Gamble Oak, Moose, and Sage: Welcome to Colorado

This is my first post to the blog, as I was very late in coming to the CLM Internship program.  I was notified that there was a position available, and within a very short period of time I was packing up my valuables and making a 20-hour drive from British Columbia, Canada to Kremmling, CO to work for the BLM Field Office located there.  I had very little idea about what I was going to be doing, but I knew it was a good opportunity and that I would be a fool to pass it up.


After being here for a month I think I finally have a good grasp on what our goal is and the methods involved.  I am working under the Assessment, Inventory and Monitoring initiative, or AIM, that was outlined by the BLM in order to guide land management decision making.  In my location specifically, a lot of the data collection revolves around the sage-grouse habitat.  From a broader perspective though, the project is concerned with the overall mapping of habitat regarding species diversity, soil composition and stability, and generally the types of stands that are found and how well they are established.  The data is hopefully meant to show trends over time in how the habitats are progressing, and provide some information for making management decisions.  I was browsing some of the other blog posts and It seems that many others are working under the AIM project as well, so I am sure this is old news to most of you, all the same I thought I would include it in my entry for clarity.

The specific nature of our data collection is fairly rigorous and tedious, as it should be with respect to its implications.  Accuracy is important, however, this can make doing a plot a rather slow process and our team is fairly far behind in the goal that was set for the season.  To be fair though, my mentor and team lead has been handicapped from the start.  She was late in receiving the position and then had a series of interns back out on her in the beginning.  She was alone essentially until a month into the job when the first intern arrived, and then another month later I came in.  Conducting a plot with three people can take long enough, let alone two.  So with that being said, we are behind, but not without reason.


Overall I think we are getting better and sliding into a groove, navigation can be an issue though, with BLM land checker-boarding private land.  At times this makes for very difficult hikes to get to a plot, as there may be a road very close by, but we are unable to access it due to a private gate.  Therefore, we must opt for a road further away and a longer hike.  Most recently, we encountered a gamble oak site, it was a rather humbling experience.  If you’ve ever encountered a gamble oak stand and had to go through it, you know what I am talking about.  Unfortunately, I do not have a picture as my phone was out of battery after camping for 3 nights, but for those who don’t know I will try to describe.  Gamble oak is more like a shrub than a tree, but a large shrub, standing around 8-10 feet tall.  And it is everywhere.  It feels like you’re fighting through the jungle and should have a guide with a machete, except it’s woody.  A long sleeve is recommended, preferably one that you don’t mind being shredded.  I did not foresee this and have the battle wounds to show for it.  Hiking through it is one thing, but laying out and taking data from a transect can feel near impossible.  An entire plot becomes a much longer and more painful/frustrating ordeal.  In summary, I will never forget my experience in gamble oak and will do my best to avoid it.

I feel this post has taken a somewhat negative turn, but that is just a small part of what has overall been a great experience thus far.  I have been camping a lot, and was pretty inexperienced in that regard before coming to Colorado.  I had some minor trepidation beforehand about my ability to cook and get a good night’s rest.  I have since found that cooking is not that difficult if you prepare well, and that there is a lovely calm to falling asleep under the stars with nothing but the sound of crickets.  I have also experienced an abundance of wildlife that continues to amaze me, including bald eagles, great horned owls, and an up-close encounter with a moose!  I stumbled upon it near a stream crossing as I had my head down just chugging along, next thing I knew I heard a loud clomping sound through the water and it emerged out of a thicket of tall shrubs maybe 15-20 meters away.  I think we both startled each other pretty well, and my heart was pounding as we eyed each other with a mixture of fear and curiosity.  I backed up slowly trying not to turn my back, as the memory that moose are known to charge came to the forefront of my mind.  But it didn’t, it just stood there, almost timidly looking at me and hardly moving.  After alerting my fellow crew members to its presence, there was a lot of picture taking as is expected, naturally my phone was out of battery.  I will never forget that encounter though, the picture is in my head.

IMG_20160726_204025230_HDR10928  Sand dunes near Walden, CO

10929 The moose! Taken by my mentor.


Until next time,


BLM Kremmling, CO Field Office

New Acquaintances and Old Friends

As a brand new CLM intern I have just returned from my first week in the field. The previous week had been a whirlwind of meeting new colleagues, learning the ropes of planning, data collection, varied methods of seed cleaning, packaging, herbarium work, research, and paperwork at lightning speed.

Finally it was time to get out there. With a mix of glee and trepidation I set off with my new colleagues to areas within Virginia to collect seed for the the Seeds of Success Program.

Waiting to board a Jon boat to Presquille National Wildlife Refuge

Waiting to board a Jon boat to Presquille National Wildlife Refuge

Bolboschoenus sp., Schoenoplectus sp. and Spartina sp. taunted me for much of the week but by the end of of it, thanks to patient new colleagues and making collections, I felt less challenged.

Presquille NWR from the boat

Presquille NWR from the boat

Old friends such as Lindera benzoin, Uniola paniculata, Cephalanthus occidentalisHamamelis virginiana,  Rhexia sp., Saururus cernuus, Solidago sempervirens and Asclepias incarnata were welcome sights and scents.

Passion flower

Passion flower

We made some successful collections, did a lot of scouting, keyed out a species of Solidago and were delighted to confirm it was indeed S. juncea and we would be back to collect seed.

We met interesting characters along the way but one man, a Deputy Refuge Manager, stands out because of his genuine excitement and enthusiasm on hearing that we would be returning and he would then have the opportunity to accompany us in the field to optimize our experience.

Chippokes Plantation State Park

Chippokes Plantation State Park

This work is so crucial on the East Coast and in addition to the tasks we undertake, those who cross our paths understand and are only too willing to encourage, help, ask questions and applaud us for our work.

On my first field trip away from home, I felt right at home.

Caroline Healy

North Carolina Botanical Garden