Seed Collecting: Full Steam Ahead

It’s the first week of October and my seasonal job with the Bureau of Land Management in Denver is getting towards its final stretch yet it is still just as busy. Rare plant monitoring finished last week and my co-worker and I are solely working on native seed collecting. We have also been handed the reins for making seed collections ourselves with occasional help in collecting if it is too time consuming for just the two of us to get enough seed. We have been given control over where to go, what to collect, and when

Penstemon unilateralis we collected at North Table Mountain Park

to collect the seeds and fill out all the needed information on the datasheet, take photo vouchers, and collect specimen vouchers for our collections. So far for this year, we have made about 20 collections (some easy, others more difficult that take more time) and are working towards making over 30 collections.

Penstemon unilateralis fruits

Penstemon unilateralis fruits we collected

Penstemon unilateralis seeds that we were after

A benefit for us working on Seeds of Success are the skill sets and being able to make our own decisions which will be great on our resume for future jobs. Sure, we continue going back to the same locations repeatedly and haven’t seen any new and awesome landscapes and plants from traveling for rare plant monitoring, but we do still get to enjoy being outside and have more contact with the public now. Some people stop by to ask what we are doing and continue with a few questions after that, find our work to be interesting and for a good cause. Well, six weeks left to go collecting seed.

A great view at North Table Mountain Park

This is Jeffrey at the Colorado BLM State Office in Denver, over and out.

End of the field season

The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder and our field season is coming to an end. It has been very hard lately to be excited to go out into the field. This morning the thermometer read 21 degrees farenheit. I am starting to get used to wearing three layers of clothes to work. I always shed a layer within a few minutes of being out in the field.

We are still working on our habitat typing project which is going on week eight. I think everyone is getting burned out from doing the same data collection that we have been doing for the past few months. I do have to say that once I am out in the field I am very happy. Next week will be our last day doing any data collection for habitat typing. Hunting season has started and we can no longer work in those areas. It is kind of a bittersweet feeling, I wish I could continue working outside but I am also ready for a little break from these long ten hour days.  The seasonals will be leaving in a few weeks and I will be in the office doing data entry so I try to appreciate any time I spend out in the field. On our way out today we saw a group of bighorn sheep, I have seen the same group of sheep a few times but they never cease to amaze me! The larch are changing colors and are at their peak right now. It has been amazing to see the season change right in front of my eyes. I am really looking forward to experiencing winter in Montana!

Lea Tuttle,

BLM Missoula, Montana

The shape of things that pass


I am trying to write my final blog and I just can’t seem to keep any structure or flow, so this blog will be a collection of thoughts, or an unorganized final post…depending on how you look at it.

I am about a week away from finishing up my internship here in Farmington, New Mexico and I am not sure what to make of it. I am excited to head back to Seattle and to see the people that are close to me, but I am also hesitant to leave this place. Throughout the last 6 months I have grown to love the landscape and wildlife of the Four Corners. All of my experiences here have been absolute contrasts of living in the Pacific Northwest and have given me a wonderful perspective on life in the Southwest.

Thunderstorms out here are awesome.  

I was born in Casper, Wyoming and spent a good chunk of my childhood visiting my grandparents and family in the mid and southwest. I remember growing up and noticing all of the subtle differences between there and home. The dry air, the smell of sagebrush, the hot days and the cool nights engrained this sense of calmness in my mind. I suppose it wasn’t too much of a surprise to feel this sensation rushing back as soon as I came to Farmington. Looking at it now, it made a huge difference; leaving everything behind and coming here with a roadbike and the clothes in my camping sack would seemed intense and stressful, but it wasn’t. I felt reassured that everything would work out. I realize now, this calmness made work wonderful from the beginning and nothing really changed after that.

Best collection: Lupinus caudatus. We decided to try and tie cloth bags around the seed pods and wait for them to dehisce and pop. We tied 100 bags around a population on a small mountain meadow and it totally WORKED! We collected the seeds a couple of weeks later by clipping the stems and pouring the seeds out.

The work itself seems more like a lifestyle than a task that spans 8 hours a day. I lived this job for 6 months.

Worst collection: Lupinus brevicaulis. Our first collection, we picked the seeds off the ground in the badlands, painstakingly for two work days.

Most memorable moment: driving through rolling plains towards Chaco Mesa. Along the way, 3 herding dogs caught site of our large white truck, that I suppose could resemble a very laaaaarge sheep. They followed us in the distance for a few miles, sprinting over large hills and cascading down gullies. I kept thinking we lost them, until they popped up over the next hill. They finally caught up with the truck and we slowed down. With endless land to roam and a herd to look after, these dogs were the happiest ones I’ve ever seen.

It is always really fascinating to me how my own perceptions of things change after experiencing them. To vividly remember what I thought this internship would be like before I arrived, and how it was after I left. To compare these two different worlds and to see where they come together. I think it can tell a lot about a person’s expectations, hopes and predictions. The shape of things to come, then the shape of things that pass.

Thank you Krissa, Marian, Sheila and anyone else for this opportunity. You have changed my life.

 Anthony Wenke

Parachute Beardtongue

Three and a half months in and the focus of the internship has been shifting. In the past month it seems like all of the local flora has fruited, and we have been busily working as some of the most efficient seed dispersers possible, gathering as much as we can to be shipped to Bend and hopefully then on to similar habitats where it can flourish. As we worked through this month Jeffrey (my fellow intern) and I took on more and more responsibility, until seed collecting is now almost entirely our project. We choose where to go and when, and while our mentors will come along occasionally to help collect we seem to be in charge. This is refreshing, and helps me to feel like a more valuable member of the team, rather than merely an intern doing what I’m told.

While I’m enjoying collecting seed, it’s making me realize how varied and interesting the rare plant monitoring portion of this internship has been. Earlier this week we traveled to an oil shale cliff outside of West Rifle, CO for what will probably be our last monitoring trip. The scenery was beautiful, and after winding up a few switchbacks on the side of a mountain we decided that walking seemed like the better option to get up the final climb. The mountain was actively taking back the road, depositing large piles of loose shale where it wasn’t being held back by giant warped steel beams.

Steel beams attempting to hold up the mountain


At the very top of this road we ran tapes to add another year’s worth of data to the books about Penstemon debilis, the Parachute Beardtongue, a small plant that only occurs on five oil shale slopes on the Roan Plateau of Colorado. The BLM has been monitoring this species since 2004, but the data has recently taken on new importance, as the species was just given “threatened” status last month. The oil and gas company that owns the land where 90% of the P. debilis populations occur has begun making a few proposals. While they are under no legal obligation to protect their populations (Penstemon is, after all, a plant, not some kind of cute fuzzy animal that would enjoy federal protection wherever it wandered), the company is still interested in maintaining viable populations of the Penstemon. So, their current plan is to collect seed from these plants, grow it in greenhouses, and then plop the baby plants back into the shale to create new populations. In this way they hope to create a greater number of healthy populations, potentially taking some of the pressure off of the species if they wish to develop land where it currently occurs in the future. While this may not be the ideal solution for environmentalists, this is one of the issues of conflicting interests that I find fascinating about this job. I love learning about the different opinions and facts that have to be juggled when making management decisions, and I really feel that I have a much better idea of what goes on behind the scenes related to our public lands today than when I started my internship in June.

Monitoring site

Sama Winder, BLM CO State Office

Good-bye Nevada

When I accepted the CLM internship, I expected to see unique landscapes, meet interesting people, and learn botanical skills. I accomplished all of these things, but not in the way I imagined. Where I expected to see barren and inhospitable land, I saw beautiful vegetation and curious lizards. I assumed that I would be treated amiably and with respect, but that was not always the case. Through this experience, I have learned more about myself and social interactions than I have learned about Nevada or botany.

I also learned that I am happiest when I am being challenged. This internship has allowed me to push myself physically, but not mentally. Consequentially, I’ve been inspired to apply for graduate school, where I hope to study stream ecology. (Nevada has also made me realize how much I miss water!) I needed to get my feet “wet” in the working world in order to find motivation to return to school. And with the plant identification and surveying skills I gained here, I am a stronger candidate for research assistantships.

It has been a tumultuous experience, forcing me to grow in unanticipated ways. I am now a better person with strengthened values and a deeper understanding of myself. For that, I am grateful.

May the road rise up to meet you…

Five months. Five months in Southwestern Utah and this is my last day of my CLM internship. 48 hours from now I’ll once again have my life crammed back into my little blue Saturn ready to make the cross-country trek back home. I knew when I accepted this internship that I could expect great things, that my life would somehow be better for having done this. Never in a million years would I have guessed how much it would change my life.

Before I came to Utah…. I’d never seen the mountains. Never watched the sun rise over miles of open sagebrush. Never hiked a slot canyon. Never spent 40 hours a week, every week outside in the sunshine. Never saw it snow before Halloween. Never saw a cow crossing sign. Never electro-shocked or used a river seine. Never heard the constant static and long awaited beeps from a telemetry receiver. Never used a Trimble or an E-trex to navigate. Never had any experience with back road 4×4 driving. Never stood out in the middle of an open valley at one in the morning listening for the sounds of Nightjars. Never saw Aspens as they start to change colors in fall. Never had the “pleasure” of digging cheatgrass out of my socks at the end of the day. Never stood in the middle of a prairie dog colony.  Never saw a Pronghorn, a Mule Deer, a Golden Eagle or a Sage Grouse.

Five months, 20 weeks. That’s all it took for me to experience all of those things. Five beautiful summer months that I wouldn’t trade for the world.I feel so lucky to have been given this opportunity. It’s helped me grow as a biologist and more importantly, as a person. I will never ever forget the people I met or the things I saw.

So for everyone out there, may you be as blessed as I have. May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back…

So Long Lakeview

I suppose it’s a good thing when I say that this internship has flown by. The time passed so quickly, but I don’t feel like it escaped me. I feel as if I took advantage of the opportunities this internship and the locality offered. Through my job, I was able to see amazing landscapes in remote areas that very few people ever see. On the weekends, I did my own traveling, mostly around Oregon. I treated these weekends like adventures, pushing my physical and mental boundaries, and I ended up making great memories with some great people.

I thoroughly enjoyed the duties I was assigned this summer. I was excited to go out in the field almost every day. The best part of the job was that my fellow intern and I were given the chance to work without supervision. We both liked having the responsibility and freedom that comes with planning our day. The trust that my mentor and the other members in the office had in me boosted my confidence. I am continuing on to a short-term position in L.A. after this, and I feel no apprehension though the work and the city will be completely new experiences for me.

I just want to say thank you to all the people that make the CLM internship possible!


Moving back to California from New England, I was not expecting fall colors.  Autumn was one of my favorite  times in Boston – between the changing leaves and the crisp fall days with their golden  sunlight.   I was not expecting to find that same autumn feel on the Eastern Sierra.  The extent of the forests are by no means equal, but the colorful aspen groves on the snow dusted mountains make a spectacular backdrop to every field day.

The Sonoran Desert in October

What a wonderful time to be out in the Sonoran Desert. To have the opportunity to work for the Phoenix BLM is amazing. We currently are working with Sonoran Desert Tortoises (Gopherus agassazii) within the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The field work is amazing and the desert is such a unique and diverse ecosystem. Our current monitoring techniques give us the opportunity to crawl into many unique rock formations with flashlights looking for these elusive desert creatures. It has been a great experience so far and I look forward to the opportunities that are ahead.

Bye for now

Now that my CLM Internship is coming to a close, I am both sad and excited to be moving on.

For my next job, I will be working for the National Audubon Society out in California. I have never been to California, so I am looking forward to what new adventures await me. The work there will be focused on invasive species removal and will be very labor intensive.

I am grateful for the unique experience this CLM Internship has brought me; from the hands-on data collection out in the field to working in a BLM Office environment.

I hope everyone who has the opportunity to apply for this internship will do so, and I hope everyone who makes it into the program will have as much fun as I did.