Hello from Cedarville, California!
Shortly after the CBG Workshop, Avery (my Honda Accord) and I drove from IL to CA (about 1,936 miles) in 3 days. My initial impression of Cedarville was that the population is a whopping 514. It is by far the smallest town I have ever lived in. There is one grocery store, one gas station, one café, one bakery, one bar, and a post office. It has taken a bit of adjustment but it’s a nice quiet place and the people I’ve encountered so far are nice and friendly.
So far my work at the BLM – Surprise Field Office has been vegetation monitoring (VM) and seed collecting. Most of VM are located in Nevada and we work to compare between burned and unburned sites. Working out here in the high elevation desert has been interesting. Initially, I thought I would experience scorching hot 10-hour days but so far we’ve only had 2-3 days of 100+ degree weather. Fortunately, on most days, we have breezes to keep us cool. Also, our plot areas are located on average 1-2 hours away from our office in the middle of sagebrush country. It can be quite isolating, but the desert here is teeming with wildlife. We’ve had multiple encounters with pronghorns, deer, ground squirrels, ravens, magpies, lizards, and even badgers!
With VM work, the most challenging thing that we’ve encountered is the alphabet soup that is the NRCS plant codes. Having to identify plants and associate scientific names, common names as well as NRCS plant codes has been difficult, but with practice, it’s getting easier. Furthermore, after learning all the procedures for VM (soil composition, LPI, gap cover, quadrat count, soil stability, and species richness), I can now understand why it can be difficult to attain a job without having several seasons of similar fieldwork experience. Future applicants: if you have the chance to help with research projects or can take field experience classes, seize the opportunities!
As for Seed of Success (SOS), we’ve done five collections: Bottlebrush squirreltail (Elymus Elymoides, ELEL5), Idaho Fescue (Festuca idahoensis, FEID), Prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha, KOMA), Spiky Sandwort (Arenaria aculeata, ARAC2), and Spineless Horsebrush (Tetradymia canescens, TECA2). Here’s what we’ve learned so far about the process of collecting:
1. Research! Research! Research! —Look up as many images as you can about the plant species. Key images to have are the overall plant, seed head, and what the seed looks like at maturity.
2. Figure out ways to keep tallies of plants sampled and even number of seeds collected. So far, we’ve kept tallies on our arms with a pen but we’re supposed be getting tally count clickers soon.
3. Figuring out the total area of where you collected can be difficult.
4. Always have a plan B! If the plant you were supposed to collect has already seeded, try to collect from a different plant species.
In addition to VM and SOS, I’ve learned to drive big trucks and four-wheel driving (very different from driving a tiny Honda). This week, we will be trained in CPR and First Aid. Hopefully, we will get ATV/UTV training in the coming months.
Lastly, here are some of the issues that I have come across so far:
1. 10-hr days in the suns at high elevation = sunburns. (Even with high SPF sunscreens with multiple applications)
2. The only cell service provider is Verizon.
3. Wi-Fi is currently only available at the BLM office and the town café. ( #2 & #3 makes it pretty hard to stay in contact with the outside world =\ )
4. Due to isolation, everything at the grocery stores is expensive. And the stores will take you to the cleaners!
And now the moment you’ve been waiting for! Pictures!!