Humble Bees

“Time is honey”
Bernd Heinrich (1996)

Amazing how quickly the time passes, even while doing office work. Since my last entry I’ve been really focusing in on bumblebees (once known as humble bees), learning as much as I can about their foraging patterns and habits. The overarching conclusion I’ve come to is that they can fly really far! For such a small animal, it is incredible to learn that some individuals will fly upwards of a kilometer each time they leave the nest in order to reach some really delicious nectar.

I read a cool study that quantified bumblebee foraging patterns by attaching tiny radio transponders to their backs. Check out the pictures! Osborne et al. (1999) set up a giant satellite dish in the middle of a field, and used harmonic radar to see where the bumblebees went. They ran into a few problems though, because the signal was only strong enough if the bees stayed within 700 m and were in sight of the satellite dish. This is only one way that researchers have tried to determine how far bumblebees fly between their nests and their forage, though it may be the most interesting and innovative!


If you are interested in learning more about bumblebees, I would highly recommend Bumblebees: Behaviour, Ecology, and Conservation by Dave Goulson.

Sama Winder, BLM CO State Office

Last days in Lakeview

Now that it’s March, just about the time I’m used to winter being completely over, the snow and cold have finally arrived to southeast Oregon. Although my warm-weather-loving sensibilites might not be happy about this right now, all those poor little thirsty plants definitely will be. Last season was a great one for seed collection because of the awesome precipitation levels last winter/spring. And as I write, my mentor is finishing the process of hiring the upcoming season’s interns, and I hope for them that we get a little more of this snowwy stuff so they can experience the brief but amazing emerald color of the desert in May.

I have only two weeks left here, and as much as I’m ready to move forward to a new position and learn some new skills (that involve tractors, chainsaws, blowtorches, and academic research!), I love it here (!), even while I sit on the computer all day and work with data, and will miss it.

Thank you, Lakeview! for being my first home in my new life in Oregon. You’re awesome.

From the tallest town in Oregon,


California: Coastal Wanderings

Despite numerous hours spent outside each week between work and trail running, my feet start itching for adventure whenever Friday rolls around.  Good ol’ wanderlust! Oh the amazing places it has led me: Yosemite, the original Jelly Belly factory, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass– just to name a few.

Most recently I left the dry, brown central Sacramento valley behind for the greener pastures of Point Reyes National Seashore.  A weekend at the ocean seemed the perfect way to celebrate President’s Day weekend.  My trusty Ford Taurus and I hit the road loaded down with adventure essentials: camera, mix cd’s, sleeping bag, and my favorite drive time snack- Pirate’s Booty!!


Planning ahead isn’t one of my strong suits, and this trip was no exception–I headed to the coast with little more prepared than mapquest directions.  Fortunately I was far from disappointed by all that Pt. Reyes has to offer.  Picturesque beaches miles long, rolling green hills with windy roads, and grand vistas welcomed me to the Pacific. I even had pleasure of sitting through an amusing “cow crossing” traffic jam.

As I climbed down 30 long flights of stairs to visit the famous Pt. Reyes lighthouse I couldn’t help but gawk at the gorgeous view—what a foreign site for a formerly landlocked Ohioan.  During my visit to the elephant seal-covered beaches I felt like a kid at Christmas—so overcome with pure excitement all I could do was smile 🙂 It was unlike anything I’d ever seen (or heard) before; giant slug-like creatures lolling about and then suddenly crashing at one another in a fight. Amusing until I remembered the video I’d seen of an alpha male attacking a car! LINK

I spent my nights at Sky Camp, one of the park’s hike-in only campgrounds complete with a sweeping panoramic view of Point Reyes, Drakes Bay, and the Pacific Ocean—all without ever leaving my tent. Talk about camping in style!

A short but sweet interlude between dry chaparral days and poignant reminder that spring is just around the corner– even for those of us in the central valley.

Over and out.

Sophia Weinmann, El Dorado Hills, CA



Training in Salt Lake City

This past week, the rest of the Carson City intern crew and I were given the opportunity to attend the BLM Integrated Pest Management and Pesticide Applicator Training Course in Salt Lake City. After a long day of driving across Nevada and into Utah on Monday, we finally made it, just in time to get some sleep before our rigorous training week that began bright and early on Tuesday. There were many different lecturers, who spoke on a broad spectrum of subjects. These included an overview of plant taxonomy and identification methods, common invasive weeds of the west, forest pathogens, biocontrol methods, and targeted grazing, to name a few. We learned a lot from these speakers, and also learned many technical aspects of applying pesticides, such as when and how to apply them, and what kind of pesticide works on different plants. For example, one should not apply a foliar contact herbicide to a creeping perennial weed, because this would not target the roots and the plant would come back the next year. On Thursday afternoon and Friday morning we had a general exam and category exams, in order to be certified in pesticide use in agricultural plant pests, forestry, aquatics, and right-of-ways.

Overall, it was a great week, we all passed our exams, and we were able to explore Salt Lake City a bit too! It was really cold out, but it was so beautiful because it snowed a few times while we were there, which was really fun. We returned to Carson City late on Friday and then left before daybreak on Saturday for a Lichen Identification course in Chico, California. The weather there was the complete opposite— 70 degrees and sunny. All of the acclimating my body had done to cold weather in Salt Lake was swiftly undone in that one day…but learning about lichens was fascinating and definitely worth it!

Spring in Arizona

The unknown rain patterns of the spring monsoons, had all of guessing if we would have a spring wildflower season. We got it! So, far I have identified 35 spring wildflowers. And with cloudy days over head for the past 30 hours it is hard telling what else will come up in the next rain storms if we get any. The desert has surprised me once again with its secrets. I thought that the summer was amazing…. the spring is even better. The weather is cool so it is nice to go on hikes and plant hunts. I hope it lasts for a while and doesn’t freeze so the flowers will continue to bloom.


San Diego County is the most botanically diverse area in the U.S. with nearly 2,000 species, many of which are endemic. The county has the coast to the West, the desert to the East, and is bisected from North to South by the Peninsular Ranges. The elevation ranges from sea level to over six thousand feet. This varied landscape allows for an exceptionally high level of plant diversity.
The desert transition habitat is found down the east side of the Peninsular Ranges and this was the area where we went last week. The weather forecast looked ominous, but we were optimistic. To get to our site, we had to drive up and over the Cuyamaca Mountains and out into the lower elevations beyond.
The drive over the Cuyamucas was relatively uneventful, with very little rain. When we finally reached our site we saw a mix of cacti, shrubs and huge granite boulders. It was freezing cold and very windy. At certain points the wind became so strong it was difficult to open the truck doors to identify plants. Despite the rough conditions, it was a beautiful place to explore. We saw Desert Apricot (Prunus fremontii), Golden Gooseberry ( Ribes quercetorum), and Grape-Soda Lupine (Lupinus excubitus) in bloom.
As the day wore on the weather only got worse. When we tried to collect a sample of Apricot Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) the rain turned to hail and we decided to admit defeat for the day. On the drive back up and over the Cuyamucas the hail turned to snow! It was so much fun to watch everything turn white throughout the course of our drive. We followed a snow plow most of the way down the mountain. (I never would have imagined experiencing something like that in Southern California.) As we dropped in elevation, the snow slowly changed back into rain and everything turned green again. It was odd to realize that we had only been a half an hour away from the ocean.
There are not many places where you can experience the ocean, the snow, and the desert within a couple hours. San Diego is truly a remarkable place, and I couldn’t ask for a better area to study plant diversity.

From damp to dry…greetings from Las Vegas!

What a week this has been.  Never in my life did I expect to say this, but I am now a current resident of Las Vegas, Nevada.  A long ways away from the Redwood coast that I called home for four and a half years, I have been thrown into a completely new world.  I have traveled from a small town to a huge one; from 50 inches of rain a year to this place that gets 4; from a Redwood forest to the desert.  I cannot think of two places that are more dissimilar.  And yet, I have been able to find beauty in both.

Upon arriving in Las Vegas last week I could not see beyond the strip malls, housing developments, thousands of people, and casino lights.  The traffic stressed me out and I felt like turning my car around and heading right back to Arcata, CA from where I recently graduated.  I couldn’t imagine finding peace is such a giant city, and yet it seems I have.

I began work at the Springs Preserve on Monday and all of my fears about living here have slowly dissolved.  The Springs Preserve is located in the middle of the city, a 180-acre refuge for wildlife and native plants.  It has only been open to the public for 5 years but has so much to offer.  With a focus on sustainable living, the Springs Preserve features museums, a botanic garden, and an interpretive trail through a wetland habitat.  Though the majority of my internship will not be spent working on site at the Springs Preserve, I will have multiple opportunities to teach classes and put on demonstrations for the schools and families that visit.  Every employee I have met has such a passion for education, conservation, and sustainable living; I am excited to join the team.

During my internship I will primarily be working for the Seeds of Success Program with the local BLM office.  Due to a lack of rain, I have yet to begin training for that and am eager to get out in the field.  My first few days, however, have been great.  This weekend I will be participating in the Springs Preserve’s Cactus Salvage Program and am very much looking forward to getting my hands dirty.  The Springs Preserve has partnered with local developers to salvage cacti from lands to be developed, which will then be potted and sold to local residents.  All profits from the cactus sale will fund grants to local elementary school teachers for programs focused on botany, recycling, sustainable living, and water conservation, among other topics.

During preparation for the Cactus Salvage, I had my first real dose of the desert.  From a distance it looks pretty lifeless but I should know by now that that is never the case.  Up close, it really is beautiful.  Here are a couple shots of the cacti that we will be working with this weekend.

Cottontop cactus (Echinocactus polycephalus)

Silver Cholla (Opuntia echinocarpa)

Hedgehog cactus (Echinocactus engelmannii)

My first week in Las Vegas has been wonderful.  I have been challenged and inspired by this new landscape and know that I have so much to learn about my new home.  I am looking forward to seeing how this internship will evolve with the coming field season and can’t wait for these next steps!

Everyone do a little rain dance for those of us in Las Vegas!

Allison Clark

CLM Intern: Springs Preserve, Las Vegas, Nevada