The end is in sight

Well, like so many other interns, my time as a CLM intern is about to come to a close. Including today, I only have 4 more days of work.  It seems like I just moved to Miles City, MT, and now I have to worry about getting everything back into my car to move away. These last five months have been filled with so many great adventures. I was able to see some great country here in eastern Montana, although it often involved a lot of driving. I loved having the freedom to look at the map of the eastern Montana district, pick a piece of BLM land that I hadn’t been to yet, and just go explore it. A few of our collection sites were found because we were able to just go explore somewhere new.

Because of this internship, I was able to learn a whole new set of plants that I had never really encountered before. Although having to learn all of these new plants was daunting at the beginning, I love the feeling of just being able to look around and know what plants are around me. This internship has also given me a sense of independence/responsibility. With all the internships I have done before, the day began with a group meeting where the supervisor would tell me/us what we were supposed to get done that day. With this CLM internship, I and my fellow intern had a lot more freedom to decide what we wanted to do. We knew what needed to get done and by when, but the day to day decisions were up to us. It was really nice to be able to make those calls for ourselves.

I had a great time here in Miles City, and part of me is really sad that I have to go. However, the other part of me is really excited to see what life has in store for me next.

Kimberly Stocks

Miles City, Montana

Seed collections: success and…..not

I was hoping to get two seed collections last week. One was successful, the other was not. But even the successful collection had its problems.
1. I learned the hard way: collecting wind dispersed seed on a windy day is not the best idea. The goal for this collection was Liatris punctata (dotted blazingstar or spotted gayfeather). I think that this small Asteracea may be one of my favorite plants here in Montana. The actual collection, however, was tedious. Some individuals had already completely dispersed, while others were just finishing up flowering. Depending on how ready the seed was, when you touched the plant, half the seed went zooming downwind. The paper bag in which the seed was going also really wanted to go traveling downwind. The second day of the collection I got smarter. We have a bunch of plastic jugs that have the tops cut off for when we collect berries. I put the paper bag into the jug, which was much easier to carry and much less likely to fly downwind. In spite of windy conditions and long hours collecting, the seed was successfully collected.
2. Limber pine would be a LOT of work to get 10,000 seed. For one, the population of limber pine that is here is an anomaly. The elevation here is lower than where you usually find limber pine. For this reason, individuals were scattered here and there among the more numerous Ponderosa Pine. I went out with Robert from the NRCS. He wanted to get some seed for his organization and I figured I would get a collection for Seed of Success while we were at it. Needless to say, it did not happen. Between the two of us, who were out there a good 5 hours, we got (estimated) 700 seed. Getting a collection of 10,000 would have taken days. It was a really good day, however. I got to work with and aide someone from another agency. I  also learned how to tell a ponderosa pine from a limber pine. By the end of the day, I could look at a cone on the ground and tell you which species it belonged to. We should have gone out a couple of weeks earlier; the cones had already dispersed the majority of their seed. We were happy when we found a cone with one or two seeds and extatic for the few cones that we got 6+ off of. The only downside to the day was how sticky the sap was. My hands were instantly attracted to pieces of grass, pine needles, small rocks, and the pine seed itself.

Kimberly, Miles City MT

Gone Fishing

Although I am a Seeds of Success intern, I have spent a few days broadening my horizons by helping out fisheries to finish up some stream inventory and surveying. Before this experience, I really didn’t like fish. I had to learn some fish species for a class, and to me they all seemed to look the same. I no longer think that. This past week I have been able to learn how to catch and identify about a dozen different fish species (native and introduced) found in Montana prairie streams. Although the fish are small (most are under 150 mm), once you know what to look for you can fairly easily tell the species apart. I think my favorite species that we have encountered would have to be the river carp sucker.
Although IDing the fish is fun, catching the fish is not always so much fun. The majority of the streams are dry, some of them only having one or two pools that we are able to fish, and even if there is water in the stream, it is often less than 10 cm deep. However, in these streams you are very likely to sink to you knees in mud. In one stream (which was a deeper) we were battling almost hip deep mud while pulling the net, which was also full of mud. The only real way to make any headway was to use the pole of the net as a lever to pull yourself forward. My chest waders also had a sizable hole in them, so add carrying water in your waders up to your knees into the equation. Talk about a work out! Everyone was glad when the fishing was done in that stream.
In addition to fish, we have also caught numerous frogs, turtles, and one garter snake in our net. I have never held a snake before, so I took the opportunity to hold the garter snake for a little while. The body of the snake coiling around my hand and wrist was a weird feeling, but also a cool one at the same time. I couldn’t keep the smile off of my face. When we released the snake, we tried to feed it a frog that we had also caught in the net, but the snake wouldn’t have any of it and just wanted to hightail it out of there.

Earlier that same day, we were walking thought the dry stream bed of a different site doing various measurements when I saw my first rattlesnake here in Montana. It was coiled up among the rocks and was almost invisible. I just happened to look in the right place to see it because it was not moving and it wasn’t even rattling. The only reason we knew it was still alive was because I was able to see its tongue moving in and out. The fact that it wasn’t rattling baffled us because we were close, within striking distance when I first saw it. Needless to say, we got out of there quick and left it alone. On our way back to the truck the rattler was gone.
I am really glad that I was able to take some time off from plants and get to work with the fish. I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I thought I was going to. However, I am not going to miss having to spend the entire day in waders.
Miles City, MT

Montana Native Plant Society

This last weekend I had the opportunity to go to the Montana Native Plant Society Annual Meeting in Missoula, MT. The drive was long, but it was worth it. I was able to meet a lot of great botanists, who did all that they could to help me learn some new plants (and since I am originally from Iowa, the number of plants that I didn’t know out numbered the ones I did). I was even able to meet the author of the newly published Manual of Montana Flora, which will be our new go-to field guide. On Saturday, I went on a fieldtrip to the Garnet Ghost Town, which involved botany stops along the way to look at what plants were present, and then a tour of the ghost town. Overall, the group saw 131 different plant species within just a few yards of the road. My favorite plant that we saw had to be the bear grass (although the lady slipper is a close second).