Goodbye to the Center of the World

When I first came to Frazier Park, I was scared. It was two days after graduation, my first summer away from home, and my first time moving to a new place with no one that I knew. However, when I first stepped out of the car, smelt the Jeffery Pines ad fresh air, I knew it would be an amazing summer. I was right. This summer has been one of the best. I have made new friends, had amazing experiences, and made steps to conquering some personal fears.

Through this internship, I have realized that field work is amazing. Before, I knew I enjoyed being outside, but this summer allowed me to work outside for extended periods of time. Certain days, I was not sure if I could continue on. I was tired, sore, and hungry. But then just over the next ridge we would make an amazing discovery, and my energy would be restored. I have learned how to use a radio, which is much different than a walkie-talkie. I have become more familiar with GPS equipment. Best of all, I have improved my academic learning, and used it in hands on situations.

The Chumash used to call Mt. Pinos the “Center of the World,” and being here this summer, I completely understand what they meant. When standing at the top of the mountain, you can see for miles and miles in all directions. However, I do not believe the Chumash named the mountain just for its amazing view. While being in nature this summer, making collections and documenting locations, I felt at peace with the world. This may sound strange to come, but I believe the Chumash named this area the “Center of the World” because it brings a sense of calm to people, unlike anywhere else. I am very sad to be leaving this special place, but I am leaving thankful of the experiences and opportunities it has provided to me.

Exploring New Fields

This past month in the BLM office has been a lot of office work. Since collections have come to an end, I have getting the last bit of information wrapped up. With Seeds of Success out of the way, I have free time to help co-workers in extra work they might not have all that much time for. Many of my hours have been spent organizing the herbarium. The goal is to get our herbarium up on a symbiota so it can be found by fellow researchers who might be wanting to herbarium research in our area. This is a long and tedious process, since each herbarium specimen needs to be entering manually into the symbiota, but it sure does give me something to do.

Other extras I have had the chance to do is help out with the greenhouse. The greenhouse has been neglected for about 2 years now and getting it up and running again takes a lot of work. Special measures have to be done to ensure everything is sanitized and ready to use. We also get to do a education outreach with the greenhouse for 6th graders from the nearby elementary school every other week. This is a good experience because it gives me skills in working with children and education.

Mussel surveys have been another task that filled my spare time. This was a nice change from other tasks I have been doing. The surveys would of been a great thing to do when Redding temperatures were out of control, but it was still cool to wade in the cool water and count native fresh water mussels that were fastened to the stream floor.

With one more week to go in my internship my emotions are feeling scrambled. I am excited to take my new found skills and apply them to other jobs in the future, but am also scared to leave the secure feeling I have here. I have made friends and I like my co-workers; I will be sad to leave them. Life will go on though and I am eager to see what comes next.


-Amanda, Redding BLM Field Office

Water Work

Summer has drawn to a close and the focus of my work here at Cosumnes River Preserve has shifted slightly. While I am still involved in a wide variety of tasks from day-to-day, lately my time has been spent working in our wetlands and learning the wetland management system that is used here. With the guidance of our wildlife biologists, I have slowly but surely been learning the ins and outs of providing good habitat for the over-wintering waterfowl that we and the public love to see at the preserve.

As a wetland preserve with numerous ponds, tasks begin with first knowing what ponds need to be flooded up, the date on which they are to be flooded, and any work that needs to be done to the ponds prior to their flooding. Earlier on in the summer I was tasked with collecting GPS data points for the infrastructure of the ponds. This has turned out to be a critical learning opportunity for me because knowing the ponds (their location, design, and infrastructure) is, not surprisingly, absolutely necessary for managing the system.

Once any work has been done (mowing weeds down, moving soil around, treating invasives, etc.–essentially the focus of our work this summer), we then proceed to put boards into our water control structures. These water control structures basically act as mini dams to keep water in or let it out as we deem fit. After checking all of the valves to see if they are in their appropriate state (open/closed) for the task at hand, we turn on our pumps to flood the ponds. This is done much the way irrigated pasture or rice fields are done in the area. In fact, as a preserve with farmers practicing wildlife-friendly agriculture, they use the same system for maintaining their organic rice fields.

Due to an array of factors such as size, depth, valve output, etc., each pond takes a different amount of time to flood up. As a beginner, this would be troublesome. However, I have well-experienced co-workers who have been teaching the system and know very closely how much time it takes to fill these ponds.

Each day I have been going out to monitor the ponds for depth and bird usage to ensure we are providing the habitat we wish to be providing. With only basic familiarity with the waterfowl, this has been extremely helpful for letting me practice my on-the-fly counting skills and my bird ID skills. 

On an quite exciting note, the Sandhill cranes have finally arrived at the preserve. As our “superstar” birds, this is an exciting development and it has definitely increased the amount of visitor we have been receiving. One thing I have learned is that some people really, really love birds.

I have been challenged every day to learn something new and I have been really enjoying the focus of my recent work. With a little over a month left, it is hard to believe that my experience here is almost up. Each day I continue to do my best to get the most out of this great opportunity and am very thankful for it.

Until next time,

Tyler Rose

Cosumnes River Preserve

Sandhill cranes utilizing a managed wetland pond.

More Sandhill cranes

In the Archives

Settling down to more office days here at the Uncompahgre Field Office. Been working on an exciting project with the Gunnison Sage Grouse, (GSG) Habitat Assessment Framework (HAF) data from 2004-present. Things are finally coming to a head with all this work; it’s a great time to be here and watch the numbers unfold.

Recent weeks, (minus the workshop in Chicago) have been spent in GSG breeding grounds on the north rim of the black canyon, where all the vegetation data has been collected since ’04. My partner and I spent 3 days driving around, scouting out transects, throwing down lines. We decided to camp a night to save time, we slept right next to the transect we’d do in the morning. We’d first run a line-point intercept for 100 points on a 50 meter transect, then a forb belt, and finally a line intercept to determine shrub cover. We did 15 of these at around an hour each.  Most transects were miles apart by driving and/or by foot.

The pain in the neck from data entry is compensated for by the work that comes after: comparing the data to last years, last decades, and comparing one to the other.  I wasn’t aware while in the field that we were specifically located in randomly selected plots within a polygon of high-use for GSG.  High-use areas were determined by a group of USGS scientists that tagged 12 grouse and tracked their location from 2010-2015.

My mentor had an abundance of data from 2004-06 (collected by his predecessor), and his personal work from 2013-present.  Now we had large enough sample size within these high-use areas to make statistically significant comparisons to high and low use areas in terms of, (most importantly) sage cover.  My job was to mine the habitat inventory data from 2004-2006 in Microsoft Access so that we could begin comparing the data sets.  We soon realized that there was no category for sage cover in this old data, (which is weird because it’s the most important thing).  We found ourselves in a bind that has turned into a sort of scientific historical detective story.

The only way to determine sage cover from 2004-2006 was to find the hard copies and hope for the best.  The archives at the BLM are full of research, books, manuals, newspaper clippings, unfinished projects and very significant work over the last 50 years or so.  Among these, for example were stacks of peregrine falcon research; information on habitat, monitoring, and de-listing.  It was daunting to believe we would find the hard copies, but we did.  I was a kid in a candy store.  I even found a flora by Arthur Holmgren from 1948 of the Northern Wasatch, my home.

The data sheets were complex and used a sampling method unfamiliar to both my mentor and I.  The method to determine cover was called the Bitterlich method, which uses laws of proportionality as a shortcut to extrapolate cover, (often used for tree cover).  After researching this method, I realized that it was unlikely that these researchers actually used this method for sage cover, because they reported a range of values, (1-5%; 6-25%, etc.) whereas Bitterlich yields a specific percentage.  I was stumped.

Curiosity, however got the best of me.  I found the midpoints of each range for sage cover and compared the means with those of the 2012-2015 HAF transects within 75 meters of each other in ArcMap.  There was a trend of decreasing sage cover from then to now.  At this point we had to know if we could compare the two data sets in any way.

I ran across a name in the data sheets that looked familiar.  We could find this woman and ask her exactly how they determined those ranges for sage cover.  I went down a rabbit hole…

And this is where I stopped writing this blog, months ago.  Now it is my last day as a CLM intern as I read this reflectively.  It is so important to write this stuff down!  There are many details I had forgotten about this project.  This is how it ended:

Missy R., (the familiar lady on the data sheets) talked to me for nearly 30 minutes about her work all those years ago.  She confirmed that there was nothing resembling the tools used for Bitterlich in their monitoring.  Rather, cover was determined by a sort of rough visual estimation.  She recommended I have coffee with the retired BLM biologist, Jim Fergusson.  I was ready and willing to do that but at this point we had more important things to do.  If I come back in the spring hopefully I’ll have another shot at this.

I absolutely love this aspect of the work I’m doing.  It’s so rewarding to see how all the components of these multi-faceted projects come together: the characters involved, the old data sheets, outdated techniques, archives, etc.

The end…?

Misty Sanone

Uncompahgre Field Office

Montrose, CO