Spring Restoration in the Mojave

Our field season in the Mojave is pretty much in full swing now. This past week my fellow CLM interns and I headed to Fort Irwin, CA with our USGS mentors to plant our common garden site there with Ambrosia dumosa (White bursage), Larrea tridentata (Creosote bush), and Sphaeralcea ambigua (Desert Globemallow). We had just over 600 plants to transport and plant out at our field site, which makes for some interesting logistical challenges. However, true to form our crew finished the planting earlier than expected and enjoyed exploring our final common garden site.



Sun setting at our Ft. Irwin field site


One of my favorite things about this internship so far is the chance to travel to field sites around the Mojave Desert, in Utah, Nevada, California, and eventually Arizona. I particularly appreciated it this week because our field site in California was ablaze with an assortment of beautiful blooming annuals. This was the first chance we’d had to see a variety of annuals, because other parts of the Mojave haven’t had enough rainfall to support the annual plants. It also meant that we had the chance to do some plant collection and practice our plant pressing and ID’ing skills! We had to improvise a bit as 30 mph winds made collecting and pressing plants in the field a bit difficult, but we managed to get our samples back to the office intact and worked as a team to identify some of the annuals we saw. My plant ID partner Renee and I learned some great tips for using dichotomous keys, and I loved the puzzle of figuring out which plants we had found. The sometimes frustrating experience was more than worth the satisfaction we felt when we identified the plants we collected (see pictures below). I’m looking forward to becoming more familiar with our key and exploring more of the fabulous Mojave Desert in the weeks to come!


A beautiful patch of Desert dandelion (Malacothrix glabrata)


Mojave suncup (Camissonia campestris), one of the plants we identified


Desert pincushion (Chaenactis fremontii), one of the other plants we identified with our keys


Back to the grind

This last week, I came back from a short break. I am happy to be back and excited to continue my work at the Boise Regional Seed Warehouse. I picked up where I left off updating the warehouse inventory and identifying seed that needed a retest so that we would have updated seed test results for all lots of seed currently in stock. The Boise Regional Seed Warehouse relies heavily on test results so we know that the seed we are purchasing and selling has good viability and will do well out in the field once it is planted. Consequently, when seed is bought and sold, it requires a test result that is dated no later than 6 months from the time of sale. With over 800,000 lbs of seed and 200+ lots of different seed in the Boise warehouse, it is quite the task to go through every single test to make sure it is updated and readily available to be sold. I am about three-quarters of the way done, and should be finished within the next few weeks. Throughout the process, I have also been able to reorganize the test results to make the process of locating the tests a bit more efficient and streamlined.

I also started a new task this week that includes locating and researching sagebrush lots that have been purchased in the last 20 years, and identifying where they have been planted. This is being done to assist the USGS in analyzing the success of sagebrush lots in Southwest Idaho for the last couple decades. I went through many, many boxes of old files to help in locating the needed information. Although it was very time consuming (and dusty), I am confident that the information provided to the USGS will help shed light on the success rates of sagebrush habitats in recent years. I look forward to continuing this work in the coming weeks and will be eager to hear of the result.

Enjoy your internships everyone. Happy trails.

Until next time,


Palm Springs

Since I arrived in Palm Springs last week, I have mostly been getting accustomed to my home for the next five months. This place is a little different from my last home in central Illinois. We don’t really have desert oases there. We don’t have palm trees, palo verde, mesquite, or cacti of any kind. And we definitely don’t have mountains, or for that matter anything resembling change in elevation. We also don’t have warm weather in March, as everyone points out as soon as they hear where I’m from. But trust me: looking to the horizon and seeing mountains and cacti instead of an endless plain of corn and soybean is the bigger leap.

My strategy for acclimating has been to gleefully throw myself into work. Which is easy when you’re working outdoors in an incredible desert oasis. After getting to play tourist for a day, we started what will be my main focus for the next few months: planting young plants in a patch of desert still recovering from the removal of tamarisk a few years ago. The tamarisk, invasive to most of the southwest, is a terrible water hog, and aggressively outcompetes native plants. This, combined with years of drought, threatens the health of the oasis communities. But the desert is slowly since the removal of the tamarisk, and we’re hoping to help it along by planting some 200 seedlings over the next few months. This is moderately demanding work, so we’re getting it out of the way before I learn out what summer in the desert is like.

But that heat is a ways away. At the moment, I can happily focus on learning my local plant identification, and enjoy springtime in the desert, and getting to work on such an incredible project.

Greetings from Henderson, NV

Although it has only been a few short weeks since I started my CLM internship working with scientists at USGS in Henderson, NV, I have already gained a wealth of knowledge and experience. This is my first time ever working in the desert and I have quickly learned just how hostile of an environment it can be. Nevertheless, I am captivated by its beauty and I am curious to learn more about the flora and fauna that feel at home in such a seemingly hostile place.

The majority of my internship thus far has been focused on establishing a common garden experiment at various sites throughout the Mojave Desert. Working on this project has given me the opportunity to travel and work in Nevada, Utah and California! I am thrilled and honored to be a part of a research initiative aiming to develop native plant materials to revegetate the Mojave and enhance habitat for the threatened desert tortoise.

I am excited to see and learn more about the desert over the next few months. With so many new experiences under my belt in just a few short weeks I can only imagine what the future holds!

-Renee Albrecht

a beautiful desert sunset

a beautiful desert sunset

a desert iguana seeks refuge from the heat in the shade under our truck

a desert iguana seeks refuge from the heat in the shade under our truck

a truck full of plants headed to Utah for the common garden experiment

a truck full of plants headed to Utah for the common garden experiment

Big Bear Lake, CA Feb.-March


Astragalus albens in bloom on February 23, 2014

Astragalus albens in bloom on February 23, 2014

Lomatium mohavense in bloom on February 23, 2014

Lomatium mohavense in bloom on February 23, 2014

We’re moving into the field season, and will be doing monitoring and starting early-season project survey work over the next few weeks.  A storm last week brought some much-needed snow and rain to the mountains, but precipitation is still far below normal.  However, spring has arrived; down in the chaparral on the southern slopes, bush poppy (Dendromecon rigida) and chaparral whitethorn (Ceanothus leucodermis) are in bloom, as well as many other forbs.  Over on the desert side, a few Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) were beginning to bloom on Feb. 23, as well as other forbs, including Lomatium mohavense and the federally endangered Cushenbury milk vetch (Astragalus albens).  I’ve been doing some work in ArcGIS, in preparation for moving older sensitive species occurrences into the FS database.  We are also continuing work on the invasive plant guide, and are in the final stages of editing and formatting.

Mountaintop Ranger District

San Bernardino NF, USDA-FS

2700 Miles to California

I am here…in Alturas, California working for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  I bought myself a much needed new vehicle (ha, new to me!), and road tripped across the country to Cali.  The last 90 miles from Reno, Nevada to Alturas is when it really set in…I am almost 3,000 miles from everything familiar and I am not coming back.  I am moving into the area at the end of the season, so this is my new home and I have to familiarize myself with everything from customs and local culture to all the plants and animals.

I will be monitoring the Greater Sage Grouse.  This is a habitat-specific bird living in the sage steppe habitat that stretches hundreds of thousands of acres across the West.  Their status is pending and due for listing in the Endangered Species Act in 2015.  Despite the 13 year drought here, it has rained almost everyday I have been here, and I have had only one opportunity to go out on a search for these guys.  In addition to the grouse, I will be doing as much work as I can with plants and the botanist here collecting seeds, samples, and surveying for rare plants.

I came into this job with many seasons of field work under my belt, so the work load and intensity is not a shock.  What gets me though…back home I knew many many things in terms of vegetation and wildlife.  I have studied the plants of the Michigan/Ohio region since I was in high school and could do much of it in botanical terms.  Here, I do not know some of the most common plants and animals around and I signed on declaring that I am really good at ID.  The sheer amount of new information to take in is a bit staggering, but I tend to stagnate without a good challenge.

Beyond anything else, I am invigorated.  My philosophy has long been to do things that make you uncomfortable so you become a stronger more diverse person.  Well, I was uncomfortable when I arrived.  My boss showed me my living quarters in a fire station 20 miles from town, told me what not to do while there, and left me for the weekend.  I had to make peace with the fact that I am now in uncharted territory and I have the knowledge that in a few months me and the boys will not be telling stories over a couple beers downtown; this is it.

I graduated kiddy school, and now I begin building my professional name.  No more tests and exams, the only thing that counts is my actions and my word, and that makes me more happy then getting straight As in classes.

Thank you CLM, thank you BLM, and thank you to the many good professors at Kent State.


Today is the first day I have had internet access!

I will upload my own photos in the future when I can go out and take some!

After the Storm

So, last time I posted here, snow was just hitting Eugene, and boy it did not stop for a while! By the next day, we had nearly a foot of snow on the ground, and then a couple inches of ice on top of that. All of the snow and ice added a lot of weight to the surrounding vegetation, and branches and trees came down all over the city.










Luckily, the snowy conditions only lasted a few days, and then my coworker and I were off checking various sites for damage. As you can see, some of our sites definitely suffered fallen trees. In fact, a beautiful silver maple in front of our field office split in half and toppled to the ground; unfortunately, it ultimately had to be completely removed.


Since the storm, most of the fallen tree limbs have been cleaned up, and we are beginning to gear up for field season. In the next couple of weeks, we will be planting Kincaid’s lupine and Willamette Daisy to augment existing populations. In the meantime, I am developing promotional documents for this year’s Walkin’ and Rollin’ Through the Wetlands event. We are celebrating the 20th anniversary since restoration work began in the West Eugene Wetlands, so it’s especially exciting!

Till Next Time!

USGS Las Vegas Field Station

Hello CLM Blog. Last week I started my internship working with the USGS Desert Restoration team here in Henderson, NV. I have the pleasure of working alongside three other CLM interns–it is nice to start off this new adventure with some other folks. For the most of us this is our first time working in the desert. We’ve quickly realized the desert is quite an unforgiving place, yet so alive with flora and fauna.

One thing that drew me to this particular internship placement was the diversity of projects I’ll get to help out on during my 5 months in the Southwest. For the past week us interns have been working on a common garden experiment–outplanting native plant seedlings in sites spanning the temperature/precipitation extremes in the Mojave Desert. I’ve been here two weeks and I’ve already slept in three states–Utah, Nevada, and California–contributing to this project. In the next few months our focus will shift to another project, collecting seeds from two endemic plants from the Eureka Dunes in northern Death Valley National Park. Still to come is a trip to the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument to monitor restoration efforts after a severe burn. What ties these three projects together is a plan for long-term landscape restoration–something I’m very happy to be a part of.

So far, so good. There’s a great team of leaders at the USGS Las Vegas office that have been very helpful, kind, and eager to show us around. I’m looking forward to the next few months!



A Joshua Tree local gave this sunset a 2/10. A sign of good things to come.

A local in Joshua Tree, CA gave this sunset a 2/10. A sign of good things to come.


USGS Las Vegas Field Station, Henderson, NV


This past weekend, I attended the Arizona Native Plant Annual Meeting at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. At the meeting, I met up with other native plant enthusiasts, walked around the beautifully landscaped grounds that were bursting with colors, and listened to enthralling lectures that spanned the spectrum of the plant realm.

As I listened to lecturers talking about their projects, I keyed into the patterns that emerged. It started with the obvious – 30 minute lectures where the speaker touched upon, always curiously followed by applause.

As I walked the grounds outside, I found patters abound. From the uniform growth of  spines and the spiraling pattern in cacti:


to the 90-degree angles that ash trees branch at:



patterns surround us.

As fun and inspiring as it was to follow my nose to the patterns I found, this intense pattern-watch mindset that I found myself in made me delve more deeply into the pattern world. While our lives are so obviously influenced by daily routine – there seems to be so much chaos. So many random acts. I look forward to experiencing what patterns begin to emerge out of the noise.



IMG_3522IMG_3518 IMG_3513 IMG_3502 IMG_3496

Carson City – first impression…

My name is Andrii Zaiats and this is my first post on my CLM blog. I arrived in Carson City almost three weeks ago and since then I’ve tried different activities that I’ve never tried before. And so, my first post I’d like to devote to one of such experiences – identifying plants in February. First of all, I am really excited about identifying species, especially when it involves magnifying glasses, microscopes, keys, counting different small structures and identifying indumentum type, subjective and objective arguments etc. But I’ve found out that it’s much more challenging to identify herbaceous plant by leaf-shape, rosettes, possibly some stems when there is nothing else to base your judgment on. At first it was frustrating, but I guess that sharing experience, having some field excursion and practice, practice, practice are the best choices to get a grip on identifying “plants youth.” Another thing that is really helpful in the field is dry plants, and everything else that have remained from previous years (seeds, glumes, prickles, phyllaries etc.), and gives you an imagination of plant appearance.

So far, we’ve spent three days in the field and I find fascinating types of activities we are involved in and work organization here in Carson City BLM Field office, and on BLM lands as well. In addition I’m grateful to be a part of the team I currently work with and, of course, as a part of CLM program!

Until next time,
BLM District Office,
Carson City, NV

Poa secunda -Sandberg bluegrass' leaves

Poa secunda -Sandberg bluegrass’ leaves


Bromus tectorum - cheatgrass

Bromus tectorum – cheatgrass

Holodiscus dumosus - oceanspray bush

Holodiscus dumosus – oceanspray bush