TRDU For What?!

Hi all! It’s been about a month now since I’ve arrived in Boise, and I have to say, when I first moved here I was very excited to experience the only Western state I haven’t been to! (Other than Alaska) So far, there have been no disappointments. Boise is actually quite the happening city, and it’s been really fun living in such an outdoorsy, active community. Coming from a bike-friendly city, I did not expect Boise to be as cycle-friendly as it is–everyone rides everywhere and is always mountain biking! Also, there is a river that runs through the entire city so I spent some time last weekend kayaking through town! I’m definitely considering investing in getting my own while I’m here . . .

Anyway, on a work related note, it’s been amazing getting to be out in the field nearly every day. I think about how during this time of year many people get “spring/summer fever” and stare out of their office windows yearning to be outside. I feel very lucky we all have the chance to spend our time working in the great outdoors, and it definitely makes working in 98 degree heat worth it. So far we have mostly spent this month doing Habitat Assessments for sage-grouse and SOS collections. I am amazed with some of these species we are collecting–particularly grasses–with the very small timeframe we have to get the seeds when they are ready for dispersal but not too late when they are all gone! I think Elymus elymoides is going to be a tricky one, especially because there is such variation in maturation within each individual within the population.

Coming from a mixed background of both wildlife and botany, I have been chosen by a mentor with a similar background and is a wildlife biologist for the Four Rivers Field Office. Although he is young in comparison to most mentors, I am so impressed with the knowledge he has of plant diversity and the interaction between the habitat and the animals utilizing it. I’ve really learned the importance of having knowledge about the system as a whole–geology, plants, wildlife, weather patterns, etc. Too often I think people find their niches and become enveloped with solely that aspect, and I’ve been shown with a more multi-faceted approach to one’s job title, more work and more progress can be accomplished. (Shout out to Joe!) I have definitely been inspired by the ambitious nature of my mentor and am able to see and experience the translation of data collection to analysis and output, which often is a process most seasonals do not take part in.

Our crew is pretty tight-knit and in the field we have come up with some pretty interesting ways to remember plant codes and make HAF transects pretty fun. For example usually when Tragopogon dubius is spotted, one of us will break out into TRDU for what?! We even came up with a music video for it while driving back that involved cows, multicolored lights, and TRDU seeds dispersing in the wind . . . It’s probably the sun making us a bit loopy, but I do have to say it’s nice being surrounded by fellow science nerds who understand how exciting it is to find a particular plant or animal.

We are leaving for Mid-vale tomorrow to do some camping and more HAFs before everything completely dries up. Hopefully, we’ll see more wildlife (We saw a bear, coyote pups, and a blue grouse last time)–supposedly we’ll be by an area with sage-grouse so I’m hoping we get to see one! In the meantime to satisfy my wildlife nerd-outs, I’ve become pretty obsessed with all the insect life that thrives out here in the sagebrush desert. It’s amazing the diversity that is out there! And turns out all those holes in the ground aren’t snake holes, most of them belong to insects!

Found this terrifying black widow while collecting Poa secunda

Found this terrifying black widow while collecting Poa secunda

This tiger beetle was trying to fight my camera just feet from the black widow den

This tiger beetle was trying to fight my camera just feet from the black widow den

At one of the Pony fire sites, these colorful long-horned beetles were on nearly every Sego Lily. Yay pollination!
At one of the Pony fire sites, these colorful long-horned beetles were on nearly every Sego Lily. Yay pollination!


A Mormon cricket spotted at a recent burn site.

A Mormon cricket spotted at a recent burn site.


My first two weeks in Cedar City

I arrived in Cedar City two weeks ago, excited to explore a new place and get away from the buzz of LA.  The scenery around here is quite beautiful.  I’ve gone to check out Zion National Park, which has spectacular views and tons to do.


Besides the training during the first few days, my fellow intern and I have been working with the Range people doing transects at Spring Mountain and Fiddlers Canyon.  Although the days can be long and hot sometimes, they are filled with lots of learning and good experiences. Working with Range has been very helpful in getting familiar with the vegetation around here.  I have also gotten a chance to learn from the fuels people about their fire management, its successes, and its challenges.  Next week, prairie dog training begins!  I am looking forward to working on a prairie dog translocation project from a golf course to the great outdoors.

Bellow is a picture taken as I drive up Indian Peak on a tour around the field sites.


I feel very fortunate to be exposed to so many great people.  Everyone I’ve worked with at BLM has been very nice and has helped to create a welcoming atmosphere. I am excited for all the experiences and learning opportunities to come.


I can hardly believe that July is nearly here, although the weather assures me it is. My time in Surprise Valley is going so fast, most of which has been spent scouting and collecting for Seeds of Success. Due to the drought, flowering periods have been off track which has made it challenging to get the timing right for collecting.

Other projects I’ve worked on include vegetation inventory and data collection on juniper reduction project sites and rare species inventory. We have not found any rare species on the project’s sites thus far.

The highlight of the month for me was getting to do field work with two NRCS soil scientists. I have been interested in learning more about soils so I was thrilled to have this opportunity. I learned how to texture and color soil, and determine the correct ecological site description based on the soil composition.

Although work has been plentiful I have also had time for fun. Last weekend I hiked in the Warner Mountains on a ridgeline trail called Pepperdine which ended at Patterson lake. Swimming at Lillie lake has been relaxing and has made the heat more manageable. Tonight I look forward to going to the Modoc Super Bull rodeo! Afterwards there will be a traditional barn dance. Yeehaw!

So far CLM has been full of learning opportunities. I did not anticipate the variety of skills I have picked up so far and l look forward to what is next.

My apologizes for the lack of visuals. I will make sure to include a few photos next month!


Bureau of Land Management                                                                                      Surprise Valley Field Office                                                                                     Cedarville, CA



A destination to journey to

While in college, my professors encouraged me to pursue a career in academia.  I felt heavily swayed by this encouragement, despite the fact that it never felt like a good fit.  After college and freshly direction-less, I was determined to use this period of career exploration to work for a menagerie of organizations: non-profit, academic, business, and, finally, government.  It’s about the journey  . . .  right?

The goal of this internship, for me, is to help me decide if I want to work for the federal government. Once I arrived at the BLM office, I scratched this goal in the front of my notebook and began asking my co-workers and supervisors about their careers.  Naturally, my co-workers both enthused and complained about their jobs, but I was careful to be more objective this time and not be persuaded heavily either way.   I wanted to gain a complete picture of what it would be like to be a federal employee before making a decision.

Ocean Day was the event that confirmed that a position in the federal government is a career I want to pursue.  For this event, the BLM partnered with Friends of the Dunes, neighboring schools, the CCC, and many, many volunteers to bring 700 children to the South Spit to pull invasive beach grass.  I enjoyed the role that we, the BLM, played in the event: logistics and oversight.

In the end, I want to be a public servant.  I want to help people do what they need and want to do, as long as it does not harm the environment or others, ideally.  Sure, the government isn’t perfect.  There are still instances of corruption, power struggles, exploitation, and extreme bureaucracy heaviness. However, the government is here to protect and bring people together, and that is the government I have found in my office.

This period of confusion has been fun, but exhausting and insecure.   After drifting for two years, I wasn’t sure that I would ever find something I wanted to work towards.  Simply, I am relieved that I have found a direction. Sure, it’s about the journey, not the destination. But it’s awfully nice to have a destination to journey to.


Ocean Day


Stephanie Wilson

Arcata BLM Field Office

Arcata, CA

The Miracle Mile

Four months ago I don’t even think I was aware that the Klamath Mountains existed. While the Arcata BLM field office only dips a toe into the Klamaths, I am using this blog entry to elucidate why they have been a fascination for me during my time in Northwest California. The cause for my enchantment can be summarized by one word: diversity! A popular example of the Klamaths’ biodiversity is their enriched conifer stands, where an unusual number of conifer species grow in close proximity. Specifically, the “Miracle Mile” contains 18 species within one square mile.

Occupying less than 10,000 square miles in Northwest California and Southwest Oregon, the Klamaths’ geologic diversity is what enables the rich biodiversity. The road to the Klamaths’ current manifestation began 500 million years ago, with continental fragments and volcanic island arcs in the ocean that eventually were pushed onto land, fused with other rock types, metamorphosed, and overlaid with various sediments. All of these events gave birth to their own unique rock type. And after all of that tectonic jostling, the Klamaths wound up at the crossroads between the Coast Ranges, Cascades, Sierra Nevada, Great Basin, and CA’s Central Valley. Species of all 5 bioregions can be found in the Klamaths, in addition to endemics that grow nowhere else.

Due to the heterogeneity of soil and climate microsites that the mountains provide in countless combinations, the region has been able to hold on to species that have long since been extinguished from nearby mountain ranges. A striking example of this is Darlingtonia californica, a carnivorous pitcher plant growing on serpentine soils whose closest relative is found in coastal bogs of North Carolina. And the Klamaths hold the world’s last populations (growing healthily) of Brewer’s Spruce. The Klamaths have the southernmost populations of conifers common in Alaska, and the northernmost populations of conifers growing in Mexico. Conifers grow next to each other that associate nowhere else. Because of this, species are hybridizing into new variations. And populations of certain species behave differently than anywhere on Earth, often because they grow on different soils.

I was lucky enough to hike to the Miracle Mile with Michael Kauffman, the author of Conifer Country (, the book that introduced me to much of this information. Before the hike I could barely tell the difference between pines, spruces, and firs. How naïve I was! On the hike I learned to identify sugar, ponderosa, Jeffrey, western white, lodgepole, whitebark, and foxtail pine; white, Shasta, Douglas, and subalpine fir; Brewer and Engelmann spruce; mountain hemlock; Pacific yew; incence-cedar; and common juniper. What I imagined would be subtle differences often turned out to be glaring individual expressions. But there were still plenty of cryptic hybrids and mischievous misbehavers to confuse our group of professional and amateur botanists. Watching the birth of new species is an exciting thing!

Balsamorhiza hookeri, Arctostaphylos hookeri, Salix hookeriana and others…

Hello! Apart from our CLM internship duties, that usually include a variety of things such as providing help with BLM’s environmental education program, rare endemics monitoring, seed collecting, and so forth… we of course deal a lot with many different common plants around us, which sometimes are not as important for land use management but are of great interest from the prospective of biodiversity. In particular it is highly beneficial for any botanist to be familiar with biodiversity and estimate its value for each site of public lands. This is, of course, part of our duties too. And so, being involved in this fascinating learning process you start to notice some curious facts about plants themselves and their names.

This time I’d like post a short notice about an example of such fact – another prominent botany personality of the past. Actually, two personalities that we, particularly botanists and whoever from time to time deals with plants, hear all the time but often don’t have enough interest or time to find more about. William Hooker and Joseph Hooker. If you just go to the USDA plants database – a national database of North American plants, and type in “search box” the word “hookeri” you’ll get over 30 different taxa named after some Hooker (and those are only valid, currently recognized Latin names). An interesting thing about this either specific epithet, genus or variety name is that there were two famous persons in the botany world with such a last name closely related to each other. A father – William Jackson Hooker, a founder of world’s biggest herbarium  – The Herbarium of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; and his son Joseph Dalton Hooker a director of named herbarium, plant collector and Charles Darwin’s good friend, who played a significant role in Evolution Theory development by reviewing and providing a constructive criticism of his theory. It is hard to imagine modern botany without these two British scientists. It’s also worthwhile to mention that the majority of taxa named after Hooker are actually named after the father – William Hooker, whereas William’s son, Joseph, described many plants and varieties and consequently was the one who gave a name to a newly described species. Looking at this, I always wish we had more and more time to get deeper into our botanical past, scientists’ works and achievements; discover new things about the origin of our present concepts, things that were known far long time ago and are still around us today.



BLM, Carson City, NV

William Jackson Hooker

William Jackson Hooker

Joseph Dalton Hooker

Joseph Dalton Hooker

Grass Valley

Since my last blogpost I have been spending my time out on a part of the SBNF called Grass Valley. I have been surveying for weeds such as Spanish broom and mustard. There are also several Forest Service sensitive and watch list species I have been documenting as well such as Castilleja lasioryncha, Calochortus palmeri var. palmeri, Calochortus plummerae, and Phacelia mohavensis. This part of the forest is lower elevation and quite steep in some areas so I have been having some pretty hot, sweaty days. The other thing I have been doing out there with my coworker is teach the Urban Conservation Corp how to use GPS units so they can use them to map the areas where they have been preforming fuel treatments. They have all been learning so quickly and it is helping me become better with the GPS units to help them as well.

I am looking forward to June 7th when a few of my colleagues and I hike to the top of San Gorgonio on a lichen and plant collecting trip!

Here are the photos of some of the plants I mentioned above.


The Forest Service sensitive Calochortus palmeri var. palmeri.


The pretty flowers of a species of rush (Juncus).


The Forest Service sensitive Phacelia mohavensis.


Calochortus palmeri var. palmeri


Phacelia mohavensis


Phacelia mohavensis


The Forest Service sensitive Castilleja lasioryncha


The Forest Service watch list species Calochortus plummerae


It made my day when we found this cool Pipera orchid!


Unknown species of Pipera.

June in Missoula

I’ve just completed my first month at the Missoula field office! Spring here is INCREDIBLY gorgeous and I feel so fortunate to spend every day outside exploring northwestern Montana’s diverse flora. From habitat typing with the BLM’s forestry team to searching for rare plant species on our properties, I’ve continued to broaden my experiences and learn and variety of new skills, methods, plants species. Here are a few of my favorite photos from my last month in the field.

Snow in June!

Snow in June!

BLM habitat typing training.

BLM habitat typing training.

View from Marcum.

View from Marcum.

Fairy Slipper

Fairy Slipper

Giving some love to the old growth ponderosa forest.

Giving some love to the old growth ponderosa forest.

Bear Grass

Bear Grass

Happy start to summer!

Another month in Crawford..

Hello fellow CLMer’s!

I’ve spent the last month in and around Crawford, Colorado, one out of only three locations (or two, if you consider that at one of the locations birds haven’t been spotted in years…) where you can find the elusive Gunnison sage-grouse. According to the Fish & Wildlife Service:

The Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) is a species of sage-grouse found south of the Colorado River in Colorado and Utah. They are about one-third smaller than the greater sage-grouse, and males have more distinct, white barring on their tail feathers, longer and more dense filoplumes on their necks. Female Gunnison and greater sage-grouse have nearly the same plumage, but the female Gunnison is again about one-third smaller than the greater sage-grouse. Male Gunnison sage-grouse conduct an elaborate display when trying to attract females on breeding grounds, or leks in the spring. They will strut, flap their wings against their white pouches and utter a distinct series of sounds by vocalizing and popping two air sacs within their pouches. Nesting begins in mid-April and continues into July.

Gunni Sage-grouse strutting for his lady.  Pic taken by Missy Siders.

Gunni Sage-grouse strutting for his lady. Pic taken by Missy Siders.

Anyway, while those wildlife biologists have been doing their thing out there (actually pretty neat stuff, catching birds and putting little radio backpacks on them to track their movements) we botanists have been doing the grunt work, out there day after day doing HAF inventory to assess the habitat. Crawford is any interesting area… both cattle and sheep graze there, not to mention substantial migratory deer and elk populations. Between those impacts, and a road right through sage-grouse habitat, the population isn’t doing so hot (like a lot of Gunnison and Great sage-grouse populations for the matter). While I find the work meaningful it’s definitely tedious and I’m excited to be moving on to new things soon (like hiking into this little canyon drainage to do owl surveys next week!). This isn’t my best map, but this is the project as a whole – SageGrouseHabitatInventory2013.

Two years of hard work, and I’m not gonna lie, I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. We’ve read probably 100 transects in approximately 20,000 acres (I think that’s what my boss said) and I’ve literally been to every single one of those transects, except maybe 8 of them. I’ve done almost all of the data management and entered most of the data, so needless to say this project has been my baby. I’m excited to send the rest of today and some time next week wrapping up the loose ends before I start entering all the data into FFI. And it hasn’t been all work out there, just the other day I ran into a web of baby spiders (pretty neat!) and nearly stepped on a baby dear hiding out in some sage. Additionally, my boss has really lightened the mood every time he’s come out with us… he wears this awesome sombrero he calls, “The Nacho.” Very entertaining, pics to come soon.

Oh - and the view doesn't suck :)

Oh – and the view isn’t bad 🙂

Thankfully I’m passionate about the work we do out there and Ken (my mentor) has me convinced that it’s really making a difference in future management decisions (thanks for the optimism Ken!).

Signing off –

Brandee Wills
Uncompahgre Field Office
Montrose, CO

Plan B

We have fish! Wooohoo!! I have been at the Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife office for almost three months working on propagating endangered shortnose suckers. It took two months before I even got a chance to see one. To recap, we originally intended to collect eggs from spawning adult fish. We planned to raise the larvae in dock-suspended cages with the hope that the improved water quality and protection from predators would provide our juvenile fish with a better chance at survival during this critical life stage. The twist was that a surprisingly low number of fish were seen spawning this year and those that were caught didn’t have eggs that we could use.

This brings us to this blog entry in which we begin Plan B: Late night fishing for hatched larvae. We spent several days doing double shifts, office employees by day and larval fishers by night. It was a tough week of hanging drift nets in the river between 8:00pm and 12:00am and then returning in the morning to put what we caught in our floating cages. But you know what? Success!!

Just look at how cute they are!

Suckers galore!

Suckers galore!

Suckers suckers suckers!

Suckers suckers suckers!

Here’s the glamour shot:

An adorable larval sucker

An adorable larval sucker

About that step of putting them in our cages…. In my last blog post I described how we were almost finished with setting up our docks. It turns out we were a little farther away than we thought. Long story short, the nets we ordered were longer than the docks we built. This meant that instead of using our finished individual docks, we needed rearrange them into two large docks and use the extra pieces to extend the legs. And we had to do it all while floating in the middle of the lake. And remember how our docks looked like this?

Before: Tule Lake individual dock

Before: Tule Lake individual dock

Here’s how they looked after only a week of being on the water:

After: Our fragrant, reassembled dock at Tule Lake

After: Our fragrant, reassembled dock at Tule Lake

Oh boy! I won’t bore you with details but to sum it up, it was terrible.

The good news is that after a week of reassembly, the docks are now finished at both Upper Klamath Lake and Tule Lake. They both have baby fish in them and I can officially say that the hard part of this summer is over. From here on out, we are simply monitoring the cages to make sure that everything is running smoothly. Here’s hoping that everything does!

Finished dock at Upper Klamath Lake, complete with juvenile fish!

Finished dock at Upper Klamath Lake, complete with juvenile fish!