Welcome to the Jungle

My boss’s cubicle has a quote hung on the wall from Enrico Fermi, the Nobel-winning physicist, when he once had a student ask him to recall the name of a particular subatomic particle. “Young man,” the professor replied, “if I could remember the names of all these particles, I would be a botanist.” In my first month since moving to Idaho from Pennsylvania, I have learned just how true that statement was. There has certainly been a bit of a learning curve to adapting to a whole new set of plants, most of which I had never seen before. Botanizing in a new part of the country is a bit like sticking a firehose of information in your mouth – open the valve and just try to swallow everything you can. What was this death camas plant that everyone was trying to get rid of? And why would anyone ever eat common camas, which looks almost exactly the same until it flowers?

But there have been a few important things that softened the landing a little and made botany in Idaho a little less intimidating. The first was realizing just how many Western plants have close relatives in the East, plants that I was already quite familiar with. I’ve never seen Galium aparine or Trillium ovatum before, but the other species in those genera are quite common in Pennsylvania. It’s also been very helpful to work with a crew of Westerners who know what grows here and to have the colossal Flora of the Pacific Northwest to walk me through. And wouldn’t you believe, the born-and-raised Idahoans are just as unfamiliar with Pennsylvanian plants as I was with theirs. I’ve learned dozens and dozens of plants so far and more are sure to come.

We’ve scouted for many types of wildflowers so far and learned the trials and tribulations of keying out huge genera like Eriogonum (wild buckwheat) or Erigeron (fleabane). Staring through a microscope to piece apart minute details of a specimen can be exhausting, but it’s incredible to realize just how much diversity there is among the plants of the Rocky Mountains. I have a special passion for botanical Latin, and I’ve spent many an evening by our campfire reading through our flora to learn the fascinating history of why plants were given the names they were – either for famous scientists, ancient medicinal uses, or an author’s one-year-old daughter in one special case. We’ve had the opportunity to hike many a mile in search of rare mosses and onions, and seen a great diversity of other plants and flowers along the way (not to mention an incredible hike).

Lewisia sacajaweana, a rare plant we spent a day scouting for a population of. It is named for Capt. Merrriwether Lewis and Sacajawea of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

But life, just like botany, is a mosaic of little pieces that may look disjointed, but when you find the little similarities, they fit together into an extraordinary picture. When I first moved here, Idaho seemed like a whole puzzle of disassembled pieces – I dropped my dad off at the airport after our road trip and immediately found that every hotel in Boise was fully booked for a Luke Combs concert. I drove an hour out of town to find a room, and the only thing keeping me together was getting a surprise call from my old college roommate. How was I ever going to survive here?

But what a place Idaho has turned out to be since then! The forests and the fishing are incomparable, and I have met more than one person with surprising connections – the Mennonite grocers from my state, another Penn State Agriculture graduate, and many others. And imagine my surprise when I learned that my roommate, a wildlife biologist from North Carolina, was my fifth cousin! Idaho is still a bit of a puzzle, but sure enough, the pieces are starting to come together.

Welcome to the jungle, it gets better here every day.

The Beginning of Summer on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest

Lemhi range in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest

After a long winter, I was feeling very ready to get back out into the field and eager to start my new position, Conservation and Land Management Intern. I enjoy telling people my temporary new title; it has a ring to it and it leaves a lot up to interpretation. 

My expectations for what this position would entail were the duties involved in native seed collection of which I am fairly familiar having been a Seeds of Success field technician the previous summer. I also had a vague understanding that I would have opportunities to work on other projects as need arose and time allowed. This balance of continuing to put to use skills I’ve previously learned while  at the same time continuing to learn and grow my botany and ecology skills is exactly what I was most looking forward to about this job.

In early June, as I drove north on my move from Utah to Idaho I was struck by how green everything was. It was an unusually long winter with a lot of snow and an unusually rainy spring. This seemed to be a good sign for our future seed collections.

My first day in the new office, I walked around with my new supervisor Rose, the only botanist on the Caribou-Targhee, as she introduced me to a lot of people in our interagency office whose names I’m still trying to learn. Our last stop was to meet my beaming and genial co-intern Alyssa. Alyssa then continued to introduce me to more people around the office but this time I was meeting people as friends rather than just as coworkers. 

With this, the tone for my time in Idaho Falls was set. I’ve made lovely friends who I get to explore my new home with both inside and outside of work. I’ve been learning so many things that I had expected to learn like the plants of the Caribou-Targhee, botany field skills, and most notably, about how the forest service operates and what it is like to be a forest service employee. It has made federal employment seem like less of an enigma and feel more attainable. I’ve also gotten to go out on various projects that I hadn’t expected and have come as a pleasant surprise including Goshawk surveying, soil pit surveying, doing burn pile rehab, and participating in horsemanship training. 

We learned to get a horse ready to ride and how to pack a mule during horsemanship training.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the field season. I’m looking forward to watching the season progress throughout the forest, to seeing the native plants go through their phenological phases, to tracking our target species until their seeds are ready for collection, to making collections, and to working on various other projects to help the forest and to continue to gain exposure to how different resources on the forest are managed. 

Burn pile rehab involved planting native plants from the surrounding areas in the burned area and introducing nearby organic matter back into the area.

(Hemi- and Holo-?) Parasites in the Land of Enchantment

New Mexico has significant climatic variability, both temporally and spatially. In The Lincoln National Forest, temperatures widely vary with elevation. There can be a 30-degree temperature difference between the Chihuahuan Desert and the sub-alpine zones in the Sacramento Mountains! Mornings in Ruidoso usually start around 65 degrees and climb to the mid-80s at the height of the day. A recent heatwave was an anomaly for this elevation, sending temperatures to the 90s. Thankfully, it’s a dry heat. But that lack of moisture is bad news for any reprieve from the daily “VERY HIGH” fire danger posted outside the Smokey Bear Ranger District office. During that heatwave, I experienced my first wildfire–the ~15-acre Chance Fire–which was started by welding. While storms bring rain, they also bring lightning, a significant natural cause of wildfires.

The arid climate of the Southwest also poses problems for seed collection. Plant populations are dependent on rainfall, which has been scarce since the start of June. My fellow CLM intern (Evie Sanchez!) and I have been having trouble locating suitable populations to collect from because of the relative drought. The monsoon season typically starts in mid-June or July, when moist air from the Pacific gets sucked into an area of low pressure in the Southwest. This moisture manifests as afternoon thunderstorms that roll in like clockwork. While delayed this year, the monsoon season is not far away! While waiting for the monsoons, we have been familiarizing ourselves with the Smokey Bear Ranger District. The Lincoln National Forest is divided into three ranger districts: The northernmost Smokey Bear RD, separated from the southern Sacramento and Guadalupe Ranger Districts by the Mescalero Apache Reservation. There are still plenty of cool plants to see in the meantime, including several parasitic plants, which have evolved a unique strategy in a place where the UV index is “extreme” nearly every day!

Photosynthesis Freeloaders

Rope dodder (Cuscuta glomerata) parasitizing a goldenrod species in an open meadow in Ohio.

Parasitic plants have always captured my curiosity as oddities that have evolved to rely on the photosynthesis of other plants (or parasitism of fungi!), whether completely or partially, as their source of carbon/energy. I’ve noticed multiple taxa representing several plant families in my time here. Parasitic plants can be categorized based on their level of dependence on their host species, ranging from hemiparasites, which have a partial dependence and can still produce chlorophyll, to holoparasites, which gain all of their carbon from their host. They can also be categorized based on the part of the plant they parasitize and whether they can complete their life cycle with/without the host. The photo above is species of dodder (Convolvulaceae) I saw last summer in Ohio that is an example of a stem holoparasite. Note the absence of chlorophyll and vining habit around its host species–a goldenrod (Solidago sp.)


When people think of orchids, they usually think of the Phalaenopsis or Cattleya orchids sold in big-box stores. Vanilla orchids and lady-slippers (e.g., Cypripedium) are other well-known taxa. Nearly all orchids are at least partially mycoheterotrophic, meaning they rely on host fungi for part of their life cycle–usually for germination and development. Rather than parasitizing plants for their carbon and nutrients, they parasitize fungi! Mycoheterotrophs are typically found in forest understories where light is a limiting factor. Species that are partially mycoheterotrophic but can still photosynthesize are considered “mixotrophs.”

Most orchid species in the genus Corallorhiza, however, are fully mycoheterotrophic. As a result, they have lost the ability to photosynthesize. I had the opportunity to see two Corallorhiza species growing in the duff and litter of mixed conifer habitat: Corallorhiza maculata and Corallorhiza striata. C. maculata gets its name from the spots dotting its labellum. C. striata has a similar naming scheme, where it is named for the stripes on the inflorescences. In a habitat type where the understory is bare due to the dense canopy blocking the majority of light, these two species have found a way to make it work!


Orobanchaceae, or the “Broomrape” family, is a group of annual to perennial herbs that are holoparasitic to hemiparasitic on the roots of other plant species using single or multiple haustoria. Haustoria are root-like structures used by parasitic plants to embed into the phloem and/or xylem of host plants, acting as both an anchor and a means to “tap” into the vascular system of the hosts. Water, sugars, and minerals can be stolen through this conduit. The Orobanchaceae family is of great research interest to evolutionary biologists studying the emergence of parasitism in plants because members of this family range from partial to complete parasites, capturing the transition from photosynthetic independence to holoparasitism.

Pedicularis procera, or the giant lousewort, is a member of Orobanchaceae that grows to about four feet tall. Evie and I found a small population while scouting along a canyon in a mixed conifer forest at ~8000 ft. Many bee species were visiting the flowers, and I captured one in the act, legs laden with pollen! Its flowers are heavily modified for pollination by bees. Pedicularis is an example of a hemiparasitic genus that has multiple root haustoria.

Conopholis alpina

Conopholis is a genus I’m familiar with from the deciduous forests of the Midwest through Conopholis americana. Its common name is American cancer-root, or bearcorn. This species is host specific to oaks (Quercus sp.) and beeches (Fagus sp.). The western species, Conopholis alpina, likewise utilizes oaks as a host species (in addition to Acer and Juniperus) but grows at elevations from 4,200 to 12,000 feet–hence the species epithet “alpina.” Conopholis is a holoparasitic genus possessing a single, large haustoria.

Last but not least are the scarlet paintbrushes! These beauties are hemiparasites on the roots of nearby plants. Castilleja diversity is concentrated in the American West, with only a handful of species from the eastern United States, Eurasia, and Central and South America. The most conspicuous part of the inflorescence is the bracts–not the flower proper. Flowers range in color from shades of red, orange, and purple but can also be white or yellow. Castilleja indivisa is not native to New Mexico, but I did see it on my road trip through Texas! This species is endemic to Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.

Further Reading/Sources:

Flora Neomexicana Series: https://floraneomexicana.org/flora-neomexicana-series/

The Fungi (Watkinson, Boddy, & Money, 2016), Chapter 7: Mutualistic Symbiosis Between Fungi and Autotrophs

An “Udderly” Amazing Month

I had no idea that my life and job here in Moab, Utah would go so far beyond seed collection! Aside from beginning seed collection, I have gotten to work with the amazing hydrologists here on projects aiming to protect lakes, streams, springs, and wetlands. I accompanied my mentor on a field trip to Medicine Lake where he will be conducting a huge fencing project in the hopes of preserving a very important wetland. The nature of the field trip was to introduce the project to different departments, including Range and Archaeology, in order to make sure the building of a fence would not cause any indirect damage to the area. It has been so exciting to meet people from so many different government departments and get to learn about what they do and see how all the pieces of the puzzle have to fit together for a project to go forward!

Hydrologists are so involved with fencing projects, I have learned, because cattle and livestock cause a lot of damage to soil and plant systems around water sources by causing hummocking. In a nutshell, hummocking is when cattle compacts soils in riparian areas causing it to puddle and exposing soil to erosion. This, in turn, damages natural vegetation succession in riparian areas. Moo knew? (Get it? Like who knew?) I got to help with my first fencing project last week, repairing a barbed wire fence around Warner Lake.

In terms of seed collection, our first target species is a lovely plant in the pea family known as Utah Sweetvetch, Hedysarum boreale. She has been the ideal first species to begin my seed collection journeys because she has very distinct “pods” that contain her seeds, and the dreamiest purple-pink flowers. Seed ripening has just become a lot more uniform across populations that we have observed, so more seeds to come!

Utah Sweetvetch, H. boreale
Lovely seeds on a Utah Sweetvetch, not quite ready for collection

My favorite botanical spot so far? The gorgeous are Sego Lily, Calochortus nuttallii! This lovely perennial monocot is the Utah State Flower and is known for her campanulate flowers. I have never seen anything quite like it. This unique flower has a rich history, as it is said that indigenous peoples in this area would harvest the roots and eat them during poor crop seasons.

Sego Lily, Calochortus nuttallii

I am so excited to learn more about Utah’s native flora, collect more seeds and get to help more with hydrology projects!

USFWS Klamath Falls internship

I started my CLM internship in April and have seen and done many exciting things. For my first week, I helped out with the telemetry crew. We took the boat out on Upper Klamath Lake, checked on some telemetry stations, and set up a few new stations. It was interesting to see how the stations were set up. On Friday of the first week, I helped the hatchery crew spawn the large adult Lost River Suckers. This was pretty cool to see after USGS netted the gathered the suckers; we grabbed four male suckers and got some milt from them, then we grabbed some females and got the eggs. We mixed the milt and eggs and then mixed them with a feather before we stored them on dry ice till they go to the hatchery.

Me holding an adult Lost River Sucker
Eggs being excreted from female
In the small bowls are the eggs of one female being mixed with four different males. In the large bowl is another female’s eggs being mixed with a feather after the male milt was added.

The next week I went to the hatchery, helped check the eggs, and cleaned some tanks. Then went out to do some electrofishing. The creek was turbid and fast-moving as a result, we only got to remove a few brook trout.

We went to the Klamath Marsh at night the next week to conduct Western Yellow Rail surveys. Even though it was cold, this was a lot of fun; we went out in the marsh with waders and used a Bluetooth speaker to call them in; once they flew near, we netted them. We placed a band on them, plucked some feathers for DNA analysis, measured wing length, and weighed them.
The next week I did a mixture of electrofishing and the hatchery. Then I was at the hatchery for three weeks. The hatchery has its good times, like when we collected larvae from the Williams River and visited the net pond in Upper Klamath Lake, but there are times that at a little mundane when weed eating, cleaning tanks, or counting hundreds of tiny larva fish.
We got to help the refuge team band some geese. This was a pretty unique event as it started with airboats rounding up the geese and us on kayaks pushing the geese into the pens. I have rounded up cattle in the past, and rounding up geese was not much different. Once we got them in the pens, it was time to catch them to place the bands. After catching one, you tuck their head under their wing and hand them to the next person like a football. It was a good time with only a few scratches and two bites.
So far, this experience has been great. I have met a lot of great people and gained lots of experience.

Month 1 in the Klamath Basin

I spent the first month of my internship doing a lot of floating around the Klamath Falls USFWS office. We had the opportunity to be a part of a few different projects and gain diversified experience, as well as meet so many great mentors throughout the field.

We started out with the hatchery team, working with Lost River suckers and Shortnose suckers. These species are a key focus throughout the basin, as they have become endangered by water quality issues throughout their small range. We got the chance to be a part of larval collection from the Williamson River, as well as learn the ropes of taking care of the fish being raised by the hatchery over the course of my first 3 weeks. This included feeding, water quality testing, water treatments, hatchery upkeep, hormone injections and so much more!

During the next week, we got to work closely with our mentor on his bull trout projects. This involved monitoring for population size within the existing population range and removing invasive brook trout in a potential range. The populations of bull trout in Oregon were already existing in very narrow ranges and few were in a good position, but the recent Bootleg Fire created a larger problem sweeping through a few of those key ranges. Due to these populations being isolated from others they have become genetically distinct and can not be helped through outsourcing to populations outside of the basin.

Our first bull trout catch of the season!

We also have had the opportunity to be a part of a Canadian goose banding project, taking data on the populations within this flyway. This was an adventure because I am terrified of birds, but great exposure therapy! As well as help with a population survey of Applegate’s Milkvetch, an endangered species of pea plant, only endemic to the Klamath Basin and currently suffering due to drought conditions.

Holding a gosling during banding, and a rare occurrence of a smile on my face anywhere near a bird.

Life in Tonasket, WA

Tonasket, Washington is a land of extremes. Surrounded by low valleys and high peaks, it is full of hippies too liberal for Seattle mingling with folks too conservative for Spokane. Of all the Tonasketers (as I have been told they are called) I have ran into my favorite is probably the nice fella at the co-op who is always up for a conversation. At our first encounter he gave me a rundown of his life. His mother was an L.A. socialite/burlesque dancer who may or may not have known Lenny Bruce. With his mother’s connections he reckons he could have been a Hollywood star, but decided to rebel and move to Tonasket. He regrets this choice every day. At our next encounter he was wearing a cowboy hat and a cross necklace. In the week since we had last seen each other he had either found Jesus, or found a necklace. Either way, I hope it brought him some solace. He did not recognize me, but really wanted me to buy an amino acid based soy sauce which he claimed contained “the healthy salts”. I did not purchase this item, a choice which I may too one day regret. Such is the nature of life. 

The Tonasket real estate market is in shambles. Luckily, my landlord has generously provided me a trailer to stay in. I share the trailer with many mice, one of which has an affinity for pooping in the kitchen sink. I have had worse roommates. In lieu of rent I have been doing odd jobs around his property. Mainly I have been pulling weeds and organizing rocks into piles next to a pond. The frogs and newts that live around the pond will use the rocks as a refuge from predators and the hot sun. Who would have thought that filling a bucket with rocks from a pile and then moving the rocks to a secondary location where I arrange them into a new pile could be so fulfilling?

My other work has been going well too. I have been conducting plant surveys in the Colville National Forest, paying special attention to observing sensitive plant species. To date I have seen four species from our sensitive plant list, and discovered three new sensitive plant populations. It has been a thrill to conduct these surveys, and I hope to conduct more in the coming months. As far as seed collection goes, myself and my co-intern have located many populations of silky lupine, mountain brome, and fireweed. In the coming weeks we plan to return to these populations to monitor phenology. Hopefully we can begin seed collection soon. 

Some sensitive plant species of the Colville National Forest. I love them all.

Making Midewin Mine

For the last Eighteen years of my life I have lived in the state of Massachusetts so the prospect of moving halfway across the country to start my first job after graduating college was daunting. Also, the idea of living alone for the first time was a little haunting. But after my first month here the time I’ve spent at Midewin has been quite rewarding. Life at Midewin has been anything but mid, it has been quite fun! I had to start by learning the lay of the land (which is overall quite flat) which included dangers to avoid such as the Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), that upon touch and upon the sun’s rays hitting you will cause a reaction that causes your skin to burn and create a rash. When encountering said plant while walking through the prairie one needs to either steer clear or raise their arms above their head so that their arms don’t come in contact with the phototoxic plant.

Pastinaca sativa

Vegetative villains aside, my overall orientation to the prairie was swift and informative. We went over good places to collect seed, the history of Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, all the various facilities and operations they have, and much more. As we got into the swing of things, mornings became essential hours in which to do field work so we could escape some of the most heated hours of the day. In the AM was when we found and collected many plants that had seed such as Carex stricta and Carex bickenellii

Carex stricta
Carex bicknellii

A majority of seed that we are looking for come from sedges, a grass-like family of species that is slightly tricky to identify so we were put through a workshop of how to tell what a sedge is as well as what sedge is what. In that workshop one person gave us a helpful rhyme which goes like “sedges have edges, rushes are round, grasses have joints all the way to the ground”.

Besides seed collection we have had the joyful opportunity to partake in other projects that happen at Midewin such as bird surveys and hydrological testing. With those experiences we learned a lot about the different bird species that make a home at Midewin and why certain birds prefer certain grass heights as well as the great importance that hydrology plays in the health of Midewin as we tested streams and ponds for various characteristics. All along the way we have familiarized ourselves with the prairie and its characteristic species that make it different from other places in America, including two of my favorites the prairie dock plant (Silphium terebinthinaceum ) and the compass plant (Silphium laciniatum). The dock plant has an ingenious self cooling system that pumps refreshingly cold water up its stem. It’s always fun to go up to a dock plant and lay your hands on it to feel how cold it is relative to the plants around it! 

Silphium terebinthinaceum (left) and Silphium laciniatum (far right)   


Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)

Carex, and Silphium, and Penstemon… Oh my!

Cannot believe I have already spent a month working at Midewin Prairie. I came in knowing how to identify literally only two tall grass prairie plants, now I walk around my community prairie and have fun pointing out all of the different plants that they have included! My dog is not as enthusiastic about the frequent stops in the sun to look at plants… but he gets over it quickly with a belly rub.

Here’s some highlights from the first month at Midewin:

Funny Puns

“How do you tell the difference between an alligator and a crocodile?” … “One you see later and the other in awhile” – Harsha Pandaraboyina

One of the best jokes I have heard in awhile, especially when it comes out of no where as you are marching to a site through tall grass and are concentrating very hard not to twist your ankle. Working with this group of guys is honestly one of the best parts of the job, they are all so knowledgeable about different things, are great jokesters in tiring situations, and let me be in charge. Plus they have great tastes in music so we can jam out while planting seeds or watering our thirsty plants (the Midwest is in a serious drought at the moment). I am looking forward to working with them for the next few months!

From left to right, the CLM interns for Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Harsha Pandaraboyina, me, Dade Bradley, Nathan Augustine.

Seeds, Seeds, and More Seeds!

Wow have we been collecting and identifying a bunch of plants and their seeds! We have collected what we have but unfortunately we have been in a terrible drought here so our mentors say the seed might not be as viable this year as in years past. My favorite plants to identify thus far are Spiderwort, Penstemons, and Silphium because one of them (prairie dock plant) has a neat cooling system inside it so when you touch it one side is colder than the other! So now we all live to touch both sides when we see it.

Look we are Birders now!

Fun fact: 27 years ago researchers noticed an influx of native grassland bird species in the Midewin area(which at that time was a US army base). They realized that these tall/short grassland prairies were unique to the area that had become largely agriculture fields. So Midewin National Tall grass Prairie was established, for the birds! Makes sense as to why the biologists conduct at least three bird surveys year here.

June calls for the grassland bird survey at Midewin. We got to work with the wildlife biologist/technician and go out to different sites around the prairie to identify different birds based on visual and audio cues. Although we did not know much about birds in the beginning we quickly got good at identifying key species like the Dickcissel, Red-winged black bird, and Common Yellowthroat. Now whenever we go out into the field I am quick to point out some of the birds in the area. Which I know Nathan secretly appreciates being the plant guy that he is. Harsha had a ton of fun with the binoculars too! Needless to say, we are now birders as well as botanists in training at Midewin.

Harsha having fun with binoculars!

The Pollinators to our Orchids

Platanthera praeclara is a rare, threatened orchid found at Midewin that has been monitored and hand pollinated for a few years through a program with USFS and US Fish and Wildlife. The interns were able to go out with our botany specialist and a few technicians to learn how to hand pollinate and visually observe the orchid in the field so that we can help with the orchid survey that started in late June. So we learned how to take the pollinia from one orchid and hand pollinate it to another orchid in order to keep the populations consistent in numbers at Midewin. Sadly, because of the drought here the population numbers are lower than normal years, but we did find enough orchids to be successful in pollinating. Hopefully at least a few set seed so they can repopulate in the coming years.

Harsha hand pollinating an orchid with a toothpick, pollen from a different orchid, and a great amount of concentration!

Whatever you do, DON’T DRINK THE WATER!

We got to work with the hydrologic technician and conduct water quality surveys around the prairie which means waders! We got to learn about the role that he plays in the health of the wildlife and prairie, what he wants to do in the future, and the equipment he uses to learn more about the water quality. We took readings with the YSI probe, gathered samples for nutrient composition, looked at the depth of the stream, and sampled for E.coli. Yes that’s right E.coli in the streams. We looked at six different streams around Midewin, some were beautifully clear with fish and crawdads swimming around, some were a little more sandy and harder to see but all were full of E.coli… Long story short, we look amazing in waders, but don’t drink the water!

CLM interns showing off our styling skills with these fashionable waders.

Carex…. Still working on it…

“Sedges have edges, Rushes are round, and Grasses have nodes from the top to the ground”

Exactly what goes through my mind when we have to identify and collect Cyperaceae (Sedges) out in the field. Luckily our mentors have given us a guide to all of the Carex species found at Midewin, but it doesn’t stop the identification process from being very stressful and long. We have started collecting Carex out in the field and wow there are a lot of them to identify in our more wetland habitats. Thankfully our techs and mentors are more than willing to help us identify the sites and species we are looking for. hopefully with time and effort we will be just as good at identifying as they are!

Dade looking to collect Carex stricta at Grant Creek Annex

Hello From The Lolo!

As June comes to a close, I can’t believe how quickly the past few weeks have come and gone. Time flies when you are having fun…. and by fun, I of course mean keying out plants! My introduction to the Lolo National Forest has been one full of excitement and education. Moving to Missoula from the East Coast has definitely been a big adjustment, especially in terms of learning about all the plants in this region. Luckily, my mentor has been very helpful (and patient!) as he points out each plant and makes sure I can correctly identify the species we come across in the field. As I follow along on rare plant surveys and other important projects that the Lolo National Forest Botany Team takes on, I’m amazed at the beautiful landscape where I get to work every day. Sometimes I have to remember to pick my head up take a look around, even though the plants on the ground are the most exciting part. I’ve been lucky enough to map some Pinus albicaulis which are considered a sensitive species and got to document a rare plant population with my mentor, a group of little Botrychium crenulatum, how cute!

Botrychium crenulatum from a Rare Plant Survey

Another exciting learning experience I had was tagging along with the invasive/weeds team to spray for weeds at a nursery in Plains, MT. Pictured below is my coworker giving a big thumbs up after killing all the Cirsium arvense and choke weed we could find.

This last week of June I had the opportunity to attend the R1 Botany Grass Identification training in Bozeman, MT and got to meet up with some fellow Chicago Botanic Garden Interns. It was great to catch up, learn about Montana grasses and discuss the work we had each been doing in our respective forests. Overall, I am having a great experience and cannot wait for the seed collecting to begin.

That’s all for now!