The end is near. These are my last two weeks at the BLM. It has been a wonderful time, with memories that will last the rest of my life. I was involved in projects ranging from reptile pitfall trapping to early morning bird surveys. My mentor and I are now finishing up the final verbiage on our EA document for the Texas Hornshell Mussel and I have finished up my recommendations about the BLM using lignosulfonates on lease roads. I enjoyed my time in Carlsbad a lot more than I had originally thought. I have gained valuable experience that will make me a stronger applicant for both graduate schools and jobs. Most importantly, my time at the BLM has allowed me to realize my goals after graduate school. Ideally, I want to work in a government agency like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife or the BLM in conservation ecology/wildlife biology conducting research that conserves species and ecosystems. I would like to thank John Chopp, Jay Summers, Aaron Stockton, Ty Allen, and the rest of Carlsbad BLM for giving me great advice throughout my internship and making me feel welcomed. Who would have thought that a kid from Chicago would be successful in southeast New Mexico?
Aloha from Carlsbad, New Mexico. A few weeks ago I finished my work on the Dune Sagebrush Lizard. I am proud to say that my team was able to catch 15 of these little guys and we were also able to catch some in areas where no one had ever got close to trapping before. It’s safe to say that after digging over 300 holes to set pitfall traps I have become quite good at digging holes.
I have now shifted my focus on several riparian areas near Carlsbad. Specifically, I have been conducting macro-invertebrate, substrate, and water quality samples to determine steam health and community composition in the Pecos, Delaware, and Black river systems. I also conducted multiple yellow billed cuckoo surveys across the aforementioned rivers to detect a presence or absence of the birds.
One of my favorite days was conducting burrowing owl surveys where a potential oil line may be placed through. Several burrowing owl colonies were discovered in the oil pipeline right of way, so the construction company will have to re-route the pipe so they do not disturb the birds. The owls are quite personal and I was able to observe some of their natural behaviors in a beautiful part of the state. Being a herp nerd, I was pretty excited about seeing my first round tailed horned lizard Phrynosoma modestum while conducting some of these burrowing owl surveys. In the next few weeks I should start work conducting prairie chicken surveys and capturing and tagging birds found in riparian areas around Carlsbad.
The weather is starting to cool down and I am still exploring as much of the state as possible, and thoroughly enjoying myself. I can’t believe this internship ends in about a month. Until next time.
I can’t keep track of time anymore because it seems that I wrote my last blog only a couple days ago. Even though all the other interns from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have left, the wildlife biology department is still keeping me busy with multiple different projects.
Last week I finished pitfall trapping for the New Mexico State endangered Dunes Sagebrush Lizard. I had originally set a goal to set traps at 30 different pitfall arrays, but because of help from other hires, I was able to set 34 pitfall arrays. I was very happy that we were able to catch 16 different Dunes Sagebrush Lizard, all in areas where they had never previously been captured before. All of the new capture locations will be downloaded onto the BLM Carlsbad GIS and no development will be allowed within 200 meters of a DSL capture location. I feel great accomplishment knowing that because of my work, the BLM will be able to better protect this endangered species and its vanishing habitat
I am now going to be shifting my focus from pitfall trapping to a number of different projects including Yellow-Billed Cuckoo surveys, aquatic macro-Invertebrate surveys, and funnel trapping in known heronry locations. I have started the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo surveys. Specifically, we are trying to see the presence or absence of another state endangered animal (Yellow-Billed Cuckoo) along the Delaware and Black river. We survey along both rivers in areas where there is good tree cover and write down all the birds seen in a 20minute window. We then move another 100 meters down the river, or to the next available dense tree area, and survey again. A recording of the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo call is used, in an effort to attract any nearby individuals. Although we have not seen any Yellow-Billed Cuckoos, we have seen some other riparian obligates including summer tanagers, blue gross beaks, belted kingfishers, and Vermillion Flycathers. In a effort to arrive at our location as the sun is rising and maximize our chances of spotting a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo I have had to wake up at 4 am the last week, and my sleep schedule has been a little out of whack.
I am still enjoying myself hear in Carlsbad and the job never seems to slow down. This week I participated in a local radio show explaining what the BLM and I were doing trapping the DSL and to help raise awareness of the lizard and other BLM projects occurring in the area. I am keeping active on the weekends and trying to see as many places as I can in the Chihuahuan desert. I have attached a few images of me doing bird surveys and pictures of the last couple of Dune Sagebrush Lizards I caught and me talking on the local radio station.
I can’t believe I have been working in Carlsbad, for the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), for over a month now. I have been keeping a small journal listing all the different things I do every day. Reading through my journal, I am astounded by plethora of different jobs I have experienced over the past month. My primary task at the BLM has been finding the presence or absence of Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (DSL) in predetermined locations. The DSL is a habitat specialist that is only found in large dune complexes called blowouts, which are surrounded by shinnery oak. The Dunes Sagebrush Lizard was recently listed as “state endangered” in the New Mexico. If a DSL is found in a location there can be no development within 200 meters of that GPS point. Every Friday I use GIS to find locations within BLM land that maybe suitable for the DSL. Mondays I usually go to the predetermined locations and place pitfall traps in the hopes of catching a DSL. In every location we place 10 pitfall traps spread apart to maximize our chances of catching something. The pitfall traps are 5 gallon buckets sunk into the sand so they are flush with the surface; so far we have dug 21 arrays with ten buckets, meaning we have dug 210 holes all across southeast New Mexico. Every day after traps have been sunk, I go into the field and check the traps to see what has fallen in. I record any other reptile that has fallen in as well as wind speed and cloud cover. Traps are set out for five days and then pulled out. If a DSL is caught before those five days the traps are pulled out and we record the GPS coordinate of where the lizard was caught, the sex, and multiple pictures are taken to prove that we have caught a DSL.
Although I check traps every day, I still have time to experience and work with other departments at the BLM. I have been sitting in on NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) meetings to understand intricacies of developing something on federal lands. I have also been helping the BLM place interpretive signs into a nearby river explaining the ecology and history of the river. Last week we were invited to local summer camp to teach kids between the ages of 6 and 12 the differences between reptiles and amphibians and the importance of stream water quality. We have started to conduct macro-invertebrate samples along the Delaware River, and soon we will begin Prairie chicken surveys. On my off days, I have already hiked to the top of Guadalupe Peak (the highest point in Texas), gone 750 feet below ground level to explore the famous Carlsbad Caverns, and have been mountain biking in a nearby trail system. All in all there has not been a dull moment. The BLM is keeping me active and I am thoroughly enjoying my time here in Carlsbad.