Where did the time go?

It’s almost fall and the field season is winding down. Yesterday it hailed here in Denver (technically Lakewood) and some of it has stuck to the ground, looking like snow. The air is crisp and the leaves are starting to turn. And I am clinging to summer while I watch it slip through my fingers having gone much too quickly.

It’s been a great field season. My coworkers are wonderful and I will miss them so, especially Sam Andres, my co-star in this adventure. She will be moving on soon and I wish her the best of luck. She has been awesome to work with and I know she is going to do some awesome things!

Sam setting up a monitoring plot in western Colorado

This summer we often ventured to the western slope, to the drought plagued lands past the Rocky Mountains. While the drought is pretty depressing to witness, I must admit I like the heat and enjoyed baking out in the sun. We worked with a lot of cool plants. Unfortunately conditions were rough and many either didn’t flower or I missed the flowering. What was really cool was learning the different monitoring methods. Some plants we did demography monitoring, where data is collected for tagged individuals over many years. Other plants were tallied by the numbers of vegetative and reproductive individuals. Yet others we did frequency monitoring. Each method is applied depending on the life history of the plant, some of which aren’t completely known. Methods are taken from the Measuring and Monitoring handbook. This handbook goes really in depth into the statistical methods necessary for sampling sufficiency and for appropriate analysis. Math isn’t my strong suite so learning these formulas is super helpful for me!

Checking precipitation monitoring devices at a Sclerocactus glaucus monitoring site

While my coworkers weren’t thrilled about this species, as it is so small you have to kneel on the ground to get appropriate data, I think this may have been one of my favorite species (Physaria congesta). It’s so cute!

Though many of our rare species occur on the western slope, we had other fun destinations as well. We traveled to northern central Colorado a few times, surveying plants in the Kremmling Field Office. One trip we collaborated with a botany class from a Colorado University. We always had a solid crew of individuals always ready to help us whenever we worked in Kremmling.

Phacelia formosula

Our Kremmling friends helped us to monitor Phacelia formosula, here pictured at a newly established demography monitoring plot (this species has been historically monitored using frequency)

One fun adventure was near Canon City where we helped local BLM specialists identify a possible rare species to monitor.

Hiking to a possible population of Penstemon degeneri

Nope, it wasn’t Penstemon degeneri

One species that we monitored was in a vastly different ecosystem than what we normally worked in. This was Eutrema penlandii, a small alpine plant. This trip was a challenge because we were working in cold, wet climate with a lot of people from different agencies. We needed to ensure that monitoring efforts were done consistently across the various groups of people, many who had a lot of experience and weren’t about to be ordered around by interns. Though past years there had been some monitoring inconsistencies, we managed to keep it all together and collect some good data!

Sam et al monitoring Eutrema penlandii, a plant so small you had to get down real close and part all the vegetation to identify it

This guy was trying to steal our food while we worked

Pretty alpine plant

Pretty pretty

While we completed a lot of monitoring and I am very proud of our work, we also had some fun adventures along the way.

Full moon over Meeker, CO. Staying in Meeker was nice. Few food options, but a very nice park near the hotel where we gazed upon the full moon:)

My mentor Carol and Phil while we tour a seed farm that grows out native seed for research and restoration purposes

Stick works in Vail. Even though I was a very grumpy girl that day, Carol had us stop in Vail on our way back from Meeker to see this stick art. This really cheered me up!

Our adventures have been great! Though I will be sad to move on in ~6 weeks time, I will always remember this experience fondly:)


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About Lauren

Growing up in the Southwest I've been incredibly lucky to spend a lot of my time outdoors enjoying nature. I always loved watching nature shows and dreamed of being a zoologist. Although I am not a zoologist I think I am on my way to achieving an even better dream, becoming a botanist!

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