On to New Adventures

Reflecting on the past 8 months, all I can say is it’s been an adventure. I came into this internship expecting a simple job, a few new skills, and a relatively easy summer wandering around the prairie. I definitely got more than I bargained for… but in all good ways.

We successfully completed a “pilot” AIM program for our field office, participated in and contributed to a variety of projects, saw new country, tried new things, learned something new every day, and despite all of the challenges a field internship can bring, stayed remarkably sane. The skills and experiences I gained through this internship are truly invaluable. I’m grateful to have been in such an awesome field office learning to manage land that means so much to me! Thanks CLM Internship Program, it’s been a blast.

To conclude my internship, here’s a few pictures of things we’ve been able to do in the past month:

A view of the Bighorn Mountains from one of our final AIM monitoring sites.

The view from Middle Fork Powder River Campground, where we spent some time doing maintenance.

30+ pounds of nails we pulled out of a litter site in Northeast Wyoming. There was never a shortage of litter to clean up!

A sagebrush seedling – we spent a couple days planting these babies in reclaimed road areas.

We stopped by the National Elk Refuge by Jackson, WY. No elk but plenty of Bighorn Sheep, including this adorable lamb!

We were able to attend the Wyoming chapter of the Wildlife Society’s annual conference in Jackson Wyoming. A beautiful place and a great way to celebrate an awesome internship.

Chasing Fall

Fall in Wyoming is beautiful, for its entire two weeks of existence. We’ve been lucky to have some warm days to spend in the field, soaking up as much Vitamin D as possible before winter sets in! While the snow slowly creeps down the mountain towards us with every passing storm, we’ve had the opportunity to go out with just about every department in the field office to complete last minute projects and learn more about each person’s role in land management. Highlights include: assisting the land survey teams, completing trail maintenance with recreation, visiting on-sites with the wildlife biologists, and talking to hunters about our public lands. Every day is something new, and it keeps things exciting, even as field season winds to a close.


Middle Fork Powder River Canyon

Snow on the Bighorns

Red Canyon near Kaycee, WY

One of the last sunny, beautiful field days!


With the senescence of most of our rangeland plants for the fall, our internship experiences have become more varied. Between working on smaller projects we were able to cross agencies for a week and complete sensitive species surveys with the Forest Service Botany team.

We were able to see tons of amazing plants in an entirely new (to us) ecosystem, but the biggest excitement was finding the tiniest plant: botrychium.

The botanists warned us about “botrychium headache” our first day in the field. Apparently, crawling around through dense meadows and timber searching for a fern that ranges from 5-15cm makes you see cross-eyed after a while. Botrychium is a “moonwort,” a type of tiny fern found all over the United States. Its sporophyte generally consists of two leaves, a non-fertile one with simple to pinnate leaves, and a fertile leaf that contains a grape-like cluster of spores. Since they are so incredibly tiny and hard to find, little else is known about them. When looking for them we were told they didn’t grow with vaccinium species, and other than that “good luck.”

The botrychium in this picture is next to the strawberry leaves.

This plant is tiny! Those are spruce needles it’s growing through.

We were incredibly lucky, and on our first lunch break happened to spy some under a tree near our lunch spot. It was exciting discovering a new place where this sensitive species grow, and neat seeing such a tiny, elusive plant in real life!


Dead Stick Botany

We’re officially into the hot and dry season here in Northeast Wyoming. The weather is hot (90’s most days) and dry, with regular afternoon thunderstorms. Nearly all of the plants we are monitoring have dried out, gone to seed, cured, or in other words died for the season. New challenges to AIM monitoring are presented by this late summer climate. First, we always have to be on the lookout for fire danger or rapidly changing weather. This particular lightning-caused fire blew up in less than an hour, and was only a few miles north of our site that day!

More commonly, our main challenge is identifying plants that have cured out, gone to seed, dried, or in other words “died” for the year. A lot of brown, brittle grasses tend to look the same, and some days it takes a few minutes to identify a plant we’ve been looking at all summer long. A few plants are still blooming, such as this yellow flax and the plains milkweed, but for the most parts are sites are dead and dying.

However, gaining elevation as a person moves up the mountains seems to take them back in time. At 7,000 feet the mountain meadows are featuring similar plants we saw blooming on 5,000ft BLM land in June. Up in the alpine zone, the main summer plants are in full bloom, taking advantage of the warmest parts of the summer before they are buried under snow in roughly a month. These sedums are in full bloom at roughly 10,000 feet, and the parry’s primrose is claiming its spot at 12,000 feet, among rocks where few other plants dare to grow.

The transition this time of year from the brown, smoking lowlands to the bright happy meadows of the alpine is amazing to witness. One of my favorite parts of studying plants is watching these phenological changes happen as the summer goes on!

However, for work this means our plant monitoring is almost done. As our crew finishes AIM for the season, we are becoming experts at identifying dead sticks. 🙂

Flowers Everywhere!


In the past couple weeks of work, my crew and I finished training (yay!!) and have begun our work in the field! Our main task is to use the AIM monitoring methods to gather baseline data for new monitoring points in our field office. Our data will be used to inform future land use plans, especially focusing on sage grouse habitat. Every day we get to visit a new place in our field office, and it seems we encounter a neat new plant everywhere we go! A couple of my favorites: Opuntia polyacantha (plains prickly pear caci are flowering everywhere right now!) and Astragalus ceramicus (painted milkvetch, a fitting name for obvious reasons 🙂

We took a week to attend the CLM workshop, where I not only enjoyed meeting all of you other interns, but loved the amazing gardens we were able to wander through between sessions. A personal favorite was the arid greenhouse, filled with gigantic cacti.

Since coming back to Wyoming we’ve been working again on our AIM monitoring sites, but have also had time to explore new exciting places on our weekends. Even as a “local,” I’ve enjoyed discovering, or rediscovering, some gorgeous places in the Bighorn mountains, where the wildflowers are just starting to hit peak season. Below is an amazing meadow purple with lupine for miles, including the rare all-white lupine, one of the Seven Brothers lakes, and my personal favorite flower, Myosotis alpestris. I’m looking forward to what we find in the weeks to come!


Same Place, New Adventure

In Wyoming it’s a common belief that most everyone who spends a significant amount of time here ends up staying “for the long haul.” While I don’t necessarily believe that’s true, for now I’ve happily become one of those people. After living in the Midwest for my college career I was incredibly excited to land an internship where I can grow professionally in the mountains I call home!

A few quick things about me: Intern at the BLM Buffalo Field Office, at the base of the Bighorn Mountains, doing AIM monitoring for land management purposes. Avid hiker, backpacker, biker, climber, canoer, hammocker, or basically anything I can do outdoors. HUGE plant nerd, which is why I’m so excited to learn more about the Wyoming plants and their ecosystems this summer!

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? So here’s a few photos of places my fellow interns and I have been and the things we’ve seen during the first couple weeks of training.

From left to right, top to bottom:

  1. Castilleja blooming everywhere during AIM field training. 2) Smiling (and freezing!) faces during ATV training. 3) Watching a storm narrowly miss our line of trucks off the Wind River Mountains. 4) A baby bunny hiding in a crevice on Independence Rock. 5) Cryptantha, a new flower for me! 6) The view from Outlaw Campground, one of the sites we will be working on this summer.