No Desert Is Lifeless

Horned lizard flattens out to be difficult to eat.

Coming from Minnesota in March to the Mojave Desert was like driving straight from winter into summer. Having never even been to the desert, I was uncertain what I would encounter but I was willing to find out. Now, after a couple months working for the USGS I have seen far more than I ever expected.  Before I arrived, I was under the impression that the Mojave would be nothing but sand and mountains. I never expected to encounter such an incredibly diverse and abundant landscape. From dozens of different reptiles, to hundreds of species of plants, I still see something new every week.

Sidewinder Rattlesnake hiding in the sand.

Working at the USGS I have been involved in a project that has taken me all over a large region of the Mojave Desert around and on the Army base Fort Irwin. This project is primarily concerned with the Desert Tortoise and helping to study their habitats in order to keep them healthy when moving them off the base. I have been collecting data on annual and perennial species of desert plants using techniques both old and brand new. Some of the new methods involve using Infrared NDVI cameras that photograph the UV and IR wavelengths reflected by chlorophyll. The opportunity to use new technology and be one of the first people to develop its application has been very satisfying.

Baby Desert Tortoise ~8 yrs old.

While this project has been interesting, the USGS also provides the opportunity for working on other projects. Recently working on the Nevada National Security Site, where the first Atomic Bombs were tested, was a unique experience that few people have. There I had the chance to work on perennial plant plots that have been studied for many decades, one of the longest running studies in the entire Mojave desert. It was a great experience being part of a study that will continue for decades to come.

A field of annual flowers in the desert.

I look forward to the rest of this internship and I am sure I will have many more amazing experiences.

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