Driving all around, learning things and looking at plants

So. It has been a really long time since I have given an update. Sorry about that. I promise I’ll do better from now on. To try and make it up to you, I’ll share lots of cool pictures from all the places my internship has taken me over the last couple months. March and April presented the Carson City CLM interns with a lot of opportunities for traveling. Lately it seems like I’ve spent more time on the road than at home – fine by me! The workshops and conferences we got to attend were supremely informative, and I got to scratch a couple more states off my bucket list. But, I’m just about spent by this point, and I’m practically falling asleep as I write this, so it’s probably a really good thing that I don’t have to go anywhere else for a while.

The first of our road trips was to Las Vegas. We attended the Nevada Rare Plant Workshop, which I imagine is probably just about the most fun a person could possibly have while visiting Vegas. Our drive there was scenic – we had decided to take a detour through Death Valley, so that we could enjoy the rare super-bloom. As advertised, it was pretty super. The typically barren plains were shrouded with desert gold, and for about half an hour I basically became Mary Poppins. It’s worth making the trek out there if you get chance. (Is the super-bloom even still happening? You probably ought to check before you go. I’d feel really bad if you went all the way out there on my recommendation and were disappointed by the lack of super-bloom. Although Death Valley is still pretty neat even without flowers. I digress.)

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Anyways, after this highly worthwhile side trip, we arrived in Las Vegas for the workshop. Several botanists from around the state and beyond shared their work with us, and it was enlightening to gain a better understanding of the work they do. What’s more, the workshop included a field trip to Valley of Fire State Park. I don’t think there’s two words in the English language that I like hearing more than “field trip,” with the possible exception of “grilled cheese.” This field trip involved beautiful scenery and searching for a rare species of Astragalus, which we found.¬†After being introduced to (and subsequently forgetting) a couple dozen plants endemic to the Mojave desert, we made our way back north to Carson City.

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The second trip our crew took was to Boise, the site of our Integrated Pest Management and Pesticide Applicator Certification course. This training taught us everything we ever could want to know about managing unwanted populations of bothersome plants and animals. Also, I am now licensed to use restricted pesticides. Look out, weeds, here I come. The only downside to this course was that it took place entirely within the confines of a hotel basement, which was decidedly less beautiful than the scenery that surrounded me during my trip to Las Vegas. I didn’t bother to take pictures.

Although the first two outings were both fun and profitable, the third was definitely my favorite. Alec, Margaret, and I flew to Tucson to spend a week learning about measuring and monitoring plant populations. If you’re anything like me, then you would agree that measuring and monitoring plant populations is pretty much the best thing ever. It offers all the fun and excitement of a field trip, plus people actually pay you to do it. It’s a perfect situation. Previously, I only had experienced the field work aspect of plant monitoring. This workshop gave me a better understanding of what goes into designing a monitoring program, and also how to analyze the data I collect. I anticipate this course being a tremendous boon to my future endeavors as a botanist, and I am thankful that the CLM program provided me with this opportunity.

I also am grateful that I had the chance to briefly visit and explore the Sonoran desert. On our day off, we took a trip to Saguaro National Park, where we got to see some of the American southwest’s most iconic plant species in the flesh (both figuratively and literally – I made the mistake of touching a beavertail cactus and I think some of the small prickly hairs are still stuck in my hand.) As an east coast native, I’d always imagined deserts as wastelands that couldn’t measure up to the lushness and liveliness of the green forests where I’d grown up. The cacti blooms I saw in Arizona dispelled those notions. We even saw a rattlesnake! And lived to tell the tale.

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Anyways, that’s just a brief overview of the experiences that my internship has granted me in these past couple months. I’ll report back soon with more updates. Thanks for reading!

-SS

 

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