I’m starting my second year as a CLM intern in New Mexico. Last year I worked in the Chihuahuan desert. This year I’ll be working in the Colorado Plateau portion of the state. We are working out of the NRCS Plant Materials Center in Los Lunas, NM. I am very optimistic this year, as we are having a significantly wetter year. Although I gained wonderful experience last year while working out of the Las Cruces, NM BLM, we had to accept the whims of Mother Nature and had rather poor seed production due to the drought. We have spent the first weeks scoping out potential collection areas and learning the species of the region. This is the first year that SOS interns have worked in this area, so in some ways we are treading new ground. The opportunity to work in a different part of the state has certainly broadened my botanical knowledge. The large geographic range that I have been lucky to explore here in New Mexico has helped to get a very visceral idea of species ranges, assemblages and ecologies. We are getting off to a good start and I look forward to blogging more on our adventures and insights as the summer progresses.
Monthly Archives: May 2010
Greetings from Rawlins, Wyoming
I’m going on my fourth week in Rawlins, Wyoming working as an amphibian survey intern. I have to admit my first week here was a little different than what I expected. There was lots of paper work of course and office preparation. There was also the constant rain and foot of snow we received just last week. However, each week has brought new adventures and excitement. Southern Wyoming has lots of hidden beauty, and its appeal has become increasingly visible to me over the past few weeks.
As a recent graduate of the University of New Hampshire, both the Wyoming landscape and weather were a bit of a shock to me. Both the lack of trees and consistent rain/snow made me weary of the new area. However, every week here the weather has improved, and the shrubs and grasslands have really started to grow on me. I’ve also been able to travel to many incredible areas located within the Rawlins BLM district.
The second week here we took part in a drive up to Seminoe State Park located less than an hour north of Rawlins. The combination of mountains, aspen and pine trees, and sparkling water made for an incredible sight. This trip really made me realize the unique beauty of the Wyoming Landscape.
As the weather began to warm, we were able to go out into the field and see some amphibians. My first trip out was to a series of wetlands southwest of Rawlins. This seemingly plain landscape contained an array of wildlife. As we drove into the wetland area, we were met by several ground squirrels, antelope, and a large variety of wetland birds. A closer investigation allowed us to hear several boreal chorus frogs and a few northern leopard frogs within the wetlands. This was truly an amazing area and really made me appreciate both Wyoming and the internship work itself. I am excited to be participating in something that will allow me to see such an array of wildlife and that will help bring more attention and protection of our declining amphibian populations.
Sorry no pictures yet.
Adventures in the Past
Hi All! Well where do I start? After years of watching Jurassic Park and learning about Paleontology, I get to spend my internship actually doing it! I am working with Ryan O’Dell out of the Hollister field office and get to work on excavation and prep of one of the specimens found on BLM land in the Panoche Hills. I had a lot of fun at the beginning of my internship working with Ryan and Kelly to excavate the specimen and transport it to the lab. Now I spend my days slowly removing the sediments from the plaster jacket that we encased the specimen in to reveal what is inside! Some days the work is very slow but it is also rewarding as I uncover new portions of the fossils. As I continue through my internship I will work on identifying each fossil that I remove from the jacket after I clean them up and possibly even write a research paper on the findings! Stay tuned for more information 🙂 I have been having a really good time on my internship and am so grateful that I could be part of this program!
Talk to you soon,
Loving Cedar City, Utah :)
Hi! Well, this is my first out-of-state internship and I was really nervous to embark on such an adventure. Leaving all of my family and friends in Michigan and deciding to live 1,800 miles away was one of the hardest things I have ever done. However, once I caught sight of the breath-taking mountains and the lands teeming with wildlife, I finally felt okay. I’ve only been working for about three weeks here in Cedar City, Utah, but I already absolutely love it! Being able to explore mountains and valleys and venture through habitats I have never been exposed to have allowed me to change on a rather personal level. It’s almost as if the world’s natural beauty has opened my eyes to experience the beauty in my everyday life. I now tend to notice the little pleasures around me.
I’ve also acquired many new skills here as well. I now know how to navigate using a GPS and quad maps. This has proven to be extremely vital when we’re out in the field and the nearest city could be a hundred miles away. I also know how to use radio telemetry to locate the collared Greater Sage Grouse at known leks [breeding ground for a particular animal species]. Probably one of the more exciting moments here on the job was when I heard the very first beep of the first bird we found. We ended up flushing the male, along with four other males and one female, and seeing them all take flight at once was very thrilling.
I would have to say that my favorite moment here so far was when I was able to visit a lek early one morning and actually watch the Greater Sage Grouse courtship displays. My fellow co-workers and I saw around seven males all puffing out their white-crested chests and sticking out their pointed tail feathers. They were also emitting a deep thumping sound that to me sounded like a low heart beat. We only saw one female present and she disappeared down a small decline so we weren’t sure who she chose to mate with. I remember learning about leks in several biology classes during college, so actually seeing one was incredible.
This past week I also learned how to perform a habitat assessment. In this first photo you can see me measuring nearby plants along with my co-workers, Michelle and Adam. Doing projects like this really helps me become better in tune with the Utah environment. I come from a very urban area so this is a whole new world for me! I’m definitely excited about exploring this state and involving myself in the various activities that this internship has to offer!
Springing into Action
I am typing to you all from the Pinedale BLM Field Office in Wyoming. Pinedale is nestled between Omernik Level III ecoregion’s 18 and 17. It oversees the management of 912,000 acres of federal surface/federal minerals and almost 300,000 acres of private surface/federal minerals. Of those acres that are disturbed from oil and petroleum use reclamation and restoration plans exist to prevent invasive and noxious weeds from out-competing and dominating the native vegetation. I have learned a lot about the procedures for restoration in Pindale. While learning I came to see how vital Seeds of Success (SOS) is for this area.
The month of May is coming to a close and almost all of the native forbs are still dormant. Aside, from a few like the perennial Phlox hoodi. The climate is so harsh in this northwestern part of the United States of America they only have a total of 19 frost-free days. So if you all thought you were having a hard time growing your tomatoes… Here the word for a functioning garden is considered a greenhouse. Stepping back from that tangent, however; a lot of the seeds available for restoration have genes that predispose them for the South or Central Western areas of the United States. Alas, when they are planted here they tend to be a cause for unsuccessful restoration or a bottleneck population with low genetic abundance.
SOS can open a lot of doorways for more successful restoration here in Pinedale. Bend Seed Extractory, our national seed bank, will be able to hold these seeds and supply them to operators within the Wyoming Basin. Securing these seeds is vital to maintaining a genetically diverse community of plants in the field. The time period we have to collect these seeds here in at the Pinedale BLM is roughly two months so preparation along with training is what I have been up to so far. When I am not working, however; there are thousands of things to do here in Pinedale. Most of the land out here is owned by the government, which means there is public access to most of the lands. You can go boating, biking, hiking, hunting, ATVing, fishing, camping, climbing and running. Not to mention, that Jackson, the Tetons and Yellowstone are about 1-2 hours away.
I know that I probably did not do my current geographical location justice. However, I am loving it here and cannot wait for SPRING SEEDS!
Shhhh! Be very quiet, I’m tracking Sage Grouse.
While doing field work in Florida over the winter months, I came to the realization that I missed Utah. I missed the red rock, the deep smell of sage, the fact that I can see for miles, the calves prancing about and the people at the BLM office. This will be my second season as a CBG wildlife intern for the BLM in Cedar City, UT.
My journey back to South West Utah began in April, in a bright teal Subaru stuffed full of my belongings with a black dog riding shotty. The 2,988 mile road trip out here taught me a lot about “flying by the seat of my pants” and adapting to new situations. My stops included country dancing in Nashville, TN, green chili in Santa Fe, NM, hiking in Vail, CO, and skiing at Brighton Resort in Utah. I had some minor setbacks along the way. For example, I had not planned on repairing both my front axles. Nor had I anticipated how sore my buttock would be after driving for 10 hours. All in all, I made it to Cedar City, UT with a more rounded view of the United States of America.
My fellow intern, Brittany Stanglewicz, and I have started our field season by tracking collared Greater Sage Grouse using radio telemetry. Each collared grouse is wearing a necklace like transmitter, which emits a signal at a certain frequency. By dialing the receiver to the given frequencies, we can hear the signal and determine the direction the grouse is located in.
Our mornings begin by packing our Chevy Tahoe full of equipment. The essentials include: 2 receivers, 2 antennas, 2 co axle cords, 1 GPS, 1 camera, several maps, a hand held radio, a list of the frequencies and lots of food and water. After navigating from the office to one of the lek sites (an area where certain male animals perform their courtship displays) we attach the co axle cord to the antenna and to the receiver. Next, we dial to one of the frequencies listed for one of the collared Sage Grouse and listen for a beeping noise while we slowly move in a circle holding the antenna pointing away from us. On a good day, we hear a signal and then track the grouse down and flush it out of the sage brush, take pictures, and record data using a GPS.
<—- 5 Greater Sage Grouse took off into flight after we tracked them using radio telemetry
On a not-so-good day, we won’t hear any signals and then we drive or hike to higher spots in hopes of hearing a signal. If the collar is in a stationary spot for over 8 hours then it will turn to a “mortality signal”, which means the beep occur at a faster rate. We have found one dead collared grouse. Once we arrived at the scene of the crime, we found a severed grouse head with a collar close by. There was also many grouse feathers scattered about. Based on the evidence, such as broken feathers, we were able to determine the cause of death to be a mammal (chances are pretty high it was a coyote).
Besides tracking the Greater Sage Grouse around Southern Utah, our season will include bird banding, Utah prairie dog capture, Greater Sage Grouse habitat assessment, riparian exclosure maintenance, wildlife clearances and much more.
A Greater Sage Grouse that was a victim of mammalian predation —->
Over and Out,
Cedar City, UT
Stepping Beyond the Familiar
Testing the boundaries of my comfort zone has become the theme for my internship experience in Southern California. The coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and desert ecosystems are about as different as can be from the northern hardwood and boreal forests of the upper Midwest where I have the vast majority of my ecological experience. To start the ‘next step’ in life after graduating I was looking for a new environment to challenge not only my ecological abilities but also give me the experience of living somewhere very different, this CLM internship has proven to do just that.
Learning all new plants and systems can be an intimidating yet exciting prospective. My fellow intern and I are very lucky to be working with a number of very talented, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic botanists and ecologists. Our first field trip was filled with gasps of excited exclamations of “Oh the Pickeringia montana is flowering! And the Malacothamnus densiflorus is blooming so nicely. The Dendromecon rigida and Romneya coulteri are having a good year so far. Was that a Lathyrus vestitus among the Adenostoma fasciculatum back there? Oh! What a beautiful swath of Lupinus bicolor!” while botanizing out the truck window as we bumped along the dirt road heading up and down the hills. To me all the vegetation was a conglomeration of patches of bright colors interspersed with greens and browns. As a landscape it was beautiful, but my brain could not distinguish all the parts that made up the whole. Gradually, through the weeks, the patchwork of colors has separated into different plants that my mind is starting to define as unique species with accompanying common and scientific names. I learn (and relearn) new ones every day.
Just learning the plants is only half the battle in becoming acquainted with doing field work in a new environment. Physical challenges such as becoming acclimated to a hot and dry climate and developing the stamina to climb up and down the hills that are mountains to a girl from a glaciated land are overcome with time and the vigilance to remain hydrated. There are also new environmental hazards that I need to be consciously thinking about, such as remembering that certain plants are not friendly and will poke, scratch, or bite. And of course, there is the danger of being bit by a snake, something I’m not naturally cautious of since I’ve never lived where snakes are a safety issue. I survived my first close encounter with a rattle snake; I walked away with a pounding heart and the reminder to watch where I step. There are some cultural differences to get used to as well, including the presence Border Patrol as they make their rounds through our collection sites, and the generally faster paced California lifestyle. Some things are easier to get used to like the abundance of avocados and oranges that grow on trees in the front yard. Working out of the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park provides not only the chance to be involved in different research projects, but also the opportunity to work in the hills above various grazing exotic ungulates and to hear the gibbons calling for breakfast in the early morning.
All in all there are a lot of new things, but when it comes down to it, the field methods are familiar; it’s just a different location. Many of the same field work related stories will be created; everybody needs to have the ‘day we got the work vehicle stuck’ story. A month and a half into my internship, I’m amazed at how much I’ve already learned and have had the opportunity to experience. Looking back makes me even more excited for the adventures and opportunities that are in store for the remainder of the internship.
Dream of Californication: San Diego Zoo Intern
I am one of two interns placed with the San Diego Zoological Society for Conservation Research, a non-profit organization focused on conservation science around the world. The Applied Plant Ecology Division, of which I am part of, is just one small part of the scientific community here at the Beckman Center for Conservation Research. Other divisions within the building include Animal Reproductive Biology, Behavioral Biology, Genetics, Regional Conservation Programs and Conservation Education to name a few. We share our lab space with Applied Animal Ecology as well as their Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog Aquariums. Currently endangered, these frogs were rescued from a puddle in the high elevation mountains in central California, so they prefer cooler temperatures. Unfortunately for us, this results in our lab space being quite chill! ( 68 degrees F!)
Although our primary responsibilities here include seed collections for Seeds of Success, we’ve been fortunate to get our hands dirty with a variety of research projects within the institute. This particular organization receives the majority of it’s funding for endangered animal species, so most of our plant projects revolve around habitat rehabilitation. Our first two weeks of intense field work involved a vegetation survey of the chaparral areas in the 900 acre preserve (“the back 9”) located adjacent to The Wild Animal Park to restore for the Cactus Wren. Transversing in this environment can be painful as you can imagine, but it was actually a great experience for an east-coaster like me to back my butt into a prickly pear cactus for the first time!
Greetings from sunny Southern California!
The past two months have been quite the thrill for me, a recent University of Michigan graduate and lifelong Michigander. As a part of the CLM internship program, I have been working for the Bureau of Land Management’s Seeds of Success program. My chapter of the SOS is based out of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, Ca in eastern Los Angeles County. The purpose of this program is to collect seeds from native plants to develop seed banks for restoration projects. More specifically, my collection group covers the Mojave Desert and surrounding areas. Daily work usually involves hopping in a field vehicle and heading out to spectacular wilderness areas throughout the high and low desert.
Coming from Michigan with a background in botany, I knew that moving out to SoCal would afford me the unique opportunity to become familiar with a wholly different and diverse flora. Out in the Mojave I have been spoiled by the unbelievable spring bloom that often results in the hills and valleys being carpeted with vibrant colors. In only two months’ time, I have learned to identify many of the Mojave’s plants while still being exposed to new plants every time I go out into the field. I have thoroughly enjoyed Southern California’s lack of rain, warm temperatures, and abundant sunshine, which is a treat compared to the often cloudy, wet, and dreary weather that I’m accustomed to back in Michigan.
Some of the more charismatic plants that I’ve seen out here include giant branching Joshua Trees, Ocotillos, and a dynamic diversity of cacti. Each time I go out into the field I find myself in a different landscape with unique plants, topography, and breathtaking vistas. I have also stumbled upon some interesting wildlife including rattlesnakes, lizards, jackrabbits, and three sightings of the endangered Mojave Desert Tortoise. Such encounters have made me aware of the unique and diverse habitats found in California’s Deserts.
One of the more interesting aspects of this internship has been collecting and scouting for plant populations in sites that have been proposed for conversion to solar and wind power sites. It’s good to see funding coming in for National projects to increase our output of clean, renewable energy, but my work has shown me that we must be careful to assess how these projects will impact fragile ecosystems like those found in the Mojave Desert. My internship has given me the opportunity to see that plant populations in proposed areas are well documented. Some of our seed collections from these areas will be critical as these populations may eventually be extirpated by energy projects. It’s easy to get out of bed and go to work each day knowing that the work I’m doing is important.
Can We Collect This?
Working in the Mojave Desert has been an eye-opener. When I was much younger, my family took a road trip in the southwest and I remember how amazingly huge the horizon was but how empty the desert seemed. Based on old western movies, I was convinced that nothing grew in the sandy soil except for tumble weeds, cacti, and those scraggly, branchy shrubs that seemed to be the only landscaping attempt in those hardened western towns. I have since learned that those scraggly, branchy bushes are Larrea tridentata and they are, though dominant, but one of many, many species of plants that do quite well in the dry, sandy soils of the Mojave Desert.
The start of my SOS internship at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in California was more of an indoor experience than my current, typical workweek. I learned how to database herbarium specimens using File Maker Pro 9 and refreshed my knowledge of mounting a specimen for herbarium cataloguing. As one of the first SOS teams to get started, Mary Byrne came in to give us our training and our target plant collection list though we are still, hopefully, going to go to the Grand Canyon for training as well. As the summer has progressed, our SOS team has been spending our workweeks completely in the field, identifying seed collection sites and even doing some seed collecting from some early ripening populations.
With the actual collecting part of my job, there has been a sharp learning curve. Temperature and weather play a huge role in seed dispersal and so there is a constant balancing act of getting to the seeds before they are gone but not so early that they aren’t ripe and won’t be viable to store. We are fortunate that the Garden where we are based does seed storage of its own and Michael Wall, who is the seed program manager, has taken time to talk with us. He has provided us with information about which plants can be collected a little early and which plants will hold on to their seeds, allowing us to make more productive site revisits.
Participating in this internship has been a great opportunity to expand my knowledge and meet intelligent and interesting people who do work in the fields of botany, entomology, and ornithology (to name a few). It has been an exciting two months so far and I believe it will just continue to get better!