Is this really my job?!

Last week, I was lucky enough to go on a rafting trip down the Middle Fork Eel River with the BLM Arcata field office. My job was mainly to look for invasive species along the river, and to get a general idea of the ecosystems out there. There were also wildlife biologists, fisheries biologists, and archaeologists on the trip, and I took any chance I could get to follow them around and see what they were up to! When I was a kid, I wanted to be an archeologist (Indiana Jones was my hero), so it was extra special to get to see archeologists at work (a lot less danger and booby traps than I had imagined, but just as exciting).

For most of the trip, we floated through mature oak woodlands, peppered with cottonwoods, willows, and ash along the river banks. I saw my first black bear (and then two more). The spring wildflowers were in full bloom, and it was gloriously sunny the entire trip (a rarity in my usual Humboldt county!). Here and there we could see burn scars along the ridges from previous fires, and the occasional cattle ranch when we drifted by private property. Another part of why we were out there was to make sure that there wasn’t any illegal activity on the BLM managed land – the last time anyone had checked on these parcels was in 2008, because they are really only accessible by the river. Thankfully, we didn’t come across anything suspicious, and we didn’t see any other people for the entirety of the trip! Probably my favorite part of the day was in the morning, when I would wake up to watch the sun rise (I swear this had nothing to do with my leaky sleeping pad) and take the time to organize my notes from the previous day and just soak in the scenery around me. I still can’t quite believe that I got to go on this trip, but my fading sunburn and mounds of pictures won’t let me forget. Here are a few!

On the tail end of our trip – note the steep canyon walls that make it hard to access the shore – must be BLM land!

Looking down at the river from Pinnacle Rock – worth the climb! And a good representation of the oak woodlands.

Our campsite for the night!

Watching the sunrise on our last day!

Other than the rafting trip, I’ve been doing some invasive weed mapping, participating in safety days, gearing up for SOS collections, working with crews from the California Conservation Corp and prepping for Kids Ocean Day (more on this later!)

Greetings from Arcata!

My last few weeks have been filled with dunes, dunes, dunes, and more dunes!  I’ve got one more transect left, and I’ll admit that I’ll miss doing these surveys.  After a bit of a rocky start learning all of the new species, I’ve become quite familiar with the regulars!  Many of the plants are now blooming as well, and put on quite a show on a sunny day.

My favorite dune plant – Claytonia perfoliata ssp. perfoliata – also known as miner’s lettuce! These guys were hiding under a big bushy lupine!

Dune survey at Mattole Beach! One of the most beautiful places I have ever been!

A pretty patch of Platystemon californicus (cream cups) with a few Plectritis congesta (sea blush) mixed in!

When it has just been too rainy to go out into the field, I’ve been working on my ArcGIS skills, attending meetings, getting ready for SOS collections, and planning out the rest of my internship! Last week I attended the North Coast Botanical Meeting, where biologists from all sorts of government agencies and private industries got together to discuss what they think are the most pressing issues in the Northern CA botany world.  It was really interesting to see what everybody was working on, and a great opportunity to meet a lot of folks I’ll probably be working with in the next few months!



First Week Down!

The Humboldt Bay Wallflower (Erysimum menziesii eurekensii) holding on in the dunes! This species is unique to the Humboldt bay dune system! photo credit: Jennifer Wheeler

Little pops of color in the dunes! photo credit: Jennifer Wheeler

Working on a dune transect, most likely counting Layia carnosa, also known as beach layia. photo credit: Jennifer Wheeler

Greetings from Arcata, CA! I’ve just finished up my first week at the BLM office here, and it has been a blast!

First off, just a mere two weeks ago my dad and I began the long trek from New Hampshire to California. Before this internship, I had never been west of the Mississippi, so it was a real treat to get to drive across the country!

My first week at the office mostly consisted of paperwork and meetings and getting through all of the necessary trainings. Then, I got the chance to be a judge at a local science fair, and saw some cool projects coming from the next generation of scientists!

Finally, near the end of the week, we got started on some dune surveys! Northern CA has massive dune systems stretching up & down its coastline. Like many other ecosystems, the dunes have been under attack from invasive species and human activity for quite some time. In recent years the BLM, along with other local organizations, has led an effort to restore them. Most of my botanical experiences so far have been forestry-related, so I’ll admit that the surveys have been challenging (shout out to my sponsor, Jennifer Wheeler, for being so patient!) but fascinating at the same time. The longer you look at the sand, more and more little dune flora pop out at you. And this year, because of all of the rain, the dune wildflowers are really putting on a show!

I’m looking forward to getting more settled into my position here – everyone at the office has been very friendly and welcoming, and more than happy to give this east-coast transplant advice! I am so grateful to have had this opportunity, and plan to learn as much as I possibly can about the BLM & the ecosystems out here before I go!