The Last Blog

It is hard to believe that this is my last blog for my internship here in Buffalo, Wyoming. The time really has flown by, and I certainly have lots to reflect on- so here come’s a long post!….

Overall, I found seed collecting to be very challenging personally. From abundant rains early on in the season to insect damage, plants proved to be a very unpredictable realm for me! I would be lying if I said that it was completely enjoyable, but I did learn a lot about the type of work and the work environment I enjoy, and for that I am very grateful.

That being said, this internship has taught me a lot about my limits and the type of work I enjoy to do. I was exposed to a lot of new topics, work environments and culture. For example, coming from Chicago, experiencing the ranching and small-town culture of Wyoming was very foreign to me. This definitely made the experience challenging because I not only had to learn how to perform a seed collection on my own, but also get acquainted with the culture of my office and the small-town community that I was living in.  

Aside from all of this, I also feel that I benefitted a lot from this experience. I tend to be attracted to challenges, because they give me a lot of insight into my own interests, life outlooks and professional goals. Although I am not necessarily interested in pursuing the botany route further, I definitely gained a lot of valuable knowledge about conservation and land management through this opportunity, and insight into what it means to work within a federal agency. I am definitely interested in exploring work in other environmental agencies as a result of this experience.

There were also a lot of new skills that I can say I’ve gained through this internship. Everything from learning how to drive 4WD vehicles on dilapidated roads, learning how to identify western plants in the field, improving my communication skills with the public and professionals at my office, gaining familiarity with the policies and administrative work involved in range land health, and getting real-world experience with ArcGIS throughout the various office projects I performed.

I feel that the most rewarding experiences I had at this office  was getting the opportunity to interact with the public and see that side of a federal land management agency. I really enjoyed the field days where I ran into landowners, because I was able to speak with them about what I was doing and why I was collecting a species, while also learning about their insights of conservation strategies and land use. I found these conversations to be the most rewarding, and they definitely encouraged my own interests in the human dimensions of conservation and environmental management.

For the most part, I did not know what to expect for this internship. As I mentioned earlier, moving to Wyoming and organizing seed collections was definitely a change of pace for me and certainly challenging, which is one thing I did expect it to be. However, I assumed that I would learn what I would need to as soon as I got out here and began training, and that I would be able to rely on my office to help me with the process along the way. Unfortunately this is not exactly what happened, as for most of the summer interns were displaced from the main office due to flood damage, and we didn’t have as much guidance from our mentors as we had expected. Because of this though, I was able to really develop a team with my fellow interns, as we relied on each other for support in and outside of the office. That being said, at the end of the day I can’t say that I regret this experience, and I would certainly be interested in pursuing another internship with a federal agency in the future.

-Katie, BLM Buffalo Field Office


You’re beautiful Wyoming! Thanks for the memories.

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Goats, Outlaws and Seeds

As the month of August began, the heat set in and the fires ignited! This past month has been both busy and enjoyable for me, with many more memories to add to my BLM-Buffalo experience. I would say that the bulk of this month has been spent seed collecting for me personally. I have collected and shipped a total of 9 populations with 5 more on the way! To be honest, I would have liked to have collected a few more populations by this time of year, but the weather continues to be unpredictable and sometimes uncooperative, which has definitely been a learning experience in being flexible and compromising. One of my favorite collections I did though was of Achillea millefolium, or Western Yarrow. By chance, I had found this (huge!!) population of yarrow on a small patch of BLM just within the property of a very friendly rancher. Better yet, this rancher has a herd of awesome goats that he is using to help curtail another unwanted plant species on his property. So of course, coming out to monitor the yarrow and then collect it, we were always welcomed by the goats that would come to the truck looking for some pets, hugs and food 😛

Saying hello to our goat friends at my collection site for Achillea millefolium!

Saying hello to our goat friends at my collection site for Achillea millefolium!

Another seed collection site that I have been enjoying this past month is called Outlaw Cave, on the southern end of my office’s boundaries. This area is both beautiful and historically interesting, as it is the known as one of the hiding places of famous Wild West outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It is quite a picturesque drive to get to this area, as you drive along the “Red Wall” of Wyoming and among many beautiful horse and cattle ranches. I have three seed populations in this area that are just starting to ripen late in the season for collection. Unfortunately, with all of the fires that have been raging in the West as of late, the views have been rather hazy and the air smoky, even though there are no serious fires in this immediate area. This has made collecting a little more challenging, as the air is extremely dry and hot, making hydration crucial for the long days in the field. Even so, it is still an breath-taking site to collect at, and I am thankful to have the opportunity to work within such awesome, rugged scenery!


Outlaw Cave

Outlaw Cave- the most beautiful part of the office’s BLM land!

Jade the horse whisperer at Red Wall.

Jade, the horse whisperer, at Red Wall.

In other news, it appears that collection season is slowly winding down. I can’t believe that within just two weeks it will be September and fall and cooler weather will start setting in. I expect that my work will begin transferring to more office work as I begin mapping my population sites on GIS, inputting collection data onto the computer and preparing my voucher specimens. This internship has certainly flown by quickly, and I am anxious to figure out my next steps and plans for the months ahead!


July in Buffalo: the seed collections begin!

Since my last blog post, the weeks have become a whirlwind of work! I have really started focusing on SOS, and figuring out how to determine seed readiness and collection strategies. I think the biggest challenge so far has been adjusting to the level of variety in the work, as collections for virtually every plant species is performed differently. It has been helpful to have resources like the SOS flickr page that showcases past collections, as well as the office’s own data files from past SOS interns, but overall it appears that most of my job is learned in the field and as I go.

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Gaillardia aristata– one of the populations that I will (hopefully!) be collecting sometime this week

During the first part of this month, myself and the office’s two range interns, Jade and Sara, performed the first seed collections of the season! This first collection was Needle and Thread grass. It definitely was a learning experience, as on the day of the collection we found that much of the seed had actually dropped over the weekend. 🙁 We collected what we could, but overall it was a lot less productive than what I was planning for. But like I said, I’m finding that a lot of my job is “learn-as-you-go”. Plants definitely work on their own schedule, which means that monitoring populations for readiness requires a lot of travel to-and-from the office and a healthy amount of estimation. That being said, the next week was a lot more productive as far as seed collecting! With the help of Jade and Sara, three more collections were performed all in ONE day (& all in the same allotment thankfully!) Bluebunch Wheatgrass, Lewis Flax, and a boatload of Miner’s Candle (~120,000 seed)…shout out to Sara for her enthusiasm for collecting Miner’s Candle! Just this week, I have sent out the shipment to Bend of these species and continue to monitor other populations I have found. Hopefully all goes well in processing the collected seed!

On a personal note, over the Fourth of July weekend, myself and some of the other interns made a road trip to Yellowstone, Jackson WY and the Tetons. This was my first trip out to this area, and I had a blast! We spent four nights camping in the area and sightseeing during the day. It was exhausting to say the least, but we saw so much wildlife during these four days including elk, pronghorn, bear (grizzly and black), mule and white-tail deer and even a moose! I’d say our time in the Tetons was definitely my favorite part of the trip, and I’m already dying to get back there to explore more trails and sites!!

Our view of the Tetons from our campsite over the fourth of July weekend.

Our view of the Tetons from our campsite over the fourth of July weekend.

A bear we came across in Yellowstone one early morning.

A bear we came across in Yellowstone one early morning.


Buffalo Field Office, WY



The Adventure Begins!

My internship at the BLM Buffalo Field Office certainly started off in a rush, as I arrived in Buffalo, Wyoming the day before my first day of work. It was quite the whirlwind to get my apartment settled and myself prepared for work the next day, but Tuesday came and I hit the ground running! The first two weeks of my internship were quite the blur to be honest- on the first day alone, myself and the other new intern Jade, met 80+ employees at the Buffalo Field Office- I wish I could remember everyone’s name! The rest of that week was then spent getting trained in First Aid, Defensive Driving, GPS and GIS. My favorite day was the First Aid training because I had never been CPR certified before and now I can safely say that I am! woo 😀

The next week involved more fun training in activities like driving ATVs and UTVs. I personally loved the ATV training; I have never driven these vehicles before and it was a blast learning how to maneuver these guys over hills and different obstacles. At the end of that week, we were supposed to finally get out into the field and start learning how to monitor range land and identify the many plant species found within the BFO’s territory. Unfortunately however, on Wednesday night a huge storm came through town from the Bighorn Mountains, and the office was completely flooded. So, obviously that put a bit of a damper in our original plans…Instead, Thursday and Friday were spent helping the office to get sorted and moved as certain areas require new carpet and even drywall in result of the water damage!! Honestly though, it ended up being kind of fun! I got in a good workout lugging all those heavy desks out (lol) and good bonding time with the other interns and the BFO employees 🙂

Returning from the workshop back home in Chicago this past week, we have been very busy getting started on monitoring range sites for this season, as well as determining good populations for plants to collect on the SOS list (that’s my job). Almost every day has been 10 or 11 hour days, and I’ve been coming home completely exhausted!! I’m definitely looking forward to resting up this weekend, but it also feels great to be getting out in the field every day. All in all, I’m loving my time here in Buffalo, and I can’t wait to see what the next few months have in store!


Testing soil stability at one of our sites- talk about an office with a view!


Views of the Bighorn Mountains while getting trained to drive ATVs (plus a very observant cow watching our training from a safe distance! :P)


Buffalo’s Clear Creek flowing mightily after all the rain we’ve been getting!