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