About Brandee

Hello! My name is Brandee and I was born in St. Louis, MO, grew up in the beautiful New River Valley in south-western Virginia, and have spent the past five years going to school and bumming around the western slope of Colorado. Recently, I decided to quit my day job as a telemarketer/ski bum and start doing work related to my Biology major (hence this CLM internship).

“Sneffel”ing about leavin’

Hello! Greetings from Montrose, CO one last time…

So I have good and bad news. The good news is that I got accepted into grad school! (My poor advisor, he has no idea what he’s gotten himself into by accepting me into his lab…) I’ll be attending the University of Northern Colorado where I will be doing conservation genetic work on the DeBeque Phacelia (only the cutest endagered plant in the history of the world).

DeBeque Phacelia

DeBeque Phacelia

See!? See how cute it is?? It’s as big as that quater!

Aaaaaand the bad news.. I’ll be leaving my internship and the beautiful town of Montrose far too soon. 🙁

Before I get to the mopey part where I write about how sad I am that I’m leaving I’ll update you real quick on what I’ve been doing. Let’s see…since I last wrote I:

+ Attempted to hike into a magical and mysterious place called “Rose Creek” to do owl surveys with my mentor and the wildlife biologist..alas, the best laid plans fall apart and we never hiked further then the Forest Service boundary (I could go into all the details but I think it deserves more then one blog post)…Rose Creek eluded us and I guess we’re waiting until early next spring before we try again (and by “we” I do mean “them” because I’ll be in Greeley doing the school thing).

+ Attempted to do bat surveys in Tabeguache (Tab-i-watch) Creek and Mesa Creek in the west end. First night in Tabeguache – a million bats flyin’ around, but none dumb enought to fly into the net. (Also, an absolutely perfect night for star gazing, saw about five shooting stars.) Second night in Mesa Creek – harassed by a very bold bear cub (I have a pic of him but it’s on my personal camera, sorry guys!) and forced to break down camp in the dark and move before we could really get started (we would’ve caught bats too, one almost flew into the net as we were taking them down). Alas. The best plans fall apart.

+ Went out with the hydrologist for a few days to do water quality sampling and macroinvertebrate surveys in the west end. Some of the best days ever. Just got to play in the water!

+ Aaaaaand, last but not least, I just finished entering my last HAF data sheet EVERRRRRRR!!! into the computer. 🙂 Big day and I feel very accomplished.

SO that’s that, just about two weeks left here and I’m not sure what the game plan is, though there are rumors that I’ll be electroshocking fish (!) in the west end!

Now time to get a bit mopey..this is my second season in Montrose and it really feels like home now. I work with/for the BEST people ever, and they have really pushed me to be a better biologist/botanist – they challenge and encourage me and were really the impetus for me applying and getting into grad school. I’m not sure I would’ve had the guts to do it without the kick in the butt these people (especially my mentor, Ken) gave me. And along those lines, dear everyone at the CBG – keep up the good work!! Without this intership I’d probably still be a telemarketer/liftie in Gunnison/Crested Butte instead of on my way to being a professional botanist (finger’s crossed anyway). Really, thanks so much for this program and all that y’all do.

And since I’ll be leaving soon I’ve been enjoying the mountains (and my friends) here like crazy before I leave and am stuck on the soul-crushing front range of Colorado (hmm, I’m sure it’s not that bad). I’m proud to say that last Sunday I accomplished a goal I set for myself last summer but was unable to accomplish due to vehicle constraints.. I climbed Mount Sneffels (the silliest sounding 14er in all the state, and one of the most recognizable peaks in Colorado)!!! It was my 6th 14er, and my first one since college. I will now proudly post some pictures of the expereince.

On my way up - I'm on the right looking so ridiculously happy it hurts.

On my way up – I’m on the right looking so ridiculously happy it hurts.

On top of Sneffels - 14,157 ft - with one of the coolest gal pals I know!

On top of Sneffels – 14,157 ft – with one of the coolest gal pals I know!

The best hiking buddies ever!

The best hiking buddies ever!

I can’t believe that I’m leaving – and so soon! I’m going to miss Montrose so much but I’m looking forward to all the new and exciting things grad school has to offer!

Officailly signing off on my last CBG Internship blog ever –

Brandee Wills
Uncompahgre Field Office – BLM
Montrose, CO

Another month in Crawford..

Hello fellow CLMer’s!

I’ve spent the last month in and around Crawford, Colorado, one out of only three locations (or two, if you consider that at one of the locations birds haven’t been spotted in years…) where you can find the elusive Gunnison sage-grouse. According to the Fish & Wildlife Service:

The Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) is a species of sage-grouse found south of the Colorado River in Colorado and Utah. They are about one-third smaller than the greater sage-grouse, and males have more distinct, white barring on their tail feathers, longer and more dense filoplumes on their necks. Female Gunnison and greater sage-grouse have nearly the same plumage, but the female Gunnison is again about one-third smaller than the greater sage-grouse. Male Gunnison sage-grouse conduct an elaborate display when trying to attract females on breeding grounds, or leks in the spring. They will strut, flap their wings against their white pouches and utter a distinct series of sounds by vocalizing and popping two air sacs within their pouches. Nesting begins in mid-April and continues into July.

Gunni Sage-grouse strutting for his lady.  Pic taken by Missy Siders.

Gunni Sage-grouse strutting for his lady. Pic taken by Missy Siders.

Anyway, while those wildlife biologists have been doing their thing out there (actually pretty neat stuff, catching birds and putting little radio backpacks on them to track their movements) we botanists have been doing the grunt work, out there day after day doing HAF inventory to assess the habitat. Crawford is any interesting area… both cattle and sheep graze there, not to mention substantial migratory deer and elk populations. Between those impacts, and a road right through sage-grouse habitat, the population isn’t doing so hot (like a lot of Gunnison and Great sage-grouse populations for the matter). While I find the work meaningful it’s definitely tedious and I’m excited to be moving on to new things soon (like hiking into this little canyon drainage to do owl surveys next week!). This isn’t my best map, but this is the project as a whole – SageGrouseHabitatInventory2013.

Two years of hard work, and I’m not gonna lie, I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. We’ve read probably 100 transects in approximately 20,000 acres (I think that’s what my boss said) and I’ve literally been to every single one of those transects, except maybe 8 of them. I’ve done almost all of the data management and entered most of the data, so needless to say this project has been my baby. I’m excited to send the rest of today and some time next week wrapping up the loose ends before I start entering all the data into FFI. And it hasn’t been all work out there, just the other day I ran into a web of baby spiders (pretty neat!) and nearly stepped on a baby dear hiding out in some sage. Additionally, my boss has really lightened the mood every time he’s come out with us… he wears this awesome sombrero he calls, “The Nacho.” Very entertaining, pics to come soon.

Oh - and the view doesn't suck :)

Oh – and the view isn’t bad 🙂

Thankfully I’m passionate about the work we do out there and Ken (my mentor) has me convinced that it’s really making a difference in future management decisions (thanks for the optimism Ken!).

Signing off –

Brandee Wills
Uncompahgre Field Office
Montrose, CO

Business as usual…

Howdy y’all.

Blair (the best raft guide ever!)

Blair (the best raft guide ever!)

I’ll tell you what, May has just flown by! Can’t believe it’s the last week already. We have been so busy here! We spent three days out on the Gunnison River doing Sclerocactus glaucus surveys, and man oh man, let me tell you, that little guy is all over the place out there. Check out Phil’s blog entry (https://dev-clm-blog.pantheonsite.io/?p=54871) for more info on Sclerocactus, but basically these surveys were in an effort to get more numbers so we can get this thing de-listed.

Naturita Milkvetch

Naturita Milkvetch

Let’s see, what else…well I’ve been checking a lot of old EOR’s for Naturita Milkvetch. Naturita Milkvetch is a BLM sensitive and it really didn’t seem to be doing all that well last year (likely because of the drought), so we wanted to keep a closer eye on it this year and it’s going bonkers, which is great! I’ve already found two new EOR’s this season. There’s also talk about taking it off of our sensitive list. Check it out, it’s a cutie.

I also made a pretty sweet map (HydropowerBuckwheat) to basically just document that I didn’t find any Clay-loving Wild Buckwheat (the only endagered plant species we have in my field office) where they want to put in a hydroelectirc station/powerline. That survey was a doozy! I was hiking up and down, up and down these steep adobe hills while it was snowing on and off thinking to myself, “this plant isn’t going to be here” the whole time (the land was just too steep! this plant likes gradual slopes, or hanging out in swales, etc.). I got back to the office and asked Ken if he had actually expected me to find it there or just sent me on a wild goose chase…but seriously it’s good to check all potential habitat so it was well worth our while to spend a day there.

The legend herself!

The legend herself!

I also got to meet Krissa (finially!). She was out this way with a bunch of her people (shout outs to Matt, Evan, and Rick, y’all were great!) doing some really interesting research on floral scents/pollinators of various Oenothera‘s. Krissa and her crew did a great job of explaining everything to me, but I hesitate to go into too much detail on here because I’m afraid I might not explain it right.

Collecting floral scent of Oenothera lavandulifolia - looks like it's on a little plant ventilator!

Collecting floral scent of Oenothera lavandulifolia – looks like it’s on a little plant ventilator!

Then after meeting up with those folks my sister and I headed down to Moab for some quality bonding time.

Sister Bonding at Delicate Arch

Sister Bonding at Delicate Arch

Next on the to-do list – Crawford HAF inventory! Oh yeah, that’s right, Sage-Grouse habitat assessment! I look forward to devoting the next month and half or so to staring at the ground! Well enough for now folks – talk to y’all in a month or so!

Brandee Wills
Uncompahgre (I can finially spell it without looking it up!) Field Office – BLM
Montrose, CO

Back to work!

Greetings everybody!

Looks like everybody is having a great time! I love all the picutres up on the blog right now. Sadly, I am the worst at taking non-work related pictures..I promise my newly-back-at-work resolution will be to take more pictures!

So I’ve been back at work for three weeks now (this is my third CLM internship, and my second one here in Montrose, CO) and I’ll tell you what, my “tor”-mentor is getting his money’s worth! Straight back into things! But I absolutely adore this job so it’s been great to get back to work. Let’s see, so far I’ve:

• spent a week doing Sclerocactus glaucus (only the cutest cactus on the western slope!) monitoring with the awesome CLM Denver crew (shout out to Nathan, Phil, and Carol!!)
• jumped right back into rare plant surveying – hunting down Payson Lupine and Naturita Milkvetch in the west end and discovering our first population of Naturita Milkvetch here on our side of the plateau (only Phil, Nathan, please tell Carol that I only found a total of 18 Naturita Milkvetch’s at that site in Escalante…which means that we collected like, 10% of the populaion with our two samples…)
• aaaaand I’ve also been going out in the field and checking on some old data we have for various species of Oenothera for Miss Krissa at the CBG who I will hopefully get to meet sometime in the near future when she comes out here to do some work with Oenothera (check out her lab! http://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/skogen/index.html, her research is pretty darn neat!)

Isn't it adorable!?

Isn’t it adorable!?

So that’s the skinny on what’s been going on so far! Looking forward to some cool things coming up!! Lek count tonight/early tomorrow morning, High Lonesome Ranch cactus work (where I will hopefully meet the cowboy of my dreams and we’ll ride off into the sunset together!!), river trip to survey cactus down the Escalante strip of the Gunni (that’ll be awesome, the river rangers are kinda the cool kids at the office – the football players, if you will, and while I’m just a band nerd they’re really nice to me!), aaaaand then my sister will be in town and we’re gonna rage a quick trip to Moab! (And that only takes us to the middle of May!) I promise I’ll try to take some awesome pictures to make my blog more readable.

Also – I would just like to point out that my “tor”-mentor has been staring over my shoulder this whole time, correcting my spelling errors.

Your Cohort –

Brandee Wills
Uncompahgre Field Office BLM
Montrose, CO


Good Mornin’ Y’all!

I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving!

Well today is more or less the last day of my internship here in Montrose, CO. I really can’t thank everyone here and from the Chicago Botanic Garden enough. This has been my second CLM internship and I absolutely love this program and the opportunities that the Garden/BLM provide for aspiring botanists/biologists. A big shout out and thanks to my “tor” mentor, Ken, the wildlife biologist, Missy, and Carol from the state office for actually hiring me!!! Also a big thanks to Wes and Krissa. Because of you guys I’ve gotten to see those big beautiful mountains pictured below, and do what I love!, everyday and get paid for it to boot! (I did not take that picture! Picture from Google Image Search!!)

San Jaun Mountains

San Jaun Mountains

I really feel like I’ve grown up with all the guidance I’ve recieved from Ken (while I’ve always been very responsible with my work life, Ken’s mentoring has even helped me with things outside of work!) When I started my internship I was driving this (again, image taken from Google Image Search!! I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I never have time to take my own pictures!):

Classy Chrysler New Yorker

Classy Chrysler New Yorker

A classy Chrysler New Yorker which, according to local mechanics, was about to fall apart at any moment.

But after Ken’s mentoring I was able to pull some things together and upgrade to this:



A Subaru Outback that I affectionately call “Peggy Sue” and that will probably not blow up on me (image also taken from Google….).

I know we’re supposed to reflect on our actual internship, but I think it’s important that everyone realize that this internship has affected my personal growth in a positive manner as well. As for what I’ve learned professionally…it’s been a lot. So much that it’ll probably bore everyone if I type it all out, but I will include a picture of a cool map that I made while working here.

A cool map that I made.

A cool map that I made.

While I’m sad my internship is ending, I’ll be mopping up my tears with bagels from my sweet new job as a baker/barista and consoling myself with powder days at Telluride. Additionally, I’ll be spending some time applying to grad school…keep your fingers crossed everyone! Thankfully I’m not too bummed out that my time here is winding down because they really like me here (though I’m not sure why!) and are trying their hardest to make sure I get to come back next spring.

Until April fellow CLMers!!

Brandee Wills
Uncompahgre Field Office – BLM
Montrose, CO

Ski Season Approaches…

Dear fellow CLMer’s –

I know I should hate ATV’s. And I do, I promise, scout’s honor! But…at the same time…I love riding on them. I can’t help it! I just do!

The other day the Ecologist and I headed out to North Delta for Land Health Assessment’s and we went to this small piece of BLM land snuggled between private with no public access and I had the..


Or one of them anyway…I find myself saying that about most of my work days here, which is the best feeling in the world…and also the worst as my time here is slowly winding down.

ANYWAY! The manager of the ranch that we had to cross to get to the BLM land gave us a ride to the remote location on, you guessed it, his sweet ATV! Me and his amazing boarder collie Cheyenne became best friends, too. So between the ATV ride, Cheyenne, and the most beautiful fall day ever, I’d have to say it was a pretty perfect day.

And now, in celebration of fall, and also creativity which I feel is essential to all scientist, I will leave you all with a poem by the great E. E. Cummings.

a wind has blown the rain away
by E.E. Cummings

a wind has blown the rain away and blown
the sky away and all the leaves away,
and the trees stand. I think i too have known
autumn too long

(and what have you to say,
wind wind wind—did you love somebody
and have you the petal of somewhere in your heart
pinched from dumb summer?
O crazy daddy
of death dance cruelly for us and start

the last leaf whirling in the final brain
of air!)Let us as we have seen see
doom’s integration………a wind has blown the rain

away and the leaves and the sky and the
trees stand:
the trees stand. The trees,
suddenly wait against the moon’s face.

FALL! Snow’s in the mountains and while I don’t want this internship to end yet I can’t wait for ski season to start! Hope everyone is loving the change of weather as much as I am!

Brandee Wills
Montrose, CO
Uncompahgre Field Office

The title’s the hardest part!


Hello! And greetings from beautiful Montrose, CO. It’s a crisp, fall afternoon here and I’ve spent the day in the office working on various projects as we wait for the adobe hills to dry out from the approximately 2 inches of rain they received yesterday, the official first day of fall. Luckily, my last two days of summer couldn’t have been better – two days of bliss floating down the Gunnison River with a bestie from college.

I’d also just like to take a moment to point out that I absolutely love everyone’s posts. I’m sorry I don’t comment more (i.e. at all) but I really do read the blog and I love finding out about what everyone is doing and looking at everyone’s pictures.

Now I’d like to talk about the wildlife life count for the summer. I’ve seen:

– a little baby kestral (a.k.a. a fledgling – not really a baby)
– a mama black bear and her three little baby cubs (so cute!)
– a bobcat that had just caught a rodent of some sort
– and numerous deer, elk, and pronghorns

Lady Elk

A heard of Lady Elk checking my mentor and I out in Burn Canyon.


Handsome ram snacking on corn in Escalante Canyon.

Little Bull Snake Buddy

Little Bull Snake Buddy

While most of my work revolves around rare plant surveys, I’ve also gotten to do a fair amount of work relating to wildlife. For instance, I recently got to head up a gnarly road on a UTV to get back to a small creek up on the Grand Mesa. There we did electrofishing with the idea of doing genetic testing on what we believe is a population of Cutthroats. I’ve also gotten to go out with Jedd, the Hydrologist, to do some macroinvertebrate inventory which has been very pleasent – just beautiful days out playing around in the river.


Possible Cutthroat – waiting on the genetic testing!

Weighing Fish

My mentor Ken being crafty and rigging a way to weigh fish!

And of course I’ve been doing plant stuff! The CLMer’s from Denver have come out twice now to help out with Colorado Hookless cactus monitoring and Clay-lovin’ Wild Buckwheat monitoring. I really enjoyed working with Carol (CO BLM State Botanist) and her CLM crew – you guys are awesome!


CLM CO Crew! Nathan, Darnisha, Katie, and me after completing a long week of cactus monitoring.

Carol also recently helped Ken and I out with ID’ing some pretty cool plants that we were struggling with (thanks Carol!!).

Proboscidea louisianica

Crazy plant I found in the adobe’s – Proboscidea louisianica. In the Martyniaceae family a.k.a. the Unicorn Plant family!

Anyway, now we’re working on Land Health Assessment’s (woohoo – more transects!) and I’m getting busy on all the data entry from my Sage Grouse Habitat Assessment Framework from way back in May. Well, I’m signing off!

Brandee Wills
Uncompahgre Field Office – BLM
Montrose, CO

Monsoon Season

July 22, 2013

And July brings us scorching heat alternating with torrential downpours. Luckily we finished up our HAF transects before the rains started. And with the monsoon comes lightning, and with lightning comes fire.

Fire in Crawford

I got to watch this fire start in Crawford. In fact, I got to go full circle with this fire. From calling in it and watching the helitack crew IA, to going back the next day (as an AD of course) as they mopped up to take that helitack crew back to Gunni (which incidentally was quite an adventure.  It poured rain and hail on us as we drove out, and as you all well know, these dirt roads out here don’t hold up well in rain.   Also that helitack crew was the nicest, most fun group of fire fighters I’ve ever had the privilege and pleasure to chauffeur in my life. really a great group of people.), Finally I got to hear the first hand account from my friend, who works on an engine here, of how they went back out and officially declared the fire done.

After all the excitement of that it’s hard to go back to transects! However, we are now offically finished with our HAF project and I’m jubilant!! Though I have no idea what my boss has in store for me now I’m looking forward to moving on to new things.

Uncompahgre Field Office – BLM
Montrose, CO

Fire in Little Cimarron

June 26, 2013

Hello! And greetings from Montrose, CO.

This month has just flown by; I can’t believe it’s almost over. I’ve mostly been working on HAF transects in the Crawford area. Many of you probably already know what HAF is, it stands for Habitat Assessment Framework and pertains to the protocol used to assess sage grouse habitat. The work is pretty monontonous, but the area is so beautiful I can’t complain.

Imagine taken from Google image search.

But this week has been a little different. The East Fork Fire, about 30 miles southeast of Montrose, has taken priority over all else at our field office (even though it’s a Forest Service fire, not a BLM one). I spent all day Sunday and Monday AD-ing that fire (AD-ing essentially means CBG didn’t pay me to do it, so don’t worry CBG!!) which was exhausting, but an incredible learning experience. I’ve mostly been driving out supplies and meals, and the area where this fire is burning is some of the most beautiful country I’ve seen in Colorado.

Image from Google image search.

Picture from Google image search.

The past two days I’ve had a break from the fire world, because I’ve been in Gunnison participating in a three day workshop on managing grazing in riparian areas. Gunnison is home to my alma mater, Western State College [REPRESENT!!!], so I’m pretty excited to be back here for a few days. Not only that, but I also worked for the BLM here in 2011, so I’m happy to get to visit with my old boss. Last year I took a course on wetland restoration and this class is complimenting it nicely. It’s been interesting to learn how to effectively graze riparian areas without trashing them, and it’s interesting to compare these techniques to what I see going on in my own field office back in Montrose.

Anyway, today is the last day of the course and it starts in 20 minutes so I’d better sign off.

Brandee Wills
Uncompahgre Field Office BLM
Montrose, CO

Catcus and Cathodes

May 28, 2013

Hello! And greetings from Montrose, CO.

I’d love to entertain you all with the amazing, interesting, and varied work I’ve been doing lately, but to be perfectly honest I’ve mostly been conducting surveys for Colorado Hookless Cactus, and little else, since I last wrote.

For those of you who work in the Uinta Basin you’re already (kinda) familiar with this cactus, as at one point Sclerocactus wetlandicus and Sclerocactus glaucus were considered one and the same.

Colorado Hookless Cactus

Here’s a picture of the little guy, might look familiar to some of you.

Because this cactus is a federally listed threatened species I do a lot of clearance surveys to ensure that it isn’t growing in an area where certain projects are planned to take place. Additionally, we’ve been doing general surveys for the cactus with the hope of adding more known individuals with the ultimate goal of getting this cactus de-listed.

Survey near Powerline

There’s a list of five criteria that must be considered in order to get a species de-listed. They are as follows (taken directly from a Fish and Wildlife Service factsheet):

■ Is there a present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of the species’ habitat or range?
■ Is the species subject to overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes?
■ Is disease or predation a factor?
■ Are there inadequate existing regulatory mechanisms in place outside the ESA (taking into account the efforts by the States and other organizations to protect the species or habitat)?
■ Are other natural or man-made factors affecting its continued existence?

According to my boss, we have strong evidence to suggest we meet all the above criteria, and my job lately has been to go out and fill in the missing gaps between known cactus populations.

Today, however, I’m in the office working on a TES Wildlife and Plants Report (for the cathodic protection system survey, pictured above, actually) and struggling to learn GIS, while my boss is giving a presentation that has something to do with the impending fire season ahead.

Well, I’ll sign off with a few more pictures.

Flower on Flattop – Buckwheat Survey

Crew I work with caught some Horny Toads.

Largest Horny Toad I’ve ever seen was caught by Arri (on the right) and Zach (on left) found one too.

Another beautiful day in the field.

Brandee Wills
Uncompahgre Field Office BLM
Montrose, CO