Everything tends toward Disorder-San Diego Zoo Intern-Part III

Second Law of Thermodynamics: Entropy ! What can go wrong, will go wrong…but it’s great!

One of the aspects of field work that I love so much is that you can’t really ever predict how a day will turn out.  Unexpected things happen on a whim and it seems like, what can go wrong, will in fact go wrong. Working in San Diego county is no exception. This is my third blog of my internship, and reflecting back, there have been plenty of moments in the field that stand out in my mind as being particularly hazardous, problematic and exciting!

Our coverage area includes all of San Diego county so we have been collecting seeds for SOS in desert, desert transition, oak woodland chaparral, and coastal sage scrub. So far, we’ve managed to get our truck stuck in some soft sand in the desert. Here’s a tip: you can use the emergency break depressed halfway down to transfer power away from back wheels if they are stuck, keep them from spinning and help pull you out of a tricky situation. I’ve also used the emergency break halfway down trick to avoid rolling backwards in a tight turn around area with steep cliffs.  Another time at a mountainous chaparral area, we got the front of our truck stuck over a massive boulder and a simultaneous flat tire. Through this incident, we learned that 4” by 4” boards can be your best friend in lifting your wheels just enough to get over an obstacle. We got our flat on a steep incline so we had to drive the truck down the hill with a complete flat tire, but- no permanent damage was done. Pheu!


To continue on with the truck theme, we’ve had some interesting issues figuring out the particularities of the Ford F 150 off road edition.  At one point we got the transmission stuck in 4 WD low gear. This wouldn’t be much of a problem but we usually take a freeway to get back from this site and didn’t think we’d survive on CA freeways driving under 45 mph! After consulting the WONDERFUL mechanics at the Wild Animal Park, we learned the trick to getting it to drop back into 2 WD is to put the truck in neutral and then PUSH it about 10 feet forward and then backward. It worked!  That very same day, the driver’s side door kept rattling as though it was loose, and when my fellow intern fiddled with the lock to correct it, it shifted into the lock position and then refused to close at all. What to do? An option would have been to drive all the 2 hours all the way back with the driver holding the door shut with her hand, or we could have bungee corded the door shut and wrapped it around the driver’s head rest. But then that wouldn’t be safe, and then the door handle would have slowly started to detach itself from the door… And then after inspecting another door to figure out how the doors locked, the driver’s side backdoor was stuck open as well! The good news, is that we were able to procure a screw driver and after some fiddling, I fixed both doors and we drove home safely. J

Another issue we’ve been running into frequently are gates. We’ve been locked out of gates unexpectedly and had to abandon collections at the site. Even more peculiar is getting locked INTO areas and not being able to exit. At one site, we entered the preserve through the main gate with our key and relocked it behind us as we normally do. A few hours later when we come to exit the area, we notice that our master lock has been removed and replaced by a shiny, new combination lock- of which we don’t have the combination. We were able to get out when a border patrol officer drove by. This is when we learned that the new lock belonged to the Border Patrol. Why did they remove our lock and replace it with theirs? This is one mystery that has yet to be solved! A word of warning: be careful entering through gates that are open- but which can be locked. Getting locked in is no fun and dangerous.

Other fun and scary things about field work in San Diego are rattlesnakes, of which we’ve had several sightings and near misses, bobcats and earthquakes! We came here in the summer of earthquakes and have experienced 4 shakers in the past 4 months.

These boulders hide many rattlesnakes!

Nothing says fun like measuring cactus pads at 6 am !

The underside of this lizard is so torquoise !

This is our favorite coffee shop on the way to one of the field sites.

Angelique Herman

San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research

Escondido, CA

Blog #3

Continuing the journey

Hi All! It has been quite a busy couple of months since my last post! I have worked on removing all of the fossils from the jacket (see picture in my last post), then I have been using a microjack to remove the sediments (it is kind of a mini version of a jackhammer that construction workers use) 🙂 During my work on the fossils I have been able to correctly identify what type of creature that they came from, I will have to do more research to see if I can narrow it down to the actual genus but I am happy right now to have just gotten the correct reptile 🙂 Oh, if you are interested, it is a Plesiosaur. What is that?!? Well most of you would probably think of it as Nessie the Loch Ness Monster, but Nessie really isn’t a Plesiosaur. Plesiosaurs are a ocean dwelling reptile (NOT a dinosaur), some had extremely long necks while others in the family had short necks. This one appears to be a long necked variety. There appears to be some debate as to the rigidity of the neck, but everyone agrees that Plesiosaurs could not lift their heads and necks out of the water as is usually depicted in pictures. They ate fish and cephalopds. I don’t have any teeth yet, but I have about 28 vertebrae, some ribs and a few other unidentified as yet pieces that are probably portions of the arm/leg bones and flippers. While doing my research I have been lucky enough to go visit the University of California Museum of Paleonotology at Berkeley and examine their collections as well as visit the lab at UC Fresno. In a couple of weeks, I am going to take a trip to the LA county Museum of Natural History to do research in their collections and chat with the Paleontologists that work in the lab! I love all of the connections that I am able to make while part of this internship as well as the experience that I am gaining toward my career! Keep checking back for more 🙂

Susan Bowman
Paleontology intern
BLM Hollister

Cheers from Carlsbad, NM

I have been working throughout different locations for the past year or so in ecology jobs and so I have a comfortable routine of moving, readjusting, and fitting into new environments.  But as I drove into New Mexico from the El Paso Airport I felt completely out of place.  Where were the deciduous trees, grass, and oceans I had either inadvertently or purposefully chosen to live near before?  Everything was foreign to me and I realized I was no longer in a place that I personally felt connected too but instead was in a land I had only read, seen pictures, or heard of.  At first everything seemed vast, brown and desolate from the green rolling hills I was used to.  But as I have started to work and explore New Mexico I am continuously surprised on the habitat diversity, life, and sometimes even lushness of the BLM land.

While working in the wildlife department for the first week I was like a kid in a candy store.   Everything we saw was a first for me.  First jack rabbit!  First

Aeshnidae spp. While mist netting for bats we caught a large number of otherwise rather net elusive dragonflies

roadrunner!  First antelope!  And man oh man, the arthropods!  Arthropods, especially insects, are my study group of choice and the diversity and sheer size of some these animals in the desert is astounding.  I have seen giant tarantula hawks that paralyze their victims, burying them underground with ferociously hungry, soon to hatch eggs inside.  Large owl flies with furry faces, hundreds upon hundreds of mating stick insects, and my first scorpions.  Working for a multiple-use agency is also new to me.  After working for Fish and Wildlife and USGS I am used to wildlife and environmental needs being the first priority.   But as land space becomes scarce for both human and wildlife,  compromise and multiple use sustainable practices are going to become more common.  The BLM is a great place to learn how different agents work together to tackle this issue.

Sunset at the Black River. We caught 15 bats, all Mytois velifer, at this site!

I have been working on a number of different projects in just one week, including sand dune lizard presence/absence searches, small mammal trapping in either mesquite removed or control land, and maintaining wildlife waters.  I was able to attend a three day bat conservation international workshop on how to incorporate bat habitat and resource management into new and existing habitat plans.  As work continues I am excited for the large number of opportunities available to me but also hoping to be able to concentrate more on single projects so I can understand all the mechanisms and considerations that go into them.  Its only been two weeks, but so far so good!!

Myself, some large chili peppers, and the next 5


Rachel Krauss


Carlsbad, NM

We’re New Here

We both took long, cross-country road trips to get to Las Cruces.  This gave us many mundane hours speeding through vast expanses of desert to contemplate what we were getting into.  We had a general idea, but many of the details remained hazy.  The most we could tell interested friends and family was that we would be collecting seeds in the deserts of Mew Mexico for a program called Seeds of Success. Arriving in Las Cruces was a bit of a shock.  We are both from metropolitan areas and assumed that the second largest city in New Mexico would look similar to our hometowns: tall buildings, busy streets.  Instead, we were met with a sprawl of short, boxy houses, all painted in earth tones, interspersed with a few strip malls and grocery stores. We couldn’t believe it when our mentor, Mike Howard, showed us the tallest building in Las Cruces: a six story Bank of the West building.

A different kind of surprise came later, in the form of a visitor to our new home in Dripping Springs Natural Area, a beautiful park where we are graciously allowed to live.  After getting settled, we heard a scuffling noise coming from the bathroom.  It seems that a scorpion had found its way up the shower drain and was examining our bottles of shampoo.  Sarah had heard stories of a scorpion’s venomous sting totally incapacitating a man for several days, causing him a pain he compared to dying. Believing that we faced a similar fate if we got too close to the new resident of our shower, we squashed it with the long handle of a broom.  When Mike told us the next day that scorpions in this area are not venomous, and will deliver an injury on par with a bee sting, we both felt foolish.

The nervous, unprepared feeling with which we faced this scorpion was not new to us.  Before we arrived, we shared many uncertainties about the life we would be living for the next five months: would we like our new apartment?  Would we be friends with our new roommate/coworker?  Would we like Las Cruces, our new home?  Although we could soon agree that the answer to the first two questions was yes, the third was still undetermined.  And the job itself was also a mystery: after two days in the field, we had driven a lot, learned many of the plant species, and gotten out at a few locations to assess plant populations, but it was hard to tell exactly where it was going.  And, with that, we set off for another long road trip, to our training conference at the Grand Canyon.

Training was better than either of us could have expected.  We were happy to meet other interns, some seasoned and some new.  We were also amazed by the enthusiasm, thoughtfulness, and relatability of the staff.  In every session we attended, the speakers seemed knowledgeable and interested in not only their area of study, but in our understanding as well.  Krissa and Marian definitely put together a great program.  When training ended for the day, there was always something to do: hiking the trails of the grand canyon, getting to know other interns, attending an awesome ethnobotany lecture, or making s’mores on the rim of the canyon (where we saw a triple rainbow!).

For us, training was exactly what we needed.  The staff helped us to understand the direction and purpose of our new job and gave us a bounty of practical advice to help us accomplish the tasks ahead.  We understood the necessity of long trips to distant locations, even when we could not be certain that there would be seeds to collect. The program and exercises we completed helped us see the difficulty of finding a harvestable natural population of wildflowers, and the importance of collecting local seed.  We left feeling more confident in our own abilities, and saw how our work fit into the bigger picture of conservation genetics and local restoration projects.  As the training session came to a close, we left with a renewed sense of purpose.

Maybe it was just driving home on the back roads through the expanse of open lands punctuated with quiet little towns that made Las Cruces seem like Tokyo in comparison, or maybe it was a general optimism that we brought back from our training, but we were glad to come home to Las Cruces and found ourselves looking at the city with a fresh perspective.  We celebrated the Fourth of July by sitting on the hill near our house and watching fireworks being set off in different neighborhoods across the sprawl of Las Cruces, the boom of the explosions drowned by the chirps of cicadas.  It was new, and it was different, but it was nice.  It could be home.

Finally, we are proud to say that we’ve stepped up our wildlife relations abilities.  Just this morning, we spotted another scorpion scurrying into our room to find a home underneath Sam’s bed. This time it was, or seemed to be, a much smaller, less-threatening scorpion.  Rather than blindly mashing the broom handle under the bed, we coaxed it out, caught it in a cup and brought it outside.  With some nervousness, we released it, under the conditions that it would tell all of its friends of our amnesty and none of them would venture into our room again.

Moose, Earthquakes, and Other Adventures

This week has been an exciting week for the four SOS interns in Anchorage, Alaska.  Our training is complete, and we have been putting all that knowledge to use as we scout for populations from which to collect.  We were surprised to find what a large chunk of the Alaska flora we have learned in such a short time.  We have our teacher Mike Duffy to thank for his endless knowledge and endless patience.  Next week, we will make our first collecting trip outside of the Anchorage area, and we are all looking forward to the adventure.

Now, on to moose, earthquakes and other adventures.  The moose shown in the photos is actually the 8th moose that I have seen in my 3 weeks in Alaska, but it was the first one that I encountered while on foot.  This was exciting because I could photograph it, but also somewhat intimidating because I was looking up at it.  This particular moose seemed very fond of us, as it continued to walked toward us, criss-crossing the trail, as we  retreated and photographed.  Eventually, it grew bored and wandered off into the woods.  As for the earthquake, it occurred the same day as the moose encounter.  It was the first time I have ever felt an earthquake.  I was lying in bed at the time, and my first thought was, why is Vania (fellow intern) hiding under my bed and rocking it?  This notion was dispelled when Vania yelled from down the hall, “does anyone else feel the bumping.”  We immediately ran outside, but by the time we got there, the shaking had stopped.  Another recent adventure was a weekend sea kayaking course and trip to Prince William Sound.  This, alas, was not part of my SOS work, though it was funded by my first paycheck.  In addition to becoming certified by the American Canoe Association, we saw numerous glaciers and waterfalls, a seal, and a kittiwake rookery.

In conclusion, I am so happy to be working in this incredible place.   Here’s hoping that the adventures are just beginning…

Jordan S., BLM, Anchorage, AK

Livin’ it up in NYC

Hey!  I am working for the Greenbelt Native Plant Center, headquartered on Staten Island, New York.  I definitely wasn’t expecting to live in NYC when I applied for this internship, but let’s just say it has been a pleasant surprise.  I get to go out in the field everyday, traveling within a one-hundred mile radius of Staten Island, collecting seeds for the Seeds of Success program.  We mostly go to parts of New Jersey, Upstate New York,  a little in Connecticut, and of course the many green spaces on Staten Island.  Some of the plant communities of this area overlap with those I am familiar with (being from Wisconsin), but I am learning so many new plants!  I am also learning a lot about seed cleaning and propagation, since the Greenbelt Center has a native plant nursery and seed bank as well. 

Living on Staten Island has taken some getting used to.  This has been a big change for me, as I grew up in a very rural community.  I am not used to the noise, the crazy drivers, the crowds of people, or the endless buildings.  That being said, it has been great fun getting out and exploring the city.  New York has some amazing opportunities that I won’t find anywhere else, that’s for sure.  I am trying to get everything I can out of this experience, and so far it has been working. 

Pictures to come!

Martin Schoofs

I used to dream of California, but now I’m living the dream!

CLM Blog Entry #1

I have been a CLM intern with the Bureau of Land Management Hollister Field Office in the central coast of California since May of 2009, and I will be here until August 2010 or later, whether as an intern or because I’ve been hired… We’ll see!!! I have learned a great deal since moving to the west coast! I don’t even know where to start! I’ve been working with my mentor, Ryan O’Dell (the botanist in my field office), this entire internship period & I have learned a great deal about different plants in this region as well as key plant families, something I had little experience with before coming here. (Calflora is my best friend!) I have done a lot of T&E (Threatened & Endangered) species surveys, seed collection & processing for revegetation projects, dendrochronology research, worked closely with ArcMap on various projects, done archaeological & paleontological surveys & collections/digs, and recently received my Red Card which allows me to participate as a wildland firefighter on prescribed burns & wildfires.

Living in the central coast of California (“Cen Cal”, not “Nor Cal”) definitely has its benefits. From Hollister, I have a wide array of places I can visit when I get bored of my own small town: San Francisco, San Jose, and Gilroy to the north; Santa Cruz to the northwest; San Juan Bautista, Moss Landing to the west; Marina, Seaside, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel, Big Sur to the south/southwest; Tres Pinos, Paicines, Pinnacles National Monument, King City to the south… All places varying in size, culture, and location, relative to either the central coast or central valley. Hollister is definitely a great place to be “stuck” in California, especially with so many neat places I can visit all around me.

At the beginning of 2010, I spent a lot of time on a dune restoration project of the Monvero Dunes on Monocline Ridge in Fresno County, California. The dunes had a severe fire burn through in recent years, which severely degraded the vegetative cover & caused significant erosion of the dunes. The rare beetle species, Coelus gracilis (San Joaquin Dune Beetle) and Aegialia concinna (Ciervo Aegialian Scarab) were directly affected by this lack of vegetative cover & dune erosion. I assisted with planning the new dune locations, seed collection (Ephedra californica & Rumex hymenosepalus), installation of staff gauges to monitor sand erosion and/or deposition, and helped with the mechanical construction & revegetation of the dunes (with Ephedra californica & Rumex hymenosepalus). Although I will not see the significantly noticeable effects of my participation in this dune project for probably more than 10 years, it still was an amazing experience and really reinforced the importance of restorative changes needing to be done now, even if the results are for the seemingly long distant future. After the dune construction was complete, it was actually pretty amazing to return approximately 1-2 weeks later and notice very obviously the aeolian processes at work. How interesting it would be to watch a time lapsed video over the course of 10 years to watch the changes that will occur at this restoration site!


Along with the dune restoration project that occupied a good deal of my time this year, I have done a great deal of T&E species surveys. The main species I helped survey for were Caulanthus californicus (California jewelflower), Monolopia congdonii (San Joaquin woollythreads), Camissonia benitensis (San Benito evening primrose), and the rare (not T&E) Layia discoidea (Rayless layia). Most of these lie within the lands that the Hollister Field Office manages, Clear Creek Management Area and Panoche/Tumey/Griswold Hills. Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA) has some of the largest serpentine barrens in the world, and some of the species listed above (as well as others) are endemic to the area and this soil type. Hiking at CCMA sometimes feels like I’m on the surface of the moon!


I am getting a very rewarding experience with the CLM Internship Program at the BLM Hollister Field Office, and I can only imagine what more I’ll be learning in my remaining months here! Thanks to Krissa and Marian for allowing me to experience such a great opportunity, to Ryan O’Dell for being a great mentor & for giving me endless experiences here, and to the BLM Hollister Field Office for allowing me to work with such a great group of people at an awesome location in California!

Keep your eyes peeled for my next post…

Kelly M. Bougher
Bureau of Land Management
Hollister, California

Finally Flag

What happens when the engine in your 92′ Saturn overheats on a dirt road in the most remote mountain range in southern Utah? And you have to show up for your first day of work, 300 miles away, on Monday (its currently Saturday evening)? Oh yeah, and there is a 90,000 acre forest fire raging in your path? Of course, there’s no cellphone reception either. I can tell you…

This is what happened to me last week as I was en route to my SOS internship in Flagstaff, AZ. I guess even before the internship started I learned a little something about flexibility, preparation, and respect for the environment.

On my particular adventure, I happened to be very fortunate. I had plenty of food and water.  My car continued to work, although the generator was out (meaning things like power steering, A/C, and headlights were gone). I had AAA, which meant that when I found cell service I could be towed to the nearest repair facility free of charge, which happened to be an hour and a half out of the way. The repair itself turned out to be a relatively inexpensive part (tensioner) which the shop had in stock. And, though I arrived a day late to my internship, my supervisor was very understanding.

I found that it was important to keep a positive attitude when my plans deteriorated. My night of camping in the mountains turned into a brief lesson on car mechanics. My smooth, timely trip to Flagstaff turned into a side-trip to Loa, Utah, a place I would never get to see in normal circumstances. My extra day in Loa (EVERY single business closes on Sunday, including the repair shop) turned into an opportunity to explore surrounding BLM lands. The giant detour outside of Flagstaff became an opportunity to drive through the Grand Canyon, free of charge!

Hopefully the rest of the internship will be free of such dramatic hang-ups, although one never knows. What is certain is that there are some practical tips I have recently picked up from working out here: Bring two car keys. Don’t forget your cell phone. Inspect your vehicle. Bring extra food and water. Have fun!

Steve F

Flagstaff, AZ

Working in the Dalton Management Area and Making New Friends in Alaska

Here is a picture I took while going a wonderful hike around the Marion Creek camping grounds with new friends. This picture was taken at around 10:00 PM; it doesn't get dark at night out here in Alaska during the summer!!

I just started my new internship in Fairbanks, Alaska about a week and a half ago.  So far it has been an eye-opening and wonderful experience.  I’m originally from North Eastern Illinois, so this is such a huge change in scenery and a huge change in my life.  I’m working with the BLM along with my mentor and wildlife Biologist Ruth Gronquist to help monitor and control invasive non-native plant species inside the Dalton Management Area.  After collecting enough data and analyzing it, I will then help to devise a strategic plan to control or eradicate those pesky alien plant invaders.   

Its been a whirlwind of adventure and learning so far.  I’ve already learned a lot  about Alaska,  non-native invasive plant (NIP) species, and how to monitor specific areas of infestation.  We are mainly concentrating on river and stream crossings right now as these are pathways for non-native invasive plant (NIP) species to spread and travel.  Many have seeds that can float, like the main NIP species we have been working on so far:  Melilotus alba, or White Sweet Clover.  I’ve already learned how to use the GPS Trimble equipment pretty well and we’ve collected a good amount of monitoring data on the spread and infestations of Melilotus alba near stream and river crossings this past week.                                                                                                                              

This is just one of the many river/stream crossings we monitored and worked on. Now how beautiful is that?!

This past week was my first full week in Alaska and I was already out in the field doing field work.  We stayed at Coldfoot Creek, its about a 6-7 hour drive up the Dalton highway (the “haul” road). It is a beautiful and slightly challenging trip, but its very rewarding when you get to see these places most people will never get to see in their lifetime.   Most of our work is done along the “haul” road because that is the main pathway for the (NIP) species to travel.  The haul road was initially created to transport much needed materials for the construction of the Alaska pipeline and is now also used for recreation.  Now NIP species are hitching a ride down the Dalton and they’re quickly causing very serious negative effects on Alaska’s pristine native ecosystem.  Something needs to be done immediately, so we are working hard to prevent the pesky alien plant invaders from spreading more northward and devising a strategic plan to control or eradicate them.  

This is the bridge that crosses the Yukon River. It's part of the very long and slightly challenging Dalton Highway. What a fun bridge to cross!

My leadership skills have been put to the test and they have improved since I had the opportunity to help coordinate volunteer weed pulls at certain locations along the Dalton Highway.  We had excellent help from the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges.  They were all really nice and wonderful people and they lended a very helping hand to our cause.  It was my first time coordinating and leading anything since I’ve come out to this strange new place.  They made it very easy for me and they were wonderful to work with.  We need more people like them in this world!  I feel that we got a lot done this last week and I’m very proud of them and myself for the accomplishments we made.   

What good friends!!

 I’m writing this blog while sitting in the Phoenix Skyharbor Airport, awaiting my shuttle to our CLM workshop.  I’m super excited to see the Grand Canyon for my first time and to meet new people that are also learning a whole lot and going through major changes in their lives.  It should be awesome!  Well friends, that’s all I’ve got for now. Until next time…   Enjoy all  the pictures I took and you all will hear from me again soon!  

Oh the Glory…

Hello fellow interns,

Amy here, speaking from Ashland, Oregon. This is my first time living outside of San Francisco. Things to get use to: Heat, small towns, and remarkable floral displays. I’ve never had the opportunity to botanize for HOURS straight. In the field I  sweat and key, sweat and key, and I’m loving it. I’ve already done my first collection of Plectritis congesta, a beautiful little flower with a round inflorescence of pink to dark pink flowers. Along a hot hillside its dried heads popped out like lollipops dotted with a few colored corollas. After spending thirty minutes trying to key out the little bugger we began our collections. It indeed turned out to be a glorious and ultimately satisfying day. The sun, though hot and beating, could not have taken away the feeling of accomplishment. I think Oregon has proven itself to me to be a place of glory.