Back in action


Not much new happened before the government shutdown–the usual collecting of Mountain Mahogany and Great Basin Wildrye seeds for SOS. The most exciting development was that it snowed on us the last time we collected Mountain Mahogany (on Sept. 25th)! This gal from Florida/Texas has never seen the likes of a September snow…Ah, the mountains are full of surprises.

First snow of the field season for Carrie and I!

First snow of the field season for Carrie and I!

It made us a little giddy:

Best part about hugging a Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi): it smells like vanilla. Ahhhhhh.

Best part about hugging a Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi): it smells like vanilla. Ahhhhhh.

The next week we were out of work and left to twiddle our thumbs in the high desert. There are worse places to do this in, really. Nonetheless, I was glad to hear we could work again.

Today was my first day back at work, and I accompanied Missi, our wildlife biologist, on a trip to survey part of the field office. We were checking to see that people hadn’t taken advantage of the shutdown and disobeyed public land rules (dumping garbage, creating roads through burn restoration sites, etc.). Luckily we didn’t find any evidence of such activity on our route.

Then we checked in on the Biscar Wildlife Area, composed of two reservoirs that are home to many nesting water foul, as well as some good fishing, rumor has it. We picked up a little garbage and checked on parts of the reservoirs where willows and invasive vegetation had been removed in order to keep the spillway clean and dam structurally sound. Some of the resilient willows have moved back in already, and a beaver has joined the ranks of the inconvenient vegetation, damming up the spillway itself.

The upper reservoir and a flock of coots!

The upper reservoir and a flock of Coots!

With only a few weeks left, I’m trying my best to savor my time at the Eagle Lake Field Office. Stay tuned for more epic tales of my conservation adventures out here.

Until then,


Season Finale! All’s Well That Ends Well in Burns, Oregon

Where Do I Begin?

                Five months have passed since I first started my CLM internship in Burns, Oregon. I have traveled a long way both physically and mentally through the rough terrain of Harney County. From collecting sagebrush moisture samples to mule deer monitoring, this internship had given me a vast amount of knowledge and skills that I could apply to my future job. Over thousands of miles and many honey peanut butter sandwiches later, I have acquired a solid understanding of high desert ecosystems and the flora and fauna the populate the landscape. The heterogeneity of this area surprised me! I remember when I first came here, all I saw was sagebrush. I was wondering where all the forests were, since this was Oregon. The more I worked in the area the more I was shocked. Sagebrush steppe was a dominant community, but there were alpine tundras, deserts, riparian/ wetlands, hot springs, farm land, aspen forests, wet meadows, alkaline flats, outwashes, and talus slopes to name the main types of habitat I encountered. Even in the most harsh and remote places within Harney County I saw beauty everywhere. ^_^

                Where do I begin? I know a few of you have followed my blog and saw all of the adventures. I tried to be as informative and entertaining as possible to help people understand all there was being a CLM intern. You work very hard and at the end of the day you feel proud that you actually contributed to making the world a better place. Even in the harshest conditions a sense of humor could go a long way. Dan and I always had a good sense of humor, which helped us work through every condition nature threw at us. We established, monitored, and drove to hundreds of sites, which was over thousands of miles of travel. At the end of our internships we could confidently say that we have grown from all of the experiences.

             Our first line of work was moisture sampling sagebrush. We would go out to three specific areas and collect sagebrush samples twice a month. We would dry the samples and compare the wet and dry weights. This data would be digitalized and given to our mentor for his end of the year reports. Some days at the beginning of our internship we would look for rare plants and monitor them, which could always be a challenge. A huge bulk of our time was spent doing ES&R monitoring at the DSL, Miller Homestead, Lamb Ranch, and Holloway fires. We have identified hundreds of plants and used countless resources to help us identify all of the flora. Towards the end of our internship we typed our portion of the ES&R reports and created a huge amount of folders and databases to help our mentor. Once Dan had left, I worked on a couple of GIS and plant identification projects to help my coworkers and future interns when they go out in the field. At the end of my internship, I would be out in the field doing mule deer monitoring. During these five months I have acquired an enormous amount of skills that would help me accomplish many projects for my future job. Thanks to this internship.

Skills and Techniques

                During my internship I learned how to properly identify a huge number of plants. Working in a variety of habitats, I was exposed to hundreds of flora. I used many taxonomic keys and guide books to the point where I knew the page numbers and where to look up a specific genus of a plant. I would gladly lecture my friends or coworkers about the specific plant communities that we monitored to help them with their plant identification skills. The knowledge I developed in my college experience easily transitioned over to help people understand how to identify plants.  With the incorporation of remote sensing and GIS, I could go out in the field with vegetation maps and could segregate plant communities based on composition, soil type, elevation, sun exposure, and slope. After all of the field plant identification experience I was able to update the Burns District flora database and create specific local flora powerpoints for coworkers.

                While working on plant identification, I gained experience with many different monitoring techniques. ES&R monitoring helped me transition the field experience I gained from college and apply it to the real world situations in research. Point-Line intercept and Pace 180 was our main vegetation monitoring techniques we used to survey a specific site. Random sampling, erosion, and vegetation density monitoring was used to collect the necessary information for the end of the year reports.

                In the office, I built on my knowledge of GIS with new GIS hardware and software. I was exposed to a fantastic amount of new tools on ArcGIS, which helped create maps and geodatabases. I gained bonus experience with working with metadata and digitizing field collected data into the computer. Working with ArcPad, ArcCatalog, and ArcScene helped improve my understanding of remote sensing and GIS theory, which would definitely help me in the future. Working with the Trimble JUNO System in the field helped me bring GIS out into the field where I was able to create new maps and navigate around our study area.

                Understanding the spatial distribution of animals in the landscape had always been a passion of mine. To be able to go out into the field to look for Aroga moth had been an exciting experience. Not much was known about this moth due to their mysterious life cycle and lack of research collected on it. I was able to go into the landscape, take pictures, record dates, and inform state entomologists of my findings, which would help contribute towards future research and control of the species. I was very fascinated by how such a small moth could do so much damage to a sagebrush community within a couple of years! o_O 

            With mule deer monitoring I was able to transition from monitoring small moths to large undulates. My research experience had always been with bird species and their environment and I was surprised by both how similar and different it was to monitor deer. I learned different field monitoring techniques and gained a valuable skill on how to track and identify animals and their scat.

            I have improved on many skills I have acquired before. My plant identification skills have improved with the exposure to different plant families and genus. My landscape photography had greatly improved through much trial and error. Before I was very nervous about off-roading, but with this internship I could easily go off-roading with trucks, UTVs, and ATVs. Changing tires and fixing machinery had become second nature. My bird and rock identification skills had greatly improved due to the unique landscape of southeastern Oregon. I improved profoundly on my GIS skills involving working with maps, creating databases, digitizing field data, working with GPS naviagation, and working with different GPS hardware/software. Writing different end of the year reports helped me with developing PowerPoint presentations, creating word documents, and inputting data into spreadsheets. Most of the experience had been with Microsoft software.

           This internship helped myself transition from a college/academic environment to a real world environment. Being able to apply my skills I learned from college to a government job built up my confidence and gave me a perspective of what to expect in future jobs. As an added bonus with this internship, our mentor Casey had enrolled us for a large amount of certifications. I have my CPR, off-roading, ATV, radio, and safety certifications. He gave us the opportunity to attend the Rangeland Firefighter seminar where we learned about all of the potential natural hazards, blood born pathogens, and fire safety. We even had diversity training!! Beyond Burns, Oregon, the Chicago Botanical Garden provided an awesome seminar, which helped with field methodology and plant identification. This helped many interns with transitioning to their present or future internship.     

Medusahead was only found in a couple of locations, thankfully this grass was well managed.

Medusahead was only found in a couple of locations, thankfully this grass was well managed.

Lost Adventures:

Hitting the Jackpot (End of July)

           The day was very long and tedious. Dan and I were monitoring lower elevation sites that have been burned by the Holloway Fire. We had to go to one last site located on a drilled seeded slope with a southern exposure. By the looks of the site, not even cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) wanted to grow. Dan and I were recording mostly barren ground with no canopy of forbs. The nearest forb would be 10 meters in front of us. The wind was blowing and the temperature was slightly over 100°F. The mirages were dancing around us and all we heard were the rock wrens chirping in the canyons with the occasional spitting sound from our local guide, Randy. Both Dan and I established a plot and took our pictures. We headed out into the desert.

Justin: None, Soil, Bare…closest…AGCR…waaaaaaay over there…

Dan: Got it.


Tumbleweeds would be rolling by us with the shadows of red tailed hawks and turkey vultures flying in the thermals overhead.

We were almost towards the end of the transect until….

Justin: None, Soil, (Cling!)…..Whoa….WHOA! DAN! Look!!! We hit something!

           Dan was writing bare and quickly started to erase it. Dan ran over to my location to see what I hit. I smiled and pointed. “Dan we hit the jackpot…we hit a rock instead of bareground. Put THAT in the record books.” Dan’s face grew from a stoic look to a look of excitement. Dan was speechless and then said, “What are the chances!? I am definitely putting this in the record book.” Dan and I knelt down to observe the rock until we noticed a plant growing nearby the steel rod we were using. The plant was partially green and was about to die due to the harsh conditions of the surrounding environment. The plant did have a flower, so we decided to identify it. I shook my head with a large grin on my face. I said, “Dan, we just have found a PHLO2 or Phlox longifolia….we’ve found LIFE!!” We both stood up and dusted ourselves off. Randy was near us and walked over to our location to see what we were looking at. Randy looked down and then looked at us asking what we found. We smiled and Dan said, “We hit a rock instead of bareground and we found a phlox!!” Dan and I finished the transect and made a special note about the rock and phlox we found on this site. Today was a good day….

This was the location where we found a rock and Phlox longifolia!!

This was the location where we found a rock and Phlox longifolia!!

Shoo Cows, Don’t Bother Me (Early August)

            Randy, Dan, and I were doing vegetation monitoring for the random sampling project on the border of Oregon and Nevada. We were supposed to take a landscape picture of the cardinal directions and perform one vegetation density survey. Each spot was randomly generated by ArcGIS and we were supposed to go to each location and record our information.

Long Canyon was one of the hardest terrains to drive in. The canyon was very steep, the roads would disappear and reappear, and this was considered some of the best country for mountain lions to live in. We followed the GPS the best we could, but the signal was bouncing all over the place. There was a small creek surround by a stand of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) and we had to get out of our vehicle and walk uphill to our random location. When we were unpacking our measuring instruments and started to head up the hill until we noticed a single cow walk out of the aspen stand and stare at us. It mooed and stood there eating some delicious basin wild rye (Leymus cinereus). Dan and I laughed and continued up the hill. I named the cow Moona and took a picture of her. We almost got to the location when I noticed I forgot the GPS. I walked backed down and noticed Moona with two other cows that came out of nowhere. They were all staring at me with a serious expression on their face. Whenever I turned my back to them, they would moo. I quickly acknowledged their presences before running up the steep hill.

           When we were monitoring the site I would look back to our vehicle and notice Moona getting dangerously close to our UTV… and our lunch. Each time I would look back I would see more cows coming out of the aspen stand and walk towards the vehicle.  Moona would stare at us and then sniff through our items in the back of the UTV. Dan, Randy, and I completed our survey and cautiously headed back towards the vehicle. There was one bull in the herd and he was sleeping in the aspen stands. We approached our vehicle and the cows slowly walked away with a calf over exaggerating to our presences and running away kicking up dust near us to show the other calves how tough it was. Moona stared at us nearby for the longest time before moving on with her herd. We looked in the back to see if our food was gone, but nothing was damaged.  We ate our food and moved onwards to the Fields Station.

This is Moona… The most devious cow I have ever encountered…

This is Moona… The most devious cow I have ever encountered…

Onwards CLM Intern!!! The Future Is In The Past!

(October 23, 2013: Day Before the End of My Internship)

          The fall colors of the Steens Mountains were especially pretty during my final day out in the field. The Indian Summer had lasted for a long period of time and the conditions for mule deer monitoring were excellent. I was traveling with three other BLM employees on ATVs to various locations within the Five Creeks area to do monitoring. The roads were very dusty and the dust clouds had actually created a dust mask around my face. You could even see the outline of my sunglasses! <_<

           I was on the tail end of the group trying to catch up, while avoiding major rocks in the road. Most of the roads were very rocky and hard to drive through. I was traveling around this large hill and slowed down the vehicle to go around many of the rocks sticking out of the ground. My brakes were not as effective because of all the loose dirt and rocks. Suddenly, my ATV slide off the road to a rocky cliff! O_O,, The vehicle was caught on the cliff and my right side started to lean down slope. I tried to move a little forward but there were rocks that kept the ATV from moving forward or backwards. The more I moved around on the ATV, the looser the ground underneath became. The cliff was not too steep, but the steeper drop off seventy feet further downslope was my major worry. I tried to move the ATV until it started to lean further. Now I was very scared and I had to jump off the vehicle while trying to keep it from rolling. What was I going to do!? I held onto the ATV as it was slipping… I had to think fast…

(Flashback to Early June)

ATV Instructor Toby: Alright! Many of you are probably not going to have to do this, but just in case you were stuck on a steep hill, you would have to do a K-Turn.

(Instructor demonstrates)

ATV Instructor Toby: Very good. Now, I will show you a couple other ways to deal with steep terrain. If you stuck on this angle with your vehicle, you may have to do….

(Instructor continues to demonstrate different turns)

ATV Instructor Toby: Any questions?

Everyone: Nooooo.

Myself: O_O…….(I hope I don’t have to do this someday….)

(Flash to Present)

           My mind screamed, “DO THE THING THE INSTRUCTOR SHOWED YOU THAT ONE TIME!” I held onto the steering, while standing to the side of the vehicle. I pushed on the lever to make the ATV reverse over one of the rocks to do a half a  K-Turn. With a quick bump over the rock, the ATV almost left my grasp and started to head down hill towards the steep drop off. I tried to steer the vehicle and reach for the brakes. If I turned the vehicle too much, there was a chance it could roll again. I managed to face the ATV upslope. I quickly jumped on the vehicle and squeezed the brakes as it was sliding. I shifted to low gear and pressed the lever for the ATV to go forward. The ATV responded at the right time and I managed to drive up over the rocky cliff onto the road!! ^_^ That was a close call…even though it was not a true K-Turn or a turn the instructor showed me (It was more like a weird obtuse double parallel mirror U-Turn…it was a weird turn) I managed to follow the principles of navigating a vehicle on a steep slope and managed to make it to safety. I continued down the road to meet with the other BLM staff who were wondering where I was. The rest of the day we continued monitoring and we all made it safely back home.


          There are a couple of people I would love to thank for this experience! Thank you Krissa and Wes for this amazing opportunity and for helping me find this internship out here in Burns, Oregon. I also want to thank both of you for all of the time and effort you spent calling, emailing or answering questions for the interns out here. I know it was your job, but both of you went above and beyond to help make sure that each intern had what they needed. I want to thank my mentor, Casey. You are the best in the biz! ^_^ Thank you for giving Dan and I many different opportunities for our internship. Your guidance and knowledge had really helped us out here. I want to thank all of the Burns BLM Legends for their guidance and help that they provided with our reports and monitoring efforts. Especially our local guide Randy, who was a life saver and helped us navigate through the Trout Creek Mountains. I am thankful for my family for their love, support, and care packages! Thank you so much Mom and Dad for visiting and encouraging me during this internship! You are both awesome and beyond totes! I finally want to thank the people who have been following my blog and giving me feedback. I hope you enjoyed the experiences, pictures, comics, emoticons, and the blog updates. ^_^;;

Justin Chappelle
CLM Intern for the Burns/ Hines BLM


….OH NO!!! I forgot!!! I did all of these blog entries and forgot to do an “Aha” moment… Let me think… My “aha” moment was when I learned when washing your windows,squeegee vertically outside horizontally inside. If you see streaks, you will know which side they are on. (The more you know! ^_^)

Windy Bugs — wrapping up

As winter sets in in Wyoming, I’m finishing up my CLM internship with the Windy Bugs project.  I have been spending the last month and a half in the lab since we wrapped up our field season.  I have been identifying, sorting, and photographing the insects from our summer’s collections.  We have collected quite a variety of insects!  In the few thousand I’ve identified, there are representatives from 11 orders and 56 families.  Of bees alone, we found over 20 genera.

Hymenoptera: Halictidae: Lasioglossum, subgenus  Dialictus -- one of our most common native bees

Hymenoptera: Halictidae: Lasioglossum, subgenus Dialictus — one of our most common native bees

I love photographing insects because it allows us to see them from a different perspective and appreciate the subtle characteristics that often go unnoticed with the naked eye.

Diptera: Tachinidae -- This fly's face is Halloween-ready!

Diptera: Tachinidae — This fly’s face is Halloween-ready!

Our primary focus for this study is bees (Hymenoptera: )  We found some very common genera, like Anthophora, Bombus, Melissodes, Osmia, Agapostemon, and Lasioglossum, as well as some rare and beautiful specimens.

Hymenoptera: Apidae: Anthophora

Hymenoptera: Apidae: Anthophora

Hymenoptera: Apidae: Melissodes

Hymenoptera: Apidae: Melissodes

Hymenoptera: Halictidae: Agapostemon

Hymenoptera: Halictidae: Agapostemon

Hymenoptera: Megachilidae: Osmia

Hymenoptera: Megachilidae: Osmia

Hymenoptera: Megachilidae: Ashmeadiella – a rarely collected native solitary bee

We did have some interesting beetles and moths representing two extremely diverse groups.

Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae

Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae

Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae

Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Trichiotinus



My personal favorite group are wasps.  Wasps are a paraphyletic group of insects in the order Hymenoptera.  There is a lot of research to be done in this area, and I hope to study wasp behavior as a part of my graduate research.  There are many beautiful, interesting, and ecologically important wasps found in Wyoming.

Our collections included velvet ants, a type of wasp with pronounced sexual dimorphism.  Males are usually winged and females are wingless.  They can be so different in morphology that some males and females were initially described as different species.  We had quite a number of males in our collections, but no females.  We did observe “cow-killer” females (Dasymutilla) in the field.  They’re easy to spot due to their bright red-orange coloration.

Hymenoptera: Mutillidae: Dasymutilla

Hymenoptera: Mutillidae: Dasymutilla

Hymenoptera: Mutillidae

Hymenoptera: Mutillidae — a velvet ant winged male

We had some predatory sphecid or thread-waisted wasps.  The silvery hairs on the face of the wasp appears metallic in the sunshine.

Hymenoptera: Sphecidae

Hymenoptera: Sphecidae

Some Vespid wasps are known as hornets and have a bad reputation.  They are facinating social insects that include potter wasps.

Hymenoptera: Vespidae

Hymenoptera: Vespidae

Hymenoptera: Vespidae: Odynerus

Hymenoptera: Vespidae: Odynerus

Crabronids are one of my favorite wasp families.  They are very diverse, always beautiful, and include cicada killers, beewolves, and sand wasps as well as many very small species that can resemble small bees.

Hymenoptera: Crabronidae

Hymenoptera: Crabronidae

Hymenoptera: Crabronidae

Hymenoptera: Crabronidae

Hymenoptera: Crabronidae

Hymenoptera: Crabronidae: Astata — males of this genus often have holotypic eyes (meeting at the vertex)

My favorite wasp family as well as the most beautiful of the wasps are the cuckoo wasps.  They are also known as jewel wasps — it’s easy to see why!  Their multifaceted texture accentuates their often bright and multi-hued coloration.

Hymenoptera: Chrysididae

Hymenoptera: Chrysididae

As I complete my internship and move on, I am very grateful for the opportunities this CLM internship has provided me.  I’ve learned a lot and enjoyed myself in many ways.  Many thanks to my mentors, Drs. Lusha Tronstad and Michael Dillon, as well as to the Dillon lab, WYNDD staff, and the BLM.  And of course none of this would be possible without Krissa and Wes of the CLM!!  Thank you!!

Sierra Madre

Me at Sierra Madre

Sadie Luna Todd
CLM intern, UWyo WYNDD/BLM
Laramie, WY


October is here already, crazy. Time has been flying lately, especially with the shutdown. Although, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t kind of nice. Fall is my favorite time of year and the couple weeks off allowed me to go exploring. Here in Escalante, we are privileged enough to have both desert/canyon country as well as mountain/high elevation. Mountains and forests are one of my favorite ecosystems so naturally that is where I went during the shutdown. With too many lakes to know them all and so many back roads it’s easy to get lost, it makes exploring a lot of fun. At around 9/10,000 feet the Aspen are burning brilliantly yellow, orange and occasionally red. Overlooking the canyon lands from this high up makes them look like a strange city of rock and shadow. I ventured to take my mountain bike out as well. This turned out to be a great idea, most of the time. The trails here are made for hiking but many work for both. Elk hunting season is upon us as well, meaning the males are bugling and sometimes fighting. I was lucky enough to see one large elk with 5 females on one of my rides. Many of the animals such as deer, elk, and turkey make their way down from the mountain during the fall to over-winter in the warmer canyon areas. This has made wildlife watching exceptionally nice in and near town.

The fall has also brought a lot of change to the plants we are collecting. In the two weeks we were off, many of our species “ripened”. This allowed us to make 3 collections in the first few days back which was great. The downside is that the days are becoming much shorter. The sun isn’t rising until 7:30am at the earliest and sets at 6:30pm. I don’t mind though, because this means winter is coming, which in turn means skiing! With a couple resorts, Brian’s Head and Eagle Point, not very far away I am hoping to get a couple days on the snow before it is time to leave. With our last day only 3 weeks away, things are coming to a close quickly. We still have a few plants to collect from and we have even seen some plants, not ones we are collecting, still flowering. I find this amazing considering we have already had our first frost and the mountains have even had some snow. Having never lived in the southwest before, it is wild how even though it may frost at night, it still reaches mid 60’s during the day here. I find this to be very enjoyable weather but not surprisingly the tourist season has come to an end finally. In our town this means that most of the restaurants and stores will be closing soon. I wonder what everyone does all winter.

Final Posting from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska

What a rewarding experience I have had with the National Park Service in Alaska for the past 5 months. I must say that it did not come without personal challenge. My mentor, the Ecologist for the Park always kept a long to do list for us, and with the short growing season in Alaska there is always plenty to do in a short period of time.

My personal career has advanced in so many ways. I found out what I really enjoying doing and what I would like to do less of. Almost every week our Exotic Plant Management team was out in the field camping and inventorying invasive species infestations. While I enjoy being out in the wilderness, I have shifted my interests toward native plant conservation and ecological restoration. Gaining hands-on experience with a government agency has taught me  organizational and time management skills. There was always a ton of paperwork and detailed note taking we were required to do and everything was backed up by an electronic version. Throughout the summer I was assigned work with other divisions of the Park Service, I really enjoyed new learning experiences and getting a sense of how the whole system operates together to provide visitors with the safest experience of wild Alaska.

Working for the Park Service in Alaska is very challenging and physically demanding. I learned about the all the gear that is needed for this type of climate and weather conditions and which brands to stay away from.

With the season at a close, I am in report writing mode.  Each season the Exotic Plant Management Team reflects on the work completed and offers suggestions for the next field season in the form of a Management Report. Details are written in this report about the progress of the worst infestations of invasive species within the Park, new locations of infestations, hours of volunteer and employee work, ecological restoration details, and discussion of what worked and what did not work so well in controlling invasive species. It is interesting reading past reports that interns have written and learning new techniques of writing and reporting from them. The writing does become tedious and long but the best thing about it is that it ends up being a published document with the National Park Service, a great reference for my resume.

While reflecting on my time as a CLM intern, I am faced with the decision of what to do next. I have much interest in attending graduate school but am still unsure exactly what I would want to study. I am hesitant to commit to a program as I still have a lot of student debt from my undergraduate career. The nice thing about working in Alaska all summer is I did not have many expenses, so I saved a good chunk of money I can live on until I find work. There is actually an opening with the National Park Service here in Copper Center, Alaska for a permanent position with the Exotic Plant Management Team and my mentor and other staff have expressed that they would like to see me back next season. As much as job searching gives me anxiety, it is also so exciting to search for new opportunity. After completing this program, I have gained all of the confidence I need to take me onto the next step in my career. Thank you CLM and thank you Miranda (my mentor) for providing me with the training, guidance, and challenge of working and living in Alaska for 5 months. I am truly honored to have had the opportunity and will carry with me everything I learned throughout my career.

Morgan Gantz, EPMT, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Beautiful fall colors in Alaska

Beautiful fall colors in Alaska


Changing seasons in Colorado

Due to the government shutdown our team here in Colorado was unable to get to some of our final seed collection sites.  Depending on how the remainder of October progresses we might get back out to collect one more time, but it seem unlikely.  With plenty of work in the office I will stay busy for the rest of the time I have as a CLM intern.

October is quickly flying by as the seasons change as well as the priorities from seed collecting and rare plant monitoring outside to preparing vouchers and reviewing data from the monitoring season that just finished up.  As well as the normal seeds of success projects and the monitoring data I have been given the opportunity to pursue a project pertaining to some of the mysteries that surround Phacelia formosula.  The mystery I am trying to demystify is the presence of a seed bank and its size.  All of the study locations around the monitoring plots that we monitored this past summer to hopefully somehow link our monitoring data to the population size data.

Our Seeds of Success team went to the local chapter of the Native Plants Society back at the end of September where we had the opportunity to hear Dr. Weber give a short speech.  The rest of the event was very interesting also as the organizer gradually progress through all of the current state level rare/endangered species and updates were given on sightings for the year and any other pertinent data for a certain species.

With winter coming, snow will soon be here. That is something I am very excited about. Not just the mere presence of snow, but the amount that falls here in Colorado is one of the most exciting parts of the season for me and I am looking forward to it.

Nathan Redecker

Lakewood, CO

BLM Colorado State Office

Prime Time for Seed Collection

It’s been weeks since monsoon clouds dominated the sky, carrying precious moisture to parched lands from far-away seas. The size and shape of the clouds has dramatically shifted, from vertically building clouds to the fluffy cumulus style that always seem to remind me of The Simpsons.

This summer season of abundance is the main driving factor for natural life in the Madrean Archipelago ecological province of North America. Even though shifting winds have carried away our monsoon clouds, the cycle of profusion is still very much alive in the landscape.

The sudden cessation of rain immediately affected the vegetation. Without moisture, plants have a hard time continuing to grow. Annuals quickly went to seed and shriveled up, returning their nutrients to the earth. More established perennials follow a similar cycle, many with a more pronounced lag period. Some perennials continue to flower more than a month after the last rains of the season graced the earth.

The fauna who seem to be most obviously impacted by the sudden dry period are the insects who proliferated during monsoon season. Butterflies and moths desperately search for nectar in a dry landscape. But resources are dwindling. And the impact can be felt throughout the food chain.

Migrating birds feed on the cornucopia of Lepidoptera that depend on the summer rains. It reminds me of a type of gas station along the migration corridor for these traveling species. I feel grateful to have a glimpse into the beautiful synchronicity that has evolved within this landscape over time. Being able to experience the natural order makes me wonder what role I play in this seasonal cycle. If I do at all.

September: Lets do something different.

September was another solid month with the BLM in Arcata. I really diversified my activities this month, working with several different resource specialists in our office. I also made all the labels and got all our pressed specimens mounted and logged into our herbarium. We had many new collections, plus a stack of plants that had been previously collected and were waiting to be mounted. With that finished, I have also embarked on a new project that will see me through the end of my time here as a CBG intern. I am working on getting our small herbarium (approx. 700 specimens) registered with the UC Jepson Herbarium Consortium. There will be more on that in the future….

I have spent a few days with one of our wildlife biologist, which has been a great learning experience for me. He works exclusively in the Headwaters Forest Reserve, and is currently working on a project trapping fur of Fishers. He is trying to collect as many DNA samples from all the fishers in the area in order to determine the size of the resident population. Fishers are a weasel –like mammal that is currently a candidate for listing, so there is a lot of interest in the species right now. The traps consist of a plastic bucket cut in half long-ways and screwed onto a tree with the opening facing down. The bait (a rotten fish head) is up in the top of the bucket and around the bottom rim is some sticky paper to catch fur as the animal goes up in there to eat the fish. A game camera is mounted nearby to photograph the animal as it goes in (to make sure it’s a fisher and not a bear).


Fisher hair trap with camera trap in foreground (left)

I’ve also been working with our geologist and our fish biologist on a project they have going down in Southern Humboldt County. They are working to restore some fish habitat on a small creek that has had Coho Salmon spawning in it in recent years. This creek is a tributary to the Mattole River, which only had four Coho come up to spawn this past year. Coho are listed as threatened species and are in serious decline, especially in this region. This restoration project is very extensive and involves many engineered weirs and structures. The BLM is trying to create suitable habitat now so that the Coho will have place to spend the summer next year.


I got to hike part of the Lost Coast Trail with our fisheries biologist. We did an overnight backpacking trip to collect his temperature gauges in the small creeks in the King Range.



Working with our fish biologist, we dove a small tract of the East Branch South Fork Eel River looking for Steelhead smolts.


Fort Ord Bureau of Land Management: September 2013 Adventures with Bruce

Imagine going to work and not knowing what is in store for the day. Sure you have a schedule that you follow but things come up when you are out in the field.
My 2 weeks were awesome. My mentor Bruce and I scouted a lake that needs to be purged of invasive bullfrogs. We worked out a plan to remove the frogs and get them to people who will use them. We also watered willow tree saplings, which were planted by local school children 2 years ago. The trees line the shore of the dry Toro Creek for roughly a mile. Watering the willows is one of the many important ongoing projects of Fort Ord. Setting up the watering system is a project in itself. We have a giant bladder bag that holds about 150 gallons of water in the bed of our truck and we have to get as close as we can to the bank of the creek, which sometimes isn’t close at all. But that doesn’t matter because we have about 500 ft or more of hose that we run to water the trees. After we get to the creek in the truck, we set up this awesome little water pup that feeds off the battery of the truck. One end of the pump is attached to a regular garden hose and the other end is attached to a mini hose that is fed into the bladder bag. We water as far as we can with the amount of hose and then we move to a new spot up the creek. We also watered Badger Hills, a new public parking lot at the edge of Fort Ord. Weed eradication is also a big project. Black mustard and bull thistle are a few of the biggies. We take our volunteer groups from Paradigm out to do weeds, water oak trees and water 2 days a week.
Bruce was asked to go survey for red legged frogs and tiger salamanders at a future digital radio tower building site. That was awesome. Surveying for the animals consisted of marking active burrows and then putting a camera down the burrow and looking for the endangered species. The surveying was great in itself but also watching the interaction with all the parties involved. Bruce was the biologist, project leader David, the contractor Will, the onsite project leader Joe and the systems operator Chuck. Bruce had a list of objectives the contractors needed to abide by, in order of the project to proceed. I was not expecting the contractors to be as accommodating as they were. The men involved seemed to actually care about what we were trying to do. They asked good questions and were very engaging. We had lunch with them after everything was said and done. It made me realize that maybe things are changing for the better. That maybe environmentalists and builders can work together and come up with solutions, which will make everyone happy.

Interspersed in all of the above were meetings about Fort Ord Public Land Day and the 2013 Central California Invasive Weed Symposium. We also engaged in brushing trails, seed collecting, surveying trails and working with the Sierra club. The Sierra club was our last day before the furlough. It’s been a real bummer not getting to go to the BLM the last almost 2 weeks. Hopefully everything get’s resolved soon so we can get back out there and take care of our projects.

Goodbye, Cedar City

As my mentor said in the beginning of October, I came in under odd circumstances with the federal government, so why should my departure be any different? My internship was put on hold in the spring due to the sequester. Getting furloughed certainly was not the way I wanted to end my term in Cedar City, Utah, however an important part of this entire experience is understanding the ins-and-outs of working for the U.S. government. While I wish I was leaving on a better note, being furloughed does not take away from the fantastic experience I had here.

I have always been drawn towards studying endangered species, and I found it particularly rewarding to work on projects that involved sensitive species here in southwest Utah. Collecting data on greater sage grouse habitat, relocating Utah prairie dogs and conducting raptor surveys always felt worthwhile afterwards. The information my co-intern Jake and I collected didn’t simply get put into a folder and forgotten about, but used in making management decisions. And that is pretty gratifying, knowing that your work as an intern is valuable.

Learning to identify whole bunch of new plants and birds was key for me, since I was totally unfamiliar with the ecosystem of the southwest. I came knowing only Wyoming sage brush and a handful of western birds and I’m leaving feeling confident in my ability to name plants and animals found throughout the field office. (Though I must admit, some of those grasses are a real pain!) After learning our key species Jake and I were on our own for the majority of the time. Our mentor was supportive and got us involved with great projects, but rarely came out to the field with us. Being able to carry out protocols, navigate to remote corners of the field office, and getting our clunky GPS unit to work were daily difficulties. But it always felt good finishing a challenging day. It is a boosts to your self-confidence and is appreciated by supervisors.

My favorite tasks during this field season were early morning bird surveys. There were a handful of days that began at 3am but they were worth it because each sunrise was stunning and the birds never failed to put on a show. These surveys were a good learning experience for me on a few levels – Turns out I can get up at an ungodly hour on consecutive days and carry out good work, and I actually like doing it. Also, 5am is a good time to learn bird calls.

Male Blue Grosbeak Passerina caerulea

On a personal note, living in Utah was an adventure. I was nicely situated between lots of fantastic hiking spots, and spent plenty of time in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks and Cedar Breaks National Monument. For future CLM interns, I highly recommend exploring your surroundings during your time off. Get a feel for the new culture and new environment. I don’t know if I’ll ever be back in this corner of the world, so I had to make sure to see as much as this spectacular land as possible. Besides, it’s fun driving around beautiful country and maybe getting a little lost along the way.

Hoodoos in Dixie National Forest

I never would have found myself out in Utah if it was not for the CLM internship program. This was an adventure-and-a-half. For budding biologists and botanists, this program is for you. I wish I could say a proper good-bye to the men and women in my office that made this a wonderful field season, but unfortunately I can’t stick around until the end of the government shutdown. I’m moving on to another adventure, and will be using the skills I’ve gained during my time in Utah.

Be safe, drink plenty of water, and I’ll see you in the field!