Off to the Next Big Adventure

My time as a CLM intern has truly been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. The learning opportunities were never ending and the experience gained will prove invaluable. I simply cannot count the number of times I thought to myself or just yelled out loud, “I have the greatest job EVER!” Most of all, the people I have worked with inspired me daily.

I think my favorite aspect was being able to work so closely with the Emergency Stabilization and Restoration process following the 2012 Rush Fire.  Experiencing the desolation of a post-fire moonscape first hand was not only difficult for me but everyone I worked with. It made me truly understand just how much my coworkers care about the land they managed. The craziness of the restoration has just started to wane after the final aerial seeding hopper full of hundreds of pounds of sagebrush and grass seed had been dropped. This, a moment of relief and growing anticipation, leaves everyone stuck waiting to see if our efforts were successful or not. Either way, I have enjoyed witnessing the scientific approach to restoring a landscape so heavily threatened by invasive species.

In arid climates, the success of a seeding appears to be strictly dependent on climactic variables. Too little snow fall means there is not enough moisture, too rapid snow melt means there will not be enough sustained moisture for seeds to survive past germination. Likely, the greatest realization I have come to, occurred during the Sage-grouse Symposium held at our office in March. The symposium brought together brilliant minds focusing on the proliferation of sage-grouse in the Great Basin region. It became apparent that due to the Great Basin’s warming, drying, climate, the subsequent scarcity and unreliability of precipitation coupled with the strict financial and temporal constraints imposed on restoration projects, that our current system lacks the flexibility to fully take advantage of environmental variables in real time. This may appear quite grim, but I think that if more carefully examined and combined with site-specific research, we could develop forecasting models to improve the timing of seed dispersal and possibly even predict success rates. In the meantime however, it is only another faint cry for the mitigation of climate change.

I will close with a few pieces of advice for incoming interns.

  1. Always have fun. If you cannot enjoy your work, maybe you should try something else, but usually you just need to change your mindset.
  2. Do not think of yourself as a specialist in one discipline, why not master them all? Once you start looking at yourself as just a biologist you lose your ability to understand everyone else’s point of view.
  3. Never turn down an opportunity to work on a different project in a different discipline, even if it is not exactly convenient.
  4. Master the technology, GPS’s and GIS are your friends and best tools. Take time to teach yourself on your own. Do not expect this time to always be allotted for you.


Thanks to everyone who has guided me along the way, I am exceptionally grateful.


Sagebrush Sunrise

Work, Eat, Sleep, Travel… Repeat

Since arriving in Susanville, California at the end of May, my time here has been a whirlwind of excitement.  Our team’s work on the ground truthing of Special Status Plants (SSP) for the BLM has proved to be both exciting and rewarding.  Essentially, our job is to update the sometimes decades old data pertaining to SSP population size and location. In order to do this, our work requires a mix of GIS, plant identification and old fashion field skills, to locate the often extraordinarily remote SSP populations.

The most challenging aspect of the project however, has definitely been from the data management aspect.  We have risen up to the task of combining all of the previously scattered SSP datasets, some of which date back all the way to mylar overlays from the 60’s and 70’s. However, the majority is made up of hand drawn and digitized, points and polygons from topographic maps. While more recent, yet still quite outdated, shapefile data from Arc 5.0 constitutes a reasonable amount of the data as well. Although, the work of merging and documenting datasets has been tedious, I can happily say that the reward of completing a succinct and comprehensive dataset is outstanding.

Our office work has allowed us to confidently go into the field, knowing that we are not missing any potential SSP sites and that our final dataset will be complete.

Working in the hills and mountains of North Eastern California has opened my eyes to the beauty and serenity of the seemingly sparse scrub landscape.  At times, it has been necessary to camp in remote areas in order to better access SSP populations in a timely fashion. I must say this is a perk of the job. Not many people are able to roll out of their sleeping bags, jump in their car and drive past a herd of wild horses on their way to work, only to later fall asleep gazing at the galaxies.

Every day I feel lucky to have been provided this opportunity with the Chicago Botanic Garden.  However, it is when I am traveling on the weekends, taking advantage of Susanville’s prime location, that I know the opportunities provided by this internship far surpass workplace experience alone. Whether it is hiking and swimming near Lake Tahoe, scrambling up to alpine lakes of the Trinity Alps Wilderness or waking up on a beach overlooking the Pacific, the opportunity for new adventures appears never ending.

Enjoy this random assortment of sights from my time thus far.