One Week In

It would hardly be a lie to say that my job consists of driving around and looking at plants.  That is the casual answer I have prepared for friends and family from the east coast who politely ask what, exactly, I am doing in Oregon.  It would be closer to the truth to say that my first week as an intern has been a quick introduction to land management topics and plant identification and monitoring.  We have identified and recorded a population of rare plants, taken a tour of recently burned timber sales, and learned how to recognize countless native and non-native grasses and herbs.

(Our first day in the field, finding and recording the size of a threatened Kincaid’s Lupine population.)

So far, my attempts at identifying unknown plants with a dichotomous key have met very little success, but I think improvement is just around the corner.  After a week of whirlwind introductions and training, I have learned one thing above all else: I enjoy the work here and will keep getting better at it.

After all, when this is your office, what’s not to enjoy?

From the Bureau of Land Management office in Roseburg, Oregon.

A New Beginning

It’s hard to believe I’ve already finished my first week of interning at the BLM office in Roseburg, Oregon. Growing up in the Midwest, I could never imagine the different kinds of beautiful landscapes that waited in the Pacific Northwest outside of Illinois for me to see. For our first day in the field, we journeyed to a monitoring plot of Kincaid’s Lupine (Lupinus oreganus) which is a federally listed threatened plant. After driving in the mountains, we parked and proceeded to hike to the location of the plot.

Here is a picture of my co-intern, Robin, and one of the BLM botanists, Aaron, that we were assisting. We eventually made it to the plot and started our data collection. It was a 20×20 m plot and we had to record sizes  of the plants and amounts of inflorescences in each 1x1m section. It seemed that the plant population was growing and we even found plants outside of the plot, which indicated that it was spreading.

The next day we went to a different plot of lupines that were planted. I have never seen so much poison oak in my life. It seems that this will be the biggest hazard we will face in the field.

The next day we accompanied a few of the foresters from the BLM office into the field so they could look at several stands for timber sale. I learned a few different things such as that when selling a stand for harvest, they have to leave a certain amount of trees for habitat for wildlife that depend on them. Also, if the stand was burned over (which many of them were from wildfires within the past few years), they did not have to leave any trees for habitat and could sell the whole thing for harvest.

The stand between the rock outcrops and the already harvested stand was being evaluated for sale.

Here is a picture of a pretty gnarly snag that was in a stand being evaluated for timber sale.

Overall, it was a pretty good first week  of breathtaking views and gaining new skills and knowledge. I look forward to what the next couple months of this internship will bring!

Will Farhat – CLM Intern with the Bureau of Land Management Roseburg District

From Sea to Snow to Sand

“A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.”

“The extreme clarity of the desert light is equaled by the extreme individuation of desert life forms. Love flowers best in openness and freedom.”

― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

My drive out to Colorado began on the foggy North Coast of California. I packed up my car, took a few final moments in the company of the Ocean, cracked open Desert Solitare and headed east.

Having been to the deserts of Southern California only once, the opportunity to spend some time in the deserts of Nevada, Utah, and western Colorado seemed like the perfect opportunity to kill a bit of time on the drive out. I’ve always been fascinated by the desert- the dramatic contrast of the landscape, the strategic adaptations, and resilience of the life forms that exist among it, the hidden gems that exist within it. The sense of calm one can reach in the absence of noise at night, under a spectacular portrait of the nights’ sky.

A few bike rides, and slot canyons later I arrived in Denver, only to find that I would be heading back to the high deserts of Colorado in my first few weeks of my internship. For the next few months, I will be working out of the Colorado BLM State office under State botanist Carol Dawson doing rare plant demography and monitoring throughout the State.


A bit about the work:

The threatened and endangered species monitoring program out of the Colorado State office began in 2004 with nine plant species Federally listed under the Endangered Species act, and four candidate species that primarily occur on BLM land. The monitoring program is unique in that for each species, the State Office has employed a demographic monitoring approach to develop a greater understanding of the landscape, and population-level dynamics of each species.

The monitoring of such species is important towards determining the status of imperiled species, at the population and range-wide level, and their potential future condition given different management actions, and environmental stochasticites. Additionally, this monitoring program is important in developing adequate and efficient recovery measures using the best available scientific information possible.

Week 1: Astragalus debequaeus

Astragalus is member of the bean family (Fabaceae). It is considered to be imperiled at the global and state level. A. debequaeus is known only from the Colorado River Valley in Delta, Garfield and Mesa Colorado.

Astragalus is the largest genus of plants in the world, with over 3,000 described species. Rarity and Endemism are common in Astragalus given that the species has a tendency to speciate by the means of edaphic specialization (colonizing a specific soil substrate often confined to a narrow geographic range).

Astragalus debequaeus is a prime example of edaphic specificity, known only from the Atwell Gulch member of the Wasatch formation. A. debequaeus also seems to really enjoy colonizing the steepest, rockiest slopes, making for fun and mildly dangerous sampling sites.

Overall, it was a good first week, with two new macroplot sites scouted, and sampled, and a few tumbles taken.

Week Two: Sclerocactus glaucus

Week two began with a trip back out to Western, Colorado to sample the Colorado Hookless Cactus: Sclerocactus glaucus. S. glaucus populations occur primarily on alluvial benches along the Colorado and Gunnison rivers and their various tributaries. Since 2007, Denver Botanic Gardens and BLM have established over ten monitoring plots to gain a deeper biological understanding of S. glaucus.

A grand majority of known occurrences of S. glaucus occur on BLM managed lands, while a number of other occurrences occur on private lands. Potential threats to this species include: oil and gas development, grazing, and ORV use. Other potential threats include: Climate change (specifically drought-induced effects), predation, and parasitism by the cactus-boarer beetle (Moneilema semipunctuatum).

Unlike A. debequaeus, from the S. glaucus sites we visited, I noticed a much different composition of habitat-types at each site location. One interesting thing we found at one of the sites we sampled was an interesting composition of crypto-biotic soil crusts (a living layer of lichen, moss, microfungi and cyanobacteria that colonize the top layer of soil in many desert landscapes).

Sclerocactus glaucus


For more on cryptobiotic soils:

Overall, it was a good second week with a few sites showing promise of new recruitment, and a few showing signs of potential decline. For the rest of the week, I will tend to the tasks of data entry, and the further examination of soil crust samples from Sclerocactus sites. For the weekend, I look forward to finishing up some things in my garden, mushroom hunting, and getting some more dirt on my bike.

Until next time,



Finally Here

I found out about the CLM Internship through my university’s email. I remember reading the email and thinking, “This sounds like exactly what I’m looking for right now.” I graduated with my bachelors a year ago, with a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife and a passion for conservation without a clear idea of where to go with that. This internship would give me the opportunity to work outside in a beautiful part of the country (all I cared about was moving west towards the mountains) and learn more about conservation projects in the federal government. I sent in my application minutes before I left for a rock climbing and camping trip in Red Rocks Conservation Area outside of Las Vegas. I remember standing in a Starbucks in the suburbs of Vegas with dirt on my face trying to connect to their WiFi to check if CLM had mailed me yet about the internship. The sound that came out of my mouth when I read that I was accepted was somewhere between a screech and a cheer, and I can imagine it gave the patrons in that Starbucks more of a jolt awake than whatever was in their cup. A few weeks later, I had been offered a position in Lander, Wyoming to collect native wildflower seeds for the Seeds of Success Program, and I was overjoyed to accept.

I’ve been in Lander for not even a week, and it has not disappointed so far. The people I work with are friendly and knowledgeable, the town has a great culture, and I have already learned so much about the region. I spent most of the week getting acquainted around the office and helping to digitalize the herbarium (essentially taking pictures of all of the pressed plant specimens). We even had the opportunity to travel to a BLM field office a couple hours away to assist with digitalizing the herbarium there as well. This was my first work-sanctioned road trip, and it went really well. The drive from Lander to Rock Springs was gorgeous (the drive back towards the mountains was even prettier), and though we had our work cut out for us, we were able to document over 2200 plant specimens collected from around the Rocky Mountain region to be added to the online database. The work itself was pretty monotonous; it consisted of numbering the plant specimens to keep them in order, shuffling the plants into the photo box one by one, and monitoring the pictures to make sure the camera picked up the details in the plants. However, the company I was with made the hours go by quickly and enjoyably. Larry, the librarian who was in charge of the herbarium project, was knowledgeable about the region and gave me great ideas about where to explore in my free time. He was also a rock climber, and he mentioned some hidden gems near Lander that I am so excited to check out. My coworker and I also get along great, which makes me feel so lucky because I know we will be spending a lot of time together this summer.

My coworker and I working with the herbarium specimens.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to live and work near the mountains. I didn’t have a clear idea of what exactly I wanted to be doing, which I think ended up working in my favor because I had an open mind about the opportunities that presented themselves. Though I never originally imagined myself working with plants, I think it’s a great fit. The work lets me spend time in beautiful places while helping contribute to an important cause, which I believe is the best of both worlds. I am so excited to learn more about rare plants found around Wyoming, the ecology of the different regions here, and the mechanics of conducting field work with the federal government. I think this summer will prove to be invaluable, and I am eternally grateful to the CBG for granting me this experience.


Views from the drive back to Lander

Danielle from the Bureau of Land Management, Lander field office

Livin’ it U.P.

Hello CLM blog readers

“Oh wow” pretty much sums up my initial experiences on the Ottawa National Forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The office is involved with different projects in the forest, many of which require onsite inspections and a chance to explore the regional flora. The Ottawa is currently emerald ash bore free however, its arrival is imminent. The Eco team, under the assumption that the black-ash will disappear, is making plans to protect the black-ash swamp communities. The plan is to identify large, predominantly black-ash swamps, girdle some black-ash trees, and then reseed the area with suitable tree species in order to replace the black-ash stands while keeping the surrounding community intact.

Forest service worker sanding near a large Thuja occidentals.

Also, I participated with other projects including: species surveys, tree planting along a riparian corridor, installing an experimental barrier at a boat launch to prevent the spread of invasive species on boats, and working with students and community partners to manually control garlic mustard. Instead of going into detail on all these projects, I will provide a short montage of cool plants I have seen on the Ottawa.

COUNT IT: I made the front page of the local paper, it was below the fold but I think it still counts. The entire office was out taking care of our adopted highway. I probably would have gone with a different caption.

Micah Melczer

U.S. Forest Service, Ottawa Supervisors Office, Ironwood, MI

Week 1

The first week of my internship was good. I took a class on how to do PFCs for the BLM rangeland health assessments. I also learned about what all I will be doing this summer. Seems like it will be a good one!