As you all probably know, CLM interns are funded to go to a conference at the Chicago Botanical Gardens for a week. However, if you are like me and start your internship late and not in the summer months and miss this conference, take heart, there is additional funding available to go to a conference of your choice as long as it relates to your internship (phew). Therefore, hence the title, I am using this blog post to inform you about the conference I recently attended in Boise, Idaho!
I attended the Intermountain Plant Summit conference held at Boise State University this November. This was a three day long conference filled with speakers, poster presentations, and ended with a happy hour at a brewery! There were numerous interesting talks; however, the one I found most interesting was about gum weed. A plant most think of as a weed (obviously) and undesirable. However, someone (I can’t remember his name, eek), suggested gum weed be used for roadside regeneration. This is because it is for more fire tolerant than species such as cheatgrass and can outcompete species such as this. It was very interesting to hear someone take on a whole new perspective on a plant that most people had accepted as being a nuisance.
In addition, my manager at the Seed Extractory gave me and my fellow CLM intern a poster to present at the poster session. We got to present a poster containing a summary of the work we do at the Bend Seed Extractory and the steps it takes to clean seed.
Also, (because we have the best manager ever), we got to visit Lucky Peak Nursery. It’s right outside of the city and in a beautiful location. We received a full tour from staff on site and even got to see their smaller scale extractory in the basement of the Nursery.
All and all, this conference was a great learning experience and a chance to explore more out west! So, if you miss the Chicago conference take advantage of this funding!!
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
50 cent draft on
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
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).
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).
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
Fall has arrived. The trees lose their leaves, outdoor
activities die down, and the vitality of summer begins to fade. It seems like a
fitting time for my internship to end. Like many endings, this one is
bittersweet. In less than two weeks I’ll be leaving the charming town of Lander,
Wyoming to make the long haul back to Cleveland, Ohio. I am excited to see
family, and friends, and to move on to something new. Despite the stigma that
has stuck with Cleveland since the Cuyahoga River caught fire…multiple times,
it is a pretty great place (the watershed is much cleaner now). Anyway, I will
certainly miss Lander. There are many places that I would feel some resistance
to leaving after five months of creating memories, and building bonds, but
Lander will always be special to me. As I first set eyes upon this storybook
small town I felt a nostalgic, comforting warmth sprout inside of me. A handful
of old buildings, historic landmarks, and a view of the Wind River Mountains provide
the town with an unnecessary, yet welcomed boost in charisma. The weathered and
wild appearance instill a sense of wonder about the events; proud and profoundly
sad, that have shaped this place. Lander has just enough people to have a “Main
Street”, a small strip of downtown. Most businesses, a few restaurants and
bars, and a movie theater provide just enough excitement to pull people out of
their cozy living rooms when the weather is not cooperating, or the vast swath
of natural beauty that extends for miles beyond the town in all directions when
sunshine is infinite.
It was surprising to me how outdoorsy a community of people
can be. In the months when there’s not too much snow to leave your house, most
people use their free time for camping, fishing, hiking, climbing, biking, and
in the fall, hunting season begins. I consider myself a somewhat adventurous,
nature-loving person, but the people in Lander are on a different level. If the
weather is nice, it can be assumed that everyone is outside. Some indoor
activities cease to exist in the summer. Businesses even shorten their hours to
accommodate for the lack of…business. Bar trivia no longer exists, an evening
yoga class is nowhere in sight, and one gym that I looked into joining closed
at 7pm on weekdays and was closed for the weekends – summer hours. It seems
like even after a long day of work, people just want to ride their bikes or
hangout up in the mountains.
While I feel like a sloth compared to the people here, I am
definitely going to miss all of the opportunities that the landscape has to
offer. Granted, the winters are long and cold in Wyoming (maybe that’s why
people are so active when they can be), the majesty of nature has no rival
anywhere near Cleveland. Sinks Canyon State Park, only a 10 minute drive away,
would be a gem in Cleveland. In Wyoming it’s just a drop in the bucket of
magnificent landscapes. I will long for this wild land, and the sense of
freedom it provides. If I want to get away from people, all I need to do is
drive out of town. In 5 minutes I’ll see sagebrush, open land, blue skies and
maybe some pronghorn; a landscape that immediately puts me at ease. Once I
leave here, I won’t be able to wake up, and on a whim, drive to see the vivid colors
of fall beneath the awe-inspiring snow caps of the Tetons. Even if a hike here
fails to provide a moose, or bear sighting, the chance to walk amid these
beautiful mountains makes the day an unfaltering success. The wonders are not
limited to Wyoming. A long weekend makes a good time to trek to the bordering
states of Utah, Colorado, Montana and Idaho (There’s a lot more to Idaho than
just potatoes). Even before I came to Wyoming, the forested parks in Cleveland
occasionally provided a peaceful retreat from the stresses of life, but I was
never really drawn to them. I fear that living surrounded by the picturesque
lands of Wyoming has created something in me that will leave a void once I
All in all, I had a great experience in Lander. I learned a great deal about range land management, the ecology of South-Central Wyoming, and Wyoming in general. My position as Range Monitoring Intern pushed me out of my comfort zone and exposed me to a new realm of natural wonders, people, and experiences. I would recommend this experience to most people, regardless of their background. I’ve gotten to know myself better, and feel as though I have lived life right for the past 5 months.
We finally made it to Utah! Flaming Gorge Reservoir had been on my bucket list since I moved out here, so Johnny and I drove the 3 hours to visit a few weekends ago. By the time we got to the reservoir, it was getting dark so we only got to stop at one overlook at first. After watching an incredible sunset, we made our way down the East side looking for a campsite. But, like we kept finding in the Grand Tetons, most of the campgrounds were closed. We drove to a few before finding Dripping Springs Campground. It had just gotten completely dark by the time we arrived — we were so thankful that we found this place! We had no idea what the landscape really looked like until we woke up. Quiet, cold, but beautiful scenery surrounded us, and only got better as we made our way out of the campground that morning. We were ready to explore.
We drove down to see the Flaming Gorge Dam next, and were super impressed by its size. It stands 502 feet high and is a major source of water and hydroelectricity — water flows out of it at speeds up to 28,800 cubic feet per second. Thats over 215,400 gallons…
Our next stop was at the Red Canyon Visitor Center. I had looked up this beautiful overlook online, and thought that Johnny and I were going to have to hike over 9 miles to get to it. Turned out, there was a huge parking lot and a short paved path that went directly to it. 🙂
Once we got our photos of Red Canyon, we made our way to Ute Mountain Fire Lookout Tower on a whim. After what seemed like forever, we made it to the top of Ute Mountain only to find a closed lookout tower. (: We still don’t know why it was locked up, and were a bit disappointed. Apparently at the top of the tower, you get a 360 view of Ashley National Forest. Maybe next time.
We then drove towards Sheep Creek Geological Loop in the Southwest corner of Flaming Gorge. This small loop travels through the Uinta Mountains, and was our last adventure in Utah. On the route, you can see the Uinta Fault and some really impressive rock structures that have resulted from the split.
On our way back North to Wyoming, I still had a few stops in mind that I hadn’t made it to yet. Between Rock Springs and Lander, we took some sketchy dirt roads and two tracks to find the Killpecker Sand Dunes, and Boar’s Tusk.
I loved Utah, and luckily, this was just the start of our adventures in the state. A couple of weeks later, we went back to see the Great Salt Lake and Bonneville Salt Flats. That will be in an upcoming blog post. 🙂 I have about three weeks left here, and am feeling the time crunch more and more. There are just not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on my list, and picking and choosing between sites is the hardest thing! I have become so thankful that Lander is so central though. It has really been a great, convenient location for all of our weekend adventures. Until next time. 🙂
The last two weeks of my internship out in Wyoming began with a road trip to Kansas. Me, my mentor, and a co-worker were headed to the Kansas Herpetological Societies annual meeting where I would be giving a presentation on the herpetofauna research I have been assisting with this field season (read my previous blog posts if you’d like to know more on the project). My presentation went well and the other presentations were informative and interesting. Getting to meet Herpetologists from around the states was a great and interesting opportunity and I am thankful that I was afforded the opportunity to attend the meeting.
The last couple days of my internship were spent mostly tying up lose ends and finishing data entry. I’ve come to love the topography and openness of the Wyoming landscape. I’ve also made some unforgettable friends over the past seven months. Rawlins is a small vagrant town and the social opportunities are minimal but the friends and connections that I made in the town make living here more than bearable. I gained many experiences this summer that will assist me in furthering my career in wildlife conservation and I will always be grateful for my time spent out in Rawlins and the opportunities that I have had. However it seems my time here in Rawlins hasn’t yet met its end. I will be staying at the field office to help our weeds specialist over the winter and I am very excited for this new experience. I wouldn’t have this opportunity if it wasn’t for the Conservation and Land Management Program and I appreciate them for assisting me in furthering my career.
“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun” – Into the Wild
Reflecting on the past six months is something that has been on my mind a lot as my internship comes to an end. In June I moved to West Virginia, a state I had only previously driven through, full of excitement to be living in the mountains but reservations as to what it would be like living and working in a new place with people I had never met.
Any worries I had soon disappeared as I was lucky enough to be based out of the Marlinton Ranger Station, the best office on the MON. My mentor worked to get my co-intern and I to experience many different types of work that occurs on the forest. I got to assist with rare plant monitoring, botany and Non-native Invasive Species (NNIS) surveys, stream surveys, and seed collection to name a few of the opportunities! These experiences took me to every corner of the forest and allowed me to work with individuals from other organizations and from other parts of the Forest Service.
My time outside of the office was filled with adventures around the forest with my coworkers and good friends. From floating the river to blueberry picking to caving to sitting around a fire and stargazing, there was never a dull moment!
As I prepare to move on to my next adventure I will treasure the experiences I have had, knowledge I have gained and the friends I have made down on the Monongahela National Forest where the country roads are my home.
October started off with our last round of herptile trapping for the season. Normally we wouldn’t have trapped in October as conditions are usually unfavorable however, as we did not have the opportunity to trap in June due to a delay in funding we decided to take our chances. We only trapped for eight days instead of the usually ten due to poor forecasts in the weather and definitely saw a decrease in captures with the cold change in temperatures. We caught a handful of mammals but only two young garter snakes for herptiles. Two bullsnakes were caught basking on the roads but, as they were not near our trap sites, they did not count in our data.
The rest of the month was spent mainly on analyzing the data that was collected over the past three field seasons, starting when the project began. The main goal of the project was to determine species presence for the region with the secondary goal being to compare abundance and diversity between our grazed and ungrazed sites.
During the 2019 field season we had 4,255 traps nights capturing 51 individuals with a total of 6 recaptures. As for the overall study there were 13,982 traps nights with 169 herptile individuals captured and 20 total recaptures. The vast majority of the captures were wandering garter snakes (Thamnophis elegans vagrans) with 31% of the garter snakes being young of the year. Herptile species detected included wandering garter snakes, bullsnakes (Pituophis catenifer sayi), prairie rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis), yellow-bellied racers (Coluber constrictor), greater short-horned lizards (Phrynosoma hernandesi), northern sagebrush lizards (Sceloporus graciosus), northern leopard frogs (Lithobates pipens), and the western tiger salamander (Ambystoma mavortium).
As for comparing our grazed and ungrazed sites, we saw a slightly higher diversity in our ungrazed sites than within the grazed sites. This is likely due to the higher quality of riparian health within the exclosures then within the grazed sites, where the riparian areas are usually degraded by the cattle use. We also saw a higher abundance of northern leopard frogs and prairie rattlesnakes within the exclosures. Interestingly we saw a higher abundance of bullsnakes in our grazed sites. It is unclear as to why bullsnake abundance is higher in grazed sites but it is possible the difference is due to the small sample size and does not show any significant trends.
Something interesting that we noticed while analyzing the data was that we had significantly less captures per trap night in 2018 than we did in 2017 or 2019. One factor we believe may have influenced this was precipitation. The winter of 2018, before they trapped that year, had approximately 50% below average precipitation for the season. This likely resulted in an increase is desiccation during hibernation for herptiles which in turn caused a spike in winter mortality rates that was then reflected in the decrease in captures for the 2018 field season. With only three years of data however it is important to note that this is mostly just speculation, we would need to continue trapping in the Ferris Mountain region to gather long term data that we could then use to determine significant trends.
The plan for this project in the following years is to leave the Ferris Mountain area and begin trapping in new locations. The Rawlins field office encompass over 3.5 million acres of public land and little herpetofauna work has been done within this area. Moving the trap sites to a new area will allow for the opportunity to learn more about Wyoming’s herpetofauna which in turn can help inform better management decisions within our field office. However if funding and resources are available, hopefully trapping can continue in the Ferris Mountain region so long term data can be collected. Additionally, it is suspected that if we create new trap sites at higher elevations on the Ferris Mountain range we may find new or different compositions of species. Hopefully the BLM will continue to get funding to develop projects that improve imperative wildlife management decisions across public lands.
Far over the Bighorn Mountains cold, To canyons deep and forests old We must away ere break of day To find our long forgotten goals.
The pines were roaring on the heights The winds were moaning in the night The snow was wet, its flurry spread The trees like beacons shone with light (-The Hobbit, sort of)
Wyoming started October 1st with the first of many snowfalls. The
trees experienced one blast of the icy cold and decided immediate leaf abscission
was their only path forward. On multiple occasions I have been foiled going to
work by ice on the hilly roads between my apartment and the office, and “oh
look, the high is 5 degrees” has been a sad and somewhat frequent lamentation
by my coworkers. But for all this, I will always remember my time in Wyoming
for its beauty, absurdity, and the wonderful opportunities I had while working
at the Buffalo BLM.
I was able
to take plenty of trainings and develop many professional skills while in
Wyoming. In my very first week, I learned “Defensive Driving” (and consequently
how to drive a pickup truck) and was able to take an awesome NOLS wilderness
medicine course through the BLM. A very long day was devoted to driving a UTV
and countless online courses gave me proficiency in writing government
documents such as NEPA, Visual Resource Management, and Statements of Work. I
was also extremely fortunate to work with Buffalo’s hydrologist on the early stages
of a river restoration project. This opened up an entire new knowledge set for
me regarding fluid dynamics, elevation measurements via laser, river terms, and
just being able to slog through the river in waders to collect various kinds of
data. That in particular was an awesome project that I am proud to have been a
always little moments of delight at work. Sometimes, especially in the colder
months, someone would put out a jigsaw puzzle in the break room. As puzzle
enthusiast, I would always take my lunches (when I was not in the field) to
work on these. There were a few of us for whom this pastime was perfect, and so
a little community of puzzlers formed, people with whom you would chat and eat
while plopping pieces into place. Or when it got closer to Halloween, being
able to take a break after finishing an office task by cutting out a
construction paper bat or meandering through the halls to see the decorations
in all of the different departments. This particular joy culminated in a
morning of preschooler trick or treaters in the office, whom I was lucky enough
to lead through the various rooms on their hunt for candy and stickers.
my most rewarding moments were working with kids. Every time I was able to work
with kids as the rec intern (which was actually fairly often) I was ecstatic. We
did camps and lessons for kids ranging 6 through 16 over the course of the
internship. Flower dissections with elementary and middle school students
resulted in ripped up pieces of flowers everywhere while students
systematically went through and described what they were seeing to me and to
each other. A pollination game with first graders lead to conversations about
how there are so many things that make it difficult for trees to successfully
reproduce, from pollinators to weather conditions. A game focused on public
lands use saw beads all over the floor and 4th grade students super
excited to use their public lands passes to explore. Each of these experiences
once again showed me that the work we were doing, educating the public from a
young age about nature and keeping our lands safe, could really make a
difference for the next generation of nature lovers and users. It also showed
me that you are what you teach. Once, a few weeks after a day of educating 8th
grade students about plants at a nearby campsite, I was walking through town
and a few students stopped me by saying “hey, I know you! You’re the plant
lady!” I think I can safely say being the one and only “plant lady” may be the
highlight of my career thus far.
that I did find lacking in this internship was the chances for scientific data
collection and engagement. As the rec intern, there was not much need for me to
collect data, beyond shuttling the traffic counters with a special tool to amass
data on rec site use. I began to keenly feel this lack of science a few months
into the internship, and think future interns should be aware that this job is
much more focused on the physical aspects of land management (fixing fences,
putting up signs, interacting with land owners) than the science that informs
these management decisions. Thankfully I joined the hydrology project and spent
several weeks back in my element of data collection and analysis. But without
this project, this internship would have felt somewhat incomplete. In the end,
perhaps this was all a good thing – I now know for certain that I do want to
return to the world of academic science, at least for a time, to focus on the
science helping to inform land management for the next generation of BLM
During my second week, I was sent out to the Outlaw Cave campground at Middle Fork to pick up trash and do general site maintenance. The campground is located on the edge of a breathtaking canyon. As soon as I got out of the truck, I knew that if trash cleanup on this job meant visiting one of the most beautiful places in Wyoming, then I was set for this internship. During my last week, I revisited the canyon as part of a sagebrush planting crew. This time, covered with snow, the trees standing out starkly against the white of the canyon slopes, I was able to look across this view and say goodbye to this beautiful scene, this wide open place, and all of the people who helped fill my time in Wyoming with stories.
After a few quick weeks of work, I was ready for another trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. Lucky for me, one of my best friends from childhood was coming to visit! Christina and her boyfriend stayed for a long weekend, and gave me the perfect reason to go back. I made the 2+ hour drive to Casper Friday night, and showed them around Lander Saturday. We woke up super early that Sunday morning and made our way into Grand Teton National Park by noon. Just before we got to the entrance, we noticed a large group of cars stopped on the side of the road. We pulled over at the last second, and were lucky enough to see a mother grizzly bear and her cub. Seeing these bears was a dream come true! The picture I got is still surreal. Apparently, the female grizzlies in the park have been learning to keep closer to the roads in order to protect their offspring. The male bears don’t like to go towards people, and so the females are more likely to protect their cubs. After taking several photos, we continued our journey, stopping at several scenic roadside attractions and lookouts along the way.
We then made it down to Jenny Lake, one of my favorite spots of the park, and took a short walk around the water. This was where we started to realize that a lot of the buildings and stores inside the park were closing… that day. We struggled to find a place to get dinner at on our way into Yellowstone, so we ended up backtracking to Signal Mountain Lodge. We enjoyed a quick dinner with an awesome view before getting back on the road.
We started to get worried that we wouldn’t find an open campground, especially since we were relying on walk-up sites. We must have passed at least a half dozen closed campsites before we found one to stay at, conveniently right in between the two parks’ entrances. Just as the sun started to fall, we set up our tent and fire at Sheffield Creek. It got below 20 degrees that night — definitely the coldest temperatures I have ever slept in! Fortunately for us, Johnny’s boss let us borrow a portable space heater, and we all had insulated thermal sleeping bags. It was cold, but we survived and woke up to a beautiful new landscape.
We woke up to a frosty wonderland. Every surface and object had a thin white coating, and everything was sparkling. I had plenty of time to take some photos while we waited for the tent and car to thaw out. Once we had breakfast, and a few visits from the surrounding wildlife, we were ready to start our adventure in Yellowstone.
In Yellowstone we stopped at the West Thumb Geyser Basin, Kepler Cascades, Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Firehole Falls, Beryl Spring, Artists Paintpots, Mammoth Springs, and the Roosevelt Arch. Our. day. was. packed. I was so happy that I got to see some new things in Yellowstone, but was definitely exhausted by the end of the day. After a quick stop in Gardiner, Montana, we made the 6.5 hour drive home to Lander.
I would still go back to Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons any time, but lately, we have started branching out of Wyoming more. Over the next few weekends, Johnny and I visited Utah, Colorado, and more of Wyoming. I am behind on sharing so many of our adventures, but they’re still so fun to write about. I am so happy I will have these to go back to and read in the future. 🙂
Along with our normal trapping project this month, I had the opportunity to assist with a multitude of different habitat assessment surveys. The assessment, inventory, and monitoring (AIM) strategy is used to assess terrestrial and aquatic habitats across our field office. This system is used to provide standardized information about the habitats in our field office and help to inform better management decisions. In terrestrial AIM you have three, 25m long transects and you start by categorizing the plants that occur along each transect at equidistance points. Gap is also measured along transects, which is a way to measure how much of each transect is not covered by living plant matter. A soil pit is dug and the different layers of soil are analyzed for their composition. I assisted with AIM surveys in sage brush steppe habitat north of the Ferris Mountains and also within an aspen stand near the Baggs area of our field office.
Aquatic AIM differs from terrestrial AIM in many ways however the main goal of providing standardized information for habitats across the field office remains the same. In aquatic AIM, transect are set up along a stream bed and measurements are taken at standardized points. Measurements are used to determine stream characteristics and include bankfull, scour, thalweg, pH, temperature, channel widths, floodplain connectivity, canopy cover, and slope to name a few.
I also helped with Multiple Indicator Monitoring (MIM) and surface compliance monitoring. MIM is a monitoring strategy that combines long term and short term metrics to condense surveying efforts along stream systems but also inform good management decisions. Measurements taken include stubble height, bank alteration, woody browse, pool volumes, stream width, vegetation, and slope.
Surface compliance monitoring is used to keep companies, especially oil and gas, responsible for safe practices. Active and rehabilitated well sites are examined for any hazards to humans or wildlife, including unlabeled areas, poor rehabilitation, broken structures, invasive species, and so forth. Anything found to be out of compliance with the company’s contract must be fixed by the company or they will be responsible to pay hefty fines.
We completed our third set of trapping this month with another ten day stint. We caught plenty of garter snakes, a couple leopard frogs, and finally another rattle snake! Unfortunately we couldn’t process the rattlesnake and all we could say for sure was that she was not a recapture. One of the garter snakes that we captured was preparing to molt. Before molting snakes will develop an opaque film over their eyes and you may see some flakes of skin already starting to peel. Another interesting capture was a sagebrush vole that was in one of our pit-fall traps. This is the first sagebrush vole that has been caught since the project started in 2017. The most intriguing capture of the season so far was a horsehair worm. Horsehair worms are parasites that develop in the bodies of grasshoppers and crickets. It is common that when the host of the parasite dies, especially if it is in water, the worm will leave the dead hosts body and search for a new host. In our case, we had a dead Mormon cricket in one of the pit-falls and next to it in a puddle of water was the living horsehair worm parasite. Hopefully we will have even more interesting captures next month.