Another month has passed working at the BLM office in Safford, AZ and it is hard to believe the summer is almost gone. I have extended my internship, and am thrilled that I have more time to be involved with all the interesting projects that my mentors are working on.
Our crew has been working on restoration projects a lot within the last month. Sands draw is a 480 acre wildlife exclosure in the Sam Simon Valley. This area has excluded grazing in recent years in an attempt to re-establish a native grassland. The San Simon Valley use to be almost entirely grassland, but in the late 1800’s was so over-grazed and degraded that cresote scrub-bush dominates now. The workn in this exclosure consists of digging holes, pre-watering the holes, planting native grass seedlings with a product called dry-water, rock and straw mulching the seedlings, and then top-watering the plants. It is a time consuming process, and the seedlings must be handled with care to ensure their success. Our BLM crew has worked in this area several times, and last week an American Conservation Experience crew traveled to the area to assist in this work as well. Having a larger number of workers in the area brought new challenges, but also allowd us to get a lot of seedlings in the ground. Due to the complexity of the process used to plant the grass seedlings, teaching a large group of mostly inexperienced workers took time. Once the group was up to speed on the procedure the work went smoothly.
The last day the crew was in the field with us, we went to another wildlife enclosure called Howards Well. This area has a large pool that is home to populations of Desert Pupfish and Gila Topminnow. The sedges and cattails that ground around the waters edge have begun to severely encroach on the water habitat. The plants have to be cut back in order to prevent too much sediment build up and complete loss of water habitat. The crew helped us to clear the pond of the sedges and cattails with hand saws. The work that the ACE crew assisted us with was very strenuous and challenging and they should be commended for their endurance.
I am continuing to prep for SOS scouting trips and collections. We will be doing our first SOS collection next week! Very exciting. I finished a study guide of all of our target species and rare plants to keep an eye out for, and in down time look over the guide to be ready for collecting season. I have also been introduced to GIS and am learning to transfer coordinates from my GPS unit to GIS. We will also be using GIS to look at soil maps in an attempt to find areas where certain plant populations may be likely. GIS is a daunting program with so much information to offer. I am excited to become more familiar with it and learn more ways in which it can assist me in my work.
Work in Bonita Creek to removal non-natives continues. It is a staple to our fieldwork and we don’t usually make it more then a couple weeks without visiting the stream. Its a lovely place to work though, and I enjoy knowing that it will be part of my schedule. However, at some point the non-native removal will be a complete success hopefully and the native populations will be able to thrive without our weekly intrusions.
An exciting meeting took place several weeks ago in which myself and five others met to discuss possible project ideas at Discovery park, Eastern Arizona Community College’s auxiliary campus. Jeff had the awesome idea that we should install a pollinator garden. The plans are in motion now, and the group that will be working on the project, myself included, is an interesting collaboration that will undoubtedly produce amazing results. Discovery park is expansive, and many other project ideas were discussed at the meeting as well. The potential in this park is really thrilling. The new greenhouse is up and running now and Alex Dragotakes, the greenhouse manager, has started seeding! The greenhouse grand opening is just around the corner, and I think the community is really in for a treat.
My days continue to be varied and fulfilling. I’ve already learned so much in my time here, and am very pleased with my growth in field biology, restoration, and conservation. I hope all the other interns are enjoying their experience as much as me 🙂