My one year anniversary with Spuds (Boise)

Wow! It’s been almost a whole year since my arrival to Boise, Idaho – the land of the potatoes for the CLM Seeds of Success Internship and I’ve grown physically, emotionally and spiritually. By the end of my first week in Idaho (June 2010), I had already sunk into a great routine – Field work from Monday to Friday, Zumba dance class with Jody every Saturday morning, followed by snacking at the Farmer’s Market and hikes and bike rides on Sundays. It’s been almost a year now (it will be a year on June 15, 2011) and my routine remains the same and I couldn’t be happier.


My work at the BLM has both complemented my academic background and been a personally enriching experience as well. I am most grateful for my time at the BLM as it has afforded me the opportunity to become truly immersed in conservation and restoration projects, something I plan continuing for the rest of my life. My duties have been far ranging from collecting seeds for restoration and conservation practices, to monitoring federally endangered plant species, to writing observational reports based on field sites and databasing lichens for the world famous state botanist and one of my mentors, Roger Rosentreter.

It is the latter opportunity that I would like to discuss further for the purpose of this blog.On Sunday, April 17, 2011, the four of us (Roger, Pam, Jody and myself) left Spud land to go to Moab, Utah – the land of the Arches. After engaging in conversation about lichens, biological soil crusts, and plants we finally arrived at our destination – Moab, Utah the next day. We were all there to attend a Biological Soil Crusts class taught by my mentor, Roger Rosentreter and Jayne Belnap.

Within minutes of arriving into Moab, Utah, we ran into another BLM team from Vale, Oregon with whom we had collected Philadelphus lewisii seeds last summer while kayaking. Instantly, our group of four became a group of eight and we spent the next few days getting to know each other in class and outside. The Biological Soil Crusts (BSCs) class was phenomenal – we learned how to identify different crusts, techniques employed for monitoring and sampling lichens/mosses and policies that the BLM should implement for land reclamation. The mornings were spent inside learning while the afternoons were spent outdoors applying our knowledge. It was a wonderful class and I urge everyone (even those not interested in lichens and mosses) as it will open your eyes to a great world.

Of course, the class was great, but it was the location that made this opportunity even more memorable- Moab, Utah. Just take a second and google the word Moab, and the first few pictures that pop up would be of Arches and Canyonlands National Park. After lichen- izing, our group of eight met up in the afternoons/evenings to explore what Moab had to offer. The first stop was Arches National Park. There are simply no words to describe this amazing park and so to make sure it deserves the respect it ought to, I have included pictures so that you can come up with your own words to describe the land.

Our second stop was Canyonlands National Park the following day and in my opinion, it beats the view of the GRAND CANYON! Yes I said it and it’s true. The view unparallels anything I have ever seen – with beautiful canyons on one side, and intricate mazes and needles on the other.


It was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity to go to Moab, Utah for myself (at least) as I’m an East coaster and never venture out West. However, having had the chance to do so, I know that I will be coming back to this beautiful piece of land every few years. I want to extend a big thank you to my mentors, Roger Rosenter and Susan Filkins, who have been nothing but wonderful. They have welcomed me not only into the professional working environment at the BLM but also into their homes and hearts. They have been a second family and have made this experience a memorable one.

More surprises in Boise!

Hello again! Well, what can I say. It’s been about 2 and a half months and I absolutely love Boise, Idaho and don’t want to go back home to Washington D.C.  The experience so far has been challenging yet thrilling at the same time.

Let’s rewind to my first month here. It’s a bright Monday morning at the office and Susan (my mentor) sits Denise (the other CLM intern) and myself down and says that we will be going camping on Wednesday night and returning on Thursday. I was so excited and they didn’t understand my enthusiasm until I told them both that I had NEVER been camping. Upon hearing this, Susan was extra excited about my trip and she and Pam made this first time experience extremely memorable for me.  Susan got me a tent from the fire crew that assembled in just seconds. It was wonderful!!!

We got to the camp site around 6 on Wednesday evening, and I was wondering where we were exactly. We stood on the pier and were waiting, until I realized that we were waiting for a boat to come pick us up and take us to the camping site. Pam’s husband arrived in the boat and took us for a crazy fast ride across the lake and within minutes we arrived at our home for the night. Once we got there, we started assembling our tents and because I had the fancy one, I was done within seconds. A few hours later we sat down for dinner, and guess what we had – fresh caught trout, along with corn, bread with kalamata olives and penne pesto pasta. Amazing or what??!! And for dessert, what else but the classic – Smores. Again, I never had smores before so I definitely indulged in the chocolate and marshmallows until I couldn’t breathe.

I slept like a baby that night. Perhaps it was the fresh clean air or the fact that I ate way too much, but regardless, I woke up well rested. I thought we would eat something quickly for breakfast such as oatmeal, but no way, we had French toast, eggs and Italian sausages. What a way to start the day! Well, all in all it was a memorable experience, one that I will never forget.

Now that was my first camping trip experience, my second camping trip experience was just as exciting yet quite different. Pam and myself (The PK team) headed off to Bruneau to collect some Penstemon accuminatus and Munro globemallow. As the site was quite a ways from Boise, we decided to camp over. The food this time was just as extravagant; we had Mahi mahi and wild rice with Portobello mushrooms. Now, another first for me was that I had never seen stars before. I know I know, you must all think that I live in some odd place, but to tell you the truth, Washington DC isn’t a great place to look up and see the stars. Idaho, however is just the opposite. I got to see the Milky Way, some constellations and get this, even a meteor shower that night.

Now while we were seed collecting at the Bruneau river, I was able to get a firsthand experience about the detrimental effects of a wildfire. I had always heard about the wildfires here in Idaho due to the extreme heat, yet I had never seen the aftermath of one, until this trip. The fire had destroyed the habitat of so many species, including some Native Indian petroglyphs on the river canyon walls. It was devastating!

I never realized the impact of fires till this point and then it clicked, the Firewise Garden (an instrumental work by Roger Rosentreter with the BLM) was exactly the answer to these fires. The firewise garden shows you how to landscape different fire resistant plants around your house as a response to wildfires. Quiet an ingenious idea!!!

Well, last but not least, I would like to tell you about my fantastic white water rafting trip with Roger Rosentreter and the seed collecting crew from Vale, Oregon. It was quite a wonderful trip. I had never been rafting before, so when the idea was suggested, I got right on board. After getting the basic training from Roger (an expert kayaker) we got into our boats and began the thrilling ride down the Payette River. Surprisingly, we got some seed collecting in as well. We rafted and pulled over to different areas and climbed up on shore and collected seeds from Philiadelphus lewisii as well as learned to identify various plants growing near riparian zones. That would be some job – rafting and collecting seeds at the same time. Who knows, maybe I could be the first to do something like that in the future! A dream job incorporating both work and play…

Karen Dante

Boise, Idaho

Bureau of Land Management (State Office)

Idaho, Land of the potatoes..but where are they exactly??

Sitting on the plane exactly 10 days ago, my mind rolled back to the conversation that I had with my cousins – Sid, Harsha, Kenny and Kevin, about Boise, Idaho.

Cousins – “You’re heading to Boise, Idaho??”

Me – “Yeh, I am. In exactly two days time and I’m stoked”

Cousin, Kenny – “Well, okay. How are you going to keep yourself entertained out there? You know it’s nothing like Washington, DC. It’s a whole new world out there. I think people out there, keep themselves entertained by shooting potatoes out of cannons.  You could do that I guess, to keep yourself from dying of boredom”

Me (in my mind) – “ O gosh, what have I gotten myself into? Is it really going to be like that out there, in the Wild Wild West?”

My heart was racing on the plane. At times, I felt like it just wasn’t beating. I wondered, Is Boise going to be a great experience for me, or as my cousins have told me, a place that I would come to loathe??

However, stepping of the plane, I was in awe. The great depth and beauty of the surrounding mountains held me speechless. Wow, I am really going to live here. Not so bad, after all, I thought.

Well, it’s been 10 days since I’ve been in Boise, Idaho and there is only word that describes the region thus far..beautiful!

After arriving to BSU (Boise State University), my emotions were running wild. I felt as though I was in a movie, a scene were the protagonist, sees his or her whole life flash in front them. I questioned if my motives to come out here were really going to get me far. Will being part of this internship really help me get into grad school? Will this opportunity make me understand why I took a year off after graduating college? Would I come to regret being out here, so far away from home, or anyone I know? Would I actually come to enjoy living here, Boise, a small city, although nothing comparable to the cities I’ve lived in thus far – Bombay, Toronto and Washington DC? Ironically enough, I even wondered whether I would be playing with potatoes to keep myself entertained.

Well, I’m happy to report that I have yet to play with potatoes as I’ve found an abundant number of things to do in Boise, ranging from biking, hiking, heading downtown to watch concerts, just to name a few. My field experience has been equally if not more exciting and the people I have met along the way have added immensely towards this amazing journey and transition.

My amazing mentor, Susan Filkins, picked me up on Thursday on the way to the BLM office. Within a few minutes, I realized that I made one of the sweetest and kindest friends here in the city of Boise. I know it’s ironic to think of your boss as a friend, but to me, she became one instantly. Her cheerful and uplifting spirit drew me to her instantly.

We spent the day out in the foothills of the mountains, looking and collecting seeds of various species that I had never seen on the East Coast. The picture attached doesn’t even remotely capture the magnitude of beauty that we were surrounded by. It is definitely a region that one must visit to get a true essence of beautiful surrounding region. We, East Coasters, have no idea that places as such actually exist in the world. I suppose that being brought up in big cities, we rarely take the time to venture out in the country to visit the mountains or similar regions.

Although I have some experience in field work and botany, my knowledge of the various species (i.e. grasses, sedges, wildflowers) is very limited to those found on the east coast. I suppose Susan and Jody (the other CBG intern, who is fantastic by the way) found it humorous that I was quite excited to see different sagebrush plants, a species that is endemic to the West Coast area.

Well, that’s me, I get excited by the tiniest and oddest things if you haven’t guessed by know. For example, I had the opportunity to work in many different yet, equally amazing places and one place where I truly enjoyed working, was the BSU Snakes River Herbarium. Well, many may think that is boring to work in a herbarium but I definitely beg to differ. It’s an amazing place to work in, especially if you get a chance to see this particular herbarium. The place is full of thousands and thousands of lichens, and fungi that have been collected over several years, by the one and only, Roger Rosentreter.

A few sentences will definitely not suffice, but let me try and give you a brief introduction to Roger. He is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. A lichenologist by expertise, but also a skilled kayaker/ canoer, after whom several jumps/drops have been named. Interestingly enough, he has named several species of lichens, but also has one named after him.

Apart from working at the herbarium, the BLM office and out in the mountains, I’ve also had the opportunity to work at the Firewise Garden started by Roger and Anne, several years ago (4 -5 I believe). If you folks ever to get a chance to come out here, then you definitely must. The Firewise Garden is set up next to the beautiful Idaho Botanical Garden and is designed to make people more knowledgeable about how to avoid wildfires in the region or close to their homes, by growing fire resistant plants. I am sure that it must have been quite a challenge to get this project, but it has turned out great, fabulous in fact.

I have met several interesting people along the span of these 10 days, and I am excited to meet many more. I know that thus far, my journey has been quite amazing, due to these aforementioned people, who by now I have come to highly regard as colleagues. I’m not sure where my journey will take me over the next five months, but I’m excited to find out and experience the Wild Wild West, in all aspects if possible.

(Yes, that right, I saw a cowboy and was delighted!!)

Now, you must all be wondering what I want to get out of this experience, and to tell you the truth, I don’t completely know. But I know for a fact, that I want to get out in the fields/ mountains and become quite well versed in being able to identify hundreds of species (I know that’s a stretch, we’ll see how it goes) as well as gaining some knowledge in conservation and land management.

Well, that’s all folks, but I’ll keep you posted as my journey continues in potato land – Boise. And to those you are interested; I’ll keep you updated on where these famous potatoes actually grow…..

Karen Dante

Boise, Idaho

Bureau of Land Management