Idaho, land of lava fields, cows, and magic!

Hello, everyone!

I just moved from Gainesville, Florida 2 weeks ago to Twin Falls, Idaho to work at the BLM Shoshone field office. I studied political science and natural resource conservation with a minor in sustainability at the University of Florida. Moving away from my family and friends was bittersweet. I spent my entire life in Florida (save for a few pretty forgettable years in Alaska from ages 0-3). But since my first day of work with the BLM I felt very welcomed by the staff and excited to learn everything I can about this mysterious state.

During my first weekend in Twin, my roommate and fellow CBG-er Carla and I visited Shoshone Falls, Snake River, and Dierke Lake. I was surrounded by beaches, lakes, and even the world’s highest concentration of springs in Gainesville, but we definitely don’t have the jaw-dropping cliffs, mountains, and waterfalls we found here. I was deeply impressed by the geological and aquatic beauty of these areas just 15 minutes away from our apartment.

Snake River & Canyon

Shoshone Falls


On our first day of work, ¬†our mentor Joanna introduced us to everyone in the office and then we headed out to do a training session for HAF (Habitat Assessment Framework) monitoring. It was a great way to get to know everyone and get an idea of the ecology of the area. I learned a few plants and we even spotted a moose on the other side of the valley. My first impressions of the area were of how blue the sky was, the smell of sagebrush, how dry the air was, and… wait where’s the water? The allotment was called Poison Creek but I soon found out Idaho is in the midst of a 4-year drought. However, Magic Valley (the name of our region) was named after the ‘magic’ that is the construction of the series of dams and canals that profoundly improved irrigation and agriculture in the early 1900s in a previously desolate and uninhabitable area. The creation of giant reservoirs of water in a desert in the early 20th century would seem magical to me, too.

HAF Monitoring Training

I heard about more unique and unexpected landmarks in Idaho such as Craters of the Moon National Preserve and Monument, which the BLM co-manages with the NPS. President Coolidge himself described the area as “unusual and weird” and the Apollo 14 astronauts trained there to prepare for the moon landing. And, I was excited about the prospect of getting some training in raptor and bat monitoring. That will have to wait until the bulk of our range land monitoring is done and bat season starts, but! we did get to visit and do some caving at Craters of the Moon and it was pretty awesome:

Dwarf Buckwheat

And of course, plant identification! Dendrology was one of my favorite (and one of the most difficult) classes I took as an undergrad. We had to learn 130 species of plants, lots of different varieties of pines and oaks, which made transitioning to sagebrush grasslands a little difficult. I knew a handful of southeastern grasses and switching over from identifying mostly trees and large shrubs to shriveled up remnants of forbs the size of a pinhead and a variety of grasses took some getting use to. Luckily we got plenty of practice in the field and jumped right into long-term trend monitoring using photo plots and line transects. Just two weeks in and we’ve learned to identify ~30 species. What was most surprising about the fieldwork was how much driving was spent getting to different BLM allotments. The prospect of getting very lost is daunting but the trade off for the scope of ecological diversity we get to experience is more than worth it. Also, the weather has been great so far. Highs in the mid 70s and lows in the 40s, that’s fall weather for Florida (or winter if you’re in south Florida)! It won’t last, but I could definitely get use to it. Also I have seen more cows here than I have ever seen in my life. It’s great.

Racing a thunderstorm to finish our trend plots

Clasping pepperweed, my new favorite ‘introduced’ plant! Lepidium perfoliatum


Elk skull

Your friendly neighborhood Shoshone horses


22-degree rainbow halo (it’s a thing)

Thanks for reading! Shorter and more botanically inclined posts to come.

Diana Gu

BLM, Shoshone Field Office.

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About diananaiad

Botany intern at the BLM field office in Shoshone, Idaho. Living in Twin Falls, here until October doing range land and habitat monitoring, and eventually raptors and bats! I'm a recent graduate from the University of Florida with a BS in Natural Resource Conservation and a BA in Political Science.

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