The End to My Five Month Internship

Today is my last day for my CLM internship with the Bureau of Land Management at their Colorado State Office. My time here has been short, but great. I have met some wonderful people at this office who I will miss conversing with, including my two mentors, Carol Dawson and Peter Gordon. It is tough to wrap-up my five months here, but will do my best to supply snippets of my time and experiences in Colorado.

The pace of this job started off in a sprint and rarely slowed down to a run during my internship. We focused on monitoring rare plants while squeezing in Seeds of Success where ever possible so as to prepare for when projects grayed together towards shifting to the later second project. What made my time at this job fly by so fast was the variety of work. I collected data out in the field, I entered the data onto Excel and manipulated some of the data in the office, hiked outside identifying plants, determining which ones had a large enough population, and enough viable seed to collect, made 30 collections of seed, many of them requiring multiple trips in order to get enough seed, filling out the datasheets for the collections, packing the seed, and shipping all of it from the office out to Bend, Oregon to be cleaned and stored.

During all of this, my mentors also provided other opportunities to help further our experiences such as visiting the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, CO, attending the 8th Annual Colorado Rare Plant Symposium in Carbondale, CO, as well as attending a presentation on how to apply on USAjobs website.

Our trip to the NCGRP was very interesting and informative. Part of the purpose was so that my co-worker and I could see a similar facility to where we had been shipping our seed collections to, what they do with the seed after cleaning, how the seed is stored, and how ways they check viability over the years. It was also educational in what exactly this facilities goals and purpose is. The NCGRP’s main task is to collect genetic DNA diversity of our agricultural food, such as crops and livestock (mostly crops) because the large agriculture industries across the United States are all using the same crops/hybrids/varieties, cattle breeds, etc. that produce the highest yields and profits. The consequence of this is that we are currently in the same position as pre-potato famine Ireland. For example, one individual Holstein bull is the father of thousands of offspring because his genetics produce better yields, but if a disease develops that he was more susceptible to, all of his offspring would have a higher likelihood of dying as well. The same applies to all our livestock and crops. So this department of our Federal Government’s goal is to try and obtain as much agricultural genetic diversity as possible before all or most of it is lost over time in case a scenario similar to the one I described occurs. Many varieties of corn have already gone extinct due to no one using them anymore, so our government is doing its best to protect our future since our “private industries” do not have our interest and future stability in mind.

Penstemon debilis

Penstemon debilis

Cool habitat for P. debilis, our monitoring plot, and an awesome view

Cool habitat for P. debilis, our monitoring plot, and an awesome view

Well, to wrap-up, here is one highlight of my experiences I’ve had working for CLM in Denver, Colorado. My fondest memory of rare plant monitoring was working just outside of Silt, CO within the Roan Plateau working with Penstemon debilis that had been discovered just 25 years ago. The scenery was beautiful hiking up the mountain on an old oil shale mining road, and seeing such an interesting and rare habitat in an area no one else was allowed to visit.

Looking out from P. debilis monitoring plot

Looking out from P. debilis monitoring plot

Close-up view of monitoring plot location for P. debilis

Close-up view of monitoring plot location for P. debilis

Far view of monitoring plot location for P. debilis: We were way up there and it was awesome!!

Far view of monitoring plot location for P. debilis: We were way up there and it was awesome!!

This is Jeffrey, signing out on the CLM blog for my last time with the Colorado BLM State Office. Goodbye and good luck to all you future CLM interns on your new adventures.

Seed Collecting: Full Steam Ahead

It’s the first week of October and my seasonal job with the Bureau of Land Management in Denver is getting towards its final stretch yet it is still just as busy. Rare plant monitoring finished last week and my co-worker and I are solely working on native seed collecting. We have also been handed the reins for making seed collections ourselves with occasional help in collecting if it is too time consuming for just the two of us to get enough seed. We have been given control over where to go, what to collect, and when

Penstemon unilateralis we collected at North Table Mountain Park

to collect the seeds and fill out all the needed information on the datasheet, take photo vouchers, and collect specimen vouchers for our collections. So far for this year, we have made about 20 collections (some easy, others more difficult that take more time) and are working towards making over 30 collections.

Penstemon unilateralis fruits

Penstemon unilateralis fruits we collected

Penstemon unilateralis seeds that we were after

A benefit for us working on Seeds of Success are the skill sets and being able to make our own decisions which will be great on our resume for future jobs. Sure, we continue going back to the same locations repeatedly and haven’t seen any new and awesome landscapes and plants from traveling for rare plant monitoring, but we do still get to enjoy being outside and have more contact with the public now. Some people stop by to ask what we are doing and continue with a few questions after that, find our work to be interesting and for a good cause. Well, six weeks left to go collecting seed.

A great view at North Table Mountain Park

This is Jeffrey at the Colorado BLM State Office in Denver, over and out.

Over halfway done and things are shifting

I am now a tad over half way done with my adventures in Colorado for my internship in Denver. Life has passed by quickly while working in the beautiful scenery in this area. Summer has come and gone and fall is now here with talk of snow being around the corner? Being from Iowa, snow usually hits around the end of November or beginning of December with possible early surprises around Halloween from time to time. So talk of snow hitting in September is so foreign to me. Well, living in a new area provides fun new experiences. At least my supervisor told us that the first few snow falls don’t usually stick for long, but could end our seed collecting season early. My fingers are crossed for no early snow.

Phacelia formosula

Phacelia formosula

With summer over, our rare plant monitoring is now winding down. Our last two day trip was a few weeks ago near Walden, CO for North Park Phacelia that is in the waterleaf family, Phacelia formosula. This was our only frequency monitoring that we performed this year. Frequency monitoring is performed along a transect and a quadrat is set at a determined measurement and it is recorded if the plant exists within that particular location, for this research a meter by meter quadrat was used. The quadrat is then placed along the same transect at equal distances apart (2 meters) with the first one set randomly at 0, 0.5, 1, or 1.5 meter mark a certain number of times, ten times for this plot, and is repeated for each transect.

Frequency Monitoring

Looking for P. formosula within a quadrat along a transect.

So, when we saw P. formosula in four of the ten quadrats along our first transect, our plant had a forty percent frequency, which is recorded and later statistically analyzed with data collected from past years. This research on P. formosulais also extended to frequency of flowering to extrapolate its reproductive potential this year and trends over time.

Wind gust

A gust of wind and thermal convection took a good portion of our data sheets... we luckily found one down the road though the rest were long gone.

On our way home from our monitoring extravaganza, we stopped by Kremmling, CO to check out two plants we had seen flowering earlier and luckily found that they were both fruiting and ready for harvest. We ate lunch, and first began with Castilleja flava, an Indian Paintbrush species (yellow) and finished a long day with Triglochin maritime, an arrowgrass species, and then finished our trek home. Since then, we have been collecting seed and have doubled our collections within two weeks. Part of the reason for this explosion of seed collecting is that earlier we were also monitoring rare plants, some of our collections were difficult and needed multiple trips to complete them, and many of the plants were not fruiting yet. Only so much can be done based on Mother Nature and how the plants react to the weather conditions. We had a boom this year with a really wet late spring and early summer, but then went into a drought that has hindered many plants.

South Valley Park

Cool red rock formation at South Valley Park

As we keep ramping up our seed collections, finish our last two single day trips for monitoring, and fall takes over, I am looking forward to seeing all the beautiful fall colors I’ve only heard about in the mountains of Colorado.

Jeffrey Flory, BLM Colorado State Office

SOS! – No, not the call for help… Seeds of Success!

Is it August already? Time is flying by before my eyes in that almost two months have already whizzed by out of my five month internship in Denver, Colorado and I feel like I’ve still only just begun. Our tasks have now altered from performing monitoring or seed collecting in blocks of a week, to being more intermixed together throughout a week. This variety doesn’t help slow down time, but makes this job very enjoyable and fun.

After seed scouting six sites for six days over a four week period (the two middle weeks vacant of Seeds of Success), we finally found a site with enough individuals and sufficient amount of fruits with plenty of seeds to reach at least our 10,000 seed quota from only 20% of the population and waited just the right amount of time for the fruits to ripen for healthy seeds, but not too late that they would all be dispersed and gone. Our first collection of this season was from Scutellaria brittonii, a skullcap group within the mint family, which was not an easy task, especially for mine and Sama’s first seed collection extravaganza!

Fruits of Britton's Skullcap

Harvesting the fruit of Scutellaria Brittonii

This mint is only about 3 to 6 inches tall, grows in small scattered clumps on talus slopes of mountain sides in open pockets, and without their little lavender skull-looking flowers, they are very easy to miss. We did a lot of scrambling across steep slopes looking and harvesting Britton’s Skullcap fruits just off the path, or sometimes a ways down or up from the path. Another issue was that not all the fruits ripen at the same time. So, because of their spread-out distribution and many of the fruits not being ripe, it took us more than one day to collect an ample amount of seed for this program. Our first day, many of the fruits were not ripe enough, and a small fraction of the seeds were ready to be collected. Our second trip was quite the opposite with most of the fruits already gone and their tiny brown seeds dispersed. Our third try was to top off our collection to guarantee that we collected enough.


Seeds of Britton's Skullcap

Besides collecting seeds, we also have to collect data about the plant and the site we are collecting from. This includes the date(s) of this species’ collection, the eco-region, location, land formation, habitat, associated plants, estimated area of the collection, the population, and the number of plants sampled, average number of fruits per individual, and average seeds per fruit, slope, aspect, soil texture, soil color (from a chart), etc. After the collection is made and the data collected, the data is typed and printed onto a form and packaged with the seeds, and then shipped off to Bends, Oregon to be cleaned, analyzed, and determined if there are enough viable seeds for research and storage.

Clematis hirsutissima

Fruit of Clematis hirsutissima

Thankfully, our second collection was on Clematis hirsutissima, a buttercup species that only took one day to collect, then shipped off the next day. Our third is currently in progress, collecting fleshy fruits of Rhus trilobata, Skunkbush Sumac, that will take at least one to two more trips to get more than 10,000 seeds. Each bush, when fruiting, has between 50 to 1,000 fruits, but each fruit only has one seed, which is why it will take us a while. Our first attempt barely gave us 5,000 seeds, but not all are viable and ripe, so we are planning on two more trips to guarantee our “Success” since not every year is so bountiful with this shrub. This fruit is also fun to collect because the fruits are very sticky, so we wear latex gloves to keep our hands clean, but also because it is in the same family as poison ivy and has been known to cause skin irritation for some people.


Hairstreak sp.

Saw a Hairstreak butterfly species while seed scouting one day 🙂

This is Jeffrey Flory from the Colorado State Office, signing off of the CLM blog.

Internship program on your marks, get set… and GO!!

Life has been hectic starting this internship with CLM, but good. I am stationed in Denver, Colorado at the state office with Carol Dawson, a wonderful person who is able to get way more done than is humanly possible, and Peter Gordon, a great guy from Australia who is very helpful, fun to chat with, and was an intern through this program himself before joining Carol. Right away, we were off and running with important things to do, from being briefed about what we are doing, setting up at the office, and prepping for our first adventures.

Our first two weeks we focused on monitoring rare plants, Penstemon harringtonii and Sclarocactus glaucus, but will not go into detail about it, as you can read about it from my co-intern, Sama, who posted about it last week. The third week was busy with training in Chicago, where we met all the other interns stationed across the western states, met many of the people behind the scenes of this program, and taught many skills and information needed for most of the internships. This current week, we have performed our other half of our duties, Seeds of Success (SOS).

Seed Scouting

an opening on the foothills showing the possible seeds we might collect later this year


Prickly Pear species

Opuntia polyacantha - aka prickly pear species in bloom

Our current objective for SOS is to scout out new or old potential locations for common plants that are great for restoration and to collect plant genetic diversity for the security of our future. During our scouting endeavors, Peter takes to time to teach us how to identify plant families (such as the rose family, lily family, etc.), what the common plants are, and using a dichotomous key to figure out the plant species when we are working without him or Carol (such as keying out a prickly pear cactus species of Opuntia polyacantha). He also informs us on what to look for in the size of a population for seed collection, the difficulties of certain species


Geranium caespitosum - aka pineywoods geranium that disperses it's seeds if you touch it when ripe.

if the fruits pop open when touched, scattering the tiny black/brown seeds over 30 feet), and many other necessary procedures we must follow in order to make our collection more accurate and viable for storage (correct labeling, information needed recorded, etc.).


We have yet to collect seeds because it requires a lot of prep work now in order to find what has a large enough population to harvest, save time later and to prevent missed opportunities, and many of the plants are not in fruit yet. But, while investigating potential collections, a phenomenal bonus are all the spectacular landscapes, land formations, and flowers that we get to witness and admire. As Peter has mentioned as hikers and runners pass by us, that they took a day off from work just to be here while we are paid to work and enjoy the marvels of our Earth.

Paint Mines

Peter within the area of Paint Mines where erosion is taking place.