Goodbye New Mexico!

January 10, 2014

Las Cruces, NM

It’s always nice to end something on a high note. Seven months ago I kicked off my CLM internship with a field trip to the Guadalupe Mountains in search of the rare plant Dermatophyllum guadalupense, or the Guadalupe Mescal Bean. This location in southeastern New Mexico along the Texas border is a proposed ACEC, or Area of Critical Environmental Concern, and our mentor, Mike, needed a better understanding of the plant’s distribution in the region prior to completing the required paperwork. However, our strenuous hike up a canyon in 104 degree heat was in vain, for we did not find any new Mescal Bean plants.

This week- my last week as a CLM intern- Mike and I ventured back to search a different part of the Guadalupe Mountains that hadn’t been surveyed since the 1980’s. We spent two days in the field and located at least six new populations of the Mescal Bean, several with more than 300 individuals! We also identified other locations in the region that are also suitable for the plant due to similar geology. It turns out that the Mescal Bean is likely locally abundant in the Guadalupe and Brokeoff Mountains, or, as Mike puts it “rare everywhere but common somewhere.” Furthermore, the populations that we found appeared healthy, and the small plants scattered throughout the population suggested that plant recruitment is faring well. This finding was amazing. I cannot think of a better way to end my internship. This experience has truly come full circle.

Mescal Bean Habitat, Guadalupe Mountains

Mescal Bean Habitat, Guadalupe Mountains

Mescal Bean Habitat, Brokeoff Mountains

Mescal Bean Habitat, Brokeoff Mountains

Small Mescal Bean plant, suggesting good recruitment

Guadalupe Mescal Bean

Guadalupe Mescal Bean detail

Guadalupe Mescal Bean

I’ve come so far since the beginning of this internship. During my time in Las Cruces, I’ve destroyed a pair of hiking boots and driven about 25,000 miles while on the job. That distance is equivalent to driving from coast to coast across the United States about 8 times. More importantly, I’ve been able to explore and learn about a part of our country that I never would have visited without this internship. I cannot think of a better way to spend a few months after graduating from college.

These guys stuck with me til the end (barely)

These guys stuck with me til the end (barely)

On that note, goodbye New Mexico! It’s been real.
-Elisabeth Ward

Big Bear Lake, CA – January


A Cuscuta species (six are known from the SBNF) in bloom near City Creek, off of Hwy 330, on Jan. 3, 2014.  (Most individuals had senesced)

A Cuscuta species (six are known from the SBNF) in bloom near City Creek, off of Hwy 330, on Jan. 3, 2014. (Most individuals had senesced)

At the Mountaintop RD, I’ve been continuing work on a guide to the invasive plant species of the SBNF.  It’s interesting to read through the literature and synthesize the available information.  I enjoy thinking about how to format and present identification information in a way that is visual and understandable, especially for species that are more complicated to identify (such as Myriophyllum) Along with the invasive species guide, we are going to begin writing invasive species management plans for wilderness areas on the SBNF.      

The holidays were relaxing.  I hiked up Sugarloaf Mountain with a co-worker on Christmas Day.  Among other pebble plain species, we saw Boechera dispar (pinyon rock-cress).  Over New Year’s I explored the northeast part of the Bighorn Mountain Wilderness.  Although not rare, Scutellaria mexicana (formerly Salzaria) was an interesting find.  It will be spectacular to see in bloom.  

My fellow intern and I have been collecting with a lichenologist from UC Riverside, who is compiling a lichen flora of the San Bernardino NF.  Because lichens are so under-collected, we’re finding a lot of species that haven’t been found on the forest before.  We collected near Keller Cliffs (sandstone) on January 3, and noted giant chain fern (Woodwardia fimbriata) in the canyons on the way in.

Big Bear Ranger Station

US Forest Service

Unusual Winter Weather

December passed by quickly this year (or last year, I suppose), but not without some oddities. First of all, all of the weather stations predicted snow; this is  not unusual in and of itself–snow is periodically predicted–but in Eugene, “snow” typically means that snow will fall from the sky, but will not stick to the ground. However, in this case, it stuck–all six inches of it. For a city where our winter weather usually consists of rain and fog, six inches of snow is a big deal; I had never driven in snow and ice, and judging from the sheer number of cars haphazardly abandoned on the side of the road, neither had many others.

Unfortunately, this weather interfered with our plans at the office. We had planned to plant numerous nectaring species plugs for the Fender’s Blue Butterfly, but had to wait for the snow to melt. During this time, Eugene also saw an unusual drop in temperature; it reached Eugene’s second lowest recorded temperature in history, -10°F, and let me tell you, I have lived in this area for nearly my entire life, and I did not know that it could even reach negative temperatures here (well, that’s one question answered).

We had initially worried that the cold weather would have damaged the plants waiting to be be put in the ground, but fortunately they survived and were ready to go when the snow melted. Luckily, my cohort and I had much appreciated assistance with the planting, in the form of a small high school class. In a matter of hours, we had all of the plants in the ground. It was quite nice to have a little bit of field time during a time when I am usually firmly situated in the office.

That was really most of the excitement for December. I took a short time off for the holidays to visit family, and am happy to be back in the office. I am also ecstatic to see that Eugene’s normal winter weather–rain, and lots of it–has returned.

Till next time!