This month I’ve spent mostly indoors in the Portland BLM office working on updating and editing the Survey and Manage website ( which is getting moved to a new site with a new format. It’s a very tedious and time consuming project and not at all worth talking about at length BUT I did get to go outside one day…

I was invited to attend the Wildlife and TES (Threatened & Endangered Species) Program Manager Meeting for their field trip day in HJ Andrews Experimental Forest located just east of Eugene, OR. We visited a series of sites and discussed the variety of thinning methods they are testing in an effort to create and maintain healthy forest ecosystems in the post-clearcut environment. Coming from the southeast, it was interesting to learn more about the overwhelming number of problems stemming from the lack of old-growth forests in this region. Since all of the trees are now approximately the same age and size, foresters are experimenting with an assortment of decapitation techniques to kill a portion of the trees and create habitat for certain snag-dependent species (primarily woodpeckers). They showed us how they’ve been monitoring changes in the vegetation and wildlife species like flying squirrels and terrestrial amphibians. In 2009, they even discovered a new species of slug: Carinacauda stormi a.k.a. the Cascade Axetail.

I was also amazed to hear the different attitudes toward Barred Owls in Oregon. They present a problem similar to coyotes in Florida… Sure, they’re native to the country but they’ve only been able to spread to this area because of the changes we have made to the landscape and wildlife populations. I was aware that they sometimes interbreed with the Northern Spotted Owls (to create “Sparred” and “Botted Owls” : ) but I hadn’t heard about the Fish and Wildlife proposal to “remove” some of them (yep, that’s a euphemism). I refuse to become one of those people who oppose an issue for personal reasons and ignore the ecological benefits, but it does seem to be an uphill kind of battle.

My ulterior motive for the day was to make acquaintances with a couple of individuals who will still be conducting fieldwork over the winter months and I succeeding in doing that. I hope to never be faced with the decision of whether or not I should post a picture of myself sitting in my cubicle. I know that I’m helping to push a lot of important low-priority projects through that have been put off for years but mostly it just feels like a lot of computer work. At least next week I know I’ll be out hunting slugs and I CAN’T WAIT!

Lara Drizd, Forest Service Regional Office & BLM State Office, Portland, OR

Variety is the Spice of…MY JOB! (part 2)

Staying true to my word, this is the 2ndentry (the first was posted 12 October 2011) stating a couple of ways in which a career in conservation and land management have been satisfying my desire for variety in a job:

Cercis orbiculata (western redbud) seeds collected for SOS

  • Tasks: The tasks I have been performing through my internship have been even more varied than the settings and conditions in which I work (refer to previous entry): collecting seeds and associated voucher specimens (which includes packaging and sending the seed as well as pressing and labeling the voucher specimens); identifying common plant species from which to collect seeds and monitoring these populations in order to collect the seeds when they are

    Collecting monitoring data for the federally endangered Ceanothus roderickii

    mature; recording rare plant monitoring data (transect, point intercept, plots, etc…sometimes while dodging poison oak!); developing spreadsheets for recordkeeping; conducting rare plant surveys; flagging rare plants and supervising an AmeriCorps team using chainsaws to cut down shrubs for a fuelbreak; distinguishing between male and female plants of the small dioecious rare bedstraw (also while trying to avoid poison oak);

    Stretching to find satellite reception with the GPS receiver

    operating GPS units to gather spatial data of both rare and invasive plant populations; making maps using ArcGIS; preparing website updates; engaging in trail maintenance; floating in a raft moving downstream to distribute cleaning supplies and toilet paper to composting toilets along the stream; meeting with neighbors to discuss fuel management concerns and solutions; removing yellow star thistle by hand or with a weed whacker; learning how to use a chainsaw; picking up trash; setting up a computer

  • A volunteer planting a propagated Ceanothus roderickii plant

    and projector for a public meeting at a community center or school; coordinating volunteer work days; participating in red-legged frog surveys and bird counts; shooting photos of our field work, plants, habitat, and human-inflicted disturbances/possible trespasses then labeling and organizing them; writing incident reports, press releases, annual reports, and blogs; designing a poster; revising brochures; creating and presenting presentations; guiding school students or adult members of the public on an

    Instructing middle school students about an oak woodland habitat

    educational hike through the Preserve; and more! I immensely appreciate that the diversity of specific jobs that need to be done require a well-rounded mix of physical activity, mental exercise, and social interaction.


  • Job Opportunities: As an intern looking forward to a non-intern job, I can look in a variety of sectors (as long as I’m willing to be somewhat flexible and a bit broad-focused until I get a foot in the door and establish myself). In addition to federal agencies (such as the BLM), I can look for jobs at other government levels (state, county, city), in academia, in the business arena, with non-profit organizations, or other groups within the private sector.


Chaparral habitat of the Sierra Nevada foothills & the South Fork American River

As you can see (from ALL of these blogs posted by other CLM interns), a career in land management and conservation offers a wide range of jobs with a seemingly infinite variety of actual tasks to be completed…so if you get bored easily and need a job that is not routine, consider working in conservation and land management. To find out if this is something that you’ll enjoy, explore your options and take advantage of volunteer opportunities as well as apply for related summer jobs and internships…and check out the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Conservation & Land Management Internship Program!

A bigger picture

Yesterday I attended the Utah Bat Conservation Cooperative meeting near Provo, UT. While I was there, it was fascinating to see how a group of public and private organizations worked together to describe issues with bat conservation, present on their current research and surveys, and outline a plan for continued management. During the long drive to the conference, my mentor told me about her passion for working for the BLM, her belief in multiple-use of landscapes, and her understanding that things aren’t always black and white—wildlife can be just as damaging as a herd of cattle.

At the end of my internship, these are only some of the things that I’ve come to recognize while working for this federal agency. Managing the public lands in the western states is an enormous job, and the people who are a part of that effort make up a vast network of beliefs, perhaps not always as passionate as my mentor’s or even aligned with her own. Somehow, this complex assembly of beliefs becomes manifested in individual projects, carried out in the field by people like me, and fits together into an increasingly more coherent picture as we look from project, to field office, to district, state, and eventually the nation. The fact that work conducted on the ground can bridge the gap to the seemingly distant and detached goals of the BLM as a whole is unbelievable. More than that, it is incredible that I have been a part of this system and that I’ve met some of the admirable people who, even at our lonely outpost in this small piece of the big picture, believe wholly in their significance in the grand scheme.

This opportunity has opened my eyes to the significance of land conservation efforts. I was given the chance to explore places that are completely foreign to me, see new wildlife, and assist in a variety of projects that gave me a wealth of unforgettable experiences. At times this seemed like a job that was too enjoyable to accomplish anything meaningful. At other times I would zoom out on a map to see how small my field office was in comparison to the entirety of the western states and the task of protecting all of this land seemed daunting. Admittedly, government work can appear sluggish, held back by its demand for extensive procedure, systematics, and red tape. But what I’ve learned is that it is sustained by individuals on the ground, scattered over the vastness of these public lands, who care deeply for the public land and its perpetuity. This is a comforting thought, and I cannot express my full appreciation for getting a chance to take part in the effort.

Admiring a willow exclosure along a stream

Providing fantastic educational activities for children is what we do!

Early winter in Cody, WY

At last, field season is winding down, and I am sad to see it go. Still, there are plenty of important things to be done in the office that will keep me plenty occupied until mid January. There are maps to be updated, monitoring data to be summarized, and letters to be sent out and people to be contacted in preparation for the winter eagle survey. There are still tasks that will take me out in the field occasionally: weed spraying, fence mending, fencing inventory, tagging along with the release of a rescued golden eagle, and possibly assisting Trout Unlimited rescue fish from the irrigation canals before they freeze. It’s nice to know I will not be bored, but I will be useful.

A couple of weeks ago we had a Montana Conservation Corps crew that came to help collect seeds and remove netwire. They were a great group, very positive and enthusiastic about the projects. We collected big basin sagebrush, wyoming sagebrush, greasewood, Utah juniper, and curlleaf mountain mahogany. The purpose of the netwire removal project was to facilitate the passage of pronghorn, who go under fences rather than over them. The netwire goes all the way to the ground, which blocks the pronghorn’s passage, so we changed the fence to have 2 strands of barbed wire and a bottom smooth wire so that the pronghorn can go under the fence without getting injured from barbs. It was especially important on the YU Bench area where we were working because it is part of a major pronghorn migration path. It’s extremely satisfying to know that there will be a direct benefit to wildlife from this project, as the problem fence has been an obstacle for the pronghorn for many years.

With 2 months to go for the first half of my internship, I have finally gotten involved in volunteering around here. One volunteer job is with the Park County Animal Shelter, and the other is with the Greater Yellowstone Raptor Experience at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. So far I’m still in training with holding the birds, which include a great horned owl, red-tailed hawk, turkey vulture, and peregrine falcon. During the summers they will have more programs where we may actually get to assist in flying and feeding the birds. I’m now even happier that I get to come back in March for another 6 months or so! You just can’t beat work and volunteer experiences like these here in Cody. I’ve probably said it for every blog entry I’ve posted, but I feel very fortunate to be here and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

Rare Buckwheats

We have recently been doing a lot of surveying for Eriogonum robustum, a rare buckwheat that only grows on altered andesite soils and is only known from the Virginia Range in western Nevada and from one other area near Reno. It’s pretty country, and the soil type really stands out because of its color and because it’s sparsely vegetated, and often the vegetation is unusual for the area. You don’t often see tree species like jeffrey pine and especially white fir and western white pine in the area otherwise.

We also recently did some surveying for another rare buckwheat, Eriogonum diatomaceum. It only grows in diatomaceous earth, and it is only known from diatomaceous deposits in Churchill Narrows in western NV. We did some surveying in Mineral County, NV, and though we didn’t find any E. diatomaceum, we did come across some huge mining pits. Part of me was bothered by them because huge areas were completely torn up and deeply excavated. It’s public land. It belongs to everyone, but mining interests were allowed to destroy it to get what they wanted and then leave the rest of us with a permanently altered landscape. But at the same time…it looked really cool. Dune-like mounds of white, diatomaceous earth bordering white, canyon-like pits that might have beautiful, exposed strata. Was it worth it? Plants are growing all over it, so it’s not like it’s barren and sterile, and maybe what was there before was a lot less interesting. But then maybe what was there before was amazing, and it was ruined partly so that house cats can more conveniently go to the bathroom indoors (diatomaceous earth is used for cat litter, among other things). I’ll never know.


We are now into November and while most folks are leaving their summer posts I’m lucky enough to still be around here in the Southwest. My partner has left for other adventures, so, with the help of my mentor I have made 25 seed collections on my own.  Both of us are happy about that. But there are still more collections to be made for the fiscal year 2012. We are beginning to explore different areas, and we have gotten lucky a few times and were able to make a couple of collections. Sometimes we come back empty handed, but we have made maps to make it easier for next years collections. Arizona is the prettiest state that I have been in. The habitats, wildlife and, of course,  plants are extraordinary  to say the least.

Seeding Our Future

Did anyone see the 23 September 2011 issue of Science Magazine?  It has a “News and Analysis” article written by Elizabeth Pennisi on the importance of seed banking that mentions the Seeds of Success program. The article highlights a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project whose goal is to compare plants grown from stored seeds with plants that will be collected decades from now.  Researchers will then look to see how species have reacted to various environmental changes.  Our collections could potentially be used to supplement projects like this.

Whether used to restore lost biodiversity, or to supply future researchers with viable seed, our collections will be put to good use.  So pat yourself on the back SOS interns!  The work we are doing is important.

-Aaron Thom

(Hollister, CA BLM office)

Saying goodbye to the Modoc

When I arrived in Modoc county five months ago, I had no idea what to expect. I had read about Alturas, CA on wikipedia, but that gave me only a limited idea of what I would find (read: I was expecting a lot of cows and not very many people, which was extremely accurate). However, I was fairly certain that I would not be having the stereotypical California experience. There wouldn’t be any malls or beaches or nightlife (unless you count the unbelievable views of the Milky Way), but I was fine with that. I was ready to explore the outdoors, see beautiful places, discover new plants and animals and to make some new friends. So that’s what I did.

My freedom to explore was the best part of my experience in Alturas. Nearly every weekend I was visiting some new place in California, Oregon or Nevada or camping in the mountains just outside Alturas. At work, my mentor encouraged me to visit as many places as possible in the surrounding area, and with a resource area of over 500,000 acres spanning four counties , I always had a new place to discover.  Some days I would just point to a spot on the map and head there to look for plants and seeds to collect, and other times I would ask around the office for suggestions of where to go next. I did have my favorite spots that I would revisit frequently, and it was fun to see them change through the season and to keep collecting new species there as the seasons changed. I also had a lot of freedom in the tasks I was performing at work. Although seed collection was my priority, I frequently went out in the field with range and noxious weeds staff in my office, and with US Forest Service and California Game & Fish crews as well. I also spent a lot of time at the National Wildlife Refuge just outside of town, where I learned about waterfowl monitoring, and was able to capture and band ducks and geese from an airboat at night. I met people from a wide variety of backgrounds, from seasonals like myself who were spending a summer in Modoc, to ranchers whose families had been living here for generations. I listened to people describe the ways they had gotten involved in conservation, and to others tell me about the difficulties they have with current policies and future plans. There are no simple answers, and I was reminded of this as I listened to people from all sides of the issues discuss their perspectives.

Next week I am on to a new chapter in my life. I will be working for a nonprofit land trust in Susanville, CA (about two hours south of where I am currently living) and I am really excited about experiencing the nonprofit approach to land management. I would not have this new position if not for the contacts that I have made through this job and I am sure that the skills and knowledge that I have gained will help me in the future. I will not be saying goodbye to this office for long, however, because I will be working closely with members of this office in my next job. And I’m sure that my new location will provide me access to many new places where I can continue my adventures…

Helping the noxious weeds crew...and making great use of my axe skills


A desert bear leaves its mark

Open spaces

My CLM internship has been a very significant learning experience. Being my first time working for a federal agency, I got to see first-hand what the work environment was like, as well as the sort of things that the BLM deals with on a regular basis. My mentor, Mel Schroeder, was very helpful in teaching me about the processes that go on and the frustrations and benefits of working there. As an intern, I got to be out in the field a lot, so I was able to enhance many of my field skills and also build many new ones.

Being in eastern Montana was an entirely new thing for me. I am originally from Richmond,VA, but even though I had been in western Montana several times, Miles City, MT was a completely different landscape that I had never experienced before. I enjoyed being in the sagebrush habitat and badlands of the area. The diversity of species was amazing and I enjoyed being able to identify and learn completely new plants, as well as being in pronghorn antelope country!

This internship allowed me to experience new things and try to narrow my ideas for my career. I made many contacts at the BLM, and my mentor was very supportive in me finding a career that would suit my interests. I look forward to pursuing my interests as I search for jobs, and am hopeful for the possibility of doing another CLM internship in a new location and possibly with a different agency.

Trip to the Grand Tetons to see the aspens in fall colors

Brooke Stallings

BLM Miles City, Montana


Reading everyone’s blogs from the last couple weeks makes me want to write about what this internship has meant to me. My personal difference is that I have been lucky enough to get an extension, so I’m not going to be leaving Denver until February. All the same, the field season is coming to an end, and I feel justified reflecting on my last 4.5 months as a CLM Intern.

Like many of the other interns, this has been my first real job after graduation. This means that similarly, I feel that I have learned a lot about working an 8-4 job, 5 days a week. It hardly feels like a real job though, since few people are lucky enough to spend their workweek exploring beautiful places and learning about interesting native (and sometimes rare) plants. I have appreciated the opportunity to really get to know Colorado, and to observe how I deal with working in a professional environment. The variety of my job has kept me interested throughout, even through the twinges that came when the summer ended and school started back up without me.

Unlike many of the other interns, I’m from the West. As a result, a lot of my experiences here have had familiar overtones. I grew up in the mountains, driving on bad dirt roads, living around people who like to hunt and shoot guns for fun. If anything, this internship proved to be the opposite experience – from growing up in a tiny town, to going to school in a small town, to suddenly living in a city of 2.5 million people. Perhaps because of this, I can’t say that my internship has been life changing. I already knew that I wanted to end up living and working in the West, preferably outside. I still don’t know what I want to do with my life any more specifically than that, though I think that my next step is going to be continuing to look for temporary jobs with many different biological foci. Despite that fact that I haven’t found a new direction for my life, I have learned a great deal about Colorado, about the flora, about working for the government, and about myself. Personally, I am now able to comfortably be self-sufficient. This has been the first time I’ve had to buy groceries and feed myself seven days a week, pay rent, and manage my own time. Due to a number of circumstances, I have also been living alone for about half of my internship thus far, something I never dreamed I would be able to do. I’m so happy to know that I can take care of myself, be comfortable with making my own decisions, and make meaningful friendships in a new place. These are skills that I will certainly take with me when I leave, thanks to CLM.

For now though, I feel extremely lucky that I’m staying. I will continue living and working in Colorado for the winter, switching over to a new project as the temperature outside keeps dropping. I’ll be essentially conducting an in-depth literature review of native pollinators, something that the nerd in me is very excited for. Look out for updates and interesting things that I’ve learned about pollinators in the next couple months!

Sama Winder, BLM Colorado State Office