The Time Has Come!

P8290087The time has come for me. To have another birthday that is! The 28th birthday is coming up here in about 1 week, but the party will have to wait until I return to the sweet, sweet smell, sound, look and feel of fall in Wisconsin. I know it’s all rather sudden but we must make due.

Seed collection has been stagnated a bit by the rainy weather but luckily that means we have plenty of time to clean seed and get all our other office work organized and ready for leaving time. As of now it looks like my last day will be the 26th of September which means I have less than a month left!

I apologize, but I just can’t hide my excitement. I love Wisconsin and I didn’t get out much this past winter because it was a nasty cold one, especially after living in a tropical climate for over two years. Adjusting to the weather has been the least of my problems however after coming back from Tanzania. Once you get out and get used to a simpler lifestyle you realize that we are all crazy; Americans mainly but I assume the psychoses permeates throughout most of the western, developed world. When I say ‘the western, developed world’ I am of course really referring to the consumers. You look at our lives and we take and we take and we take without even the notion that we must give something back if we are to sustain our existence on this earth. Money deceives us into believing we have payed for what we’ve taken but this grand illusion is slowly becoming illuminated to reveal that we have depleted our natural resources through ignorance and neglect. All I want for my birthday is a revolution. I want people to acknowledge our place on this planet and rediscover a lost reverence and respect vital to our coexistence with the multitude of other beings with whom we share our home. P8260094 :/ :/ :/ :/
I would also like to complete the 25 seed collections we have for this season but I’m pretty confident that I don’t need any birthday luck to have that desire become a reality. Right now we’re looking at some Chrysothamnus vicidiflorus (Green Rabbitbrush), Krascheninnikovia lanata (Winterfat), Artemisia tridentata (Big Sagebrush), Elymus elymoides (Squirreltail), Psoralidium lanceolatum (Lemon Scurfpea) and that silly Geranium. And that will make 25! Got some GIS course coming up here in mid-September which I am looking forward to.

I would like to sign out on this final note. We need to be the change that we want to see in the world. We cannot expect more of others than we expect from ourselves. If I want to see people come to respect the earth, reduce their consumption and give back, the first thing I need to do is respect the earth myself, reduce my own consumption and personally give back what I can. That’s how I see it, but the Great Pacific Garbage Patch keeps growing and our pollinators keep dying due to poisoning from neonicotinoid pesticides.P8290085

There’s No Time Man!

P8191391Well, I suppose I’m a little late on the blog for July but I got priorities and let’s be real, is anyone reading this? For those of you still feigning interest I will now list off the collections we have done since my last blog: Hesperostipa comata, Elymus elymoides, Artemisia arbuscula, Poa secunda, Atriplex gardneri, 2 Purshia tridentata, Oenothera pallida var. Trichocalyx, Achnatherum hymenoides, Eriogonum ovalifolium, Eriogonum umbellatum, Pseudoroegneria spicata, Psoralidium lanceolatum, Sporobolis airoides and we have started a Geranium richardsonii collection. So, needless to say we have been super-duper busy especially when some species’ seeds need to be counted one-by-one such as our antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) and the lemon scurfpea (Psoralidium lanceolatum). I hope you enjoyed my list. We are up to 18 collections now and are getting close to our goal of 25.

We did find time for one other project helping our fisheries biologist break up some beaver dams on one of the tributaries to the famed Muddy Creek, an area of conservation importance in part due to the concurrence of 4 native fish species endemic to the Colorado river basin: Colorado River cutthroat, bluehead sucker, flannelmouth sucker, and roundtail chub. This area is highly affected by coal bed and natural gas development both of which use large amounts of water which then becomes polluted and must be disposed of. Second to the threat of energy development is the threat of invasive species which prey upon and hybridize with our native species. It was a welcome break from seed collecting to grab a Pulaski and slap on some waders and just raise some hell for the beavers.
P7261370In other news: I went to Colorado to visit a friend and do some hiking and camping. The wildflowers were going crazy in the mountains and when we reached our destination we came upon a community of marmots and pikas. The marmots were quite friendly while the pikas were a little shy. On one of our collections I found a giant ram skull with the horns completely in tact. I nabbed that baby up, as you can see, and am thinking of ways to strap it onto my head for a Halloween costume. Ooh yeah, and some great news for the environment, Germany put a 7-year ban on fracking! P7271384

That’s all for now folks, running on comp time.

Usernames Cannot Be Changed

P6250045It’s funny how when I got here (Rawlins, WY) all I could see was the vast amount of natural gas wells surrounding many of the places we work in. When I see gas wells I think of global warming, groundwater contamination and possible H2S poisoning. So, I think, “Ugh, this is horrible, let’s get out of here.” But we just kept on going back and the wells just start to blend in after a while. You just get used to them, and rather quickly I might add. So while things are starting to dry up in carbon county somewhere along the way I’ve started to appreciate the high desert: the colorful rock formations, the prairie dogs and other varmints and the roaming ungulates. It’s kind of perdy out here.

June was a busy, busy month which started with a nice break from the gas fields to do our training in Chicago. It was a lovely week of rehydration and greenness and I returned with greater understanding and a renewed sense of purpose for the work we are doing out here. The Garden was beautiful and there were no gas wells to be seen. But then I think, who among us doesn’t use natural gas? We need to demand alternative energy! The pursuit of better and more efficient means of powering our homes, cars and industry has been stagnated by the multi-billion dollar oil and gas industry. Politicians and the legislature have left it up to us to find other, less destructive means of getting power. So I say, let’s get creative people… and listen to Gandhi. “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

So, I’ve decided to use my blog to try to affect social change but I guess I’ll tell you a little about my work as well. We saw not one but two federally endangered species this month! Upon returning from Chicago we got the chance to work with some folks from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doing surveys on the Wyoming Toad (Bufo baxteri). These little guys are distinguished from other toads primarily by the fusion of the cranial crests. The decline of this species began in the mid-70’s and has been linked to insecticide use, agricultural practices and climate change among other things. Our survey was looking at not only the presence of the species but also the presence of the amphibian chytrid fungus as a possible reason for lack of recruitment. The other species we saw was Blowout Penstemon (Penstemon haydenii). It took us about a 3 hour drive on rough roads and a bit of hiking around the sand dunes of the southeastern Ferris mountains, but we saw this little light purple beauty in full bloom hanging on to the dunes. Its’ scent is reminiscent of vanilla. Other than that we’ve just been mastering the slow walk and scan while counting the number of plants collected. The wind and the sun get to be quite beastly out there but I just pretend I’m a native woman collecting seeds for the community gardens, for the survival of my people.
Thank you for reading 🙂

The beautiful flowers of Yucca schidigera.

The beautiful flowers of Yucca schidigera.

Welcome to Rawlins

I rolled in to Rawlins a couple of days before my official start date just to get settled in. It was approximately an 18 hour drive from my sweet Wisconsin homeland to the steppe ecosystem of Rawlins, Wyoming. I was welcomed with a blizzard the Sunday before my first day of work and decided to explore the town in my boots and winter coat. The town folk are generally pretty friendly, the town itself pretty small and the area pretty treeless.  But it is from here that I will begin my adventures with the Bureau of Land Management.
Our main project is focused on collecting the voucher specimen and later the seeds of 22 species and 3 genuses of local native plants within the BLM-Rawlins District. The seed collections are for the Seeds of Success Program which has the goal of collecting, conserving, and developing native plant materials for stabilizing, rehabilitating and restoring lands in the United States. Some of these seeds will be used for research such as germination trials, common garden studies, and protocol establishment while additional seed from each collection will be held in long-term storage facilities for conservation.
So far my time has been spent learning to identify the species on our collection list and getting familiar with the areas where they are found. This of course has meant a lot of driving time and a significant amount of hours on the computer. Two species on our list which are in bloom right now are Lomatium foeniculaceum and Cymopterus bulbosus which are both in the family Apiaceae. We collected voucher specimen for three different populations of the Lomatium and one of the Cymopterus. The Lomatium is starting to go into seed and we will have to return soon to begin our seed collections. Many of the areas where we are doing our collections are in natural gas fields, so I have been learning my fair share about the dynamics of conservation in the land of oil, gas and coal. I have also been given a crash course in operating a trimble GPS and navigating ArcGIS, which I sincerely appreciate.
Scoping on some Redtail
The best part of being out here so far has to be the amount of wildlife that range the area. We have seen pronghorn antelope, elk, mule deer, bald eagles, western grebes and pelicans. My favorite, however, are the prairie dogs since learning about their complex communities, language and role in maintaining the ecosystem. The wildflowers are beautiful as well with Indian Paintbrush, Shooting Star, Evening Primrose and Blue Bells in full bloom. I look forward to seeing some wolves, cougars and badgers yet and maybe some areas with a few more trees.

Used by Native Americans in ovulation inhibition

Used by Native Americans in ovulation inhibition