Another Month, Another Post

With about a month left to go, I have started to reflect on all that has happened since I made the move to come out here. I’ll save those reflections for my last post though.

The past month has consisted of office work for the most part. I’m getting (slightly) better at finding and mapping fences on GIS, which has been the main project these days. I’m grateful that Google Earth exists for the times the map layer on GIS isn’t ideal. When I’m not fence mapping, it seems like the office is a-buzz with someone’s birthday or a going-away gathering. I’ve come to enjoy the atmosphere in this field office. Everyone I have talked to has been extremely friendly and willing to help if I ask them a question.

The few times I have been able to get out of the office were to finish weeding the last plot up at Welch (wooooo!) and to help my mentor with the (re)installation of a gate at a frustrating fence site. It’s safe to say that that was my first time installing a gate of any kind and while it wasn’t rocket science, it did require some thought, measurements, and re-adjustments (as well as some girl muscle!). The gate day also reminded me that unfortunately, people can be really disappointing. Our gate-duty doubled as a chance for my mentor to look at and address some issues she had with a contractor who was supposed to put in a new fence around some BLM property. To make a long story short, the contractors did a horrendous job, tried to hide a huge pile of garbage, and were super rude (in my opinion) when my mentor was speaking to them. Their behavior reminded me of some unsavory customers I often had to deal with when I was working as a barista. Needless to say, I was impressed at how she handled the situation, as sometimes it is hard to maintain your cool when these things happen.

Gate installation complete!

Gate installation complete!

Not much else to report except that I am taking full advantage of this unseasonably warm weather to squeeze in some hikes before some serious snow falls on the Bighorns.

Until Next Time,

Corinne Schroeder
Buffalo, Wyoming BLM Field Office

Inspirational mugs

Hey guys,

Wow. Last blog post. This isn’t real, right? Thanksgiving is in two weeks. I will have moved to NC 5 1/2 months ago. THAT’S ALMOST HALF A YEAR. Half a year I’ve been here, working with Seeds of Success at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Half a year of traveling through Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, browsing through the flora and scouting out seed. Half a year of learning about new plants and new people. Half a year of long drives and long hours… but now, it seems so short.What a great half a year!

I’ve always considered myself as someone who is okay with moving away and okay with change. And I am… to an extent. Honestly, on a more personal note, a huge thing I learned from this opportunity is that change is good, yes, but a LOT of change at one time may be a bit overwhelming! In six months, I graduated college, moved out of state where I knew no one (living with roommates I did not know), started a 40 hours/week job (internship), have visited 60+ national wildlife refuges and state parks, have visited 3 states I had never been to, and learned about 100+ plants of which I had no previous knowledge (coastal). Luckily, I had a pretty great group of people to go through all of this with, as well as a good support group back home. It was a great experience – one I would recommend to anyone. It teaches you a lot, not only about technical things – like how to assess a population size or how to properly care for seeds after collection – but also what you are made of. You learn how you handle certain situations, like being farther away from home, or putting effort into making new friends. Sometimes it was hard! I would miss the mountains or my friends and family. I’ve been home more times living 7 hours away than I would go home an entire semester when I was in school (an hour and a half from home). This internship has taught me a lot about the field I would love to dive into as a career but also about how much I’m willing to change for that kind of opportunity.

Making a seed shipment! Confusing stuff! (even when you make an excel file - ha!)

Making a seed shipment! Confusing stuff! (even when you make an excel file – ha!)

Cenchrus tribuloides - sandbur! Ouch.

Cenchrus tribuloides – sandbur! Ouch.

Chamaecyparis thyoides - Atlantic white cedar. Looks like we have a lot of money, right? :) This stuff smells like CHRISTMAS!

Chamaecyparis thyoides – Atlantic white cedar. Looks like we have a lot of money, right? 🙂 This stuff smells like CHRISTMAS!

This is Audubon Pine Island Sanctuary & Center in the outer banks. It MIGHT be haunted, but it's lovely.

This is Audubon Pine Island Sanctuary & Center in the outer banks. It MIGHT be haunted, but it’s lovely.

I've never studied mycology, but this fella was found in the dunes, and the inside was purple.

I’ve never studied mycology, but this fella was found in the dunes, and the inside was purple.

Bright colored Liquidambar styriciflua - sweetgum in Maryland!

Bright colored Liquidambar styriciflua – sweetgum in Maryland!

Little baby plant embryo :)

Little baby plant embryo 🙂

A beautiful sunset while collecting Solidago sempervirens - seaside goldenrod.

A beautiful sunset while collecting Solidago sempervirens – seaside goldenrod.

20161102_180149 20161102_181653 20161104_101133

All of the paper bags and trays were filled with plants/seeds from a week of collection!

All of the paper bags and trays were filled with plants/seeds from a week of collection!

Beautiful color from Ilex glabra - inkberry. My hands are still stained from cleaning this :)

Beautiful color from Ilex glabra – inkberry. My hands are still stained from cleaning this 🙂

All in all, this was truly a great experience. I learned so so much, and I met some really great people along the way. It doesn’t feel like it should be ending just yet. But, I will say that I’m ready to spend the holiday season with my friends and family back home:)

To anyone reading this who may be thinking about taking a CLM internship – do it. It’s an amazing opportunity to learn and grow as a person and a conservation worker. Don’t let anything I’ve said scare you. It’s GOOD to put yourself out there and discover what you are made of and what you hold dear to your heart. You will meet like minded people who want the same things as you! That’s special. Plus, the change is exciting! You won’t regret it.

Good luck to everyone with their future endeavors!


My Time in Casper, Wyoming.

I cannot believe this internship is over. I am going to miss the friends and people that I met on this journey in Wyoming. Everyone here was welcoming and caring toward me and I am sad to leave this place.

While I was here I have been able to take part in so many wonderful things through work and on weekends. Work has made me realize that I have chosen the right career path. I cannot wait for what the future holds. I have been able to help out different resource departments within the Bureau of Land Management. Other than working with the Wildlife Biologists in Casper I have also worked with the Range Land Health staff, the Forester, the Archaeologists, and RMG staff. This job has given me so many experiences.

While out west I have been able to visit so many National Parks that I otherwise would not have been able to see from New Jersey. These beautiful places hold such a huge place in my heart.

South Bighorn

Hike through the South Bighorns

Hanging out in the Tetons

Grand Teton National Park

Watching the sunset over the Grand Teton Mountains

Hovenweep National Monument

Watching the sunrise from my tent in Hovenweep National Monument

Valley of the Gods

Driving through the Valley of the Gods

I cannot wait to start my trek back to the East Coast, but Wyoming will stay a large part in my life and I hope to get a career our West so I can come back to this amazing place.

My Final Month in Casper

My last month working for the BLM in Casper, WY has been very busy and productive.  There has certainly been less field work, but the small amount that I have done has been important and rewarding.  I helped prepare a five-acre section of land for native sagebrush planting and restoration; I also performed wildlife surveys for proposed forestry projects and evaluated areas for prescribed burns and herbicide treatments.  These projects allowed me to become involved with the decision making process that occurs before any large conservation action initiated by the BLM.

Most of my time was spent preparing a report on all cheatgrass herbicide treatments and the vegetation monitoring that has been done to evaluate the ecosystem’s response to these treatments.  This project required me to create maps of specific grazing allotments with layers displaying the areas and years of cheatgrass treatments, along with the locations of every permanent vegetation monitoring transects.  I then used the Access database to summarize cheatgrass percent cover from any monitoring transect located within the treatment areas.  At that point I could use R to visualize the behavior of cheatgrass cover before and after the treatments.  I submitted the report to my mentor and it has been adopted by resources as the living document at the field office to track all cheatgrass treatments and results.  It was a very rewarding project and it allowed me to hone and develop skills gained both from working with the BLM and my education.

Looking back, I believe that this CLM internship has been one of the most productive and career defining experiences of my life so far.  I was able to get a comprehensive view of the workings of a BLM field office and gain hands-on work experience as a wildlife biologist, botanist, and many other valuable disciplines within the conservation field.  I leave the BLM feeling very confident that I chose the correct career path, and would happily work for the BLM full time.

One of the most valuable things I take away from this internship is a much more complete understanding of regulatory actions (such as NEPA, ESA, BGEPA, etc.) and how they influence human development, conservation actions, and management of public land.  The BLMs mission to manage land for “multiple-use” often means reviewing development plans and taking action to mitigate ecological damage.  This idea may take some getting used to for the traditional conservationists among us, but after experiencing the process first hand, it is a very rewarding and ecologically beneficial practice.  It was also refreshing and encouraging to find that land management professionals of many different beliefs and personal philosophies find public land conservation to be important and worthwhile.

In addition to affirming my drive to work in conservation and land management, this internship also gave me the skills needed to be successful in that profession.  I was able to dip my toes into an incredible variety of management disciplines, from wildlife and archaeology to inspecting coal mines.  I received on-the-job training in activities from GPS devices, to plant ID, to GIS analysis, to skid steer operation, to many other valuable skills.  I feel significantly more confident in my professional abilities and in applying to career positions.  Ultimately, this internship has provided me with an amazing foundation on which to build my career as a conservation professional, and I would recommend this experience to anyone thinking about pursuing a career in conservation.

Lander, WY

Though the weather in Lander, Wyoming has remained warm and sunny, unusual for early November, many other aspects of life here have changed; Hunting season has mostly wrapped up, all of the leaves have fallen, Halloween costumes came and went, seasonal shops have closed their blinds. Though my internship won’t finish until the end of November, many of the other seasonal workers in the Lander Bureau of Land Management Field Office have packed up and left. While some nights are a little quiet, I’ve been able to spend time with friends from town, taking pottery classes, playing trivia, going hiking and whittling down my reading list. It was great to have out-of-town visitors as I showed them the life I’ve established here and educated them on the amazing system of public lands in this country.

My work life has also changed these past weeks. The amount of fieldwork necessary for my rangeland monitoring position diminished very quickly as the grazing period concluded. With our final stubble height measurements complete, we patrolled for lost or forgotten cows hiding in ravines or beyond nolls. With the cows deemed gone, I helped other range specialists cross off fieldwork on their to-do list. I went out in the field for two days to work with out-of-office remote sensing and rangeland specialists to assist on a long-term monitoring project of theirs. They have been collecting soil temperature and production data on six sites, each with a grazed and un-grazed treatment section, to assess the effects of grazing on water retention capabilities. The working hypothesis, in essence, is that an un-grazed area will remain frozen longer into the spring, thus melting and retaining moisture later into the spring. I helped by clipping vegetation within the grazed and un-grazed plots at each site, and drying and weighing the clippings. I visited, and helped restore, a site where a long-term experiment is being conducted; they are analyzing the effects of faux beaver damns on the water retention abilities on grazed and un-grazed areas. The scientists hypothesized that a faux beaver damn, in flooding the creek, would return the area to a bog, increasing the water retention capability of the area.


Frost on sage brush on a particularly cool morning

Three of the other projects I helped out with in the field were: fixing a fence around a pasture in order to ensure the removal of livestock and wild horses before a prescribed burn (which I’ll hopefully watch!), seeding native seeds as part of a post-burn rehabilitation project with the fire crew, and seeding native seeds and planting sagebrush seedlings to help the botanist and archeologists restore a petroglyph site. In the office I’ve been assisting the remote sensing specialist in the categorization of vegetation type in images along transects. I’ve assisted the GIS specialist with digitizing range improvement projects, and edited NEPA documents. I went to a local school to help present on the BLM to 4th graders (4th graders in the parks) and 8th graders (a geological hazard presentation). Definitely one of the best parts of the internship has been working with, assisting, and learning from a large range of specialists!

At work planting sage brush seedlings at the Castle Gardens petroglyph site.

At work planting sage brush seedlings at the Castle Gardens petroglyph site.

As my personal and work lives have shifted, and will continue to shift, so has the political environment. With every political transition in Washington D.C., though this one may be more significant than others, there is a transition in the BLM. While it is impossible to predict how these changes will be felt across the country and the DOI, we need to advocate for our public lands. Though I barely knew anything about the vast system six months ago, I now feel that they are one of the United States’ largest assets. In the wake of the Malheur trial and the election it is imperative to protect and work for our public lands!

Bureau of Land Management

Lander Field Office

Lander, Wyoming

Final Thoughts

You don’t know what you don’t know- has pretty much been the motto of the summer. The amount of knowledge, both botanical and general, this summer has just been incredible. To illustrate this I have a pretty funny story from the beginning of the summer…..

It was during the second week of our internship, and it was me and my partner’s first day out in the field alone. We were doing some rare plant monitoring and we were working off of directions from a map, well neither of us had done any work like this before and working in the west was a completely new experience for us both.

Well we were coming up to one of the populations and we were driving up a dirt road, and all of a sudden right in the middle of the road was a fence. We had no idea what to do. We got out of the truck and looked at the fence and we were just shocked. How could someone just fence right across the road? It was crazy.

So we got back in the truck and drove back to the office ready to tell our mentor about this ridiculous fence that prevented us from getting to the rare plants.

When we retold this to our mentor she began to laugh and laugh, and we were so confused because how was a fence funny? I mean it was right in the middle of the road, blocking us from where we needed to go! When she finally calmed down, she told us it was a gate and all we had to do was open.

Needless to say we spent the next day going out with our mentor opening and closing different types of gates. But you simply don’t know what you don’t know! Looking back on this memory is easily one of the funniest memories from the summer, and really shows how much we learn.

Cheers to the rest of the interns still left out there!

Sierra Sampson

Salmon ID BLM