New Place, New Plants, New Possibilities

As someone who has lived most of their life below an elevation of 3500 ft on the east coast, moving to the west for the summer and staying mostly around the 6000-7000 ft elevation range has been a great adventure. All of the wildlife is vastly different from what I am used to and I was lucky enough to see my first moose on my first day in Montana. Since then I have seen many new animals in person including elk, antelope, ground squirrels, marmots, snowshoe hares, new snakes, and my new favorite birds – magpies. I am also excited and apprehensive about the other new, larger animals that are more common here compared to home – grizzly bears and mountain lions – but have yet to run into them. 

Enjoying a lunch break in a meadow during a scouting trip at the Big Snowy Mountains.

Along with many new animals that I had not seen before, I am also excited to see and learn of lots of new plants that I had not previously known as well! Some of my favorites so far include all of the species of Phacelia (Scorpionweed), Penstemon (Beardtongues), and Mertensia (Bluebells) which I had not seen in my home state of North Carolina. And I am definitely looking forward to trying some huckleberries for the first time whenever they are in season! There are also some new species within genuses I already was familiar with such as Actaea rubra, Acer glabrum, and many new pines and spruces. The mountains in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest as well as the ones I am used to from North Carolina are both very beautiful and yet so different from each other. Montana has way fewer broadleaf trees than what I am used to and I am looking forward to learning all of the conifers that make up the amazing forest that I am working with this summer. 

Phacelia spp. found June 28th during a trip through the Big Belts. Not the ones on our list, but still beautiful.

Already I have gained many new skills and experiences and I can not wait to see what the rest of the summer brings to me from this wonderful opportunity and I am so excited to help contribute to future restoration projects in order to keep these forests thriving!

Memorial Falls at the Little Belts – just a fun day trip.