Mojave Blooms!

After working as a botanist and environmental educator in Oregon for more than 7 years, my present stint at the BLM Ridgecrest Field Office feels a bit like a sabbatical. What a learning experience and adventure it is proving to be; less than 2 months into my internship here, I have already experienced a tremendous variety of work projects and outings, here in the Western Mojave.

Nine Mile Canyon

Wildflower display in Nine Mile Canyon, Sacatar Trail Wilderness

Taking advantage of recent spring rains in the Western Mojave and Eastern Sierra Nevada, and the amazing blooms that have followed, the Seeds of Success program is once again a major focus for me. The combination of sufficient precipitation and our team’s dedication has resulted in more forb-species seed collections than have occurred here during the past several years.


Caulanthus inflatus population, Grass Valley Wilderness

In addition to the native seed collections I have taken the opportunity to involve myself in several other aspects of botanical work, at the Ridgecrest Field Office, and elsewhere in the California Desert District. Highlights include:

  • As part of an interdisciplinary team, I helped conduct rangeland health assessments in the Bright Star Wilderness, where we performed quantitative toe-point vegetation transects, as well as qualitative proper functioning condition (PFC) assessments of a grazing allotment.

Interdisciplinary team, hiking into the Bright Star Wilderness

  • Another exciting aspect of the internship has been several days of rare plant monitoring, tracking the progress of populations of Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii (Peirson’s milk-vetch), Cymopterus deserticola (desert cymopterus), and Mimulus shevockii (Kelso Creek monkeyflower). Other BLM special status plants that I have had the pleasure to encounter in the field include Erythranthe rhodopetra (Red Rock Canyon monkeyflower), Phacelia nashiana (Charlotte’s phacelia),  Eschscholzia minutiflora subsp. twisselmannii (Red Rock poppy), and Pholisma sonorae (sand food).
Algodones Dunes

Rare plant monitoring in the Algodones Dunes


Phacelia nashiana, a BLM special status plant

  • While perhaps not quite as much fun as finding rare plants, another important project has been working with invasive plant inventories. This has included becoming familiar with the NISIMS (National Invasive Species Information Management System), using mobile GIS tools to record, map, and report weed infestations and treatments.

Workers prepare to remove an invasive salt-cedar from a riparian area in the El Paso Mountains

  • Collecting for the plant display at the Ridgecrest Desert Wildflower Festival, teaching botany lessons to fourth graders for the Sand Canyon Environmental Education Program, and helping to document a new species of Claytonia with botanists from Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, are a few more of the diverse botany projects, in which I have participated so far.
Owens Peak Wilderness

Owens Peak Wilderness


Gopher snake near Grass Valley Wilderness

And much remains to come! On the horizon is a NEPA training in Las Vegas, a vegetation monitoring class in Billings, plant mapping projects, writing assignments, and yes, more native seed collections. I will be sure to keep you posted as things begin to heat-up here in the Mojave.

Marcus Lorusso

BLM Ridgecrest Field Office

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