Tis the season to collect seeds! This summer I’ll be in Vernal, UT which is where I’m currently wrapping up my first week collaborating with the Seeds of Success (SOS) project. There’s nothing like loads of mosquito bites and a 10 degree burn on my lower back/butt crack to remind me that the field life isn’t glamorous by any means. It’s a good thing that glitz and glamour were never my vibe because this job isn’t for the weak at heart. What an amateur move on the sunburn though! That very first day out in the field I turned to my crew and said “Last year I got a really bad sunburn on my lower back from bending over with a short shirt on.” Mid seed collection I felt that burn as I tucked my shirt back into my pants for the fifth time that day. I thought that shirt was longer than it actually was when I slipped it on that morning and was sadly disappointed by that pitiful shirt combo with my long torso.
As a veteran AIM crew member, I’m enjoying learning different techniques and a completely different project altogether, although the purpose of this project is different than what I initially expected. I thought it had a lot more to do with preserving and rescuing threatened and endangered species but it turns out we are trying to avoid collecting from these as much as possible. The main purpose of this project is to find out what species thrive best at reclamation sites with the ultimate goal of reseeding those locations with a beautiful native plant species and ultimately replacing the hideously invasive cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum). Land restoration is important, unfortunate that we even have to do it but still very important. This first plant we collected was yellow milkvetch (Astragalus flavus) a perennial in the legume family. I was pleasantly surprise to learn how easy the seeds peel off and how fast my little paper bag filled up. We also collected loads of Sphaeralcea parvifolia throughout this week. I’m sure not all species we encounter this season will be as convenient to gather but it’s nice that some are. We currently have 18 target species that we hope to collect by August.
Most field days have been a success, with a plethora of seeds to show for it but we found out that one of our target species, Cleome lutea, has a very small collection window, which is why no other group has successfully collected it. The two sites previously scouted had empty pods or under ripe seeds when we went to visit a couple days ago. We decided that we may have to camp out to successfully collect seeds from this species. I would be excited about camping if it weren’t for the fact that this site that had the most mosquitos I’ve ever seen in my life! I had a net jacket on and the little boogers still managed to bite my chin and wrists. You should see the welts these guys left behind its pretty pathetic how much mosquitos like me but I know of an awesome trick I want to share with you. Drink a couple ounces of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) in eight ounces of water for a week and mosquitos will not touch you with a ten foot pole. I assume that’s because continual ingestion of it causes it to come out of your pores. ACV is also great for gastrointestinal issues, you just have to drink it about 30 minutes before lunch and dinner. It taste bitter but you can doll it up with a little lemon and honey. Once I’m drinking it consistently I actually acquire a flavor for it and start to crave it. Unfortunately, I just started drinking it two days ago because I didn’t expect to see mosquitos my first week. It slipped my mind that they were even a possibility! The suckers were just waiting to give me a very warm welcome back into the field lifestyle. Mosquitos or no mosquitos, I thoroughly enjoy the benefits of being out in the field. I get paid to hike and go on plant treasure hunts, exploring Martian habitats I may never have discovered and meeting new species of all types. We found a horny toad I named Ted
that was the most chill creature I’ve ever hung out with. Yea I got a little attached to it and really wanted to take him home and make him my pet but I resisted the urge and left him in his comfortable habitat. Ted, I’ll miss you buddy! He lives in Devil’s playground and will remain the devil’s play pet. I look forward to many more adventures and also to sharing those experiences with all you cool cats.