Fort Ord National Monument

I have been living here in Monterey for about two months now and it is only getting better. I work on Fort Ord National Monument (the newest national monument in the United States. Recently we had a ceremony for the national monuments depute. At this event we had some great guests which included U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, Garrison Commander Col. Joel J. Clark, Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, and Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abby.
President Obama made Fort Ord a National monument on April 20, 2012, “Fort Ord’s dramatic landscape lives in the memories of thousands of veterans as their first taste of Army life, as a final stop before deploying to war, or as a home base during their military career,” Obama said.
Fort Ord was an old military base from World War 1 through Desert Storm and now is home to beautiful trails and wildlife neighboring the Monterey Peninsula. I am very fortunate to be working here and hope to stay here as long as possible.
On another note I have been collecting many species a week for Seeds of Success for example Tomcat Clover scientific name Trifolium wildenovii. It has been quite the scavenger hunt trying to find all the species on my list my mentor and I have created.
Another project I have been doing is keeping signs posted and up to date with the location of a sheep herd on the Fort Ord, so that people with dogs understand the dangers of having your dog off lease around these natural landscapers. This last Saturday at the public lands day site on Fort Ord we held the first annual “Sheep Appreciation Day”, where people could come out and watch the sheep dogs and herders doing demonstrations, some other herders sheering sheep, and people knitting a blanket from the sheep wool.
I am having a great time here and can’t wait for the next project to come about!

Working at both C&O Canal NHP and Catoctin Mountain NP in Maryland so far has been challenging, insightful and exciting. Since I only recently started, I am still going through lots of training and taking field trips to see various sites within the parks. But so far I have loved every minute of it and can’t wait to see what is in store for me this summer and fall.

My interests are in plant ecology and I will be focusing on rare, threatened and endangered plant species while here at the park. I will also be doing vegetation surveys with deer exclosures to determine the impact of white tailed deer on native vegetation. Deer populations in Maryland have skyrocketed and they have only recently started deer management plans to thin the herds. These plots should reflect smaller deer densities through increasing species richness and abundance, but only time will tell!

I will also be working on vulnerability assessments for climate change for both parks. This includes using climate change forecast models and applying them to habitats to predict how plants and animals will react to a changing world. I have read a lot about them and I am excited to attempt my first one. These results could be really useful in implementing long term management plans for parks and possibly save them money, resources, and time.

I have a few pictures that I will post later in the week. But so far I am loving my time here in Maryland, gaining some great experience, and meeting some amazing people!

I recently started my CLM internship with the San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF) in Big Bear, California on May 25th. It was certainly a whirlwind getting here given that I graduated from college four days before my start date, but I am now comfortably settled in my new community and am having a great time getting to know my coworkers, mentor, and the surrounding forest. I feel so fortunate to have been plopped into such a spectacularly beautiful area with such generous, welcoming people.

Over the next five months, my position will mostly entail mapping sensitive and endangered plant species in the area, transferring data from the SBNF’s previous geodatabase to the online geodatabase the entire U.S. National Forest now uses, and probably making an interpretive guide to the forest’s wildflowers to be displayed at our visitor’s center so that guests can identify flowers that they see while out hiking.

My first few weeks on the job have been very informative and engaging. I have spent most of my time in the field mapping the mustard species Arabis parishii, or Parish’s rock cress, which is only found in the San Bernardino Mountains. Perhaps the most special attribute of this area is the occurrence of “pebble plain” ecosystems which are relict alpine meadows from the Pleistocene epoch 10,000 years ago. These pebble plains are covered with chunks of quartzite crystals and clay soils that are subject to intense freeze-thaw cycles (we’re at ~7,000 feet here!). Few plants can grow under these inhospitable conditions so the ones that do are very unique; A. parishii is one such plant. By mapping the current A. parishii population, we are able to compare our new data with previous data taken in the same area which has been informative in determining the effects the aftermath of a 2003 forest fire has had on the plant’s range. Preliminarily, we have found that A. parishii occurrence is lower than at the time the previous data was taken, probably due to a large Bromus tectorum, or cheat grass, influx that appeared after the fire.

I think the most valuable skills that I have learned thus far are related to field mapping. In previous field jobs the ArcPad GIS devices were extremely confusing, but thanks to my patient coworkers at this job, I’ve learned how to use the units efficiently and comfortably.

Well, this seems long enough but I’ll sign off by saying that if my job continues like this, I will certainly never be bored in the coming months! Thanks to everyone who has made this experience possible!!


Typical pebble plain. The pink hue is from buckwheat flowers (my new favorite plant!)

One of the two gopher snakes I saw on my first day in the field.


Arabis parishii, the plant I've been mapping.

Thanks for tunin’ in!
-Lizzy Eichorn










Home on the Range(land Monitoring)

I’m here in Lakeview, Oregon, interning with the BLM with a handful of other interns. We’re all working on different types of plant projects, and so the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of getting to know everything we’re seeing out here.  Being from Northeast Ohio, I’m used to identifying forest wildflowers and deciduous trees, but in Lakeview I’m becoming a pro at getting to know grasses,  shrubs, and little scrubland flowers.  As a rangeland monitoring intern, I help to check long-term plots within BLM lands that ranchers periodically use for grazing.  Some of the plots we check have been established in the 1970s, and so the photos and data we take are used to compare the health of the land to what it used to be.  We record what species are in certain areas and try to assess the health of the rangeland. We also have been measuring shrub cover, mainly of sagebrush, to help collect more information for the infamous sage-grouse.
The transects that we run to get all of our data can get a bit repetitive, but the BLM has a ton of land here and we drive out to lots of different sites and see a lot of landscape.  The driving itself has proved to be a bit of an adventure, with lots of old bumpy roads that take some practicing to get a handle on. We’re near an Air Force base and so we often see low flying jets and hear roaring sonic booms out in the middle of the scrub desert. A little eerie, but being out so far from big roads and any towns has also been really refreshing. It seems that every day I find a new plant that I haven’t learned yet to take back to the office and identify.  I’m excited for more flowers to start blooming and the grasses to get greener and fuller as the season continues.  We see lots of pronghorn out in the field, as well as hawks, eagles, rabbits, and lizards. No snakes or mountain lions so far, but we’ll see how the summer goes!


Typical views from work

Lots of cows everyday!

Kiwi in Wyoming

Hi, I am Alex and I’m Interning this summer with Adrienne Pilmanis, the state lead for Botany, BLM based out of the Wyoming State office.

The past four weeks have been a huge jump for me, moving from the now seemingly tiny and temperate country of New Zealand and being plonked down in the middle of a gigantic, dry continent. I’m having fun getting my head around the way “things work” in this country…banking, insurance, driving on the right hand side of the road [Insert long and ever expanding list here]…you know, all those things you take for granted when you’ve grown up with them and your parents showed you how to do them?? It seems many of my instincts are nul and void over here.

Despite necessary evils of getting my life organised, I’m absolutely loving being here! I guess it helps that the first weeks of work involved driving up to Lander and into the Big Horn Basin area with Adrienne. I spent the past 2 weeks visiting beautiful places and learning about what plantey things people are doing in this state, especially with regards SOS, plant conservation and reclamation planning/studies. Its fascinating and I’m really excited!

Here are a few pictures taken on said adventures, I have many more if anyone is interested in seeing lots of pictures of landscapes, flowers, often with bugs in them… also small mammals (we don’t actually have native mammals in NZ, and I’m a fan, so this place is full of endless entertainment for me).

Fossicking for forbs

SOS Scouting the sagebrush near gashills with Lander interns botanizing in beautiful places

Barneby's clover (Trifolium barnebyi)

Looking for dieback in sensitive species endemic to Wyoming

More plant hunting

Botanizing in Beautiful places

 Back in the office this week to do some “real work”… But looks like more explorations are lining themselves up soon 🙂


Lichens and Boise

In the past month, I finally finished my taxonomic project on Florida lichens. It took over five months to manage all the specimens and ship them to herbaria around the world, but it was time well spent.  I am now working on creating dichotomous keys to Florida lichens and hope to create a guide that will foster more research into these organisms.

The other day, I was filing specimens back into the herbarium and found a very old collection. It was an exsiccate from the 1890s. An exsiccate is a set of lichens curated and annotated by an expert and then sold to herbaria. It creates a standard, and serves as a useful identification tool. Although the envelope was fragile, the collection was stunning, and looked as if it had just been collected. It was nice to know that despite not being digitized or cared for, the specimen endured. As long as a physical collection remains, the specimen will remain.

I went deep into the Owyhee Mountains in Idaho, on a two day adventure with fellow BLM employees. It was stunning land, more wide and vast than I had ever seen. We went into a BLM wilderness area looking for sage grouse and slickspot peppergrass (a rare plant). Slickspot peppergrass grows on very dry and hard clay, that cracks. Its called desert pavement. There are lots of rare and endemic plants that grow on this surface.  Alas the rain made some roads impassable, so we weren’t able to reach the most remote areas. But it was great to get out and see the land.

Barry Kaminsky

BLM- Idaho State Office

Summer Has Come to Oregon!

Rorippa columbiae

After a couple of weeks of cold weather (including snow!) up here in Lakeview, it is finally summer! Flowers are blooming, lizards are sunning, and interns are hunting for rare plants.  Jessy, Liz and I have travelled all around the Lakeview district for the BLM, looking for populations of sensitive species, including Rorippa columbiae (Columbian yellowcress), Cymopterus nivalis (snowline spingparsley), and Pogogyne floribunda (profuseflower mesa mint).

Cymopterus nivalis


Some of the populations were last surveyed in the early 1980s, so finding and mapping them can be both exciting and sometimes frustrating.  We spent some time up at Table Rock, which was gorgeous and fun to hike, as well as the Black Hills and various rims and dry lakes.

Paeonia brownii

In addition to the target species, we have had a chance to see some of the most beautiful flowers of the Pacific Northwest, including Paeonia brownii (Brown’s Peony), Sphaeralcea coccinea (scarlet globemallow), and many species of Castilleja (Indian Paintbrush).  Looking forward to finding more interesting plants and exploring Southern Oregon!


Final Goodbyes

     Well it is time for my final blog.  This experience began in December 2010, when I applied for an internship via the Conservation and Land Management Program.   Krissa  contacted me to let me know that they had a few positions that I might be interested in.  She gave me a few project descriptions and allowed me to choose one of them.  One of the projects was at the  Palm Springs South Coast Field Office called the Dos Palmas Project.  The reason why I chose that project had to deal with the amount that I would be involved with.  All of the other projects sounded very specific and focus on a one or two major points, but the Dos Palmas Project seemed to have a lot going on with it. 


            I was living in South Carolina during that time, and I had to immediately move my life to the other side of the country to California.  The farthest west I had been was Tennessee, and I don’t really consider that the West, so I was very excited.  March 2nd was when my mentor offered me the job and asked if I could start on the 14th, so about a week after the acceptance I started working on the Dos Palmas project.  It was March and my mentor told me that she had already hired someone to replace her, and that the BLM was waiting for all of the paperwork to go through.  She was also trying to get another intern, so there would be a total of three people working on the project during the summer.


            My new mentor came and went, and so the assistant field manager became my mentor.  I and the other intern were the project leads for the Dos Palmas Project.  It was a challenge dealing with some of the partners on the project because we were so young , but eventually they realize we knew what we were talking about and respected us for that.  I forged new work relationships, and increased my network on a professional level and was very pleased to hear that many of them wanted to keep in contact even after I left. 


            Because I was taking on so much work, I needed a lot of training.  I attended several different training sessions, trainings that have helped me tremendously and trainings that I can use in the future.  NEPA, PFC, and the acronyms continue down the list (especially if you work with the BLM). 


            Despite some of the difficulties I encountered during my internship experience, I would not give up it for the world.  I have learned so much, made a lot of connections (both professionally and personal), and seen so much, that despite the difficulties, this has been a great experience.  I always wanted to get out of South Carolina, because I wanted to see what else was out there, I never expected to have the time of my life away from “home”. 


            Again, I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and would like to thank Krissa and Marian for all the hard work that they take care of, in order to make this internship possible for recent college graduates like myself.  I recommend applying to this program, it is a great way to get your foot through the door.  Good Luck and thanks again Chicago Botanic Garden.   

Krista Butler- BLM, Ridgecrest, CA

It’s been a busy several weeks since my last post, and I’ve gained many new skills even this far into the internship!

One of the possibly most useful jobs I’ve been trained on is how to complete Proper Functioning Condition (PFC) surveys. These surveys document the overall health of a landscape or allotment in order to evaluate past and future management strategies. We looked at both wetland/riparian health and grazing sites. These surveys investigate the vegetation community composition and health, the geology/structure, wildlife, and other aspects that are important to understand how the site is functioning. If an area show signs of an ecosystem in stress, such as if it has been accidentally overgrazed, it is important to know these conditions in order to adapt the current management strategy to encourage a sustainable future for that site. I can see using the techniques from PFCs for both future government work, or going into the environmental consulting industry, and I am very happy to have learned the methods.

I will begin collaboration with the Henderson, NV USGS and the Las Vegas BLM on a project to establish seed zones for restoration in the Mojave desert. I am very excited to contribute to this project and will be starting to collect plant tissue samples and seeds for genetic analysis and common garden studies.


Rare Plant Odyssey

The past month at the Alturas BLM field office has allowed me to delve into a variety of projects. These have included participating in pre-dawn marsh bird surveys at the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge, setting up a new line point intersect transect, scouting for seed collection targets, rare plant surveys and trying to teach myself ArcMap. My fellow intern Jaycee and I have been familiarizing ourselves with the Alturas BLM land. Our mentor Mike will point to a place on a map and tell us to get a feel for the dirt roads and where they go, of course looking for plants along the way. Names like the Tablelands, West Side Allotment, Muck Valley, South Ash Valley, Hogback Ridge and Conrad Ranch all have meaning to me now.

Mainly we have been learning the BLM special status plants and searching for them. The main threat to them is the juniper tree cutting which this office is carrying out. These cuts have the goal of both improving rangeland health and wildlife habitat. Fire suppression has allowed junipers to become overly dense and to encroach into areas of sagebrush steppe that were previously much more open and unpopulated by trees. The large machinery used for these cuts causes significant disturbance and the scene afterwards is reminiscent of the Lorax– tracks everywhere, battered stumps, and gigantic piles of trees (old growth trees are spared). However, hopefully this disturbance will benefit the ecosystem in the long run. The sensitive plants are particularly susceptible to disturbance in this process due to the habitat in which they occur. Most of the plants we have been searching for grow in bare patches that at first glance appear to be nearly void of  life. Upon close inspection, these areas are full of strange, minature plants. Many of them have a showy flower larger than the plant itself. Somehow, in the brief window between snowmelt and the heat of summer, they manage to extract what they need from exposed volcanic gravel, and are able to grow, flower, and produce seeds. Unfortunately, these gravel patches are perfect natural parking lots. What better place to park vehicles and stage machinery?  Habitats like these that naturally appear lifeless are often the easiest to destroy as we “turn the desert into the wasteland that we think it is”, as Gary Paul Nabhan puts it.

In fact, I can say that I personally participated in this process. About a month ago I did an ATV training course, which was located in one of these seemingly bare areas . Yesterday I happened to go back to where it was because my mentor found a rare species of penstemon there. Sure enough, as we were surveying the population, I found several of them in the ruts that we made during the ATV course! I’m not sure what, if anything, will be done about this, but at the very least we will go back and flag off the area where the penstemon is growing.

We have also been developing a target seed collectiong list for the Seeds Of Success program. The late blooming plants are in full glory and we have been excitedly collecting herbarium specimens. Some of the earlier blooming plants are now forming fleshy, green fruits that we will have to closely monitor to determine when they are ready for collecting. We picked apart what will likely be our first collection, the grass Poa secunda (which I described in a previous blog post) and looked at it under a microscope. It is done flowering and the fruit is still forming,  but it should be ready soon. I’m grateful to have a such a dynamic job that puts me in close contact with natural processes!

A patch of volcanic gravel-- the last place I expected to find rare plants!

Penstemon janishae in ATV tracks


Dimeresia howellii, a rare plant not much larger that a quarter

Joe Broberg

Alturas BLM field office