Let’s talk about plants baby!

“Let’s talk about plants baby
let’s talk about forbs and trees
let’s talk about all the good shrub cover
and the invasive things that may be.
Let’s talk about plants!”

I am loving this internship up in sunny southern Idaho! I am soaking up the sun and plant knowledge as quickly as I can. There are so many plants to learn, names that sound so similar paired with plants that don’t look a thing alike.
Today we spent the majority of our time following a stream and hiking to the top of a mountain to identify plants and help determine their diversity. This was a desirable break from our usual desert stomping grounds.
Some of the plants we identified were:

Aquilegia formosa-Western Columbine (AQFO)

Geranium Viscosissimum- sticky purplr geranium (GEVI2)

I love plants, there is a lot of diversity in the plant world! It’s strange to think that not everyone in the world wants to know every plant they can get their hands on. So, for all the people out there, Let Talk About Plants!
-Until next time

Triceratops! Glowsticks! Cows! And more…

The past three weeks in and around Buffalo, WY have been insane. My friend ironically just sent me a picture that has a word describing every state in the US and Wyoming’s word(s) were “Not Real.” Sometimes I do feel like I’m living in a strange/fantasy land here. Let me elaborate.

The weather for one is completely unpredictable. After my first week of it being in the high 70’s, it snowed.  Three weeks ago there were wind gusts of 60-90mph (imagine trying to record data in that, I was on my hands and knees). And then this week the sun is blazing hot and I wish for any wind at all. It is an adventure, though, to experience the land in all these conditions and I can’t help but to laugh sometimes, especially when I was on my hands and knees looking for scarlet globemallow.

Last week I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to assist our recreation manager, Alison, with a summer camp she runs in partnership with Upton, which has been dubbed the “best place on earth.” The camp took place at the Summit Ridge firetower, on top of which you could see the clear state line between Wyoming and South Dakota and the evidence of the many fires that have spread through the Black Hills. Alison had something awesome planned everyday for the middle schoolers/high schoolers, by reaching out to experts in different fields. The first day we got to tour Whoopup canyon’s rock art (12,000 years old) with an archaeologist from Newcastle (who’s office is the women’s bathroom, no joke). Then, we went to the Triceratops dig in Newcastle. A bone poacher stumbled upon three triceratops’ skeletons in the middle of a ranch, in the middle of nowhere. This middle of nowhere used to be a sea, and these dinosaurs are thought to have been struck by lightning and then buried in silt after a flood. A private paleontologist group took over the dig after the bone poacher came to the rancher asking for permission and the rancher realized what value the bones had. We got to see a tooth and the eye socket/crown of a triceratops, as well as a lot more unidentified bones. I don’t think the kids thought it was as cool as Alison and I, as we thought this was the raddest thing we’ve seen in a long time. The rest of the week brought edible plant hikes, meeting firemen, doing forestry sampling and tree cores, a glowstick night hike where I taught the kids Poi, setting up trail cameras, bat monitoring, and aquatic sampling (where I saw the most deadly plant in North America, water hemlock). I learned a lot and I’m sure the kids did too. It didn’t feel like I was working at all.

This week the lovely and entertaining CLM range interns, Sean and Dan, and I paired up to knock out range assessments and seed scouting/collecting. We got to see some really beautiful ranches, meet some friendly ranchers and cows, and found several gems of seed collecting sites. As of this week, Nick (who is currently at Alison’s camp) and I have completed 7 collections!

In my down time, I run, bike the clear creek trail, swim at the creek fed public pool that sells cotton candy and hot dogs, and fish for trout (although since I haven’t learned how to fly fish, they don’t want anything to do with my worms and lures as the flies and moths are out in numbers). I also go to the occidental hotel to listen to Bluegrass and stop by the brewery with my co-workers (practically the whole office) to have a beer.

Although I’m a long way from home, I feel grateful everyday to live in this beautiful and never boring place. The other interns and my coworkers are hard to beat too. I love you guys!

First Week in Colorado

It’s been a little over a week since I loaded up my hatchback, said goodbye to my cat and my potted plants, and drove the flat stretch from Tulsa to Denver. During my first week with the BLM in Lakewood, I’ve already learned a lot about Colorado’s flora, and I’m beginning to really appreciate the diversity of vegetation across the state.

My first day on the job, I was able to assist with a seed collection of Lomatium orientale, a little member of the parsley family, whose seeds you practically had to sneak up on to collect before the shock of your touch made them drop in unison. This collection had us trekking back and forth through foothill shrubland, where the yucca leaves I stumbled into served as the helpful pinch to reassure me that I was not dreaming–I really was being paid to hike around Colorado, learning about and playing Where’s-Waldo with plants.

My incredulity has only grown since then, with scouting trips through foothill meadows, ponderosa pine woodlands, and a trip into a montane lodgepole pine forest to collect the Dr. Seuss-esque Pulsatilla patens. This area has been heavily impacted by mountain pine beetles, with many dead lodgepole pines still standing, but nevertheless displayed a beautiful array of wildflowers in bloom.

I hope to see and learn even more in the coming weeks, and I’m excited about several trips we have planned to the northern sand dunes, the Roan Plateau, and past the timber line into the alpine.

Katherine Wenzell
BLM State Office
Lakewood, CO

Indiana to California

My CLM internship experience began with a nice long drive from northern Indiana to northern California traveling through the many different ecosystems of the Midwest and West. I have been in Susanville, CA at the Eagle Lake BLM Field Office for a week now.  I’m slowly adjusting to the mountains, sagebrush, and the dry conditions which inhabit the northern California landscape. Coming from flat Midwestern farm fields, being able to see mountains everywhere I go has been a nice change.

So far this week, I’ve been familiarizing myself with the field office and the people in the different parts of the office.  I’ve also been getting familiar with the western plants which I will be seeing out in the field. I’m starting to learn some of the names of the grasses, forbs, and sagebrush species as we come across them in the field. I’ve had several opportunities this week to go out in the field with others in the field office.  Earlier this week I was able go along to see a riparian proper functioning condition assessment which included individuals from range, hydrology, archaeology, wildlife, and ecology. I learned a lot about the riparian vegetation at the field sites we looked at.  Some parts of the area were dry desert stream areas. My first week at the Eagle Lake BLM Field Office has been a learning experience, with many more to follow I’m sure.

Alternative Training

Last month I promised a second installment of “Knowing your System”, but that will be postponed until I finish some statistics and can paint a more vivid picture of what is going on here. Today I wanted to say a few words about the CLM internship training. The majority of you have spent the last week visiting the gorgeous Chicago Botanical Gardens. I did not. Instead I sat entering data 8 hours a day for a week straight. To some this may seem like a normal day at work while to others this may be a description of the inner most circle of Dante’s hell. I attached very little negative feelings towards this activity. I think one feels more ownership, and later pride towards a project they are working on, if they are involved in each step of the way. This was just the logical next step preceding data checking, statistics and, analysis. Additionally, I was excited all week long knowing that my alternative training proposal was accepted, and that I too, would be in my very own training soon. Here is a little summary excerpt of my proposal.

“While taking Bettina Francis’ Environmental Toxicology I was encouraged to read “The Ghost Map” written by Steven Johnson. This book is about the ingenuity of Dr. John Snow on a quest to discover the origin of London’s cholera outbreak. Here I was first introduced to the notion that maps are an extremely powerful tool, and when used thoroughly can answer complex questions associated with the dynamics of the system at hand. Previously viewed as a simple visual representation of an area used only for directions, I was fascinated with all the potential in spatial analysis and how it could be used in ecology. Not to my surprise, I was not the first one to have this realization. The use of GIS in ecology is on the rise.

GIS, a short hand for Geographical Information System, is a system that is designed to manipulate, analyze, store and present geographical data. With current GIS systems capable of creating 3D representations of areas, layering other spatial data sets over the map, and conducting biostatistics on these data, it is essential to incorporated this tool in pushing forward the boundaries of ecological. GIS can directly be used in ecological niche modeling,   understanding geographic speciation, rare plant monitoring, predicting future organism distribution and many other concepts related to ecology end evolution….”


And so, naturally I want to learn and have been eying different courses for a year now, never really being able to afford them.  Lo and behold, thanks to the CLM Internship, in the beginning of July, armed with books up to my ears I will be taking the ESRI’s introductory course! I think that the opportunity we are getting to continue our education via the offered training, or choosing your own adventure, is  grand and I could not be more thankful. Especially since paying for this course can be hard on a biologist’s budget.

Even with all the excitement for the GIS course, upon the return of my co-workers from the CLM training I was slightly saddened after being informed the training was a grand success and that I missed out on meeting some amazing people (including Krissa who seems to have the power of stopping time to fit her busy schedule into a 24 hour day).  I did not get a chance to meet all you other interns but, who knows, if we all make it in this field we may end up as co-workers yet.

I would like to finish off by saying one more thing. I do hope you had a chance to spend some time wandering the many nooks and crannies of the Chicago Botanic Garden. It is a gorgeous place that I hold very dear to my heart. Even though I was not at the training, I did grow up a mere 15 minutes away (you may notice that in the Chicagoland area everything is 15 minutes away). The Botanic Gardens played a large role in my childhood, especially when it came to bonding with my Dad. There is a bike trail that passes near my house and continues all the way to the CBG. It is on this trail that my father and I spend many, not so lazy, Sundays. As a small kid this seemed like such a daunting task, the trail seemed like it went on forever.  As I grew, the trail seemed to shorten but the good times did not lessen one bit. Running around the English gardens, the rose garden, the Japanese islands, the bonsai exhibits, the sensory gardens, and of course getting lost in the iconic view from the visitor center bridge onto the lake, I could never extract all the joy that spending time at the gardens brought me, so I just had to keep coming back.

 Having been away from my parents’ place for a few years now, I look forwards to the 4th of July weekend when I will be visiting Chicago. I hope to convince my dad to take out the rusty bikes and take another bike ride to the botanic gardens.


Things No-One Has Seen But You

Even when it’s over 90 degrees out, your burning up, and all you wish for is shade in a country where the tallest object within site is yourself.  You look back on the day, or weeks possibly, and take notice of all the things you saw while spending hours upon hours in the field.  In areas that people haven’t set foot in, in some instances, for some time.  It’s only after these grueling tasks are completed that you get a sense of how lucky you are.  And if you’re even luckier, you didn’t forget your camera and have the pictures to prove it.

Fire in Little Cimarron

June 26, 2013

Hello! And greetings from Montrose, CO.

This month has just flown by; I can’t believe it’s almost over. I’ve mostly been working on HAF transects in the Crawford area. Many of you probably already know what HAF is, it stands for Habitat Assessment Framework and pertains to the protocol used to assess sage grouse habitat. The work is pretty monontonous, but the area is so beautiful I can’t complain.

Imagine taken from Google image search.

But this week has been a little different. The East Fork Fire, about 30 miles southeast of Montrose, has taken priority over all else at our field office (even though it’s a Forest Service fire, not a BLM one). I spent all day Sunday and Monday AD-ing that fire (AD-ing essentially means CBG didn’t pay me to do it, so don’t worry CBG!!) which was exhausting, but an incredible learning experience. I’ve mostly been driving out supplies and meals, and the area where this fire is burning is some of the most beautiful country I’ve seen in Colorado.

Image from Google image search.

Picture from Google image search.

The past two days I’ve had a break from the fire world, because I’ve been in Gunnison participating in a three day workshop on managing grazing in riparian areas. Gunnison is home to my alma mater, Western State College [REPRESENT!!!], so I’m pretty excited to be back here for a few days. Not only that, but I also worked for the BLM here in 2011, so I’m happy to get to visit with my old boss. Last year I took a course on wetland restoration and this class is complimenting it nicely. It’s been interesting to learn how to effectively graze riparian areas without trashing them, and it’s interesting to compare these techniques to what I see going on in my own field office back in Montrose.

Anyway, today is the last day of the course and it starts in 20 minutes so I’d better sign off.

Brandee Wills
Uncompahgre Field Office BLM
Montrose, CO

Natural Beauty

I am so thrilled with how my internship is going. I am getting familiar with the land, the plants, and the projects at the office. We have been doing a lot of restoration work in natural areas.
One natural area on the district has a threatened lily (Calochortus umpquaensis). I really enjoy this site because you have to go through three locked gates, across clear cuts on private land, and up into a hill top meadow with an incredible view. We were cutting back the encroaching seedlings to improve the habitat.

Ace Williams-the threatened lily location

Another natural area on the district had some Reed Canary Grass present in and around the pond. This forest is really cool because the floor is composed of piles and piles of logs at different stages of decomposition. We brought kayaks down to the pond and removed the invasive grass. There were also a lot of fallen trees in the pond, which was fun to maneuver around. It was a pretty magical day at work.

Red Ponds Research Natural Area- where the Reed Canary Grass is.

A third natural area, and the largest with more than 6,000 acres, needs a lot of work maintaining the oak savannah habitat. I will be taking on a project to write up a weed management plan for this area. We monitored the seed development in the invasive annual Medusa Head grass, to burn at the right stage. A large area was burned before the grass set seed, and after the grass was mature enough that it would not have enough reserves to recover. We collected some medusa head seeds after the burn to test if they were still viable. The area will be seeded in October to avoid being food for wildlife and to catch the winter rains, soon after being sown.

North Bank Habitat Management Area- where the prescribed burns were.

I participated in another educational outreach event. My boss and I introduced a weed project to a group of recent high school graduates. They impressed me so much with their knowledge and experience and super positive work ethics and attitudes. Granted today was the first day. I look forward to hearing about their experience when we catch up at the end of the week.

Looking forward to many more magical days at work.

Until next time,
Caroline Martorano
BLM Roseburg, OR

Southern Oregon Seed Collecting

It has been a great few weeks, since the beginning of my internship. As a member of the Seeds of Success team in Medford, Oregon, I am responsible for locating and identifying populations of native plants. When we find a promising population, we prepare quality botanical vouchers, and later return to the site to collect seed, which will be used for long-term germplasm preservation, as well as for restoration projects. The days are spent researching geography, exploring beautiful natural areas, identifying and mapping plants, and collecting seeds. Since I would normally do most of these activities on my days off from work, I don’t know if I could think of a job better suited for me.

My mentor, Doug is an enthusiastic seed collector

Some of the highlights so far, include visiting botanically rich serpentine areas, collecting the uncommon Ashland thistle, and making the trip to Chicago to see the gardens and meet the CLM crew.


Heritage diversity display at the Chicago Botanic Garden

As much as I love my job, It would be good to have a couple of extra days in the week. Returning from the trip to Chicago, I am feeling the pressure of the ripening seeds and the possibility of getting behind in our collections. Not to mention the data management (including GIS) and volunteer coordination responsibilities that I have accepted. I am optimistic, however, that with proper planning, persistent effort, and a little patience, we just might do alright.

Marcus Lorusso

Medford Oregon

Refreshing skills in new ecosystems

Since my last post, I have dedicated most of my time to teaching other people how to use ArcPad. The California State BLM office has announced they are going to stop buying and renewing TerraSync software licences, thus forcing individuals to use ArcPad. My background in field based surveying using both TerraSync and ArcPad made me an ideal candidate to supply training to my office, as folks prepare for this transition. While this task ended up only including 4 or 5 members of the office, it exposed some folks to a new skill set that I hope they continue to practice. Otherwise, I continue to find various tasks to keep me busy.

I also attended the CLM Training Workshop in Chicago, where I met tons of great people and received excellent information related to botany, monitoring, and career paths. I was able to put my plant identification skills to test by picking up a key and spending some time in the tall grass prairie portion of the Chicago Botanic Gardens. My experience in Chicago was nothing but delightful and insightful. I feel like I met some great people with common interest and learned a lot. This experience was a highlight of my summer.


That is all




Alturas BLM Intern