Snapshot from the Begining

Hello! My name is Renata Kamakura and I am one of the CLM interns working for the Forest Service in Oregon. A lot has happened since I started in June but I figured I would give you all a bit of a sense of where I was at when the internship first began. I promise I will catch you up on the last couple of months at a later date. So here you go: when it all began ….

*Time machine moving you back to June 2018*

Hello! I just started work in Cottage Grove, OR a few weeks ago. I had a mad dash to the start of this internship with only a day between when I graduated and the start of the training in Chicago. As such, I spent the first week trying to catch my breath, unpack, and get somewhat oriented. That said, while slightly discombobulated, I still learnt a ton from the people at the Dorena Genetic Resource Center (DGRC). It is an interesting place that has more of a nursery feel than most Forest Service locations but the people are incredible, with both skill and a sense of humor. It also has some remarkable sunrises and sunsets, which I have been thoroughly enjoying since we work four 10-hour days.

Sunset at the Raised Beds

We ended up doing a range of things like splitting ferns (to try to double how many ferns we have to use), thinning species (to help reduce mold spread and infestations), transplanting Port-Orford Cedar (POC) (moving them into larger containers so they can continue to grow), and just general inventorying and cleaning that needs to happen to keep the place running.

One of the Greenhouses

As we go about the day-to-day tasks, we get tid-bits on why we are doing what we’re doing and how it fits into the broader restoration goals. I figured I might as well pass on some of these since they are a bit more interesting than just me regaling you with stories of getting caught in spider webs while contorting myself around POC branches trying to find the tree’s identification number (let’s just say I have never been known for my grace). As an aside, I do have a photo of a weed-mat I managed to get over a yellow jacket nest on a young pine sapling. There was only moderate grumbling from the occupants and a brief stare down between myself and one of the more defensive yellow jackets.

Wasp nest on sapling and under the weed mat, by some miracle

Rather than being due to some kind of herculean bravery or skill on my part it was mostly due to me not noticing the nest early enough, deciding I was in too deep at that point, and then just trying to placate the yellow jackets by softly murmuring to them as I tried to get the mat on properly. I must have looked like a maniac but the weed mat is on and I didn’t get attacked so I’ll consider it a victory. Though I would not recommend trying that at home; I just got really lucky (or perhaps the yellow jackets sensed that I was more just blind than malicious) and yellow jacket stings are not pleasant.  Unfortunately some of my fellow workers were not so lucky and one poor guy got stung at least 5 times.

Tangent aside, one of the interesting things about DGRC is that it is apparently one of only two places in the country that grows ferns from spores. That took me by surprise because there are a lot of places growing plants in the US and you’d figure they’d be able to do it if they can grow everything from giant pines to hundreds of different types of roses. Also, the people working with the ferns at DGRC treat the process with a certain nonchalance and do not make it seem like it was impossibly difficult (which, in retrospect, is more a testament to their humility than anything else). If you do a quick google search you’ll find bunch of articles and videos (which are helpful but their camerawork is less impressive than their knowledge of fern biology) on how to grow ferns from spores. John T. Mickel, in an article he wrote for the New York Times in 1979, just called in a “modest challenge” that admittedly “does take patience and care” but seems doable for the average Joe. Now, all this made me confused as to why only one other place in the states was growing ferns from spores given that you get a ton more individuals that way, but the handy Mr. Mickel shed a bit of light on that. He explains that “A major problem in growing ferns from spores is contamination. Spores of mosses, fungi and algae are everywhere – in the air, on all surfaces, in tap water and in unsterilized soil.” So, as you try to propagate the ferns, you have to try to avoid propagating the “invading hoards” of everything else (Mickel 1979; the language seems a bit dramatic but I suppose one has to really drive home the point). If you are trying to do this on an industrial scale, I can see why it might not be worth the trouble when you can just split the ferns, which only requires some water, soil, and a good knife (basically anyway). It is also not the easiest thing ever to separate out the young fern individuals without damaging their roots to be able to move them into their separate pots. There are lots of little things that make the process challenging and it is really cool to see the people here do it with relative ease (or they are just good at pretending it is easy).

So, there you go, random tidbit of the month: growing ferns from spores at a large scale is hard but if you need some sword ferns DGRC know what they’re doing. That and look at what you are doing when you try to put weed mats on plants when there are  nesting yellow-jackets in the area.

Works Cited

Mickel, J. T. (1979, February 4). From Tiny Spores Big Ferns Grow. New York Times, p. 41. Retrieved from

More than Idaho

15 July – 12 August 2018

I have done quite a bit of traveling with this internship, which I find to be both exciting and troubling. This suburban Midwestern gal has meandered through the wild lands of Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, and Utah in the past three months. It’s been neat to discover various pieces of so many states in such a short time, but I am deeply conflicted by the amount of traveling this job requires. In all honesty, I find this internship to be a bit of a paradox. I understand climate change to be one of the reasons this internship exists: as the frequency and intensity of wildfires increase in the Western United States, it’s even more important to have a bank of diverse and native seed available for the restoration of the sagebrush steppe. (I have recently learned a “steppe” is a large area devoid of trees.) Despite this, I find it difficult to justify the amount of fossil fuels I must burn in order to accomplish my job. Sometimes I spend one-third to one-half of the work week in a vehicle. My ability to justify my gas-guzzling activities is only complicated when the areas I visit do not have large enough plant populations to collect seed from.

My frequent traveling began in mid-July, when I had the privilege of working with the region’s range crew. I was working with four men to monitor sites in the Curlew National Grassland for the control of leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), a noxious weed. We were assigned the task of returning to sites where beetles (Oberea erythrocephala and Apthona spp.) and sheep have been used to control leafy spurge. We had 12+ year-old photos of the habitat and the occasional GPS coordinates (which we soon learned were not very accurate…) to guide us to the sites, complete vegetation surveys and take some more photos. It was pretty dang cool to look down at a photo from 2006 showing a sea of leafy spurge and look up at the exact same landscape in 2018 and find very few leafy spurge plants. I guess the sheep and beetles have been doing their job. My favorite part was using sweep nets to scoop up and count the spurge-eating beetles. My least favorite part was the 4 hours of driving each day.

If it weren’t for biocontrol, this habitat would likely be a sea of yellow, due to the aggressiveness of leafy spurge. The yellow you see here is primarily from yellow rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus).

Oberea erythrocephala bores into the stems of leafy spurge; the Apthona spp. (not pictured) consume the leaves of the plant.

As the end of July rolled around, my Seeds of Success project began to get into full-swing and that’s when some serious traveling began. I have spent quite a bit of time working with a crew from the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Boise, which included Allison Buiser – another CLM intern! It’s always great to have company. Since I have been hunting wildflowers in Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, and Utah, I have encountered cattle and sheep herds on the move, visited some neat geological areas like Balanced Rock and Little City of Rocks, traveled straight through the Humboldt National Forest in one day (possibly because of a missed turn…), climbed many slopes covered in loose rock, and even started dreaming about some of the species I need to collect seed from.

Machaeranthera canescens – one of the species I need to collect for Seeds of Success. I think this plant is cute, but it has haunted many of my dreams…

Several hundred sheep, seven dogs, two horses, and two shepherds creates a bit of a traffic jam on a Forest Service road. There were no casualties though!

Allison (right) and me (left) cheesin’ at Balanced Rock – we thought it looked like such a happy rock!

Little City of Rocks was an exciting place to explore. What do you see in these rocks?

Some 17-year-old gazetteers helped Allison and I navigate through the Humboldt National Forest. Kind of…

When Allison and I took a lunch break in the Humboldt National Forest, I couldn’t resist splashing into the stream. It had been so long since either of us had worked near a body of water.

There have been many disheartening days where I have not found any of the plants I am looking for. However, I usually finish the week with at least one population to collect seed from, which is definitely better than nothing. And while I am not fond of the amount of gas I burn in order to travel to all these sites, I am still excited to have been so many new places in such a short time.

Cheers to more adventures!


USFS Idaho Falls, ID