Surrounded by beauty

When I left Arcata, CA to begin my internship in Las Vegas, I told myself that I was capable of finding beauty anywhere, even in a place as busy and populated as Las Vegas.  Having never visited the city and having only ever driven through the desert en route to more lush and colder destinations, I admit that I had low expectations for my new home.  After spending just a couple weeks here, however, I knew that I had landed in a beautiful spot.  Now two and a half months into my internship, I feel so lucky to live here and do the work that I do.  Two days out of the week I participate in the Seeds of Success program, which has allowed me to explore many different types of landscapes surrounding Las Vegas.  Those are my favorite days of the week, and before each drive I anxiously await the discovery of new plants and new views.  My partner and I  spend time scouting in Creosote-bursage communities, climbing our way over passes to reach rocky Pinyon-Juniper woodlands. Every lunch break offers a different view, each one uniquely peaceful and breathtaking.  The city itself can be overwhelming at times but I can always count on a day in the field to make me smile and calm me down.  Here are a handful of photos of some of our collection sites, as well as a couple weekend trips:

Early morning view of the Colorado River on a weekend trip to the hot springs

The view from the top of Turtlehead Peak at Red Rock Canyon

Sunset at our camping spot in Gold Butte

Christmas Tree Pass on a blissful rainy day

Lovell Canyon

Lava Butte Road offers some fun driving

Lunch spot at Cottonwood Pass

The past few weeks here have been wonderful.  We have gotten some rain and the desert is starting to come to life.  I completed the Seeds of Success Training with some fellow CLM interns and left feeling so proud of the work that I am doing.  This program is led by some truly dedicated and enthusiastic folks and I am happy to have had the opportunity to meet and chat with some of them.  Each day I feel more confident in my abilities as a botanist and as a member of the SOS team.  I’m looking forward to what the next couple of months brings!

Allison Clark

CLM Intern: Springs Preserve, Las Vegas, Nevada

First Impressions: Alturas, CA

I was headed South on 395. I had just left Bend, Oregon where I spent the winter working near Mt. Bachelor. After enjoying a cold and crisp winter I began to be more intimidated by the thought of driving further and further into warm Sagebrush country. About 100 miles from my destination of Alturas, California the clear sunny day unexpectedly became a blizzard. Soon at least 2 inches of snow covered the desert-like landscape. The snow continued to fall as a drove on when about 5 miles from where I would be living I saw a very large cat nimbly crossing the road… not even my first field day and I had already seen a local mountain lion! This summer was looking to be a interesting one.

I have now been working in Alturas for the BLM and living in Likely, CA for about two weeks. It is only May and the heat is already intimidating to someone who grew up in Western Washington. Not to worry though, I am collecting an entire arsenal of sun protection. The time is already passing very quickly. The town of Alturas is small, remote and seems quite friendly. Many of the storefronts have CLOSED signs hanging in them. The ones that remain open seem all the more charming and welcoming because of their empty neighbors. And thankfully yes, there is actually a Thai restraunt in town. (:

The people working at the Alturas Field Station are even more welcoming. I am working as a Botany tech this summer, however, I have already had offers from the archeology, wildlife, fire and range departments to come along with them for some training and new adventures in Modoc country. Everyday has been different, radio training, inventorying with the weed-crew, GIS work, rare plant surveys, exploring different range allotments. I quickly realized I do not know much about the flora and fauna of this region, but I soon will. A couple field days have entirely been spent looking for several rare plants, driving down back-country gravel roads, hiking up and down ridges, around dried up creek beds and vernal pools … it is like a botanical treasure hunt!

One of my favorite days so far was spent driving West towards Mt. Shasta to Falls River Mill, here the landscape not only includes Sage and Rabbit brush but Juniper, White Oak and Grey Pine trees as well. This diverse canvas of trees and shrubs is enhanced by numerous wildflowers sprinkling the landscape with brilliant pinks, bright purples and florescent yellows and oranges. (I am still learning their names) On this particular day my partner Joe drove us to a place for lunch near where we were taking some herbarium vouchers. We sat on lava rocks looking out over a valley, in the distance was Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta, I could not imagine a better lunch hour. I couldn’t help thinking- there is so much knowledge to be gained, experiences to be had and people to learn from here… I definitely need to make the most of all these opportunities and I can’t wait!

Enlightenment within, without, but most importantly, out and about! -G. Gobbato

They say enlightenment has been reached when we individually shed all the layers giving us the illusion that we are an identity; that we are somehow removed from the everything continuously occurring around us (and within us). In a sense, when we shed these layers, we metaphorically become lighter beings, less weighed down by the everyday complications ranging from angry roommates to data entry. It is also said that wild places facilitate these realizations where many people find themselves being a part of the everything. It is easy to feel that way here in Zion National Park.

Checkerboard Mesa

Kolob Terrace Road, post burn

The last couple of weeks have been exciting for the herbarium because I am trying to daily go somewhere in the park, and target specific species that are missing in Zion’s collection. I have collected 50 species, most of them new to the herbarium. I have also recruited: the Vegetation crew; the Fire FX crew; the Chief of Resources; and even an amazing botanist who has worked in this region the last ten years, to all collect and look for the species we are missing. I am hopeful that in this upcoming month we will be able to drastically reduce the number of species we are missing.

On that note, I have had some really exciting finds recently. I went to a hidden hanging garden with a new vegetation seasonal employee who also happens to be my new, very cool roommate. He is amazing with plants and also knows the animalia and fungi kingdoms. He was great to have out in the field. We found the rare local endemic Viola clauseniana, which according to USDA plants, occurs only in this county. We wonder why it is not federally listed. It is the first time I’ve ever seen it; our Annotated Checklist of Vascular Flora of Zion NP states that this species was described here in Zion NP in 1936 by Baker.

Viola clauseniana

The other awesome plant I found was Cheilanthes feei (slender lipfern). Mostly, it is awesome because it was the last fern I had to find and collect in order to have found all 19 ferns; Historic, Rare, and Present in Zion.  C. feei is also very special regardless of my perception of it because it has uniquely glabrous leaflets above and very finely scaled white underbelly- xeric adaptations. And, for a million other reasons I probably struggle to comprehend, such as that it is a cosmopolitan genera, and its DNA sequence is probably triple mine.  I am glad I am, in a sense, a part of it.

Cheilanthes feei

Gear for collecting the last fern for the Herbarium!

If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the Mojave!

Well, it’s hot.  Eight weeks into my internship with the BLM down in Needles, CA, and the temperature in town hit 110F today.  It may be hot for us out in the field, but it’s perfect weather for the Mojave Fringe-toed Lizards (MFTL)!

Adult Male Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard

Plots have been laid out, and surveys have begun!  MFTLs are diurnal, and only active in the morning and evening due to the extreme sand surface temperatures (i.e. 160F) during midday.  I am therefore surveying for lizards several mornings per week at two different locations, Coyote Holes and Ludlow Dunes, within the field office.  We are also looking at the vegetation and sand compaction characteristics of the different plot locations.

Habitat Patch at Coyote Holes

Ludlow Dunes


Another part of my overall project is the inventory of all of the known MFTL locations within the Needles Field Office.  I have taken trips to some of the locations, such as Cadiz Dunes and Crucero Hill, and have several more to visit.

Cadiz Dunes

Crucero Hill

That is it for now, but much more to come later.  I’ve got six more weeks of surveys before the lizard season is over, and a lot to do before then.


Jeff Gicklhorn

BLM Needles Field Office

Coos Bay, Oregon BLM

 My name is Mimi Jenkins and I am lucky enough to be working as a CLM intern at the Coos Bay District office of the Bureau of Land Mangement for the next six months. The first two weeks here have been an amazing introduction to the beautiful landscape I will be working on during my internship doing noxious weed inventory for Scott Knowles, a Natural Resources Specialist.  I am still in awe of the rocky coasts where the Pacific Ocean crashes against the sheer cliffs or gently wades in cool, clear coves. The land is green, dominated by conifers, and covered in moss and water-loving creatures. The old growth forests laden with massive Douglas firs hundreds of years old and ferns make you realize how tiny of a speck of dust you are on this Earth.

Elk @BLM's Dean Creek Elk Viewing Site

These first couple of weeks have been mostly training and preparing for the 6 months ahead. Since many of the flora and fauna here on the Oregon South Coast are foreign to an Eastener like me, I have been attempting to quickly learn as much as I can, especially in terms of noxious weeds since I will need to accurately identify them  in the field for my internship. I have gone out in the field with my mentor, Scott Knowles, and the other CLM intern here, Nathan Reese, to learn some of the noxious weeds and what the work we will be doing entails. Nathan and I will be spending our time driving out to the BLM sites as well as private lands, mostly on logging roads, and taking inventory on noxious weeds using a Trimble Juno GPS device. The data we will collect will be used when the BLM contracts out for treatment of the weeds (i.e. herbicide spraying). It’s crucial to try to control noxious weeds because they crowd out native plant species which provide important habitat for wildlife and are generally deemed to be “injurious to public health, agriculture, recreation, wildlife, or any private or public property”. For example, the western snowy plover shorebird is threatened because of loss of habitat, largely due to the introduction of European beachgrass. This exotic plant was used to stabilize the sand dunes on the coast and has since changed the topography of the dunes where the plover nests, decreasing the amount of open sand space for nesting and providing hiding spots for predators.

Snowy Plover, photo taken from BLM shared directory

In addition to training and learning from my mentor, I have had the opportunity to venture out with some of the other BLM employees, including wildlife biologists and a fish biologist. Steve Langenstein, one of the wildlife biologists, took us out to Spruce Island, a piece of land that BLM bought many years ago from a man who had brought over several foreign Rhododendron species which flourish in this area. We helped him take down some bat boxes that were no longer in use and poorly designed and put up purple martin boxes in their place. While taking down one of the bat boxes, we found 4 little brown bats sleeping, so Steve relocated them to a warm woodpile. He also showed us the BLM’s Dean Creek Elk viewing site where we ran into a herd of elk (not literally). I have also visited the BLM’s Doernir Fir, the largest Douglas Fir known to exist, with a diameter of 11.5 ft. On another day last week, we went out with some wildlife biologists doing spotted owl surveys. Species like the spotted owl and marbled murrelet which depend on old-growth forest habitat have been hard-hit due  to intense logging. We hiked into a site where a pair of owls was known to live in previous years. Since we were out during the day, we didn’t anticipate seeing them but when we called them, we heard them respond and followed the sound to close  in on them.  Then we “moused” the pair of owls to find out if they were nesting. It was an amazing experience having a spotted owl fly 2 feet from my face to catch this mouse out on the branch I was holding. These initial experiences have allowed me to familiarize myself with the area I will be working in and learn about its biology, ecology, natural history and fantastic recreation opportunities.

Yellow Flag Iris, one of our noxious weed species, picture taken from BLM shared directory

I am excited to learn and experience as much as possible during this internship and my time on the Oregon coast. Less than five miles down the road from where I am staying is Shore Acres State Park, a gorgeous site with beautiful trails through the woods and the ocean off to your left. It contains Simpson Reef, the largest haul out site for seals and sea lions on the Pacific Northwest coast. Out on the beachy haul out site, you can see Elephant seals as well as California and Stellar sea lions. Some unique and amazing birds are common sights around here too, like bald eagles, cormorants, egrets, herons and hundreds of shorebirds, and puffins just south of here in a town called Bandon, OR.  I am so excited to be able to take advantage of this amazing location, in addition to the great experience and knowledge I will gain from this internship and all my incredible colleagues here at the Coos Bay district BLM.


The Mighty Suckers

First, an introduction:

Lost River sucker - larger, more docile, and oh so lovely

Shortnose sucker - small, squirmy, and kind of cute (in comparison)

Since the last posting on this project (‘A Sucker for Suckers’), we’ve been inundated with… suckers! Katie’s catch of 240 at the weir on the 20th was followed by numbers in the 600s early the following week, providing ample practice handling, transporting and processing the strong, slippery fish. Still, a swift face slap every now and then keeps us on our toes and reminds us that we’re dealing with several feet of disgruntled muscle.

Considering their apparent overall health and relatively large numbers, it’s easy to forget at times that these two species are endangered. The key issue is recruitment of new adults, which basically hasn’t occurred to any significant degree since the early 90s. This means that despite reasonably low death rates (owing to over 40-year lifespans), the current populations are continually aging and declining by about 10 percent each year. The research conducted at GS is therefore divided into two broad goals: investigating potential causes of juvenile die-offs in pursuit of management solutions, and monitoring the status of the adult populations.

Processing set-up with LRS on measuring board (tag scanner below)

Injecting a SNS with a PIT tag just anterior to its left pelvic fin

solar panels power the weir trap antennas in the "city of sunshine"

Weir across Williamson River - downstream trap on right, upstream trap far left

Downloading tag reads at weir trap

One of the aspects of the adult monitoring program that’s impressed me most is the extent to which advances in technology and other innovations have been embraced over the course of the study. We record data on specifically-programmed computer devices to improve processing efficiency, maintain consistency, and virtually eliminate separate data entry. A variety of antenna and power systems in different arrangements are employed to gain the best coverage and signal for picking up the PIT tags depending on conditions at the site. The layout of the weir structure can be adjusted as the spawning season progresses to allow easier passage for fish returning downstream without compromising tag detections. Some of the remote stations have even been set up to send information on battery levels and data volume directly from the field to the office so that the limited personnel can be distributed to areas that are most in need of attention. With all of this, it becomes evident very quickly that a lot more time and effort has gone into maximizing data collection and minimizing disturbance to the fish than most of the general public is probably aware.

This was actually our last week at GS, which may have been for the best since my dry suit finally kicked the bucket on Friday! It’s been a great time, though, and it will be interesting now that we’re transitioning over to FWS to compare the inner-workings of two federal agencies that are tackling some of the same projects from different angles. Next stop: Modoc suckers!

Tommy Esson

Klamath Falls, OR

Greetings from Lockeford PMC!

Hello everyone, my name is Marc Bliss and I am the CLM intern at the Lockeford, California Plant Material Center. The PMC is owned by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), a division of the USDA. At the PMC we grow native plants for the various BLM offices throughout the state for the purposes of habitat restoration, erosion control, rare plant propagation, invasive species control, etc. The majority of my work will be for the Seeds of Success (SOS) program, but I’ll also be helping in the fields and herbarium to propagate other plants.

This has been my first week at the facility, and it has been INCREDIBLY busy in Lockeford. On Tuesday and Wednesday we held an Irrigation  Training Workshop for many of the state NRCS engineers who assist local farmers with water efficiency and quality problems. They drove and flew in from all over to learn from the head state engineers how the various systems work and how the farmers use them. We covered our older gravity irrigation system (low pressure) that was used for flood irrigation and furrow irrigation, as well as our new (high pressure) system with a computer-monitored pump for sprinkler systems, small sprayers, and drip irrigation. It was the perfect introduction to my time here, learning how the farm operates and how many commercial farms manage their water resources to grow crops. The most interesting aspect of the PMC is that we’re not growing apricots, alfalfa, or avocados like other farms. Instead, we’re growing  native grasses like Sporobolous airoides, Nasella pulchra, and Hordeum jubatum. The “weeds” that we’re pulling are the flowers and bean  plants that most people are trying to keep! The seeds or seedlings will then be sent off to whomever requested them, perhaps to be planted  in riparian areas to hold down soils, or to recently burned areas to prevent fires in the future.

Purple Needlegrass (Nasella pulchra)

On my first day I repotted and consolidated 1000 small containers of Tahoe yellow cress (Rorippa subumbellata), which is endemic ONLY to the  shorelines of Lake Tahoe to be sent West to help increase population sizes there. It feels great to be part of something bigger than  myself and doing some real good in the world, all while learning valuable skills, whether it be native plant identification or the inner workings of commercial farms. Hopefully I’ll be venturing out soon to start seed collections!

Tahoe Yellow Cress (Rorippa subumbellata)

Writings in the Sand

Hello, my name is Aaron Sedgwick and I’m an intern at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont,California! The territory my Seeds of Success internship covers spans an enormous area that includes the Mojave and the northern Sonora. As a native Midwesterner, the biggest challenge has been acclimating to the climate and learning an unfamiliar flora. The diversity is staggering. Despite the unusually dry spring this year and the lack of annual plants, I am consistently amazed at the variety and spectacular inflorescences of desert plants.

Ever since I learned about edible wild foods I’ve been fascinated by ethnobotany and ethnoecology. Learning about the how the Cahuilla people use native plants for food and medicine has accelerated the rate at which I learn species names and habitat types. I want to learn more about how the peoples of this region managed their resources historically. We stumbled upon what appeared to be a petroglyph in a rock face one day and I wondered at the diversity and complexity of knowledge that must have been required to live in such a varied landscape and harsh climate.

I had never experienced first-hand how limiting water is for wildlife and plants before I began working in the Mojave. I’m excited when I find dragonflies, because I know there must be a spring nearby. If there is one lesson that the desert has taught my thus far, it’s the necessity and sanctity of water.

I have been fortunate to participate in two Bioblitzes; one in Joshua Tree National Park at 49 Palms Spring and another at the Black Buttes documenting the flora and fauna in the area for the Save the Desert Foundation. Participating in these events gave me an opportunity to contribute directly to how the desert is managed for habitat and diversity (in the case of Joshua Tree National Park) and for commercial development (in the case of the Black Buttes).

Every day in the Mojave and Sonora is a reawakening to the resiliency of life. I can’t wait to see what’s hidden in the next canyon and what awaits me in the next wash!

A day In the Field


May 1st, 2012.

I arrive at the Alturas field office at 6:30 in the morning. The sky, except for a few puffs of white cumulus clouds, is clear. The sun is rising over the Warner mountain crest. Soon my mentor Mike Dolan and I get our things together and head West to some BLM land near Fall River Mills, in Shasta county.
We pull up on the side of a dirt road and I slurp down the last of my tea. With a handlens and a Trimble GPS unit dangling from my neck and clutching a field journal, I follow Mike as he hastily walks off the roadside into the adjacent grazing allotment. My head tilted down, at first I think nothing is blooming. Then specks of pink, yellow, blue, and white catch my eye. My mind leaves the realm of roads, signs, and distant scenery and a tiny world appears before me. I practically fall down as I get on my knees and elbows, putting my face an inch away from a flower less than a centimeter wide. I whip out my handlens, through which the minute blip of color becomes a detailed scene of texture and structure that my eyes normally fail to see. My mind races, dredging up strands of botanical knowledge that are mixed in with every other random thing I have crammed into my brain over the years. Polemonaceae? A Gillia, A Phlox? Mike soon confirms or corrects my guesses. I hurriedly scrawl down unfamiliar syllables, trying to keep up as he rattles off Latin like its his first language. A seasoned botanist who has worked in this area for decades, he seems to know every plant even if it isn’t flowering, including the many grasses.
One grass in particular is the reason we have stopped at this exact spot. Mike explains that the Poa secunda growing in the low sagebrush habitat here is about 20 centimeters tall and sets seed in June. Up the slope, amidst the ponderosa and grey pine, is another type, which grows 1 meter tall and sets seed in July. He throws his hands up as he exclaims that “they” have listed these grasses as the same species. He is of course talking about plant geneticists, and one project he will have me working on is a garden study. We will collect seed from these and other varieties of Poa secunda. They will be grown out in the same soils under the same conditions. If in this controlled setting they still exhibit the same drastic phenotypic variation, then they surely must be different species. If they all look the same, then we will know that they are all one species that varies considerably under different conditions. The motivation for this project is much more practical than just spiting the geneticists. Say for example a hot fire rages through some low sagebrush habitat. Mike decides to seed the area with Poa secunda in order to give the perennial native bunch grasses a fighting chance against the encroachment of exotic annual grasses like cheat grass and medusa head in the ensuing battle of succession. He orders Poa secunda seed. The seed happened to be collected from the variety that grows in pine habitat, but mike has no way of knowing this because all Poa secunda seed is labeled the same. This much larger, taller variety is unfit for survival in the shallow soil and harsh exposure of the low sagebrush habitat, so the seeding fails. This raises an interesting question for me: what should dictate the names that we choose for plants? In a case like this where it is no doubt a close call, should our priority be genetic accuracy or practical needs? Either way, it is exciting to be on the front lines of plant taxonomy.
This and many other questions regarding fire ecology, grazing, noxious weeds, succession, and our role in it all swirl in my mind as we drive to other sites. I forget them as soon as we arrive at our lunch spot. We sit on a cliff of black volcanic rock with red larkspurs and psychedelic lichens nestled in it, surrounded by a panorama of snowcapped mountains including Lassen and Shasta. I start thinking that field botany might be a good career for me.

Joe Broberg

Alturas BLM


The Red House

Hello, everyone! I am a recent graduate with a degree in English and have just began my internship at BLM’s West Eugene Wetlands (WEW) field office in Eugene, Oregon—known as the Red House by its inhabitants (aptly named, as it is a bright red, converted farm house). The Red House is a bit unusual in that BLM shares the Red House with two other organizations—the Long Tom Watershed Council and the Willamette Resources & Educational Network (WREN)—that, along with BLM, form a partnership focused on conserving the West Eugene Wetlands.

Now, you’re probably wondering how an English degree fits in with conservation and land management. My goal, in addition to grant writing, is to develop a public outreach program, creating literature aimed to educate the public and increase the overall awareness of the wetlands; after all, the West Eugene Wetlands are actually situated in and around Eugene city limits. Needless to say, I have learned more about the wetlands in the last week than the entire twenty-two years of my life—and I grew up in this area. Right now I’m gearing up for WREN’s Walkin’ and Rollin’ Through the Wetlands event, which is an opportunity for the public to take a stroll through the wetlands and learn about them. BLM is going to have a booth, and we’re hoping to teach people about Fender’s Blue Butterfly, WEW’s single federally listed endangered animal species, and its host plant Kincaid’s Lupine, a federally listed threatened plant species.

I’ve also gotten out in the field a bit, and last week I travelled up to the Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge to attend a workshop on long distance sampling of Fender’s Blue Butterfly populations. With typical Willamette Valley weather, we had a rain and wind storm, and the power went out halfway through the presentation; even so, we all slogged outside and practiced our long distance sampling skills on paper butterflies (which were a bit soggy, considering the rain, but still a very effective tool). Overall, I learned a lot and had fun, and am hoping to return to the second portion of the workshop next week!

Mackenzie Cowan

BLM West Eugene Wetlands Field Office