as scouting out new ones, in the weeks to come.

Having moved to this region about six months ago, this internship opportunity as allowed me to really get a better feel for my new home in a geographical sense.  Being able to begin to identify local plants, creeks, mountains, and other land marks, that were nameless strangers to me 2 weeks ago, has granted me a sense of community in a very odd naturalist sort of way. The ability to put a name to a face (or in this case a flower) has allowed me to feel more comfortable in my new surroundings.

Happy (seed) hunting!


Medford, Oregon BLM


Identifying Mimulus guttatus.

Identifying Mimulus guttatus.

View from the top of Lower Table Rock (facing south)

View from the top of Lower Table Rock (facing south)

Making a pressing of Lupinus bicolor.

Making a pressing of Lupinus bicolor.



Cheers to a New Chapter!

Greetings from beautiful Carson City, Nevada, home of the ever-present sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides), and Vivid Dancer Damselfly (Argia vivida)-just to name a few symbols that represent our nation’s 7th largest state!  I arrived here a bit over three weeks ago, and it has been a wonderful change coming from the never ending winter of Connecticut.  I do love my home state, but something about stepping off a plane to blooming flowers and sunshine has been nothing but refreshing.

So much has happened out here already while interning with the BLM botany team.  I was the 6th intern to arrive, and the others have helped make my transition a smooth one.  Although not quite caught up with identifying all the desert flora or recognizing unfamiliar bird calls, there is an obvious sense of community within the team here, and I think it will be no time until I’m brought completely up to speed.  Particularly appreciating the casual plant ID discussions and stories of field days that occur over our home cooked meals once a week, it is certain to say accepting this challenge of creating a life across the country has been more than a wise decision.

A few highlights from the past three weeks have included becoming certified to apply pesticides on federal lands in efforts to eradicate invasive species, working in some of the most beautiful locations, and (as of this week) beginning to monitor and develop a conservation plan for Ivesia webberi, a soon to be listed endangered species.  It is especially rewarding to me to bring a voice to things like plants that just can’t stand up and say, “Hey, protect me from those soon to be grazing cattle” or “Watch out, there are nonnative species out competing me for space to grow!”  What can I say, I love plants!

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time out here thus far, and anticipate things getting even better as the season continues.  Looking very much forward to using my conservation degree from UConn for practical applications in the field, becoming fluent in GIS, and looking up at a star lit sky from a desert perspective!  Until then, enjoy a couple photos from my first days in the field!

Be Well,


Carson City BLM Field Office


First Day in the Field Collecting Seeds!

First Day in the Field Collecting Seeds

Beautiful Pyramid Lake!

Beautiful Pyramid Lake


Wild Horses Do Exist!

Wild Horses Do Exist!


Ivesia webberi

Ivesia webberi




So long CLM

This was my favorite botany job yet and unfortunately I am ending it early. Good news is I’ve landed a permanent job after a few years of constant moving about. I will have to incorporate the native plant restoration work into my new position. I enjoyed working with each part of the plant cycle in native plant propagation. I enjoyed collecting seeds, cleaning, storing, and treating seeds, growing them in the greenhouse, and planting them at their final destination restoration site. It was a beautiful experience. But I got out before the summer heat.

Each weekend I jumped on a different trail in the area. What is neat about the Redding BLM and the surrounding area is the amount of recreation. It seems to be the (only) thing to do around here- but it’s a good one. You’ve got the Lassen to the east, Mt. Shasta to the North and the Trinities to the West. It really is a beautiful place.

Besides on the ground restoration work, I developed a restoration handbook for the next seasonal. It includes maps and pictures of the restoration sites and what plants go there, as well as other tips. What I learned in my short time at the Redding BLM is invaluable.

Here are some photos from my stay:

Little buddy hanging out with me in the greenhouse

Little buddy hanging out with me in the greenhouse


buckeye seed

buckeye seed


buckeye seedlings at the greenhouse

buckeye seedlings at the greenhouse

buckeye going in drainage area.

buckeye growing in drainage area.

View of Redding from the bluffs

View of Redding from the bluffs- Sacramento River, Sundial Bridge and the Trinities

Big Bear Lake, CA March-April

CIMG8134 - Copy CIMG8245 - Copy

Phacelia sp.

Phacelia sp.

We’ve been doing surveys for TESW (Threatened, Endangered, Sensitive, and Watch plant species) along proposed OHV routes in the high desert, north of Big Bear Lake.  There’s a lot blooming, and some hillsides have even taken on a yellow hue.  Sensitive species in the area include Mojave paintbrush (Castilleja plagiotoma, SBNF Sensitive) and Lemmon’s syntrichopappus (Syntrichopappus lemmonii, SBNF Watch, middle).  We also did survey work at a mining claim nearer to the desert side of the forest.

 In late March we attended a bryophyte foray near Santa Cruz, CA.  (My point-and-shoot isn’t so well-equipped to take great pictures of mosses, especially in dim light, but I had a little better luck with wild ginger, Asarum caudatum, top).  It was a wonderful opportunity to talk with some big names in the moss, liverwort, and hornwort worlds, and a good introduction to bryophyte keys.

Additional survey work this month will focus on mining claims and proposed OHV routes.  We’ll also be attending a Poaceae workshop at Rancho Santa Botanic Garden.