Goodbye Carson City BLM

It is unreal that this year has passed.   The newness of the office, projects, and my co-workers I felt last February has settled into familiarity and appreciation.  It’s hard to believe that soon I will never sit at this desk again or type on this noisy keyboard.  Thinking back, I am amazed at how much knowledge I gained and how much my team accomplished.


There are many things I learned this year that I never expected.  I am so lucky to have attended all the trainings I did, from Identification of Grasses to Ecologically-Based Integrated Pest Management to Wetland Delineation.  The classes were both challenging and helpful to my daily work and career development.  Along with official trainings were conferences like the Nevada Rare Plant Workshop and ESR Lessons Learned, where I gained insight into the decision-making of the land management world.  I know it’s special to receive so much training in any job, and I appreciate my mentor advocating for the learning aspect of the internship.


On top of formal trainings, I advanced greatly in my botanical and computer software knowledge.  It’s easy to identify Poa secunda and Eriogonum nummulare, Latin names I had never seen before.  It’s easy to dissect a seed pod and estimate the number of seeds on a plant; I find myself doing it on hikes outside of work.  It’s easy to run a query in Access, and not-so-easy to perform data analysis in R.  The skills I learned this year will be valuable to me for the rest of my career.

Eriogonum diatomaceum, the Churchill Narrows buckwheat, the little plant that defined much of my internship.

It’s great to think about next year’s interns having learning experiences similar to mine and how far they will come over their months here.  I hope they take advantage of the opportunities offered to them.


On top of the education, I am proud of the projects my team accomplished.  We made 208 seed collections, monitored 6 rare plant species and 7 fires, helped restore 3 riparian areas, and attended 10 outreach events.  More than the numbers, however, I am proud of our perseverance and effort in accomplishing the tasks we were given.  The year was not without challenge or mistake, and we have continued to work hard up until the very end.


Interns in the sagebrush, a typical day-in-the-life.

Over the year, my appreciation for the beauty of Nevada has grown.  I arrived here from the tropical rainforest of Australia and was shocked by the dryness of the landscape.  Soon, I realized the uniqueness of the mountain range-valley, mountain range-valley landform pattern across the state.  The plant community is resilient and has secrets hiding in the canyons.  And when snow falls, the tan hills become shining white statues.  It is a gorgeous state I would not have truly gotten to know without this internship.


What a valuable year this has been.  The CLM program is extremely beneficial to young professionals like me and I hope it continues for many years.  As much I would like to linger here and develop my skills even further, I am happy to pass the torch to another botany intern here in Carson City.

Fire monitoring begins

Last week here in Carson City we began our long but satisfying days of fire monitoring. It was fun to learn the protocol and take quantitative data. The extensive procedure helps in forming a complete picture of fire recovery success (or failure!). It will be interesting to see the recovery status of the many fires we will be monitoring this year and I hope to gain a better understanding of fire restoration in Nevada. I’m confident our team will become a well-oiled machine in monitoring fire transects; I take it as a sign I’ve been focusing well on my job that at the end of the day, when I close my eyes, I see little Poa secunda patches just waiting to be counted.

-Allison in Carson City

The Unusual in Nevada

Lately, the internship with the BLM in Carson City has enabled me to experience the unusual.  Among these new activities:

~Managing and analyzing the only data in existence on a picky little buckwheat that grows in diatomaceous soils in western Nevada.  Currently on the USFWS candidate list, the determination to list the plant as threatened or endangered is based partially on the data we present.

The crew out among the sagebrush, checking out our favorite little buckwheat.


~Wandering among abandoned, graffiti-ed buildings once used for processing ore that now need to be monitoring and treated for noxious weeds.

Rabbitbrush and intern Kevin peering into a tagged cement building.

~Being among the first to traverse a new highway bridge still in construction.  The construction managers are now restoring the slopes leading to a creek below the bridge that were filled in and re-excavated, and our job is to ensure the vegetation seeding and regrowth is occurring satisfactorily.

Excavators re-contour the land below a new large highway bridge.

The geometrically pleasing new highway bridge.

~On the same trip, being among the last to pass through a cement tunnel built over the aforementioned creek to protect it during construction.  Half-dead willow trees still stand on shore and pigeons still fly among them.  It felt like a strange take on Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World.”

The tunnel is directly under the bridge and still has trees growing inside.

Chopped off willows still inhabit the cement tunnel below the new highway bridge. The tunnel will be demolished within the year.



I am eager to get out in the field even more and explore the secret lands of Nevada.  It is rewarding to monitor and help restore these beautiful places to healthy ecosystems.


Three of us interns on a beautiful hike to a fire recovery site.


Fresh experiences

Although it’s been two years since I graduated from college, I suddenly feel like a “fresher” again.  I have moved to unfamiliar Carson City and am the new person in the BLM office, learning how to navigate the maze of cubicles, finding the restroom and light switches, and, more importantly, meeting people who have been here for years before me and have much knowledge to pass on.  Even simply hearing the chat around the office gives insight into what it is like to make a career of natural resource management.

My mentor, Dean, passed on helpful guidance about what it means to work for the government: the public puts their trust in us to do a good job.  Taxpayer money funds the BLM, and we have the mandate of spending that money – our time – well.  I don’t believe most public servants have any intention of wasting time or money, but the statement is a useful reminder of the greater meaning of one’s daily duties.

Winter at Washoe Lake

The most impactful experiences of the internship so far have been sensory: the fragrance of big sagebrush and the sharp smell of a burned forest, the red-brown-yellow palette of the wintered Great Basin, and the crunch of secret ice under the dry grass on a walk across the field.  As I learn new plant names and become familiar with the local geography, I appreciate the landscape that is my new home more and more.

I have also enjoyed getting to know the people I will be spending the majority of my waking time with over the next ten months.  Throughout recent travels I have found it is the friendships I made that I recall most dearly, and I look forward to fostering those here.