Land of enchantment

I am well into my fourth month here at the Farmington, New Mexico field office,  and I am starting to realize why they call this place the “Land of Enchantment”. The thunderstorms, the night skies and early mornings all bring a new light and different perspective of the landscape. Living here you become used to those events, but I still seem to gain something new from each.

In terms of SOS, we are doing okay. Farmington, which is situated in the NW corner of New Mexico, is an oasis compared to most of the state. We are slightly higher, cooler and experiencing a decent amount of monsoon rains (even though we aren’t getting as much as we would hope). To break it down, New Mexico is very dry and plants do not want to invest all of that energy making flowers and seeds so they can be aborted soon after, which makes it a little frustrating for us collectors knowing the plants are out there as well as those dark rain clouds. Not much happens.

I am an optimist. Well into this month we have made two collections: Penstemon angustifolius and Erysimum asperum (which has gorgeous orange seeds)- all of which we happened to stumble upon at the right time to collect. It’s a great feeling, going on weeks of no collecting, and then one day BAM! SEEDS! GRAB THE HORI HORI! GRAB THE BUCKETS! TURN THE TRIMBLE ON!!!!

Another great thing about this dip in seed production, is that our supervisor has been keeping us busy with other projects. We have been conducting PFC riparian surveys,  attended two workshops (one in Santa Fe with the Native Plant Society and the other up in Mesa Verde National Park, CO looking at Fire Succession-which is tooootally my cup of tea). Among those we have also been able to take the downtime and tidy up around the office and do a couple GIS training courses. All in all, we have stayed busy and work has been constantly changing.

Looking back on these past four months, I am so grateful to be a part of this internship and to have the resources to become familiarized with the Federal system, and how my interests lie within them. This sounds very corn-bally, but seriously, going to school and learning about reclamation/restoration is one thing, it is completely another to see my interests/education working in an practical setting. Everything about this job is very bureaucratic. Rightfully so.

*UPDATE! Earlier this week we stumbled upon a gorgeous montane meadow in the San Juan National Forest and found three more populations we can collect from in the next couple of days. I am looking forward to the next couple of months; the summer is dwindling down, seeds are ripening, temperatures are dropping and the work will only become more interesting. Until next time.

Anthony Wenke


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About wenkea

I have spent most of my life snuggled between the Olympic Mountains and the Cascades, Wa. This has influenced my life in many ways, both good and bad I suppose...I grew up in a little town called Poulsbo which is primarily Norwegian heritage-influenced. I received a B.S. in Biology: Ecology, Evolution & Conservation at the University of Washington. Most of my studies thus far have focused on disturbances and plant ecology. I conducted research on Mount St. Helens under the guidance of Dr. Roger del Moral, studying primary succession and species assemblages. As of recently I was accepted into the Conservation and Land Management Intership Program (CLM), and am spending this beautiful summer in the Four Corners region of New Mexico collecting seeds as part of the Seeds of Success program (SOS).

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