Plant Monitoring Across the Mojave

As the temperatures begin to climb and plants are in full bloom, we are approaching our busiest time for fieldwork here in the Mojave. We recently traveled to every common garden site (St. George, UT, Fort Irwin, CA, and Joshua Tree, CA) to monitor the survival of our transplants and get some baseline cover measurements. We were pleased to see that most of our plants are still alive, with many putting on new growth and some are even flowering! Soon we will start monitoring different traits to determine if the source population has any effect on plant success.

This past week we traveled back to Eureka Valley to start growth measurements for Swallenia alexandrae – Eureka Valley dune grass – and continue measuring Oenothera californica ssp. eurekensis – Eureka Valley Evening Primrose. It has only been two weeks since our previous monitoring trip, but some of the primrose had doubled in size and completely covered the tags we had marking them! They are loaded with flowers, and some have even started producing seed pods. Additionally, the Sphaeralcea ambigua and Baileya pleniradiata at the dunes are in full bloom, and created a beautiful sea of orange and yellow flowers that were visible from miles away. It’s amazing how much life these dunes can support! Walking through the dunes we saw desert iguanas darting from shrub to shrub, a horned lizard, a leopard lizard, and a yellow headed blackbird. The desert is truly starting to come to life.

Finally, my fellow interns and I have done some exploring around Las Vegas, and went to a restored wetland park for birdwatching and on a quest to find desert bighorn sheep. We saw several different species of water birds in the wetland, turtles, hummingbirds, and even a couple baby gallinules! There is a park in Boulder City that is well known for the bighorn sheep that come and graze there, and we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one just before the sun went down, and it returned to the mountains for the night. All in all, it has been a very busy but exciting two weeks and I’m looking forward to continuing the projects in the weeks to come.


Marble Canyon dunes in Eureka Valley, one of the three dunes where we study Oenothera califonica ssp. eurekensis and Swallenia alexandrae


Desert bighorn making his way back up to the mountains for the evening


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