Mowed Hopes and Tropical Storms

It is mind blowing to think that this internship is halfway over already. My time with Seeds of Success has been flying by but the amount that I have learned in just a short three months is amazing. These past few weeks we have been focusing our time on collections around the Outer Banks, NC area and our time has been rewarded with an ever increasing amount of weekly collections. Our trips to the region occurred before and after Tropical Storm Hermine had rolled through. Fortunately the storm did not affect our trips and only shared a few showers with us and some ominous looking clouds. However, we noticed that it did have an impact on the region with areas of flooding and dune movements. Storms like this reminded my team and I how important our work is collecting seed in order to restore ecosystems, like the ones all around the Outer Banks, after tropical storms and hurricanes.

Ominous clouds rolling in at Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge

Ominous clouds rolling in at Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge

On our first trip we discovered some great populations of a Fimbristylis sp., Rhynchospora colorata, Fuirena pumila and more exciting species along a few roadsides and in a waterfowl impoundment at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and at Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary. As most of the species were not quite ready to be collected, we made notes on them and were prepared to make collections of them in a week during our next trip. Once next week rolled around, we all piled into our car and set off to the Outer Banks. Upon arriving at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, we discovered all of the species we had noted along the roadsides had been mowed. To make matters worse, once we arrived at Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary the entire waterfowl impoundment had been mowed as well. As disappointed as my team and I were, we were at least able to make other collections in the areas, but we found a new enemy known as the lawn mower.

Later in the week we traveled to Currituck National Wildlife Refuge and spent some time learning the plants in the dune ecosystem. This included species like Uniola paniculata, Ammophila breviligulata, Panicum amarum and more. I was thrilled to spend time learning these species and understanding how important they are for stabilizing dunes and for coastal restoration. Currituck National Wildlife Refuge was beautiful and this dune habitat has become one of my favorites due to the fact that these amazing plant species can grow and thrive in such nutrient poor soils and provide essential ecosystem services to stabilize our beloved beach habitats.

Wild horses seen on beach at Currituck National Wildlife Refuge

Wild horses seen on beach at Currituck National Wildlife Refuge

View from the dunes at Currituck National Wildlife Refuge

View from the dunes at Currituck National Wildlife Refuge

Slowly Winding Down

It’s been awhile since my last post.  Time has been flying, once again faster than I thought possible.  The halfway point of my internship very suddenly became less than a month remaining.  It’s equally exciting, terrifying, and sad that my time in Lakeview is nearly at an end!

My crewmate and I hit our target of 35 seed collections almost a month ago now, but that hasn’t slowed us down one bit.  We are continuing to collect seeds for SOS (including one that turned out to be a misidentified non-native – oops!), as well as making several collections for local use.  We have also been doing some large collections for the other office in our district, in Klamath Falls.  I’m glad we hit our collection target when we did, because outside of riparian areas, most every plant around here is crispy to the point of disintegrating.  Very different from my home, where the summer monsoons are pushing up fresh blooms even now!  That said, I am super excited for some sagebrush collections we have coming up!

The other advantage to hitting our target early was that it allowed us to shift focus a bit, getting the most out of the experience and networking opportunities this internship provides.  My crewmate and I were trained in a couple different riparian habitat assessment methods.  We have also been doing a lot of vegetation inventories, as well as planning a pollinator-friendly garden.  Working with a new variety of people has served as great networking and has also helped break up the job and make it exciting!  I’m always eager to learn new things and meet new people.

We also got to visit the Bend seed extractory, as well as some native plant nurseries in the region.  Both visits were super exciting and informative; after doing seed collection for a few months, it was nice to see the other sides of the business and the ultimate result of our efforts.  It has also inspired me to start looking at nursery work during the off season!

I have learned so much these past few months, about plants, land management, and most importantly, myself.  I’m excited for a little bit of rest once my season is over, but I can’t reiterate just how good a step taking this internship was for me.  Here’s hoping the last few weeks are smooth and enjoyable!

Brennan Davis, BLM – Lakeview, OR


Send my love

Hi all,

August was such a great month of collecting for us. Our month started with a 2-man, 2-day trip of Jake and I to Merchant’s Millpond SP, Alligator River NWR, Mattamuskeet NWR, Swanquarter NWR, and Pettigrew SP. It was my first trip as a pair instead of a whole group, and I think it went really smoothly! We actually made six collections in just two days! We collected Cladium mariscoides (NOT mariSIcoides – no), Bolboschoenus robustus (… of course), Schoenoplectus pungens (also of course), Borrichia frutescens (NOT frUCtescens – no), and Hibiscus moscheutos.


Cute little snake ready to take my life.

Cute little snake ready to take my life.

Our second trip was a longer 4-day affair. We went to some amazing places, but I think my favorite was Presquile NWR. Which is funny, because we spent hours attempting to get through to a wetland area to no avail. We fought swamp-butt, poison hemlock, briars and spiders… and we lost. BUT – the place is absolutely beautiful and has a ton of amazing plants. We actually found a goldenrod we had been searching for – Solidago juncea, so that was worth it! I also saw my first passionflower – Passiflora incarnata – in the wild at Presquile! It was beautiful and beginning to fruit! Our collections here include Teucrium canadense, Schoenoplectus pungens, Schoenoplectus americanus, Pontederia cordata, and Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani.

Pontederia cordata

Pontederia cordata +1

False Cape State Park

False Cape State Park

Jake on our boat ride to Presquile NWR.

Jake on our boat ride to Presquile NWR.


Passiflora incarnate as Presquile.

Pink hands from dying my hair Pokeweed purple (all the rage with the kids), and milkweed seeds!!

Pink hands from dying my hair Pokeweed purple (all the rage with the kids) and milkweed seeds!!

Jake and Caroline at Rappahannock River Valley NWR in Virginia.

Jake and Caroline at Rappahannock River Valley NWR in Virginia.


Back Bay NWR - Jake and Caroline

Back Bay NWR – Jake and Caroline

Next up, a short trip to Jockey’s Ridge SP, Pea Island NWR, Currituck Banks Reserve, and Mackay Island NWR. Here we collected Bolboschoenus robustus, and Schoenoplectus pungens… plus I found out that I am a skilled photographer and that eggs get nervous.


Model - Sammy W.

Model – Sammy W (plus egg)

Curritcuk Banks Reserve - majestic maritime forest.

Currituck Banks Reserve – majestic maritime forest.

Our last big trip to end August started with a Tripsacum dactyloides collection – wooooo! I actually love collecting Tripsacum… something about the way it just breaks off into your hand when you touch it (weird?). Anyway, we collected it at Lake Anna State Park which is beautiful. Just look…



We also hit up Gunpowder Falls State Park, where we went on a few mile hike to a pond area that wasn’t actually a pond area anymore. BUT the hike was nice and the view on the way wasn’t so bad either.

Ahh, nothing like the silhouette of Equisetum.

Ahh, nothing like the silhouette of Equisetum.

Our full collection for this trip included: Tripsacum dactyloides, Bolboschoenus robustus, Fimbristylis castanea, Teucrium canadense, Hibiscus moscheutos, Panicum virgatum, and Borrichia frutescens.

Eastern Neck NWR starring Sammy W and Rhexia

Eastern Neck NWR starring Sammy W and Rhexia

"I get paid for diiiis" (sung like Beyonce's 'I woke up like this'). Eastern Shore of VA NWR / Spartina heaven.

“I got paid for thiiiis” (sung like Beyonce’s ‘I woke up like this’). Eastern Shore of VA NWR / Spartina heaven.

Last but DEFINITELY not least is Conoclinium coelestinum - blue mistflower, my favorite.

Last but DEFINITELY not least is Conoclinium coelestinum – blue mistflower, my favorite.

I can’t help but think about how fortunate I am for this opportunity every single day, and I can’t wait to see what this internship still has awaiting! Thanks for reading!



But, I Think if We’re Growing Then We’re Changing

California’s hot and dry summer season is finally changing to its less hot, but still dry fall.  September has arrived, and I’m starting to need a light sweater on my morning bike ride to work. Who knows, maybe we might even get some rain soon (fingers crossed). Even though the weather is cooling down, all the plants are gone, so that makes me really sad. This is a huge bummer, since forensic botany is more frustrating and dissatisfying than exhilarating. I’m already looking forward to next spring, so I can use my Jepson and Sierra Nevada Laws book to key out Calochortus amoenus, Calochortus venustus, Calochortus clavatus, Pedicularis groenlandica, and Aquilegia pubescens. 

Lately, we haven’t really focused on Seeds of Success, because there isn’t much to collect anymore. Instead, we’ve been helping out with SSP (special status plants), Juniper mapping, and water rights. Sometimes our routine days feel monotonous , but I usually can count on seeing interesting wildlife. Nature is unpredictable, and you never know when you’re going to hear a hidden rattling rattlesnake a few feet away, but it sure makes a forgetful day unforgettable. And sometimes nature’s unpredictability is less dangerous, like when I saw 40+ sagegrouse on my way to a Juniper plot. Or like the times, we saw a badger on our way to Skeddadles and a squirreltail monster on our way to Bull Creek. You’re probably wondering about the latter. Well, if you ever read Goosebumps as a kid, imagine the slime monster from Monster Blood, or a very large squishy sea cucumber. The way it rocked back and forth with the wind made it seem like it was breathing, and then it would pick itself up like a dust devil, and join forces with other squirretail haboobs. It was kind of incredible, and I wish I had a video of it, but alas, I don’t. Then, there are the times, when field work is just downright weird.


Marilyn Monroe visiting Susanville


When I’m not in the field, I’m usually working on my answer to the commonly asked, yet dreaded “So what’s next” question. I’ve spent the last week, debating whether I finally have an answer. I was offered a position in Irvine, as a field crew assistant doing invasive species removal and other related restoration projects. There are obviously so many benefits to having a job, like getting paid. If I accept this position, I will also be closer to a climbing gym (only 10 miles, instead of 90), ocean (<20 miles, instead of 300), and my family and friends (70 miles, instead of 600). But if I take the position, I will be further away from the Sierras, the cool Sierra plants, and no traffic. But nothing is flowering anyways, so I shouldn’t make my decision based on the plants, even though it should be a huge factor. I should also mention that this is a great position, but I doubt I will be gaining any additional field and technical skills, that I will likely learn at other jobs (if anyone starts hiring). As you can probably see, I’m very back and forth about this position (I’m starting to feel like the squirreltail monster). I’ll probably have an answer by my next blog…but I’m already overwhelmed with the subject, so it’s time to move on.

I spend my free time reading books (from my long ambitious summer reading list), cooking, and learning about plants. I’m really enjoying the subtle transition to adult-life. A few years ago, I used to cringe at the idea of living a structured and balanced life. I remember wishing to live off the land or in my SUV, away from all the noise and people. It’s really funny how people grow, and therefore change (Bridesmaids reference). In the last year, I’ve noticed that I’m a lot happier when I have goals (career and adventure), and the way I balance my life, usually determines whether I will accomplish said goals. I think I really struggled with this in college, because everyone was so “chill” and carefree. After taking some time off from school, and now, living in the middle of nowhere, I’m learning to balance both lifestyles. I guess you could say my motto is “work hard, play hard.” I’m starting to use backpacking as my outlet to live the free and untamed life I ached for when I was younger. Soon, I’ll be going on a ten day trip to Yosemite, and will be backpacking for six days and camping for four. Then, I’ll be going to Tahoe, for the Tahoe Rim Trail…I’ve accumulated a lot of comp time.

Oh, and I’m also starting to feel like a botanist, which is a really sick feeling. I think it’s so cool when I see a plant, and either know what it is, or can key it to Family or Genus, without a field guide. I get hella stoked when I see Calochortus and Penstemon. I especially love Penstemon newberryi, because it’s pink and grows all over the Sierras. If I take the 36 to the 89 and hang a right, I can usually find a fat population of Penstemon newberryi growing along the granite rock edges. #shakabruh

P.S. My housemate is from the East Coast, and finds entertainment in my Californian vocabulary. This last paragraph was inspired by Jillian Sarazen.

Final visit to the shale barrens

My internship has concluded and it was a very good experience.  I had to leave earlier than I expected, which meant I didn’t get to visit every place in the park I wanted to, but things happen.  Perhaps I will visit again.  I found over 20 new populations of state-listed plants in the canal including 4 entirely new rare species.  I also found a population of Ptilimnium nodosum (Harperella) which is a federally-endangered plant.  Check out my previous entry for more details on that find.

I learned a lot about managing a large database of rare plants.  The amount of rare plant records for this park meant that I couldn’t possibly survey for all of them in one field season.  One challenge was prioritizing which plants to survey for.  I gravitated towards the shale barren habitats within the park.  I found these to be the most interesting to survey.

My last trip into the field was to survey a shale barren habitat.  I found a new population of the globally-vulnerable (G3) Trifolium virginicum.  This is one of the discoveries I was most excited about.  I can’t quite explain it but I really enjoy seeing this plant.  On this field trip I found a population with newly established clumps and one clump that had seedlings sprouting.  I was pretty excited when I saw this and considered it a fitting end to my internship experience at the Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park.


Trifolium virginicum. One clump of a new population I found on my last day of field surveying.












This picture shows the habit of the seed heads to hang down around the base of the plants. They blend in very well with the shale talus.



This is a closer view of the seed heads. If you look closely you can see the seedlings sprouting.


Coleman Minney

Field Botany Intern

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

My Third Month in Casper, Wyoming.

I cannot believe that I have finished up my third month here in Casper, Wyoming. So far it has been an incredible experience and I am so happy to be getting this opportunity.

I started off the month with once a week monitoring of Ute Ladies-tresses (Spiranthes diluvialis) an orchid flowing plant that is officially listed as a threatened plant species in the U.S. I would go out with other biologists and interns to known populations and record the number of plants I saw in those locations.

I also got to help place fence markers along existing fences bordering BLM land. Fence markers are used primarily to deter wildlife, including the Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), from colliding with fences. Evidence has been found that Sage-grouse collide with anthropogenic structures, including fences. Therefore, I worked to help prevent this by placing fence markers along fences close to leks on fences with t-posts or areas of shorter vegetation.

Monitoring Coal Mountain for wildlife

Monitoring Coal Mountain for wildlife with the Casper Field Office Forester

This past week I have gotten to go out on multiple wildlife surveys for proposed projects. I worked with the Casper Field Office’s forester, Cindy Allen, where I got to go out to Coal Mountain and walk throughout an area that is going to be thinned out from Juniper (Juniperus spp.) to promote understory growth and Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) regrowth. I was also able to go out and walk an area that is proposed for a fence installation project. For these wildlife surveys I walked with a wildlife biologist, Elizabeth Thyfault, and surveyed the area from any BLM sensitive wildlife species and possible active raptor nest sites.


Monitoring for Raptor nests at a proposed fence installation site

Coming up I will be helping the lead wildlife biologist, James Wright, with a project called “Natural Bridge – True Mountain Mahogany Regeneration and Restoration.” This project is designed to mimic prescribed burning through a chemical treatment of Plateau® to kill the above-ground true Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus) and to eradicate Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) from the area.  For this project I will be helping to set up vegetation monitoring permanent transects in the project area. This is to monitor the chemical treatments and record how the plants are responding to the treatment.

My time here is incredible and I’m sad to say I only have two months left!

New views in Susanville, CA

This past week we were able to experience some new things in the field office. On Monday and Tuesday, Brian and Laura came from Chico to do some mapping on the Skedaddle mountains. They are working on a large vegetation mapping project, which aims to map all vegetation in California. It was interesting to hear about their work. Our main purpose was to help them get up to the Skedaddles. I never appreciated what Jeeps are capable of until working with the BLM. I sort of compare the Rubicon Jeeps we drive to full suspension mountain bikes that can roll over a pile of rocks with relative ease. Nothing could have prepared me to understand how much off road driving we would be doing in this job, but now it seems only normal to bounce around in the car every day. Once we got up to the Skedaddles (around a 2 hour drive) we got out and hiked to their random vegetation plots. This was the first time we had hiked through aspen groves. From a distance it doesn’t look possible for there to be deciduous trees on these quite bare and rocky mountains, but sure enough in the wetter spots there are some beautiful green groves of aspen. They look at species within 30 meters of the random point and take soil texture samples. At non-tree/shub vegetation plots they also make a 10 by 10 meter square and do visual estimates of plant cover. We were able to help with the soil texture samples, which was fun because we got to get our hands dirty. Coming down off of one of the Skedaddles on Tuesday we got to see a little bird nest in a sagebrush with baby chicks! They were very cute. The best part of accompanying and transporting the mapping crew was that we got to have two gorgeous views from the top of two different peaks of the Skedaddles both days (>7,000 feet). The first day we had a stunning view on a windy summit looking east into Nevada. It was fun to see a very blue looking Pyramid Lake, which none of us had seen before. The second day we were able to see the dry bed of Honey Lake and more of the familiar spine of the northern most Sierras. This week was cooler than it has been, but it was also such a temperature relief to be up at a higher elevation.

The past two days this week we went out to learn about lentic AIM with a crew from the Eagle Lake Field Office and the Alturas (Applegate) Office. The BLM is trying to create a new protocol for collecting data on the vegetation and condition of springs. It was interesting to hear different people bring up ideas and introduce thoughts on how the protocol can be developed in the next few years. It is easy for policy to be written, but implementing it in the field is much more challenging. What happens if a pedestal (where soil has been lost due to cow trampling) is sloped at an angle, or has less than 50 % vegetation? How do you measure it and where do you measure it? How long are the transects? How many transects can you do? Where do you prioritize your work? Which springs do you visit and how often? These questions and many questions like these were what the group grappled with for the afternoon. It was encouraging to hear that those working to develop the protocol, one being Melissa from the NOC Colorado office who visited us, are trying to integrate methods from other protocols that already work well. Visiting trampled springs always makes me feel somewhat at a loss inside. It’s pretty depressing to see what once was probably beautiful and green just a strip of trampled grass with significant soil loss. All of the spaces between the pedestals are where soil has been lost. Although we are collecting a lot of native seed for restoration, we have all agreed that there really isn’t any point trying to put it here unless these springs get fenced. It was nice to have the perspective of the range technicians because they were able to explain how areas have to be fenced with consideration for how the wild horses will access the water. Pat, one of the range managers, explained how you would need to create a fence in a “V” shape in order for them to go around the fence without running through it. It seems like there is a fair amount of fencing that needs to be done before some of the riparian seeds can be effectively used for restoration.

The next spring we visited had a very springy bed of grass in the channel, which almost felt like sphagnum moss. Melissa called this a fen, and estimated that the amount of organic matter (perhaps 30 centimeters) would have taken over hundreds of years to form. Unfortunately it doesn’t take that long to destroy. Valda, our mentor, said that the sides of this channel used to be crisp and vertical so that the cows did not go down, but now the banks have eroded so that the cows are able to come down to the channel with water and create trouble. Apparently the area around this site was an archaeology site, so no fencing could be put in before the area was surveyed. It will probably take a while for this to be done. I wonder what the condition of the spring will be by then.

A few days ago, Jocelyn and I had quite an adventurous day in the field. We set out to collect mimulus seeds, but were unlucky in finding pods that still had seed in them. The pods of the seeds are somewhat see through, and all of the very small seeds are visible in a thin black line at the bottom of the pod if they are still there. The pods were dried and the wind had blown most of the seed out by this time. We have definitely struggled somewhat with timing for seed collections. The other day we went to collect Lotus corniculatus, but we were too early, and most of the pods were still green. Though Lotus corniculatus is not native, it is a forb that the sage grouse enjoy eating, so we have been asked to collect it. However, we were successful in coming across a rattlesnake for the first time in the field while walking around. It rattled consistently; we paused, and then turned around. It was frightening mostly because we couldn’t see where it was or if it was moving. Upon returning to the office we were told that only baby rattle snakes rattle continuously, and they are also not able to control how much venom they use. Needless to say, we felt pretty lucky to have escaped unharmed. While we were driving out to our next site to check for more Lotus corniculatus, we happened upon a pot garden. It was on private land, and these sites are not usually as dangerous as the ones tucked away on BLM land, but it still freaked us out a fair amount. So the two things I’ve been wondering when I would see in the field office were seen in one day!

I forgot to mention that last week we had some small earthquakes here! It’s exciting to experience small earthquakes, but still a bit shocking when they wake you up from your sleep early in the morning. They do serve as a nice reminder of the interesting geologic setting we are in. The geology is pretty stunning in the west. Our field office manager has a background in geology, and it has been fun to talk with him about how much this place rocks.