A Very Smoky August

Early this August, I got to make my first personal delivery to the Coeur d’Alene Forest Service Nursery in Coeur d’Alene, ID! Since the nursery is a 2.5 hour drive, it has proven to be quicker and more efficient to deliver the seed lots ourselves, rather than packing and shipping the large quantity of seeds that have take up all spare office space. Myself and the rest of the Lolo Botany Crew got to take a tour around the nursery facilities and take a look at all the different projects going on this time of year. The nursery is quite extensive, with many greenhouses and open warehouse space for plugs and seeds spread to dry.

Among the seeds and saplings are a more friendly nursery occupant: the nursery cats. Apparently three cats inhabit the Coeur d’Alene Nursery, although I only had the pleasure of meeting Smoky, who currently takes up residence in the seed extractory. What a hard worker! It was very impressive to see the success of current grow-outs from seed collections of years past from the Lolo NF. After surveying for much Whitebark Pine this season, one of my favorite parts of the nursery tour was to see the greenhouse designated for Whitebark Pine saplings.They typically ship out about 100,000 white bark pine saplings every year, so it was excellent to see great restoration hard at work. Super cool time!

Another fun event in early August was the Western Montana Fair, which I got to attend both for work and fun. I had the chance to participate in some community outreach with the Lolo National Forest, greeting the public at the FS booth had and got to talk to the community about some of the projects going on and how exciting it is to work in natural resources/restoration. The best part was meeting new coworkers from different programs in the Missoula office who I don’t get to see every day. Aside from work, I went to the rodeo at the fair, and it was actually my first rodeo! It was so much fun to watch all the events.

Earlier in August I took a trip up to Glacier National Park. It has been pretty smoky this August, but the views were still great! I hiked from Lake McDonald up to Snyder Lake. Beautiful hike I would recommend to anyone visiting Glacier.

July is Floating On By

July has come and gone, and now it is time for the highlights!

Earlier this month I was able to join forces with the Lolo National Forest Weeds/Invasives Team in collaboration with the Montana Biological Weed Control Coordination Project. We netted Oberea and Flea Beetles in a large field, then sorted/packaged them up into cups to be put on ice for transportation.

The following day I joined the weeds team again on a scouting and biocontrol float trip along the Clark Fork River. We mapped Leafy Spurge populations and then released our bugs on the populations. We targeted these populations specifically since they were isolated from roads by the river. This makes the leafy spurge not only difficult to get to, but inadequate to treat with herbicides due to its proximity to the river. It was a beautiful day for floating, and it was my first time on the Clark Fork River! It sure is handy to have an ex-raft guide supervisor! Overall a super cool project I was able to be a part of.

Another exciting collaboration this month was being able to work with local youth crews in both the Missoula and Superior District areas to teach them about seed collection and rare plant surveys. Being able to meet local high schoolers excited about nature and working outside made for a fulfilling week of seed collecting. Having extra hands to help with seed collection wasn’t too bad either! It has been great being able to work with other ranger districts and learning more about different areas of the forest.

And finally… One of the best parts of July has been getting to know one specific local plant Vaccinium membranaceum!!! The huckleberry patches I have stumbled upon while scouting for seed have been a much needed break during long days in the field.

Until next month!

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.