From Field Season to Fall Season

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a month since my last post; September has gone by surprisingly fast.

In mid-September, I drove down to Ashland, OR to tour the National Fish & Wildlife Forensic Laboratory with a group of my fellow CLM interns. This was definitely a highlight of my month; this tour was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I learned so much that had not even been on the radar of my knowledge base. Perhaps that was one reason I found the tour so fascinating: everything I learned was completely new to me, and I love to learn.

Back in the Wetlands Office, my coworker and I are knee-deep in monitoring data that we are wrangling into reports. We have a system down: my coworker, who has much more monitoring experience than me, writes the meat of the report, such as data analysis and management recommendations, and I proofread and edit all of the reports, happily putting my English degree to work.

Just this last week, we’ve also had the opportunity to work in conjunction with the Willamette Resources and Educational Network (WREN). WREN was leading a lessons where students participated in a seeding activity, spreading Rumex salicifolia, Epilobium densiflorum, Madia elegans, and Plagiobothrys figuratus seeds. We helped facilitate the seeding portion of the lesson, and it was nice to see students so enthusiastic about science and restoration.


Journey to the Center of the Earth

In the past five months I have been exposed to and have experienced many different aspects of the Bureau of Land Management ranging from rangeland to wildlife… and recently I had the opportunity to experience an aspect of the BLM which I had not experienced yet… recreation! Although I do think that the recreation section of the BLM is wonderful, I was very excited because we were going to be working with the section that involves… CAVES!!! So, when our caving specialist asked a few weeks ago if we would be interested in going on a caving expedition with him, we all nodded our heads feverishly and anxiously replied yes! To start out the expedition, we prepared our caving outfits, which included: full body suites, knee pads, elbow pads, helmets, and head lamps. These outfits were very important as he explained because of the epidemic of the White Nose Syndrome that has been witnessed throughout the West. White Nose Syndrome is a fatal disease that has caused the death of millions of bats in North America; therefore, our caving outfits had been specially sterilized for the expedition. After we prepared our outfits we headed out to Little Angora Cave! We got to enter the caving system from various entryways and to explore all of the tiny nooks and crannies of the cave which was unbelievable! We climbed and crawled until our heart’s content! We even found a roost of male bats which was exciting! But of course, we turned around and left them to their hanging around even though our disturbance would not be not be crucial as it would be during the winter season. Here are some pictures that captured our experience!

Our caving outfits!


Stephanie Burkhardt


Roswell Field Office

Post #3

Since I’ve last posted, not too much has been going on around the office.  We’re entering this time of year where the field work starts to slow down and the office work starts to pick up.  One interesting thing that we have started to do is production surveys.  This is only done in the fall because these surveys measure how much has grown in the growing season.  Besides that, it’s been pretty slow! So I thought I would use this post to summarize some things I’ve learned so far.


Not only have I learned a ton about scientific monitoring, working at the BLM and the ecosystems in the field office, but there have been some other lessons that have come my way.  One thing in particular is risk management in the field.  In our field office, we can drive in one direction and get into the mountains of New Mexico, and we can drive another direction and be in sand dunes of the desert.  With all these varied landscapes, also comes a necessary thorough understanding.  In the mountains, we can encounter crazy weather changes in a matter of minutes.  In the sand dunes, we can get the truck stuck (and I mean STUCK) if you’re not careful.  Also not forgetting about bringing enough water, food, having a means of communicating, and perhaps even a emergency kit.  And if you don’t have these things, it’s important to keep your emotions in check and deal with the situation the proper way.  For example, a few weeks ago, after a full day of cruising through the sand dunes on the ATV – it decides to overheat.  And of course, we had no coolant.  Icing on the cake, it was after 5 pm and nobody was back in the office to help us out.  We were forced to wait over an hour just for it to cool down.  After a few failed attempts, we were able to get back to the truck and get back to the office.  It was a stressful few minutes when it first happened, but after we relaxed and figured out a game plan, we were good to go.


So risk management sounds like a boring topic, but it’s quite interesting.  I think once you have a good handle on your surroundings and your equipment, you can conquer the world!



Monsoon Blooms, Cool Cacti, and a Permanent Position!

Monsoonal rains flooding a wash

This August and September have been spectacular in the Mojave Desert. We’ve more monsoonal rains than is typical for the area, which resulted in flowers sprouting up all over the desert. June and July were very hot and dry here (it was at least 115° here every day for a couple of months!) and much of the vegetation had dried up, so it was kind of disorienting when I started noticing the post-monsoon bloom taking place. Some species flowered again that typically flower in the spring, but other plants in this area are specifically adapted to respond to summer rain. I’ve found some pretty strange looking plants this summer! Some cover hundreds of thousands of miles of the desert, such as chinch-weed (Pectis papposa var. papposa). This low-growing, yellow annual has turned large parts of the Mojave yellow. Driving along, I’d suddenly notice that where there used to be dry ground, there is now an extensive yellow blanket of flowers. It is pretty spectacular. Amaranthus fimbriatus is another very showy post-monsoonal bloomer.

Amaranthus fimbriatus

Pectis papposa var. papposa











Unfortunately, all the rain we’ve had has also triggered growth in a population of Arundo donax (giant cane) at several of the more productive springs we manage. It had been cut and burned several years ago, and that method of control had been sufficient up until this summer. I’ll be cutting down the Arundo and covering the  rhizomes with heavy black tarps in order to prevent its regrowth. In addition, I’ve been monitoring springs and seeps, working with GIS data, and I may make another seed collection or two this fall.


Here are some photos of my encounters with cacti over the course of this internship. Yes, some of these cacti are Sonoran Desert species, and the photos of the organ pipe and saguaro cacti and the chainfruit cholla are from Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona, but there is also a fairly large population of Carnegia gigantea (saguaro cacti) in the Needles Field Office. Pretty cool.

The biggest news I have is that I will be converting to a SCEP position at the end of my internship. I managed to get into the SCEP (Student Career Experience Program) right before it changed to the Pathways Program. I’m taking classes this semester through Northern Arizona University, and will be taking classes full-time in the spring toward a Master of Science in Forestry degree. A SCEP entails beginning work with a federal agency while you take classes towards a degree. The agency you’re working for pays for your tuition, and when you are finished with your degree, they can hire you non-competitively. Then there is a minimum time you agree to stay with said agency to make it worth their funding of your education. I’m really excited about the opportunity to start my graduate career, and I’m looking forward to finally having a full-time job. So I’ll be working in the Needles, CA Field Office for at least the next 4 years! I’ll be responsible for monitoring grazing allotments, area burro populations, invasive plant species, natural water sources, unusual plant assemblages, abandoned mines, and overseeing habitat restoration efforts and mitigation, as well as assessing project compliance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act for the Mojave desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). No small order, as I’ll essentially be the only member of our Natural Resources Branch for the foreseeable future! Good luck to everyone else with their internships, and if you ever need a couch to surf on, you’ll know where to find me!

Lara Kobelt

Botany/Seeds of Success Intern
Needles, California


My internship has been extended, and I have  just about finished the first of two extra months working for the BLM in Alturas, California. Fall has arrived. Although the days are still getting surprisingly hot, the nights are getting cold, with the first frost predicted for tonight. The hay has been baled, the cows are back on their home ranges, and thousands of ducks, geese, and sandhill cranes are passing through on their way South.

My field partner Jaycee and I have shifted our focus from seed collecting to other projects. The biggest of these is a mapping project on the Likely Tablelands, a piece of BLM land about 45,000 acres large  just Southeast of Alturas. It is a flat volcanic plateau that has been carved by the Pit river and other creeks from the Warner mountains watershed. We are mapping lines around areas of a species of sagebrush called Wyoming Big Sage, Artemesia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis. These lines, or  “greenstrips”,  will be installed around patches of sagebrush, and seeded with fire resistant plants. The purpose of this is to protect the sagebrush from burning, and from being converted to Medusahead, Taeniatherum caput-meduasae (an exotic annual grass), which is what most of the rest of the Tablelands is composed of. Medusahead is particularly good at coming back after fires, and it outcompetes the native bunch grasses. Wyoming big sage is of special concern because it takes as long as 100 years to fully recover after a fire whereas other species of sagebrush take about 20 years.

The Likely Tablelands. A volcanic plateau surrounded by a highway, agricultural fields, creeks and a mountain range.

At first this project seemed incredibly daunting. Mapping sagebrush in the high desert sounded like mapping grains of sand at the beach. It was first introduced to me in early May and I had no idea where to start and quickly abandoned it in favor of more interesting, accesible projects. It is a sign of how much I have learned about navigation, map reading, and ArcGIS that this project is even possible for me to work on . It is still quite a challenge figuring out how to best solve the spatial problem of representing sagebrush and medusahead. It is a lot easier than it sounds because the majority of the Tablelands is extensive, contiguous medusahead monoculture, which means fewer lines need to be mapped than I initially thought. I’m not sure how relieved I am by that.

Another component of the mapping is finding out where different types of sagebrush grow. Besides visual ID, there is a really cool way to tell them apart. You take a few leaves, crush them, and put them in some water in a glass. Then you shine a blacklight on it (our office has a blacklight kit for this purpose that is probably protected under the antiquities act) and depending on the species they will flouresce different shades of blue or not flouresce at all. This is due to a chemical compound that some produce and some don’t.


All this mapping and seeing so much medusahead has me wondering why it is there in the first place. The tablelands were grazed by sheep up until the 1960’s, when medusahead first showed up, and overgrazing may have dealt the first blow to the sagebrush and bunch grasses. Past fires have also spread it around. It is no doubt ultimately due to the productive capacity of the land being compromised in some way, leaving medusahead and other weedy forbs as the only plants that can grow.  This greenbelt project is interesting, but is inherently a defensive act that will not reverse this process. I am curious as to what methods could be employed to restore the land in a lasting way that would promote more desirable species for use by wildlife and humans.

Joe Broberg

Botany Intern

Alturas BLM Field Office

As I enter my last month with the BLM, I have been thinking about all that I have learned over the last four months. I remember what a culture shock it was when I first got here; where were all the trees? However, I found that the challenge of adjusting to a new place has definitely educated me on more than just new plants. I’ve been very fortunate to be involved in the fire restoration plans of this office. Back out East, fires are usually never an issue. Also, I think it’s great that I’ve actually seen the worth of the seeds I’ve collected since they will be used in stabilization and rehabilitation after our fire. I’ve also been fortunate to learn about the role of grazing on BLM lands. Again, this is something I never experienced back east, and for the most part, the stakeholders of the land in this area are much different as well. I’m still learning every day. For example, yesterday, I learned about proper fence construction to flag areas where fences had been badly damaged due to fire. Who knows what I’ll learn next!!

Wrapping up…



Today I wrap up  another great few months as a CLM intern. As I was lucky enough to have the opportunity for two CLM internships I suppose the most important question I am asking myself as I head out is whether it was worth doing a second internship. Did I learn new and valuable about myself and land management? My response would be unequivocally yes.

The grouse are on the move as fall approaches just like me.

After my first internship in Miles City, Montana, I was left with a lot of questions. In Montana, I performed a lot of wildlife work in remote areas, saw a lot of public land, and gain confidence in the field. However, as I worked alone, I did not come away with a good understanding of how the different departments of the agency worked together to manage public lands. This summer I gained a much clearer understanding of how the different cogs of the BLM (and at times other agencies) fit together to preserve and mangae our public resources effectively. For example, I contributed to wildlife clearances for a number of fuels and range improvement projects. As the separate departments made plans to effect great change on the landscape, for example clearing pinyon/juniper woodlands or constructing fences, it was my job to survey the action area for wildlife and denote any wildlife constraints or recommendations for the project. Often the Fuels or Range Departments are presented in opposition to Wildlife considerations. But for all the projects I work on, I met folks on both sides dedicated to a balanced approach that would benefit everyone.


Flaming red maples herald the end of another field season.


The small jaunt into the document writing these clearance reports required also gave a me a great appreciation for the work my superior biologists are engaged in. As a seasonal or intern you mostly get to do the fun stuff and are out in the field everyday. But a permanant wildlife biologist spends an enormous amount of time drafting of official documents and reports, like the wildlife clearances. Though I recognize the invaluable nature of these communications, I must admit it has made me apprehensive about seeking a permanent position, which most likely chain me to a desk a bit more than I’d like.

Luckily this summer I was still an intern and out in the field almost everyday, which was a joy. My only major complaint is that much of this time was spent (hours and hours) driving in the truck. I realize, however, that this is inescapable  if you work in a large field office with a number of remote areas.  I suppose this is a good moment to give a nod to my field partner and fellow CLM intern Jen Schmalz, who helped make those long drives a pleasure. In fact, getting to work in the field with Jen was a highlight of this internship.  Her presence greatly augmented the enjoyment and learning I experienced working in the field. We bounced ideas and questions off each other, shared our amazement at intriguing natural wonders,  and exchanged our complementary skills. Additionally, a relief driver on the exhausting, terrible two-tracks was a blessing. I believe we became an efficient, effective team. Thanks, Jen!

As I leave this internship to move onto a position with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Non-Game Wildlife Division, I am looking forward to comparing and contrasting the two experiences. The two positions, though both focusing on wildlife, will take place in wildly different contexts. Work with the BLM out west involves large tracks of public lands, areas where management regimes can be instigated on large swaths of territory. Whereas the DNR on the east coast is constrained by a setting of mostly private holdings. To be effective in wildlife management, the DNR must work extensively with private landowners in a way much different from the BLM. An additional difference between the two agencies will come in their aims and goals. The BLM, with its multi-use motto, must balance wildlife with a number of other imperatives. The DNR, on the other hand, is dedicated more exclusively to conservation and preservation. Despite these differences, I feel that through my time with CLM I’ve built a repertoire of knowledge and skills that will serve well in the new agency.

Golden aspens mean my time as a CLM intern is up.

I’d like to thank the Chicago Botanical Gardens for giving me this second opportunity. Also thanks to my mentor, Christine Pontarolo at the BLM, for giving me independence and responsibility while at the same time being available for any question or concern. I definitely attribute my desire to continue in wildlife management to my time as a CLM intern; it has been a formative experience both pragmatically and ideologically. Thanks so much!!

Perhaps this last month of my internship has been the most productive yet least eventful- a good thing I guess! Due to the heavy monsoon rains we got this summer in the San Bernardino Mountains in southern California, our field season was slightly extended. So, I have been continuing traipsing around the forest mapping rare and endangered plant species populations even though everything around me is telling me it is fall. The most exciting thing that happened recently is that my field attire changed! Bow-hunting season started a little bit ago so now I wear a snazzy, orange, mesh vest with pockets over my already flattering Forest Service uniform and try my best not to look like a deer.  

There really is not that much to report other than I feel proud of what I have accomplished in the last couple of months. My main job has been cleaning up our geodatabase with field checks of different plant populations. The valley where I have been doing most of my work is literally coated in endangered, threatened, and rare plants.  I feel very lucky to have become so familiar with these little guys that not many people get to see let alone even know exist.  A few things I have learned recently are that rare plants don’t always grow in convenient places, I am in love with an endangered buckwheat, and a forest is a delightful office 🙂.  I can’t imagine an office job after this dream job!



In addition to my field mapping, I have continued work on my wildflower book of the San Bernardino Mountains. I am a little over half way done so I will have to really kick it into gear to finish by the end of October (the end of my internship). But luckily, the plants and the weather are getting crispy and it’s almost time to come indoors to do some office work.

One last thing I’ve been up to is occasionally working and volunteering with the restoration crew on the Forest. Last Saturday was National Public Lands Day and we had over one hundred volunteers show up to an Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) staging area in the transition zone above the Mojave. We planted various natives propagated in our greenhouse here at the station and restored an area that was becoming subject to severe erosion due to unauthorized vehicle use. The transplants we put out usually have about an 80% success rate.  What I thought most remarkable about the day was the tremendous turnout from all walks of life. We had four year olds, eighty year olds, OHV jeep dudes, my mom, college kids, boy scouts, and our regular adult and children volunteers all working together to rehabilitate the landscape. It was a great example of how government agencies and the public actually CAN work together in a productive manner!


Me and my mom planting some Artemisia tridentata at the National Public Lands Day restoration event!


Until next time,

Lizzy Eichorn, San Bernardino National Forest





It is just now October, and already there is snow in the forecast. I am glad the BLM gives us rugged vehicles with 4 wheel drive to get around in, so that field work will still be possible in almost all but the most inclement weather. Within reason, of course. Vehicle reports were due today, and I took good ole “Silvy” the Silverado to get her tires aired up before more field work begins this week. I have spent quite a bit of time in the office lately, filling out seed collection data forms, organizing photos, downloading GPS data, and packing up herbarium vouchers, tying up any loose ends I can find. Soon I will get back to surveys, surveys, surveys. Next week a Montana Conservation Corps crew will be here to help us collect sagebrush seed and remove netwire for the sake of the pronghorn. It’s nice to have some extra hands around to make work like fencing and collecting seeds the size of grains of sand more efficient. On Friday I was removing barbed wire over a half mile stretch of fence by myself, and it ended up taking me the whole day just to detach the bottom strand from the fence and rip it out of all the sagebrush growing into the fence! It was a bear of a project, one I had not counted on being so difficult, but I feel better for having finally made progress. Still, the more sets of hands around to help, the merrier.

I am not sure yet how long I will stay. Part of me wants to get a permanent job closer to home and start working towards grad school, and the other part of me just wants to stay here in Cody and extend the internship again. If anyone were to ask me what kind of work I like to do, it would be this. When I think of all the things I like about this job, I wonder who in their right mind would give it up for anything else! I can’t do it forever, I suppose. But… is it time to move on? The job market isn’t offering a lot right now anyway, would I just be settling if I left? The opportunity cost is high in my mind, and I am not even close to reaching a decision about the whole thing. However, for the moment there is still time to ponder… I hope, anyway.


Into the great wide open
Under them skies of blue
Out in the great wide open
A rebel without a clue

I’m beginning a new chapter in my life, and Tom Petty keeps floating through my head. The future really does feel wide open. After 16 months working with Carol Dawson and Peter Gordon at the BLM Colorado State Office in Denver, I’m selling my furniture and preparing to pack up my little RAV4 and move across the country. It’s similar to what I did a year and a bit ago, but more terrifying because I don’t have a job lined up for when I arrive.

I’m incredibly excited and ready for a change, but will also be very sad to leave Denver. The people I have met here and the experiences I have had have been wonderful. This internship has allowed me to learn so much about what the BLM does and how they do it, and as a result I have gained a lot of respect for the difficult decisions the Bureau makes. I have met passionate people who truly care about what they are doing, and have been able to participate in a variety of interesting projects. Whether I end up in federal service is still very much up in the air, but I have certainly gained a greater understanding of what such a career could entail.

Beyond the many things I learned about the botany of Colorado and how to effectively monitor a plant population, I also learned a great deal about myself during this internship. Initially, I learned that I could move to a new city and make a life for myself, in the process making wonderful friends and exploring a really fun and beautiful place. That first summer, to my surprise, I ended up living by myself. While terrifying at first, I rose to the occasion and ended up really enjoying the freedom that gave me. I learned about working an 8-4:30 job, waking up at the same time and getting myself to the same office every day. This became increasingly difficult during the winter when we didn’t have fieldwork to distract ourselves with, but I still managed, and I think I’m better for the experience. Finally, I learned about the transition to adulthood. While I still feel like a “freshman in real life,” it’s not so strange to me that I didn’t go back to school this fall.

Overall this has truly been a great experience for me, and I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with (thanks Carol, Peter, and Darnisha!). And so, as I say goodbye to Colorado, to my friends, and to my coworkers – remember, I will miss you!

Sama Winder
BLM CO State Office