This week had been very short, but it was full of adventure!
Both Dan (other intern) and I went out into the field to establish a new site for monitoring. We went to an area that had a recent fire and had been treated with a special type of herbicide. The site did have Bromus tectorum (cheat grass), but there was an amazing amount of plant diversity. There was a large amount of Poa secunda (sandberg bluegrass), Lupinus caudatus (tailcup lupine), Astragalus filipes (basalt milkvetch), Phlox longifolia (long leaf phlox), Artemisia arbscula (low sagebrush), and Lonactis alpina (lava aster). There were many other species as well. We were doing a survey of the area and established the plot. During this time, it was raining and hailing, with periods of sunshine (typical Steens weather <_< ) . We were getting hammered, but we were able to complete the forms and make observations. On our way down the large hill, the soil was very loamy. It was clinging to our boots, so it seemed like we were gliding (slipping with style) down the hill. Unfortunately, I wore tennis shoes (WHICH YOU SHOULD NEVER WEAR IN THE FIELD) and my feet were completely drenched…and muddy. Anyways!!! We made it and recorded the necessary information!
This was our first area where we established a plot to monitor plants.
The next day we went out into the field to look for three sensitive plant species (plants of concern). Don’t worry! We did not hurt their feelings…well maybe one of them. We were assigned to look for Stanleya confertiflora (Biennial stanleya), Trifolium leibergii (Leiberg’s clover), and Eriogonum cusickii (Cusick’s buckwheat). The first plant was the biennial stanleya. This plant was “supposed” to be located on the northwest slope on gravely loam soil. We found a large amount of Taeniatherum caput-medusae (Medusahead rye), but no biennial stanleya… There were cool Castilleja, Atriplex, and Astragalus species present. When we were heading back to our vehicle we heard a bull cow moo for 15 seconds. He was challenging another bull. They both had a moo war and then went their own ways.
The biennial Stanleya was nowhere to be found…we went in search of the next plant, Trifolium leibergii (Leiberg’s clover). We followed the map to the site. We were shocked! O_O These clover species were located all over the place! We filled out the appropriate forms and took many pictures. This clover species was very well adapted to the surroundings! They had thorny leaves and were very tough. They had an elongated root system, which made it tough to gather a herbarium specimen. (Side note: The pronghorn in the distance looked at us surveying before returning to their Poa and Artemisia diet.) The second plant had a healthy population, unfortunately they were only found in a limited area.
This was the clover species we were monitoring! Trifolium leibergii
We moved onto the next plant, Eriogonum cusickii (Cusick’s buckwheat). This plant was found near the BLM office and found in a small area. We stopped along the road. When we exited the vehicle, the plant was right there! There were many specimens, but they were only limited to this area. We also caught a horny toad (Common name known…still don’t know the latin name…) We saw a bigger population of Cusick’s buckwheat on the other side of the barb wire fence on BLM land. I did the limbo underneath the barb wire fence and made it to the other side. We took pictures and filled out another survey form. We also practiced our botany by identifying unknown species in the field. This day was very productive! We found two of the three plants! The last day we spent our time in the BLM office to catch up on our paperwork and get established with the GIS metadata and software.
This was the third plant we were monitoring. Eriogonum cusickii
- This was a horny toad we captured and released.
Beyond the work for the BLM, I decided to go rock-hounding in three places. Two places were located near Burns, Oregon and the other place was located near Plush, Oregon. The first two places had special green obsidian, petrified wood, and agates. I got a shovel full of green, black, and striped obsidian. The obsidian place was located twelve miles northwest of town. A large amount of land was covered with black obsidian. I took note of the Artemisia (sagebrush) species that were being defoliated by the aroga moth. I took some obsidian specimens and went to the Narrows where I could find petrified wood. I did get lost in the Narrows, but I eventually made it to the area. The area had many specimens of agate and petrified wood!
The third area I went rock-hounding was a place near a town called Plush, Oregon, which was located near Lakeview, Oregon. This area was known for sunstones, which was a special kind of plagioclase feldspar that could be used for jewelry. I collected fifty specimens that were the size of a thumbnail or smaller. During my collecting time I heard three massive explosions that made my ears ring! I had to lay on the ground and look to where the sound was coming from. I was in the middle of nowhere and I did not see what was causing the explosive noise. My theory was that there were military jets breaking the sound barrier overhead, thus causing the very loud noise.
After my collection of sunstones, I talked with some miners that were in the area and got an interesting view on the politics of the area. They were all once in the military and are now mining at different claims in Oregon and Alaska. They were super nice and talked about the BLM and how helpful they were. Eventually, I left the sunstone area to get some gas and I managed to get a flat tire on the way to Plush, Oregon. I finally made it to the gas station as my tire went flat. I got help from a local cowboy and managed to get the spare tire on. The spare tire was deflated, so I was directed to go to the fire station to get the tire pumped up. The fire fighter who was present with his wife helped with the tire. I was thankful that I got the help from the cowboy and the couple. I had to avoid the rocky obsidian roads and go the long way back home. I went to Lakeview, Oregon and traveled north by the alkali lakes present in the region. The American Avocet must love this part of the state. (They love to eat the shrimp and insects found within the alkali lakes) The sun was setting and I finally made it back home.
This was the obsidian I found!!!!
- These are sunstones!!!! (The clear looking rock…and no… they are not quartz or calcite.)
This week was full of adventure! The other intern and I established our first plot, we monitored three (well two) sensitive plant species and I found many different rock samples for my collection. It was an interesting week, but now I am tired. OH! I have to prepare for tomorrow! We will be using GIS software to create maps for our future monitoring sites! O_O