Stuck in Slop and Showy Snowstorms

Might be more than a month ago, our motley crew mistakenly maneuvered into much muck. We managed to master the mire with much more matter and mustered moxie. Marinated in mud and muck, magnificently messy, but made merry by make-shift mastery, we maintained our march.20150506_172119

Silver shadows sent us shivering. The sunlight shriveled silently and swiftly. Storms snuck south, suddenly sullying our satisfied spirits. Still, us seven shouldn’t stop, said someone with stout-hearted sense. So, six settled somewhat skeptically.20150506_175704

Soon we saw a shimmering suspension of snow specks at summit. The sky suggested we’d see no sunset nor stars, and some suspected sleepy shivers. Seems we soon might not set sight on seed supply sites or small shrubs. Shouldn’t such slight snow soften by sunrise? Supposedly.20150506_183417

We woke warm and not wet with wild water; this weather had worked well for wanted winks. When watching the wondrous whiteness, we wandered while waiting. Work wavered as weeds withdrew in whirls of white. The white-wash world made our worthy work worthless! Wow Weather, why wouldn’t you wait?! This Wednesday, Weather won.DSC_1879 DSC_1932


Carson City BLM


Oregon: 2nd Month-New Faces, New Places


Elk Creek

Now over two months into my internship, I have gained more experience in water quality monitoring as well as begun training on riparian surveys. We have covered much of our resource area in the past month from the sub-alpine forests near the Wallowa Mountains to the lower elevation canyons along the Grande Ronde and Snake River.  We had to camp out for a few sites along the Grande Ronde and awoke to a chorus of coyotes and the brilliant night sky. One of our sites, Joseph Creek, winds through a stark basalt canyon in contrast to its lush banks of alders, blackberries, and many species of wildflowers. Joseph Creek is one of our long term monitoring sites, where the BLM uses these long term trends to adjust management of the surrounding area, be it grazing intensity or off road vehicle usage. Some of these sites are also Section 7 ESA streams, meaning they are habitat for state and federal listed fish species such as the Chinook salmon and the Steelhead trout. At these sites along with the usual water quality protocol, we also deploy temperature loggers for the season to measure the daily maximum and minimum so we can have a thermal regime for each stream.
South Fork of Walla Walla

Looking down at Joseph Canyon
Recently we had another intern, Zoe, start with us from the local watershed council and she is a wonderful addition to the team. She is new to ecology and natural resources studies for the most part, so my mentor and I are teaching her the ways of fieldwork and the science behind our projects. Zoe is from the area and has already been informing me of more places to explore!

Speaking of exploring, I’ve had a few more adventures in and around the gorgeous local mountains.  I had the fortunate chance of seeing a Great Grey owl hunting in a private ecological reserve in the foothills of the Wallowas! I also went hiking in both the Elkhorns and Wallowa mountains and am eager to go back to both, which contain many miles of backcountry trails.

Elkhorns Wallowas IMG_0206

Also a couple weeks ago, I attended the CLM Workshop at the Chicago Botanic Garden, which was an inspiring experience. I got a chance to learn more about plant taxonomy and how important a role it plays in restoration projects. For someone new to the plant world, the information was a bit overwhelming, but it gave me a glimpse of what distinguishing characteristics are used to key out a species and how seeds are collected and raised for establishing or maintaining a species.The symposium that brought speakers from various backgrounds was most relevant to my interest as they discussed restoration at the large scale, including wetlands as well as entire watersheds. It was a real privilege to hear Professor Joy Zedler, a prominent leader in watershed restoration, speak on the potential framework for future studies, through looking back on her own projects. I left the conference feeling a better sense of purpose in my own work with the BLM, understanding monitoring’s importance in recognizing shifts in ecosystems and through successful collaboration with stakeholders management plans can mitigate loss of species as well as ecosystem function.  In conclusion, I have to say the conference was also  a great opportunity to explore Chicago, as well as meet the fabulous set of individuals that are my fellow CBG-ers.


Hidden in Plain Sight: Adventures with Rocks and Grasses~! \(^_^\)

Alternative Training: Boot Camp for Grasses!

Since I have already attended the CBG training two years ago, I was fortunate enough to go on an alternative training opportunity in the city of Seattle. The opportunity involved an intense three day course on grass identification. We were given a plethora of grasses to observe and identify throughout the three day period. The first day involved a few lectures on grass identification and the importance of grasses. We were given over fifty samples of grasses to look at. Glumes, awns, ligules, paleas, anthers, culms, and every part relating to grasses was observed! By the end of the day, I was exhausted due to the shear amount of key features per grass I identified. This session really helped me out! In the past, all my botany classes concentrated on forb, shrub, and tree identification and always skipped over grasses.

Grass identification is serious business!

Grass identification is serious business!…Also, when identifying grasses, sun block is essential.

Everyone's favorite brome, cheatgrass!!! Kidding! ;)

Everyone’s favorite brome, cheatgrass!!! Kidding! 😉

The second day brought us out in the field to Discovery Park! We identified all the invasive and native grasses in the area. There were many interesting grasses that even grew in Illinois (where I am from) that grew in the fields here! Some of the grasses that stood out were ripgut (Bromus diandrus), quackgrass (Elytrigia repens)…..the genus has changed considerably, and American dune grass (Leymus mollis). Ripgut was a brome species and basically looks like a cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) on steroids. Thank goodness I don’t see this in the field at work! Quackgrass was a particularly nasty invasive I have always encountered. If you grab the tip of the grass and pull the culm in the opposite direction, you could make all the seed heads move in a quacking fashion like a duck! ^_^ American dune grass was a massive grass found along the shorelines of the Sound and was planted to control the erosion of beaches. Overall, the day required a lot of walking and identification, but I loved it!!

The groundskeeper was curious on why so many people were on their knees picking grass.

The groundskeeper was curious on why so many people were on their knees picking grass…

The third day began with lectures and a chance to look at the herbarium they had at Washington State University. I had the privilege to look at many herbarium grasses that were collected along the Northwest corridor. Some of the collections were over 100 years old!! We met an artist that was working on the new taxonomic key for the Hitchcock guide book. There were other people that were working on the herbarium website. I use the Hitchcock guide book and the website all the time for plant identification and now I got to meet the people who actually worked on it all! I was so happy!! At the end of the class, I learned over 80 genera of grasses. The huge amount of species I have learned would help me in the future when I begin plant monitoring soon. Hopefully, I will see more grasses beyond the Stipa, Elymus, Leymus, Bromus, and Festuca species.

Looking at some herbarium specimens.

Looking at some herbarium specimens.

Eaglet Names!!

The eaglets have hatched and were very active in their nests recently. Some have started to explore the perimeters of their nest and beyond! O_O Recently, Jenny and I have been doing revisits and have observed many of the eaglets in action. I gave them names that suited them. I am sure you recognize Boo from my previous blog! Most of the active nests were up north towards the Canadian border. The central and southern nests did have some success as well!! Here are the names for the eaglets.

Site Name                       Eaglet

Bridgeport Bar East:        Bosmin

Douglas Creek:               Roseluck

Enloe Dam:                    Wyatt

Francis Canyon:             Eclipse

Grimes Lake:                 Boo

Hull Mt:                         Moonshine

Ice Caves:                     Dipper

Palisades North:            Lily

Pomona:                      Goldie

Saddle Mts:                 Star Buck

Sheep Creek:               Mable

Sinlahekin Loomis:       Fig Newton

Siwash Creek:             Truffle Shuffle

This is Truffle Shuffle doing his thing. It is really hard to take pictures of the eaglets. Haha!

This is Truffle Shuffle doing his thing. It is really hard to take pictures of the eaglets. Haha!

Rock and Mineral Adventures

I have been busy on the rock hounding front around Wentachee, Washington. From petrified wood to opal to geode nodules, Washington state has it all! My favorite rock hounding spots were the Saddle Mountains, Douglas Creek, Red Top Mountain, and Crystal Mountain!

The Saddle Mountains were known for their petrified wood. Limbcasts and large logs of petrified wood were littering the ground on top of the mountains. This area had so much petrified wood, it was incredible. There were calcite and silica deposits as well near the petrified wood, so you could collect neat specimens!

Petrified wood and limb casts from the Saddle Mountains!! \(O_O\)

Petrified wood and limb casts from the Saddle Mountains!! \(O_O\)

Douglas Creek has a lot of silica/ opal deposits at the top of the hills. The colors of the rocks vary from red, orange, pink, green, and white. The opal rocks look constantly wet and with cleaning they turned out to be top quality stones!

(/O_O)/ Douglas Creek Silica rock and opal!

(/O_O)/ Douglas Creek silica rock and opal!

Red Top Mountain has Ellensburg Blue Agate. Those rocks could be easily dug up from the ground from the breccia deposits. The nodules and agates have a vivid blue color that could be used for jewelry. I went after a thunderstorm in search of the nodules. People left piles of dirt next to the holes and left everything. When I came after the storm, the nodules were exposed and washed by the rain. I could easily find the nodules in the piles. I spent a few hours early in the morning collecting samples.

Ellensburg Blue Agate and Nodules.

Ellensburg Blue Agate and Nodules.

Crystal Mountain was an amazing place to search for blue nodules, agates, and other various large crystals. I hiked in and slid down the talus slopes to the geode piles. The talus slopes I was sliding on had many agates and blue striped nodules, so I quickly grabbed as much as possible while sliding down. At the bottom of the talus slopes, you could find huge geodes and nodules weighing 10 to 15 pounds! Geodes literally covered the ground in a few areas. Thanks to a fire in the previous year and the sheep eating grass in the area, everything was exposed! I hiked out of the area with 40 pounds of rocks! ^_^; The hardest part was carrying everything up the talus slopes. Haha!!

Blue nodule!!

Blue nodule!!

The Bounty of Crystal Mountain!!!

The Bounty of Crystal Mountain!!!

The Great Transition: NISIMS

We were finishing up in Sulfur Canyon on NISIMS reports. Jenny and I have been going into the depths of Sulfur Canyon and recording wildlife observations, anthills, various bird species, and invasive plants. Cheatgrass, tall tumble mustard (Sisymbrium altissimum), Dalmatian toadflax (Linaria dalmatica), whitetop (Lepidium draba), Russian knapweed (Acroptilon repens), diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa), and common woolly mullein (Verbascum thapsus) were the most prevalent weeds that were growing in the area. We hiked up various hillsides and narrow ravines to get to some of the most isolated sections of the allotment. By the end of each day, my shoes and pants would be covered with needle and thread (Hesperostipa comata) and cheat grass seeds. The area in my  shoes and pants that were exposed were pierced by seed, which was pretty painful, but I survived. <_<

Doing NISIMS data collection!!

Doing NISIMS data collection!!

In the future, we will be transitioning to many sites that had a fire within the last three to five years. These ESR sites would have basic transects that would help identify the plant population and the amount of invasive plants in that allotment. We will be traveling all over the state, including the other resource area to monitor the sites. In Burns, OR or Buffalo, WY, some of the sites would be two to three hours away. In Washington, some of the sites would be a lot further, because the Spokane District of BLM is basically the entire state. After the July 4th weekend, we will be starting with Watermelon Hills to do NISIMS and to monitor a rare SIlene species!!

Moment of Zen

A "bumbled" bee collecting pollen.

A “bumbled” bee collecting pollen.

Bonus Sheep Herd:

Sheep herd relaxing.

Sheep herd relaxing.

NYC Month 1

Moving to New York City from Bloomington, Indiana has been full of challenges. After 15 hours of driving and exiting the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, I was immediately rear ended, though this is New York and this doesn’t qualify as an actual accident. Learning. I had a day to settle in before I had to go to the internship training in Chapel Hill, NC. The training itself went fine, the North Carolina Botanic Garden staff were fantastic hosts. We made a couple collections and ate quite well the entire time we were there. Unfortunately, the week came to an end and we had to return to NYC.

Upon arriving at the airport in Chapel Hill, I received a text from my roommate letting me know my whip had been towed. Great. I had left my car with my new roommates to move my car due to the twice a week street cleaning. They moved my car, though I found out it was to a no standing zone. So after a couple hours dealing with the Brooklyn Navy Yard tow people (they had no record of my vehicle), I finally got my car out, but not before $400 in fees and an additional $230 in tickets were paid. Learning.

The internship has otherwise gone okay. I don’t know my species as well as I would like, though that is fixable. I’ve learned that tents don’t actually keep you dry and when it rains (frequently), sleep is hard to come by. I’ve been to Long Island, New Jersey, and Delaware so far, all new places. I’ve explored unfamiliar habitats and been exposed to plants previously not encountered in my home oak-hickory forests. I get to hike most days and spend plenty of days on the beach. As a group, we’ve made a handful of collections. I believe the count is currently five, so only 295 more to go for the season. It’s a seemingly daunting number at this point, though I’m sure easily obtainable as the season progresses.

While this month has been one of my most trying, full of financial despair and exhaustion, I have to imagine it should get better. Things can’t go wrong all the time, right?

Liberals, Rednecks and Cowboys: Life in Burns BLM

Alvord Desert, Steens in the Backgorund

Alvord Desert, Steens in the Backgorund

It’s been about 5 weeks ish since I’ve moved from my home in Baltimore, Maryland to a small rural town in Burns, Oregon. The act of moving to Burns was hard at first since I basically packed my bags the night of graduation and flew here immediately, meaning I missed a lot of grad parties and celebrations with friends. However, I wouldn’t really have it any other way. I can honestly say I really adore life here in my double wide trailer and with my 3 other CLM intern roommates. I open my front door in the morning to donkeys Duncan and Fiona, and horses Chester and…. I forget the other one’s name. At night I have 2 pretty kitties that love to cuddle and be pet. I miss rain though.  It’s very hot and dry here, and now that its hitting over 100 during the day, there is no relief. In a way Burns is its own cultural immersion experience. Cowboy life is real here, the big brimmed hats, cowboy boots, rodeos and bull riders, and high-waisted wrangler jeans are legit and not just for fashion. I’ve seen cow brandings and got a taste of Rocky Mountain oysters. All that “organic”, “grass fed” beef you like so much? It’s bred out here on the range in this way that’s not necessarily meant to be environmentally friendly, but is more or less anyway. The cows frolic all day on the range. Be wary though, because if you hit one, you pay out $5,000 to the farmer.  Being a black girl moving from a city to  a small conservative town, I was not sure exactly what to expect in coming to Burns.  But let me tell you, everyone in this town is super friendly.  I have literally not met one mean boned person here. Also I learned the BLM doesn’t slaughter/cull horses, which is nice to know because that was my only impression of the organization before coming here.

Wild Horse Lake on the Steens

Wild Horse Lake on the Steens

By the end of my time here I shall be a botany goddess (at least when it come to identifying grasses of Oregon). So far my work has mainly been emergency stabilization and rehabilitation monitoring. In other words, I visit areas that have burned in the last few years and determine which plants (mostly perennials) have reestablished themselves. Sites vary from a decent mix of sagebrush and other natives to mostly invasive cheat grass. Sagebrush and high desert county are very different from the deciduous forests I grew up in, but I fancy the vastness of the range. I work 4/10s so 4 10hour work days a week.  This schedule is necessary, as it takes almost 2 hours to commute to any one field site. Actually, a 2 hour commute is generally a rule of thumb to get anywhere out side of Burns, thereby a 4/10s schedule is awesome because it also gives us 3 day weekends, which we have used to adventure to the steens, the city of Bend, and nearby lakes.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this snapchat of a CLMer’s life!

clm blog3

-Jessica Macer

Burns BLM


That First Month Flew By


Photo Jun 14, 3 24 01 PM

Rose Garden in Portland

Wow. I cannot believe it has been a month already. I’ve spent a lot of time surveying for Applegate’s Milk-vetch at the airport. We did a full census in the footprint of the construction areas and surveyed randomly selected transects in others. After spending 9+ hours a day looking for the plants, I could see them when I closed my eyes. WEIRD.

Photo Jun 02, 1 37 32 PM


It was crazy cool to see F-15s fighter jets take off and land so close to us. This airport is the only place in the US that has F-15 training.

Photo Jun 03, 4 31 01 PM (1)





This milk-vetch is also found in a couple other areas of Klamath Falls. The Ewauna Flat Preserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy, has ongoing efforts of monitoring and outplanting for the milk-vetch. I went there to assist Kerry (a professor at Oregon Tech) with the monitoring of milk-vetch that had been planted within the past few years. This was my first time working with plants and I really liked it.

At the ponds, we monitored for predators and fish. We found a couple of coyote tracks and saw two pelicans. We are still waiting to have the ponds stocked. There is some weird algae growing in the smaller ponds, but it may be beneficial.

Photo Jun 24, 12 03 41 PM

Alia and I electrofishing.

Electrofishing site.

Electrofishing site.

Alia and I went to check on our net pens at Rocky Point. Everything seemed to be going okay there. There might be some type of minnows in one of the nets though. We saw a ton of dragonflies and damselflies! Josh took us electrofishing recently. We saw a couple suckers but couldn’t seem to catch them. We caught a lot of Speckled Dace and Chubs. Other than all the field work, I have been labeling sucker fish that have been in alcohol for a few years and doing some office work.

Dragonflies at Rocky Point

Odonata at Rocky Point

Great Gray Owl

Great Gray Owl










One weekend we went to Portland and stopped at the Rose Garden. It is so beautiful.  Last weekend we went to Medford and Ashland. On our way back we saw a Great Gray Owl. I really like Oregon so far!

Till next time,


Welcome to Lakeview – The Tallest Town in Oregon

Tall Man welcomes you to Lakeview!

Tall Man welcomes you to Lakeview!

My first month of my CLM internship with the Lakeview BLM has been a whirlwind of experiences. It has been a bit of a culture shock moving from the bustling city of Minneapolis to the quiet cattle town of Lakeview within a week of graduating from college. I’m getting the hang of the “Western Wave”” and getting used to the never ending jokes about my Wisconsin accent (no, I will not say “bag” again for you).

From my experiences so far, I think the desert is the perfect place to begin my endeavors into the wonderful world of botany. The plant communities are diverse, but what you see is what is there. Other than the few forbs hiding in the sagebrush, most plants present themselves obviously to you. This is contrasting the overgrowth seen in many midwestern forest and prairie communities where you have to dig through all the green to find the plants you are searching for.

The last few weeks have been all about training. This past weekend my internship partner and I had the opportunity to travel to Bend, OR for a grass identification workshop put on by the Carex Working Group. It was an invaluable experience working alongside fellow interns from Burns as well as other colleagues from around Eastern Oregon with varying levels of knowledge and experience. We worked together to identify the characteristics of different groups of grasses and practiced keying out several specimens to species. Who knew such simple plants could have such intricate structures and specialized modifications. After all our training, all I can say is – bring on the Poas.

Fun fact for the day: Poa in Swahili means cool. Grasses ARE cool.

Keying out grasses at the workshop

Keying out grasses at the workshop

Field identification of grasses at the workshop

Field identification of grasses at the workshop

With the commencement of Safety Week here in Lakeview, I can now confidently say I am certified in CPR and I can change a spare tire, so that is pretty neat.

I’m excited to continue on with the Seeds of Success program and hopefully make successful collections of the Eriogonum heracleoides, Astragalus lentiginosus, Salvia dorii, and all the other fun plant populations that we have scouted out so far.

Eriogonum heracleoides

Eriogonum heracleoides

Salvia dorrii

Salvia dorrii

All the best,


Lakeview BLM

Around the Bend & through the Fields

The past month has been a whirlwind of maneuvering through airports, packing and unpacking duffle bags, and riding in cars. The week of June 8-12 was our CLM training workshop at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. My fellow interns and I spent the weekend beforehand exploring Boise, ID (we tried Basque food!) before flying out to Chicago. Once at the Gardens, we were treated to a week of nonstop learning. We had lectures on conservation genetics and graduate school options, as well as crash courses in botany of the west and monitoring/inventory methods. Best of all, we got to go to a symposium and listen to presentations on large-scale ecosystem restoration efforts.


Most of the workshop was held at the Plant Science Center.


I loved taking pictures of all the beautiful flowers!


Aside from the useful tips we received for success in the field, what I took away from the workshop was a reaffirmed love for learning and research, and a confirmed desire to further my education by pursuing a PhD. I stayed in the city through the weekend with my boyfriend to check out the Field Museum (free admission with my employee ID!), the University of Chicago, and Chinatown.


Chinatown & the Willis Tower

After being back in good ol’ Burns for just three days, Megan (my roommate/co-intern) and I were off to Bend, OR for a two-day grass identification workshop. Although that might sound about as exciting as watching paint dry, it was actually extremely useful. The first day was spent learning grass morphology and picking apart the seed heads under a dissecting microscope. By the second day, we were fairly proficient in keying out grass species, and we got to apply our newly acquired knowledge in the field. I now feel much more confident in my ability to ID grasses, which will be very helpful when doing trend sites. Megan and I stayed in town for the weekend and enjoyed live music along the river, the Bite of Bend, and camping/hiking in Ochoco National Forest.


Equisteum (not a grass, just cool)


View from our campsite on the Crooked River.

The day after we returned from Bend we drove two hours to Fields, OR, a town with a population of 8 (yes, 8, that’s not a typo). We spent two days zipping around on a UTV to some of our more southern trend sites, which was a blast. The surrounding area was breathtaking – snowcapped mountains, a lake, and an expansive desert were all within sight. We spent the night at a field station which is affectionately referred to as “the Hilton” because it has air conditioning and a TV. Now that’s luxury.


Open space is endless out here.


Mariposa Lily

Now that I’m back in Burns, I’m recalling some words I saw on the wall of the Tourist Information Center in Bend: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Thinking back on the last month, it’s hard not to smile with appreciation for the experiences I’ve had, and the hope that I am truly making the most of this one life.

Rubus and Carex

Hi folks,

I’m back at it again. When we last left off in the life of Michal, CLM intern extraordinaire, I was doing maintenance here at the Plant Materials Center (PMC). During the last couple of weeks though, I’ve been spending a lot more time working in the office, in part because of the heat but mostly because I’ve been tending to some other matters.

The PMC is going through a year of abundant funding, which I’ve been told happens approximately every 5 years – the other 4 they are underfunded, and that’s just the way it is. Because of this, the administration here is stocking up on everything and making big purchases now, kind of like a pre-hibernation bear making sure it can last the winter. This means good things are happening: we are purchasing new equipment, a brand new tractor, and making infrastructure improvements.

The riparian corridor along our levee is heavily infested with Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus).

Rubus armeniacus along the levee.

Rubus armeniacus along the levee.

But before I get into that, I want to share some experiences with you! Being from the city of Chicago, until now I never really been exposed to Native Americans. But being out west, I feel fortunate to come across natives and to be exposed to their culture. As an ethnic group, they have largely been swept under the rug in this country, especially in California. They have lost access to their lands, their culture, and their identity and I really feel empathy for them. Jeff, I, and a volunteer, Sarah, had the pleasure of helping a Dee, a woman from the Miwok tribe, collect Santa Barbara sedge (Carex barbarae) roots in the riparian corridor between our levee and the Mokelumne river. Historically, indians collected the long rhizomes of the sedge and wove baskets for water with them. We knelt and dug in the soil with our bare hands, following the roots by touch to see where they lead in order to collect the longest segment. Also, a guy by the name of Isidro came to the PMC to collect eucalyptus wood to use for a healing ceremony at a sweat lodge for tribal men dealing with alcoholism and other addictions. I helped him and some friends cut up dry branches and load them into their truck.

Isidro cutting eucalyptus branches.

Isidro cutting eucalyptus branches.

I have always appreciated our natural resources, and have devoted myself to understanding their ecological value, and their roles in our ecosystems. For the first time however, I am appreciating the cultural value that they can provide, the role they play in the identity and spiritual lives of people. Plants are also cultural resources as well, and that human dimension is amazing to me.

So back to the blackberry – these things grow everywhere. I decided to take it upon myself to restore the riparian zone, especially since that’s what most of my work experience has been so far. Jeff had the same idea so we’re working together to make this happen. During the past two weeks, I have been doing a lot of research and in the process have become much more familiar with the plants in the central valley. I have put together a proposal for the project. It covers all the planning, scheduling and logistics, invasive removal and native plantings (what and quantity), instructions for maintenance, and so forth. We will also be propagating our own plugs in the greenhouse. Successful restoration is hard to accomplish, but I feel confident and excited about this!

I don’t want to rant about everything so I’ll stop here for now. Please feel free to comment if you would like to share any ideas. Happy interning everyone.

In the meanwhile, here’s a photo of me visiting Eldorado National Forest


Michal Tutka

CLM Intern

NRCS – California

First Month in Wyoming

It has been a whirlwind of a month.  Moving out to Wyoming has been both interesting and fun.  I am stationed in the Newcastle Field Office, which is 17 miles west of the South Dakota border.  My fellow intern and I are lucky in that we have access to government housing.  It just has a few drawbacks, like no internet or cell phone service, but we have gotten used to it.  This just means finding creative ways to spend free time.  It is great living here because with the lack of internet I tend to explore the area more.  It is an amazing area.  There are several National Forests, National Parks, and National Monuments outside the door.  These places include Devils Tower, the Black Hills, Jewel Cave, Wind Cave, Yellowstone, the Big Horns and many others.

Every year our office hosts a weeklong camp for middle schoolers showing what field science is like and the different opportunities out there.  Everyone had a fun week with the kids camping out and the adults in a small cabin, and let me tell you the cabin was very nice when thunderstorms came rolling in.

There was a lot to do every day; we had surveying, astronomy lessons, forest inventory, fire ecology, water and stream health, and wildland firefighters.  The firefighters got the kids really excited, there was a huge truck and they got to try on field packs and roll out hoses.  The kids had a lot of fun trying to outdo each other in what they could carry; it was funny seeing a ten year old carrying 50 pounds of gear.  While helping the kids was fun, one of the highlights for me was climbing to the top of a fire tower at sunset, this is something that you just don’t get in the East.  Overall helping the kids discover new ways to enjoy the outdoors was very rewarding.

Sunset in the Black Hills

Much of the past few weeks have been fun.  It is nice to start getting into the meat of our summer projects.  We have three projects all at different stages of completion.  As the internship is focused on forestry, the projects concern different types of forest management objectives.  Of the three projects, one is almost competed and is almost ready to be summited for bid.  This means that loggers are going to be bidding on the right to harvest the tract of land.  All of this is within the overall goal of reducing the forests susceptibility to mountain pine beetle and promote wildlife habitat.  The other two projects, one a meadow restoration and wildlife habitat improvement and the other a timber sale to promote forest health are where the bulk of the field work will be focused on. Can’t wait to to see how the summer will turn out.