Final Reflective Blog Post – Arcata BLM Field Office


There is a depth to the grey around Humboldt Bay that is returning, announcing that summer’s regency is fading. It is time again for the rainy season, for the kind of turning inward easily imbibed through cool misty silver clouds hanging low. I walk the oxidation ponds in sandals with cold feet, watching the Canada Geese return.


Seeds have mostly fallen, generally making themselves invisible once again. But I am still looking, along the edges of the trail and between cracked pavement. When I find a few dusty seeds, I may search for their parents nearby, or hold them close to my face to marvel, or slip them in my pocket, or put a couple in my mouth if I am feeling confident in my twenty-something imperishability. Seeds are the flowers of fall, as wholly mysterious as we can ever imagine – profoundly alive under their protective seed coat.


These are the patterns of a CLM intern coming to close and reflect on an experience that is a seed itself. The seed coat, that encapsulating article of this experience, has been passion for the more than human world solidified in the leaping of flowers, dense tradition of seed collecting, joy of wind, fresh flight of birds, excitement of discovery gleaned in each step. The nutritive endosperm has been those that keep the CLM program running and the diverse, challenging, wonderful Arcata BLM Field Office. The embryo – with a radicle of duties traditional for CLM interns in my field office, and cotyledons composed of my own unique contributions – is my emerging career as a conservationist.

In the past several weeks my work as a CLM intern has revolved around completing my commitments to the survey work I have been involved in on the Humboldt Bay Dunes, the satisfying high ridge of art and science found in herbarium work, and a few forays to the field. In these two weeks preceding my last day in the office, September 23rd, I am preparing a final presentation regarding my contributions to the Arcata BLM Field Office, spreading the final bits into their respective places and writing my experience into being.  Today I stop and stare at the seed that is my seven month CLM internship at the BLM Field Office in Arcata, CA. This is my final reflective blog post.


I began my internship with March rain, deep grey and cold northern Pacific Ocean winds. In the preceding two months, I drove from my parents’ house in San Diego to New Orleans and back again, living lightly in my dusty car; following the border looking for birds with a dear friend. In the ebullient life inversion of arriving in Arcata I experienced the gamut – animation, eagerness, beautiful uncertainty, powerful grandeur, loneliness, cubicle-shock, rampant existentialism. These are the salts of life! I learned extensively about the BLM, my field office’s place within a national context, nearly every plant species on the Humboldt Bay dunes, and a newly decadent version of the redwood forest I already knew deeply. I contributed to the BLM Arcata CLM intern tradition of monitoring threatened and endangered plants on the Humboldt Bay dunes. I completed the 14 transects totaling ~2,800 individual quadrats and loved every moment of salt spray, morning fog, and cascading blooms as the dunes awakened for spring. I also contributed to my field office during this period in my own unique ways: teaching 7th graders about botany, leading Godwit Days Birding Festival field trips and logging botanical discoveries. Before I knew it I was sunburned and flower saturated.

My CLM internship furthered in gaining density as spring turned to summer. I came to reflect on the etymology and place of my stewardship, beginning in the simple and prosaic act of pulling broom along roadsides. I continued these pragmatic acts, which in themselves represent the traditional aspect of my CLM internship, because my mentor has been pulling from many of the same sites year after year. These acts coalesced in a week long backpacking trip with the Mattole Restoration Council along the Lost Coast, where we focused on invasive plant removal. I also had the extreme pleasure of spending my birthday in the backcountry. What seemed at first to be an unpoetic act of stewardship fed my inspiration to explore these acts of care, compassion, responsibility, and atonement.

Near this time I also began two of my most significant contributions to my field office, following the theme of traditional and unique contributions.

First, I began collecting for the Seeds of Success (SOS) program, which I began early, my first collection falling on April 20th. In my field office, each SOS collection season is an entirely new endeavor, as we strive to collect species and populations we have never collected before. With over six iterations of CLM interns in my field office, all collecting for SOS, finding new species and populations that fit the SOS criteria (>10,000 seeds from >50 individuals) is a journey of discovery! Gratefully, I managed to collect from 9 species that had not been collected from before in an area that had received very little previous study. To this end I was responsible for finding the plants/populations, identification, monitoring phenology, collecting, packaging, shipping, pressing and mounting! Managing the SOS program at my field office was a fantastic experience, training the skills of project management and implementation.

Second, I began to make weekly (and sometimes bi-weekly) trips to a BLM property known as Butte Creek, an area that had previously received little botanical attention. Butte Creek is magnificent, resting in the Klamath Mountains foothills region, containing a number of diverse habitats, threatened by the cultivation of cannabis from all sides, and under-botanized on a regional scale. I used my strengths in field botany to create a plant list for this area, thus far containing 159 species, with more to add! I also made 31 of the 46 herbaria collections I contributed during my internship to the Arcata BLM Field Office (part of the California Consortium of Herbaria) at Butte Creek, making several interesting and unique finds.


Discovery and botanical exploration have been a cornerstone of my internship experience, a prevailing wind that is both deeply part of the seed and intractably nourishing to it. In the simplest of terms, we cannot steward that which we do not know exists. As cut up, mowed down and paved over as our country can at times feel, we still live in the wild wild west; a place constantly unfolding where wildness is all around and in between that fallacious hem of the civilized. It stands that we have a relatively poor understanding of the plants occurring on our public lands, even in California. I had the great privilege to continue to develop my skills as a field botanist while creating botanical inventories and contributing to our understanding of where plants are, a basal node to protecting them.

The collective gain composed by the CLM internship program is staggeringly ingenious. Each year, hundreds of interns with a seed of experience, hundreds of repeated tasks and hundreds more entirely new, hundreds of thousands of seeds collected… Field offices imbued with new enthusiasm, light, life, perspectives, inclinations. Moreover, the opportunity for powerful mentorship is a core aspect to the CLM program — speaking for myself and my cohort at large, mentorship is what we need. Mentorship from those who truly care and are willing to at times travel between the realms of how to key plants and the different ways to live a life. There have been several recent calls for the urgent need to train the next generation of botanists, plant conservationists and herbarium managers. CLM is certainly a potent answer to that call.

Traditional and unique contributions by each intern, in each field office, in each iteration. This has been a wondrous aspect of the CLM program — just how heterogeneous it is, there is a staggering distinctness in every intern, every time, at every office. If each CLM internship is a seed, and that seed is the bolstering of a life in relation to conserving our natural heritage, this is seed collection — for the long haul.


That wonderful internal fluttering has returned again, my heart making its own seven-month turning back to where I began, arriving at another life-transposition. I will soon be travelling down to San Diego to see my marvelous parents, and packing, before setting off for Argentina on October 3rd. I am heading to Central Patagonia, to a region known as Neuquen, to a ranch I visited 2 years ago during a course on the botany and natural history of Central Patagonia. I will be working there as a gardener, ranch hand, carpenter, mill-worker, tutor and naturalist — it is sure to be a rich and diverse time! I am deeply looking forward to life immersed in a different country, and a simpler, more rough-hewn sort of living. The ranch is called Estancia Ranquilco ( Come on down for a visit!

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Beyond that? I am returning to California on March 27th, just in time for the bustling spring. I hope to work as a botanist during that time, and continue in the coming seasons my post-baccalaureate work in botany and plant conservation before starting graduate school in the next 1-3 years. The greatest question in my life at this moment is: “how can I make the greatest impact in conservation with my knowledge, privilege and particular talents?” CLM has certainly influenced that question, but as we know, there are no clear answers. Down the path we wind.

My limitless gratitude for this experience — to all those in Chicago making this program turn — Krissa Skogen, Rebecca Johnson. To my mentor, Jennifer Wheeler and the entire Arcata BLM Field Office — this has been a warm and wonderful home. To my academic mentor Kathleen Kay, and all those who supported me at UC Santa Cruz. Gratitude to those who made my journey on the North Coast bright, my brother Gabe, my parents, the lovely Sierra, and all those I shared a house and town with. Gratitude to plants — giving us all we have — food, air, companionship, discovery, joy, satisfaction. Gratitude to wind, air, blood, feather, bone, sun, the innumerable endless self-replete processes…

“I had no idea as I lay on those caribou skins that evening precisely where wisdom might lie. I knew enough of quantum mechanics to understand that the world is ever so slightly but uncorrectably out of focus, that there are no absolutely precise answers. Whatever wisdom I would find, I knew, would grow out of the land. I trusted that, and that it would reveal itself in the presence of well-chosen companions.” — Barry LopezArctic Dreamstumblr_o6zlab3cku1r82vffo1_1280

All my best, see you in the field!

Kaleb Goff

Arcata BLM Field Office, California

Rain in the desert!!!!


We got a tropical storm today and it brought actual rain. The forecast called for an 80% chance of rain today due to the incoming system. As I arrived at the field office at dawn you could just smell it in the air, the smell of imminent rain and here in the desert that familiar smell is also accompanied by the smell of the creosote bush, which is very distinct and sort of sweet. On our way out to the field site by the Salton Sea the rain began.

(Video was too big to upload :'(  )

We also completed our vegetation surveys for the season, got all wet, soaked boots, and enjoyed a day that was so very nice (not the usual 100+ degrees that we are used to).


Doing these desert riparian surveys in a desert riparian/marsh habitat during a rain storm really made us all feel like we where anywhere but in the middle of the Sonoran Desert!


Yours truly


One of our survey sites


The plant list and an unidentified tree


18 m radius of our releve transect


Out in the field

An interesting unidentified spider

An interesting unidentified spider


Clouds condensing over the Orocopia Mountains

When we returned to Palm Springs we found out that power was out in parts of town and had only just came back on in our office. When I left and drove home there was flooding on the streets.

Driving home through Palm Springs, Ca

Driving home through Palm Springs, Ca

And now it’s still raining!

Looking out the window of my apartment towards the San Jacinto Mountains

Looking out the window of my apartment towards the San Jacinto Mountains

I love the rain and feel so lucky to have witnessed a desert storm.

Crystal Neuenschwander

Palm Springs, BLM

Spartina alterniflora – a tricky but very fun collection

It is now mid-September, and signs of Fall are finally becoming evident. More crisp days, it is feasible to drink tea in the morning and start out the day in a flannel.  Tree lines on our drives are turning gold and red and looking more like classic New England. And not having still, hot summer air makes fieldwork even more enjoyable.

This past week, we embarked on a two-day collection near Providence, RI, and it was quite different than any other we had done. Spartina alterniflora, or smooth cordgrass, has to be collected generally before the first full moon in September, so that the seeds don’t get washed out with the high tide. (Here’s more info about it from the NEWFS GoBotany website: ). So with clippers in hand and full-size garbage bags tied to our waists, we set off for the marshes of Rhode Island.


Our mentor Michael proudly wielding his scythe in a stand of Spartina alterniflora.

We met with a woman from the Save the Bay program in Rhode Island, who is working on this project alongside us, as well as a few of her volunteers. The S. alterniflora collection is just one of the many restoration projects they are a part of. The seeds from last year’s collection were immediately grown and planted at Sachuest National Wildlife Refuge in Middletown, RI, to restore a degraded salt marsh there. We were able to see this project a few months ago – several plots composed of about 20,000 plugs, on their way to becoming a salt marsh again. It was so cool to see what our work looks like when it comes full circle! The S. alterniflora seeds we collected again this year will go to that same project. The main reason these seeds have been used right away (besides restoring a degraded marsh as soon as possible) is for a very practical reason – they smell HORRIBLE. This is because seeds are mostly composed of lipids, so the fats start to decay as soon as they are detached from the plant. If the seeds become too moldy, the viability will drop off drastically, and the collection would be in vain. Additionally, these plants came from a salt marsh, so naturally the salty leaves that got into our five full garbage bags smelled like it. By the end of the day, we definitely did too.

One of our five smelly full-size garbage bags of S. alterniflora seed heads.

One of our five smelly full-size garbage bags of Spartina alterniflora seed heads.

The first day we were in some very dense patches of S. alterniflora, mostly bushwhacking through it, and it was mostly at eye-level or above our heads. That day felt more like trying to mow a lawn with a pair of scissors, although we had a beautiful view. These sites also had sidewalks or trails going through them, and we were able to show many dog-walkers, photographers, and people hunting for treasures with metal detectors what we were doing. It’s always a good day when we can raise awareness about the native plants to people who live right by those populations!

The beautiful view from our lunch break at our first collection site.

The beautiful view from our lunch break at our first collection site. The grassy-looking plants down on the beach is the Spartina alterniflora!

The site on the second day was a less dense population, and was best reached by sloshing through three feet of ocean it grows next to. Especially on a warmer day, overtopping hot rubber boots is so refreshing. The coastline here was also being degraded by invasive fiddler crabs, which created these sort of mudflat islands right before the S. alterniflora populations. If you’ve ever played “the floor is lava”, it was a very similar situation in trying to determine which patches of mud I could balance on to snag some more seeds, and which would just suck my leg down into three feet of mud – needless to say, I was having a grand old time, although I am definitely sad about the dieback of the saltmarsh.

Our final collection site, photo taken from a more stable portion of the marsh so that I didn't fall in while capturing this beautiful scenery!

Our final collection site. The S. alterniflora is the taller grass farther away – I didn’t get a closer picture for fear of falling in!

Krista Heilmann

Seeds of Success East Intern

New England Wild Flower Society

Framingham, MA

Desert Life

The best thing about my internship here in Escalante is that we’ve been able to experience so many different aspects of the BLM’s conservation work. While our primary job has been collecting the seeds of native plants for the Seeds of Success (SOS) program, our CLM mentor is a wildlife biologist for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument here in southern Utah, so we’ve been helping out with a lot of different projects.

Whoever thinks the desert is devoid of life will find themselves sadly mistaken if they ever come to the Staircase — at night, insects buzz and chirp and whir, and during the day birds soar overhead and chatter in the juniper and cottonwood trees. We’ve been catching bats to learn more about the different species that live on the Monument, and when we set up mist nets in the dark over rivers and streams, a chorus of croaking frogs and cicadas drowns out the silence of the dark.

My mentor works with the National Hummingbird Monitoring Network trapping and banding hummingbirds to study migration patterns and population dynamics, so every other week we get up long before dawn and head out to our monitoring sites to trap the tiny hummers. What an amazing experience. We have two native species on the Monument — the Blackchin and the Broadtail. Another species, the Rufus Hummingbird, migrates through every summer on their way from Alaska down to Mexico, an incredible journey for a bird weighing only about 3 grams.

In our spare time, we catch lizards and amphibians as part of ongoing baseline species surveys. The lizards I’ve talked about before in another blog, but we recently traveled up the Boulder Mountain north of the Staircase and found ponds full of morphing tiger salamanders. Weird little creatures, but so much fun to study.

All for now —


BLM; Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, UT


Feeding hummingbirds after we weigh, measure, and band them


Tiger salamander working on growing legs


Arrival of Fall

It’s official — fall has come to the desert. The mountains around Escalante are turning gold and red as the aspen leaves change, and the nights have gotten cold. Days are still warm on the Monument, but nothing like the scorching weather of the past few months; we are loving it. Seed collection is still in full swing here, so days are packed with monitoring, collecting and pressing herbarium specimens. My co-worker leaves in two weeks while I still have a month left here in Utah, so we are trying to get as much done as we can before she goes.

These past four months have been pretty incredible on a number of fronts — so many new experiences in a truly magical place. Living on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has really been a once in a lifetime experience; there is so much wildness here, so much space for roaming. I’d bet it’s probably one of the least explored places in the lower 48.

Canyon country is like no other place I’ve ever been, and it will always remain dear to my heart. As I’ve come to know the desert, I feel in a strange way like it’s come to know me as well; I’ve grown a lot while I’ve been down here with the red rock walls and damp canyon crevasses, and while I’ll be honest and say I’m excited to get back to the land of Big Water — I will definitely be back to the Staircase one day.


BLM, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, UT


Long Canyon Narrows


Adventure to Bryce Canyon National Park

My last 30 days as a CLM Intern

30 days from now will be my last day as a CLM Intern here at the BLM office in Palm Springs. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by, I feel like I just got here. As the time draws ever closer I face apprehension about what comes next, where I’m going to go from here. I have job applications out across the west coast and even a few in Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. Last month I flew up to Northern California for an interview that turned out to be some what of a surprise as I learned that the job was rather different from the posting. They advertised that they where looking for someone to do pollution monitoring in their county and conduct air and water quality testing, but when I got there I found out that they actually needed someone to do pesticide monitoring. I reread the ad and the words pest or pesticide are no where in the ad. I asked about the water quality testing and monitoring and they said that that’s a separate division of their department.

In the mean time as I wait to hear from potential jobs I am trying to come up with a back up plan, maybe save up my money, hunker down for the winter and wait for field jobs to open up in the spring. But where to move to? I guess as each day passes I am closer to knowing the answer.

I just saw that I got in the BLM News Bytes again. I was the DRECP where Secretary Jewell announced that California will use for 10 Million Acres of California Desert for renewable energy. A bunch of BLM folks that where in attendance all got together for a group photo and I just saw it in my email. Here in a link to the photo

For the reminder of my time here I will mainly be finishing up plant surveys out at Dos Palmas ACEC, continuing work with the Desert Pupfish, keying out unknown plant species, and finishing up SOS collections.

So many memories of the field season, so many amazing experiences. I have endured scorching temperatures,  found my self 8″ away from a coiled rattlesnake, and seen spectacular sites. I got to see my first petroglyphs too. I now know the raw beauty and wonder of the desert and just fallen in love with it.

Lost Lake at Dos Palmas

Lost Lake at Dos Palmas

Selfie at Lost Lake

Selfie at Lost Lake

My mentor walking out onto a fallen Palm tree on the Lost Lake

My mentor walking out onto a fallen Palm tree on the Lost Lake

What a great summer! I’m still kinda scared, but also looking forward to what this next chapter will hold for me.

Crystal Neuenschwander

Palm Springs, BLM