The past month here in Utah has been all about seed collecting. We are desperately trying to get to our goal of 20 SOS collections. Field days are really unpredictable, somedays we drive all day and never see a large enough plant population to collect seed from and others we find a few. Obviously the days where we find none are not ideal but still there is beauty to be found in everyday. I have really enjoyed getting to know this beautiful Utah country. Field days are filled with fantastic views such as these:
In 100 Lakes Mountain looking into Cathedral Valley, reminiscing over my cactus hunting days
Last week I had the opportunity to tour a restoration project on a portion of the Paunsaugunt in the Dixie National Forest. It was nice to get a day off from seed collecting and it was fun learning about this project. The goal of this restoration project is to expand habitat for the Boreal Toad, whose population is dramatically declining due to the Chytrid fungis that infects amphibians. The Forest Service has temporarily excluded cattle grazing and relocated beaver into the area to mimic the historical nature of the area. It is amazing how beavers can change a landscape and how well the land and waterways have healed themselves so far. The best part of the field trip, though, was getting to release a Boreal Toad into its new home. Find out more about the project, here: https://wri.utah.gov/wri/reports/ProjectSummaryReport.jasper?id=3672
In addition to being a great learning experience, the tour of the restoration project gave me a sense of pride in the work I am doing for the SOS project, knowing that (hopefully) some of the seeds I am collecting now will be used in the future to restore habitat for other wildlife. My hope is to one day work on a restoration project and make a positive change for wildlife.
Until next time,
Richfield Field Office, BLM
After two months of monitoring rare cacti, my fellow botanists and I have moved on to collecting native seeds for the Seeds of Success program. We began collecting in Great Basin of Western Utah, where we captured a few species of Penstemon just in time before the heat of the sun dried up all of the forbs and turned them into a crisp. Now, it is hard to come by a target species in the low elevations due to the high temperature and dry climate, so, fortunately for us, this means we get to trek through the higher elevations in search for more collections. This has been a bonus for multiple reasons, but mainly because there are trees! When driving on the backroads of the Great Basin the only trees you’ll find were brought there by humans, you know miles ahead when you are about to approach a town because of the random patches of Populous fremontii. Lonely ranchers have expanded the range of P. fremontii into the west desert by providing them with ample water around their homes and agricultural fields. Up in the mountains, it has been refreshing to see trees in their natural habitat and also to have the luxury of keying out plants and eating lunch in the shade.
Every time I work in the field I see a plant that I have never seen before. This week, one of the plants that I fell in love with was Corallorhiza maculata. While collecting Packera multilobata seeds in the Dixie National Forest this Orchid luckily caught the corner of my eye. This plant is easy to miss because it blends in nicely with the dried leaves on the forest floor but it’s hard not to give it your full attention once you have found it. Its red stems and purple-spotted labellum make this plant very unique and adorable. C. maculata also has a special way of obtaining its nutrients, it is mycoheterotrophic. It’s clear that this plant does not photosynthesize because of the lack of chlorophyll in the stems and scale-like leaves. Instead, it parasitizes mycorrhizal fungi. The fungus in a situation like this end up being the middle man in the transfer of carbon from one plant (the host tree) to another plant (C. maculata).
Now it’s time for me to hit the field and collect some more seeds! Thanks for stopping by.
All the best,
Hiking 40 transects throughout the central Utah desert in 100 degree weather, getting chased and bitten by deer flies and counting cacti – this has been my fieldwork experience in a nutshell. Recently, my fellow intern and I have had the opportunity to work without the supervision of our mentor. Along with two other ACE interns, we have been collecting data for a Sclerocactus population study. In addition to the amazing adventures that being outdoors naturally brings into our lives, this project has been the most eye-opening experience thus far at this internship. Before this point I have always felt like I am really good at working in groups, mainly because I have no problem taking directions and going with the flow of other people’s decisions. These past three weeks I set myself the goal to contribute more to the execution and collection process of the study. I forced myself to speak up and be more assertive about how I feel the data should be collected. I think that practicing this sort of leadership has helped me be more decisive and confident as a field scientist and I am looking forward more than ever to what else this internship has in store for me.
Here are a few photos of the desert terrain and a cactus species we encounter on our hikes:
The beautiful, Echinocereus triglochidiatus.
Until next time,
BLM Richfield Field Office
I am interning at the BLM office out of Richfield, Utah. I am constantly amazed by the geological formations and the wildlife of this state, everyday I learn or see something new. Just in the past 4 weeks in the field I have seen so much wildlife in action: a golden eagle with a rabbit hanging from its feet, I have driven next to galloping pronghorn antelope, viewed elk from afar, caught horned lizards, avoided catching collared lizards and so much more. It is one adventure after another in this seemingly endless country.
I am pleased to say that the internship so far has consisted of a lot of field work. For the past few weeks we have been monitoring rare Sclerocactus and Pediocactus species in the hopes of understanding the effects of cattle grazing on their populations. One of the reasons why I enjoy getting out into the field is because I can simultaneously learn the local flora. It is very interesting to me, coming from the temperate rain forest of Northern California where everything is trying to compete for the sun, everything out here is trying to get protection from the sun. Plants in the Utah desert are hairier, dwarfed, and have at least some succulence. It’s fascinating what plants will do to thrive in harsh conditions.
There have been a lot of “firsts” for me in my personal life: first time living outside of California, first time moving to a new place by myself (without the help of family/friends), and first time living out of a tent. When I first arrived in Utah I decided to do a work trade (chores in return for free camping) at this funky little place called Mystic Hot Springs in Monroe, Utah. The good thing about camping here is that after work I got to soak in these beautiful hot springs but the down side was the weather; below freezing temperatures, rain and gusty winds. I lasted 3 weeks before I caved in and got an apartment but it was an experience I will never forget.
I am looking forward to all of the things I will see in the following weeks.
Until next time,
Richfiled, Utah BLM