All Things Must End

September 29th was my last day working with the BLM in Lakeview, Oregon.  It was a day that I simultaneously looked forward to and dreaded.  On one hand, I would be returning home to see my dogs, my family, my friends, my home state – everything I love.  On the other hand I would once again be woefully unemployed, but such is the life of a seasonal biologist!

The past month went by in an absolute whirlwind; I spent a week with family in the Willamette Valley, drove back to New Mexico, and began the job/housing search for my next stage in life.  I was only left with interspersed moments to really reflect on what the past few months were to me.  I didn’t want to phone it in on this final blog post, so I gave myself the time to digest my experiences.

In many ways, this internship was one of the more difficult things I’ve ever done.  I was in a completely new, unfamiliar area.  The vegetation was completely different, the culture completely different, my job quite different from anything I had experienced before.  I didn’t have a crew-mate for a month and I had no idea whether we would gel and successfully tackle our sizable list of goals.  Pretty much everything was totally new to me, which can often make me pretty stressed at first.

In many ways, I felt like a fish out of water.  Luckily, many of those feelings passed as I fell into the groove at work, became close friends with my field partner, and started making serious headway with my list of things to accomplish.  There were many days at work where I felt like I was barely treading water.  What matters is that I never went under.

Taking this job, with more responsibility, freedom, and a steeper learning curve than I had ever had before, ended up being one of the best things I could have done.  Not only did I get a crash course in plant identification (I’m more of a wildlifer with my background), but I learned how to be patient and accepting of myself and those around me.  I took this job because I wanted to learn more about plant ecology and how to take that into account from a management perspective.  And I did.  I took away many things from this job that will inform any future management decisions I make (assuming a pursue a career with an agency).  What I didn’t expect, though, was the amount of personal development that got crammed into five months.

This experience taught me how to hold on a little bit, be patient, and let myself grow while the situation around me develops.  This experience taught me more about just how important personal relationships are to me; I made some friends over the last few months that I hope to be in touch with for a long time yet.  This experience taught me that when things aren’t perfect, keeping my chin up and working hard will keep me going.  Most of all, I learned to relax a little bit and let things happen – life isn’t a race and living in the moment is all we get.  This experience was not the easiest in my life, but it was definitely one of the best.  I’m happy to say that I feel like a much better person than I did a few months ago and that will stay with me far longer than anything else I learned.

Until next time, Lakeview.

Brennan Davis, BLM – Lakeview, OR

Slowly Winding Down

It’s been awhile since my last post.  Time has been flying, once again faster than I thought possible.  The halfway point of my internship very suddenly became less than a month remaining.  It’s equally exciting, terrifying, and sad that my time in Lakeview is nearly at an end!

My crewmate and I hit our target of 35 seed collections almost a month ago now, but that hasn’t slowed us down one bit.  We are continuing to collect seeds for SOS (including one that turned out to be a misidentified non-native – oops!), as well as making several collections for local use.  We have also been doing some large collections for the other office in our district, in Klamath Falls.  I’m glad we hit our collection target when we did, because outside of riparian areas, most every plant around here is crispy to the point of disintegrating.  Very different from my home, where the summer monsoons are pushing up fresh blooms even now!  That said, I am super excited for some sagebrush collections we have coming up!

The other advantage to hitting our target early was that it allowed us to shift focus a bit, getting the most out of the experience and networking opportunities this internship provides.  My crewmate and I were trained in a couple different riparian habitat assessment methods.  We have also been doing a lot of vegetation inventories, as well as planning a pollinator-friendly garden.  Working with a new variety of people has served as great networking and has also helped break up the job and make it exciting!  I’m always eager to learn new things and meet new people.

We also got to visit the Bend seed extractory, as well as some native plant nurseries in the region.  Both visits were super exciting and informative; after doing seed collection for a few months, it was nice to see the other sides of the business and the ultimate result of our efforts.  It has also inspired me to start looking at nursery work during the off season!

I have learned so much these past few months, about plants, land management, and most importantly, myself.  I’m excited for a little bit of rest once my season is over, but I can’t reiterate just how good a step taking this internship was for me.  Here’s hoping the last few weeks are smooth and enjoyable!

Brennan Davis, BLM – Lakeview, OR


Time Warp

I’m pretty sure it’s physically impossible for a month to pass so quickly, but here I am!  I’m pretty sure I blinked about twice before July was upon me.  I’ve had a quick, somewhat stressful, and really rewarding month.

My crew mate and I haven’t slowed down one bit, having just completed our 22nd collection (which takes us well over the halfway point to our target number)!  We’ve gotten a ton of good forb species, as well as some grasses and shrubs.  Things are just starting to slow down, with the desert turning brown and crispy.  Some of the later blooming asters and buckwheats will round out our forb collections, and the grasses are starting to seed out like crazy.  I think we will have a strong couple of months ahead of us!

Aside from seed collecting, my crew mate and I are also performing botanical clearances for proposed developments (troughs, water pipelines, etc.) on BLM land.  Essentially, we take a species-level inventory of the flora present at the project site.  The presence of special status species or noxious weeds at the site then informs how the project is implemented; if either are present, mitigation may be deemed necessary before the project can take place.  These clearances have really helped me brush up on my ID skills and they have helped us discover good collection sites as well.

Calochortus macrocarpus - sagebrush mariposa lily

Calochortus macrocarpus – sagebrush mariposa lily

With so many populations seeding out between several sites, I’m sure I will have an equally busy, wild, and wonderful month before my next post!  I’m still astounded at how much I’ve learned in such a short time.  This experience is exactly what I needed, and I’m excited to see what it keeps bringing!

Smith Rock, outside of Bend, OR

Smith Rock, outside of Bend, OR

Brennan Davis, BLM – Lakeview, OR

Two’s Company

At last!  A field partner!

The first month of my internship was, shall we say, eventful!  With over 3.5 million acres managed by the BLM Lakeview district office, I had a mind-boggling amount of potential locations to scout for seed collection.  My first month went by in a flash, doing recon, plant ID and even getting some experience with vegetation inventories.  I had a blast my first 4 weeks, with more learning compressed into those 16(!) days than I ever thought possible.  That said, I was ecstatic to get a field partner 2 weeks ago – just in time to get down to the real nitty-gritty!

With Kenyon’s arrival, as well as the timing of the early blooming plants, things went from 0 to 60 really fast.  Having made no collections during the first month, mostly due to phenology and some granivory, I was so stoked to start our first collection.  On his first day, no less!  My first week with a partner, we closed out 2 collections (Agoseris parviflora and Grayia spinosa).  Upon the end of our second week together, we are up to 5 collections total (add in Ionactis alpina, Erigeron bloomeri, and another of G. spinosa).  I couldn’t be more happy!  All that recon during my first month paid off immediately and should continue to do so.  We have so many collections coming up so quickly, my head is spinning.  It’s nice to have a crew mate, especially one I gel with so well.  I am really excited about our potential this field season.  We have some good months of collecting in front of us!

Work aside, I have really enjoyed being in Oregon during my time off.  I have been making new friends and reconnecting with family members I haven’t seen in a long time.  I’ve been getting out and about as much as possible, hiking, camping, and fishing (which is way easier here than in New Mexico!).  I’ve also been doing a lot of birding and I seem to add at least 1 lifer to my list every week!

Overall, I’m excited about what I have accomplished thus far, but even more excited about how much I have learned in such a short time.  My plant ID skills are immeasurably better than they were prior to this experience, and I have gotten a lot more comfortable planning and executing a field season – something that is far more difficult than I had originally expected.  I’m excited to see what comes in the months ahead!

  • Brennan Davis, BLM – Lakeview, OR

New Growth – For the Plants and Myself

I’ve lived in New Mexico my whole life.  Minus a short field season in Illinois a couple summers ago, but I’m not sure two months really counts!  So I viewed this move to Oregon as kind of a big deal.  I wanted to make sure I took the time to do it right and get the most out of it.  The logical solution, of course, was to take two weeks to travel from Carlsbad, New Mexico to Lakeview, Oregon.

I planned my trip in a way that I could spend a lot of time alone, but break that up with visits to important people in my life.  My route took me to as many state/national parks and monuments as possible, all of which I had never visited before.  Thus, when I wasn’t stopped over in a town with old friends and family, every experience was new and most importantly, unfiltered by the presence of another.  It was just me, with myself for company.

I departed Carlsbad on April 18th, excited by the unknown in front of me.  My vision quest, as my mother liked to call it, had begun.  My experiences alone afforded me opportunities for intense solitude, self reflection, and immersion in nature.  I was reminded of the beauty of my autonomy, and my relationship with nature was strengthened more than I could have anticipated.  My experiences with others, be they old friends, new friends, family, or strangers, reminded me of the beauty of closeness with other humans.  So much growth had been packed into those two weeks and I felt a renewed sense of being and belonging in the world.  When I arrived in Lakeview, over 2400 miles later, I felt anything but sad that my experience was over.  I was renewed, refreshed, and excited about the experience that lay ahead.

My first week on the job was intense and wonderful.  Off the top of my head, only a couple species (Juniperus sp. and Castelleja sp.) were familiar to me from my home in southern New Mexico.  My plant ID skills were, and continue to be, tested to the max but I am already learning the vegetation here at a shocking rate.  I spent my first week learning about AIM by spending time with those field crews, as well as scouting potential populations to identify and collect from for Seeds of Success.  I also spent a fair bit of time in the herbarium at the office learning about the native vegetation.  I had fun identifying some of the tricky forbs that are popping up in the desert here thanks to spring rains.  Some of these forbs even threw some of the experienced range staff for a loop!  Identifying them has been a rewarding challenge.

Overall, these past few weeks have been incredible and very formative.  I’m incredibly excited to see what challenges the future has in store!  Learning new plants, seed collection, pollinator habitat projects – there’s a lot to be stoked about!  I think my time with the BLM in Lakeview is going to allow me the chance for an incredible amount of growth and for that, I’m grateful.

  • Brennan Davis, BLM – Lakeview, OR