I recently started my CLM internship with the San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF) in Big Bear, California on May 25th. It was certainly a whirlwind getting here given that I graduated from college four days before my start date, but I am now comfortably settled in my new community and am having a great time getting to know my coworkers, mentor, and the surrounding forest. I feel so fortunate to have been plopped into such a spectacularly beautiful area with such generous, welcoming people.
Over the next five months, my position will mostly entail mapping sensitive and endangered plant species in the area, transferring data from the SBNF’s previous geodatabase to the online geodatabase the entire U.S. National Forest now uses, and probably making an interpretive guide to the forest’s wildflowers to be displayed at our visitor’s center so that guests can identify flowers that they see while out hiking.
My first few weeks on the job have been very informative and engaging. I have spent most of my time in the field mapping the mustard species Arabis parishii, or Parish’s rock cress, which is only found in the San Bernardino Mountains. Perhaps the most special attribute of this area is the occurrence of “pebble plain” ecosystems which are relict alpine meadows from the Pleistocene epoch 10,000 years ago. These pebble plains are covered with chunks of quartzite crystals and clay soils that are subject to intense freeze-thaw cycles (we’re at ~7,000 feet here!). Few plants can grow under these inhospitable conditions so the ones that do are very unique; A. parishii is one such plant. By mapping the current A. parishii population, we are able to compare our new data with previous data taken in the same area which has been informative in determining the effects the aftermath of a 2003 forest fire has had on the plant’s range. Preliminarily, we have found that A. parishii occurrence is lower than at the time the previous data was taken, probably due to a large Bromus tectorum, or cheat grass, influx that appeared after the fire.
I think the most valuable skills that I have learned thus far are related to field mapping. In previous field jobs the ArcPad GIS devices were extremely confusing, but thanks to my patient coworkers at this job, I’ve learned how to use the units efficiently and comfortably.
Well, this seems long enough but I’ll sign off by saying that if my job continues like this, I will certainly never be bored in the coming months! Thanks to everyone who has made this experience possible!!