I’m just about halfway through my internship, and I’m so happy that this runs for 5 months, rather than 12 weeks like many of the other internships I was considering did. I can imagine how stressed I would be as I struggled to find my next job or adventure, and am happy to delay the worry for a little bit longer. In the meantime, it’s hard to believe that I’ve actually been here for two and a half months, and that the summer is winding down. Today on my way to work I passed elementary students walking with their parents to their first day of school. Despite the slight nostalgia I feel as many friends prepare to begin another school year, I’m still enjoying living and working out of Denver. This is a great city, bordered by more mountains than I could hope to explore in the next 10 years, and the work continues to be varied and interesting.

My internship is allowing me to catch glimpses of many areas around the state, and I’m grateful for these monitoring trips that allow us to meet and work with many different field offices. We’ve also been ramping up our seed collecting. Up until now we went on a lot of scouting trips to nearby parks and open spaces, but found lots of flowers and very few fruits. Suddenly everything seems to be ripening, and each field day before leaving the office we need to decide which collection would be the best use of our time.

Last week we spent three days collecting Oregon Grape (Mahonia repens). It was a difficult collection because the plants are scattered all over the park we were at, but many were fruitless (ah, the original meaning). The others had between 1 and 50 berries/plant, with the majority seeming to be closer to 1. After hiking for more than an hour up the same hill three days in a row, I was glad to see the end of this collection!

Monarda, plus someone helping to make our seed collection a success!

The next day we went to a different site and were rewarded with an absurdly easy collection of Monarda fistulosa. We had found this pretty purple flower a few weeks before, completely covering an open meadow. Sure enough, it was still there when we came back and many of the seed heads were ready. Within two hours the two of us had collected over 1,000 seed heads, each of which contains between 50 and 150 seeds. As an added bonus, it even smells good!

I’m excited to see how the flora continues to change as we move more fully into the fall, and look forward to seeing new areas and meeting new seed collecting and monitoring challenges.

Sama Winder, BLM CO State Office

The Summer is Moving On

This past week has been exciting and hectic here at the Cedarville BLM. Our office had its first large scale, multi-day fire. Many crews came from all over the northeastern portion of the state and the BLM office served as the central meeting point for fire activities. The fire fighters were excited; because of the wet season there has been almost no fire to fight. This week marks the end of the seed rush here in the Surprise Resource Area. For the past few weeks I have been collecting seeds at an extraordinary pace, almost a complete collection a day. The days are still hot but the nights are cooling off quickly and seeds are dispersing. Many species have already dropped their seed and others are quickly following suit. The growing season is short here and the beginning signs of fall are setting in. Although seed collection has been dominating most of my time I have still had the ability to venture off on different projects. I was given another opportunity to work at our neighboring wildlife refuge and go “birding.” Birding takes place once night falls. An airboat is used to cruise around the refuge chasing and netting birds. Our most recent birding adventure was fruitful, we caught and banded a crane.
I am sad to see the summer pass on, August is coming to a close but unlike most seasonal positions it is not time for me to move on just yet. However with the passing of the summer months also comes the passing of the hot weather. I am excited to witness the fall in this wonderful place, the idea of fall in the high desert sounds peaceful and mild. The fall is also the time for me to collect many species that have needed the entirety of the growing season to mature. Many of the different shrub-like species are ready for collection later in the season. This will be the first fall in 18 years that I will not be attending school. I am already anticipating the nostalgia for going back to school season. Once this fall sets in and students fully return to classes I will feel as though I have transitioned into the adult world and this internship is serving as a great stepping stone for this huge life transition.


Our seed collection, processing, and shipping has come to an end for all our spring collections, so now we wait. Fall collection will come quickly enough, I’m sure, but it feels like forever since we were out collecting last. And being an outdoors-loving person, doing office tasks day after day is tough. I have however found many positives, and because of these, I am thankful for some inside time. First, I am finally getting to know the others at the workplace that I never really got to work with when out in the field day after day. Second, while taking a break from monitoring and seed collecting for SOS, I have gotten to help on some rare plant monitoring and seed collection for conservation projects in the area. Third, I have been taking the extra time to learn other skills, taking advantage of the different departments at the botanic garden. I get to work in the plant nursery, helping with pruning, planting, weeding, and other regular upkeep tasks. I have recently been learning different seed cleaning techniques, on a small scale, through our seed conservation program. I have helped our herbarium manager with sorting incoming and outgoing plant collections. Lastly, I have been taking advantage of the GIS courses through the BLM. I like having all the different projects to work on, to keep things interesting, learn many different things, and get to know co-workers a bit better.

In order to balance all of my inside work time, and to expel some energy, during my off time I have been taking advantage of the wonderful opportunities that living in Southern California offer. My first adventure was summitting Cucamonga Peak, which gave a spectacular view of LA County and the Catalinas far off in the distance. I have also had a couple visitors come out in the past couple weeks, giving me the opportunity to be a crazy tourist. We spent some time in San Diego, in LA and in Las Vegas. Too much fun was had, and it tired me out way more than working days at a time in the desert.

Top of Cucamonga Peak!

Made it to the top of Cucamonga Peak!

Getting Work Done

I have always loved to be outside and working with the great wonders of the west,  but recently I have been put to work in the office… Now don’t get me wrong, its not very fun sitting in a cubicle, but I recently received quite a treasure to balance out this hardship. ArcGIS Training! While in school I always tried to enroll in the GIS mapping courses because I knew that it was a growing part of the job market these days and to be able to use this program is a highly valued skill. Through the BLM I was able to work my way through a 24hr course on GIS for Free! and I have plenty more training (off the clock) at my fingertips. Since the completion of my  first training I have worked on a few projects and feel confident enough to flaunt my new skills in my resume.

Since my endless hours sitting in an office cubicle staring at a computer screen we have gone back into the field. Since the beginning of our internship, back in February, we have re-visited the Red Rock Fire area north of Reno many times. Each time there seems to be a new task to accomplish; We’ve hand seeded grass seeds, mapped weeds, pulled Scotch Thistle, collected seed vouchers, collected seed, planted Willow cuttings, and Hand planted 20,000 Bitterbrush seedlings in the hills… all of this in the name of post-fire restoration. This time we are reading some short term vegetation plots, at which, we are getting a “snapshot” of the plant community and soil characteristics. The work is tedious but the data will hold true and strong.

Enough talk, here are some photographs.


In some ways it feels that summer is ending – the high school football teams are already on the fields practicing, a local track team can be seen every morning running in a pack in anticipation of the return to school, and my softball team’s season is at an end.  My internship feels like it is already over, even though I’m only half-way through.  The dawn is breaking later and later, making it harder to get up in the morning.

And yet, despite all of the evidence that summer is ending, it feels like it will go on forever.  New flowers are blooming.  It feels like the summer rush is just beginning.  There are more seeds than ever to collect, and on top of that, there is trend-plot monitoring  from the rangelands to do.  It is time outside that feels like will never end.

In time, I suppose that summer will end for me, but until then, I plan to enjoy my extended time in the sun!

Achnatherum hymenoides

Indian rice grass

Far From Home

My time spent in Nevada has been divided by many different activities. Each week doing field work includes new adventures and learning experiences. I’ve spent a lot of time collecting native seed, monitoring field sites, engaging in fire rehabilitation projects, enjoying time working with the other interns in my group, and learning invaluable lessons from my mentor.

When monitoring a field site we are usually looking for species of concern or special status species as well as documenting all the species found at the site. We collect data that helps us determine the density and frequency that a plant species can be found occupying the area. We also test the soil in the area to get an idea of its properties and stability. Lately we’ve been monitoring sites that have suffered from fires and have been either seeded with natives or have been left to regenerate plant life on their own according to natural processes of dispersal and the fight against competition for resources.

When we’re not busy collecting seed or data, or after a long day of work it’s always rewarding to take a minute and break away from the routine and take a look around and absorb the natural beauty of the lands I’ve had the opportunity to work in. It becomes hard to be overwhelmed with the stresses of life, work, missing home and loved ones, or whatever the case my be when you stop and chew on the idea that I’m extremely lucky to be getting paid to do work I truly enjoy in an area most people will never get to visit.


A great escape

While the majority of my work days in my internship with the NPS-Fort Collins entails computer research, I have had the great opportunity to link up with the Rocky Mountain Network. This branch functions as a research-based division that monitors three parks in Montana and three in Colorado. I have spent five days in the field thus far, and each has lent me a new experience. The first four of these were spent monitoring pika along the slopes of Rocky Mountain NP. Essentially I spent the day tracking down predetermined locations with a gps unit and examining the habitat to decide whether it was suitable for the highly monitored pika. An additional associated project was to search for prime samples of pika scat for a conservation genetics project. Much of this terrain was very steep a high forecast for rock slides. The sites were spread to various reaches of the park and allowed me to drive and hike through some incredible territory in the northern Colorado Rockies. Along with a handful of pika sightings I had my first encounters with marmots, elk, and innumerable alpine wildflowers.

This past week I had a chance to freshen up on aquatic sampling techniques. I accompanied several crew members from the RMN to the headwaters of the mighty Colorado River, not but a mere stream where we were sampling. We spent a long day on the west side of the park sampling everything from bank dimensions, vegetative composition, macroinvertebrates, in stream minerals, and chemical properties of the lotic habitat. This was probably my best day in the field yet. I’m looking forward to doing alpine wetland sampling next week with the last of my field days.

My Great Lakes invasives project is coming along faster than expected. I’ve established much of my database and am now most of the way through profiling all the established species. From here I’ll move on to designing the website, creating a webinar, and enhancing the database in any way possible. Still four months to go for me here, so there remains ample time to explore the Rockies and hopefully more of the surrounding west.

Travels And Experiences

In the past few months I’ve been busy visiting several places and taking part in plenty of different activities. Recently we had the Conservation and Land Management Workshop at the Chicago Botanic Gardens in Chicago, IL. I had a great time meeting other interns and CBG Staff (my bosses), and exploring the gardens as well as the City on some of my own spare time.

During the workshop we had a few crash courses in plant identification, population genetics, and approaches to monitoring. There was a lot of valuable information I took back to Nevada with me as well as great memories. I learned about different approaches to monitoring and how to build a work plan where the most efficient monitoring methods could be applied to answer the questions you are setting out to uncover.  I was also impressed by the diversity of the entire intern group the CBG had recruited to take part in the CLM internship program. There were people from mostly scientific backgrounds but everyone was very unique and had different qualities to offer.

I was particularly interested when my mentor gave an Ethno botany talk about the many uses of plants as food, medicine, fiber, and regular products used in everyday life. As someone deeply interested in plants I found this talk inspirational and will share with you something Dean Tonenna shared with the group that night. He explained that all of the information passed on through the generations of native people about the natural world can sometimes seem lost but is really still out there sleeping, waiting for someone to take the initiative and look closely at the natural world around us and awaken that deeper knowledge. I liked this and not just in a cultural sense where one could delve into nature to find their roots but as a lesson to everyone that there are a lot of secrets we still have yet to uncover about the natural world. I feel like the talk instilled a sense of adventure and wonder that I try to take out into the field with me when I’m at work.



Finally the seed is ripening and the collections are adding up. After spending a few hours collecting Orthocarpus luteus that is used for sage grouse forage, we brought it back to the office to let the plants dry out a bit. To our horror little worms starting crawling out of the bucket onto the floor. Knowing that the other people in the office would not be overly pleased with our “runaways” we tried to figure a way to capture them as they emerged from the bucket. At first we tried to attach sticky tape around the rim in hopes of stopping them as they tried to escape. Unfortunately they were not phased and just moved across it as if it wasn’t there. Then we had the idea of making a moat with water around the bucket to catch them and hopefully stop them. After searching for an appropriate “moat” we came across a huge platter that we put the bucket in the middle of and filled it with water. Perfect! When we came into the office the next day we could see the dozens of worms that had tried to make a run for it, but failed. Has anyone else had this problem? What did you do? Anyway, we are thinking of dropping a few moth balls in the bucket and close it up for about 15 minutes in hopes of eliminating any stragglers. At least the people in Bend won’t be unpleasantly surprised when they open this accession.

Settling In

As August rolls around, Lakeview, OR is feeling more like home. Work has become routine, collecting seed, filling out data sheets, and sending seeds off. My fellow intern and I have exceeded our seed collection quota, and still continue to bring in more everyday. At this point, I feel like I have one of the least stressful jobs out there; at least, it’s the least stressful job I have ever had.

It’s not only work that has me relaxed. My social circle in Lakeview has expanded enough to keep me more than busy. Between Thursdays at the Eagle’s Nest, weekend travels, and Monday barbecues with the fire crew, I have little free time on my hands. When I do, I try to play guitar or chip away at the job application block. Often these productive activities are pushed aside in order to watch the favorite sitcom of the trailer community, How I Met Your Mother.

I have continued to explore Oregon. During the second weekend of August I made a quick trip up to the coast, visiting Newport and Depot Bay. Although it was not the first time I had seen it, the west coast took my breath away. The beach stretches for miles in spots, fading melding into the ocean before disappearing in the distance. Newport, Oregon has a phenomenal beach where constant winds have blown the sand into large dunes, four to five feet high. A friend and I did not let these cushy, mattress-like formations go to waste. Sleeping bags in toe, we had an old fashioned camp out on the beach. I woke up a few times in the night, confused and a bit panicked until I heard the soothing sound of the waves, and saw the stars overhead. It sure as hell beat paying for a hotel room.

All in all, life is good out West.

Newport Beach