Pitch pine and the southern bark beetle

During my internship, I got to see many beautiful and unique ecosystems in Long Island. One ecosystem that stood out is the Long Island Central Pine Barrens – a fire-adapted region dominated by scattered pitch pine (Pinus rigida) trees with a dense shrub layer. The pine barrens are naturally adapted to and dependent on fire. Fire thins the forest out, reducing competition between trees and improving their overall health. The pine barrens are ecologically and economically important to Long Island – they provide a contiguous habitat for rare and endangered fire-adapted plant and animals and they sit on top of the island’s only freshwater aquifer, purifying and protecting the island’s drinking water (http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/99331.html).

The Long Island Central Pine Barrens are currently threatened by the southern pine beetle (SPB). SPB is a bark beetle that feeds on the vascular system of trees, disrupting the flow of water and nutrients, killing them in 2-4 months. SPB, as its name suggests, is native to the southeastern United States. The beetle has been spreading north, likely due to the warming of extreme winter temperatures. SPB was found in Long Island in October 2014 and has led to large infestations in several parks, including Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, Connetquot River State Park, and Hubbard County Park (http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/99331.html).

Tunnels under a pine trees bark left by the southern pine beetle (image via DEC).

Natural and managed fires in the the southeastern U.S. prevent SPB from causing significant pine mortality. Individual trees are healthier in pine barrens that are allowed to burn, increasing their ability to fight off infestation. Additionally, smoke and thinning disrupt the ability of beetle populations to communicate and organize infestation. In Long Island, the natural fire cycle is suppressed, and the SPB infestation is devastating the pine barrens. To manage the infestation, Long Island’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has been cutting down infested trees to artificially mimic the effects of fires (http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/99331.html).

Pitch pine tree debris in an area of Connetquot River State Park that has been thinned through cutting.

In addition to thinning trees, management efforts include collecting pitch pine seed. The Long Island Native Plant Initiative (LINPI), an all-volunteer organization that protects Long Island’s native plant populations, organized three pine cone collection trips. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank (MARSB, the organization I work for) helped coordinate the pine cone collection trips, and my field partner and I helped collect on two of the three trips and made our own collection for MASRB.

Pitch pine cones in a collection bag.

During our first collection trip, at Hubbard County Park, we learned how to collect pitch pine cones. Pitch pine cones only open, allowing their seed to disperse, when exposed to fire or heat – an adaptation to release seed in post-fire conditions, when it is easiest for a seedling to germinate and grow into a tree. We only collected from unopened cones because they still have seed inside of them. Many of the cones in the park had popped from the summer heat, but there were still plenty of unopened cones to collect on small trees or on branches that were cut down from larger trees.

A popped pitch pine cone on the left, and an unopened cone on the right.

Hubbard County Park was beautiful in October – the black huckleberry plants (Gaylussacia baccata) in the understory turned bright red and contrasted with the evergreen pines.

Our second collection was in the Dwarf Pine Plains in November. The Dwarf Pine Plains are a really cool sub-section of the Central Pine Barrens. They’re a rare ecosystem only found in three locations in the world – Long Island, New Jersey, and upstate New York. The pitch pines in these forests are very short due to the extreme acidity and sandiness of the soil, which does not hold onto nutrients or water well.

My field partner, Emily, next to some dwarf pitch pine trees.

Many of the pitch pine trees grow horizontally rather than vertically in the Dwarf Pine Barrens.

A partially popped pitch pine cone.

Lastly, we made our own collection of pitch pine cones for MARSB at Connetquot River State Park, one of our favorite collection sites. There were lots of un-popped cones on cut down trees/branches throughout the park and it was one of our favorite collections.

Our collection of pitch pine cones from Connetquot. They started popping from the heat in the seed lab, so we covered them in grates to prevent seed loss.

A healthy adult pitch pine tree at Connetquot River State Park.

Long Live the Pitch Pine!

Until next time,


New Jersey Critters

The New Jersey SOS team explores some seemingly deserted places. We seldom see another person hiking the same trails, and were definitely the only ones wading through salt marshes. When there is a pause, our footsteps slow, upon closer inspection these wild free places are teeming with life under the umbrella of Animalia. This post is a dump of the pictures of all the beautiful creatures that stood still long enough to snap a picture. Enjoy.



Terrapene carolina carolina

Eastern box turtle hiding in their shell. Found em munching down on some Opuntia humifusa fruit.


Danaus plexippus

Monarch caterpillar doing their thang, munching down on Aslepias syriaca


Uca tangeri

Fiddler crab dabbin on ya.


Argiope aurantia

Writing spiders were a common sight around wet tall grass prairie. Their striking colors and zigzag pattern made it easy to ovoid getting caught in their webs.


Pandion haliaetus

Majestic osprey soaring with a fish clasped in their talons.


I don’t know who this is, but dang. Keep rocking those primary colors dawg!


Notophthalmus viridescens

Red-spotted newts were crawling all over this mountain!


Ardea alba

The most widespread and elegant bird encountered on the coast, the great egret.


Tetraopes tetrophthalmus

Red milkweed beetles.



Odocoileus virginianus

White-tail deer inhabit all ecosystems in New Jersey. Here’s a doe posing on the beach.


Malaclemys terrapin

A diamondback terrapin mama laying her eggs! She covered the nest so well I couldn’t even tell where it was after she left.


Prineville BLM: The holidays are coming

Things have really slowed down in the office.  Not only have people been leaving left and right, there is just a different atmosphere.  It doesn’t help that temperatures have recently plunged to their normal range, and that daylight savings time stole an extra hour of daylight from everybody.  It is really a drag that it gets dark at 5.  Getting off of work and having an hour of daylight left can sometimes be demoralizing as well.  But I guess this happens every winter and we just have to adjust.

However, shifting back to work I have been spending much more time in the office.  While it is nice to not be totally worn out after a long day, I am starting to really miss the field.  I am still managing to get out every once in a while whether it is to locate a cave that we missed or to try to finish up some wildlife clearances from earlier in the season.  The cold isn’t too bad, but I am really missing the diversity of birds.  Occasionally I see some interesting birds, but this is mostly while driving instead of actually out when conducting surveys or looking for caves.  I managed to see sandhill cranes, snow geese, trumpeter swans, bald eagles, belted kingfishers as well as the more normal species.  While these birds are fairly exciting, these are rarities and the total number of birds I have seen has taken a nose dive recently.  Hopefully this will be remedied by an influx of winter birds (hopefully Evening Grosbeaks)!!!!

However, in my time off I did manage to locate a lifer that I had been searching for a long time.  With the help of a local bird guru, I found and took some fairly poor photos of a barn owl.  I went back there later with a tripod to try to get a better photo, but the barn owls were not cooperating.  I am planning on heading back again to get a really nice photo.

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Looking forward, the holiday season is upon us.  I am really excited about having 3 days off for Thanksgiving, but I am not really sure what I am going to do.  I might just take some time and relax without really doing anything, but I think more realistically I am going to go out and pick up some other new bird species.  After that I am really excited about Christmas as I am planning on heading home and spending time with my family.  I cannot wait to update you once again after all of the holiday goodness.


Tiny Animals

Now that our seed collection season here at the BLM state office in Santa Fe is done, I can look back on our field season as a whole. And it has been excellent! Aside from learning a new flora, becoming familiar with a new landscape and new people, and collecting a massive quantity of wild seeds — I have also enjoyed the many casual and surprising encounters that happen while being outside. While my first focus is definitely plants, I also love tiny animals (bugs, macroinvertebrates, insects, arthropods; whatever category they are all tiny animals to me!). I don’t know if I will ever study them seriously or in detail, but I do love to notice their variety.

Following is a selection of the most surprising and fantastic tiny animals I was privileged to encounter while collecting seeds this summer and fall.


An enormous grasshopper at El Malpais National Monument


Somebody very strange at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument


A lady beetle with beautiful and interesting patterning at El Malpais National Monument


Lady beetles exhibiting some interesting behavior — packing themselves tightly into a Thermopsis montana pod! (in the Santa Fe mountains)


More interesting behavior by lady beetles — clustering themselves in very large groups (in the Sandia mountains)


A delicate, elegant stick bug at the Quivira Coalition’s Red Canyon Ranch


Mating monarchs at the Springs Preserve (Las Vegas, NV) butterfly habitat


An excellent black and yellow garden spider near Socorro, NM

Laura Holloway
Santa Fe (New Mexico State Office), BLM

The Last Day

Six months have flown by and I am now looking at my last day as an SOS intern. Last week my field partner and I said our farewells to the state of Delaware. As we visited some of our favorite field sites for the last time, it dawned on me just how far we had come. The plants living in our field sites were strangers to us the first time we scouted the terrain. Now we recognize each plant the way we recognize the faces of our family members and friends. They are familiar, and that familiarity is oddly comforting.

Baccharis halimifolia herbarium voucher

Baccharis halimifolia herbarium voucher

Our very last collection was of Baccharis halimifolia (commonly groundsel bush), the first plant I committed to memory at the start of this internship. Unlike our Spartina alterniflora collections, or some of the berry collections we had made this season, groundsel bush was an easy collection. The fluffy seeds designed to travel with the wind came off by the handful.  After 20 minutes of collecting, just like that, we were done with the field season.

On our way back to NYC, my field partner and I decided to stop by a carwash. We had been using my field partner’s car for the past two weeks of field work, and it was absolutely filthy inside and out. After driving through the wash, the outside of the car was looking good. The same could not be said for inside of the car. A graveyard of squashed mosquitoes decorated the front windshield. In the back seats, spiders and yellow backed beetles crawled out of our seed collection bags and darkened the windows.

The carwash experience concluded with our car being hand-dried by a young man who must have been very confused by the state of our car. As he wiped the front windshield with a small towel, he scrubbed hard at the mosquito remains. It took him a moment to realize the remains were inside the car. As he proceeded to wipe off the back windows, my field partner and I burst into laughter. We could only imagine what he was thinking.  Hundreds of bugs crawled all over the back windows, and spiders periodically dropped down from the ceiling. Our back seat was chaotic; it was covered in trash bags full of seeds, loose strips of newspaper from pressing plant samples, muddy waders, and granola bar wrappers. I bet the young man wondered why we even bothered going through the carwash when we sat in a pile of insects and dirt.

From top left moving clockwise: Euthamia hyssopifolia, Solidago sempervirens, Rhus copollinum, and Andropogon glomeratus.

From top left moving clockwise: Euthamia hyssopifolia, Solidago sempervirens, Andropogon glomeratus, and Rhus copollinum.

Back in the office, this final week has been a blur. We have been working quickly to finish shipping off seeds, gluing herbarium specimen, and finalizing data sheets. With one day left to our internship, writing this blog post was the last item on my to-do list. It’s such a relief having everything done. There were so many days during this internship when I felt anxious that we wouldn’t reach our collection goal, overwhelmed when we had too many collections planned for a single week of work, or simply tiered from spending 12 hours straight in the field. Now I sit in our Staten Island office, checking off the final item from my to-do list. We did it. My field partner and I actually did it. Not only that, in the end we surpassed our collection goal.

It has been an eventful 6 months to say the least. I definitely owe my field partner a big thank you.  Without her, life in Delaware would not have been as interesting.  Together we managed to make getting attacked by swarms of green-headed flies, sinking hip deep into marsh muck, and spending our days smelling of rotten-eggs and looking like we had crawled out of a dumpster something to laugh about. It might have sucked while it was happening, but looking back it makes me giggle to think of how ridiculous these past 6 months have been. So thank you Barbara, and thank you CLM for an incredible experience.

Space, Place, Power Lines


“Power line cuts are spectacular places.” – Michael Giambalvo

One thing that compelled me to study landscape architecture in college was my tendency to reflect on space and place as I navigate through the world.  Space is our three-dimensional perception of reality, which we define using Euclidean geometry and standardized units of measurement. Place is the meaning a person or group of people gives to a defined space. This meaning may be inherent in the forms that reside in the space, or it may come from the historic or cultural context of the space. Usually it is a synthesis of the three.

Because the same space can take on very different and powerful meanings to different groups of people, land managers should investigate the social context of the property they manage. Though community involvement and stakeholder meetings are socially responsible prerequisites to major modifications and new management plans, in our civilization the decision making power defaults to the holder of the property rights associated with land ownership. Property rights and land ownership can easily be teased apart however.

In the case of property easements, landowners sell or donate certain rights to a piece of land without giving up ownership. One common type of property easement is an electric transmission right-of-way, in which utility companies purchase land easements to erect power lines to distribute power, and the landowners agree to manage the land so that the lines can be safely maintained. In New Jersey, this means that woody plants that reach heights greater than fifteen feet must be kept out of the easement boundary.

As a young, yet-to-be-educated environmentalist, I would ride in the car and see power line cuts make reverse-mohawks out of wooded hilltops. They were giant lacerations in the landscape. It seemed like there was no escaping the destructive force of life “on the grid.” But I’ve since learned that these mowed forest pinstripes actually do some ecological good. They are sanctuaries for native grasses and sun-loving forbs that are struggling to make space for themselves on a fire-suppressed landscape.

The past six months, Michael and I have been taking advantage of the power line easements that run through our seed collection sites, sometimes making as many as four good collections at once as we walk the line. There is no shortage of nature under those wires. Our explorations have uncovered many mystical plants and insects– even a bear skull! Now when I drive under the power lines that drape the countryside, my curiosity peels back my eyelids as I turn my head to peer down the mysterious corridors.

From Brooklyn to the Pine Barrens, one of my favorite things about this internship is all of the spaces that have become, for me, special places.

RK, Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank

photo by Michael Giambalvo, used with permission

photo by Michael Giambalvo, used with permission


Black River Wildlife Management Area.

Final Days as a Seed Collector

I am writing this blog post in the final two days of my internship, and I’m still in shock! As much as I told myself to savor my time here, it still feels as if my life has been on 1.5x speed.

Being stationed in New York City, my internship has been a little different than other CLM interns. There are many things I will miss about living in this city – street parking will NOT be one of them (seriously, alternate street parking has been the bane of my existence the last six months). That being said, New York has so many cool opportunities that I will miss! The last few months I have seen numerous Broadway shows, laughed at comedy clubs, gone to concerts, and eaten at world class restaurants. I’m definitely ready for a new adventure, but I am very pleased about my six months here.

Although I was stationed in New York, most of my fieldwork was actually in Delaware. Delaware had its pros and cons, but I definitely found appreciation for certain areas of the state. My position was strictly Seeds of Success, which has really given me a greater appreciation of plants. I really loved working on dune habitats, both in the hot and cool weather! In the hot weather, my partner and I found ourselves taking midday swims in the ocean. In the cool weather, well, it’s just beautiful. Being from Florida, there’s something about the sound of waves that feels comforting!

One of the coolest things about my position was how I was in the same areas day in and day out, so I was constantly seeing how plants change throughout the season. Phenology has never been so conspicuous to me! After this position, I don’t think I will ever be able to turn off the “identify plant” button in my head. This is a habit I really don’t want to lose, anyways.

My final days are filled with tying up lose ends and I feel pretty satisfied with my work. For the state of Delaware, our goal was 75 collections. In the early months, my partner and I were in a constant state of anxiety wondering how we were ever going to achieve this goal! The month of October was absolutely insane, full of 12 hour days and constant collecting. We had a lot of hard collections (Spartina alterniflora, I’m looking at you!), but also enough “easy” collections to balance it out. We finished up our field season with 80 collections, and wow, did it feel good! It was such an amazing experience to be doing on-the-ground conservation and knowing that my hard work will be used for restoration!

I will certainly miss this position and all of the memories that came with it. This is my final post, so I will leave you with some photos of my time here.

Signing off from the Staten Island MARSB office,

Barbara Garrow

Fenwick Island State Park

Lovely dune habitat, featuring Solidago sempervirens (seaside goldenrod) and Ammophila breviligulata (American beachgrass)

Prospect Park

Prospect Park. Brooklyn can be pretty sometimes!


Mantid on some Scirpus cypernius (Woolgrass). We ran into a surprising amount of bugs during the internship!

A Fond Farewell

Nine months after arriving in Klamath Falls, OR, having watched leaves emerge on trees, turn brown and dry in the late summer heat, and fall off as the first snow blanketed the valley, it’s time to say goodbye and begin my next adventure. Working as an intern at the USFWS in Klamath Falls has been an incredible opportunity to work in a wide range of geographies with a variety of species and projects. I have gained experience in conducting research and writing scientific reports and manuscripts. The note that I was a lead author on that discussed rearing distribution of endangered Klamath basin sucker using identification based on x-ray imaging, has been accepted for publication in the journal, ‘Western North American Naturalist’, and I am currently in the process of submitting a review paper on reintroductions of bull trout to another journal. This internship has been a great opportunity to get a wide range of experience while learning about the realities of working for the federal government in the rural west. This fall I applied for a variety of graduate programs focused on wild bee ecology and am looking forward to doing some traveling and adventuring before beginning graduate school this coming fall.

Below are a variety of photos from my time in Klamath Falls.


An Oregon spotted frog captured during an egg mass survey.

An Oregon spotted frog captured during an egg mass survey.








A panorama at Klamath Marsh where we conducted Oregon spotted frog surveys.

A panorama at Klamath Marsh, where we conducted Oregon spotted frog surveys.





A great egret at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge

A great egret at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge










Inserting a PIT tag into an adult sucker.

Inserting a PIT tag into an adult sucker.








Josh and Shilah attempting to catch suckers while snorkeling in the Link River.

Josh and Shilah attempting to catch suckers while snorkeling in the Link River.








Releasing a monarch butterfly after raising it from an egg.

Releasing a monarch butterfly after raising it from an egg.










The muddy crew after a day of fish salvage at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge.

The muddy crew after a day of fish salvage at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge.








Our fake coyotes waiting for their opportunity to scare birds away from our fish rearing ponds.

Our fake coyotes waiting for their opportunity to scare birds away from our fish rearing ponds.

Kayaking on Waldo Lake on a still morning.

Kayaking on Waldo Lake on a still morning.


A sunset over the Sprague River while catching larval sucker.

A sunset over the Sprague River while catching larval sucker.










Wrangling Canada geese while banding at the refuge.

Wrangling Canada geese while banding at the refuge.












A fan boat prepares to herd Canada geese for banding.

A fan boat prepares to herd Canada geese for banding.













Banding a Canada goose.

Banding a Canada goose.

Electrofishing with Nolan and Shilah on Demming Creek.

Electrofishing with Nolan and Shilah on Demming Creek.
























Electrofishing on Three-mile Creek, where we captured one bull trout in a reach where brook trout were recently eradicated.

Electrofishing on Three-mile Creek, where we captured one bull trout in a reach where brook trout were recently eradicated.











A panorama of Crater Lake.

A panorama of Crater Lake.





A red band trout caught near where the Wood River flows into Agency Lake.

A red band trout caught near where the Wood River flows into Agency Lake.










Looking out over the Klamath basin from the top of Mt. Mcloughlin.

Looking out over the Klamath basin from the top of Mt. Mcloughlin.





Holding a fisher while it begins to come to after being sampled as part of a BLM study.

Holding a fisher while it begins to come to after being sampled as part of a BLM study.