Living and learning in Wyoming

Sometimes it can be easy to fall into the rhythm of working: put in your hours, go home to eat and relax, go to bed ridiculously early, and get up ridiculously early to do it again. Thankfully, when the rut gets a little too deep, sometimes all it takes to remember why we love our jobs is a step back and a conversation similar to the following:

“I’m going camping in a beautiful forest tomorrow with biologists from across the state to look at lynx habitat.”
“You’re right, my job is awesome.”

I adore the desert and hate to see how underappreciated it is, but I am thrilled to be going to the forest for a change of pace.

And speaking of change of pace… I have recently learned how to do wildlife clearances on GIS. GIS, as always, is a powerful tool that will be invaluable in my professional life, but is also a pain in the butt. The first rule I have learned about GIS and Trimble GPS is: if it doesn’t work today, try it again tomorrow; in all likelihood it will magically work. On GIS’s good days, I have been having a blast playing around with the layers and learning about sensitive species, important management areas, and modeling habitat.

Although office work is decidedly less fun and glamorous than field work, it is nice to get a true taste of the duties required of government employees. I hate to make decisions haphazardly so it is important to me to gather as much information about my potential career as possible.

I am a proponent of gathering information and weighing costs and benefits in all major decisions. This is because from my personal experience at the BLM, I have seen how decisions made many years ago have a large impact on today’s land management. For example, the BLM now constantly monitors willow growth and regeneration to rectify problems with stream bank erosion, loss of fish habitat, warming waters, sedimentation, and more. Needless to say, the absence of willows has caused its fair share of headaches to BLM employees and ranchers alike. Only recently did I learn that the willows are no longer present because they were purposely removed. Just 30 or 40 years ago, it was a common practice to spray and kill willows to make more water available for grass growth. I am continually amazed at how decisions of the past shape land management for years to come.

Now that I have completed two months of this internship, it’s time to start looking for jobs again. The CLM program has taught me some incredibly valuable things about myself and the kinds of jobs I may be interested in. I value everything I have been exposed to during my two internships so far. The least glamorous but potentially most important thing I have learned is that I am not cut out for searching for jobs and relocating every 5-6 months. A year and a half out of college, and I am ready to commit to graduate school or a permanent position!

My last week in Henderson

It has been an incredible summer, but finally things must end. I have been living here in southern Nevada for the last 5 months with my three fellow interns and we have had a great time and all got along very well. From the first two months of constant camping out in the desert that was at first freezing cold and then scorching hot, to being in the lab weighing out all of our samples, to now carrying out the data analysis and assisting our mentors in their reports. Laura, Elizabeth, and Olivia have been great coworkers and friends to me, and I am happy to have gotten the opportunity to move here and work with them.

I have learned so much during my time in this internship that I would have never thought I could so quickly. My mentors have really been great at letting us see all aspects of a research project. We went from doing the body destroying field work back in April and May all the way through to running statistical analysis on our data to be put in their publications. And this Thursday Elizabeth and I will be presenting a poster about some of our work at a conference here in Las Vegas! All of the skills I have gained from this internship will really help me in my future as I continue to pursue a field biology career. This Conservation and Land Management program has treated me so well and I am very lucky to have gotten accepted into it. I hope that all the other interns this year are having an equally great experience, and I wish you all the best of luck  🙂

Carson Moscoso

Bring on the wildlife

This past month has been chock-full of desert tortoise and yellow-billed cuckoo surveys and I have decided there are few ways I would rather spend my work day 🙂  The long hours of crawling up rocky cliffs and maneuvering through spiny brush is instantly worth it the moment you find that elusive tortoise deep in its burrow or hear the distinct call of the cuckoo high up in a sycamore tree.  Along with our wildlife adventures, Annabelle and I jumped on the opportunity to get certified in All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) driving, which we have been looking forward to all summer!

The most important thing I have taken away from this internship is the importance of putting yourself out there and making connections.  A little initiative goes a long way and can help you focus your internship on what you are truly interested in.  I have come to love the Sonoran Desert and I look forward to living here long after this internship ends.

Happy Trails,

Emily Macklin

Wildlife Biological Technician – BLM Phoenix

Another chapter comes to a close…

My internship is coming to an end as I’m leaving for another opportunity. My time at the Wyoming State Office has been a good one. I have learned a lot from the experienced staff here and at times has felt like I’m trying to drink from a fire hose. The basis on which the BLM manages land for multiple uses is incredibly fluid and requires balancing several programs and land uses to achieve almost anything.
It’s this intricate process which takes patience and a willingness to cooperate with agencies and the private sector to move towards and accomplish goals that benefit everyone involved. It adds perspective when driving across the western states and looking at seas of sagebrush that may seemingly be undervalued at first glance. It’s these vast expanses that provide resources to wildlife, our economy, and private landowners looking to continue a life style that is becoming rarer by the day.
The CLM internship program is a great way to make connections but is ultimately what you make of it. I can happily say I feel I put forth my best effort resulting in another fantastic opportunity, in which I will be able to continue working, on some level, with those who I’ve built relationships with here, in the State Office.

Monitoring All Over Colorado

The past couple weeks have been filled with more monitoring with a little seed collecting thrown in. Eutrema penlandii was the first species that was monitored and it was located on top of Mosquito pass, Hoosier pass, and a place called Cameron Amphitheater all near Fairplay, CO.  While completing Eutrema sp. monitoring at the various location I got the opportunity to talk to forest service and fish and wildlife service personnel and learn more about what they are doing in terms of endangered species as well as other projects they have going on.  After those three days of monitoring data entry was the next thing and determining sample size and if transects could be added or removed.  Then for the next week Sclerocactus glaucus was the species to be monitored down near Delta, CO.  Several established plots were monitored as well as some new locations.  The new locations were based on EOR’s that were recommended by Montrose BLM personnel that came out and helped with the monitoring.  At the EOR locations we completed a point in time survey to determine if the location had enough plants to make a monitoring plot in the future.   The next week monitoring work was completed on two species of Physaria sp. once we figured out the Oil and Gas road organization within a certain section of the Piceance Basin.  The following we was data entry as well as some seed collections.  The previously visited Leadville site had really exploded with potential collections since it was seen last.  Also, personnel from the Kremmling field office had a location scouted for Frasera speciosa which was collected as well as a Delphinium sp. and that location had other potential collection too.  All in all the past couple weeks have been very informative and successful.

Nathan Redecker

Lakewood, CO

Colorado State Office

The Beautiful End

I began this internship with little knowledge of desert ecology as well as the plants that live within that ecosystem. As the internship progressed I became more aware of the multiple organisms found within the desert. I learned about the diverse dynamics and the severe negative affects of fire on an ecosystem that is not adapt to such a disturbance.

Erodium cicutarium an annual plant

I have learned so much from this internship. I began my internship with a quick introduction to the annual plants found in the desert. As the months progressed I learned how to set up transects and assess 100% perennial plant cover, which of course came with a quick introduction into perennial plant identification. My favorite field site was Nevershine. It was the field site we began our field work on and it contains a beautiful calm; or maybe it was just the nostalgia of sleeping out under the stars the first week of work.

Our first field site, Nevershine, AZ.

Once annual and perennial plants had been documented and assessed we got to dive into individual projects. I had the pleasure of learning how to collect seeds for various plant species, herbarium data entry, R- program for statistical analysis, in-depth scientific research for project proposal writing, as well as methods for bromas seed collection, and much more. Instead of going to the training in Chicago, since I had already completed field work at that time, I chose to attend a different training course, Wilderness First Responder. Which I found to be a valid choice since I had been bitten by a creature and evacuated from the field. I though it would be good to know how to help others if anything were to happen to them. I learned how to examine a patient, wound assessment and care, CPR, moving a spinal injury patient, splinting, re-setting dislocations, patient care/ treatment and knowledge to make evacuation decisions. I am now a WFR.
I think the best part of my internship was the seed collecting trip that took me on an adventure to the Grand Canyon, Escalante area, around Lake Powell and through Zion National Park. I felt like a little kid on a specially guided nerdy geeky tour. I learned so much from the two scientists that I got to hang out with. My knowledge has increased significantly during the entire internship. The connections I made and everything I learned made my internship a valuable part of my life. Not to mention my fellow inters/friends/roommates made my experience even better. They are all wonderful people. I am glad I had the opportunity to work with, learn with and from. I look forward to seeing were their lives take them.




The past couple mornings have been a bit crisp. A few folks in the field office have claimed Fall as their favorite season around these points, in Cedar City, UT. A chance to enjoy some lower elevation nature in more forgiving warmth, and autumn’s amber light.

Our mentor Christine has played an integral role in this rewarding internship experience.  She has placed importance on getting Maria and I involved in a variety of activities. Being that we finished our Sage Grouse work quicker than anticipated, filling up our schedules with things to do has been a task in itself.   Christine has been reaching out to her connections in both State and Federal agencies, offering the help of two eager interns.

A few weeks back we had the pleasure of taking part in the Riparian Systems Multiple Indicator Monitoring (MIM) training course. The week-long class was led by the creators of the protocol, composed of both current and retired employees of the Forest Service and BLM. In 2003, an inter agency focus group composed of members of the BLM, USFS, University of Idaho researchers, professors, livestock producers and specialists determined that measuring and analyzing only short-term indicators, namely stubble height, did not paint a complete picture when evaluating riparian health, specifically within the context of cattle grazing.  Thus the need for a more wholly representative model sparked the creation and development of MIM. MIM employs a variety of metrics; data which is gathered annually, compared to previous, and analyzed to gain greater insight on land impacts. This type if information can be used to make better, more informed, management decisions.

7 of the western states were represented by the training course attendees.  Their positions just as diverse as their locale; hydrologists, range technicians, fuels, natural resource, ranching, ecologists, biologists….Perhaps the best part of the experience was spending three days in-stream, surrounded by greenery….4 months in the desert is long enough to rub off a greater appreciation of water.

Another fun experience I was fortunate enough to participate in was electrofishing in with the forest…Yes, electrofishing.  We waded through a 100 metre stretch of a small stream, wielding a an electrified rod (anode) and electrified ‘rat tail’ (cathode). Fish has a strip on their side senses electric currents, so when the anode is activated, any fish that are in the immediate proximity are drawn towards the current and temporarily paralyzed. At that point there are two people who net the fish, and transport them to a holding tank. Our species of interest were both native; German Brown trout and Desert/Mountain Sucker. Once two passes were made through the survey area, we took weight and length measurements and returned them back to the stream. In two passes of 100 metres, we collected over 100 specimens. As a fisherman, I found the experience fascinating in that the electrofishing exposed where the fish preferred to hang out; underneath debris and undercut banks.

For the last week and a half Maria and I have been helping the DWR with Utah Prairie Dog trapping and translocations. The Utah Prairie Dogs are an endangered species which have caused quite a stir in the town of Cedar City. Because the dogs have an affinity to congregate in areas with irrigation (alfalfa fields, golf course, public parks, cemeteries, etc), the township views them as a major pest. Because the dogs are a listed species, they are a developers nightmare  Thus, the DWR plays a vital role in not only trapping unwanted dogs and translocating them onto public land, but also communicating with and educating community members, as their duties often require them to trap on private land as well.


This upcoming week will be spent assisting the Forest Service with fisheries work in the Virgin River, followed by Utah Prairie Dog wildlife clearances in proposed project areas.

Cheers, and thanks for reading.

Last Day

My, my how time flies, five months have come and gone and now with the satisfactory conclusion of my internship I shall have to retire the coffee cup I borrowed from the USGS kitchen and begin my search for new and more long term things.
I was very lucky to be placed here at the Henderson USGS working for Lesley DeFalco, Sara Scoles-Sciulla and the Biological Research Division. They gave me the opportunity to really grow as an ecologist by giving me a variety of different tasks during my time here. Ranging from picking and identifying every single annual in a plot, vehicle checks, to using R+ to analyze which models are best to predict biomass, I could not have asked for a better and more mentally stimulating placement. Additionally, my roomates/co-workers have been some of the best I have ever had!

It is very impressive how, before my very eyes Las Vegas has transformed from the water guzzling nightlife pumping trashed adult Disney world (that I slightly dreaded working in) into a mere stopping point in between all the gorgeous surrounding areas. Nestles in a valley surrounded by the Spring mountains and Sheep mountains, Las Vegas is relatively close to so many attractions; Valley of Fire, Lake Mead, Red Rock, Mt. Charleston, the Colorado River, Mojave Desert, all these different landscapes are no more than an hour away. Interns of the future, I hope you enjoy this placement as much as I did.


P.S The project I was working on that I stressed so much about last months is going very well. Though each step forwards had to be won with tooth and nail, I have prevailed. The deadline for the project is the 30th and so at that point I hope to share with you the semi-final product.

Living With Fire

It’s high summer here in the Eastern Sierra, and, like the rest of the western US, fire season is in full swing. Aside from a lot of smoke from a fire in Fresno a month ago, fire still seemed like a distant problem here in Bishop—that is, until this week. Monday we received word of a fire in our field office, which is the first since I’ve been here. It was interesting to see who was called out to the fire—the BLM doesn’t simply send fire crews, they also send resource specialists (like my boss) to assist in things like deciding where to send the bulldozer to create fire breaks. Even though Bishop and most of the areas that we work in were too far away to see the blaze itself, the noticeably reduced population in the office itself was enough to remind us of the fire on a daily basis.

That particular fire is the only one actually in our field office, but it isn’t the only one burning nearby. We’ve been getting continuous updates on a large fire near Lake Tahoe thanks to our local NPR station that broadcasts out of Reno. But the fire that really made me pause is the one currently burning in the Stanislaus National Forest, clear on the other side of the mountains. From the Bodie Hills (part of a chain to the east of the Sierra Nevada), the plume looked more like a volcanic eruption than smoke from a wildfire, appearing to stretch for miles—perhaps all the way to Reno.

I’m not used to worrying about fires. I’ve always lived in places where flooding is a bigger concern than fire, and what I knew about fire management centered more around the problems with historical fire suppression than working to protect communities from danger. The sheer size of the fire burning in Stanislaus, along with the knowledge that it is both barely under control and threatening the homes of at least two of my friends, has taken living in a wildfire zone out of the abstract for me and really given me a new appreciation for what goes into managing and containing wildfires. Physically, the fires are still a long way off—but their impacts have begun to hit closer to home.

Last August, there was a fire in the hills to the east of Mono Lake. Walk along the burned areas nearest the lake this year, and you will encounter patches where the fire burned so hot that there is nothing left but sand and the charred remains of bitterbrush stumps. But if you keep walking, you begin to notice clumps of Tiquilia nuttallii here and there, small patches of green against the white sand. Farther up in the hills there are areas where entire plateaus appear pink due to a carpet of Phacelia bicolor that has sprung up in a single growing season. Rabbitbrush and other shrubs that can produce new sprouts from existing root systems dot the landscape, and here and there tiny bitterbrush sprouts quietly begin to re-establish themselves. This job has made me more aware than ever of what it means to live in an area where fire is a very real danger year in and year out—but it has also provided me with the opportunity to witness firsthand (and survey in detail) the various stages of succession that come after a disturbance that wipes the physical landscape almost clean.

There are only two tiny clouds in this picture…the Rim Fire, from Bodie Hills

Indian Fire, one year later


An Ephedra shrub resprouting

Tiquilia nuttallii

Hummingbird moth in action in a patch of        Phacelia bicolor








The Summer of Firsts

As the internship comes to a close, I’ve looked back and realized that it has been made up of a number first time experiences. It has allowed me to be a part of large projects with the Bureau of Land Management and given me insight into the conservation world out here in the western U.S. Being exposed to a completely new set of flora, and having to learn them for the job, is just one of many new skills that I have able to gain from my time here. New ways of studying trends in habitat monitoring and different factors to consider when making recomendations for the land out here are just a few areas in which I have grown professionally. But the thing that stands out the most to me, is just how many things I was able to see and experience for the first time. This summer has allowed me to see my first canyons, lava fields, lava tubes, extinct volcanoes and cave systems. This was all because of places that I worked. I saw my first, rattlesnake and others, lizards, elk, mule deer and the list continues when it comes to the animal life in southern Idaho. It was my first time in a desert ecosystem as a whole, so everything it had to offer was completely new to me. So you can about imagine that the list of first itme experiences goes on and on. All of these experiences I take back with me as rewarding memories and feel that they have given me a new skill set and a different way to look at problems that I will be able to transfer to countless other areas of life. The only thing that I wished that would’ve happened that didn’t, was an extension. The time spent here was defiitely well spent, and like most good things, went to quickly. Anybody who has the chance to take this type of opportunity should not hesitate. No matter where the assignment is, I am confident in saying that you would be surprised as to what you will learn, see, and experience.