What A Long, Strange Field Season It’s Been

2019 has been a whirlwind. From wrangling hiring paperwork during a government shutdown to carefully doling out ice water from the thermos in 104° heat, there were trials and tribulations the entire way. This past year, I’ve bounced between four different funding sources, but my primary focus has been the Rare Plant Monitoring Program out of the BLM – New Mexico State Office. This program works hard to develop datasets and protect species before they get federally listed. This crew, based out of Santa Fe, monitors species in every field office of New Mexico. We spent so much time on the road that we listened to the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy on Audible before mid-season reviews!  

Some of the rare species we got to spend time with, from top left: Eriogonum gypsophilum, Astragalus gypsodes, Amsonia tharpii, Coryphantha robustispina ssp. scheeri, Justicia wrightii, Linum allredii.

We read 70 previously established plots and constructed an additional 29 new plots. These permanent transects are used to collect baseline demographic data for these species: what is recruitment like? What is mortality and lifespan for an individual? What reproductive effort is being made by individuals? By collecting this type of data over five or ten years on rare plant species that occur mostly on BLM land, the Botany Program can better inform management practices to protect these species. 2019 was the fourth year of this program, and a lot of species are still being added and kinks are being worked out. This made for an interesting season in which every week we were facing new challenges. Throughout this season, I developed rigorous monitoring methods, improved my plant ID skills, and dove into the wonderful world of geospatial data. It’s deeply rewarding to know that these species that I got to know so intimately have a brighter future because of our work.

Calisthenics at the daily Stretch and Safety meeting before reading an Echinocereus fendleri var. kuenzleri plot.

Since reading our last plots in November, we’ve been working on reporting and analysis for the plots we’ve read. This has been a wonderful opportunity for me to relearn R. Though I love to hate R, it’s a crucial skill for graduate programs and employment, and has made for really robust reporting in the Rare Plant Monitoring program. My crew lead, Lauren Bansbach (featured triumphantly holding an Agave above) is staying on for another season with the Rare Plant Monitoring program. I can’t help but feel jealous and sad that it’s over so soon.

Reading a plot in the Land of Many Uses.

Mike Beitner
Bureau of Land Management
New Mexico State Office

National Parks meet Extractory

Life at the extractory has been busy, busy, BUSY. Before Christmas, we received over 600 lbs of seed from Arches National Park. This order was to be processed and shipped out before the end of January. Though this is a lot of weight in seed, the order only consisted of 6 species / lots. They are as follows: Artemisia filifolia, Chrysothamnus nauseosus, Sporobolus giganteus, Atriplex, Machaeranthera, Krascheninnikovia lanata and Artemisia tridentata. I’m unsure if these species names mean anything to you…but if they do… you’re welcome. 😉 This seed is going to be used for a restoration purposes and planted around Wolfe Creek at Arches National Park. The seed will be planted using a process called, hydroseeding. This is where the seed material is mixed with a variety of organic matter and sprayed out of a large hose in the desired planting area.

In case you don’t know what Arches National Park is / looks like, here is a pic!

Image result for arches national park

I was in charge of extracting the 211 lbs of Atriplex that we received. This was, by far, the largest order I’ve ever processed at the extractory. I even got to learn how to use a new machine, the BIG brush machine (compared the the small brush machine that I am accustomed to).

Big brush machine!

It took me almost three whole days to run the seed through this machine and then to clean everything up (as I made a HUGE mess).

In addition, I also processed the Krascheninnikovia (aka Winter Fat) and the Machaeranthera. We received a little over 50 lbs Winter Fat and 25+ of Machaeranthera. I was in charge of running this seed through the Missoula (a machine that I have talked about in previous blogs). Because Winter Fat is so fluffy it takes multiple runs through the machine and does not flow through the machine by itself (so I manually pushed it). Machaeranthera, is an Aster and has a pappus that needs to be removed, however, it can be pesky to remove and also required additional runs in the Missoula.

While it was tedious, time consuming, and seemed endless, the reward and pleasure I found in finishing both of these lots was enormous. Looking at the final product after putting in so many days of work made it all worth it. Here are some pictures of the final products all neatly packages and ready to be shipped back to Arches!

Here is the Atriplex! Four huge bags full.
The middle bag- “ARCH19-02” is the Winter Fat and “ARCH19-03” is the Machaeranthera.

Starting in February we will begin to process seed for the, Petrified Forest National Park. This seed will be used for roadside restoration purposes. This seed will go towards re-vegetation efforts in order to control non-native / weedy pants and increase genetic variation of native species.

Stay tuned for my FINAL CLM blog coming in February.