2 Month Marker

2 months down.

13 SOS collections completed.

Timeless friendships made.

A new Found Love for Southern Idaho.

It is both rewarding and bittersweet to reflect back on this experience thus far. Rewarding because I can’t believe how much I have grown as an individual and bittersweet because time keeps dwindling on. This “internship” has definitely been a wonderful and enlightening opportunity for me to learn and challenge myself. I’ve found myself well-balanced and motivated. I’ve made time for hobbies I have always wanted to pursue, and I have learned to trust in where my passion for the environment and people take me. The people I have been working with and new friends I have made have definitely contributed to all of this, and I thank all of you for that. I hope the rest of my CBG interns can say the same about their experiences, and may the rest of my time here start to move forward much more slowly.






When Badgers Attack

The past couple weeks have been filled with plenty of field days, inspections, and the inevitable trecks to unmarked sites. Always interesting, always an adventure, just sometimes that adventure is searching around in 100F for a site that in theory should no longer exist. The irony is palpable.

Last week, my fellow intern, Jess, and I took a break from our regular fieldwork to go look at the recovery of some former spill sites with Andy, the assigned NRS. We lucked out with the one mid-70s day that week, and the primary site was in a beautiful area of the field office. The site was almost completely recovered, and aside from a few small sections still catching up, you wouldn’t have known how large of an area had been affected, or how much bioremdiation and reclamation had been done. After inspecting the entire area we headed out to the next site, and on our way we encountered some road blocks.

Locked gates and dead end roads are always a possibility out here, and something I’m sure many, if not all, interns have experienced. We ran into a few on the way, though fortunately nothing that significantly impacted our route. Cows and sheep in the road are also a regular occurrence, so a stubborn old bull was par for the course. He certainly took his time, but we managed to make it through. However, as we made a turn further down the road and crested a hill, we came across perhaps the most interesting, and some might say formidable, obstacle yet: a mating pair of badgers.

Male badger as he crosses in front of our truck

Squarely in the middle of the road, and not at all pleased by our interruption, they immediately went on the offensive. The female took the lead – perhaps her young had just dispersed (or were in the process of doing so) and she still felt the need to protect and distract, or maybe she was just bothered by how rudely we intruded on their privacy.

Whatever the reason, she became vocal immediately, with what I can only describe as an intense combination of growling and hissing, and began to charge our truck. The male seemed satisfied that she could handle us, making a couple passes across the road before heading into the neighboring tall grass with some parting snorts.

Growling and hissing, the female turns for another charge

The female continued her attack with a persistence that was as impressive as it was intimidating, and as amusing as it was endearing. I loved her for it. After charging our front tires relentlessly, and pacing a few times parallel to the truck, she began lunging near the tailgate; each time running a little further down the road and looking back, maybe to see if we would follow. Eventually she was either satisfied our truck was no longer a threat, or that she’d successfully made her point, and she looped around and met up with the male who was still lingering on the edge of the road. They dropped below the ridge, and after getting out, I was able to watch them go into a burrow (or cete) about 10-15 yards down.

And so, 20 minutes after this had all begun, we headed to our next site.

– Christine

Buffalo, WY Field Office

Retreating before another change at our tires

The female loops around our truck as she heads back towards the male

Bats, Rare Plants, and Monitoring Sites Galore!

Things get so busy around here, that I start a blog post with intentions of finishing it before a new week begins, but never quite make it there. Luckily, I’m in between seed collections right now, so I’m seizing the opportunity to recount one of the busiest and most fun weeks I’ve had. It started out pretty much like every week, but with a few surprises. Check it out.

Monday was hotter than normal for July in Spokane, and under recommendation from my mentor, I stayed in the office, planning my next steps. As I was doing some herbarium work, my mentor told me that I will be taking lead on a rehabilitation project for one of Washington’s threatened plant species, Polemonium pectinatum (POPE14)!

Polemonium pectinatum (Washington’s Jacob’s-ladder)

For this project, I will be visiting and monitoring various sites of POPE14 to update the associated plants list, determining which associated plants would be best to collect and grow out so that they can be used to rehab the Wilson Creek location. I will also be collecting seed of the associated plants and POPE14 to be used at the rehab site. When I found out this information, I was really excited. Sure being around and getting paid was a good deal, but mostly I was (and am) ecstatic to be helping re-establish POPE14! The plant is gorgeous and endemic to Eastern Washington. Unfortunately for this site, the county was out spraying for white top and the district botanist and our field botanist believe that drift from the nearby spray site affected and eventually took out the population. While the odds are that I am back in Spokane next spring to see the project out aren’t exactly high, I am so happy to be helping lay down the ground work! Learning about the rehab project was just the tip of the iceberg of the exciting and busy week I’ve had!

At the end of the day, my mentor found me again to ask if I would be interested in helping our wildlife biologist and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) complete some bat surveys! I could tell my eyes lit up with excitement (because mentally I was jumping for joy) as I tried to keep a calm demeanor and saying yes! I absolutely have so much respect for these amazing mammals, especially because they consume mosquitoes, which are the bane of my existence.

Tuesday night, we got to the bat house just as the sun was beginning to set, and covered up the exits we weren’t going to be counting with tarps. As we finished doing that, we got to our counting spot and found a little pup that must have fallen off its mom the night before. Luckily, one of the wildlife biologists from WDFW brought along some gloves, and carefully picked the little one up from the foundation and eventually took it into the bat house – after several failed attempts of placing the little one in the window – to hopefully find his/her momma (if you want to see a video of the cute little guy, here’s a link). Soon afterwards, the first bat flew out and it was go time. I ended up counting roughly 2,700 bats, and acquiring about 35 mosquito bites, but they were definitely worth it! I was ready to go again the next night!

Bat surveys ended around midnight and we got back to the office around 2 am. I had a quick turn around time of 7 am, so I wasn’t wasting much time getting to my apartment! I was going to be joining our range management specialists and wildlife biologist, as well as my mentor, to do some land health assessments the next 2 mornings. While much of my internship has been working on Seeds of Success, I’ve been finding ways to do much more than just that. Tagging along with our range management specialist and learning about what he does was really interesting. I learned a lot more of the grasses and got decently ok at identifying them (which I am so grateful for because I was pretty terrible at) and learned more about land health. On our first day, we went out to 2 different sites, and did line-point-intercepts to get a qualitative survey of the area, attempting to determine percent cover of invasive species, sage, annuals:perennials, and ground cover. This data would then be used as a representative of the allotment to determine if it was still suitable for grazing, as well as for sagegrouse habitat. While to most of the office, it was just another day in the field, I thought it was pretty cool! Not to mention, I got to see the first Calochortus of my season! Another plant I’ve been eagerly awaiting!

Calochortus macrocarpus var. macrocarpus {Green Stripe Mariposa Lily)

We got done at around 3 and I followed Mike from WDFW out to the next bat house. Unfortunately for us, a storm rolled in and foiled our plans. But that’s alright, because there’s always a tomorrow! I turned around and went back out with our rangeland management specialist and wildlife biologist for another day of range health assessments. This time, since the group was much smaller, we were able to go through and do the work with a higher efficiency, and I took a more active role in the line-point intercepts, which really tested my dry grass skill identifying. Along the way, we encountered some Silene spalidingii, one of the rare plants in our area, a few coyotes, and plenty of mosquitoes! I also got to learn about assessing bodies of water, which was great minus the hoards of mosquitoes.

Silene spaldingii (Spalding’s Silene)

After a few long days and short nights, the week was over, and I was ready to take a long weekend to celebrate July 4th with my family.

In between that crazy week and now, I’ve checked off a few more of my target species and collected some opportunistic ones as well, working on my herbarium collection, and helping out with setting up new monitoring plots for Silene and checking on old sites. These new plots actually document the location of the plant within a 9 meter circle, the idea being that in the next 6 years, the data collected will show if the plants are fit and reproducing adequately, or if the plants are declining. It’s things like this that really get me excited, even if I don’t get to be around to see the final results. Here’s to saving the native plants, one public land at a time!

Here are some plants I’ve been seeing out lately, including a few on my target list!

Castilleja minor (Lesser Indian Paintbrush)

Asclepias speciosa (Showy Milkweed)

Mimulus guttatus (Seep monkeyflower)

Mentzelia laevicaulis (Smoothstem Blazingstar)

Until next time,

V Cancino

Type II Fun

Since finishing up our MAIM plots, myself and the other interns in the Shoshone Field Office have been bouncing around a few different projects. Sagebrush mapping, livestock utilization surveys, and plant clearances have taken us all over the map- I’ve gotten to see the diversity in landscapes that this field office contains.

I’ve learned to be careful what I wish for- a few days of livestock utilization surveys in the southern part of our field office had me wishing for beautiful landscapes, diverse plants and water- then my wish came true and this type of landscape presented me with its own unique challenges…

Today I went out to conduct plant clearances- this involves going to predetermined plots to check for sensitive plant species. These plots are located where a proposed recreation trail will go near Hailey, ID so our job is to make sure the trail doesn’t go through any critical habitat for the sensitive plants. Luckily for us (and future hikers) the proposed trail goes through some beautiful country!

But, like I said earlier, this turned out to be quite the task. Fun things we encountered included-

  1. Swarms of thousands of grasshoppers flying into our face while tramping through sagebrush.
  2. Freshly rained on vegetation soaking through our shoes and pants.
  3. Streams hidden under vegetation (Note: Waterproof boots only stay waterproof for so long).
  4. Repeatedly being startled and freaking out due to snakes underfoot, birds flying out from shrubs, and giant insects landing on our arms/neck/head.
  5. A mini rainforest (well, it was raining at the time) in Idaho! We’re so used to being surrounded by sage that stumbling into a dense stand of trees was quite the surprise. We were loving it until we got ourselves surrounded on all sides by stinging nettle and thistle. At this point, you kind of have to pick your poison- do I walk through thistle which pokes through pants or nettle which may or may not sting through clothing?
  6. More hiking up steep hills literally through and over sagebrush, a feat that is easier said than done.
  7. Scotch thistles taller than us.

We definitely had some type 2 fun today. If you’re not familiar with the fun scale I’ll give you a quick rundown. Type 1 fun is pure, easy fun- think walking along an easy path and discovering a mountain meadow filled with a thousand beautiful wildflowers. Fun at the time and fun in retrospect. 10/10 would do again. Type 2 fun is the kind of fun that sometimes sucks at the time, think steep hiking with grass poking through your wet socks and treacherous plants at your heels. Type 2 fun has its challenging moments but is fun in retrospect and makes a good story, and you’d probably do it again.

In reality, even harder days become fun when you have another person to share it with and you can find the beauty in the little moments in the day. Our views at the top of hills were gorgeous, and we heard an elk calf bugling to its mother across the ridge. We saw a diverse array of plants as well as wildlife signs such as skeletons and tracks. Also, taking off my wet socks and boots at the end of the day was one of the more magical things I’ve experienced.

Where are we??


Deer skull


Mandatory flower photo

Crazy tall thistle!

Field site near Hailey, ID


Shoshone Field Office-BLM

Our office engulfed in flames… not literally, but almost

July has been littered with new fires every weekend. July 4th weekend was scary because of all the dangers that come with fireworks are enhanced by the type of fuels that are here in Idaho. I read so many statements, fliers and posters all around Shoshone Field Office about the fire hazards that would emerge this month, and boy, they weren’t kidding.

Our first full week back after the holiday, the Antelope fire roared just a half mile south of our field office. We were expecting an office day filled with data entry and low stress levels. Instead, what we interns came across, was a day full of mild panic and furious curiosity.

Working right next to the BLM fire yard, I got to see fire trucks and supply trucks being loaded, dozers being hauled out, and everyone was on their cell phones with permitees on one line and dispatch on the other line.

The fire was expected to fizzle out the night before, and resources were pulled due to another, larger fire southeast of town. Unfortunately, once the temperature outside got hotter and relative humidity went down, wind picked up and gave new life, fueling our curiosity as well.

The next week, I got the chance to see the plans for rehabilitation, plans that were drawn up from the rangeland management specialists with input from the ranchers. A new program called Rural Fire Protection Agency (RFPA) voiced their opinion on the rehab efforts as well. They make up some of the firefighting effort on BLM land, which is a huge help since BLM struggles, at times, to come up with resources, if they’re needed else where. RFPA’s  may have the dozers and other machinery needed to combat the fire while getting to experience the fight and get to see what BLM has to endure on the fires as well.

This “fire culture” is so intriguing to me and maybe something I will look into after my time here. I think the science behind it is fascinating and coming together as a team to fight fire out there, I bet is so rewarding.


Anatomy of a salt marsh

Often spotted on the fringes of beaches and often disguised as an impassable puddle when the tide comes in, salt marshes may evade our attention more than we realize. The purpose of this blog post is to introduce you to some saltmarsh species that can help you identify a plot of land as a healthy salt marsh. Freshwater marshes occur too, and many species will grow in salty, brackish and freshwater marshes. The below pictures come from one particular saltmarsh in southeastern Connecticut at Bluff Point State Park.

Diversity is indicative of a healthy ecosystem and a greater number of species will often be present in a healthy saltmarsh. Grasses, rushes and sedges, which are all grass-like plants or graminoids, make up this basic level of diversity. Without these graminoids, like Spartina sp. and Juncus gerardii, the area would at best be considered a former salt marsh. From the graminoids, flowers, succulents and even some small shrubs may be added to the composition. Altogether, these species will form a patchwork of colors against the horizon, if you are lucky enough to see an expansive salt marsh.

Being able to recognize a species by its general outline in the distance is known as seeing the species’ “gestalt”. Many species you can identify simply by this color because salt marshes tend to have the same species; plants that are adapted to the site’s characteristic salinized and flooded conditions. Sometimes the colors are more apparent when a species is in bloom or when last year’s flowers dry up. Sometimes, the texture of the plant or the way it blows in the wind can be more telling.

The below pictures offer a quick example of this salt marsh’s species composition. Species will often grow in clumps or stripes along the water line or especially salty areas. Along the water’s edge, Spartina alterniflora (red oval) is most likely to be present, as shown below. This knowledge can help one avoid accidentally stepping too far into open water. It might be more advisable to walk along the areas containing plants that tend to grow in drier, more sturdy soil. For example, shrubs: Iva frutescens (pink oval) is one such shrub and redeems the Spartina alterniflora shown here. Limonium carolinianum or sea lavender (orange oval) has small, intricate flowers.

It also pays to know the edible plants. Salicornia depressa (yellow rectangle) offers a crunchy, salty bite that can be compared to a pickle.

Red Oval: Spartina alterniflora; Orange Circle: Limonium carolinianum; Yellow Rectangle: Salicornia depressa; Pink Circle: Iva frutescens

Patch of mostly Schoenoplectus americanus

P.S. As wonderful as salt marshes are, one should take caution when entering one because the vegetation may obscure large, sometimes human-sized, holes. Go in a group and tread carefully! Try to go at low tide.

Ashley National Forest

As I consider where to adventure these crusted hiking boots off to, I realize how privileged I am to be in small town Vernal, UT. A bit conservative for a city girl, but the outdoors are vast and this isn’t my first rodeo in a small town, so I’m not too worried about it. After researching some of the gems in the area, I’m thrilled to be at a location where nature awaits adventure at a mere 40 minute drive in just about any direction.

I recently celebrated 1 year of knowing my partner in crime from last years’ CLM internship by going on a backpacking trip to Ashley National Forest. This was a great intro to summer trip because we only planned to average about 5 to 6 miles per day AND it made me realize I was unprepared and a little rustically rusty.


Drove for about 2.5 hours from Vernal to Whiterocks trail head and started our hike at around noon “It’s so nice to have the whole trail by ourselves” I said to Cori. 3 hours later, during our snack/kirin building break we encounter the first humans. I’m not sure why, but we both felt as though we were caught doing something wrong when they stopped to say hello. Maybe it was just the shock of seeing a person when you think there’s nobody watching. They were an older pair, assuming they were a couple, she said they came from Colorado where she worked for the Forest Service and we told her about our summer positions and what we do. We shared our plan to do a loop around Fox and Cheppeta lake and they said they were doing something similar. He said nothing the whole time, it was a little strange, but in either case I like how it was her that took initiative to speak and spoke for him instead of the other way around. *Feminist trait pick up*  By 7pm we were tired and a little hangry, but we accomplished our goal of 6 miles to Fox Lake. We saw a pile of what looked like camping equipment and assumed it was the same couple, since we hadn’t seen anyone else on trail. Upon close examination we determined it was some drifter’s pile of things he had abandoned and hoped he wouldn’t come back in the middle of the night and kill us both. Dark, I know, but sometimes these types of things cross my mind as possibilities out in the middle of nowhere, you know?! We set up camp at an adorable inlet facing the lake where we indulged in the view made for all, but selfishly enjoyed the entire landscape. Took a deep breath in and pleasured in a fulfilling stretch and sigh. Home for the night. After eating dinner, I went to pump water and was extremely disappointed when I noticed that my pump wasn’t pumping very fast. Come to find out, it took a fall at some point and the ceramic casing around the filter had a crack. Uh ohh! We were relying on this one pump for the next couple of days and it took me over an hour to pump 2 Liters. Trouble, but nothing we couldn’t handle. We shared the 2L and called it a night.  We’ll deal with the troubles tomorrow.


We pumped water for a couple hours early in the morning and were ready for our hike by about 10 am. I was expecting to be long on our way by then when I didn’t know that my pump was broken. Oh well, forward and onward. Our pace was steady, not too fast not too slow when I suddenly feel a breeze pick up enough to stop by and put our sweaters on. Neither one of us wanted to admit to the fact that a thundercloud was building above us and we were at a very exposed cliff but we both realized the danger before even mentioning it. Our paced picked up simultaneously which confirmed our silent assumptions. Finally we felt it, hail! Not super rough down pour hail, no, it was soft and not threatening but shortly thereafter we heard it, thunder! Loud and clear although not very close. It was lingering one mountain over. We picked up our pace a little more and did a small amount of trail stomping to try and get to our destination a little quicker. When we heard the storm approach even closer we decided to take shelter under some baby Juniper growing along the tree line. Throughout this time we were both calm and collected but obviously a little scared. We shared the same reaction by making jokes and giggling about how an adrenaline rush forced us to forget how tired and sore we actually are. You should have seen us racing down this exposed pass. The human body and mind are so fascinating! After a little while the hail subsided and thunder stopped. We decided to call it a day at around 4 pm close to Taylor Lake and cut our trip down by 1 day due to the set back and lack of functioning water pump. We set up camp and built a fire, where we chilled and shared stories about our winter adventures and dating life (or lack there of due to the traveling seasonal life 😉


Woke up early and followed the routine of pumping water for a couple of hours *eye roll!*. A meditation session helped me get by. The day before we had passed the trail to loop back to the Whiterocks trailhead because we weren’t sure if we were going to follow through with our initially planned loop, but we decided not to loop and instead head back. We back tracked about 1.5 miles to get to that trailhead but we were just grateful it was sunny out and rain was nowhere near our radar. I know what you’re thinking, “Didn’t you check the weather prior to starting your trip?!” Answer is: Yes, totally, but the Whiterocks trialhead was closer than the Chappeta trailhead and my low clearance car couldn’t take the beating so we decided to change the route last minute and risk being at the exposed portion of our trip on the rainy day. We knew the possibilities, careful assessed and risked it anyway. No regrets, just beautiful landscapes and one boot in front of the other. Our packs were much lighter because we feasted last night, this is always the upside of finishing up a backpacking trip. We ended up trailing a small portion of what we had already hiked on day 1, but I took advantage of that by remembering where I had seen some Penstemon that I wanted to pick to key out. It ended up being Penstemon watsonii, not the desired Penstemon on our list for Seeds of Success collection, which is Penstemon pachyphyllus,

Penstemon pachyphyllus in seed.

but I later found out that this could be a potential species to collect seeds from since it has been found roadside and seems to thrive very well. Hopefully we can add this cutie to our list of natives. We made it back to my car at around 4 pm with plenty of daylight and water for our drive back into civilization. I would call this trip a success despite our setbacks, there isn’t much I can’t handle in the great outdoors I call home.



Seeded Plots, Monsoon Season, and Training

Greetings from New Mexico! Life as an SOS intern has had its ups and downs these past few weeks. For our first collection, we managed to collect in a seeded area. Even though the mistake was frustrating, we learned a great deal about what seeded areas look like and resources we need to consult before collecting a site. Now we are suspicious of areas that are mostly a monoculture. The naturally occurring populations we have gathered seed from tend to show some diversity of plants in the area. Any potential collection sites are checked using a GIS layer and a map in the office with some information on seeded areas, and if there is no information on the area, we visually inspect for plow lines or anything else that might indicate the land was planted using Google Earth. Some example images of what we are looking at are below.

Google Earth images of two areas. The image on the left is seeded and the image on the right isn’t.

The monsoon season here in New Mexico also brings its own set of challenges for collecting seed. The monsoon season brings heavy rains, mostly in the afternoon from mid-June to late September. Generally, the areas we travel in to go collect seed have dirt, or if we are lucky, gravel roads. I am very grateful for the truck we use for our work! We were caught out in a down pour that nearly got our truck stuck in a gully. We barely got out of the area before the brunt of the storm hit. After we escaped, the mountain we were scouting by was barely visible for the rain. We’ve adapted to natures schedule by using rained-out afternoons for work that needs to be done in the office and it’s working out well.

Image of the mountain we were scouting near from the highway.

My fellow intern and I attended a pollinator training in Santa Fe at the Institute for Applied Ecology and a supplemental AIM training at Wild Rivers Visitor Center put on by the NRCS Soil Survey Division. The main topic at the pollinator meeting was on Hymenoptera. I had no idea that the diversity of bees in the U.S. was so high with around 30,000 species of bees. I was further surprised to find out that New Mexico is in the top 3 states for bee diversity, with around 1100 species inhabiting the state. We learned that bees and wasps are within the same clade and closely related to ants. I assumed that native bees behave in a similar way to honey bees, but this is not the case. I learned at the training that most native bees are solitary, have shorter lives than honey bees, and often nest in the ground, or wood cavities.  I also enjoyed trying to catch pollinators in Diablo Canyon. It was oddly satisfying to catch something in your net. The soil training we attended drove home the importance of understanding the geology of the area you are working in when soil typing.

– Bureau of Land Management (Taos Field Office)

Continuing to Live the Life!

This entry marks the 3 month of being in Lander as a rangeland intern. It is amazing how time is flying by. The upcoming weeks are filled with excitement and a plethora of events. One of which is the Solar Eclipse! I am stoked that I can witness this rare occurrence.

Much has transpired since the last time I posted. I got to experience the wonders of Yellowstone with old and new friends. I was quite surprised at the number of buffalo we saw while leaving the park and just at the diversity of organisms. Sadly, I did not get to see a bear but, there is always next time! I think my favorite part was at the end when we hiked up to the painted pots. They are quite interesting and I have enjoyed learning more about how they were formed.

Enjoying some ice cream during a hot afternoon in Yellowstone

The painted pots and their wonderful “plooping” noise.

As for work, my work partner and I were able to help recreate some monitoring that hasn’t been conducted since the 90s and early 2000s, which will be used for a NEPA document. This allowed us to learn some new plants within riparian areas, visit a new and exciting area, and to experience trying to find areas whose marking posts have been removed or knocked down. We still have to do some greenline monitoring that we were unable to complete due to high and fast running waters. Plus, we get to look forward to spending a day or two hiking an entire canyon for data collection in mid to late August.

Orchid found near a riparian area we are monitoring.

Beautiful group of butterflies an a thistle.

Besides work, I have taken the opportunity to explore Lander a bit more. The amount of events held is a bit overwhelming at times, but all of the events are fun to attend. The hiking in the area is top-notch. I was finally able to hike up Sinks Canyon and the views were spectacular. My partner had been in town and was quite impressed with the views we say. Plus, the flowers were beautiful in the area!

Popo Agie River flowing up at Sinks Canyon

Until next time,

– James Noyama
Bureau of Land Management – Lander Field Office                                                 Lander, Wyoming

Musings on Site Fidelity

Buckle up, this post may be what my stats professor at Indiana would call “chewy.”

The wildlife surveys are still going strong—pronghorn fawns started showing up about a month ago, and I’ve collected quite a few data points on nesting and chick-rearing for some of the BLM and Wyoming Game and Fish’s birds of concern.

American avocet (Recurvirostra americana), trying to distract us from its chick farther down the road.

Although I haven’t actually run any numbers yet, the distribution patterns I’m noticing make me much more confident about the conservation prospects of some species than I am about others. Part of that seems to depend on basic habitat requirements—I am increasingly suspecting, for example, that the sage thrashers I mentioned a couple of months ago are more adaptable to habitat variations than has previously been recognized—but how different animal species respond to habitat changes in one location can also be very important.

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