Seasonal Reflection

Well, I’m back in New York after 5 incredible, enlightening, challenging months in Vernal, UT. I definitely feel as though I learned a lot about plants of the intermountain west and about the Bureau of Land Management and how it is run. Never in my life have I seen this much open space. And while it was vast and majestic and beautiful it was also deeply saddening. Nearly every inch of the land in the Vernal Field Office was blanketed in cheat grass and tumble mustard. The riverbeds were crowded with tamarisk and Russian olive trees. Million year old biotic crust was scraped away in favor of flat dusty drill pads as far as the eye could see.


At the same time, I was in some ways pleasantly surprised. The desert that I thought would be a barren, sandy landscape was dappled with tiny gems. Place out of reach of drills, trucks and bull dozers, held incredible diversity. Even places within reach of such disturbance were managing to hold on to some incredible plant species. I saw beauty such as I’d never seen on the east coast.


I think mixed-use management of land is extremely difficult to accomplish. This land is public, but what does that really mean. You can’t do whatever you want on that land. Who matters more, the people who see and use the land everyday? The whole population of the United States? Or maybe the following generations who will be left with this land after we’re all gone. As of right now, it almost seems to me like no one is happy with the use of this land. Grazers want lower fees and more freedom, oil companies want less bureaucracy, environmentalists want both those groups to do their work responsibly or get lost. Obviously, that is a very over-simplified version of the situation, but that’s the gist. And there are far more players than those 3 groups.


I learned a lot during this internship and I’m glad I did it. I feel now that I know more about my planet and my country and my government than I did 5 months ago. There are a lot of good, smart, hard working people that I’ve met in our government and in this internship program and I hope that in the future I continue to work alongside them towards the goal of a healthy, vibrant, just planet.



The Girl With the Sagebrush Tattoo

Many happenings have taken place since my last blog post! I turned 25 years old, I biked across the Idaho Panhandle, plus had a few other grand adventures, I attended The Wildlife Society Annual Conference, and I’ve had to say goodbye to two interns here at the field office.

For my birthday at the end of September I decided to take myself on a bicycling trip across the Idaho Panhandle on one of the most beautiful rail trails in the Pacific Northwest! I cycled the farthest I ever have: 150  miles. I broke it up into 3 days. This adventure was one of the highlights of my life! I saw a male, female and baby moose, I received countless saddle sores from all of the biking, and saw panoramic views like any I’ve ever seen. And the best part is that it was during autumn so the leaves were as pretty as they could be!

"Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go." This is the rail trail in the Idaho Panhandle that I biked.

“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.” This is the rail trail in the Idaho Panhandle that I biked.

After completing 150 miles across the Idaho Panhandle!

After completing 150 miles across the Idaho Panhandle!

An intern and I went on an adventure through the Idaho Sawtooth mountains to Alpine and Sawtooth Lakes. What a view!

An intern and I went on an adventure through the Idaho Sawtooth mountains to Alpine and Sawtooth Lakes. What a view!

Just a few days ago I got home after spending 7 days in Raleigh, North Carolina for The Wildlife Society Annual Conference! I cannot thank this internship enough for allowing me to attend this conference! I networked extensively, received great feedback on my resume, attended a forestry workshop where I got hands-on training that I hope to apply to my job one day, tested my wildlife knowledge at the annual quiz-bowl, and attended 3 field trips to surrounding areas in North Carolina! I took in the Hemlock Bluffs and the beautiful long-leaf pine forest as I rode by horse-drawn wagon through the trees with bagpipes playing in the background (yes, there was an Irish man playing the bagpipes for us, it completed my day), but my absolute favorite field trip was to the Duke Lemur Center where I learned about their conservation efforts to preserve these beautiful creatures and got up close to the Coquerel’s Sifaka lemur! If you are interested in finding a wonderful organization to donate to, SAVA Conservation is the place!

Coquerel's Sifaka lemur! So cute!

Coquerel’s Sifaka lemur! So cute!

Here at the field office we’ve been getting a lot of rain so it’s been preventing us from getting out into the field as often as we would like. We’ve been catching up on a lot of data entry, though, and having a lot of laughs with our co-workers. We recently lost an intern because she received a “big-girl” job. We were all sad to see her go, but happy at the same time because she was so happy. We lost our only male, too, because he finished his internship. It is just myself and two others now! We are slowly dwindling (sad face)!

For my last note, I wanted to mention how hilarious it was when we went out into the field the other day and found a BATHTUB! Yes, a bathtub. We find strange things in the desert sometimes. It wasn’t just a ditched bathtub either, it was cemented into the rock and had stairs built up to it lol. The chrome even looked freshly cleaned. Hey, people will do what people do, can’t blame them for wanting a bath with a view! (I rhymed, giggity.)


Marissa- Shoshone Field Office- Idaho

Where did this rain come from?

It’s that time in the season where things are winding down and we are doing a bunch of different projects. It is raining a lot lately. Last night there was a massive storm that came through and dumped a lot of rain and hail. That means we can’t go out in the field as much. The roads are often not navigable when it has rained, last week we went out two days after the rain and we were mudding. So right after the rain means we are rolling the dice about getting stuck. Dealing with data and files can be frustrating, but data management can be weirdly rewarding. I like finishing the project all the way, not just stopping at the field work.

What I’ve been up to lately:

  1. RIPS- A lot of what we have been doing lately involves Range Improvement Projects. These are things like reservoirs, troughs, and pipelines. We are finding them and assessing them sometimes adding them to the GIS database. It’s a lot of driving and looking for things that haven’t been monitored in a long time. It’s been a lot of both field work and office work. In the office we are pulling files trying to figure out exactly what we are looking for. We are also looking at maps in the project book and on Google Earth to try and figure out where projects are. Often times the GPS point or map point is wrong and by cross referencing various sources it prevents us from just wandering around until we find something. We have found some interesting things out on the range. We found a desk chair that had been buried in the center of a reservoir and a bath tub that had been cemented into a rock formation.img_20161013_134134603_hdr
  2. Sagebrush Monitoring- We have also spent a good amount of time looking at potential sites for Sagebrush monitoring. Some of the sites had to be adjusted because the species were mixed or because they were difficult to access. We have been checking these sites for a few weeks so we can collect sagebrush from them. There are a couple of sites that we won’t be able to collect from this year because the flowers were pretty eaten up by bugs. But we still have  plenty of sagebrush to collect from.
  3. Willow Cuttings- Today we spent time cutting willows for a willow planting day with a a group of 7th and 8th graders. We cut willow branches to plant in a restoration area along a stream bed. This is an awesome yearly project that allows them to connect with the public lands, which is super important.
  4. Agriculture Resources Service Laboratory- We got the opportunity to visit the ARS  laboratory in Logan, Utah. This was a really awesome experience.  They gave us a tour of the whole compound and explained the process of developing plant materials. It was a great overview of how cultivars come about and how native plant and native plant seeds go into that process. We got to talk about careers and the backgrounds of people working for ARS. It was a great day. They gave us some papers and they are putting on a Native Plant Summit in Boise this year. We are going the first couple of days in November and are really excited about it!
  5. TREND Data- I have spent the last couple of weeks gathering the TREND data and putting it into a database. TREND data is collected about every 10 years, the data goes back to 1950s and there is an Access database that collects it all and runs the analysis. It was fun and a little frustrating to mess around with the database. It was satisfying to complete the project fully.

A reflection of my time in Pinedale, Wyoming

As my time in Pinedale continues to decrease, I can’t help but to look back at the past five months in amazement…in awe of all the inspirational people I have met and all the things I have learned. I came to Pinedale timid and nervous….uncertain about what to expect. Before this internship, the Bureau of Land Management was just some branch of the government that deals with the feral horses.

But now, through the completion of this CLM internship, I know that it is so, so much more. It is the caretaker of the public lands, and I am honored to have been a part of its role. Throughout my time in Pinedale, I have surveyed for amphibians, lynx, and pygmy rabbits. I have enjoyed learning about the different habitat requirements and surveying techniques. I have also been introduced to GIS software, something that will undoubtedly be very important in my future career. There were some days when I went out into the field with various people, including range specialists, and learned analyze the land for over-grazing (utilization). Helping with AIM introduced me to just a small amount of the plants native to the west. Trapping grouse allowed me to gain a more thorough understanding of the importance of radio telemetry. And of course, the internship wouldn’t have been complete without many backcountry adventures with my fellow interns…driving on two-tracks, especially in the mud, can be a challenge!
That leads me to one final point. My two fellow interns, Val and Lara. I am so, so, SO extremely grateful that I had these two along for the ride. Meeting them and working with them made daily work so much more adventurous. They have both inspired me in multiple ways, and I am certain that they will be successful wherever they end up!
I would highly recommend this internship to absolutely anybody. It was an eye-opening experience and led me to develop many resume-building skills. I will certainly miss the Pinedale BLM, but I know it has prepared me for whatever comes next.