Pressing Matters

Greetings from Wyoming!

With the fieldwork just about complete, the time has come to box up all those pressed voucher specimens and send them off to various herbariums. Keeping all the components of each collection straight is a bit of a challenge, since there are over 50 different collections at this point. Now I am finally getting a handle on exactly what we brought in this year.

It’s amazing to look through the pressed specimens and see the cross-section of Wyoming and northern Colorado plants and the many interesting places we visited this summer. It would be interesting to compile the SOS data in a way that would let you see the range for plants all across the West, probably using the data from herbarium specimens. The Rocky Mountain Herbarium here at the University of Wyoming already has a web-based map of its collections, which allows to search by species and see where you’re most likely to find them. That has been an invaluable tool for seed-hunting this year. Hopefully the specimens we collected will be additional data.

Next up, DNA lab work! Should be interesting!

Abby D.

Hitting the ground running!

It has been great to get back to work and jump back onto ongoing projects.

The past couple of months I have primarily been working on projects related to the desert restoration crews.  It has been a push to get everything completed as their season started in October!  I have been gathering field data and putting together work plans for the Student Conservation Association’s (SCA) Desert Restoration crews.  I have spent a good bit of time in the field hiking/driving around wilderness areas documenting restoration sites, seeing it rain (yes, it can rain here!), catching a glimpse of wild horses, and generally enjoying working in such beautiful terrain.  I have also spend a fair bit of time compiling all my data into maps and work plan portfolios.  I led 4 days of training for the SCA Project Leaders.  I trained them on fence building and hard barrier construction.  It was refreshing to be back out camping in the desert and enjoying the desert nights as we transitioned into  the desert fall!

In addition to all the restoration planning, I assisted in the opening of the Nadeau Trail.  The first National Recreation Trail in California.  It is an historic transport trail used by Remi Nadeau in the transporting of gold down to the LA area and supplies back up to the mountains.  It is now used as an off highway vehicle trail.  A pretty cool trail with lots of great views, old mines, and cabins.

I also joined the Wilderness Coordinator in attending the Wilderness Leadership meeting at the California Desert District office.  I was able to sit in on  some of the behind the scenes discussions that go on between BLM field offices and public groups concerning the management of wilderness areas.

I am currently emerged in the world of Wilderness First Responder training in Bishop, CA.  I am learning and practicing all the wonderful and valuable medical skills that are required to aid in a medical emergency in wilderness settings.  Bring on the patients, litter carries, splint building, injury make-up, sucking chest wounds, and wound care! We got this!

Farewell til next time!




Wrapping Up the Season

This will be my last post for the 2013 season at the BLM Mother Lode field office. I may return next Spring if funding is in place. The government shutdown was an unexpected disruption in my work schedule but luckily most of our major projects such as seed collecting and rare plant monitoring were done before the shutdown took place. The seasonal shift is in full swing. The summer heat has all but dissipated and snow graces the high Sierra peaks. The patches of black oak at Pine Hill Preserve (PHP) have taken on beautiful fall colors.

Since the shutdown ended I have finished mounting and labeling all of the herbarium specimens collected in the spring and early summer, and added them to the PHP herbarium. Deciding on how to place the specimens on the herbarium paper is an artistic process, and care must be taken not to damage them as they are glued down. I enjoyed the slow, methodical pace of this task.

Yesterday I was able to attend a fascinating forum called the Ecology and Management of Medusahead and Barb Goatgrass on California Rangeland. This was at the University of California Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center, a property replete with research projects on grazing, weeds, oak recruitment, and more. Medusahead and Barb Goatgrass are undesirable exotic grasses that have spread across California at an incredible rate, and both occur on Mother lode Field office land. This event had around 100 people, including professors and researchers, UC extension agents, NRCS range and soil scientists, restoration ecologists, and of course ranchers. A multitude of data was presented on using tools such as fire, herbicide, and high intensity grazing to manage these grasses.

The internship has been great and I have learned a lot. I have enjoyed working for my mentor Graciela. She has been kind, patient, extremely generous, and willing to answer all of my questions. It has been interesting to hear about her experiences of working in myriad locations such as Mexico, Colorado, and California. Since I have been working almost exclusively at PHP, I have gained insight into what goes into managing a small (for BLM standards) preserve with rare plant species, including federally endangered plant species. PHP is a partnership between many county, state, and federal agencies. Graciela is an expert at working with different agencies and understanding legal and bureaucratic intricacies. The Mother Lode field office is unique in that almost a third of its funding comes from outside sources (i.e. not the Department of the Interior). This funding is what runs special areas like PHP and Cosumnes River Preserve, and it comes from proactive action such as grant writing. In this time of budget cuts, Graciela and others at this office have convinced me that important conservation projects can still go forward.

Working here has also made me think a lot about plant monitoring. We have implemented various monitoring methods on the rare plants and fuel breaks at PHP. I have thought about the purpose of plant monitoring and how I would go about designing a plant monitoring project, if it were up to me. I have lots to learn in that regard but this summer has been a big step.

I enjoyed the opportunities to explore areas of this field office besides PHP, particularly seed collecting and raptor surveying at the Cosumnes River Preserve. Parts of CRP are riparian jungles full of birds and other wildlife that provide a picture of what the Central Valley may have looked like before the levees, farms, subdivisions and highways. I also enjoyed other opportunities such as leading native plant walks, going to workshops, and participating in river monitoring.

One of my favorite days was pulling yellow star thistle at the Red Hills in Tuolumne County. That is generally not a great job, especially in the middle of summer, but on that day Poor Man’s Gulch involved little star thistle. While slowly walking the riparian margin with eyes out for star thistle I couldn’t help but be blown away by the contrast between the parched, stunted vegetation of the serpentine uplands and the verdant, explosive greenness of the creek, not to mention the nearly complete lack of any signs of human activity. It’s days such as that that attract me to a job like this and… well… Edward Abbey put it better than me (I’ll leave out the obligatory vindictive end of his quote for the purposes of this blog):

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves…”

With that in mind I am soon going to the Dominican Republic to visit my brother who is doing the Peace Corps, before I make my next move.

Joe Broberg

How about that? 5 Months in Humboldt County.

October was a different month at the BLM in Arcata, CA. The first two weeks were blacked out by the government shutdown, but after that I was able to fall right back into work when everything resumed. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I undertook a new project for the last few weeks of my internship: the herbarium. I spent many office days reorganizing our office’s herbarium so we can join the UC Jepson Consortium of California Herbaria.

The consortium is run out of UC Berkeley’s Jepson Herbarium, and is a large database of California Herbaria that is searchable to the entire world. You can visit our herbarium and the database via this link: <> Check it out! Some of our specimens are georeferenced and all are available to scientists who need to borrow the specimens for research. To participate in the consortium, I had to register with the Index Herbariorum at the NY Botanical Garden where we were assigned the herbarium code of BLMAR. From there I had to update all the taxonomic nomenclature of our specimens to the most current names and reformat our excel database to fit the requirements of the Consortium. Moreover, many specimens were mislabeled, misnumbered or misplaced, so I went through all the specimens one-by-one to assure that they were correct and in harmony with our database. While our herbarium is by far the smallest in the consortium, we have many specimens collected from areas that very few other people visit. Many of these could potentially be of interest to researchers due to their unlikely collection locations or phonological traits. This project was a productive learning experience for me. The newest taxonomic changes to plants in California were published in the latest Jepson Manual of Vascular Plants of California (2013). Since many of the new splits of families and genera were new this year and some very drastic, I learned the new families and genera as they are recognized in California.

While I was working on the herbarium project, I mixed my office time in with a variety of field work. I helped our fuels specialist clear some fire line around a restored prairie that he is hoping to burn in the coming weeks. I really enjoy physical labor, especially when it is a means to a foreseeable end, such as a prescribed burn. I helped our fisheries biologist by collecting temperature gauges from Lacks Creek before the high winter flows come. I worked with a group of our resource staff to conduct a wilderness assessment of the Elkhorn Ridge Wilderness in Mendocino County. That involved visiting six different sites within the wilderness and assess each for its ecological function, and where it might be lacking.

This will be my final blog entry for my CLM internship. It has been an amazing experience, I am lucky to have ended up in Arcata, as the only intern on the pacific coast (I think). But just like every intern, I got to work in some incredible places doing amazing work. I got to know the area better than most who live here and met many great friends. I gained a great variety of valuable skills that I will undoubtedly be able to apply to the workplace in the future. I can’t wait jump back into it! Thank you CBG.

I apologize for not posting photos this time… I am having trouble with the photo uploader. But trust me, the fall colors and the beaches of Humboldt county are beautiful right now!


The Season of Seeding

It’s one of the most important times of year in the West Eugene Wetlands: seeding time! The time of year that, after sites have been mowed or burned, we go out and spread native plant seed.

This, in itself, is a multifaceted task; we must mix different species of plant seed together, map out and mark the areas in which we will spread the seed, and then actually go out into field and seed the area.

When mixing seed, we’re dealing with gallons upon gallons of seed, which we then mix with corn cob (because we’d much rather have the salivating birds perched in the trees above us go after the corn cob than precious native seed). We then haul the seed out to the parcel of land where we will spread it. When out in the field we use buckets to carry the seed and then cast it around us by hand. It’s always this time of year that I realize that I could benefit from exercise or lifting weights or something, because my arms are always dead tired by the end of the day, but it’s a satisfying feeling, knowing everything that I’ve been able to accomplish.

We pretty much kept our fingers crossed the whole week hoping that it wouldn’t rain. Oregon’s Willamette Valley is known for raining 24/7 in the colder seasons, and rain would have hampered our task considerably as we would not have been able to drive out onto the land (rain + wetlands = not good driving conditions). However, we were lucky, and it was cold but sunny the entire week.

One of the more exciting aspects of this year’s seeding involved a site that had undergone major restoration this summer. Situated smack in the middle of an industrial area, it was unfortunately completely overgrown and rife with litter. This summer, restoration crews cleaned up all the litter and a masticator took out several trees and opened up the area. When my partner and I arrived there with our trusty bags of seed, the area was unrecognizable compared to its appearance a few mere months ago. Having never seen the before and after of a major restoration project, I can say with certainty that it was rather amazing.

Anyway, now that we’ve finished seeding (and just in time, too–the rains have started), we’re back in the office for the foreseeable future.

Til next time!

SOS. The “real” Success



It’s feeling a bit lonely here in Prineville this month.

Most of the other regular seasonal hires have completed their Federal 1049 positions and have left for the season. The furlough has extended my season a bit and since I started a little later anyway,  I was already in the decadent end of the collection season.  While I mostly worked alone all summer,  on occasion I would ask another resource tech to help out or I hitched a ride to look at an area in which they were working .  It was a joy to meet folks working in different specialties.  I also had an education working with the Americorps sponsored Heart of Oregon  Crew, the BLM  Range Techs and the Wildlife Techs.

If I have to pull one single success out of my summer with SOS it would be the interaction I have had with the Heart of Oregon Corps members.  These youth (18-24 years old) are in a program to get job experience and work and life skills.  While seed collecting may not be in their future job profile, I have had the opportunity to explain to them that someday someone will call me and ask what kind of worker they were and it will matter what I have to say.  I have interesting conversations while collecting.  From “Tyler”, the youth getting kicked out of his father’s house at 17 and learning to live and work on his own without parental support, to” Daniel”, the young man teaching me about the finer points of  “noise” and “punk” music , to Keola,  the fellow who worked hard as a roofer all over the country and now is settling down to establish his educational future.  I learned something from each of them.

As for the general public, I also met Frederick who was out walking his dog and came over to ask what I was doing.  He related his early experiences planting seed and trees for the Forest service in the 1960’s.  Trent was the newly graduated range student who was living in a Tepee and working part time on a ranch that stopped by when his curiosity got the better of him and he helped me collect while chatting. We talked about Eckhart Tolle’s  book ” New Beginnings” He shared his interesting history of surfing and snowboarding and its relevance in his new life as a ranch hand.  He was off to Joseph, Oregon to spend the winter as a mountain guide (in his Tepee).  There was also the wood cutter “Steve” who pulled over to have me check his wood cutting permit which ended in a fabulous discussion about fire and invasive weeds changing landscapes.

I still have more of my summer/fall to go.  I am hoping for a big adventure to relate!

My Seed Success are

Getting my collections to the Bend Seed Extractory.

Completing  57 collections to date

My Seed Failures are

Having a troop of BLM employees sniff out my storage cubicle worried we had a cleaning solvent spill until they realized my freshly collected Artemisia cana and Artemisia arbuscula were so very aromatic.  I am off to the Bend Seed Extractory today!

Finding out non-food items cannot be placed in the food fridge and asking for space in the seed warehouse to spread out my wet Sambucus cerulea berries.

My own wall


Sea of Grass

The monsoon rains provided the nourishment necessary to provide valuable nectar for pollinators in the little nook I call home. Patagonia spent the late summer burgeoning with life, all emanating from the life-giving moisture that blesses the earth over the warm summer months. I was enthralled by the kaleidoscope of shapes, sizes and colors that bounded through the landscape. However, just 15 miles away, the monsoon rains had a very different affect on the landscape.

Drought-dormant green blades shot up through crusty earth with the presence of this influx of moisture in what looks like a verdant sea. While pollinators don’t dominate this landscape, Bouteloua gracilis, the blue grama, is a larval host for skipper butterflies. And many other grasses provide food for caterpillars as they develop into butterflies, which can now be seen on the flowering Ericameria nauseosa, rabbitbrush. But right now, two months after the last rainfall, the grasses play a different role in the environment.

Months ago, the green grass developed seedhead and turned brown as its chlorophyll desiccated. These seeds spent weeks developing into fertile seeds. And now, after months of dry, hot weather, they are some of the few accessible calories available. And grassland birds, specifically sparrows, are gorging themselves in this abundant resource now.

I now spend many of my days working in these lands to not only collect seed, but also to study the impact of invasive grasses on the vegetative makeup and the invasion’s affect on native grassland sparrow populations.

Wrapping up in Buffalo

Hello all! My internship is nearly complete here in Wyoming, but we’re not done yet. Although field season for plants is long gone, there have been other opportunities to get outside to enjoy the brisk weather. Just last week, we were able to accompany a couple of archaeologists in inspecting a proposed waterline route. An oil company wanted to install an above-ground waterline to a well, and we were tasked with checking the surface on the proposed route for any artifacts that may require preservation. Finds would typically include Native American artifacts, such as tools and projectiles, as well as artifacts from the early 20th century. We didn’t find anything that the Smithsonian would be excited about, but we did find a rusty can holed with a knife, whose dimensions dated it approximately in the mid-20th century!

We have also been involved in tree thinning projects, which are parts of both fuels reduction and habitat restoration projects. Ponderosa pine thinning was part of a massive fuels reduction project in beautiful Mosier Gulch, which involved a lot of stick-stacking. We followed behind the saws, picking up the debris and making slash piles for burning. Making good piles for burning is a kind of art form, and we were experts by the time we were done! I was also briefly involved in a juniper thinning project, whose goal is to eliminate juniper encroachment on sage grouse habitat. The Montana Conservation Corps was called out to do the sawing and snipping, and we were tasked with documenting the project in terms of before and after photos, as well as using GPS to map the treated area. Alas, I didn’t get to do any of the actual work, but being involved in the logistics stage gave me an idea of what they were doing, and why they were doing it.

It would seem our trips into the Bighorn Mountains are done, as snow has made driving up there very dicey. None of us wants to be the one to call for help after we get stuck somewhere-we’ve had enough close calls this summer. I’ll be done next week, so my adventure time is limited-I hope to make the most of it! Until then.

Daniel Collis

BLM-Buffalo, WY

The Times Are a Changin’

Fall has hit the Southwest.  Temperatures have dropped, the bosques are yellow-tinged, and BLM employees have unwillingly pulled out their flannels.  There appears to be a general consensus that this is the best season – and I concur, based solely on the fact that field work is much more pleasant when you aren’t sizzling (metaphorically and literally).

My report for the month will be fairly slim because about half the month was lost to the government shutdown.  I made the most of my undesired vacation by attempting to exercise, nullifying all exercise attempts by making delectable foodstuffs, watching movies (Like depressing? Watch Doctor Zhivago!), and stuffing my brain with reading. The most annoying part of the shutdown was fielding the inevitable questions, “How’s the shutdown going? Any word on when it will end?” My internal responses: “I think the shutdown is doing great because everything is shutdown!” AND “Well, in my personal conversation with John Boehner today he wouldn’t give me any hints”.

But alas! We returned to work and scurried around to check if any of our potential collections were still viable. Most were, and we’ve been making speedy work of finishing up our collection season.  Soon we will be moving onto some interesting projects that include monitoring some previously-planted sand bluestem and cataloging night-blooming cereus cacti.

I’ll end this post with some key hints/tips related to seed collecting:

1. When it is windy outside, bring a top for your bucket. Watching hundreds of feathery, miniscule seeds blow out of your bucket is highly demoralizing.

2. When you find yourself collecting seeds in a huge grassy area out of sight from your co-workers, follow this procedure: sit down, close eyes, pretend you’re Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves. Repeat for maximum atmospheric effect.

3.  Have a strategy for remembering what hundred number of seeds you’ve collected – forgetting what number you’re on when you need 2,000 seeds gets old quickly.

Blog Blog Blog

So I really have to begin this blog post about the furlough, which is an unavoidable topic.  The furlough was really a mixed bag for me. However, I used that time to study for the GRE, spend some time with my girlfriend, and had a much needed break from a long hard field season.  I tried to make the most of a bad situation and I feel like my time wasn’t wasted. 

On to happier things. We interns participated in a CNPS training that was really interesting and something I hope to use in my career in the future.  The focus of the training was using a system developed by CNPS to characterize an area by its vegetation quickly.  This allows for quick reconnaissance of an area that will give you a good idea of what can and can’t occur in the area, botanically speaking.  We stayed near Truckee, CA in the Sagehen experimental forest, which was an incredibly beautiful place in the middle of the Serra Nevada Mountains.  The training was very helpful and I am hoping the methodology catches on around the country due to its speed and ease.

Finally, we also held a national public lands day seed collection day at Washoe Lake state park.  It was a lot of fun interacting with the public and teaching them how to collect seed and why we collect seed.  The turnout was smaller than expected, but what it lacked in numbers it made up for with enthusiasm.  We made several collections that day of Ericameria nauseosa and Grindelia squarrosa and then we had a nice lunch with the volunteers.

As the internship begins to come to a close, my last day is at the end of December, I am beginning to look toward my next step.  Looking into grad schools and for a job takes a ton of time and I am keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t be unemployed for too long.  Along with thinking about my next move, I suppose it would be a good time for some reflection of my experience here in Carson City.  Perhaps that will be my topic for the next blog post.  Until then blogosphere, until then.