Crazy Things

I inquired about creating an environmental education opportunity in town. We ended up working the BLM booth at the Harney County Fair. We developed a nature, picture scavenger hunt for kids to explore on the fairgrounds. We made s’mores as prizes and handed out “Leave No Trace” materials. We received great feedback about the scavenger hunt directly from the kids, parents, and other vendors.

BLM Range is required to remove horses off of private land. I had the opportunity to be a part of capturing wild horses. I spent a day setting up the horse “traps”, which were portable horse corrals and “wings” coming off the edges that funneled the horses in. I sat on a hill to watch the capturing process. A wrangler waited with a pilot horse, as a helicopter herded the wild horses towards the trap. When the group of wild horses were close to the trap, the wrangler let go of the pilot horse, which was trained to run towards the trap, causing the wild horses to follow it into the trap. It was very eventful watching the wranglers herd the wild horses through the trap and into the trailer. The wild horses were brought to the horse corrals. If you want to buy a wild horse, they sell in the horses at the Hines, OR Wild Horse Corrals  for $125.

Wild horses captured!

While WSA monitoring, I got our truck stuck on a sand trap of a “road.” The sand was deceiving, my feet sunk at least 12 inches to 18 inches in the fine sand. My co-intern and I did not manage to get the truck out of the sand trap on our own. We needed reinforcement, so we contacted one of our supervisors. Our supervisor showed up about an hour and a half later, only to also get stuck in the sand trap road. The three of us could not get our supervisors’ truck unstuck, so we all sat in a truck for another two and a half hours until someone could help us. The guy who helped us made quick work of pulling us out with the wench on his truck. We were very thankful to be out of the sand trap, after having been stuck there for 5 hours. The worse part of the ordeal, is that the wind was constantly blowing sand. It felt like being in a sand storm from the movie Star Wars.

My foot sank 12 inches to 18 inches in the sand trap road.

There is already snow back on the Steens Mountains as of Thursday, September 21. It was an interesting experience to go from sunny weather at the bottom of the mountains, into the snowy weather heading up the mountain. Needless to say, it wasn’t far up the mountain before my co-intern and I turned around as the snowflakes became thicker.

First snow storm in the Steens Mountains.

A Farewell to Klamath Falls

I could see my breath drift above me as I lay wrapped in my sleeping bag and quilt, snug in my bed. It had started snowing as the night wrapped my van in a chilly embrace. I was parked a few miles outside of town, tucked into the Klamath foothills. A few hours later I would wake up to a winter wonderland and take off on a run into the snowy hills with new friends. That was my first weekend in Klamath Falls, OR, way back in April. Now, six months later, the heat and smoke of summer have abruptly left. Brisk evenings are replacing the summer swelter. As the weather turns its gaze back towards winter, I am also turning in a new direction.

My favorite place to run, Moore Park

Tomorrow, I wrap up my last day of work interning with the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Klamath Falls Field Office. The past six months have been filled with everything from electrofishing to goose banding to frog surveys. I am grateful to have gained so much valuable experience working with a government agency. Many days spent in the field gathering data, conducting experiments, exploring the local environment, and helping out with countless projects were coupled with report writing and research in the office. I am so grateful to have lived in such a beautiful corner of the world for the last chunk of my life. I managed to race four trail ultramarathons, run countless miles on trails around town, and climb in California and Oregon. So many wonderful adventures were had from my home base in Klamath Falls!

Leading a climb at the Williamson River Cliffs

I will depart Klamath Falls with a heavy heart this weekend and make the long drive down to LA. From there, I will fly back east for two weeks with family and friends. Then back to LA, where I’ll mobilize once again and spend all of October exploring the incredible desert country of southern Utah and northern Arizona. Come November, I will wind up in northern California. I will work with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission until late April monitoring salmon and steelhead populations on the Mendocino coast. I can’t wait to apply wait I have learned here in Klamath Falls and explore a new part of the world!

Jeff Mogavero
USFWS Klamath Falls

Time’s wings

Time flies when you’re engaged! Flying is an understatement as to how fast it’s zooming past, I can’t believe I’m at the tail end of this internship. This season has been fun, scouting and collecting seeds has been a success thus far and we’ve checked off most of our priority species collections and are currently waiting for some late bloomers to produce seed. A couple of weeks ago we had the opportunity of touring the Upper Colorado Environmental Plant Center (UCEPC) in Meeker, CO. Their main goal is to develop and provide plants that will improve land conditions and enhance wildlife habitat. Being a part of the Seeds of Success (SOS) program, it was fun to see where our seeds could end up for cleaning and further processing. This facility was established in 1975 and is a whooping 269 acres! Upon arrival, it didn’t seem so big but it’s huge! We rushed through some portions in order to get to others during our short ~5 hour tour.

The oldest cleaning machine at UCEPC. Classic!

Did you know that old school machines are still used to tackle seed cleaning? The methods to clean seeds have been mostly the same since long before you and I were born! Good ol air is crucial for cleaning “fluff” off of seeds, add some mechanical vibrations a voila, clean seeds! OK, maybe not that simple. The seed size and weight need to be taken into consideration so that you don’t loose seeds in the cleaning process so it definitely requires some skill and experience, but that’s the gist of it. Once they clean the seeds they either ship them to various locations to be seeded in the field, or they plant them at that facility for further research and re-vegetation efforts. My favorite project is their effort to help out the endangered Penstemon harringtonii. They went to Battlement Mesa, Co where it is rather common and transported harringtonii, including soil, in efforts of making it more abundant by collecting its seeds and growing it in a controlled environment. I really enjoyed the tour of the facilities and feel as though my job is really making a positive environmental impact.

I also had the privilege of attending the 14th Biennial Conference of Science & Management on the Colorado Plateau & Southwest Region at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ. The major focus was on climate change and how it’s affecting land management. There were also various presentations on archaeological sites and genetic variation that were very interesting. Some of my favorite presentations included a common garden study where 4,000 Fremont cottonwoods (Populus fremontii) were planted at different elevations and they found that mid elevation cottonwood were the most resilient in comparison to low and high elevation cottonwood. Another study showed that temperature restricts high-elevation bee pollinator communities and assessed the bee to fly transition along an elevation gradient. Over 700 species were imaged to measure darkness and it turns out that there is stronger selective pressure for bees to be darker. Bee’s dominate as pollinators at lower elevations and flies dominate at higher elevations and they found that the darker bodied pollinators had a higher heat absorption and larger bodied pollinators had higher thermal regulation. At higher elevations you find an increased size in pollinators as well as a darker body and therefore bees are more sensitive to temperature changes than flies are. The long term effects of this predict that biodiversity of pollinators will decrease as species move in to higher elevations. Winona LaDuke was the keynote speaker on opening day and welcomed the week with a somber yet optimistic note on our current environmental crisis. She is a powerful presence and leading activist for tribal communities with wise words of wisdom. It’s tough to add humor to such a sensitive subject but public speaking comes naturally for her and she managed to combine the two in a robust presentation. She spoke about the injustice that our land has overcome and the priority of water over oil as well as details on her tribe and the importance of community engagement. It went longer than anticipated but time seemed to be on her side since I didn’t notice how much time had passed until I looked at my phone while I was walking out. Time grows wings and flies when you’re engaged!




This State is on Fire

(Note: please read the title like the Alicia Keys song, “This Girl is on Fire”)

The sky during fire season

I don’t know why it is, but for whatever reason during fire season in Oregon the whole world becomes a bit surreal. The sky goes dark with smoke, the sun stares down at you in the form of a hazy red eye, and the whole population of Oregon struggles to catch their breath. To someone who had never experienced a fire season before (let alone known that it even existed), it’s like living on an alien planet–one where you’ve got to remember to roll your windows up, or else deal with the thin layer of soot that will inevitably coat every surface in your car. Since my last blog post, fire season had become bad, to say the least. Half a million acres burned in Oregon, and tons of people were forced to evacuate their homes, or simply left in order to escape the smoke. Most of my office was up and ready to help the district in any way possible–some were out fighting the fires firsthand, others worked behind the scenes to coordinate teams and create rehabilitation plans. For a few weeks, the office felt a bit like a ghost town. Luckily, we’ve experienced rain in the past few days, and it seems like fire season may finally be coming to an end.

The Horse Prairie Fire was one of the many fires blanketing Oregon in the past month that required the fire-expertise of the Roseburg BLM staff. Being among the few people in our office who didn’t yet have a “red card” (AKA the wildland firefighter certification), Mira and I weren’t able to be out near the actual fire; however, once the fire was contained and mop-up was well underway, we were granted the opportunity to shadow some of our coworkers as they drove across the charred landscape and worked together to create a rehabilitation plan. One thing that struck me about this experience was the intense amount of collaboration required for this project: botanists, geologists, hydrologists, and wildlife biologists alike united to plan the long process of restoring over 16,000 acres of land to its previous state. So many different views and things to consider! 

BLMers examining the landscape in the stylish uniform of wildland firefighters

An area that experienced more of the intense burning.

Somehow, the past month has felt like a rush to me. As the summer season has wound down, we’ve been working botany odd-jobs: flagging Kincaid’s lupine, mapping invasive species, and cleaning seeds. Intermixed with that, we’ve been shadowing a variety of different people in the office.

For instance, a couple weeks ago we helped the fish biologists with snorkel surveys. Our job was, essentially, to follow the biologists as we walked up stream and record data on the numbers of fish in each pool. As we worked our way upstream, we stopped at any pool that was greater than 0.4m in depth and longer than it was wide. The biologists then snorkeled the length of the pool (a truly impressive feat considering the depth and relatively high amount of things obstructing the stream), counting the numbers of coho and steelhead along the way. 

If you look closely, you can see a fish biologist

Why conduct these surveys, you may ask? Little Wolf Creek (where we had been recording data) was the recent site of a restoration project aimed at increasing spawning rates of steelhead and coho. Once upon a time, creeks like Little Wolf were completely dredged of obstructions (i.e., logs and boulders). The reason that this dramatic management practice was twofold: not only did this make it easier to float logs from timber harvest downstream, but it was also thought that anadromous fish species would prosper in “clean” streambeds, as it would allow them to migrate unimpeded. Years later, scientists discovered that this was, in fact, a horrible management practice for fish populations, which had been suffering over the past decades. It turned out that fish actually preferred more heavily obstructed streams, which provided more opportunity for the formation of pools with gravel streambeds necessary for spawning, more woody debris to feed the insects that fish preyed upon, and slowed the strong currents that would send young fish spiralling downstream. To make matters worse, without the trees and boulders that had once held them in place, streambanks were eroding and streambeds were washing away, exposing large swathes of bedrock that lay below. 

An example of unhealthy streambed–note how the bedrock is exposed

Now that overall knowledge of fish ecology has improved, biologists are taking steps to restore streams by “adding character” back into the streams. The process of restoring streams is long–though it’s relatively easy to add logs and boulders to a stream, it can take years for the streambed to build up–but progress is being made, step by step. It’s truly admirable.

I could talk at length about the variety of things I’ve learned from shadowing our awesome coworkers–but I’ll stop myself before this blog post starts to become too tedious. Instead, I’ll gift you guys with pictures of the cool fungus and lichen that I saw. 

Possibly Western Varnished Conk? I think it looks like bread.

Cute red lichen growing among moss


The ins and outs of BLM roads

Alright friends, here is where I am at.

Summer is officially over, and the blazing sun has now been traded with freezing rain. I’m an Arizona baby, so this new take on “cold” will definitely be interesting.

If you ever wondered what the government lets you do during your free time – well…it’s pretty much anything (that has to do with driving out to the middle of nowhere on BLM roads). Driving, driving, driving. All day everyday. To every far, reaching corner of the field office, and the Twin Falls District Field Office is enormous. Most days, I am driving out to scout and map out Wyoming Sagebrush sites for one last SOS harvest that’ll occur early November, and then on the other days, it is of course catching up in the office with all the data management and herbarium mounting that needs to occur.

As a tech/intern, it feels as though my job is to be the “eyes on the ground.” All of the monitoring and mapping has really shown to me that a large part of land management is simply keeping up with the land & making sure our data is up to date. Without a doubt, I can definitely see the importance of this, but not going to lie – some days – it is exhausting when the majority of your 10 hour days are spent driving in the car. So, with that said, I have come up with some handy dandy tips that I hope you find helpful.

The Ins and Outs of BLM Roads: A Survival Guide

  • Podcasts & Music: No brainer. I hope you/your coworkers enjoy the same taste and I am sincerely sorry if you don’t find any common ground. Honestly…sad violin playing for you.
  • Spark some interesting and deep conversations with your coworkers about life: YES. We are all thinking it. You worried about what you are doing with your life? Um. Who isn’t?  Plus, people in this field tend to be very very understanding, compassionate, and awesome people to talk to. This makes the time go by so fast, and always lifts some of that stress off of your chest. Do it. (*Side note: obviously use your best judgement when deciding if it would be appropriate to have this type of conversation with whomever is in the car).
  • Stop the car for anything. This is now a moving tour. There have been multiple occasions when I have been out in the field with my mentor or simply encouraged by her to check out something or a place in the field office simply because it was cool. Wildlife. Roadside botany. A strange looking thing that you thought was something else. You name it. The car can be stopped. You are in no hurry. Stretch out your legs and be curious. Or be like me – and just enjoy the view.
  • 4 WHEEL DRIVE ROADS CANNOT BE TRUSTED – Take at your own risk or better yet find the guru in the office that miraculously knows every dirt road like the back of their hand. And, if you’re already out there – make sure you still have plenty of time – just in case you have to turn around. But really, who wants to do that? So go forth only if you have 100% confidence!
  • Straddle the rut or divet in the road. Pro tip.
  • BLM roads are like a labyrinth & once you go deeper – prepare yourself -because it is an abyss!

Well, if you ever find yourself in this situation. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Happy driving fellow CBGs 🙂

In mid-September, I was able to reunite with my partner in Telluride, CO to enjoy the Brews and Blues Festival 🙂 So grateful to have an internship opportunity that allows me to still have these experiences!

Eclipse backpacking trip to Hyndman’s Peak in Sun Valley, Idaho. Hiked to the 12k summit for the totality – one of my best experiences this summer!




“0 Hours Remaining”

It’s surreal to see “0 hours remaining” in my time sheet submission box.  I have been reading old blogs and reflecting on my experience, noting that the reader is a different person than the author was.  I scrutinize my writing as a better scientist now and ask questions that I didn’t know to ask before.  Granted I’m just now approaching the learning curve here in my final weeks as an intern, (I guess that’s normal for seasonal work).  So much to learn!

I started out so ambitious and motivated.  I was keying out a plant a day in my spare time, researching on my time off.  By the end of June, it dawned on my that most BLM offices are below 7500 ft. in the western deserts of the country, things I knew but didn’t really consider.  It’s hot out there!  I learned the importance of taking personal time seriously, cooling off, chilling out.  Four, ten-hour shifts are enough time spent practicing your trade.

I feel very lucky in the sense that my work here has been so varied.  I have touched every aspect of the scientific process including data collection, data entry, and data analysis.  I’ve accomplished this using various tools: maps, gps, ArcMap, excel, access, and Avenza, to name a few.  We have performed at least half a dozen different types of monitoring techniques on a regular basis. I’ve learned very applicable skills and also very practical things, like how to dress and prepare properly while working in the field, how much water to bring to work, and the beauty of large brimmed goofy hats.

My favorite part of this work is watching all the components come together.  Lately, we have been working on the big cactus project with Sclerocactus glaucus, the Colorado Hookless Cactus.  In short, there is hopes to de-list this species.  My job was to compile the geospatial data from 3 field offices and the Colorado Natural Heritage Program in ArcMap.  The GIS specialist and I spent nearly a month fine tuning this data so we could get it down to one workable layer.  Through this experience, (by which an entire blog could be written) I went from having no knowledge base in ArcMap to being semi-competent with it.

When we were finally able to pull a random sample, we got to actually go out in the field and put it to work.  Last week we went out to do point-in-time monitoring with Carol Dawson and her crew from the state office, and the ladies from the Grand Junction Field Office.  I spend my time in the office looking at the old data, finding the best numbers and dates to determine which point we will visit next.  It is incredible.  I am being challenged and having so much fun.

One recommendation that I will abide by next season is to JOURNAL EVERY DAY!!! I have done so many  things this season that I have forgotten.  Especially these big projects need to be documented on a daily basis.  I will be religious about this in the future.

I already can’t wait for next season.  I have so much to build on the knowledge base I’ve acquired here at the Uncompahgre Field Office.  I’m leaving with a fresh feeling of just getting started, which is more than I could’ve asked for.  My experience with CLM has been PRICELESS.  THANK YOU!


Sclerocactus glaucus, “the most expensive easter egg hunt in the world”

Sunset over Crawford, Gunnison Sage Grouse habitat

Carol Dawson, Phil Krenning, Robyn Oster, and My Finger, easter-egg (cactus) hunting in a rocky patch of opuntia


Misty Sanone

Uncompahgre Field Office

Montrose, CO





Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation of the Heart


The last month or so has consisted of me and two other fuels botany techs working on three five year emergency stabilization and rehabilitation (ESR) qualitative monitoring reports. Over this period of time we have traveled to some far reaching parts of the Jarbidge and Shoshone Field Offices to perform qualitative monitoring of fuels treatments. Qualitative monitoring looks more or less like what the fuels monitoring protocols are but sped up and straight to business. What does this area look like? How has the vegetation treatment established? What are the top forbs, grasses and shrubs? What is the effect of disturbance on the treatments? Rapid fire qualitative data scribbles in 90 degree heat, then driving for hours, mix and repeat.

We have been having many partial office days compiling the data, creating GIS maps of fire perimeters and seeding treatments, delineating if a site has ‘good’ or ‘moderate’ success, captioning photos, looking up precipitation data for the last five years and attempting to use the proper and unbiased wording to describe cheat grass cover. It has been interesting to use my degree and analyze data as opposed to being the fuels monitoring robot. It feels comprehensive to see where the data we collect goes, how its packaged and how it impacts management plans moving forward. It has made me look at the post fire landscape a lot differently and peaked my interest in fire ecology and post fire rehabilitation. It has forced me to reflect on the entirety of my experience in Idaho, specifically working in the Twin Falls District.

A herd of antelope looking confused in a burned area of the district like a CBG trying to figure out what to do next…..

Work truck aesthetic….

I would be lying if I didn’t say it was extremely difficult to be here, socially, emotionally, and even physically my skin has dried up and my hair falls flat and my office place fashion is often uninspired. Southern Idaho is ripe with conservative principles and some uncomfortable social norms and this culture unfortunately persists into the work place. It has been difficult coming from the west coast and trying to be a fly on the wall here, and at times it has been distracting to the work and learning I came here for. However, I have gained a lot of vital professional skills that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, seriously though, Krissa told me once, “you will have workplace disasters for the rest of your life, get used to it” and this has been the single most important piece of advice while being a seasonal transplant, get used to being uncomfortable. I have all of Idaho to thank me for these invaluable lessons really, lessons I am thankful to have learned early on in my botanical career.

It goes without fail to mention that there have been many rewarding experiences. The learning I have done here is insurmountable. I have gained an incredible amount of technical skills in both the field and the office, increased my botanical prowess, taken the botany intensive of my dreams and driven four wheel drive trucks more than I ever imagined. It has also been nice to have been so encouraged to take advantage of the immense wilderness out here. I have been fortunate enough to have a crew of west coast botany tech friends to meet up with and regularly camp and backpack around the inter-mountain west, we have had some really breath-taking adventures in the Sawtooths, Salmon, Western Montana, Yellowstone, Northern Nevada, around Salt Lake and more. These weekend experiences made living and working in such a foreign place all the more managable.

And now at the end of the position I feel a hint of somberness for leaving. Despite the genuine roughness of place in Southern Idaho, I have had really positive mentorship from my mentor Danelle and many other strong inspiring women in the fire offices within the district. Bearing witness to the female strength that carries this district in both the natural resources and fire side of land management has been inspiring. I find myself letting go of the idea that I will get the job of my dreams and leaning into the idea that I want to prioritize learning more, to get red-carded, work with prescribed burns, apply to grad school, read systematics articles, write out angiosperm phylogeny, study on my own more, and key key key.  This feeling is often overshadowed by the bleakness that is moving and transitioning away from the security that a home and a job provides, but get used to being uncomfortable right?

So long and farewell Twin Falls…