Avoiding Rattlesnakes

To wrap up the internship, myself and the other CBG interns have been assisting with cultural clearances on burned areas. As many of you know, there were many fires in the West this summer, and our field office was no exception. The BLM conducts ESR (Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation) on these burned areas through re-seeding and other efforts. In areas that equipment can access, this is often accomplished through drill seeding- this machine plants the seeds at equal distances and the correct depth and then recovers the seed with soil. Understandably, this disturbs the ground a fair bit so it is our job to ensure that no important cultural (archaeological) resources are disturbed or destroyed. To accomplish this, our crew lines up in 30 meter intervals (37 of my paces) and then walks across the landscape on transects searching for artifacts. Artifacts found have ranged from historic bottles and cans from sheep herders to projectile points (arrowheads) and pottery used by Native Americans. Our archaeologist has showed us how to date objects and important characteristics to record. It’s always exciting when we find a new site, but in reality a lot of our time is spent walking and staring at burned ground. If approached with the right mindset, this can be pretty enjoyable. The temperatures have cooled from the blistering heat we experienced earlier in the summer, and its amazing how much you can see when you’re paying attention, even in burned areas. Besides the artifacts, there are interesting bones and skulls scattered around, little baby lupines sprouting up, and the occasional rattlesnake warning us from its sunning perch on a rock. With one earbud left out to hear the snakes, I’ve also caught up on some podcasts. I listened to one called “Shifting Time” by TED Radio Hour and a particular quote from the show seemed especially relevant to the end of my internship here in Idaho.

Little baby lupine sprouting in the land burned by the Mammoth fire.


Sorry about the low quality, but if you look closely you can one of the many rattlesnakes to avoid.

“Poignancy increases. Tear in the eye tends to happen when we are thinking about chapters ending …These are positive events but they signal the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one. And those times in life are the very same events that bring a tear to our eye at the same time we are smiling. But can you imagine any emotional experience that is richer than that? Where you are seeing the past, you are in the present, you are thinking about the future. It’s all there. And its incredibly gratifying.” -Laura Carstensen

View from the the highest point in City of Rocks (Steinfell’s Dome)

Goat Lake in the Sawtooth Range (pc: Patricia- CLM intern and fellow mountain lover)

I kind of like endings for the reasons Laura mentioned. It affords you the time to stop and reflect, pay attention and cherish the growth and memories made. This internship was my first job after graduation, and I especially appreciated how well my mentor set me up with a variety of opportunities- I worked on projects ranging from vegetation monitoring for sage grouse, tagging monarch  butterflies, monitoring livestock utilization, surveying riparian areas, electro-shocking fish, plant and cultural clearances, and many, many more. I’m still not sure which direction I want my career to go, but I definitely have a better understanding of my likes and dislikes, and also how I like to work.

Tagging monarch butterflies!

Rainbow trout caught while conducting electro-shock fishing surveys on the Big Wood River.

I’m thankful for the variety of experiences, (especially for my first job) but hope to have a narrower focus during my next position. One thing that I missed this summer was having the opportunity to oversee my own project from start to finish. I realized that as boring as office work is, it’s satisfying to plan, collect the data, analyze, and synthesize everything and feel a sense of ownership and accomplishment from a project. I will also say that there were some projects this summer that I did not initially expect to be doing, such as GPS’ing fence and assessing range improvements. However, everything is really about how you frame it. Even though these tasks weren’t the most glamorous, I know that the work we were doing was valuable and useful to the agency. One thing that stands out to me about the BLM, and our office in particular, is the team attitude. Everyone pulls together to get the work done- archaeologists and range techs fight fires, seasonals will help in dispatch, and even staff from different offices will pull together to get pressing work done. I really admired this team attitude, and was happy to try new things and hopefully ease the workload for some of the staff.

Borah Peak- at 12,667′ its the highest in Idaho

All in all, I’ve had an incredible summer/fall here in Idaho. I had a great crew of interns, and its hard to overstate how valuable that is, especially when you sometimes spend 8 hours in a truck together. I’ve made the most of my free time- the beauty of Idaho and the surrounding states is really indescribable. I’ve gotten to climb 400 ft towers in City of Rocks, backpack to snow-covered alpine lakes in the Sawtooth Range, summit the highest peak in Idaho, and countless other breathtaking experiences. I was really lucky to find an amazing community here, thanks to the shared interest of rock climbing. To potential future interns- I know getting the offer to move to a random place you’ve never heard of can be intimidating, but it’s so rewarding to get out of your comfort zone, hear fresh perspectives, and explore a new place! And I promise your resume will thank you as well.

Ericameria nauseosa in bloom during sunset at City of Rocks

Well, thanks for reading if you made it to the end of this. I’m driving back home to Colorado tomorrow and then enjoying unemployment for a little bit by heading down to Honduras to scuba dive. Thanks to everyone at the Shoshone Field Office, especially my mentor Joanna, fellow interns Eileen, Barbara, and Soli, and partners in adventure- Jenny and Patricia.

POTR5 aka Populus tremuloides aka aspens showing off their fall colors

Grand Teton National Park was only a short 4 hour drive away!



Shoshone Field Office


As a CLM botany intern, my love for plants has grown exponentially this summer. I’ve gotten to know the best method for beating the seeds off a Purshia tridentata bush, smelled many a sagebrush, and puzzled over whether or not a Penstemon’s anthers dehisced from the center or the sides. However, I can’t deny my roots in the field of wildlife biology, which is what I studied as an undergraduate. As a climber, it seemed natural to be interested in bats- which often roost in the cracks and crevices only accessible to rock climbers. (For any other wildlife-enthusiast climbers out there, you should check out Climbers for Bat Conservation on Facebook, a cool citizen science project!) My undergraduate thesis research dealt with the acoustic side of bat science, but I didn’t participate in any of the field work for the data. So, you can imagine my excitement when I learned that I would get to assist in several bat-related projects this summer.

The first project involved setting up stationary acoustic bat detectors with Ross from Idaho Fish & Game- this work was conducted for the North American Bat Monitoring Program, a continent wide protocol aimed at gathering data on the status and trends of bat populations across North America. After securing these detectors during the daylight we waited till nightfall to conduct mobile acoustic surveys. This involves attaching a bat detector on top of the truck and driving at a constant speed for at least 25 km, all while recording the bats flying overhead. This was fun because I got to watch the calls coming in on a spectrogram in real time.

Sunset view before the mobile acoustic transect

Last week, myself and other interns had the opportunity to attend a bat bioblitz- an event where scientists attempt to capture all the biodiversity in an area. We set up triple-high mist nets over the river and patiently waited for bats to fly in. We saw and recorded many bats, but only managed to trap two in the nets. Regardless, it was really cool seeing them up-close and learning how to take measurements. At our station, we captured an adult female silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans) and a juvenile male Yuma myotis (Myotis yumanensis).

Adult female silver-haired bat

Juvenile male Yuma myotis

We camped out after the bioblitz and got a quick night of sleep before returning to the office for a day caving in Gypsum lava tube, the second largest lava tube in the continental US! This was a new experience for me, and I enjoyed the pressing silence and impenetrable darkness that each bend in the passage concealed. In the tube, we found pack rats, a jackrabbit carcass, and even a few bat friends hanging out almost two miles into the tube! It was a great experience to put myself in such a different environment.

The entrance to Gypsum lava tube

Jackrabbit carcass

Kind of low quality photo of the inside of the tube- check out the multiple levels!

I’m thankful that this internship has allowed me to gain experience in a variety of areas, especially since bats are creatures I’ve been interested in for a long time. I only have 6 more weeks left here in Idaho, I’m excited to see what’s next.


Shoshone Field Office-BLM

Type II Fun

Since finishing up our MAIM plots, myself and the other interns in the Shoshone Field Office have been bouncing around a few different projects. Sagebrush mapping, livestock utilization surveys, and plant clearances have taken us all over the map- I’ve gotten to see the diversity in landscapes that this field office contains.

I’ve learned to be careful what I wish for- a few days of livestock utilization surveys in the southern part of our field office had me wishing for beautiful landscapes, diverse plants and water- then my wish came true and this type of landscape presented me with its own unique challenges…

Today I went out to conduct plant clearances- this involves going to predetermined plots to check for sensitive plant species. These plots are located where a proposed recreation trail will go near Hailey, ID so our job is to make sure the trail doesn’t go through any critical habitat for the sensitive plants. Luckily for us (and future hikers) the proposed trail goes through some beautiful country!

But, like I said earlier, this turned out to be quite the task. Fun things we encountered included-

  1. Swarms of thousands of grasshoppers flying into our face while tramping through sagebrush.
  2. Freshly rained on vegetation soaking through our shoes and pants.
  3. Streams hidden under vegetation (Note: Waterproof boots only stay waterproof for so long).
  4. Repeatedly being startled and freaking out due to snakes underfoot, birds flying out from shrubs, and giant insects landing on our arms/neck/head.
  5. A mini rainforest (well, it was raining at the time) in Idaho! We’re so used to being surrounded by sage that stumbling into a dense stand of trees was quite the surprise. We were loving it until we got ourselves surrounded on all sides by stinging nettle and thistle. At this point, you kind of have to pick your poison- do I walk through thistle which pokes through pants or nettle which may or may not sting through clothing?
  6. More hiking up steep hills literally through and over sagebrush, a feat that is easier said than done.
  7. Scotch thistles taller than us.

We definitely had some type 2 fun today. If you’re not familiar with the fun scale I’ll give you a quick rundown. Type 1 fun is pure, easy fun- think walking along an easy path and discovering a mountain meadow filled with a thousand beautiful wildflowers. Fun at the time and fun in retrospect. 10/10 would do again. Type 2 fun is the kind of fun that sometimes sucks at the time, think steep hiking with grass poking through your wet socks and treacherous plants at your heels. Type 2 fun has its challenging moments but is fun in retrospect and makes a good story, and you’d probably do it again.

In reality, even harder days become fun when you have another person to share it with and you can find the beauty in the little moments in the day. Our views at the top of hills were gorgeous, and we heard an elk calf bugling to its mother across the ridge. We saw a diverse array of plants as well as wildlife signs such as skeletons and tracks. Also, taking off my wet socks and boots at the end of the day was one of the more magical things I’ve experienced.

Where are we??


Deer skull


Mandatory flower photo

Crazy tall thistle!

Field site near Hailey, ID


Shoshone Field Office-BLM

Snow in July

My internship here in Idaho is zipping along! After a fun and informative week spent attending the CLM workshop in Chicago, my crew jumped into collecting data for MAIM (Modified Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring). A typical day for this includes driving up to two hours on somewhat treacherous dirt roads deep into sagebrush country. We then record information about the plot, set up a three-spoke transect and record vegetation heights and cover using the line-point intercept method. We also conduct forb sweeps along the lines and take an inventory of every species present in the plot. This data can then be used to assess the site’s suitability as sage grouse habitat and to inform decisions about grazing permits.

Last week, I also got the opportunity to go out with the non-game wildlife biologist for Idaho Fish & Game. Myself and some other interns were lucky enough to escape a hot day by going underground to look for bats and cave invertebrates in the lava tubes. Although we didn’t see any bats that day, we did find a rare cave beetle! We also helped conduct insect surveys aboveground- we looked for a rare jewel beetle commonly found in the roots and flowers of Eriogonum sp.

Cave explorations

Eriogonum sphaerocephalum

As my plant ID skills sharpen, I find myself spending more and more time looking at them, even in my free time. For fourth of July weekend, myself and a few friends headed up to the Sawtooth Range near Stanley, ID. We backpacked up to the beautiful Goat Lake, which was still coated in snow and ice! I expected there to be snow up at high elevation, but didn’t expect the entire area to still be completely buried. Instead of heading up higher through slushy snowfields, we opted to hike down at lower elevations, which afforded us more time to look at plants. We were entranced by beautiful meadows filled with Artemesia tridentata, Calochortus nuttallii, Eriogonum sp., Penstemon sp., Purshia tridentata, Delphinium sp., Balsamorhiza sagittata, and more.

Sunset at Goat Lake in the Sawtooth Range.

Ridge-line full of wildflowers!


Shoshone Field Office- BLM

Exploring Southern Idaho

I’m enjoying learning about the plants of the sagebrush steppe in Southern Idaho. Most of my botany training was along the Front Range of Colorado, so I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find many familiar plants hidden between the sagebrush. Before starting this internship I had very few expectations- I had never been to Idaho and didn’t know much about the state except for its famous potatoes (which is conveniently written on all the license plates). After just two short weeks, I’ve begun to appreciate all of the hidden beauty this state has to offer.

Idaho truly is a hidden gem (but don’t tell anyone). One of my biggest hobbies and passions is rock climbing. In Colorado, the climbing is world-class and people flock to the state to climb in Rifle, Eldorado Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, etc. However, two weekends ago I got to climb the amazing formations in City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park. I was blown away by the beauty of the area, friendliness of the people, and quality of the climbing.

This is part of the view from the top of a multi-pitch climb called Sinocranium.

Myself and two other CLM interns 650 ft up!

After spending most of the time training during the first two weeks, I’m very excited to spend more time outdoors doing field work. We are conducting Modified AIM (Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring) surveys to assess the area’s suitability as sage grouse habitat. Right now, that means we have been getting to know the flora of Idaho better; I’ve enjoyed diving into the complicated world that is plant terminology and dichotomous keys. It’s been a little while since I’ve gotten this nerdy about botany but I’ve found the skills coming back. (Thank you to my plant ID professor at CSU!)

Linum lewisii– Wild blue flax

Ok, I realize this isn’t a plant. But he’s so cute!

This past weekend I got a chance to explore Craters of the Moon National Monument, which is within the boundaries of our field office in Shoshone. This landscape was truly unique- giant underground caves formed by lava tubes, spatter cones, and best of all…wildflowers! The tiny dwarf monkeyflowers were in bloom everywhere! We picked an ideal time to visit.

Mimulus nanus– Dwarf monkeyflower

Lewisia rediviva– Bitterroot

So, with my first few weeks under my belt, I can say that I think I’m going to like this place. My internship is equipping me with valuable skills and re-igniting my passion for botany; my weekend explorations are allowing me to explore all this state has to offer. I can’t wait to see what else is in store.


Shoshone Field Office

Bureau of Land Management