Departing the Mojave

This marks the end of my internship with USGS Henderson in the Mojave Desert. It has been a fantastic experience, and I have learned so much! It has been a pleasure to work with amazing researchers and contribute to fascinating and relevant research! Working on a study related to Desert Tortoise, Gopherus Agassizii, has been very eye-opening. Before this internship, I had not worked with an endangered species, and I was fascinated to learn more about the regulations and legislation in place to protect endangered species!

Most significantly, I have learned an entirely new flora, informed by the Jepson Manual, as well as my mentors and other botanists in the area. From Phacelia to Cryptantha and Sphaeralcea to Oenothera, I have expanded my botanical knowledge considerably! It was a great experience to use a new flora (the Jepson Manual) and to think about different ways to identify plants (i.e. examining at Cryptantha “nutlets” for species identification, using bracts for Ephedra ID, etc.). I enjoyed exploring and discovering small portions of the Mojave, and the experience has inspired me to explore the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts as well.

In addition to plant identification, I learned some new techniques for data analysis. I learned that R is an extremely powerful analysis tool, if you know how to use it! I took some time to read up on R code and packages, which was very helpful. While I didn’t end up using it for this internship, I certainly plan to use it in the future!

After performing some preliminary analyses on our juvenile Desert Tortoise vegetation survey, I began to consider some important concepts. For example, species are often clumped by “native” vs “nonnative” species. However, these categories, while useful in certain circumstances, can be misleading. For example, with regard to nutrition, studies have shown some nonnative species to be detrimental to tortoise health and others to be beneficial. Bromus rubens has been shown to be of poor nutritional quality for tortoises, while Erodium cicutarium is actually quite nutritious, especially for juvenile tortoises. While these are both incredibly abundant nonnative species, they offer completely opposite nutritional characteristics. Discoveries such as these demand a more comprehensive set of questions than simply: “how do native vs. nonnative plants compare in terms of nutrition?” Instead, one must take into account various factors, including origin, abundance, caloric value, mineral concentrations, etc. These questions help drive truly innovative studies.

I also gained more GIS experience throughout my internship. I had the opportunity to explore the multitude of functions provided by ArcMap to accomplish tasks such as map ping our vegetation sampling effort and selecting candidate sites for our oil well vegetation project. Incidentally, I have also learned more about oil well production on the Colorado Plateau than I ever expected to know!!  Here’s a photo of a mesa nearby our field sites.


My internship exceeded my expectations, and I am very happy to have had the experience. I hope to work in this area again in the future! I am sad to leave the Mojave, but I’m sure I will be back again.

Thanks to everyone who played a role in my internship experience, particularly my mentors!


Green River Sunrise

Goodbye to PIPO

Today is my last day working on the Stanislaus. I have gotten used to living my life in pine forest and will miss it. After growing up in the darker fir forests of the Pacific Northwest, the smell of the sun on the ponderosa and jeffery bark is delightful!

In just over two weeks I will be moving from a vacation town of several hundred folks (Long Barn, CA) to a major metropolitan city (Madrid, Spain). I doubt my fellow Fulbright scholars will understand what it is like to drive a field vehicle two hours into a burned area on washed out roads, clearing fallen saplings out of the roadway all the while, in order to hike steep slopes and end up covered in charcoal. And I very much doubt they will understand how much fun it is! Who knows, there will be another ecologist among them…

Throughout the season I have had the opportunity to participate in various projects. I began monitoring populations of several sensitive species post Rim Fire (2013), moved on to protecting sensitive orchids on rangeland, and, after acting as the botanist for several wetland delineations in restoration sites, I spent several months surveyed reforestation units for sensitive Clarkia and noxious weeds. While my past experience has been mostly data collection with an academic purpose, this summer has been steeped in application. It has at once been grounding (to put theory into practice), and a little tedious (to cover such a large burned area with our survey crew).

However, each project offered its own opportunity for learning. In the surveys for weeds and sensitive species I learned GIS (from scratch!!), and became very adept at mapping populations in rough terrain. We made countless maps, outlined each population we encountered, and updated data from previous years. During the wetland delineations I learned to determine the boundary within a gradient of plant communities, and how to interpret the wetland status of different species. Working with an Americorps crew to construct cages in order to protect the mountain lady slipper orchid I considered my position on conservation/restoration. Questions like: How can we be the most effective in protecting large, complex, systems? What is the value of a man-made ecosystem? A “traditional”, “untouched” ecosystem? A “novel” ecosystem including invasives? Honestly, I’m still looking for answers to those questions, and I think that this momentum will lead me to my next opportunity.

Alright, that’s all for now. A warm farewell to all and a hearty thanks to Krissa and Rebecca for making this program possible.



Clarkia australis

Clarkia australis

Lush Claytonia after the burn

Lush Claytonia after the burn

A brushy drainage greening up after fire

A brushy drainage greening up after fire

California dreamin’

Summer is drawing to a close here in NorCal but I’m happy to report that I’ve received an extension and will be in Arcata until October. As much as I’ve explored over the past 5 months, there is still so much more to see! Not to mention learn!

Summer in California is synonymous with wildfire and this year has been no exception. As I write this, over 60 fires are raging across the state, thousands of acres have burned, hundreds of miles of dozer line has been cut into the wilderness, and millions of seeds will soon be needed for rehabilitation. Californian wilderness is highly fire adapted with many species thriving in the space created after a blaze, however too many fires in too short of a time period can cause biodiversity loss and dramatically increase the susceptibility of the habitat to invasion from non-native plant species. The time immediately following a fire can therefore be a critical window to perform rehabilitation with native species, and the National Seed Strategy for rehabilitation and restoration, launched by the BLM this week, aims to address this specifically by having the right seed available when necessary so it can be on the ground as soon as possible.

I have spend the last month out and about for SOS, collecting the seed from native species that may be used in these future rehabilitation projects. I can’t begin to tell you how much satisfaction this has brought me, knowing that I am directly contributing to better rehabilitation. It was also an incredible “from the ground up” learning experience for me, watching the phenology of a plant from start to finish, learning the morphology at each stage, and waiting for that perfect moment to pluck the fruit from the plant.

Aloha Interns!

I have ended my internship a bit early in order to pursue my master’s degree at the University of Hawaii. I recently moved to Oahu, and am loving it so far. Here’s a little summary of my summer in the Panoche Hills:

This field season I had the opportunity to investigate grasshopper and lizard ecology in the central valley region of Panoche, California. I examined how two different grasshopper species, Odaleonotus enigma and Trimerotropis pallidpennis, are distributed across the Panoche landscape. I designed an original protocol for counting and collecting grasshoppers. I also reviewed some important literature to gain a deeper understanding of grasshopper characteristics, abundance, and distribution. While I did not ultimately work on incorporating lizard ecology into my study, this data may be used to eventually discover the food preference of endangered blunt nose leopard lizards in Panoche. It may also be used in a separate note for a journal.

My office worked closely with The Ecoblender lab from York University. The lab reviewed my protocol. I needed to make corrections, but it was a straightforward protocol for a straightforward task. There were three areas where leopard lizards were previously identified in Panoche. I used lat/long coordinates to establish three separate zones where I would count and sample. I initially used a transect method, but it proved to be very misleading in the data. For example, both species of grasshopper are highly gregarious. Having near zero counts within the transect did not represent the grasshopper population as a whole. So, I began to do something I called a “zone sweep.” I completed a zone sweep at each site twice a week.

Dr. Lortie (ecoblender) suggested that I was actually using a belt transect method. From there, I was able to establish an area and calculated grasshopper density per square meter. I also noticed a few other protocols where density was used, further corroborating my decision to use density instead of raw numbers. I comprised two tables. One table has raw count numbers, and the other has calculated density for each belt transect. Both can be used for further statistical testing using excel or even the statistical program “R.” I also ran an analysis of variance several times this season. Each time I had more data to use. However, no statistically significant results were found. The P value was 0.121.

I had a lot of time to myself this summer in an isolated place. I feel I contributed in a small way to a much larger picture at the BLM. The federal experience is invaluable to me, and will propel me in my career as an entomologist. I’m very thankful for my mentors. I look forward to the end result of this project, even if I am only involved from a distance!

Aloha Everyone!

Jennifer Michalski
BLM Hollister Office

So long, Farewell, Alvederzane, Goodbye to the C&O Canal and Catoctin Mountain Park

Lilium canadense, Catoctin Mountain Park

Lilium canadense at Catoctin Mountain Park

My time as a CLM intern at the C&O Canal and Catoctin Mountain Park is sadly coming to an end.  I have been in Maryland since early April and have had a great time getting to know the area on a couple different levels.

I fount RTE Oenothera argillicola (shale barren primrose) at the Paw Paw Tunnel outside of Cumberland, MD

I fount RTE Oenothera argillicola (shale-barren primrose) at the Paw Paw Tunnel outside of Cumberland, MD

I’ve had the opportunity to travel up and down the Potomac River and was able to experience first hand how it has shaped its landscape socially and physically.  The Canal runs from very rural and mountainous Cumberland, Maryland to the unquestionably urban coastal plain of Washington DC.  These two sides of the park are as different as night and day socially and biologically.  I was very impressed by the collaborative management efforts the C&O maintained to help address all of the needs of this diverse park.

Just a few buddies hanging out by the Canal prism!

Just a few buddies hanging out by the C&O Canal!

As far as the things I’ve gained from this experience the list is long.  On a professional level I was able to gain experience creating a fieldwork schedule and managing people, tasks and time.  I attended a week long plant ID class, two GIS workshops and was able to work with GPS hardware and ArcMap on a daily basis, enabling me to expand my knowledge and use my skills.  I had the overarching project of updating the locations of rare, threatened and endangered plants but also had opportunity to create my own tasks and was able to focus on visitor outreach, volunteer coordination and environmental education in addition to surveying for RTEs.  Most importantly I was able to network and interact with professionals in the National Park Service. The skills I gained from this CLM internship and the CLM internship I had last year with the BLM in Lander, Wyoming gave me the skills I needed to move along on my career path.  I’ll be attending University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in September to begin a MS in Natural Resources program and have my experience as a CLM intern to thank for the experience!

Working hard or hardly working?!?

Working hard or hardly working?!?

Working in this area was amazing, but so was living in it!  Living at Catoctin Mountain Park in Thurmont, MD offers little in terms of socializing but I was relatively close to many exciting places and I was lucky enough to have 4 great roommates!  I was able to visit a few  National Historic Battlefields (Gettysburg, Monocacy, Antietam) and learned about the history of the area,  visit a number of charming little towns (Frederick, MD, Shepherdstown WV, Berkely Springs, WV) and fall in love with small town America but was just a short drive from a few major cities (Washington DC, Baltimore, MD, Pittsburgh, PA) if I needed an urban fix.  I was lived about 3 miles from the Appalachian Trail, so I got a good amount of hiking and camping in too!

Fringe benefits

Fringe benefits

Great Falls, MD.  Just 10 miles from Washington DC!

Great Falls, MD. Just 10 miles from Washington DC!

I’d like to thank everyone at Catoctin Mountain Park, the C&O Canal National Historical Park and the Chicago Botanic Garden for making this experience great for me!


The Paw Paw Bends, outside of Cumberland, MD

The Paw Paw Bends, outside of Cumberland, MD


Oh hey! Long time no talk….

It’s been a while since my last post…Oops! I honestly have no idea how the time went by so fast. I want to share all of what I’ve been up to in the past two months, but there’s just too much to be able to give a full rundown –  ESR Weed mapping, Rare plant monitoring, Land Health Assessments, assisting our Great Basin Institute colleagues, and plenty of trainings!

The majority of my time has been spent mapping weeds on land that has burned within the last 3 years as a first step to rehabilitating this land. Gotta know where the invasions are before you treat them! On this project, one thought that keeps on coming up is “How are they going to treat all these weeds?” Many of the sites that we visit are very steep and difficult to access for mapping – let alone with a backpack sprayer! In talking to my mentor about this he mentioned a beetle that can be used as a bio-control for Dalmation Toadflax and hopefully in the future using a fungus known as black fingers of death (yes, that really is the common name), or Pyrenophora semeniperda, to control cheatgrass once it has been federally approved.

Weed mapping above the Columbia.

Weed mapping above the Columbia.

One of my highlights from the past few months was attending a training for Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health in Rock Springs, WY. This is an assessment method used here in Wenatchee, and many other BLM offices, to get a quick snapshot of how an area is doing. The current state of the area is comparing meticulously researched reference conditions using 17 indicators as a framework for this report card, so to speak. I’ve been fascinated by how we define and measure “ecosystem health” for a while now and this training showed me one method being nationally used. In addition, I got to go out in the field with the inter-disciplinary team from the Wenatchee Field Office and see this method put into practice.

(Awesome side-note: I’m pretty sure this training also helped me land my next job! Shout out to Erik Ellis for letting me go.)

Field deliberations over the 17 indicators. Moderately departed from reference conditions? Maybe...

Field deliberations over the 17 indicators. Moderately departed from reference conditions? Maybe…

Weekends here have been pretty hot and smokey from all the fires. (Apparently now there are something like 30 fires going at once in the state of Washington!) I’ve managed to have some pretty good ones though, namely hiking through the Enchantments and attending the Washington Native Plant Society study weekend near Mt. Baker.

The Enchantments! Prusik Peak in the background.

The Enchantments! Prusik Peak in the background.

Wonderfully wet Mountain Ash. It was nice and cool on the west-side.

Wonderfully wet Mountain Ash. It was nice and cool on the west-side.


From the sea to the sky


View of Mt. Baker & the Picket range en route to the Islands

View of Mt. Baker & the Picket range en route to the Islands

The last month has been pretty wonderful. I’m going try to keep this short n sweet but brevity isn’t always easy. I’ve had the great fortune of going from the archipelago of WA up to Mt. Baker, and the east slopes of the Cascades up in Okanogan county, and of course some butte, coulee, n plateau time was spent in that period to. My last month has been spent going from lush Westside forests, to dry Pondersa pine east slope mountain forests, to sandy beach maritime plants, back to the desert dunes, from sub-alpine and alpine back down to the steppe.

an Island in the archipelago near Lopez

an Island in the archipelago near Lopez

I spent a week out on the San Juan Islands helping SOS intern Jen McNew make some collections. Collected some Bromus….sitchensis! and several other plants, Jen’s doing great work out there collecting and helping with the monument transition. Highlights were hanging out on the beach reading after work, tromping through isolated islands covered in old growth forest to hunt for wetlands, and the highlight was Lichens! Yes, I was told to go get a familiarity with some of the rare lichens which occur at Point Colville.  I was definitely a bit dusty on them (hadn’t keyed a lichen for nearly a half year since I did this), but it was incredible.  There was very high species richness and diversity, with many species occurring on substrates that they don’t occur on anywhere else.

Piperia elegans

Piperia elegans

Afterwards, I spent another week in the step and finished up my quota for sage-grouse geared collections. Since then I’ve just started to collect anything that is abundant.  I can’t remember how many collections I’ve made now. Working on lots of things that are covered in native pollinators, drought tolerant Penstemons in the spotlight.

My mentor Molly, found a large population (c. 2000) of the sensitive Nicotiana attenuata. She taught me how to map maps in real time using our GPS units, and then how to edit them with GIS to provide important contextual information. I was also able to collect seed from this species for a rare species seed bank at the UW.

Nicotiana attenuata

Nicotiana attenuata

A condition of having finished up my grouse collections is that I can go into a different eco-type zone, the north north Washington that is in the Thompson Basin. This basin is Canada’s sagesteppe country, it also has lots of Pinus ponderosa forests due to the elevation. I’m able to collect a lot of forbs that grade in and out of the forest there and might be useful for forest wild fire restoration (areas within this ecotype zone have been burning real bad for the last few years). I love this land so much, it’s the Okanogan country, have always felt drawn to this area, and now I know why. Gorgeous.

mt baker
So, my final highlight is botany Washington conference (held by the Washington Native Plant Society) on Mt. Shuksan (adjacent to Mt. Baker)! “Jenjus” (my name for the Jenny B. & Justin C. duo), and I were able to all go up there for this 3 day spectacular. So the theme of the event was “Islands in the Sky”- an attempt to think about how forests encroaching due to climate change would effect the continuity of sub-alpine meadows, as well as how this would effect pollinators dependent on these nectar and pollen sources. It was really great to be able to brainstorm on themes like this with experienced botanists and entomologists. Other incredible highlights were of course the alpine Saxifragaceae, Cyperaceae, & Ericaceae and a plethora of flowers, the views, being in a cloud for a day, rain(!!!!!), and…..THE PTERIDOPHYTA. The biggest appeal of this trip to me, and what made me have to go.

Botrychium pinnatum

Botrychium pinnatum

This field-trips description promised we would see 30 ferns in one day and explore the effects of geology on plant community composition. I was skeptical, but it was DELIVERED! Our guide was incredible, he’s been a fern enthusiast since he was 14, and has found this ultra-mafic (and gneiss, and with calcium rich veins and more!) outcrop that (very likely) has the highest ferns species richness of any 100m area in US/Canada, furthermore many of the ferns are pretty to (very) rare, and and and there were many Botrychium spp.! While there were only a few representative individuals of the 5 species found up there (typically hundreds of each emerge each year, but ya know the drought story), it was incredible! My camera weird-ed out though so I only have one good pic. I was also able to get a much realer understanding of fern morphology than I had before.


"Can't talk to me without talking to you
We're guilty of the same old thing
Talking a lot about less and less
And forgetting the love we bring "

-Robert Hunter of the Grateful Dead Continue reading

More plants, more fun. CO State Office

My fifth month at the Colorado State BLM Office has come and gone, and I am now entering into my sixth. Luckily, I have been extended for another five months here in wonderful Colorado, which will bring me into the new year.

The last two months have been packed with a variety of species and a variety of work. Early in July we traveled down to Monte Vista in the San Luis Valley in southern central Colorado to meet with Joel Humphries and his AIM crew. It was very interesting to see his crew working through the AIM protocol in the field. I don’t have experience with AIM, so I was glad to gain a better understanding of its protocol. It was also helpful to talk with people who have been doing AIM for a season or more and get their opinions on the protocol as a whole. It seems like a good way to standardize data collection across the BLM landscape in order to get a complete picture of its health.

A little later in July we went up to Meeker, CO in Rio Blanco County to monitor Physaria congesta and P. obcordata. They’re two rare mustard species that grow in shale barrens, primarily on hill slopes. We monitored two P. congesta sites and two P. obcordata sites. Luckily we were able to install a new P. obcordata monitoring plot this year, since we previously had only one.  We have not seen a significant change in population numbers at either P. congesta locations, but have seen a significant increase in population number at our one P. obcordata site this year, as compared to 2011 when the study started.

The last week in July was full of Eutrema penlandii. I had been working on putting together a picture guide for the alpine species in the Mosquito Range (where this species exists) up until this trip. Phil, a previous intern here, started the guide and I finished adding the photos and brief descriptions. I was surprised and happy to learn that several of the other people on this trip found the guide extremely helpful, and I’ve recently finished adding the new plants we found this year to the guide.

E. penlandii is such a fun plant to monitor. E. penlandii is a rare alpine mustard that grows in micro-habitats that stay consistently wet at 11,800’ – 13,280’. This species is extremely inconspicuous, growing 3-8cm high, among graminoid wetland vegetation on Colorado’s Mosquito Range. We currently have five E. penlandii monitoring sites, in some of the most beautiful alpine habitat, and two modified-whittaker plots. Our modified-whittaker plots are long term vegetation studies that measure biodiversity in the face of climate change. This was the second year for both of these plots, and we are starting to get a clear picture of exactly what species exist there. It will be interesting to see how these alpine habitats change over the years as the global climate changes.

This is one of the best species to monitor if for no other reason than its habitat. The alpine ecosystem, and the views that come along with it, are some of the most beautiful and fascinating. And on top of the plethora of views and plant species unique to this ecosystem, the trek up to our sites are fun. We don’t have many monitoring sites that require much of a hike, for a variety of reasons, however most of our E. penlandii sites require it. I found it refreshing to hike 20-30 minutes to a site, to get our heart rates up as we marched up the mountains, and take in the mountain air. We were also very lucky this year to have good weather; it can be quite windy, rainy, and cold above the tree line. We encountered strong chilly winds only one day, and a slight drizzle as we wound up our monitoring on another.

Horseshoe Cirque

View from parking spot up to Horseshoe Cirque

Up to Mosquito Ridge

On the way up to Mosquito Pass

Cameron Hike

Hiking to Cameron Amphitheater plot

Cameron Amphitheatre (2)

Working in Cameron Amphitheater

Cameron Flowers

Plants in Cameron Amphitheater

Primula parryi

Primula parryi

Hoosier Ridge working

Working on Hoosier Ridge


Last week we worked on Phacelia formosula, a short-lived or biennial species in the Hydrophyllaceae that only occurs in the North Park region of Colorado. We spent a few days monitoring the three sites already established and setting up and reading two new ones. This is the first short-lived species I have monitored here in CO, which changes the sampling design of our plots. So it was great to see how and why we monitor this species differently than our other longer-lived perennial species.

We most often use long term permanent transects within a macroplot where we measure plant density in order to understand population trends. However, since this species is short lived there is not a strong relationship between plant location in one year to plant location in the next, making permanent transects less effective at measuring population trend. So, for our plots we use permanent transects within the macroplot, and temporary quadrats within each transect.  Also, instead of measuring density, we measure the frequency of P. formosula, because frequency is more sensitive to changes in spatial arrangement. For example, one of our macroplots is 20m by 60m with 12 permanent 1m by 20m transects at every 5m, staring at 4m, along the baseline. Then within each transect we randomly place ten 1m² quadrats every year where we measure frequency (is the plant present or absent). For this plot there are a total of 1200 possible quadrat locations, and we measure 120 each year.

Only one of our three sites, California Gulch, has shown a significant decrease in plant frequency this year compared to 2013. This was an interesting year for a few of our sites. California Gulch was interesting because it had so few plants, and another of our sites had few, if any, rosettes. Nearly all the plants at that location were reproductive, despite size. Next year it will be interesting to see how/if this changes.

And today I leave to do Scelrocactus glaucus surveying on the Gunnison River. I have yet to do a river trip, so I am really looking forward to this week. Floating down the river will be beautiful, and S. glaucus is a beautiful cactus as well.

On a less professional note, the last few months of my life have also been very interesting. I recently went rafting for the first time. I was afforded the amazing opportunity to raft down the Arkansas River through the Royal Gorge with some fantastic friends. It was an amazing experience, and one I’ve wanted to do for a while now. When in Rome, right? It was breathtaking to see the gorge from the bottom. This was my first time visiting, and I was in awe. Most people get to see the 1000ft drop into the gorge from the infamous bridge, so it was interesting to see the 1000ft rise to the bridge from the water. Obviously the actual rafting was a thrill as well. We went through some class 3 and a class 4 rapid, which was perfect for my first time rafting. We got turned around at one point, and thrashed around a fair amount, but no one fell out. The whole trip was a huge success.

Earlier this month I also flew home to IL to stand up in two of my very close friends’ wedding. It was the first time I’ve stood up in a wedding, and my first wedding since I was 14, so it was quite the experience. It was a huge honor and the wedding day was a lot of fun. I can’t believe we’re at the age where people are getting married! Last month I also went to Portland to visit my boyfriend, where we hiked the most beautiful trail in the Columbia River Gorge. It’s such a lush environment with the amount of rain they receive; such a beautiful contrast to the drier parts here in CO. I’ve also been exploring CO on my weekends. Most recently I went up to Mohawk Lake near Breckenridge. It’s quite the incline, with a bit of bush whacking near the end after Lower Mohawk Lake, but that’s because we lost the trail. This time to the alpine I knew most of the plant species and had a blast pointing them out to my boyfriend. My parents and brother are also planning a visit in early September for a week, so I’m very much looking forward to that, and my sister and close friend will visit mid-September. I think my family gets just as much enjoyment out of my moving around as I do.


Most of the wedding party

Mohawk Lake, CO

Mohawk Lake, CO

Trail to Mohawk Lake

Trail up to Mohawk Lake

Tunnels Falls

Tunnels Falls, Oregon

Until next time,

Colleen Sullivan

CO State BLM Office


A Trip to a New England Bog


Recently the New England SOS team and myself had the opportunity to travel up to a Bog. We headed to the Foster Point Bog, which was located near Waterville Maine. Our Mission was to survey plant populations and determine if plant populations are large enough to collect seed from. After you enter into a bog such as this, your life is changed! As we stepped onto the sphagnum mat, it felt as if we were stepping onto a floor of pillows. As we moved through the Bog we found ourselves surrounded by Pitcher plants with strange flowers towering towards the sky.


Sarracenia purpurea in flower


Pitcher of Sarracenia purpurea 

Before this experience the closest I’ve been to a bog was in my college biology classroom where we would study these unique ecosystems via power point slides and scientific papers. We learned about the carnivorous plant Sarracenia purpurea (Purple Pitcher Plant) and how they have modified their leaves to capture insects. Evolving these carnivorous pitchers allows the pitcher plant to thieve in nutrient poor ecosystems. Once insects are captured inside the pitcher of S. purpurea acidic serrations and enzymes are produced, which are accompanied by bacteria. This concoction inside the pitcher actively breaks down the captured prey into nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen, that can then be taken up by the plant.



Who Knows Best?

Currently, I’m 2.5 months into my internship with the BLM in Burns, Oregon. I’ve learned life on the range is not easy; hot 80 degree days, chilly  30 degree nights (who can thermoregulate with these temperature fluctuations?), and a scarcity of water for miles. But perhaps more difficult than adapting to the physical struggles of living on the range, are  navigating the politics of managing them. Trigger words such as “sage grouse” and “crested-wheat grass” cause a passion of emotions according to who you talk to. Some believe that “the sage grouse agenda is going to cause the destruction of the range” or that “the BLM’s preference to seed with crested hasn’t created a market that makes natives affordable to  grow or purchase.” In reality, some of  these assumptions and accusations are from more of an emotional than scientific standpoint. As a result, this often causes conflicts between environmental groups, policy makers,and range managers.  Due to the nature of politics, influential lobbyists may direct law makers (who are not in the field) to issue (mandatory) ordinances that will not necessarily translate to effective management on the ground. The reality of land manager is that funding is limited and every penny matters if one wants to prevent a burned allotment from changing into a field of BRTE or medusa head (invasives). So, is it better to seed a monoculture of crested that will be able to establish itself and compete with invasives or to seed with native perennials that will likely be out-competed anyway?  In this way resources and funding are wasted in the name of compliance.