The End of a Chapter

My CLM internship with the San Bernardino National Forest in Big Bear, CA came to a close last Friday; ending as quickly as it began. Although I felt conflicted in deciding if I wanted to continue working for the Forest Service or if I wanted to move on, I know now that I made the right decision to move north to be closer to my family in Central California. That being said, I have nothing but fond memories of my year in Big Bear. It was definitely an adjustment moving from a college environment to a semi-remote area, living alone and oftentimes working alone. But quickly the staff I had the pleasure of meeting and working with became close friends, mentors, and a true community. They have made it clear that I am always welcome back, and for that I will be forever grateful.

In reflection on my time as a CLM intern, I find it hard to articulate how phenomenal of an experience it truly was. The experience I gained was so diverse and has set me up perfectly for the jobs for which I am now applying. Because of my CLM experience, I know I am a competitive candidate for most any natural resource position and feel confident in my ability to land a job in the next few months.

For those of you who have not read my past blog posts, I started as a CLM intern working for the Mountaintop district botanist (my mentor). My main responsibilities were conducting threatened, endangered, and sensitive plant surveys, entering the corresponding element occurrence data in the national Forest Service geodatabase, and making a wildflower identification book for the visitor’s center. In November, I was fortunate to be extended and although I kept the same mentor, I was mainly working for the ecological restoration program. My duties in this position were very eclectic and ranged from leading work crews and volunteers on restoration projects, creating/co-managing the ecological restoration monitoring geodatabase, drafting grant proposals and reports, and standard native plant nursery upkeep tasks. Needless to say, there are many skills that I am taking away with me that I would otherwise not have had.

Skill #1: how to record good data. I had the luck of entering past employee’ data early in the season and realized that a lot of times when multiple forms are being filled out for the same area, not every field is marked. It feels redundant to do this while at a field site because all of the information is the same. However, back in the office, after the forms have been moved and shuffled and the data recorders have moved on, the forms lack the necessary information to enter in the database. My frustration with this made me meticulous in the field, which certainly paid off when I had to enter my own data from the field season.

Skill #2: field management of crews. My supervisors allowed me to explore my managerial capabilities by trusting me in leading volunteer groups and various collaborative work crews. I now know that I am an effective leader in the field and have realized that the challenge makes me thrive.

Skill #3: GIS skillz. When I entered this position, I don’t think I could even perform basic editing tasks in ArcGIS. Many of the GIS skills I gained were through trial and error, but most came from tutorials from a phenomenal co-worker who showed me how to create and effectively manage a large geo-database. I quickly became well-versed in ArcMap, ArcCatalog, ArcPad use, making user guides for future use, and performing data check-in and check-outs for Trimble field units on a regular basis.

Skill #4: grant writing. I love to write and have always known that grant writing will play a role in my future. So, I was thrilled when my restoration program boss approached me about helping her with a couple of grant proposals and reports. I felt lucky that as a mere intern I was instrumental in obtaining $800,000 in grant money.

The above four skills are only a few of the many that I am taking with me from this position but I view them as the most marketable ones, and the ones of which I am most proud. As a next step, I plan to explore public land management, but in the private sector. I also aim to focus on exposing youth to the environment around them to instill a sense of pride, belonging, and stewardship.

I humbly thank everyone who played a part in making this internship possible for me; especially my advisor in college who told me about the program, my mentor for seeing my potential, the staff on the San Bernardino, and Krissa and the crew back at CBG. Thank you!


Lizzy Eichorn

Oh, and one of the coolest things I saw in my last month of my internship was a larva of the yucca moth responsible for pollinating Joshua Trees! SO cool!!!!



Spring in the San Bernardinos

Spring has finally arrived in the San Bernardino Mountains. It’s a drought year here in Southern California, but some plants are managing flowers. Many I’ve seen have crumpled in the heat and will not be producing a seed crop this year, but such is life in the mountains above the Mojave. I mentioned in my last entry that I was excited to see the spring-flowering plants that I missed due to my internship starting at the end of last May. I’ve seen all but two rare plants on my “to see” list while in Big Bear- so that’s pretty good!

Probably the most exciting news of this last month was a visit from my college advisor, Tass Kelso. She and her husband, George, had not yet seen the famous pebble plains of Big Bear and stopped by on a road trip to visit their family in Southern California. Tass is a Primulaceae expert and was interested in some pebble plain endemics that belong to that family; specifically a Dodecatheon and an Androsace species. We found both plants, the Dodecatheon was in flower and the Androsace was in fruit. As I understand it, neither of the species in question fully key into any of the currently acknowledged species of their respective genera. Botanists in the area have been referring to the Dodecatheon as D. hendersonii and the Androsace sp. as A. septentrionalis  but both have some key morphological differences that have made Tass curious. She was thrilled to get specimens of both of her research subjects and was astounded that we saw about three of the endangered plants and five of  the threatened/sensitive species found on the San Bernardino National Forest all in flower during the course of a four-hour tour! It was an absolute treat to be part of the conversations that afternoon between my CLM mentor and my advisor; both of whom I regard very highly.

The iddy biddy Dodecatheon Tass collected.

As for my normal duties, I finally finished all of my data entry from last season and got caught up on the backlog of element occurrence data that was floating around the office from the hands of one intern to another. Color coding what I have entered into our geo-database made me feel like my effort was not in vain, as the slog of repetitive data entry will often make one feel. I really have accomplished a lot over this last year.

Another exciting aspect of my job recently was that I got the chance to participate in grant writing. I have always been interested in grant writing and was thrilled to be charged with the task of helping the Restoration Program Manager with applying for an $800,000 state OHV grant. I helped construct and edit two Soil Conservation Plans and reported on last year’s restoration accomplishments. The latter was made infinitely easier than it has been in the last few years, thanks to our new geo-database that myself and a fellow field technician created for our restoration program.

May will be my last month of being a CLM intern; we’ll see what it brings!

Lizzy Eichorn, San Bernardino National Forest

Can’t Wait for Spring!

Although the winter storms have subsided in Big Bear, spring has not quite yet sprung in the mountains. Most of the deciduous trees and shrubs around are managing some buds but green leaves and flowers are few and far between (aka non-existent). I know it’s just around the corner, however, because lower down in elevation the “line of spring” is steadily creeping upwards in shades of purple, orange, and white; the welcome colors of blossoming lupines, California poppies, and ceanothus.

As is common at this time of year, I feel giddy with the onset of spring. But this time, in addition to being thrilled at the inevitable blossoms and increased daylight, I am so excited to see the early stages of flower development of the plants I have come to love while working here for the past year. Yes, I know this is nerdy, but it’s the truth. I started my rare plant monitoring work mid-summer last year, so I completely missed the spring-blooming wildflowers and much of the flowering season for the ones that bloom in early summer. I will no longer have to do crispy plant botanizing! It’s really quite a treat to have been able to experience this amazing place for all four changes in season.

At work lately, I’ve continued to plug away at entering the data collected during last field season. All I can say is thank gosh for the altitude because it’s buying me a couple of weeks to get everything entered! In addition to data entry, my coworkers and I have been revising our Restoration program geodatabase by ground-truthing all of our restoration sites out in the field (we have over 800 on the Forest). We have almost completed this task which will then allow us to train and coordinate our OHV volunteers to do all of the restoration site monitoring which is required for grant reporting. This, in turn, will free up the restoration staff to focus on other projects.

That’s about it for now! Hopefully next time I post I’ll have some really beautiful pictures of rare, mutant-looking violets, buckwheats, and mustards galore!

Lizzy Eichorn, San Bernardino National Forest


Month Eight

Despite the recent drop in temperature and the increase in snow on the ground, my winter has been very busy thus far. I am still amazed at the fact that I get to do field work during the most disagreeable months of the year. Luckily, the National Forest where I work includes land at high and low elevations. So, although our drive time is increased, we can still do out-plantings and rehabilitation work at restoration sites “down the hill” as we call it here (a.k.a 5,000 feet lower in elevation).

When I wake up in the morning in the mountains, temperatures range from 10 to 30 degrees. When we load the truck, we have to breathe hot air on the tool shed lock in order to unfreeze the dials that unlock it. If we need to fill up the water tank to water our transplants, we have to do so at a Forest Service Station at a lower elevation. Everything takes a lot longer with the inclement weather, but our team remains in good spirits. Once the first hole of the day is dug or the first fence post pounded, and the sun’s desert rays start to thaw our hands, our work seems that much more gratifying because of the morning cold we endured.

If I am not installing a restoration site, I can either be found in the office revising our restoration monitoring protocols or out on some Forest Service road monitoring already established sites with my coworkers. The days are filled with laughter, fun, and hard work, so needless to say I still love being a CLM intern!

Lizzy, San Bernardino National Forest


Field Fun in Fall

As I write this, I’m sitting on a bed of pine needles with a  spotted owl transmitter placed a few feet away on a stick while my coworker uses snazzy instruments to try and locate me in the forest. It’s the best hide and seek game I’ve ever played because I get to read my book in nature and bask in the sun all the while contributing to science! Due to the fact that I have a much more flexible schedule than most in my office, I get to help out with a lot of different projects facilitated by the BioBot staff (as we call ourselves). Currently, I’m pretending to be a spotted owl whose location is known and my coworker is following the normal tracking procedure so that we can gather information that will allow us to calculate the experimental error for a paper that the wildlife biologists are writing on a previous experiment.

In addition to pretending to be an owl, I’ve been keeping very busy at work. Last week we completed our restoration project in the Bighorn Wilderness in the transition zone between the San Bernardino Mountains and the Mojave Desert. We built a pipe and cable fence along the BLM/FS property boundary that will hopefully stop the use of unauthorized Off Highway Vehicle roads in the wilderness area. I mentioned in my last blog post that this project entailed a lot of inter-agency cooperation. I really enjoyed the experience I got in field-crew management and fostering an inclusive work environment for folks of differing socioeconomic backgrounds (we had some very different groups working together). After we completed the fence, we seeded and disguised unauthorized road beds and did our best to restore the integrity of the wilderness area. We all came away from the project with a sense of pride and empowerment because we accomplished a major effort in just two weeks of work.

Looking into the Bighorn Wilderness, what we are aiming to protect with our fencing project!

The other main project I’ve been involved with is developing a systematic protocol and geodatabase for our restoration site monitoring efforts on our Ranger District. The details are a little dry, so I’ll spare you, but I am learning so much that I feel like it won’t all fit on my resume! Enough said!

Thanks for the experience,

Lizzy, San Bernardino National Forest


Right after my last blog entry, I received news that my extension went through so I will continue working for the San Bernardino National Forest through late May 2013. I am absolutely thrilled because I love the people I work with/for and continue to learn new things literally every day. I am gradually switching over to working for the restoration program rather than the botany program because that is where the funding was available.

During the last month of my first batch of funding, I entered almost all of the data I collected during the summer- which made me feel like all my hard work wasn’t in vain! Although the task of data entry seems dry, I actually enjoyed it because I was able to improve my geodatabase skills because the database we use here is supported through ArcGIS. My supervisors worked out a deal so that I can continue doing data entry for my first boss and field work for my new boss which will work out well for snowy days.

Snow! It has already started coming. As a consequence, we’ve been working on restoration projects at lower elevations. This past week we started a project in the Big Horn Wilderness which is northwest of Joshua Tree National Park. We have been re-enforcing the boundary between BLM property and US Forest Service wilderness. One of the qualifiers of “wilderness” is the absence of motorized vehicles and wheels of any sort. Currently, the spaghetti OHV road network on BLM land is crossing the border into Forest Service wilderness. This project is a quintessential example of interagency cooperation: the BLM, the Forest Service, the San Bernardino National Forest Association, the Urban Conservation Corps, and the Student Conservation Association are all involved. We spent the last week installing posts that we will string with fancy cable that can’t be clipped with generic wire cutters.  Next week we’ll string the cable and disguise the roads we are closing with slash. I’ve been able to take a bit of a leadership role on the project because my higher ups have been stretched pretty thin recently. I’ve enjoyed managing the different crews out in the field and am grateful that those I work with trust me enough to leave me in charge.

So, if you can’t gather, I’m still stoked on my CLM experience and love every minute of my job, so thanks again for those who make it possible! 

Urban Conservation Corps and Student Conservation Association crews lining out where the fence should go and installing the fence.

Lizzy Eichorn 

Perhaps this last month of my internship has been the most productive yet least eventful- a good thing I guess! Due to the heavy monsoon rains we got this summer in the San Bernardino Mountains in southern California, our field season was slightly extended. So, I have been continuing traipsing around the forest mapping rare and endangered plant species populations even though everything around me is telling me it is fall. The most exciting thing that happened recently is that my field attire changed! Bow-hunting season started a little bit ago so now I wear a snazzy, orange, mesh vest with pockets over my already flattering Forest Service uniform and try my best not to look like a deer.  

There really is not that much to report other than I feel proud of what I have accomplished in the last couple of months. My main job has been cleaning up our geodatabase with field checks of different plant populations. The valley where I have been doing most of my work is literally coated in endangered, threatened, and rare plants.  I feel very lucky to have become so familiar with these little guys that not many people get to see let alone even know exist.  A few things I have learned recently are that rare plants don’t always grow in convenient places, I am in love with an endangered buckwheat, and a forest is a delightful office 🙂.  I can’t imagine an office job after this dream job!



In addition to my field mapping, I have continued work on my wildflower book of the San Bernardino Mountains. I am a little over half way done so I will have to really kick it into gear to finish by the end of October (the end of my internship). But luckily, the plants and the weather are getting crispy and it’s almost time to come indoors to do some office work.

One last thing I’ve been up to is occasionally working and volunteering with the restoration crew on the Forest. Last Saturday was National Public Lands Day and we had over one hundred volunteers show up to an Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) staging area in the transition zone above the Mojave. We planted various natives propagated in our greenhouse here at the station and restored an area that was becoming subject to severe erosion due to unauthorized vehicle use. The transplants we put out usually have about an 80% success rate.  What I thought most remarkable about the day was the tremendous turnout from all walks of life. We had four year olds, eighty year olds, OHV jeep dudes, my mom, college kids, boy scouts, and our regular adult and children volunteers all working together to rehabilitate the landscape. It was a great example of how government agencies and the public actually CAN work together in a productive manner!


Me and my mom planting some Artemisia tridentata at the National Public Lands Day restoration event!


Until next time,

Lizzy Eichorn, San Bernardino National Forest




Summer Rain and My New Lichen Brain

The most recent month of my internship has been the quickest yet, which has made me realize how short five months really is…I don’t want it to end! I literally pinch myself every day because I feel so lucky to have a job I love so much.

Given that I live in the mountains, near a lake relatively close to the ocean, the surrounding landscapes of the San Bernardino National Forest are not as dry as some in the Great Basin where my CLM compadres are. We have been getting afternoon thundershowers nearly every day, making some plants that I have been surveying bloom for a second time when they normally just bloom in the late spring or early summer. It’s crazy!

The past month has been pretty mellow; I’ve been chipping away at cleaning up our geodatabase with field checks of rare plant occurrences. In other words, I’ve been going on daily treasure hunts in the mountains for beautiful, little-bitty plants, most of which are endangered.  Much of our current geospatial information we have was created by my botanical predecessors (before my boss’s time) by judging from aerial photographs where certain plants were likely to occur. For the most part, the plant polygons are close to correct, but some are fixer-uppers. I haven’t had a field partner for two months due to a reorganization after budget cuts, so I’ve been going out in my green Chevy Tahoe all alone. Although it would be fun to have someone with me, I’ve been glad for the challenges that have come with flying solo and being completely unfamiliar with an area’s flora. I have become very self-sufficient and resourceful in my work ethic.

Other than looking for tiny plants that normal people wouldn’t notice or care about, I’ve been doing the GIS work that corresponds to my surveying project  and working on my wildflower book of the San Bernardino National Forest.

A couple of weekends ago, I attended a lichen and air quality conference that was hosted by the Jepson Herbarium for Region-5 Forest Service botanists at the James Reserve in the San Jacinto Mountains. It was a wonderful opportunity to network with other FS botanists. A lichenologist, Linda Geiser from Oregon, came down and presented on the methodology that she has developed that uses lichens as air quality indicators. A local lichenologist, Kerry Knudsen, took us out in the field for a crash course in lichen genera field identification. The latter entailed many a minute with your nose pressed against the rock with one eye squinted and the other eye looking through your hand lens. Lichenology is a much understudied field, as I learned, so if you ever want to describe a species of something, you should probably become a lichenologist! The whole weekend was a fabulous experience and I felt very fortunate to be included in it.

That just about sums it up around here. I hope everyone else is having a great time with their internship! Here are a few photos: 


Castilleja cinerea, my favorite paintbrush species and one of the threatened plants I survey/


A big Aspicilia lichen. It was huge!

Until next time!

Lizzy Eichorn, San Bernardino National Forest

I’m reporting from the San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF) for the second time since my internship began. This post is a little late, although Marian and Krissa would be the only ones to notice, because I said goodbye to my tonsils in mid-June and spent the following two weeks in bed eating ice cream while on pain killers. It wasn’t as cool as it sounds, although I do adore ice cream, so needless to say I am quite relieved to be back in the field enjoying the beautiful summer in Big Bear.

The most intriguing project of last week was conducting a floristic inventory of a proposed overburden dump site for a limestone mine. Apparently, mining law on National Forest property has not been revised since 1872 when Grant was president. You should be thinking “yikes!” because if you stop to think about it, the world has definitely changed since then. Anyway, the SBNF includes one of the largest, highest-grade limestone deposit west of the Mississippi and there are three mining giants who have mining claims here.  The issue is, however, that the limestone deposits are often underneath very sensitive, non-restorable carbonate habitats like the pebble plains I explained in my first blog where a multitude of threatened and endangered plant species are found.

In case you’re wondering, overburden is more or less the material from a mining site that must be removed to get to the desirable material being mined.  Oftentimes, it’s a huge amount of dirt and rocks as the pictures below show, and it has to go somewhere. The area we surveyed will be clear cut and leveled and then covered with the mining refuse. So what was the point of our survey if they are just going to do it anyway? As I understand it, the mining company has to abide by the guidelines the Forest Service recommends; so our work cannot prevent the overburden from being deposited rather just where it’s deposited.

It’s a frustrating situation because once these places are destroyed there is no chance in the habitats recovering because they are so delicate. At the same time, we live in a society completely dependent on limestone; it’s in all of the following products: toothpaste, pharmaceuticals, house paint, cement, agricultural amendments (to neutralize soil pH), latex, cosmetics, paper, and plastic just to name a few. I know you all have supported the limestone industry today because it would be gross if you didn’t ever brush your teeth! Needless to say, there is no easy fix to the situation but at the same time it’s been fascinating to be closely involved in such a big, real-world issue. 

I think that’s enough for now. The experience continues to be great and I keep meeting past CLM interns all over the place! It’s a great network to be part of so a big thanks again to all those who make it possible!

-Lizzy Eichorn


Already-existing overburden site that will be connected to the one we surveyed.


Another view, I wanted to scamper to the top of the volcano-looking thing in the background but alas we had real work to do!


I recently started my CLM internship with the San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF) in Big Bear, California on May 25th. It was certainly a whirlwind getting here given that I graduated from college four days before my start date, but I am now comfortably settled in my new community and am having a great time getting to know my coworkers, mentor, and the surrounding forest. I feel so fortunate to have been plopped into such a spectacularly beautiful area with such generous, welcoming people.

Over the next five months, my position will mostly entail mapping sensitive and endangered plant species in the area, transferring data from the SBNF’s previous geodatabase to the online geodatabase the entire U.S. National Forest now uses, and probably making an interpretive guide to the forest’s wildflowers to be displayed at our visitor’s center so that guests can identify flowers that they see while out hiking.

My first few weeks on the job have been very informative and engaging. I have spent most of my time in the field mapping the mustard species Arabis parishii, or Parish’s rock cress, which is only found in the San Bernardino Mountains. Perhaps the most special attribute of this area is the occurrence of “pebble plain” ecosystems which are relict alpine meadows from the Pleistocene epoch 10,000 years ago. These pebble plains are covered with chunks of quartzite crystals and clay soils that are subject to intense freeze-thaw cycles (we’re at ~7,000 feet here!). Few plants can grow under these inhospitable conditions so the ones that do are very unique; A. parishii is one such plant. By mapping the current A. parishii population, we are able to compare our new data with previous data taken in the same area which has been informative in determining the effects the aftermath of a 2003 forest fire has had on the plant’s range. Preliminarily, we have found that A. parishii occurrence is lower than at the time the previous data was taken, probably due to a large Bromus tectorum, or cheat grass, influx that appeared after the fire.

I think the most valuable skills that I have learned thus far are related to field mapping. In previous field jobs the ArcPad GIS devices were extremely confusing, but thanks to my patient coworkers at this job, I’ve learned how to use the units efficiently and comfortably.

Well, this seems long enough but I’ll sign off by saying that if my job continues like this, I will certainly never be bored in the coming months! Thanks to everyone who has made this experience possible!!


Typical pebble plain. The pink hue is from buckwheat flowers (my new favorite plant!)

One of the two gopher snakes I saw on my first day in the field.


Arabis parishii, the plant I've been mapping.

Thanks for tunin’ in!
-Lizzy Eichorn