Reflection On The Great Basin

To be honest I have never been good at writing blogs, but over this internship I have expanded my use of social media, if barely. The first part of my internship was an excitement of racing across the desert trying to collect plants before the July heat roasted what forbs had sprouted in the lower elevations of the desert. Soon the volcanic rock had cooked everything in the lower elevations, so thus began the explorations of the mountains that separated these little linear valleys. As the July heat wave rolled over the top of the desert, we were spared of any major fires. Instead, dust storms plagued the valleys as alkali dust got picked up in the afternoon winds and antelope raced across the dry basins. We went out pika searching and began doing water quality surveys along the perennial streams in the area. Sage grouse and their young would wander across roads or around old watering holes in their attempt to find springs and horse trough tanks.

The first cool evenings announced that August had arrived. I spent my first week of August spending my evenings and nights capturing bats and doing bat surveys. We collected 15 different species of bats and captured several hundred individuals. I learned how to ID and handle bats, and enjoyed spending my evenings watching the sun change the colors of the desert around me. On the drives back from our capture sites we would see anywhere from 200-400 jack rabbits and cottontails along 30 miles of gravel roads. Many people with me could not believe that there were that many jack rabbits in one area. In August I began my Water Rights project by finding all of the locations for each right and creating a software program that would allow us to collect data in the field. Then began the map making and learning how to use the big plotter that sat within my office. The rest of August was spent collecting seeds and working with range projects.

September came and went extremely quickly. We had our first field test with the program, which worked, and I finished figuring out what all we needed to record to update our data bases. Then we began working in the field, first in the north and slowly spreading out from there. September was also the time where many of our seasonal technicians left for school and the office slowly became more quiet. There were only around 19 of us to begin with, and I worked in two states and 5 counties, my field station being in charge of 2 million acres. I spent the weekends of my summer fishing, hiking, re-walling a chicken house, dry walling a chicken house, cutting and splitting 7 cord of firewood, raising a garden, re-flooring the upstairs, and painting my grandmother’s 100 year old house.

And then it was October. Storms began coming in and the days were steadily getting shorter. Having been used to driving over very rough rock filled roads all summer, the rain was a welcome site in keeping the dust down. Hunters would visit with me when they came across me working on many of my projects, and I got to learn more about the area that I was working in. I finally decided to use up my comp time and went to Yellowstone National Park and Montana for a little over a week of hiking, exploring, museum visiting, picture taking, and helping my friend prepare for the hunting season. I got back last week, and prepared for the ending of my internship. I will be staying on with the field office that I am currently working in until the dead of winter hits and am hopefully coming back on as a technician next summer.

Now as November is here, I have two months left with my field station. November is also the start of the waterfowl and upland game hunting season, which will now fill my weekends, as my fixing-my-grandmothers-property projects have been completed. I wish the best of luck to all of my fellow interns and wish them happy holidays.

The Hunt For The Washoe Pine

Washoe pine is only found in a few sections in the North Western corner of Nevada and part of the Warner Mountain Range. Many of the populations of the pine contain only a few individuals and in the Surprise Resource Area, are often found in association with aspen, snowberry, chokecherry, gooseberry, and wax current. Also in these areas is Wyoming big sagebrush, bitterbrush, and pose. We have populations of this species in at least two sites of the Hays Mountain Range and several along the southern stretch of the Warner Mountains.

Alejandro, Garth (Range Technician), and I went to a population of pine that is located near Bally Mountain and overlooks Mosquito Lake. Many of the pine trees were in wet areas and contained rock outcrops. We were unsure as to when the pine cones would be ready and how many pine trees were actually in this population so we set off to survey the area for pine trees and to collect seed from the mature plants for future use. Our hope is to at some point be able to plant Washoe Pine in more areas along the Hay’s Range.

Getting to the pine tree involved hiking through several aspen groves along the rock ledge until we found our first pine tree which was over fifty feet tall. We collected seeds from this tree and then continued farther along the ridge following several aspen groves. Within these aspens, we found more mature trees and many baby trees sheltered within these canopies.


The Washoe Pine with Mosquito Lake in the background.

With two boxes full of pine cones we decided that we would need to return at a later date to collect more seeds as we started a seed bank for our region. On our way out we decided to have lunch at an overlook that looked back at our pine collection area as well as the valley below. While having lunch we realized that we were sitting above a mother bobcat with her two kittens that were playing on the rocks. Below them and moving across the valley was a herd of antelope. It was a great day on the Great Basin.

The Collection Area

The Collection Area

Everyday is a New Adventure


My internship originally was a whirlwind of scouting areas for seed collection. While doing this I got to witness majestic views of the high dessert. So far I have sent off 24 of my 32 seed collections to Bend Seed Extractory with a total of 74 pounds of seed shipped to date. My supervisor and I have laughed many times about my hidden box collection in the garage that I use for shipping seed off. The dessert has gone from the annual and perennial forbs painting the dessert a mirage of purple, pink, red, yellow, and white, to now being a sea of green and yellow as the rubber rabbitbrush and various sagebrush species are blooming. Last week I joined the Friends of the High Rock/ Black Rock Desert with taking out old fence in the Little High Rock Canyon Wilderness. Next week, if the weather holds, I will be picking my first cone producing species, the Washoe Pine.

But as the season has changed I have been working on a water resource project that spans 2 states and 5 counties.  At first it was nerve wracking to come up with a way to find over 500 water resource sites and organize what paperwork was needed for each site. I also had to find what documentation was needed to update the out of date water resource files. For this project, I turned to ArcGIS and a pair of Trimbles in order to run the program that I established in ArcMap. Trimbles are great for field work and sometimes can prove difficult when they don’t always want to work. Learning how to program and use Trimbles has been a great experience for me and has given me another great skill to use for future field work.

Sometimes my sites aren’t where my GPS unit says they should be, so occasionally I end up going on a bit of a search to find them. On flat and open ground areas finding pit reservoirs, stock ponds, stock tanks, and other water resources are easier, but in dense vegetation or in mountains it gets a bit more difficult. Some of my favorite places to see are Graven Reservoir and Likely Mountain. Many of these places are very hard to reach by vehicle and most of the time I hike into the sites. At one of the sites I got within 100 yards of a coyote and at another site I saw an antelope with triplets. Now that fall has hit, the days are getting cooler and shorter. Today we had our first snow storm, though it rained in the valleys, and this change in weather is a signal that the seed collecting season is almost over and that it’s time to wrap up projects.

Graven Reservoir looking back at Likely Mountain Fire Lookout.

Graven Reservoir looking back at Likely Mountain Fire Lookout.

The pronghorn with triplets below Alturas.

The pronghorn with triplets below Alturas.

Finally, I was ready to conquer a day of rain, hail, and snow on my quest to find stock ponds.

Finally, I was ready to conquer a day of rain, hail, and snow on my quest to find stock ponds.

I hope everyone else has enjoyed the changing of the seasons where they are stationed!

Wildlife of the Great Basin

The last two weeks has been filled with capturing bats, monitoring sage grouse,  and working on establishing protocols for measuring flow rate in various streams, stock tanks, and reservoirs in the Great Basin and Modoc Plateau regions. For collecting bats, we targeted perennial water sheds, stock tanks, and meadows scattered from High Rock Canyon north to the Oregon state line and west to the Hays Mountains. I teamed up with people from all over Nevada and California who came for the annual bat blitz. In four days we caught several hundred bats (one of the nights we caught 240 bats) and about 15 different species. The most notable species that we caught were the Townsend’s Big Eared Bat, Pallid Bat, Long Legged Myotis, and Long Eared Myotis.

IMG_5501The Townsend’s Big Eared Bat caught near Painted Peak in Washoe County, Nevada. (Photo by Jennifer Mueller)

During one of our office trainings that went over measuring stream flow rates, we decided to go up Hay’s Canyon. During this training we went over the use of flumes, V-notch weirs, the use of meters, and the use of the bucket method. We also went over which technique was batter depending upon stream size, velocity, and the characteristics of the channel. While we were going up the canyon we saw a single big horn sheep ewe in the rocks above us but didn’t see any others. After we did some flow rates in various springs and creeks in the area, we decided to do more recordings along Hay’s Canyon on our way back. At our last stop we looked up from the channel we were working in to find fourteen big horn sheep above us on the rock face. The big horn sheep had come down to drink where we were working. With them were several rams and some lambs and it was a nice treat after a long day. We also saw another band of at least eight big horn sheep coming up another slope to join the herd above us, so we had roughly twenty-two big horn sheep.



The majestic Big Horn Sheep. Both photos were taken in Hay’s Canyon by myself.

Finally, while I’ve been collecting grass seed in the area, I’ve also been doing fuel loading surveys, assisting in determining past fire histories in the region (especially in timber and sagebrush steppe areas), and monitoring sage grouse. The largest flock of sage grouse that I have seen so far was 66 individuals in one area with another flock of 18 individuals in an adjacent stream watershed. Every time I see sage grouse I take a GPS waypoint, pictures, and record the number of individuals seen. So far this summer I have seen roughly 132 sage grouse, and several raptor species.


Sage grouse found at Mosquito Lake in a site heavily dominated by great basin wild rye, prairie junegrass, western wheat grass, and low sage brush.

I hope everyone else is having a fun internship and is staying safe out there!



The Surprise Resource Area

While working with the staff of the Surprise Resource area, I have gained many new experiences. One of my first projects that I got to work on was doing vegetation surveys for weed treatments. In the Modoc area, and this is probably true for many areas, we have issues with invasive species like Medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusa), Japanese Brome (Bromus arvensis), Ventenata, and cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum). Previously, members of the staff had applied a bacterial herbicide to several test plots in order to see how effective this herbicide was on invasive grasses. We had mixed results but it had been less then a year since it had been applied.

Other projects that I have been working on include doing water quality assessments in perennial creeks across the desert. I have also been working on riparian vegetation monitoring, range health monitoring, and range compliance. One of my wildlife projects this month had me finding a small thermal sensor on the side of a steep mountain rock field in order to replace it with a new one. The sensor detected pika and other small mammal movements and was used to monitor the habitat usage along the rock slope. One of my projects took me to East Wall Canyon in order to monitor a pipeline for potentially new planting projects. East Wall Canyon sits below the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge in Washoe County, Nevada and is a very remote region to visit. However tucked inside the numerous small canyons, streams, meadows, and mahogany forests are little homesteads that mark the history of settlement in the area.


Horse Creek, a small perennial creek that runs into Oregon.


A rattlesnake that we found on Tuledad Mountain. This is the first of the two rattlesnakes that I have seen so far this year.

Over the Forth of July weekend, I got to drive a small first responder vehicle in the Lake City, CA parade. We had about twenty-two entrees in the community parade and about three hundred and fifty individuals in attendance in a town with fifty individuals normally. Several members of the field office were in attendance, participated in the parade, and helped with the barbecuing at the potluck that followed. So far I’ve had a lot of fun working in the Great Basin and am enjoying the small town atmosphere and am looking forward to more fun experiences.


Mosquito Valley from the Barrel Springs Road.

I hope everyone is enjoying their internship and staying safe out there!


The Importance of Proper Equipment

I work with the BLM in both Northern California and Northern Nevada and have spent my past few weeks doing monitoring work for weed control tests on Medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae), cheatgrass (Bromus Tectorum), Ventenata (Ventenata dubia), Japanese Brome (Bromus japonicus), and collecting seeds and specimens for Seeds of Success. In the field, I sometimes work alone, so it’s important to always be carrying the correct safety gear with you, even if it’s a routine trip to check on range compliance or look at a potential collecting site. My field office covers over two million acres and the majority of it does not have cell phone service and often in the field I see very little traffic or people.


-Horse Lake, NV

Because of the remoteness, I always make sure that my truck is outfitted with the equipment that I need in the chance that I get stuck, and that I always bring my handheld radio out in the field with me. I also carry extra water, batteries (both for the radio and the GPS unit), reference books, collecting equipment, sunscreen, bug spray, and most importantly I bring maps. The reason that I bring maps into the field with me is because  when I don’t know where I am going, it’s easy to break out a map and trace a route to where I need to go, especially because most of the roads are unmarked. Maps also provide me with topographical features, roads that are still in use and out of use, and  property ownership. While scouting the Great Basin, I’ve traveled to places like Mosquito Lake, Horse Lake, and Nut Mountain this week. At all of these places, I have found both unique plants and animals. So far this field season has been great and I can’t wait to see what other plants, animals, and places that I get to see.


-Dwarf Purple Monkeyflower located on a fire ant colony.