“Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger, Out where the smile dwells a little longer, That’s where the West begins.” – Arthur Chapman

So thus ends my 5 months in Wyoming, working with the BLM on weed management and so so so much more.  This has been an amazing experience for me and not only has my resume been improved by leaps and bounds, but I have grown tremendously as a person and I am so thrilled for unexpected opportunity.  Working with a completely different ecosystem and still seeing the over arching concepts I have learned about applied has been a great learning process for me, as well as trying a slew of new things like fly fishing and home brewing.  I would like to thank the BLM and the CBG for giving me this opportunity as well as all the helpful and friendly people in Worland that made my stint there fly right by.  As for my reflecting on my experiences, I am going to reuse the article I wrote for a press release because I think it summed everything up nicely.  Thanks for everything CBG, BLM field office in Worland, WY, interns, friends, and family.

-Nate T.

When I told my friends and family back home that I was going to Wyoming for five months, most of them responded with a puzzled look and the same question, “Why, what’s in Wyoming?” Being born and raised in New Jersey I really didn’t have a good answer. I knew I would be working on weed management, I knew Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are there, and I knew it is the state with the lowest population in the U.S. Other than that, I didn’t know anything about Wyoming. I didn’t know the Bighorn Mountains exist, let alone how beautiful they are. I didn’t know that parts of the Bighorn Basin are practically a desert. I didn’t know anything about sage-grouse, or that there are actually more pronghorn than people in Wyoming. I didn’t even know what the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is or anything about public lands. I really didn’t know anything about the west, but in the short time I’ve been here, I feel like the Cowboy State has taught me well.

My internship with the BLM is through the Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG). The CBG runs a program called the Conservation and Land Management Internship Program in which it matches prospective interns with different agencies to help people get real world experience working in environmental and biological fields. I was lucky enough to be paired up with the BLM Worland Field Office (WFO), working in weed management. My mentor for the internship is C.J. Grimes, who has not only been a very helpful and informative mentor, but a friend and guide. The people at the WFO have been great and, most of all, patient with all of my questions. Learning what goes into managing public lands was eye opening; even though it isn’t always smooth, all the moving parts find a way to fit together.

The two most significant areas this internship has exposed me to are rangeland management and wildfires. I had no clue about the amount of foresight and thought that goes into rangeland management. It is so much more than just turning the cows out and then moving them after. The land is monitored and calculations are made to determine how much livestock the land can support, when the livestock needs to be moved to ensure the vegetation will be productive enough to support it next year, and to ensure there is enough forage and habitat for wildlife. It is a complex balancing act done on an enormous scale so that people can continue to make a living and habitat and wildlife can thrive at the same time.

Wildfires were also a huge change for me. Rarely are there wildfires in New Jersey and, when they do occur, they are nowhere near the size they are here. I learned that fire management is more than just trying to put a fire out. A lot of the management is done before and after a fire is actually burning. From measuring the amount of moisture in plants to thinning projects, there are many ways to figure out the risk of a potential fire and how to reduce that risk. After a fire is out, a number of monitoring and treatment projects are done to prevent the invasion of weeds. This reduces the risk and severity of future fires and ensures the land will be usable again for grazing and recreation. Fire management, or lack of it, can affect an area for decades after a fire and can be the difference between being left with thousands of acres of cheatgrass or a healthy landscape that has many uses.

While I learned about a lot about the BLM and what it does, my internship focused on weed management. I was able to see a lot of the Bighorn Basin by surveying huge chunks of land for weeds and driving on roads that I had no idea were drivable in a Ford Explorer. I worked on a number of projects using chemical, mechanical and even some biological methods of weed control. I learned what a pain it can be to deal with invasive thistles (literally) and how difficult it is to clip houndstongue seed heads without getting covered in them. I had prior experience with invasive plant management but the sheer scale of things in Wyoming makes it a completely different ballgame.

Dealing with hundreds of acres of cheatgrass or miles of Russian olive stands make management difficult to say the least. While the size of the infestations makes things difficult, the public’s eagerness to participate makes a huge difference. It was encouraging to meet so many people who not only know what invasive plants are and why they need to be managed, but were eager to help and wanted to make a difference. Maybe it’s because more people in Wyoming make a living off the land, maybe it’s the number of hunters and anglers here, or maybe people out west just have more of an appreciation for the outdoors. Whatever the reason, the fact that there is cooperation between private land owners, nonprofits, county weed and pest districts and state and federal governments is not only amazing, but makes me very optimistic that this isn’t a losing fight against invasive species.

Coming out west from the east coast was a bit of a culture shock. There was definitely an adjustment from living in a densely populated area with every amenity within 15 miles, to towns of hundreds and having to travel more than 100 miles to buy things I couldn’t find in the local grocery store. After only a short while in Wyoming, I can see why people love it here. The Bighorn Basin has a rugged beauty all its own. You have to be tough to live in a place where it may only rain five inches each year and I am constantly amazed at the tenacity of the plants and animals that thrive here. The people are no different. Most of the people I have met here can roll up their sleeves and get things done and I hope a bit of that has rubbed off on me. I am excited to keep exploring the country and find my next place to work, but I know my experience in Wyoming will stick with me.

Blitzkrieg on Seed

My internship has been full of changing priorities and tasks from fire monitoring and fire intensity mapping, to evaluating range lands, to monitoring T&E plant species, but recently I have had a simple task…get as much seed as possible as fast as possible. My team and I have made so many collections so quickly that we are up to our ears in bags of seed. It has proved difficult to try to keep up with our seed and seed shipments, which has taught me that organization is key when doing seed collections.

A perk to working at the BLM Carson City District Office is that we get to do seed collections in some very different ecosystems. Last week we were at the gates of Yosemite National Park around 10, 000 ft in elevation, seed collecting in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains trying to get any high elevation seed present. The last day we were in the area we had some nice snow showers, which proved bad for seed collecting, but great on the team’s spirits.

View from a meadow near the gates of Yosemite National Park.

Snowy hillside around Saddlebag Lake near Yosemite.

This past week we ventured out to a vast valley within out district called Dixie Valley, where we collected salt-desert species in and around a large playa. We went from collecting at 10,000+ feet to collecting at 3,000 feet in a matter of a few days. It’s really great to be able to collect different seed from so many different species and ecosystems in just a few days.

Look towards the east from Dixie Valley, NV.

I think my team and I have made roughly 50-60 seed collections in just a weeks worth of time, which enforces the lesson that organization is key. I’m not sure if our efforts were average, good, or excellent, but I’m proud of my efforts as well as my team’s.

Throughout the field season I knew that seed collecting was going to be a major component, but it always seemed to be in the back of my mind because we were swamped with so many other tasks. Now my team and I have transitioned into a seed collecting machine, which I have been told won’t let up until probably the end of November. Our blitzkrieg on seed is bittersweet though because we are now camping in nightly temperatures of about 35 degrees and soon to be freezing. Although the nights and mornings are discomforting, the days are really nice. The rugged temperature swings are annoying at best, but I get over it when I reflect on the great work that my team and I are doing for the SOS program and our CLM internship.



Leaving MeeKer with New Eyes

As my internship concludes, I reflect not only on how much I have learned about the BLM and ecology, but also on how much I have learned about myself. I will admit that I went into this internship feeling a bit unprepared and doubting my ability to tackle every aspect of the job. I felt like a floundering fish in the midst of the newness; all the maps of where I would go and the scenes from the car windows all looked like a blur as they were thrown into my new daily routine. I remember gripping the GPS like it was the only light in the dark tunnel of the unknown. To me, the Piceance (Pee-ance) Basin, a word I dared not pronounce for the first week, appeared dry, hot, and monotonous.
It wasn’t until my third or fourth day that I got out into the field to discover that I would become one of the few to become familiar with the rare existence of the Piceance bladderpod and twinpod. I quickly embraced the role of a defender of these threatened plants and became impressed with the swift surfacing of my inner leader as I learned more and more about these plants. Right off the bat I was provided with opportunities to share my knowledge with others. With this, I had to quickly discover how I, the learner, could transition into the teacher. I had to step into the decision-making position and through this, I learned to better trust my instincts and weigh my options in a timely way. I learned that I could really rely on the foundation that I developed during my undergrad degree and that I didn’t need excessive experience to make grounded and wise decisions.

This is a site that was inspected for final reclamation. It failed for numerous reasons: a broken fence allowing for extreme grazing, and undesirable plants such as Russian thistle and Canada thistle.

My time with the plants suddenly transitioned when our field office was assigned with final reclamation inspections at well pad and pipeline sites. At first I felt as though I was given this task by default, but as I became more familiar with the inspections, I realized that I was just the right person for the job; I could even see myself continuing with reclamation in my future. Once again, when I was out in the field, I, the learner, became the teacher. I was provided with a brief overview of the inspection requirements and then sent out to lead the project. My field partner knew nothing of the inspections and I knew very little. My initial frustration ultimately dwindled into enjoyment, surprisingly. Being the leader in this role taught me everyone has some understanding to offer; my field assistant initially acted like she knew nothing at all on the task, I had to keep reminding her of what we were there to complete. I had to be persistent and creative with my questioning to keep my partner involved; eventually she dug deeper within her knowledge to offer great help. By the end of the season, we became a super-efficient team, where we each knew and completed our portions of the inspections.
I had many opportunities to see a wide variety of leadership strategies. I learned that what is most effective is for the leader to employ the skills of all team members. The worst thing I could do to myself would be to take on the entire job myself. I got to see others do this and completely stress themselves out while separating themselves from the team. I found it best to take the time to explain the entire task fully and then break up the work and delegate it to each member. While this can take longer at the beginning of a job, it makes the entire process more smooth and enjoyable. I found that the best way to tackle a daunting task is to break it up into smaller pieces done by individuals and can be done simultaneously with collaboration and corroboration at the end.
Mainly, I am walking away from my internship with a greater confidence in my leadership skills. Over this summer I have stepped into a side of myself that had been unexplored in its entirety. While I am aware that more experience will enhance and further explore this piece of myself, my CLM internship provided me with solid skills from which to draw upon. I now believe that I can accomplish what comes my way, no matter how unfamiliar.

Fall at the PMC

It’s almost been five months since I started my internship at the Lockeford PMC and change is in the air.  We’ve wrapped up seed collection for the season, my fellow intern has moved on to new adventures, and it’s finally starting to cool off, with temperatures in the 70s.  It should start raining soon as well.  My exciting news is that my internship has been extended and I’ll be living in California for at least a few more months!  There’s still plenty to do…I’ve been helping out with fall planting, attending a cover crop workshop, and learning how to do basic seed cleaning and sampling.  I’m also collecting some initial data for a major soil health study.  It will be an interesting next few months!

Almost Done

It’s definitely getting colder here in Buffalo. Cold, dark, and a whole lot less crowded, as our house of six seasonals/interns dwindles down to four. The field season is coming to a close and I am ready to spend the rest of my days out here in the office and in front of a computer monitor. Completing the Visual Resource Inventory for Newcastle and working on travel management for the public will be my priorities until the end. Fortunately for me though, I still have youth outreach to do as a recreation intern. That, and I’m getting a hang of ArcMap, even with the mind-blowing (-ly slow) speed at which our government computers process information.

With this cold weather, came even more opportunities for me to discover the wonders of Wyoming. We had our first snow a couple weekends ago. My roommates and I hopped out of bed, made some snow cream, and scrambled up the mountain to frolic like children. It was the best day ever. Except, the cold weather and moisture also meant that the fire ban in the Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area was lifted. So the following weekend, we shipped off to the northern Big Horns in Montana for some much needed roasting of marshmallows. Hopefully, I’ll be around here long enough to see enough snow to hit up some slopes on the Big Horns on a snowboard.

Seeds and Such

I took another field trip with my fellow CLMers of Lakeview, OR. We took a day trip to the Bend Seed Extractory. It was super interesting to see the different processes specific to each species of seed. There are many steps involved starting from the arrival and ending with storage or sent off.

As a range intern I have only joined the botany crew a few times to collect seeds, but I have really enjoyed my time collecting seed. I like being able to have a sharp search image for plants and it’s exceptionally sharp for those whose seeds I’ve collected.

As a range intern I have covered a lot of ground in my big white pick up truck. Working in a resource area of 3.2 million acres, I probably drive an average of 200 miles a day. Many times we drive up onto a high ground where we can get beautiful views of the landscape. Last week we saw wild horses. I don’t just drive around all day. We have finished with trend plots and are continuing with compliance checks and utilization. There is also plenty of office work to be done, especially rangeland health assessments.

Lastly, I’d like to apologize for my poor photo taken by a poor photographer with an old camera. The photo is from on top of Hart Mountain overlooking to Warner Wetlands. The mountain in the background is Big Juniper Mountain- I have spent alot of time there the last few months!

Let it ride!!

As I knew they would, the five months of this internship have flown by. I have had great experiences and opportunities ranging from banding endangered Sandhill Cranes, to genetic sampling of California Red-legged frogs, to surveying for endemic plants. The work has definitely held my interest; so much in fact, that I have decided to stay. I have been offered an extension which I gladly accepted. The rainy season is just around the corner here which means one thing on the Cosumnes River Preserve, BIRD SEASON!! The birds have already started arriving by the thousands. I am not an experienced “birder” but it is something I am going to pick up while I’m here. Our wetlands are the winter home to thousands of Sandhill Cranes, ducks, geese, and other birds. I will be assisting with bird surveys one day a week while they are here. I will be sure to include some of my wildlife photos in my next blog entry.

Field season winding down

Field season in Lander, WY is winding down – just some sagebrush seeds to collect now…and lots of data work. This internship was great fun, providing valuable experience & contacts, and amazing hikes through our priceless public lands. If only I could make this my career!


Hey All,

It has been one of the craziest years for seed collection. Here in Montana we have had a really hard frost already and yet the asters still thrive. It seems like this would be the time for everything to be winding down for the season, but this has been my busiest month yet. The fall seed crops are amazing which is surprising considering the lack of moisture this summer. For our native plant materials program we were in need for some winterfat so I was on a mission to find a couple of populations, and everywhere I looked the plants were low to the ground with not much growth.  It was looking pretty bleak  and I actually had given up looking.  After the first major frost I went out to collect Western Showy Aster because I knew it wouldn’t be long before the seeds dispersed, and the frost must have sparked something in the plants because I have found three winterfat sites that look great for collection.  Because it has been so dry I have been keeping an eye on all of the winterfat sites so I do not miss the window of opportunity, and in those monitoring trips I have found so many opportunistic collections. It has been exciting  and I have about nine collections to ship to be cleaned and I am still monitoring a couple more that are not quite ready for collection.


Here are a few pictures of some of the asters I have ran across this fall. I am excited to add these to my SOS collections and can’t wait to see them in the grow out plan for the Special K Ranch. They will make a great addition not only for sage grouse habitat restoration projects but they are great for attracting fall pollinators that are essential for every ecological community.

I also have put all my seedlings to bed for the winter. Just to remind everyone, Montana is unique in that we get to collect the seed and get to grow out that same seed for native plant restoration projects. It is also unique in that the Special K Ranch grows out the plants and this ranch is home to approximately thirty mentally handicapped adults that work and run the ranch. So they do the majority of the growing out of all the seedlings. It has been an awesome experience to work alongside such amazing people. It has been the highlight of my internship. I will miss all my new friends at the ranch they have taught me a lot. We put to bed approximately 50,000 seedlings and hopefully the majority of them will be alive and well come spring.

One of the residents, Rod, watering the seedlings in the winter holding before we bed them with straw.

Goodbye Wyoming

As the days grow shorter, the Bighorn Mountains are adorned with white caps of snow and my little cars’ windows freeze over each night. My internship comes to an end and I find myself thinking fondly of the long dry summer I spent wandering these plains and hills. Upon arrival in Wyoming I was rather dismayed by the dry and seemingly bleak landscape. But now I feel sad to leave it.
I moved from Cheyenne to the Buffalo Field Office, Wyoming, in July and found myself busied with various tasks, including participating in Outreach and a Visual Resource Inventory in New Castle, Range assessments, Riparian monitoring, Limber Pine and Sensitive species work. And of course, Seeds of Success!

Particular highlights include the 2 week camp I participated in on the Wyoming- South Dakota border. This involved entertaining a bunch of crazy middle schoolers for 11 hours each day with various games, activities and lessons about nature. We “tricked” them into collecting seeds for SOS and I even got them excited about lichens! Awesome. On another outreach excursion we worked with high school kids, whom I had writing poems about tree stumps; they were actually very enthusiastic about this and it still makes me grin.

It was also a great feeling to help people out in the field office with some projects they didn’t have time for. My fellow interns and I hunted around the mountains for healthy Limber Pine trees for cone collection. We also spent hot days wandering across bentonite scarps and getting stuck in drainages looking for sensitive plant species.  

I’ve really enjoyed this internship. I gained invaluable field work and organizational experience and have been really lucky to work with amazing and fun people. It was tough at times, adjusting to life in Wyoming/ USA but I think I’ve found a kind of balance- just in time to move on! My only other complaints really were listening to Kyle’s pop music during the VRI and the time that I ate some Atriplex canescens to see what it would taste like. It was yuck.

I’m so glad I came out here to do this internship and I would recommend Wyoming to anyone who is up for a wild western twist to a budding natural resources career.