Farewell Nevada

Well, well, well. The end of my internship has finally come. It is a difficult task to try to summarize my time here into a blog post. The 10 months I spent in Carson City were good ones and I am certainly glad I had this experience.

I now know what it is like to work for the federal government (both the good and the bad). I have gotten so many opportunities to gain experience and build my resume including some really useful trainings. The field work was my favorite part of this internship. We worked in some extremely remote locations, got to drive big trucks on bad roads, and camp in some beautiful locations throughout the desert. My time in the field really gave me an intimate look at the land and a chance to appreciate all the life that exists here. That’s not to say it wasn’t without its challenges. Over the year I’ve learned the importance working as part of a team, taking care of yourself while working in harsh conditions and the alternative uses of tire cleaner.

Some of my favorite moments happened outside of work. This was my first time out West and Carson City proved to be a great launching point for some excellent adventures; perhaps my favorite being the nearby Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe basin.

This year had its fair share of up and downs. There was an incident halfway through the year that tested everyone’s ability to function as a team, even after a long day of working in oppressive heat. We didn’t get out into the field nearly as much as I had hoped for a variety of reasons. Some specific workload demands for the office were shifted and our team helped other programs with their needs.

Overall, I had a great time and learned a lot. My botanical knowledge increased tenfold including many things I don’t think I could have learned in a classroom. I got experience working for a branch of the federal government. And finally, I made great friends who all shared this unique experience with me. So, farewell Nevada, it has been swell. Now I am off to my next adventure.

View from first campsite in the Pine Nut Mtns

Tis the Season for Chenopods

Fall is almost over in Nevada. Snow is covering the Sierra’s and the end of the internship is drawing near. But there is still seed to be had! Seed collecting has taken a backseat throughout much of the year. Shifting office priorities and the furlough slowed us down significantly. But over the past month we have been able to find time and make some really good collections. Many species collection windows have closed but out in the desert the chenopods are ripe for the picking. Reaching the 10,000 seed minimum is easy when you can get 500 Atriplex torreyi seeds in one grab. There is something very satisfying about collecting Atriplex seeds. I can’t quite describe it but I’m sure some of you fellow seed collectors can relate. Anyway, I guess will finish up with some pictures. (Eastern side of the Pine Nut Mountians & Atriplex confertafolia) Have a happy Thanksgiving!

desert ATCO_NV030-941_C

Veg training in the Sierra

A few weeks ago we had the privilege of attending a California Native Plant Society workshop outside of Truckee, CA. The workshop was held at the UC-Berkley Sagehen field station where we learned the Relevé and rapid assessment vegetation monitoring techniques. It was great to learn and interact with the experienced botanists from CNPS staff as well as the other trainees.

The workshop began with a powerpoint presentation that went completely over my head and I left thinking I was in for a very painful 3 days. Once we got into the field everything started to make sense. The monitoring techniques consist of things that you may already know like estimating cover class, soil texturing, identifying land form, and creating species lists. However, the style of monitoring is set up so that these measurements can be taken quickly so the surveyors can map large areas in a single day. The training is a very useful skill to have but, in my opinion, learning from botanists and contractors from all over the US was perhaps even more valuable than the training itself.

Sagehen is an amazing place. The field station is located in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains.  It is amazing how different the plant communities are not even 50 miles from the Carson City and the Great Basin.  For three days we botanized in alpine valleys, mountain sides and natural fens. We stayed in cabins and had access to showers and a kitchen which were welcomed luxuries and a nice change of pace from tent camping. My favorite part about the field station was their underwater stream gauging station where you can view trout and brook char.

Rapid assessment in a sub alpine meadow

Brookie from the stream gauging station

Sand Mountain Blues

Last week was a change of pace for the botany crew in Carson City. We spent the week surveying a rare species of butterfly Euphilotes pallescens arenamontana  or the Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly.  This species is endemic to the Sand Mountain Recreation area outside of Fallon, NV. This little butterfly is completely dependent upon its host plant, Eriogonum numalare, which the larvae feed upon.

The Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly is currently listed as vulnerable. But environmental groups are working on a proposal to get it listed as threatened or endangered.  This would mean big changes at Sand Mountain which is primarily used by OHV enthusiasts. The BLM has already constructed a large system of trail markers and fences to try to limit the damage done by ATV’s but a network of social trails still infringe on the Eriogonum habitat.

After establishing the transects at the end of the first day we experienced another rarity for Nevada, a thunderstorm. It was nice to work under cloud cover and finally receive a little moisture but the lightning strikes were a little too close for comfort.  Being stuck out on the middle of a sand dune is not the ideal location during a lightning storm. After a brief period of assuming our lightning positions and getting caught in a downpour, Zeus was kind enough to spare us his wrath.

Working, waiting, willow wattling

It’s hard to believe I have been it has been almost 5 months since I came to Nevada. Now that field season has picked up time seems to be moving faster still.  Our crew has begun camping more regularly and when the field site is 4 hours out into the desert you start to understand how it is necessary. No complaints here though! I am still getting used to camping under fire restrictions. I’m just glad we to enjoy the s’mores early in the season while the campfires lasted.

Willow planting in Burbank Canyon was a new experience. One that taught valuable lessons of communication, patience, and the importance of vocabulary (what the heck is a wattle?). Last year’s crew buried willow cuttings in plastic bags for us to locate and unearth and so we set out for the field armed with shovels and Trimble units. Perhaps I was overly excited about the idea of hunting for buried treasure but the task soon proved to be more frustrating than anticipated.  It wasn’t until a few hours of fruitless digging that we discovered only 1 of our 2 GPS coordinates was entirely accurate (That poor little willow wattle never stood a chance). Eventually, we found our buried willow treasure. About 50 Ziplock bags each containing several scrawny sticks sprouting tiny roots and shriveled shoots.  Honestly, they looked pretty wimpy but at least they were alive. We dipped each on in rooting hormone, stuck it in its hole along the drainage and hoped for the best. After a day and a half we planted the last of them.  I’d be interested to come back later in the year and see if they survived.

Looking back, I can see the importance of having accurate data to act on. A piece of misinformation nearly turned a restoration project into the exact opposite. Better communication and clear instruction would help prevent this sort of scenario in the future. All in all, it was a mistake I can learn from and kind of a funny story.




BLM- Carson City

Outreach in the Danger Zone

This month, our team traveled to the Naval Air Station in Fallon, NV to participate in an educational Earth Day event. Now I know what you are thinking. Is that the Fallon, NV where they shot the majority of the air sequences to the 1986 action film Top Gun? YES. Yes it is.  It was an honor to represent the BLM at the scene where such epic cinematic history occurred. To be working in the place that singer/songwriter Kenny Loggins fearlessly referred to as the Danger Zone was literally a dream come true.

At the event, we had a variety of activities for everyone. Busloads of kindergartners enjoyed leaf rubbings and coloring Gordon Lightfoot, the squirrel who teaches the importance of treading lightly. Others tested their knowledge in our quizzical trash game and the edible/poisonous plant challenge, “Tasty or Deadly”. Ecosystem Jenga demonstrated the interconnectedness of the environmental and how disturbance can be disruptive.  Overall, it was fun to interact with the public and to provide educational opportunities to children living in and around the Danger Zone.

First month out West

Over a month has passed since I began working as a CLM intern in Carson City. I moved out here on less than a month’s notice not knowing what to expect or even if I would like it. I must say beginning botany work in an area I am completely unfamiliar with, in the desert, during winter, was a daunting task. With the help of the other interns and our mentor I have learned so much already. Multiple herbarium trips and weed surveys have helped increase my plant ID skills and familiarity of local flora.

Working in the field has definitely been my favorite part or the internship (especially those days spent in the mountains). I’ve helped establish fire transects in areas that have experienced wildfire which will be used in following years to help monitor how different plant communities respond to fire. Throughout school I’ve learned a lot about the ecological role fire plays in the landscape, but lacked some basic first hand experience. It’s been interesting working in the burn sites and trying to imagine how the community looked before and what it might look like in 50 years.

Burn site at Preacher Fire

Springtime is approaching fast and I am looking forward to an interesting year out here in Nevada.