About V Cancino

Botanist hailing from Indiana (Boiler up!)

I blinked and 8 months went by

As I write this, I can hardly believe that 9 months ago I was packing up my belongings and moving to the great PNW. I was excited and maybe a little nervous. I ran into some bumps along the road, but it makes for an unforgettable memory.

On my last day, my mentor held a farewell lunch for me, and that’s when I realised that this was actually over. I knew it would end, and, of course, I was sad, but that date always seemed like a far-away thing. Basically our entire office came to the lunch, minus the few out in the field or away from the office, and it was such a nice reminder of all the people I was able to work with and learn from.

I definitely will say that while I was primarily a seeds of success intern, I worked with just about every resource specialist in the office in some way and highly recommend for all those considering the internship do the same. I got to really see all that these amazing public servants do, and help out on some fun projects!

A quick recap includes: bat surveys (probably to date the coolest thing I did), WA state ground squirrel surveys, homestead archeological surveys (so cool to see the historical artifacts), identifying a pre-contact bison bone at one of our properties (!), going out to decide the action for mine reclamation, rangeland health assessments, watershed health assessments, right-of-way processing, weed surveys, and so much more.

I also got to work with the Spokane District’s National Monument office out at the San Juan Islands, learn some really cool history and learn from an amazing public servant, and eat all the yummy foods around the island!

Of course, there were days that I was “over” collecting seeds, and wanting to do something a little more to do with resource advising/management, but once I got out to the field, I was so happy to be collecting seeds. When the field season came to an end, and I collected my last seed, I fulfilled classic intern activities: filing, scanning, organizing files, throwing away files, general maintenance. Those days, I really missed the field, but I got to work along side awesome coworkers that made the day go by quickly.

I will be forever thankful that my first experience with a federal land management agency was with the Border Field Office in Spokane, Washington. I learned a lot, learned there’s always something to learn (or learn again), and made friendships that will last a lifetime. Although, at times I wished I wasn’t the only intern (or that I had a group of interns at the office), I am glad it was just me. It made me step even further out of my comfort zone, and let me know that moving across the country, knowing absolutely no one, is totally doable.

So for you future interns, don’t be scared to leave the familiar behind or to do it all by yourself, and always ask to do more than what you’re assigned.

I’ve made the decision to stick around out here, working seasonally until the next season comes around, trying my luck while I’m young. I don’t know exactly what or where my next steps may be, but I know I want to go to grad school, and one day end up working for the feds. It’s for that reason, I’m sticking around out west; I figure it’ll be easier to move from Spokane to whatever seasonal position I get next, rather than haul my life from Indiana again. So if you ever find yourself in eastern Washington, you can always look me up on here!

I can’t wait to see where this wild journey of seasonal work takes me next! I am excited for all you future interns to give this a go; it’s an amazing ride if you do it right!

Over and out

Valeria Cancino Hernandez, Border Field Office, Spokane District BLM

What happened to September?

“Wake me up when September ends” would also be an appropriate title here, considering how quickly September flew by. I can hardly believe it’s October. September celebrated my 6th month out west, and brought some great memories.

I was lucky enough to spend Labor Day weekend exploring the wonders of Oregon. I met up with fellow CLMer Madie from the Arcata Field Office for a camping trip at Crater Lake NP. While much of our trip was smoky due to the various wildfires in and around the park, the experience is and will continue to be unforgettable. Pictures nor words could do it justice. Some of my favorite things included the bats that came out each night, our innovative kitchen tools, s’mores, and the views. I hope to make it back to Crater Lake when the lake formed by a volcanic collapse can be seen and when more flowers are in bloom. While camping at Diamond Lake in the Umpqua National Forest and spending time at the Crater Lake, wildfire threats were so very real; the last 2 days we saw many campers leave due to the threat/smoke and our amazing fire crews creating fire line and backfiring. While I’ve always been incredibly grateful for these men and women, my appreciation grew so much more. After a few discussions with a firefighter/Natural Resource Specialist in the office, getting my red card, and potentially serving on a crew is something I see in my future. Thank a firefighter, and always remember to be smart during fire season – and off season, too!

Crater Lake on the least smoky day!

Mount Bailey, Diamaond Lake, Umpqua National Forest. A typical day during our visit to the Umpqua National Forest and Crater Lake National Park

Chipmunk that decided that Madie and I couldn’t see it if it didn’t move

Plaikni Falls, Crater Lake, Oregon

The pinnacles at Crater Lake, OR; these super cool geologic features are fossil fumaroles. They were formed under sheets of volcanic pumice that preceded Mazama’s collapse. As the surface cooled over years, steam and gas were released from the hot rocks underneath by vents and tubes that were welded into cement by the passage of the steam and gas. These are the vents after years of erosion. Nature does some pretty cool things.

After spending the weekend at the lake, I detoured to Portland upon the recommendation of my mentor, to check out Powell’s and Voodoo Donuts. Both very much worth the 3 hour detour! I could spend the rest of my time in Powell’s and be extremely happy; it’s a huge bookstore (new and used) with just about everything you could think of. I snagged some books I’ve been wanting to get and ventured to Voodoo’s to try some of the best donuts I’ve had. I highly recommend the Mexican Hot Chocolate Donut!

My return to the office has been slow since many of the plants on my list have been collected, so I’ve embarked on office work. While I definitely enjoy my field work a thousand times more than being inside, I’ve gotten to do some cool things. Right now, I am (FINALLY) finishing up digitizing the office’s herbarium! It’s been tedious, and frustrating – no thanks to my computer for constantly crashing in the middle of saving a file – but, albeit rewarding. I’ve gotten to see some cool vouchers, and I’ve definitely gotten a sense of pride seeing my vouchers among the 700+ samples we have. I’ve also gotten to clean Silene spaldingii seed, another tedious and, at times, frustrating duty. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts Silene spaldingii is a federally listed plant, and with the help and permission of USFWS, we collected over 10,000 seeds from multiple sites (while not taking more than 10% of the seed population) which will be grown out and used in rehabilitation and reintroduction of Silene spaldingii to its native landscape.

That being said, I will take any opportunity to get out in the field when possible, which includes Interdisciplinary Team field trips to mining sites, timber sales, and land assessments (which have been truly invaluable; I’ve learned quite a lot); recreation site trash duty; cultural flagging for AVISTA linework on BLM property; and National Public Lands Day! NPLD was a lot of fun, our field office partnered with Washington Trails Association, Washington Mountaineers, and our local REI to build about 1.5 miles of new trail out at our Fishtrap Recreation Site! I always managed to find the 10 feet of basalt to build trail on, but it was worth all the trouble, especially knowing that more of this gorgeous country will be accessible to the public!

Next on my list of to-do’s in October include updating GeoBOB (a database for threatened and endangered species in OR/WA) with all the Silene spaldingii sites I set up and monitored this season, writing my final report, and whatever else fun projects may pop up. Our office Forester may have some opportunities for my to do some forestry work, which is really exciting because I haven’t spent nearly as much time in the mountains as I would have liked.

These last 5 weeks or so are definitely going to be cherished, I’ve loved working for the BLM and learning from so many different disciplines. I’m going to make sure I make the last bit of this internship as memorable as possible, in and out of the office.

Over and out,



From Spokane to the San Juan’s!

The last half of July and most of August have been a whirlwind of rare plant monitoring and GeoBOB! I’ve been helping out a lot with Silene spaldingii (SISP2) monitoring – I’ve been to sites with 50+ plants (not usually so robust!) – and with that comes updating GeoBOB, a geographic database used for biological observations of rare/threatened/endangered plants and animals. Once I got through the training, I was ready to go! I’ve been lucky enough to see populations of over 100 plants and located 2 new sites! It’s been a great year for not just SISP2, but most late spring and summer plants, much in part to the heavy spring rains! As the SISP2 monitoring wound down, I was lucky enough to get to spend a week at the San Juan Islands National Monument collecting seeds.

The timing lined up perfectly with the eclipse, which was ~90% visible at the Islands. That Monday morning I went out with a park ranger named Rosie (if you BLMers read the articles on Inside Passage, Rosie was featured in a story a few weeks back about working with Junior Rangers on the islands) to Iceberg Point to get a feel for the island’s plant life and for Rosie to complete the monitoring at Iceberg Point Monument. We counted about 23 people, 2 dogs (on leashes!! Go Humans!), and 23 sea lions! While there we enjoyed the eclipse; Lopez Island got considerably cooler and the sunlight dimmed, although nothing like what was experienced by those in the path of totality.

Tuesday, I was island hopping with Nick, the outdoor recreation planner, (also featured on a recent Inside Passage article) to Cattlepoint, another part of the monument found on San Juan Island. He was going out to meet with a contractor doing some work on the lighthouse, and I was going to attempt to collect some seeds in the sand dunes and coastal prairie area. Once we finished up at Cattlepoint, Nick got a message from a volunteer letting him know they had spotted a part of a broken buoy that was stuck on the shoreline out at American Camp (another part of the Monument, and technically National Park Service land). What I’ve quickly learned about the Islands out here is that everyone helps each other out. Our BLM office out there has many partners and they work together to ensure that the lands out on the islands stay as ‘wild and native’ as possible. On our way to American Camp, Nick was telling me the story about American Camp, English Camp, and the Pig War. Little did I know, but this monument was actually where the only known war (during the settlement of the United States) had been avoided.

History goes that at American Camp there was a soldier by the name of Lyman Cutlar that had created his garden and recently planted potatoes; he was quite proud of his little production. In English Camp, there was a soldier by the name of Charles Griffin; Griffin owned a pig, a rather mischievous pig. Griffin’s pig would sneak into Cutlar’s garden and dig up Cutlar’s potatoes, making Cutlar understandably angry. Cutlar warned Griffin that his pig was trespassing and digging up his potatoes; Cutlar also warned Griffin that if his pig didn’t cut it out, Cutlar would kill the pig. Of course, Griffin couldn’t stop the pig, the pig continued stealing potatoes, and Cutlar followed his threat of killing the pig.This situation was what eventually (nearly) led to war; known as the Pig War. However, before any battles broke out an arbitrator, Kaiser Wilhem I of Germany, was able to peacefully resolve the war. And there you have it, the short (hi)story of the Pig War. TLDR: A British pig was stealing potatoes from an American garden. The garden’s proprietor, an American soldier shot the British Pig. The pig’s owner, a British soldier, found out; the two sides nearly went to war over a pig and some potatoes.

Anyway, without much luck, Nick and I did not find the styrofoam part of the buoy (and hope that someone else does before it gets blown to smithereens by a storm and does some real damage to the wildlife).

Wednesday, I was able to go out with another volunteer of the monument in search of some seeds. It was a great day spend hiking at Watmough Bay (where the salmon are begging to be fished) and the Holodiscus discolor (ocean spray) was perfect for collecting. Because I was only there for a week, I didn’t get to collect any vouchers since the plants had already gone to seed, and thus no pictures of ocean spray in flower.

Thursday, I went island hopping to San Juan Island again to meet up with one of the monument’s many partners. Eliza, part of the San Juan County Landbank, was creating local pollinator seed packets, and I was going to take a tour of Red Mill Farm and help create seed packets. But of course, not without a mishap. In my early morning stupor, I managed to get on the ferry right before the one I was actually supposed to take, and wound up back in the Americas, as the islanders would say. After boarding the correct ferry, I met up with Eliza, and got to learn more about the partnerships BLM has forged out on the islands. It’s so great to see the entire community rallying behind native plant preservation and land conservation, and really just trying to be better environmental stewards. Another cool fact I learned is that the San Juan Islands have adopted and created their own Leave No Trace principles, in large part to Nick’s efforts (Thanks, Nick!!).

Friday, I also went island hopping with Marcia, the monument manager. We had plans of wading out to Indian Island from Orcas Island – having been told the tide would be somewhere between 3 to 10 inches, to collect some native seed. We got out there and were surprised that the tide was indeed not 3 to 10 inches, but we gave it a shot anyway. As the water level began to near our knees, we didn’t think it would be wise to continue since we weren’t even at the deepest part yet, and didn’t plan on needing to swim over. While I didn’t get to visit Indian Island, I can say I’ve officially been in the Salish Sea! While waiting for the ferry, we stopped at a bakery, and grabbed some of the most delicious pastries I’ve tried (their pan au chocolat definitely rivals the ones I had in France)! So if you ever find yourself on Orcas Island in Washington, make it a point to check out Brown Bear Baking. You won’t regret it. Also check out the history museum, it’s got this cool sculpture outside with describing how man came to be from an old native tale, very interesting!

As I said my goodbyes to the islands, I couldn’t help but stop by Orcas on my way back to the mainland and snag some goodies to enjoy in Spokane. Once I got back to Anacortes, I had thought I would drive down to Seattle and explore the city a bit more. But, like much of my plans, they changed, and I found myself driving to North Cascades National Park. Of course, with it being the National Park Service’s 101st birthday (Happy belated NPS!) and the start of classes lingering ominously, all the campgrounds within reasonable distance were full, so I took a quick little hike up Thunder Knob to get a spectacular view of Diablo Lake. Thanks to the rangers that recommended it, and I hope that their stations get less busy since today is the last day senior passes are $10!!

After my little short excursion, I drove through the rest of the Cascades enjoying a spectacular sunset, and found myself back in Spokane. A busy week full of amazing views; I honestly couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities CLM has given me. Here’s to making the most of the next 2 months I have left in the Border Field Office.

Until next time,


Odlin Beach, Lopez Island, WA


Sunset at Odlin Beach, Lopez Island, WA

Island Art that explains how man came to earth, Orcas Island, WA

Watmough Bay, BLM, Lopez Island, WA

Diablo Lake from Thunder Knob, North Cascades National Park, WA

Bats, Rare Plants, and Monitoring Sites Galore!

Things get so busy around here, that I start a blog post with intentions of finishing it before a new week begins, but never quite make it there. Luckily, I’m in between seed collections right now, so I’m seizing the opportunity to recount one of the busiest and most fun weeks I’ve had. It started out pretty much like every week, but with a few surprises. Check it out.

Monday was hotter than normal for July in Spokane, and under recommendation from my mentor, I stayed in the office, planning my next steps. As I was doing some herbarium work, my mentor told me that I will be taking lead on a rehabilitation project for one of Washington’s threatened plant species, Polemonium pectinatum (POPE14)!

Polemonium pectinatum (Washington’s Jacob’s-ladder)

For this project, I will be visiting and monitoring various sites of POPE14 to update the associated plants list, determining which associated plants would be best to collect and grow out so that they can be used to rehab the Wilson Creek location. I will also be collecting seed of the associated plants and POPE14 to be used at the rehab site. When I found out this information, I was really excited. Sure being around and getting paid was a good deal, but mostly I was (and am) ecstatic to be helping re-establish POPE14! The plant is gorgeous and endemic to Eastern Washington. Unfortunately for this site, the county was out spraying for white top and the district botanist and our field botanist believe that drift from the nearby spray site affected and eventually took out the population. While the odds are that I am back in Spokane next spring to see the project out aren’t exactly high, I am so happy to be helping lay down the ground work! Learning about the rehab project was just the tip of the iceberg of the exciting and busy week I’ve had!

At the end of the day, my mentor found me again to ask if I would be interested in helping our wildlife biologist and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) complete some bat surveys! I could tell my eyes lit up with excitement (because mentally I was jumping for joy) as I tried to keep a calm demeanor and saying yes! I absolutely have so much respect for these amazing mammals, especially because they consume mosquitoes, which are the bane of my existence.

Tuesday night, we got to the bat house just as the sun was beginning to set, and covered up the exits we weren’t going to be counting with tarps. As we finished doing that, we got to our counting spot and found a little pup that must have fallen off its mom the night before. Luckily, one of the wildlife biologists from WDFW brought along some gloves, and carefully picked the little one up from the foundation and eventually took it into the bat house – after several failed attempts of placing the little one in the window – to hopefully find his/her momma (if you want to see a video of the cute little guy, here’s a link). Soon afterwards, the first bat flew out and it was go time. I ended up counting roughly 2,700 bats, and acquiring about 35 mosquito bites, but they were definitely worth it! I was ready to go again the next night!

Bat surveys ended around midnight and we got back to the office around 2 am. I had a quick turn around time of 7 am, so I wasn’t wasting much time getting to my apartment! I was going to be joining our range management specialists and wildlife biologist, as well as my mentor, to do some land health assessments the next 2 mornings. While much of my internship has been working on Seeds of Success, I’ve been finding ways to do much more than just that. Tagging along with our range management specialist and learning about what he does was really interesting. I learned a lot more of the grasses and got decently ok at identifying them (which I am so grateful for because I was pretty terrible at) and learned more about land health. On our first day, we went out to 2 different sites, and did line-point-intercepts to get a qualitative survey of the area, attempting to determine percent cover of invasive species, sage, annuals:perennials, and ground cover. This data would then be used as a representative of the allotment to determine if it was still suitable for grazing, as well as for sagegrouse habitat. While to most of the office, it was just another day in the field, I thought it was pretty cool! Not to mention, I got to see the first Calochortus of my season! Another plant I’ve been eagerly awaiting!

Calochortus macrocarpus var. macrocarpus {Green Stripe Mariposa Lily)

We got done at around 3 and I followed Mike from WDFW out to the next bat house. Unfortunately for us, a storm rolled in and foiled our plans. But that’s alright, because there’s always a tomorrow! I turned around and went back out with our rangeland management specialist and wildlife biologist for another day of range health assessments. This time, since the group was much smaller, we were able to go through and do the work with a higher efficiency, and I took a more active role in the line-point intercepts, which really tested my dry grass skill identifying. Along the way, we encountered some Silene spalidingii, one of the rare plants in our area, a few coyotes, and plenty of mosquitoes! I also got to learn about assessing bodies of water, which was great minus the hoards of mosquitoes.

Silene spaldingii (Spalding’s Silene)

After a few long days and short nights, the week was over, and I was ready to take a long weekend to celebrate July 4th with my family.

In between that crazy week and now, I’ve checked off a few more of my target species and collected some opportunistic ones as well, working on my herbarium collection, and helping out with setting up new monitoring plots for Silene and checking on old sites. These new plots actually document the location of the plant within a 9 meter circle, the idea being that in the next 6 years, the data collected will show if the plants are fit and reproducing adequately, or if the plants are declining. It’s things like this that really get me excited, even if I don’t get to be around to see the final results. Here’s to saving the native plants, one public land at a time!

Here are some plants I’ve been seeing out lately, including a few on my target list!

Castilleja minor (Lesser Indian Paintbrush)

Asclepias speciosa (Showy Milkweed)

Mimulus guttatus (Seep monkeyflower)

Mentzelia laevicaulis (Smoothstem Blazingstar)

Until next time,

V Cancino

Transitioning from flooded roads to fire season

Wasn’t it just last month I was saying that roads were flooded, we were concerned with getting stuck in mud, etc? Well, that was short lived. With the close of May, came the start of fire season. It wasn’t much longer after that the fire crew started on and reminders about how not to start wildfires were sent out. “Summer” is here.

While fires aren’t ideal, the drier weather means that the road I’ve been so (im)patiently awaiting to open is accessible! After 3 months of being flooded, I can now cross Telford Road to explore the northern half of our land! It is such a contrast to Telford South! South is more of a scabland like habitat.

The North Telford Road landscape is still dry, but it gets more water – as you can imagine, seeing as the road was flooded the first 3 months of my internship! The first day I got out there to explore I was so happy. Sticky geranium was everywhere, and there were more Rocky Mountain Irises, so you’d either find a bright pink or a deep purple depending where you were looking. I found a trail and decided to follow it to see where it would lead, hopefully not to the cattle, which were on a grazing rotation in a nearby allotment. Along the trail, I was pleasantly surprised with a gorgeous Penstemon which I had seen scarcely scattered along Telford South, but was growing in abundance in the Northern half. I brought it back to the office to ID. After giving it a go, I keyed it out to Penstemon gairdneri, Gairdner’s Penstemon. I took it over to my mentor’s cube and had her verify; she was pretty surprised that I had found it. She told me that as far as she had been aware, this species wasn’t known to be in the area (score another one for the budding botanist)!! It has been an unusually wet spring/summer for the northwest, and the last 10+ years have been decently dry, so it’s a great time to be an intern out here. I knew I’d be returning to Telford North plenty of times this season. I found thin-leafed owl clover (Orthocarpus tenuifolius), another one of my target collection plants out there, as well as a ton of ragged robin (Clarkia pulchella), which I’ve grown quite fond of as of late.

Ragged Robin (Clarkia pulchella)

After the workshop, I returned to summertime Spokane. Temperatures are nearing or in the 90s every day, and fires have broken out in central Washington. Hoping all the firefighting crews and red-card volunteers stay safe out there! For all my fellow interns – don’t forget to stay hydrated. Heat stroke can happen very quickly and isn’t any fun!

After getting caught up on my emails and going ons in the office, I went back out to collect seed just to make sure my first collection would be sufficient (and hopefully enough to request excess back to use for sagegrouse habitat) I stumbled upon a moose! Yes, you read that correctly, I found a moose in Spokane in July walking amongst the sage! I was ecstatic because I love moose and it was the first one I’d seen in person – they’re definitely not a part of the Indiana landscape! I attempted to snag a decent picture but I was too far away for it.

That same week, I returned to the location of my moose sighting to scout for new plants and found another surprise! This time it was one of the botanical nature! I found poppies growing naturally in Eastern Washington! Another unusual find! I brought the sample of Blindeyes (Papvera dubium) back to the office to show my mentor. After talking it with her, she thinks the poppies are either part of an old homestead (likely the Miller Ranch that is on our land) that has stuck around. Even though they’re introduced and uncommon, it was a cool find.

Blindeyes (Papaver dubium)


Until next time,


V Cancino

April Showers Bring May Flowers, but What do May Showers Bring?

The saying is true, ya know. April showers do indeed bring May flowers; they’ve been popping up left and right, and in front and behind everything! I’m getting to see more than the Lomatiums and Balsamorhiza after a month of monitoring our lands! It’s so exciting to see the newcomers everywhere I go. What we’ve all been surprised about in the office is all the rain we’ve been getting as of late. The past couple of years the main concern wouldn’t be if a flooded road could be crossed or if your rig would get stuck in the mud, but rather if driving on a road would spark a fire. Although, I’m sure that will be our concern soon enough.

While I definitely would have loved to be out in the field spending some quality time getting to know plants and lands while monitoring for potential collection sites, I am taking advantage of the stormy days. I’ve been slowly picking up on how to use arcGIS and making my own maps. In fact, I’ve already mapped out that population of Cryptantha spiculifera that I stumbled upon last week! It was a great feeling making my first map. I can’t wait to learn more about the ins and outs of arcGIS!

Before we got stormed in, I got the chance to meet the botanist before my mentor, Denise. We spent the day out in a couple different lands, monitoring for another rare plant, Polemonium pectinatum. We were checking a location given to Kim by one of the Range Specialists in the office, and found it exactly where he said it would be.

Polemonium pectinatum, Washington Jacob’s Ladder

Thanks to all the rain we’ve been experiencing in the Spokane District, my target list is constantly growing. One of my favorite additions to the list is Iris missouriensis. It’s everywhere!

Iris missouriensis, Rocky Mountain Iris

While May was still decently rainy, we did have nice breaks of sunshine! During Memorial Day Weekend, it was sunny with highs in the 80’s! I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and make my way to Glacier National Park; boy, was I happy I did! While most of the park was still closed due to snow and somewhat frequent avalanches, I was able to venture to a glacier! While Spokane has reached May weather, it seems West Glacier is just now arriving to what could be considered April weather in terms of botany. The glacier lilies were just blooming, and I stumbled upon a familiar friend, Trillium ovatum. I was so excited when I saw it blooming, the leaves so familiar as trillium is quite common back in Indiana. I also saw Alpine Forget-Me-Nots, but as far as flowers, that was it really.

Trillium ovatum, Pacific Trillium

Myosotis alpestris, Alpine Forget-Me-Nots

I made my way up Avalanche Trail to get to Avalanche Lake, where the backdrop is the Sperry Glacier. I started my morning early, to try to avoid the masses, and I am glad I did! The trail was decently quiet, allowing for maximum enjoyment of the sights, sounds, and smells! Seriously, I could not get over how magnificent it smelled out there. I would have loved to bottle the smell up and fill my apartment with it. Anyway, after about 2 miles, I made it to Avalanche Lake and was washed over with a sense of serenity. The view was so beautiful, the sun was shining, and the nearby glacier kept the temperature perfect. The moment reminded me a lot of when my 11th grade English teacher prompted us to spend the class period out in the wilderness reflecting, as part of our Naturalism teachings; I was grateful that Mr. Kreibel had taken the time to teach us to appreciate nature while in nature, not just in literary contexts. It was here that I decided to sit and just take it all in. It really just made me so grateful to know that there are so many dedicated people that want to protect the freedoms we have that allow so many of us to do what we love.

Glacier National Park

views along Avalanche Trail

Avalanche Lake

It was also there at the lake that a curious chipmunk befriended me and my bright yellow water bottle. As far as the wildlife goes, I didn’t come across any bears, just my new found friend.

Spunky chipmunk that attempted to steal my raisins and climb in my pack!

In case you were wondering, Kim and I have decided that the answer to my cliche title is definitely ticks and mosquitoes. While it does not rhyme, it’s the truth. Lucky for me – Kim is a great supervisor and whenever we go out, she’s the tick magnet. Also bug spray has quickly become our best friend.

Until next time,


Rare find among the sagebrush

This week things started to heat up, literally and figuratively speaking. Spokane and surrounding areas got their first taste of the 80’s, and away from low overnight temperatures. With the increase in temperatures comes the increase in flowers! The most eventful part of the week was most definitely Wednesday and Thursday! While much of the office was attending a training on the newest GIS update, Kim had me go out to check on a rare plant, Cryptantha spiculifera (CRSP4), a plant that is federally classified as sensitive, and is rare in Washington. Kim had given me 2 UTMs to go check out in Odessa and forms to go along with them in case I did locate CRSP4.

The day started out pretty well, as I managed to make it to the first UTM without much trouble (I think I’m finally getting the internal compass all sorted out), but didn’t strike any gold. After checking, double checking, triple checking (ok, maybe too much checking, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss this plant that I’d never seen before), I decided to head to the second location – off trail. Man, was I testing my internal compass and Garmin skills that day! So, onward I trekked through the sagebrush, heading west with the sun closely following my trail. Unfortunately for me, my off-trail adventure would soon come to an end, I’d hit the section line and could not cross into private lands to continue to head west. Off I went to reach the trail to head to my second UTM. It was a good thing that fence was in my way and our land ended, because as I headed to the trail, I stumbled upon a new site of CRSP4! I did a happy dance!!! Unlike my first trip to spot CRSP4 in Juniper Dunes, I’d struck (botanic) gold! I took down my GeoBOB data, made sure I recorded the site on my Garmin and continued on.

Crypantha spiculifera


As I reached the trail, my jaw just dropped. I kept stumbling onto CRSP4 every hundred feet or so. I was hopping from one side of the trail to the other, recording CRSP4, and beaming with pride. Time was escaping me, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it to the second site that day, but that was just a good reason to come back on Thursday. SDO bound I went to tell Kim about all the gold I had struck. I’d sent her a brief message previewing the surprise I had for her. When I got back to the office, Kim had already told just about everyone in the training about my discovery, and was as happy as I was about the new sites I had discovered.

Fast forward to noon on Thursday, I was nearly to site 2 when I ran into another fence! Lucky for me, I could hop right over it without worry of leaving public lands! Unlucky for me, I didn’t hop high enough and got hooked by the barbed wire! After maneuvering myself free, I was soon faced with an unexpectedly steep slope and a huge population of CRSP4! It was jaw dropping to see so many of them! I took my data and walked a quarter of a mile more to site 2. I had a strong feeling that there wasn’t any CRSP4 given the landscape, but wanted to double check –  my gut feeling was right. It was way past lunch time and my stomach was beginning to rumble; I took that as a sign to head back to the rig to enjoy by masterfully prepped PB&J before heading back to the office to fill out my data forms. It looks like the next few days will be stormy in Spokane, so I guess it’ll be a good time to catch up on that training I was talking about…

Until next time,


Springtime in Spokane

My first few weeks working with the Spokane District Office (SDO) has been nothing short of amazing. My first day I was filled with your typical first day nerves, but that quickly washed away as the week continued on. That first week, I was flying mostly solo, as my mentor had been scheduled to attend botany meetings! Unfortunately (or fortunately, only time will tell), due to technical difficulties, I had yet to gain computer access, so I got to really dive into non-computer related work. I spent my first couple of days getting acquainted with my cubicle, office mates, and plants I would be focusing on collecting. That Wednesday the office was having a work day at Douglas Creek with the Wenatchee Field office, where I got to meet the botanist there, Molly, and CBG’s interns from last year. I spent the work day with Molly and last year’s interns creating cages around desert globe mallows, which are rare plants in Washington. While it was a long drive out there, and a very early start to the day, it was a lot of fun for my first day in the field. My second day in the field was that Friday, where I got to go out with Jason, one of SDO’s wildlife biologists. We were meeting up with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct surveys on Washington Ground Squirrels. When we got to the survey site, I was lucky enough to see and hear what these little guys look and sound like. I wish I had snapped a few pictures! These little guys might have been some on the cutest creatures I’ve stumbled upon in the wild, and they make a high pitched squeak as a warning call. I was also lucky to have heard them because I was going to working with SDO’s wildlife biologist, Jason, that has never been able to hear their high pitched calls. We walked twenty 100 meter transects, but we did not find any that day. We did, however, come across plenty of vole holes and 2 mule deer enjoying the sunshine.

Out surveying for Washington Ground Squirrels in Odessa, Washington.

Week 2 at the office wasn’t really spent at the office. My mentor, Kim, was back and since the weather was cooperating (it’s been an unusually wet spring for Spokane), Kim and I spent every day in the field. I got to explore many of eastern Washington’s public lands and was quickly learning to identify native plants! Not only that, but I’ve been getting decently good at using a Garmin to navigate and take data points, too! Tuesday, Kim and I went to Juniper Dunes in search of a rare plant, Cryptantha leucophaea (Payson Gray cyptantha). Juniper Dunes are a known site for these plants, however, due to the differences in weather from last year to this year, the plant hasn’t started blooming. It also has been having a difficult time growing as the plant prefers unstabilized dunes, and many of the previously known sites have become stabilized in the recent years. However, we weren’t disappointed, because we found a lot of western wallflower growing, and decided to collect tissue samples! Friday of that week, I was able to go out with Jamie, one of our archeologists, to Huckleberry Mountain. Don’t be fooled, as I was warned, Huckleberry Mountain does not have any huckleberries. We went out so that Jamie could survey some abandoned mine adits before Jason and his team built cages around the openings in hopes of protecting bats from white nose (a terrible fungus that is responsible for the rapid decline of many bat species). While out hiking in the mountains, I came across many avalanche lilies, their brilliant yellows sparkling in the green mountainsides. As we hiked through the mountain to the adits and other sites of historical importance, I was learning a lot about the history of eastern and central Washington from Jamie.

Adit entrance in Huckleberry Mountain

Erythronium glandiflorum (Avalanche Lily) at Huckleberry Mountain

Huckleberry Mountain

While it’s only been 3 weeks, I am growing stronger in my skills at identifying native flora, which so greatly differs from what I was used to in the midwest, and growing increasingly fond of the Pacific Northwest, which isn’t hard to do. This week the office was helping organize Root Day at the Twin Lakes Rec Site with the Spokane Tribe. Root day is where children ranging from elementary to high school spend the day helping dig up biscuitroots to give to the elders of the tribe. The day was gorgeous and it was great attending the ritual, watching/helping the kids identify biscuitruits, and dig them up. Since I still don’t have access to computers I wasn’t able to access the awesome picture of a biscuitroot that I dug up and presented to the elders, but I am told I am now famous at the office as it’s featured on our website! Thursday, I went back out with Jamie, so she could screen for artifacts. While she screened, I was on the hunt for Lomatium bicolor var. leptocarpum – another biscuitroot. While searching for it, I stumbled upon more native plants (Happy belated Native Plant Appreciation Week!!)

Lomatium bicolor var. leptocarpum

Balsamorhiza hookerii (Hooker’s Balsamroot) and a pollinator

Phlox hoodii (Cushion Phlox)

It finally seems to be springtime over in Eastern Washington and we got our first taste of 80 degree temperatures. I am more than slightly ok with the IT issues that have caused me to spend the past 3 weeks in the field, rather than at my cubicle completing trainings. I’m hoping a rainy day will come when I have access, so I don’t miss out on too much! I’m fully prepared to be swamped in blooming flowers in the coming weeks as temperatures continue to warm up; I couldn’t be more excited.

Until next time,