See you later Lincoln NF!

This summer has really been a crazy whirlwind and I can’t believe it’s over.

During the past couple of weeks, I have been doing a seed collection project which is part of conservation efforts to save the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly, which is an extremely rare, endangered and endemic butterfly. As the botanist on the project, I have been collecting seed from a variety of its nectar plants and most importantly its host plant, the New Mexico Penstemon (Penstemon neomexicanum). This species of penstemon is pressured greatly by cattle, elk and horse grazing in this forest, which has contributed to the butterfly’s decline, so hunting down viable fruiting individuals has preoccupied us for the last couple of weeks.

New Mexico Penstemon (Penstemon neomexicanum).
View of Alamogordo from the mountains.

As my mentor is out on a fire detail and my partner injured for most of the summer, I have gotten the chance to be the lead botanist and really played an integral role in the project which has been a great learning experience and I think will benefit me in my future career. I have really enjoyed seed collecting, as I find it very relaxing, and I have gotten to see some beautiful new parts of the Forest.

Sneezeweed (Helenium hoopsii) seed.
Emma and I in front of the Lincoln National Forest sign at the end of our last field day!

This week is our last week as CLM interns and I will really miss being able to hike around the Lincoln everyday. I am so thankful for my time here as I have learned so much about the flora of New Mexico and about working for a federal agency, which I know are invaluable to my future career, wherever it takes me. I have gotten to work on so many different projects, hike so many miles, meet new people, live in a new region of the country, and see countless cool, beautiful plants. I am really grateful for my time spent in the Lincoln National Forest as a CLM intern and will definitely never forget it!

Happy trails!


Unpredictable and Crazy Couple of Weeks

Hello again from Alamogordo!

The past month has been kinda crazy, filled with lots of different activities and a lot has changed since my last blog post. My co-intern Emma broke her ankle while in the field (which was crazy!) so we have not been able to do our normal surveying. To give her some time to heal we got to attend Botany 2020 and the Ecological Society of America Virtual conferences which were so cool! But once we found out Emma would need more time to heal than just two weeks, the nature of my internship shifted a little to give me a wider range of experiences. I have been able to write and read forest service reports, dabble with some data entry, gone into the field alone and work with other multiple crews on different Forest Service projects and fill in where ever I am needed. Though these last couple of weeks have been unpredictable, wild and spontaneous, I feel really lucky to be given the chance to learn so many new things and be involved with different surveying and monitoring projects and techniques, which I know will be useful for my future!

While working with another Natural Resources crew, I helped complete grazing surveys and different vegetative surveys for federally endangered species here at the Lincoln National Forest, such as the New Mexican meadow jumping mouse, the Mexican spotted owl, Goodings Onion and, my favorite, the Sacramento prickly poppy. I have also been really lucky to get out to countless new areas and districts of the Forest, including Sierra Blanca which is the highest peak in Southern New Mexico. Each of these monitoring projects requires different surveying and monitoring equipment, techniques and protocol, which I was so excited to learn about and work with. I have gotten the chance to get up close and personal to so many new plants than I otherwise would have been able to learn about and see so much more of the Lincoln, working across all the districts. While working on these projects I expanded my grass ID, invasive and native plant species knowledge and surveying skills.

I feel really grateful to learn so many new things, gain new skills, meet new people, and go to some really cool places, but I am hoping Emma heals quickly and can return to the field soon!

Here are just some pictures from my unpredictable, and crazy past couple of weeks!

One of the ski hills at Ski Apache on Sierra Blanca
Views from the top of Sierra Blanca
Lightning Canyon
Views from unnamed peaks in the Lincoln

Until next time!


A Stormy Welcome

Hello from Alamogordo! 

My name is Julie and I am one of two CLM interns working at the Lincoln National Forest in the Sacramento Mountains of Alamogordo, NM. We arrived in New Mexico back in June, and because of COVID-19 had to quarantine for two weeks. But since then we have been able to be out in the field almost every day and have not had many COVID related issues because of the outdoor nature of the internship. 

Using a GPS and our own two feet, we conduct botany surveys by systematically moving through areas of the National Forest searching for and recording locations of different rare plant species with the hopes of protecting as many of their populations as possible. Some of the plants we have been focusing on are Tall milkvetch (Astragalus altus), Wooton’s alumroot (Heurchera wootonii), Wooton’s hawthorn (Crataegus wootoniana), and Sacramento Mountain Thistle (Cirsium vinaceum). 

Sacramento Mountain Thistle (Cirsium vinaceum) 
Wooton’s alumroot (Heurchera wootonii)

The beginning of July signified the beginning of the New Mexican monsoon season, which brings big thunderstorms into the mountains almost every afternoon from July-September.

A few weeks ago, Emma, my co-intern, and I were in a new survey plot area of 6,000-acres. This was our first big survey plot that was not along a trail, so we were eager to start tackling this massive area and find some rare plants. When we got out to the survey area, we discovered it was rocky and dry, populated by juniper and piñon pine. We were up on top of a peak, in relatively exposed area with very few tall trees, when clouds roll in and we hear the rumbles of thunder. Staying off the tall, exposed peaks, we kept surveying, even when the rain started. The road that we had taken to reach this remote area was a dusty, rocky road that would more or less turn into a mud slide in the rain. We became increasingly aware of this fact the heavier the rain got and the longer we stayed out there. 

Emma in the rain at the start of our day (I know it doesn’t look that rainy in the photo but trust me it was.)

As the rain increased, the small dirt roads became more flooded, and the lightning flashed overhead, we were forced to call it for the day. So, we climbed in our truck and started to inch our way out through the muddy roads. Eventually, after moving at a snail’s pace through the mud, we made it out safe and sound (though very damp) and still got a good start on our survey plot that day.

What a great introduction to the monsoon season and the big weather in the Sacramento Mountains!