I’ve had a wonderful experience as a CLM intern here in Rawlins, Wyoming. I would like to thanks my mentor Frank Blomquist, my Seeds of Success partner Sydney, all of my coworkers here in Rawlins, Chris and Krissa in Chicago, and Leah in D.C. My experience would not have been possible without them.

I would like to include some notes for next year’s Rawlins interns:

  • Join the softball team (Talk to J.W. Martin for details)
  • The Peppermill has the following deals:
    • 50 cent wing on Wednesday
    • 50 cent draft on Thursday

The following song quotes have been especially inspirational during my time as an intern:

  • “You only need one chain, unless you’re two chains, then you can have two chains; but not more than that” (Hannibal Buress “Hannibal Interlude” Lil Dicky Professional Rapper 2015).

The above lyric emphasizes the importance of being content with what you have. This message resonated with me while I was living in government housing in rural Wyoming. I spent some of the best months of my life living in a double wide trailer with as many as 9 roommates.

  • “Nothing like crying in a Subaru Crosstrek, life is an abyss half-filled with sadness” (Hobo Johnson “Subaru Crosstrek XV” The Fall of Hobo Johnson 2019).

This lyric relates more to the Buddhist tenant that, “Life is suffering.” One has to accept this as truth to move forward on the path to Nirvana. However, having a brand new Subaru Crosstrek XV makes life a lot more comfortable.

  • “Do you remember how when you were younger the summers all lasted forever?” (Chance the Rapper and Death Cab for Cutie, “Do You Remember” The Big Day 2019).

I recently read Ray Bradbury’s novel Dandelion Wine (Doubleday 1957). One chapter concludes with the point that the present is eternal, in other words the summer does last forever. I have always been 22 years old and I always will be. A different person, who may share my name and some things in common with me, will be (knock on wood) an old man one day. A different person altogether was once a cute little baby (with a neck as soft as the suspension on the all new Subaru Crosstrek XV).

            I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I have had to work as CLM intern here in Rawlins, WY. I believe that my future self will be better for the experience.\


Zeke Zelman

The Dodge

The Dodge

            The white pickup truck thunders North on hwy. 789. It turns West on a dirt truck, bucking over bumps, rocks and ruts. The track turns Northwest, but the truck turns West on to a new smaller, rougher track. It reaches another fork and stops. At the fork is a sign:

“<- No Public Access ->”

The truck hesitates, uncertain, debates internally, and then turns around and goes back the way it came.

            The truck comes upon a small cluster of pine trees, surrounded by the rolling sagebrush steppe. The truck slows down, a window opens for a better look, then it stops. The doors open and people pile out. We walk around the trees and search the branches for raptor nests.

            Another truck pulls up- it stops- a man gets out. He says that he’s looking for horses (a close evolutionary ancestor of trucks). He leaves.

We find an owl in one of the trees; but we don’t see a nest.

The truck returns to the highway and flies back South. It comes upon a green truck also driving south. The green truck is labeled “Game and Fish”. The green truck flashes its lights and then pulls over to chase some pronghorn, stuck in a barbed wire fence.

Did you know that Pronghorn antelope can attain a top speed close to 60 miles per hour?

It’s a fact.

Pronghorn evolved this incredible speed in order to outrun one of their predators, the North American Cheetah. North American Cheetahs went extinct towards the end of Pleistocene. While antelope have retained their incredible speeds, they are useless against their new modern predators: the internal combustion engine, and the barbed wire fence.

Antelope regularly attempt to race and elude fast moving vehicles; the vehicles often win, but unlike the cheetahs are unable to digest pronghorn (at least for a few million more years).

Pronghorn aren’t good at getting through traditional barbed wire fences. The countless miles of fence out here hinder their migration. Wildlife friendly fences with a higher smooth bottom wire help to mitigate this problem. Marking fences with black and white plastic clips make fences more visible to sage grouse which might otherwise fly into them.

Trucks use gates to cross fences.


Zeke Zelman

SOS- intern Rawlins, WY.

Corral Creek

Last week I had the opportunity to monitor a couple of populations of Gibbon’s Penstemon down by powder rim, and a population of Wyoming toads over by Laramie. Gibbon’s Penstemon is a BLM sensitive plant, and Wyoming toads are the most endangered species of amphibian in North America. The work was a good change of pace from seed collecting, and I really enjoyed it. It was immensely rewarding to be able to see and learn about these rare and beautiful organisms, threatened by humankind’s never-ending and destructive expansion.

Gibbon’s Penstemon in flower

Gibbon’s Penstemon is a purple flowered plant that grows in soil that has a lot of volcanic ash in it, giving its habitat a distinctive color and texture. To me this seems like a very narrow range that limits the plant to growth in somewhat predictable locations. Similarly, meadow milkvetch (another BLM sensitive species, with delicate cream-colored flowers and green stems that sprawl across the white soil to form a spider we pattern) only grows in alkali flats on the lower side of greasewood in the chain lake region of the field office. I found it fascinating that a plant would specialize to such a narrow and theoretically predictable habitat.

Shifting gears:

            Wednesday morning, I arrived at Bennet Peak Campground, the backseat of the 2019 Dodge Ram 1500 was loaded with power tools and the bed was loaded with dark painted boards; however, our most important cargo was a clipboard, a pen, and a pile of visitor use surveys. We quickly found a picnic bench in dire need of repair. Mike showed us how to remove the bolts from the picnic bench and replace the old rotting boards with our new freshly painted ones. In a few minutes we had one drop-dead-gorgeous freshly painted picnic bench. We replaced the boards on another picnic bench; but by the time we finished it was time for our most important task of the day: Visitor Use Surveys at the nearby Corral Creek Campground.

            Upon arriving we immediately encountered a parked truck occupied by a genial old man. He agreed to take the survey and we waited comfortably under a tree while he filled out the sheet front and back with vitally important and useful information about his experience at the corral creek campground.

            The corral creek campground is a beautiful BLM operated site about a mile down the road from the Bennet peak campground near the North Platte river. It is a great spot for fishing and floating, with beautiful views of nearby mountains, and wildlife, including: pronghorns, mule-deer, elk, and cattle. However, the nearby Bennet peak campground is closer to the river, making it far more popular than Corral Creek, which essentially operates as an overflow campsite for when Bennet Peak is full.

            For the next four hours we relaxed and enjoyed a cool and pleasant summer day. An incredibly nice couple arrived and asked us for directions to Bennet peak; a truck pulled through for a quick pit stop at the immaculately maintained bathroom facility; we handed out zero surveys. I also found out that the surveys themselves were incredibly general, designed to be applicable to any BLM recreation site. Consequently, the information from them is very hard to interpret, and make use of.

On the way back from the field we listened to a couple of inspirational Oprah podcasts:

He had been awake and driving for over 24 hours. His Wal-Mart truck was traveling about twenty miles over the posted speed limit on the dark interstate highway. That’s when he struck the back of a car containing beloved comic legend Tracy Morgan, and several of Tracy’s close friends. People died in the accident, including one of Tracy’s close friends. Tracy suffered life-threatening injuries that sent him into a coma lasting for weeks. Tracy wasn’t sure if he was ever going to be able to walk again. Tracy was worried that he would never be funny again. Tracy briefly questioned his faith in god. Why did this happen? Why did his friend have to die so suddenly and so young? However, in a conversation with Oprah a few months after the accident both Oprah, and Tracy agree: “EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON,” & “THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS COINCIDENCE”, after all coincidence is never mentioned in The Bible.

 In conclusion, as Oprah says: “JUST BE YOURSELF, IT’S THAT SIMPLE.”

Trip through the Bighorns
Winterfat, in Shirley Basin

Until next time,

Zeke Zelman

SOS intern in Rawlins Wyoming

Road Trip Stories

Wyoming is a big state and our field office covers a lot of land. That means that we do a lot of driving. I’m still getting used to driving all the long distances but one of my favorite things about driving is looking out the window and seeing a lot of country. All the country that we drive through has stories attached to it, in driving around I learn not just about the plants that we are collecting seeds from but the history of the landscape, how it has been shaped by the people who lived here and how it has shaped them. Below are some of my favorite driving stories and factoids that Frank has told me and Sydney over the past few weeks. I think that learning about the people and land use practices is incredibly interesting and relevant to my experience as a CLM intern.

One day while working in range more than twenty years ago, Frank walked up on a sand dune on a lunch break and saw a showy flowering plant. It was in the Penstemon or beardtongue genus, but it wasn’t a species that he had ever seen before. He took a picture and went back to the field office. Folks at the office thought that it was probably a common penstemon that had been found in the area before; however, the characteristics of this plant didn’t match up with the dichotomous key. Frank investigated further and eventually found out that he had found the first recorded population of the endangered blowout penstemon plant in the state of Wyoming. This was also the first endangered plant species found in the state of Wyoming.   

A long time ago miners found a mummified native American, in a mountain north of Rawlins. However, unlike most mummies this one appeared to be a tiny, fully developed red-haired man, about the size of a toddler. The mummy went on tour as a freak show, where it was claimed to be part of a race of little people with red hair, described in local native American legends. Legend has it that these little people were extraordinarily fierce fighters. This apparently was bad news for red haired American cavalry men who were treated especially harshly in battle with native Americans. Unfortunately, when someone at the university examined the mummy, they figured out that the “little man” was actually a human infant with a rare genetic disease that made him look older than he was.

Liberty Rock was a stop along the Oregon trail. Pioneers tried to get to this unassuming but important land mark in time to celebrate the fourth of July there. Today it is arrest stop and local attraction.

And so much more: A gorge along the highway that was used as a Bison fall. A valley used as a polo stadium by the local ranchers. Hundreds of new roads created by oil and gas development. A gap in the Ferris mountains where government agents caught a band of whiskey smugglers during prohibition. Etc.…

Sand dunes and mountains
Blowout penstemon Penstemon haydenii

The Herbarium

This was my first week as a seeds of success intern at the BLM office in Rawlins Wyoming. It was a rainy week, but a good one none the less. I’ve learned a lot about what I’ll be doing this summer and did a lot of preparation for a busy field season.

I do not have a strong background in botany, so when I came out here I didn’t know any of the native plants in the area. Therefore, learning the local plants has been both a challenge and an incredible opportunity for learning and personal growth. One of the most helpful tools for learning about the local plants has been the office herbarium.

For those of you who don’t know an herbarium is a carefully organized and verified collection of pressed plants. Unlike dichotomous keys or guidebooks an herbarium allows one to learn about plants simply by looking at real pressed plant specimens collected from a variety of different locations over many different years. It is the simplest way to learn plants and, in my opinion, the next best thing to seeing plants in the field.

In combination with personal instruction, guidebooks and online resources the herbarium has helped me to learn more about the native plants in the area; a process that I believe will be one of the most rewarding parts of my internship experience. Furthermore, adding voucher specimens to both the local herbarium as well as the rocky mountain herbarium, and the Smithsonian herbarium is exciting. I not only have the opportunity to utilize this powerful resource I will also add to it and help future researchers to learn about and identify plants. I believe that using and adding to the herbarium will be an incredibly meaningful experiences of this internship.

Don’t worry I didn’t spend my whole first couple of weeks here in Rawlins sitting inside in the herbarium. I also had the opportunity to go to the field and see some of the beautiful landscapes, plants and animals in the area. Here are some pictures from this past week:

Above is a picture of a Lomatium sp. Likely L. foeniculaceum, that I saw an an overlook of the Seminoe reservoir in Sinclair, WY.

An orange Indian paintbrush (the Wyoming state flower), also at an overlook of the Seminoe reservoir in Sinclair, WY.

A view in the Medicine bow park near Arlington, WY.

Thanks reading! Until next time!