The Definitive Guide to Pooing on Public Lands

       Answering the call of nature presents an interesting challenge for CLM Interns and other outdoors people alike. The vast majority of our lives are spent in civilization where we feel comfortable and can achieve privacy easily, but when you are out in the woods or on the steppe, answering this call of nature may not come very… naturally. In order to dispel some of the awkwardness that comes with “going number two”, I wanted to write a blog post to educate fellow and future interns on a topic that isn’t frequently explored. I know it’s easy to be immature about this topic but we are no longer in grade school and frankly I think there are some worthwhile points that merit discussion. We all poo. I poo. You poo. Your mentor poos too. Get over it.

An Intro to Poo

What is a poo?
I’ll keep this brief. Poo is a combination of waste material and bacteria. It is mostly made of water (~75%) and the rest is all the bacteria that helped digest the food, fiber, waste material, etc. It is usually brown because of a compound called bilirubin, which is a pigment that comes from the breakdown of red blood cells in the liver and bone marrow.

What is fiber?
Dietary fiber is a carbohydrate and the undigested portion of food derived from plants. Basically, it adds bulk to your stool and make it easier to pass. Good sources of fiber include whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables.

What does healthy poo look like?
Your poo is a troubleshooting tool. Just as we use species composition and alteration as indicators of streambank stability, we use our poo to tell us if we are properly nourished. Flushing without looking is like hiking to a mountaintop just to hike back down. You went through all that strain, but what about the view? Think of it like a check engine light in your car. If you don’t do something about it now, you might have bigger problems down the road. Feel free to consult the Bristol Stool Chart, a visual guide for stools. Ideally you want to achieve a Type 4 or 5, which are considered “normal”.

How often should one poo?
Everyone is a little different – but you should typically poo at least once a day. Signs of constipation include pooing only a couple of times a week, not ever feeling quite empty, and hard stool. On the other hand, going 5+ times a day is stepping into the realm of diarrhea. When this happens it is important to rehydrate your body to make up for lost fluid and to consume fiber to add bulk to your stool.

Poo Protocol

       This is a topic that I want to take rather seriously. Our work revolves around helping better manage the land, resources, and ecology around us. Careless pooing does exactly the opposite of that in that it adversely impacts environment quality and the aesthetics of the land we use to recreate and share with others. I suggest getting familiar with all Leave No Trace guidelines, but the ones concerning waste disposal are as follows:

1. Minimize the chance of water pollution
2. Minimize the spread of disease
3. Minimize aesthetic impact
4. Maximize decomposition rate

       The most practical method is to dig a hole and bury your poo. We always have a shovel in our truck for this very purpose. First and foremost, locate the toilet paper. Agree to keep it in one spot so you can all find it easily.  Find a private spot far away from water, trails, or campsites and dig a hole at least 6 inches deep. In desert environments, waste has a harder time breaking down so it is recommended to dig shallower holes (2-6 inches) to maximize decomposition. Once you finish your business, toss in the toilet paper and cover the hole completely and disguise it. Because we usually work in very remote public land, this method is adequate. In many popular, high-use areas however, you may be required to pack out your waste. Remember to sanitize/wash your hands afterwards!

Other methods

Toilet: . . . . .

Groover: I first saw one of these when I went on a float trip on the John Day River. It’s essentially the most miniature of porta-potties, a large canister with the sanitizing blue chemical in it and a toilet seat attachment. They’re called groovers because they used to not have the seat. Use your imagination. Here’s a good article about them.

Holding it in: So you decided to go this route, eh? Think you can make it a day until you get back into town? That’s cool, but keep this in mind — If you decide to hold it in, water will absorb back into your body, dehydrating your poo, making it harder, which can lead to unnecessary constipation. Also, because your brain treats a stretched intestinal wall as a stimulus to excrete, a prolonged stretch will dull the signal to empty, and will result in more effort when it’s time to go. It’s not harmful to hold it in from time to time, but you shouldn’t make a habit of it.

What to Wipe With

1.) Hopefully, toilet paper.

2.) Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is a biennial forb that is native to Europe and Africa. It’s a common weedy plant in the United States and prefers well-lit disturbed soils. The soft, tomentose leaves make it nature’s version of your favorite triple-ply extra deluxe TP from your parents’ place. Except it’s right here, on the other side of that sagebrush over there. Go ahead… try it out and you’ll see that miles and miles away from your house (or another human being for that matter), you’ll feel right at home. You can also sleep well at night knowing that you contributed marginally to curbing the population of an invasive weed.


A word of caution: Be very careful to not use plants that you are not familiar with. For one, they can have adverse conditions and be harmful to your health. They may also be listed as endangered and under federal protection. I’m really preaching to the choir here and I trust that all you botanists-in-training will recognize that.

3.) Alright. You found a safe place to poo but you’re out of TP and the vegetation looks abrasive at best. It’s time to get creative. When my fellow technician Wyatt first suggested this, I thought he was just messing around. I thought it was some sick joke until I actually tried it so hear me out:  rocks. A river rock, a chunky lump of upland basalt, it doesn’t really matter. It all works equally as well and there is no shame to it. So if the world ever puts you in that desperate position… just take the leap and join the club.


       Just a few quick tips here. In the field, you are essentially reduced to pooing as our ancestors did. There is no tall porcelain structure to support you, so you have to essentially squat in order to go. Research has found that this is actually the healthiest posturing to poo because sitting puts pressure on your rectum and impairs bowel movement. The most stable and best way to squat is the 3rd world squat, a basic human movement which many of us cannot do. Try it. If you are one of those people, you may like to learn, or, you can always support yourself with a shovel/tree. Another problem concerns keeping your clothes clear from the line of danger. For this I would advise the following:
When crouching with your pants around your ankles, reach in from the front of your legs and grab the back part of your pants (middle of your belt) and pull it forward. This will keep your clothing clear of the danger zone.

Some Workplace Considerations

       Out in the field, our bodies and minds have to put up with many factors, whether they be the heat, humidity, rain, mosquitos, fatigue, hunger, etc. Each one of these wears on us over the course of the day. The urge to go is just another one of these distractions – pulling your focus away from the task at hand, making you irritable, lowering morale, and negatively affecting your interactions with coworkers and ultimately your productivity and the quality of work you put out. Why put yourself through that?

       I feel very fortunate to work in a crew where we talk about mostly anything. We spend looong days in the field — I’m talking regular 10-day monitoring trips. It’s impossible to not get a sense of everyone’s poo schedule. So when one of us is off beat, the others notice. Take it from me when I say it’s really nice to hear someone ask “Did you remember to go today?”. Honestly. For one, yes. Yes I did forget to go. But two, that means I won’t have the urge to go during the middle of the day when we are in the thick of monitoring. It is an unnecessary disruption to the workflow that can be mitigated and, like I said, a senseless tax on the brain to deal with the urge otherwise. I would invite you all to communicate openly and maturely about with topic with your coworkers.

Thanks for reading, y’all.

Happy pooing, everyone!

Happy pooing, everyone!

Michal Tutka 💩
Prineville, Oregon BLM

Back at it Again

Hello everyone,

Since my last CLM blog this past October, the site’s traffic has plummeted and the servers have been gathering dust. I have decided to take on the CLM Internship once again so that I may blog about my experiences and appease my horde of botanically-inclined fans. In short, I am back by popular demand.

This year, I have decided to take my talents to the Prineville BLM in Central Oregon. The drive out from Chicago was tiring, as usual. I brought my dad (who hasn’t been on vacation for nearly 10 years) with me to witness the beauty of the West again. During each tank-up, he windexed bug splatter off my windshield so that he could take clear pictures of the land along the way. Fortunately for us, we got to stop and explore too. After unpacking my belongings in Prineville, we visited Crater Lake National Park, drove down to California and saw the redwoods, then took the 101 all the way up the coast
to Cannon Beach before going to Portland. I explained to my dad, who is very much still a Polish immigrant, what a hipster is. It was such a culture shock for him to see skinny, bearded, flannel-shirted, beanie-donning guys riding around on unicycles, double-decker bikes, or using an antique typewriter at a cafe – although I’ll admit that last one was a shock for me too. He called them “hippos”.

The views were beautiful, the beer was good, and the Subarus were plenty, but now it was time to drop dad off at the airport and head back to Prineville to get some work done. I’ve been working for about two weeks now. There were a lot of formalities during the first few days: paperwork, necessary vehicle training, getting my workstation set up, and meeting many of the fine folks that I’ll share this space with. I am helping my mentor, Anna, prepare for our monitoring plan this season. To do this, I have been ordering equipment, testing sensors to make sure they are calibrated correctly, and using GIS to identify candidate sites for field visits and ultimately selection as part of a permanent monitoring program. The protocols we’ll be employing are called AIM (Assessment Inventory and Monitoring) and MIM (Multiple Indicator Monitoring) of streamside channels and streamside vegetation. They are used to collect data to determine ecosystem health. From there, the BLM adjusts its land management and resource allocation to make sure short- and long-term objectives are being met.

We’ll be in Utah for two weeks in mid-May for AIM training and then for one week in Prineville for MIM. That’s a lot of learning right there – but I’m excited for it. So far I haven’t had the chance to actually get out into the field. I’m at a standing desk in front of dual computer monitors in a cubicle right now 🙁 And I’m tall so I see a sea of cubicles just like it 🙁 🙁 🙁 but when Jessica (my fellow CLM-er and roomie) gets here next Monday, things will pick up and we’ll actually be outside so much that I hope we get sick of it. And I’ll be identifying everything as I usually do. And I’ll have beeee-autiful pictures to share with all of you, my devoted fans.

Thank you CLM for another awesome opportunity to learn and grow. I’m excited to work hard this summer and hopefully make some friends along the way!

Best identifications,


Goodbye NRCS California!

Where to start? I’ve had an interesting year in 2015. I left for Poland in March and to my surprise, got accepted into the CLM program near the beginning of my stay. I returned to Chicago two months later, and two weeks later, I was driving across the West to the Central Valley of California to intern with the US Dept. of Agriculture. Now, agriculture was never an interest of mine. I consider myself an ecologist, not an agronomist; but I am interested in land management, which was a common thread of the two. I am also open-minded to different things so I decided to take PMC Manager Margaret Smither-Kopperl’s offer as a way to challenge myself and grow in my field. 

A PMC is a Plant Materials Center. They are part of the plant materials program of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and they work across agencies to address different public needs, whether producing seed for the BLM or NPS’s conservation programs, or conducting agricultural experiments to determine which cover crops best improve soil health. 

The Lockeford PMC in California has over 100 acres of land and is lightly staffed, so my role there wasn’t well defined – which I am grateful for because it allowed me to wear many hats. A typical work day would look something like this: Wake up at 5:30, drive from Sacramento at 6:20 to get to Lockeford by 7:00. I would check my emails, get the key for the pickup and go do field work (which varied greatly day-to-day). Many times myself and two other coworkers would move irrigation pipes to prep the fields for fall plantings.  Other times I would collected bloom count, percent cover, pollinator visitation, soil sample, biomass, etc. data, usually with Jeff, our biological science technician. When it got hot out, I’d head to the office and do computer work. One of my big projects was making sense of the cover crop data for the previous 4 years. It was very tedious work, but valuable for future plantings. Otherwise I would work on other projects, including planning, research, and writing USDA Plant Guides (which I loved to do). I would also clean seed (rarely, maybe 5 times, there wasn’t a lot this year), or work the greenhouse and propagate plugs. 

Some large projects I was responsible for were:

1. That cover crop data management project

2. Preparing the 2015 Adaptation trial planting which included: determining seeding rates, weighing out and preparing seed, coming up with an order for planting, flagging out the field and making signs

3. Creating seed mixes for critical area plantings, which included combating the erosion of the PMC levee by seeding bank-stabilizing native vegetation

4. My favorite: the restoration of the riparian corridor on the PMC property. The goal was to enhance the natural and cultural resources that the tract of land by the river provides by removing the invasive blackberries and weedy trees and planting native sedges and grasses. I did a lot of research on this, ordered a brush cutter and blade for the job and, following the schedule that Jeff and I came up with in June, we prepped the site and seeded it in the fall. It was a LOT of work. If anyone is interested, take a look at the pictures from my post from July and you will see the difference is dramatic. It’s a shame that I couldn’t stay longer to see what it looks like a year – two years from now, but I’m sure Margaret will update me and let me know!

The people:

Let’s start with Margaret. She is AMAZING. If any prospective interns are reading this, you will be very, very happy with her. She is a very realistic, yet positive person. She really gave me a lot of independence and freedom to engage in projects I was interested in (such as the riparian restoration), and was really trusting and supportive all the way through. She was a truly amazing mentor and I have nothing but great things to say about her. Jeff was my other favorite person at work. We collaborated on a lot of things and really got along. We seemed to value each other’s ideas and if we ever disagreed, we could always see the other’s point of view and got the job done. Other co-workers were fine; there was an individual that was difficult to work with, but for the most part we were able to work amicably. 

Social life:

I’m a pretty social person but during the 5 months it was pretty stagnant. Mia (another CLM intern) said she moved in with a friend and was able to make mutual friends that way, so it depends on your situation. I sort of fell into a routine during the week. On the weekends I would travel to Tahoe, San Francisco, Big Sur, the Sierras and hike, which was super nice. You don’t get those kind of views in Illinois! I would also chill with Jeff occasionally and go out in Midtown, which was nice. This was just my situation, but it could be very different for you. 

So, what did I get from my internship? For one, the environment, climate, and drought of the Central Valley forced me to approach environmental problems differently. I was taken out of my familiar way of thinking, which was conducive to growth. I got to meet people of very different backgrounds and learn from them. I also gained an appreciation for agriculture and the realm of conservation within it. This particular internship afforded me a lot of freedom in making decisions and built my resume in a way that other positions would not have, so I’m sure it will help me as I move forward in my career. If you are a CLM candidate considering working in Lockeford, it would do you good to be well-rounded. You should be able to not only monitor vegetation, collect and analyze data, but also perform practical farm labor like operating irrigation systems and tractors. With that being said, for me, this was a very rewarding experience. 

On that note, I am signing off. I thank Krissa and Rebecca for all their patience and hard work and I wish all of you guys luck in your careers!

Michal Tutka

Conservation and Land Management Intern

USDA-NRCS Lockeford California 

It’s almost over!

Hi all,

Things have been busy, busy, busy here at the Lockeford PMC so this, regrettably, will be a shorter post (but I will come back to edit and add pictures when I get the time)! This week was very cool for many reasons. First, Jeff and I started herbiciding the invasive blackberries (Rubus armeniacus) in our restoration area. On Tuesday we spot sprayed in the more woody areas with backpacks, while today (Thursday), we used a large Case tractor with a tank to get the large areas. I genuinely dislike herbicides, but they are useful for managing invasives during the site-prep stage of a restoration project. I personally believe they should be phased out during maintenance if a restoration is performed correctly.

Another thing I have been working on is preparing for our cover crop adaptation trial. Jeff and I figured out seeding rates for different cover crops, weighed out the seed, created a randomized design and organized our seed packets so everything will go very smoothly when we start planting, which should be very soon.

This Tuesday, Dr. David Morell from the Sonoma Ecology Center came to the PMC to discuss with Margaret the possibility of holding biochar trials at the PMC. I was fortunate enough to be invited to that meeting, which was a great learning experience in seeing the thought process that goes into making management decisions, and also learning more about biochar, which is very interesting thing.

Again, I hope to post pictures soon. I have two weeks left with the NRCS and I expect them to be very hectic. Cheers!



USDA-NRCS, California

Pine Hill and Tending the Wild

Hello all,

I would like to share two stories. The first happened earlier today – I helped a native woman named Donna cut wood from sp. Sambucus to make clapper sticks, instruments that are used during Native American ceremonies. I clipped stalks and segmented them for her. Apropos of my previous posts where I wrote about the cultural resources that nature provides. In return, human land use affects how the natural resources are replenished. In writing a few plant guides here at the PMC, I have been fortunate enough to come across the book Tending the Wild by M. Kat Anderson. In it, Kat talks about indigenous land management and how Native Americans used to cut plants to collect resources. Where a young pad was harvested from a prickly pear cactus, two pads would grow. Cutting old deergrass stimulated abundant new vegetation to be used for basketry materials, clearing dead material and activating new growth. The same goes for burning fields and reminds me of the fire adapted plants of the tallgrass prairie in my home-state of Illinois. Frequently disturbed plants are not damaged, but rejuvenated – I was glad to take part in that experience with Donna.


Secondly, I visited Mia at the BLM Mother Lode Field Office yesterday! Mia is a fellow CLM Intern that I got in touch with earlier in our internships, and I finally made it out to help her with SOS seed collection: a BLM/NRCS collaboration, you might say. We drove to a Pine Hill Preserve parcel and collected yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum) seeds. It was nice to chat about our internships, careers, and interests. After collecting as much as we could, we made a small hike over to an area with a newly described sedge, Carex xerophila. After we found it, we took coordinates to keep for record. The rest of our time was spent on the highest peak in Pine Hill and then back in Mother Lode. Unfortunately ArcGIS wasn’t cooperating but what can you do? I’ll be sure to invite Mia to the Lockeford PMC to help us with planting in the fall!

Until next time,




Lockeford, Calfironia

Heavy duty restoration time


It’s Michal at the Lockeford PMC, NRCS. Just a quick update this time. July has been a very busy month — I’ve been trying to get everything locked down for this restoration project I’m carrying out. After we finally got our brushcutter, Jeff and I set off to start clearing the blackberry thicket (Rubus armeniacus) that I wrote about last time. And boy oh boy, let me tell you that it’s not very fun, but very satisfying when you see progress being made.

levee before

Levee before cutting

levee after

Levee after cutting

It may not look like it, but much of the thicket is over 5ft tall so it took quite a bit of effort and patience to get through it all. To complicate things, there are a lot of heavy branches hidden between the canes to avoid.



How I feel before cutting blackberries


How I feel 2 hours into cutting blackberries

We also spent a week clearing willows, which we will mulch back into the clearing as fertilizer and to retain soil moisture. We were careful to pile any walnuts into a non-mulch pile, as walnuts (Juglans sp) contain juglone, an allelopathic compound. The next step is to spray a pre-emergent herbicide to prepare the site, all the meanwhile allowing the blackberries to foliate again so we can herbicide them in the fall when they are translocating nutrients to the roots and are most vulnerable.

I have also been writing the USDA Plant Guide for California mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana). Because it is such an important plant to Native Californians, not only medicinally but also spiritually, I put a lot of effort into my research to make sure I do it justice. When it gets published, I’ll update everyone and post the link so you guys can check it out.

I hope everyone is learning a lot and doing well!


USDA-NRCS, Lockeford, California.

Rubus and Carex

Hi folks,

I’m back at it again. When we last left off in the life of Michal, CLM intern extraordinaire, I was doing maintenance here at the Plant Materials Center (PMC). During the last couple of weeks though, I’ve been spending a lot more time working in the office, in part because of the heat but mostly because I’ve been tending to some other matters.

The PMC is going through a year of abundant funding, which I’ve been told happens approximately every 5 years – the other 4 they are underfunded, and that’s just the way it is. Because of this, the administration here is stocking up on everything and making big purchases now, kind of like a pre-hibernation bear making sure it can last the winter. This means good things are happening: we are purchasing new equipment, a brand new tractor, and making infrastructure improvements.

The riparian corridor along our levee is heavily infested with Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus).

Rubus armeniacus along the levee.

Rubus armeniacus along the levee.

But before I get into that, I want to share some experiences with you! Being from the city of Chicago, until now I never really been exposed to Native Americans. But being out west, I feel fortunate to come across natives and to be exposed to their culture. As an ethnic group, they have largely been swept under the rug in this country, especially in California. They have lost access to their lands, their culture, and their identity and I really feel empathy for them. Jeff, I, and a volunteer, Sarah, had the pleasure of helping a Dee, a woman from the Miwok tribe, collect Santa Barbara sedge (Carex barbarae) roots in the riparian corridor between our levee and the Mokelumne river. Historically, indians collected the long rhizomes of the sedge and wove baskets for water with them. We knelt and dug in the soil with our bare hands, following the roots by touch to see where they lead in order to collect the longest segment. Also, a guy by the name of Isidro came to the PMC to collect eucalyptus wood to use for a healing ceremony at a sweat lodge for tribal men dealing with alcoholism and other addictions. I helped him and some friends cut up dry branches and load them into their truck.

Isidro cutting eucalyptus branches.

Isidro cutting eucalyptus branches.

I have always appreciated our natural resources, and have devoted myself to understanding their ecological value, and their roles in our ecosystems. For the first time however, I am appreciating the cultural value that they can provide, the role they play in the identity and spiritual lives of people. Plants are also cultural resources as well, and that human dimension is amazing to me.

So back to the blackberry – these things grow everywhere. I decided to take it upon myself to restore the riparian zone, especially since that’s what most of my work experience has been so far. Jeff had the same idea so we’re working together to make this happen. During the past two weeks, I have been doing a lot of research and in the process have become much more familiar with the plants in the central valley. I have put together a proposal for the project. It covers all the planning, scheduling and logistics, invasive removal and native plantings (what and quantity), instructions for maintenance, and so forth. We will also be propagating our own plugs in the greenhouse. Successful restoration is hard to accomplish, but I feel confident and excited about this!

I don’t want to rant about everything so I’ll stop here for now. Please feel free to comment if you would like to share any ideas. Happy interning everyone.

In the meanwhile, here’s a photo of me visiting Eldorado National Forest


Michal Tutka

CLM Intern

NRCS – California

Lockeford PMC – Introductions and Context

Hello interns,

First off, introductions – my name is Michal, I’m 22 and originally from Chicago, but for the next 5 months I will be working with the NRCS at the Lockeford Plant Materials Center here in the Central Valley of California. The region has a Mediterranean climate characterized by 6-month hot and dry, and cool and wet seasons. I thought I was escaping the agriculture giant that is Illinois, only to be thrown into a sea of walnuts, grapes, and almonds in California. These crops also require a ton of water. It takes 1 gallon of water to produce a single almond, and nearly 5 to produce a single walnut. To add some perspective, California produces about 2 billion pounds of shelled almonds annually – that’s 80 percent of world production and the supply still doesn’t meet the demand. Hopefully this will illustrate the stress placed on their natural resources, especially as the state enters its fourth year of drought.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is a division of the USDA that provides services to farmers, whether they be developing conservation plans, providing financial assistance, or, as is the case with the Lockeford Plant Materials Center, producing vegetation for resource conservation goals. The 105 acres managed by the PMC are used for cover crop, seed mix, and soil health studies, growing plants for seed collection for propagation use, as well as a 10 acre plot dedicated to producing plants of cultural significance to Native Americans.

The key staff at the PMC are:

  • Margaret is the PMC manager. She’s really cool.
  • Dennis: Farm manager. He comes from three generations of Oregon farmers and is a very old school kind of guy. He’s very knowledgeable and I’m really looking forward to learning as much as I can from him.
  • Shawn: is the administrative assistant, but he also does a lot of field work.
  • Jeff: volunteering as a biological resource technician. We work together often, which is nice, because we have a similar work ethic.

I’m in my second week now and I’ve been really enjoying my time. Margaret has not been shy to admit that the PMC is understaffed and that there is a lot of grunt work to do, and understandably so. I have been doing a lot of maintenance, replacing 40-year old gaskets from the irrigation valves, herbiciding with an ATV, pulling weeds, operating a chainsaw to clear branches from obstructing the road, driving tractors and using the bucket to dump debris (fun!).

I feel that sometimes, as college graduates, our ego gets in the way and says that manual labor is beneath us and that we deserve something better. I disagree. I’m excited to work hard and give it my all to make sure the PMC is running as efficiently as possible, whatever my role may be. Over the course of my internship I will push myself to take on more responsibilities and grow as much as I can.

On my down time, I have been using ArcGIS to improve the property maps and keep track of the pokeweed I herbicided last week. I also got the chance to go to Modesto with Dennis to attend a “Farming in the Drought” seminar, which gave me a lot to think about. Today, Margaret assigned me a task that is a data management nightmare, but one that I take as a challenge and will hopefully discuss in detail in later posts.

But yeah, just wanted to give a little context for our work and describe what it actually is that we do. Hopefully this will help any CLM candidates who apply for 2016! Next time I’ll be sure to post photos.

Until then,


Michal Tutka

CLM Intern

NRCS – California