My 2010 CLM Internship at the Carson City BLM District Office was an invaluable first step in my career in plant conservation. I learned so much from my mentor, Dean, and had the opportunity to work in one of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the country. Also, working on a team of eight other interns was very enjoyable as it kept the work environment fresh and varied. I really struggled with my decision to leave Nevada because I enjoyed my time there so much and really want to make it back West at some point to continue my work on native plant conservation. Northern Nevada is an amazing place and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in doing field work in a new area. The landscape is incredible.
The collection season is winding down here in Western Nevada, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t the opportunity for one last trip to Anaho Island National Wildlife Refuge on Pyramid Lake to collect native seed. Although it is early November and snow has returned to the higher elevations, there are still an abundance of chenopods, buckwheats, asters, camissonias, and a variety of other sagebrush steppe and salt desert scrub species in seed this time of year.
We first travelled to Anaho Island back in June to collect seed from native grasses, forbs, and shrubs, which create an important habitat for the island’s population of American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos). The colony is one of the two largest American White Pelican colonies in the western U.S. The island also supports a number of other colonial nesting and migratory bird species such as the Common Loon (Gavia immer), as well as a large population of rattlesnakes.
Our trips to Anaho Island have encompassed the multidisciplinary and cooperative nature of the CLM Internship and the Carson City BLM office. Although our team is comprised solely of Seeds of Success and botany interns, we had the opportunity to work with other federal agencies on natural resource issues at this wildlife refuge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the refuge and one of their bird biologists repeatedly escorted us out to the island on USFWS boats for our native seed collections. Also, on our last trip to the Anaho, we met up with U.S. Geological Survey biologists who were counting fish tags from the endangered Cui-ui (Chasmistes cujus), a large sucker fish endemic to Pyramid Lake and the most important food source for the American White Pelican colony there. The birds had regurgitated the fish tags, along with the skeletons of the fish they had consumed. We were able to help the USGS biologists count fish tags in addition to making our native seed collections. The seeds we collected can now be available for any restoration efforts that may be necessary at the wildlife refuge.
Besides all of the great work we were able to accomplish, perhaps the greatest part about our trips to Anaho Island was the fact that we had the opportunity to travel out there at all (the island is closed to the public because it is a wildlife refuge). We were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery, the unique ecosystem, and the amazing wildlife of the island, all while getting our Seeds of Success work done. This is just one of the great opportunities that we wouldn’t be exposed to without the CLM program and we are all very grateful to have participated in such interesting and important conservation work.
In addition to field work, we also have amazing opportunities to attend workshops and training with other scientists and ecologists. In August, our team was able to attend the “Vegetation Rapid Assessment/Relevé Workshop” given by the California native plant Society (CNPS) in South Lake Tahoe, CA. We had the chance to learn and practice current rapid vegetation assessment techniques with scientists from nonprofits, other federal agencies and academics in a unique fen habitat.
In September, our team attended the “Cheatgrass & Medusahead Management Workshop” hosted by Ecologically-Based Invasive Plant Management (EBIPM) in Reno, NV. We learned about weed management issues in Northern Nevada and Eastern California, as well as current experimental treatments from leading weed scientists. This workshop had over 100 participants from local conservation groups, federal agencies, and weed specialists.
In November, we will attend the Great Basin Connectivity and Climate Change Workshop Connectivity and Climate Change Workshop at the University of Nevada, Reno, where researchers will present assessments of riparian vegetation and animal habitat in additional to projections of connectivity for multiple species of animals and plants under different scenarios of environmental change. This will be another great chance to connect with scientists in our area and to learn more about important issues in conservation and natural resources management!
-Maggie Chan and John Krapek, CLM Interns, Carson City, NV
Greetings from Nevada! One of the most surprising aspects of the landscape in Nevada is the diversity of ecosystem types and topography one finds here. While driving to our field sites, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the diversity of vegetation one finds within short distances. With only slight changes of elevation, one can move from fields of sagebrush to pinyon-juniper woodlands or from salt deserts and playas to montane coniferous forests. Within only a short drive from Carson City, one can be in the Sierra forests of Ponderosa and Jeffrey pines, complete with rushing mountain streams, manzanita, and incredible views. With so many ecosystem types and such a diverse topography in Nevada, I don’t think I’ll soon tire of the landscape in my seed collection activities.
Learning the plant species of Nevada for our seed collection has come surprisingly easy. Being from the eastern states, I had little knowledge of the native vegetation of Nevada. Arriving here in the spring has allowed me the opportunity to observe many of the plants in flower. The hillsides are currently covered with the brilliant purples and pinks of the Gilias and Phacelias and the large yellow flowers of balsam root. The desert peach, covered in bright pink flowers, really stands out as one looks across the land. I remain very excited that this show of wildflowers will soon evolve into an abundance of seeds for team to collect.
Overall, the work I have done so far for the Seeds of Success program has been rewarding and often very enjoyable. Having an interest in botany and ecology, this internship has been a great opportunity to learn a tremendous amount of new useful knowledge. I’m sure that a large percentage of what I’m learning will help me in future in my future career and graduate studies. There’s a lot more in the desert than most outsiders would guess. There’s truly an amazing ecosystem in the Great Basin and I feel very fortunate to assist in preserving the genetic diversity of its plant life.
Working for the BLM has been a very interesting experience and a great introduction to the welcomed challenges of trying to conserve native plant communities in an agency whose mission statement is focused on the multiple use of our country’s vast wealth of public lands. The Carson City district office manages 5.5 million acres of land for multiple-use purposes, and trying to conserve all of the native plant communities and species on such a huge, discontinuous swath of land publically-used land seems to be an overwhelming challenge at times. But because it is such a monumental and important task, I think it drives myself, my fellow interns, and certainly my mentor to work even harder at the imperative job. If you care about native plant conservation and are looking for a challenge, the Carson City office of the BLM is definitely a great place to work.
Aside from work, the recreational opportunities in Carson City are fabulous. The Sierra Nevada is directly to our West, and there are dozens of hiking and biking trails within an hour’s drive or less of Carson City. Lake Tahoe is also about a 30-minute drive from Carson City and is truly an awe-inspiring place for nature-lovers. I have spent many of my weekends hiking in the Sierra or visiting Lake Tahoe, and that is just something that you can’t get back East or in many other parts of the country. So far, Carson City has been a great place to live and work, and I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface in my work with the BLM or my life outside of work. I am really looking forward to what the coming months will bring.
– Brian Josey and John Krapek, Seeds of Success Interns