Saying Goodbye


With all of the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met over the last 6 months, it is a wonder why I struggle to find the right words in my final blog post. I believe that my reluctance to leave and unwillingness to accept that this is my last day is the main reason.

Just yesterday, I was in the office making sure that a set of herbarium vouchers was going to be shipped properly. Even then, it felt like a long time before I would have to leave the field office and the country that I’ve grown so accustomed to in the previous months. Earlier this week, one of the range staff brought me to the field to show the air quality monitoring acid deposition and mercury levels in the water around the foothills and southern Wind River Mountains that he does on a regular basis. It is amazing to see such modern technology in equally remote areas–some of which are entirely solar powered (and have been since the 80s). As shown in the picture, there is a sensor that, when prompted by moisture, lifts a lid on and allows precipitation into a container. Data from this sensor and the corresponding precipitation is stored in a nearby computer (the cylindrical container with the hoop of flapping pieces around it). This data is then collected via a USB drive or Bluetooth! I have no idea what I expected air quality monitoring to look like, but my mind was a bit blown to say the least. Along the way, a black widow spider even walked up to say hello! I could not have asked for a better final day in the field.

This field season has been a blur, but I can say with certainty that it has been a success. My co-intern and I had a target goal of collecting 20 different species of native seeds, with 20,000 seeds per species. We ended making 27 collections, many of which (we believe) surpassed 20,000 seeds. My favorite collections have been Penstemon paysoniorum (because of its initial elusiveness and plump fruits), Hedysarum boreale ssp. boreale var. boreale (because of the location on a hillside and the golden sheen of the seed pods), and Gentiana affinis (because of its tiny papery seeds and the location of my favorite wild horse area). During this time, I have greatly improved my plant identification skills, as well as learned many new species of plants from this area. I was surprised to learn that there is quite a bit of overlap of genera between the basin and foothills of Wyoming and many areas of the Midwest where I have collected seed previously.

And I couldn’t finish my final blog post without at least mentioning my co-intern Maggie. I could not have picked a better person to spend so much time with. In many ways, we could not be more different. However, we have many of the same tendencies and were an excellent match. We laughed, worked, complained, succeeded, and failed together. This season would not have been the same without her.

This internship has also allowed me to visit states I may never have gotten a chance to see otherwise. Idaho, Colorado, Utah, and of course, Wyoming are now all on my list, and I would come back to any of them.

On a personal and professional level, this internship has been invaluable. I can’t now imagine what my life would have been like having not had these experiences. This may sound dramatic, but having never been out west, and never to Wyoming, I feel that I have learned more than if I had spent multiple years in the Midwest.

I can truly say that I’ve been active and learning (and have people willing to teach me) up until the end. I cannot thank the people in the Lander Field Office enough (and especially my mentor Emma), and for having the opportunity to learn even a sliver about what the BLM does and the country it oversees.

Missing Wyoming already!

Collections (slowly) Winding Down

Mimulus guttatus flower

Mimulus guttatus seeds

Falling in the Fen/Bog

Wild horses


As I’m nearing the end of my internship, I expected the season to slow down significantly. However, my co-intern and I are still finding ripe seeds (with the help of our mentor of course!). Since my last blog post, we have finished a collection of Astragalus bisulcatus (twogrooved milkvetch), which accumulates selenium in its tissues. Although the selenium did not harm us at all while collecting, it emits a terrible odor which made the collection process slightly less enjoyable than most of the others. Luckily, we had found an area with so many plants that the collection was relatively quick. South of our field office at a higher elevation is a site called Green Mountain, which has proven to be a wealth of later season fruits. Some of the species that we have recently collected there have included Mimulus guttatus (seep monkeyflower), Penstemon procerus var. procerus (pincushion beardtongue), and what we believe to be Juncus confusus (Colorado rush), Thermopsis rhombifolia (prairie thermopsis), and Juncus ensifolius (swordleaf rush). The Mimulus guttatus and Juncus ensifolius were especially interesting because they were found in a pocket of fen or bog on the side of Green Mountain. I would have never expected that we would be able to collect those species this season, and even less so near the top of a mountain. I was so excited that I forgot to test each step before putting my full weight down and ended up getting one entire leg stuck (see picture). My co-intern and I laughed until tears ran down our faces as she helped me scrape the mud off of my pant leg.

Green Mountain also stands out in my mind this past month because we got to see about 15 wild horses in three different groups. One of these three groups consisted of a mare with her colt who was probably only a year or so old. The mother allowed us to get within only 5 or 6 feet of her, and didn’t seem to mind us at all. Our presence made her foal very nervous, however, and he ran and hid behind his mom more than a couple of times. But after a short time, his curiosity got the best of him and he too got close to us. Having had two horses in the past, I consider this to be one of the most exciting days of my internship, and I hope to see more horses at Green Mountain before leaving.

I have also enjoyed having the opportunity to show visitors some of the areas I find most beautiful. This past weekend, my mom came to Lander to spend some time with me and we hiked through Sinks Canyon, soaking up the sun and lounging in one of the falls. I’m truly going to miss this country and I look forward to coming back sometime in the future.

Collections, etc.


This past month has been very successful regarding collections. My coworker and I have had the opportunity to collect Astragalus drummondii (Drummond’s milkvetch) and Hedysarum boreale (Utah sweetvetch) from a hillside. It’s possible that Hedysarum boreale has never been collected from this area before, so that’s exciting! We’ve also collected three different Penstemon species, including Penstemon humilis (low beardtongue), Penstemon paysoniorum (Payson’s beardtongue), and Penstemon laricifolius (larchleaf beardtongue). We’ve been told that Penstemons are excellent for use in fire restorations, so that makes these collections even more special. This past Tuesday, my coworker and I stumbled on yet another Penstemon (Penstemon procerus–littleflower penstemon) that we are hoping to collect in the future.

Speaking of future collections, we are intending to get at least a few more species before the end of our internship and surpass our target of 20 species. These would include Gentiana affinis (pleated gentian), Astragalus bisulcatus (twogrooved milkvetch), Ipomopsis aggregata (scarlet gilia), and Cordylanthus ramosus (bushy bird’s beak).

On a personal level, I have truly been enjoying the area. My coworker and I have explored Wyoming, Colorado, and most recently, Utah. We even got to swim in the Great Salt Lake, which I recommend doing at least once.

Astragalus drummondii

First Set of Collections!

Balsamorhiza incana

Balsamorhiza incana

Balsamorhiza incana

Since the last post, I was getting slightly discouraged as almost nothing was going to seed. In addition, the species that were going to seed were mainly vegetative and we were getting worried many collections would not be able to be carried out.

However, in the past two weeks, my co-intern Maggie and I were able to finish five SOS collections! After waiting (mainly due to the cold and precipitous weather), seeds were finally ready. We were able to collect Balsamorhiza incana, Townsendia incana, Cerastium arvense, Lomatium foeniculaceum, and an Arnica sp. For half of these collections, we are fairly confident that we have collected well over 20,000 seeds! It is interesting to see how different the plants look once they are going to seed in comparison to how they looked at the beginning of the internship–they are skeletal versions of themselves.

After going back to locations multiple times (for scouting, collecting, etc.), I’m also struck by how quickly the vegetation can change. One day at Red Canyon (one of our main collection locations), there was Linum lewisii (Blue flax) dotting the landscape. Less than a week later, all the petals were gone from the flax and white lilies were (and are) everywhere. You truly never go to the same place twice.

It has been extremely rewarding and we’re hoping that we can keep up this pace of collecting in the weeks to follow.


Learning and Scouting

After a little over a month here, I’m slowly getting acclimated to the town and the expectations of the internship. Since last time, my co-intern and I have been scouting for seed collection areas, which have included different areas in Red Canyon and various trips outside of Lander, such as Tough Creek (north of Shoshoni) and along the Gas Hills Highway. So far, we have vouchers for roughly 15 collections that we hope will be ready soon. We welcome the outdoor time after a very precipitous beginning of the month!

We also had the opportunity to work with a botanist from the Nature Conservancy in the Red Canyon area, which included identifying plants and monitoring different types of seeding methods. Broad spread seeding applications and the presence or absence of furrowing were two of these methods. The two main species we worked with were Indian Rice Grass and a sage (Artemesia) species. It was incredible to be able to learn how to identify each of these plants from such a young age! They were roughly a centimeter or so tall (if we were lucky!) as we had our faces to the ground, scouring the plot to count each plant 🙂

Another exciting opportunity we had this past month was to be on an SOS (Seeds of Success) conference call that discussed the BLM Native Grass and Forb Seed Increase IDIQ Contract. Having only worked with seeds from the Midwest, I at first did not understand why this new “seed grow-out” idea was so exciting for Wyoming and those nearby. The seed grow-out involves BLM offices collecting a certain amount of seeds of a certain species and sending it out to a third party. This third party will then grow these seeds (and multiply them), and then field offices can buy these seeds back in bulk. From my limited experience, I couldn’t understand why the field offices would not just purchase seeds from a local/Wyoming native plant nursery. The fact is, there are no native plant nurseries that the field offices can buy in bulk from! So whenever these field offices must purchase seeds for seeding projects (such as for rehabilitation, reclamation, and restoration), the seeds are not able to come from the same ecoregion that they are being planted in, and therefore not truly native to the region and are not as successful as they could be. So this is really exciting! I’m hoping to be able to be on similar calls in the future and find out how this progresses!

Starting out in Wyoming

Ike and I at Red Canyon.

Greetings from Lander, WY!

Although I haven’t yet finished two full weeks, I have already learned and experienced enough for a much longer period of time. Of course there has been the traditional office work (trainings, meetings, etc.), which have been helpful, but ultimately, the field days have been the most exciting by far. Already, I have been to JBR (Johnny Behind the Rocks, a trail-based recreation area with a gorgeous view of the Wind River Mountains), Red Canyon, and a site near Tough Creek. At JBR, we have conducted (and will continue to conduct) BLM sensitive plant surveys for Phlox pungens (Beaver Rim Phlox) and Physaria saximontana var. saximontana (Rocky Mountain Twinpod). At Red Canyon, we had the opportunity to assist a pollination biologist from Laramie in putting out vane traps, as well as helping with hand pollination and bagging specimens. It was a great day, both because of the tasks and the company:) Two of the nearby ranch dogs followed us in the field for almost 8 hours and were very sweet as you can see! More recently, we attempted to look for voucher specimens for Eriastrum wilcoxii (Wilcox’s Woolystar) and Lupinus pusillus (Dwarf Lupine). However, it has been a little cool this Spring, so unfortunately we couldn’t collect any specimens yet. But we did find some very young Lupinus pusillus (see pic)! Anyway, it has already been a wonderful experience so far and I can’t wait to see what the next 5 months has in store!