Baby Sage

Hello fellow interns! I hope you are all continuing to enjoy your amazing work in your prospective western cities. For those of you that are already seeing snow, stay warm!


With seed collecting long over, the interns in the Buffalo Field Office looked elsewhere to help out other scientists and managers. I’m all for it, as I am learning even more than my internship originally entailed. These following weeks we have been mapping I-90 and Barnum public access roads with a GPS so that the BFO can know which roads (after looking at our records) are not supposed to be there and can be rehabilitated, which are redundant and can be re-seeded, and those that are the best for the public to use and can be revamped to encourage heavier use for hunting, four wheeling, camping, etc. Not the most difficult of work, but still important for our recreation department. Another project that was completed by Sean, Dan, and I for the recreation department was the Poison Creek Trail Maintenance project. This involved hiking this 2 mile one way trail up in the Bighorn Mountains and raking pinecones, removing plants in the trail’s path, marking nearby trees, inserting carsonites, and installing water bars. We still get to come back and remove trees in the trail’s path and nearby dead trees after our wildland fire chainsaw training is complete at the end of this week! Ohh yeahhh.


We have also been helping our fire ecologist with her projects that she hasn’t gotten the chance to get to this year. Mainly these include mapping already made fuel piles that will be burned this winter so that our contractor won’t miss any outliers and we can know approximately how much smoke will be produced so we can report this to the state. Also, we took data on already burned fuel piles to assess how much small fuel was left unburned, weed growth, and nearby scorching on trees. These burned piles were also re-seeded with our native grass seed mix to try to help beat weed takeover. We interns were also recruited for a day to be swampers for our fire crew (stacking fuel piles after our sawyers delimbed ponderosas). We have a few more of these projects to get done.


Yesterday I had the opportunity to tour Bridger Plant Materials Center. Our office is aiming to transform one of our parcels with water rights near the Tongue River into a Native Plant Propagation Farm. The tour was meant to learn about Bridger’s processes/tools/struggles/etc. and to ask their opinion about our tentative plan. While I am not an integral part in the farm and probably won’t be here for its beginning, I was appreciative of the opportunity to tour this facility. It was awesome to see how native seed is produced in a large scale, Bridger’s seed sorting equipment, and their storage methods. My other career interest besides conservation is agriculture, and so this was a real eye opener to see how these are being combined already and possible career directions I could take. I had some ideas about how native seed production could improve, which perhaps someday I could play a part of.


The last thing I’ll leave you with is my Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis germination experiment I have been working on. The BFO had a large bag of Wyoming big sagebrush seed from 2012 who’s TZ test came back to be 64%. I decided, out of curiosity and knowledge that it could be an important study for the BLM, to see how temperature and light affected the germination of these seeds. I mostly used materials the BLM had on hand, in order to see if the BFO could germinate and grow Wyoming big sage for restoration easily and effectively. So far, the most successful method seems to be germinating at room temperature with ambient light (just on my desk). I had over 69 seeds germinate in 3 days. After they grew cotyledons in the petri dish, I planted them in a mixture of sand and potting soil. Their survival rate has not been good, and so I plan on doing a study to see if direct seeding them would maintain high germination rates and better seedling survival rates. I appreciate my boss for letting me have the freedom to do this experiment!
It’s been a wild ride.

The Giving Land

Leaving my hometown to come to Buffalo, WY seems like forever ago to me. I feel at home out here and am grateful for all the outdoor activities, friendly people, outlet for creativity, and simple way of living that this land in the middle of nowhere seems to give. The town of Buffalo is a happenin’ place and I can’t wait for the next crop of CBG interns to get to know it. Where else can you take a bluegrass guitar clinic from the same guy who taught you how to shoot a revolver? Where else are there street dances every other week and nearly untouched (seemingly) miles of trail 20 minutes away? Yes, this internship is going by extremely fast but I also have fit in a dizzying amount of adventures and experiences in a very small amount of time. My job alone at the BLM is responsible for more than half of them.
In the time since I last wrote, I have continued range assessments (Sean and Dan, with some of my help, have completed 50 allotments), lent my time with a fuels crew and other volunteers from the state to thin some pines from a BLM piece north of Gillette, traveled to San Francisco and northern Cali (not for work), came up with an irrigation plan for a native plant propagation farm the Buffalo BLM is trying to get in the works, attended Longmire days (it’s a TV show filmed here) in Buffalo, hiked 3 miles upstream at Outlaw Cave (for work), and became UTV certified.
Range health assessments and I have a love/hate relationship. The Daubenmire, sagebrush length and height, and line point intersect tests are tedious, especially in the brutal Wyoming sun, but they do mean a day in the field. This means talking to ranchers, keying out new plant species, seeing first-hand the spread of Bromus tectorum (cheat grass) and the effects of over-grazing, and seeing more and more parts of north eastern Wyoming that I would probably have never traveled to. I particularly enjoy getting to know ranchers, and I admire the Buffalo BLM’s effort to establish a personal connection with the ranchers that lease BLM sections, even if some of these ranchers couldn’t despise the BLM more. One such rancher initially was very rude to us interns but after we chatted a while, I got to know his perspective and even if I don’t agree, I love learning about where people come from and what they think is important. After chatting further about gardening, he even gave us interns some squash that we fried up later. Thank you Rancher John for giving us a good meal.
Hiking at Outlaw Cave/Middle Fork (Hole in the Wall spot), the famous hideout spot for Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and the Wild Bunch, was comparable to my adventure at Gardner Mountain, which some of you dedicated readers may remember. Our objective was to pack out trash from the bottom of the canyon, where the caves are located. I was recovering from being pretty sick, so was kind of nervous about my ability to hike down and up the canyon, and the length in between. But your body usually rises to the occasion, and all sickness faded as I was overwhelmed by the canyon’s multi-colored rock and its river’s beauty. Sean and I were assigned fishing access #2 up to the outlaw cave campground, which gave us around 2.5 miles of river to scout for trash. We found several beer cans, propane canisters, possible Butch Cassidy gunpowder jar (!!!! doubtful), random foam and tarp pieces, and this big plastic ring that was not a fun hiking partner for Sean. There were many points where we had to be up to our waist in water to move forward, which was refreshing and pleasant until we found nematodes in the water. Besides nematodes, we found a centipede, bear scat, bones of all sorts, horsemint, dogbane that we made bracelets out of later (thank you Dean), and choke cherries. When Sean and I got to the campground bottom, we met up with the other two interns, Dan and Nick, who had fishing access #1-fishing access #2 and then down to the bottom of outlaw cave campground to scout for trash and we all ate lunch/fished. We hiked up the canyon from there to the campground to set up camp and wait for our mentors, who hiked 5 long miles of river from the other direction. They were down in the bottom of the canyon for 9 straight hours and were relieved to have dinner and set up tents waiting at the top.
I’m looking forward to the 2 more months of my internship and hope all of you that are nearing the end or are finished the best of luck with future endeavors. I hope that those of you that are still in your internship get the most out of it and always, happy hiking/exploring/interning!


The past few weeks have been super productive here in the Buffalo Field Office. My SOS coworker Nick and I have so far completed 18 collections and in doing so have honed our GPS abilities, rancher communications, and knowledge of Wyoming grasses and seed ripeness. I’ve gotten completely lost, but thankfully found my way back, and have been working so hard I’m exhausted everyday I return to the office. But it’s the best kind of internship I could ask for.

Besides seed collections, I got the amazing opportunity to hike with some BLMers and people from the University of Wyoming into the Gardner Wilderness Study area near Barnum. The first day we did limber pine monitoring in the area looking for rust, adelgids, and overall health. The second day, the recreation planner and I embarked on the most epic hike of my life. Literally nothing could prepare me for the hike it was. Imagine looking at a cliff face and thinking “there’s no way anyone could ascend that” and then realize that you will have to, and you must find a way. We hiked for 10.5 hours (only 8.3 miles) mapping the route and looking for any public activity. We hiked down a dry creek, alongside bear trap creek, up a steep drainage (with some skilled rock climbing) of a canyon and back down, alongside more of bear trap creek and back up the other side of the canyon through prickly bushes to our camp. We came across breathtaking views and a couple mountain lion dens where I found an awesome elk skull with a five point rack. I returned to the office today scraped up (my legs look like the product of Freddy Kruger) and extremely sore, but also very proud of myself and gained another awesome experience with my coworkers and the BLM.

-Kelly Thomas

Triceratops! Glowsticks! Cows! And more…

The past three weeks in and around Buffalo, WY have been insane. My friend ironically just sent me a picture that has a word describing every state in the US and Wyoming’s word(s) were “Not Real.” Sometimes I do feel like I’m living in a strange/fantasy land here. Let me elaborate.

The weather for one is completely unpredictable. After my first week of it being in the high 70’s, it snowed.  Three weeks ago there were wind gusts of 60-90mph (imagine trying to record data in that, I was on my hands and knees). And then this week the sun is blazing hot and I wish for any wind at all. It is an adventure, though, to experience the land in all these conditions and I can’t help but to laugh sometimes, especially when I was on my hands and knees looking for scarlet globemallow.

Last week I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to assist our recreation manager, Alison, with a summer camp she runs in partnership with Upton, which has been dubbed the “best place on earth.” The camp took place at the Summit Ridge firetower, on top of which you could see the clear state line between Wyoming and South Dakota and the evidence of the many fires that have spread through the Black Hills. Alison had something awesome planned everyday for the middle schoolers/high schoolers, by reaching out to experts in different fields. The first day we got to tour Whoopup canyon’s rock art (12,000 years old) with an archaeologist from Newcastle (who’s office is the women’s bathroom, no joke). Then, we went to the Triceratops dig in Newcastle. A bone poacher stumbled upon three triceratops’ skeletons in the middle of a ranch, in the middle of nowhere. This middle of nowhere used to be a sea, and these dinosaurs are thought to have been struck by lightning and then buried in silt after a flood. A private paleontologist group took over the dig after the bone poacher came to the rancher asking for permission and the rancher realized what value the bones had. We got to see a tooth and the eye socket/crown of a triceratops, as well as a lot more unidentified bones. I don’t think the kids thought it was as cool as Alison and I, as we thought this was the raddest thing we’ve seen in a long time. The rest of the week brought edible plant hikes, meeting firemen, doing forestry sampling and tree cores, a glowstick night hike where I taught the kids Poi, setting up trail cameras, bat monitoring, and aquatic sampling (where I saw the most deadly plant in North America, water hemlock). I learned a lot and I’m sure the kids did too. It didn’t feel like I was working at all.

This week the lovely and entertaining CLM range interns, Sean and Dan, and I paired up to knock out range assessments and seed scouting/collecting. We got to see some really beautiful ranches, meet some friendly ranchers and cows, and found several gems of seed collecting sites. As of this week, Nick (who is currently at Alison’s camp) and I have completed 7 collections!

In my down time, I run, bike the clear creek trail, swim at the creek fed public pool that sells cotton candy and hot dogs, and fish for trout (although since I haven’t learned how to fly fish, they don’t want anything to do with my worms and lures as the flies and moths are out in numbers). I also go to the occidental hotel to listen to Bluegrass and stop by the brewery with my co-workers (practically the whole office) to have a beer.

Although I’m a long way from home, I feel grateful everyday to live in this beautiful and never boring place. The other interns and my coworkers are hard to beat too. I love you guys!

The Mother of Journeys

My journey out west to Wyoming from Florida happened in lightning speed. I graduated from the University of Florida along with my sister and boyfriend on May 5th.  A day later the car was packed and we hit the road. We meandered our way through Kentucky, meeting some friends; then Chicago; Des Moines, IA; Rapid City, SD; and stopped in Buffalo, WY (the location of my internship); and finally made our way to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone before returning to start work the following Monday. In 6 days I had already seen so much, and work hadn’t even begun. The huge amount of wildlife that is supported out west by mother earth is one of the first things that left me in awe. I saw several elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and bison for the first time. It was also refreshing to experience the open space and the cool fresh air that much of the eastern U.S. now lacks. It was the first time I had risked running out of gas while keeping my eyes out constantly for cities, often driving for hours in the “middle of nowhere.”
The first two weeks of work after safely arriving here, have been full and never boring. The BLM BFO is employed by some of the nicest and most helpful people ever. Nick, another S.O.S intern and I were introduced to the land, the rules, the nuisances, and the S.O.S program within the first week. We all discussed how the S.O.S program is considered to be, by pretty much everyone, an important program, and no one can really find a negative aspect to it. I spent the past few weeks happily scouting for important plant species that will aid in preserving the diversity that is found in the U.S. in this snapshot of time, and that will also lend the resources needed to rehabilitate land after being burned in a forest fire, or disrupted by the oil and gas industry here in Wyoming.
I look forward to future work, where walking amongst this beautiful scenery to enter GPS coordinates and ID plants is “work” and where “sage grouse,” “littleleaf pussytoes,” “cattle fences,” and “pronghorns” are now part of my everyday conversations.

*Below are some snapshots of today’s work. A moose sow and her baby are in the darker picture.