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.

Sierras & Great Basin, V.

As the crisp weeks of fall in the Sierra roll on, I find myself reflecting on what a wonderful summer field season this internship has provided and look forward to adventures beyond CLM. Seed collections here at the Carson City BLM office are piling up as a new host of late season species go to seed. Sitting around 86 current collections, my team and I aim to knock out 14 more to hit our 100 collection goal within the last two weeks of our internship.

We are gearing up to make our last collections of Atriplex, Artemisia, Krascheninnikovia, Ericameria, and Chrysothamnus seed. These collections make up a set of species that flower in late summer and fruit in the fall. Luckily for us, chenopods, sage and rabbit brushes put on large amounts of easily collectible seed so these last several collections should go smoothly.  We are also in the process of the wrapping up the year with data entry into the SOS Data Portal, verifying and labelling herbarium vouchers, and writing annual reports.

Fall colors ft. Populus tremuloides

Earlier this month we had the amazing opportunity to attend a Rapid Vegetation Assessment/Relevé course at the Bodega Bay Marine Lab in California! Taking advantage of the trip to California, our team left early to explore San Francisco, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and Angel Island. The training course was held by the California Native Plant Society as an overview to the official protocol for RVA/Relevé  to determine the “Vegetation Type” of a stand. Vegetation types are used in mapping and designating conservation areas for critical habitat because they concisely describe vegetation communities and relevant ecosystem characteristics. The instructors were knowledgeable and made the course an enjoyable positive training!


I experienced so much more throughout my 9 months with the Carson City BLM than I ever imagined. From technical skills in plant identification and restoration ecology to ESR and NEPA work, the program exposed me to a range of work experience that will be extremely useful moving forward. Bittersweet goodbyes to the Great Basin and Sierras, but I’m confident that I’ll make it back soon. To all the future CLMers, good luck and enjoy!


Carson City District Office – BLM

Connor Kotte

Just Getting Started

While it seems that everyone else is packing it up and getting ready to leave, I’m only just beginning my time with CBG in Lander, WY as a Botany intern! Although I’ve been living in Lander for over a year, I’m new to CBG and will be hanging out until mid-January. I have to say, I’m pretty excited to see what CBG can teach me about my home. I’ve already learned about Wyoming’s rarest endangered plant, desert yellowhead (Yermo xanthocephalus), and have gotten a taste (and a smell) of our many varieties of sagebrush. I’ve also gotten to experience the joys of finding a bountiful seed set, the frustrations of searching endlessly for viable seed, and the cross-eyedness of trying to count tiny seeds only to sneeze and blow them all over the table. I’m enjoying the work though. I love getting lost in the meditative trance of collection, cleaning, and seeding. Despite the small frustrations, I find the process undeniably pleasant and I feel fortunate that we are able to have such great resources at our disposal! My last job working with seeds did not go as easily and is a stark comparison to the Seeds of Success (SOS) project I’ve been working on.

I came to Lander via Senegal, West Africa. I was stationed in Senegal for three years with the United States Peace Corps working as a sustainable agriculture extension agent. My job mostly consisted of consulting with farmers and working with local villages to create fruit orchards, community gardens, and improve sustainable cultivation practices. A large part of my job was also seed extension. The idea was to give improved seed varieties to farmers in exchange for them returning double the amount to me at the end of the year. The extra seed I received back would be given to other farmers to expand and grow the program. When I began my service, I had grandiose dreams of extending seeds across the region. I dreamt that my seed extension program would be so successful that it would evolve into a region wide seed collection effort in which, hand-in-hand, villages would skip into the African bush, collect seed, and together we would sow a new African forest, thus preventing desertification, increasing vital habitat, and increasing plant diversification across the country. It’s probably not a surprise that my big dreams did not come to fruition. In fact, in my first year of doing seed extension only half of the farmers I worked with returned seed to me. I spent hours collecting and cleaning seed by myself, only to have it blow away in a gust of wind, get eaten by insects, or in the off-chance that it actually made it to planting season, my new germinates would[delete] get eaten by merciless greedy goats. It seemed like so much work for such little gain. But the work was hard because I lacked resources. I wasn’t partnered with a government bureau. I didn’t have a car that could take me to remote areas where the best seed was. I didn’t even have a good pair of hand pruners. All this is to say, that I didn’t fail because I was a bad person, I failed because seed work can be hard. It’s hard to make a difference when one person is working by themselves.

The next year I clung to the farmers who had returned seed to me. They were my helpers and together we found more people who were interested in establishing a local seed bank. Although the seed program didn’t reach the region-wide scope I had envisioned, that year eighty percent of my farmers returned seed to me and they were excited to grow the program the next year. All of this opened my eyes to how important it is to work together on projects of this magnitude – it isn’t something that anyone can do alone. It takes a lot of people, and a lot of resources to collect and distribute that much seed.

And now I’m an SOS Botany intern tasked with collecting seeds to save and distribute for national reclamation projects. The great thing is, I’m not alone in this endeavor. I am one of many working on this momentous project. This is why I am so thrilled to be a part of this national effort as a CLM intern. Together, we really can make a difference.

-Gwen BLM, Lander Field Office

Gwen in 2015 creating seed bags to extend to farmers

Long leaf sage seed moments before sneezing it all over the table.


Another CBG Season Comes to an End

Well, my final days as a CBG intern at the Salt Lake Field Office have come and gone. Once I wrapped up the last of the collections and entered all the data, I had the chance to work on some side projects. One of these was to greatly spruce up the office herbarium. The old herbarium was contained in two old, fake wood cabinets that were literally falling apart. Every time I opened them, it seemed like a chunk of weird, spongy material fell out of the inside. One of the doors was completely off its hinges. There was hardly any space left either. By some miracle, we had enough room in the budget to order a shiny, new, and huge herbarium cabinet. What’s more, we were able to convince the powers that be to put it in the “intern bullpen” area so that next year all the seasonal teams can have access to it. The old herbarium was located in a part of the office that not many people visit and a majority of the office had no idea we even had an herbarium. Not anymore!

New herbarium cabinet with all specimens inside!

It was quite comical to hear everyone’s opinions of the new herbarium. Some people called it an eyesore. Others were very enthusiastic. The other herbarium side project was to digitize all the plant specimens in case some disaster happened or if someone wanted to do a quick look up of a species. This involved stamping and photographing every single specimen, which amounted to 1390 vouchers! Some were in horrible shape, some were very old, and then I got to add the ones I made this SOS field season in to the mix. It felt very satisfying to accomplish all that.

One of the vouchers I made from this year’s collections

During my very last week, I got the opportunity to help out the new wildlife biologist with a Bat Week presentation at a local elementary school. This turned out to be a cool experience and we were relieved to find that the kids were super attentive and willing to participate. Their curiosity was very refreshing! I’m sure the teachers enjoyed a break from their regular schedule as well.

Reflecting back on the entirety of this field season, I am proud of what I and my coworker accomplished. Despite some difficulty along the way, we surpassed our collection goals, camped in awesome places, and improved on many botany skills. Having a good coworker certainly makes or breaks a field season, so I felt really lucky to once again have an awesome field partner. It also helps to have a good mentor, and ours was definitely a great one, striking a good balance between being available when we needed guidance and also trusting us to get work done on our own(and not micro-managing!). Hopefully next year the communication between the various organizations doing seed collections will exist and that next year’s crew will have a less confusing time of things on that end.

As far as the next step in life goes, I am in a state of limbo. I definitely want to spend the winter in Utah and see how that goes. I’m conflicted as to weather to pursue other seasonal opportunities or try and get the elusive full-time job. This field can be frustrating at times, but I am determined to keep pursuing it at the moment. I can’t thank the CBG enough for giving me two amazing field seasons in two great locations, and for opening my eyes to all that the West has to offer!

So long Sagebrush, Shoshone, and Southern Idaho.

It is now my turn to say goodbye to Shoshone, Idaho. As everyone else has stated, this internship has flown by. But in hopes to truly appreciate and learn from the growth that I have experienced here – I am going to attempt to reflect on it all. Wish me luck.

The Adventures:

Looking back on my calendar from these past few months, I can confidently say that I’ve tried my best to explore the area as much as I could. Camping and road trips stacked up nearly every weekend. It would be an understatement to say that Southern Idaho is a beautiful and adventurous place. No doubt, if you are an outdoorsy individual, don’t overlook Shoshone. During the summertime, this area is truly a dream. A quick escape to forests, mountains, rivers, canyons, and so much more.

The 360 degree sunset on top Hyndman’s Peak (12,000 Ft) during the 2017 Eclipse.








The Internship:

I have already reflected a little bit about this in my most recent post, but to reiterate: for me, this CLM internship has provided me with extensive opportunity to immerse myself in government work culture, further develop my communication, project management, and problem-solving skills, and gain the valuable insight I needed to help me decide where and what I would like to do next and further down the road.

I’ve decided that after two seasons of fieldwork – first with the Forest Service and then this summer with the BLM -I do not want to continue working in ecological research and instead, I am going to navigate towards community outreach and development work. This doesn’t at all mean that I did not enjoy my internship this summer. It simply shows that I’ve been able to learn more about myself. I have had the problem of having too many interests. I love the environmental field, but there are so many things you can do! So yes – I’ve had a hard time figuring out what I like, but with every new opportunity (especially seasonal work), you are given the chance to explore your interests, and really narrow it down. And, even though, I am going to be going in a different direction – I stand very confidently as a candidate, knowing I have this experience to speak of.

Communication. Time Management. Project management. Reliability.
 Willingness to take the Initiative. Independent and Team Worker.

Just to name a few – these are skills I strengthened this summer, and they are all extremely valuable in any field. For a future employer, I can not only emphasize that I have these skills, but I have a personal/unique experience and reference that I may use to back it up. At the end of the day, even if you don’t 100% like what you are doing, you need to perform and accomplish the work that you were brought there to do. Employers are going to remember your attitude and willingness. Plus, nothing is ever permanent, and I’ve experienced way more good than bad days this summer. Life is all about learning and adapting, and for me, simply coming to sense with that, made this summer 110% worth it.


Overall Highlights:

Because looking back, calls for remembering all my favorite moments 🙂

  • Taking a chance and finding my housing through Craigslist – rooming with a complete stranger, and it turning out to be the best situation I could have ever gambled for. (My boyfriend did drive up with me to scope out the situation…so if you are going this route too.. do whatever you need to make you feel comfortable.)
  • Backpacking trip to Hyndman’s Peak in Sun Valley, Idaho to watch the totality from 12,000 ft.
  • Girls Goat Lake Backpacking Trip
  • 1st time rock climbing outside-  all the amazing places I got to climb around Twin Falls: City of Rocks, The Fins, The Basalt Channel in Shoshone, Boulderfest in Dierkes Lake
  • Stanley, Idaho camping trips
  • Grand Tetons and Yellowstone
  • Chicago for Training Workshop – This work trip allowed me to visit family in Chicago that I haven’t seen in years! I got to reunite with my cousins (for free!) and we went to the Blues Festival in the park (also a free event in the city!)
  • Boise – really awesome city that I would highly consider moving to
  • Rafting in Buhl
  • When my little sister and boyfriend flew out to visit me 🙂
  • Getting together with highschool friends in Ketchum (small world)

Thank you for the amazing opportunity CBG!

Thank you Danelle for your mentorship!!

Wishing all the best to all future CLM interns and all my fellow interns that I was so lucky to have worked with this summer.

Goodbye Shoshone, Sagebrush, and Southern Idaho. You’ve treated me well.


Update from the High Desert

It has been a while since I have posted, so I am going to try to make up for lost time.  Things have been fairly consistent over the course of the summer.  I have been doing juniper clearances for most of the summer, interspersed with with setting up bat detectors and a couple of days of building fences.  I got to explore some of the farthest reaches of the district in search of bats.  Along the windy dusty roads I drove my old chevy for the last time and broke in my new Ford-150.  Parting is such sweet sorrow, but I have gotten to like my new Ford F-150 with its new car smell and USB charging cord.

I have continued with my juniper clearances and have actually made great strides.  I managed to finish huge section that I was assigned over a year ago, only to be assigned to help design the next one.  No good deed goes unpunished eh?  Finishing this lifted a weight off my shoulder and now I can start doing small clearances on a project by project basis instead of having another massive workload hanging over my head.  Some highlights of the juniper clearances include walking miles down a slow babbling brook.  It was a beautiful warm fall day with the fall colors finally starting to come into their own along the river.  I finished all of the clearances I had in store and got to eat a relaxing lunch along the stream.  Other clearances have yielded numerous sheds (in this case mule deer antlers).  The best day I found three as you can see from the pictures below.  

Besides juniper clearances I have continued to deploy bat detectors.  This brought me out to the far reaches of the district and to some real beautiful hidden gems.  I also got to head out with some of the range staff to help construct a fence to protect a post-fire restoration area.  Although I am comfortable working with my hands and with tools, it was great to have the opportunity to go outside my comfort zone and tackle a new challenge and learn a new skill.  We quickly got things started with a nice flat section of fence that we finished quickly the first day.  The second day proved to be much more of a challenge as we were working down a steep hill.  We also had some technical difficulties which arose due to the very sandy soil.  IT ended up being a long exhausting day, but we managed to finish the fence up in the nick of time.  I really enjoyed my time with the range staff building fence as cross-training is always valuable and it was enriching to see another perspective on the problems that the Prineville office faces.  It was also a great break from the day to day grind and it is great to accomplish something tangible instead of completing a project with an immaterial or delayed result.

I currently am finishing up for this field season with a lot of time indoors both due to work load and to poor weather.  I am going to be headed home for the holidays for an extended period of time and cannot wait to spend time with my family.



Time to Move on

I moved to Baker City, OR at the end of April to begin my tenure as the Recreation Intern for the Bureau of Land Management’s Baker City field office.  As I made the final drive into Baker, passing through lush green canyons along the I-84 corridor before dropping down into the Baker Valley with the snowcapped Elkhorn Mountains serving as a backdrop, I couldn’t help but immediately fall in love with the place.  After spending the previous couple of months walking dogs on the gray, drizzly sidewalks of Chicago, the new job and new setting were a much needed tonic.  I was ready for anything this place would throw at me.

Or so I thought.  From driving on winding one-lane dirt roads cut into steep canyon sides, to spending days trying to perfect (or just accomplish) backing up a trailer, to the arid climate, difficulties steadily stacked on top of each other.  By the middle of July, I felt like I didn’t even have the energy to lift a dust-caked hand to wipe the sweat from my forehead.  Seeing as I spent most of my time driving and updating signboards, I was surprised by my creeping lethargy.  Most of my previous jobs had involved much more physical exertion, so why was all this driving wearing me out? (Upon reflection, it was probably some combination of sleeping on a couch for the first couple of months and spending almost every weekend camping/road tripping).

My job often felt like an extended Dodge Ram commercial.

As the season progressed, and as we passed the insanity that was the lead up to the Solar Eclipse, the season became easier.  I settled into a more consistent routine and got my much needed rest, allowing me to better appreciate my surroundings.  I began to study the landscape as I drove (since I drove over 10,000 miles this summer, I did a lot of studying), which turned that monotonous task into one of my favorite parts of my day.  Early morning mists rose from the agricultural fields, the dried grasses around them dyed a pale gray-pink by the rising sun; the Grande Ronde River snaking through the countryside, creating a winding oasis; the sagebrush adding subtle greens to the rolling brown hills.  Surrounded by so much beauty on a daily basis, it was hard not to love those solo drives.

Myself and my supervisor Kevin Hoskins at the end of a successful river patrol.

The Grande Ronde River in its autumnal splendor.

Now those drives come to an end.  The season is over, and it is time for me to move on to my next job, this time in Colorado.  I’ll make one last long drive to get there, and I’ll be sure to pay attention to the landscape as I go by.

Michael Messina
Recreation Intern
Bureau of Land Management – Baker City Field Office


All the leaves have fallen, as the snow returns to the mountaintops; my time here in Alaska has come to a close. It has been a pact summer of traveling, staying in the remote wilderness, native villages, and cabins all over Alaska. One does not truly get a sense of the seemingly endless amounts of wilderness until you are up here and in it. Alaska stands alone. I still struggle trying to conceptualize how all of this land can be managed in an appropriate and efficient manner. I guess, one aspect I have learned is that Alaska is allowed to be wild, in the sense that there is so much public land it is hard to evaluate and monitor every piece year after year. For many places, it requires extensive planning and resources to travel to monitor a spot for an extended period. Often times it includes taking planes, helicopters, boats, snow-machines, or ATVs to reach these areas. Consequently, with such low population density, fire regimes have been preserved, there are fewer invasive species (as of now), and human disturbance is minimal. This allows nature to hold on to its wild unique qualities and ecosystem dynamics, which has been lost in most places around the world.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time spent exploring and learning numerous ecosystems Alaska has to offer. Through this internship, I have been able to stretch my knowledge outside of just trees, too a multitude of plants, lichens, and mosses. Alaska has also provided some of the juiciest, delectable blue berries I have ever tasted, as well as a plethora of new berries to try including one of my favorites, the cloudberry. It has presented a ton of new opportunities to challenge myself, over come obstacles, and connect with some great people. Alaska has me constantly turning my head to look at the next mountain peak, constantly looking out the window for the next glimpse of wildlife, and constantly asking questions about the unique environmental attributes. I have cherished every moment serving as a conservation and land management intern up here, down to the last mosquito. Until next time Alaska.





As November approaches and my crew enters into month eight with the BLM in Grants Pass our field work is also coming to a close. We have weathered many conditions, survived dehydration, exhaustion, and sometimes repetitive mindnumbing tasks in the outdoors. We have spent countless hours in the car listening to music, podcasts, finding the best coffee shops to fuel our energy, nearly getting stuck navigating BLM “roads,” and figuring out how to turn our big red truck (clifford) around on such roads. We have learned many new plants, and forgotten some of them. We have gotten to know each other through the many hours we spend together, learning our lunch preferences, our guilty snacks, artist preferences, podcast opinions, significant other troubles, and of course we have figured out our goals, hopes and dreams. We have bonded over poison oak rashes, naps in the sun, office day boredom, and the frustrations of our Junos. We still have a few more weeks tying up loose ends and entering data, but I am grateful for the many months we spent outdoors exploring and learning.

Shout out to clifford, our big red truck monarch cocoon found when collecting asclepias fascicularis

Fall work days