The End

This week is the last in an amazing ten month internship with the BLM in Carson City, NV.   When I arrived here fresh out of grad school, I had plenty of education, but very little real world working experience in natural resources.  My time here has provided me with a wide variety of experiences and skills that I look forward to building upon in the future.  Here is a laundry list of all the activities us six interns have done here at Carson City this year: SOS seed collection, Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation monitoring and reporting, rare plant monitoring and surveys, plant identification, GIS map production and analysis, planted plugs of native species in restoration efforts, seven education and outreach events, herbarium production and management, mechanical control of weeds, and assisting range staff in rangeland assessment.  Of all of these activities, a few memorable things stand out.

The two seed collecting trips our crew made to Inyo National Forest were among my favorite trips of the internship.  These 450+ mile trips turned into week long adventures with brilliant views (see “A Penstemon heterodoxus Haiku” below).  On these trips we spent half of our time in the Sierra Nevada’s and half in the White Mountains, just to the east of the Sierras.  These trips were very fruitful (ha-ha), both in seed collections and in familiarizing ourselves with flora outside of our field office’s range.  The end of the first trip was highlighted by an opportunity to tag along on a field trip with botanist and White Mountains flora expert, Jim Morfield, who works with the Nevada Natural Heritage Program.

Another highlight from this internship was attending the Vegetation Rapid Assessment Releve workshop put on by the California Native Plant Society in Yosemite National Park.  This workshop was highly beneficial in that it taught me a vegetation assessment method that I was unfamiliar with.  But of course, the real highlights of the trip came after working hours when my fellow interns and I were able to explore the park.  This was my first visit to Yosemite, and I was quite awestruck by its beauty.  Of course, the valley was beautiful, but I also very much enjoyed walking through the many Sequoiadendron giganteum trees of the Mariposa grove at sunset.

The skill that I enjoyed building upon the most during my time here in Carson City, and will likely be among the most useful going forward, was plant identification.  I learned plant ID in a completely backwards way.  Assisting with research projects during my master’s program, I learned to recognize individual species within the project area.  From there I slowly worked up the hierarchy, recognizing some genera and families.  From my many hours here with my nose in a microscope and eyes glued to the pages of Intermountain Flora, I have gained a strong understand of plant taxonomy and classification.  I can now pick out differences between families, genera and species for a wide range of Great Basin plants.  Further, I am now comfortable with using a dichotomous key and the language associated with it, so I will be able to apply my ID skills to whatever ecosystem I end up in next.

One thing I heard over and over again during my master’s program was, “always try to add to and strengthen the tools in your professional tool belt.”  In a nutshell, this internship did exactly that.  A big thanks to CBG and especially my mentor, Dean Tonenna, for providing the opportunity for this awesome experience.


Sunset at Indian Creek Campground, where we hosted two educational summer camps for 7th and 8th graders



A smoky haze from the fire in Kings Canyon National Park envelops us while seed collecting adjacent to the John Muir Wilderness


Couds while ESR monitoring


Heterotheca villosa, key ID characteristic is it’s “double pappus”. Look closely and you will see two distinct lengths


Asclepias mexicana with Bombus


A salt flat in Dixie Valley, at the eastern edge of our district


Sunset Rainbow

Sunset Rainbow


Myself (left) and fellow intern, John, philosophizing


A Week in the Mountains

Last week my fellow Carson City interns and I had a little respite from the heat of sagebrush country in mid-august and traveled up into the mountains.   Our mentor was attending a workshop in the Bishop area, and we were able to make the journey south with him, drop him off, and venture out to collect seed and vouchers for a return seed collecting trip later this fall.  A collection permit issued by the Inyo National Forest allowed us to venture onto their lands and into the John Muir Wilderness!  We ended up spending two days in the Seirras and two days in the White Mountains.  The highlight of the White Mountains was the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.  The trip was capped off by an impromtu outing with the workshop’s leader and White Mountian botanical expert Jim Morfield.  It was very exciting and informative to botanize with someone with such a wealth of botanical knowledge.

Other than the trip south, we are busy plugging away at the fire rehab monitoring that needs to be completed.  With the deadline for completion just over a month away, there is never too much down time here in Carson City!




IMG_20150816_103210809 IMG_20150815_175409191

Sagebrush Country in July

July in Carson City, NV generally means lots of sun and hot temperatures, and we have had our fair share during 10 hour days in 100+ degree heat. A variety of techniques have emerged amongst our crew to deal with such heat. My personal favorite is storing a handful of ice in my hat. Luckily, over the last two weeks, we have seen a fairly regular dose of afternoon thunderstorms that have helped mollify our heat stress. However, it does look like warmer and drier temperatures are on the horizon.

Generally speaking, this time of the year marks the end of seed collection for the early season bloomers. As these plants wither or go into dormancy in the hot sun, we will shift gears and spend a lot of time doing fire rehab monitoring. This task entails intensive data gathering at recently burned areas in the district that have been reseeded. Once this is finished, it will be time to pick up with the seed collecting once more. Until then, I will be coming up with new ways to beat the heat.


Staying Busy in Carson City

A multitude of projects are keeping us Carson City interns quite busy.  The last couple of weeks have been centered around seed collections.  The early season bloomers Lomatium austinae and Amsinckia tessellata were our top priorities and multiple collections were made across our range.  While on these trips, we were kept on our toes by rain, thunderstorms and muddy BLM roads.  Of course, we always welcome the rain in the desert.  We were also able to collect several vouchers of plants for future collections.  The team is also busy preparing for a number of education and outreach events planned throughout the summer.   Collection of native plant materials and research are things we have done thus far in preparation.  A number of different monitoring projects are also being undertaken by our crew.  These include rare species monitoring, drought monitoring and fire rehab monitoring.  While everyone is loving all the time spent in the field, we are all very excited to travel to Yosemite to attend a workshop put on by the California Native Plant Society in two weeks!

Hardscrabble allotment overlooking Pyramid Lake

Hardscrabble allotment overlooking Pyramid Lake

Cirsium occidentale (native)

Cirsium occidentale (native)

Cleome lutea

Cleome lutea

A chilly morning in the Pine Nuts...

A chilly morning in the Pine Nuts…

....but very beautiful!
….but very beautiful!

Calochortus nuttallii
Calochortus nuttallii



A Threatened Plant and Wetland Delineation

The last couple of weeks working out of the Carson City, NV BLM office have been exciting ones. Much effort from my fellow botany interns and I has concentrated around the rare plant Ivesia webberi, a species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Across our district many range improvement projects are proposed that happen to occur within the range of Ivesia webberi. In order to be in compliance with NEPA and the ESA these project sites need to be surveyed to ensure that the proposed action will not harm existing populations of the rare plant. My fellow interns and I spent several days marching across the range ten feet apart searching for the rare plant and not finding it. From the standpoint of implementing these range improvement projects this was a good thing, however we as botanists were left wanting to see the plant thriving in significant numbers.
This past week we all got our wish. With the surveys complete, we returned to known populations to complete annual monitoring. In these isolated pockets Ivesia webberi occurred in abundance and was in full bloom! Once the permanently established plots were located we collected detailed data including canopy cover, nested frequency and measurements for each individual Ivesia plant.

Last week I was able to attend Wetland Delineation training in Sacramento as an alternative to the CBG training in Chicago. Maggie Grey has already reported wonderfully on this experience, so I will just quickly echo her sentiments. The two instructors were excellent, having both formally worked with the Army Corps of Engineers, one of whom had helped write the wetland delineation manual itself. This course taught me valuable skills and I would recommended it to my fellow interns. Finally, I was able to snap a couple of photos of those awesome vernal pools which Maggie described: IMG_0577






Grass Class and Fire Restoration

The Sierra Front District BLM botany team is now complete. Stevie, the final member of our team, and my roommate arrived last weekend. The six of us interns are now gearing up for a busy field season. Of course, in this first month we have all been busy completing various trainings. Much time has also been spent on processing herbarium specimens from previous years.

During the beginning of this past week, we all attended a grass identification course at the University of Nevada Reno. As part of the class, we dissected and examined under the microscope 49 different genera of Poaceae, as well as several genera in Juncaceae and Cyperaceae. I have done work with grass in the past but have never had such a comprehensive overview of the family. I’m sure the information I learned in this class will prove to be quite useful going forward.

Field activities over the past couple of weeks have revolved around post-fire restoration. As reported by Olivia and Maggie, we spent a good deal of time scouting for locations to plant Mountain Mahogany seedlings at the TRE fire site. We found a site with a bunch of charred Mahogany remnants and determined that it would be suitable for planting the seedlings. We were all excited for our first camping trip of the season and the trip did not disappoint. Just fewer than 300 seedlings were planted successfully and the crew was treated to some amazing views of the Sierra and Sweetwater ranges.

Today the six of us will depart for Boise for the Integrated Pest Management and Pesticide Application Training and Certification. This certification is valid across all government agencies and will likely be very valuable in future job hunting endeavors.

Exciting First Week

Hello All,

This post is coming at the end of an exciting and interesting first week of BLM office in Carson City, NV.  For starters, I think I may have set the record for fastest worker’s comp claim.  At the end of the first day I was cleaning out a Petri dish used to mix adhesive for the herbarium and managed to put a nice cut into my finger requiring a few stitches.  I have jokingly stated that I was just trying to make a splash on my first day.  Work in the herbarium is relaxing and enjoyable.  In the past I have done lots of collecting and pressing of plant samples in the field, so it was nice to learn the back end of the process and be able to produce a herbarium specimen from start to finish.

Of course, my passion is for work in the field.  Yesterday we visited a former mine site, the American Flat Mine, where my fellow interns and I will help to plan and implement a restoration project.  Ecological restoration was a specialization of my MS, and I am very excited about this project.  We spent the day mapping out the area and generating a species list from a reference area nearby.  Being from Colorado, it was nice to be able to pick out several species I was familiar with, while at the same time learning characteristics of many new ones.  I’ll continue to update this project as the summer continues.

Other tasks of the week have included assisting with a cleanup project as part of this office’s Adopt a Space outreach program, sitting in on stakeholder meetings and assisting with research and development of NEPA documents.  It’s only been a few days, but I can tell it’s going to be a great summer!

Wild horses on American Flat Mine

Wild horses on American Flat Mine


Bank stabilization using willows on TNC property

Bank stabilization using willows on TNC property


Cheers,  Aaron