Goodbye Cedar City!

It has been quite hectic since my internship ended and it feels like I’ve taken longer than I imagined to write my final reflective post.
I am very thankful to everyone who makes the CLM internship possible at the Chicago Botanical Gardens and at BLM. It’s been an extraordinary experience. There were days full of hard work and others that were quite relaxed but there was always learning going on.
I am very happy with my experience, the people I met and the skills I gained.
Due to staff changes right before the internship, my experience is likely to have been very different than that of past interns who may have had better planned and straightforward internships. That is not necessarily a negative thing because I feel this gave me the opportunity to have a wider range of exposure to different projects and staff at the office.
One of the best experiences I had was translocating prairie dogs. I believe that the conservation issues involving prairie dogs is in need of better solutions. There is much needed cohesion between BLM and outside knowledge from other organizations and institutions. If there is anything from this experience I would like to pursue, it would be the conservation of prairie dogs and pigmy rabbits.

Some advice I would give to other interns would be to ask your mentor about participating in as many training opportunities as you can.
When starting the internship it is good to take notes and pictures when learning plants because it helps the learning process considerably.
Most importantly, encourage yourself to think outside the box and express your ideas even if it seems to go against the usual way of doing things.

Thanks again everyone for helping me make this an incredible opportunity!

With a little more time I would find one

So far, every month has been marked by great learning experiences and this one was no exception. Perhaps the funnest, but also most challenging of these experiences was fish seining. Fish seining consists of dragging a net across a river as a way to catch fish. You add a windy day and rocky terrain that is not visible through the water and you get a good workout with some very lovely bruises. I look forward to continue seining this week although I do hope it won’t be painfully cold and windy.

One of our tasks this past week was to survey areas in search of the elusive pygmy rabbits. Searching can get a little monotonous and tiring, specially when you search and search, and there are no signs of pygmy rabbits. This also makes it that much more exciting when you finally spot their distinctive pellets under the sagebrush and you enthusiastically start hunting for occupied burrows. Then you spot a rabbit running through the sagebrush and it all happens too quickly that you don’t get a chance to get a good look or you find yourself disappointed as you realize it was only a cottontail. I’ve been eager to spot one, but can’t say with certainty that I ever saw one and chances are I didn’t. I went out on one of these pigmy rabbits hunts by myself and I’ve got say it’s quite a different experience being out solo. I felt it was pleasantly therapeutic. Experiences are a lot more pronounced and the sense of peace when you are out by yourself is very rewarding.

I am quite sad I am coming into the last week of my internship. It feels like there is so much more to do and learn. It’s too bad it’s almost time to say goodbye.

Keep them coming

We tend to constantly reflect on our lives thinking we haven’t accomplished enough and I am, of course, not the exception. Today, I feel like expressing my appreciation for the experiences I’ve been fortunate to have. I have felt at home here in Cedar City and have met some wonderful people. I get filled with joy as I sit back in the car seat and realize how blessed I am to be able to see many of Utah’s beautiful places.

I was able to visit Richfield to do some seed collecting. Little did I know how amazing this experience would be thanks to Dustin Rooks, the Botanist for the Richfield BLM Office. I got three days of beautiful scenery and great stories. If that wasn’t enough, I got to meet Dustin’s amazing family, enjoy his great cooking, and got to taste elk for the first time. What made this a very enjoyable experience was Dustin’s company. Not only is he a great father, husband, and cook, he is an extraordinary botanist!

I continue my internship with an open mind and welcome the rest of the extraordinary experiences to come.

Better Chance at Survival

As my internship continues, I find it feels as new and exciting as the beginning. One of the things I love about this internship is that there is always something new to learn. I had to take some days off of work and as soon as I got back, I literally got my feet wet learning how to estimate fish population. As part of a monitoring effort, I helped out with shocking and counting fish at Bear Creek. Despite the numb fingers, wet clothes, and water in my boots, I thoroughly enjoyed this experience.

For these last two weeks, I have been working with prairie dog translocation, a task I both love and hate. Although I can understand some of the reasons why people may find prairie dogs to be a nuisance, it amazes me how cruel humans can be. If we stop and think about it, we are more of a nuisance to them – building over their homes, decreasing their habitat, and if that weren’t enough, shooting them for fun. I do not feel good trapping prairie dogs to take them from their home, separate them from their families, and move them to a completely different area where they must quickly learn to adapt. It seems ridiculous that as human beings we simply get rid of what we don’t want instead of finding ways to live in cooperation.

Prairie dogs belong to the Sciuridae (squirrel) family and are composed of five different species: Utah, Gunison’s, black-tailed, white-tailed, and Mexican prairie dog. As a keystone species, they are a crucial part of the North American prairies, benefiting around 150 other species and feeding animals like hawks, eagles, ferrets, foxes, and badgers. They also have one of the most complex communication systems ever studied. Con Slobodchikoff, professor at Northern Arizona University, has identified differences in calls for humans, coyotes, dogs, and hawks. Prairie dogs can even describe size, color, and location of predators. They also help aerate and fertilize the soil.

I enjoy working with these charismatic furry rodents. I feel good knowing that at least by translocating them, I am giving them a better chance of survival. There is a lot that can be done for all five species of prairie dog whose populations have dramatically plummeted. Currently, only the Mexican prairie dog is listed as endangered and the Utah prairie dog as threatened. The most important, and perhaps the most challenging, is to have a shift in people’s perspective on the way we treat other beings. Through better understanding and different alternatives, people may shift their attitude towards what they consider pests.

Loving the Adventures

It continues to be an enjoyable time here in Cedar City – full of learning and adventures!
I started off the month with a prairie dog training at, yes, a golf course. It’s quite a sight to see so many prairie dogs running around or peeking out of a burrow while a player is hitting a ball. I learned the procedure for translocating prairie dogs and got lots of practice setting traps, weighing, tagging and finally releasing them at their new location. Although taking them to a less desirable and unfamiliar habitat was not the best feeling, getting to work so closely with them was an extremely rewarding experience. I look forward to learning all I can about prairie dogs and doing my part in helping increase their population.

The next project involved installing reflectors to make a fence more visible for wildlife. Being the first time we were sent out on our own, it was sure to turn into a memorable day. It’s not surprising how you can easily start to get nervous when you are on your own, unsure of where you are, lose communication with your partner, run out of water all while it is starting to get a little late. As I look back, I smile because I know it’s all part of the learning experience!

For the past couple of weeks, I moved on to doing wildlife clearances that involved inspecting an area for signs of sensitive species and reporting on the general habitat encountered. This is an excellent opportunity to be observing all of the surroundings and practice learning plants, birds, and signs indicating the presence of animals. Although I have not yet encountered sage grouse in my outings, sightings of a golden eagle, red tailed hawk, or a Swainson’s hawk are always exciting. Of course, while being out in the field all day, things are bound to happen. Seeing how sunny days can easily turn into a thunderstorm, a cloudy day is something to be weary of during monsoon season. I learned this on Tuesday as my partner and I got soaked while running to the truck to seek cover from the hail. I have to say, these unexpected days do tend to end up being the most fun.

All in all, it’s been an awesome month. I am excited for the experiences to come!

My first two weeks in Cedar City

I arrived in Cedar City two weeks ago, excited to explore a new place and get away from the buzz of LA.  The scenery around here is quite beautiful.  I’ve gone to check out Zion National Park, which has spectacular views and tons to do.


Besides the training during the first few days, my fellow intern and I have been working with the Range people doing transects at Spring Mountain and Fiddlers Canyon.  Although the days can be long and hot sometimes, they are filled with lots of learning and good experiences. Working with Range has been very helpful in getting familiar with the vegetation around here.  I have also gotten a chance to learn from the fuels people about their fire management, its successes, and its challenges.  Next week, prairie dog training begins!  I am looking forward to working on a prairie dog translocation project from a golf course to the great outdoors.

Bellow is a picture taken as I drive up Indian Peak on a tour around the field sites.


I feel very fortunate to be exposed to so many great people.  Everyone I’ve worked with at BLM has been very nice and has helped to create a welcoming atmosphere. I am excited for all the experiences and learning opportunities to come.