Greetings from the East Coast

Hey everybody!  It is crazy to think that the summer is almost over.  It seems like it has just started.  For me, it will be even crazier not going back to school in the fall.  I just graduated in May, and with summer winding down I have that “back-to-school” feeling in my gut.  I have never had a full time job that lasted this long either, so it feels like I should be starting something new.  But no, I’m only half done with my internship!  And fall is the busiest time for a seed collector.  Late July was a lull, but things have been gradually picking up speed and September through November will be hectic, but fun! 

The summer has been hot and humid with very little rain. The temperatures have been well into the 90s and there was even a week were it was in the 100s for a few days.  I’m sure all of you out west have to deal with similar or even hotter temperatures, but I wasn’t expecting this on the east coast!  The high humidity has added to the discomfort.  The high heat and little rain have been hard on fruit production, mostly on fleshy fruits.  Ridge top habitats are the worst- everything is dried up and dead.  However, the Prunus serotina or black cherry is doing exceptionally well this year.  We have also made good collections of Sambucus canadensis, Gaylussacia frondosa, andVaccinium corymbosum, or dangle-berry and high-bush blueberry respectively.  Some other collections includePolygonatum pubescens, Morella pensylvanica, Deschampsia flexuosa, Gaylussacia baccata, and Carex comosa, to name a few.        

Since I am stationed at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center, an actual nursery, I get to experience the process of preparing seeds for storage in the seed bank.  The nursery cleans its own collections and has short-term seed storage facilities as well.  I have been cleaning a lot of fleshy fruit lately.  We collect fleshy fruit into plastic bags and then store the collections in a refrigerator for a couple weeks to “after-ripen” which softens the fruit and makes the cleaning process easier.  The tool of the trade for cleaning fleshy fruit is…a blender!  We tape the blades of the blender so the fruit is mashed, which inhibits the possibility of seeds getting cut.  We simply blend up the fruit with some water until the seeds are loosened from the flesh.  Then we pour the mush into a large bowl, and add more water.  After gently stirring the mixture, the good heavy seeds sink to the bottom, while everything else floats or is suspended in the water.  The bowl is tipped and the fruit particles are slowly poured off, leaving the good seeds settled at the bottom.  These seeds are then spread out in trays to dry in the “Seed Lab” and then stored until winter, when they are put through another cleaning. 

I am one of the few interns not headquartered at a BLM office.  Like I said, I am stationed at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center on Staten Island, but the US Botanic Gardens and Botanic Gardens Conservation International play the crucial role of funding which makes this internship possible.   

Martin Schoofs

Greenbelt Native Plant Center

Staten Island, New York

A Berry Good Internship

our minivan

This baby hauls five people and our plant presses--with room to spare

Working as a Seeds of Success intern out of Anchorage, Alaska has many perks. The beautiful Chugach Mountains rise up just at the edge of the city. Our travels take us to the gorgeous locales around Valdez, Glennallen, Fairbanks, and Nome. And we drive a kick-a$$ mini-van.

However, the real highlight comes during the actual seed collections. Perhaps it’s a hot and sunny day. Perhaps the collection is large and tedious. Perhaps we’re feeling a little tired.

Nagoon berry

The elusive, yet delectable, nagoon berry

Invariably, at this point, we stumble upon a batch of juicy and delicious wild berries. The lowbush blueberries are often tart, yet a handful can easily perk up my mood. Serviceberries (my favorite) are like blueberries, but bigger, mealier, and sweeter. Wild raspberries are great, but they can’t beat their smaller cousin: the nagoon berry.

Being in berry country means being in bear country, too. As winter slowly approaches, Alaska’s most dangerous mammals stock up on the ripe berries that remain. Although our single encounter with a bear while working was fleeting and safe, we always try to remain vigilant and make lots of noise while berry picking.

We do have to be careful to avoid some rather distasteful and aptly named berries, like soap berry (or worse, the deathly poisonous bane berry), but our berry discoveries usually end the same way. Five people, crouched over some bushes, devouring as many berries as possible– but, of course, never more than 20% of the total population.

low bush blueberry

Blueberries waiting to be eaten

Hello all!

I am writing with some bitter sweet news.  I was recently offered an emergency hire biological tech. positionwith NPS at Carlsbad Caverns.  I have been volunteering in the park on the cave swallow mist netting/banding program and met some of the park staff, including the seasonal bee surveyor.  We share a love of all things insect, so when his co-worker unexpectedly left he brought my name up as a possible replacement.   After much debate I have decided that the NPS job is a better opportunity for me.  I will be collecting and identifying hymenoptera and the corresponding flowers they are visiting as part of a three part project with NPS, U.S. Department of  Agriculture,  and Utah State University.  It is hard to find entomology-only jobs and the chance to learn how to identify bees down to genera and even species is going to a valuable skill set.  Long story short I am leaving the Carlsbad BLM and CBG intern program early. 

In no way is my job transfer a bad reflection on my previous position.  The time I spend as wildlife intern has been jammed back with useful information and monitoring techniques.  My experience with the Chinuaiuan desert at the BLM was one of the reasons they decided to hire me here at the park service.   While sad to leave the BLM, I have always wanted the opportunity to work for the Park Service and catching bees all day is going to be a dream job!!

Thanks again CBG!

Rachel Krauss

Carlsbad, NM