Go With the Flow

This month has pretty much been all about larval collections. At 2:45 in the morning on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we arrive at the bridge up in Chiloquin that spans the Williamson River. We take our nets, tie them to the bridge, and let them fish the river for 20 minutes. Then we pull the nets, dump the fish into a small insulated bucket, and reset the net for another 20 minute fishing period. We do this for 4 sets and we are usually leaving the bridge right as the sun is starting to come up. After getting back to Gone Fishing we have to count out every single one. This part can get interesting on days when the catch is super high. The fish never seem to want to leave the bucket one at a time, so the whole process takes both focus and patience which can be a challenge at 7am when you have been up since 1:30. I have developed a habit of drinking a lot of coffee.
It’s been pretty suspenseful. The spawning is a little different each year so you never know the size or shape of the larval peak. The first week we didn’t catch anything. That was actually what we were hoping for because it meant we didn’t miss part of the window. On the other hand it was a little frustrating getting up at 1:30 in the morning with nothing but a 0 to show for it. On the 7th we caught our first larval sucker, on the 9th we caught 37 more, then the catch started exploding.
We have room at the gone fishing facility to stock 6000 juvenile suckers in the outdoor ponds. Accounting for larval mortality the goal is to collect 10000 larvae. The drift could be small or really short lived so during the beginning of the collections there is definitely an urge to collect as many as possible. Despite catching 922 on our third haul since catching anything we decided to add a third net just to be safe. This proved to be a little redundant once the catch per net went from 128 to 264. At this point we had already caught over 6000 fish and the catch was still going strong. We want to collect across the entire spawning period to avoid artificially selecting for early spawners, so we dialed it back to 2 nets and once we hit our target we actually released some of the larvae we collected on the high effort days. Right now we are still pulling in about 500 per day with 2 buckets. That’s far from the peak of 1700 so it seems we are winding down but you never know. There have been a couple false springs this year so we might have two peaks.

Starting Over

In the first week of my internship in Grand Junction Colorado I have found myself leaning new plants and their ecology. The flora here is unlike what I have experienced before and it manifests a diversity of organisms that is different depending on the ecoregion I find myself. The experience of learning the inhabitants of a space begins for me with becoming aware of them as individuals. From this point of view, it is important to identify organisms to their latin genus and species at some point, however this requires many hours of keying out plants and is secondary to an initial awareness of the variance of individuals present in a landscape. My goal is to reach the point that I previously experienced where there were few species that seemed new to me, and the ones I had come in contact with appeared familiar, while still unique.

Some of the ostensibly more exciting plants I have seen the past week were Astragalus linifolius and Skelerocatus glauca, both are considered endangered in Colorado. While surveying some trails for Sage Grouse Habitat a coworker and I stumbled upon at first an isolated A. linifolius, we then decided to do transects only to find that the area was scattered with many individuals. At this point we spent the following hours scouting and recording the gps coordinates of the edges of the population. While mapping this area I stumbled upon a single flowering S. glauca, and after this discovery we started to survey this area and found 6 other individual cacti! It was a rather exciting afternoon and that left me feeling accomplished, because both populations were previously unknown and represent a good sign for both species.

Western Regression

I almost cried when I saw the mountains again, I was so happy. Driving west from Chicago I wondered what my internship would be like at the BLM Colorado State Office in Denver, CO. Although I have spent a lot of time doing field work between undergrad and my graduate degrees, I had little experience with Rare Plant Monitoring, which is the focus of my internship.

The team searching for Oreocarya reveallii

Monday morning I met the team I will be working with and I remembered how amazing everyone is in this field. By Tuesday we were headed out to the four corners regions to monitor Oreocarya revealii, a fairly recently described species. It was exciting to read about all the research that informed our monitoring efforts, from genetic studies to research concerning edaphic habits. The methods used to understand this species were ones that I learned about in my graduate coursework, so I was quite pleased that the knowledge I gained in school was carrying over to work. While O. revealii is considered BLM Sensitive, it is still being determined whether it should be listed as threatened or perhaps even endangered. This is where our team’s efforts come in. By studying the demographics of the species over time, we can help inform the US Fish and Wildlife Service about how this plant is doing. Is the population increasing? Or decreasing? Or is it remaining stable? What threats might endanger the species and can these be abated?

My CLM Internship mentor Carol Dawson.

After spending a couple days with my mentor Carol, and the rest of the team, Phil and Sam, I know this will be an awesome summer. I am so happy to be able to work with such amazing people doing amazing work!

Walking back to the truck after completing a monitoring plot.

Klamath Falls Larval Hauls

Another month gone by in Klamath Falls:

To begin with, those of us working within the Sucker Assisted Rearing Program, based here at the Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife, have been busy collecting sucker larvae for rearing at our Gone Fishing Facility. This entails working a 2am-shift in which plankton nets are used to catch larval suckers as they drift downstream in the wee-hours of the morn. These larvae are small (about the length of a grain of long grain rice, more or less) and mostly transparent. Each plankton net is rigged with a flow meter so that we can get an idea of larval density as they float down the river into the shallow waters of the Upper Klamath Lake. Once the fish are caught, they are then transported to the rearing facility where they will be monitored, fed, and given treatments for disease and parasites. With some TLC, they will grow up big enough to be released into earthen grow-out ponds sometime around July.

In addition to this major component of the internship, there are some other activities that we have been involved in. Working on the rearing facility includes some construction, plumbing, and miscellaneous work. A typical day usually consists of caring for the larvae throughout the day and working on these tasks. Other sucker-related activities have been in the form of surveying for areas to collect eggs from the suckers, working to repair a pit tag array (used to detect movement of tagged suckers downstream), and going out with technicians from Oregon State University to track the radio-tagged suckers that we released last month. All of this has kept us busy.

However, we interns do not spend all of our time only working with the suckers. We have also been out surveying for Oregon spotted frog egg masses in the marshes around the lakes perimeter. This is a fun task that involves trudging through the marsh in waders while keeping your eyes peeled for the egg masses, which can sometimes be difficult to spot.

The past couple of months have passed by at what feels like a very rapid pace. There has been a lot to learn and there have been plenty of opportunities to get our hands dirty and do some real conservation work in the field.

Looking forward to the next few months.

Tyler Rose

CLM Intern

USFWS-KFFWO (Klamath Falls, OR)


Unusual Inhabitants

I’ve had a lot of interesting adventures over the past month. Guess what? I’m finished with Fritillaria surveys! I’ve gotta say, I do miss the thrill of trying to hunt down the species, but the fact that more often than not Fritillaria gentneri was not in the survey areas was starting to make me sad. It’s a rare species, which makes it unlikely that there would be any new populations, but still–I had this sort of fallacious mindset that I’d be finding rare plants every day. These surveys did have their cool moments though, despite the lack of rare plants. For instance, a few weeks ago I was surveying for F. gentneri and stumbled on a huge population of F. affinis!

On a survey after that I saw a Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) decked out in stunning turqouise hues. He got pretty angry when he saw me and did some pushups (which, as I’ve learned, is what lizards sometimes do to express male dominance) before scurrying off.

Later that week, I saw a gorgeous northwestern ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus occidentalis). The poor little critter was startled, but not enough to coil up and show off its characteristic orange underbelly.

On a different day, I was helping out with some flora site revisits in a different resource area and we got to meet an elephant (true story).

Over the past week, I’ve started up with a new task: invasive plant surveys. Out in the middle of the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area is the Box O Ranch, which was a ranch founded in the 80s and later abandoned in 2003. Due to its previous use the area is now a hotspot for invasive species, primarily yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis), sulfur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta), and Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense). Despite that, it remains to be one of the most beautiful views I’ve experienced during my time as an intern in Medford.

One of the weirdest things I saw out there was this–

At first glance, I was thoroughly confused. To me those brightly-colored, hairy dots looked like some sort of fruit or reproductive organ of a plant. Around me were about 30 other individual plants, each of which were covered in the things. But it was fairly obvious that the plants growing it was a Rosa species, and the mysterious thing attached to the plant looked nothing like an achene. On closer inspection, I saw that the dots were growing out of the leaves, and that almost all of the Rosa in the area had the thing growing off of it. I stared at them for a long time; I had never seen anything that looked like this.

Later on I had the chance to do some research. As it turns out, the thing growing off the plants is a gall created by Diplolepis bicolor, or the spiny rose gall wasp. As the name implies, the wasp specifically targets Rosa species, laying its eggs on the underside of the leaves. The larva then hatch and begin to eat the plant, stimulating the plant to create outgrowths in the form of red galls. The larva live in and are nourished by the spiny structures. More often than not, other insects take advantage of these galls by laying their own eggs inside and allowing their larva to eat the spiny rose gall wasp larva. Cool, right?

Until next time,


May flowers (and rain)

Hi, Rachael again.

I said bring on the April showers, not May showers!

Here at the C&O Canal, we’ve had enough rain to wash out culverts, roads, parts of the towpath, and cause landslides. Many of the popular trails near the river had been flooded, and were too dangerous to access. The power of a flood-motivated river is amazing, though! Whole trees tumbled downstream and you can’t help but watch water roar through what is usually a quiet run. We placed sandbags around one of the Visitor’s center, but thankfully the river crested at a lower level than anticipated.

Hopefully this weather takes a break soon, or else I won’t get to find those floodplain plants!

Although not a roaring flood, these silver maples are usually dry up on the riverbank

But it is spring, so let’s see what’s growing (other than puddles).

Early in May was the best time to spot trout lilies or fawn lilies (Erythronium spp.). The white trout lilies are rare here in Maryland.

I am trying not to be mad aboutmissing them in flower (seriously, there are records for where they grow throughout the park, and I found ABSOLUTELY NO E. albidum open). They are still identifiable by the stigma, style, and capsule, which I guess I can call a happy compromise (no beautiful white petals, but at least they didn’t hide from me).

Erythronium albidum; Notice the white style topped by a conspicuously three-pronged stigma

Close enough! E. albidum flower

Erythronium americanum has a yellow stigma and style. The stigma is not conspicuously three-pronged.

E. americanum

Easy enough, right? Until a seasoned botanist suggests there might be an occurrence of another species of Erythronium that hadn’t been recorded here. Honestly I spent hours pouring through various Floras and websites and poking at the patches of leaves and capsules until I decided to sleep on it. Species identification can get far more complex than it needs to be, especially since living things are not as cleanly defined as text from a page.

The other species of Erythronium also has a yellow style, but Erythronium umbilicatum, unlike E. americanum, does not have auricled petals. Many of the physical characteristics for these two species of Erythronium, such as capsule shape and anther color are variable, which makes telling them apart tricky. According to the regional botanist, the style on E. umbilicatum is not persistent, and therefore the trout lilies in question were probably not Erythronium umbilicatum.

Enough about flowers-without-flowers. I promise there some easy-on-the-eyes plants, because that’s what everyone raves about when they hear I’m a botanist. Oh!–the wildflowers!

Trilium erectum (yep, I had to put this one on Instagram)

While I’m at it, I’d like to appreciate the enthusiasm I’ve seen for the plants in this park. Not only from staff and members of a native plant society, but visitors that just want some exercise do want to hear that there is something worth protecting. It’s nice to see a community that cares about their strip of wildlife, and individuals who want to learn about their park.

Tradescantia virginiana – spiderwort

Let me interrupt the flower photos with a copperhead molting on the towpath

Podophyllum peltatum — all parts of mayapple is poisonous, unless the fruit is perfectly ripe.

Paw paw flowers, which, I’ve been told, are pollinated by flies

There is concern about the number of paw paw ‘trees’ growing in what should be successional forests, since other seedlings such as maples and hickories have a hard time competing with paw paw. Deer do not like to eat these guys, so there is no natural control. It is becoming increasingly difficult to have something with a taller canopy so the understory can develop, with the ash trees dying out from effects of the emerald ash borer, and no more american chestnut trees. After that meeting with the regional inventory and monitoring team, I realized that I am not just learning about protecting rare plants here, but how to keep the forests healthy for future inhabitants. This park goes beyond us and beyond the canal’s locks and dams, which is important to remind myself when I think of the more direct ways I could be helping people.

Many of the rare and watchlisted herbaceous plants (that are not in the floodplain) grow in the understory in places with larger trees. While not as exciting as seeing them in person, I’ve got some photos for you!

Primula meadia — shooting star, formerly Dodecatheon meadia, an S3 in Maryland. The white flowers are Micranthes virginiensis.

Delphinium tricorne S3

Phacelia purshii, S3, miami mist (more of a floodplain/low area plant)

Phacelia covillei, S2, which looks similar to Nemophila aphylla, but the bracts of P. covillei are longer, and the capsule is flatter than round (grows like a weed)

Maianthemum stellatum, S2 (grows on riverbanks and forests, which are at stake)

Because I am sure there are enough flower photos on here;

Dead man’s fingers! 
“If you can bring nothing to this place / but your carcass, keep out” — William Carlos Williams “Dedication for a Plot of Ground”

Thanks for spending time with this post, and keep up the hard work!


Monocacy Aqueduct, the “unbreakable aqueduct”



Out of the redwoods and into the sagebrush

Driving away from Humboldt county on highway 299 towards my new home in the Oregon high desert, I tried to appreciate the shade that would soon be rapidly fading. As the sun started to steadily creep over my left arm throughout the drive all I could think of was “Ahh crap I should have brought a sunscreen with an SPF higher than 15…”. Sun protection just isn’t something one thinks about when living under a forest canopy so thick that when it hits 72 degrees in July everyone screams “SUMMER!”, and boy am I excited to experience some real weather.

Sagebrush for miles and miles

Upon arrival, I was introduced to my co-inten who has some familiarity with this areas flora. Immediately this comforted me, knowing that we wouldn’t be out there keying everything for the first week or so from square one (which we still have been doing anyways, for every genera you know there are 5 species you didn’t even know existed ). Its rapidly coming to my attention that this internship is going to be such a learning experience, more so than other field jobs I’ve taken in the past. Only two weeks in and I’m sad that are only 800 more hours to go.

Salty waters - Lake Abert

Salty shores of Lake Abert

Ill end with describing two beautiful sites we’ve visited thus far.

1.The Lost Forest –

A relic of what used to be, the lost forest is a research natural area preserved by the Bureau of Land Management. It is a stand of ponderosa pines and western junipers that have been isolated by over forty miles of desert from their contiguous counterparts. The real mystery is how these trees are still surviving, given the lack of surrounding surface water. This stand is also being encroached upon by the Christmas valley dunes, which were formed when Mt. Mazama erupted to give way to Crater Lake. Its a crazy ecosystem to see in person.

The Lost forest

Christmas Valley sand dunes

Leucocrinum montanum

2. Hart Mt. and the Pronghorn Antelope Refuge

Sure this place is teeming with wildlife including pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep, many rare plants, and boasts a great view of the warner wetlands down below but the hands down coolest part were the outdoor hot springs. I cannot think of anything more awesome than being able to take a 15 minute break from field work to dip your toes into the smelly sulphur healing waters on top of a mountain in the sagebrush desert.

Hot spring!

One of the 3 Castilleja’s seen




BLM Lakeview OR







Welcome to Twin Falls, ID!

After 2 weeks with the Bureau of Land Management, everything still feels new and exciting. I, alongside 3 other CLM interns, am surveying for Lepidium papilliferum, or LEPA in Southern Idaho. LEPA is a highly threatened species of the mustard family endemic to “slickspots,” smooth cryptobiotic crusts that exclude most other species. The work we do helps inform a management plan to preserve LEPA, which feels important and relevant given its scarcity.

Coming from California, the sheer scale of the seemingly endless sagebrush steppe ecosystem catches me off guard every day I’m out there. The other interns and I spend the day “walking lines” on the lookout for slickspots and LEPA under the big Idaho sky. When weather is poor and we would damage slickspots, we also assist with other projects, such as wetland delineation, sample preparation, and road surveying. Soon, however, Idaho summer will start in earnest, bringing only hot sun and hundred degree heat and a whole new set of challenges to our studies.

Just been dropped off for a few hours of surveying

I have been lucky enough to get to work with an amazing crew. The office has a fantastic employee culture, interactions are relaxed and fun, and most importantly, everyone working there is an expert in their field. I have already learned volumes just by sharing space with such great minds. In my time here, I hope to pick up lots of botanical knowledge as well as a better understanding of public land management procedures from continued exposure. Our immediate team is also fantastic. Due to the size of the area we work in, we spend a great deal of time in the truck together, and thankfully we are all very compatible. I am already learning a great deal about birding, wildlife, and music just by spending so much time with an interesting group.

A fantastic vista we stumbled upon during a road survey yesterday

As it takes so long to get to our field site, we have been working 10 hour days starting at 6 am to maximize the time we can spend there. This has been a pretty hard adjustment for us all, but really maximizes the amount of work that we can get done in a day. Another upside is that we now have 3 day weekends, which we can use to explore the area in more depth.

Long story short: the area is great, the position is great, and the people are great! Check in again to keep up with my adventures!

Onboarding to the Outpost

They say that this is a dreary Spring. I agree. Anchorage is typically sunny and mild this time of year, but since I arrived last week I’ve seen more rain than sun, and typically been wearing 2 jackets. Highs in town have been in the low 50’s. The mountains have been getting hammered with snow – up to 12 feet of fresh fluff in some areas – which will keep the alpine plants asleep for the rest of this month and a lot of June. On the bright side (quite literally), first light is at 4 am and last light is at midnight!

I’ve only got a bicycle to get around town, and there is a lovely pedestrian/cyclist trail from the house I’ve rented to the BLM office. It runs along a sinuous creek that is lined by paper birch (Betula papyrifera) and black spruce (Picea mariana). The birch have been cautiously sending out their fresh, nuclear green leaves. Each day feels more like Spring with musky smells and new foliage and bird chirps. Needless to say, this late Spring is making it difficult to botanize. My mentor sent me out to a particular south-facing slope that is known to green up before the rest of the area. I met some old friends from Colorado (Quaking Aspen – Populus tremuloides, Wild Raspberry – Rubus idaeus, and Mountain Ash – Sorbus scopulina) and some new Alaskan folk (Balsam Poplar – Populus balsamifera, Red Fruited Pixie Cup – Cladonia pleurota, Meadow Rue – Thalictrum sparsiflorum).

Red fruited pixie cup lichen nested in a moss I have yet to learn

Apparently there are only 5 tree species in most of Alaska, so they won’t be difficult. A definite challenge, however, will be improving on keying the tough groups. Almost 40% of Alaska is a wetland, and with wetlands come plenty of willows, sedges, lichens and mosses. In fact, Alaska has the highest diversity of sedges in the world, with 155 recognized species and subspecies. In the past I’ve purposefully avoided these tough groups, but I’ll have no excuse to ignore them this time. Catkins…perigynia…gynaecandrous…aphyllopodic…apothecia. Yikes!

An aspen had fallen down a day or two before, allowing me to see the crown of the tree. I’d never gotten such a close look at their catkins before!

Currently I’m in the BLM office in downtown Anchorage, but it looks like I’ll be spending most of my time in the field or at other sites around the city. The Plant Materials Center (PMC) is a research facility up the valley where all of the Seeds of Success material is processed. The state funded this facility to kickstart a native seed industry for the state of Alaska in 1972. Certain wild-collected seeds are grown at the facility to increase the available quantity. The harvested seeds are then sold to local farmers who scale-up the project to sell native seeds to companies for restoration efforts. The PMC cleans about 100,000 pounds of native seeds annually, most of which are grown by these independent farmers. The PMC also works on developing varieties of potato, apple and grains that grow well in Alaska’s climate. I’ll be helping Lyubo, the seed expert there, on some of his spring planting in the upcoming weeks. 

A view of the Chugach mountains from Hope

The University of Alaska Anchorage has a herbarium managed by botanist extraordinaire, Justin Fulkerson. I will collect seeds with him around the state once August comes around. In the meantime, he has plenty of plants than need to be mounted and sorted. I enjoy these sorts of repetitive, mediative tasks. I’ll certainly be using the herbarium as a resource to familiarize myself with Alaskan flora over the next month. In general, it looks like my field season won’t begin until the second week of June, when the plants are really out to play. Until then, I’ll be lending a hand here and there to various projects, familiarizing myself with Alaskan flora, and getting all the BLM trainings I need to shoot shotguns, fly on helicopters, and live safely out of a tent with bears. 

The cycling crew! I’ve never biked with so many folks. What fun!

This weekend I biked to a the small town of Hope with some lovely people who are friends of my housemates. We biked 50 miles out there and 50 back. Notable encounters included 25 bald eagles fishing together and seeing my first arctic tern! This was the opening (or Hopening, as they say) weekend for the bar and the other 2 businesses in the tiny Alaskan town. Plenty of young, recreation oriented people gathered to listen to music, celebrate spring, share stories and fires, and have fun. It was good medicine and soul food. I’m really enjoying how warm and welcoming Alaskans are. I have been adopted into a few different circles of friends, which makes the transition of moving to a new place alone a lot easier.

Fun fact: Marmots are more blonde when they come out of hibernation rather than later in the season because they hibernate in groups, often on top of each other. Throughout their 9-month sleep, they need to urinate, and frequently they do so on their furry comrades. The ammonia in the urine bleaches their fur, hence blonde marmots! While this may make marmots seem strange, humans are perhaps even more wild, because we have done this intentionally. From the Roman empire until just 100 years ago in Japan, human urine was collected to clean spots out of clothes. Ammonia is an important ingredient in many cleaning products today…but it comes from elsewhere. If you see a marmot in the next few weeks, spread the word!

The marshes off of Turnagain Arm provide excellent fish and bird habitat. This is where I saw dozens of eagles. They were too far off to photograph

Hello From Wyoming

This is my first official post as an SOS botany intern with the Lander Field Office in WY, and I couldn’t have asked for a more picturesque location to spend this field season.  Since things are just starting up here, my partner and I have yet to spend a ton of time getting to know the flora of central WY; however, this week we began to familiarize ourselves with the BLM field protocol: getting acquainted with different GPS systems, practicing our radio checks–I was surprised how nervous I felt the first time I used one, and of course remembering NOT to lock the keys in the work truck.  Unfortunately, that last item we learned the hard way 🙁 but luckily, we weren’t at all far from the field office, and another intern was more than happy to help…but long story short, if your pack comes with a key loop, use it!

Towards the end of our week, we focused on a project that entailed us surveying several corridors of a field site along the Red Canyon in Fremont county.  In particular, we were looking for two rare plant species that have been identified around the area in previous years.  Phlox pungens is a rare cushion plant that occurs in central WY, not to be confused with Phlox multifora or Phlox hoodii, both common cushion plants in the area.  Apart from having stiffer, more prickly leaves, the main characteristic that allowed us to discern this Phlox species from the other common ones, was the presence of glands at the end of each cilia along the margins of the leaves.  We were successfully able to find populations of P. pungens almost immediately into our search, which was very exciting!

Picture of Pholx pungens (rare).

The other rare plant we were surveying for was Physaria saximontana var. saximontana, which proved to be a bit more challenging to correctly identify, as its sister taxa, which is not considered rare, also occurs frequently throughout this region.  Typically, one can expect to see larger, broader leaves and taller stems and pedicels on the rare species of P. saximontana var. saximontana; however, this part of WY had a rather dry Spring (not nearly as much April rain or snow than seen in years past) so plants that would normally flower in early May might not do so for another week or two.  This also means that the plants we are seeing flower are possibly stunted or smaller from inadequate Spring precipitation.  Therefore, positively identifying P. saximontana var. saximontana, was a bit more challenging, as we didn’t want to confuse the two sister taxa and unintentionally lump them together.  Overall, with the help of our mentor, I believe we were able to correctly discern between the two sister taxa, and give an accurate representation of the P. saximontana var. saximontana populations that occur in the area.

Red Ridge Trail near the Red Canyon in Fremont Co, WY.

Looking forward to a wonderful field season,

Becca Cross

CLM intern, BLM-LFO (Lander Field Office)