My name is Justin! For the next five months I will be an intern at the BLM in Burns, Oregon. My main job is to monitor BLM land and assess plant diversity and the health of specific sites throughout the sagebrush community. A majority of the sites I will be monitoring will be burned sites. There are many other activities I will be doing regarding data entry and the creation of herbarium specimens.
The first week was full of adventure! This was considered a training week for the interns. We traveled with different people from the BLM office to their sites. They showed us different plant species and told us how to identify them.
The first day of the internship we met everyone in the office. They were all very nice and very knowledgeable about their backgrounds. After we filled out the necessary paperwork, our main adviser took the other intern and myself to collect sagebrush samples to determine the moisture levels of the brush in the area.
The second day we went to a study site to retrieve a broken ATV with another adviser from the office. On the way there we encountered two cattle drives! There were so many cows, that they sounded like motor engines from a NASCAR race….that mooed. On our way up to the site, we would pull off to view different flora. The other intern, Dan, and I took many notes regarding the genus and species of the flora. Some of the flora I encountered could also be found back in the Midwest! We finally made it to the ATV and helped get the vehicle on the trailer. Our adviser was very knowledgeable about the plants and issues of the region. Most of the issues regarded Sage Grouse, invasive plants, plant community succession, and ranching. On our way home we encountered mini dust storms that would travel across the road due to the barren fields. This day was very informative and helped me understand all of the major issues the BLM is trying to address.
On the third day we went south to the study site known as Trout Creek. We went with another adviser to see future areas that we will be monitoring. The two hour car ride was fascinating! We saw many different bird species and wildlife. We were also given the background history of the place we were viewing. We traveled along the mountains near the Nevada border. There were a variety of different flora located everywhere. Dan and I were trying to identify as many plants as possible! It was 28 degrees Fahrenheit and very windy when we got to the top of the mountain. We were told this was considered very good habitat for sage grouse.
The fourth day was considered a field day training for the office. We all went out in the field to learn updated techniques on how to monitor different sites. Both Dan and I were given a lot of experience. We were shown different methods to assess the plant diversity of a site. There were a lot of flowers that were active during this time and the sites we visited were beautiful!
On the fifth day, both Dan and I were organizing our notes. We created a powerpoint to help us identify all of the different grasses, forbs, shrubs, and trees we have seen.
I really enjoyed learning about all of the flora of the region, especially sagebrush! I always thought there was only one kind of sagebrush, but there are a variety of them. Wyoming, mountain, low, basin, and silver sagebrush are the main species we saw or will be seeing. We learned about the aroga moth and how it was impacting different sagebrush communities.
On my off-periods beyond work, I did a lot of bird watching and rock hounding! This area is full of resources! There are many sites to look for rare rocks, habitats to look for rare birds, and many places to go fishing. A majority of the pictures will either be taken on the job or when I am in the field studying.
I am very excited about this opportunity to work for the BLM and look forward to the summer!