Hello, readers! As this is my first blog post, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Dani and I am an intern at the BLM in Vernal, Utah. I’m originally from Minnesota, but I moved here from La Crosse, Wisconsin where I graduated with a B.S. in Biology in May 2013. I first learned of this program through my botany professor at UW-L and I was beyond excited to be offered my current position!
Today marks the end of my first month here in Vernal and it has definitely been a whirlwind. I’ve spent the past weeks assisting other branches in the office with their vegetation work. I’ve hunted for our endemic (and threatened) cacti, Sclerocactus wetlandicus and Sclerocactus brevispinus, in the Pariette Wetlands; I performed line point intercepts for the first time among Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana and Claytonia lanceolata on top of Blue Mountain; and I’ve hiked up Coyote Gulch for a glimpse of Frasera ackermanae, another endemic and sensitive plant of the Uinta Basin.
As you might’ve guessed, our threatened and endangered (T&E) species are a main component of our botanical work. Within the past couple years, Vernal has experienced another boom in the oil and gas industry and in ensuring that our T&E species are not adversely affected by the industry is a top priority.
On the contrary, we’re also responsible for managing our invasive species as well. I’ve had the opportunity to accompany Jim, our main weed man, out to the field twice now to spray for Russian knapweed (Centaurea repens) and whitetop (Cardaria draba). Spraying weeds is actually kind of fun! We have a UTV with two long hoses on the back and it’s strangely satisfying to hunt down and spray the invasives – especially because the blue dye we use makes it easy to see what’s been sprayed.
The best part so far, though, has been rafting on the White River. My boss, my fellow intern, myself, and two guys from Wildlife spent three days and two nights rafting the river, inspecting the banks for Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) and tamarix (Tamarix ramosissima) and brainstorming a monitoring plan. This summer, young folks through the Utah Conservation Corps will be cutting down the Russian olive and we want to document the ecological effects, if any, the removal will have. We’ll be going out on the river again next week to implement our monitoring plan.
In case you were wondering, the reason for the title of this post is two-fold: not only did I definitely get wet (and muddy) feet during our trip down the river, but the past weeks have been a crash course in flora of the Uinta Basin. I love learning new plants and I’m excited that every day I’m able to identify more and more species. It’s a good thing, too, since my fellow intern and I spent this week scouting for Seeds of Success populations. We even took a couple vouchers! To my fellow interns, happy (seed) hunting!
“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”
II John Muir II
BLM Vernal Field Office