Where’d the 5 months go?!

Howdy! (I’ve adopted saying howdy, I kind of really like it)

Anywho, greetings from Bishop, CA. My time here is over and I cannot believe how quickly its passed! The weeks have gone by in a blur. The goals I had at the start of my internship have been fulfilled and my hours of funding are all gone. Reflecting on my time out here I just can’t believe the experiences I’ve had. Getting caught in the loudest thunderstorms I’ve ever been under. The 3 am alarms to get up and go count sage grouse in the freezing cold. Stopping for snacks and Mono Market and ice cream at the Mono Cone. Chasing horny toads around in the Volcanic Tablelands. Almost getting the truck stuck, many times. Being miserably hot and sweaty in the beating sun. Falling into the slough at Fish Slough. Seeing absolutely stunning landscapes ranging from the driest deserts to dense pine forests all set in the foreground of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. I wouldn’t like to remember it any other way.

Working out here, in the middle of nowhere, has taught me many new skills but also about myself. I now know I can work about 40 hours a week alone and be in the field alone and get my work done and enjoy it too. I was hesitant about doing field work alone all day everyday, I was afraid of snakes or twisting my ankle and getting stranded in the middle of the desert. But as I got out more and more my confidence grew and I realized it’s really not as scary as it seemed. I also learned sooooo much about plants. I’m way better at keying out plants using the Jepson in part to the classes I was able to attend but also just from practicing it over and over (I’m especially good with the Chaenactis genus!). And of course there are the bonus skills I’ve acquired, the ones I really never thought I would learn- I can confidently drive the largest the largest truck you’ve ever seen, cut down trees, and fix a break in a barbed wire fence.

Starting this internship was exciting and nerve wracking. I was so stoked to get a cool position in a cool location even if it meant moving away from my home by the beautiful ocean and all my closest friends. I didn’t really know what to expect, I just knew I would be collecting seeds and learning about plants. So I guess my exceptions were met… but then I was able to participate in all these other amazing and unexpected things. I learned a bit about a lot of different things like wildlife, archaeology, and range.

I’ve had a great time out here and I know that because of how insanely fast time has flown.

I’m just going to photo dump, just thinking they’re worth a share!

Shipping off some seed collections!

So many Hymenoclea salsola v. salsola seeds!!!!

Cute little horny toad! (not actually toads)

Grouse poop looks like white cheeto puffs

Lupinus odoratus was going crazy this summer

It’s the arch you can see mount whitney through in the alabama hills

Working in a meadow to redirect water off the road!

So long Bishop!!!<3 And farewell to the Bureau of Land Management, it’s been very real.

Brittany Betz

BLM, Bishop, CA Field Office

Bloomin Bishop

Time is flying-

I’m finishing up my 7th week working out in the BLM Bishop field office. My days are full of plant scouting/collecting, bird counting and luxurious weekends. I successfully completed my first seed collection for SOS of Lepidium flavum– a tiny yellow annual in the mustard family. The plant only grows up to a few inches tall, so I was dreading crawling through the hot desert sand full of Amsinckia tessellata bristles.  But the collection actually proved to be effortless, as each handful of seeds ranged from 100-300 seeds. I made sure to collect well over 10,000 seeds. I wouldn’t be surprised if I actually came close to 20,000-25,000! L. flavum seeds are about the size of sand grains, so accuracy can be difficult but hey the more the merrier. This collection was made in the scenic Alabama Hills, a popular set location for western films due to the striking landscape and juxtaposition of the dry desert and looming peaks of the Eastern Sierra.

The Alabama Hills- my work space for my Lepidium flavum seed collection. Mt Whitney is up there somewhere!

My days of plant scouting have been beautiful. I’ve been collecting vouchers for potential seed collections and I’m up to about 23 vouchers. Ideally I will be able to make seed collections from all of these species. One of my vouchered species (Grayia spinosa) went to seed and got blown out by high winds, which was very sad. But there are two other populations that have great potential and are located in less extreme areas- I’m optimistic!

The Desert Peach (Prunus andersonii) has been blooming like crazy in the central regions of the Bishop BLM property out here.

I’ve additionally encountered interesting insects, which always tugs at my love of entomology. Pollinators like monarchs and sphinx moths are busy at work and colorful sap sucking beetles litter the shrubs. The mosquitoes have not been an issue… yet. With all the water from the snow melt, the mosquitoes are expected to be terrible this year- I’m scared because I’m one of those people they love to feast on.

These playful little guys love to flutter around my bouquets of voucher specimens- Hyles lineata (Hawk/Sphinx moth).

The landscape out here is changing rapidly as the ice and snow sheds off the Eastern Sierras. The days are warming, which is making the early morning Sage Grouse counts more pleasant. I’ve heard tales of single digit temperatures on these mornings in years past, so I’m incredibly grateful to have temperatures in the high 30s low 40s- it’s still freezing for my Southern California skin but well worth it. Sage grouse are the weirdest birds I’ve seen, they’re incredibly entertaining. It would be much more difficult to brave the 2:30 AM wake up times and freezing temperatures to observe a less interesting animal.

We use telescopes to count the grouse and keep our distance from their mating grounds (Leks). Long Valley.

Grouse counts in Bodie can be cold! My co-worker scouting for birds on this blistery morning in the snow and wind.

Strange lighting in the Bodie hills during our bird counts- Bodie is a famous ghost town so you tell me what’s going on here.

It’s not all work out here in Bishop (the work really doesn’t even feel like work) there’s plenty of playtime. Bishop is a spectacular climbing area- climbers come from all around the world to work their stuff in the boulder fields.

Climbing in the caves at the Buttermilks on the weekend.

And the hiking is out of this world…

Things are heating up in Bishop! As the wild flowers keep doing their thing I’ll keep doing mine. Excited to get my SOS collections done and see more interesting animals and insects.

Till next time-

Brittany Betz – BLM Bishop Field Office

Working with the BLM in Bishop

Three weeks have passed since I made the big move out to Bishop, CA. My first week here was full of training videos and driving tours of the land. My mentor and I spent a couple days in the field together that week, I was armed with plant lists and ready to learn the native flora. It’s crazy how many shrubs are out here, distinguishing among the Atriplex species is still driving me crazy. I’m looking forward to honing in on my shrub ID skills though- lots of studying to be done! I have mainly spent my time surveying the land the Bishop field office manages (meaning I get to go off-roading all day in big trucks!) for any wild flowers beginning to sprout. My aim is to find large enough populations of plants to collect seed from when the time is right. There are so many beautiful cactus and bright yellow annuals popping up currently. So far I am anticipating a seed collection of a Lepidium flavum population and maybe a Mentzelia population. Other flowering plants popping up include species in the Eriophyllum, Syntrichopappus, Phacelia, Cryptantha, and Amsinckia genus. I spent a few days last week camping in the Amargosa Valley with Sarah DeGroot, the Seeds of Success coordinator from the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. We went over how to properly collect seed in the field and how to do tissue sample collections. It was a very useful and fun experience.

Besides the Seeds of Success program I have been involved in the Sage-Grouse study our field office does. I’m looking forward to learning more about these funny looking birds as I have more opportunities to participate in the lek counts. I’ve heard the counts take place around sunrise when the birds are the most active, which means I will need to be out of bed around 4 am, the joy! I have also heard about bat surveys which take place a little later in the summer and I’m hoping I can tag along for some of those. I love the variety of work I am able to participate in, it makes the days go by fast and I absolutely love learning new things.

Working with the BLM has been great fun so far and I’m looking forward to all the new experiences to come.

Brittany Betz

BLM Bishop Field Office