This is the end, my only friend, the end

It seems like only yesterday that I made my perilous journey out west, braving hazardous weather conditions in our tiny BMW and Penske truck full of furniture.  It was a little difficult finding a way out here. I have a little boy, who is now 5. He, my boyfriend, and I moved all the way across the country. My boyfriend had to attain permission to work remotely from his company in Chicago, and I had to find my son a new school. There was a lot to consider, but I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to get my foot in the door and gain new jobs skills, so my family supported me, and I am very grateful to them for that.  I remember finally arriving, and being taken back by the new and different landscape that laid before me.  I wasn’t used to the desert, let alone alone mountains.

I knew nothing about the vegetation in the Great Basin in the beginning, I hardly knew how to identify sagebrush. However, as time progressed, my botanical skills became stronger, and I was able to indentify most flora on sight.  Trips to the University of Nevada Reno herbarium helped me to improve my taxonomy skills, as well as my verification skills. When fire season began, I picked up on many new protocols and also builded on my growing botanical skills. I really enjoyed conducting education outreach events as well. It was great to share my knowledge with the general public and the youth, and it was great to see their curiosity and enthusiasm. I have seen some breath taking sights out west, and those memories will remain in my memories forever.

I’ve met some great people from all over the country, and other countries for that matter. We are all now going our seperate ways, and it’s a little sad, but it is also a new begininning. I have gained many skills through this internship, and hopefully this will assist me in finding the perfect job in the perfect place.

“Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”


Mono Lake Seed Collecting Trip

Tioga pass, near our SOS collection site.

Tioga pass, near our SOS collection site.

Last week, the Carson botany team and I went on a four day seed collecting excursion in the Mono Lake area. It was such an incredible experience for all, and was highly productive as well. The first day, we drove to the Inyo National Forest and made our way to the Ancient Bristle Forest. Many of you probably already know that this bristle cone pine forest is the home of Methuselah, the oldest known living organism in the world. We decided that as botanists, we should hike the Methuselah trail and observe these ancient trees, and take a gander on which one of these bristle cones could be the great Methuselah.

The team and I at the Ancient Bristle Cone Pine Forest

The team and I at the Ancient Bristle Cone Pine Forest

It is amazing that these bristle cone pines live thousands of years, and we were very fortunate to be able to see them in all their majesty.

The next couple days were just as exciting. We made several seed collections, and saw more breath taking sites. We drove a little bit up Tioga Pass, which is one of the passes that leads to Yosemite. We surveyed a lovely riperian area and also made a collection of Scirpis. There was a solar eclipse occuring on the third day of our trip, and were actually able to view the eclipse through a telescope outside the Mono Lake Visitor Center, which was fascinating. You could actually see several sun spots through the telescope!

The history of the Mono Lake area is quite fascinating. Not only was the area glaciated at one time, but it is also home to the Mono Craters, a volcanic chain stretching many miles. Seven hundred sixty thousand years ago, an eruption occurred near Mono Lake, creating a blast that was 2,500 times greater than the blast of Mt. Saint Helen. Ash from this blast has been found as far as Nebraska. Because this is an area of high geologic activity, there are many hot springs in the area. A friend of our supervisor’s allowed us to spend the night at her property in Benton, CA, a tiny town which resides over some of these hot springs. The property was quite lovely, and also had hot spring tubs, which was such a relaxing treat for us. We headed home the next day, making a few more SOS collections and also stopping to survey an old volcanic area near Luck Boy Pass, which is near the Walker Lake area. The trip was highly successful, as we made several SOS collections. It was also a wonderful experience, having had the privilege of working in such a beautiful part of the country.

Vegetation Rapid Assessment Workshop

Last week the team and I participated in a very informative training with the California Native Plant Society. We traveled to Yuba County in California, named so after the beautiful Yuba River that flows through the area. I had the pleasure of meeting several people working with different agencies and private consultancies throughout different areas in California that were also taking the course. I won’t get into the specifics, but I learned several new protocols that definitely increased my skillset, as well as changed the way I perceive vegetative communities.

Our lovely little campfire

I really enjoyed seeing oak trees again. It was very reminiscent of the midwest oak hickory forests I know so well. I had the pleasure of meeting some new oaks too, like Quercus douglasii and Quercus wislinzenii (sorry, no photos of the oaks). The salmon on the Yuba River were spawning, so we all climbed onto some boulders overlooking the river to watch them jump out of the water. All in all, it was a great training. I gained new skills, met some good people, and got to see some beautiful scenery.

The end of fire season

The smoke from the King Fire finally cleared up last week, and we can finally breathe easy. I’m from the Midwest, so I grew up around tornadoes and floods, not fire. I’ve never checked the weather forecast and seen “smokey” as an actual weather condition. It’s almost unbelievable that the King Fire burned tens of thousands of acres, and nearly 8,000 firefighters were fighting the fire. The cold front and recent rains from last weekend definetely helped in the containment of that fire. There are even snow capped mountains now, which is a lovely site.

The Carson City team finished up the last of our fire monitoring transects recently, and now we’re wrapping up the Fire Monitoring ESR reports.  The actual fire monitoring process was informative, as we learned a lot of new techniques used to measure soil stablility, perennial vegetation, and other things.  Writing up the reports helped me see the big picture, and I was able to actually visualize how the sites we monitored were recovering. We monitored about 10 fires over the summer. I will never forget lugging some of that gear around over hilly, rocky terrain, sometimes having to hike over a mile to reach the plots. We saw a lot of beautiful sites in the process, so it was worth it. That’s all from Carson City, right now. Peace!

A rainy Nevada morning

I woke up this morning and went on the balcony to find a pleasant surprise…It was raining! It wasn’t the pouring Midwest rain with which I am acquainted, but it was lovely nontheless.  I looked to the Sierras, and there was a mist hovering above them. It was kind of mystic. I opted to ride my bike to work despite the rain. I mean, there hasn’t been a morning like this since the first week I arrived in Carson City back in February, so I had to savor this rainy morning. Plus I have rain pants, which made that decision easier.

On the business side of things, I would like to officialy welcome our two new interns to the CLM crew, Mary and Arie. Their first day was last Monday, and they’ve already settled in quite nicely. We took them to Sand Mountain (which we have dubbed Butter Mountain) to seed collect Distichlis spicata. We visited a few other places to collect seed, including the beautiful Pine Nuts, where we collected Carex Nebrascensis. We are to receive ATV training tomorrow. Needless to say, we are all super stoked about applying this training out in the field. Well, that’s all for now. Until next time!


Summer in Carson City

Hey there! I’m a bit late posting this. And by late I mean like 3 or 4 weeks, so my bad CLM internship. Guess you know who’s busy working! So much has been going on lately. Fire monitoring, a lot of seed collecting, and educating high school kids, which is what I’m going to talk about, but I warn you, this blog will not be as long as my previous blogs.

So late June and early July, we were working with “Dean’s future scholars,” or, the DFS students. They had been working with the Carson City botany team, as well as other BLM specialists. We took them on a variety of trips with us, each day showing them different aspects of our job. We took them seed collecting in Smith Valley and Sand Mountain. Sand Mountain is a beautiful sand dune system about a half hour east of Fallon, NV. Not only are the sand dunes such a unique ecosystem, but the Stillwater range nearby is quite beautiful. It was great to take them there. We also did fire monitoring in Washoe Valley, and got to introduce them to a variety of techniques to assess the impact of fire on vegetation and soil. We also did a utilization exercise with them that none of us, not even our supervisor, had ever attempted prior to this summer. We basically took grass clippings,dried them, got the biomass, and used a variety of formulas to investigate the utilization value. It is difficult to explain in a blog, so I won’t get into it, but we put a lot of work into it, and it ended up a success! This data is actually going to be used by the BLM because the particular grass species we worked with didn’t have a utilization value, so it was great to do that activity and have the students be a part of that. Ultimately It was a cool experience working with the DFS students, and we hope they enjoyed it as much as we did.

Fire season begins…


Fire season is kicking off, and the team and I have had our first round of fire monitoring. We conducted our survey at the Airport fire site, named so due to the presence of the Alpine County International airport, which is adjacent to the site.  We learned a lot of new techniques, which will receive honorable mentions, but will not be discussed. Belt transects, canopy and basal gap measurements, perennial density and nested frequency, point intercept, and soil stability encompass the survey techniques we implemented for fire monitoring.  Apart from the fire monitoring skills, I also broadened my botanical knowledge, being introduced to a few new grasses and forbs.

We camped for two nighst at Indian Creek Reservoir, which was just  down the road from the Airport fire plots.  Our sites were right near the reservoir, which had a lovely view of the mountain side.  The sites had tent pads, a fire pit, bathrooms, and showers, which is a rarity in regards to what our future camping experiences in the field will be like, so we soaked it all up and enjoyed it.  Some of us took a dip in the reservoir, which was extremely cold (for my taste anyhow, but I’m always cold).  Our second night of camping, we built a fire.  I know we were fire monitoring, so it may seem a bit odd that we were deliberately starting fires, but we were very cautious, and put a lot of effort into making sure the fire was properly extinguished prior to leaving. I’m proud to say that this was the first fire that actually started and maintained by myself. This is an accomplishment for me, and I’m going to wear it as a badge!  I’ve never smelled a fire as flavorful as this one, the burning sagebrush wood exudes a wonderful aroma.  Ultimately, this was an educational as well as a fun experience for the team and me.  Well, that’s all for now, catch ya later folks!

Happily tending the fire...

Me happily tending the fire…


Indian Creek Reservoir

Indian Creek Reservoir

Love, light, and laughter,



April in the Great Basin

Erythranthe carsonensis

Erythranthe carsonensis

It’s been an eventful month for the team and I here in Carson City, NV.  We began the month by traveling to Boise, ID for pesticide certification. It was basically like taking a super condensed college course, then having several finals at the end of the week. It was a challenge, but the whole team passed the general pesticide exam, as well as all of the category exams. We are straight up pesticide certified, so don’t mess with us!  We also did a couple of outreach events. We helped organize the Truckee River Environmental Education event on Earth Day. We took the kids on a botany safari and organized a game that taught the kids about noxious weeds. We also had a BLM booth at Earth Day in Reno, which a lot of families enjoyed.  Our booth had free posters, tattoos, homemade plant pressed book marks, as well as a couple games which included ecosystem jenga (super fun!) and the trash game, where the players had to guess how long it took certain everyday trash items to degrade.  Reno Earth Day was pretty neat, I got a chance to walk around a little bit and check out the vendors, food, and live music.

My favorite project we have been working on this month is rare plant monitoring.  We have been surveying for both Ivesia webberi and Erythranthe carsonesis.  We have successfully mapped several polygons of the Ivesei, and have been attempting to survey elsewhere for the plant. It’s been kind of a treasure hunt! We only spent a day surveying for the Erythranthe carsonesis, but it is a very unique looking plant, characterized by a yellow flower with a tiny red dot. We did find a few very small populations, a couple of them only have two or three individuals. Many plants are in bloom right now, so I expect lots of seed collecting on the horizon…

What’s up, from Carson City!

Hey there! It’s Alexandra (Alex) live from Carson City, NV. It is now my 6 week in the internship. It was quite a pleasant weather shift, moving out here from the brutal winter Chicago has been experiencing! I find the scenery out here in the wild west amazing. The Chicago skyline is pretty cool at night and all, but I have to say, I love being able to look out my apartment window and see the Sierra Nevada Mountains!

After mainly doing plant biology research in a lab the past two years while working on my Master’s degree, working as a botany intern for BLM has reminded me how much I miss field work. I came out here knowing next to nothing about desert flora, and over the past several weeks, I’ve learned so many new plants. You look out into the Great Basin, and you think you are looking at a monoculture of mostly sagebrush, but once you venture out into it and creep around the desert floor, you begin to realize that there is diverse salad of wildflowers, grasses and shrubs. My favorite place we have visited is the Hardscrabble area/allotment. Another intern and I were surveying the riparian areas for noxious weeds, and we hiked up the canyon to a beautiful Populus tremuloides (trembling aspen) stand. This allotment is adjacent to Pyramid Lake, and we had a stunning view of it from there (sorry I don’t have a photo). All is well so far, more to come soon!