Reader, I Finally Started Seeds of Success Collecting

Hi CLM blog!

The last few times I checked in I got to share about all manner of interesting things I was doing, namely botany camping trips, native plant conferences, and bat surveys. Now I’m checking in with an update that is a little bit more in line with my job description! In late July, my supervisor Sierra got the chance to go work on the Tamarack fire south of Lake Tahoe as a Resource Advisor, and I got to start Seeds of Success collecting pretty independently. It was a little intimidating starting out but I got comfortable with the protocol after a few seed collections! There is a list of priority species that are desired for collection in the Great Basin, but with the heat and dryness that the area is experiencing, finding any plant population with enough seeds to collect is a win, and opportunistic collections of any native species we can find are also fair game. So far I’ve gotten seeds from Helianthella uniflora, Stipa thurberiana, Pseudoroegneria spicata, Phacelia hastata, Eriogonum heracleoides, and Arnica sororia––a fun mix of native forbs and grasses. It’s been great getting familiar with some new species and figuring out identification for ones I don’t know!

A parasitic plant (some species of dodder!) growing on an Eriogonum heracleoides stem.

So far, all my seed collections have been in the Santa Rosas north of Winnemucca, and I’ve gotten to see a lot of new country up in that area, including Buttermilk Meadows, Holloway Meadows, Solid Silver, and Buckskin. Those names won’t mean much to anyone not familiar with the area, but in case any northern Nevadans are reading this! I kept hoping to do some work over by Elko, NV, but thunderstorms and then subsequent landslides have kept me away from the area so far. I’m hopeful that next week the forest roads will be safe enough again to head over and see what seeds are left there!

My tiny white truck on the road gives you some sense of the scale of the landscape in this picture. On the Martin Creek road.

Besides native plants, I’ve seen many cool rock formations and animals the past few weeks. I saw 11 antelope in a group just between the town of Paradise Valley and the foot of the Santa Rosas, which was surprising to me––I’d never seen a group together like that before, just one or two! I’ve also seen lots of chukars, grouse, and quail with their new families that have hatched over the summer, plus some lizards and a few praying mantises. Still no snakes though.

One of the mantises I saw. I had never seen any that color but it was of course the perfect color for their dry grass habitat!

My family also visited from Minnesota the past week so I got to see my parents and sister and show them around for a few days. It was pretty smoky but they loved seeing Hinkey Summit in the Santa Rosas and swimming in Lake Tahoe! We even saw three bighorn sheep on Hinkey which was a first for me; I’m glad they were there for it.

Mountain mahogany tree with its showy seeds. Such a cool sight on the mountain!

Until next time here’s hoping we all, if not stay cool, at least enjoy the cooler evenings and late summer sunsets 🙂

Emma

Wildlife ecology and mining lands

Hi CLM blog!

The past few weeks have been plenty interesting and I’m excited to tell you about them! Last time I posted was after the Eriogonum Society conference, and since then, my main work highlight has been going on a mini bat blitz over in Elko. The bat blitz was a departure from plant work but in the interest of being a well-rounded ecologist it was a great thing to do (plus I just really love bats)! I went out in the Jarbidge-Ruby Mountain Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, and in the Ruby Mountain RD near the Medicine Range for this trip, which was led by a team of BLM ecologists based in Elko. The team was interdisciplinary and interagency, which was awesome, and also included a biologist who specializes in abandoned mining land reclamation, a biologist from the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), and a biologist from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. It was awesome to work with such a wide range of people from different agencies and backgrounds for the week––I learned a lot from them about bat monitoring but also about how their different organizations can work together. 

A crescent lake near Bear Creek Summit in the Jarbidge area.

I also learned more about the area’s ecology, and one thing in particular that was interesting was learning about the effects of wild horses on sagebrush scrub ecosystems in Nevada. The wild horses running around the landscape are not native (they were introduced by the Spanish colonizing the Americas), and although they look awesome running free they actually cause a lot of damage to the ecosystem. It turns out that when they dig in springs as they try to access more water, they end up drying up the springs instead, and they degrade native vegetation and habitats. Land management organizations have a difficult time managing them, however, because some groups’ love for the animals translates to strong resistance to management efforts (we’re talking death threats, even to a grad student doing their PhD on the impacts of wild horses). I knew nothing about this conflict and challenge in western land management, as someone from Minnesota, but thinking about how to effectively manage land when stakeholders have different levels of knowledge about it and relationships with it is relevant across settings and contexts. I appreciated adding a dimension to what I know about Great Basin ecology as well.

One of the acoustic bat detector deployments we did, just over the Idaho border!

Charismatic megafauna aside, the actual bat blitz was very cool! We set up acoustic monitors at several sites (basically microphones at the top of long poles) that would be left up for about a week to record bat calls that can later be analyzed in the lab using software designed to identify bat species by their distinct calls. This software can make tentative identifications but it’s up to the biologists to go through and make final ID decisions. It was awesome to learn that bat calls are a useful way to assess species richness in an area, and impressive to watch people who were familiar with identifying species by their calls that way. This year there was no bat netting to take physical data, due to concerns about possibly passing COVID-19 to bat populations in the state, but in other years netting is the best way to confidently identify species (although there are tradeoffs with time, resources, etc. that can make acoustic monitoring versus capture a better decision depending on the situation). 

We also did roost exit counts a few nights, where some team members used night vision goggles to watch a roost entrance and said “one in”, “one out”, etc. while other team members kept track of how many bats had entered and exited their roost with counters. This could give an idea of bat activity at specific roosts on a given night, and can be paired with acoustic data collected at the same location to identify the species active there (and potentially what species are roosting there!). The roosts in question on our trip were old mineshafts and tunnels. It was really interesting to see the abandoned mining lands and how the old mines here look and become part of the landscape compared. I was mentally comparing this type of former mining land with the way old iron mining landscapes in northern Minnesota where I’m from look––it’s a lot different, with MN Iron Range minelands now largely converted to minepits filled in with fresh water, steep hills of waste rock dotted with trees, and orangish dirt in some places. Here I’m still learning about it, but the marks of mining on the landscape are a lot different, with lots of small and intriguing but dangerous entrances to underground mines, and no doubt more that I hope I learn to recognize as the season goes on. 

It’s not safe but I can see why people like breaking into closed mine entrances

Botany trip to the Bull Run Mountains

Hi! I’m Emma Greenlee, and I’m a CLM intern based out of Winnemucca, Nevada this year. I moved out here a few weeks ago as I was finishing my last finals period at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Now that I’m settled in and have been at work for a few weeks, I’m here to report what I’ve done and learned so far!

Picture of me with mountains in the background
Me near the Penn Hill repeater in the Bull Run Mountains

I’m working for the Forest Service on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which is the lower 48’s largest national forest, spanning Nevada and some of California. I’m stationed at the Santa Rosa Ranger District in Winnemucca, and am working primarily with Sierra Sampson, the zone botanist for the northeast part of the forest. So far I have liked the Forest Service vibe (maps on all the walls, animal skulls and other natural specimens everywhere, and kind people who know and care about the area) a lot, while also seeing the challenges of working in an understaffed and underfunded office with more land to manage than time and resources to accomplish everything. Sierra is awesome and I’m excited to work with her and hopefully other people around the district and forest.

Picture of the sun setting behind mountains
Sunset on our first night in the Bull Runs––did some dispersed camping on the forest

After a week of training on noxious weeds, UTV operation, herbicide application, and common invasive species identification, Sierra and I drove to the Bull Run Mountains, a range north of Elko, NV near the Idaho border on the Mountain City Ranger District, to meet two botanists from the University of Nevada-Reno (Jerry Tiehm and Jan Nachlinger). Jerry and Jan are prolific botanists who have been collecting specimens for UNR and other institutions’ herbariums for decades together and it was very cool to get an introduction to subalpine and northern Nevada flora from them. I have a very long ways to go but I was able to commit at least some species to memory and start to recognize others and think about how the plant communities in this area are organized. We camped with those guys for several days and then went our separate ways to spend one last night camping in the Ruby Mountains east of Elko. The Rubies were a stunning mountain range that I was surprised wasn’t a national park! (And that’s how everybody knew I wasn’t from here…) Sierra and I saw a few marmots and a last awesome sunset of the trip and I jumped in the stream running through Lamoille Canyon. I can’t remember how cold Lake Superior is anymore but this felt like it came close!

Butterfly pollinating a flower along with some other plants
Butterfly on a yellow flower (which I have not successfully ID’d, feel free to comment if you know it) in front of some Eriogonum kingii (Ruby Mountain Buckwheat)!

Throughout the trip I saw Sierra take the time to build positive relationships whether it was with seasoned botanists, campground hosts, or members of the public. Although I’d thought about the role of land stewards like the FS in interacting with diverse stakeholders, I hadn’t thought about how this might play out in small, everyday interactions like Sierra demonstrated, so this was a small but important part of the trip that I will keep thinking about along with all the new species of Eriogonum (wild buckwheat) I learned. I also have a soft spot for geology and I’m dying to get my hands on a copy of Roadside Geology of Nevada after all the amazing rock features of northern NV I saw this week.

Picture of me splashing face first into a creek
Jumping in the creek
Picture of my tent in front of a pink sunset and some rocky canyon walls
Left the rain fly off to look at the stars!

Until next time!

Emma

USFS-Santa Rosa Ranger District, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest