Closing thoughts


Lil blue beauty

A chill is setting in the air in Carlsbad. Mornings are colder, nights are coming earlier, and our time in Carlsbad is almost up. Our seed collections have slowed down substantially as most plants are done for the year. We have been collecting a lot of Bouteloua species, and recently found populations of Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) and Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) in the sand dunes in our resource area. Some other sand species, like Annual Buckwheat (Erigonum annum) and Sand Sagebrush (Artemesia filifolia) are still holding out on producing seed.

We are finishing out the last of our collections now as we only have two weeks left of our internship. One fun collection was from the Madrona tree, a beautiful, tropical looking tree that can be found near the Guadalupe Mountains. Naturally, I felt the need to climb the trees to reach the somewhat out of reach seeds. Luckily no falls were had.

The rare Chihuahuan Desert Madrone tree monkey…oh wait no that’s just me in a tree.

With the end of my internship approaching, I have been reflecting a lot on the past five months. It’s crazy to think that it was only five months ago that I arrived in Carlsbad, and thrown right into the fire (literally, it was 100 degrees—nothing prepares you for that). While finding and collecting seeds was overwhelming back then, now it is coming naturally. Where everything was unfamiliar when I arrived, now I can look at the landscape and see plant species that have become familiar—maybe even dear—to me. Since starting this internship, I have become substantially better at identifying grass genuses (not an especially amazing feat considering I came in with NO knowledge of grass genuses—but I am proud of it nonetheless). I definitely would not have had such a great experience if I hadn’t been placed with such a patient, enthusiastic, and passionate mentor.

On a personal level, moving away from the cornfields and forests of the Midwest (I missed trees so much!) to the open ranges and scrubland of the Southwest lead to a great deal of growth in my independence. Though I went away to college, this was a MUCH further move away from my family and friends—to an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. Though this was scary at first, I gradually became more confident and comfortable doing things on my own. Fortunately, I wasn’t totally alone out here. I got to know some really fantastic and interesting people working in the BLM office from all over the country. With them, I was able to experience my first rodeo, explore Albuquerque, and gradually made Carlsbad feel like home.

Being in an oil boom town has been particularly eye-opening. Before, I never really thought about where the gas I was filling my car with was coming from. I was aware of the impact oil has, but actually became tangible when I could witness the oilfield firsthand. Now that I have had this experience, I feel that I really can understand the importance of what conservation programs like Seeds of Success and others do to help protect and recover the environment from practices like these. Moreover, it has made me think critically about how I can make my lifestyle more sustainable and actions I can take to mitigate the impacts of oil and gas extraction on the environment. All in all, I’m glad I had this opportunity to meet some amazing people and find beauty in an overlooked part of the country.

Drive a little ways south of Carlsbad, and you’ll be greeted by this view. Big blue skies, defined mountain ridges, desert scrub. I will miss it.

-Lucy Schroeder, BLM, Carlsbad NM Field Office

Fall musings in Carlsbad

October 26, 2018

Fall is finally arriving here in southeast New Mexico. The fall chill set in very suddenly and caught me off guard (see photo of me with socks as gloves).

When your hands are cold but you didn’t pack gloves because you didn’t think it would get cold in the desert…

Back when I was in school, I used to dread the stress and work of starting school in fall so much that I never really appreciated the reds and oranges and yellows of fall foliage in the Midwest. The color of fall here seems to be yellow. Yellow leaves falling from aspen groves in the mountains, and from cottonwood trees along the rivers. The hills glow with golden flowers of all shapes and sizes. Sartwellia flaviarae in particular dominates the landscape with its bright yellow hues. It is an aster subshrub that is very common in this area but not prevalent outside of our region.

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that we just have a month and a half left of our internship. After the initial shock of moving to a small oil/ranching town in the middle of the desert, Carlsbad has begun to feel almost like – dare I say it? – home. I’ve gone from the landscape being totally foreign to recognizing many of the plants I see while in the field. Of course, I always have more plants to learn. But it is kind of exciting to reflect on where I was—barely being able to recognize any plant genuses—to now being able to identify several species on sight. And grasses! I’m amazed that now I can generally tell grass genuses apart. Before this internship, all I could tell you was if a plant was a grass or not.

This month we also served as science fair judges for the Carlsbad middle school. I was in charge of judging Environmental Engineering projects—a little off from my expertise but I gave it my best! Some seventh and eighth graders had impressively higher-level projects, from thinking about what grass is best for preventing eroision, to testing soil salinity and its impact on crops. One eighth grader even made their own biodegradable plant-based plastic six pack ring.

Fall colors in Lincoln National Forest

These projects gave me a lot of hope about what the next generation of scientists are capable of!

In my weekend time, I’ve been experiencing parts of New Mexico and Texas. Early this month, I attempted to see the hot air balloons at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Much to my chagrin, the wind prevented any balloon launches, but I was still able to check out Albuquerque and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. It was a great way to learn about the Pueblo culture, and see some local Pueblo artists displaying paintings, pottery, and jewelry.

The tippy-top of Texas!

The surrounding mountain ranges offer fantastic hiking opportunities here. To the south, Guadalupe National Park offers a hike to the highest point in Texas—Guadalupe Peak. Talk about jello legs coming down the trail! To the northwest of Carlsbad, Cloudcroft also has great mountain hiking trails in Lincoln National Forest. We were able to see the aspens changing color here!


With my internship in its last month and a half, I’m trying to learn all I can and really get the full New Mexico experience, but so far I would say it’s been pretty fulfilling.



Bonus cactus picture!…I just thought it was pretty. Mammillaria heyderi – “Little nipple cactus”



BLM Carlsbad, NM


Do you remember….a busy September!

Verbesina enceloides collecting

Well, at this point in the year, many other CLM interns are wrapping up their internship. However here in the Chihuahuan Desert, our seed season is just beginning to ramp up. Usually the desert has a monsoon season with heavy rains in the summer, but this year the monsoons came in August, which is later than normal. We were able to watch the desert transform practically overnight from the dry, dusty landscape to bursts of blooms. In particular, we have been seeing a TON of Verbesina enceloides. We were also able to make some other fun collections this month like Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow), Gaillardia pinnatafida, and Thelsperma megapotacium.

Desert Willow collection site with the Guadalupe Mountains in the background

Luckily these collections were in beautiful locations in the foothills of the Guadalupe Mountains! The grasses around here like Aristida purpurea, Bouteloua curtipendula, Setaria leucopia, and Sporobolus airoides have been seeding lately as well.


Me next to my poster at the New Mexico Native Plants Converence

Earlier this month, we were able to attend the New Mexico Native Plant Society Conference in Silver City, NM. This was a weekend of fun, learning, and meeting lots of people who care deeply about the environment and native plants. We were able to present posters about some of our projects as Seeds of Success interns during the informational sessions. There were also field trips where we were able to see more of southwest New Mexico. Silver City is located conveniently close to the Gila National Forest and City of Rocks State Park, which were full of diverse plant species – and some I recognized from the Chihuahuan desert!

City of Rocks State Park

Another highlight of the trip was getting to meet our peers working in different Seeds of Success programs around the state.

Rainbow over the Gila to close out the first night of the conference!

We are now about half way through our internship, so I’m excited to see what these next couple of months in Carlsbad have in store for us!






Carlsbad Field Office, Bureau of Land Management

Alien planet or Chihuahuan Desert?

July 30, 2018

Two weeks ago, I packed up my belongings and moved across the country from Illinois, where I have called home for most of my life. With my dad’s help I drove all the way to

Carlsbad, New Mexico to begin my internship. As we drove, I watched the landscape change from the lush greenery of the Midwest to the dry scrub of the desert. I found myself wondering what kind of desolate place I was going to be living in for the next five months. Truly, it felt like I had traveled to some kind of post-apocalyptic, dystopian world. Nothing like home.

In our first week of work, we hit the ground running and started collecting seeds. I have so many new plants to learn! Collecting seed is tough work, both mentally and

physically. Especially in 100 degree heat. But, it was rewarding to come back to the office with a pile of seeds after all that hard work. I was also impressed and surprised to

learn that there were so many different plant species in the area where we were collecting. Before, I just saw a bunch of scrubby plants and dirt. Now, when I look at the landscape, I see diversity. Now, a week after that first collection day and with several more collections under my belt, I am starting to feel more confident with this work


After a couple weeks here, I am gaining an appreciation for the desert and the incredible tenacity of the flora and fauna that inhabit it. I am learning to look for beauty, like the bright splash of a cactus flower against a big blue sky. I am finding vivacity in the oasis that desert streams provide. Though Carlsbad may be different from the home I’ve known in the Midwest, I am excited for this adventure and to continue exploring this unusual area!



Carlsbad Field Office, Bureau of Land Management