Happy holidays everyone,

Hopefully you all have plans to see family or friends for the holiday season.  I was home over Thanksgiving (Iowa) so I will not be returning for Christmas or New Years. Instead, I am opting to hit the slopes and hoping to avoid the typical crowds.  This will be possible because we have finally gotten some PRECIPITATION IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA.  The news was predicting the “storm of the decade” and went on for days about preparing to be without electricity and stocking up on food.  In the end, we had one gusty morning and then it drizzled for two days (I was unimpressed).  I was, however, thankful to see the much needed rain.  I think I saw about 8 rainbows in a single day.




As far as work goes, I am still chipping away diligently on my restoration projects.   I have completed a draft CEQA document on my largest project, and have now begun the NEPA document.  I am simultaneously writing contracts and installing infrastructure e.g. access roads and gates at the project site.



In between writing these documents, I am applying for a streambed alteration permit, a 401 permit, an endangered species act permit, and a 404 permit.  I can’t eat lunch in California without getting a permit first.  Having spoken to other project managers conducting large-scale restoration projects in California, I have learned that it is not uncommon for the cost of project permitting to be equal to or even more expensive than the cost of the actual project construction.

On a side note, a few months back our small staff at the Preserve constructed a barn that we had de-constructed from another BLM property in the Sierras several months earlier.  We had no instructions, just pictures and a numbering system on the parts.  Here is a final picture of the constructed barn (still standing after the “storm of the decade”).





Goodbye Cedar City!

It has been quite hectic since my internship ended and it feels like I’ve taken longer than I imagined to write my final reflective post.
I am very thankful to everyone who makes the CLM internship possible at the Chicago Botanical Gardens and at BLM. It’s been an extraordinary experience. There were days full of hard work and others that were quite relaxed but there was always learning going on.
I am very happy with my experience, the people I met and the skills I gained.
Due to staff changes right before the internship, my experience is likely to have been very different than that of past interns who may have had better planned and straightforward internships. That is not necessarily a negative thing because I feel this gave me the opportunity to have a wider range of exposure to different projects and staff at the office.
One of the best experiences I had was translocating prairie dogs. I believe that the conservation issues involving prairie dogs is in need of better solutions. There is much needed cohesion between BLM and outside knowledge from other organizations and institutions. If there is anything from this experience I would like to pursue, it would be the conservation of prairie dogs and pigmy rabbits.

Some advice I would give to other interns would be to ask your mentor about participating in as many training opportunities as you can.
When starting the internship it is good to take notes and pictures when learning plants because it helps the learning process considerably.
Most importantly, encourage yourself to think outside the box and express your ideas even if it seems to go against the usual way of doing things.

Thanks again everyone for helping me make this an incredible opportunity!

Winter Northeastern California

Greetings from Northeastern California!

It’s finally starting to feel like winter here, as I am writing this in the middle of “The Worst Storm California has had in Years”, according to  While it is only raining here in the valley, the nearby mountains should be getting a foot or two of snow!

I’ve been working on a few projects lately.  I am working with the ELFO hydrologist to install some stream monitoring equipment in all the streams in our field office.  The equipment we are installing measures the water temperature and the flow of the streams.  It is nice to still be out doing field-work, and I am learning a lot about hydrology from working with the hydrologist.  I did not expect to learn about hydrology when I signed up for a botany internship, but this is one of the great things about CLM: you gain experience in a lot of different areas.

Installing the equipment only takes about an hour, but getting to the locations takes some time.  Yesterday I was hiking in some dense clay mud that stuck to my boots in giant clumps.  It made hiking difficult, especially hiking over rocks, as the muddied-up boots had no grip on the rocks.  This, with a 60 pound pack full of tools and steel pipes, can make climbing into a rocky canyon quite difficult.  Nonetheless, we have successfully installed equipment at 6 streams so far.

IMG_0625 IMG_0624 IMG_0623I am also working on a project known as FIAT. (We have yet to be sued by the european car company). FIAT stands for Fire and Invasives Assessment Team.  It is an effort to improve habitat for sage grouse.  The biggest threats to sage grouse are conifer encroachment, fire, and invasive annual grasses.  This project aims at pinpointing where these threats are most prevalent, and coming up with strategies to limit their impacts.  I am helping with the GIS side of things.  I have been attending meetings at several BLM offices and helping the ELFO GIS specialist create project area polygons.  It has been interesting going to the different offices and seeing how much everyone knows about the land in their field office.

In other news, I broke my finger playing football on Thanksgiving.  It hasn’t impacted my work at all, but it has made typing this entry a bit frustrating.  The good news is, I have a doctors appointment in Reno tomorrow morning, and Reno is only 30 minutes from Mt. Rose Ski Resort, so… IM SKIING 2 FEET OF FRESH POWDER TOMORROW!!!!


-Sam Gersie


Susanville, CA


Soft and Warm

Landscape.Dec (1)

Over the past few days, I have been visiting sites for the first time since before the rain came and have discovered all the areas where water is pooling. What was once a dried up patchwork of bunch grass and soil is now a wetland teeming with frogs, ducks, and geese. I took some time to bird watch spotting Northern shovelers, gadwalls, mallards, great egrets, great blue heron, red-shouldered hawk, Northern harrier, and a white-tailed kite! White-tailed kites are more commonly sighted this time of year because they are less dispersed, roosting communally during the winter. Sometime their roosts can have over a hundred individuals. Northern Harriers, with their white rumps, are one of my favorite raptors to watch as they hunt low to the ground, gliding just above the tips of the grass. I also get a kick out of the great blue heron, standing perfectly still, trying to decide whether or not I can see him. And when he finally takes off, he looks disgruntled for having been bothered. For whatever reason, I personify them as being old grumpy men with something to prove. As they fly off, I imagine them saying, “I still got wings”.

It has been an enjoyable, socked in Willamette Valley Winter so far. I am fortunate I get to roam around some of the few oak woodland habitats that still exist. Everything feels so soft this time of year, the edges blurred by the fog, the moss on the trees, the soggy ground. I wonder how I would feel differently if I didn’t have a heated shelter to return to, stocked with canned goods and frozen berries. I am glad I don’t have to dig for my stashed nuts when I get hungry. Those wild animals sure make me feel soft too.

Phase3.mow.patches.Dec (12)

Final Wrap Up

I have been working here at the Medford District BLM for just over 9 months now and my appointment is rapidly approaching its end.  I am saddened to be leaving, but with the weather becoming so nasty and the fact that the plants in the Rogue Valley are dying and going into dormancy, there wouldn’t be much for me to do even if I could stay.

The past few weeks have been slowing down.  I have been doing a lot of wrap up data entry and tying up loose ends here in the office.  There is a good chance I will be coming back next season which will be nice seeing as how I feel I really got the hang of this job and I know I will be able to hit the ground running early next spring.  Because of this potential in a renewed appointment, we have been loosely framing a plan of action for the 2015 collecting season.  I recently mapped over 12 years of Seeds of Success collections for my district and this proved to be insightful in terms of visually assessing what areas have and haven’t been targeted and hit hard with collections.  For this future collecting season we are going to target areas that have had little to no collections made, many which are located in the Illinois River Valley and along the Wild and Scenic stretch of the Rogue River.  This will be a great opportunity to explore new territories that are not so easily accessed and focus on rare and endemic serpentine plants.

Prior to this internship, my botanical knowledge was very much lacking.  Building a strong foundation of botany over the past 9 months has truly reshaped my interpretation of ecology.  It appears I have been approaching environmental settings with a major piece of the puzzle missing, and now that I have established this understanding, I can view ecosystem in a whole new cohesive light.

I am very grateful for this opportunity I have been granted with and I look forward to next year where I will be able to expand and fine tune my new skill set.  I leave you now with a few highlight photos of this field season.

Happy Winter.

Mason London

IMG_3596 IMG_3880 IMG_3885 IMG_3895 IMG_3973 IMG_3977 IMG_4694 IMG_4721 IMG_4834 IMG_5167 Voucher Ready for Imaging IMG_4650 IMG_4026 IMG_4077

Looking Back West

This blog post is a little late in the making. It always takes me a little while to reflect on a job or experience. When I originally moved out to Idaho I really struggled with a culture that I felt was much more conservative and closed-minded. I have always viewed myself as being well suited to deal with conservative rural communities despite being a very liberal leaning person from a large suburb of the Twin cities. I had never lived in an area with so much religious influence and the farms and ranching operations were quite a bit bigger than I was used to in the Midwest. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, it was my first time living out by myself and not at a bio-station or other living arrangement that often comes with technician work. These factors challenged me throughout the season although I got used to them quickly. Like a lot of challenges, they turned out to be excellent living experiences. While I don’t miss the general mindset of the state, I did become accustomed to it, and feel that a prevailing culture is not a reason to avoid an area, but it does make things harder. IMG_0106IMG_0110IMG_0165

Looking back there were many challenges and learning experiences. Some of the obvious ones were learning new skills and sampling techniques, becoming familiar with the area and culture, and learning how to manage a crew, even a small one. The not so obvious ones included living in a new place, finding the energy outside of work to explore, exploring the surrounding Idaho, and personal and professional challenges with coworkers. A lot of these were really difficult and often left me drained or unhappy. But in retrospect, the best place to be looking at them from, these challenges are the most important things I’ll take out of this internship. The places, events, and people that challenged me will be the teachers I have to learn from.

I enjoyed a lot about my time in Idaho. As I drive around my home town I realize that often I’m not seeing the streets in front of me, but a mental map of Twin Falls, with all the landmarks I’d come to know, is projected on top of what’s actually in front of me. I look at old pictures and miss the beauty and smell of sagebrush, the shape of buttes and foothills, and the giant canyons that gave the landscape its surprise and drama. I can’t imagine that Twin Falls would ever become a permanent home, the landscape is settled into my heart and I would dearly like to spend more time there. I had a lot of fun and came away with several wonderful friends and one of the most important friends I’ve ever had. I was able to take trips in nearby states and see some amazing things I didn’t know existed. If the chance ever arises, go to Dinosaur National Monument.



My internship expanded my skillset and gave me the opportunities to build confidence in many different ways, particularly in trusting my own judgment and knowing that I don’t know as much as I think I do, but that’s ok. I have a wider range of tools at my disposal both internally and externally. The opportunity to work with other people in my office and in other offices such as the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, allowed me the chance to ask many questions and see the topic of management through many different lenses. The internship also helped define what I’m interested in doing in the future. It reaffirmed that I wish to go into management, but helped me better understand in what possible capacities and what areas definitely aren’t of interest. This has been a fantastic experience that I am so lucky to have had.




Winter (or lack thereof) in southern Oregon

Greetings from southern Oregon where it’s still slowly cooling down, but not enough in my opinion. Growing up here, I remember a lot colder, rainier winters, and times when the local ski area would be open by now, but alas, there’s not even an inch on the mountain. Last year was a very bad drought for southern Oregon as well as northern California and it’s not looking much better. Last year was the lowest snow measured since the Forest Service started measuring snow pack here fifty years ago. All I want to do is hit the slopes, but it looks like I’ll have to travel a little farther for that this year. The local, seasonal outdoor ice rink where I’m a hockey instructor is even struggling due to the above average temperatures. Maybe someday it’ll get cooler.

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of GIS analysis for the RMP here. Kind of slowing down a bit. The highlight as of late is attending the American Exploration and Mining Conference in Reno, Nevada last week. I was able to attend technical sessions, meet folks from industry, as well as from other federal agencies. With that, I’ll leave you some sweet pictures of my days in the woods and some bonus nice looking gold.


Wagner Butte in the distance and some north slope snow

Wagner Butte in the distance and some north slope snow

Nevada gold!

Nevada gold!

View from Hobart Bluff

View from Hobart Bluff

Mt. Shasta, California

Mt. Shasta, California

More scurfpeas and a new species in the Las Cruces District

Greetings world,

As of 2008 there were only two known populations of Pediomelum pentaphyllum, one in southwestern New Mexico and one in southeastern Arizona. Other populations had been reported in the past, but either could not be found in recent surveys or had sufficiently vague localities that no one was really sure where to search. I mentioned one of those vague localities in a previous post here, a Mexican Boundary Survey specimen that was collected in the general vicinity of the Rio Grande somewhere between Doña Ana and Big Bend. It could be in New Mexico, Texas or Chihuahua–good luck! In 2008, Pediomelum pentaphyllum was petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act based, in part, on this very limited distribution. Here’s an approximate map of the known populations in 2008:

Over the next few years, more searches were made. My first, very brief, work with the BLM was one of these, wandering around for a couple of weeks and finding all kinds of fun plants but no Pediomelum pentaphyllum whatsoever. A couple of botanists in Arizona (Marc Baker and Laura Pavliscak) did succeed in finding a couple of new populations (or one bigger population, depending on how you want to look at it; “population” is essentially an undefined term!), though. So, that puts us up to threeish populations:

However, this year either conditions were better, the botanists conducting surveys were better, or (most likely) we were just plain lucky! More populations in Arizona and New Mexico were found by myself, Joneen Cockman of the Safford Field Office, and our associated field crews. I don’t know how you might count the number of populations at this point but the gist is there are a fair number of them–and more being found, last I heard from Joneen! Pediomelum pentaphyllum is starting to look a bit less rare:

Just in case you’ve forgotten what Pediomelum pentaphyllum looks like, here are a few more pictures of it:

And here’s what the habitat looks like for several of the new populations. Try spotting the Pediomelum pentaphyllum–there’s at least one in each photo!

I think we’re starting to get a better idea of the habitat Pediomelum pentaphyllum likes. All of the new populations found this year were in loose, sandy soil with Prosopis glandulosa and “other shrubs”. The other shrubs could be Artemisia filifolia, Atriplex canescens, Atriplex polycarpa, Lycium pallidum, or Larrea tridentata–but in any case it’s not just our typical boring mesquite shrubland. Hopefully, as we continue to refine our idea of good Pediomelum pentaphyllum habitat, we’ll be able to keep finding more populations and have a better idea of where it isn’t going to be found as well. I also learned this year that some populations of Pediomelum pentaphyllum are guarded by Crotalus scutulatus:

The other exciting development here is that Nerisyrenia hypercorax, a new species we (Michael Moore, Norm Douglas, Helga Ochoterena, Hilda Flores-Olvera, and I) discovered last year on the west side of the Guadalupe Mountains, has been published in the Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. There’s also an episode of Plants are Cool, Too! that includes this species. Nerisyrenia hypercorax is a gypsophile, meaning it occurs only on soils high in hydrated calcium sulfate, a.k.a. gypsum. As you may have guessed from my post about Alkali Lakes, gypsum in New Mexico is home to a whole slew of rare plants and makes for excellent botanizing–at least, provided you avoid some of the worst of summer heat, which seems to be amplified on gypseous soils! We keep finding new species on gypsum–Michael Howard, our soon-to-be-retired state botanist, found another new gypsophilic plant (Linum allredii) just a couple years ago. And, of course, I have pictures of Nerisyrenia hypercorax:

And of its habitat:

Big Bear Lake, Nov-Dec


It has been a busy but fairly quiet month.  I’ve been inside entering data, doing herbarium work, and working on data cleaning projects.  It doesn’t make for facinating blogging, but it’s interesting work.  There’s a lot of troubleshooting involved, which I really enjoy.  It’s also a great sense of accomplishment to see all of this season’s new rare plant finds, weed mapping, and rare species monitoring get inputted into our database.     

I will be shifting focus in January in order to work for the restoration program.  In preparation for the change, I’ve been spending time with folks in the program.  Throughout the summer, I’ve helped out with the program here and there, working with volunteers on National Public Lands day and helping with planting projects.  However, there’s a lot left to learn.  I will be doing greenhouse work, working at restoration sites, and helping to write grants for following years’ restoration work. 

Pictured is Eriastrum sapphirinium, in flower on October 7 near Jenks Lake.   

Mountaintop Ranger District

San Bernardino National Forest

Farewell Carson City, your company has been delightful…

Hello friends. This is my last post about my CLM internship 2014. Since the last one many things have happened and there is a lot to tell, share, and express this time. October and November both were super busy with wrapping things up and still having SOS program running. Primarily because of Great Basin vegetation peculiarities, a big part of native species actually seed out in middle and late autumn, which happen to be our last months here. We all managed it well, with a team of eight people we were able to accomplish a lot. Eventually we’ve made way more collections than the average number of collections since 2004. Unfortunately we, as probably all SOS teams, didn’t get any feedback right away.  But of course we hope that all our collections are of a good quality and will be useful for many-many purposes.

With all trips that we made for seed collection we also had to prepare an annual report, just as the whole field office does, about our time being here, what we’ve done and what we could have done better – sort of an overview of 2014 program. It was fun and interesting.  We really felt like part of a field office team and that we played an important part in the office’s life. It was a funny period of time, when you have a few weeks to go but there is a ton of ideas where to go, what to collect, what is the most important to do and so on… It is certainly sad, that we didn’t get to do everything that we thought about, but at the same time it is good to stop and move on. There is always something that you lack time for or would like to have “just a week more”, so it is a good idea to stop at some point having a little bit of time to wrap things up.

In general, it has been an incredible time. This was my first summer our in the west and I must say that it was incredible. From the very beginning of my time here I felt like this part of the world is unique and being a botanist here is just a lucky occurrence for myself. And regardless of the fact that we all have learned a solid number of species and biology of local flora, you never feel like it is enough. The nature is so diverse, the transition between Great Basin and the Sierras is indeed incredible. These two huge ecoregions for botanists provide something unknown and interesting every time you are outside. Our team spent truly a lot of time in the field and it is one of the things that I’m very grateful for. Overall it was a great experience with exceptionally bright and positive moments and I know that such memories I will never loose. Again, we had a wonderful team in Carson City and I’m thankful for the work shared fun time spent together to all my friends – Alex, Andrew, Ari, Mary, Ethan, Laura, and Rebecca. Special thanks of course to Dean – our mentor for whom it was not easy to manage such a big team but turned out really well – I’m very glad that that I was part of CLM 2014 Carson City botany team.



Beautiful Great Basin (Boundary Peak on the horizon)