Elk in Velvet

We are seeing some beautiful and impressive wildlife in the Jarbidge Field Office in Southern Idaho: Elk in Velvet, Prong Horn, Mule Deer, Badgers, Hawks, Horney Toads, Pheasants, Chuckers, Bull Snakes, Rattle Snakes, and of course the illusive Sage Grouse. Every day is an adventure!  The field studies we are performing are upland trend, HAF Habitat Assessment Framework for sage grouse, riparian, ferruginous hawk, special status plants, water fowl observations, wetland inventory and sage grouse lek counts.

We are going to start camping in remote areas of the field office starting June 10th.  This will put us in the appropriate area to start our upland trend and HAF monitoring earlier in the day and cut down our travel time to the sites.  We will definitely get more done in a week then traveling 2 hours to and from the main office in Twin Falls, Idaho.

This internship is giving me a different aspect of the desert than I am used to.  I live and work on my family’s cattle ranch here in Southern Idaho. My boys are the 6th generation to grow up on our ranch.  We have a permit to run our cattle on public lands and I am  learning more about the very desert my family makes a living on. 

I have also met some awesome folks that are working on the monitoring crew.  We get a lot of work done everyday and have a great learning experience as well.

Catcus and Cathodes

May 28, 2013

Hello! And greetings from Montrose, CO.

I’d love to entertain you all with the amazing, interesting, and varied work I’ve been doing lately, but to be perfectly honest I’ve mostly been conducting surveys for Colorado Hookless Cactus, and little else, since I last wrote.

For those of you who work in the Uinta Basin you’re already (kinda) familiar with this cactus, as at one point Sclerocactus wetlandicus and Sclerocactus glaucus were considered one and the same.

Colorado Hookless Cactus

Here’s a picture of the little guy, might look familiar to some of you.

Because this cactus is a federally listed threatened species I do a lot of clearance surveys to ensure that it isn’t growing in an area where certain projects are planned to take place. Additionally, we’ve been doing general surveys for the cactus with the hope of adding more known individuals with the ultimate goal of getting this cactus de-listed.

Survey near Powerline

There’s a list of five criteria that must be considered in order to get a species de-listed. They are as follows (taken directly from a Fish and Wildlife Service factsheet):

■ Is there a present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of the species’ habitat or range?
■ Is the species subject to overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes?
■ Is disease or predation a factor?
■ Are there inadequate existing regulatory mechanisms in place outside the ESA (taking into account the efforts by the States and other organizations to protect the species or habitat)?
■ Are other natural or man-made factors affecting its continued existence?

According to my boss, we have strong evidence to suggest we meet all the above criteria, and my job lately has been to go out and fill in the missing gaps between known cactus populations.

Today, however, I’m in the office working on a TES Wildlife and Plants Report (for the cathodic protection system survey, pictured above, actually) and struggling to learn GIS, while my boss is giving a presentation that has something to do with the impending fire season ahead.

Well, I’ll sign off with a few more pictures.

Flower on Flattop – Buckwheat Survey

Crew I work with caught some Horny Toads.

Largest Horny Toad I’ve ever seen was caught by Arri (on the right) and Zach (on left) found one too.

Another beautiful day in the field.

Brandee Wills
Uncompahgre Field Office BLM
Montrose, CO

Adjusting to the desert.

I’ve officially lived in Safford, AZ for 3 weeks now, and am adjusting a little more each day. Coming from the lush forested hills of Arkansas to the desert is a big transition, but I continue to appreciate the beauty of the desert more and more.

My first week was filled with trainings of every variety, but I also got out in the field by day 2. Heather Paddock, the other CLM intern at the BLM office in Safford, and I joined one of our mentors, Heidi Blasius, on Bonita Creek to work on non-native fish removal. We set 60 nets and returned the following morning to sort the captives. Green-sunfish and mosquito fish were removed from the stream, and all natives were measured and released. We caught several varities or native, endangered species, including the Gila Chub, the Sonoran sucker fish, the Gila Top Minnow, and the Sonoran mud turtle.

The following week Heather and I traveled to Boise, ID for the Seeds of Success training. We participated in a three day training course to get up to speed on the methodology required for successful seed collection. The training included an actual field collection of Sandberg bluegrass, as well as several interesting field trips. We toured the FireWise garden at the Boise, ID botanical gardens and learned about ways to plant a fire resistant garden. The Birds of Prey Conservation Area, Lucky Peak Nursery, and the Boise Regional Seed Warehouse were among our other outings. The training and trip, as a whole, was a great experience.
This week has been a mix of data entry, UTV training, and a day of fieldwork. The field day was especially enjoyable. We traveled to the Coldspring Seeps to work on monitoring Gila Top Minnow and Desert Pupfish. Populations of both native species were doing well, and several Sonoran mud turtles were recorded as well.

All and all, my time here has been interesting and varied. My fish identification and observation skills are developing quickly. Next week I will begin to scout for possible seed collection locations, and am hoping to put my plant taxonomy knowledge from the SOS training to good use.

Beginning my internship in Burns, Oregon!!


My name is Justin! For the next five months I will be an intern at the BLM in Burns, Oregon. My main job is to monitor BLM land and assess plant diversity and the health of specific sites throughout the sagebrush community. A majority of the sites I will be monitoring will be burned sites. There are many other activities I will be doing regarding data entry and the creation of herbarium specimens.

The first week was full of adventure! This was considered a training week for the interns. We traveled with different people from the BLM office to their sites. They showed us different plant species and told us how to identify them.

The first day of the internship we met everyone in the office. They were all very nice and very knowledgeable about their backgrounds. After we filled out the necessary paperwork, our main adviser took the other intern and myself to collect sagebrush samples to determine the moisture levels of the brush in the area.

The second day we went to a study site to retrieve a broken ATV with another adviser from the office. On the way there we encountered two cattle drives! There were so many cows, that they sounded like motor engines from a NASCAR race….that mooed. On our way up to the site, we would pull off to view different flora. The other intern, Dan, and I took many notes regarding the genus and species of the flora. Some of the flora I encountered could also be found back in the Midwest! We finally made it to the ATV and helped get the vehicle on the trailer. Our adviser was very knowledgeable about the plants and issues of the region. Most of the issues regarded Sage Grouse, invasive plants, plant community succession, and ranching. On our way home we encountered mini dust storms that would travel across the road due to the barren fields. This day was very informative and helped me understand all of the major issues the BLM is trying to address.

On the third day we went south to the study site known as Trout Creek. We went with another adviser to see future areas that we will be monitoring. The two hour car ride was fascinating! We saw many different bird species and wildlife. We were also given the background history of the place we were viewing. We traveled along the mountains near the Nevada border. There were a variety of different flora located everywhere. Dan and I were trying to identify as many plants as possible! It was 28 degrees Fahrenheit and very windy when we got to the top of the mountain. We were told this was considered very good habitat for sage grouse.

The fourth day was considered a field day training for the office. We all went out in the field to learn updated techniques on how to monitor different sites. Both Dan and I were given a lot of experience. We were shown different methods to assess the plant diversity of a site. There were a lot of flowers that were active during this time and the sites we visited were beautiful!

On the fifth day, both Dan and I were organizing our notes. We created a powerpoint to help us identify all of the different grasses, forbs, shrubs, and trees we have seen.

I really enjoyed learning about all of the flora of the region, especially sagebrush! I always thought there was only one kind of sagebrush, but there are a variety of them. Wyoming, mountain, low, basin, and silver sagebrush are the main species we saw or will be seeing. We learned about the aroga moth and how it was impacting different sagebrush communities.

Yellow Headed Blackbirds were one of the most common birds in the Burns, Oregon area. It was also one of my favorite bird species to view.

On my off-periods beyond work, I did a lot of bird watching and rock hounding! This area is full of resources! There are many sites to look for rare rocks, habitats to look for rare birds, and many places to go fishing. A majority of the pictures will either be taken on the job or when I am in the field studying.

I am very excited about this opportunity to work for the BLM and look forward to the summer!

Know Your System

“Know your system”
These wise words were the first and most powerful lesson I have learned from my boss Leslie DeFalco. Oftentimes researchers will specialize in techniques, and new technologies but, especially these days with most government positions being contract, very few researcher have had the opportunity to study the same system for long periods of time.
Recently I have been spending most of my time at the Grand Canyon- Parashant National Monument. Slowly I have been learning and observing a lot, however there is so much more to learn.
The Parashant National Monument, located in Mohave Country AZ, is larger than Rhode Island and is found at the overlapping of three different physio-geographical provinces. It is an extremely diverse habitat where the Colorado Plateau, Mojave Desert and the Great Basin meet up, the result is an awe inspiring landscape.
It was established through the Presidential Proclamation in 2007, though it was acquired in 2000. It is currently under joint management between the BLM and the NPS.
Since the introduction of non native Bromus Madritensis into this area, wildfires have become more frequent (Just a reminder, this landscape is not evolved for fire), devastating the habitat of the endangered desert tortoise. The endangered desert tortoises meet their food and moisture requirements from their diet, which consists of the plants that are found in areas like the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument. This is it where we come in.
Can we figure out a way to re-seed the burned area before it is too late?! Stay tuned next week, when I will delve into the details of research conducted by the USGS to determine optimal re-vegetating methods for these critical regions.

Desert Tortoise!!!

The Desert Tortoise is the main reason why the USGS hired us as interns this summer. It is an endangered species that inhabits the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts. Tortoise populations have declined dramatically in recent years, partly due to loss of foraging habitat, caused by invasive grass takeover. Bromus madritensis is a non-native grass that has been reducing the native grass and shrub biomass that the tortoises depend on. B. madritensis takes over after wildfires (which were rare prior to B. madritensis invasion), and out-competes the slower growing natives. Conservationists, and hopefully the general public, are very concerned for the Desert Tortoise, which is where we come in! Three other interns and I are part of a research team that is investigating how to deal with B. madritensis by collecting and analyzing results of different desert shrub land restoration techniques. Since starting these post-fire monitoring projects two months ago, we had yet to actually encounter the reptile that we are working to protect, until now!

I give you the Desert Tortoise:

We came upon it as we were driving out to our sites last week. It seemed to be enjoying the morning cool sunrise while foraging for food. After we stopped for a few pictures, we continued on our way to begin our post-fire tortoise habitat monitoring for the week. I try to keep the image of the tortoise in the back of my head so that I can remember the big picture for this project. Hopefully this research can lead to successful restoration techniques that will make it more likely that future interns will come across a tortoise, sooner than two months into the program!

From the Foothills of the Cascades

This is my first blog of my second CLM internship with the BLM. Last summer I was in Lakeview, OR and I have moved to the other side of the Cascades to the Roseburg District. I have just finished my first full week working directly with the botanist of the Swiftwater Resource Area. I am super excited to learn about everything involved with the timber industry and to be working with plants in such a beautiful area.
This week included a few site visits. The site visits were to check for weeds, follow up on a rare plant conservation project, and plan for a day-lighting project. The first photo I have included is from the day-lighting project site visit. The project is to prepare a road for an upcoming logging operation in order to protect the surrounding environment. The idea is to remove trees to allow more light in in order to decrease the amount of moisture on the roads. The botanist’s role is to make sure there are no special status species in the project area, and to avoid the spread of invasives after the disturbance caused by the day-lighting construction.

My first full week ended with an educational outreach opportunity with a group of 5th graders on a camping trip. Many folks from the office participated in this all-day event. I led an outdoor class on native and non-native plants, and a class on reading maps. It was an awesome experience sharing my love of the outdoors with these kids and I think it was super awesome for the school to provide this educational outdoor adventure for them.
This internship is going to be jam-packed with fun work. I will be working with invasive plants, special status plants, lichen, bryophytes, and fungi, participating in educational outreach opportunities, and more to be determined.

I am so happy, grateful, and excited to be here! Wish all the best to my fellow CLM interns.

Until next time,
Caroline Martorano
BLM Roseburg, OR

Photo from the day-lighting project field visit. Some folks don’t like the rain- but I sure like the lush forest the rain brings!

View from road leading to field site to check for weeds.


The Mother of Journeys

My journey out west to Wyoming from Florida happened in lightning speed. I graduated from the University of Florida along with my sister and boyfriend on May 5th.  A day later the car was packed and we hit the road. We meandered our way through Kentucky, meeting some friends; then Chicago; Des Moines, IA; Rapid City, SD; and stopped in Buffalo, WY (the location of my internship); and finally made our way to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone before returning to start work the following Monday. In 6 days I had already seen so much, and work hadn’t even begun. The huge amount of wildlife that is supported out west by mother earth is one of the first things that left me in awe. I saw several elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and bison for the first time. It was also refreshing to experience the open space and the cool fresh air that much of the eastern U.S. now lacks. It was the first time I had risked running out of gas while keeping my eyes out constantly for cities, often driving for hours in the “middle of nowhere.”
The first two weeks of work after safely arriving here, have been full and never boring. The BLM BFO is employed by some of the nicest and most helpful people ever. Nick, another S.O.S intern and I were introduced to the land, the rules, the nuisances, and the S.O.S program within the first week. We all discussed how the S.O.S program is considered to be, by pretty much everyone, an important program, and no one can really find a negative aspect to it. I spent the past few weeks happily scouting for important plant species that will aid in preserving the diversity that is found in the U.S. in this snapshot of time, and that will also lend the resources needed to rehabilitate land after being burned in a forest fire, or disrupted by the oil and gas industry here in Wyoming.
I look forward to future work, where walking amongst this beautiful scenery to enter GPS coordinates and ID plants is “work” and where “sage grouse,” “littleleaf pussytoes,” “cattle fences,” and “pronghorns” are now part of my everyday conversations.

*Below are some snapshots of today’s work. A moose sow and her baby are in the darker picture.

The End (of field season) is Nigh

After kicking major butt the past few weeks, we only have 2 more sites left to survey and then we will be done with the big part of our field season here in Henderson, NV!  Hopefully we will knock those 2 sites out in the next 2 days and then it’s on to entering all the data we have collected.  It has been a rough field season, or at least a rough past week (which I’m sure will be explained in future blog posts, prepare yourselves for a very exciting story), but we have all worked hard and well together to get everything done.  We were told that last year’s group (which was part of SCA, we are the first CLM group here) had one more person than we have this year and they took another week or so to finish all this!  So either we are really fricking awesome or they took their sweet ol’ time getting through it all last year!  Either way I feel pretty good about our group!

I am looking forward to meeting everyone (or most everyone) in Chicago in a couple weeks!  Even though we will be done with our field season by then, it should be a fun and informative experience.  And now I’m off to bed to get a few hours of sleep before our 5am departure into the Mojave Desert…Goodnight!

Greetings from the High Desert of Burns, Oregon!

Hello everyone,

I have just began my internship with the Burns District Bureau of Land Management in the beautiful high desert of Eastern Oregon. My name is Dan Mayer and I am a very recent graduate of Paul Smith’s College of the Adirondack Park in Northern New York. I graduated last weekend with a B.S. in Fisheries & Wildlife Science (Wildlife Concentration) and a Geographic Information Systems Certificate. After graduating, I was home for one day before driving cross country to Oregon, complete with a multitude of National Park Visits and National Forest drive throughs.

This is a beautiful landscape of rangelands, volcanic rocks, and high desert scrubs.

Today was the first day of my internship based out of the Burns District BLM. During my internship, I will be conducting vegetation sampling techniques in order to evaluate the effectiveness of post-wildlfire rehabilitation efforts as part of the BLM’s Emergency Response & Stabilization Program (ES&R). A large part of the beginning of my internship will be spent familiarizing myself with the native and noxious vegetation in the nearly 1.1 million acre district. As part of the program, we will be revisiting many of the fires from last year’s season, to see what’s growing back or more importantly what isn’t.

Sagebrush leaves are collected, weighed, and dried, to evaluate fire conditions.

I was able to get into the field this afternoon with my mentor, Casey, in order to evaluate fire conditions by collecting, weighing, and drying sagebrush leaves.

The vistas and landscapes seem to endlessly stretch in every direction.

For those of you unfamiliar with Southeastern Oregon, it’s an almost alien landscape of ancient volcanic rocks, arid and cracking soil, sagebrush, western red cedar, and the ever present invasive cheatgrass. Thus far, the weather has been gorgeous sunny days, and cool calm nights. The vistas and landscapes seem to stretch on forever in every direction, and the uniqueness of the terrain is hard to put into words.

This is the vehicle of choice for working in this tough environment.

Overall, I was very impressed by the group of hard working, passionate, and knowledgeable natural resource professionals that I met today at the Emigrant Creek Ranger Station and Burns BLM Office, and I look forward to prying their brains for more about the area as I settle into my CLM role.