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).

Paradox Valley: Welcome to the Wild West


Hello! And greetings from Montrose, Colorado!

I started my second CLM Internship two weeks ago and let me tell you, they sure know how to keep a girl busy here! Aside from my first two days of work (which involved some crappy weather – snow, rain, wind, dust, etc.) which kept me inside – learning GIS, organizing the herbarium, sitting through meetings, and a variety of other busy work – I’ve been outside in the field nearly every day. Mainly in a place they call Paradox Valley – or as my mentor says, the lawless land of the wild west.

Paradox Valley

Paradox Valley

Image from Google image search – I take no credit for this image!

From Paradox Valley, we headed up nearby Monogram Mesa and then dropped down into Bull Canyon, with the Abajo Mountains near Monticello, Utah clearly visible in the distance. Our goal was to hunt down a list of abandoned mines ready for closure and clear them for any BLM sensitive plants, a variety of which are known in the Uncompahgre Field Office. This involved some daring transverses across sketchy terrain, and while we haven’t found any plants of concern, our hard work was well rewarded by breathtaking views.

Old Mines

Uranium Mine

Imagine from Google image search.

I wish I had real pictures of some of the mines we were seeing. They are truly impressive specimens of the ingenuity of man, shafts and roads built into sheer cliffs, often without the use of machinery.

While we’ve mostly been focused on finishing up mine closures, I’ve also had an opportunity to check out some of the rare plants in the field office including:

Eriogonum pelinophilum, Buckwheat (truly an endangered species)
Scherocactus glaucus, Hookless Cactus (a threatened species)
Lomatium concinnum, Desert Parsely
Astragalus naturitensis, Naturita Milkvetch
Astragalus sesquiflorus, Sandstone/San Rafele Milkvetch

My mentor, Ken, is an excellent botanist, and though I’m fairly familiar with the flora in the area (I went to college just about an hour down the road) I am amazed and humbled and excited by how much I’m already learning from Ken and how much I’m going to learn from him throughout my time here.

I’ll end this post with a picture of the beautiful and elusive Naturita Milkvetch and a big thank you to the Chicago Botanic Garden for the opportunity for another internship!

Naturita Milkvetch

Naturita Milkvetch

Image from Google image search.

Brandee Wills
Montrose, CO

The Home Stretch

With only two weeks left of my internship here in Miles City, Montana I’m overwhelmed with the dauting to-do list in front of me. Top priority – collect Baker sagebrush until my fingers freeze off. Our goal was a lofty 120 pounds of rough picked seed, equated approximately 60 pounds of clean seed. After spending five days out there picking with 2-4 other people helping me, we still only have 35 pounds of rough picked seed. However, that’s okay, we’ve been working our butts off and everyone is still proud of the amount of seed we’ve be able to pick. The sagebrush in Baker is small and scrubby and grows surprising well in that area which has been affected by oil and gas development. Though we might not of met our goal of 60 lbs of clean seed by collecting in Baker (as opposed to collecting at other sites nearby with bigger more robust sagebrush) I truly believe that what we collected will grow better because it is what is found in that area. I’d especially like to thank the guys on the fire crew who were out there helping me!!! Couldn’t of done it without you!

Aside from sagebrush, I still have to get out and collect Prairie Cordgrass (which is what I’m planning on doing today) and work on mounting herbarium specimens, writing the annual report and updating program information, and hopefully creating a database for all of last year’s and this year’s data. So much to do and so little time! The next two weeks are going to fly by.

Additionally, I have the office Christmas party and two upcoming job interviews to look forward too. My time here has been wonderful and I’d like to thank everyone here at the field office for making that happen. I have learned so much and really feel much more focused on where I would like my career to eventually head. Thanks again Miles City!!!

Here’s to the future and the opportunity to climb many more moutains!!!…um or hills!

So busy!

Hello! and Greetings from Miles City, MT!

Wow, have we been busy the past few weeks. We’ve been driving out to the Special K Ranch (see Becky’s post below cleverly, and aptly, titled “Croptober”) once a week for the past three weeks to help out in any way possible and to pick up sagebrush seedling for the Miles City field office which will hopefully be planted soon.

Look at how full we packed this truck!! All sagebrush!

Additionally, we’ve been busy collecting Winterfat (still working on it!), Greasewood, Green Ash (an adventure to be sure!), and as much Prairie Cordgrass seed as we can find for the Billings Office. Hopefully, we’ll be adding an aster to this list as well, we just need the weather to hold out for just a bit longer!

Winterfat! Really cool plant, taking a while to collect because of weather..

Green ash draw where we collected seed. Those trees are tall! We had to use a 18 ft pruner! (Which we borrowed from the Billings Office – thank you!!!!)

I know most internships are wrapping up, but I feel like mine is just getting started, soon we’ll be focusing on sagebrush seed collections and I know I’ll be just crazy busy then.

Miles City, MT

Time for another post already!? Well, you’re in luck, I finally put some pictures onto the computer! Here’s some of what we’ve been doing…

Inventory on prairie streams…

Avoiding rattlesnakes!

And catching catfish!!

Additionally, I just got back from a Wetland Restoration Course in Bozeman, MT. The course was great, not only did I learn a lot of theory, but I learned how professionals actually apply it out in the field. I networked a lot, and I really feel excited about different careers options that this internship has shown me.

Brandee Wills
Miles City, MT

Bison Pipeline: Tying It Together

Hello! And greetings from Eastern Montana!

My crewmate, Kimberly, wrote an excellent post below titled “Gone Fishin'” about our crazy adventure helping the fisheries girl here finish up her field work for the summer. Since she did such a good job descirbing it, I’m going to skip that and talk about something else.

I’d like to talk about the Bison Pipeline. The Bison Pipeline is a natural gas pipeline that starts in Wyoming, cuts through eastern Montana, and ends in North Dakota, a total of 303 miles. When Kimberly and I recieved an email about tagging along to the pipeline to evauluate how the revegetation’s going we jumped at the chance. I have always been interested in reclimation, and was looking forward to getting out in the field to see what it’s all about.

We met John Beavers, owner of Westech Environmental Services, a company based out of Helena, MT, out at the pipeline and John showed us an area of the pipeline where they had experiemented with a new technique, called brushbeating, to see if it made reclimation easier/more effective.

While out there I also had the opportunity to ask John some questions. A lot of questions. I wanted to know where they get the seeds from, who plants them, how it’s decided if reclimation is effective, etc. John was great and answered all of them in stride. One of the things I really took home was the importance of the work that we do with SOS. When you hear the amount of native seed they need to actually make reclimation work it’s daunting. But when you go out to sites like these, and see reclimation in progress, and think about what we do and how that’s helping, it really makes you feel good. 🙂


Knowlton: Paradise in southeastern Montana?


This is my first post, and instead of breifly summarizing my experience so far, I’d rather talk about my recent experience in the Knowlton area.

In case you’re not familiar with eastern Montana let me fill you in: it is hot, it is dry, and it’s filled with prairie and badlands. Don’t get me wrong, I love the open prairie and often the tune “Home on the Range” flits through my head while we’re driving to sites (especially since we often see deer and antelope playing – though never together), however, sometimes green is a sight for sore eyes, especially this summer, the hottest and driest since 1956, as you all may know.

Anyway! My crewmate and I spend many a day looking for flowering forbs in hopes of collecting them for the Seeds of Success program, often finding only scorched grass. But the other day in Knowlton was different. (Well, not really THAT different, we still didn’t find that many flowering forbes.) After making a seed collection of a grass that we’re still trying to ID, we headed out of the Knowlton Recreation Area (I’m pretty sure the place we were in doesn’t really have a name, so I made it up) a different way then we came in (you know, so we could better survey the land), and I’m so glad we did!!! The drive back was the prettiest I’ve seen eastern Montana so far. Rolling hills covered in ponderosa pines, valleys with green deciduous trees, and beatuiful back-country roads you could get lost on (though luckily we didn’t!). If I could relocate the Miles City Field Office to Knowlton I would in a heartbeat!!

I tried to Google pictures to post on here of the area, however, I couldn’t find any. But I guess to conclude this I would just like to say you should never judge a region before getting to know it (as I might have done) and that, if you’re looking for it, you’ll always find beauty in your surroundings.