This week is the last in an amazing ten month internship with the BLM in Carson City, NV. When I arrived here fresh out of grad school, I had plenty of education, but very little real world working experience in natural resources. My time here has provided me with a wide variety of experiences and skills that I look forward to building upon in the future. Here is a laundry list of all the activities us six interns have done here at Carson City this year: SOS seed collection, Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation monitoring and reporting, rare plant monitoring and surveys, plant identification, GIS map production and analysis, planted plugs of native species in restoration efforts, seven education and outreach events, herbarium production and management, mechanical control of weeds, and assisting range staff in rangeland assessment. Of all of these activities, a few memorable things stand out.
The two seed collecting trips our crew made to Inyo National Forest were among my favorite trips of the internship. These 450+ mile trips turned into week long adventures with brilliant views (see “A Penstemon heterodoxus Haiku” below). On these trips we spent half of our time in the Sierra Nevada’s and half in the White Mountains, just to the east of the Sierras. These trips were very fruitful (ha-ha), both in seed collections and in familiarizing ourselves with flora outside of our field office’s range. The end of the first trip was highlighted by an opportunity to tag along on a field trip with botanist and White Mountains flora expert, Jim Morfield, who works with the Nevada Natural Heritage Program.
Another highlight from this internship was attending the Vegetation Rapid Assessment Releve workshop put on by the California Native Plant Society in Yosemite National Park. This workshop was highly beneficial in that it taught me a vegetation assessment method that I was unfamiliar with. But of course, the real highlights of the trip came after working hours when my fellow interns and I were able to explore the park. This was my first visit to Yosemite, and I was quite awestruck by its beauty. Of course, the valley was beautiful, but I also very much enjoyed walking through the many Sequoiadendron giganteum trees of the Mariposa grove at sunset.
The skill that I enjoyed building upon the most during my time here in Carson City, and will likely be among the most useful going forward, was plant identification. I learned plant ID in a completely backwards way. Assisting with research projects during my master’s program, I learned to recognize individual species within the project area. From there I slowly worked up the hierarchy, recognizing some genera and families. From my many hours here with my nose in a microscope and eyes glued to the pages of Intermountain Flora, I have gained a strong understand of plant taxonomy and classification. I can now pick out differences between families, genera and species for a wide range of Great Basin plants. Further, I am now comfortable with using a dichotomous key and the language associated with it, so I will be able to apply my ID skills to whatever ecosystem I end up in next.
One thing I heard over and over again during my master’s program was, “always try to add to and strengthen the tools in your professional tool belt.” In a nutshell, this internship did exactly that. A big thanks to CBG and especially my mentor, Dean Tonenna, for providing the opportunity for this awesome experience.