Soil Health, NPS grasses, Lupines, and a lot more to do!

Since getting back to work over the last several weeks we have been playing a big game of catch up here at the PMC! Its been really crazy trying to get everything done and its meant some long hours, but we have been doing a pretty good job systematically catching up to where we need to be.

Last week we spent most of the week planting the National Soil Health Study area of the PMC. It was a lot of work and went much slower then anticipated due to some calibration issues we seem to have had with our No Till Drill and getting the right amount of seed out of it. We think that in the end it should be ok though, since we were able to work out most of the kinks. We had to pre-water the soil so it would have some moisture and be soft enough to even drill into.  Since the soil was nice and moist the seeds have already germinated and are coming up! I always get excited when I see new life coming up out of the ground!

The end of the week involved getting a germination study of a National Park Service Grass started to try and boost the germination.  We were getting rates like 2%, which when you only have about 100 grams of seeds, doesn’t bode well for planting an acre. They have been in for about 4 days now, and half of them will be cold stratifying for a few weeks, so we shall see how they turn out!

This week we have a whole host of things to do, the main one planting Bicolor Lupines for the National Park Service. Yesterday I spent most of the day on my hands and knees putting down weed mat and securing it into place for them, so hopefully we get really good, weed free results with them. I have found that I LOVE lupines. I can’t explain it, but they are such awesome plants with unique leaves and beautiful flowers. I would like to write a plant guide on the bicolor lupines like I did with California Fuschia, but I’m not sure if I will have time now. We shall see though!

Hopefully the rest of the week goes smoothly and we get everything planted and where it needs to be.  That would make life much easier and a bit less hectic. Until next time!


A long trip home

As I write my last blog post, I’m sitting in my living room back in Kansas in the midst of a job search, hoping to find something that will tide me over until next field season. My internship in Wyoming is complete, and it was with a heavy heart that I left to start a new chapter. My time with the BLM was amazing, and I feel like I learned just as much this last summer as I did my whole undergrad career. From how to beat the sun where there are no trees, to what kind of food to pack for long field days, to which mud puddles are perhaps not worth the risk of driving through, my experience has given me the opportunity to learn many things about the world around me, as well as myself.

Certainly the hardest part of leaving my internship was saying goodbye to all of the wonderful people I met in Buffalo. I had the pleasure of working for some amazing people at the BLM, and I was very sad to leave them. Although they see new interns every summer, they still made us feel just as welcome as anyone else in the office, and they did their best to assure that we were involved in some very cool projects. It was also great working with Krissa and Wes (though I didn’t get the chance to meet them in person), as they were always very understanding and ready to help with anything we needed. Most of all, I will dearly miss my fellow CLM interns Sean, Nick, and Kelly. It was really great working with this crew, and we had an absolute blast this summer. I made many good friends in Wyoming, and I should hope I get the pleasure of seeing them again someday.

I really can’t say enough good things about this program. I had an amazing experience working with CLM and the BLM, and I would highly recommend this program to anyone looking for an internship in plant or environmental science.

Reflections on a sea of sage

Hi all,

Carrie and I finished collecting seeds for the SOS program in late October. Along with this came finishing our SOS paperwork and sending the final stacks of boxes of seeds to the Bend Seed Extractory—leaving our cubicle surprisingly spacious.

Our final project has been ground truthing possible spring locations for the office hydrologist, Landon. We were handed a map with numbered points, a GPS, and some data collection tools and went off to areas of our choosing to look for undocumented water sources at those points. This has been a great project to end our internship on. It’s different from anything we’ve been doing, and I’ve learned how to use a turbidimeter as well as some other ways to analyze water. It’s been a nice change after months of seed collecting and plant monitoring. Best of all, we’ve been able to visit some areas of the field office that we haven’t been to yet. On our first trip we went to the Buffalo Hills (probably my favorite part of the field office), and after finding the first 4 spots visited dry, we found 3 running springs—2 of which even had minnows. It was pretty amazing to see the tiny streams of clear, cool water which turn the surrounding plants a bright green amidst a seemingly endless hillside of dried forbs and basalt rock. And we get to name the springs we find. We’ve also checked for undocumented springs in the Smoke Creek Desert where we saw lots of jackrabbits. On our long hikes in search of springs, we’ve seen countless wild horses, some burros, and even a badger.

The final spring we surveyed at the end of Stone Corral canyon. By far my favorite.

The final spring we surveyed at the end of Stone Corral canyon. By far my favorite.

For two days, I helped our mentor, Valda, and archaeologist Marilla with an archaeological clearance of land that will be planted with bitterbrush seedlings. This involved scanning the area systematically for signs of an archaeological site (we found some projectile points and lots of obsidian flakes), mapping the area, and digging test pits. Once archeologically sensitive areas were identified and set aside, Valda was given the go-ahead on the bitterbrush restoration project. I also spent a few days creating labels and mounting herbarium specimens that Carrie and I collected both for SOS and personal collections to benefit our office’s herbarium. The last major project Carrie and I have been working on in the office is creating a more user-friendly plant list for future employees and interns to use. We’ve included photos, whether the plant is upland/riparian/perennial/annual/biennial, if it’s invasive, if it’s listed as rare by the California Native Plant Society, plus an area to make personal notes about the plant. It’s a great feeling to see the final list coming together, and I really think it will get a lot of use in our office! I’m a little jealous we didn’t have this list when we started our internship…back when we had no familiarity with Great Basin plants…it would have been quite handy.

It feels odd to be wrapping up our time here. Our friends and coworkers at the Eagle Lake Field Office have been so welcoming and easy-going that I fell instantly into place. I really do feel lucky to have been placed here in Susanville—even though I had no idea this place existed or what to expect from it before flying out here in July. I learned that field work is definitely what I want to be doing, but that working for the government may not. It can be frustrating. No matter how dedicated and passionate you are about your projects and the land, there are a lot of hoops to jump through, many of which are coming from offices far removed from the environment you’re working to manage. I’m glad I saw this first hand, and that my co-workers were honest about their experiences in the agencies. I have a much better idea of what I’m getting myself into if I pursue a career with the government. After all, there are some great benefits that come with managing a million acres of land. I’ve been able to do so many things: seed collection, rangeland monitoring, archaeological surveys, hydrological surveys, rare plant monitoring, and herbarium work. I even learned how to drive a stick. I’ve explored mountains, pine/fir forests, canyons, sagebrush scrub and the tiniest, most beautiful hidden springs. I’ve seen golden eagles, wild burros, colorful lichens and delicate desert plants. I’ve worked with people who enjoy their jobs and the company of their coworkers, even after 13-hour days in the field. And our mentor has been fantastic. No wonder the summer and fall seemed to fly by. It’s time to move on to the next great adventure, and if there’s anything my time out here has taught me, it’s that I shouldn’t hesitate to venture out in search of the things I love–no matter how impassible the road may seem.

Goodbye sagebrush!

Goodbye sagebrush!


Eagle Lake Field Office

All Good Things Must Come To An End

Such a roller coaster. Between moving from Chicago to Escalante, 800 people, to helping out with things such as: Hummingbird banding, bat mist-netting and paleo digs, to the shutdown. I wouldn’t trade one minute of it. I already miss the small town feel, limited dining choices and unlimited access to some of the most beautiful country in the world. With that I will leave you with some pictures that I hope will speak the 1000s of words I can not. Enjoy and if you are ever able to make it to southern Utah, do it.







The Subway- Zion

Double Arch

Double O Arch

Calf Creek Waterfall

Alaska Invasives Conference Highlights

The Alaska Committee for Noxious and Invasive Plant Management and the Alaska Invasive Species Working Group organize this conference annually. It was Fairbanks’ turn in the rotation to host this years conference from November 5-7, 2013. The event brings together a range of expertise in a forum for discussion and presentation of relevant research and management trends. I co-presented on behalf of the Central Yukon Field Office along with the Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge Wildlife Biology, Tim Craig. I shared the results of our inventory and discussed the BLM strategic plan for managing invasive plants (particulary Vicia cracca and Melilotus albus). Tim looked at the management efforts from a historical perspective (click here to view sideshow). Tributaries of the Koyukuk watershed are vectors that threaten to transport propagules from bridge crossings into the Kanuti NWF. This has prompted the consideration of cross-boundary collaboration and the potential formation of a Cooperative Weed Management Area.

Opportunities to collaborate and network were abound. State and non-state organizations were represented, including researchers from the University of Alaska and keynote speaker Jason Fridley, Syracuse University.

Highlights relevant to my personal and professional interests were:

  • study of degradation rates of herbicides in cold temperatures
  • community citizen science programs (Melibee Project)
  • state and federal integrated vegetation management plans
  • opportunities for CWMA partnership with Fairbanks district
  • potential indicator variables for phenological monitoring
  • best management practices for invasive plant management

The most intriguing concept relevant to my work at BLM was the need for long-term phenological monitoring data. Understanding the ecosystem vulnerabilities and management opportunities that anomalous climate years present in threatened boreal habitats could serve to reduce socioeconomic and ecological impacts.



The Pinnacle

Field season is rapidly coming to a close especially in the mountains, which is where most of our collections were made.  We have definitely been opportunists throughout this entire field season – trying our best to make each trip a productive one.

The blooming season has rapidly changed in the subalpine from the July to October. However, being away from the field for two weeks did not necessarily “help” our seed collection schedule – but we made the best of it.

Here are a few pictures below for your enjoyment:

Late spring in Leadville, CO.

Late spring in Leadville, CO.

Winter in Leadville, CO

Winter in Leadville, CO.

Parry's Gentian (Gentiana parryi) capsules

Parry’s Gentian (Gentiana parryi) capsules

Gentiana parryi seeds

Gentiana parryi seeds

There is plenty for us to do. In the next few weeks I will be preparing our herbarium vouchers to be sent to the Smithsonian and to other herbarium museums around Colorado. It’s always exciting looking through the many herbarium specimens and seeing the vast diversity of plant species that we have collected this season – this will be fun.

Until next time!

Darnisha Coverson

BLM – Lakewood, CO




The wonderful world of … cheatgrass?

Fall has certainly arrived. It has been getting colder around the Treasure Valley these last few weeks and I am fortunate enough to be inside the walls of the Boise Regional Seed Warehouse roasting away. Yes, there was a hint of sarcasm in that statement. Even with my unique experiences thus far, I am pretty jealous of all the activity my fellow interns have been able to practice outside the four walls of any building. After reading several blog entries, I am confident those experiences would not be traded in for my “desk job”. Even so, I digress, and will continue on with my personal extravaganza of late. Aside from the rather excellent seed decoration of my personal space within the warehouse, I have been working on calculating the amount of weed seeds that have been purchased within all lots of seed in the last year. Aside from noxious weeds, both prohibited and restricted, I have been paying most attention to downy brome (Bromus Tectorum), also known as cheatgrass. Surprisingly, some individuals believe that cheatgrass isn’t that bad of a weed and, in some ways, can actually benefit land after a fire has burned through. However, downy brome is detrimental to a variety of ecosystems. Not only does it quench beneficial growth of perennials and other natural vegetation, it can house rodents and other small insects that can harm the soils and any other grasses that still live. Even worse, it dries out very quick, resulting in an increased fire threat. It is obvious that fire has a negative effect on any portion of land that it burns. My work calculating the amount of cheatgrass seeds purchased within each pound of seed will help many researchers determine what portion of fire rehabilitation efforts add to the worsening of cheatgrass growth.

Once I have gathered all my research and input it into a worksheet, I will begin calculating the total amounts of the types of weed seeds purchased, the general area in which they were sold, and identify any patterns in amounts coming from specific regions of the Western United States. It will be very interesting to see how it all turns out. For my personal benefit, I am interested in seeing what amount of weed seed was purchased from any particular region, and if there has been an increase in weeds in the region where that specific seed was sold. Obviously, that will entail more personal research on my part, but since I have been working in the seed and fire rehabilitation business the last few years, I am interested in seeking out those results. A little less interesting will be the total lbs of weed seed purchased in relation to the total amount of seed purchased last year. For example, if the Boise Regional Seed Warehouse purchased roughly 1.5 million pounds of seed last year, how many pounds of that was weed seed? The results ought to prove interesting.

Fortunately, the Bureau of Land Management, Boise Regional Seed Warehouse, and each state individually have very strict policies on what weed seeds can be bought and sold within any given boundary. It is also nice to know that no matter the amount of weed seeds purchased and sold, the good seed will most always outweigh the bad seed.

Hopefully next time I will be able to report my findings of this project. For me, any day can bring a new project with a higher priority than the one I happen to be working on. Only time will tell. Until next time, enjoy the freedom of the outdoors and the splendor it surrounds you with.


Boise Regional Seed Warehouse

Bureau of Land Management

Goodbye Escalante


I’m officially done with my internship, I worked some pretty crazy hours during those last 3 weeks but I finished my hours and I’m comfortably sitting in Aurora, Colorado right now and soon I’ll be flying home to Buffalo, NY. This internship was a really great experience, I did what I expected plus a ton more; bird banding, bat mist-netting, a paleontology dig, endemic plant monitoring, and even camped out in the field and helped remove Russian olive for a week. For being an SOS internship, It really was unexpectedly wide ranging.

Another great experience was living somewhere different from what you’re used to, with people different from what you’re used to, away from your friends, family, and girlfriend. It wasn’t always easy but it gave me a lot of time to work on everything I wanted to do with very few distractions and no excuses. While out here in Utah, I got to know myself a little better and or at the very least became a little less wrong about who I think I am. I highly recommend taking any chance you can to move out of your comfort zone. It makes it easier when you know it’s only temporary but who knows, maybe you’ll like it so much you want to stay. As for me, I’m on to the next place, wherever that is.


On to my next adventure

Since being back at work since the furlough, I have been busy entering data into the different databases. It has been a long process, but I have learned a lot along the way. Currently, my mentor and I are looking for sagebrush collections before I leave in the beginning of summer. We are hoping to get at least one collection in, but it has been fairly rainy/snowy here the past week and has made things very difficult.

This past week, I had the opportunity to talk to the BLM managers and higher-ups about my internship and why it is good to have interns to help out on the District. It was a little scary presenting to them, but it was good to see that there is genuine interest to keep entry level younger people coming into the office to learn and gain experience.

Overall, the next couple of weeks will go by fast, and it will be bittersweet to move on to my next adventure; but sad leaving behind great people that I learned so much from. I’m always awed by the landscape and the opportunity to come out West.

A Season to Remember

The seed collecting season has finally come to an end.  Upon reflection, the last several months, working with the BLM in Medford, Oregon, has been an excellent opportunity to use my skills and knowledge, as well as gain a tremendous amount of valuable new experiences.

One major area of growth was my understanding of the geography of Southwest Oregon. Although I made good use of my previous knowledge of botanically interesting areas, I also had the experience of visiting and working in a great number of amazing new locations. As recently as six months ago, I had not even heard of King Mountain, Big Elk Meadow, Drew Lake, Walch Fen, and Josephine Creek. It is now difficult to imagine a world without such places.

Darlingtonia fen above Josephine Creek

Instrumental to the discovery of many of the new locations was GIS. I began the season with a good background in GIS, and was pleased to be encouraged to utilize and improve my skills in my new position. I was provided with ArcMap software, and used the technology to select promising new locations, track routes traveled and sites visited, and record locations of collected vouchers and seed. GIS also made easy work of obtaining and recording ecoregion and geology data for each seed collection. It was also fun to make use of the relatively new, data driven pages feature, to make a nice final set of maps, showing all of the season’s seed collection locations. I felt fortunate that, through my internship, I was given access to ESRI online tutorials, as well as USFS webcast classes.

Also, botanically, I had plenty of opportunities to build upon my prior knowledge. While for some time, I have been able to recognize plant families and most genera by sight, this past season afforded me plenty of opportunities to practice keying plants. The vast floral diversity of  Southern Oregon continues to surprise me, and presented our team with many interesting challenges. Some of the most perplexing, were a couple members of the family Asteraceae, as well as the genus Perideridia. Other botanical highlights included encountering rare plants such as Calochortus howellii, Gentiana setigera, and Perideridia erythrorhiza. Working with the CLM program has also allowed me the honor of having many of this season’s botanical vouchers placed with the U.S. National Herbarium at the Smithsonian Institution.


Deer Creek, Josephine Co., Ore.

This past season with the CLM program has given me many challenges and rewards that I will fondly remember for a long time to come.