This is the end

Today is my last day in the Carson City, NV BLM field office.  I have been working here since February, so it’s odd to think that I won’t be doing this anymore.  Over these past few months, I have had a lot of new experiences that I would never have expected before.  I have been to places far from my home and met so many new people.  Before taking this job, I had never even been camping!

Although there were a lot of positive experiences during this internship, there were also a lot of difficult times.  Whether in the field or in the office, there was always work to be done (and never quite enough time to do it all), but that is the nature of working for a multi-use agency.

I can honestly say that I don’t think I would have lasted too long at this job if it hadn’t been for the rest of my intern team.  I always enjoyed working with them, and their moral support made the hard days less difficult for me.  We had so many wonderful experiences together, and they will always be an important part of my life.

Most of the 2013 CCDO intern team at Moon Rocks in Nevada

Most of the 2013 CCDO intern team at Moon Rocks in Nevada (18 July 2013)

One thing I have learned from this internship is that I would like to be involved with scientific research in my future career. Perhaps I won’t end up working in natural resources at all.  Having said that, I’m glad I did it.

Stefanie Ferrazzano
Botany Intern
Carson City, NV BLM

An End in the West.


16,883 – total miles driven, the equivalent of driving the entire stretch of Interstate 10 (from Santa Monica, CA to Jacksonville, FL) almost 7 times

0 – number of cows hit with our government rig (and there were a few close calls)

40 – number of seed collections collected! We saved the worst for last – Cylindropuntia leptocaulis (Desert Christmas Cactus) – where every fruit was covered with hundreds of tiny glochids (prickles) and every branch was covered with hundreds of four-inch spiny terror barbs.

56 – miles walked in the Dripping Springs Natural Area trails during my bi-monthly trail monitoring. I have a tough life, let me tell you.

2 – forgotten lunches on travel days that resulted in my upending of rural gas stations looking for anything that wasn’t a candy bar or a savory meat by-product

1- fantastic Indiana Jones-esque hat purchased in Santa Fe. Nothing beats having a rakish, cool look while on your hands and knees crawling under creosote bushes.

1- sweet gig acquired working as a Food Security Coordinator at the Sacramento Food Bank for Americorps! Hooray!

Thanks to Mike Howard, a super cool mentor and great State Botanist, and Krissa and Wes at the Chicago Botanic Garden for making the whole internship process so easy and streamlined and relaxed!  This internship has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and has helped me tremendously to narrow my future career goals and aspirations.

New Mexico, as I’ve already known, is a unique, beautiful place. You just can’t top the endless vistas, solitude, craggy mountain ranges, diversity of plant life, and quality of the people.

I’ll end with two quotes by my favorite author Ed Abbey, a devoted lover and protector of the desert.  He wrote, “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”

And one of my all-time favorites from Desert Solitaire:

“The fire. The odor of burning juniper is the sweetest fragrance on the face of the earth, in my honest judgment; I doubt if all the smoking censers of Dante’s paradise could equal it. One breath of juniper smoke, like the perfume of sagebrush after rain, evokes in magical catalysis, like certain music, the space and light and clarity and piercing strangeness of the American West. Long may it burn.”


Sagebrush in Provo

Hello everyone, it is my turn to share what I am doing for my CLM internship in Provo Utah at the USDA Shrub Science Lab. My current project is focused on the development of tools to help in the differentiation of species and subspecies of Sagebrush. We are using applied techniques that include chemical ecology, molecular biology, and field monitoring of Sagebrush.

Since I started working in the lab, I have had many opportunities to explore the Wasatch area of Central Utah. One of the things that I am enjoying most about my assignment is the field monitoring of populations of Sagebrush. For the last two months we have registered phenology of Sagebrush and it has been very interesting to see and learn the differences between species.

This month I experienced seed sample collection in the snow, which was something that I really liked. It is very interesting to me to be able to learn all the new techniques, especially the use of applied tools on field and lab.

Personally I am really enjoying my job and my team. They are supporting me on my experiments, and I am learning many things.

I hope you all have a good holiday

Hector Ortiz

USDA Shrub Science Lab Provo, UT



Snow? Probably not.

Season’s greetings!

I have been fortunate enough to receive a funding extension here at the Cosumnes River Preserve where I have been stationed for the past several months.  I came to California from Iowa as a CLM intern in May 2012 to work for the BLM at the Cosumnes River Preserve.  I participated in SOS collections, and had a plethora of other tasks which included everything from plant identification to fixing the kitchen sink (literally) and everything in between.  During my first term I was able to network with other CBG interns in my area and organized collecting trips where we were able to travel to do special seed collections.  Collecting native seed in the mountains with a group of other well informed biologists is about as good as it gets for me.  It was a great opportunity to network with fellow interns and combine resources for maximizing efficiency.  A great time was had by all!  When funding from the BLM for my position became constrained, I did go to work for The Nature Conservancy for a brief period last summer doing botanical surveys and data collection, but have gratefully re-joined the Chicago Botanical Garden once again.

I came back to work for the BLM in November 2013 as a CBG intern, and have taken on some new responsibilities.  I will, hopefully, still be coordinating with other CBG interns at the field office and participating in some SOS seed collections during this coming growing season.  I love spending time in the field, and SOS collections provide great opportunities to work outside.  However, my primary responsibility here now will be doing some project management.  I will be in charge of overseeing several restoration projects taking place here at the Preserve from start to finish.  This will be an opportunity to learn the federal processes of permitting, bidding/contracting labor, using field restoration techniques, and evaluating project successes/failures, among other things.

Additionally, with all of the “cold” (California cold- 50’s) weather we have been experiencing, I have taken on several mapping projects.  I love working on GIS projects.  It is such a valuable tool in our field if you take the time to figure out how to use it.  Many of the Preserve’s maps are out of date so I have been compiling data and updating these.  I have also been out collecting data to create maps with information that has never before been displayed.  The more GIS practice I can gain the better.  There is so much we can learn through the use of this program.  If you have ever used ArcMap and been frustrated, join the club, but don’t give up on it.

When I have not been busy with one of the restoration or mapping projects, I have been involved with several other fun ongoing activities at the Preserve.  Every other Wednesday there is a bird survey to record how many birds are using the Preserve, and which units they are utilizing.  This is always a fun and educational activity.  There is also talk of a mountain lion study taking place here in the near future which I’m hoping to participate in.  It seems like there is always something new here if you are looking to get involved.  When I get a weekend with no plans, I like to head into the mountains.  Several times last summer I backpacked in the South Warren Wilderness (northeast corner of CA), quite possibly the only place in California where you can still truly find solitude.  On one trip I hiked for two days without encountering another human being.  It was glorious!  Included are some photos from South Warren-

Merry Christmas friends and co-workers!

South Warren Wilderness backpack trip- summer 2013

South Warren Wilderness backpack trip- summer 2013

South Warren Wilderness backpack trip- summer 2013

South Warren Wilderness backpack trip- summer 2013

South Warren Wilderness backpack trip- summer 2013

South Warren Wilderness backpack trip- summer 2013

South Warren Wilderness backpack trip- summer 2013

South Warren Wilderness backpack trip- summer 2013

South Warren Wilderness backpack trip- summer 2013

South Warren Wilderness backpack trip- summer 2013

Found this laying on the trail while hiking in the back country.  A bit ominous

Found this laying on the trail while hiking in the back country. A bit ominous



Winter time in Colorado

As the seasons change and the temperature drop I transfer from the field to the office.  Here in Denver we have had a little snow but less than back home (Southeast Missouri).  In Missouri, they got over ten inches of snow on top of 1/2 -1 inch of ice, and here in Denver we have only gotten about 6 inches total thus far.  This will all change as the new year begins and the big snows start to come.

In terms of work I have transitioned to a desk and have accumulated numerous books, peer-reviewed journal articles, and field reports that all are to do with population modeling and with the way to determine the status of a plant population with currently available data.  I’m trying to determine if the previously collected data on file can be used to perform a population viability analysis for the Phacelia formosula population that we monitored this last field season.  Several other monitoring efforts were completed in the late 80’s, early 90’s and on into the 2000’s.  Carol (my mentor) started her current monitoring of the species in 2010.  In order to aid the Fish and Wildlife Service on future actions with regards to this species, Carol was asked to try and streamline monitoring efforts so that a better understand of the species ecology could be obtained.  As a part of this effort, I was asked to try and find a way to best present past data and to determine what type of monitoring might provide the best understanding of the species ecology in the future.

As I search the literature pertaining to population modeling and PVA and the kinds of data that they were requiring to achieve an acceptable degree of accuracy we are gradually concluding that population numbers might not be the way to pursue our wanted solution.  In light of failing to find a suitable model that could be used with the available data, a different angle might be needed and that angle might just be to look at the associated habitat and try and configure some habitat models to achieve what we want to achieve.

In my next entry maybe we will have found that solution and I can share what we decided to do.




Nathan Redecker

Lakewood, Colorado

Colorado BLM State Office

Farewell Nevada

Well, well, well. The end of my internship has finally come. It is a difficult task to try to summarize my time here into a blog post. The 10 months I spent in Carson City were good ones and I am certainly glad I had this experience.

I now know what it is like to work for the federal government (both the good and the bad). I have gotten so many opportunities to gain experience and build my resume including some really useful trainings. The field work was my favorite part of this internship. We worked in some extremely remote locations, got to drive big trucks on bad roads, and camp in some beautiful locations throughout the desert. My time in the field really gave me an intimate look at the land and a chance to appreciate all the life that exists here. That’s not to say it wasn’t without its challenges. Over the year I’ve learned the importance working as part of a team, taking care of yourself while working in harsh conditions and the alternative uses of tire cleaner.

Some of my favorite moments happened outside of work. This was my first time out West and Carson City proved to be a great launching point for some excellent adventures; perhaps my favorite being the nearby Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe basin.

This year had its fair share of up and downs. There was an incident halfway through the year that tested everyone’s ability to function as a team, even after a long day of working in oppressive heat. We didn’t get out into the field nearly as much as I had hoped for a variety of reasons. Some specific workload demands for the office were shifted and our team helped other programs with their needs.

Overall, I had a great time and learned a lot. My botanical knowledge increased tenfold including many things I don’t think I could have learned in a classroom. I got experience working for a branch of the federal government. And finally, I made great friends who all shared this unique experience with me. So, farewell Nevada, it has been swell. Now I am off to my next adventure.

View from first campsite in the Pine Nut Mtns

Dynamic December aka final blog post

I first heard of the CLM Program through an email from a biology listserv from my school. The description for the opportunity was pretty short, but it sounded interesting, so I looked into it. I really liked what I saw from the website’s description. I applied not really knowing what to expect, which actually may have been the reason I had such a great experience. I was open to any opportunity that allowed me to work outdoors with California’s native plants. The coolest part of this program is that everyone’s experience is different and unique, so you can never be 100% sure about what to expect. Fortunately, the CLM coordinators do an excellent job at paring us up with an opportunity that matches our interests.

I remember how nervous I felt the first day of my internship. I had just arrived to Redding that night and didn’t even have access to the apartment I would be staying at yet, let alone the electricity in the apartment. I waited anxiously in my car until the office opened up. I had no idea what my mentor looked like and everyone looked like they could be him. Then, I saw someone walking towards me and he asked if I was Sonya, and that is how I met my mentor Chase. He introduced me to the office and some of the people there. I even got a small tour of some of the BLM lands that I would be working at during my internship. After work, I headed over to my home for the next five months. It looked way too big for my small amount of belongings. Since I didn’t have my electricity set up yet, I had a cold shower that night. That’s when I realized I probably should have prepared better for this… The rest of my first week was very nice; I went to the employee meeting where I was formally introduced to the rest of the staff and got a tour of the different BLM areas I would be working in.

My mentor was great at letting us do our own thing. He trusted us and gave us the freedom to do what we most desired and what we found to be important. He didn’t dictate a list of things for us to do; instead he gave us suggestions on what could be done and allowed us to decide what we wanted to focus on. He was always there when we had questions, needed advice, or just wanted to brainstorm ideas of what to do next. His methods/approach with handling us interns allowed me to grow a lot as a person. I learned to plan ahead, be creative with ideas, and have the confidence to communicate plans and updates.

I have so many precious memories of Redding. I was able to do a variety of activates and enjoyed each and every one of them. I’ve collected all kinds of native seeds from three different counties –Shasta, Trinity, and Tehama- and cleaned some seeds, planted native plants in restoration areas, helped conduct mussel surveys in the Sacramento river as well as other wildlife, collected data for an elderberry survey that was part of a mitigation project, helped with nighttime owl surveys, helped set up wildlife tracker cameras, removed invasive weeds using herbicide and sheer force, helped with vegetative inventories –marking invasive weeds along the Sacramento River, maintained a greenhouse full of native plants, led groups of youth in planting native seeds at the greenhouse, helped prepare a site for restoration (mowing, placing or removing tree tubes, making cages for the grown oak seedlings to keep deer away long enough for them to grow, and tilling), went on an office river float in Trinity river, and much more!

I definitely enjoyed my internship. Through this experience, I feel that I have grown both personally and professionally. I came into the program knowing I enjoyed working with native plants and restoration, but not really knowing how I wanted to apply those interests to finding a job/career. Thanks to this program, I have a better idea of how and where I can utilize my skills. I have also further developed important skills that all tie into being an efficient, reliable, and knowledgeable employee. I was able to feel integrated in a professional setting and experience the dynamic of the work environment. I met lots of great people, developed my professionalism, and gained personal independence. I will never forget the city of Redding and the people I have met. While I am very sad to leave the BLM -the office where I have finally grown comfortable in- I am happy and excited to see what opportunities lay ahead. I know there is a lot of learning ahead of me and I can’t wait to further expand my knowledge and skills.

A few bullets of advice for future BLMers:
**Try not to isolate yourself. Be a part of as many meetings as you can so that you feel a part of the office environment and later know who to coordinate with in order to get your job done

**Set goals for yourself or small projects that you can see yourself accomplishing and stick to them

**Keep a journal of your activities, to-do lists, hours worked, etc. so you can look back at them in the future

**Spend a good amount of time staring at a map and getting familiar with main streets etc.

***Take tons of pictures!!

Farewell Redding, you will be missed!!

*Sonya Vargas

Decemberrrrrrrr is here!

Time sure goes by fast. It feels like just last week I was talking about cheatgrass. Much has changed in the last few weeks; including the weather. It went from cold, to colder, to below zero all too quickly. Rather than wishing I was out in the field, I am now pleased to be inside where it is warmer. I can’t imagine what it is like for some of the other interns in Utah, Nevada, Colorado etc. Since compiling information about cheatgrass, I have worked on three separate projects. The first was for internal purposes and dealt with gathering information about cultivars that the Bureau of Land Management uses on a regular basis. It was interesting to see how many different varieties of seed are used on a yearly basis. Not only that, but to realize that there are many different kinds of one variety as well. Once I had gathered all the information on the seed for the booklet, I printed it all out and placed it into a binder by variety. Now, when anything is needed, there are fewer steps to take in order to find what you’re looking for. Grab the book, go to the specific variety that is in question, find the answer, and you’re done. It will be a very useful booklet to answer questions, as well as to educate.

The second project I was assigned dealt with evaluating the functions and processes of the Boise Regional Seed Warehouse to determine what could be changed in order to become more efficient. Questions that I asked related to how the office could more efficiently complete and process paperwork, implement computers more often, and reduce paper trails. Through the use of iPads and computers, the warehouse has decreased the use of paper when filling orders, and utilizes software to complete inventories. I created a few flow charts to help ease any confusion that may occur from this change and, so far, it has proved successful. It is unclear just how much this will reduce the amount of paper the warehouse uses, but we are certain that anything we do to reduce the paper trail will have a positive impact.

The third project I have been working on deals with identifying the eight most commonly used varieties, indicating where they originated, and where they have been purchased and planted in the last 5 years. This project will be completed using PowerPoint and, as of right now, will have a decent chunk of information regarding popular varieties that go through the warehouse, the amounts purchased, and where those varieties are being planted. It will help to shed a little more light on how many native species are being put on the ground in comparison to introduced species.

It is crazy how fast time has gone by since starting my internship. I really hope things slow down a little, or I will be done before I know it. This has been a great experience and I am confident that things will only get better. I might as well say Merry Christmas to all reading this, too. I probably won’t be posting again until after the New Years. I hope you all have a good month, a restful holiday, and a Happy New Year. Until next time…


Eric Livermore

Boise Regional Seed Warehouse

Bureau of Land Management

Big Bear Lake, CA

I arrived in Big Bear in mid-November from Minnesota.  I’d never been west of Montana or so, and so Utah, Nevada, and the Mojave Desert were new and very different.  I camped near Moab and NE of St. George, and got to do some hiking along the way.  

It’s extremely exciting to be in a region with such a high amount of plant diversity and endemism, and definitely not too late to do some winter botanizing (see Anisocoma acaulis).  It’s also interesting to see what different resource management issues botanists and biologists confront here compared with the Great Lakes region.

During the first week of my internship, I spent a day doing restoration work at Cactus Flats with USFS restoration staff and crews from Big Bear Lake and Riverside.  We planted Joshua tree and matchweed, collected seed, and cleaned up fencing.  This week a fellow intern and I went to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, CA and toured the herbarium, seed bank, greenhouse, and gardens.  Along with those field days and several afternoons checking fuels treatments, I’ve been reviewing and checking forest and regional plant lists, and generally reading and gathering resources.  We’ve also started work on a guide to invasive plant species of the San Bernardino NF, which may eventually include many non-native species that occur on other forests in southern California.  There are already a lot of great resources about noxious weed species in California.  However, as well as being forest-specific, this guide is intended to be very visual and accessible.

It’s great to be in Big Bear Lake and to have the opportunity to begin learning a new flora!

Big Bear Ranger Station

US Forest Service

Winter Time!!

This last month I was involved in Fort Ord’s National Public Lands Day, the biggest community service day for Fort Ord National Monument. The event drew about 150 people from the Monterey County area and was a great success. The event had a few different service projects the public chose from. I was stationed at a project site where we were planting plants, cutting down brush and brushing trails.

At my previous job, I worked for a non-profit community based habitat restoration project. Being able to lead a planting event with kids and their parents was really awesome. This event solidified that I am in the right place. I love it. I want to continue working in environmental science and in public education. One of the kids I was working with on public lands day came up to me after we were wrapping things up to go to lunch. She said she remembered me from my previous job, as her group leader. She said that was 3 years prior, when she was in 5th grade. That one little girl gave me hope, that all the work we are doing in this field, is actually reaching people.

Casey brought her mom and little sister out that day with her. She has grown to care about her community and is teaching her family to as well. She is a perfect example of what we want our community to emulate. She has pride in her green spaces and has become a steward of the land, owning her responsibility to keep her community beautiful.

I was proud to be in this line of work, but Casey gave me hope for the future and the reassurance that I’m in the right place.