Back-roads on BLM land are the worst roads I have ever driven. Riddled with rocks (nay, boulders), slashed by streambeds, and marred by mud, they are an obstacle and an adventure everyday. 5 months of driving on these roads has taught me to be cautious, careful and to drive slowly. Really slowly. But, until last week, these Nevadan roads had not yet taught me how to unstick a truck from a muddy ditch.
The lesson began after a long day of fire monitoring. We were headed toward our second site (and the promise of dinnertime), up a mountain, around tight bends, over stones, when the front truck met her match. Sue, as we’ve taken to calling her, was stuck. A steep hill, a muddy road, and a deep ditch had proven too much for our trusty steed. After a bit of head-scratching, we hatched a plan. Before long we were grabbing supplies from the emergency kits, hauling rocks, digging out the tires, and building a ramp for Sue to climb out on. Then came the moment of truth. Two hands on the wheel and 14 on the tailgate, we shoved and steered Sue to safety.
An experience that could have been stressful or scary was edifying and enriching. We learned how to unstick a truck. And, more importantly, we learned that we could.
Whooping, my team got back to work.
Carson City, NV
I haven’t written here for a while, really sorry for the late post, but the more time you spend as a CLM Intern the more experience and original data you gather as a source for your stories. Hence, of course now I definitely have lots of information to share.
I can’t believe it’s already August here in Carson City. On one side there are lower temperatures, a little bit of rain, much more pleasant weather, however we realize that this amazing time is slowly moving towards its end. A few weeks ago I hit my midpoint with CLM when I tried to rethink and sum up a little what I’ve done/learned so far and what still needs to be improved and accomplished. I probably must say that this sort of thinking is very useful because it takes you outside your daily work and routine, reveals things which could be easily forgotten or not noticed at all, but are crucial at the same time.
Outside of that, even though we’ve familiarized ourselves with our duties and responsibilities pretty well, a nice thing is – weekend trips and new explorations never end. Thankfully to our “always hungry for adventures” team we always share with each other about our nature observations, but not only of course, from around places wherever we are. Last weekend we went for a delightful walk started on Carson Pass in the Sierras. Being in subalpine zone, where snow is still or already present, is very unusual and interesting for those who spend most of their time in sagebrush steppe. Of course botanists never tire especially being in such a beautiful place. We kept collecting unknown for Great Basin species of grasses and sedges till the very end of the trip. Just yesterday I checked out how well they have gotten preserved under a homemade plant press – not bad at all! And I think starting from the next week an identification process should be launched. Speaking about sedges, wetlands here in western Nevada are just amazing. Of course with a portion of weeds – no ways to get rid of them there so far, but those places are true oases within the typical arid vegetation. Moreover, collecting seeds at such places is a pure pleasure. Tons of seed everywhere, plus dedicated group of people bring a very good result in Seeds of Success program. We continue work here in a regular, pretty good pace having as a gift from the weather nice temperatures and way nicer work conditions. Will share with more experience as usual later…
Until next time,
BLM, Carson City
ps: maybe someone knows the name of that guy on Epilobium flower?
Wow. This is it. My CLM internship is over. I can definitely say that this has been my favorite internship so far, for many reasons. Coming out here I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I knew that I would be working as a range tech for the BLM in a small town in the middle of nowhere in Oregon. I grew up in Salt Lake so I wasn’t worried about living out west or being in high desert, but all of the plants I knew how to identify were eastern plants. I knew nothing about sage brush or grasses, things I would be working with here. However, I knew this would be a good challenge. In the past four months I’ve learned how to identify at least 10 species of grass, about six species of shrubs, and countless wildflowers. I really impressed myself and I’m excited to head to a new area of the US and learn even more new plants.
For the first month here I spent a lot of time being trained out in the field with one of the range specialists or sitting at my desk studying a book on grasses. After a few weeks I was ready and raring to get out of my own. Finally I was given some tasks to do on my own. I became really good at looking at maps and the GPS and figuring where I needed to be. I also started paying attention to different landmarks, like Hart Mountain or Abert Rim, which helped me orient myself and know which way was north, etc. While out in the field alone I also ran into some struggles, such as opening difficult fences, flat tires, and getting stuck in the mud. Until I had a partner I had to get out of those tricky situations on my own, and that just gave me even more confidence in my abilities.
In the beginning of May another range tech started work. I was not happy about that because I had to train him, and I was so used to being out in the field by myself and doing my own thing. For a while I struggled with working with someone who needed a lot of direction and didn’t do things my way (even though he was doing them just fine. I’m just particular in that way). I soon realized that we would be stuck together for the rest of the summer because we were running out of utilization to do and were starting in on trend plots, which are easier to do with two people. Eventually I got a better attitude about everything and started having fun with my partner. He was a big help, especially when it came to tricky gates and taking out the UTV.
But enough blabbering on here. The point is, I learned so much this summer, made some really good friends (in and out of the office), and gained a lot of confidence. I’m so glad I got to work in Oregon because it is such a beautiful state, and I really enjoyed exploring it on the weekends. Some advice to future interns would be don’t get worked up over small things, learn as much as you can, make friends, and explore the area that you are living in. Because who knows when you’ll be there again.
BLM, Lakeview, Oregon
Woodland pinedrops (Pterospora andromedea), in flower in mid-July
Ash-gray Indian paintbrush (Castilleja cinerea), federally threatened
I’ve been surveying in the Santa Ana River Valley and along Sugarloaf Ridge, which is north of the valley. Sugarloaf Mountain and the surrounding ridges contain extensive pebble plain habitat. These open areas of clay soils are extremely harsh environments and are home to some unique plant species. Rare species of the pebble plains include ash-gray Indian paintbrush (Castilleja cinerea, federally threatened), southern mountain buckwheat (Eriogonum kennedyi var. austromontanum, federally threatened), Bear Valley sandwort (Eremogone ursina), and Parish’s rockcress (Boechera parishii, sensitive), among others. As part of the same project, I’ve been working down in Barton Flats. Barton Flats horkelia (Horkelia wilderae) is a species endemic to this area of the Santa Ana River Valley, where it grows in montane conifer and oak woodland, often in openings or partial sun.
On August 31, we conducted night surveys for arroyo toad upstream of the Mojave Spillway. Arroyo toads are endemic to southwestern CA and northern Baja, and inhabit perennial streams. These nocturnal toads forage for insects at night and burrow themselves in sand during the day. This lower part of Deep Creek is heavily used, and beaver, trout, and bullfrogs also occur in the stream. All of these impact arroyo toad populations.
Interesting (plant) finds from last month include new populations of white adder’s-mouth orchid (Malaxis monophyllos var. brachypoda) in two different meadows on the forest, and a new location of Botrychium crenulatum, also in a meadow. White adder’s-mouth orchid has an interesting distribution in North America; it’s primarily found in the Midwest and Canada, where it grows in swamp forests. The only records in California are from the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains.
Mountaintop Ranger District
San Bernardino National Forest/USFS
I am starting my third month in Pinedale. It feels good that the wildlife seasonal and I have both gotten into a routine and can take control of our project each day. Most of the last month has been our Lynx habitat inventories, we only have 10 points left to review. It went by pretty fast and we have been a lot quicker with our assessments, horizontal cover readings, and navigation. Navigating the two track roads on ridges, hills, and through oil and gas fields has been something to get used to but after the past few weeks I am a lot more confident. We haven’t had to retrace our steps in a while! Oh and mud…the daily rain has begun but I now am very capable of rescuing rigs that are stuck in the mud. I’m sure many other people have been experiencing the same thing. Life skills!
Navigating the faint two track
On our way to work through a maze of roads
We still have Lynx data to complete but I am happy that I still get to go out and help with smaller assignments in between. On my list of upcoming projects we have a sage grouse catch up and radio collar, post burn aspen monitoring, amphibian surveys, signage and fence maintenance, grass height measurements (to account for amount of cover the sage grouse will have to nest in the spring) and a few other surveys that may go through. It has been great to get a lot of experience with a variety of techniques.
Post burn aspen monitoring
I was also lucky enough to hear about the Wyoming Wildlife Society conference in Sheridan this year and our office is allowing us to go. It will be a great networking experience with plenty of student and professional talks and exciting necropsy and habitat workshops. It is only a few weeks away and I am grateful to get to go and help with events and projects at the conference. Can’t wait!
We also found out that some CBG interns who are working in Cheyenne will be coming to Pinedale for a week to get some more field experience. It will be fun to be the one showing people around and I met these interns at the workshop in Chicago so it will be awesome to meet up with them again!
I haven’t stopped exploring either. There are plenty of hikes and National Parks to visit and I’ve been taking advantage of it all!
Moose on hike out from “Alaska Basin”
Jackson Lake, Tetons
Oh a hiking we will go!
That’s it for now, but I’m sure I’ll have plenty of adventures for next time!
BLM, Pinedale, WY