So my time here in Zion ends,

My time here in Zion ends with an adventure which feels like has only just begun.   I have to admit the desert hasn’t always been my favorite place.  I believed in the past that these places are far to dry for my liking with vegetation that seems monotonous to the eye.  With my time here in Zion National Park I have gained a greater understanding of this landscape. I was brought here to further develop their “working herbarium” and I must say I feel lucky in having done just that.  I have discovered and surveyed moisture loving vegetation in hanging garden after hanging garden, rivers, and monsoonal driven habitats.   I have been lucky enough to collect plants in places that are only rarely seen by researchers and park service employees alike.  Far from any trail lays secret springs and seeps which feed the Virgin River, here you can find native ferns, their allies, shrubs, forbs, and grasses that inhibit these microhabitats. You see, after being here for a couple of weeks I realized that what specimens the herbarium currently had were mostly plants which occupy dry habitats.  I made the discussion then to make it a priority for my time here to provide the herbarium with a collection representing moisture loving plants. So I began.  It all started with study conducted back in the 1970 when there was an inventory done of Zion’s hanging gardens to discover the biogeography of them for a doctoral dissertation.  I discovered this only after discussing my love for hanging gardens with colleagues.  They pointed me toward this dissertation which had been filed away many years ago only to collect dust.  In this dissertation I found species lists, maps, and coordinates for the hangings gardens surveyed.  So I looked back into the “working herbarium” to see what plants needed collecting.  I worked to update the coordinates into the correct datum and created a comprehensive map to lead me and a volunteer on our journey.  Success!  With this project and many more I initiated I have added over 60 species to the herbarium.  I have worked with the GIS team to document every collection site for species collected thus far in the park, with hopes that documentation will continue to create tool that follow distribution of the parks native, rare, and invasive plant populations. I feel good about leaving this position knowing that I have worked hard to re-organize the herbarium, add specimens, and develop a database which documents its collections.   Zion in return has given me a greater appreciation of a landscape I once thought of as being drab and too hot to enjoy. Further more, it has allowed me too further my botanical knowledge.  

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park

This brings me to the people I have met along the way.  The people here in Zion have been another highlight of my adventures over the past four months.  Only being here a short amount of time, I feel comfortable in my surroundings.  I am greeted everyday with smiles and people who know you by name.  During my time as an intern here I was lucky enough to present and meet with the local chapter of Utah’s Native Plant Society (all older women).  These ladies really know there stuff and are eager to learn more.   We have learned a lot from each other.  As an intern in Zion you also get to work and share knowledge with various other departments beyond the “Veg Crew.”  I have helped and shared with Interp, Wildlife, GIS, Archeologist, etc.  Much depends on plants and the people here in Zion understand this.  I help them and in return learn more about them and their work.   It’s a great relationship and I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to work in Zion National Park where…

The work is fun

The people are nice and …

The place is truly amazing!

Donna Peppin, Botanist Intern – Zion National Park

Greetings from Oregon..

Hey everyone!

Unfortunately my internship is coming to an end.. I will be very sad to leave.. I have had an amazing time and learned so much throughout my time as a CLM intern! Not only have I learned a lot of new plants but I have increased my skills in plant identification by learning new techniques and skills.. I graduated with a degree in botany and I am now proud to say that I feel like a botanist! A junior botanist.. but none the less a botanist!

One of my favorite things that I I have gotten to do is camp at work sites which were in the middle of nowhere.. below is a picture of our campsite at Beatty Butte.. we were conducting vegetation surveys of plots which were previously burned (either wildfires or prescribed burns)..

Campsite at Beatty Butte

A beautiful view of Beatty Butte

The other intern, Amy and I feel very lucky to have worked with the fire ecologist for our first couple of months.. we got experience reading plots, using a specific scientific protocol and learned to identify a lot of the native species! The identification skills we gained by working with the fire ecologist helped us greatly when we started collected seeds!

Fire Ecology Plot

Amy and I have collected a lot of seeds!! One of my favorite sites where we collected seeds is Coleman Lake.. you can see the beautiful hills surrounding the dried up lake bed which and the area is filled with basin wildrye plants! We are estimating we got around 5 lbs of seed! Our mentor is going to use the extra seed to do a grow out next year.

Basin wildrye at Coleman Lake

The CLM internship has not only helped me to gain work skills but has helped me grow as a person in a number of ways! I have had an amazing time and I hope all the other interns did as well! Thanks!

Molly Baughman

Lakeview, OR


4 months as a CLM intern in Eastern OR

This is the  fourth month of my CLM internship in Vale, OR and I feel that I have learned so much. My experiences to this point have been wonderful. I love being able to wake up each morning and go out into the field. The large size of the BLM district here in Eastern Oregon has allowed me to see so much country from mountaintops to canyons to the high desert it has all been a visual treat.

The large size of the district requires a lot of driving time on 4×4 roads which are so much fun to drive but  not without their dangers. One day in July the battery in our truck died while we were monitoring a plant population on the top of Cottonwood  Mountain. We had to walk eight miles to ask a rancher to use his phone. Even this  possible bad experience turned out to be be a good, allowing us to see a lot of country we otherwise would not have covered and learn about ranch life from the family we stayed with until the mechanics from the BLM motor pool came with a new battery.

My ability to identify plants has improve greatly as well as my appreciation for plant life. Whenever there is a plant I have not seen before I always have to pick it up and ID it. I attended a Grass ID course in July which was extremely beneficial. Before attending I had very little background in Grass identification. The class helped me to not only key out and ID more grasses but also learn how to better assess their phenology. I am scheduled to attend a Willow ID course in a couple of weeks and am looking forward to gaining as much knowledge about willows as I did about grasses.

My mentor has been great. Not only have I learned about plants,  seed, and how to work within the government system from her, she has also given me great tips about places to go camping and backpacking on the weekends as well as info on other possible jobs after I finish my internship. I don’t think I could have been placed with a better mentor.

These four months have been great and I am looking forward to the next two here in the Northern Great Basin.

The Finale of the Last Frontier

Over the past 3 months we have had the opportunity to travel to more of this state than most Alaskan residents do. I couldn’t be more pleased with the CLM internship program. I have seen places between Nome and Valdez. Alaska is quite possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited. Along with enjoying the scenery, I’ve also broadened my knowledge of plant identification immensely.

This past month we went from Glennallen, to Nome, to Fairbanks/Central and back. We have made a significant amount of seed collections of native Alaska plants that exceeds the expected quantity. I have started to really enjoy collecting and approve of what the seeds will be used for. If the feeling of frustration kicks in there is usually a blueberry or crow berry to help lift our morale. Sometimes we pick enough to make blueberry pancakes in the morning. Those are the best mornings. Nothing starts the day better than fresh blueberry pancakes.

Luckily on our drive home from Fairbanks, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Which gave us the most spectacular view of Mt. McKinley/Denali possible. We couldn’t help but stop to take pictures.

If there is one thing this internship has taught me it’s to enjoy every little bit of natures beauty. Whether it be a beautiful plant to re-vegetate or a huge mountain, just appreciate it while you can.

Chrissy Balk
Anchorage, Ak
September 17, 2010

End of a Beautiful Field Season

I began in Grand Junction, CO in early June, without any inkling of the subtle adventure I entered.
I started in what was a very arid and desolate landscape full of cheatgrass and halogeton. Despite the lack of vegetation, heat and the invasive plants I found much beauty. Now I know that the lack of vegetation, stark landscape, and oh yeah and the basalt rock flung everywhere from an ancient volcano, would put most thoughts of beauty out of a sane persons mind. But, fortunately I may not be sane (entirely). There is beauty here but it requires some attention in the beholder, a willingness to see. The flowers were there and they were beautiful but required you to stop and look closely, not casually glance. With closer attention, the plants in this place revealed something of the incredible strategies evolution had given them, over vast time, in order to survive these harsh soils with very little precipitation. But they could find life where few other things survived.
No less incredible ,of course, is the the myriad of adaptations in other ecosystems. But in the desert, what there is to see is perhaps more hidden, so the finding was perhaps more fulfilling.

I am very fortunate that I was able to also work in very different areas. Perspective can be an incredible teacher. Grand Junction offers an tremendous range of habitat, the valley floor, where the city is, lies at about 4600 ft, Grand Mesa whose top is within only 25 miles away, towers above it at 10500 ft, spanning 60 miles.

The change in vegetation as you travel up the mesa is staggering. The desert yields to sage parks, then Pinyon/Juniper woodlands, then oak brush, then Aspen and Fir woodlands surrounding the Grand Mesa’s has 100+ lakes. The diversity and yet similarity of plant life between these 2 areas is beyond my understanding, and yet I seek to know it (not only form a book). So the question arises what is my place in this self sustaining wonder in which I can only attempt to understand.

Jason Reynolds
BLM Grand Junction, CO

End of another year in the Mojave

And so ends my second year with the CLM internship program. Having been through once before, I feel that this year’s internship built on what I gained from last year, as well as added some new, unique experiences.

Some of the most memorable times were the excursions to some of the remoter areas of the Ridgecest district. In particular, the time I, my mentor Shelley, and my supervisor Glenn did an overnight backpacking trip along the Pacific Crest Trail to examine some of our rarest plant populations, which up until this year, was known to contain only a single individual. This proved to be one of the most pleasant surprises of the year, because when we reached the site, we discovered not only the original plant, but 13 new ones, including seedlings and one which was in fruit. Beyond the exhilaration of the rare plant find, I got to spend some time with my mentor and supervisor, and really got to pick their brains. Not only that, but the scenery up on the mountains was simply marvelous. I’m not exaggerating when I  say that the views were breathtaking, because when I was up there, I got to see some landscapes that I had only ever viewed at eye level. Being able to see the whole of the valley basin from so high up was an experience that I would not give for the world. On the practical side of things, it gave me something of considerable value: experience in backpacking. While I have done my fair share of camping, this was my first time really backpacking. Having true firsthand experience with that mode of camping was a real treat, and stressed to me the importance of knowing what I was going to need. After all, unlike most of the camping I’ve done, I didn’t have the option of getting into the car, and driving for supplies when I needed them. Having to really be prepared made me appreciate just how much we take for granted.

At the office, I was thoroughly introduced (read: thrust into) the world of GIS for the latter part of my internship by performing effectiveness monitoring on restored OHV trails. Though infuriatingly tedious and more than a little obnoxious at times, the experience was valuable. It also stressed to me some of the difficulties of the federal computer system. Case and point, after I completed the effectiveness monitoring, I couldn’t actually off load the data I had gathered, due to permission issues on the system. Thus, I had to find a way to circumvent the system. Though it eventually worked out, there was a significant amount of frustration to be had.

Overall, I felt that the year was a good one, and that I’ve not only learned many new things, but that I’ve found out a lot more about my personal limits and strengths. It makes me feel good that I have completed yet another year, and that I’m going away from it with valuable experience, and new prospects for the future.

Hello and Howdy! Rock Springs, WY


I’ve been in Rock Springs now for 19 weeks so I’m nearing the end of my summer here. Already you can feel a change in the air as the mountain west shifts into winter. As I think back on my time here and the things I’ve accomplished I realize how great an opportunity this was. I met really great people while I was here and I made several good friends. I’ve also grown professionally; this internship has allowed me to gain experience and insight into my career. It’s going to look great on a resume I now have more confidence in my abilities and I’ve gained a better understanding and appreciation for the BLM and all that it does. I’ve seen things here that I never thought I would see.
For instance last week I was picking wild rose hips along a creek (with some of the friends I’ve made) and I hear this splash splash splash. At first I can’t really see the animal very well because there are willows in the way. I thought it was just a stray cow, then out of nowhere a moose comes bursting out of the shrubbery right in front of me! He looked at me and I looked at him. I thought about pulling out my camera and before I could even reach for it he was gone in a flash. I’ve never seen a moose that close before, half of me wanted a picture and the other half thought maybe I should back up slowly and high tail it out of there.

A Wyoming Sunset

I guess that’s the way I feel about the end of my time here. Part of me is ready to take my new skills and knowledge and high tail it out of here to new adventures. Part of me doesn’t want it to end; I want to take a picture of this place so I can hold onto the image of my life here for a little longer. Regardless of my bitter-sweet feelings, I know that I’m a much better person for my time spent in this internship. I’ve grown professionally as well as personally. I know that I will always think back on my time here in Rock Springs with a fondness I didn’t expect to acquire. I can honestly say my time working for the BLM here in Rock Springs was time well spent.

Big sites, little sites, small plants with large seed, big plants with small seed!

So the 2010 seed collecting season at the Rocky Mountain Research Station is just about over with the exception of the few collections that are made in the fall, so this a good time to reflect on the summer and seed collecting season thus far. Seed collecting (for me) entailed lots of mental energy to think like a plant in order to hunt them down and… (jk). It definitely took some physical energy traipsing around the desert looking for the target plant. By the time the plants are producing seed they are usually no longer green and luscious, instead they are golden yellow, very dry and crisp. The majority of the plants look the same way so its harder to spot the target plant. There are some plants that seed indeterminately which means that the entire plant doesn’t seed all at once and there isn’t a specific period of time that the plant sets seed. Some of collections that I helped collect this summer like Lomatium triternatum (LOTR-nine leaf biscuit root) were hard to spot! Sidenote: one common thing to shorten the scientific names of species is to use the first two letters of the genus and the first two letters of the species. So, LOTR, can have leaves as long as 12 inches but when they dry up, the only plant structures visible are the seed attached to a stem. They are covered by taller plants and shrubs got discouraged when I collected from 10 LOTR plants and my mentor from 75! He definitely has the eye for spotting plants, even while driving on the highway! One of the collection sites for Achnatherum thurberianum (ACTH-Thurber’s needle grass) yielded lots of seed and the plants were as close as two feet apart for miles down the road! When a site is as fruitful as that one was, you can just get in a zone and collect your little heart out! The technique to collecting Thurber’s needle grass was pretty easy. I just ran my fingers through the tops of the grass heads and placed whatever seed came off into a bag. The ACTH seed was semi-pokey-hence needle grass! Eriogonum umbellatum (ERUM- sulphur-flower buckwheat) just near Horseshoe Bend, ID ( ̴1 hour north of Boise) was one of the largest areas growing a plant in such a centralized area. I didn’t have to look too hard or far to find the next plant I’d be collecting seed from. We literally had to walk the miles for the ACTH collection, but this site was more of a climb! Some sites this summer entailed walking through fields for miles and miles hoping to stumble on a plant (with seed).

Can you spot the ERUM up on the hill? Hint: Its EVERYWHERE and yellow-orange color (not the sunflowers-that would be too easy).

Try zoning out while seed collecting up there (hard to do on such a steep slope!)

ERUM up close…

..and finally ERUM seed up close.

As there was diversity in plant size, the seed were no different. This is very close up picture of the seed that it is quite small. Some seeds like Artemisia tridentata (ARTR-big sagebrush) are even smaller and lighter than this so you can’t breathe too hard when working with them! I have enjoyed seeing the diversity of plants in the shrubland desert and the higher elevation of pine forest. A lot of time was spent driving to the seed collection sites so I had lot of time to enjoy the scenic drives, listen to good music on our satellite radio and chat with my coworkers. It was nice sharing the enthusiasm of the great outdoors with my coworkers.
I felt really fortunate to get to see different parts of southern Idaho while on the clock. I was able to collect Penstemon acuminatus (sharpleaf penstemmon) while seeing Bruneau Dunes where one of my coworkers ok-ed my running up one of the smaller dunes to see how hard it is to run up sand, and up Bogus Basin where I could look down on the city of Boise on the drive to collect Achillea millefolium (ACMI-common yarrow). The outdoors have just been beautiful here in Idaho and I have enjoyed exploring this summer.
I’m sad that summer is leaving but with all of the collections and field data sheets come lots of time spent in the office working on shipping the seeds off for cleaning or research, and entering information into a database called BG Base. That is what I have to look forward to this winter. I was fortunate to have a ten month position so my story in Boise, ID doesn’t end yet.
Stay tuned,

Merry Marshall
Boise, ID

Botanical Exploration with Jerry Theim

The first real botanical adventure I experienced was in the Calico Mountains Wilderness on an expidition lead by Jerry Theim. Few people would think to place botany and adventure next to each other. But in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, where the terrain is a product of a unique geologic history and as rugged and rocky as anything, searching for rare species is anything but boring.

We met Jerry for the first time at a fork in the road, and as we climbed into his truck we made our acquaintances quickly. Being a very talkative man, he dove into explaining what we would be doing with him that week. His plan was to spend the next four days hiking through out the wilderness, checking various points of interest he had scoped the day before.

As we drove he pointed out the vast geologic expanses, telling us names of the rare species that live there. Steam boat mountain, where Caulanthus barnedbyii was recently found, and the Jackson range, where he spent a week during the last field season searching for a rare Pentstemon species. It was clear that he knew the area well. We pulled onto a 2 mile an hour road and drove up to the base of a canyon that was carved out by a long dried up water flow. “Let’s go botanize!” He exclaimed and we got together our gear for a day of hiking.

Being from Massachusetts, I had never seen anything like the range we were about to venture into. The Calico Mountain wilderness is a vast expanse of multi-colored slopes, most of them very steep and covered in tallus. We set out trailblazing through the canyon, and we approached a dark and ominous slope covered in tallus. I had never even heard of tallus before, let alone climbed on it. I was quite surprised as we began our ascent up the 60% slope of sharp, loose, MINERAL? that slipped and slid as we scrambled our way to the top.

We were headed for an ash deposit a the top of one of the smaller peaks of the bizarrely pigmented mountains. This one was splotched with green from oxidized copper, and brown and pink from other minerals. The ash deposit at the summit was bright white and is a unique soil type endemic to the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area.

Jerry was a pro climber. I learned that day, among many other things about Jerry, that he is a native of Nevada and an avid outdoorsmen. Unsurprisingly he found his way to the top with ease. He is a modest man, and it was not until our last day out that Jerry told us of his botanical accomplishments. Apparently he was something of a local celebrity in the Great Basin plant community. In his exploration of Nevada he had found an abundance of species new to science, many of which now share his name.

During our climbs he told us stories of Arthur Cronquist and his time collecting for herbarium collections in NYC and Cambridge. He was also responsible for many of the collections that made possible the publication of Intermountain Flora, one of the best dichotomous keys for the Great Basin area. He even shared with us what he did when he was not botanizing- limosene driving for the casinos in Reno and carpentry.

He trained us in the methods he used for botanizing rare species, and gave us heaps of plant names common to the area. It was hard to take it all in, and our field books had many new pages filled with species lists. He also shared with us tips for navigating the area, and gave us valuable advice on survival in the desert.

On the way back from the trip, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for having been given the opportunity to botanize with Jerry. His training served us well in later inventories for rare species of the area. I will always be thankful for participating in the CLM internship for this reason, and many others.

Learning the ABCs: Always Be Collecting

Looking at the San Francisco Peaks from Kendrick Park

Its been about 2 and a half months now collecting seeds with the Seeds of Success program in Flagstaff Arizona. We’ve gone from hot cloudless skies in early July to several weeks of monsoonal rains, to the beginnings of a cool autumn. The monsoons were really excellent this year, and not only boosted the number of flowering species but also provided for some prolific and tasty mushrooms. People keep telling us we are lucky to be collecting in a year like this, after a long drought cycle of poor winters and monsoons.  There certainly has been an abundance of flowers this year, and hopefully we will be able to keep collecting, even after the growing season ends. Soon the nights will just become too cold. Thats what 7000 feet will for you.

One of our collection sites in Colorado

We’ve also had the opportunity to cruise around the Colorado Plateau a bit these past months, with two trips up to Montrose, Colorado to help with the BLM Uncompaghre Plateau Project (UP project). Its been wonderful passing through the region’s patchwork of open desert and sculpted sandstone. The colors alone are worth the trip.  The Montrose area has been an interesting diversion from our familiar species around Flag, and it has been encouraging to be collecting species at the request of land managers who will directly utilize our collections for sage grouse habitat restoration.  As an added bonus, we were surprised to discover how beautiful the Uncomphagre Mesa is–Its firs, aspens and fresh-water springs contrast dramatically with the surrounding desert. Known as the “Ancestral Rocky Mountains” this ancient range was once much larger but eroded away into the famous red sandstone of the Moab region. It definitely felt like a Colorado ancestral Rocky Mountain high.

The mysterious Pterospora andromedea, or Pine Drops. (not collected, just cool)

Over the past few months we have been learning some of the ins and outs of seed collection. Although collection is never too complicated in and of itself, the logistics and timing of our collections can be a bit tricky.  In some ways collecting is a bit like preparing an elaborate, multi-course meal– if you’re timing isn’t right you might just burn something or serve it underdone.  I remember the sinking feeling as we visited one site after the monsoons started, only to find all the available seeds were gone — shattered by the rain. Fortunately, the species was an aster so we could cut many of the partially immature seed heads and they matured on their own. We learned how important it is to make solid initial collections and to collect often enough in anticipation of inevitable snafus. Fortunately right now we are entering a part of the season when there’s probably something to collect almost every day, which is pretty exciting. The weather is getting cooler, school is in session, and football is on tv– looking forward to fall