Weeds and Old Trees

Lots of work related to weeds lately.  I’ve done weed monitoring, weed treatments, and weed management planning. It has been a nice balance between taking action and planning for action.

The weed monitoring was mostly in future timber sale units. They will construct roads and close roads to prepare for all the traffic on the unit so we want to take care of the weeds before they are given the opportunity to spread.

We pulled weeds at campgrounds, along roads while monitoring and at research natural area. The weeds we’ve been working with mostly are Scotch Broom, Reed Canary Grass, Himalayan Blackberry, and Stinky Bob (a geranium).

One interesting day was going out and looking for big old trees for a fuels reduction project. Went to look for “old growth stands”. If it was old growth, we would have to have fungi surveys in the area for the next two years before they could go ahead with the project. To assess if it was old growth we looked to see if there was age class diversity in the trees, multiple stories in the canopy, decaying logs, the litter layer on top of the soil, and big trees that look to be >200 years old.

I am continuing to work on project proposals for weed treatments and working on weed management plan for a 6,500 acres reserve for the Federally endangered Columbia white-tail deer. The project proposal is to remove English Hawthorn, a super weedy tree. I don’t have any pictures this month, but soon I will have to post pictures of the oak savannah and oak woodland habitats in need of some thinning.

Seed Collecting Down South!

Last week I was given the task to go collect Black Brush seed from Joshua Tree National Park and Anzo-Borrego State Park. So with my fellow intern Laura, we headed out from Las Vegas at 5:00am last Wednesday morning with our seed collecting nets and bags. After the morning 5 hour drive, we arrived in Joshua Tree and entered through the north entrance to the GPS coordinates our Mentor gave us. Seed collecting is not our specialty for this internship with the USGS. In fact, this was only the second time all summer that I have done any seed collecting. So I was not accustomed to the disappointment of searching for seeds and being unsuccessful. After driving around for a while and eventually finding black brush with no seeds on it, we decided to collect some Joshua Tree seeds, since our mentor told us that that was a secondary priority of this expedition. Once we were finished with that, we decided that all of the black brush in the park had already dropped all of its seed, so we headed southwards to our next destination. The highway through the national park takes forever to drive through because of the low speed limit, so after another four hours, we reach the Anzo-Borrego State Park in southern California. After this experience of searching for plants with seeds for hours and coming up completely empty handed, I really feel for the rest of my fellow CLMers who are doing SOS! Back in April and May when we were doing our post-fire monitoring research, we never had to deal with not finding our plots or having nothing to show for our long hours spent out hiking through the desert. But on this day, we had no black brush seeds whatsoever. I have much respect for my colleagues that have this sort of luck regularly. I imagine it takes quite a bit of getting used to!  Anyways, after being unsuccessful, we drove back to Joshua Tree National Park and camped there at one of the few open campsites. In the morning, we broke camp at 6:00am and began our drive back to Vegas. While passing through the Mohave National Preserve, We stumbled upon black brush that still had seeds on them! So as it began to rain pretty hard on us, we quickly hopped out and did a collection! With our spirits much higher now, having some seeds to show for our journey, we made our way back to the office as happy interns! This was a good experience for me to continue to practice seed collecting, as I foresee using this skill in my future, and it was a great way to get a break from the normal data entry/analysis work that we have been doing regularly lately.

Collecting and Monitoring in Colorado

The adventures continue in Colorado, where I’m seeing more of the state every day.  Scouting new areas including more BLM land, and less of the surrounding open space parks and collections, continue too.  We made a collection of Pulsatilla patens on BLM land called Strawberry, just north of Fraser, CO.  I went to the North Sand Dunes, another BLM parcel of land near the Colorado/Wyoming border, to check on the progress of a Corispermum sp. which has been the focus of a study by local scientists on whether the population is all one species or several different species.  While up at the dunes, we scouted and discovered that Cryptantha sp. and possibly an Oenothera sp. might be collectable species.  I also got to explore an alpine wetland near Leadville, CO in search of Boreal Toads with Jay Thompson, The State Office Fisheries and Riparian Program Lead, and learn about the system and habits of the toad.  While at the alpine location, we took the opportunity to observe the abundance of the Aquilegia sp. and a few wetland species that might make a good collection.  Monitoring started up in July out near Kremmling, CO, where we monitored two endangered species Penstemon penlandii and Astragalus osterhoutii.  Monitoring will continue through the next couple months with Eutrema sp., Sclerocactus sp., Physaria sp., Phacelia sp. and maybe a couple Astragalus sp.  An experience I am looking forward to: learning the monitoring techniques and the different regulations that surround the process that takes place when studying an endangered species and the inter-agency cooperation that occurs.

Nathan Redecker

Lakewood, CO

Colorado State Office

Monsoon Season

July 22, 2013

And July brings us scorching heat alternating with torrential downpours. Luckily we finished up our HAF transects before the rains started. And with the monsoon comes lightning, and with lightning comes fire.

Fire in Crawford

I got to watch this fire start in Crawford. In fact, I got to go full circle with this fire. From calling in it and watching the helitack crew IA, to going back the next day (as an AD of course) as they mopped up to take that helitack crew back to Gunni (which incidentally was quite an adventure.  It poured rain and hail on us as we drove out, and as you all well know, these dirt roads out here don’t hold up well in rain.   Also that helitack crew was the nicest, most fun group of fire fighters I’ve ever had the privilege and pleasure to chauffeur in my life. really a great group of people.), Finally I got to hear the first hand account from my friend, who works on an engine here, of how they went back out and officially declared the fire done.

After all the excitement of that it’s hard to go back to transects! However, we are now offically finished with our HAF project and I’m jubilant!! Though I have no idea what my boss has in store for me now I’m looking forward to moving on to new things.

Uncompahgre Field Office – BLM
Montrose, CO

Monsoon Season

It is hard to believe that another month has past. My internship is speeding by, and I am currently trying to find a housing option that will allow me to extend my time here in Safford, AZ.

The monsoon season has begun and the storms are glorious. I’ve never seen such beautiful cloudy skies. The lightening shows are my favorite. Sometimes I sit outside for extended amounts of time and watch the lightening dance across the sky. Its not uncommon to have half the sky a sunny bright day and the other be a dark foreboding storm. I enjoy the juxtaposition. So far the rains haven’t kept us from any of our work, merely brought a little humidity and some water to the trickling streams.

This past month, our crew worked hard on green sunfish removal in Bonita Creek. The work seems to be paying off. Contract workers from Phoenix have been down twice to help us clear out the non-natives, and as of the last net setting, three pools came back completely greenie free! So that is really encouraging. Unfortunately, poor Bonita Creek is experiencing some drying. The city of Safford uses the spring that feeds Bonita Creek as their water source, and the result is several large beautiful pools being depleted to nothing. We have set nets in these drying pools to try to catch and relocate natives, and give non-natives a more humane death then suffocation.

My work in desert plants is beginning to accelerate now, which is exciting. The BLM in Safford has partnered with the Gila Watershed Partnership and Eastern Arizona Community College to build a new greenhouse at Discovery Park. The greenhouse will be a shared space. The BLM is using their portion to grow out native plants for restoration projects. We are supposed to work on a pollinator garden by the greenhouse sometime soon as well. This last weekend our BLM crew, a group from the Sky Island Alliance, and the Nature Conservancy all worked together on a restoration project on Turkey Creek and Cobra Ranch in the Aravaipa Wilderness. We stayed at a lovely Nature Conservancy field house. Getting to meet volunteers and employees from these different organizations was really fun. One of my favorite parts of my internship thus far has been meeting so many new people that are passionate about the same things I am. It makes me feel like there are enough like-minded people around that we can really make a change.

The work was great as well. We were planting Giant Sacaton mostly, but also some Cottontop. The Turkey Creek area use to be home to goat ranchers, and the Giant Sacaton grassland that used to exist has mostly vanished. Gaint Sacaton is an important riparian plant because its roots can grow 15 ft down. It provides balance for the water table and holds water in the soil longer. Also, if the area floods and the plants become covered in silt and soil, Giant Sacaton has the ability to grow up through the soil. We are hoping that by restoring the Giant Sacaton to this area, the Turkey Creek floodplain area will become a stable riparian grassland area again. The Giant Sacaton planted at Cobra Ranch is being used in a similar way. Stowe gulch feeds into Aravaipa creek and serves as a wash during floods. The Nature Conservancy, who manage Cobra Ranch, is trying to reintroduce a meandering pathway and slow the flow of Stowe gulch to reduce sediment runoff. Thus, the Giant Sacaton was planted in strategic areas to build up soil and hopefully influence the flow of the gulch. So much planning and strategy have gone into these projects. I learned so much in one weekend of restoration work, but also got my eyes opened to how much I don’t know about this field. We have several more restoration projects planned and I’m excited to keep learning about this type of work!

This is what our seedling Giant Sacatons will grow to become hopefully!

We have started prepping our target list for SOS collections. I sorted through the herbarium to find samples of the plants we will be collecting from. These samples will serve as my study guide so I can be sure to accurately identify plants in the field.

I was also fortunate enough to have time off and the funds to visit home for the Fourth of July. I got to visit family and friends and come back to Safford feeling totally refreshed. I’m ready for another month of new adventures and lots of learning!

Blood & Grass: A Tale of Horror and Intrigue

As a native seed collector for the Seeds of Success program, you get to know some plants quite well. This past week was spent developing a love-hate relationship with Needle-And-Thread grass (Hesperostipa comate). At first glance, it’s a pretty cool looking plant. The 4-5 inch long awns attached to each seed sway gently in the breeze, which makes fields of the tufted bunchgrass rather aesthetically pleasing. Plus, the point of the seed is sharp, (hence the name) allowing one to attach the seeds to your hat (because why not?).

Unfortunately, the plants start to lose their attractiveness when you need to collect 10,000 seeds from them. Each seed head probably contained an average of only three viable seeds which meant we needed to collect somewhere near 3,400 inflorescences. And that’s the minimum. Simply cutting the heads gave us too much plant matter so we had to extract each seed individually.

On our first collection attempt we tried doing this in the field, grabbing the awns to pluck them from the inflorescence. If we were lucky, we could grab a few at a time, but too often we had to pick them up one by one. This experience was further enhanced by the resident flies and ticks seeking to feast on our blood as we worked. Personally, I found that rather inconsiderate of them since the whole point of the SOS program is to restore and maintain their ecosystem. After about six hours of this, my coworker and I estimated we had only been able to collect about 3,000 seeds. Ugh.

The next day we revised our strategy by cutting the heads and bringing them back to the lab to clean by hand. This strategy afforded us the ability to avoid involuntary blood donations, bask in the comforts of air conditioning, and even listen to music to dull the tedium of plucking out thousands of seeds from their heads. While this doesn’t make for a very exciting work day, it does become strangely addicting, so the hours tend to roll by pretty quickly.

How I spend my free time…

While the desert may leave something to be desired in terms of stunning beauty, I at least get to work within driving distance of some more classically picturesque areas. And considering that I’m currently being consumed by an unquenchable addiction to photography, that suits me just fine.

Fossil Fish Capital

I’m still in my first month here in Kemmerer, but I have gotten to do a lot of exciting things so far. To make the most of my time here, I want to learn as much as I can from as many people as possible. Luckily, I am off to a good start and have gotten to join several different projects. I spent the first couple weeks doing stream assessments, including Winward Greenline studies and Proper Functioning Condition. I then moved on to exclosure maintenance and fence building. I also got to join a reclamation assessment on the Ruby Pipeline to see how well it is coming along. I enjoyed this particularly because my previous field office was located at the end of the Ruby Pipeline and I have moved four states over to a field office at the beginning of the line.

Building a fence for the first time

When the field work on all these projects started to die down, I finally got to start work on my pet project for the summer, which is locating and mapping all the seeps, springs, and reservoirs in the field office. It has been a sharp learning curve, but I am beginning to be able to distinguish blown out reservoirs from the surrounding terrain and determine the difference between snow catches and springs.

But enough talk about work. I am thrilled because I found my first fossils! Kemmerer is the “Fossil Fish Capital” and I am beginning to see why!

Wyoming flat fish


High desert rock flounder

Soaking up the SUN!

Hello from Phoenix Arizona!  The last month has involved a fair amount of riparian habitat and wildlife monitoring, including Multiple Indicator Monitoring and Yellow-Billed Cuckoo Surveys.  Even with the temperature reaching 119 degrees at times, I am still so grateful for constant sunshine after living in the East for a number of years.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I leave you with a few 🙂


Emily M.

Wildlife Biological Technician for BLM Phoenix

The little white dot in the picture is our Jeep 🙂

I love the Saguaro in the foreground and the winding mountain trail in the background

Complete with waders, boots, backpack, and MIMs frame

Posing under an enormous Sycamore while conducting wet-dry mapping along an Agua Fria River tributary







Oh the places I’ve seen….

Going into my second month, I could not be more amped for the work that lies ahead. We have increased our total collections for 2013 from 21 to 33; including Wyethia angustifolia, Campanula scouleri, and Helenium bigelovii. We have really begun to hone in on serpentine endemic and semi-endemic species with some success. We have identified the Darlingtonia californica, and are awaiting the seed to ripen for collection. We have also positively identified the Calochortus howellii, and are in the process to determine if a collection can be made. Dealing with the challenges of working in the field has been eye opening to say the least. It’s become a rare circumstance when I do not return from the field with some sort of bite, scrape, bruise, or an insect hitchhiker. We have been experiencing somewhat of a “heat-wave” across the west coast, and it has been difficult keeping H2O supplies up but we have been making small adjustments; such as trying to get earlier starts when the day is cooler, and it has made a significant difference. 

As I look to the weeks ahead, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride for the contributions the Medford, OR district will make to the program for the 2013 season. Master collections totaling 33, and a potential collections list we are keeping close watch on at 60+ and counting makes you feel good about all the hard work you put into the job. I truly hope everyone I was able to meet, and those I did not, are enjoying the summer as much as I am. Jonathan out.

Working with the BLM in the heart of Utah

I am stationed in Richfield Utah, a small town of 7,000 (quite large by Utah standards) and I am so grateful  to have been placed here. I had previously never been to Utah and knew little to nothing about the people or the environment here. I have received nothing but kindness from local Utahns, and through my work with Dustin, have discovered that Utah has so much more to offer than just arid desert. We often spend the day winding around switchbacks and putting our jeep through it’s courses scaling mountains in search of the desired plant populations. An hour’s traveling time is sufficient to see multiple markedly different ecosystems that result from changes in altitude and precipitation zone. One second we’ll be checking out prickly pear and claret cup cacti mixed in with the sagebrush, the next we’ll see thick pinyon pine and juniper communities, and those will give way to vast stands of quaking aspen, and more often than not, the mountain peaks are covered in grassland communities spotted with diverse, colorful, and robust forbs. We’ve even seen many mountain lakes that Dustin assures us are full of world class brook trout, “brookies” as he calls them. I had absolutely no idea how much diversity Utah had to offer. I keep a field journal with me every day and write down notes about each new plant species or variety that we encounter. I’m now half way through my 4th week of work and already have detailed notes on 153 plants. Dustin says that by the end of my internship in November I should be familiar with 400-500 Utah species. Every day is different here in Richfield. I have already learned a great deal and accomplished so much in such a short time, I can only hope we continue to be successful with our explorations and collections.