First day of my internship!

Today was the first day of my CLM internship. My mentor went over quite a bit of paperwork with the other three interns and myself. It was mostly tax stuff and liability forms,  but we eventually got to discussing the research projects that we will be working on this summer. It sounds like there is some very cool science that is going on in the desert that I had never considered interesting before. The way Sara and Leslie describe the adaptations that both desert plants and animals have to survive the harsh environment seems really neat. Tomorrow we will start our first over-night work trip, where we will be camping out on BLM land east of Las Vegas. We will be working on a monitoring project to collect annual data of a native shrub that is vital to a threatened desert tortoise species. Invasive grass invasion to this habitat has made severe wildfires more frequent, which has been decreasing the population of this desert shrub. We will be taking turns recording data in the field notebook every night this week, and I am sure that Leslie will show us exactly how to write it since taking good recordings and observations are extremely important!

I am looking forward to this first field experience very much, and I am sure that this summer will give me many invaluable experiences for my future.


Snowpack in Colorado

Lately, here in Colorado, we have been experiencing snow at least once a week during this winter season, which is great because we need all the moisture that we can get for the coming field season. Here is an overall update on what has happened so far since January and February.

I have successfully packed and shipped all duplicate herbarium voucher specimens from our SOS collections to local Colorado herbaria and on a continuing project have been entering rare plant monitoring data from this summer.

In an effort to maintain a working record of the number of SOS herbarium specimens collected each year and how many donations have been made to local Colorado herbaria, the BLM Colorado State Office is helping to increase the number of specimens that can be used for future research, teaching, and education.  In a final update, I have helped donate over 200 excellent Colorado native plant specimens from our SOS collections to local herbaria and museums needing good plant materials for student research as well as increasing their working collection. These specimens have been sent to the University of Colorado at Boulder Museum of Natural History Herbarium and the Denver Botanic Gardens, Inc. Kathryn Kalmbach Herbarium Database.

Delphinium geyeri

Delphinium geyeri (one of the many voucher specimens donated to local herbaria)

I am beginning a new project working on Sclerocactus glaucus (Uinta Basin hookless cactus) element occurrences reports dating back to 1983 up to 2012. S. glaucus was listed as a threatened species in 1979 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For 34 years, the Unita Basin hookless cactus has been listed as threatened because of many factors, such as oil drilling, mining, and over collecting. I will be compiling all survey and observation dates as well as the latitude and longitude coordinates to better determine S. glaucus sightings and the approximate numbers of individuals in each population. I am starting one of the many steps required to moving forward with the Sclerocactus glaucus Recovery Plan. I am beginning to read a few scholarly and highly-notable papers from authors such as Deborah Rabinowitz and Peggy L. Fiedler, which I am finding to be quite interesting. This amazing experience is broadening my understanding of how plants are classified as sensitive, endangered, or rare, and furthermore how plant rarity plays a role in practical conservation philosophies. I will keep you posted on what I am learning and discovering as the months pass.

Sclerocactus glaucus

Sclerocactus glaucus, endemic species of western Colorado, in bloom (Photo Credit: Peter Gordon)

I feel very lucky and fortunate to be extended and working here at the Colorado State Office through the winter. Its a wonderful opportunity to be able to assist with field work during the summer and then during the winter being directly involved in forming graphs and charts describing trends for the rare plant monitoring plots from this summer. I am able to be an active part in every phase of vegetative monitoring from learning how to set up a plot to count the number of reproductive individuals to entering data coordinates for plots that have been monitored since 2005/2006. Knowing the vegetative conditions and the statistical analysis of these plots are important. It can further tell us whether the BLM is achieving its goal of protecting wildlife; as well as, maintaining a balance with keeping recreational areas open for the enjoyment of the present and future generations. As the winter slowly wanes away and the temperature begins to rise again, it will be exciting to work with the new interns coming here this summer.

Stay Warm Out There!

Darnisha Coverson

BLM Colorado State Office – Lakewood



Final Post from the Phoenix District Office

Remember that time…?
We moved to the desert,
Clouds rarely existed unless they consisted of dirt.
There were times we felt slightly lost and confused,
My brand new boots already looked tattered and used.

Remember that time…?
We had training for weeks,
All the while, salty sweat pouring down our cheeks.
We were warned of the desert and how it could eat us for lunch,
Able to cook meals on the dashboard for brunch.

Remember that time…?
We stared at the road ahead,
Thinking, “There’s no way we can make it with our current tread.”
Driving down a wash for what seemed like forever,
Realizing that this internship was one mighty endeavor.

Remember that time…?
We spent hours identifying unknown plants,
After days in the field getting holes in our pants.
The aroma of the herbarium wafting through the air,
Running veg transects even when the ground seemed bare.

Remember that time…?
We camped during a storm,
Or when we could hear nothing for a moment, but an insect swarm.
Having to watch every step for rattlesnakes,
Marking every new monitoring site with a brightly painted stake.

Remember that time…?
We spent an entire summer learning desert ecology,
Completely out of range of almost any technology.
We learned and accomplished more than I ever could have thought,
But we tackled it all, no matter how hot.

There are times when the unknown of my future fills me with fear,
But the CLM internship provided me with skills and memories that I will forever hold dear.

So long Phoenix District BLM…