Seeded Plots, Monsoon Season, and Training

Greetings from New Mexico! Life as an SOS intern has had its ups and downs these past few weeks. For our first collection, we managed to collect in a seeded area. Even though the mistake was frustrating, we learned a great deal about what seeded areas look like and resources we need to consult before collecting a site. Now we are suspicious of areas that are mostly a monoculture. The naturally occurring populations we have gathered seed from tend to show some diversity of plants in the area. Any potential collection sites are checked using a GIS layer and a map in the office with some information on seeded areas, and if there is no information on the area, we visually inspect for plow lines or anything else that might indicate the land was planted using Google Earth. Some example images of what we are looking at are below.

Google Earth images of two areas. The image on the left is seeded and the image on the right isn’t.

The monsoon season here in New Mexico also brings its own set of challenges for collecting seed. The monsoon season brings heavy rains, mostly in the afternoon from mid-June to late September. Generally, the areas we travel in to go collect seed have dirt, or if we are lucky, gravel roads. I am very grateful for the truck we use for our work! We were caught out in a down pour that nearly got our truck stuck in a gully. We barely got out of the area before the brunt of the storm hit. After we escaped, the mountain we were scouting by was barely visible for the rain. We’ve adapted to natures schedule by using rained-out afternoons for work that needs to be done in the office and it’s working out well.

Image of the mountain we were scouting near from the highway.

My fellow intern and I attended a pollinator training in Santa Fe at the Institute for Applied Ecology and a supplemental AIM training at Wild Rivers Visitor Center put on by the NRCS Soil Survey Division. The main topic at the pollinator meeting was on Hymenoptera. I had no idea that the diversity of bees in the U.S. was so high with around 30,000 species of bees. I was further surprised to find out that New Mexico is in the top 3 states for bee diversity, with around 1100 species inhabiting the state. We learned that bees and wasps are within the same clade and closely related to ants. I assumed that native bees behave in a similar way to honey bees, but this is not the case. I learned at the training that most native bees are solitary, have shorter lives than honey bees, and often nest in the ground, or wood cavities.  I also enjoyed trying to catch pollinators in Diablo Canyon. It was oddly satisfying to catch something in your net. The soil training we attended drove home the importance of understanding the geology of the area you are working in when soil typing.

– Bureau of Land Management (Taos Field Office)

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