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.

Archaeology & Snow!

We just had our first snow of the year last week here in Wyoming! It went from being a comfortably warm 80 degrees one day to blustery and snowing the next. The Bighorn Mountains were transformed overnight into a winter wonderland that I am not used to experiencing in early October!

The last few weeks were filled with new experiences for me, which included helping out with an archaeological survey with two of our seasonal archaeologists. One of the greatest parts of this internship so far has been getting to collaborate with specialists in a variety of fields. I feel lucky to be working in a field office where my co-workers are so open to sharing their knowledge and expertise.

Buffalo Man pictograph with Petrophytum caespitosum

First snow in the Bighorns!



It’s Fall!

It’s autumn and can’t believe that my internship is over in just a few weeks!  This last month has gone by so fast.

Last week, I got to re-visit the Pine Ridge fire, which burned in mid-July, to monitor the veg regeneration.  It was really cool to see how much the site has progressed since the first post-fire visit I went on with the BAER team.  Monitoring fire effects at the Pine Ridge site has really helped put into perspective the older wildfire sites I visited this summer while conducting rangeland health assessments.  It’s incredible to see a burned site ten or so years later and realize how many of the grass species present are there because of a post-rehabilitation treatment, and how long regeneration really takes.  I had no previous experience with wildfires, but this summer has definitely sparked an interest in fire ecology.