Kicking things off in Idaho

Hi y’all, my name is Katherine and I am one of the two CLM interns based in Boise, ID. For the next four months, I’ll be working with my mentor Jessica Irwin, my teammate Liza Chang, and a wonderful crew of scientists at the Rocky Mountain Research Station to continue monitoring common garden sites and collecting native plant seed throughout the Intermountain West.

It’s hard to believe a month has already gone by since arriving in Boise. Before a few weeks ago, I had only ever passed through Idaho on my way to the West Coast. Having limited experience with xeric ecosystems, I hardly knew what to expect. So far, the answer seems to be “anything!” — at least, weather-wise. The first week brought rain and even snow on some nearby peaks, followed by a super sunny week in the 90s, and then back to rain again. I’m lucky to say our work has been similarly variable.

We began our season at the common garden sites in Richfield, ID; Orchard, ID; and Orovada, NV. Working with the USFS crew, we collected phenology data on three forb species installed at each site. Because the sites are typically in pretty remote places, we get to camp at the garden and hang out with the crew. So far, we’ve consumed innumerable PB&Js, startled a few snakes, and collected hundreds of teeny tiny leaves. Each week brings new flowers, weeds, and seed “poofs” along with new adventures after work.

For example, on a recent vegetation survey in the Santa Rosa Range we traveled far up a road into the Red Hills, winding through cow pastures and along steep cliffs to a peaceful grove of cottonwoods and mining debris. Though the plants in the area weren’t quite grown enough to collect herbarium specimens, we made the most of the evening by hiking up to the top of the ridgeline. There, we not only found a cactus that had not yet been documented in the area, but were also treated to the most beautiful views of vast, empty valleys. I’m looking forward to more of each in equal measure – new plants, off road adventures, and expansive nothingness.