Considering Next Steps

I’m missing the field season these days. Although I feel lucky to have had my internship extended and the opportunity to further my knowledge of things like GIS and NEPA, it’s hard not to feel antsy after a summer of intense activity. Soon, the field office will begin planning for the 2018 field season, and I’ll begin to uproot my lifestyle and move on to the next one. My daydreams of wandering around Wyoming’s public lands will dwell as I zone out to aerial images from 1976 that need to be georeferenced.

The Thanksgiving holiday was a nice break. I traveled from Wyoming to the Pacific coast of Washington where I was reminded how dark canopies can make the forest floor, the smell of wet soil, and what precipitation feels like. Hiking in Deception Pass State Park reignited my interest in ecosystem diversity and forest ecology. I am now a firm believer in the importance of stepping away from your (temporary) home to gain some perspective. Although I’ve managed to travel a fair amount during my time in Wyoming, pushing yourself out of your element, or back into your element after stepping away for a while, serves as an excellent reminder that no matter where in the world you are, there’s still more world out there.

Viewpoint off a Washington beach in Deception Pass State Park.

Deception Pass State Park bridge.

In a few weeks, I’ll be off to new places. I’m not sure where yet. Reading some of the other CLM blog posts feels discouraging. Complaints of not finding another job to move on to or applying to graduate school as a result of not having other options seems all too common in environmental and botanical fields. I am also pondering the thought of graduate school, only to shrug and put the thought away. There are seasonal opportunities in warmer climates where plants continue to bloom through the winter, but it seems to be competitive for a full-time permanent position in a generation where people are arguably over-educated, a graduate degree might be necessary in this field. Please somebody correct me if I’m wrong.

Mission Accomplished!

Hey everyone,

It has been about 2 weeks since my internship officially ended. The last month was a whirlwind of data management.

Labeling bags of seed after a very successful day of collecting towards the end of the season

First we had data sheets to complete and enter onto Seinet, a regional herbarium database. We also had some remaining seed collections to send off for cleaning and storage.

Sorting seeds by collection before sending them off to Oregon to be cleaned

Then we had to mount all the plant samples associated with our seed collections, which was my favorite part. I loved trimming the plants, positioning them on the paper, and gluing them down to make a beautiful herbarium sheet.

Fallugia paradoxa herbarium sheet

Heterotheca villosa herbarium sheet

Once the herbarium sheets were done, we sent some off to the herbaria at the University of New Mexico and the Smithsonian. The remaining third, we kept for our own office. This process included a large chunk of time spent trying to track down FedEx boxes large enough to fit them, before realizing that we could use non FedEx boxes.

In addition we had to write up an end of the year report for the field season, summarizing our collections, challenges, and accomplishments.

We went above and beyond and even left several helpful guides for next year’s crew, including a guide to future collection sites, general tips for internship duties, and a phenology chart to show when seeds mature on different plant species in the Taos area.

After we had finished all our Seeds of Success duties, we undertook the big project of organizing the office herbarium, which was in complete disarray. We made folders for each family, and alphabetized them. The herbarium cabinets looked great after we finished!

The herbarium cabinet looked infinitely better after we organized the collection by plant family.

Overall, I’m glad that I did this internship. It was a good way to experience field work, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It was my first exposure to identifying herbaceous plants, since previously I had only taken a class on woody plant identification. I feel more confident about my ability to key plants and I’m definitely lot more familiar with the plants in the Taos area.

It was fun to be able to explore a new part of the country, and I enjoyed seeing various beautiful places. I really enjoyed the sub-culture of lifestyle medicine and healthy living in Taos.

Hiking up Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico, was one of my favorite things that I did while in Taos.

William’s Lake was one of my favorite places that I visited during my internship.

I was proud to have been part of such an important mission as an SOS intern. I take pride in the fact that what I did during the last five months will help make a tangible difference in the world. I’d like to thank my mentor Lillis Urban for her guidance and positivity. I’d especially like to thank my co-worker, who prefers to remain nameless, for her enthusiasm, vast amounts of plant knowledge, and patience with my occasional bouts of grumpiness. Without her, I would have been lost without someone to consult with and bounce ideas off. I was very fortunate to be paired with someone who complimented my weaknesses and benefited from my strengths.

Me with my mentor, Lillis Urban

As time passes, I will definitely miss things from my time in Taos. Lillis. The health food store, Cid’s, which I fell in love with. The farmer’s market. The mountains. The beautiful aspens. Taos left it’s mark on my heart, and I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon.

When it Rains…

There have been days when the sun has shone, ever bright and golden. Days when not a single cloud called the blue sky home. Days it seemed the temperatures could not possibly get any higher and the humidity and lower.

There have been evenings too. Naturally. Evenings when the sound of a cool breeze through the grass and the serenade of a nighttime choir were a nightly occurrence. Even more so, there were evenings it seemed that no “delta breeze” could ever cool the valley.

Those times have since passed. Being far from my northeastern home, it has been difficult to adapt to a climate where days are predictable. Having spent a few years in Syracuse, NY, I had grown accustomed to the chance that it could be sunny and 65, snowing and freezing, and raining torrentially all in a single week.

Summer (and most of Fall) in the Sacramento Valley left me pining for a change in weather from day-to-day. Something other than warm, sunny, and the occasional slight change in how breezy it was. October and November have so far fulfilled my wishes. We finally had our first few good bits of rain, which is a great help for our wetland management program and also rejuvenated my interest in staying here a little while longer. With the changing of seasons, I was fortunate enough to be granted a short extension. Now I will be around until the holidays, providing me an opportunity to gain more experience and to enjoy more time at the preserve with our feathered friends.

Lately, we have been in our last stages of our flood-up schedule. We just have a few more ponds to flood over the coming weeks before Christmas (typically the peak of waterfowl migration in the area). It is exciting to see all the birds utilizing the habitat we have worked so hard to manage. Learning the wetland system has been a truly interesting aspect of my internship. All the ponds are different in their own ways. In that way, managing them becomes a cooperative agreement between the manager and the wetland itself. In only a short time I feel as though I have begun to see and know some of these intricacies.

Living in provided housing on the preserve, I am lucky enough to fall asleep each night listening to the sounds of the birds that we work for. Almost like a “thank you”. They all have such unique calls and I am working to learn them.

My other major objective has been completing the installation of display panels and mounts in our visitor center. I hope that this will be my lasting contribution to the preserve. Something that I can come back to in 20 years and see. I’ll remember the process. How the walls were white and bare. How the first panel to go up was almost experimental and how it required some problem-solving to adjust. I’ll remember the wood ducks on their perch. The massive antlers from a local buck that died of old age. Hopefully, these things will be appreciated by many people to come.

I am looking to make the most of my time over the next few weeks. While I am looking forward to going home, I am beginning to process just how much the preserve and my experience here has meant to me.

One thing I won’t forget is the first rain after months without it. The rain brought me a fresh perspective and newfound appreciation for this place and my experiences here.

-Tyler Rose –

Cosumnes River Preserve


Tasting Tecnu: Lessons From Rash Face City

After a summer of jumping into fields of Toxicodendron my luck finally ran out and I’ve developed a poison ivy rash.  As unfortunate (and uncomfortable!) as this turn of events is, it has served to make me review the contents of my first aid kit as well as basic field prevention and risk management.  Hazards of the field can vary from the almost humorous to rather painful, and the past six months alone have seen hornet stings, ticks, turned ankles, tumbles into mud and water, and various sedge related lacerations.

The crew at SOS East have a running joke about Eu de Tecnu being our glamorous scent of choice and lunch seasoning of circumstance, but my time with the program has taught me a variety of useful practices to keep in my toolbox.  Here are some I’ve found most helpful.


  1. Cover it all up

Socks!  Leggings!  Leggings tucked into your socks! Pants on top of your leggings!  Shirt tucked into your pants!  Long sleeves at all times!  In keeping the time honored conservation practice of getting all my fieldwork clothes at the thrift store, I’ve also learned that a lack of holes is essential to maximizing the benefits of this arrangement.  Ticks, unfortunately, have no respect for the fact that you didn’t know that there was a hole in your flannel and that they really shouldn’t have crawled in and made themselves at home.  


  1. Wash as soon as possible

Cleanliness is next to godliness, but a good alcohol wash is at least a minor deity.  As difficult as it can be in the field, I’ve found that habitually cleaning my hands with a wipe or hand sanitizer during breaks and a generous helping of an outdoor cleanser over all exposed skin at the end of the day helps with minimizing the effects of any poisonous oils I might have picked up.  This especially helps on days we visit distant sites where several hours of driving stands between me and a good shower.  


  1. Know the contents of your medkit

2 butterfly bandages.  3 packages of gauze dressing.  3 antiseptic wipes.  200 mg of ibuprofen.  The medkit is just another quarter pound of weight in my backpack until the crucial thirty seconds when I really really need it.  There is a specific kind of panic associated with fumbling like a fool for a pair of tweezers you swear was around here somewhere while someone is crying on the ground next to you after running from a nest of hornets.  Minimizing the amount of foolish fumbling will save both you and them a lot of grief.  


  1. Be familiar with your body  

Knowing what my limits are and how my body feels when it’s healthy vs unhealthy has become essential as the seed collection season has become busier.  Is this the exhaustion I feel when I’m running on too little sleep or is this a sympton of Lyme disease?  Is this red itchy patch on my face a spider bite, the beginnings of an urushiol induced rash, or the questionable take-out I had last night?  Knowing how my body usually responds to certain stressors and what is unusual for it is a big help in monitoring my health – even when I don’t know what’s wrong immediately, just being aware that something is happening gives me enough of a heads up to look up potential causes and hit up a nearby pharmacy.  You know.  Just in case.  On a completely unrelated note, calamine lotion and I have become best friends.  


No workplace is without its occasional hazards.  CLM has given me amazing opportunities for growth in all sorts of areas and while this is a particularly painful lesson is unwelcome, the things I’ve learned from it will hopefully serve me well.  

So many beautiful spread sheets

In the last few weeks I have added 4 new rare plant photos to the walls of my cubicle, quality control checked at least 500 plant entries and just wrapped up a summary of the herbivory on our Sclerocactus plots!

Here is a photo of how my mind works in the office:

Like this

and this

and this

Working here in the Colorado State Office, I realized something pretty early on, there is a lot of data… a ton of data, many, much, mucho data. On top of it, it is often data that no one else has and it is therefore coveted. In order to ensure that this coveted data is accurate I had an idea that quality checking all of it would be a good way to get to understand and find interesting things to do with it. It is in fact, true, that you can find out a lot about data when you comb through it plant by plant, which has lead me to add transects to a plot that we had previously surveyed using a consensus method and has more recently allowed me to analyse the amount of herbivory on each Sclerocactus glaucus plots.

On one hand, looking over all that data is a little tedious, but on the other hand it is exciting to see all the work that has been done here and how it changed over time.I also enjoy seeing how people’s minds work, how the monitoring was first attempted and refined over time. Simple things like creating datasheets with the tags that were present on each site decreased the number of errors exponentially.

The best part of this internship for me (and a potential negative for our data) is that every year new people come to help out in the monitoring efforts. Not only does that provide our team with a much needed extra sets of hands but it also introduces different people to the work that we do. It excites me to think about the ways we can guide people’s minds to get the best results for us. Meaning that if we can figure out a way to encourage people in the direction of collecting accurate data, we could make scientists out of everyone! This is where social science and plant science mix! We, at this point in history, need people to collect information on plants, animals, insects etc. but not everyone knows that it is important to observe. For us, for example, it is important to know whether a plant died due to herbivory by a rodent, or say a human stepping on it (oops…). Hopefully we will continue to help people open their eyes to the interesting details of nature.

In breaks from all the data I also had the chance to bring in my microscope for some grass identification. Even though this was Brooke, the other intern’s job, I was also able to put in my two cents. Although only a few spikelets shot from under my dissecting tweezers, it still took us a minute to figure out this pretty common Trisetum spicatum. But no time is ever lost on the quest for understanding grasses, so I had a fun time doing it.

The year is, as of now, coming to an end and things are wrapping up. I am excited with the species summaries that Carol and Phil are working on this winter and will be interested in hearing the updates on what is happening in the rare plant world of Colorado.

Ouuu lemma and palea and glumes

Until next time,




All Good Things Must Come to an End

Farewells can be difficult, especially when you’ve enjoyed yourself so much. The end to my CBG internship in Lander, WY is bittersweet. I remember driving to Lander from Iowa. Approaching the mountains was exhilarating. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself moving to a place next to the mountains. The breathtaking views were indescribable and I will greatly miss them.

During the last few weeks of my internship, I spent time doing a variety of projects. My partner and I spent countless days letting down a fence to aid in elk migration. We also got to assist with two sage projects: a reclamation on Green Mountain and a restoration at Castle Gardens.

Reflecting back on my CBG internship, I never would have thought I would gain so much knowledge. Coming from a tallgrass prairie to sagebrush steppe was both intimidating and exciting. Exciting when I could actually recognize some plants from my time in central Nebraska and encouraging when I started recognizing plants that I had just learned. Though the short green season made identifying plants hard once they browned (literally everything just looked like dead grass haha).

I now leave Lander (for the most part) with a sense of accomplishment. I’ve learned so many new things, both from my mentor and from the CBG conference. I will miss working in the BLM office but I hope to return someday to visit or work.

Until next time,

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

And then there was one…

Well, what began as a group of six original CBG interns at the Lander Field Office in Wyoming has dwindled down to single ol’ me (luckily Gwen, our co-worker who started out with the Great Basin Institute was recently hired on through CBG and I am not without a field buddy). It has been an awesome summer getting to know my fellow interns who hail from all over the country. Along with our adventures in the field, we all shared a penchant for Thai food, “Just Dance,” and movie nights, all of which I will miss!
We have been having surprisingly nice weather in this part of Wyoming, with a taste of snow that only lasted for a couple days. The cold and clear days mean that the last month has still been full of field projects. Some last cow scouting was done to make sure there were no stragglers left behind and with our riparian monitoring mostly finished we became jack-of-all-trades interns, working on sagebrush planting, fence mending, and even some sheep tracking. My biggest task for the next week is to mark an approx. 8 mile fence with sage grouse clips to make it more visible for grouse and other wildlife this winter.
Another project that I recently started working on is a template for an Environmental Assessment that looks at the potential impacts of a proposed conifer removal project. I have learned a ton about the NEPA process and was excited to be brought in on a more policy oriented project for the BLM which will also lend itself to a future career in environmental consulting.
It is bittersweet to be facing my last couple weeks as a CLM intern but I’m happy to be kept busy until the very end. Until next time…

– Coli
Lander Field Office
Lander, Wyoming

Farewell Carson

Goodbyes are difficult. New beginnings are exhilarating. The conclusion of a wonderful internship experience with the CLM program is indescribably bittersweet.

I believe it was yesterday when I rolled into Carson City, Nevada after a 32 hour drive from Lexington, Kentucky. The snow-capped mountains and the vast oceans of sagebrush were surreal to me. The realization that I would be spending the next ten months here had yet to set in. Now, those ten months have past, the last page of the chapter turned.

Generally, I am not the luckiest person in the world. I don’t win at monopoly. Nine times out of ten if I call a coin flip, I lose. I know, I know. 50/50 odds, but sometimes, thats just the way the cookie crumbles. However, I hit the jackpot when I landed this internship. I was able to  experience the Great Basin, the Sierras, and Lake Tahoe and I had a stellar group of co-interns to put the icing on the top.

Last sunset at Lake Tahoe

Now that my days in Carson are over, I realize that accepting a CLM internship was one of the best decision of my life. For the first time, I was able to move away from home, experience a side of the U.S. I had never seen, and work in an environment that I was totally unfamiliar with. I now leave Carson with a sense of accomplishment, with friendships that will last a lifetime and a new appreciation for life.

“…There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of The Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.”




Every Field Season Must End

Like every field season, 2017 is coming to an end. As I found myself in the midst of cool fall air, crunchy leaves under my feet, and spontaneous Colorado snow, I was still blessed with a few cool season SOS collections before packing my plant press away for the winter.

Garden Park, Marsh Quarry Trail, just north of Canon City. The landscape is riddled with Boulteloua gracilis and Bouteloua curtipendula, both of which I collected for Seeds of Success. Photo: B. Palmer

Bouteloua gracilis is quite possibly the easiest grass to identify, thanks to its one-sided rachis! Thus, probably making it one of my favorite grasses. I was able to make three separate B. gracilis collections before the season ended. Photo: B. Palmer

We also spent one of our last field days on a day trip up to Walden, CO, a three-hour drive from the State Office, not for seed collecting, but to install moisture sensors. My mentor had ordered soil moisture sensors/probes to have installed for one of the species the BLM monitors, the federally endangered Phacelia formosula, North Park phacelia. Of all the species we have monitored this summer, this is one that has really taken a downward spiral – we hardly saw any while we were there earlier in the summer. We are hoping that keeping track of the soil moisture content of the different areas will help explain the mysterious disappearance of the little rare and endangered North Park phacelia. So we installed these soil moisture sensors at the five sites that are monitored, because collecting a little more data couldn’t hurt!

CLM intern Taryn Contento is digging a hole in the semi-frozen ground of mid-October, where the sensors were eventually inserted into the ground. Taryn did most of the digging, I did most of the recording! Probes were set at 6″ and 12″ below ground, and buried with the console just outside each Phacelia formosula plot, which will record the data of the sensors over the year, until checked up on. Photo: B. Palmer

The HOBO soil moisture sensor equipment. The heavy-duty plastic box contains the console recording the data, and sitting on top of it is one of two soil moisture probes that goes with each unit. Photo: B. Palmer

But with the end of all field seasons follows the office work that got put off during that season. All important and crucial of course, but easy to put aside when you could enjoy a beautiful day outside in the field instead. However, because it is getting more brisk, I find myself enjoying a hot drink at my computer in my cubicle more and more…that is, with small walking breaks up and down the stairs every once in a while, since the sedentary lifestyle is obviously not for me on a full-time basis.

I have spent a lot of time preparing things for the next season, and identifying plants I have pressed and brought back to the office. Over two months ago, our crew worked on Modified Whittiker plots, species diversity plots that are associated with T&E work of Eutrema penlandii, an uncommon endemic to the Mosquito Range of the Southern Rockies. These plots are set up near areas we monitor for E. penlandii, and we try to determine all the species found within a given area to see how the plant diversity/richness changes over time. We then keep a record of the species found, and update the record in the form of a book of alpine plants in that range to use in future years. For things we could not identify while in the field, we took voucher specimens to look at later…and lo, it is now later! The difficult ones consisted of plants from the Asteraceae, grasses, sedges, and Drabas. The task was tedious and daunting (though not impossible), at least at first, because our office does not have a dissecting scope. Crazy, right? Thankfully, the other CLM intern that is also working in the Colorado State Office, Taryn, was willing to bring in her scope to the office to let me use! And my, how things changed once I got to use that dissecting scope, and I flew through the dichotomous keys with ease. I forgot how fun it is to key things out…when you know the terminology, and can see the parts, from the depths of plant identification, all the sudden everything becomes clear!

Using the dissecting scope, I was able to get a good look of the 2mm long peryginia, and easily determine this sedge to be the uncommon Western single-spike sedge, Carex scirpoidea ssp. pseudoscirpoidea! Woo! Photo: B. Palmer

I have also stayed busy enough wrapping up the Seeds of Success paperwork. Editing and entering data forms, writing the annual report, downloading collection pictures, and making herbarium voucher labels are all a part of end-of season wrap-up. I even started an extensive Target list for the 2018 CLM intern (you lucky dog, you!) to hopefully make the their life easier when it comes to scouting for plant populations. As an intern that may not have had all the experience in the world when I first started, I would have found it helpful to have a little more information about areas to scout for SOS when I started. For those of you that don’t know Colorado very well, we have an extensive range of ecoregions and zones within a small portion of the state. So I decided to enhance next year’s target list, so that maybe whoever is in my shoes next year can have a better idea of how to plan their summer. I made the list to include: interested species, phenology, habitat, and general areas of where one would typically find them, based on the BLM field office and associated counties. No one should have problems finding populations next year! I hope. That is, as long as it isn’t too far a drive for them.

Any person meant to be in the field may often feel the balls and chains of office work dragging them down, but I decided to break it up this past week with a trip to the University of Colorado Boulder. When looking at the list of regional herbaria to send my SOS vouchers to, I decided to go with CU because (1) I went to CU for my undergraduate degree, so I was familiar with their herbarium; and (2) the curator of the COLO herbarium was my plant systematics professor…so I could show off the plant-pressing skills I learned from her when I was a student! So off I went to the CU herbarium, with CLM intern Taryn, to check out the COLO herbarium once again. Taryn had not seen this herbarium yet, so I thought it would be a treat to bring her along. Can you believe they have 560,000 specimens stored there?! I got to drop off my SOS specimens, and we got a wonderful tour of the herbarium. Can you think of a better way to spend an afternoon?

Penstemon osterhoutii specimen I expertly pressed for one of my collections that will consider the University of Colorado herbarium home for the next few hundred years. What an honor! Photo: B. Palmer

Like all things, my second year as a Conservation and Land Management intern is coming to an end. What a wonderful experience it has been! I was blessed to work outside, with a delightful, refreshing crew, in the clean mountain air of Colorado, practicing plant conservation and the other duties of a botanist. Being here in this internship has once again firmly established that this is a line of work I would love to do for many, many years to come.

A beautiful day and magnificent view from earlier in the season, from Mosquito Pass in the Southern Rocky Mountains. We live in a beautiful world, and need to preserve what we can! This has been one fantastic field season!

-Brooke Palmer, Colorado State Office, Lakewood, CO.

Switching Gears for an Ending Field Season


A lot has happened since I last blogged. The Taos area saw snow in the mountains in early October. It was a beautiful and saddening sight since the event signaled the end of the field season.

Snow could be seen in the Mountains in Early October from the Ute Mountian area

My coworker and I have been working diligently to finish our end of the season work. We have sent off the rest of our seed to bend, mounted our specimens, and finished the annual report. We have a couple of things left to do.

Coworker Organizing Herbarium Specimens

Our last field day was October 18th at San Antonio mountain. It was a glorious autumn day. We made two collections, Artemisia frigida and Ericameria nauseosa.

San Antonio Mt, New Mexico on a beautiful October day

Artemisia frigida collected on a beautiful October day at San Antonio Mt.

Last field day, pressing herbarium vouchers for Ericameria nauseosa.

Around mid-September, we attended the Native Plant Society of New Mexico conference. The conference was amazing! The presentations and field trips acquainted me with the rich history of the area, plants used by the prehistoric Pueblo people, and local research projects. My favorite part of the conference was the Paleoecology of Fort Burgwin field trip. The leader, Richard Ford, show us examples of how prehistoric Pueblo people controlled water flow, areas where houses used to exist, and a mulch garden with Liatris punctata. 

Cute Alpaca for your viewing pleasure! This adorable fuzzy creature is a resident of the Benson Ranch we visited during the Range Restoration Field Trip.