Monsoon Blooms, Cool Cacti, and a Permanent Position!

Monsoonal rains flooding a wash

This August and September have been spectacular in the Mojave Desert. We’ve more monsoonal rains than is typical for the area, which resulted in flowers sprouting up all over the desert. June and July were very hot and dry here (it was at least 115° here every day for a couple of months!) and much of the vegetation had dried up, so it was kind of disorienting when I started noticing the post-monsoon bloom taking place. Some species flowered again that typically flower in the spring, but other plants in this area are specifically adapted to respond to summer rain. I’ve found some pretty strange looking plants this summer! Some cover hundreds of thousands of miles of the desert, such as chinch-weed (Pectis papposa var. papposa). This low-growing, yellow annual has turned large parts of the Mojave yellow. Driving along, I’d suddenly notice that where there used to be dry ground, there is now an extensive yellow blanket of flowers. It is pretty spectacular. Amaranthus fimbriatus is another very showy post-monsoonal bloomer.

Amaranthus fimbriatus

Pectis papposa var. papposa











Unfortunately, all the rain we’ve had has also triggered growth in a population of Arundo donax (giant cane) at several of the more productive springs we manage. It had been cut and burned several years ago, and that method of control had been sufficient up until this summer. I’ll be cutting down the Arundo and covering the  rhizomes with heavy black tarps in order to prevent its regrowth. In addition, I’ve been monitoring springs and seeps, working with GIS data, and I may make another seed collection or two this fall.


Here are some photos of my encounters with cacti over the course of this internship. Yes, some of these cacti are Sonoran Desert species, and the photos of the organ pipe and saguaro cacti and the chainfruit cholla are from Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona, but there is also a fairly large population of Carnegia gigantea (saguaro cacti) in the Needles Field Office. Pretty cool.

The biggest news I have is that I will be converting to a SCEP position at the end of my internship. I managed to get into the SCEP (Student Career Experience Program) right before it changed to the Pathways Program. I’m taking classes this semester through Northern Arizona University, and will be taking classes full-time in the spring toward a Master of Science in Forestry degree. A SCEP entails beginning work with a federal agency while you take classes towards a degree. The agency you’re working for pays for your tuition, and when you are finished with your degree, they can hire you non-competitively. Then there is a minimum time you agree to stay with said agency to make it worth their funding of your education. I’m really excited about the opportunity to start my graduate career, and I’m looking forward to finally having a full-time job. So I’ll be working in the Needles, CA Field Office for at least the next 4 years! I’ll be responsible for monitoring grazing allotments, area burro populations, invasive plant species, natural water sources, unusual plant assemblages, abandoned mines, and overseeing habitat restoration efforts and mitigation, as well as assessing project compliance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act for the Mojave desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). No small order, as I’ll essentially be the only member of our Natural Resources Branch for the foreseeable future! Good luck to everyone else with their internships, and if you ever need a couch to surf on, you’ll know where to find me!

Lara Kobelt

Botany/Seeds of Success Intern
Needles, California

Monitoring the Desert

I just got back from a much-anticipated week-long plant monitoring training in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The entire class was focused on measuring and monitoring plant populations, which is a topic I’m interested in personally, and is also a project I’ve been tasked with at my current field office. There are a host of “Unusual Plant Assemblages” in my field office, including Fouquieria splendens (Ocotillo), Cylindropuntia bigelovii (Teddy Bear Cholla), and Castela emoryi (Crucifixion Thorn). Until recently, I was a bit overwhelmed with the idea of setting up an effective long-term monitoring program for these plant populations, as their ranges within the field office are quite extensive. However, since the training I just got back from, I have a much better idea of what a good monitoring program entails, and how to establish successful monitoring protocols on my own. My next post will hopefully be about how I am fulfilling these objectives!

The rest of my time this month has been (and will be) spent finishing up seed collections for the season. Plants are mostly done flowering here in the desert, and lots of them are in seed, which will make the next few weeks hectic as I try to work in a few more collections. My most recent collections have included two Camissonia species and Chorizanthe brevipes, and I am also hoping to get in a collection of Chilopsis linearis.

That’s all for now, happy collecting!


Lara Kobelt

Needles, CA BLM

May Days

Since my last post, I’ve been doing a hodge-podge of work. I’ve been making some seed collections, helping with vegetation surveys for the Mojave Fringe Toed Lizard, helping out with bat and owl surveys, and last night, helping the Bureau of Reclamation mist net bats near the Colorado River.

Despite the lack of rain this spring, I’ve been managing to scout out plant populations to collect seed from, and I’m hoping to be doing some more seed collections before the month is out and the weather gets incredibly hot. There are some beautiful locations within our field office, and I’ve been enjoying getting to know some new areas and new plants.

I’m also gearing up to attend a plant monitoring training in early June, which will give me some ideas for starting to set up monitoring plots for the Unusual Plant Assemblages in our field office.

That’s all for now, I’m sure I’ll have more updates soon!



More Desert, Please

This is the end of my fourth week in the Mojave Desert, the heart of which (along with me) resides in Needles, CA. So far, this botany/SOS intern has been helping her coworkers survey Mojave Fringe-Toed Lizard habitat, building fence, scouting for potential seed collection sites, studying Unusual Plant Assemblages, and alwaysalwaysalways learning new flora. Living in the desert, especially during a dry year, teaches you to appreciate the little things. Like flowers that are 3mm wide. Forget a hand lens, I need a telescope to identify some of these itty bitty plants.

Looking out at the desert landscape, it’s easy to assume that there’s nothing alive—but I’m learning that this is not the case. The plants that can survive this harsh ecological niche have earned my respect, and I love coming across even the teeniest flower unexpectedly.


Aside from work, my cointerns and I live right next to the Colorado, which is a fun escape from the heat. I’ve been having a great time exploring the surrounding states, parks, and the Mojave National Preserve, which is in the middle of our field office. I’m excited for the new plants I’ll be finding the next couple of months, and for a great field season.

Lara Kobelt

Needles, CA BLM

Roundin’ up and Headin’ Home

With only about a week left before I leave Rock Springs, I feel ready to finally head home. However, it’s sad that this is the last time I’ll be seeing most of the people I work with. Southwestern Wyoming really has become a second home to me and I will miss it, along with the residents here who have become my friends.

Enjoying the snow.

Working for the BLM out here really has been one of the most defining experiences of my life. Traveling across the country to work in a completely different environment and collecting seeds all summer really expanded what I had thought would be future career and education options. Because of this internship, I am planning to enter an MS or PhD program in botany and ecology, whereas when I graduated, I was entirely undecided and was trying to decide between close to ten different career paths.

I had the opportunity to get to know people from all over the country, and

Natural ice sculptures.

learn more about the workings of a government organization. On top of that, I learned way more about plants (and seeds!) than I did before, and got to spend most of my time outside in beautiful Wyoming. Really, what more can you ask of an internship?!

Best wishes for your own current and future experiences!


Lara Kobelt

Rock Springs, WY

Home on the Range

Where the deer and the antelope play…and elk, and moose, and sage grouse!

Deer Playing

Antelope Playing

In the past two weeks I’ve seen so much wildlife while we finish up our seed collecting. Driving out to the middle of nowhere to collect is getting more difficult now that most of the two-tracks are covered in snow!

No Seeds Here!

Summer in Wyoming was good to me and I’m beginning to miss it now that cold weather has finally moved in. I didn’t truly appreciate the beautiful weather and normal driving conditions until last week.


However, the cooler temperatures allow me to reflect upon the past five months and relive the awesome experiences I’ve had since arriving in Wyoming.

I have learned about so many new plants, animals, and ecosystems, as well as the many responsibilities and interworkings of the various government agencies out here, especially of the BLM.

Planting Trees With My Roomie on National Public Lands Day

I think back to the hundreds of wonderful days I had in the field this summer, and remember the different animals and plants I’ve seen.

Sucked In While Collecting Typha latifolia

Proper Technique for Collecting Typha latifolia







I’m surprised at how easily Wyoming became my temporary home, and how much I enjoy being here. I still have some time left, and I plan on continuing to make the best of this wonderful experience!

Me holding a snake I found while collecting Lupinus argenteus var. argenteus


Lara Kobelt
SOS Intern
Rock Springs, WY

Diversity in the Desert

White Colorado Columbine; Ranunculaceae

Aquilegia coerulea var. ochroleuca

Playing a bit of roulette with my life after graduation, I didn’t state a location preference on my CBG application. For some reason, finding out that I’d be spending the next 7 months in Rock Springs, WY was not a daunting realization.

I’ve been undecided about future career plans for a while, so the opportunity to experience a totally new place (I’ve lived in Ohio my entire life) seemed like a great interim between school and more school and/or more work. 

Scarlet Indian Paintbrush; Schrophulariaceae

Castilleja miniata

I showed up towards the end of June without a great understanding of what I was getting myself into. Fortunately, botany is AWESOME and it wasn’t hard to get into the spirit of my job requirements. A lot of what we do involves identifying plants—most of which I had never seen before. Sagebrush? I got used to that pretty quickly. It is fun to look back at my time here so far and realize how much I’ve learned and how many awesome plants I’ve found.

Darkthroat Shootingstar; Primulaceae

Dodecatheon pulchellum

Even if we can’t collect everything we find, I still get super excited when I find some crazy flower and figure out what it is.

For example, while collecting Antennaria corymbosa and Penstemon humilis near the Wind Rivers I spotted an orchid (Spiranthes romanzoffiana, or Ladies’ Tresses) by a stream I was near. Put that at the top of the list of things I did not expect to find in Wyoming. However, that piqued my interest and led me to dig through our herbarium only to find that there are quite a few other orchid species in Wyoming as well, many of them in our district.  

Ladies' Tresses; Orchidaceae

Spiranthes romanzoffiana

The biodiversity that exists out here in the high desert district never ceases to amaze me. We go driving through hot, flat, desert and suddenly there are huge populations of beautiful, showy flowers.

Plains Prickly Pear Cactus; Cactaceae

Opuntia polyacantha

One of the most memorable moments for me was a day in the field after a big rain storm. It seemed as though overnight Opuntia polyancantha all over the desert had burst into flower, and the landscape was lit up by the yellow blossoms.

Living and working in such a different environment than I’m used to has led me to truly appreciate the crazy diverse ecosystems out here.

Old Man's Whiskers; Rosaceae

Geum triflorum

Accordingly, when people in the office (frequently) ask me what plants I’m managing to collect in the desert besides sagebrush and greasewood, I have some great answers for them!


Lara Kobelt
SOS Intern