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.

Painted hills near Short Canyon in the Owen's Peak Wilderness

Painted hills near Short Canyon in the Owen's Peak Wilderness

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.

Posing like a Joshua Tree

Posing like a Joshua Tree

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.

Impressive Ocotillo

Impressive Ocotillo

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!

pretty sweet

Final Weeks of my year in the Sonoran Desert…

As my internship is winding down to my last few weeks, I reflect upon the experiences that I’ve had; it’s been an amazing time. I’m coming up to my eleventh month at the Yuma BLM field office and I can’t describe how different I feel now in comparison to 10 months ago, or even six months ago. As I update my resume to apply for new jobs, I have to consider which experiences to leave out. I’n addition to irrigating restoration areas (my main resposibility) I have monitored and gathered wild burros, helped with 2 wild horse and burro adoptions, surveyed bats, rare plants, marshbirds and mine shafts, built kiosks for wilderness areas, implemented monitoring stations for quagga mussels, organized a public weed pull, taken various DOI learn classes, taught high schoolers GPS, leatned GIS, and this list could go on for days. My decision to take the 6-month extension last December was one of the best I’ve ever made. The last 6 months were probably the most important of my time here. I feel like I really have the BLM and policies figured out; I can actually participate at meetings instead of just being a passive listener. I was entrusted with the task of Biologocal Ckearances for an Abandoned Mining Lands (AML) Categtegorical Exclusion (CX)-(apparently, I also have all the acronyms down, a feat in itself!) and I really just feel at home at the office and performing assigned tasks. My advice to future interns would be to get yourself involved in as many projects as you possibly can; the best thing about the BLM is that teamwork is imperative. No one can finish a job without the aid/complicance of the other speciailists, which leaves plenty of time to work with everyone. Do not sit idlly at your desk when you have nothing to do-ask the other specilists if they need any help (especially in the field!)-so long as it’s okay with you mentor. You have an incredible opportunity at your hands and take advantage! Seizing opportunities has made me not only a better job candidate (I was offered a job with the Nature Conservancy) but a stronger person; thanks so much Krissa and Marian for this invaluable experience! Enjoy!

Spring Greetings from Carson City

Greetings from Nevada! One of the most surprising aspects of the landscape in Nevada is the diversity of ecosystem types and topography one finds here.  While driving to our field sites, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the diversity of vegetation one finds within short distances.  With only slight changes of elevation, one can move from fields of sagebrush to pinyon-juniper woodlands or from salt deserts and playas to montane coniferous forests.  Within only a short drive from Carson City, one can be in the Sierra forests of Ponderosa and Jeffrey pines, complete with rushing mountain streams, manzanita, and incredible views.  With so many ecosystem types and such a diverse topography in Nevada, I don’t think I’ll soon tire of the landscape in my seed collection activities.

Jeffrey pines in the Mount Rose wilderness area of the Sierra

Jeffrey pines in the Mount Rose wilderness area of the Sierra

Learning the plant species of Nevada for our seed collection has come surprisingly easy.  Being from the eastern states, I had little knowledge of the native vegetation of Nevada.  Arriving here in the spring has allowed me the opportunity to observe many of the plants in flower.  The hillsides are currently covered with the brilliant purples and pinks of the Gilias and Phacelias and the large yellow flowers of balsam root.  The desert peach, covered in bright pink flowers, really stands out as one looks across the land.  I remain very excited that this show of wildflowers will soon evolve into an abundance of seeds for team to collect.

Overall, the work I have done so far for the Seeds of Success program has been rewarding and often very enjoyable.  Having an interest in botany and ecology, this internship has been a great opportunity to learn a tremendous amount of new useful knowledge.  I’m sure that a large percentage of what I’m learning will help me in future in my future career and graduate studies.  There’s a lot more in the desert than most outsiders would guess.  There’s truly an amazing ecosystem in the Great Basin and I feel very fortunate to assist in preserving the genetic diversity of its plant life.

Working for the BLM has been a very interesting experience and a great introduction to the welcomed challenges of trying to conserve native plant communities in an agency whose mission statement is focused on the multiple use of our country’s vast wealth of public lands. The Carson City district office manages 5.5 million acres of land for multiple-use purposes, and trying to conserve all of the native plant communities and species on such a huge, discontinuous swath of land publically-used land seems to be an overwhelming challenge at times. But because it is such a monumental and important task, I think it drives myself, my fellow interns, and certainly my mentor to work even harder at the imperative job. If you care about native plant conservation and are looking for a challenge, the Carson City office of the BLM is definitely a great place to work.

Aside from work, the recreational opportunities in Carson City are fabulous. The Sierra Nevada is directly to our West, and there are dozens of hiking and biking trails within an hour’s drive or less of Carson City.  Lake Tahoe is also about a 30-minute drive from Carson City and is truly an awe-inspiring place for nature-lovers.  I have spent many of my weekends hiking in the Sierra or visiting Lake Tahoe, and that is just something that you can’t get back East or in many other parts of the country. So far, Carson City has been a great place to live and work, and I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface in my work with the BLM or my life outside of work. I am really looking forward to what the coming months will bring.

– Brian Josey and John Krapek, Seeds of Success Interns

From the Northeastern shore of Lake Tahoe, looking West towards California.

From the Northeastern shore of Lake Tahoe, looking West towards California.

Hiking in the Sierra, about 30 miles north of Carson City

Hiking in the Sierra, about 30 miles north of Carson City

Arctostaphylos patula in the Sierra

Arctostaphylos patula in the Sierra

Artemisia tridentata, one of the most characteristic species of our area

Artemisia tridentata, one of the most characteristic species of our area

This Desert Life

My CLM internship has brought me to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, California where I am working as part of a Seeds of Success (SOS) team for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). My SOS team has been tasked with collecting seeds from common Mojave Desert plant species that are of restoration value. These collections are important in the event of disturbances such as catastrophic wildfire or development, which are both growing issues in the Mojave Desert. Wind and solar energy development is becoming increasingly common across the Mojave, and already our work has taken us to several proposed solar development sites. Seed collections from these sites will help preserve plant population genetics that may be lost in the wake of development, and will provide a seed source for future restoration needs. More information about solar development on BLM land in the California Desert District can be found at the following links:

To the casual observer, the desert may seem like a relatively lifeless place, but a closer look will reveal that this is not the case. Springtime in the desert is a botanist’s paradise, with many exciting plants emerging while the cooler and/or higher elevations are still waking up from winter. Desert wildflower displays have been especially spectacular this year, due to an unseasonably rainy and cool spring. Hopefully the bloom will continue for some time to come as a result of the extended cool season.

In addition to seeing some amazing wildflower displays, we have also had many memorable wildlife encounters. One of the most exciting encounters was with a Mojave Desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), which is listed as a federally threatened species. We were even able identify the plant species on which the tortoise was foraging, as well as an individual tag number and report that information to the local BLM wildlife biologist. We have also stumbled upon several other exciting desert herps, including horned toad lizards (Phrynosoma sp.), and a Chuckwalla (Sauromalus sp.). I am sure many more exciting adventures and sightings are yet to come!

Native or Noxious?

Native plant— Balsamorhiza deltoidea

Native plant—Nama sp.

While the start of our internship has been limited to mostly office work, we have been quite busy preparing for the many field days that will require our forethought and ingenuity.  Doug and I joined the Carson City field office in February as noxious weed technicians.  We were immediately immersed into the BLM’s Integrated Pest Management Training where we not only learned about the numerous methods used to control pests, but also received our Pesticide Applicator Certification.  Since our training, we have been joined by three other interns with four more yet to come–welcome interns!!! 
Over the past weeks, it has been enjoyable to see how the Seeds of Success Program can directly support the efforts of weed removal and restoration efforts.  Specifically, any area infested with noxious weeds can be monitored, treated, and eventually re-vegetated using native seed collected from nearby populations. 
Native plant— Balsamorhiza deltoidea

Native plant— Balsamorhiza deltoidea

Our first field days were spent learning to operate 4-wheel drive vehicles and identifying both the native and non-native plants covering the Nevada ecosystems.  These species provide quite the challenge as I am not from this area and am unfamiliar with most of them!  Nonetheless, it has been an agreeable assignment to spend time discovering the tiny (0r BIG!) and beautiful plants that can handle the incredible temperature extremes and/or highly alkaline soils.  I’ve included a picture of two of the native species that we have encountered in the past few weeks: Balsamorhiza deltoidea and Nama sp.   In upcoming weeks, we will continue to monitor the native and noxious species.  Soon, we will be implementing control methods for the noxious ones.
As I mentioned above, I am not from Nevada. I am from the Midwest, and my assumptions regarding Nevada’s climate were completely shattered when I was greeted by eight inches of wet snow on my first day at work! Since then, I’ve enjoyed and respected the highly variable mountain weather.  If you don’t have mountains nearby, you should come by to expereience it yourself!
Field of Perennial Pepperweed (Lepidium latifolium) at Swan Lake, NV.

Field of Perennial Pepperweed (Lepidium latifolium) at Swan Lake, NV.

Greeting’s From Carson City

Working here in Carson City has presented many challenges for me, both personally and professionally. First and foremost was getting used to the weather, growing up in Oregon I’m accommodated to a more mild and moist climate so moving to Nevada with such a arid environment took awhile to acclimate. I think if one were to go from Nevada to Oregon one would think that we Oregonians are amphibians by comparison because we practically live in water. Most of my other personal challenges centered around living on my own, at the beginning it was frustrating learning all about finding apartments, signing leases, setting up electricity, and the list goes on; but it does fill you with a sense of pride being self reliant and independent. One challenge for me that has been both professional and personal has been working as a part of a team. I’ve worked in teams before but nothing as structured or integrated as this, learning to be a part of a group is something that I have enjoyed very much, I feel that being part of the team here has made me a better person and a better employee.

Recently we’ve been working in the field more often and I’ve enjoyed ever minute of it; it’s great to be out there seeing amazing species of plants and animals. I’ve seen some amazing wildflowers which I never realized were out here, every day in the field has brought me to appreciate the different ecosystems of Nevada more and more. There are two particular field days which are memorable to me, the first was a day we spent in the Red Rock Range and that was memorable for several reasons, it was our first time in the field, I had a chance to learn how to use a GPS, and I loved hiking  to the top of the range and seeing the whole valley and the land beyond. The second field day that was memorable to me was a weed removal and cleanup of Swan Lake near Reno, we accomplished so much that day and I found a Mallard nest purely by accident, it was perfectly concealed in the grass and there were at least 8 eggs in the nest so that was really cool.

I’m looking forward to our next adventure out here in Carson City and I hope to post a few photographs of the flora that we regularly encounter

Tiny Plants and Enormous Trees

When I graduated from college last May, I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a job, but I knew that I wasn’t going to figure it out by just sitting around.  As much as I’d tried to figure things out through job books and career surveys, I was pretty much at a loss.  No, what I needed was a chance to try new things, and a lot of them.  I wanted to strike out and explore my career possibilities hands-on, and that’s exactly what I’ve been able to do through the CLM internship.

In four days I will be halfway through my time out here in Arcata, CA working for the local BLM field office, and I’ve already lost count of the interesting and varied opportunities I’ve had.  To begin with, there was plenty of dune monitoring—going out with quadrat and transect tape in hand and recording what plants were found out on the dunes and in what density (done using presence/absence within 200 quadrats located throughout a given transect).  At first it’s pretty hard to tell the plants on the dunes apart, given that they’re all very small and grow low to the ground.  I remember dropping down on my knees for every quadrat on my first transect, but after a month of monitoring, I have the rare and hard-won ability to identify tiny dune plants from 15 feet away.  Envious?  I understand.

Dunes-- I have an unhealthy knowledge of all the itty-bitties you see here

Dunes-- I have an unhealthy knowledge of all the itty-bitties you see here

Then there was mapping invasive weeds at Headwaters Forest Reserve, a nearby redwood forest that’s managed by the Arcata BLM.  It was only acquired 10 years ago; before then it was logging land and a good portion of the reserve has former logging roads that wind their way through the colossal redwoods and douglas fir.  Many of the logging roads have since been decommissioned; that is, they’ve been replanted with redwood saplings and had their river crossings removed in order to facilitate a faster return to the natural state of the land.  These former roads are still vulnerable to weed infestations though, so I enter the scene—topographic map and lined paper at the ready—to record the locations and species of the unwanted immigrants so that they can be removed at a later date.  In fact, I’ve already gotten to see the whole lifecycle of this project!  Soon after I finished mapping the trails on the North side of the reserve there was a crew going out to remove English Ivy from that area, so I got to print out a nice GIS map, give it to them, and watch them head off to vanquish the intruders.  There’s something pretty cool about seeing the results of your effort be put into use.  Then again, there’s also something pretty cool about hiking in a redwood forest for weeks on end.

The view while mapping weeds (I'm generally looking at the ground, though)

The view while mapping weeds (I'm generally looking at the ground, though)

Being near the halfway point of my CLM internship, I can say that I’ve already experienced a ton of things and in the process feel like I’m making a lot of progress in figuring out what I want to do for a career.  There’ve been no “Ah-Ha! Moments,” nor any moments of supreme nirvana, but what there has been is a lot of friendly co-workers, pieces of food for thought, and interesting experiences (ask me about when I ended up lost and had to ford a river).  I didn’t come into this internship looking for a moment of truth, but rather looking to work towards a greater understanding of myself and my goals.  That’s exactly what I’ve gotten, and I couldn’t be happier.

Dream Job

This CLM internship has been the most exciting and beneficial internship of my life. It has not only allowed me to dabble in many different areas but also has allowed me to excel in botany and wildlife. I work with the Bureau of Land Management in Redding, California. This field office is located in Northern California. Our field office works with 5 different counties, 248,159 acres, and includes ~ 5 ecoregions. 

Mt. Shasta

[Mt. Shasta]

Northern California Landscape

[Northern California Landscape]


I work very closely with the Botanist/Rangeland Biologist and Wildlife/Fisheries Biologist but throughout my internship I have been able to work with the foresters, archeologist, recreation staff, and lands staff.  It is hard for me to describe a typical day of work because there is no typical day. I have gotten to hoot for Spotted Owls (literally hike around the woods at night searching for spotted owls), survey streams looking for the Yellow Legged Frog and other amphibians, hike around the BLM lands collecting native plant seeds, work closely with river restoration programs helping them plan for projects, hike around completing vegetation surveys (I get to identify plants all day), hike around looking for Indian artifacts, hike around completing forest inventories, raft down the Trinity River mapping invasive plants, plan and plant hundreds of native plants for BLM restoration efforts, complete carnivore surveys, and SO much more!!!


Community Planting

[Community Planting Project: I have worked with kindergarteners, 8th grade, high school, and college students from local schools to help us plant natives.]


Weed Surveys on Trinity River

[Weed Surveys: I rafted 60 miles down the Trinity River mapping invasive plants]

Carnivore Survey

[Carnivore Survey: I packed 20 lbs of meat into the mountains and set up a camera 20 feet away to collect data on the Pacific Fisher. I usually just got photos of bears 🙂  ]


Carnivore Surveys

[Carnivore Survey; Karley(my volunteer) and I setting up the carnivore camera!]


Hedgerow Farms

[Hedgerow Farms: A native plant nursery where we get many of our plants]


Aquatic Surveys

[ Aquatic Survey: I searched creeks for frogs, salamanders, fish, and quality habitat.]


Sculpin collected during an aquatic survey

[Sculpin collected during aquatic survey.]

Surveying a BLM parcel on the Trinity Alps

[Surveying a BLM parcel on the Trinity Alps]

California Native Plants

[California Natives]


Burn Survey

[Post-Burn survey on highly erodible land where we collected data on erosion, plant cover, and mulch cover. ]


I love my job! I get excited to go to work each and every day because every day is a new adventure. I have also gained valuable experience working with many different federal, state, and non-profit agencies and make a lot of contacts in the Land Management field. My internship ends next week but I have gotten hired as a Biological Technician at the Redding Field Office where I will be working along with the CLM intern from 2007 (she could not seem to leave either)!!  We are excited to see who joins us next!!!


Sara Copp

Bureau of Land Managment

Redding, CA