Seed Collecting Adventures, Episode VII: The One with the Doggo

Hello everyone,

A lot has happened since I’ve last written to you. From my perspective, the past few months have mostly been an ongoing cycle of making seed collections, trying to determine what kind of seed I just collected, entering data, and packing seeds into bags and boxes. So seeds are kind of my life I guess. I feel like people who read this blog are mostly botany-enthusiasts and plant-lovers, so hopefully this is a safe place to say things like “seeds are my life” and not face judgment. Because when I say that to my friends in real life they definitely look at me kind of weird.

In my expert opinion, the best thing about seed collections is that they take place in fascinating and unique locations. I’m a big fan of traveling. Our most recent seed collecting trip took me to a really remote part of Nevada. Well really, all of Nevada is pretty remote. But we went to the Desatoya Mountains, which are *really* remote.

We made thirteen different collections over the course of this trip, which is pretty average for us, I guess. We also found (and collected, sort of) an abandoned dog, which would be more dogs than we typically collect on average. I think every seed collection team should have a dog that they travel around with. It would be a great morale-booster. The SOS program would probably see record increases in the amount of seed collected, I bet. It’s probably at least worth a try. For those wondering, we took a detour from our trip to bring the dog to a shelter, which Annika later drove back to and adopted him from. He’s living with us for the week, and he really enjoys having his ears scritched.

Annika + dog

Annika + dog

One thing I’ve observed while traveling throughout the Sierra Nevada/Basin and Range, is that the cooler plants always are found at higher elevations. So I was pretty glad to arrive in the mountains and start scouting for seeds. Two of the collections we made were roses and stinging nettle, which are both pretty painful and awful to collect. But we also got to collect oceanspray, which I would have to say is probably one of the best-smelling plants I’ve gotten to collect this season. Like, if I were to make a definitive ranking of the best seeds to collect, based on smell, this one would at least be in my top three, I think. We also got to collect alumroot, which smells pretty normal, but I enjoy it because it grows mostly on vertical cliff faces.

Another cool non-plant, non-dog discovery we made during this trip was a towering waterfall that was tucked back within the canyons of the Desatoya Mountains. The Great Basin isn’t exactly known for waterfalls, so it was great to find this hidden gem.

After camping near the waterfall, we made a few more collections and then headed back to Carson City on the next day. The season is winding down, so this seed-collecting excursion is likely to be my last. It’s been a treasure to explore our country’s natural areas, and to collect seeds that will be used to grow and sustain those areas. I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading about my adventures as much as I’ve enjoyed having them!

Until next time,

Sam S.

Farming for Phacelia


Dear readers,


Wow, what a week. For two of my fellow interns, Monique and Alec, it was their last week here in Carson City. It seems pretty unreal that they’re both already gone, and I’m gonna miss ’em like crazy. Fortunately, I have the excitement and beauty of botany to ease me through this sad time! :'(

When I was about four years old, I was completely convinced that I was gonna grow up to be a farmer. I was young and innocent and looking forward to a lifetime of growing crops. I remember, as a youngster, opening up an ear of corn one day to find an enormous, grimy slug, slithering and writhing before my very eyes. Disgusted, I threw the corn as far as I could and ran back to the house screaming, and that was when my aspirations of becoming a farmer died.

Little did I know what the future would hold. If four-year-old Sam could see me now, I’m sure he’d be proud. As the weather warms here in Carson City, I have become increasingly involved with the Seeds of Success program. Last week we collected seeds from populations of Phacelia glandulifera and Amsinckia tessellata. We were blessed with heavy rains this growing season; harvest was bountiful. (Side note: Did you know that skin contact with Phacelia can cause dermatitis? Yeah, sure enough, it totally does!) Anyways, we collected over 10,000 seeds of each species, and made preparations to have them shipped north to Bend, Oregon, where they will be processed and distributed. Just like four-year-old farmer Sam planned it. Never give up on your dreams, kids.

Another species we will focus on collecting this year is Poa secunda. This is a great species to collect, because although it is native, it is found commonly throughout the western U.S., and can be planted just about anywhere. In the area surrounding Carson City, we often find it growing on north-facing slopes in communities with pinyons and junipers. As we have spent time scouting out locations where we will be able to collect seeds from Poa secunda, we also have stumbled across some other cool plants that we might be able to make collections from. I’ll keep ya updated and let you know how it goes!

Until next time,

Farmer Sam

I tried to take a picture of a Phacelia flower through a microscope.

I tried to take a picture of a Phacelia flower through a microscope.

One site where we potentially might collect Poa. I wouldn't mind coming back here...

One site where we potentially might collect Poa. I wouldn’t mind coming back here…

Lewisia rediviva is one of the cooler wildflowers I've come across so far. We've seen it a few times during our Poa-scouting trips.

Lewisia rediviva is one of the cooler wildflowers I’ve come across so far. We’ve seen it a few times during our Poa-scouting trips.

Driving all around, learning things and looking at plants

So. It has been a really long time since I have given an update. Sorry about that. I promise I’ll do better from now on. To try and make it up to you, I’ll share lots of cool pictures from all the places my internship has taken me over the last couple months. March and April presented the Carson City CLM interns with a lot of opportunities for traveling. Lately it seems like I’ve spent more time on the road than at home – fine by me! The workshops and conferences we got to attend were supremely informative, and I got to scratch a couple more states off my bucket list. But, I’m just about spent by this point, and I’m practically falling asleep as I write this, so it’s probably a really good thing that I don’t have to go anywhere else for a while.

The first of our road trips was to Las Vegas. We attended the Nevada Rare Plant Workshop, which I imagine is probably just about the most fun a person could possibly have while visiting Vegas. Our drive there was scenic – we had decided to take a detour through Death Valley, so that we could enjoy the rare super-bloom. As advertised, it was pretty super. The typically barren plains were shrouded with desert gold, and for about half an hour I basically became Mary Poppins. It’s worth making the trek out there if you get chance. (Is the super-bloom even still happening? You probably ought to check before you go. I’d feel really bad if you went all the way out there on my recommendation and were disappointed by the lack of super-bloom. Although Death Valley is still pretty neat even without flowers. I digress.)


Anyways, after this highly worthwhile side trip, we arrived in Las Vegas for the workshop. Several botanists from around the state and beyond shared their work with us, and it was enlightening to gain a better understanding of the work they do. What’s more, the workshop included a field trip to Valley of Fire State Park. I don’t think there’s two words in the English language that I like hearing more than “field trip,” with the possible exception of “grilled cheese.” This field trip involved beautiful scenery and searching for a rare species of Astragalus, which we found. After being introduced to (and subsequently forgetting) a couple dozen plants endemic to the Mojave desert, we made our way back north to Carson City.


The second trip our crew took was to Boise, the site of our Integrated Pest Management and Pesticide Applicator Certification course. This training taught us everything we ever could want to know about managing unwanted populations of bothersome plants and animals. Also, I am now licensed to use restricted pesticides. Look out, weeds, here I come. The only downside to this course was that it took place entirely within the confines of a hotel basement, which was decidedly less beautiful than the scenery that surrounded me during my trip to Las Vegas. I didn’t bother to take pictures.

Although the first two outings were both fun and profitable, the third was definitely my favorite. Alec, Margaret, and I flew to Tucson to spend a week learning about measuring and monitoring plant populations. If you’re anything like me, then you would agree that measuring and monitoring plant populations is pretty much the best thing ever. It offers all the fun and excitement of a field trip, plus people actually pay you to do it. It’s a perfect situation. Previously, I only had experienced the field work aspect of plant monitoring. This workshop gave me a better understanding of what goes into designing a monitoring program, and also how to analyze the data I collect. I anticipate this course being a tremendous boon to my future endeavors as a botanist, and I am thankful that the CLM program provided me with this opportunity.

I also am grateful that I had the chance to briefly visit and explore the Sonoran desert. On our day off, we took a trip to Saguaro National Park, where we got to see some of the American southwest’s most iconic plant species in the flesh (both figuratively and literally – I made the mistake of touching a beavertail cactus and I think some of the small prickly hairs are still stuck in my hand.) As an east coast native, I’d always imagined deserts as wastelands that couldn’t measure up to the lushness and liveliness of the green forests where I’d grown up. The cacti blooms I saw in Arizona dispelled those notions. We even saw a rattlesnake! And lived to tell the tale.


Anyways, that’s just a brief overview of the experiences that my internship has granted me in these past couple months. I’ll report back soon with more updates. Thanks for reading!



Hello from Carson City NV!

“I bet you’re really wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into.”

People have been saying this to me a lot during my first week as an intern with the BLM in Carson City, and I’d say they’re pretty much spot on with that assessment.  They’re mostly referring to the uncertainty that’s followed in the wake of recent events in Oregon. But I’ll be working here in an unknown place for the next ten months, so “what I’ve gotten myself into” is a question that I’d already been pondering anyways. It’s been a rather hectic first week here, and my fellow interns and I have already learned that our plans can be changed by events outside of our control.  So – what have I gotten myself into?

I arrived here in Carson City on Sunday after spending the better part of a week driving across the country from Pennsylvania.  The next day was my first day at the field office, so my fellow interns, Alec, Monique, and Margaret, gave me a tour of the place.  My first day mostly was filled with meetings and paperwork and training videos.  Now don’t get me wrong, all of those things are great – but the part of my job I’m really looking forward to is the time spent outside among natural scenery.  So, Tuesday was a bit more interesting in that regard.

One of the major tasks that our group is undertaking at the beginning of this field season is the restoration of the former site of the American Flat Mill.  This mill processed silver and gold during the 1920’s, but was subsequently abandoned.  When it was demolished a couple of years ago, a barren field was left behind.  Now it’s the task of our crew to plant native seeds in this area, in the hopes of preventing noxious weeds from claiming the land. We spent Tuesday morning mixing seeds from different plant species together, and after lunch we drove to the site to begin planting.

Dividing up the seeds.

Dividing up the seeds.

Native sagebrush will be sprouting up here in no time!

Native sagebrush will be sprouting up here in no time!

We’d also planned to head back out into the field the following two days, but Tuesday night’s events in Oregon forced us to change our plans.  It was decided that we would be safer if we didn’t go out to our field sites for the rest of the week, so we spent the time completing more training and orientation.  We also got a chance to visit the herbarium at UN-Reno.  For me, this just built up even more anticipation to dive into the ecosystems of the eastern Sierra Nevada and Great Basin and discover new plants – or at least plants that are new to me.  That’s what I’ll be doing as a BLM intern for the next ten months, and I couldn’t be more excited to find out what the future will hold!

Until next time,

Sam Scherneck