Yuma, AZ: The Sunniest City in America (and the hottest).

Yuma is the hottest city in the US, and for the last few months daily temperatures have averaged at 105 degrees. And somehow the locals say it has been a comparatively cool summer. Despite the heat, my experience in Yuma has been and continues to be amazing.

It has been about 8 months since my arrival in Yuma and I have been working on various wildlife biology projects. Participating in the endangered marshbird survey efforts has been my favorite project so far. Boating down the Colorado River at dawn conducting endangered bird surveys was an unbelievable experience and felt nothing at all like work.

As the field season rolls on I continue to enjoy my work & free time in Yuma, despite the heat.

Multiple Use Management

The past five months has been defined by an amazing assortment of experiences. I have participated in so many fun and stimulating activities, ranging from participating in archeological digs to compliance monitoring at Burning Man. I am still processing the Burning Man experience. It may yet take several weeks for me to fully form coherent thoughts regarding the event. Needless to say it was fun and I will never forget it. Burning Man not only was a fun experience, but also educational. The duration of my internship has mainly focused on land management activities that are centered on conservation efforts. During Burning Man I was able to witness first-hand how the BLM manages large scale recreation events on public land. I learned that it is a complicated process in which multiple organizations must participate and requires intensive coordination efforts and inter-agency cooperation. The experience emphasized for me how the BLM truly is a “multiple-use” agency.

Another use of public lands that I became quite familiar with was made possible through my work with the range department in our field office. Having helped with many range projects, I gained a wide variety of experiences with the methods used to monitor the health of land used for grazing. The reality of management for ranchers and cattle grazing became very clear during these experiences with the range department.

During my internship I have truly witnessed the wide range of efforts the BLM makes to manage land for sustained use for ranchers, recreationists, and the flora and fauna that inhabit them. Before I had participated in this internship, I had only a vague idea of what kind of effort is being made to protect our public lands. These experiences have given me a renewed respect for the efforts that the BLM makes. Because of this time I have developed the desire to participate in the future in making these efforts the most effective possible, so that our public lands may be managed in the best and most effective ways possible.

Botanical Exploration with Jerry Theim

The first real botanical adventure I experienced was in the Calico Mountains Wilderness on an expidition lead by Jerry Theim. Few people would think to place botany and adventure next to each other. But in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, where the terrain is a product of a unique geologic history and as rugged and rocky as anything, searching for rare species is anything but boring.

We met Jerry for the first time at a fork in the road, and as we climbed into his truck we made our acquaintances quickly. Being a very talkative man, he dove into explaining what we would be doing with him that week. His plan was to spend the next four days hiking through out the wilderness, checking various points of interest he had scoped the day before.

As we drove he pointed out the vast geologic expanses, telling us names of the rare species that live there. Steam boat mountain, where Caulanthus barnedbyii was recently found, and the Jackson range, where he spent a week during the last field season searching for a rare Pentstemon species. It was clear that he knew the area well. We pulled onto a 2 mile an hour road and drove up to the base of a canyon that was carved out by a long dried up water flow. “Let’s go botanize!” He exclaimed and we got together our gear for a day of hiking.

Being from Massachusetts, I had never seen anything like the range we were about to venture into. The Calico Mountain wilderness is a vast expanse of multi-colored slopes, most of them very steep and covered in tallus. We set out trailblazing through the canyon, and we approached a dark and ominous slope covered in tallus. I had never even heard of tallus before, let alone climbed on it. I was quite surprised as we began our ascent up the 60% slope of sharp, loose, MINERAL? that slipped and slid as we scrambled our way to the top.

We were headed for an ash deposit a the top of one of the smaller peaks of the bizarrely pigmented mountains. This one was splotched with green from oxidized copper, and brown and pink from other minerals. The ash deposit at the summit was bright white and is a unique soil type endemic to the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area.

Jerry was a pro climber. I learned that day, among many other things about Jerry, that he is a native of Nevada and an avid outdoorsmen. Unsurprisingly he found his way to the top with ease. He is a modest man, and it was not until our last day out that Jerry told us of his botanical accomplishments. Apparently he was something of a local celebrity in the Great Basin plant community. In his exploration of Nevada he had found an abundance of species new to science, many of which now share his name.

During our climbs he told us stories of Arthur Cronquist and his time collecting for herbarium collections in NYC and Cambridge. He was also responsible for many of the collections that made possible the publication of Intermountain Flora, one of the best dichotomous keys for the Great Basin area. He even shared with us what he did when he was not botanizing- limosene driving for the casinos in Reno and carpentry.

He trained us in the methods he used for botanizing rare species, and gave us heaps of plant names common to the area. It was hard to take it all in, and our field books had many new pages filled with species lists. He also shared with us tips for navigating the area, and gave us valuable advice on survival in the desert.

On the way back from the trip, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for having been given the opportunity to botanize with Jerry. His training served us well in later inventories for rare species of the area. I will always be thankful for participating in the CLM internship for this reason, and many others.