Last post – Thanks for a great internship

My internship in Idaho is wrapping up. But I will continue to stay in Boise, as Lichen Curator at Boise State University through May or early June. I will continue to work on the same projects. I’m excited to stay and see the completion of the digitization of the lichen and moss records. Once that is complete, I will have the chance to finish some other projects, such as mailing off duplicate specimens. Boise, Idaho is growing on me, and I’m glad I have the opportunity to stay a bit longer. And unlike last winter, this year I am prepared for the cold weather, and have a bike to get around.

One of my last field days, myself and 4 coworkers drove out to an ACEC that has a rare sedge. It was thought extinct for many years, and then a graduate student randomly collected it, almost 100 years after it was first described. A road had been placed through the site. So we planted small sedge plants in the old road bed, to encourage the sedge growth. It was nice to feel that I made a difference, and I hope this small project goes a long way towards preserving this species. This sedge is only known from 2-3 sites in Idaho. However, my coworker, Pam, says there are probably more sites. Its stunning to think that in these large tracks of land, how much needs to explored. Even 10 months into my internship, it’s still hard to grasp how large and vast this country is.

Last month, a past CLM intern flew into Boise, Idaho to visit friends she made from her internship. Roger took us two and an additional past CLM intern out to lunch. It was very neat to have 3 interns in the same room, and I’m sure I’ll be back to visit the friends I made in Idaho in the future.

In other news, I am close to submitting an academic paper that my supervisor, Roger Rosentreter and I have been working on since June. It will be quite an accomplishment to finally submit it.


A moment of reflection

Over the past month, I have continued working primarily in the office on data entry and writing academic papers. The most exciting moment of the last month was when I realized that a species of lichen, Polychidium dendriscum, was listed as found in Florida. This seemed unlikely because it is known from Alaska and the Pacific northwest. I requested loans from other herbaria in the United States  to evaluate the species. It was incredible to handle specimens collected over 50 years ago. There is something magical about preserving specimens for future study, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. In addition, it was awesome to see who collected the specimens. One collector wrote a large book on Florida lichens. Hopefully, a specimen from the Smithsonian will arrive next week. The collector at the Smithsonian, Mason Hale, taught my supervisor Roger Rosentreter. I’m very excited to see that sample, and publish this paper very soon.

My time here is winding down, and this will be one of my last posts. One of the joys of working at the BLM State Office in Idaho has been the people here in the office. I learn something new from everyone. One of my coworkers, Pamela Hess, is a geologist. She can look at a geologic view and say, “that rock outcrop looks different.” When we approach it, and look around, there are unique ecosystems. Coming from Florida, I never appreciated how much geology defines a landscape and limits what grows in that area. From my coworker, Susan Filkins, I’ve learned to have a good attitude and how to better take care of myself (especially in the winter!) and not sweat the small stuff.  From Dan Simpson and Brett van Paepeghem, I’ve learned more about horticulture and that gardens need love and caring and constant maintenance. From Roger Rosentreter, I’ve learned how to use my energy efficiently towards science and academia, as well as more than I ever imagined about lichens and life.

It all goes to show, if you love your work it will continue to grow and take you in ways and places you never imagined.


BLM Idaho State Office

Lichens and backpacking

In the past month, I have been steadily working on my three lichen projects.  My academic paper on new and interesting lichens to Florida (which may become two or three papers) is very close to completion.  The key to Florida macrolichens is also close to completion and will be finished by next month’s post. Lastly, digitization of the lichen collection at Boise State University progresses steadily.

On weekends, I have been able to travel around Idaho in the past month, and soak in the beauty of the state. Two weekends ago, I went to a small town north of Boise. The town is known as Cabarton, which is really a pioneer town that is now a road. The town was important in the 1800s because it had a stagecoach station (which now sits on my friends property). A short distance down the road, is the North Fork of the Payette River. I was able to boat down it as a passenger. Its hard to describe the beauty of water swirling, in rapids and calm eddies. All the while looking up into the peaks of mountains dominated by Douglas fir forests.

Last weekend, I went backpacking in the Pioneer Mountains. The area I climbed was around Hyndman Mountain, which was just over 12,000 feet. It was my first time over 10,000 feet and 11,000 feet. On one hike I had a clear view of 30-40 miles and of the valley below. Personally, it was important to get outside and see what I am protecting and enjoy the scenery. I was amazed that even at 11,000 feet there were lichens growing in the alpine soil. My boss has no records of lichens in the Pioneer Mountains, so I hope to curate them and donate any significant lichens to the BSU herbarium.


BLM Idaho State Office

Update from southwest Idaho

Idaho is very dry. By now, you’ve probably heard that a couple of Idaho cities, including Featherville, are being evacuated. The fire is so large and its so dry that the fire may continue to burn until a large rainfall or snowfall. It seems all of Idaho is dealing with the lack of precipitation, and the plants are no exception. They produce flowers, and then decide that it would take too much energy to produce seeds. Plants are smarter than people realize. Unfortunately, there is a paltry amount of seeding plants this year, so I have been working in the office.

I spent most of the last month working on a article of new and interesting lichens to Florida. Roger Rosentreter, my supervisor and coauthor, has been working with me through numerous drafts to perfect the paper. This paper will hopefully help in my applications to graduate school later this fall.

The digitization of the lichen collection has continued. The three students are making good progress and are about 1/4th of the way through. Its incredible how many mixed collections there. I have been separating many collections into “A” and “B” catergories. This will help generate more knowledge of lichen ecology and historical records.

Last week, I attended the ESA conference in Portland, Oregon. It was incredible how many scientists were there and how much knowledge was being disseminated and networking was going on. It was a bit overwhelming as my first ESA meeting, but I met many interested researchers and made new friends. It was especially nice to meet graduate students in lichenology.

Barry Kaminsky

BLM, Idaho State Office


Update from southeast Idaho

One aspect I love about my internship is that interesting projects constantly emerge. In the past month, I started identifying Hawaiian lichens. It has been great to examine the flora of an area other than Florida but also challenging. Some of the species, I have no idea what genera they are- they look radically different than anything I have seen before. There is also no all inclusive key to use, so I am cobbling information from the internet, and disparate journal articles to piecemeal all the info I need. I enjoy the challenge, and I’m learning a lot more by searching for information.

In the past year, the National Science Foundation awarded numerous grants to herbaria around the United States to digitize their plant and lichen records. This past week at Boise State University, workers began digitizing lichens. I helped with the training, and will answer questions about lichen curation and the herbarium for the duration of my internship. It is exciting to witness and assist with this project. As a future graduate student, I know I will benefit from this data.

I collected seeds for Seeds of Success. Unfortunately it is a dry year in southeast Idaho, and there aren’t many opportunities to collect seeds. Recently, I went on a camping adventure into the Owyhee mountains to search for seeds. Nestled in the mountains is a former mining city called Silver City, population 27. One of my coworkers remarked that I would be the first person from Miami, FL to see Silver City. Shortly after arriving , a local asked where I was from and I replied “Miami.” It turns out she was also from Miami! What an ironic world! Below are pictures of Silver City and the Owyhee Mountains.

Barry Kaminsky

BLM- Idaho State Office


Lichens and Boise

In the past month, I finally finished my taxonomic project on Florida lichens. It took over five months to manage all the specimens and ship them to herbaria around the world, but it was time well spent.  I am now working on creating dichotomous keys to Florida lichens and hope to create a guide that will foster more research into these organisms.

The other day, I was filing specimens back into the herbarium and found a very old collection. It was an exsiccate from the 1890s. An exsiccate is a set of lichens curated and annotated by an expert and then sold to herbaria. It creates a standard, and serves as a useful identification tool. Although the envelope was fragile, the collection was stunning, and looked as if it had just been collected. It was nice to know that despite not being digitized or cared for, the specimen endured. As long as a physical collection remains, the specimen will remain.

I went deep into the Owyhee Mountains in Idaho, on a two day adventure with fellow BLM employees. It was stunning land, more wide and vast than I had ever seen. We went into a BLM wilderness area looking for sage grouse and slickspot peppergrass (a rare plant). Slickspot peppergrass grows on very dry and hard clay, that cracks. Its called desert pavement. There are lots of rare and endemic plants that grow on this surface.  Alas the rain made some roads impassable, so we weren’t able to reach the most remote areas. But it was great to get out and see the land.

Barry Kaminsky

BLM- Idaho State Office

Database update- almost done

I just completed five months of my internship, and I’ve been extended another 5 months. Its incredible how time flies. I am still working on cataloging, databasing and shipping off Florida lichen collections. I am sure that next week I will finish shipping off the specimens and will complete this project. With the completion of this project I can proudly say that I know how to use Microsoft Access, and can work at an herbarium digitizing samples. This is a useful skill, since many herbaria are in the process of putting their records on the internet.

I am also working on a short academic paper on range extensions and documenting a few lichens new to North America. It is exciting to see how many discoveries and ideas for future research were generated from examining just 1,000 specimens. The discoveries are best documented by photos!  Two species, Lecanora barkmaniana, and Coccocarpia filiformis are new to North America. There is also range extensions of 10 species, two of which are shown below.  All photos taken by Pamela Hess.

Coccocarpia prostrata

Second collection in North America

Endocarpon petrolepideum– growing on snail shell!

Lichens on snail shells



Spring is here

The saying “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb” has held true this year. The month of March started out with the last snow storm, and cold weather. As the month progressed, signs of spring emerged. Flowers began to bloom. Since this is my first winter and spring in a region that has seasons (ie not Florida), it’s truly wonderful to see all the colors emerging and have the ability to wear shorts on the weekend!

At work, I have spent most of the past month continuing work on the Florida lichen database. All the corrections have been made, and now I am in the process of shipping off more than 800 specimens to herbaria across the world. It has been great to see the fruits of my labor. I know that this work will significantly enhance the lichen collections of many Florida herbaria. As I continue to ship off more collections, I also intend to rewrite a few dichotomous keys of Florida lichens, and publish a few short papers on my findings.

In late March, the Northwest Scientific Association and the Northwest Lichenologists held their yearly conference in Boise. It was great to meet other lichenologists and to network and learn about current research. It was personally satisfying, since I helped organize many aspects of the NWL meeting and presented my first academic paper!

Barry Kaminsky

Idaho State Office

Databasing, and more databasing

The past month I have largely spent working on a database collection of Florida lichens. I had largely spent my time leading up to last month checking to make sure that the data in the database was correct. This past month, I’ve had the pleasure to check the taxonomy of the collections. Its an amazing experience to have an herbarium of lichens to evaluate. It may seem daunting to have a 1,000 specimens to check, but its a great opportunity, because with that large amount comes the possibility to check identifications against each other. Its much easier to find mistakes if you have the ability to say “this one isn’t like the others.”

Lichens are tedious, but so is all taxonomy. Species are dependent on both chemical and physical characteristics. This leads to a lot of looking and testing. Chemical tests are simple.  Just take a fragment of the lichen and put a drop of bleach or 10% KOH on it, and watch for a color change. My favorite is the UV light.  The lichens often turn yellow or blue depending on what compound is in them.

I’ve learned so much about lichen taxonomy.  This has been a dream perfect internship and opportunity. Another joy is finding rare lichens. In the past month, my mentor Roger Rosentreter and I have found a few disjunct populations, the southern limit of a few more species, and a few that we don’t what they are (“weird chemistry”).  Hopefully I will have an update on those specimens in a future post. Also I hope to write a paper on these interesting lichens.

I also went back to the endangered Allium aaseae site (please see previous posts). A coworker and I cleaned up some of the vegetation we had cut a while back. A few of the onions were in bloom! Below is a photo I took of the onion.

Barry, BLM Idaho State Office

Allium aaseae (wild onion) restoration

Earlier today myself and 5 coworkers, went back to the wild onion site, I mentioned in my last post. We spent another half day clearing out sage brush and cheatgrass under an overcast sky. The site is transfixing, and beautiful. It is on the side of a steep hill, full of sage brush and bitterbrush, as well as lots of other forbs. In the distance there is a tiny spring, and the chattering of quail is a common sound. Amidst this site, there is a spot that is devoid of sage  brush, extending up the hill. Its about the size of a two full length basketball court. There is no organic matter or soil, the substrate is small pebbles and gravel, that constantly shift.  It holds little to no water. It is a harsh environment, where very few plants grow well. The onion, Allium aaseae, thrives in these conditions.

Allium aaseae is a rare endemic plant, found in only a few locations in Idaho. It is just starting to sprout. At the moment it looks like little blades of grass, but in a few months the entirety of the site will be covered in pink flowers. Perhaps because I know its a rare plant and I’m working to maintain a site for it, I am biased towards liking this site. However, the harshness of the site, and just how small of a range this plant has (it can grow in only a small fraction of this hill), fascinate me.

In another sense, it is also the feeling of accomplishment of cleaning up the site. There are a few aspects of cleaning up that we are working on. Basically we are trying to create a buffer around the site to prevent encroachment of unwelcome species. We are removing cheatgrass, and trimming the sagebrush and bitterbrush, so that they catch less seeds and provide less protection to those unwelcome seeds that germinate. Its great to see the difference on our monthly visits, and it could serve as a model for restoration. However, it will take more work and manpower to fully recover the site, more than our crew can handle at the moment.

On my Florida lichen database project, I am making good progress. I finished checking the data. All I have left to do is check the identification of a handful of specimens, fill in the substrate in the database of a couple hundred lichens, and then they can be shipped out to various herbaria around the world.  By this time next month, I assume I will be working on another databasing project but working more in the field. Spring is coming. However, below is proof it snowed in Boise- my first and probably last snow angel of the season.

Barry Kaminsky

BLM State Office, Boise, ID