The Mojave Desert continues to surprise me every day! Around every creosote shrub or Ambrosia dumosa bush there is a new wonder to behold: a wild desert tortoise slowly reaching for a bite of bright orange Spheralcea ambigua flower with its beak, a graceful Calochortus flexuosus mariposa lily purple-hued and magnificent waving in the wind, the desert pavement varnished dark rusty black crackling underfoot. A cobble lined wash no longer full of flowing winter rain but a symphony of perennial golden asters, blossoming buckwheat, and fragrant Phacelia.
For the last few weeks, I have been working with USGS in Henderson, NV collecting data on annual plant species in juvenile desert tortoise habitat. What do the juveniles eat, where, and when? Based on forage availability, where are suitable locations for desert tortoise to be translocated? Translocation often occurs when someone constructs a building or otherwise disturbs an area where the endangered desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii, lives. This project represents a component of the ongoing research of the USGS Western Ecological Research Center related to the desert tortoise (See http://www.werc.usgs.gov/Project.aspx?ProjectID=110).
I have been enjoying getting to know my new business partners: the cryptic Cryptanthas, the peculiar Pectocaryas, and the always exciting Eriogonum. The plants here truly amaze me with their abilities to survive in this extreme environment. For example, the retractable Pediocactus bradyi, a small cactus which retracts into the earth when stressed by dry and cold conditions!
My new winged neighbors: Say’s Pheobe, Costa’s Hummingbird, Verdin, Black-throated Sparrow, Rock Wren, and yes, The Greater Roadrunner. Nothing is as thrilling as hearing a female roadrunner’s coo-cooing bark ringing out through a Joshua Tree and Yucca woodland and reverberate against fossil-laden cliffs. Though the area is pretty parched now, about 660 million years ago a sea existed here leaving behind layers of shells and other remnants of marine life!
That’s all for now – we are about to help another team studying Joshua Tree pollination!
It’s been almost a month since I started my first CLM internship here in Wenatchee, Wa which seems strange – the time has just flown by. I’ve spent the past few weeks becoming acquainted with the structure and politics of the OR/WA BLM, getting my feet wet (so to speak) in the field, and learning ArcMap and its related programs.
The BLM is now the second federal agency I’ve worked for. The first being the National Park Service as a SCA intern at Devils Tower National Monument. Immediately I noticed some differences in how the two agencies operate. As a steward of multi-use land, BLM employees often have to work in the murky gray area where development and conservation meet – something the NPS doesn’t have to deal with. This constant compromise is something I’ve always found really interesting and I’m excited to be able to talk with people who deal with this everyday.
Already I’ve had the opportunity to go out in the field with my mentors and check out a piece of BLM land that a gravel company wants to mine. I learned about prioritizing efforts when it comes to development projects – with multi-use land you can’t give a flat out “no” to all development. It turned out with this particular piece of land, the biggest concern seemed to be the potential for the spread of noxious weeds to other areas via the gravel the company mined and shipped out. We began talking about mitigations for this, mostly options for controlling the weeds before mining began.
Potential site of new gravel mine.
We’ve also begun doing Golden Eagle surveys. Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far from this project has been the importance of keeping organized and detailed records. Another intern began this project in 2012 and finding her data and notes, as well as those from the Washington DFW, has been very difficult and slowed down our new data collection. I’ve decided to make leaving an obvious and understandable “bread crumb trail” one of my main goals for this internship.
Surveyin’ for Golden Eagles
I spent this past week down in Vale, OR at the district office doing an ArcPad and GeoBob Mobile training. I’ve had very little exposure to ArcMap and ArcPad before so it’s been a total crash course. I feel like my basic familiarity with the program, combined with these trainings, has me feeling more comfortable and proficient. In this arena, Justin – my fellow Wenatchee intern – has been very helpful in giving me quick tutorials. I’m looking forward to putting in a lot of hours with GIS and becoming an expert myself.
Getting all trained up.
Oh, and I’ve spent my weekends/afternoons climbing in the Cascades outside the faux Bavarian town of Leavenworth just 30 min away.
Ready for an afternoon of bouldering.
Till next time!
It is spring in the Mojave Desert, and we have begun our field season in full force! As interns with USGS Henderson, NV, it’s our job to characterize the annual (and, to some extent, perennial) vegetation available to juvenile Desert Tortoises. We’re talking quite small tortoises – imagine a four-inch long tortoise!
Despite the widespread drought in the west, the Mojave actually received above-average winter precipitation this water year, and, as a result, we are seeing incredible annual growth! Many of the spring wildflowers are in full bloom, and we’ve been learning loads of new species each day. It seems as though there are another five species flowering each time we visit our field sites! We’ve been kept busy keying out new species, especially Cyrptantha sp. (the CLM guide to Cryptanthas has been a fantastic resource).
Besides amazing new plants, we’ve also seen a number of resident and translocated Desert Tortoises, snakes, and birds!
I am looking forward to adding more species to the list, and learning more about the Mojave as the season goes on! What an amazing opportunity to learn about plant and wildlife ecology!!
‘Til next time,
The past month here in Buffalo has been sunny and warm. Pasque Flower and Shooting Stars are coming up but we need more rain and snow. I have been out doing a little bit of archaeological survey work on the nice days. I have not recorded any sites yet this year, but not finding archaeological sites is also valuable scientific information. One of the places I got to do some fieldwork is in the pine breaks in the northeast portion of our field office. From the ridges there you can see the peaks of the Bighorn Mountains, the Pumpkin Buttes and the Devils Tower/ Missouri Buttes. I happen to think its pretty neat to take in all these culturally significant landforms from one viewing location. My work camera is a pitiful piece of technology thus I have no pretty pictures to post. However I will provide a picture of some cows and a frac pad for good measure.
Have a good one.
Hello Fellow Interns,
This is my first CLM internship and boy what an adventure it has been thus far. My internship with the Arcata, CA BLM started this past Monday. In order to get here though, I moved from Washington, DC! To say that there has been a change of scenery would probably be an understatement. Yet I find myself constantly in awe of the locations and amazing sights I have seen thus far! Going to school in Lynchburg, VA I was surrounded by the comfortable Appalachian mountains and leafy deciduous forests. Here in Arcata, the redwoods, Douglas firs, and other conifers encase me with spiny needles and the mountains surprise me with their sheer faces.
My forestry internship with the BLM will have me working on a variety of projects. From monitoring SOD (sudden oak death) to helping write a EA (Environmental Action) plan for encouraging old growth redwood restoration. But honestly so long as I am able to be outside seeing the amazing things I have seen thus far, I know I will be happy!
Till next time, stay safe and keep learning fellow CLM’ers!