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,