Farewells and Reflections


Holding Back the Tears 

This is my final post as a CLM intern, and like many before me, I am having trouble accepting that it will soon be over. I feel like I just got the hang of my job, there was always something new being thrown my way both in the field and the office. Now that I finally feel comfortable, it’s time to move on. There were great days when I couldn’t believe I was being paid to visit beautiful places around Colorado, and there were days that dragged on and tested my resolve. The AIM program required us to visit randomly selected plots across northwestern Colorado and collect data on plant species richness, vegetation cover, vegetation height, soil stability, soil texture and more.  The plots we visited were sometimes a few feet from the road, others were several miles.This variability kept things interesting, some days we would take gnarly hikes through thick brush wearing heavy packs full of field gear, other days we could basically see the plot from our car. The amazing thing about Colorado is that when you travel, you do so in three dimensions and the elevation gain from the plains into the alpine creates conditions for distinct plant communities.


Clear boundaries in plant communities can be seen through the changes in topography. Starting with sagebrush, moving up into aspens and finally into conifers.

 I Now Posses Great Skills 

Coming from southwest Michigan, I was used to prairies and oak-hickory forest and it was a rude awakening when I arrived in sagebrush country. At first, sagebrush with its characteristically dry sandy clay soil, seemed like a  plant community with little to offer in diversity. My first AIM training was staged in the sagebrush just outside Kremmling, CO. The State botanist, Carol Dawson, took us on a walkabout to get us acquainted with the system. Her well trained eye could pick out tiny forbs that I overlooked in the landscape, seemingly dominated by Artemisia tridentata. Buy the end of the day my head was spinning, trying to remember the scientific, common and USDA code names of the new plants. There was a surprisingly wide variety of different shrubs, forbs and grasses and I could hardly keep track of them. That compounded with learning the procedures for AIM monitoring really had my brain flexing. Fortunately, I had the guidance of my mentor, Amy, to assist with plant identification and I was given some time to get familiar with our field guides, ‘Flora of Colorado’ by Jennifer Ackerfield and ‘Grasses of Colorado’ by Robert B. Shaw.


Kicking back with some fine reading material, Flora of Colorado by Jennifer Ackerfield.

Over the next few weeks I worked through the learning curve of AIM. I was familiar with most of the field techniques we used, such as line point intercept and soil stability, but the repetition was good practice. I became quite good at the soil ribbon test, where a handful of soil is taken from a soil horizon dampened, kneaded. Once the soil reaches the right consistency, it is formed into a ball and pinched in between your thumb and forefinger to form a ribbon. The structural strength of the ribbon helps determine the soil texture. for example if it is a silty loam, a sandy clay, or just a clay loam etc.  If nothing else, this will really help with my sculpting career.

This internship has also greatly improved my plant identification skills and I feel much more confident navigating a dichotomous key. I was intimidated by grasses coming into the internship simply due to the sheer diversity we encountered. I learned to get over my fears and dove into the grass key. After identifying dry and decrepit grasses later in the season, when most of the characteristics were missing except a crusty ligule or one last floret, I felt much more confident identifying specimen.  One of my favorite grasses to ID is Poa Pratensis because of its characteristic cobwebby pubescence at the base of the spikelets.


One down among many, in this example, we could not identify the species in the field, so we gave it a perennial graminoid code (PG-48). With the help of a scope, we were able to identify it as Danthonia intermedia and replace the code with the actual species code, (DAIN).

Much of our time was spent in the sagebrush and it forced me to learn the minute differences between the subspecies of Artemisia tridentata. Artemesia tridentata is the most abundant shrub in the world in regards to area and biomass.  Differentiating between its subspecies can be nearly impossible due to hybridization, but there are some indicators that can help improve the confidence of an ID. For example the Subspecies vaseyana tends to have a more camphor or sweeter smell than subsp. Tridentata or wyomingensis and the inflorescence is flat topped, giving it a candles on a cake look. Rarely did we identify plants to subspecies, but in the case of Artemsia Tridenta, it was important to distinguish because it is a critical part of Sage grouse habitat. 


A very hearty Artemisia tridentata Nutt. subsp. vaseyana.

Many hours were spent at the end of the field season getting the data ready for submission to the state office. I learned a lesson about organization when it came time to go through 4 months worth of plant specimen, field notes and data. Had we not been more diligent about keeping our files in a safe place and organizing our field notes in a well marked binder, fixing some of the errors we came across would have been nearly impossible. I became more familiar with Microsoft Access and it was actually fun to find errors with the error checking module. The module was designed to detect any errors in the data such as missing vegetation height measurements or improperly marked GPS coordinates. The work was tedious at times, but it was rewarding to see a project come full circle and submit it to the state office.


This was my home for a couple weeks.

The wild Goat chase

Later in the season when the AIM project was coming to a close there was some time to join other field crews and assist them with various tasks. It was a nice change of pace to try something new. One week we loaded the truck up with grass seed and UTVs and headed to BLM grounds along the Trough road to seed campgrounds and previously burned areas. Some of the species we spread included western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata) squirreltail (elymus elymoides) and muttongrass (Poa fendleriana). 


My handy little seed spreader.

On a more exciting note, we also got to go on a wild goat chase when the wildlife biologist, Darren, received calls about a goat that was spotted walking along the Trough road. We were called into his office to review the pictures that were sent in. He was an interesting specimen.  The goat was clearly domesticated and sported a long white goatee and shaggy hair that covered his eyes. We didn’t know how he got there, but it was important the we find him and contained him because he was dangerously close to a small herd of bighorn sheep. The reason for concern is that the goat could potentially spread disease to the herd, and if he were to make contact, the entire herd would have to be euthanized.

Wasting no time, we jumped in the truck and went searching. We hiked around the area where he was spotted but to no avail. I didn’t have much confidence that we would find him, there was just way too many places where he could hide behind juniper trees. Then, when we were going to head back, Darren spotted him standing proudly on top of a hill. I couldn’t believe it. When we approached we could see that he was a big boy, with a very potent smell. Knowing that we would not be able to immobilize it ourselves, we called in the Colorado Parks and Wildlife in for backup.

They pulled up with a horse trailer and brought out the lassos. Before they arrived, the goat was pretty calm and was eating carrots out of my hand. He must have sensed that something was up when the rangers approached. He gave chase, running up and down the hills and across the road. People driving by would stop in confusion wondering what the hell we were doing chasing a goat around the backcountry. Eventually the ranger managed to get the rope around one of his legs and I grabbed his horns. Once we got him, they tied the ropes round his horns and guided him into the trailer. The best part is that we had to keep him in our wear yard until we could find his owner. This was probably the most excitement the office has seen all year. Eventually we found him a home and we had to say goodbye to our friend, Billy. Word is he has a new girlfriend and is living happily on a 200 acre ranch.

img_20161031_150245img_20161031_150236img_20161031_150621  img_20161101_105115

The Corny Part 

When we were not working there was a lot of time spent outdoors. More often than not we would spike camp for the week, due to the fact that our plots were in remote areas. I easily camped more nights in the last 5 months than I have in the last 5 years. I came to appreciate the time I spent away from cellphone service and internet. In the field I finally had enough time to read some of the books that have been sitting on my shelf half read. I don’t know how I will handle going back home now that I’ve gotten used to the rocky mountain night skies and the silence of the country life. Another thing that I will miss is the sheer magnitude of public land out west. Almost every weekend I would visit a new destination, either to mountain bike, hike, swim or climb.


Mountain bike trail outside Granby Colorado.

So yeah, the CLM internship was pretty great, I had my reservations at first, I didn’t want to leave my friends and family and dog behind. Of course I also had a little anxiety starting a new job in an unfamiliar state where I didn’t know anyone. I remember when I was driving west towards Colorado I would have moments when I asked myself, “Am I really doing this?”.  Once I got started I knew I made the right choice. I did miss my friends and the life I left behind, but that time passed. Looking back, I am glad I went with the bold choice and set out to explore something new. I made some new friends along the way and I am looking forward to visiting them this winter for ski season. I admit that I don’t know for sure if working for the government is something that I want to do for the rest of my life, but the experience I gained is invaluable, and it has opened a lot of new doors for me and my career.

So if you are wondering about applying for the CLM internship, I say go for it !



Eli Lowry


Kremmling Field Office, Colorado

Seed Collecting Adventures, Episode VII: The One with the Doggo

Hello everyone,

A lot has happened since I’ve last written to you. From my perspective, the past few months have mostly been an ongoing cycle of making seed collections, trying to determine what kind of seed I just collected, entering data, and packing seeds into bags and boxes. So seeds are kind of my life I guess. I feel like people who read this blog are mostly botany-enthusiasts and plant-lovers, so hopefully this is a safe place to say things like “seeds are my life” and not face judgment. Because when I say that to my friends in real life they definitely look at me kind of weird.

In my expert opinion, the best thing about seed collections is that they take place in fascinating and unique locations. I’m a big fan of traveling. Our most recent seed collecting trip took me to a really remote part of Nevada. Well really, all of Nevada is pretty remote. But we went to the Desatoya Mountains, which are *really* remote.

We made thirteen different collections over the course of this trip, which is pretty average for us, I guess. We also found (and collected, sort of) an abandoned dog, which would be more dogs than we typically collect on average. I think every seed collection team should have a dog that they travel around with. It would be a great morale-booster. The SOS program would probably see record increases in the amount of seed collected, I bet. It’s probably at least worth a try. For those wondering, we took a detour from our trip to bring the dog to a shelter, which Annika later drove back to and adopted him from. He’s living with us for the week, and he really enjoys having his ears scritched.

Annika + dog

Annika + dog

One thing I’ve observed while traveling throughout the Sierra Nevada/Basin and Range, is that the cooler plants always are found at higher elevations. So I was pretty glad to arrive in the mountains and start scouting for seeds. Two of the collections we made were roses and stinging nettle, which are both pretty painful and awful to collect. But we also got to collect oceanspray, which I would have to say is probably one of the best-smelling plants I’ve gotten to collect this season. Like, if I were to make a definitive ranking of the best seeds to collect, based on smell, this one would at least be in my top three, I think. We also got to collect alumroot, which smells pretty normal, but I enjoy it because it grows mostly on vertical cliff faces.

Another cool non-plant, non-dog discovery we made during this trip was a towering waterfall that was tucked back within the canyons of the Desatoya Mountains. The Great Basin isn’t exactly known for waterfalls, so it was great to find this hidden gem.

After camping near the waterfall, we made a few more collections and then headed back to Carson City on the next day. The season is winding down, so this seed-collecting excursion is likely to be my last. It’s been a treasure to explore our country’s natural areas, and to collect seeds that will be used to grow and sustain those areas. I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading about my adventures as much as I’ve enjoyed having them!

Until next time,

Sam S.

First Month with CLM!

It has been very busy! Rare plant surveys in the Ojito wilderness study area, AIM training in Albuquerque, visits to the Las Cruces District Office and the Jornada researchers and of course lots of data analysis! The New Mexico State Office has been very welcoming and I have enjoyed meeting the plethora of managers, scientists and interns. Now I just need a few plants for my cube…

Trapping Fisher

We pulled out of the parking lot at dawn after one of the first nights of frost, raw chicken drumsticks and a can of synthetic stink bouncing around in a cooler in the bed of the truck. From town we drove west into the hills between Upper Klamath Lake and the Rogue Valley to check our first trap.

The BLM was in the midst of a fisher study, and I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to tag along with one of the lead biologists for a day. Fisher are small carnivorous mammals in the weasel family and the marten genus. They are primarily solitary animals, with the females occupying relatively large home ranges and the males moving between female ranges to mate. (Fun fact about fisher reproduction, while fisher mate in the early spring, they have delayed implantation so gestation doesn’t begin until the following fall!) While fisher were once relatively common in the western United States, heavy trapping for their pelts led to their extirpation in a large part of their historic range.  A population remained in south western Oregon and another population was established through reintroduction west of Crater Lake, Oregon. It is believed that these two populations may have merged to create the population that now occupies the area west of Upper Klamath Lake. The BLM is currently conducting a multi-year study to learn more about this population of fisher.

On the morning I checked traps with the BLM biologist, approximately 20 traps had been set and 5 separate groups were out checking traps. The traps consist of a have-a-heart trap connected to a wooden box. Traps are set against logs that are generally located on ridges or in narrow swaths of forest between open areas. To avoid predation, fisher prefer to travel in higher areas with adequate cover. Traps are camouflaged with bark, monitored with a motion sensor camera strapped to a nearby tree. A very strongly scented lure that smells like sweet skunk is spread around the area to attract animals, and a piece of raw chicken is hung inside the trap. Once an animal enters the trap to grab the chicken, the door springs shut behind it. When fisher find themselves trapped, they generally take the chicken, go hide in the wooden box behind the trap, and enjoy their meal. Traps are checked each morning to see whether a fisher (or other critter) has been caught and to refresh the lure and chicken if needed.

A set trap, waiting for a fisher to wander by.

A set trap, waiting for a fisher to wander by.








Arriving at our first spot, we hopped out of the truck, grabbed our supplies, and followed the candy stripe flagging tape and increasingly strong smell of what the biologist I was with affectionately referred to as ‘pepe’ to the trap. While we did find a trap with the door closed, it was clear this was not the doing of a hungry fisher, but rather a curious bear. We set the trap back in place, covered it with bark, and propped the door open. I tried to hide my disappointment when three traps later all we had found were open doors or bear tossed traps. Just as I was resigning myself to a fisher-free day, we received a text from another biologist who had caught what she believed to be a juvenile female fisher in a nearby trap.

After all traps had been checked, we convened at the location with the fisher to process the animal. It took about 10 minutes to coax the fisher out of the wooden box, through a canvas tube that resembled a very large frosting bag, and into a fisher-sized wire cage. My job was to wait until the fisher scurried out and found itself stuck face first in the wire cage and then jam wooden dowels in behind it to ensure it didn’t retreat into the bag. Once in place, one of the biologist gave the fisher a general anesthetic.

The trap attached to a canvas tube and metal cage.

The trap attached to a canvas tube and metal cage.










Various measurements and samples were taken including weight, length, girth, hair samples, blood samples, fir samples, tick samples, a tissue sample, ocular, nasal, and rectal swabs, and a tooth. The animal was monitored throughout the process to ensure an appropriate body temperature was maintained. While the BLM often puts radio collars on fisher to track their movement, this fisher did not receive a collar because it was likely not fully grown and a collar could lead to problems if the animal continued growing. A passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag was injected so the individual could be identified if recaptured. Poking and prodding complete, the fisher was returned to the wooden box to recover for a few hours before being released in the same area where it was captured. After two unsuccessful attempts to climb a nearby tree, which involved the fisher losing grip, flying through the air, and miraculously landing on all fours, the fisher finally wobbled its way up the trunk and clung to a branch, watching us until we drove away.

BLM biologists weight the fisher. This was either a large juvenile female or a small adult female.

BLM biologists weigh the fisher. This was either a large juvenile female or a small adult female.









Taking samples from the fisher.

Taking samples from the fisher.








Although the day probably left the fisher feeling a little sore and woozy, the capture allowed the BLM to add to its data set and knowledge about fisher in the area, and gave me the incredible opportunity to be involved in capturing, processing, and releasing an animal that few people are lucky enough to ever see.

I got to hold the fisher as it began to wake up and return it to the trap for recovery.

I got to hold the fisher as it began to wake up and return it to the trap for recovery.

Goodbye to Shoshone-igans!

Everyone from this summer before entering Gypsum cave.

Everyone from this summer before entering Gypsum cave.

Things are coming to an end. The leaves are falling off of the trees. The plants are curling in on themselves. The sun is drifting farther and farther away. And my internship is passing along the last of its knowledge as I wrap up in Shoshone and prepare for my departure. It is a time for reflection.

My resume has grown exponentially as I’ve added experience in various vegetative protocols, Seeds of Success activities, and a multitude of side projects allowing me to dabble in new experiences. Most recently, my fellow interns, fuels crews, and I collected 235 lbs. of sagebrush seeds! We delivered them to Lucky Peak Nursery in Boise for cleaning. The seeds will be planted and grown into seedlings for future restoration projects!

All 235 lbs. of sagebrush seeds we collected!

All 235 lbs. of sagebrush seeds we collected!

The future is hopeful, yet slightly grim right now. I was unable to lock on a job so I will be heading back to Kansas for the winter. I will find some work in my college town and I’m going to look around for some volunteer opportunities in wildlife to gain more experience. I am going to buckle down and study hard for the GRE and take the test this winter. I would love to get a Master’s program in bat conservation (thank you to this internship for introducing me a little bit to bats)! I would love an opportunity to do this internship program again next summer, so there is that to look forward to, too!

I will miss the West in the mean time and hope to return as soon as I can! Living life in my 5th-wheel trailer makes picking up and moving easy.

I am so thankful for this internship and all of the experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have. I will never forget the people I’ve met at my field office nor the beautiful lands of Idaho. I have been so inspired by this state that I hope to live here one day in the future. Idaho is a best kept secret. Thank you to the staff, the Chicago Botanic Garden, and my fellow interns for making this such an incredible experience!

Everyone from this summer before entering Gypsum cave.

Everyone from this summer before entering Gypsum cave.

Marissa Jager – Shoshone Field Office – Idaho

Keep on Keeping on,

Since my last post I have been working on wrapping up the capstone project of my summer. Over the past couple months I have been working on the prepping for large scale Wyoming Big Sagebrush Seed collection. It started with over 14 hours of GIS work to isolate potential sites for seed collection. I spent the months of September and October field checking the sites and monitoring the phenology of the sagebrush. Then, finally, when November rolled around it was time for collection. With the help of the two other interns and the Fuels crew we collected a grand total of 235 pounds of raw sagebrush seed! It was amazing to see the project from start to finish, and it was a great end to my Seeds of Success work.


Wyoming Big Sagebrush seed



Marissa and I getting ready to drive 235 lbs of sagebrush seed to the forest service nursery.

We also had the chance to help with some plantings along the Little Wood River. First, we worked with Blaine County’s 7th and 8th graders to plant willow cuttings along the river for a National Public Lands Day project. It was great to see how excited the students got about getting outside and planting. We then came back a couple weeks later with the Fuels crews in our district and planted river birch in the same area.


The planting crew for the willow planting at the Little Wood River. (Photo by Marissa Jager)


The National Public Lands Day t-shirts at the willow planting site. (Photo by Marissa Jager)

At the end of October we decided to do a Halloween themed final exploration into the White Cloud Mountains. We did a 6 mile hike to Boulder City, a ghost town. At one point Boulder city was a bustling mining town with several cabins, a saloon, several mines, and several mills. We weren’t totally prepared for the fact that there was knee deep snow at the old mine town, but it added to adventure. We rounded out our Halloween theme by hiking last mile on the way back in the dark. And we finished with a nice dinner in Ketchum to celebrate all the adventures we had this summer.


Marissa and Nicki hiking the last half a mile towards Boulder City

Boulder City, Idaho

Boulder City, Idaho

I’m having a hard time digesting the fact that 6 months have passed since I first arrived in south-central Idaho. It has been a whirlwind half a year during which I have moved twice, lived with 8 different people, visited more than 6 national parks, and had the chance to explore and work with some amazing people. This internship has been a great opportunity to get my feet under me after graduating, and has helped me figure out what I need to do next. I will be making the trek back to Virginia at the end of this week, and will be putting in my applications for a couple M.S. programs. At the moment it looks like my next step will be to start a thesis in late spring, early summer. All of the skills I have gained and the projects I have worked on this summer are what made it possible for me to gain the attention of potential advisers. If I had to do it over again, I would in a heartbeat.

My parting advice to any future interns is to get out and explore the area you are in while you can because time will go by a lot faster then you think. If you are collecting seeds find a good podcast or two. Not only does it make the time pass quicker, but you’ll also find that it makes you more productive. Don’t be scared to take on a project that seems like it’s beyond your skill, you’ll be surprised at what you are really capable off.

And if you are lucky enough to end up in Shoshone, Idaho then you are lucky enough.

  • Abby Goszka, Shoshone Field Office, BLM


See you in 2017!

It’s the last week of my nine-month internship here in Wenatchee, WA, and things seem to have come full circle. The foothills are snowcapped again, reminding me of the way they looked in March when I first arrived in this valley. After a final flurry of fall fieldwork including a riparian restoration project, seed collection, and AIM monitoring of ESR seeding treatments, I’m back in the office full-time, struggling to make it through days that would have flown by if spent out in the field. I’m already brushing up on my early spring wildflowers, hoping to get a head-start before CLM internship 2.0 begins!

One of the beaver exclosures built as part of a riparian restoration project

One of the beaver exclosures built as part of a riparian restoration project

I knew I wanted to be a CLM intern since I first discovered the program in 2014. I was a senior in college, and my conservation biology advisor sent me an email with a link to the web page. I remember the way I lit up while reading about the various responsibilities interns might have…I wondered if it were really possible that I could actually be PAID to do those things that sounded more like fun than work! The whole thing just seemed too good to be true. Though I didn’t get an internship in 2015, I tried again, ended up here, and discovered that it’s even better than I’d imagined. The incredible, fascinating flora of this region reignited my passion for botany–when the foothills were in their full spring bloom, I felt like a kid in a candy shop every time I was out in the field.

Bitterroot--still my favorite Washington plant!

Bitterroot–still my favorite Washington plant!

That’s not to say the whole field season was fun and games, though. I pushed myself to new limits during this internship, and discovered a physical and mental toughness I didn’t know I had. Hiking over the steep terrain of this region whipped me into the best shape of my life, I experienced fieldwork in hundred degree heat, and I made it to the top of countless hills that at the time I was sure would kill me. I spent days at a time camping at remote field sites, with neither showers nor reliable cell service. I’m glad things weren’t always easy, because these challenges have made me a stronger person and a more valuable field worker.

Something I did not expect, but am grateful for, is the amount of experience with GIS this internship has given me. In general, I find technology pretty daunting, and will always opt to go outside rather than do computer work if given the choice. But seeing all the ways my coworkers at the BLM used ArcMap, and using it myself as an integral part of my tasks, made me realize what a valuable tool it is for land management.

My position here in the 2017 field season will be the same as my current position–I’ll be focusing on post-wildfire emergency stabilization and rehabilitation, which means that once again I’ll be hiking through recently burned BLM parcels, sending up puffs of ash with every step and likely mapping lots of weeds. But with the relatively light wildfire year we had here in Washington, it looks like we won’t be quite as swamped with ESR, and will likely be spending more time doing things like wildlife surveys. With any luck, I’ll be posting pictures of sage grouse on here a few months from now!

Katherine Schneider, BLM, Wenatchee, WA Field Office


A brief summary of my internship experience

In the spring of 2015, I graduated from CSU San Bernardino with a degree in biology. A few years prior to that, I had only a budding interest in ecology and evolution, along with a desire to conserve species and their habitat. I did not have a solid idea of what I would do with my degree, if anything, and when questioned I often joked (kind of) that I would be a janitor that talked a lot about biology, as was already the case. Lacking an end goal or specific area of interest, I took a wide variety of courses, a broad look at biological processes ranging from the ecosystem level down to the molecular. For the most part courses occurred inside lecture halls and labs. I most enjoyed those few exceptions in ecology and botany in which we left the classroom for fieldwork. That is why I became an intern at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden after graduating, and why I then sought a CLM Internship. Through the course of the CLM Internship I have learned far more of the flora of California than I previously knew. I have learned more about the chaparral ecosystem; the plant and animal species, fire ecology and associated management challenges. I have learned more about edaphic influences on vegetation composition, and I would love to visit and work in more examples of this beyond the gabbro soil of Pine Hill Preserve. Through this experience I see how much more there is to learn and have deepened my interest to do so. I have acquired new interests. I worked with another intern, who has been documenting pollinators of plant species around Pine Hill Preserve, and his interest in pollinators has rubbed off onto me. I also assisted with bird surveys and California red-legged frog habitat construction and monitoring. I hope to continue to gain experience with wildlife and plants in one place, understanding an ecosystem more completely. My interest in biology really started with wonder and curiosity about ecology and how species have evolved with one another, and now I really hope to someday apply an understanding of ecology to conservation and land management. I am now back at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, because it’s a great place, working in the nursery, seed bank, and on the Angeles National Forest for a restoration project. The planting is a restoration project, but also an attempt to address questions about methods which affect the cost and maybe success of projects, comparing results of weed treatments with and without subsequent native planting, along with planting success with different size/age plants. I would gladly go back to the BLM Mother Lode Field Office in the future, because it is also a great place. Thank you to all the staff at the BLM that welcomed me there, and especially my mentor, Graciela, and fellow interns for working with me.

Last month and a half

Right now there are 1000 goats on Fort Ord. BLM brings them in order to reduce fuel loads for potential fires, as well as to cut back on coyote brush that encroaches on coastal grasslands. They are hilarious animals – they climb on top of each other trying to get to higher branches, flutter their mouths as they reach for food, and complain at you with a chorus of goat meeeeehhh‘s if you call out to them. Being in the midst of 1,000 of them is awesome.

One of many goats

making eye contact

Last week I helped out Ranger Tammy with a few of her puppet shows that she gives at local elementary schools. This particular puppet show was to teach the students about fire ecology. It was a bit of a flashback being inside an elementary school classroom/gym again. I realized that I haven’t been since I was in 5th grade, and it brought back some old memories.

Ranger Tammy in her element

Ranger Tammy in her element

Every Wednesday we have students from the local Community Day School come volunteer at Fort Ord. The community day school is a school for students who have been expelled from other schools or who have problems with truancy or behavior – a lot of them have a ton of energy and have never been out in a wild place like Fort Ord before. One day we were pulling up non native mustard when we found a baby gopher snake and an ornate orb-weaver spider.

Little gopher snake

Baby gopher snake

Ornate orb-weaver


At one of our trailheads we had an eagle scout project plant a bunch of native plants a few months ago. I’ve been weeding and maintaining those landscaped areas, and one day while weeding I came across an arboreal salamander.

Arboreal salamander

Arboreal salamander

Sean Pagnon, BLM Fort Ord National Monument, CA

Cool Months at the Mother Lode Field Office

Normally this is supposed to be the slow time of year for the “ologists” at the BLM Mother  Lode Field Office but this year things have been quite busy. Earlier in the year I helped collect a ton of specimens from some insect traps that we put have been putting out to study the pollinators of our area. Now comes the terribly fun part of washing them with shampoo and then drying them off with a hair dryer (not lying), but it isn’t bad when you have some good tunes. Luckily the barn I am working in has surround sound! Then we will be pinning them and getting them ready to identify using UC Davis’ reference collection.


Other than this, I took a chainsaw workshop a couple of weeks ago and finally got to put it to use today in the field. Looks simple, but when your thinking about the fact that the saw could cut you like butter, it is a bit more interesting. Also today we used one of the normal field saws, which is like twice as big as the almost kid sized saw that we learned on. Boy was my arm tired.


We also have been working to keep a neighbor of our rare plant preserve from riding through on his motorcycle, as this disturbs the habitat and has potential to spread weeds. Since I used to use trail cameras a bit to track wildlife, I decided to put out a camera and see if I could catch the motorcyclers on camera but like 99% of the animals I tried to pick up on camera, the motorcyclers too were very blurry.



Happy Holidays y’all,


-Landon from the BLM Mother Lode Field Office in El Dorado Hills, CA