July in Hollister- seeds, soil, fossils, and a helicopter

Kreyenhagen Peak

This month our main focus was seed collection. I’ve learned a lot about seed collection and processing, and also got to visit some cool areas to look for seed. Last week we went to a new area to search for seed near Coalinga, CA and hiked to the top of Kreyenhagen peak. Though not exceptionally tall at 3500 ft., the view from this peak in the inner Coast Ranges was unique in that I could see: (1)the Santa Lucia Mts(where I worked last summer!) to the west (these are the part of the southern outer coast ranges…the mountains along Big Sur coast), (2)I-5 and the Central Valley with it’s checkerboard of green agricultural lands immediately to my east, and (3)farther in the distance to the east were the Sierra Nevada (albeit shrouded in haze). It was like a topo map of Central California.

On another day I was collecting seed at a place called Monocline Ridge near where our paleontology intern was mapping fossils and was able to help him search after my collection was done. I found a Desmostylus tooth right away..my first and only find of the day, but an exciting one. Desmostylus was a marine mammal that lived in California 28.4 mya—7.25 mya when the coastline was located much farther inland (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desmostylus). He looks sort of like a mix of a hippo and a manatee. Also that day we

Mortar and pestle on Monocline Ridge sand dune

found new archeological artifacts at my seed collection site..mortar and pestle, worked stones, etc…that we were able to map for our Archeologist.

Aerial spraying in Panoche Creek

In addition to seed collection duties, I was also able to observe a tamarisk removal project that our office conducted in Panoche Creek. This creek was clogged with Tamarisk (also known as salt cedar) which invades streams and river beds in arid climates. To combat this, Ryan (my mentor) has enacted an aerial spraying program. This is the second year of spraying by helicopter and you can already see the difference. Ryan says this program is unique as aerial spraying has not been conducted on other BLM lands in California. Other methods have been used over the years to combat this problem in Panoche.  So far,  unfortunately, they have proved ineffective as well as expensive and time consuming. The helicopter pilot arrived very early in the morning to complete spraying before the wind picked up. He was quite talented and able to maneuver his small helicopter through the stream canyon (see picture). During this time, we were monitoring wind speed and temperature to make sure we were complying with regulations. We also did water sampling both before and after the spraying… though there was very little water in this mostly dry creekbed.

The other project we are working on is collecting soil to determine the depth of the seed bank of threatened plant populations. So far, we know that the seed bank is at least 4cm deep and has a viability of at least 20 years, but Ryan

collecting soil for Camissonia benitensis seed bank study

hopes to be able to determine more information about how much seed bank exists in order to assist with recovery efforts.

It looks like August will see a continuation of our seed and soil collection as well as a vacation for me….I’m going to Montana for a week to visit a friend who is going for his PhD in Ornithology and am excited to get to participate in his bird nesting study. I love plants, but am definitely a bit of a bird nerd also, and I am excited to have the chance to take this trip in the summer. Most seasonal jobs don’t lend themselves to taking a week off, so I am grateful that this program allows me the flexibility to take advantage of this opportunity!


Rachel Veal,  Botany Intern, Hollister BLM

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