Lizard Lovin in the Desert

This past month, we’ve been mega busy setting up and monitoring pitfall traps in various locations as well as doing recon for seed collections here in Carlsbad. Our pitfall traps are set up in dunes for a presence/absence survey of the dunes sagebrush lizard, Sceloporus arenicolus. This species is not yet listed as endangered, but it’s been proposed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Its numbers have dramatically decreased because its habitat in sandy dunes dusted with shinnery oak and sand sagebrush are also prime locations for oil wells. Although we haven’t yet found any dunes sagebrush lizards in the locations surveyed, we have found many side-blotched lizards as well some Texas horned lizards and common lesser earless lizards.

Side-blotched lizard- Uta stansburiana

Texas horned lizard- Phrynosoma cornutum 

Common lesser earless lizard-

Common lesser earless lizard-Holbrookia maculata

Rifling through the pitfall t

Rifling through the pitfall traps

To determine whether or not we are recapturing the same individuals, we sharpie the digits of any lizard caught before releasing it from the trap. On the tinier juvenile lizards which are starting to become abundant as eggs hatch, this can be a little tricky! In addition to lizard monitoring at these sites, we’ve also started on an insect collection since so many insects are often caught in the traps. There hasn’t been much study on the insect diversity in the area, so I look forward to identifying the insects we’ve collected so far.

Besides our weekly lizard monitoring, we did our first seed collection this month!

-our first seed collection!

Ratibida columnifera– our first seed collection!

Along with the HACU interns at the BLM, we also did a cleanup at a nearby recreation area, Conoco Lake, which included milkweed planting to set up monarch waystations! The cleanup was super, and we are planning on planting more milkweed in several other sites in the coming weeks both for restoration and to set up more waystations.

Me and two of the HACU interns, Jorge and Nicole, planting some milkweed!

Me and two of the HACU interns, Jorge and Nicole, planting some milkweed!

Meridith McClure- Carlsbad, New Mexico BLM

Nearing the End…

Greeting from Rawlins, WY!

Things has begun to change here for me in terms of work. It is hard to believe that I only have 5 weeks left! We have finished most of our campground maintenance and have moved on to Wilderness Study Area (WSA) monitoring. Our field office has 5 WSAs that we are responsible for. When out monitoring our WSAs there are a few things that we are looking for. We are mostly looking for trespass and vehicles that are driving where they are not supposed to. Another thing that we are looking for is carsonites and stickers to replace along the boundary. We also want to know the condition of our WSAs so we are on the lookout for dreaded invasive species! When monitoring, we also record any people recreating in the area as well as wildlife or wild horses.

Encampment River WSA

Encampment River WSA

Prospect Mountain WSA

Prospect Mountain WSA

Another thing that we have been monitoring is the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. The trail is a 3,100 mile trail that travels between the Mexico border and the Canadian border. It runs through 5 states with Rawlins being about the halfway point on the trail. This mostly involves making sure that the trail is clearly marked so hikers know where they have headed. We have been seeing lots of hikers on the trail while doing field work.

With only 5 weeks remaining in my internship and most of our recreation duties met for the summer, I am taking this time to expand my experience and go out with others in the office. Last week I had the opportunity to go out with the fisheries biologist and his techs and remove some beaver dams for a project coming up. This week I am going to go out with the forester and learn more about what she does in preparation for a timber sale. I am also hoping to make it out with the Hydrologist at one point before the summer is over. I really enjoy that the CLM internship gives me the chance to get experience in other fields then just the one my internship is focused on.

Beaver Dam to be removed

Beaver Dam to be removed


BLM Rawlins Field Office

Getting into the Swing of Things in Wyo

Life in Buffalo has been an adventure so far. After what seemed like a lifetime of trainings, my co-intern, Nick, and I finally were able to begin going to our monitoring sites. Before we started going to our AIM sites on our own, we spent some time going out with the entire Range crew as they did their assessments of past year’s monitoring sites. This was not only a great way to practice our plant ID, but also a good way to learn about soils and other qualities of the land. It also gave us some insight as to what they’ll be looking for a year from now when they return to the sites Nick and I monitor this field season.

Arnie, the soil scientist in our office, showing us how it’s done. What a guy!

Some highlights of the past month or so:

-Getting stuck behind a herd of sheep on our way to an AIM site, and quite the massive herd at that…

-Camping for a week to accomplish AIM sites at the Hole in the Wall on BLM land.

-Meeting up over the Fourth of July weekend with some interns I met in Chicago (at the CBG training) and the Rocksprings training to camp and celebrate the holiday.

-Spending my free time hiking, camping, and exploring the Bighorn Mountains/National Forest as well as exploring other cool towns in Wyoming such as Lander and Sheridan. The picture below is of one of the various gorgeous wild flower meadows on the edge of the National Forest and the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area.

-Meeting all different kinds of people during my travels as well as in town since Buffalo is a tourist stop of some sort during the summer for people on their way to Yellowstone.

Time seems to be flying due to how busy I am, but I’m truly enjoying it. The learning hasn’t only been limited to plants and BLM related things but it’s also been useful to hone my skills as a camper (although if I am being honest, I still have a lot to learn in that department), learning to drive a truck on somewhat sketchy roads, and appreciating the Western lifestyle.

Until Next Time,

Corinne Schroeder
Buffalo BLM Field Office

Learning to Drive, Hunt, and Gather

As things swing into full seed collecting mode here at the Santa Fe office, I’ve been working on all kinds of skills, including how to drive. Driving, that is, on rutted out, muddy, wash-board, and/or sandy roads.


Sandy arroyo crossing


A very steep hill, much steeper in person!

The powerful 4-wheel drive truck enables us to explore a lot of territory, and the purpose of exploring all that territory is, of course, to hunt for plant populations! Once we’ve been lucky enough to discover a swath of plants with ripe seed, the engine is off, we’re far from paved roads, my collecting bag is in hand, and sometimes I feel as though I may be more close to the great depth of human ancestral experience than I have ever been before — simply out in a field gathering wild fruit.

This line of thought leads me to think how wild fruit can be so scarce and so small, and what an amazing thing all of our cultivated plant varieties with fat, juicy fruits are.

And then sometimes I get a big surprise. I’ve been familiar with flax seeds as a food source for quite some time, and even bought a bottle of flax oil recently. I knew the pretty blue flower was called flax, and yet when we went to collect seed from Linum lewisii, blue flax, I was struck by how its seed looked nearly the same as flax seed that can be bought in the store!


Linum lewisii with fruit

With this in mind, I look forward to hunting and gathering Eriogonum (buckwheat), Helianthus (sunflower), and hopefully at least one fleshy, sweet berry! Luckily we have already scouted a large population of Rubus parviflorus (thimbleberry), a relative of raspberry I was shocked to find so far from Oregon, where I know it as one of my favorites.

Laura Holloway

Santa Fe (New Mexico State Office), BLM


I am where I need to be, and I am a Botanist

Well, here I am, still in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Just another intern at the busy Carlsbad BLM Field Office. It has been only about two months into my internship, and yet I have already gained so much experience that I hope to take with me in my next step towards my career.

For one, I am happy to be taking a part in a New Mexico native seed collection. I was able to help collect seed in our first collection for Seeds of Success (SOS) just a few short weeks ago. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the SOS, it is a government-driven program that is focusing on seed banking for a number of reasons. Seeds that are collected by us interns and field botanists are sent to a seed cleaning factory, then sent to be stored and saved for potential future disasters. Of course, there are other reasons for the seed collections: Many universities and horticulturists may take some for their own research prospects. When we collect more than enough for everyone, we even get the chance to keep some for native restoration of our public lands. I say it is a program that is a win-win situation. I am incredibly overjoyed to be a part of a bigger picture, something bigger than you and I.

My first collection day - plant press slung around my shoulder, and data sheet in my hands.

Taking a shady refuge on my first collection day – plant press slung around my shoulder, and data sheet in my hands. Photo taken by B. Palmer

Our first collection of the year came on a delightfully overcast and cool early morning of 85°F (a pleasantly wonderful surprise that seldom graces the Chihuahuan Desert). With the guidance of the Las Cruces district botanist, we decided to collect a native and pollinator-friendly flower of the Asteraceae family, Ratibida columnifera. With four of us collecting, I believe the morning to be a success! You see, as part of the SOS protocol, we are required to follow certain rules: we must collect from a minimum of fifty plants within a population so that the collection is genetically diverse. We can only collect a maximum of 20% of the available seeds per plant, to not take away from the native population. And…we must collect a minimum of 10,000 seeds, per collection. The SOS will not accept collections less than that, due to the expenses of cleaning seed and storage (not to mention it takes a lot of seed to restore disaster zones successfully). Of course, if our BLM office wanted to keep some of the seed for our own restoration purposes (which they do), we must collect more than 10,000 seed, and anything extra will come back to us. Fortunately, it was not difficult from this particular collection, as plants of the Asteraceae in general put off a lot of seed per plant in the first place. I couldn’t have asked for a better collection to learn the SOS protocol on.

A small handful of Ratibida columnifera seed. Photo credits by B. Palmer

A small handful of Ratibida columnifera seed. Photo taken by B. Palmer

Unfortunately, it has been our only collection thus far of the season. Typically, July is “monsoon” season for Carlsbad. However, it has been a typical rainless desert for the month of July. No rain, with high, dry-heat, stifling temperatures. Really anywhere you go, no rain = no new flowers to collect from. The other Carlsbad CLM intern and I arrived late enough to miss potential spring collections, but now we may be gone before the potential fall plants are ready for collection. Until it rains here, we may be out of the job we were sent here to do. Fortunately, we have been working with our mentor, Johnny Chopp, who is a wildlife biologist, and he has had a few other projects for us up his sleeves.

One of which has been a herpetology survey he has conducted for several years at this office. There are plenty of Chihuahuan Desert endemic plants here in Carlsbad, but now it is time to think more like an ecologist. You see, Johnny has been searching for the Sand Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus), an endemic to the area, and has been on the decline the last few years. We have been surveying sites to find a presence of this particular lizard. How do we do this, you ask? Simple: pitfall traps made of a 5-gallon bucket snugly buried into the lizards’ sandy habitat on dunes of Shinnery Oak (Quercus havardii Rydb.) and Sand Sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia Torr.). I can honestly tell you, I have never encountered so much sand in my life. I come home and there’s sand in my hair, my ears, my nose, my shirt, my pockets, my boots…but what kind of experience would it be if not for that??

This is typical habitat for the desert lizards here. They take refuge under the Q. , and run though sandy areas to find food.

This is typical habitat for the desert lizards. They take refuge under the Q. havardii, and run though sandy areas to find food. Photo taken by B. Palmer

Here I am showing off one of the lizard pitfall traps. It is a 5-gallon bucket buried into the sand, with the opening canopied by a small piece of plywood that keeps the critters shaded and predators out of the traps. Photo taken by N. Montoya.

Here I am showing off one of the lizard pitfall traps, and a snake stick we use to open traps. It is a 5-gallon bucket buried into the sand, with the opening canopied by a small piece of plywood that keeps the critters shaded and predators out of the traps. Photo taken by N. Montoya

To our dismay, we have yet to find the anticipated Sand Sagebrush Lizard. However, we have found many of the desert’s interesting critters along the way. We have pulled beetles, wasps, ants, spiders, scorpions (oh so many scorpions) out of the traps. At one of our first arrays, one of the office’s wildlife biologists found a Texas-Horned Lizard – not even from our little traps! That indeed was a gem on its own.

A Texas-Horned Lizard, found hiding in a bunchgrass. Photo taken by B. Palmer

A Texas-Horned Lizard, found hiding in a bunchgrass. Photo taken by B. Palmer

There are several lizards found in the Chihuahuan Desert, and another is commonly and creatively named the side-blotch lizard (yes, for the blotch of black found on its side). We have even found juvenile lizards, as big as your thumbnail. But again, we have not found the lizard we have been looking for yet. A trend has been noticed by the biologists here, that when there are side-blotch lizards in an area, there is typically not sand sagebrush lizard. This is a trend that still shows to be true this year as well.

I am holding my first Side-Blotch lizard that was caught in one of the traps. Photo credits: M. McClure

I am handling my first Side-Blotch lizard that was caught in one of the traps. Photo credits: M. McClure

An adult Side-Blotch Lizard I found in one of the traps. You may notice that its left claw is blue. We mark the lizards here to check if we recapture any. Photo taken by B. Palmer

An adult Side-Blotch Lizard I found in one of the traps. You may notice that its left claw is blue. We mark the lizards here to check if we recapture any. Photo taken by B. Palmer

A juvenile found in one of the traps. Juveniles do not yet have the markings we use for identification, so the species of this little guy is unknown. Picture taken by B. Palmer

A juvenile found in one of the traps. Juveniles do not yet have the markings we use for identification, so the species of this little guy is unknown. Picture taken by B. Palmer

In excess time here, I have also been involved in a project to install Monarch Waystations in a few selected locations around the Carlsbad area. For those of you who don’t know much about Monarch butterflies, they too are on the decline. They are a butterfly that migrates from northern North America, all the way down into Mexico. Their habitat has historically been near prairie settings, however, what do we use prairie habitat for now? You guessed it – agriculture. In the recent years scientists have found that Asclepias spp. (Milkweed) is a prominent piece of monarch butterfly habitat. You see, the plant itself is very toxic to animals animist insects, but is the main food source for the monarch caterpillars. We do not want to loose an essential pollinator of North America, so waystations, areas designated as butterfly “sanctuaries” along their migration lines if you will, are on the rise. We wanted to be a part of that too, so we proposed in a weekly NEPA meeting to provide four different locations to install potential waystations. It has been a difficult process to get others in the office on board with the idea, however, we have been able to pull through. Some fellow interns and I drove all the way to Albuquerque, NM (a 10-hour round trip drive and 13 hour day) to pick up two species of Milkweed plugs (Asclepias speciosa and A. latifolia) from a native plant nursery.

Each tray holds 98 young plants, between 1-2 years old. We picked up two different kinds of Milkweed: Showy and Broadleaf Milkweed. Photo taken by B. Palmer

Each tray holds 98 young plants, between 1-2 years old. We picked up two different kinds of Asclepias: Showy and Broadleaf Milkweed. Photo taken by B. Palmer

Our first planting was but a few days ago, at a little area called Conoco Lake. It is a small recreational (and man-made) pond in the middle of dozens of oil pads, that has turned into a small wildlife sanctuary. There are birds in the trees, fish in the pond, and a plethora of pollinators that seek its refuge: one of the reasons we decided to plant there. We ended up planting 98 young Asclepias plants in hopes that it will become a waystation in a year or two. I hope our hard work pays off, and some of the milkweed survives!

I am instructing others how to transplant the young milkweed on our big transplant day. Photo credits to M. McClure

I am instructing others how to transplant the young milkweed on our big transplanting day. Photo credits to M. McClure

Despite our extra projects, we are always on the lookout for potential plants to collect seed from. It is dry as a bone out here in the desert, but there is still life out here; I have a hard time even fathoming how plants grow here. For example, guess what I found on one of our scouting days: Equisetum!! That’s right, a freaking horsetail…in the freaking desert! The ways of the desert and what grows here surprises me everyday.

Equisetum growing in the desert. I still cannot believe I found this! Photo taken by B. Palmer

Equisetum growing in the desert. I still cannot believe I found this! Photo taken by B. Palmer

I was also very excited to come across flowering towers of Agave species (possibly Agave neomexicana, however, I am unsure of the species) on another scouting day a few weeks back. This is by far one of my favorite plants of all time. They have tall, stunning yellow inflorescences that I will never forget! All their lives, Agave spends its life as a small, dense, succulent rosette. Then one day after years of this vegetative state, the plant decides to put forth all its energy into that thick, impressive reproductive shoot holding hundreds of little flowers, attempting to put forth its genetic makeup into the world via pollination before dying that very year. Is there anything more spectacular than this?

We were driving through some pinion-juniper woodland, when I forced the others to stop the car so that we could investigate this inflorescence! Photo taken by M. McClure

We were driving through some pinion-juniper woodland, when I forced the others to stop the truck so that we could investigate this inflorescence! Photo taken by M. McClure

Overall, I love hunting for plants in the desert. But oh how I miss home so very much. Everyday I am out here, I am incredibly homesick: for trees and vivid green landscapes, my dog, my home, especially my soon-to-be husband. Nonetheless, I believe traveling is essential for personal development. One night a group of us went out to dinner, and my mentor brought up a favorite quote of his, by Mark Twain:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

When one stays in one place for a long enough time, they can become stagnant in their lives. That is why this internship is so incredibly important. Not only for me, but for all the other interns in the program as well. We can learn about the world from the safety of our homes, but you cannot truly experience it unless you step outside, and out of that comfort zone. Since I have stepped out of my own comfort zone, I have learned one incredibly important thing about myself: Despite the interesting town that I am stationed in and the blistering daily heat, there is a loupe around my neck, a plant press swung onto my back, a notebook in my hands, and most importantly, a smile on my face. I am where I need to be, and I am a field botanist.

I feel (and think that I look like) a true botanist. I am blossoming now, and hope to be a great botanist in years to come. Photo taken by B. Palmer

I feel (and think that I look like) a true botanist. I am blossoming now, and hope to be a great botanist in years to come. Photo taken by B. Palmer

Brooke Palmer

Carlsbad, New Mexico, BLM Field Office

Adventures on the White River and other things

It feels like we are finally starting to reset after the frantic pace after last month.  All the early season plants we had our eyes on in July have either been collected or lost and now we are moving on to the preliminary site assessments for the later flowering species.  So far we have sites for Lupinus Argentis, Asclepias labriformus, Eriogonum umbellatum, and Eriogonum ephedroides.  We are about to collect Asclepias labriformus and Lupinus argentis.

A week ago we went on a 3 day rafting trip down the White River to help with a monitoring study of treatments of Russian Olive and Tamarisk.  The trip was great.  The view of the canyon was spectacular and sitting in an inflatable raft between sites certainly beats sitting in a car between sites.  I would have to say the only downside was the mosquitos and deer flies, which might have bitten me a couple hundred times.20160712_143534

Getting the raft loaded


We brought duckies because there wasn’t room in the raft.


Birds made these nests.

Headline: Local CLM Intern Accomplishes Many Tasks!!!

GIS / Remote Sensing Update

I am almost done with my main project for this internship!! I have been working since February on mapping cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) for our field office. After hours upon hours of processing, I was able to complete a large map of the cheatgrass densities for the Upper Powder River Basin area for our field office! Now, my main goal was to create a similar map for the southern section of the study area and then I will be done with this assignment! After creating these two cheatgrass maps, I would have to ground truth the Upper Powder River Basin Study Area to confirm that there was cheatgrass. After ground truthing, I would be able to move on to other projects like mapping sagebrush densities, doing vegetation monitoring, and working on NISIMS! Hopefully, the next assignments should start around August!!

During the various processing assignments I had to do, I received many side quest missions from the BLM staff regarding GIS! Most of the quests were pretty simple and could be completed within a few minutes, but there were some quests I had to do some research on before I was able to help people out! Almost everyday I learned something new regarding GIS. Working on GIS projects had been rewarding and I am very confident that I would be able to use these skills that I gathered for my next job!!

Cheatgrass turns a purplish red in mid June in Wyoming. I used remote sensing techniques to try to find the red signatures of the cheatgrass. The above picture shows you the difference between cheatgrass and other grasses in the landscape in June.

Cheatgrass turns a purplish red in mid June in Wyoming. I used remote sensing techniques to try to find the red signatures of the cheatgrass. The above picture shows you the difference between cheatgrass and other grasses in the landscape in June.

Northern Powder River Basin

The Northern Powder River Basin Cheatgrass Density Map so far! Still have to fix some portions of the map and spruce it up a bit. Soon I will use this map for ground truthing!!

Southern Powder River Basin

This is the Southern Powder River Basin map! Not as much cheatgrass due to all of the badland and bare ground structures in the area.

Cheatgrass Comic

Quick Comic

Quick Comic

Spooky Nightjar Surveys

One of the most unusual experiences for this internship was doing nightjar surveys in the Bighorn Mountains. One of my bosses, Bill, wanted me to go up into the Bighorn Mountains and perform a nightjar count along a specific mountain route. I had to do this survey around 12:00am when there was a full moon in the sky. My goal was to listen for different nightjar species such as nighthawks (Chordeiles minor) and common poor wills (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii). I had twelve stops along the highway and twisty side roads. Each stop had to be around six minutes long in order to properly listen to bird calls.

The first couple of stops were a little spooky. I was by myself, surrounded by forests, with large animals roaming around such as moose (Alces alces) and elk (Cervus canadensis). I usually heard a few great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) in the forested areas. The second stop did have two nighthawks, which I was very happy to hear! The rest of the remaining stops were not as productive. Many of the park (open areas) stops had Wilson’s snipes (Gallinago delicata)! These birds were “winnowing” up a storm. Winnowing was the sound and action a snipe makes to defend its territory or attract mates. Sometimes it would be very silent and then a snipe flies near my car winnowing, freaking me out! Haha! They absolutely loved to surprise me!

Overall, this was one of the most bizarre bird monitoring I have done on this internship. I loved viewing the full moon and listening to different birds, but it was rather creepy being up on the mountain by myself with an unnatural amount of RVs driving through the Bighorns very early in the morning.

Mostly I encountered snipes. I did hear two nighthawks. Since the survey took place at night, I had to photoshop my experience into one picture.

What the experience should’ve looked like….

This was what it actually looked like... >_>

This was my actual experience…>_> Hahaha!!

Bird Routes!

Recently, I have had a great opportunity to do more bird monitoring! I went out with BLM Legend Don to do two routes in Northeast Central Wyoming. The towns we passed through were extraordinarily small and had a grocery store and a few barns. The landscape on these routes was beautiful!! There was so much diversity of bird species, we easily saw fifty or more birds. We passed wetlands, farmlands, grasslands, juniper stands, badlands, prairie dog towns, streams, ponderosa pine forests, shrub lands, rivers, savannas, towns, and disturbed areas. Each area offered unique species of bird! The most common bird species we did encounter were the western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), and brewer’s sparrow (Spizella breweri).  Some of my favorite bird species we saw were the red headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus), Sora Rail (Porzana carolina), Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda), Red Head (Aythya americana), American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana), Wilson’s Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor), Greater Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), Rock Wren (Salpinctes obsoletus), and the Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii)!

An American Avocet taking a break from finding food!

An American Avocet taking a break from finding food!

An elusive cinnamon teal I saw!!

An elusive cinnamon teal I saw!!

We had two very long routes around Arvada and Recluse, Wyoming. We had to stop every 0.5 miles and record the bird species we saw and heard in the area. We stopped fifty times along the route and looked around the area, noting weather conditions and excessive noise. Most of my bird monitoring I did relied on my hearing. I could pick out specific species of bird just by hearing them. When we stopped near a lake, we would get the spotting scope to see what we could find. Most of the time, we saw gadwalls (Anas strepera) and mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) swimming around the small lakes. Some reservoirs did contain some rare bird species! After six hours per route, both Don and I were exhausted! We had to wake up 3:30am and travel to a route that would be over an hour and half away from Buffalo, Wyoming. By the end of our work day, we would go to the Breadboard Sub shop for lunch before going home for the day. This type of bird monitoring was very rewarding, but also it was very draining to the system!

 A wild red head headed woodpecker has appeared!!!

A wild red head headed woodpecker has appeared!!!

Vegetation  Monitoring

Tis the season for vegetation monitoring!!! Recently, we have been doing S&Gs, rangeland health assessments, and a whole bunch of vegetation monitoring projects! I have been working entire weeks and weekends on various vegetation monitoring projects. Beyond bird monitoring and GIS, I have been helping the Resources Staff and range interns get settled with vegetation monitoring. I am also helping out with University of Wyoming vegetation studies on the weekends and some days during the week. Hopefully, I can acquire a lot of comp time!!

BLM Legends ready to do vegetation monitoring.

BLM Legends Arnie, Charlotte, and Dusty are ready to do vegetation monitoring!!

Welch Recreation Area

For two days, I had a great opportunity to help out the BLM Recreation Department (Rachel and Damen) with nature education with a local Sheridan Library Summer program. We took nine kids to the Welch Recreation Area and taught them a series of subjects ranging from plants, birds, geology, and entomology! The first day we went to the seed plots and collected green needle grass (Nassella viridula) and bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata) seeds! Afterwards, we went to another location to do a plant scavenger hunt! The kids had to find the difference between a tree, shrub, grass, forb, and grass-like plants! Next, we went down by the river to look at all kinds of macroinvertebrate! We had the chance to actually go in the water and look for insects! The kids loved walking through the water and they picked up rocks to look for more insects!!

The kids collecting green needle grass seed.

The kids collecting green needle grass seed.

The next day we started off under the bridge to look at the cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) and talked about other bird species. The kids were not as interested, so I shifted gears and talked about rocks. The kids loved this idea!! They were picking rocks up from the river and were showing them to me! I had to identify all of the igneous and sedimentary rocks that were in the river! Some of the kids found really cool agates, which surprised me!! We went across the river and decided to learn about crickets and grasshoppers. After a brief educational experience regarding those insects, we decided to use bug nets to capture and look at various insects. Mostly we encountered crickets (Gryllidae), grasshoppers (Caelifera), and katydids (Tettigoniidae), but there were spiders to look at as well! We ended the day with another river exploration activity!

Teaching the kids about rocks and geology! Some of the kids found nice looking agates!!

Teaching the kids about rocks and geology! Some of the kids found nice looking agates!!

Overall, this educational experience was amazing and I think the kids really enjoyed the experiences. I loved helping Rachel and Damen teach the children about all kinds of sciences. Another bonus was to spend time outside in a Riparian Ecosystem instead of the Sagebrush Steppe for once! ^_^;; I loved doing these kinds of activities!!

Bird Banding Experience

On a Saturday, I had another great experience! The activity was to bird band cliff swallows and other song bird species!! We went to Welch Recreation Area and put up mist nets for cliff swallows by the bridge! BLM Legend Wyatt and myself helped the Rocky Mountain Audubon Society with their efforts!! The cliff swallows were wary of our presences and it was difficult get even one bird to band!! We did catch one female cliff swallow! We were by a very tall bridge and it was hard to reach the swallows without them seeing us. In our songbird net, we ended up catching a male Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena)!! This bird looked very beautiful!!! Even if we were not as successful in banding birds, I ended up with a good education of how to perform mist netting. An added bonus, I got to meet many Wyoming birders!!

Catching cliff swallows was hard!!! We did get one!!

Catching cliff swallows was hard!!! We did get one!!

BLM Legend Wyatt (Right) Helped with bird banding as well!! Lazuli Buntings are so beautiful!!

BLM Legend Wyatt (Right) helped with bird banding as well!! Lazuli Buntings are so beautiful!!

Call of Duty

One of my bosses, Bill, needed my help for a special mission. Since the BLM Recreation Department was busy with field activities, I was selected to help out with the task. Bill wanted me to go with him to Moiser Gulch for clean-up duty. Apparently, some people over the weekend thought it would be funny to put an eight feet long log in the local picnic outhouse. Bill and I had to dress up and take the log out of the outhouse. With quite a bit of effort, we were successful! We had to get rid of the bio-hazard material, which took another fifteen minutes to do. We were also the local entertainment for the picnickers who were watching. ^_^;;



Looks like a job for a CLM Intern!!

Looks like a job for a CLM Intern!!

Bill and I finally got the log out!!!

Bill and I finally got the log out!!! The emoticon is there to cover the unpleasantness…

The Bat Festival and The Mighty Wind

Recently, I helped BLM Legend Chris and his wife with the Bat Festival at Devils Tower! The BLM joined many Department of Interior Legends such as the National Park Service, the Forest Service, and Fish and Wildlife with the festival! It was fascinating working with each of the DoI Departments! Their techniques and hierarchy are completely differed from the BLM! We all set up many different booths regarding bats such as bat ecology, bat monitoring, White Nose Syndrome, finding bats, bat housing, bat coloring activities, and bat detection technology! There were many people that stopped by to learn about bats! Many of the kids loved to learn about bats, and they were quick learners!! Some of the 5-7 year old children knew about bats already based on their schooling!

Around 3:00pm, we got a severe thunderstorm warning!! There was supposed to be 75mph winds and golf ball sized hail! We saw the large cumulonimbus in the area, and we had to pack everything up! We quickly made it to the National Park shelter just in time! The storm was not as severe and it just heavily rained out! There was some hail, but the ice stones were pea sized. Afterwards, we went back to the picnic area and continued our Bat Festival!

We continued another few hours of more educational activities before our bat night walk! When it got darker, we got our bat detectors that would listen for bat sounds! We found many big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) and hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus) flying through out the campground area!! They were neat to watch and hear through the devices, unfortunately, I did not get any good pictures of them! Someone even had a infrared detector, which was neat to use! Overall, this was a great day full of bat activities!!! ^_^

Devils Tower

Devils Tower


Devils Tower

The beginning of the day we set up and helped educate people! Around 3:00pm, there was a massive thunderstorm! Eventually, we continued our activities and did a bat night walk at the end!

Moment of Zen: Cloud Edition!!!!

Some of my favorite clouds pictures taken recently!!

Some of my favorite clouds pictures taken recently!!

Post Script:

We got a visit to our window by a baby Say's phoebe. The little one sends its regards.

We got a visitor by our window at work. It is a baby Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya). The little one sends its regards to everyone!

The Surprise Resource Area

While working with the staff of the Surprise Resource area, I have gained many new experiences. One of my first projects that I got to work on was doing vegetation surveys for weed treatments. In the Modoc area, and this is probably true for many areas, we have issues with invasive species like Medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusa), Japanese Brome (Bromus arvensis), Ventenata, and cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum). Previously, members of the staff had applied a bacterial herbicide to several test plots in order to see how effective this herbicide was on invasive grasses. We had mixed results but it had been less then a year since it had been applied.

Other projects that I have been working on include doing water quality assessments in perennial creeks across the desert. I have also been working on riparian vegetation monitoring, range health monitoring, and range compliance. One of my wildlife projects this month had me finding a small thermal sensor on the side of a steep mountain rock field in order to replace it with a new one. The sensor detected pika and other small mammal movements and was used to monitor the habitat usage along the rock slope. One of my projects took me to East Wall Canyon in order to monitor a pipeline for potentially new planting projects. East Wall Canyon sits below the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge in Washoe County, Nevada and is a very remote region to visit. However tucked inside the numerous small canyons, streams, meadows, and mahogany forests are little homesteads that mark the history of settlement in the area.


Horse Creek, a small perennial creek that runs into Oregon.


A rattlesnake that we found on Tuledad Mountain. This is the first of the two rattlesnakes that I have seen so far this year.

Over the Forth of July weekend, I got to drive a small first responder vehicle in the Lake City, CA parade. We had about twenty-two entrees in the community parade and about three hundred and fifty individuals in attendance in a town with fifty individuals normally. Several members of the field office were in attendance, participated in the parade, and helped with the barbecuing at the potluck that followed. So far I’ve had a lot of fun working in the Great Basin and am enjoying the small town atmosphere and am looking forward to more fun experiences.


Mosquito Valley from the Barrel Springs Road.

I hope everyone is enjoying their internship and staying safe out there!


The Adventure Continues

Hey ya”ll,

As we dive deeper into summer, it is becoming more and more apparent how much progress we’ve been making on our work. We manage to get out and survey a few BLM parcels each week. This sounds impressive but in reality a good portion of each parcel tends to be made of rock cliffs and boulders. But we do what we can and despite accessibility issues we have obtained a lot of data. It became much more obvious during a weeds meeting we had this past week. Our supervisor loaded up ArcMap on the big screen, pulling up areas we had been working in and there were all our polygons points and lines of noxious weeds found in those areas. And while of course it’s not a desirable thing to have so many invasive species, it is good that we seem to be doing well scouting for them. As I’ve mentioned in recent blog posts, some of the areas require a good huff and puff of hiking to reach. Last week was particularly exhausting. We hiked over 20 miles in 3 days climbing up and down hills that sometimes changed in elevation by 1000 feet. The picture below is an example, though it doesn’t do it justice. 20160714_151207

Running along this site was the Okanogan River which we camped next to the week before.


Not a terrible place to crash for the evening. However, I was kicking myself the whole time for not bringing my fishing pole, apparently this section of the river is excellent salmon fishing… D:
Two weeks ago was also the week our crew became familiar with a highly aggressive invasive, medusahead. This winter annual grass is native to Europe and was first found in Oregon at the beginning of the 20th century. It thrives on range land, spreads quickly, and decomposes slowly, resulting in thick layers of litter covering a large area. This inhibits native plant growth and becomes a great fuel source for a wildfire. It has never been found in the county we work in until this year when someone found an odd looking grass on private property nearby and decided to report it. Sure enough it was confirmed to be medusahead and now federal and state agencies are trying to determine the extent of its infestation in the area. We surveyed a BLM parcel near the area where it was found to see if it was present and fortunately none was found. But first we visited the property where it was found to make sure we knew how to identify it.


Taeniatherum caput-medusae or medusahead

We’ve kept our eyes peeled since, but luckily it hasn’t been found outside this area. How it got here remains a mystery and will probably stay that way since its seeds can stick to practically anything; clothing, tires, animals, etc. On the plus side, the area we surveyed nearby did have a rewarding view of the Wenatchee valley.


Next week we plan on having another work camping trip and hitting some spots that I have no doubt will mostly be made of boulders and cliffs. The adventure continues..