In the first week of my internship in Grand Junction Colorado I have found myself leaning new plants and their ecology. The flora here is unlike what I have experienced before and it manifests a diversity of organisms that is different depending on the ecoregion I find myself. The experience of learning the inhabitants of a space begins for me with becoming aware of them as individuals. From this point of view, it is important to identify organisms to their latin genus and species at some point, however this requires many hours of keying out plants and is secondary to an initial awareness of the variance of individuals present in a landscape. My goal is to reach the point that I previously experienced where there were few species that seemed new to me, and the ones I had come in contact with appeared familiar, while still unique.
Some of the ostensibly more exciting plants I have seen the past week were Astragalus linifolius and Skelerocatus glauca, both are considered endangered in Colorado. While surveying some trails for Sage Grouse Habitat a coworker and I stumbled upon at first an isolated A. linifolius, we then decided to do transects only to find that the area was scattered with many individuals. At this point we spent the following hours scouting and recording the gps coordinates of the edges of the population. While mapping this area I stumbled upon a single flowering S. glauca, and after this discovery we started to survey this area and found 6 other individual cacti! It was a rather exciting afternoon and that left me feeling accomplished, because both populations were previously unknown and represent a good sign for both species.