Our crew seems to have gotten the hang of seed collection. We have made several collections since my last post. The hardest aspect of the collection process continues to be the locating of population sizes that are large enough to yield 10,000 seed. It never fails that a seemingly vast population of a species with an unlimited amount of seed quickly decreases in size once we start collecting. Regardless of this sometimes discouraging fact however, we continue to search and eventually seek out enough individuals to reach our quotas.
Aside from seed collection, I had the opportunity to attend an Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health training course. The course was a week long and covered several topics. It started with a crash course in the AIM (Assessment Inventory and Monitoring) methods. I was given detailed instructions on how to perform each method such as line point intercept, soil stability analysis, canopy gap intercept, and soil profiling. After a day of instruction, we were able to head out into the field and perform the methods on our own. The rest of the week took all of the AIM methods we learned and connected them to components of rangeland health. To asses a site’s health, we used evaluation sheets with 17 indicators of rangeland health such as percent bare ground, litter amount, presence of water flow patterns, functional/structural groups, and reproductive capabilities. As we worked our way through each indicator, we cross referenced the site’s current conditions with the site’s historic reference conditions. For example, we compared data collected from line point intercepts to compare a site’s current percent bare ground to the site’s historical reference percent bare ground. We then gave the indicator a rating in regards to how closely the current site’s condition matched the site’s reference condition. If the percent bare ground greatly increased or decreased, we noted that the site had greatly diverged from reference conditions. If the numbers were fairly close or the same, we noted that the site did not depart from reference conditions. After assessing several sites on our own, we learned how the data collected and analyses made while performing these methods could aid a land manager in making sound future management decisions based off of carefully gathered quantitative data.
Outside of work, I have taken the opportunity to backpack in some of the many wilderness areas scattered throughout northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. I have now successfully summited three 14ers this season, and I hope to summit a few more before the season is over.
Greetings again from North Carolina! Over the past few weeks, I have spent a whole lot of time traveling and getting to explore the southeastern coastal plain. Since I last wrote, the crew first spent a week scouting SOS collection sites in Maryland, mostly on the Delmarva Peninsula, off the mainland coast. We traveled to several sites that we have obtained permits for, however they tended to be heavily forested or swampy area. We are searching for some species that live in these habitats, but didn’t find a suitable population of any of these to collect. Many of the species we saw were either past fruiting, had not yet bloomed, or were in insufficient numbers to be collected. It was a bit demoralizing to do so much scouting (and SO much driving), only to find so little to collect, but we did get some collections made in the more marshy places that we found. We also made note of good sites to collect some of our swamp/forest species like Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper) in the future, when the seeds are mature.
The swampy environment at Nassawango Creek Preserve in Maryland.
At a certain point in our scouting and collecting, we reached a place where the seed cycle was at a sort of natural break, between early-ripening species that we have already collected and later-ripening summer species that were in full bloom at the time. We took the opportunity to spend a week at our headquarters, the North Carolina Botanical Garden. We used the time to process, package, and ship all the seed collections we have made up to this point. We also continued our efforts to research all the species we are targeting for collection. Our target list contains about 160 species, and because we are not familiar with all these species off the bat, we wanted to be prepared to encounter these in the field. Our research has included learning the families and blooming/fruiting periods for the species, as well as looking up photos and, in some cases, drawing certain diagnostic characteristics like the shape of leaves or fruits. I have also been looking at how the species may be grouped together according to habitat. This part of the work has been interesting for me. Because I recently moved to North Carolina from the west coast (Washington State and northern California), my main goal in this internship has been to learn more of the Southeastern flora, which I certainly have been.
A shipment of our seed collections, packaged up and ready to ship to the SOS seed-cleaning facility.
The next week, when the crew traveled to the North Carolina coast again, our research immediately paid off. We were able to quickly identify many of the species that have begun blooming and/or fruiting since our last trip to this area, several weeks ago. It was also helpful to be able to quickly find out that some of the species we encountered were not on our list, and that we did not need to spend any more field time trying to identify them to species. When we got to our first sites, it was clear that our timing was good and there were species maturing that we would have the first opportunity to collect. These included Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) and Typha latifolia (broadleaf cattail), which we collected at Buckridge Preserve and Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Preserve respectively, on our first day of traveling. We went on to make several more collections throughout the week, with one of the most interesting being of Cakile edentula (searocket), an edible member of the Brassica (cabbage and mustard) family, which grows on and around sand dunes right along the coast.
The dune habitat where we collected seeds of Cakile edentula. Cakile is the yellowish-looking plant in the right foreground.
Seeds of Cakile edentula
As late summer comes on, the pace of our collections is picking up. I can already tell we will have to prioritize what we go after as many species at different sites will be reaching maturity around the same time. As we continue into the next several weeks, can see that I need to take more photos so I can share my experience with everyone. Until next time, happy collecting!
Wow!!! Hello everyone! The last month had been crazy with all sorts of activities that kept the CLM interns in Wenatchee, Washington busy! Fire season started out with a bang in the beginning of July. After the Wenatchee fires, fires were developing all over the state! The very warm weather, the high winds, and the low humidity created the perfect red flag conditions. Fortunately for the other interns and myself, we were able to proceed with our jobs and continue working out in the field. Our main goal for Jenny and I for this month was to do NISIMS. We would travel to areas that were impacted with fires in the past and record data points and polygons of various invasive plant populations that were present. This information would be used in ESR reports to help with future restoration efforts in terms of treatments and bio-control.
Wenatchee BLM Legends discussing fire severity and intensity in the area.
Most of the areas we have monitored or spent our time looking for golden eagles in the past have burned. For those who read my previous blogs, you may know Douglas Creek and Sulfur Canyon. These areas had wildfires recently. Thankfully, it occurred during the time when the juvenile golden eagles fledged their nests. The helicopters and smoke would not be good for young eaglets. O:
BLM Legend, Erik Ellis, investigating a section of the Douglas Creek Fire.
Smoke from various fires have filled the valleys during the month. The Wolverine Fire up near Chelan had been a real pain to deal with. The smoke from the fire had steadily moved throughout Wenatchee, Brewster, and Entiat area. We would have to wear a mouth guard to help us do our jobs! Despite all the smoke, Jenny and I have been to different post fire sites such as R-Road, Foster Creek, Burbank Creek, Mills Canyon, Sulfur Canyon, the Wenatchee Complex Fire, and the Carlton Complex Fire. Each of these areas have been fascinating and native plants have been making a comeback…somewhat…^_^;; There were some weeds that were taking the opportunity to settle in the exposed landscapes such as various bromes (Bromus), Dalmatian toadflax (Linaria dalmatica), common mullein (Verbascum thapsus), and various tumble weeds such as tall tumble mustard (Sisymbrium altissimum) and Russian thistle (Salsola kali/tragus). Walking amongst the burned areas have been very interesting to see, even with some invasive plants!
Wolverine Fire and smoke.
We went to a recent fire area in the Douglas Creek area. (No worries, Krissa and Rebecca! There were no active fires in the region and we were with trained professionals from the BLM to look at burn severity and intensity.) Some areas were charred black with areas of white-gray spots where the shrubs used to be! The valleys and the steep, wooded terrain developed really severe fire conditions. The basin wild rye (Leymus cinereus) looked like they were recovering!! Some areas that we have visited had pink and red fire retardant all over the landscape!! It felt like we were on Mars, it was so red!! The BLM along with other Government agencies in the central Washington area have been dealing with severe fires lately and they have developed plans to help with the restoration of the landscape. Determining on the severity and intensity of the burn, the landscape could become fully functional again within 5-10 years with treatments and seeding based on various federal agency reports!!
Fire retardant on the landscape.
Some of the days have been over 100°F with little shade. I would put on the proper sun block and wardrobe to help prevent sun burn.
Chasing the Whirling Dervishes
Some of the coolest things I have seen on this internship were the massive dust devils that twirled around the landscape between Waterville and Sulfur Canyon. (I jokingly call them whirling dervishes because they whirl very fast and there would be many of them in the landscape.) The dust devils were massive and were way bigger than the smallest of tornadoes I have seen on my travels. Some of these dust devils could be seen from miles away, reaching half way to the cloud layer above!
A dust devil moving across the landscape; picking up top soil.
These dust devils were normally brown, but if they were shaded by clouds, they could look like a fire. O_o Normally, dust devils would spin for about 15-20 minutes. Their peak activity was around 3:00 to 4:00pm. Jenny and I would drive through some very large dust devils. They may look massive and very threatening, but they were lightweights. They would only shake our truck before moving onto the next barren field. Most of the farmers were worried about their crops burning from the fires, so they harvested most of the crops leaving behind barren soil fields. The dust devils would then pick up the top soil and carry it elsewhere. Some of the dust devils traveled at speeds over 70 mph. Few of the large ones had multiple vortices!!
A few times out in the field we have encountered smaller dust devils. They loved to go after our hats or throw tall tumble mustards at us. We just braced ourselves and continued monitoring. (On a side note, never chase one, they are too fast if you are chasing them on foot.)
(Here is a video of one of the larger dust devils I saw near Bridgeport, Washington.)
The Journey Through Ancient Lakes
One day I went with Reed to an area called Ancient Lakes located near Quincy, Washington. This place was very interesting! They had a lot of unusual plants growing in the sagebrush steppe! We saw a variety of Asters, Astragalus, and blazing star (Mentzelia laevicaulis??). When we got to the basaltic outcrops, we saw a very nice view of the Columbia River!! Near the cliffs, we saw a lot of hedgehog cactus (Pediocactus nigrispinus). These cacti were amazing to look at!! They were bunched up and held very colorful needles. I took many pictures of these species of cacti… ^_^;;;
Hedgehog cactus (Pediocactus nigrispinus)
There was a carved out cave formation that Reed and I checked out for a bit before moving on to seed collection.
One of our main goals for seed collection was to collect from the blazing star. These plants were found in rocky areas like quarries or on the edge of lithosols. They were easy to gather seed from, but you had to watch out. Their foliage is extraordinarily sticky and some of the seeds were infested with larvae. You had to be careful when selecting the seed from each plant.
Blazing star (Mentzelia) . Beware of it’s sticky stems, leaves, and flowers!!
On our way back to the car, we saw a few buffalo/ American bison (Bison bison) in the field next to us. One was on a hill of apples. It was like the bison was on top of its treasure and no one was able to approach it. It was funny to observe. There was even a mischievous coyote trying to take a few apples for herself from the treasure hill. Overall, the day was successful and we were able to collect a decent amount of blazing star seed for the next S.O.S. collection.
“No one touches my treasure of delicious apples!”
NISIMS in the Mist
Recently, Jenny and I visited the Carlton Complex Fire area. This was the area where one of the largest recent fires in Washington history occurred. NISIMS was a priority in this area. When we were in Brewster and Pateros, the Wolverine Fire was very active!! The smoke was so thick, it created a dense fog in the Columbia River Basin. Jenny and I used masks to help us deal with the smoke. The masks were not really effective, but they did help negate some of the smoke from entering our lungs. Most of the area looked like southeast China and had an eerie vibe to it. When we were doing NISIMS, we recorded all of the brome, tumbleweed, and Dalmatian toadflax populations. Along by Brewster, there was a large amount of Dalmatian toadflax. This might be a good area for future bio-control introductions. (They would release a weevil insect that would eat and reduce the toadflax population significantly.) When moving between sites, the day looked overcast with the smoke and some clouds. It permanently looked like it was 6:00pm the whole day!! Jenny and I recorded various populations and headed back to the Wenatchee BLM.
Jenny and I had to put on face masks to help prevent the inhalation of smoke from the Wolverine Fire. They did not really work, but they were better than nothing.
The Columbia River Basin was filled with smoke. It looked like it was 6:00pm all day!
I have no clue what is going on with this common mullein……
Here is a random, but cool, picture of a Jerusalem cricket.
Moment of Zen
Sneak Peak for the next blog post 😉 Volcanic Legacy!!!!!
We’re just getting through the dog days of summer, with hopefully only a few more weeks of days so hot and humid you feel like you’re swimming underwater and not just because you’re drenched! Down a few hours away from the city where I’ve been travelling to in Delaware to collect the fruit and berry season is starting to wind down. We’ve made a few huckleberry and black cherry collections, but after the beach plums ripen we’ll be mostly done with fleshy fruit. It’s getting a bit slow with many of the early grassy species being empty by now, especially since I’m collecting farther south than the other NY interns. Lately it’s been a lot of scouting to prepare and plan for what is shaping up to be a crazy fall season. It’s fascinating to watch what we’ll be collecting ripen as the weeks fly by! We won’t be collecting any nuts, but I’m really excited to see what ripe wild hazelnuts look like. I couldn’t help but take a picture of this ripening American hazelnut (Corylus americana) in Brandywine Creek State Park and tease my mom who’s a huge hazelnut coffee freak. Dunkin Donuts of course, we’re from Massachusetts after all!
Recently I went on a collection trip with my collection partner, Lucy, to northern Delaware. After weeks of spending time in southern Delaware on the ocean, we were beyond ready to explore some new territory in the shade of the forest in search of some freshwater wetland species, notably a few Carex (sedge) species that were ready and waiting. What a shock it was to us when we got there to find a landscape absolutely overrun with invasive species! We’re talking entire riverbanks that we were hoping to be covered in our freshwater list species instead covered in mats of Japanese hop vines. Not only that, but most areas were thick with stinging nettles! Sadly, there wasn’t much to see besides some interesting invasive species. One of my personal favorites were the osage orange trees (Maclura pomifera). Is it just me or do they look kind of like tree brains!
The trip was far from hopeless however, as we ended up making a fantastic Carex lurida collection as we fortuitously walked through what we later determined was the only wetland area when looking as USGS topo maps and vegetation survey maps. Like they say, hindsight is 20/20, so from now on topo maps and vegetation surveys are our best friends. Thirty minutes of extra research is much less painful than thirty minutes of waiting for the nettle stings on your hands to stop burning!
Scouting is always a great adventure, not just to see what native plants on our collection list are there, but also to see what surprises Mother Nature has in store for us! Lucy and I have found all sorts of natural marvels, from stunning Turk’s Cap Lilies (Lilium martagon) to dead Luna Moths to the exotic looking fruits of Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus). Of course I’m not one to turn down a photo op of nature’s curiosities!
Turk’s Cap Lily
Skunk Cabbage Fruit
So here’s to enjoying the last summer has to offer in the unexpected beauty of the tiniest state in the Mid-Atlantic. Fall is just around the corner, as this field in Brandywine Creek State Park turns the familiar shades of yellow as goldenrods (Solidago juncea here) start to bloom and milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) pods start to ripen.
CLM Intern with SOS East at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank (MASRB)
In the early part of July I spent some time at a mining reclamation site. Here I learned a little bit about the process of what goes into mining reclamation and I was also able to participate in that process. I helped out by spreading seeds of grasses that are native to the area, spreading straw over those seeds, and planting sedges to help prevent soil erosion. I also had the opportunity to talk with the folks who had been on the project throughout its entirety. They described what it was like when they first got to the mining site and showed us what changes had been made to help return the site to a natural area. While we were at the site we were told that a mama black bear and her cubs were in the area. Although we didn’t see the bears we did come across an osprey tending to its nest.
I spent the later half of the month prepping for my next trip out to check on the bat detectors. Hopefully the data cards that we will be collecting will have something exciting for us!
I am happy to be back on routine. It has been a whirlwind of a month for me, but things are finally settling down and normalizing. After taking a three week hiatus to work as a summer camp instructor, I spent a week in Carson City for Ecological Site Description training, followed by a long weekend of travel to West Virginia for a family reunion. Unfortunately seeds did not wait around to be collected and this month is going to require a solid push to reach our target number of collections. Being back on the routine that I have come to know is certainly going to help that effort, as it will allow me to focus on work rather than a slew of other unrelated chores. Something as simple a finally fixing my bike, and riding to work, not driving, has really helped get me back into the swing of things with the Bishop BLM office. After a painfully slow start to seed collecting back in the spring, things have surprisingly picked up, perhaps due to the decent amount of summer rain the eastern sierra has received this year. Summer camp was an awesome experience that took a ton of energy and I truly enjoyed, but there is something so energizing about wandering the sage brush steepe gathering and scouting for seeds. Just today, mid collection, I had the joy of being right in the middle of a heavy hail storm, which led to beautiful skies and nice cool temperatures. Good to back out in the field experiencing and conserving the wonders of nature.
July passed by quite fast and I am so happy it did because it was really hot. It’s definitely the warmest summer I’ve experience thus far in life. Unfortunately, curiosity got the best of me and I found myself looking up the individual daily peak temperatures for July. I calculated the average temperature for the month down here at ≈100°F!! Woah! It’s alright, it was overall a fantastic month.
Finally, after two months of trapping for the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) we hit the jackpot for four out of seven our sites. Don’t worry I have pictures!
Captured female S. arenicolus
We changed our strategy a bit with the placement for our most recent traps. Instead of placing our traps in completely new areas, we decided to just fill in the gaps around areas where there was a positive presence for the lizard in the past.
Captured male S. arenicolus in mating colors
I found it to be pretty awesome to experience handling this species as they were previously up for being listed as an endangered species.
Captured juvenile S. arenicolus
Anyway, for the most part our lizard-trapping season is done with. We’re moving on to bigger and better things – OK, not “better” just different. Last week we got up early (4 something o’clock) to visit a few heronry (heron nests) sites off in the distant corners of the Carlsbad Field Office. My mentor just wanted to check out how a few of the reported Great Blue Heron (Ardea Herodias) nests were doing. Our first site was seemingly pretty deserted but after a long look up into the canopy of the soapberry trees we spotted one juvenile GBH. We checked on the site a few days afterwards and were able to spot the juvenile again with its parents from a distant. They seem to be doing well overall but they are the only GBH nest at the site where previously, years before, there has been a colony of the species. We scouted out a few more active nests at another location where a colony did persist, despite there being a fairly large dieback of trees due to an industrial spill last year.
My most recent project focuses on monitoring some old Yellow-Billed Cuckoo (Cooccyzus americanus) sites along the Delaware River near the New Mexico-Texas boarder. I’ve yet to find any, but it has only been one day. I’ll update you all on how that goes in the future.
Yellow-billed cuckoo survey site on the Delaware River
Outside of work I ventured into the Carlsbad Caverns again for an extended scheduled tour of the Lower Caves. It was pretty amazing! Saw a bat encased in a stalagmite and even got to crawl through a few small tunnels throughout the tour. Definitely worth the month wait. I have no pictures unfortunately as I lack the equipment to take pictures in low light areas. Also went to visit the White Sands National Monument up and over the western side of the Sacramento mountain range. I never knew that such a place existed until recently, but it had a very “spacey” feeling to it along with being a unique and beautiful landmark – another recommendation.
White Sands National Monument
Take care for now!
Carlsbad Field Office, Bureau of Land Management
Don’t get me wrong. My fellow intern and I are doing a lot of useful work. For instance, these last few weeks we have finished one entire fuels reduction project, completely designed the inventory scheme for another, completed over 30 inventories for said project, received UTV training, and managed a trip to Fort Collins. In short, things are really picking up in our work-load as we have over 100 more inventories to complete before our time here is up, two additional projects helping area foresters in the next month, and a trip to Yellowstone planned. I never knew going into this internship I would be learning so much and having such a good time. I think this may be my shortest blog post yet, but hey, there are pictures!
I want to call these the sherbet mounds. That sounds official to me.
You never know what you’ll run into on BLM property. I little of this, a little of that, a little 100 year-old homestead.
Give me an L! L!
Deciding the fate of trees with some paint. They give us a lot of power as foresters.
This is the life…the hot, dry life.
Has anyone been to Wall Drug near the Badlands? You need to go and ride this ridiculous Jackalope!