The end is near

I am in my last few weeks here as the botany assistant in the West Eugene wetlands. I am still working slowly but surely through the Wetland Plant Identification Guide I am making. The process is much more intense than I had initially thought it would be and I am a little nervous for its turnout. However, I am excited to finish it up and have it be of use to future interns.  And to keep a copy for myself, of course.

A new CLM intern, Emily, joined the crew as a biological technician in July. We have been working together along with the local youth crews to remove tanzia ragwort and meadow knapweed in the wet prairies, and blackberries that are encroaching on some of the endangered plants.  Our highlight last week was the pack of llamas we ran into on the Long Tom river.  It was in the high 90s and they were having a river party with lawn chairs and floaties. I’m only half-joking (see photo below).

Long Tom river party with some llamas in Eugene, Oregon.

Long Tom river party with some llamas in Eugene, Oregon.

On my last week following labor day weekend I will be visiting our seed castle with the City of Eugene’s ecologist, Diane Steeck. We will be preparing seed for upcoming planting projects throughout the city.

As my hours terminate on September 9th, I am taking the opportunity to visit my family in Minnesota before embarking on a new venture- whatever that may be, I’m still trying to figure it out.  I would like to stay here in the Pacific Northwest and continue to work in the botany field.  So that’s what I am aiming for. Keeping fingers crossed and sending out resumes and cover letters like nobody’s business.  I’ve had a great time here in Eugene with the BLM and its partners.  I admit, I am a little sad to see it come to an end, but oh-so appreciative of all that I have learned and the people that I have met.

I’ll wrap up with ya’ll in a few weeks.

Happy August!




“Quick-Guide” to the Plants of the West Eugene Wetlands

The monitoring season has come to a pause until next spring. We have checked off all but one of the R/T/E plants (Sericocarpus rigidus) this season and have actually come out ahead of schedule. S. rigidus is just beginning to flower, while others such as Lomatium bradshawii have succumbed to mere litter and thatch, completely indiscernible.  So, for now, I had to come up with some sort of project to work on among the more intermittent tasks I’ll be doing such as seed collecting, site maintenance, monitoring youth crew, etc. For the time being I will be working on a plant identification guide of the West Eugene wetland plants for future interns. We already have a list of all known wetland plants in Eugene, so I am basically building the guide off of that by figuring out their primary habitat type (emergent, wet prairie, upland) based on their wetland indicator status as well as where I’ve seen them primarily in the field, and sorting them by those categories and by family. I have a total of 384 species that I am finding notable characteristics for quick identification in the field.  Part of the idea is that since this is meant for only the West Eugene wetlands, you don’t have to key them out, but instead go to the section according to the habitat type you are currently in, or the index in the back with the species list and page numbers, or use the list of family characteristics I will be providing to verify the species you are looking at. And of course there will be photos associated with each species so if you’re not sure if the description fits, just see if it looks like it.  Since this is for only Eugene and there are only 384 plants to discern between (most of which look nothing alike), the photo you are looking at and the plant in front of you are likely going to be the same species.  I’m hoping this will be an easy, quick, and educational way for future interns to learn all the plants in the West Eugene wetlands.

Here are the main rare and endangered plant and insect species we monitored this season that will also be included in the “quick-guide”:

Lupinus oreganus

Lupinus oreganus

Icaricia icarioides fenderi

Icaricia icarioides fenderi

Lomatium bradshawii

Lomatium bradshawii

Horkelia congesta

Horkelia congesta

Sericocarpus rigidus

Sericocarpus rigidus

Erigeron decumbens

Erigeron decumbens

Until next time!

Danica Maloney

BLM West Eugene Wetlands


How I feel in the fields of flowers and chin-high grasses

Feverishly in flowering bud

the soil lay anxious

awaiting its timid character to flourish


that of a sunflower

her face stalks the sun’s perch

At high noon she stands tall

and glorified

in the sky’s mid-day beams


Shadows cast

giants among the daisies

She radiates the Earth’s blushing hues

angular and long

they appear as one

together, they could live forever


Night begins to creep

as the day parallels the moon’s hazed glow

Stemming to the sun’s slump

she conforms to the world’s clock

Lashes hesitating in

and out

of the cuckoo bird’s chime


Side to side

she once coped restless and out of tune

trying to make lullaby of the world’s silence

Tonight, she spins in harmony

a low hum in the dawn air

around and around they go


The sun begins to dial

arms stretched along the horizon

The morning yawns

mimicking its prolonged reach


As the new day brings a quench for clearer skies

the dehydrated field


in last night’s desert


Only she, wearing its dust like a mirage

a vision

in full bloom.


Have a nice day!

Danica Maloney

BLM West Eugene Wetlands


Documenting Fender’s blue butterfly

It is butterfly season here in Eugene, Oregon and the Fender’s blue butterfly (Icaricia icarioides fenderi) has already reached its seasonal peak and is on the down slope much earlier than expected.  For most of my position with the West Eugene Wetlands I primarily monitor endangered/rare wetland plants.  However, along with one of our monitored plant species, Kincaid’s lupine (Lupinus oreganus), is the Fender’s blue butterfly (FBB) that uses this endangered lupine as its larval host, laying its eggs on the underside of the plant’s leaves.

Myself with Kincaid's lupine (Lupinus oreganus)

Myself with Kincaid’s lupine.

One of the more populous BLM sites in Eugene for both lupine and FBB is Fir Butte, where I get to spend glorious afternoon after glorious afternoon catching butterflies.  This is something I did in my childhood and never imagined I would be getting paid to do later on in my adulthood.  In addition to FBB there is a look-a-like, the silvery blue butterfly (Glaucopsyche lygdamus) or SBB that also uses Kincaid’s lupine as a larval host, but instead lays its eggs along the stalk of the flowering raceme.  There are two minute physical differences between these species that we use as identification features when netting the butterflies.  First is the markings or “dots” along the border of the underside of the wings.  On SBB there is one row of dots and on FBB there are two rows of dots that can sometimes be very visible and other times, usually with an older butterfly, nearly impossible to distinguish.  So that is why we use the second identification feature for “back up”.  The cell-end bar located on the fore wing of the butterflies in from the row of markings is much narrower on the SBB than the FBB.  In addition, the row of dots on SBB are much more circular than on FBB which tend to be more irregular-shaped spots.


A male Fender’s blue butterfly  with damaged wing.  Notice the faint second row of irregular-shaped markings along the wing border and the large cell-end bar.

Mating pair of Fender's blue butterfly.

Mating pair of Fender’s blue butterflies. (Awesome photo skills of Christine Calhoun).

pair of silvery blue butterflies mating.

Mating pair of silvery blue butterflies.  Notice the one row of circular markings along the wing border.

Our first mode of action in sampling FBB is to take a ratio of male FBB to male SBB.  My mentor, Christine, and I spread out among the lupine at Fir Butte with our nets and each sample around 10 to 15 butterflies.  We then determine whether the butterfly is Fender’s species or silvery as described above.  Second, we determine its sex by noting the color on the top of the wings.  Males in both species are a bright blue and female FBB are copper-colored whereas female SBB are a darker brown, both females have some blue on the body of the butterfly. We record all sexes of both species but use only the ratio of males to males for our next mode of action, distance sampling, as it is much easier to see a bright blue male flying or sitting than it is to spot a brown female among the foliage.  Distance sampling occurs along six transects stretching the length of Fir Butte.  One person walks the transect with a distance pole held perpendicular to the transect calling out to the second person, the recorder, the distance (in half-meter increments) from the center of the transect the male butterfly was seen along with information on whether it was flying or sitting, the cluster size, and sex ratio if females were in the cluster.  An ideal day for sampling FBB is above 60 degrees, a light breeze, and sunny.  It’s the most optimal conditions for the butterflies and I’d say the most optimal for me, too.  Who doesn’t like 60 degree sunny days?

Male Fender's blue butterfly.

Male Fender’s blue butterfly.

Female Fender's blue butterfly on its larval host, Kincaid's lupine.

Female Fender’s blue butterfly on its larval host, Kincaid’s lupine.

Other efforts towards the success of the Fender’s blue butterfly are being put forth by some members of the West Eugene Wetlands Partnership such as the Institute of Applied Ecology who are making “nectar islands” at Fir Butte.  Some native nectar species of FBB include Checkermallow (Sidalcea malviflore), Oregon geranium (Geranium oreganum), Camus (Camassia quamash and C. leichtlinii), Oregon sunshine (Eriophylluym lanatum), and the Oregon iris (Iris tenax).

Thanks for listening and ta-ta for now.

Danica Maloney

West Eugene Wetlands


Time loop


In August of 2011 I moved to Eugene, Oregon. In August of 2012 I left Eugene on a bright orange 1977 Honda Hawk for the east coast with the unknown destination of upstate New York. My best friend, Luke, rode by my side on a Honda of his own.  I was not in search of a career or financial opportunity, but a livelihood (that would also- hopefully- involve some sort of income). When I left Oregon for my two month long motorcycle trip out east I was leaving behind a place I called home- a place I loved dearly and never thought I would leave. But adventure was seeking me out and I could hide no longer. Plus, it’s good to leave what you love- and to return to it later as a more directional and non-self centered being, with the ability to give back all that it has given you.

The experience was awesome and awful.  A lot of misfortune, but a lot of grand fortune, too- helpful people, kind souls, stunning land, horrific storms (yes, I count that as fortunate), the desert which brewed within myself a state of mindfulness and self awareness, the mountains and canyons that echoed my insignificance and initiated a connection between myself and the land that I traveled and the biotic inhabitants that  rested and quarreled among us, the trucker in Arizona who paid for our gas, and Sharon, an older stout woman from Northeast New Mexico that put us up for free and made us BLTs for dinner, eggs and bacon for breakfast, and sent us packing with hugs, apples and canned fruit.

When I arrived in the east it would be another 10 months until I found my way to New York. With an overwhelming feeling of idleness and misdirection living in Vermont and New Hampshire and in-between jobs, I decided to go back to school. So in August of 2013 I enrolled into Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks as a wildlife student. It was in that first week that I realized I really didn’t give much interest towards animal science and was instead intently focused on the plants, fungi, insects and the symbiotic relationships among the three. I then enrolled into the integrative studies program for a combination degree in biology and environmental science. I balanced my scientific education with courses in writing, the arts, and the humanities- as well as contributing to art shows and public speaking events. I believe that balance is what kept me sane throughout my very science-intensive curriculum.  I stayed at Paul Smith’s for 5 semesters and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in December 2015.

December is a horrible time to graduate if you are a plant person.  Absolutely no one is hiring.  (Hasn’t anyone ever heard of winter ecology!?). So I decided to look into internships that could get me back out in the Pacific Northwest.  I stumbled upon the CLM internship and figured I’d give it a shot.  I was shocked at the effort of perfect placement the CLM recruiters gave.  I mentioned four things that I wanted out of the internship- plants, insects, wetlands, and the Pacific Northwest- and I got all four!

Now here I am- back in Eugene after almost four years, back home in the PNW, studying and monitoring the creatures I care so deeply for.  It’s a complete time loop.  I left not knowing what I wanted or how to get what I needed.  I set out on an adventure with no expectations and in due time it prepared me for what I feel I was meant to do from the very beginning- I just didn’t know it yet.  Well, I kind of new but I think I needed the verification, education, and life experience I didn’t quite have then.  But now I do!  Not that the adventure has ended or that I’m finished learning, experiencing the unexpected.  What a sorry story that would be!   I am where I need to be right now just as I was four years ago- just as I was on my motorcycle, in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York.  I’m here and I couldn’t be happier.

Danica Maloney

BLM West Eugene Wetlands

Eugene, OR