16 weeks in, 6 to go!

Although Eastern Oregon is beautiful, there are 3 things I desperately miss about the Midwest: 1) water, 2) trees, and 3) smoke-free air. These are things I took for granted until I moved here – to a place where I have to drive an hour to get to a lake, where there are no trees to provide shade or a private place to pee while doing fieldwork, and where the air can be so thick with smoke it looks like fog.


One of Eastern Oregon’s treasures: the Steens.

Luckily, we’ve gotten to do quite a bit of riparian work over the past month – which means we got to be around water! Mostly just sad, tiny streams, but water nonetheless. Our first foray into the riparian world was the stream restoration I alluded to at the end of my last blog post. We built stone walls and pools to help prevent further erosion of the head cuts and to preserve the wide, moist riparian areas along the stream bank. It was exhausting and dirty work, but it was rewarding to see all of the reinforced head cuts and eroded banks.


Rock pools built to slow flow & prevent erosion.

In the middle of August, I drove to Bend for the weekend to take the GRE (not a fun time). Afterwards, I met up with a friend at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, so I got to enjoy two lakes and plenty of shady trees for the weekend.


Paulina Lake, East Lake & the big obsidian flow.

Next, we got to learn how to do Multiple Indicator Monitoring (MIM) of stream channels and streamside vegetation. This involves looking at the size of the substrate, the width of the stream, the height and age classes of trees, the alteration of the stream banks, and the composition of the greenline. It’s a tedious process, but I’m very interested in wetlands/riparian zones, so I loved getting experience in that area. The only bad part was that it was incredibly smoky due to the hundreds of thousands of acres of surrounding wildfires – it was like being caught in the smoke at a bonfire but not being able to escape. At the end of each day my throat and eyes burned (no pun intended).


Smoke, smoke everywhere.

Thankfully, I was able to get some relief from the oppressive smoke with a few more weekend trips – I flew back to Iowa to visit my boyfriend, and I drove to Seattle with my co-interns, stopping along the way to camp in the Mt. Hood National Forest.


Mt. Hood National Forest (this is fog, not smoke).


A sunny day in the amazing city of Seattle.

This past week we’ve been monitoring photo points along streams. These are sites that have been photographed somewhat regularly since the 1970’s to see how the stream/vegetation has evolved over time. It was interesting to see how much change can happen in just 5 years, whether it be due to drought, grazing, or fire. Moreover, I’m excited we’ve gotten to do so much riparian work because I think the techniques will be directly applicable to the research I hope to do in grad school.

I can’t believe there are only 6 weeks left of my internship – time flies in the high desert!


Until next time,

Austin Yantes

Burns District BLM

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