Small Update from Cedar City

This last month has been great. We surveyed a large area for treatment, and found little to no activity, which, while that may sound dull, is actually a good thing. Now pinyon-juniper treatment can go on uninterrupted without the risk of endangering wildlife in the area. We also made a lot of progress in our Seeds of Success collections, and were able to lend a hand to the CLM interns in the Richfield office on a couple of their collections.

Yet, the coup de grace of the whole month was the prairie dog work we got to do with the Cedar City Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The first step was laying plague vaccine at a few of our sites. Then we set traps and caught at a site with prairie dogs previously vaccinated. Once vaccinated we anesthetized them and collected, blood, hair, and flea samples. The hands-on work was phenomenal and easily one of the best things I’ve done this season.



A Week in the Mountains

Last week my fellow Carson City interns and I had a little respite from the heat of sagebrush country in mid-august and traveled up into the mountains.   Our mentor was attending a workshop in the Bishop area, and we were able to make the journey south with him, drop him off, and venture out to collect seed and vouchers for a return seed collecting trip later this fall.  A collection permit issued by the Inyo National Forest allowed us to venture onto their lands and into the John Muir Wilderness!  We ended up spending two days in the Seirras and two days in the White Mountains.  The highlight of the White Mountains was the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.  The trip was capped off by an impromtu outing with the workshop’s leader and White Mountian botanical expert Jim Morfield.  It was very exciting and informative to botanize with someone with such a wealth of botanical knowledge.

Other than the trip south, we are busy plugging away at the fire rehab monitoring that needs to be completed.  With the deadline for completion just over a month away, there is never too much down time here in Carson City!




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Riparian assessments and rare cactus surveys

Over the past several weeks the main focus of the Grand Junction, Colorado ecologist’s has been the documentation and survey of riparian areas located within the two NCA’s found in the field office region. Surprisingly this summer is close to establishing a record for the highest rate of precipitation in the valley, making this one of the most unusual seasons for herpetological development. Apart from creating an ecosystem for amphibians, the weather has been great news for me because it has kept the oppressive heat down to a bearable low. On days when the heat reaches above 100 degrees Fahrenheit it is always very surprising when you are able to locate a body of water in what appears to be an empty desert. The great diversity of life that can be found in every corner of this region continually impresses me, until you live in an arid environment it is easy to consider a desert vacant of vibrant and diverse ecosystems, but that is far from the truth.

Considering that there has been a record high for rainfall this summer, there have been several outlying observations made concerning the cycle of high altitude ponds in the region. We have witnessed a surge of herpetological species in these areas. Documenting the population frequencies of amphibians is especially important because of the growing risk of Chytridiomycosis spreading in North America. The Chytrid fungus has not been discovered in Colorado but keeping a careful eye on current Amphibian populations is crucial for any early detection of the disease.

Regardless of the record high rain fall there have still been several forest fires that have broken out in the Grand Junction BLM field region, very few of which began outside of anthropological influence. Believe it or not, a group of adults rafting down the Ruby Horse Thief Canyon decided to detonate a firework mortar shell while camping overnight, despite the fire ban in place. An entire region along the river ignited into flames devouring almost 200 adult cotton-wood trees. Thankfully the group of rafters was able to be successfully rescued, but the damage done to the ecosystem will take decades before it is restored to its former glory. The experience proved to me that even if you are observing a record high rain fall, there is always the potential for disaster when it comes to fire in the summer season. Forest fires have proven to be a great challenge to the environmental community; my thoughts go out to fire fighters across the country.

The next generation of botanists


Halfway through my summer internship with CLM and I have overcome one of my fears….teaching kids!

I have no problem talking to people my own age about science or explaining to an older crowd what I do every day for work, but I always get nervous when I have to explain something to a younger generation. I think it is because their brains are like sponges and I don’t want them to absorb the wrong information if I say something that is incorrect. I’ll be the first to admit this is an irrational fear and it is definitely a little ridiculous; nevertheless, I was completely terrified when my boss told me one Monday morning that we were going to be teaching 6th graders all about Forestry and Botany.

The Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) is an incredible program that provides support and opportunities for students in addition to their regular classroom studies. ANSEP hosts summer camps where chaperones and teachers take kids in 6th through 8th grade around the state of Alaska and introduce them to many fields of Science and Engineering. The second Monday in June and the second Monday in July were Biology days! Myself, my co-intern Charlotte, and our boss Eric were all invited to teach Forestry/Botany at each camp.

The first month, Eric was with us and did most of the teaching. I was extremely content to simply stand next to the tree and demonstrate the use of a DBH tape or point to a flower on the forest floor and identify the species. However, Eric was out of town for the second session of camp. Oh no!

I arrived on the scene of what I was certain would be my funeral and was greeted by the lovely ANSEP coordinator. She informed me that we were going to start a little later so the kids could have a longer lunch break. Great! More time to panic!

But then I received a phone call from a friend and shortly after explaining where I was and what I was doing, I received some of the best advice to date: “You may be the first or only person that ever teaches these kids the importance of Forestry and Botany. Show them how much you love what you do and maybe one out of the bunch will follow in your footsteps.”

I was shocked. Maybe this information seems obvious to some of you, but this caused me to think back on my personal education and experiences with a new perspective. When I was in my first year of high school, I was interested in History and was focused and determined to follow a particular career path related to that field of study. Then I enrolled in Grade 10 Biology and my life changed. I can remember the exact day I made the realization that this was going to be a passion that I would pursue for the rest of my life. It is amazing how one teacher or one field trip can truly open your eyes.

That afternoon, I taught 48 twelve year olds all about the fields and forests of Alaska, what I do for work, why it is important, and why I love it so much. I know that not every ear was attentive and not every mind was intrigued; however, I would like to think my friend was right and that I may have inspired one young sponge to pursue a respectable and incredible career in Forestry or Botany.


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Also, being paid in gummy bears is awesome!


Road Less Traveled: Journey to the Volcanic Legacies of Washington!

Hello everyone!!! Welcome!! We are going on a special adventure today! We have a change of plans, so we will not have any sagebrush journeys along the Columbia River. Recently, we are in a red flag warning and there are around thirty active fires in our area!! Do you see all the smoke filling into Wenatchee, Washington? That is from the Wolverine and Reach Fires.

Smoke near Wenatchee, WA!!

Smoke near Wenatchee, WA!! This is what I picture Venus’ atmosphere looking like.

The Columbia River Tour has been cancelled today due to smokey conditions...

The Columbia River Tour has been cancelled today due to smokey conditions…

So, we are traveling along the Cascade Range and visiting most of the volcanic legacies the great state of Washington has to offer instead! We are on a budget, so we are mainly visiting Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Baker! Each one of those mountains are volcanoes, so we will see an amazing assortment of geology, biology, and meteorology!! Remember to bring your coat and rain jacket! Unlike the intense 100°F +, dry weather of Central Washington, we will be encountering a lot of precipitation and lower temperatures. Let’s go!!!!!!

Mt. Adams

O_O As we approach Mt.St. Helens, you may have noticed another snow covered peak nearby. This large mountain is Mt. Adams!! The second largest mountain in the lower forty eight states. On our trips down to southern Washington during work, we always see this mountain looming over the surrounding landscape. Don’t be fooled! This is not Mt. Hood! That volcano is located further south. You may see this mountain clearly when looking from the top of Mt St Helens and Mt. Rainier! The glaciers and its distinct shape attract a large amount of recreationalists! There are plenty of opportunities to go hiking, fishing, and go camping around there. We will have to say good bye to this stratovolcano and move west to Mt. St. Helens!

Mt Adams from a distance.

Mt Adams from a distance.

Mt St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens….one of the most active volcanoes in the Cascade Range. On May 18th, 1980, there was a violent eruption. Instead of bursting straight into the air like other volcanoes, the explosion left the side of the volcano. The lahars and pyroclastic flow caused a massive amount of damage, which carved out the landscape. You can still see evidence of the violent eruption in the surrounding area. Now foresters are replanting trees and nature is slowly coming back. Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) and various grasses are taking advantage over the open space and are now growing throughout the area! Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), which is considered an introduced and invasive plant, can be seen in the valley below where the elk herds roam.

Mt. St. Helens!!!

Mt. St. Helens!!!

Scotch Broom and other plants within one of the valleys in near Mt. St. Helens.

Scotch Broom and other plants within one of the valleys near Mt. St. Helens. The scotch broom is the yellow flowered plant!!

They have seismographs all around Mt. St. Helens. If the volcano were to show signs of erupting, many scientists would know.

They have seismographs all around Mt. St. Helens. If the volcano were to show signs of erupting, many scientists would know based on the data collected by these instruments.

The most recent eruption, I heard, was in 2008. Some people were very worried that Mt. St. Helens would erupt again, because the new lava dome started to grow larger….Sorry to worry you! Let us talk about something else!!

The precipitation from the west side of the Cascades envelopes the volcano leaving a nice amount of snow, which usually disappears by the Summer time. When you take a hike around the base of the volcano, you may find ash and pumice from the eruption. Some people use the ash to make green colored glass. People sell it as Helenite. Don’t be fooled! If the seller calls it beryl or topaz, they are totes wrong! D:

People love to grow rhododendron around the Mt. St. Helens area.

People love to grow rhododendron around the Mt. St. Helens area.

There are many opportunities to go bird watching around in the area! Woodpeckers, western tanagers (Piranga ludoviciana), and American dippers (Cinclus mexicanus) make their home in the forested and river regions. Another fun activity you can do is rock hounding. The rivers that flow from the volcano, such as the Salmon River, contain carnelian agate and other interesting agates. You may have to walk up the creek to the rock bars, but it is worth the experience. Do you see that large mountain to the northeast?? That is Mt. Rainier. We will be traveling there next!

Carnelian agate!!

Carnelian agate!!

Mt. Rainier

One of the most famous volcanoes in Washington state is Mt. Rainier. This very picturesque mountain could be seen from Seattle! There are plenty of glaciers that cover the volcano, which gives it a very distinct look. There are plenty of trails, wildflowers, and lakes that you could easily spend a week here exploring! Another interesting fact is that this place is a National Park!!! Make sure to bring your National Park stamp book!!

Mt Rainier!!!

Mt Rainier!!!

In the southeast corner of the park is a place called the Trail of the Patriarchs! This area is a primary forest! Many large trees could be viewed along the trail. It might remind you of a smaller version of the Redwood Forest!

Mid-story canopy of the forest!

Mid-story canopy of the forest!

A massive tree that fell over!!

A massive tree that fell over!!

During the months of June to July, you can see a huge variety of wildflowers. With the wet meadows present from the snow melt, this area contains a massive amount of flora diversity. On Snow Trail, you could see Bear grass (Xerophyllum tenax), false hellebore (Veratrum viride), and various gentians (Gentianaceae) growing along the streams. The talus slopes on this trail still retain the snow from the winter time. The lake found at the end of the trail is very cold, but it is a good fishing spot for trout. You may even see various grouse species along the way!! Before we move to the northern side of the mountain, you may want to take a stop at Reflection Lake! This lake provides stunning views of the mountain. The reflection of Mt. Rainier from the lake creates great pictures!!

Reflection Lake and Mt. Rainier!

Reflection Lake and Mt. Rainier!

Indian paintbrush (Castilleja) are also a wildflower that grows abundantly by Mt. Rainier!

Indian paintbrush (Castilleja) are also a wildflower that grows abundantly by Mt. Rainier!

Sunrise is an area located to the northeast section of the National Park. There are many trails located around here that will bring you right up to the mountain! Mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) could be seen foraging along the talus slopes on the local vegetation. Pumice and other volcanic rocks could be found along these trails. They are considered leaverites, which means you have to leave them right where you found them :p There are many dwarf versions of the wildflowers and trees surrounding the sub alpine tundra. When you approach the end of the Burroughs next to Mt. Rainier, you would get fantastic views of the mountains. There are plenty of flies and insects flying around, which makes this a great place to go bird watching. Birds love slow, flying insects!! There is a lot of rock stacking in certain areas, but it is frowned down upon by certain conservationists.

Mountain goats relaxing in the open meadow!

Mountain goats relaxing in the open meadow!

There is a lot more to explore in this region, but we have to move onto our next destination, Mt. Baker!

Glacier Peak
We are off to Mt. Baker!! I am very exciting to go to this large mountain and……oh? What are you looking at? Right on! That is Glacier Peak!! I heard from some of my friends that this is one of the most active volcanoes in the Cascade Range. Within the last million years, this mountain produced many violent eruptions when the continental glacier receded from this area. You can look at the topography of the landscape and see evidence of lahars and pyroclastic flows. The geologic topography such as the lava domes and cinder cones really add character to this mountain. I heard the hot springs were active in the region and there are some pretty cool hikes and bird watching opportunities. Let us move on!!

Glacier Peak from a distance!!

Glacier Peak from a distance!!

Mt. Baker

To the east of Bellingham and near the Canada border, I present to you Mt. Baker….hmmm… It is extraordinarily misty right now. Usually this type weather is very common in this area. They would get misty rains and fog rolling in most of the time. We would see Mt. Baker, but the clouds are covering the volcano up. There is still plenty of things to see though! Let us hike around until the fog lifts…

Hopefully, the sun will come out soon!!!

Hopefully, the sun will come out soon!!! This area has phenomenal hiking and ski trails. There are plenty of rare flora here as well!!

One of the notable trails for views is Table Mountain. From what I have heard, this rock structure formed when lava was being expelled and settled in between two glaciers. When the glaciers receded, there was this butte with very steep sides left behind. There is plenty of flora and fauna that could be seen. Pikas (Ochotona spp.), marmots (Marmota spp.), and American Pipits (Anthus rubescens) can be seen in this area. The large mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana), silver fir (Abies amabilis) and different kind of Ericaceae plants provide food and shelter for many animals. This place usually has fantastic views of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan, but with this fog, we get to see cool, shrouded landscapes.

Wow!! Look at this cool geologic feature!!

Wow!! Look at this cool geologic feature!!

It's a steep, slippery hike up Table Mountain!!

It’s a steep, slippery hike up Table Mountain!!

Hey!!! The sun is coming out!! There is Mt. Shuksan!! Now that the clouds have parted, we get to see a better view of the area! There are plenty of alpine meadows that various butterfly and honeybee pollinators use. This region also has a variety of different birds you can see such as western tanager, evening grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus), white tailed ptarmigan (Lagopus leucura), various crossbills species (Loxia), gray capped rosy finch (Leucosticte tephrocotis), and gray jays (Perisoreus canadensis) to name a few. Many lichen, mosses, ferns and bryophytes have been found and studied for a variety of purposes. This “Island in the Sky” is home to a huge diversity of plants and animals and everyone who is interested in botany or wildlife biology should take a visit to this region and explore it.

A gray jay planning hi jinx, shenanigans, and tomfoolery.

A gray jay planning hijinx, shenanigans, and tomfoolery.

Mt Shuksan decided to show itself!!!

Mt Shuksan decided to show itself!!!

Mt. Baker!! Where are you? D: Stop hiding behind that cloud!

Mt. Baker!! Where are you? D: Stop hiding behind that cloud!

I hope everyone enjoyed the Volcanic Legacy Tour!!! Next time, we will be heading back to Wenatchee, Washington for more adventures! Have a great day!!

And now…..Your Moment of Zen….


Ponderosas and stress

Since my last update, I’ve been working in a new area-meaning new habitats and new work. Now I’m working in Ponderosa pine restoration sites/fuels reduction stands. Even after a couple weeks of work, I’m still not quite used to being around trees instead of sagebrush. And right when I was starting to appreciate sagebrush! But in its own way these sites I’m going to now are also gorgeous. I’ve especially been a fan of how large Ponderosa bark smells like butterscotch! That said, I’m not crazy about the hordes of hornets that are only becoming more abundant. Last week the smoke was getting so bad in the area it looked like we were constantly in the eye of some great storm. No rain, just smoke.

Because I didn’t go to the Chicago training, I went to the Ecological Society of America Conference in Baltimore a couple weeks ago. All in all it was a blast, I loved catching up with old graduate students and professors. I also got to see some exciting new research and learned a lot. But it was also surprisingly stressful as well when I saw that even after getting my undergraduate degree, I still have a long way to go. At one particular moment I had a chill run down my spine when a colleague congratulated me on finding a job in ecology after graduating. Not exactly what I wanted to hear. So while I enjoyed the conference and learned a lot, one of the biggest lessons I got was not on Bayesian modeling but that I’m just at the beginning of my career in ecology. And while the ecology community is extremely welcoming, I will have to work all the harder to contribute significantly to the conservation movement, my end goal. While I love the work I am doing now, stress will always find me again.

One of the best lessons on stress I’ve ever heard was from my old Orgo I professor. After the first exam, among all the pre-med panic attacks, my professor laid out to us that if you look down the road from here-look at everything else you have to overcome-it’s not going to get any easier. And if you want to succeed, you are going to have to learn how to deal with stress. Or get a serious heart condition by the time you’re 25. Whichever comes first.

Oddly, that lesson comforts me. And I am so grateful I work a job where I enjoy what obstacles I am faced with. And when the stress builds up despite my efforts, I consider it a privilege that I live in an area where I can just hop out of the car, go for a hike on an unnamed trail, and get views like this:



Fish work continued

At the end of July we set off for a conference in beautiful Vancouver, BC. The conference was called Compassionate conservation. It was focused on bringing humane practices and ideas to the world of conservation. It had a variety of speakers from different backgrounds and from all over the world. I learned a lot about how we may bring a compassionate view of individuals in a field, which is mainly focused on the species as a whole.


Mt Hood (top left) and Mt Saint Helens (right) view from the flight to Vancouver

Our flight was delayed on the way back to Oregon due to the forest fires, which have sprung up all over the west coast. The smoke was so bad you could not see the airport, and we had to spend an hour circling above until we could land. When we arrived back to work we were made aware that the blue-green algae, a cyanobacteria, in the lake had bloomed and started producing toxins. At certain levels it can become harmful if ingested. So work in certain areas has become limited or we have taken the necessary precautions.

Most of the last month has been spent working on two projects. Both are taking place at the canal fish evaluation station run by the Bureau of Reclamation. The first project is focused on work regarding the requirements of the sucker fish recovery plan. At this canal station, thousands of fish get entrapped and are funneled through back into the lake. Part of the bureau’s job is to trap fish and collect data on any suckers caught. This year is the first year of the project to see if the fish caught can be held onto, kept alive, and then released as part of the captive propagation section of their recovery plan. If this is successful, we’ll see if it’s a viable option to continue in the future. Fish caught were kept in tanks until the end of the week, and then were transported to net pens set up on Pelican Bay. Once the fish are large enough, they will receive a PIT tag and be released.


Canal Fish Evaluation Station

The second project deals with estimating the potential frequency of sucker fish recirculation through the station. Chub and sculpin were used as surrogates for the project. These two species were chosen due to their similar characteristics to suckers and their abundance. Visual implant elastomer (VIE) tags were used to mark the fish. The tag is a colored liquid that goes under the skin, lasts a few months, and can be readily seen under black light. Recaptured fish can then be used to estimate recirculation rates through the station.


Chubs tagged using visual implant elastomers



Seed-extraction Success

Hello again my fellow CLM interns and CLM blog readers!  My internship is now well-over halfway through, bringing both excitement to move on to new places and new things and slight dread regarding moving away from the friendships I’ve made and fun I’ve had in Boise.  I think that my last 2 posts efficiently covered the seed collections and habitat assessments that we have been doing over the past 3 months, so I shall instead write about other things we have had the opportunity to experience/help out with.

Given Boise, Idaho’s 5 hour proximity to Bend, Oregon, we were able to personally deliver our last batch of seeds to the Bend Seed Extractory.  The assistant manager there,  Sarah, was kind enough to give us a tour of the facility and even demonstrate some of the equipment used for seed cleaning and separation.  It amazes me how few people work at the extractory, given the quantities of seed they must process.  Many of the collections they receive are somewhat new to them, so they must use the process of trial and error to determine the best combination of equipment and settings to extract, separate, and clean the seeds.  The top photo is of an anti-gravity machine that pumps air up from the bottom like an air hockey table to elevate the seeds and then shakes back and forth at a slight angle to separate heavier and lighter materials.  The seeds are slowly pushed off the end of the table, and the adjustable wooden wedges are used to direct the different weight classes into different bins.  Pretty cool!

Anti-Gravity Seed Separation Machine

Anti-Gravity Seed Separation Machine

Gradient of pure seeds at the top and unwanted material at the bottom

Gradient of pure seeds at the top and unwanted material at the bottom

Samples of seed collections from our field office last summer

Samples of seed collections from our field office last summer

Another day was spent accompanying some BLM employees from the Washington D.C. office and Idaho State office on a tour of the Intermountain Bird Observatory/Research Station.  We helped the researchers check their mist nets for songbirds every 30 minutes during their 5 hours after sunrise shift.  The birds are all identified, tagged if they aren’t already, measured, aged, and inspected for parasites and overall health.  Everything is then recorded, and the birds are set free to go about their daily activities.

Colorful individual ready for release

Colorful individual ready for release

Too content to fly away

Too content to fly away

One of the many mist nets in the area

One of the many mist nets in the area

Thanks for reading!

Dan King

BLM – Four Rivers Field Office – Boise, ID

Goats, Outlaws and Seeds

As the month of August began, the heat set in and the fires ignited! This past month has been both busy and enjoyable for me, with many more memories to add to my BLM-Buffalo experience. I would say that the bulk of this month has been spent seed collecting for me personally. I have collected and shipped a total of 9 populations with 5 more on the way! To be honest, I would have liked to have collected a few more populations by this time of year, but the weather continues to be unpredictable and sometimes uncooperative, which has definitely been a learning experience in being flexible and compromising. One of my favorite collections I did though was of Achillea millefolium, or Western Yarrow. By chance, I had found this (huge!!) population of yarrow on a small patch of BLM just within the property of a very friendly rancher. Better yet, this rancher has a herd of awesome goats that he is using to help curtail another unwanted plant species on his property. So of course, coming out to monitor the yarrow and then collect it, we were always welcomed by the goats that would come to the truck looking for some pets, hugs and food 😛

Saying hello to our goat friends at my collection site for Achillea millefolium!

Saying hello to our goat friends at my collection site for Achillea millefolium!

Another seed collection site that I have been enjoying this past month is called Outlaw Cave, on the southern end of my office’s boundaries. This area is both beautiful and historically interesting, as it is the known as one of the hiding places of famous Wild West outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It is quite a picturesque drive to get to this area, as you drive along the “Red Wall” of Wyoming and among many beautiful horse and cattle ranches. I have three seed populations in this area that are just starting to ripen late in the season for collection. Unfortunately, with all of the fires that have been raging in the West as of late, the views have been rather hazy and the air smoky, even though there are no serious fires in this immediate area. This has made collecting a little more challenging, as the air is extremely dry and hot, making hydration crucial for the long days in the field. Even so, it is still an breath-taking site to collect at, and I am thankful to have the opportunity to work within such awesome, rugged scenery!


Outlaw Cave

Outlaw Cave- the most beautiful part of the office’s BLM land!

Jade the horse whisperer at Red Wall.

Jade, the horse whisperer, at Red Wall.

In other news, it appears that collection season is slowly winding down. I can’t believe that within just two weeks it will be September and fall and cooler weather will start setting in. I expect that my work will begin transferring to more office work as I begin mapping my population sites on GIS, inputting collection data onto the computer and preparing my voucher specimens. This internship has certainly flown by quickly, and I am anxious to figure out my next steps and plans for the months ahead!