Rise to the Occasion, CLM Intern!! Spring Should Be Here Any Moment!

Brace Yourselves…Spring Is Coming
Hello everyone!! Wow, I have been incredibly busy with work lately! All of the GIS and remote sensing tasks have kept me on my toes this Winter. We have been receiving weather extremes this Spring. One day it would be sunny and 60°F, then the next day would be 25°F with horizontal, blowing snow! Hopefully, Spring will come any moment now…..any minute….. Anyways, the migrating birds are beginning to migrate through and establish their territories. The sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) were flying through to find ideal marshland habitat for nesting. The red winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) were “breeing” near every body of water and fighting for prime real estate. Many of the flowers are on the verge of blooming. Different phlox, forsythia, and crocus are starting to appear, which is a welcoming sight. I know some of the interns in California and the southwest have probably seen over 50 species of blooming forbs already. Soon, Wyoming’s day will come…that should be in May or June.

First forb of the Spring for me!!! Phlox hoodii!!! ^_^

First forb of the Spring for me!!! Phlox hoodii!!! ^_^

Updates on Work: The Mystery of the Lime Green Plant!!

My main task was using remote sensing techniques to detect cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) in the landscape. I am almost finished…with the first part! Some of the mosaic tiles were difficult to work with. Some of the orthophotographs (mosaic tiles) were taken at dawn, making cheatgrass really hard to detect. The sunrise made a large part of the landscape a reddish color. After some fine tuning with the samples, I was able to detect the cheatgrass easily. Another interesting thing I found were these unusual patches of lime green. I was baffled on what this plant could be. Some people were saying that it was leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) and other people were suggesting that the patches of lime green were yellow sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis). After much research, I could say that these patches were most likely yellow sweet clover. All I have to do is ground truth the area and confirm that the lime green mass is the invasive forb. Another difficult task was to distinguish cheatgrass signatures from sagebrush shadows. When I ran the maximum likelihood tool, the process concludes that all of the shadows from sagebrush were also cheatgrass areas. I had to work with the program and sampling areas to finally get the results I was looking for. Eventually, I was able to tell the program to tell apart the shadows from the cheatgrass areas!!

Found a possible yellow sweetclover infestation??

Found a possible yellow sweet clover infestation??

Looking across various landscapes in the Powder River Basin, I saw some of the strangest sights. Cows (Bos taurus) were always up to something. They stand in circles, walk to places that were next to impossible to get to if you were human, and they love to take a dip in the local freshwater areas. Some of the cows were very large, which made me think that some of them were pregnant or have a calf right next to them. Beyond cows, some of the badland and scoria hills have been very beautiful to look at. The colors of some mosaic tiles were so vibrant that it made the landscape almost rainbow-like. Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) were blue, scoria hills were orange, cheatgrass was red, grass and trees were green, yellow sweetclover was lime green, the badlands range from white to purple, some of the water sources and grasses were bright blue to muddy brown, and the shadows in the landscape range from grey to black. Overall, each mosaic tile was a work of art brought to you by nature.

I think I found a Mickey Mouse pattern in the landscape?

I think I found a Mickey Mouse pattern in the landscape?

Side Tasks For Adventure Sake

When each of the mosaic tiles were being processed, I did a variety of other tasks to keep myself active! I have made a series of plant study guides, I have updated the Buffalo Field Office Plant List, I have made detailed guides for weeds and willows (Salicaceae) of our area, and I have organized all of the huge aerial photographs in cold storage! Cold storage had many interesting treasures such as ancient maps from the 1950s, aerial photographs, BLM signs, and random BLM items! The building reminds me of the museum or warehouse on Indiana Jones! Beyond organization of data and study guides, I helped install a computer system, worked with different GPS units, and helped solve GIS problems that some of the employees were having. There was always something to do at the Buffalo Field Office….but I can’t wait for field season. I really want to go into the field to ground truth, help interns, and take photographs of BLM land! I will keep you posted with any updates!!

The Ballad of Sage Grouse and Sandhill Cranes

Recently, I have had the great opportunity to go out into the field and help wildlife biologist, Don, with sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) monitoring! We would go into the field and count all the male sage grouse at different leks to the east of Buffalo, Wyoming. Some of these leks had twelve to fifty males, which was an incredible number! The sounds of the males “thomping” and displaying could be heard over a mile away! Seeing all the males strutting their stuff was pretty amazing!  One lek site we visited had one very successful male surrounded by many hens. Unfortunately, the rest of the males were dancing and displaying their hearts out to no avail. Some of these leks sites had plenty of excrement from the wintering birds. I thought it was hilarious that the sage grouse ignored the pronghorns (Antilocapra americana) that were walking through the lek sites. Seems like the pronghorns deemed trustworthy in the eyes of sage grouse.

Sage grouse, sage grouse items, and leks found to the east of Buffalo, Wyoming.

Sage grouse, sage grouse items, and leks found to the east of Buffalo, Wyoming.

Another interesting bird of note were sandhill cranes! The last two weeks they have been flying through the Great Plains on their way up North. A huge density of cranes could be found in central Nebraska. Along the Platte River, there could be thousands of cranes resting and feeding along the embankments. When I have been traveling to previous internships, I have always drove through Nebraska during the crane migration. By Buffalo, Wyoming there have been a few flocks that have been flying overhead or resting in the fields. Hearing the cranes have always been an amazing experience.

Sandhill cranes!!!

Sandhill cranes!!!

A red tailed hawk and a golden eagle that I have seen in the field!

A western harlan’s  red tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) and a golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) that I have seen in the field!

Animal Shelter Shuffle

On Saturday, I was able to volunteer at the local animal shelter! I got to clean the kennels, feed the animals, clean up the excrement, take the dogs for a walk, help out with laundry, and play with tiny mewmew kittens. I plan on doing this every Saturday, because it is really fun to do, especially when you get to play with all kinds of breeds of cats and dogs!!

Some of the local residents.

Some of the local residents of the Animal Shelter.

Do You Have What It Takes To Become BLM Legend??

1.) You have to work for the Bureau of Land Management.
2.) You have to know how to use GIS and different navigational systems.
3.) You have to be able to navigate the back country and drive over rough terrain.
4.) You have to withstand the unusual weather systems and temperatures of the West.
5.) You have to at least identify thirty plant species or do eight work related projects.
6.) Taking FISSA+ is essential.
7.) You have to attend meetings at least once or twice a week.
8.) You have to travel to over fifteen to sixty trend sites determining on your line of work.
9.) You have to become a legend by doing a special individual task.
10.) Survive one field season.

If you do all of the ten main tasks, then you are a BLM Legend.

Moment of Zen

Bighorn Mountains

Bighorn Mountains during a snowy afternoon! ^_^


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About Justin

Hello! My name is Justin! I am an intern working for the BLM in Buffalo, Wyoming! I will be working on remote sensing and GIS projects. My favorite outdoor hobbies include bird watching, plant identification, rock hounding, exploring, and fishing.

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