Final Days at the North Carolina Botanical Garden

The last few weeks have been full of many endings and culminations for us here at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. We had our final week out in the field, visited the coasts of Maryland and Virginia, and got to see some amazing landscapes. Though it was cloudy and threatening to rain, both of our final sites, Blackwater NWR and Chincoteague NWR, proved to be beautiful:


Our paths through a field of Spartina patens and Distichlis spicata at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.


Wild ponies munching away in the marsh at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

Our visit to Chincoteague NWR culminated in an awesome show by the wild ponies there too! While collecting Smilax rotundifolia, we got an up-close-and-personal encounter with a group of wild ponies that came to get a drink of freshwater at a vernal pool next to the Smilax briers. Check out a video that we took of these guys: Wild Ponies!


We also got lucky enough to make a collection of Aristida tuberculosa, seaside threeawn, at Chincoteague…our first collection of it this season! It’s got absolutely beautiful seeds:


Aristida tuberculosa seed


Aristida tuberculosa plants

On another note, my 5-year-old hiking boots finally bit the dust. These boots have roamed many a landscape and have helped me perform tons of field work over the last 5 years. I first wore them as a Student Conservation Association high school crew member working in the Chicago forest preserves. It is quite a good ending for them to have died while working as a CLM intern. I can truly say that they have been well worn!


The sad soles of my 5-year-old hiking boots. They got a lot of use this summer on the coasts of North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland!

Sadly, my minivan also recently broke down. However, during the course of this internship, she got to take me and my fellow interns on many trips to the North Carolina outer banks!


My 1996 minivan getting towed away this past week. It lived a long life and got to see lots of amazing landscapes this summer!

Today and tomorrow are our final days in the office. We’re finishing up the cleaning of our last seed collections and shipping them to the Cape May Plant Materials Center. This morning, we’re hanging out in a back office in the NCBG Totten Center, while the Horticulture Program has a meeting. It feels like kindergarten again: hanging out on carpeted floors playing with pine cones!


This internship has been an amazing experience for me. I moved to North Carolina about a year ago, and thanks to this internship, I really feel like it has become my home. I now know so much about southeastern flora and have gotten to explore both the Piedmont and North Carolina coast. At the beginning of the summer, I was most familiar with invasive plants and native prairie plants of the Midwest (I’m from Chicago, IL originally). Today, I know about 100 species of native southeastern grasses, trees, and flowers, and I’m still learning more every day! I feel proud to say that we made 234 seed collections this season, all of which will be used to restore coastal environments through projects for the Hurricane Sandy Mitigation Fund. Thanks, CLM Internship, for this amazing experience!

All the best,

Maggie Heraty

North Carolina Botanical Garden

CLM Intern 2015


Are You a Horse or a Cow? : End of the Season Relections


Much of our late field season was spent searching for wild horses through our binoculars

Much of the later part of our  field season was spent searching for wild horses through our binoculars


This season in Lander, WY has been an irreplaceable experience for me in so many ways. From the skills that I’ve gained through being a part of so many different projects, to the wonderful people I’ve met here in Lander, each part of this season will shape my seasons to come and have left me so very grateful.

When I first pictured coming to the Lander BLM field office I expected to focus on two projects this season: SOS seed collections and a greater sage grouse habitat assessment report. Looking back now, I can see how different the experience was compared to this. Yes, we worked on SOS this season and it was a highly rewarding project that did take a large portion of our time. Instead of focusing the rest of our time solely on sage grouse habitat monitoring, though, we were enveloped under the whole umbrella of the rangeland management staff projects, which lead to a wonderfully wide array of responsibilities. I didn’t know the first thing about rangeland health before I came to this internship. While I still may not be an expert, I understand the complexities and controversies involved and I’m richer for that understanding. In July we completed this year’s data sampling for an ongoing rangeland production study. Throughout the season we visited key riparian areas collecting data about the utilization of those sites. I was able to help with rangeland health assessments and finally started to get a good sense of judging some of the important indicators of degradation. September through November we spent most of our time driving the horse management areas (HMAs) of our field office monitoring wild horse populations. And as though that wasn’t enough to keep us busy, our season was peppered with excursions to various field sites to help with forestry, archaeology, sage grouse conservation and restoration projects!

Highlights of the season:

  • Identifying our first SOS seed collection populations. I was so excited to be contributing to such an important project as the National Seed Strategy, and hope some day to see the positive contribution of the SOS program in changing the protocols and expectations for large scale restoration and reclamation.


  • It was equally satisfying to package up our seed, seeing it in all its individual bags with neatly printed labels and to ship it off to the Bend Seed Extractory in Bend, OR.


  • Wild horse monitoring. Never had I ever expected this job to be to hiking out to bands of wild horses to photograph them! As time went on and we spent more time near the horses and developed a sense for interacting with them, the more I loved going out and trying to get close to them. Of course with so much territory to cover, much of that time was spent peering through our binoculars at far off shapes, asking under our breathe, “is that a horse or a cow?”. Sometimes from a strange angle or by the trickery of the land we would make ourselves laugh at how close we could get before realizing what we thought was a horse was in fact just a lazy cow. Our ability to distinguish the two from great distance has improved dramatically in the last three months, a skill I was not expecting to have mastered before I came here 🙂

    Of course with so much territory to cover, much of that time was spent peering through our binoculars at far off shapes, asking under our breathe, “is that a horse or a cow?”.


  • Learning how to capture and collar Greater Sage Grouse in the middle of the night, while simultaneously learning to ride an ATV with one hand. With one hand steering, and one hand holding a giant spot light, we rode around for hours, jumping off and racing toward the grouse with an enormous net each time we spotted one. That was quite a unique experience!


  • Spending hours upon hours hiking, driving, and seed collecting in this beautiful country. Our work has brought us all over our 2.5 million acre field office and I’ve gotten to know it well. Erin and I aren’t exactly sure how many miles we’ve put on our vehicle this season, but we’re ball parking it somewhere around 25,000. And those many miles have brought us to some truly amazing places that we may not have otherwise seen in our lifetime.

Thank you Chicago Botanic Gardens and BLM for this unforgettable treasure of an experience.

Until Next Time, Lander. It’s Been Great.

Today is the last day of my internship at the Lander Field Office. The last 7 months have gone by way too fast. I will definitely miss Wyoming and the LFO, but I am also excited to be home with my family for thanksgiving. This last month has gone by in a blur, but we have accomplished quite a bit.

Early this month we finished up our last seed collection. We collected winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata) and finally got enough seed to become a collection. The winterfat seed took a very long time to ripen, so we had to go and collect on three separate occasions.


Winterfat, a fluffy shrub. The seeds are furry!


Our Winterfat collection site near the Owl Creek Mountains








This month we worked on editing our Seeds of Success data in ArcMap. I took a class on ArcGIS in college, so this was a good refresher for me. The data editing took a lot longer than we anticipated, but it was very satisfying when we were done. We packaged up all of our seed and sent it off to the Bend, Oregon seed cleaning facility. In total we had 14 collections, which was over our target goal of 10 collections for this season. 10,000 seeds from each collection will stay in a seed holding facility until it is requested for reclamation efforts. Any extra seed will be sent to the Meeker facility in Colorado for evaluation trials. We also created herbarium vouchers for many of the plants we found this season. Herbarium vouchers for our SOS collections were sent to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC to be part of their permanent collection, and were also sent to the Rocky Mountain Herbarium in Laramie. Other plants we vouchered ended up in the LFO’s personal herbarium.


Emma and I packaging up our seed collections to send to Bend.

This month we also did more horse monitoring in the Green Mountain HMA. There are a huge number of horse in this HMA, and it is easy to find them. I think horse monitoring has definitely been my favorite project this season. Wild horses are incredibly beautiful to observe in their natural habitat. I really enjoyed watching their behavior and how they interacted with one another. The last couple weeks of horse monitoring there was snow, which made everything seem more beautiful.


Horses in the Green Mountain HMA


Field work in the snow!


Horse monitoring at Green Mountain

This month we also did one last round of riparian area monitoring. The cows are all out of the pastures we monitor, but riparian area monitoring still needs to be done to see how the horses and antelope affect the riparian areas. Most of the areas we monitored were very short, which may mean the cows will get a limited grazing season next year.


Riparian area monitoring at Sulphur Bar Spring.

Overall, this internship with the BLM and Chicago Botanic Garden has been wonderful. Many of the employees here went out of their way to make sure we got to work on a variety of projects. I really enjoyed being able to work on so many different things. Over the season we worked on seed collecting, vouchering plants, horse monitoring, plant monitoring, riparian area monitoring, sage grouse collaring, aspen stand delineation, compliance monitoring, fence projects, reclamation projects, and creating literature for the public. I learned many new skills that I believe will be helpful to me in the future. This internship was an experience that I will never forget and that I am so thankful for. I feel very lucky to have been able to work and live in such a beautiful place. Until next time, Wyoming. I will definitely come back and visit.

Erin, Lander Field Office, BLM- Wyoming


The Wind River Mountains

From San Juans to Seattle: a desperate search for title aliteration

This post doesn’t really have anything to do with aliteration.  Or searching.  Or Seattle to be honest.  I just wanted to quickly share my anguish coming up with titles before I get into the meat of my blogpost

I spent most of this summer working on SOS. The San Juan Islands National Monument, a newly designated monument where I’ve been working for the past two summer seasons, consists of 1000 acres of rocks and islands off the coast of Washington state. This was our first year with an SOS program, which meant lots of work for me choosing target species, working with partnering land managers in the area, scoping, and collecting seed.


Dodecatheon hendersonii (mosquito bill) collected on Patos Island

Eriophyllum lanatum (Oregon sunshine) collected on Lopez Island

Eriophyllum lanatum (Oregon sunshine) collected on Lopez Island


Lomatium nudicale (barestem biscuitroot) collected on San Juan Island

I collected 21 species of seed while supporting a number of projects and outreach opportunities. Of course, I was not alone in my SOS adventure. I was assisted most of the summer by our intrepid intern from Western Washington University and had endless advice from area botanists and managers. Thanks to these people, these SOS successes and many days spent on warm breezy coastal prairies, this summer was incredibly rewarding and fun.

Now that SOS work has ended for the year, I am turning my attention back indoors and back toward GIS. For the next few months I will be working remotely from Seattle, WA to complete a vegetation classification dataset using Line-Point-Intercept data I collected in 2014. Although I am sad to see the end of warm weather and cheery wildflowers, I am excited about this project and its potential use for the monument. The San Juans Monument is in the process of creating a resource management plan and needs the most accurate information possible about natural resources, recreation, boundaries, etc to make accurate planning decision. My GIS layer, in giving an accurate picture of vegetation type and plant locations, will be an important resource informing these decisions. I am happy to be able to create a product that has immediate use (and I’m actually excited to sit in on these planning meetings).

Leaving Sagebrush Country

See ya!

Sagebrush Country

First, let’s go back to the beginning and I will describe why it was such a big adjustment for me to move to the desert and Carson City, NV. I grew up a block from Lake Michigan in a small town surrounded by woods, crop fields and dairies. My predominant memories of this time are of the expansive lake, snowy winters, morel mushroom hunting in spring, the smell of fresh cut grass in humid summers, and apple picking in the fall. For the last five years I’ve been in the Pacific Northwest where it rains for nine months straight, resulting in varying shades of green so thoroughly covering the outdoors that sometimes you forget there are other colors. So, based on color spectrum alone, Carson City and the Great Basin in general are very different than what I’m used to. There are many more purples and browns here, and my eyes took time to adjust to the lack of green. The air is drier, the smells are more aromatic (sagebrush!), and the city itself, well, people are big on guns, gambling and pawn shops. For the first few months I daydreamed about summer in Wisconsin, fresh peaches and moss/lichen-covered bigleaf maples in the PNW. Eventually, I adjusted and even came to love some of what was around me, but I can’t truthfully say it ever felt like home.

My botany internship at the Bureau of Land Management began ten months ago in the office, team members trickling in over the following weeks from different states. Actually, I think my first day was a field day picking saltgrass, but overall the first few weeks were office-training-protocol-centric. It was pretty tedious, but helpful to set a knowledgeable foundation for the rest of the internship. The field season slid slowly in with small projects here and there. I clearly remember what felt like our first big field day scouting for post-fire mountain mahogany planting sites. We trekked up and up until, heart pounding and lungs burning, we reached the top of a slope in the southern Pine Nut Mountains. The view of the surrounding mountains was awe-inspiring, and as the sun set, the day was imprinted in my mind. So this is Nevada – mountainous with wide valleys and a great view of the Sierra Nevada and beyond. The deep hues in the sky blended seamlessly with those on the landscape. A bright, full moon rose in the east and I thought, “This is a pretty cool job.” Then volunteered to drive the long road home, because even after the long day, I couldn’t have felt more awake.

View from the southern Pine Nut Mountains

THIS is Nevada (and CA in the distance…)

For training I saw Boise, ID and Yosemite National Park in CA and all the road and scenery in between here and there. We drove far to collect plants and seeds in the White Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. I visited places with names like Turtle Mountain, Hardscrabble Creek, Sand Mountain (where we drove past The End of the World, and kept going), the Petersens, Dixie Valley, Pah Rah, Silver Springs, Virginia City, Winnemuca, Washoe and Inyo. I sat, stood, hiked, trained, drove (and drove and drove), navigated, monitored post-fire vegetation, taught kids, talked to the public, planted, collected data, entered data, wrote reports, annihilated weeds, plotted maps, learned GIS, attended many meetings, and especially, I identified many, many plants and collected a lot of seeds for SOS. In 10 months I worked in freezing temperatures to 100º+ heat and everything in between; there were seemingly unending hours of scorching sun and occasional snowstorms, thunderstorms, windstorms, rain and hail. I’ve gotten to momentarily see places I wished I could explore for weeks, and explored for weeks places I had wanted to only momentarily see (if that).

In the end, it’s the places and things I wanted to spend the least time on that taught me the most. In the hours of tedium, frustration and utter discouragement, vital drops of wisdom were squeezed out of my perseverance. As the great Bill Watterson wrote in my favorite Calvin and Hobbes comic, “Go do something you hate! Being miserable builds character!” Calvin is mocking his dad when he says that, but the truth rings clear, and it always makes me feel better. Now, leaving sagebrush country, I find that the jagged edges of frustration and disagreement slowly weather into learning experiences, and moments like the one in the Pine Nut Mountains stand out enough to make me think, “Yeah, despite the hardships, that was a pretty cool job.”

A big thank you to everyone at CLM, BLM and UNR for their hard work that helped make this internship what it was.

Best SOS moment

Balsamorhiza sagittata covering a hillside in the Petersen Mountains

Thank you,


Carson City, NV BLM

View from the office on a frosty morning

View from the office parking lot on a frosty morning.