Exploring a New Site

A couple of weeks ago, Lauren and I drove out to a new field site, Hellhole Canyon, to scout for new plants. Our first time out to this site was unsuccessful, we ended up at a locked gate. We could see beyond the gate, there was a dirt road, and that is where we needed to be. We decided we would go back to the Beckman Center to thoroughly study some maps so that we could figure out a way to get onto the part that is BLM Land. Once we devised a new plan for getting to the BLM part of the site, we went out again the next day. Lauren and I were both really excited because we were certain our new way would lead us on the right side of the gate, but it didn’t. Instead, the gate was unlocked this time because there were other government employees working, and they let us in so we could check out the site. We didn’t see any new species for vouchering, but the overall view of the site was beautiful!



In the upcoming week I will be going out here again to see if any annuals have popped up after the rain we’ve received since the first time out, I’m looking forward to what we will find!












A Step-by-Step Approach to Seed Processing

I want to share with y’all a simple step-by-step process for processing a seed lot. First things first, collect the seed from a field site and bring it back to the Seed Bank and put into a plastic container with a label.

Then this material will be rubbed on to different screens in order to separate out the seeds from the other plant material. I’ve attached a photo to show what the pods of a C. heterophyllus look like once they’ve been opened by rubbing it on a screen.

Once the seed has been separated from the plant by use of the different screen sizes, then an air separator is used to remove debris and unfilled seeds from the seed lot.

After the whole seed lot has gone through the air separator it is considered ‘clean.’ I write ‘clean’ because if it is a seed lot with extremely small seeds, there tends to be tiny debris as seen in the photo below. If this is the case, the seed lot will have to be hand-cleaned.

Hand-cleaning a seed lot involves a microscope and tweezers, and takes a lot of time. Since the seeds are so small, as well as the debris, one must look through a microscope in order to pick out the left over debris. Once this is complete the seed lot is officially clean!

Seed processing takes a lot more time than I had thought, but the end result is so clean and pretty!


A Sucker for Suckers

I’m currently about a month into an internship with USFWS in Klamath Falls, OR, and having an absolutely amazing time.  Our first month has been spent with the USGS working with a couple species of suckers (see the blogpost ‘A Fish Called Sucker’ to get the low-down from another intern here in Klamath Falls and some good pictures of the beautiful creature itself).  We are collecting data for a mark-recapture study by inserting pit tags into captured fish and monitoring their movements with pit tag arrays.  Fish collection occurs at night on the lake with trammel nets, during the day at a weir set up across a river that flows into the lake, and trammel nets set by hand at some springs on the edge of the lake where many suckers spawn.  Data must be downloaded from the remote sites by hand, which has lead to some interesting travel around the Klamath Basin.  We’ve had a chance to learn how pit-tag fish, ID suckers, operate the neat field ranger computers, and the basics of driving the motor boat.  The fish begin to move upriver as soon temperatures rise; Thursday there were no fish, while Friday was gorgeously sunny with about 240 fish caught.  The fish are mostly between 55-70 cm long – it’s amazing to see a seething pool of that many big fish in the trap!  Apparently that’s on the low end as well…we’re looking forward to higher numbers next week!

Katie Moyer

Chicago Botanic Garden-USFWS & USGS

Klamath Falls, OR


Forests of Sagebrush

I’m Cole and I’m from Vermont.  I studied Forestry at Paul Smith’s College, which is located in the Adirondack mountains of New York.  I have just finished my third week at the BLM office in Carson City, NV.  I assumed when I moved out here that I would not be seeing many large trees, and that assumption proved true, but I did not anticipate that I would know so few of the species.  The only plants that seem to be in both Nevada and Vermont are the invasives.  I have been trying to learn as many new genera and species as I can to turn that “sea of green” I see out the car window into something more recognizable.

We participated in an Earth Day event yesterday in Fallon.  The event was located on a Naval Air Station where Top Gun was filmed.  Although the crowd was kind of small, we had a diverse group of people from school teachers to archeologists to pilots ask us about the different aspects of the BLM. A lot of people out here have an interest in the BLM, which is exciting. We will be heading up to Reno this Sunday for a second Earth Day event.

Arizona Desert Fish Fun


Deserts are charming to those who know how to see them –John Muir

When I first arrived in southeastern Arizona, I was a bit dulled by the vast barren landscape of the desert. But after spending the past month here, I have learned a new found appreciation for this delicate region of the arid west and its dependence on aquatic systems.

My internship has allowed me to study in two of the greatest assemblages of native fish in Arizona including Bonita and Aravaipa Creek.  These two systems are home to several threatened and endangered fish species including the Loach Minnow, Spikedace, Gila chub, and Gila Topminnow.  Recently, I have had the opportunity to participate and work with these species as part of an ongoing species composition and relative abundance survey.

Also, as a part of my internship, my team and I are working to restore several wetland habitats located within our field office.  One of these sites is the home of the endangered Desert Pupfish. These fish are amazingly adaptable.  They can withstand water temperatures over 95 degrees Fahrenheit and salinity levels 3 times that of seawater!

I am looking forward to the months to come working here in southeast Arizona and continuing to learn and be involved in new experiences.

Rob Osborne

Safford AZ, BLM

A wild grouse chase

I’ve been back with the Bishop Field Office for two weeks now.  I can barely believe it.  I love walking down the halls of the office again.

Its sage grouse season here.  Everyone has been involved in counting the males out on the leks, and tagging birds with radio collars.   Male sage grouse gather in groups on open peices of land, to call and strut so that the females will come and mate with them.  We have been counting them from a distance by telescope to determine the size and health of the population.

I have also learned how to use telemetry (radio signals) to track the hens.  The radio collars emit a beep on a certain frequence, and you track the birds by finding the direction where the beeps are the loudest.  You end up looking rather demented, standing on the bed of a pickup, turning around in circles with a weird metal contraption held above your head.  The first day I went out to do this, we ended up tracking the collar to a grouse wing – something had eaten our hen.

When I first interviewed for this position a year ago, the job description indicated that I was going to be doing a lot more sage grouse work.  When I got here last summer, the grouse work season was over.  I’m very excited getting to work with these iconic birds now.

Cows, Lizards, and Mines…

It has been one month since I started my CLM internship with the BLM in the Mojave Desert.  The weather has been very nice since coming to the desert. It even rained here this past weekend! Unfortunately, it seems the heat has finally arrived.

I have spent my time working on a few projects. I helped build a fence to keep grazing cows from trampling a riparian area. I will actually begin monitoring some of these oases in the desert today. I will be checking for water, identifying native flora and fauna utilizing the site, and noting any flora invasives. The desert springs play a key role in the survival of some of the desert’s most beloved plants and animals.

I have also been helping a coworker conduct habitat suitability surveys for the Mojave fringe-toed lizard. This lizard loves loose sand dunes. We are trying to determine if OHV traffic may be affecting their populations. While out on survey, we were even lucky enough to have already spotted a few of these amazing lizards. We will be joining up with another biologist next week for informal training on proper identification, safe catching and handling techniques, etc.

Finally, I have been spending my time monitoring abandoned mine lands. The BLM has officially closed more than a dozen abandoned mines with bat-friendly gates. These gates allow the bats to freely come and go from the mine while keeping people safely out. I have been visiting these mines to check for any gate disturbances. I have fortunately not found any problems up to this point. Over the next few weeks, I will begin surveying some of these mines for bats and any owls that may also be utilizing the sites. I am looking forward to these night surveys!

On my travels, I have found one of everyone’s favorite desert plant: the Joshua tree.

We also ran into these guys as we were heading to a mine.

 Alicia Rodriguez


Highways Can Be Cool

The past few weeks have been incredibly exciting. My intern crew and I got to tour a highway construction site that is being built on BLM land. The highway is going to make the ride from Carson City, NV to Reno, NV incredibly faster, but there is no telling when the project will be completed. The construction of the highway is quite impressive with multiple bridges filling the gaps between various hills. My team was lead by a Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) Civil Engineer, who explained the project and answered any questions. I actually got to drive a vehicle over the uncompleted highway and bridges, which was nerve-racking to say the least. The driving was exhilarating, but became scary when my mentor told me that one of the support pillars for the bridge-seen in the photo below-fell over in the past.  Also, there were extremely high winds on the bridge, which made controlling our hard hats a very difficult task.

View of the new bridge from the valley below

The construction of the bridge involves a restoration component, where NDOT must develop a seed mix to restore the bare soil after all the havoc of the construction process is finished. I got to see the vegetation restoration progress by viewing hillsides that have been sprayed with a hydroseed mix at various points in the past ten years or so. I was glad to see a robust plant community that had developed on a hillside in just seven years after the hydroseed was applied after the construction.

 -Austin Rutherford


Lost Coast Headlands and other explorations

Fleener Creek running into the Pacific

April 17, 2012

Since my first post in March I have been continuing with my surveying of dune vegetation on the established transects. Much of this work has been done on BLM land that is nearby. I have quickly found that moving only a few miles closer to the coast can yield drastically different rainfall and wind patterns, regardless of what the radar indicates. Weather aside, I have completed 12 of 13 dune transects with the hope to finish my last one this week. I am definitely much more confident in my identification skills of the local dune vegetation schemes. I find that the more time one spends hunched over a sandy dune mat scouring for smaller and rare flora, counting rosettes of beach Layia (Layia carnosa), and observing the floral phenological changes, the more appreciation I gain for the complexity of this habitat. The intense climatic and geologic pressures on these species is quite evident after spending even just one day on the dunes. They are unquestionably better adapted for survival in such an environment than any field worker.

In addition to my concentration on dune vegetation, I have had a chance to travel to several of the other disjunct parcels of land under the jurisdiction of the BLM Arcata field office. Our office hosted a group of high school students who helped restore trails and remove invasive Monterey pines, coyote brush, and french broom from a former US Naval base at the Lost Coast Headlands. The invasive woody vegetation has been encroaching on the threatened coastal prairies over the last 10 years since the removal of the naval base. A substantial stand of Monterey pine– which, to clarify, are native to the central coast of California, but artificially cultivated and invasive in the north coast– have grown in excess of 25 feet in just a decade. Fortunately these pines focus all their resources into growing fast, not strong, and thus have very soft wood and a large tap root. Many of the trees (up to 6 feet tall) were easily pulled by hand and trees up to 5 inches dbh were felled with a small hand saw. This was an important opportunity to share the importance of our conservation work with a younger generation of local students. We made sure to stress that coastal prairies are equally native to the north coast as forested hillsides, though most of these prairies have disappeared in the last century with a focus on timber growth and restricted grazing and fire regimes. My supervisor has been educating me on the conservation of these prairies and of the often scrutinized methods for actively managing the land to ensure their survival. All in all, coastal prairies are pretty cool.

Next week I will be traveling to a BLM Seed Collection training conference in Las Vegas. I am looking forward to learning more about seed conservation work and preparing for the late-season efforts to collect seeds in the Arcata district. Because the conference is in the middle of the week I will have a chance to drive through much of California and am planning to take both the coastal route and eastern-Sierra route along the journey there and back. I look forward to sharing my experiences from the trip in May.

-Andy, BLM Arcata, CA

Spring Time in Arizona

This spring has been amazing botany wise and weather wise. My days have been busy looking for plants in many different habitats here in southeastern Arizona. The locals say that this spring was a not a good year for wildflowers but to someone who has never seen the desert in the spring I can’t believe it could be better.