About Justin

Hello! My name is Justin! I am an intern working for the BLM in Buffalo, Wyoming! I will be working on remote sensing and GIS projects. My favorite outdoor hobbies include bird watching, plant identification, rock hounding, exploring, and fishing.

Epilogue: An Epic Footnote in CLM Internship History

(Curtains Open)…..

Hello Everyone!! This is it!! The Season Finale!! For the past four field seasons, I have been all over the West looking for plants, birds, and various ecosystems. Here are some fun facts from my past and present internships.

a.) I worked in temperatures ranging from 26°F to 110°F!

b.) Most of my internships were in sagebrush steppe, but I had the opportunity to work in mountain tundra, forests, riparian landscapes, wetlands, dunes, deserts, grasslands, badlands, talus regions, pastureland, and ephemeral springs.

c.) I saw some of the most amazing plants and animals during my internships. Some of my favorite plants were seen in Burns, Oregon! Leiberg’s clover (Trifolium leibergii) was my favorite plant to monitor out West! If you google search the plant, you could see my picture of it in the images section. One of the rarest plants I encountered was the Malheur Wire Lettuce (Stephanomeria malheurensis). The wire lettuce would only grow on a very small flatland area where there was tuff and limestone parent rock.

Leiberg's clover (Trifolium leibergii)! My favorite rare plant to monitor!

Leiberg’s clover (Trifolium leibergii)! My favorite rare plant to monitor!

d.) Fifty percent of the time, the towns I stayed in for my internships were on fire at one point. (Burns, Oregon and Wenatchee, Washington had fires within city limits.)

One example of when Wenatchee caught on fire!

One example of when Wenatchee caught on fire!

e.) Every place I worked, I was fortunate to see the greater sage grouse  (Centrocercus urophasianus)

f.) I loved working with song birds and game birds, but monitoring golden eagles in Wenatchee was an amazing opportunity! Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) built nests in the craziest locations in central and north-central Washington. Viewing the eagles feeding, taking care of their young, and protecting their territory was great to see! Even during the intense fire season, the eaglets did not seem to mind.

Sage grouse!! They might not be the smartest birds, but they are one of the most spectacular birds I had the privilege to meet!

Sage grouse!! They might not be the smartest birds, but they were one of the most spectacular birds I had the privilege to meet!

g.) Buffalo, Wyoming provided plenty of different job opportunities to fill my resume! One of my favorite jobs (beyond AIM and S&G monitoring) was doing NISIMS. I hiked in hostile back country for over 200 miles looking for salt cedar (Tamarix ramosissima), leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), Canada thistle (Cirsium arvensis), and different bromes (Bromus).

Salt cedar being devious.

Salt cedar being devious.

Internship Accomplishments

2013-2016 Conservation of Land Management Internship for the Bureau of Land Management

  • Performed a vast number of plant surveys in central Oregon, Northeastern Wyoming, and central Washington.
  • Monitored rare plant species.
  • Evaluated weathering and erosion of soils within specific study areas.
  • Created multiple maps with the use of GPS systems and ArcGIS.
  • Photographed a variety of landscapes, fauna, and flora for documentation efforts.
  • Updated plant databases.
  • Developed powerpoint presentations for plant identification.
  • Created geodatabases and shapefiles for GPS systems.
  • Digitized field collected data.
  • Worked with Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access to create graphs and               reports from statistical data collected over the present and past field seasons.
  • Monitored invasive shrubs and grasses in forested, sagebrush, and high desert communities.

2013 Field Season in Hines/ Burns, Oregon (Additional Experience)

  • Performed ES&R/Vegetation monitoring for numerous post fire studies in Harney County.
  • Monitored and documented invasive species with the study areas.
  • Evaluated landscape dynamics and erosion processes.
  • Performed rare plant monitoring surveys.
  • Co-authored several ES&R reports.
  • Surveyed mule deer populations.
On top of the Steens near Burns, Oregon! This place had the most unique plants! The Alvord Desert was near by! This area had many interesting rocks and unique plants as well!

On top of the Steens near Burns, Oregon! This place had the most unique plants! The Alvord Desert was near by! That area had many interesting rocks and unique plants as well!

2014 Field Season in Buffalo, Wyoming (Additional Experience)

  • Performed vegetation monitoring in many allotments across Northeastern Wyoming.
  • Used a number of survey methods to assess greater sage grouse habitat.
  • Performed bird surveys in the Wilderness Study Area.
  • Documented plant, amphibians, bat and invertebrate species for Wyoming Wildlife databases.
  • Collected seeds for the Seeds of Success Program.
  • Worked on the Powder River Basin Restoration. We would evaluate the landscape after a fire and prepare restoration guidelines to develop ideal habitat for greater sage grouse and other sagebrush bird species.
  • Helped with habitat restoration to preserve the sagebrush ecosystem and eliminate   unwanted invasive plants.
  • Organized and maintained databases that would be used for future monitoring efforts and report writing.
This was taken in the Fortification Creek WSA in the Buffalo Field Office! This place had amazing wildlife!

This was taken in the Fortification Creek WSA in the Buffalo Field Office! This place had amazing wildlife!

2015 Field Season in Wenatchee, Washington (Additional Experience)

  • Helped with the capturing and tagging of sage grouse and pygmy rabbit.
  • Monitored golden eagle and peregrine falcon nests.
  • Monitored for Washington ground squirrel.
  • Worked with NISIMS: Monitored specifically for invasive plants on BLM land.
  • Mapped invasive plants using ArcGIS and the GPS.
  • Completed rangeland health assessments. Recorded rangeland indicators, worked with rangeland improvements, and completed soil testing.
  • Worked with line point intercept that included plant identification, plant density, and canopy gap.
  • Helped out with Seeds of Success: Searched for plant populations and collected.
The Dune System near the Saddle Mountains in Washington! This place had a hidden eagle nest that was hard to find! This place had an incredible dune system full of specialized animals. Bonus, the top section of the mountains had opal and petrified wood!

The dune system near the Saddle Mountains in Washington! This place had a hidden eagle nest that was hard to find! This place had an incredible dune system full of specialized animals. Bonus, the top section of the mountains had opal and petrified wood! Also, around 11:00am, jet planes would fly through the area!

2016 Field Season in Buffalo, Wyoming (Additional Experience)

  • Worked on an extensive remote sensing/ supervised classification project involving cheatgrass and landcover detection in the Powder River Basin.
  • Worked on vectorization, georeferencing, and digitizing GIS projects.
  • Updated GIS files, documents, and geodatabases.
  • Documenting, labeling, and categorizing large maps, slides, and aerial photography for the Buffalo Field Office Library.
  • Performed AIM vegetation monitoring with the Buffalo Field Office and University of Wyoming.
  • Performed extensive song bird, sage grouse and nest surveys with the Buffalo Field Office and the University of Wyoming.
  • Worked with NISIMS: Documented remaining salt cedar, leafy spurge, North Africa grass, and other invasive plant populations on BLM Land.
  • Helped out with multiple education opportunities and community outreach through the Buffalo BLM Recreation Department.
This place was the Hat Ranch Allotment! I believe we are looking at the Spearfish Formation (red sandstone). Also, this area had the Sundance Formation, which was a high yield fossil site!

This place was the Hat Ranch Allotment! I believe we are looking at the Spearfish Formation (red sandstone). Also, this area had the Sundance Formation, which was a high yield fossil formation!

Present Interns I worked with…
I have had the great opportunity to work with other CLM interns on this internship! All of them definitely worked very hard during the Summer time to get their work done! I was fortunate enough to be able to travel with them to their sites and see what they do for work! Some of the places and jobs they did have were very interesting.

Nick and Corinne mostly spent their time monitoring in the southern Bighorn Mountains doing site evaluations and rangeland monitoring. They did go to other places such as the Gillette Area and along the Powder River Basin. The southern Bighorns were beautiful!! All of the past rangeland interns would love to do vegetation monitoring around there! The geology and the plant diversity was incredible! Corinne and Nick were always hard at work, taking the truck and UTV on back country roads to very obscure, in the middle of nowhere site plots. It was always an adventure to go out to see what they were doing. I also went with them to brush up on my plants and monitoring skills. Some sites had very bizarre plants that were challenging to identify, but both of the rangeland interns were able to identify everything. Nick and Corinne were very helpful when I was doing NISIMS. I would take them out near VanHouten Draw and show them how to look for weeds and record them in the Trimble GPS device. (Even though Trimble GPS devices will be replaced by phones soon) They were able to complete the monitoring season with no issues and they were able to monitor most of the sites they were given!

Nick, Damen, and Corinne!

Nick, Damen, and Corinne!

Damen spent most of his time going to various back country roads, finding if the back country roads were really roads or just cow trails. He also went to many recreation areas and did site visits with his mentor. Damen had many skills that he applied to his internship! He used education for many of the outreach programs. He even gave me some very helpful tips when teaching younger kids! Beyond his education and recreation skills, he was great at writing reports and using various computer software to complete jobs for the BLM.

All of us worked very hard over the Summer and we learned a lot from each other. After work, we would get together for various celebrations, mostly birthdays, and talk about Bighorn trails, field stories, politics, fishing, and work! We would usually have a big cake for these events. (Like ice cream cake, picture cake, cupcakes, and quarter section cakes!) Sometimes we may catch a movie later in the week!

Overall, I am very happy that I was able to work with very capable and hardworking CLM interns! I learned from each one of them as they contributed their expertise to field work! I wish them all the best in their future endeavors!

Interview with Krissa and Rebecca

How you’ve grown personally and professionally?

Wow! Four field season’s worth of experience! Usually the max amount of internships would be three, unless a particular field office would want you back for a specific reason. My last internship was supposed to be Wenatchee, Washington (last field season). I learned that the Buffalo Field Office was looking for a GIS/ Remote Sensing seasonal to complete the cheatgrass project. I quickly asked if I could fill in as a seasonal, which they agreed. I still got funded under CLM as an intern, but they gave me higher priority responsibilities that other BLM employees usually work on.

The past three field seasons have given me plenty of experiences that made my resume glow! I had botany, wildlife biology, landscape restoration, natural areas management, GIS, weed management, and rare plant monitoring to name a few jobs that I did within three years. One thing I wished I had more experience with was GIS and song bird monitoring. Luckily, this final internship filled that space! I had plenty of GIS and bird surveying opportunities to make my internship very well rounded, specific, and not all over the place.

Looking at Melilotus and Bromus infestations in ArcMap.

Looking at Melilotus and Bromus infestations in ArcMap.

The Buffalo BLM field office gave me projects that normally other employees would work on. I was a bit nervous, because I would not want to let them down. Plus, I am working in the Big Leagues now. If I had a future job, I would be exactly doing these kinds of work related tasks. I feel confident in my GIS and remote sensing capabilities. I am very strong in a number of analyses, techniques, and Boolean statements within the GIS program. One thing I still need to work on would be GIS computer script. Beyond GIS, I was very confident in my navigation, survival, and timing skills when I was out in the field doing vegetation monitoring and NISIMS. NISIMS was extremely tough! I had to walk in 100°F weather in hostile terrain. With the skills I picked up in the previous internships, I was able to survive whatever VanHouthen and Burgher Draw threw at me!

Spiny Buffalo Bur (Solanum rostratum) was one of the rarer NISIMS plants I encountered. P.S. Do not walk into this plant.

Spiny Buffalo Bur (Solanum rostratum) was one of the rarer NISIMS plants I encountered in VanHouten Draw. Also, this was one of the many dangers you could encounter there. Seriously, these burs were not friendly.

I was able to work with my communication skills in the most unlikely places. I was able to teach and lecture in four different school groups ranging from K-12. I had meetings with the higher officials in the NOC and state office in regards to why I was using up a lot of memory and bandwidth on the server for my cheatgrass project. Those phone conferences were interesting and they provided me with experience with in having to explain myself, the project I am working on, and how everything would be alright at the end. Apparently, I succeeded with this, because they did not call after a while. Another communication opportunity was to speak with the BLM Staff and employees about my cheatgrass project. Usually, my presentations would be exciting and interesting, but when you are talking about GIS applications and remote sensing, it could be a bit dry. I was able to show the data, the analyses that were used, and how this data would benefit everyone! In the end of the presentation, I had a lengthy discussion with the employees about the overall project, which was always a good sign.

Overall, the final internship helped build my GIS experience, communication skills, my teaching skills, and my bird identification skills. I am really happy with the results from this internship. With all of these opportunities, I would definitely be able to get a very nice job working for the Federal or Private Sector job market!

What are some new skills that you have gained on your internship?

This internship provided me with plenty of “jack of all trade” skills and experiences. My main experiences were GIS, field work, or bird survey related.

Diane and Courtney ( GIS BLM Legends) gave me various small projects to accomplish in between field work and major projects. I definitely learned more about remote sensing applications in ArcGIS. Diane allowed me to attend many of the GIS training days, where I was able to help out other BLM employees and learn new applications and GIS skills. I even attended a GIS seminar in town where we learned about GIS involvement with oil and gas projects. Along the lines of GIS and remote sensing topics, I learned many interesting skills in regards to drones and their applications. During the early Spring, I used my CLM funds to attend a Drone (UAV) Conference in Laramie, Wyoming. When I was at the conference, I learned about all of the new drones and data collection software that was being used in military and academic settings. I got to fly and accidentally crash a drone in the process. ^_^; (Not a highlight) The conference provided me plenty of opportunity to network with people and learn about potential software programs I may be using for work!

One of the large UAV/ drones I encountered!

One of the large UAV/ drones I encountered!

During the Early Spring and Summer seasons, I was able to travel with three wildlife biologists. One project was to count sharp tailed and sage grouse on various leks sites in our field office with BLM Legend Chris. I learned about the counting process and how that data transferred into reports. I accompanied BLM Legend Don in the field two times to do song bird monitoring along the different roads near Arvada and Recluse, Wyoming. I got to sharpen my songbird song skills and learn how to identify birds by their flight. Don was very knowledgeable and I was able to learn a lot from him. I got to help BLM Legend Wyatt with bird banding and mist netting. This was a trial and error experience for me, but the other ornithologists were patient. Catching cliff swallows was very hard to accomplish, especially when the bridge over a river was very tall. Learning how to untangle the birds, handle them, and band them was like an art for some people. Hopefully in the future I will get better at banding birds.

Sage grouse strutting his stuff.

Sage grouse strutting his stuff.

This internship provided me with more field work skills. My navigation skills have been improved and I am able to navigate through difficult terrain with ease, especially after doing data collection with NISIMS. I was able to learn new plants when I was with the Range staff and interns when we were doing S&Gs. Some of the plants up in the Bighorn Mountains were rather odd, because they had to adapt to a different climate and precipitation level. For example, a large Lithospermum species in the badlands area east of town may develop different growing habits and shape structure up in the mountain peaks of the Bighorns. I really had to use the taxonomic key to find out about some of the tricky plants. Sometimes, I worked backwards where I just looked at a genus instead of starting from the beginning of the taxonomic key.

Sagebrush/ Mariposa Lily (Calochortus spp.)

Sagebrush/ Mariposa Lily (Calochortus spp.)

What are some learning experiences that stand out to you?

There were three experiences that stand out to me during the term of this internship.

Experience 1: The End of the Cheatgrass Project
Working on the cheatgrass supervised classification project had been a definite learning experience in regards to real world applications of GIS. Using different ArcMap tools had been a tough, yet rewarding experience. I spent hours upon hours of just processing data. After months of processing and supervised classification, extracting data through algorithms and arithmetic have been challenging and very tedious at times. After mapping the processed data and ground truthing the results, the final product had turned out to be very successful. This large project in itself was a huge learning experience and I am very happy on how everything turned out. Plus, I got to use applications I used in my college education!

Experience 2: Educating People at Welch Recreation Area

Each age group of people has been an experience. My main background in education was College Academia. Having to rework lesson plans for people ranging from Elementary to High School Level had been tough. Fortunately, I was able to reach out and educate all the students. Teaching about rocks, vegetation monitoring, birds, insects, and plants had various hurdles. I quickly picked up on what the students were interested in and developed short lectures with field applications for everyone to work on. I enjoyed this experience, but I could see how teachers for K-12 must have patience, endurance, and street smarts when working with these children.

Experience 3: Helping Sara Burns with Vegetation monitoring

 No matter how long you worked in the field or the experience you develop over time in regards to vegetation monitoring, there would be always something new to learn or see. Plant taxonomy would always be changing and you would have to refresh yourself at the beginning of each season with grasses and forbs. Helping Sara with her Master’s project has had its challenges. Not only did I have to learn a new vegetation monitoring system, but I had to think outside of the box when monitoring reclamation sites. These sites had some of the weirdest weeds and vascular plants that were not in the taxonomy books of Wyoming. I had to look at other taxonomy books in states outside of Wyoming to find out about various Brassicaceae, Chenopodiaceae, and Asteraceae weeds that would grow in disturbed areas.

Sara Burns looking at various plants.

Sara Burns looking at various plants.

What were some rewarding experiences/memories of your internship?

There were three experiences that stand out to me during the term of this internship…..

Experience 1: Surviving Salt Cedar Monitoring

This experience had been one of the most rewarding trials of my internship. I walked over two hundred miles of drainage, draws, riparian landscapes, and badland regions looking for salt cedar. Thunderstorms, quicksand, fields of thistle, rabbit excrement piles, rattlesnakes, high temperatures,  and barbed wire fencing were just a few of the hurdles I had to endure when working with NISIMS in the draws east of Buffalo, Wyoming. When I was done with the entire project, I was able to fall back and treat myself to a few fishing flies to celebrate this huge task. Completing the project was one of the most rewarding experiences beyond vegetation monitoring.

Sorry salt cedar...your days are numbered!

Sorry salt cedar…your days are numbered!

Experience 2: Getting Done with Supervised Classification

Completing the cheatgrass project had been extremely rewarding for me. Not only did I use my college education and past field experiences to complete the project, but I learned about many other techniques that could be applied for my future work! Finishing the project on a successful note lifted a huge burden off my shoulders. The results were satisfying to everyone, so I was very happy on how everything turned out in the end.

Experience 3: Finding Bird Nests

One of the toughest tasks of this internship was finding active bird nests with the University of Wyoming. You would think it would be easy to find bird nests, but you would be dead wrong. Vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), Brewer’s sparrow (Spizella breweri), and western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) bird nests were incredibly tough to find. Luckily, I did find a few active nests. Even finding one nest in a day was extremely satisfying and rewarding!

Found an active nest!!

Found an active nest!!

What were some expectations that were or were not met?

My main goal with this internship was to be able to help out as many people as possible and accomplish any major project that was given to me. My mentor, Janelle, expected me to finish the remote sensing cheatgrass project as a priority project, afterwards I could help out with other BLM Legends with their work. The remote sensing project took a few months to complete, and I was able to successful complete the project. I was able to provide information and valuable data for the field office to use in the future for reports and land management projects. I was very happy with myself that I was given more advance work to do and be able to complete everything without any major setbacks. After completing the major remote sensing project, I was free to help out with bird surveying, GIS projects, BLM Recreational education sessions, vegetation monitoring, and office organization projects. All my expectations for this internship were met and I was very glad that all my goals were met by the end of the internship. This internship was a real resume builder, that was for sure!

Dear Present CLM Interns

Good Day, Present CLM Interns!

You might be asking yourself right now, “Hey! I am in the office right now and my internship has been extended through the Winter. What is there to do?” For some interns Winter Season could be very busy with projects or it could be the complete opposite! In the desert areas, there probably is plenty of SOS projects or vegetation surveys. In mountainous, forested, or sagebrush areas in the North, work may be harder to come by. I will give you a couple of tips you could use for your internship along with your office work projects.

  • Make Lists and Databases: One thing that is definitely beneficial for yourself, your field office, and future interns would be to make lists and databases. If you are a SOS or a vegetation monitor, you may want to develop powerpoints and excel spreadsheets on the plants in your field office. Here are some ideas for potential powerpoint and excel projects.
    1. Develop a plant guide for trees and shrubs, grasses/ sedge, forb families, Plants of Concern, SOS plants, or a weed guide: List the common name, latin name, habitat, description of the plant, and an interesting fact. (Add pictures of the plant as well). This may seem like a massive project, but it would help many people down the road in your field office or state. You might just want to work on a small powerpoint of plants that you struggled with. If you create a powerpoint guide on grasses, sedges, and rushes in your area, many future interns would thank you! Sometimes creating specialized powerpoints for specific genus like Lomatium, Eriogonum or Astragalus may help out a lot. Sometimes these plants may be confusing or hard to tell apart and making a printable powerpoints for future interns may be great.
      1. If you make a species guide for what dried grasses and forbs look like in your field office in late Summer, many future interns would thank you and you would win the Noble Prize.
    2. For wildlife biologists, the same kind of powerpoints guides may be applied to fish, insects, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and other animals.
    3. For those of you who specialize on lichen and mushrooms for monitoring and research, a powerpoint guide or spreadsheet would be very necessary and helpful to future interns and the public.
    4. Excel Spreadsheets that list all of the plants or animals in your field office would be a great guide for future interns as well!
  • Learn New Skills: Since you may have more time, you might want to add more skills to your resume. You might want to learn various GIS applications for example. If you work for the Department of Interior, there are classes you could take to boost your skill levels in GIS and other related programs on DOI Learn. If you are looking for different projects to do outside your priority projects, ask your advisor for other projects relating GIS or other software programs. This would help build variety in your Winter work schedule.
  • Learn from other Employees: During the Winter time, you could shadow different employees at your work! (If it is alright with your advisor) Sometimes you might want to take a day or two off your regular work and learn what other employees do for their work. Shadowing someone would be beneficial for you if you want to learn new skills or learn how different jobs work.
  • The most important thing you could do after doing your main job would be to make the transition to the next generation of interns easier. For example in the past, I would develop a few reports on what to do for future interns. Some of my internships, I learned the hard way on finding resources or knowing where specific plant populations are. Writing reports on locations of various populations would save many hours of searching for future interns. Providing a list of phone numbers, contacts, and local organizations would help a lot! Even writing a letter for future interns may be very nice to develop, so they could get a sense of what to do the first few weeks and following field season.


Thank you!!

I wanted to thank everyone who read or skimmed read my past blogs! (Especially my family and friends who provided extra input when I shared the blog on social media.) I know some of my blogs were super long, but there were many activities happening each week and I wanted to give present and future interns an idea of what I do! ^_^ I wish everyone a successful future and good luck!!

(Fun Fact: Each blog usually takes 3-6 hours to plan, write, and organize. I take blog writing seriously!)

Moment of Zen

Castilleja species

Castilleja species.

(Curtains Close…)

The CLM Intern’s Fall Odyssey

CLM: R&R (Research and Relaxation)

Hello everyone!! Sorry for the lack of blog posts lately! I have been ultra-busy with work and traveling!! I have been giving presentations on my cheatgrass project to Buffalo BLM office staff and officials from outside organizations. There were many small projects I was able to work on during the Fall time. I had NISIMS and a vectorization project to do during the slower days of October and November. Another major work project was to help out the BLM Recreation Department with middle and high school education field days! After all of the major work tasks, I used my comp time to go on two vacations. The first vacation was a week in the Grand Tetons and the other vacation was in New Mexico! The rest of the blog would be dedicated to the following subjects! Brace yourselves!!

Vectorization of Ecosites
This was a busy project for the late Fall era of my internship! I received an old map of ecosites in our area. My goal was to vectorize and digitize the map for future use. The scanned raster map was given to me at the beginning of the project. I was supposed to draw polygons around each of the ecosites. After tracing the polygons around each ecosite, I assigned attribute values to the traced polygons. The scanned maps had range types and capacities written in purple. I transferred that information to the attribute table of the polygons. This project was pretty straight forward, but had many challenges. The scanned map had many holes and missing text. I had to view the original ecosite map and fill in the blanks.

Step 1

Map 1

Scanned map/ raster

Step 2

Map 2

Develop polygons by tracing the lines of the scanned map.

Step 3

Map 3

Create polygons with attribute values based on the Ecosite Numbering System on the Scanned map.

For the Sake of NISIMS

Another side project I have been working on was NISIMS at Welch Recreation Area. Corrine, Nick, and myself have been going to Welch Recreation Area to look for invasive plants. Luckily, we only encountered a few bad invasive plants like houndstongue (Cynoglossum officinale) and bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare). Smooth brome (Bromus inermis) was literally everywhere in this area, but this grass was not really bad and was planted with the alfalfa (Medicago sativa) apparently by the landowner. I did encounter reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) along some of the smaller tributaries of the Tongue River. A new plant that I encountered here was European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)! (Bum bummm BUUUUUMM!!!) Yes, apparently this bad invasive shrub that could be found in the understory of Chicago along highways has been found here in Wyoming! I noticed a large patch near the parking area, but apparently, this shrub was not in the Wyoming NISIMS database, so I developed my own shapefile and attribute data and gave it to BLM Legend Dusty to deal with in the future. There were only twelve plants, and only four of those were seeding. Dusty told us to look for whitetop (Lepidium/Cardaria  draba) and Dalmatian toadflax (Linaria dalmatica), which could be found in the western sector of the recreation area. I think we will not be able to make it to the western section this internship…so there will be work for the next intern! Some plants I did notice were field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), common mullein (Verbascum thapsus), and common tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) growing along the river. Thankfully, we did not encounter any really bad plants.

This is a map of Welch Recreation Area! The starting points represent where we would begin each of our NISIMS routes.

This is a map of Welch Recreation Area! The starting points represent where we would begin each of our NISIMS routes. Each route is spaced out in 50 meter increments.


The final stage of my cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) project was near completion! After developing large cheatgrass density maps for the field office, I was supposed to present my results of the project. The main goal was to show what I did and how the results could benefit the BLM staff. This was supposed to be a forty-five minute presentation to the Resources and NRS Divisions of our office. People from the County Weed Office and University of Wyoming Employees were welcome to attend as well. The presentation was focused on methodology and results in case other people wanted to use this project for their own field office. My first presentation was in October. Unfortunately, the presentation date fell on hunting season, so some of the BLM employees were not able to come. On November 10th, I would have the rest of the employees attend if they were not able to make it to the first presentation.

The first presentation went great! I was able to talk about the overall layout of the project, the methodology, the calculations, the results, and future applications. The presentation had to be simple, because people from the outside community may not know about raster calculations or supervised classification. Many of the employees were excited over the results and the overall meeting lasted an hour and twenty minutes. The Resources and Fire Planning Divisions at work were especially happy about the outcome.
Soon, the raster data along with the vector cheatgrass density layer would be available for everyone in the office to use. This data would help with NEPA documents, future spraying projects, and fire planning.

There was a major issue I did encounter while working on this cheatgrass density project for the BLM…. I was called and emailed a multitude of times by the State Office or the NOC in Denver, Colorado. You may be asking, why I got all of these calls or messages. Apparently, this GIS project took up a large amount of bandwidth and data from the state servers. Many Computer IT people were baffled at first and were always asking what I am up to.  I guess I was taking up the most amount of bandwidth in the BLM agency working on this project. Terabytes of data and hours of processing was pretty taxing to the system. I had a few conference calls and had to show them all of the data I produced. This project was able to help prepare National Internet servers and IT people in terms of planning for future projects. It was an interesting experience overall talking with the NOC! ^_^;;;

Bromus tectorum, keepin' it real in America since 1861. Fun Fact: Chukar and grey partridge actually feed on the seed in the Spring time!

Bromus tectorum Infestation. Fun Fact: Chukar (Alectoris chukar) and grey partridge (Perdix perdix) actually feed on the seed in the Spring time!

Educating the Masses: The Field’s A Stage

Towards the end of September, I volunteered to help out the BLM Recreation Department with educating middle and high school students! The first two days involved educating the high school students. Large groups from Sheridan High School came to learn about Nature in a park near the Montana border! During the mornings, I was in charge of bug collection and identification. The BLM and Forest Service would cycle through eight groups of twelve students and give a lecture at each station. Whenever the students came to my station, I would give the students jars and nets and have them run out into the field and capture insects. Towards the end, I would call them in and discuss about the Insect Orders everyone encountered. I was very enthusiastic with the students. Many of them did not like insects or the colder weather. By the end of each group, all the students were really excited about capturing insects. When they were out in the field collecting, I would run up to each group and look in their bugs nets. Most of the time people caught various grasshoppers (Orthoptera), bees (Hymenoptera), and leafhoppers (Hemiptera). The more unique insects were temporarily put in a jar for the students to look at. Some students found mantids (Mantodea), large spiders (Araneae), gall wasps (Hymenoptera), and moths (Lepidoptera), which was always a treat to see! One of my favorite things to do would be to run up to someone that was hardly trying to capture insects in the net and congratulate them on the successful capture of various insects. They would say, “I did not capture anything…” Then I showed them their net full of small insects and leafhoppers. They become slightly motivated and begin to capture various insects.

Different insects that were found on the field days.

Different insects that were found on the field days. Upper Left: Tiger beetle (Family: Carabidae), Upper Right: Moth (Order: Lepidoptera), Bottom Left: Pregnant Praying Mantis (Order: Mantodea), Bottom Right: Salmonfly Nypmh (Family: Pteronarcyidae)

In the afternoon, we would take the students to Welch Recreation Area. Each group would talk about what the BLM does for work! Damen and I were in charge of showing the high schoolers what we do for vegetation monitoring. This was a slightly dry subject and the kids loved to hop back and forth along the transect even after we instructed them how to properly monitor for plants. I established two small transects and groups of two people would walk along the transect and record the plant and ground cover. It would take around fifteen minutes for the students to look at ten points. (It would take me under two minutes to do the same thing.) After everyone collected their data, Damen would lecture the students on calculating groundcover and talk to them about the importance of vegetation monitoring on public lands. Overall, the high school education experience was amazing and I was fortunate enough to do this twice!!

Damen giving a lecture about the importance of public lands to the students!

Damen giving a lecture about the importance of public lands to the students!

The last day, we got to go to Middle Fork Campground up in the mountains and talk about various sciences to middle schoolers. Different forest service and BLM staff lectured on subjects such as water ecology, photography, ornithology, and cleaning up trash. My exciting education subject was geology! Since I am a rock hounder and have a degree in geology, I was pretty excited to teach about one of my passions. I brought a bag full of rocks from around the Buffalo Field Office. I brought various rocks, minerals, and fossils with me to entertain the middle schoolers. I decided to talk about the geologic time and history of the region from the Cambrian Period up to the present and talk about how each of these rocks were made. I found out fast that the children did not like geology…at all. The first two presentations were very rocky (no pun intended). The kids looked bored or gave me death stares. This was the first time I encountered this, so I had to quickly evolve my teaching style and subjects. By the third group, I talked quickly about geologic time and rocks, but then I lectured on volcanoes, earthquakes, and other interesting geologic events of Wyoming. With each group, I honed in my lecture. By the fifth group, all the children were participating and were amazed about rocks and earthquake events. Even when it was raining, they would ask questions and take notes, which excited me! By the last group, the lecture was a work of art and all of the children were excited about rocks, geologic time, and Wyoming’s dynamic past!  Phew!!! Tough crowd. I learned a lot from this day and how to lecture to a younger audience! My past experience in education was teaching high schoolers, first graders, and college students. Teaching middle schoolers was a different ball game for me! Overall, I really enjoyed this day! I learned a great deal about educating middle schoolers and adapting my teaching style to interest kids!

Welch Recreation Area, Keepin' it real since 2005!

Welch Recreation Area, Keepin’ it real since 2005!

Grand Tetons

I was very fortunate to take a small vacation before my major vacation at the end of September!! My parents, along with myself, went to the Grand Tetons National Park! This was during peak fall color, so every deciduous shrub and tree was a yellow- orange- red color. Most of the days had perfect weather. I had many opportunities to go bird watching and go fishing! During this time, the Yellowstone cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki bouvieri) and Snake River fine spotted cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii behnkei?) were active! My parents and I caught a lot of nice sized cutthroat trout! I usually catch and release but my Dad wanted to keep all the large fish for future fish fillets. Beyond fishing, we did hiking and bird watching! One of the most common birds to see was the white crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) and the dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis). As I was bird watching, I was able to see many moose (Alces alces), which were active in the park at this time. The Yellowstone wildfires this year pushed different mammal species into the Grand Tetons, so we saw a larger number of large ungulates. Overall, this small mini-cation was great! The Grand Tetons is my favorite National Park and I was happy I got to visit them again!!

Fall Color in the Grand Tetons. Picture taken by Patricia Chappelle

Fall Color in the Grand Tetons. Picture taken by Patricia Chappelle

New Mexico: Beyond the Sands and Deserts

There was a lot of comp time I had left, so I decided to take a large trip down to Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas! I wanted to go during peak bird migration times in New Mexico! For the first few days, I went down to my sister’s place in Denver to celebrate my nephew’s birthday! From there I was able to travel with my parents down to New Mexico to areas like Roswell, Carlsbad Caverns, the Guadalupe Mountains, White Sand Dunes, and Bosque del Apache!

Our first major stop was in Roswell, New Mexico! I was able to go to the International Museum for UFO Study and Research. I learned all about the Truth and how is way out there! Even within a couple of years since the last time I went to this town, the area greatly expanded due to oil and gas development. You could tell that the town got a large upgrade!

The truth is out there...

The truth is out there…

...found the truth...it was way out there.

…found the truth…it was way out there.

After Roswell, I went to the town of Carlsbad! This town was great and I never expected it to be so large! I visited the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park, which was great to see! There were many cacti (Family: Cactaceae), ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), and cholla (Genus: Cylindropuntia) everywhere! To the south of town, I was able to go to Carlsbad Caverns! This MASSIVE cave system existed underneath the desert. I have been to many caves in my life, but I never visited a cave system so large before! There were many amazing stalactites and stalagmites everywhere! With all of the great views this cavern had to offer, we left a little earlier so we could make it down to the Guadalupe Mountains down in Texas. We did miss the bats (Order: Chiroptera), but I have seen bats fly out of caves in great numbers before.

Some plants you could find in the Chihuanhuan Desert!

Some plants you could find in the Chihuanhuan Desert!


A limestone column in Carlsbad Caverns!

Down in Texas, I was able to visit the Guadalupe Mountains! This place had many migrating birds and I was able to do a lot of bird watching here! Hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus), white crowned sparrows, western bluebirds (Sialia mexicana), white winged doves (Zenaida asiatica), verdin (Auriparus flaviceps), various quails (Family: Odontophoridae), red tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), and marsh wrens (Cistothorus palustris) were the most common species I saw down in the park! It was baffling for me as a bird watcher. I recognized all of the bird songs, but I had trouble identifying the birds due to the environment I was in. I usually associate a hermit thrush melody with a forest or a marsh wren song with a wetland, but down in the yucca and shrubland areas these birds were hard to pick out. I would hear a hermit thrush but my brain had trouble connecting the song with the bird, because I was in a totally different habitat. The Guadalupe Mountains had great trails and I was able to find Apache plumes (Fallugia paradoxa), which were my favorite southwestern plant.

Apache Plume!! (Fallugia paradoxa)

Apache Plume!! (Fallugia paradoxa)

Guadalupe Mountains and a dry arroyo. Somewhere there are SOS interns collecting seed in this area.

Guadalupe Mountains and a dry arroyo. Somewhere there are SOS interns collecting seed in this area.

After the Guadalupe Mountains, we made our way to Alamogordo, New Mexico! This area had the New Mexico Museum of Space History and the White Sands National Monument. The museum was interesting! I learned all about the history of the World’s space programs. I learned how to accidentally destroy a $145 million dollar device in a flight simulator! Beyond the simulator, I learned about the rocket tests and important people who contributed to space science! I even got to try on a space suit!

The future for a CLM Intern. Doing monitoring on the moon.

That is one large step for the CLM program, one giant leap for intern-kind.

One of my favorite locations to visit was the White Sands National Monument. This area was a large expanse of white gypsum sand that had specialized plants and animals! You definitely had to wear sunglasses during the day! The albedo from the sand and the sunlight was very intense! It was like walking on a different planet! I have been to this location five years ago and I noticed a great change in the southern dune systems! Plants were colonizing like crazy! Alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and various yucca plants were growing all over the shallow dunes! In the past I really did not see this! Another interesting thing to notice was the wildlife! Many of the grasshoppers and Southwestern fence lizards (Sceleporus cowlesi) were a white to grey color! The only thing that stood out was the darkling beetles (Genus: Eleodes), which were black. I loved climbing on the sand dunes and looking for plants and animals. Unfortunately, many people used the dunes for recreation, which is great, but they left their trash behind which was not great.

White Sands Monument!!

White Sands Monument!!

One of our last major stops was Bosque del Apache! This area was one of my favorite birding places! I always love looking for black phoebe (Sayornis nigricans), greater roadrunners (Geococcyx californianus), and Gambel’s quail (Callipepla gambelii). This time of year, I got to see a huge amount of migrating waterfowl! Northern pintails (Anas acuta), American coots (Fulica americana), mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), Northern shovelers (Anas clypeata), lesser scaup (Aythya affinis), snow geese (Chen caerulescens), Canada geese (Branta canadensis), and western grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis)! In the fields, I saw many sandhill crane (Grus canadensis)! These cranes were everywhere and were increasing in number every day!

Various waterfowl!!!

Various waterfowl!!!

This larger vacation was just what I needed! Even if I was sick for most of the time, I really enjoyed visiting different ecosystems, exploring caves, and bird watching! New Mexico has been great and I was fortunate to have the comp time to visit many areas and view different flora and fauna!


After my vacation, I arrived just in time for Halloween! The Buffalo Field Office invites young trick or treaters to come to the office and receive candy. The parents were just as excited, because they got to scope out potential candies they could tax from their children. I dressed up as an Australian DAWR (Department of Agriculture and Water Resource) Legend…basically the Australian version of a BLM Legend. I got to wear my j-hat and my safari clothes for the event. I handed out Lindor candy and tootsie roll pops as well! When the pre-school kids did come, they were overwhelmed by the whole experience. They were sort of confused why their parents made them dress up and walk around a dark office receiving candy. Many of the BLM employees brought their children as well! They were more used to the office and people! For the rest of the day, we continued our work and celebrated BLM Legend Charlotte’s birthday towards the end of the day!

Picture of my Halloween costume, my phone and various candies.

Picture of my Halloween costume, my phone and various candies.

Grand Slam of Fishing

Grand slam for trout I caught on this internship!! Brown trout, Brook trout, Rainbow trout, Western slope cutthroat trout, and Snake River Fine Spotted Cutthroat trout!

This is my grand slam for trout I caught on this internship!! Brown trout, Brook trout, Rainbow trout, Yellowstone cutthroat trout???, and Snake River fine spotted cutthroat trout!

Moment of Zen

Cactus flowers!!

Cactus flowers!!

The CLM Intern’s Trek! Under the Gaze of Salt Cedar…

Sagebrush Steppe…the final frontier…these are the voyages of a CLM Intern. His mission: to explore strange, new environments, to seek out new plant species and fauna, to boldly go where no CLM Intern has gone before…

Hide and Go Seek: Ground Truthing Cheatgrass
(Buffalo Field Office)

I have been working on cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) detection for the last six months using remote sensing techniques. Finally, I am at the stage where I mapped the results and now I am able to go out in the field and see if the cheatgrass was indeed in the areas on the generated map. I visited thirty four random sites that were on private and BLM Lands along county roads by badlands, forests, riparian areas, prairies, and ranch areas. I looked at sites that had 0-5%, 6-25%, 26-50%, and 51-100% cheatgrass cover. I went to each of these sites and took pictures and notes. This was one of the most stressful times of my internship. The last six months led up to these few days…

The results are in…………….drum roll please……………

The project was a success!!!!! (/O_O)/ YYYYEEAAA!!!!  Celebrate!!! \(O_O\)

There were two sites that did not match, but that was because of recent land cover change in the area, which can’t be helped. I was really happy to see that this technique worked! I was able to see the difference between various densities of cheatgrass. Some areas I did visit had a lot of cheatgrass…like it was a whole ocean of the brome, it was scary! Some areas hardly had any cheatgrass, but there was a higher percentage of Japanese brome (Bromus japonicus/ arvensis), especially around prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) villages. This was a great time to view the field office area as well! The Powder River Basin was nice and green, the badlands areas to the east were dry, and the ranching areas to the north were active with all kinds of cow (Bos taurus) shenanigans! I loved traveling along the Powder River area to look at many of the wetland plants during my lunch breaks. I did encounter the destructive salt cedar (Tamarix chinensis) though, which I would have to search for in the future. Overall, this ground truthing experience was a success and a massive burden has been lifted off my shoulders. Now, I can move onto other cool projects like NISIMS and plant monitoring!!!

Can you find the cheatgrass?

Can you find the cheatgrass?

One other thing I did learn….County Roads can disappear and some landowners can somehow make public roads turn into private roads if it goes through their property.             -\0_0/- (Shrugs)

Cheatgrass Comic

Cheatgrass Comic: Especially for anyone who worked with the cheatgrass! (The seeds love socks.)

So…..you may be wondering what the final product may look like???? I will give you the rundown. Each of these raster files I created took a long time to show up on ArcMap. Even creating a raster mosaic may take more than two hours. (I am still trying to figure out how to make the processing time faster.) Anyways, I developed two kinds of maps for the BLM and Landowners to use when planning cheatgrass treatments. I created a raster map for all of the exact cheatgrass locations and I developed a vector map to show an overall density level of cheatgrass populations in relation to soil ecosystems and ecological sites.

Raster Map

Raster Map with cheatgrass! It took about two hours for it to load up on my computer, so I screen captured the image. Sorry, there is no scale, north arrow, legend, or title. I really did not want to wait another few hours for it to load. That is one problem I encountered was loading time. I need to develop a mosaic dataset to make loading time faster and more efficient.

So far, these raster maps take up a large amount of data, but the end result was worth it. You get to see the exact location of the cheatgrass! This would definitely help the BLM and contractors with future spray treatments.

Density Map

Density Map. After layering the cheatgrass raster over the ecosites and soil types, I was able to develop a vector map representing cheatgrass densities.

A cheatgrass density vector map does not take up as much data and it was easy to develop and create. If you overlay the raster map with the density map, you could see where they match up!

I am at the end of this massive project! All I need to do was to figure out how to make this data more available and user friendly for our field office. I also need to figure out how to cut down the processing time. Just some last minute details! ^_^

NISIMS: On The Search for Salt Cedar
(Vanhouten Draw and Bugher Draw)

After a week of ground truthing for cheatgrass and helping the interns out with vegetation monitoring, I received a new assignment from BLM Legend, Dusty. I was supposed to explore a new territory I have not encountered yet! The area was called Vanhouten/ Bugher Draw. This area was located to the east of the Powder River. The topography and the terrain, I found out, was not for the faint of heart. Steep elevation changes, muddy draws, hostile invasive plants, and crazy wildlife made this mission a Rank V on the Intern Difficulty Scale. Previously, there was a mission there to record all of the salt cedar locations for a NISIMS data base. Afterwards, contractors and the BLM entered the draw and took down the mighty invasive salt cedar. This project took a year and a half to complete! My job was for me to enter the hostile draws and see if the treatments were successful. An additional job was for me to look for bad infestations of other invasive plants for the NISIMS database. I developed a journal experience to record the highlights of each day instead of writing fifty pages worth of NISIMS high jinks…. Here we go!!!

A map of all the draws I went through!

A map of all the draws I went through!

Day 1: The Depths of Vanhouten Draw
(Electric Boogaloo Draw)

I decided to jump right into the thicket of Vanhouten Draw! This area was known for steep slopes, large sandstone shelfs, and various salt cedar populations. Even if the draw was three miles long, the navigation of the draw bottom was difficult! There were pockets of clay mud pools and a few sandstone shelf drops that were hard to transverse around, especially in 90°F temperatures. I found some weed trouble makers such as Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense), cockleburr (Xanthium strumarium), and prickly Russian thistle (Salsola tragus). The cockleburr and Russian thistle were cooperating and were good plants to wipe mud off your shoe with! Unfortunately, the Canada thistle was having a supreme field day! The thistle seeds were floating all over the draws! Sometimes I had to walk through some of the populations and got stuck with their tiny spines, which hurt, especially if you slide down a slope and the thistle goes between your legs. Some of the smaller draws had interesting birds and vegetation. This time of year I saw beeplants (Cleome serrulata), which were covered with bees!! With all of the adventures that came with this draw, I did encounter the hostile weed known as salt cedar!! Apparently, the contractors did chemical and mechanical treatments to the salt cedars. If they were cut and sprayed, they would not return. If they were only treated chemically, they would come back with a vengeance! I did not see too many salt cedars, just a few stragglers with teenage angst. I managed to escape the draw and was able to climb a steep wall back to my truck!!


Beeplant!! Cleome serrulata!

A salt cedar that had a brush with death. It is still alive!!

A salt cedar that had a brush with death. It is still alive!!

I love collecting creasted wheatgrass in the field for some reason.

I love collecting Agropyron cristatum (creasted wheatgrass) in the field!! Eventually, I would leave the grass with their own kind, so they do not spread to new habitats.

Day 2: Hostile Territory
(Sand Land Draw/ Infestation Dry Creek)

This was the second day on the NISIMS job. The landscape was not forgiving, especially on my first pair of shoes! The debris fields that were in the draw had sharp sticks which made quick work of my right shoe! I was located in the far-east draw of Vanhouten (Sand Land Draw)! This area had many small salt cedar that were growing in the most isolated and hard to get places. I had to walk around a sandstone shelf to get to a salt cedar that was on a steep slope. I caused a few landslides to get to the plant. Luckily, I survived each slide and made it to the salt cedar. Some of the salt cedar did have diorhabda beetles eating the foliage, which was a good sign to see!

Classic sandstone shelf. That was a twelve foot drop!! In the upper right corner was a salt cedar I had to slide to.

Classic sandstone shelf. That was a twelve foot drop!! In the upper right corner was a salt cedar I had to slide to.

It feels like I am on another planet!!

It feels like I am on another planet!!

There was another hostile life form I was not expecting to see. In the southern section of the draw, I saw recent evidence of humans treating cockleburr and thistle. Blue herbicide was seen in different areas throughout the draw. Some of the people used the herbicide to write messages and directions to certain weed populations, which made my job easier. As I was walking through the draw, I saw a new weed to the area known as leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula)! This weed was super bad, especially for the cattle. I made sure to take GPS points for each of the populations I have encountered. After encountering populations of salt cedar and leafy spurge, I decided to finish up my work in the draw and head back to the truck.

A group of salt cedar having a party... >_>

A group of salt cedar having a party… >_>

Day 3: Reservoir Hop
(Volcarona Draw)

Today was an easier day than the previous two days. I walked along water reservoirs and searched for salt cedar. The draw was more open and covered with prairie sandreed (Calamovilfa longifolia) and various sedge (Carex) species. I encountered many cockleburr populations. Luckily, they were not in the seed sticking mood. I did encounter a few salt cedar. One salt cedar I did see was huge and it looked like it was previously undetected. I managed to slide down a slope and reach the isolated salt cedar. In  Volcarona Draw, I saw evidence of the local tribe of cows known as the Moo Moo Meadows Tribe. They were a nomadic group of cows that loved to moo into the draws just to hear themselves. In the northern section of the draw, I noticed that there were fences that were built haphazardly around the landscape.  With closer inspection, I saw they were only building the fences to protect various springs in the area. I managed to explore this whole drainage without any problems. My favorite part was to walk around the reservoirs to look at new plant species. I did not like the local killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) species, which made it their goal to say their name at least a thousand times before I was a quarter of a mile away from their nest.

Hordeum jubatum

Hordeum jubatum

Tettigoniidae/ Katydid on a cockleburr.

Tettigoniidae/ Katydid on a cockleburr. The katydid’s name was Doctor Cucumber.

Hard to find, isolated salt cedar...ready for any type of shenanigan.

Hard to find, isolated salt cedar…ready for any type of shenanigan.

Day 4: Attack of the Buns
(Beomr Draw/ Krissa and Rebecca Draw/ Buzzworm Draw)

I woke up early in the morning to explore the Beomr/ Krissa and Rebecca Draws. The first sign of life I encountered was a porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)! The spiny creature blocked my way in a narrow draw and it decided to stay put and fling its tail around. With enough sweet talk, it waddled away while giving me a stare to make sure I was a far distance behind it. After that encounter I noticed a large amount of rabbits (Sylvilagus spp.) everywhere!! Recently, the area has had a problem with a mass outbreak of rabbits. The population exploded within the last year. Most of the debris fields I encountered in the draws had rabbit pellets and dead rabbit carcasses. Every bush or cockleburr I passed had rabbits running out from them. At first, this frightened me, but after the fifth rabbit surprise, I was able to calm down. I was cautious at the time for badgers (Taxidea taxus) and rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis), which were also in the area. The large amount of rabbits really blew me away. I wondered how many rabbits were in one draw. I think there were at least two hundred rabbits per draw. I continued my trek through the draws and recorded weed populations. The central draws had a few salt cedars, but the overall weed population was pretty low! Since the draws were more open with sandy bottoms, I was able to walk a longer distances!!

Grumpy porcupine!

A grumpy porcupine named Kain!

Rabbit poo debris fields were very common in the draw...

Rabbit poo debris fields were very common in the draw…

A Bun named Sue spying on my activities...

A Bun named Sue spying on my activities…

Day 5: In the Shadows of Slushie Mittens Draw
(Slushie Mittens Draw/ Eagle Alley)

The Wormwood Ranch Draw (a.k.a. Slushie Mittens Draw) was one of the bigger draws of the area! This area felt like a maze with all of the smaller side tributary draws that were connected to the main draw. Some of the areas had quite a bit of salt cedar growing along the draws. One of the first draws I encountered had steep slopes and muddy draws. Sometimes I had to climb to the top of the draw and look down in difficult areas. Some of the isolated draw areas had large salt cedar surrounded by stumps of its fallen brethren. Towards the southern tip of the draw, it was hard to climb up a sandstone shelf to get to the final area. I had to abandon the idea, because the slopes were too dangerous to climb up on. After navigating through the shadowy, deep draw of the Wormwood Ranch Allotment, I was able to check that area off my list!!….You may be wondering why I called this draw, Slushie Mittens? Well…why not? 😀

Onopordum acanthium, Scotch Thistle!! My favorite NISIMS weed!

Onopordum acanthium, Scotch Thistle!! My favorite NISIMS weed!

One of my favorite things to do out in the field was stepping on large clay chips!! They were like the bubble wrap of the badlands. I loved stepping on them...crunch crunch crunch!!!

One of my favorite things to do out in the field was stepping on large clay chips!! They were like the bubble wrap of the badlands. I loved stepping on them…crunch crunch crunch!!!

A horned lizard I caught named Jason Funderburker.

A horned lizard (Phrynosoma douglassii) I caught named Jason Funderburker.

Day  6: The Storm
(The Three Totes)

I started work early in the morning! I had a good feeling that the area I was in would be easy for NISIMS monitoring. Some of the deep, grassy draws were easy to navigate. Some of the tributary draws were treated by the land owner for weeds and erosion. Most of the salt cedar did not exist anymore! After checking the second draw, I thought I heard thunder. I checked my phone and the weather seemed to be partly cloudy all day. I thought it was probably an oil well machine and continued looking for weeds. I began to notice overcast clouds within the hour and it peaked my curiosity. I climbed to the top of one of the ridges and saw the entire western horizon and Buffalo, Wyoming covered with a thunderstorm! I looked on my phone again and it still said there was a slight trance of rain. The storm was coming fast and I had a 1.5 hour hike back to the truck! I quickly made my way out of the draw and towards the truck. About halfway, it began to rain and hail everywhere! I was getting soaked by the western rains. I managed to put my wallet and electronics in a plastic bag. I sat still on the muddy road for a bit, because the rain and hail were intense. I also kept low to avoid being the tallest object in the area during the lightning storm. I carefully made my way back to the truck and my second pair of shoes had a large coating of mud that made my walking experience, a slip and slide experience.  Eventually, I made my way back to the truck in one piece! I was fortunate that nothing bad happened to me during this time! Even if I almost ruined my second pair of shoes, I managed to live through a thunderstorm with pea sized hail!

Here comes the storm...

Here comes the storm… the storm’s name is Gail Windchester.

Day 7: The Flatlands
(The Flatlands/ Buzzworm Draw)

The Flatlands were….flat! One of the easier places to look for salt cedar! I was able to complete my search within a few hours of the area! I did encounter many bizarre looking Chenopodiaceae plants on the disturbed sites. I climbed up some of the small draws and did not find the dreaded salt cedar. Luckily, this place was treated and salt cedar has not become a problem! I had a few hours left in the day and I decided to scout out the remaining section of Buzzworm Draw. When I was deep in the draw, I encountered a large reservoir drainage tube! Before I had the chance to get closer, I heard a rattle of a rattlesnake!!!! I jumped back and ran a little bit down the draw before I turned around to look for the snake. I saw the rattlesnake under the tube and it was caught in some erosion control fabric! The snake looked very grumpy and it was definitely stuck. I could not help it, because I did not want to get bitten, especially if I was an hour from the truck…and 1.5 hours from civilization! I left the buzzworm alone and finished up looking for salt cedar.

Poor danger squiggle!! I tried to help this rattlesnake out, but it had quite the temper. Since I did not have the proper tools, I let the rattlesnake be.

Poor danger squiggle!! I tried to help this rattlesnake out, but it had quite the temper. Since I did not have the proper tools, I let the rattlesnake be. The snake’s name was Cowboy Bebop.

Day 8: Nick and Corinne vs Salt Cedar
(The Battle Frontier Draw/The Land of the Lost)

Today was an exciting day!!! Legendary CLM Interns, Nick and Corinne came out to help look for salt cedar and learn all about NISIMS. The place we were traveling to was not for beginners. We had to look for salt cedar in the Battle Frontier Draw!!! Why do we call this place “The Battle Frontier”? Well…why not? ^_^ We walked up a series of draws and usually split up to look salt cedar. The most common weeds we did encounter were Canada thistle and cockleburr. We did find salt cedar and the repugnant leafy spurge in some of the areas. Another interesting thing about the Battle Frontier Draw was the large stream that mysteriously appeared over night. I was in the area the day before and there were no signs of water in the draw. There was a small stream, but it was hardly anything. Now there was a braided stream that crossed the wetland area of The Battle Frontier Draw. It was a battle trying to jump the stream without getting your shoes muddy or wet. We did encounter many unique insects, which were cool to take pictures of! We all ended at the gateway to “The Land of the Lost”. I would monitor for salt cedar in this draw another time. Now, it was time to leave. Corinne and Nick did have fun learning NISIMS, even if the wet landscape was not good for walking through!

Can you find the salt cedar??

Can you find the salt cedar??

A wild hera buckmoth ( Hemileuca hera??) has appeared!!

A wild hera buckmoth (Hemileuca hera??) has appeared!! Moth’s Name: Mothra

Day 9: Through the Valleys of Thistle and Quicksand
(The Double Troubles/ Infestation Dry Creek)

Prepare for trouble…and make it double!! Yikes! This was a very painful day for looking for salt cedar. The beginning of the day started with a two mile hike through Canada thistle. The whole draw was completely filled with them!! Even with a protective coat and jeans, thistle spikes always found a way to stick me! I trudged right through and made sure to take extra NISIMS GPS points for these thistle. They won’t stand a chance when the spray crew comes along. Delayed revenge is sweet. >:) Sorry! That went a little dark for me…but I really did not like walking through the thistle. :0

I literally walked through two miles of Canada thistle! Painful experience...(fix)

I literally walked through two miles of Canada thistle! Painful experience.

After collecting salt cedar points in Infestation Dry Creek to the north, I decided to venture into the next Double Trouble Draw to the west. The first half was fun to walk through! No problems at all beyond the sand that was getting into my shoe! In the distance, I saw a lot of salt cedar, which shocked me! How could someone forget a patch this big. There must’ve been twenty salt cedar!!! As I approached the infestation, I noticed why this place was left alone. My feet started to sink into the sand. In the movies, they showed quicksand as a problem where people immediately sink into the sand. This quicksand was slow acting. I had to constantly move my feet in different places while recording salt cedar points. I quickly streamed a line on my GPS, so I would not have to stop at each salt cedar. At the end of the draw, there was a sharp drop off that I could not climb out of. I found a slide slope and managed to climb up that to safety.

This was such a troublesome draw!! The bottom of the draw was loose sand, permeated with water. Making a nice quicksand concoction. I had to climb up the side of this steep draw to get to safety!

This was such a troublesome draw!! The bottom of the draw had loose sand, permeated with water. Making a nice quicksand concoction. I had to climb up the side of this steep draw to get to safety! (Left side of the picture: The slope I climbed up.)

Day 10: Hop, Skip, and a Jump!
(Infestation Dry Creek)

I am on my final leg of the journey. Traveling up and down draws in 95°F weather can get to your senses after awhile! Luckily, I love this job and finding salt cedars was like the ultimate guide of Where’s Waldo. Some of the draws in Infestation Dry Creek had a large amount of baby salt cedar growing. Some of the more isolated areas tended to have large salt cedar. These salt cedar had so much sass you would think they were a sassafras….(groans from the readers)… alright, that was bad, but you get the point.

Salt cedar waving to the camera and sending its regards to everyone.

Salt cedar waving to the camera and sending its regards to everyone. Since this was a salt cedar, I did not give it a name…it does not deserve a name. If it did deserve a name, it would be Maximilian Sal Cedrus.

Some of the deposition banks in the draw had isolated populations of leafy spurge! These plants love to blend into the thistle and cockleburr. Since I have a keen eye for plant shenanigans, I was able to find most of the clumped populations. Some of the smaller draws had a sizable Russian thistle population, which I had to walk through. Thankfully, they were not in their tumbleweed detachable form!!

A nice group picture of the irksome weeds I encountered on my travels.

A nice group picture of the irksome weeds I encountered on my travels.

Day 11: The Headwaters
(The Land of the Lost/ Cheetos Draw)

This was the final day on my NISIMS journey to map salt cedar. Burgher and Vanhouten Draws were tough to walk through. There were many dangers I encountered on my way through each draw. Passing prickly weeds, buzzworms, quicksand, sandstone shelves, loose dirt, poisoned waterholes, disgruntled porcupines, high temperatures and inclement weather would really wear someone down…. but I do love adventure and weeds, so this assignment was right up my alley!!

Sunrise over Vanhouten Draw.

Sunrise over Vanhouten Draw. (Insert Lion King Theme)

Today I was in The Land of the Lost! Part of this area was not even monitored for salt cedar!! When I was in the Battle Frontier Draw and the Three Totes, I noticed a large amount of water coming from The Land of the Lost. When I was in Infestation Dry Creek, there was no stream present. This means the source of the water had to come from somewhere. As I ventured in some of the last remaining draws, I noticed an abundant amount of Juncus and Carex species in the main draw. As I approached the central part of The Land of the Lost, I encountered a huge groundwater well!! There was a large amount of water coming from this well! It smelled like sulfur, so I kept my distance. Beyond the well, The Land of the Lost region was not as impressive as any of the other draws. On my way back to the truck, I got lost for twenty minutes! Luckily, I was able to find the truck before the hottest part of the day!

The source of the water/ headwaters!

The source of the water! The cockleburr decided to do a photobomb.

Helping Nick and Corinne: Hat Ranch
(Southern Bighorn Mountains)

I decided to have a change in scenery. After looking at weeds all day it could be a little tiring! Even though climbing on sketchy sandstone formations in the middle of nowhere in 90-100°F was pretty exciting, I wanted to see what the interns were up to! Nick and Corinne invited me to go to Hat Ranch, a place known for gorgeous scenery in the southern Bighorns! There was the Sundance and Spearfish Rock Formations making an interesting contrast of rock color in the landscape. An additional bonus, I get to ride in the UTV on back country roads viewing plants I have never seen before!!

On our way to the site, Nick found a rattlesnake named Jerome on the road leading to the Hat Ranch Allotment. We got out and observed Jerome! The rattlesnake was very cranky and decided to coil up at us and rattle its tail! We kept our distance and watched the snake carefully! I decided to take some pictures and video of the snake! For some reason, the snake did not like Nick! Nick was like the nicest person, but I guess Jerome did not like big trucks and their drivers.


Shh, no tears, Jerome…only dreams now.

When we did get to Hat Ranch, we visited with the land owner, who was very cool!! We talked for a bit to him, while we prepared the UTV. After a nice talk, we all ventured into the unknown! The roads were very rocky, but had beautiful scenery of canyons, mountains, and rivers that the public rarely saw! When we got to our first Hat Ranch site, we noticed the short vegetation and shallow soils. There was a large amount of fringed sage               (Artemisia frigida) and various other forbs. An added bonus, there were pegmatite (very course grained granite) rocks everywhere! Large pieces of feldspar and quartz on the surface made the first Hat Ranch site interesting to monitor. I would collect soils for the soil stability test and notice flecks of mica, tourmaline, feldspar, and quartz! I think these pegmatites came from large veins within the metamorphic rock. The gneiss in the area was everywhere and I noticed a few areas within the gneiss outcrops that had these pegmatite veins!

The second Hat Ranch site was even cooler!! The soils were deeper and the parent rock was the Sundance Formation! When I began to look for various plants, I noticed a bullet shaped rock!

(/O_O)/ Time for a mystery!!! \(O_O\)

What was this bullet shaped rock? I observed the rock closely and noticed something very peculiar about it. There was a shallow chamber on one end and little stripes running parallel to each other from one side of the bullet to the other. I did know we were by the Sundance Formation, which was known for having marine fossils from the Upper Jurassic. I thought this was definitely a fossil of some kind. The more time we spent monitoring at the site, the more we noticed these fossil bullets were everywhere!! I thought that the bullet came from some marine cephalopod due to the shape, the stripes, and the chambers you would find every so often on the fossils. The structure just screamed cephalopod to me. I knew orthocones were too early for this formation, so it must’ve been a very common, shallow water cephalopod from the Jurassic Period. I quickly typed into my phone “bullet shaped fossil” and immediately found out it was a belemnite!!! Basically, the bullet shape was part of a prehistoric squid. This portion of the squid was called the phragmocone and it was used for buoyancy! It was great finding these fossils everywhere. On the parent rock outcrop next to the site, we found shells and stromatolites! This meant that these fossils came from a shallow sea environment and were buried due to some kind of disturbance!

Overall, Hat Ranch plant monitoring has been amazing with Corinne and Nick! Hopefully, I will go with them to another site in the future!!



Burns, Huh? A’ight!
(Tipperary Road Sites/ Welch Recreation Area)

After helping the Canadians and the University of Wyoming earlier in the year find bird nests, I decided to help Sara Burns (Past CLM Intern) with her research in the same area. She was supposed to do vegetation monitoring at all six sites. Each site we had to visit had five smaller sites where we had to do three transects, gap intercept, and plant inventory! This was very tough for one person to do, especially in a windy, dry area. Sara and I would leave 4:30am and get to each of the sites at sunrise. We would get four to five sites done a day. One day, we got six sites done, which was a personal record for us! After all of the hard work, we would end the day in the early afternoon, before the sun got really intense!

Antlion adult (Myrmeleontidae spp.) I found when vegetation monitoring.

Antlion adult (Myrmeleontidae spp.) I found when vegetation monitoring.                                                                                                 Antlion Name: Mr. Perkins

Another project Sara was doing for the University of Wyoming was growing native plants at a seed plot in the Welch Recreation Area. (This was on BLM Land.) The interns and I would go up there on Saturday and help her weed the plots. Some of the weeds up there were horrible. Russian and Canada thistle were easy to pull and get rid of …but the field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) was out of control!! The plant thought it was kudzu (Pueraria lobata)! It took over all of the other plants including the other invasive weeds. We had to carefully separate and pull the bindweed from the native plants that Sara seeded earlier in the Summer time. This took a long time to do, unfortunately, my work took priority so I was only able to partially help Sara out weed the garden plot.

Unwelcome Guests
(Outside Sheridan, WY in Some Field)

Lately, the BLM Head Legend for Weeds from the Denver Office stopped by to visit BLM Legend Dusty to learn about the various weed treatments going on in our area. The main reason for his visit was to see how successful a cheatgrass treatment had been going. In the winter, Dusty, along with other BLM employees, treated an area with a high density of annual grasses such as cheatgrass and Japanese brome. They put a specialized bacteria strain into the soil that attacks annual grass seed germination. So far, the treatment looked like a huge success. 95% of the annual grass weeds in the treated plot were non-existent. This excited the BLM Head Legend and now he will be taking other Head Denver BLM Managers out to this site to show them the successful treatments!

North Africa grass having a rave in the pasture.

North Africa grass having a rave in the pasture.

Another reason why the Head BLM Legend was out there was to investigate a lead Dusty received in regards to two deadly newcomers to Wyoming. Apparently, there were confirmed sightings of North Africa Grass (Ventenata dubiaAND medusahead rye (Taeniatherum caput-medusae) by Sheridan, Wyoming. Dusty, myself, the Head BLM Legend, and the University of Wyoming crew from Sheridan traveled to a field to the northwest of Sheridan. When we got to the plot, we could see the terror in the landscape… both North Africa grass and medusahead rye were present. They were not as dense like when I saw them in my Washington internship, but they were present. This field also had sulfur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta), which was the first time I saw this weed. Anyways, Dusty thought these grasses were introduced by bird hunters from Idaho, which had the seeds attached to their boots when they entered the pasture. Everyone wanted to treat this plot as soon as possible! We do not want these two scary grasses to spread elsewhere in Wyoming.

Medusahead rye!!!! Run for your lives, everyone! Make sure to check your shoes for seeds before running out of the pasture.

Medusahead rye!!!! Run for your lives, everyone! Make sure to check your shoes for seeds before running out of the pasture.

When I was in Buffalo, WY for my second internship, I recalled seeing North Africa grass in a few of the pastures north of Gillette. So that grass was present in Wyoming before, but it remained undetected. Medusahead rye on the other hand was a newcomer. When I looked at the faces of the BLM Legends and PhD students, you could tell that this grass scared them. I have encountered this grass in Burns, Oregon, and near Spokane, Washington and I could say this was a very terrifying grass to work with. The medusahead rye has awns that turn into silica and cause problems for many cattle. This grass was like cheatgrass on steroids and provides perfect fodder for any fire. Hopefully, the extermination records should be quick and efficient. I do not want to see this kind of grass spread in Wyoming!! D:

Moment of Zen/ A-Ha Moment

Prickly pear cactus flowering! Optunia polycantha??

Prickly pear cactus flowering! Optunia polycantha?? (75% sure. I just took the picture without observing the whole plant. We were walking somewhere, so I did not have as much time for observations.)

Also, on a side note regarding Wyoming cactus: I am completely shocked about the number of species of cacti in our area in Wyoming! I just assumed there was two species and never really looked into it, because I thought Wyoming was too far North for other cacti species. I was dead wrong! There are seven species of cacti!! There are two Coryphantha (pincushion cactus),  one  Echinocereus (hedgehog cactus), three Optunia (prickly pear cactus), and one Pediocactus (barrel cactus). So, this was an important A-Ha Moment. Don’t assume the diversity of a plant family based on your location.

Headline: Local CLM Intern Accomplishes Many Tasks!!!

GIS / Remote Sensing Update

I am almost done with my main project for this internship!! I have been working since February on mapping cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) for our field office. After hours upon hours of processing, I was able to complete a large map of the cheatgrass densities for the Upper Powder River Basin area for our field office! Now, my main goal was to create a similar map for the southern section of the study area and then I will be done with this assignment! After creating these two cheatgrass maps, I would have to ground truth the Upper Powder River Basin Study Area to confirm that there was cheatgrass. After ground truthing, I would be able to move on to other projects like mapping sagebrush densities, doing vegetation monitoring, and working on NISIMS! Hopefully, the next assignments should start around August!!

During the various processing assignments I had to do, I received many side quest missions from the BLM staff regarding GIS! Most of the quests were pretty simple and could be completed within a few minutes, but there were some quests I had to do some research on before I was able to help people out! Almost everyday I learned something new regarding GIS. Working on GIS projects had been rewarding and I am very confident that I would be able to use these skills that I gathered for my next job!!

Cheatgrass turns a purplish red in mid June in Wyoming. I used remote sensing techniques to try to find the red signatures of the cheatgrass. The above picture shows you the difference between cheatgrass and other grasses in the landscape in June.

Cheatgrass turns a purplish red in mid June in Wyoming. I used remote sensing techniques to try to find the red signatures of the cheatgrass. The above picture shows you the difference between cheatgrass and other grasses in the landscape in June.

Northern Powder River Basin

The Northern Powder River Basin Cheatgrass Density Map so far! Still have to fix some portions of the map and spruce it up a bit. Soon I will use this map for ground truthing!!

Southern Powder River Basin

This is the Southern Powder River Basin map! Not as much cheatgrass due to all of the badland and bare ground structures in the area.

Cheatgrass Comic

Quick Comic

Quick Comic

Spooky Nightjar Surveys

One of the most unusual experiences for this internship was doing nightjar surveys in the Bighorn Mountains. One of my bosses, Bill, wanted me to go up into the Bighorn Mountains and perform a nightjar count along a specific mountain route. I had to do this survey around 12:00am when there was a full moon in the sky. My goal was to listen for different nightjar species such as nighthawks (Chordeiles minor) and common poor wills (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii). I had twelve stops along the highway and twisty side roads. Each stop had to be around six minutes long in order to properly listen to bird calls.

The first couple of stops were a little spooky. I was by myself, surrounded by forests, with large animals roaming around such as moose (Alces alces) and elk (Cervus canadensis). I usually heard a few great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) in the forested areas. The second stop did have two nighthawks, which I was very happy to hear! The rest of the remaining stops were not as productive. Many of the park (open areas) stops had Wilson’s snipes (Gallinago delicata)! These birds were “winnowing” up a storm. Winnowing was the sound and action a snipe makes to defend its territory or attract mates. Sometimes it would be very silent and then a snipe flies near my car winnowing, freaking me out! Haha! They absolutely loved to surprise me!

Overall, this was one of the most bizarre bird monitoring I have done on this internship. I loved viewing the full moon and listening to different birds, but it was rather creepy being up on the mountain by myself with an unnatural amount of RVs driving through the Bighorns very early in the morning.

Mostly I encountered snipes. I did hear two nighthawks. Since the survey took place at night, I had to photoshop my experience into one picture.

What the experience should’ve looked like….

This was what it actually looked like... >_>

This was my actual experience…>_> Hahaha!!

Bird Routes!

Recently, I have had a great opportunity to do more bird monitoring! I went out with BLM Legend Don to do two routes in Northeast Central Wyoming. The towns we passed through were extraordinarily small and had a grocery store and a few barns. The landscape on these routes was beautiful!! There was so much diversity of bird species, we easily saw fifty or more birds. We passed wetlands, farmlands, grasslands, juniper stands, badlands, prairie dog towns, streams, ponderosa pine forests, shrub lands, rivers, savannas, towns, and disturbed areas. Each area offered unique species of bird! The most common bird species we did encounter were the western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), and brewer’s sparrow (Spizella breweri).  Some of my favorite bird species we saw were the red headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus), Sora Rail (Porzana carolina), Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda), Red Head (Aythya americana), American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana), Wilson’s Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor), Greater Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), Rock Wren (Salpinctes obsoletus), and the Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii)!

An American Avocet taking a break from finding food!

An American Avocet taking a break from finding food!

An elusive cinnamon teal I saw!!

An elusive cinnamon teal I saw!!

We had two very long routes around Arvada and Recluse, Wyoming. We had to stop every 0.5 miles and record the bird species we saw and heard in the area. We stopped fifty times along the route and looked around the area, noting weather conditions and excessive noise. Most of my bird monitoring I did relied on my hearing. I could pick out specific species of bird just by hearing them. When we stopped near a lake, we would get the spotting scope to see what we could find. Most of the time, we saw gadwalls (Anas strepera) and mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) swimming around the small lakes. Some reservoirs did contain some rare bird species! After six hours per route, both Don and I were exhausted! We had to wake up 3:30am and travel to a route that would be over an hour and half away from Buffalo, Wyoming. By the end of our work day, we would go to the Breadboard Sub shop for lunch before going home for the day. This type of bird monitoring was very rewarding, but also it was very draining to the system!

 A wild red head headed woodpecker has appeared!!!

A wild red head headed woodpecker has appeared!!!

Vegetation  Monitoring

Tis the season for vegetation monitoring!!! Recently, we have been doing S&Gs, rangeland health assessments, and a whole bunch of vegetation monitoring projects! I have been working entire weeks and weekends on various vegetation monitoring projects. Beyond bird monitoring and GIS, I have been helping the Resources Staff and range interns get settled with vegetation monitoring. I am also helping out with University of Wyoming vegetation studies on the weekends and some days during the week. Hopefully, I can acquire a lot of comp time!!

BLM Legends ready to do vegetation monitoring.

BLM Legends Arnie, Charlotte, and Dusty are ready to do vegetation monitoring!!

Welch Recreation Area

For two days, I had a great opportunity to help out the BLM Recreation Department (Rachel and Damen) with nature education with a local Sheridan Library Summer program. We took nine kids to the Welch Recreation Area and taught them a series of subjects ranging from plants, birds, geology, and entomology! The first day we went to the seed plots and collected green needle grass (Nassella viridula) and bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata) seeds! Afterwards, we went to another location to do a plant scavenger hunt! The kids had to find the difference between a tree, shrub, grass, forb, and grass-like plants! Next, we went down by the river to look at all kinds of macroinvertebrate! We had the chance to actually go in the water and look for insects! The kids loved walking through the water and they picked up rocks to look for more insects!!

The kids collecting green needle grass seed.

The kids collecting green needle grass seed.

The next day we started off under the bridge to look at the cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) and talked about other bird species. The kids were not as interested, so I shifted gears and talked about rocks. The kids loved this idea!! They were picking rocks up from the river and were showing them to me! I had to identify all of the igneous and sedimentary rocks that were in the river! Some of the kids found really cool agates, which surprised me!! We went across the river and decided to learn about crickets and grasshoppers. After a brief educational experience regarding those insects, we decided to use bug nets to capture and look at various insects. Mostly we encountered crickets (Gryllidae), grasshoppers (Caelifera), and katydids (Tettigoniidae), but there were spiders to look at as well! We ended the day with another river exploration activity!

Teaching the kids about rocks and geology! Some of the kids found nice looking agates!!

Teaching the kids about rocks and geology! Some of the kids found nice looking agates!!

Overall, this educational experience was amazing and I think the kids really enjoyed the experiences. I loved helping Rachel and Damen teach the children about all kinds of sciences. Another bonus was to spend time outside in a Riparian Ecosystem instead of the Sagebrush Steppe for once! ^_^;; I loved doing these kinds of activities!!

Bird Banding Experience

On a Saturday, I had another great experience! The activity was to bird band cliff swallows and other song bird species!! We went to Welch Recreation Area and put up mist nets for cliff swallows by the bridge! BLM Legend Wyatt and myself helped the Rocky Mountain Audubon Society with their efforts!! The cliff swallows were wary of our presences and it was difficult get even one bird to band!! We did catch one female cliff swallow! We were by a very tall bridge and it was hard to reach the swallows without them seeing us. In our songbird net, we ended up catching a male Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena)!! This bird looked very beautiful!!! Even if we were not as successful in banding birds, I ended up with a good education of how to perform mist netting. An added bonus, I got to meet many Wyoming birders!!

Catching cliff swallows was hard!!! We did get one!!

Catching cliff swallows was hard!!! We did get one!!

BLM Legend Wyatt (Right) Helped with bird banding as well!! Lazuli Buntings are so beautiful!!

BLM Legend Wyatt (Right) helped with bird banding as well!! Lazuli Buntings are so beautiful!!

Call of Duty

One of my bosses, Bill, needed my help for a special mission. Since the BLM Recreation Department was busy with field activities, I was selected to help out with the task. Bill wanted me to go with him to Moiser Gulch for clean-up duty. Apparently, some people over the weekend thought it would be funny to put an eight feet long log in the local picnic outhouse. Bill and I had to dress up and take the log out of the outhouse. With quite a bit of effort, we were successful! We had to get rid of the bio-hazard material, which took another fifteen minutes to do. We were also the local entertainment for the picnickers who were watching. ^_^;;



Looks like a job for a CLM Intern!!

Looks like a job for a CLM Intern!!

Bill and I finally got the log out!!!

Bill and I finally got the log out!!! The emoticon is there to cover the unpleasantness…

The Bat Festival and The Mighty Wind

Recently, I helped BLM Legend Chris and his wife with the Bat Festival at Devils Tower! The BLM joined many Department of Interior Legends such as the National Park Service, the Forest Service, and Fish and Wildlife with the festival! It was fascinating working with each of the DoI Departments! Their techniques and hierarchy are completely differed from the BLM! We all set up many different booths regarding bats such as bat ecology, bat monitoring, White Nose Syndrome, finding bats, bat housing, bat coloring activities, and bat detection technology! There were many people that stopped by to learn about bats! Many of the kids loved to learn about bats, and they were quick learners!! Some of the 5-7 year old children knew about bats already based on their schooling!

Around 3:00pm, we got a severe thunderstorm warning!! There was supposed to be 75mph winds and golf ball sized hail! We saw the large cumulonimbus in the area, and we had to pack everything up! We quickly made it to the National Park shelter just in time! The storm was not as severe and it just heavily rained out! There was some hail, but the ice stones were pea sized. Afterwards, we went back to the picnic area and continued our Bat Festival!

We continued another few hours of more educational activities before our bat night walk! When it got darker, we got our bat detectors that would listen for bat sounds! We found many big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) and hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus) flying through out the campground area!! They were neat to watch and hear through the devices, unfortunately, I did not get any good pictures of them! Someone even had a infrared detector, which was neat to use! Overall, this was a great day full of bat activities!!! ^_^

Devils Tower

Devils Tower


Devils Tower

The beginning of the day we set up and helped educate people! Around 3:00pm, there was a massive thunderstorm! Eventually, we continued our activities and did a bat night walk at the end!

Moment of Zen: Cloud Edition!!!!

Some of my favorite clouds pictures taken recently!!

Some of my favorite clouds pictures taken recently!!

Post Script:

We got a visit to our window by a baby Say's phoebe. The little one sends its regards.

We got a visitor by our window at work. It is a baby Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya). The little one sends its regards to everyone!

(/O_O)/ The Meeting of the BLM Legends: CLM Ultra Blog Edition! \(O_O\)

Alternative Training: Drones
I am truly excited!! I had an alternative training opportunity in Laramie, Wyoming learning about remote sensing and drone technology! This was a two day symposium talking about drone capabilities, cameras, research, and GIS technology. I learned that drone technology was still a brand new venture for many people, and a lot of researchers received their drone and pilot’s license within the last year!

Drones came in all kinds of shapes and sizes! I witnessed that they could weigh up to 1.5 to 40 pounds. Some of the drones looked like very bizarre-looking helicopters with go pros attached to their undersides. Some of the drones looked like mini Styrofoam planes that had a built in camera and GPS device. These plane drones follow a computer program and GPS line transects automatically without any person manually operating them. Some of the cameras were really powerful and could generate point cloud maps of a canyon or river basin. These point cloud maps are usually over a terabyte of data and the pixel size was 1 cm by 1 cm. The details of these point cloud maps were amazing, you could pick out individual species of grass!!

The different kinds of drones that were used.

The different kinds of drones that were used.

There were many drones being developed for research projects throughout the world. Drones could be used to count animal species in harsh climates like in the Arctic, they could be used to cross the Atlantic Ocean to detect hurricanes, and they could be used to fly near forest fires to record and monitor fire movement. They used drones for a rainforest project, where they had to monitor canopy tree species in this one forest preserve. With remote sensing software and drone photography, they were able to accurately map almost every single canopy tree species!

There were a few problems that the researchers did encounter when operating drones out in the western United States. One of the major issues were birds of prey. Hawks and eagles always considered drones a threat to their territory, so they would fight the drones in the air! The researchers always brought extra parts for the drones in case the birds of prey wreck any parts. Wind was another issue people have encountered. Sometimes, the wind would be so strong that it would crash the drone immediately after take-off! The Styrofoam drones fared better than the plastic drones. Some drones were shot out of the sky by a land owner or hunter, because the drone was passing through their property to a study site.

In the future, I believe drones would be an important tool for GIS and remote sensing research. They have many capabilities and were extremely useful in collecting hard to obtain data. They were controversial right now in the United States. Many of the laws were brand new and were still being developed in terms of regulating drone activities. The general public was still wary about drones and UAVs. Drones could be very useful in data collecting, but they could also be used to video record and spy on neighbors. Someone used a drone to record some geysers in Yellowstone, and the drone crash landed into a geyser!

Drone technology and regulations are still developing. In the future, I believe that drones could be very beneficial for data collection and monitoring for many scientists. There are still many problems and hurdles this type of technology has to overcome. As of now, I am on the border with using drones. I see all the great possibilities and capabilities drones have for research, but I could see why there is backlash and concern over the use of this technology.

Beyond the symposium lectures, on the second day we got to fly and view different drones! We saw drones fly outside in an open parking lot and we got to see drones maneuver in indoor stadiums!  Unfortunately, people crashed some of the drones, so some of the presentations were short. Fortunately, these drones were easy to repair! One of my favorite drones to watch were the Styrofoam drone planes. They weighed about two to three pounds and they automatically flew in the air without the aid of a human flying it. The drone coordinator inputted GPS lines for the drone to follow and the drone flew those lines exactly and safely crashed near the coordinator without any damage!

Overall, I learned a lot about drones by attending this symposium. When regulations ease up on drones, I would like to get my drone license, and use this type of technology for my future job! Hopefully, I can use drones to help detect invasive plant populations, so that they could be mapped and treated at a further date!

AIM Training in Rock Springs! BLM Legends, Assemble!!

Wow! I had the fortunate opportunity to go to Rock Springs, Wyoming for AIM (Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring) training. This type of training was essential for rangeland monitoring, plus it looked great for the resume! We had to learn various techniques on rangeland data collection. We had to dig soil pits and identify soil profiles, we had to measure canopy gap, learn about vegetation density, update our line point monitoring, collect surface soils, and learn about various plants! Each day began with lectures and field exercises. Most of the day had beautiful weather conditions, but in the late afternoon, it would thunderstorm out!

BLM Legends learning about how to identify different soil textures.

BLM Legends learning about how to identify different soil textures.

There was another reason why I was super hyped about doing this training… I got to meet all of the Wyoming and northeastern Utah BLM Legends! I never seen so many BLM Legends and staff in one room before! When we went out in the field, there was usually a forty car caravan of BLM Legends traveling to a site for field exercises. It was hilarious to see people from the public stop by and ask why there were so many Government trucks! Beyond the BLM legends, there were GBI interns! They were similar to CBG interns, but they were with the Great Basin Institute! They were there to learn about the AIM protocol as well!

There were too many There were BLM Legends everywhere, you could not count them all!

There were too many BLM Legends everywhere, you could not count them all!

Our first day, we were in the field learning about soil profiles and how to identify soils! At the Rock Springs, BLM we got to test out different soils and identify them! That was a lot of fun, but many people got dirty due to the crazy amount of clay in some of the soils. Afterwards, we went into the field and dug soil pits! That was fun, even if we had to take a break when an active thunderstorm blew by. I loved the amount of forbs I saw out there! Penstemon (Penstemon spp.), wall flowers (Erysimum spp.), and Hood’s phlox (Phlox hoodii) were prevalent. I even got to learn some new shrubs I have never encountered before like the spiny hopsage (Grayia spinosa)!

Rock Springs wildflowers!

Rock Springs flora Phlox, Penstemon, wallflower, and hopsage !

The next day we attended some lectures in the morning. Later, we went to the south of Rock Springs to a beautiful piece of BLM land that was covered with lush Wyoming sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) and Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma)! We learned all of the field methods when we were out there! Unfortunately, the final lesson was cut short due to a nearby thunderstorm. This thunderstorm was a doozy!! It hailed triangular hailstones on us that hurt like the dickens!! We survived and headed back to the field office, where we learned about statistics …the lecture really put everyone to sleep. ^_^;

The mighty hailstorm coming our way! Triangular hail really hurts!

The mighty hailstorm coming our way! Triangular hail really hurts!

Thursday was a large test for all of us! We had to do all of the AIM techniques on a mountainous hill near Rock Springs. We collected soil samples, measured canopy gap, looked at line point intercept, and preformed other various types of data collection. There were some ticks present, but they did not bother us! It was a beautiful day and I got to learn more cools forbs. I had the pleasure of studying black sagebrush (Artemisia nova) when I was monitoring! We were not stormed out this day, which was great!!

Ticks I have found when I was in the field.

Ticks I have found when I was in the field.

The final day, we took a test and finished up with lectures! Everyone did well on the open book test! We were released early, and our group got to look at wild horses and various Wyoming landscapes on our trip back to Buffalo, Wyoming! Overall, this was an amazing training opportunity! I am glad I took this training and I suggest that any intern in the future should take this training, even if they are not a rangeland monitoring intern!!!

Summer Season

Just a few weeks ago, it felt like Winter was still prevalent… now Summer was in full swing! Due to the additional amount of rain we have received in May, wildflowers were blooming like crazy across the Bighorns and the Powder River Basin!! The second part of my internship began at the beginning of June! All of a sudden, I got three major jobs with ten smaller jobs! I am super excited with a full schedule! My main priority was to ground truth all of the cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) areas I detected during my remote sensing. This task may be huge, but most of the areas I could drive past and take five minutes worth of notes at each site. I could easily visit fifty sites if I wanted to along county roads. My next job involved NISIMS and salt cedar (Tamarix spp.) data collection. I would go to a specific area located east of town and record all of the weeds I have encountered. I would also have to look for salt cedar in many of the draws. All of the salt cedar sites have been chemically and mechanically treated, and my job involved me going to each of the treated areas to make sure there would be no salt cedar left. Another job involved looking for bird nests in the sagebrush community. I would be going out with wildlife biologists and look for various bird species and nesting sites. I am excited to do all of the above jobs. If the weather was not suitable for field work, I get to work on indoor projects such as the continuation of look for cheatgrass using supervised classification, scanning old orthophotographs, working on soil profile identification, working with data management on oil and gas sites, typing up cheatgrass reports, and working with plant identification. Hopefully, I will have time to work on my blog!! ^_^;

Summer highlights so far!!

Summer highlights so far!!

Here is a gypsum crystal I have found when I was out looking for cheatgrass!

Here is a gypsum crystal I have found when I was out looking for cheatgrass!

Looking for the Blue Gems

I had a great opportunity to help out with bird monitoring for an entire week! One of my specialties was bird identification and I was thrilled to help out in any way! There was a study on sagebrush obligates or birds that use the sagebrush steppe as a breeding area. We had to look for nests of any bird species that used the sagebrush as a nesting area. Brewer’s sparrow (Spizella breweri), vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), lark sparrow (Chondestes grammacus), spotted towhee (Pipilo maculatus), loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus), and sage thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus) were the main bird species we were looking for!

I had to help out these Canadian wildlife biology technicians find nests that were hidden in the sagebrush. I thought it was going to be easy…unfortunately finding bird nests was extraordinarily hard! These nests were buried in dense sagebrush. The three most common bird species were Brewer’s sparrow, vesper sparrow, and the western meadowlark. The brewer sparrow’s nest were located towards the top of the sagebrush and the eggs were a bluish- turquoise color. The vesper’s nest was buried in the bottom of the sagebrush and was usually covered with grass, making it extremely difficult to find. The meadowlark’s nests were grass domes hidden usually by the transition areas by grassland and sagebrush. It took me two days to actually find an active nest!! Usually, we would spread out and rub a leg along each sagebrush we encountered. Rarely, the female would quickly leave the nest, and we would quickly find the nest she left, mark a GPS point there, and move onto the next area. Another way to look for nests would be to watch the bird couple in their territory in the morning and see where the female goes. I had to be wary, because the male would pretend to enter the sagebrush and lead me astray!! I was able to eventually find more nests! I found many bird territories including a sage thrasher territory! Later, a nest was found in the area. I did find two active Brewer sparrow’s nest. Finding the eggs was like finding blue gems in the sagebrush! It was a welcoming sight! Some problems we encountered in the field were snakes, many ticks, and high temperatures!  Overall, it was a great experience and I learned a lot about birds and their nests!!

Some of the nests that were found when we were all out in the field. Sometimes we would encounter snakes, so we would have to be careful when stepping near sagebrush.

Some of the nests that were found when we were all out in the field. Sometimes we would encounter snakes, so we would have to be careful when stepping near sagebrush.

Moment of Zen

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Here are some cool thunderstorm cells I saw recently!!

Spring Season in the High Plains District! Sage Grouse, Wildflowers, and Dinosaurs Galore!!!!!

Remote Sensing

I am processing cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) data at full force now!! Hundreds of aerial images have been processed, and I am at the point where I can calculate percent cover and canopy densities of cheatgrass in the Powder River Basin. I have clipped the soil layer of the Powder River Basin and overlaid the cheatgrass signature raster layer in order to start my next processing step. My goal was to see if certain soils contain larger cheatgrass densities than others. This information would be used for future cheatgrass treatment.  There were some errors with the computer script that needed to be fixed. When the statistics tool encountered an area with no cheatgrass signatures, the processing stopped completely and showed an error message. No worries, this issue should be resolved soon.  Another problem involved the Citrix server. Lately, the server was really slow, so instead of processing each tile at five minutes, it took around forty five minutes to process a tile. (UGH!!!) During the processing time, I have been studying all the plants in our district, learning about birds, and have been doing side missions for the BLM staff. I have been learning more about the remote sensing program known as ENVI. This very powerful program has been very interesting to work with. There have been some difficulties working with this software, but I am learning!!

Favorite screenshots!

Some of my favorite screenshots of the aerial photographs I am processing!

Final Product!!

This is the final product of all the cheatgrass processing! The lime green represents 0-15% cheatgrass cover. Yellow represents 16-25% cheatgrass cover. Orange represents 26-50% cheatgrass cover. Red represents 51-100% cheatgrass cover. The dark green tiles have to be processed. There is still a lot of work to do, so what you see above is a work in progress.

My desk!!

This is my desk area in case you were wondering.

Sage Grouse and Sharp Tailed Grouse!!
Greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) monitoring was in full swing at the Buffalo Field Office! I have been to a few more lek sites that have been extremely active! I went with a few Buffalo BLM Wildlife Biologists to some of the more active lek sites. (Before I went to some lek sites that have not been active or had at least fifteen males.) Recently, I went to a lek site that had around forty five displaying males!!! We pulled up right near them and I was able to zoom in and take pictures and video. These male grouse were really active and displayed their hearts out for the surrounding females! Some males were battling each other by doing a side dance and pushing against each other. Other males were on the sidelines and were resting. One male thought it was a good idea to display himself on a hill a quarter of a mile away from the rest of the males (No other males were in the area). The females were sitting around a few choice males. One single female was interested in a group of younger males. The younger males were trying so hard to impress her, but I thought she was just there to encourage them….or silently judge them.

((Please click the link below for a video!!!))
Sage grouse found to the east of Buffalo, Wyoming!

Sage grouse!!!!

Sage grouse!!!!

Another grouse species we were monitoring were the sharp tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus) aka the Planes of the Sagebrush Community. You may be wondering why I called them planes? Well, when they were displaying themselves for the females, they looked like airplanes. I think it was hilarious how five males would get low to the ground, spread their wings and stomp their feet all at the same time….then they cease their dancing all at the same time. I think this was the funniest thing ever!! The sharp tailed lek we did visit had a Northern harrier (Circus cyaneus) standing in the middle of the lek! O_O She was sitting on sagebrush (A. tridentata subsp. Wyomingensis) as five sharp tailed grouse were displaying twenty feet away. I think the grouse were more interested in attracting the females than being eaten. When the harrier did fly, the grouse hid for cover until the harrier landed again in the same stop. The female sharp tailed grouse were smart and were watching the males from the cover of sagebrush.

When monitoring grouse, I made note of all the other species of birds I have seen out in the sagebrush community. I really wanted to see a mountain plover (Charadrius montanus), but the muddy roads and wet weather made the plover species elusive. The western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), northern harrier and short eared owls (Asio flammeus) have been actively flying around. The meadowlarks were all over the place!!  I am still waiting for the sparrows to come into the area. I really want to see a sagebrush sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis) in our district. Vesper (Pooecetes gramineus), grasshopper (Ammodramus savannarum), Brewer’s (Spizella breweri), and savannah sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) species were on my “To See” list this year.  There were a variety of duck and wetland species in our area. I loved to watch the common goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula), northern shoveler (Anas clypeata), gadwalls (Anas strepera), green winged teals (Anas crecca), mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), American coots (Fulica americana), and Canada Geese (Branta canadensis). I was fortunate to watch a Common Loon (Gavia immer) for awhile!!  I am waiting for the oriole (Icteridae) and warbler (Parulidae) species to come into the area in May. I will be traveling to Devil’s Tower to look for rare bird species such as red crossbills (Loxia curvirostra), Townsend’s solitaire (Myadestes townsendi), and some flycatchers (Tyrannidae) soon. Hopefully, I will get the chance to travel to the Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, and Yellowstone to look for Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinators), Pine Grosbeaks (Pinicola enucleator), rosy finches (Leucosticte), Barrow’s goldeneye (Bucephala islandica), and other rare birds.

Birds that are active in the Buffalo, Wyoming.

Interesting birds in the Buffalo, Wyoming area. Barrow’s goldeneye migrating through or the bird took a wrong turn? Western meadlowlark are everywhere! Sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) are active in the fields. The secretive sora rail (Porzana carolina) is walking among the wetland grasses.

Fantastic Voyage: Mosier Gulch and Thermopolis
Beyond bird counts and the remote sensing projects I was working on these past few weeks, I was able to go with the recreation planner for our office to a place called Mosier Gulch! This area was considered a BLM recreation picnic area located at the edge of the Bighorn Mountains. The day was pretty hazy due to the smoke coming from the fires in Canada, but we had fun! There were ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa) everywhere and a large stream to go fishing in! I helped with cleanup of the site and made sure every cigarette butt was collected. (Those things never seem to decompose!) Also, we had to get rid of man-made fire places. Even though there was a large sign that said, “NO FIREPLACES”, there were still fires being built. We went to this area at the right time! Many spring flowers were blooming!!! Star lilies (Leucocrinum montanum), western spring beauties (Claytonia lanceolata), cutleaf pasqueflowers (Pulsatilla patens), shooting stars (Dodecatheon pulchellum), biscuitroot (Cymopterus spp.), and buttercup (Ranunculus spp.) species were prevalent! In the tree canopy, there were many black capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) and ruby crowned kinglets (Regulus calendula) chirping and feeding in insects. Common magpies (Pica pica), ravens (Corvus corax), crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos), and yellow-rumped warblers (Setophaga coronata) were very active in the area as well!

Wildflowers of Mosier Gulch!!

Wildflowers of Mosier Gulch!! Pasqueflower, star lilies, buttercup spp., and western spring beauties!!

After helping the recreation planner clean up all of the sites in Mosier Gulch, I decided to take a half day and travel with my parents to Thermopolis for a small break! My parents were in town and we wanted to look at various sites around central Wyoming! We traveled to different dinosaur museums in Worland and Thermopolis and viewed a variety of many unique and bizarre fossils from the Cambrian to the Pleistocene. We also celebrated my birthday as well. <_<;; On Friday in Thermopolis,  I was able to go fishing and caught a rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) named Jasper! (I released the fish back into the wild!) Thermopolis was one of my favorite towns to visit, because they had many hot springs and very good rock hounding sites! You could find a variety of dinosaur and leaf fossils all over the Bighorn Basin! I enjoyed this very small vacation! ^_^

Thermopolis and Worland Museums!

I visited museums in Thermopolis and Worland to look at various dinosaur displays and statues.

A rainbow trout named Jasper!!

A rainbow trout named Jasper!!

Moment of Zen

Hot Springs in Thermopolis!

Hot Springs in Thermopolis!

Rise to the Occasion, CLM Intern!! Spring Should Be Here Any Moment!

Brace Yourselves…Spring Is Coming
Hello everyone!! Wow, I have been incredibly busy with work lately! All of the GIS and remote sensing tasks have kept me on my toes this Winter. We have been receiving weather extremes this Spring. One day it would be sunny and 60°F, then the next day would be 25°F with horizontal, blowing snow! Hopefully, Spring will come any moment now…..any minute….. Anyways, the migrating birds are beginning to migrate through and establish their territories. The sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) were flying through to find ideal marshland habitat for nesting. The red winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) were “breeing” near every body of water and fighting for prime real estate. Many of the flowers are on the verge of blooming. Different phlox, forsythia, and crocus are starting to appear, which is a welcoming sight. I know some of the interns in California and the southwest have probably seen over 50 species of blooming forbs already. Soon, Wyoming’s day will come…that should be in May or June.

First forb of the Spring for me!!! Phlox hoodii!!! ^_^

First forb of the Spring for me!!! Phlox hoodii!!! ^_^

Updates on Work: The Mystery of the Lime Green Plant!!

My main task was using remote sensing techniques to detect cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) in the landscape. I am almost finished…with the first part! Some of the mosaic tiles were difficult to work with. Some of the orthophotographs (mosaic tiles) were taken at dawn, making cheatgrass really hard to detect. The sunrise made a large part of the landscape a reddish color. After some fine tuning with the samples, I was able to detect the cheatgrass easily. Another interesting thing I found were these unusual patches of lime green. I was baffled on what this plant could be. Some people were saying that it was leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) and other people were suggesting that the patches of lime green were yellow sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis). After much research, I could say that these patches were most likely yellow sweet clover. All I have to do is ground truth the area and confirm that the lime green mass is the invasive forb. Another difficult task was to distinguish cheatgrass signatures from sagebrush shadows. When I ran the maximum likelihood tool, the process concludes that all of the shadows from sagebrush were also cheatgrass areas. I had to work with the program and sampling areas to finally get the results I was looking for. Eventually, I was able to tell the program to tell apart the shadows from the cheatgrass areas!!

Found a possible yellow sweetclover infestation??

Found a possible yellow sweet clover infestation??

Looking across various landscapes in the Powder River Basin, I saw some of the strangest sights. Cows (Bos taurus) were always up to something. They stand in circles, walk to places that were next to impossible to get to if you were human, and they love to take a dip in the local freshwater areas. Some of the cows were very large, which made me think that some of them were pregnant or have a calf right next to them. Beyond cows, some of the badland and scoria hills have been very beautiful to look at. The colors of some mosaic tiles were so vibrant that it made the landscape almost rainbow-like. Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) were blue, scoria hills were orange, cheatgrass was red, grass and trees were green, yellow sweetclover was lime green, the badlands range from white to purple, some of the water sources and grasses were bright blue to muddy brown, and the shadows in the landscape range from grey to black. Overall, each mosaic tile was a work of art brought to you by nature.

I think I found a Mickey Mouse pattern in the landscape?

I think I found a Mickey Mouse pattern in the landscape?

Side Tasks For Adventure Sake

When each of the mosaic tiles were being processed, I did a variety of other tasks to keep myself active! I have made a series of plant study guides, I have updated the Buffalo Field Office Plant List, I have made detailed guides for weeds and willows (Salicaceae) of our area, and I have organized all of the huge aerial photographs in cold storage! Cold storage had many interesting treasures such as ancient maps from the 1950s, aerial photographs, BLM signs, and random BLM items! The building reminds me of the museum or warehouse on Indiana Jones! Beyond organization of data and study guides, I helped install a computer system, worked with different GPS units, and helped solve GIS problems that some of the employees were having. There was always something to do at the Buffalo Field Office….but I can’t wait for field season. I really want to go into the field to ground truth, help interns, and take photographs of BLM land! I will keep you posted with any updates!!

The Ballad of Sage Grouse and Sandhill Cranes

Recently, I have had the great opportunity to go out into the field and help wildlife biologist, Don, with sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) monitoring! We would go into the field and count all the male sage grouse at different leks to the east of Buffalo, Wyoming. Some of these leks had twelve to fifty males, which was an incredible number! The sounds of the males “thomping” and displaying could be heard over a mile away! Seeing all the males strutting their stuff was pretty amazing!  One lek site we visited had one very successful male surrounded by many hens. Unfortunately, the rest of the males were dancing and displaying their hearts out to no avail. Some of these leks sites had plenty of excrement from the wintering birds. I thought it was hilarious that the sage grouse ignored the pronghorns (Antilocapra americana) that were walking through the lek sites. Seems like the pronghorns deemed trustworthy in the eyes of sage grouse.

Sage grouse, sage grouse items, and leks found to the east of Buffalo, Wyoming.

Sage grouse, sage grouse items, and leks found to the east of Buffalo, Wyoming.

Another interesting bird of note were sandhill cranes! The last two weeks they have been flying through the Great Plains on their way up North. A huge density of cranes could be found in central Nebraska. Along the Platte River, there could be thousands of cranes resting and feeding along the embankments. When I have been traveling to previous internships, I have always drove through Nebraska during the crane migration. By Buffalo, Wyoming there have been a few flocks that have been flying overhead or resting in the fields. Hearing the cranes have always been an amazing experience.

Sandhill cranes!!!

Sandhill cranes!!!

A red tailed hawk and a golden eagle that I have seen in the field!

A western harlan’s  red tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) and a golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) that I have seen in the field!

Animal Shelter Shuffle

On Saturday, I was able to volunteer at the local animal shelter! I got to clean the kennels, feed the animals, clean up the excrement, take the dogs for a walk, help out with laundry, and play with tiny mewmew kittens. I plan on doing this every Saturday, because it is really fun to do, especially when you get to play with all kinds of breeds of cats and dogs!!

Some of the local residents.

Some of the local residents of the Animal Shelter.

Do You Have What It Takes To Become BLM Legend??

1.) You have to work for the Bureau of Land Management.
2.) You have to know how to use GIS and different navigational systems.
3.) You have to be able to navigate the back country and drive over rough terrain.
4.) You have to withstand the unusual weather systems and temperatures of the West.
5.) You have to at least identify thirty plant species or do eight work related projects.
6.) Taking FISSA+ is essential.
7.) You have to attend meetings at least once or twice a week.
8.) You have to travel to over fifteen to sixty trend sites determining on your line of work.
9.) You have to become a legend by doing a special individual task.
10.) Survive one field season.

If you do all of the ten main tasks, then you are a BLM Legend.

Moment of Zen

Bighorn Mountains

Bighorn Mountains during a snowy afternoon! ^_^


CLM Blog: There and Back Again! The Beginning of a New Age!


Hello Everyone! I have arrived at my next destination in Buffalo, Wyoming! The last few months after my Wenatchee, Washington internship have been extremely busy! I have traveled to all of the western states except for Montana and I have traveled to Australia to explore the Great Barrier Reef. My friend, Heather (CLM Alumni), notified me of a great opportunity back in Buffalo! This experience would be a remote sensing/GIS based internship for the BLM (Bureau of Land Management). I would be working with Janelle Gonzalez and Diane Adams on the PRBR (Powder River Basin Restoration) project. Primarily, I will be looking at aerial photographs for areas of cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) using remote sensing techniques. There will many other GIS projects that I will be doing during the late Winter/ Early Spring season. All of this will be explained in detail below!

I have been at this internship for almost a month and I have been extremely busy with all kinds of GIS and office activities. At the very beginning, I had computer access trouble, so I did a variety of interesting jobs. I cleaned out the range files area and organized many of the maps and notes, so the overall area would not be cluttered. I helped out with billing and I learned about allotments in the Buffalo Field Office area and about the people who work with the BLM. I did two different kinds of data entry. I updated the Eagle Survey Database and I inputted AIM data into Microsoft Access and produced reports for the fire ecologist!

When I had access to my computer, I was able to do a variety of GIS tasks regarding the PRBR project. (I will explain more about this later on.) Another job that they wanted me to do was to document and organize all of the very old aerial photographs from 1954-1969. These huge aerial photographs were surprisingly heavy and it took me multiple trips to carry all of the photographs back to my office from cold storage. I think it was around seventy five pounds worth of aerial photographs. I had to look at the top of the photographs and type into a computer database the date and the serial number of each photograph. Then I had to look in the Wyoming NOC database to see if these aerial photographs have been scanned and digitized into a file. If they were not scanned in, I had to make a note about which of the photographs had to be scanned. Some of the photographs from the 1950s were eerily beautiful. There were clouds in the photographs and some of the landscapes had some light fog, so the pictures looked like they were taken during prehistoric times. Some of the forested areas looked very haunted in north central Wyoming. O___O


A collection of 1954-1969 maps! They were very heavy and were difficult to carry around. It was worth the effort! Looking at these aerial photographs was an interesting experience.


I had to write down the information on the top of each map in a Microsoft Excel file and document them. In the future, I will see if these maps have been digitized or scanned into the computer.

Another small opportunity was to attend a regional GIS meeting in Buffalo with Diane. I was able to talk with other GIS people in Wyoming and learn about GIS projects and activities that were going on in the Powder River Basin. I learned all about the GIS tools that were being used for the energy sector in Wyoming, which was very interesting to learn about. I also was fortunate to learn about the GIS programs that were being used for sage grouse monitoring!!

Remote Sensing

For the majority of my winter time in Buffalo, I will be working on remote sensing classification of landscapes in the Powder River Basin study area. In 2014, the BLM worked with the Department of Transportation to take aerial photographs of a large section of the Powder River Basin in north central Wyoming. The plane took very detailed aerial pictures and digitized them as four banded orthorectified photographs for computer use. The pixels size for the photographs were six inch by six inch. This meant we could get detailed and accurate images of sagebrush and individual plant colonies (even individual cows). The plane took pictures during a time when cheatgrass was drying up and becoming senescent. During this time, the cheatgrass would show up as dark red in a green landscape. Since the orthorectified photographs have four bands, I could easily use various remote sensing techniques to isolate the cheatgrass light signature and make a specific raster file for cheatgrass for the BLM to use for future restoration work!

There were about one thousand mosaic tiles of landscape imagery of the Powder River Basin. Each mosaic tile incorporated a few sections in a township. I would process each mosaic tile with a few tools. The first part would be to look at various signatures in the landscape. I would take samples of each signature in order to do a classification at a later point in time. Using an image classification tool in ArcGIS I drew polygons around various signatures I wanted and made a small template of sample signatures. I drew polygons around areas of cheatgrass (1), cured cheatgrass (2), roads (4), bare ground (7), riparian shrubs (10), scoria hills (12), grey badlands (13), sagebrush (16), deciduous trees (18), conifers (19), riparian grasses (20), shadows (23), upland grass (26), algae reservoirs (28), muddy reservoirs (29), and areas of no data (30). Once I developed a sample template with each group of signatures, I did an interactive classification method to see what the map would look like if each of the signatures were assigned a color. For example, all the areas of cheatgrass would be assigned a red color, all the sagebrush would be turquoise color, and all of the other signatures would be assigned a different color. The final product would show a raster map with ten to sixteen different colors representing all of the signatures.


I am using a classification tool in this picture. I drew polygons around certain signatures and assigned them a class. For example, I drew a few polygons around shadow, riparian grass and sagebrush signatures in the above photograph. The small box you see are the class signatures I created. Each color represents a different class signature. I will use this signature template for the image classification process in my next step.


After gathering my signatures, I used the interactive classification process. The process quickly looks at the signatures files and  projects the estimated results. You can see various patterns and images in the landscape. The Class 1 Red colored represents the cheatgrass signature. The image classification process is only used to see if different signatures results matched with the aerial orthophotographs. If there was a red area that shows up on image classification and it was not a cheatgrass area in the aerial orthophotographs, then I would have to readjust my signature sampling process.

If all the signatures were correct and the raster colors matched with the aerial images locations, then I would proceed with the maximum likelihood classification for the signatures. The maximum likelihood classification would look at the raster signatures and evaluate each pixel on the map. For example, the highest likelihood of a pixel with a similar signature to the cheatgrass sample would be assigned under a cheatgrass signature. The computer looks through all of the raster signatures samples and calculates which pixels belong to which raster signature class. The end result would show a raster signature map with a more accurate representation of each of the ~sixteen signatures that were sampled on the map. When you zoom in, all of the areas of cheatgrass would be assigned a specific color and the same goes with all of the other signatures. The overall product would show a very colorful mosaic of colors.

(Side note: Some signatures may not be present on the aerial photograph, so the number of signatures per mosaic tile may vary.)

The maximum likelihood classification process would fine tune the signature results creating a more accurate classification.

The maximum likelihood classification process would fine tune the signature results creating a more accurate classification.

The final step would be to isolate the cheatgrass signatures into a another raster file. I would use a Spatial Analyst tool known as Con to isolate the cheatgrass signatures. After running the Con tool, the computer would extract the cheatgrass signatures only and create a raster file showing only areas of cheatgrass. When I turn off all of the layers and show the aerial image, I could add the extracted cheatgrass raster on the map and show specifically where all the cheatgrass areas are on the aerial image. The final product would show all of the areas in the Powder River Basin that have cheatgrass areas. Later on, I would evaluate density levels of the cheatgrass and show areas that might need to be treated for future restoration projects.


The yellow on this map shows where all of the cheatgrass areas are on the mosaic tile. The Con tool extracts the specific cheatgrass signatures and creates a raster file that could be laid on top of an aerial orthophotograph.


The final result would be to process all the cheatgrass signature files for each mosaic and combine them into a large raster file. Anyone in the future could use this data to look at cheatgrass densities and find out where there needs to be treatment. It is good to look at all the raster files together to make sure everything lines up and that you did everything correctly when creating the signature files.

There were a few small issues that I did encounter with detecting cheatgrass. Some of the signatures were a little askew due to the quality of the aerial photographs. Some of the photographs around the perimeter or ends of the study area were lighter in color, making cheatgrass detection a little harder. Scoria hills were orange to red and showed very similar light signatures to cheatgrass, so I had to be careful when choosing my sample signatures.

Some of the interesting views I see from these aerial photographs were astounding! When working with these photographs for a long period of time, I pictured myself looking at a different alien landscape. Some badland or riparian areas looked very exotic and from the air, it did not look like a landscape you would see in Wyoming. The only dominant lifeforms on these alien landscapes were cows. Some of the cows were so big I could actually see what they were doing. Some were sleeping, laying on their side, climbing up very steep topography, and some were standing in water. I would actually see their trails and daily activities. Some of the red angus cows show up as a cheatgrass signature, fortunately they are rare and could be easily detected apart from the cheatgrass when looking on the aerial photograph. There were some areas in the Powder River Basin where the red to purple cheatgrass was so dense it looked like Mars! I would not want to walk through that area when the grass is seeding. My socks would be ruined!


A small screenshot of a very dense population of cheatgrass!! D: This cheatgrass population is surrounded by sagebrush, riparian grass, cured cheatgrass, and upland grass areas.

Preparing for NISIMS
A very small project that I will be working on during my BLM internship would be doing NISIMS! I did NISIMS for the Wenatchee, Washington BLM and I loved looking for and documenting different kinds of invasive plants. I put together a small power point and I am researching some of the invasive plants that were in north central Wyoming. Later, when I am ground truthing my remote sensing results for the PRBR project, I will also be documenting different invasive plants that I have encountered on the landscape such as cheatgrass, leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) and various thistles (Cirsium). I am very excited for the NISIMS opportunity and I can’t wait to go out in the field and begin classifying invasive plants again!
Those are the events for this month! Stay tuned for more adventures, CLM Interns and Family Members!!

Have a Great Adventure Everyone!

Justin Chappelle
BLM: Buffalo Field Office
Buffalo, Wyoming

And Now….. Your Moment of Zen

Sunset at the Grand Tetons!

Sunset at the Grand Tetons!

PS. Time for a Secret A-HA Moment! \(>_>)/
Be warned about eating berries in the sagebrush steppe or badlands. I have seen people eat berries from Astragalus and Sambucus and get really sick from them. You have to be aware of the properties of the plant before consuming a berry. Some berries have to be cooked and prepared. Different plants growing on badlands or salt flats may contain harmful alkaloids and selenium, which would be stored in the seed pods/ seeds. Please check with your supervisor or book about consuming berries.


Season Finale! Thanks for the Memories, Wenatchee!! ^_^

Jenny and Reed!!

I had the great opportunity to work with two great interns this year, Jenny and Reed!!

I had the great opportunity to work with two great interns this year, Jenny and Reed!!

Jenny and I worked on various golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) surveys, data recording for NISIMS, and the Sulfur Creek Watershed Assessment. In the beginning, we would always drive into the field to golden eagle sites and try to find nests. At first, looking for golden eagle nests was difficult! We would have this massive wall of basalt that was many stories high and we would have to find a nest in all of that. Even with maps and GPS points the nests were hard to find. After talking to a person from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, we were getting a lot better at finding these nests! By the month of May we were finding nests within five minutes instead of thirty minutes! We found many golden eagle nests and we did see a few peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nests. Jenny especially loved the peregrine falcons, because she monitored them in her previous job. Some of these nests were crazy to get to! Colockum Tarps and Upper Rocky Creek took us many hours just to get to the site! For the Upper Rocky Creek site we had to consult with a landowner and drive in the back country to the site. The directions we were given eventually led to a dead end, so we had to turn around. When we did get to the site, we had a beautiful view, but we did not see golden eagle activity. The overall golden eagle experience would’ve been difficult by myself, but with Jenny, we were able to tackle the project easily. We almost saw all of the nest sites!!

Jenny taming a photoshopped Peregrine falcon.

Jenny taming a photoshopped peregrine falcon.

Two of my favorite memories with Jenny involved sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) and pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis) capturing. In the Spring, Jenny and I accompanied wildlife biologists in the field to capture sage grouse. It was dark and very chilly and we did have a very large aurora borealis to the north. Jenny and I had the bags and we had extra energy to help the biologists anyway possible. Jenny was especially energized when she got the first sage grouse in the bag. She had to transfer the sage grouse from the bag and into a box with kitty litter. When we returned to the truck, we saw some kitty litter and feathers scattered everywhere, but the sage grouse was appropriately packaged. Jenny got this down her first try!! Another one of my favorite memories with Jenny was capturing pygmy rabbits. These rabbits were all in this enclosure and we had to check different outlets for these rabbits. Sometimes these rabbits come running out of the hole into the bag which would greatly surprise us. We helped out with the blood and tissue sampling towards the end. The overall experience was very interesting and we learned a lot!

One of the most interesting experiences dealt with NISIMS. We had to travel all over the place to look for invasive plant populations! Sometimes we would go by ourselves or with Reed and try to estimate cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) densities or thistle populations. One of the biggest adventures was Watermelon Hill! There were invasive plants everywhere and we would have to walk at least ten miles a day under very hot Summer conditions. Sometimes one of us would be done before the other and we would sit by the fence line looking for the other before we started the next transect. We were able to efficiently continue monitoring the area! During the month of August, the fires were becoming more of a problem, especially with all of the smoke around. We would wear masks and continue doing our work with NISIMS monitoring. We were able to complete most of our sites except for two odd ball sites.

Jenny looking at a peregrine falcon nest.

Jenny looking at a peregrine falcon nest.

Overall, Jenny was amazing and contributed equally to our work! We had different philosophies and knowledge that made us critically think about all of our tasks! Listening to podcasts in the vehicle was another highlight, especially when it takes over two hours to get to a site. This American Life, Radio Lab, Mystery Show, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Snap Judgement, The Moth, and Serial were our favorite podcasts to listen to! Whenever our bosses or someone from work came with us in the truck, we would make a big deal about the event and ask them many questions. Without Jenny, the internship would’ve been different! Both of us were able to complete every major task and produce some kick butt reports! Our attitudes were balanced and we were able to complete a successful internship without any problems!! She was very smart, capable, efficient, and loved to hike ^_^ Thanks Jenny for everything!!!

When Jenny and I needed some comp time or wanted to learn more about the plants in our district, we would accompany the mighty SOS intern, Reed!! Reed was an awesome botanist!! He was one of the best botanists I have ever seen. He even loved plants more than me!! Jenny or I would go with Reed to scout out plant populations or look for seeds of specific plant species. Reed would tell us the difference between Lomatium, Penstemon, or Astragalus species. He would always cover a lot of ground and find the most unique plants. He had the most interesting stories to tell Jenny and I. It was always a treat for us to take a break from NISIMS and work on some SOS missions with Reed. The Mt. Baker experience was amazing with everyone! Reed was especially excited to learn all about rare plants and ferns on serpentine soil. He would always tell Jenny and I about an interesting tidbit he learned and it would mostly likely incorporate Latin. Overall, a very cool dude. Thanks Reed!!!

Reed hard at work!

Reed hard at work!

Yay!!! Time for the Krissa and Rebecca Interview!!!

How you’ve grown personally and professionally?

I have grown a lot through my internships in Oregon and Wyoming. In Washington, I was able to learn more about report writing and digitalizing data. Writing reports for the BLM was not an easy task. You had to have specific formats and guidelines you had to follow for maps and reports. With data entry, everything was digitalized and entered in the ArcGIS. Learning about this new way of data entry gave me a better understanding on how to work with ArcGIS in different ways.

Driving was always an interesting experience, especially in back country roads. You had to navigate on non-existent roads through very steep topography. Traveling a few hours to a site was very common! Three years of navigating in these conditions helped me become an excellent driver!

Working in extreme conditions for this internship was awesome. Most of the days in the Summer were over 100°F! We had to avoid dry brush while driving on back country roads. We did not want the hot engine to start a fire! With the wildfires, we had to wear masks and deal with hot temperatures! This was probably the most intense internship, but I survived and stayed safe the whole time. Jenny and I were very careful not to go into an area that had an active fire present. There were some areas that had large wasps (Order: Hymenoptera) and rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis), but you just had to be observant and learn how to avoid these animals in the field.

Jenny and I were prepared for any extreme field conditions, especially areas that had thick smoke.

Jenny and I were prepared for any extreme field conditions, especially areas that had thick smoke.

There were some times I had to work by myself in the field. Planning a few weeks ahead of time had always helped me prepare for these solo missions. I was able to break through my previous limitations and grow stronger in order to accomplish all of my field work for that day! This internship really tested me both personally and professionally and I was able to surpass my limitations to become a stronger and experienced person. In the future, I will be prepared for anything, thanks to these internship!

What are some new skills that you have gained on your internship?

I considered this internship more of a wildlife biology-centric job with a side helping of botany! I learned a lot about golden eagle and wildlife biology surveying. We used software called GeoBOB and a GPS device to fill in information about every individual golden eagle nesting site. I learned the important factors to look for and to take note on. Seriously, the movies that have golden eagles in them do not portray their nesting behavior correctly! You might assume they live in caves on the side of canyon walls? They really build nests on ledges and can build multiple nests at a time. At first it was hard to find the eagles, but with some friendly advice from Jon, an employee from the Washington Department of Fish and Game, we were able to easily spot the nests! Along with data entry, we had the opportunity to capture and tag greater sage grouse. One day we helped out with the capturing and tagging of pygmy rabbits. These two capturing and tagging events gave Jenny and I a lot of insight on how wildlife biologists perform monitoring measures in the field. Surveying the Washington ground squirrels (Spermophilus washingtoni) was a little tougher, because they were not active when we were monitoring them. We did record possible colony locations using a GPS device and GeoBOB, but a future intern would have to investigate these sites to confirm if they are indeed active colonies.

Golden eagle at its nest!

Golden eagle at its nest!

Jenny getting ready to capture a pygmy rabbit.

Jenny getting ready to capture a pygmy rabbit.

A captured pygmy rabbit eating and relaxing.

A captured pygmy rabbit eating and relaxing.

Plant identification was a very important job when looking for invasive plants out in the field! I learned a variety of new species of forbs, grasses, sedges, trees, shrubs, and lichens! I learned a huge number of grass species due to the grass workshop I attended during the Summer. I learned more about what SOS interns do! Reed taught me a variety of techniques on how to identify plants and how to collect seeds. Searching for plant populations was always tricky, but Reed knew what to look for! Seed collection was crazy at times, especially with Lomatiums! Once you know how to collect seed from each plant, you could go on auto mode and collect the appropriate number of seeds in a given population. Rare plant monitoring in Watermelon Hill was very interesting, especially with Silene spaldingii. Surveying Silene populations with the SOS interns really gave Jenny and I a new perspective on plant monitoring that incorporated photography, plant phenology, and plant measurements! During the Mt. Baker trip, learning about plant identification and plant photography were really important skills I picked up that would definitely help me in the future!


Silene spaldingii flower!

I was able to improve on my understanding of range land health assessments and ESR! I would go into the field with some of my bosses to learn about range land health assessments. We would discuss the indicators of range health, perform soil testing, measure canopy gap of plants, measure plant densities, and do line-point intercept! I have done this in my two previous internships, but it was interesting how each region slightly varies on how they evaluate range land health! Doing ESR evaluations in Washington were slightly different from Oregon’s procedures! I learned new ways to evaluate burn severity and intensity. Reading the landscape for signs of recovery was very fun! ^_^

I learned a lot about rangeland assessment protocols with the Wenatchee BLM staff in Sulfur Canyon.

I learned a lot about range land assessment protocols with the Wenatchee BLM staff in Sulfur Canyon.

There were many software skills that I picked up. I learned more about many software applications in ArcGIS! Incorporating NISIMS and GeoBOB with GIS was a very interesting and pain in the butt experience! I learned how to do check in and check out of data sets, how to continue with data collection and updating of geodatabases, how to use remote sensing to determine where fence lines and plant populations could be, and how to transfer large amounts of data layers over the Internet! These skills would definitely help me find a future job in the biogeography field! I learned more about Microsoft Access and DIMA data entry. GeoBOB mobile was a pain at first to learn but it really helped me understand GIS software programs. NISIMS was very similar to GeoBOB, but a tad easier to understand!

Jenny and the Vale, OR interns working on GeoBOB. At first the experience was a tad confusing, but we all eventually learned all about GeoBOB! ^_^

Jenny and the Vale, Oregon CBG interns working on GeoBOB. At first the experience was a tad confusing, but we all eventually learned all about GeoBOB! ^_^

What are some learning experiences that stand out to you?

There were a few learning experiences that really stand out to me! Golden eagle surveying was a very interesting learning experience! In the past, it was easy to identify these birds in the air or when they were protecting their territory. Finding their nest was a completely different story! Jenny and I had to have a lot of patience and perseverance when monitoring these eagles. After a month of experience underneath our belts, finding golden eagles and their nests was easy to accomplish. We learned about the phenology and age of the eagles we were looking at based on their morphology and coloring. I always worked with song birds before when doing various surveys, but golden eagles surveying was a different experience all together!

When working out in the field, navigating each land with a map, GPS unit, and a compass has always been a learning experience. Each day I learned something new about the topography of a region. Eventually, I knew Sulfur Canyon so well I was able to look at a picture of a Sulfur Canyon landscape and know exactly where that piece of land was. Talking with people out in the field or in the office was another interesting experience that I usually encounter with each internship. Talking with land owners or with people who work on the land was always interesting! The majority of the people we did encounter in Washington were very friendly and loved to learn about what we were doing!

I would travel on this abandoned road to enter many of the Sulfur Canyon Allotments.

I would travel on this abandoned road to enter many of the Sulfur Canyon’s parcels.

Finally, the last major learning experience that stood out to me was working with the GeoBOB and NISIMS software. This software system was a tad advanced and there were many steps you had to make in order to correctly load and submit the information. If you did something slightly wrong, you would hear about it through the computer, phone, and email at least a few times each. >_> Ugh. Eventually, I learned how to work with the system and it became very easy to complete the tasks. NISIMS had a similar format and all of the data collection was easy to accomplish. Unfortunately, we had to be very careful when performing check ins into the computer, because there was this geoprocessing glitch which would freeze your computer and delete all of your GPS points. Luckily, I only encountered this glitch once.

What were some rewarding experiences/memories of your internship?

I have talked about many of my experiences and memories already! ^_^; I would like to mention a few rewarding experiences! One of the best memories was towards the end of our internship when we entered all of our data, wrote all of our reports, and accomplished all of our goals! That feeling was amazing! We made a great impact on the workload for the golden eagle surveys and ESR reports. Anything our bosses asked us to do, we did with flying colors. Unfortunately, we could not do Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) surveys due to the wildfires. Along with accomplishing our reports, figuring out how to work with GeoBOB and submitting our data successfully was a relieving experience. After that point, we rarely had to worry about GeoBOB, because we were so good at entering and submitting data.

On the wildlife biology front, capturing pygmy rabbits for tag and release was very fun! Those rabbits were hopping around even when we were walking right by them. When I did capture my first rabbit with a tennis ball and a pillow case, I was shocked, because I did not expect the rabbit to fly right out of its hole like that! Jenny and I had a lot of fun with helping field biologist capturing these cute little balls of fur. Finding our first golden eagle nest at the Ice Cave site was great! The first few sites we visited, we did not find a nest and we thought this was going to be our whole Summer. When Jenny and I did see our first eagle pair, we were ecstatic!!! The female was sitting on the nest, while the male was protecting the territory! Capturing and tagging sage grouse during the night was another rewarding experience, especially when there were Northern lights in the sky to the north! We walked all around this field finding sage grouse. Trying to sneak up on them was a challenge, but we were able to capture two sage grouse!! These field experiences were very memorable and I will never forget these experiences!

I am holding a pygmy rabbit!!

I am holding a pygmy rabbit!!

What were some expectations that were or were not met?

I had high expectations for this internship. I wanted to get experience in wildlife biology, monitoring, and GIS. This internship did not disappoint me! I got fantastic experience with working with mammals and birds! I really wanted to have raptor surveying experience on my resume. Jenny and I were fortunate to watch and record data on golden eagle, peregrine falcon, and bald eagles! I wished I had some experience with mist netting or tagging of song birds, but I could learn about that in a future job.

Time for Some Flower Pictures


Lewisia rediviva: Bitteroot!!

Mariposa lily

Calochortus spp.: Mariposa lily


Helianthus annuus: Annual Sunflower

Thanks for the Memories!!!!
I want to thank my mentors and bosses J and Erik for the great opportunities! Working with golden eagles and NISIMS was exactly the experience I wanted for my resume! I got to work a lot with GIS software and hardware that both of you provided. Thanks for encouraging us to pursue different lectures and workshops around and beyond our district. Erik and J gave us enough freedom to do all of our field work. They connected us with people in other governmental agencies, which proved to be very important. Thanks J for teaching us the importance of Governmental bureaucracy and how to professionally write reports for the Public. Thanks for the check-ins as well during the Fire Season! Both mentors were really great and gave us plenty of assistance.

Jenny and I with our bosses J and Erik!

Jenny and I with our bosses J and Erik!

Thank you to the staff at the Wentachee BLM Field Office. All of you have been extremely helpful and welcoming to the CBG interns! Thank you Molly, Rusty, Chris, Pete, Kat, Linda, Jeff, Randall, and Angela for all of the information discussions, side trip adventures and opportunities! I learned a lot from all of you and I was very fortunate to have you as additional bosses and mentors!

I want to also thank a few more people!! A huge thank you to Reed and Jenny! Both of you contributed a lot and were very passionate about your internship! I learned a lot from both of you!! Thank you so much Krissa and Rebecca for answering all of our questions and for all of your support especially during the fire season! Both of you were extremely professional and supportive!!

I want to thank my Mom, Dad, and the rest of my family for their support! Thank you for all of the cards and packages! They were very much appreciated! Thank you for all of the side adventures and phone calls! You’re all the best in the biz! 😀

Moment of Zen

Geum triflorum OOO

Geum triflorum: Prairie smoke

A-Ha Moment!!

Every year this happens to me! I always forget to do an A-Ha Moment in my blog!!! Let me see…. What should be the A-Ha moment for this year…. OH!!!

A close up of the fungus, Pyrenophora semeniperda.              Source: https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTCT2jCkd-BFdPSzKjdjn9Dqbvh5iqubPd2y0k7gfoPi5TzveWY

Cheatgrass does have a weakness! Jenny and I encountered a disease that inflicts damage on non-native brome species. The disease known as “Five Fingers of Death” was a fungus that grew on the seeds. This black smut grows and disfigures the grasses, lowering the production rate of the cheatgrass. Where this disease was present, brome productivity significantly decreased allowing forbs and other native grasses to recover and grow in place! Range land managers were a little hesitant about releasing this disease on cheatgrass and non-native brome populations. This disease is still being researched. Hopefully in the future, this disease would significantly impact the non-native brome species.

CLM Intern Update! Adventures in the Yakima River Canyon and Beyond!


Fire Perimeter Map taken from www.geomac.gov This showed all of the major active fires in our region.

Fire Perimeter Map taken from www.geomac.gov
This showed all of the major active fires in our region. (If you looked at the link above, there is an interactive map. Click on North Central Washington State to see all of the fire perimeters.)

This month has been insane with all kinds of fire activity. This was considered one of the worst fire seasons in Washington State history, producing some of the largest fires ever! To the north of Wenatchee, Washington there were major fires burning throughout the area. One of the first fires that we noticed was the Wolverine Fire. We saw the smoke from the fire settle in the Columbia River valley for the past couple of weeks. As the humidity lowered and the temperatures rose daily, we started to have red flag conditions for our field office! Soon we started to get all kinds of fires. The First Creek Fire and the Reach Fire started near the Wolverine Fire by the town of Chelan. We were all very worried for the people that lived in this area. The Reach Fire eventually combined with other small fires in the area and developed into the Chelan Complex Fire!! This fire was near a lot of structures and firefighters did all they could do with fighting the fire and preventing structural damage.

This gif was taken from the Q13 Fox Seattle News Station Site. Source: https://tribkcpq.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/chelan-fire.gif?w=370&h=204&crop=1

This was what the wildfires looked like around Chelan. This gif was taken from the Q13 Fox Seattle News Station Site.
Source:  https://tribkcpq.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/chelan-fire.gif?w=370&h=204&crop=1

To the north, there were larger fires in Okanogan County! The Okanogan Fire combined with other fires to develop into the Okanogan Complex Fire. This was considered one of the biggest fires recorded! Omak, Okanogan, and other smaller towns were directly impacted by this massive fire. Another huge fire to the east was called the North Star Fire. This huge fire was slowly making its way to the Okanogan Complex Fire, but has stopped short for awhile. They recently renamed the east fire of the Okanogan Complex Fire, Tunk Block. A fire near the town of Twisp claimed three firefighters. There was a memorial for them and many people in the surrounding communities sent their support for the families impacted by this lost.

Condensed smoke from the Okanogan Complex and North Star Fires.

Condensed smoke from the Okanogan Complex and North Star Fires.

With the Red Flag warning, the air condition worsen to the point we could not leave the office to go into the field. The red flag warnings made our bosses nervous, so we could not do any field monitoring, in case a fire started up near us in the field. The shocking thing about these fires was that almost every site we visited in the past for golden eagle visits or for NISIMS burned! The air quality was pretty bad some days where you could not look across the Columbia River! One area to the north looked like another planet!! When I was doing NISIMS (Invasive plant monitoring) in the north, the smoke and ash from North Star and the Okanogan Complex blew into the area. The smoke created a yellow overcast effect to the surrounding landscape. I wore a mask so I would not inhale the falling ash and smoke. Luckily, I was not exposed to the air for a long period of time. Mostly, I monitored from the truck and got out to confirm specific species. The sun was red and all the animals such as quail and deer looked nervous and were discombobulated. There were layers of smoke in the area where it looked like it was permanently 6:00pm. I felt like an astronaut on Venus….except it was a lot cooler out…like upper 90s.

The road to Barker Canyon and Jackass Butte.

The road to Barker Canyon and Jackass Butte.

It felt like I was on another planet!!...except there were California quail (Callipepla californica) everywhere.

It felt like I was on another planet!!…except there were California quail (Callipepla californica) everywhere.

The Columbia River under smokey conditions.

The Columbia River under smokey conditions.

In Wenatchee, the smoke could even be smelled in trace amounts in our office. Most of the BLM staff were working into overdrive! They had to deal with constant shifting of the fire on a daily basis. Meetings occurred all the time and many of the staff members that had a red card were sent out in the field to help fight the fire. The people who remained in the office worked really hard and were constantly busy. Jenny, Reed, and myself took this time to work on all of our reports! Jenny and I had three major reports to write. The golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) report, the ESR/NISIMS report, and the Sulfur Canyon Watershed Assessment Report. Every time we did take a break from the reports, we would look out the window to see hazy conditions over Wenatchee. We hoped that there were winds from the south to blow some of the smoke away. It got so bad some days where we could not see the end of the town! It looked like we were on a floating island in the clouds…or something out of Silent Hill.

Recently, a cold front moved in!!! The red flags warnings have abruptly ceased and rain started to fall in the area. In just one week, the smoke faded away and Wenatchee returned to its normal state. It is a lot cooler in the area and we were able to leave the office!! The bright blue skies with massive fluffy cumulus clouds were a welcoming site! The weather seems like Autumn! No one is complaining on the rain we are getting now. There were small fire activities to the North, but a majority of all of the fires have been contained for now. All is safe again!! (NO THANKS TO YOU CHEATGRASS D:<)

Small Update! Writing Reports! \(OoO)/

The recent fire activity had put a damper in our field plans for monitoring up north. We decided to write and complete the yearly reports before the end of our internships! We had three major reports to write which were the golden eagle report, the ESR/NISIMS report, and the watershed assessment report! We were really efficient and developed some high quality reports for our bosses! Pictures, graphs, and tables galore! We wrote different notes and documents for the next interns that will be working on the projects. We wrote very good notes on how to find golden eagle nests, so any person can be a professional eagle nest searcher. There was a lot of GIS involved and I got to practice making all sorts of maps and work with data entry. After a week in the office, we completed a majority of our work. Recently, Reed and Jenny went out to one of the final sites to record invasive plants in the Rattlesnake Mountains. This data would be inputted into our report and submitted before we end our internship.

The office was starting to calm down a little due to the lack of fire activity. (Which is a good thing.) We all had a spontaneous potluck BBQ lunch! Having the chance to talk with the staff have been relaxing and rewarding. We have been talking to our mentors and bosses about the pros and cons of different jobs and what to do in the future. We learned a lot and took notes about what we would do for our future careers!!

Adventures with Rusty!! Into the Yakima River Canyon!

One day, Jenny and I decided to take a small break from report writing to join our office neighbor, Rusty on a trip to the Yakima River Canyon. Rusty helped out with the Recreation sites in this area and we came along to see what a recreational BLM staff member does! We were kept busy for most of the day. We checked for reservations at various sites. We cleared fallen wood debris from campground sites. We even cleared trails of garbage, invasive plant overgrowth and willow trees. One of the most important jobs were to clean the garbage and make sure there was toilet paper in the bathroom stalls. We saw many birds and even a herd of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis). Rusty said this was a more of a laidback day. During the Summer time, the Yakima River Canyon would have hundreds of people everywhere to the point where everything was chaotic! We came during a quiet time! Jenny and I learned a lot about the business of keeping the Yakima River Canyon orderly and how the BLM took care of their land!

Bighorn sheep grazing!!

Bighorn sheep grazing!!

Rusty cutting down a fallen elm tree branch.

Rusty cutting down a fallen elm tree branch.

Now we have a long weekend break thanks to some comp time and Labor Day!! BLM Legend Heather Bromberg from Buffalo, Wyoming came in for a visit. Nice time to hang out with friends, go rock hounding for petrified wood, and have many root beer evaluations!! (I really did do root beer evaluations with Reed, Jenny, and Heather! They were good evaluators!)

Enjoy some pictures of the Wenatchee Resource Area!!

Bridge over the Yakima River!

Bridge over the Yakima River!

Cichorium intybus!!!

Cichorium intybus!!!

Acer negundo understory along the Yakima River.

Acer negundo understory along the Yakima River.

I apologize!! Since the recent fires put a damper to things, I did not take a lot of pictures or go on any monitoring adventures! Next post would be totes different! Thank you to my family, friends, and other people who read this blog!

Next Time….on Justin’s CLM Blog……. IT IS THE SEASON FINALE!!!! Yay!!!! Time flew right by!! Questions will be answered, pictures will be shown, shenanigans will be rampant! See you then everyone!!!!

Moment of Zen!!!!!