gAmerBlob’s CLM Blog: Log 1

I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.”

  • Opening line from Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin

I that this is an apt description of my first couple weeks of my internship with the Carson City BLM, and a decent way to relate that I do not own a camera.

This will be my third field position with a federal agency out West since graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015, having sprayed weeds with the US Forest Service in Ely, NV and surveyed for post-fire vegetation with the US Geological Survey out of Boise, ID.

As such, I knew to expect all the preliminary paperwork and training that comes with starting with an agency, but it was still quite dry. Due to the (literally) wet weather and sketchy road conditions, the other CLM interns and I were somewhat limited in what we could do the, but we still had a nice variety.  That included office organization, helping to put together pesticide-use-proposals and biological assessments for vulnerable species, and attending a couple interagency/public meetings.

Somewhat predictably, the most fun and insightful moments were those working with plants in the herbaria we’ll be using and the one trip out to a field site. Through past experience in the Great Basin region, I have a passing familiarity with the native flora here, but due to a lack of practice and the quick-and-dirty method I used for rapid assessments in Boise, I’m finding that I have a ton to learn.

For my last field position, time was of the essence, so we were taught to identify plants either just to the genus (like “eriogonum spp.”) or ID the recognizable ones to their USDA PLANT database symbol. Those symbols are the first two letters of genus, first two letters of species, followed by a tiebreaking number if needed, so for example artimesia tridentata, or big sagebrush, is ARTR4. For whatever reason, I thought this was a pretty universal thing, but blurting out “deeso” (DESO2 = descurainia sophia, or tansy mustard) or “ivax” (IVAX = iva axillaris, or povertyweed) has gotten me blank/confused stares and comments. Learning how to actually key out plants will be extremely useful for me, so that if I ever come across a plant I don’t know off the top of my head, I’ll hopefully be able to be a little more specific/sensible.

Where is Vernal?

The right seed, in the right place, at the right time.  This straight-forward goal was synthesized by the Colorado Plateau Native Plant Program, at a conference in Monticello, Utah. It assimilated a broad range of presentations, including the latest research on local plant genetics intertwined with climate variability, new conservation technology, and agronomic requirements for successful seed production. This simplistic goal resulted from a conversation of the various stakeholders involved with collection and production of native plants for habitat restoration.  Often, the center stage of this conversation was Vernal, UT.

I have been an intern with the Bureau of Land Management in Vernal now for several weeks. During that time, I was able to attend the conference in Monticello and see where Vernal lies in the big picture of native plant restoration.  When I first arrived in my new habitat, the local flora was covered with two feet of snow after what had been an unusual winter.  However, I have learned it is a botanically interesting region due to roughly fifty endemic species associated with local geology, especially the oil-shale.  The energy sector also finds this area very interesting. Consequently, there are abundant future reclamation needs. The anticipated demand for native seeds played a key role in Vernal’s place at the conference.

While the snow melted, I compiled data to answer the question of “what seed?” I have become acquainted with the local flora of the herbarium and their locations on a map. However, I got my first taste of the field today, checking on seedlings of a milkvetch species that is endemic to a particular bend of the Green River.  The tiny seedlings were exciting to find and identify, being that they are so unique to that location. The landscape was enamoring, and I look forward to a season of discovering its hidden gems.

A view of the Uinta Mountains

Endemic Astragalus species

Endemic Astragalus species

Budsage… enamoring landscape in the background

First week in the desert

Quite a bit of change has happened this past week. I resigned from my previous position the last day of February, fixed my car, packed it up and headed to Palm Springs, CA from Colorado.

The first day at work we went out to Desert Lily Preserve to scout for blooms of the desert lily and whatever else may be in flower. Although a few had bloomed the majority of the lilies were not quite ready so we will be visiting again in the next couple of weeks to collect a voucher specimen.

I am fortunate to be here this year because they have gotten a good amount of rain so there will plenty to see and smell! I have also already started to learn the differences between the Colorado and Mojave deserts.

Until next time…

Palm Springs, CA