Oh the Knowledge You’ll Know! (And Places You’ll Go!)

There were numerous times this season, looking upon the vast mountain ranges of Oregon, I stopped and asked myself how did I get here? I’m so thankful that one cold winter day in Upstate NY I found the CLM internship in an my colleges job listings and months later I ended up on the other side of the country; What a dream it has been!

I am always amazed with the infinite knowledge in science, it is exciting but often overwhelming! Before coming here I was intimidated by learning the flora of a whole new place but week by week I was piecing together the species of the region.

I had the pleasure to take a few classes this summer and am proud of the knowledge I accumulated. I took a botanical drawing course, expanding my botanical terminology and observation skills. I also attended a Graminoids course, trying to grasp the minute parts, microscope skills and general ecological discrepancies. When I thought I had a grasp on most of the common species of the area I took a bryophyte class and was yet again astonished at the diversity of life, even on one small rock or tree bowl. There are over 400 species of moss in Oregon, I’m pleased to say I know 10-20 of the common ones!

Just being around people with a vast wealth of knowledge and passion really inspires me to try my best and I hope someday I can be that person for others.

Throughout the season I have created a small study book of plants I learned throughout the season. Packaging tape and index cards make a great little book to learn and review species. It has been incredibly helpful for me to learn the plants this way! It’s sort of like stamp collecting but more fun for botany nerds!

Apart from traditional botany knowledge I was able to help out in a variety of unique tasks. From rafting the Rogue river, driving a huge pick up truck on the scariest roads, building fences to protect endangered plants, entering stacks of contract data using ArcGIS ….to name a few. Botany careers are not all about the plants!!

I have grown immensely from this unique experiences and would 100% recommend this program to anyone – well anyone who doesn’t care if they get dirty, sweat in the blazing sun, hike miles to see rare plants and come home exhausted and sore; In my opinion, its absolutely worth it!

Thanks to everyone who has helped me on my journey! Especially my mentor Stacy (she’s awesome – couldn’t have asked for a better mentor) and crew Shannon and Andy – wouldn’t be as fun without you guys. Cant wait to see where I will be next season!

Sienna M

Grants Pass, OR BLM



Today is your day .

Your off to Great Places!

Your off and away!

You have brains in your head.

And feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself

Any direction you choose.

You’re on your own. And you know what you know.

And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.  –Dr.Suess

Winter falls on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

As the tiny amounts of water vapor in the air have begun to freeze and form wispy cloud-like blankets in the sky, I am reminded how much has changed over the past few months working in New Mexico. From the intense heat and crispy plants of the early summer to the sudden greenness of post-monsoon season, the high desert of NM is truly an ephemeral and magical place. I will never forget the smell of pinon burning and lightness of the air welcoming me to Santa Fe in June. While it seemed like just a temporary home when I first moved here from rural New Jersey, the beauty and diversity has grown on me and pulled me into wanting to stay. New Mexico really is the “Land of Entrapment”.

Thrown into a dust devil of meeting new people, leading an important rare plant monitoring project for the BLM, endless exploring, and taking on new hobbies, my CLM internship has been nothing but an exciting learning experience. Who knew you could fit climbing, alpine running, dancing, birding, cooking with green chile, soaking in a hot spring, and work in one week? Looking back at myself before moving out west, I’ve realized the amount of personal growth that has occurred. Despite being naturally shy and reserved, I’ve definitely become more outgoing and overall just more stoked about life. I can attribute this to the wonderful people and opportunities I’ve been surrounded by at work and in Santa Fe, but also the massive change of moving across the country by myself (and maybe the high elevation).

Even though I worked on rare plant conservation for a couple years back home, I had never thought I would be applying almost every single thing I’ve learned in school and in the field. I’ve utilized everything from putting on my “rare plant goggles” to spot plants to countless hours in Excel spreadsheets to writing code in R and analyzing GIS data. Tasked with designing and installing demographic trend monitoring for a variety of imperiled rare plants has been both challenging and rewarding. The realization that our efforts and dedication are the start of a long-term monitoring study, and may influence decisions that aid in slowing the disappearance of an entire species, was very fulfilling.

Working for a federal land agency has also been a huge shift from the realm of private, state, and research-based management back east. I’ve grown to enjoy the challenges of multi-use land management as it makes every decision more thought-provoking. Something as simple as choosing between aluminum or plastic plant tags becomes complex when you consider the abundance of curious corvids, hungry rabbits, and cattle. In addition, designing protocols and presenting at conferences has made me more in tune with effective scientific communication. Many people may not know what belt transects or phenology or matrix models are, but these can be easily explained if we as scientists truly understand their meaning. It is always difficult to express the importance of preserving rare species as their role may not seem as important as those which are more common. But if we look at the role of a single human, whose impacts and connections spread far beyond what we can observe, is this really that different than a single, unique, rare plant species?

One of my goals going into this internship was to narrow down my interests in the field of ecology. I’ve realized that I’m becoming increasingly more curious about how management affects plant communities and the cascade of effects this has on other ecological communities through the disruption of food sources and habitat structure. While the idea of exploring this question in greater detail sounds very appealing, I’m not sure I’m quite ready or equipped to undertake that venture just yet. Accepting the CLM internship, and all that has come with it, has been by far one of the most influential decisions on my life.

A wonder of nature in Chiricahua National Monument, AZ.

On the way to Sandia Crest