Botany trip to the Bull Run Mountains

Hi! I’m Emma Greenlee, and I’m a CLM intern based out of Winnemucca, Nevada this year. I moved out here a few weeks ago as I was finishing my last finals period at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Now that I’m settled in and have been at work for a few weeks, I’m here to report what I’ve done and learned so far!

Picture of me with mountains in the background
Me near the Penn Hill repeater in the Bull Run Mountains

I’m working for the Forest Service on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which is the lower 48’s largest national forest, spanning Nevada and some of California. I’m stationed at the Santa Rosa Ranger District in Winnemucca, and am working primarily with Sierra Sampson, the zone botanist for the northeast part of the forest. So far I have liked the Forest Service vibe (maps on all the walls, animal skulls and other natural specimens everywhere, and kind people who know and care about the area) a lot, while also seeing the challenges of working in an understaffed and underfunded office with more land to manage than time and resources to accomplish everything. Sierra is awesome and I’m excited to work with her and hopefully other people around the district and forest.

Picture of the sun setting behind mountains
Sunset on our first night in the Bull Runs––did some dispersed camping on the forest

After a week of training on noxious weeds, UTV operation, herbicide application, and common invasive species identification, Sierra and I drove to the Bull Run Mountains, a range north of Elko, NV near the Idaho border on the Mountain City Ranger District, to meet two botanists from the University of Nevada-Reno (Jerry Tiehm and Jan Nachlinger). Jerry and Jan are prolific botanists who have been collecting specimens for UNR and other institutions’ herbariums for decades together and it was very cool to get an introduction to subalpine and northern Nevada flora from them. I have a very long ways to go but I was able to commit at least some species to memory and start to recognize others and think about how the plant communities in this area are organized. We camped with those guys for several days and then went our separate ways to spend one last night camping in the Ruby Mountains east of Elko. The Rubies were a stunning mountain range that I was surprised wasn’t a national park! (And that’s how everybody knew I wasn’t from here…) Sierra and I saw a few marmots and a last awesome sunset of the trip and I jumped in the stream running through Lamoille Canyon. I can’t remember how cold Lake Superior is anymore but this felt like it came close!

Butterfly pollinating a flower along with some other plants
Butterfly on a yellow flower (which I have not successfully ID’d, feel free to comment if you know it) in front of some Eriogonum kingii (Ruby Mountain Buckwheat)!

Throughout the trip I saw Sierra take the time to build positive relationships whether it was with seasoned botanists, campground hosts, or members of the public. Although I’d thought about the role of land stewards like the FS in interacting with diverse stakeholders, I hadn’t thought about how this might play out in small, everyday interactions like Sierra demonstrated, so this was a small but important part of the trip that I will keep thinking about along with all the new species of Eriogonum (wild buckwheat) I learned. I also have a soft spot for geology and I’m dying to get my hands on a copy of Roadside Geology of Nevada after all the amazing rock features of northern NV I saw this week.

Picture of me splashing face first into a creek
Jumping in the creek
Picture of my tent in front of a pink sunset and some rocky canyon walls
Left the rain fly off to look at the stars!

Until next time!


USFS-Santa Rosa Ranger District, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest