As a CLM Intern, I have had the pleasure of venturing beyond my home-base of Vernal, Utah to some magnificent places to work (and, of course, play). This past August I had the extreme pleasure of working in Yellowstone National Park for a couple weeks. To switch agencies, going from the BLM to the NPS, offers quite a different work experience that most people never get to see. For that alone, I consider myself quite fortunate.
While in Yellowstone, I worked with several amazing botanists studying rare plants and their habitats in areas where heavy visitor use is a major concern. I got to take part in the efforts to inventory and monitor these plants which is probably one of the coolest things anyone can do. Spending a few days working in the Old Faithful area, walking off the boardwalks that visitors must stay on gives quite a bizarre power trip. It also means visitors will ask to take your picture (though some take it without asking). As many of you know, the Yellowstone supervolcano has achieved quite a bit of fame in the past few decades. Naturally, the visitors ask whether or not I was checking to see if it was ready to erupt since I was obviously some type of a scientist wearing my bright orange vest and walking around the bacteria mats. After I told them what I was doing and mentioned a few plant names unfamiliar to them, they seemed a little bit less interested in what I was doing. I, however, got even more excited thinking about the fact that here I am in one of the most historically significant and picturesque landscapes in all of American surveying for little bitty plants. “This is my dream job,” I tell myself.
I also did quite a bit exploring during my hours off, climbing several of Yellowstone’s famous peaks, doing some amazing backcountry hiking and venturing into wolf, bison and even grizzly country. I saw quite a few bison up close. Fortunately, it was from the comfort of my car. The same went for the one grizzly I saw while in the park. However, no wolves.
For most of my time in Yellowstone, I lived in the Lake area where I grew quite fond of one of Yellowstone’s most treasured assets: Lake Yellowstone, one of the world’s largest high-altitude lakes above 7000 feet. Sunset at the lake is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. It’s quite humbling.
I did indeed find quite a few of the rare plants I was surveying for and learned quite a bit about documenting habitat characteristics. My new favorite being soil sampling and classification. It’s fun to play in the dirt! All of the information I helped gather will go towards the park’s ten year plan to protect the rare plants located in high density visitor-use areas. I also got the chance to participate in Yellowstone’s first ever BioBlitz which was also incredibly amazing. Being surrounded by scientists from all over the country and searching for rare or historically significant plants is a pretty sweet gig. Definitely a CLM experience I’ll never forget!
Daniel Winkler, CLM Intern