Gone With The Wind

The winds are coming back to Casper. The gusts rush through the cracks of my ranch house in the early hours of the morning. The temperature is falling steadily: biking to work is ever more harrowing. There can be no denial: Winter is coming; seasonal work is petering out, and my time at the BLM is no more.

My last weeks at the BLM office were consumed by the less glamorous, but still important task of organizing and entering data. All of the 80 springs my co-intern and I documented needed to have folders made with maps, photographs, and water quality data. We also uploaded the spring data into a GIS database, which Shane and the range team will use to decide which springs need attention first. Of the 80 springs we visited, only three were non-functioning. To fix the riparian systems, the range team will coordinate restoration work with the lessee. Most often this will mean altering the time at which the rancher has cows on the pasture, and possibly building an exclosure fence to allow the spring time to heal.

The BLM processes a lot of paperwork. A LOT. So much so that after contributing our fair share of new files, we got to box and store thousands of old files and recycle garbage bags full of unnecessary copies.

Old Files and Manuals!


After completing our last task at the BLM it’s time to say goodbye to Casper. I leave the CLM program with a profound appreciation for 4 wheel drive vehicles, and for all of the men and women in the resource department of the Casper Field Office. Thanks to them, and especially to my mentor Shane, I now have a much better grasp of what it means to “manage land.” And as the winds pick up in Casper, I travel eastward, to my home land.

The work truck.

Fall is Upon Us

Hey everyone,

Fall is finally beginning to appear here in the Chihuahuan Desert. The cottonwoods are starting to change, the temperatures are dropping, and our chances for seed collection is starting to slow down! As usual, I have been spending most of my time collecting seed. However, the past few weeks have been uncharacteristically rainy. Since the rain makes most of our roads near impossible to drive on, I have been stuck in the office. This isn’t all bad though, it has allowed us to catch up on shipping seeds and doing our soil data.

Me assessing soil data when it was rainy for an entire week

Having been placed in the CFO BLM office, there have been quite a few opportunities to do some outreach! At the beginning of the month, I was able to visit the local zoo (The Living Desert Zoo) and help a few of my colleagues set up a table at a public lands informational event. A few weeks later the employees at the BLM had the opportunity to help judge the middle school’s science fair. These events have just been a few of the many different chances to help with public outreach.

Me and another BLM employee doing the tabling event at the Living Desert Zoo in Carlsbad, NM

I have also had the chance to do a little more cross training with other people here in the CFO office. Two weeks ago, my co-worker and I went to two of our major rivers, the Delaware and Black River, to help monitor riparian areas and assess the Proper Functioning Condition (PFC) of these rivers.

Identifying vegetation at the Black River site – featuring my SOS co-worker and mentor

A storm rolls in while assessing vegetation a the Delaware River site

Below: random pictures from the field

Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)

Sacred Thorn-Apple (Datura wrightii)

Black Swallowtail friend while we were collecting Verbesina encelioides













Caitie W.

Carlsbad Field Office BLM – Seeds of Success Intern

Fall musings in Carlsbad

October 26, 2018

Fall is finally arriving here in southeast New Mexico. The fall chill set in very suddenly and caught me off guard (see photo of me with socks as gloves).

When your hands are cold but you didn’t pack gloves because you didn’t think it would get cold in the desert…

Back when I was in school, I used to dread the stress and work of starting school in fall so much that I never really appreciated the reds and oranges and yellows of fall foliage in the Midwest. The color of fall here seems to be yellow. Yellow leaves falling from aspen groves in the mountains, and from cottonwood trees along the rivers. The hills glow with golden flowers of all shapes and sizes. Sartwellia flaviarae in particular dominates the landscape with its bright yellow hues. It is an aster subshrub that is very common in this area but not prevalent outside of our region.

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that we just have a month and a half left of our internship. After the initial shock of moving to a small oil/ranching town in the middle of the desert, Carlsbad has begun to feel almost like – dare I say it? – home. I’ve gone from the landscape being totally foreign to recognizing many of the plants I see while in the field. Of course, I always have more plants to learn. But it is kind of exciting to reflect on where I was—barely being able to recognize any plant genuses—to now being able to identify several species on sight. And grasses! I’m amazed that now I can generally tell grass genuses apart. Before this internship, all I could tell you was if a plant was a grass or not.

This month we also served as science fair judges for the Carlsbad middle school. I was in charge of judging Environmental Engineering projects—a little off from my expertise but I gave it my best! Some seventh and eighth graders had impressively higher-level projects, from thinking about what grass is best for preventing eroision, to testing soil salinity and its impact on crops. One eighth grader even made their own biodegradable plant-based plastic six pack ring.

Fall colors in Lincoln National Forest

These projects gave me a lot of hope about what the next generation of scientists are capable of!

In my weekend time, I’ve been experiencing parts of New Mexico and Texas. Early this month, I attempted to see the hot air balloons at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Much to my chagrin, the wind prevented any balloon launches, but I was still able to check out Albuquerque and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. It was a great way to learn about the Pueblo culture, and see some local Pueblo artists displaying paintings, pottery, and jewelry.

The tippy-top of Texas!

The surrounding mountain ranges offer fantastic hiking opportunities here. To the south, Guadalupe National Park offers a hike to the highest point in Texas—Guadalupe Peak. Talk about jello legs coming down the trail! To the northwest of Carlsbad, Cloudcroft also has great mountain hiking trails in Lincoln National Forest. We were able to see the aspens changing color here!


With my internship in its last month and a half, I’m trying to learn all I can and really get the full New Mexico experience, but so far I would say it’s been pretty fulfilling.



Bonus cactus picture!…I just thought it was pretty. Mammillaria heyderi – “Little nipple cactus”



BLM Carlsbad, NM


The Sights of Restoration

Hey, it’s Renata again (one of the interns in Oregon). I luckily have a bit more time at Dorena Genetic Resource Center before I have to head out. However, to date, one of the coolest parts of this internship has been getting to shadow the Restoration Services Team or RST (they have their own fun logo and everything). They plan and often help implement restorations after human land use (especially after things like highway or road construction). I’ve had the chance to shadow them a bit as they go to planning meetings and have gotten to visit some of the previously restored sites. A lot of the plants we grow at Dorena go to these restoration projects so it has been fun to see the end result of our work in the greenhouses and out doing seed collections.

Part of what was so cool about shadowing RST was getting to see the decision-making process. There are a ton of moving parts as they work with different government agencies overseeing the larger project (like building a highway), the engineers, the contractors, and all manner of other experts. RST’s work often comes last because you don’t want to put in the plants only to have them trampled by construction equipment (which has sadly happened before), so their timeline is always partly up in the air. They then have to make sure to collect as many local species as possible and whatever they can’t collect there they have to find in nearby areas in the same seed zone. Then you grow them, propagate them, and then get a crew together for out-planting. To give you a sense, for one project they have 12,000 huckleberry ready to go out for planting. That’s just one species. The scale of these projects can be pretty nuts when you look at the number of people working at Dorena. It is also just exciting to have other government agencies prioritize getting local seed sources and try to have as many native species replanted as possible.

Rather than have me drone on about one project or another, I figured I just give you a sense of what we get to see as we work on these projects. We go from planning, to seed collecting, to propagating, to out planting and then to monitoring and we get to do it all in some pretty breathtaking places. So I hope you enjoy!


Dorena Sunrise

Mountain of cells for sowing

The crew doing some transplanting

Sunrise in Klamath Falls

Seed collecting in Klamath Falls (with smoke, of course)

Seed collecting in foggy Klamath

Foggy Klamath seed collecting

Klamath area seed collection

Foggy Nestucca


Nestucca when the fog cleared up

Part of a restored highway for restoration

Bridge view at restoration site

The view in Pacific City (where we stayed while doing some seed collection)

Haystack rock at Pacific City

Sunset at Dorena