Transitioning from Seed Collecting to Other Projects

A rare find - Kelso Creek Monkeyflower.

A rare find – Kelso Creek Monkeyflower.

Another rare find - a flowering Cholla cactus.

Another rare find – a flowering Cholla cactus.

Hello again from Ridgecrest CA. As of this week I am entering the third month of my internship. It’s hard to believe. The last two months we have been rushing to gather as many collections as we could for the SOS program. The flowering season is very short in the Mojave, and there hasn’t been any more rain, so it looks as if we may be at the end of our seed collecting. Fortunately, we had more rain this season than any previous years for the SOS program in this area. To give an idea as to what that means in the desert, we have made 18 complete collections so far, whereas in the previous 5 years the average was 6 complete collections. None-the-less, we feel pretty good about being able to provide a good collecting season. We have 3 more months to collect – the hard part will be trying to find something that hasn’t dried up.

The DTRNA volunteers hard at work making a collection of California Poppy.

The DTRNA volunteers hard at work making a collection of California Poppy.

The collection site of California Poppy and Fremont's phacelia in full bloom.

The collection site of California Poppy and Fremont’s phacelia in full bloom.

The highlight this past month: I took it upon myself to work with the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area (DTRNA), an organization dedicated to protecting the Desert Tortoise, to organize future cooperation with the SOS program to provide seed for the DTRNA. I set up a training day in which the DTRNA joined us in the field collecting seeds. We taught them about the protocol, what we take into consideration, and how to identify the target collection. We made three complete collections in one day! It’s amazing how much can be done when you have a few extra hands. All of the details haven’t been worked out but I really hope that there will be a way to continue using volunteer help to collect seeds and use the extra for restoration purposes in this area. There has also been talk of another organization interested in doing the same thing. I am working with my mentor to figure out the best approach to accomplishing this. Jeff Gicklhorn has been a really supportive, patient, knowledgeable and (incredibly) nice mentor.

One of the great things about the position in Ridgecrest is that the office is very supportive of taking advantage of the learning opportunities through the BLM. This week I am participating in NISIMS (National Invasive Species Information Monitoring System) training, and next week we will be traveling to Las Vegas for a NEPA class. This month is basically already booked full!


Leah Madison

Ridgecrest California BLM Field Office

Carson City in bloom

Carson City is a beautiful place. The ecosystems that surround us are pretty unusual and still new for me since this is my first season here, out in the southwest. Many local people mistakenly call this area a “desert” but I probably should disagree with this statement while observing all the life flourishing and developing right at this moment. This so called desert is getting greener every day. The plants aren’t the only evidence of this gradual but still unconcealed and dramatic change. For instance, last week on the street where I walk almost every day, I saw some bats which I haven’t seen before. They were vigorously hunting around a forest line apparently being pretty hungry after a long dream. Of course they could have just come here from somewhere else, but for me it was definitely a sign of some spring change that affects all the living organisms inside the Morgan Mill St’s ecosystem. Quite the same evidences we all, as botanists, can notice monitoring all the ephemeral plants being in flower stage for only a few weeks. And actually, I must say I’m grateful to have a unique opportunity to see such plants like Erythranthe sp., Ivesia webberi, etc. here in bloom, and moreover to contribute to their study and conservation! That is indeed an amazing feeling. There are actually many more “firsts” I’m doing and encountering here for the first time, even after being here for almost three months, and I think I’ll try to keep this “never-boring” tendency for the future as well.

Until next time,


Carson City, BLM