End of Season

I’ve had a very memorable season this summer with lots of great memories. I want to thank CBG for such a fun opportunity! The end of the season has come, and I have submitted our season’s work! We shipped out all of our leaf tissue for the ERUM plants as well as our Modoc Plateau tissue. We also submitted a ton of seeds! A massive box of just seeds was shipped out.

Our 3 boxes for this season’s work!

Our last week of the job, Beth and I went to wilderness first aid training in Bend Oregon! It was very fun and we ate some good food, as well as staying in a very nice pink hotel:).

We learned a ton about wilderness first aid, and it was some extremely valuable information. I am very grateful that we got to do this training. We learned how to bandage and pack wounds, as well as pop back in dislocated joints. We learned how to properly assess a wilderness injury and situation. We did a lot of simulations with injured people and fake injuries with fake blood and bruises! I had a great time having a serious stomach injury and not responding to my rescuers :).

Thanks again for a great season! It was so amazing meeting all of you and I hope to cross paths with all of you again someday!

End of Season Wrap-Up

Last month on the job was melancholy (in the best way). Since the last blog post, I have had quite the odd work schedule since I needed to readjust my time to extend my end date.

To start off, I got to hang out with Dan and Levi one last time at the rose garden before their season ended! I’m so grateful that this job connected us, and we made some great memories this summer! Good luck on your next adventures!!

Next, I went on a trip with my dad to Winnemucca to see the total solar eclipse! It was spectacular, and we got to catch up with family. It was a wonderful but short trip!

I then immediately went with Marguerite, Bebe, and Nyika back down to Reno to monitor the common gardens and do some weeding. We put in some good work on the garden, and got through a lot of weeding. We also spent time after work exploring Reno (since I’ve never been there), and we also visited Lake Tahoe right at sunset, which was spectacular. This was my last trip with the RMRS crew (minus Joe), and I’m so glad that I got to spend the season working with such tough, inspiring, and hilarious coworkers. Thank you guys for such an amazing season and I can’t wait to see what you all accomplish!

Then, both Elric and I extended our season to go to Wilderness First Aid training (thank you Jessica!). Elric and I drove down to Bend, Oregon on Halloween to get ready for the training. We had some great food, hung out and learned a lot about wilderness first aid scenarios. I’m thankful that we were able to get this training since it may come in handy someday!

Thank you Elric for such a wonderful season. I had such a great time with you on all of our adventures together, and I’m so thankful that this job connected us. I look forward to seeing what you do next!

This season was so successful and busy, and I am so thankful for everyone that I met from this job. Thank you Jessica for being such a wonderful mentor and pushing me to try new things, meet new people, and give me so many wonderful opportunities throughout this season. I appreciate you! Thank you to the RMRS crew for helping us with seed collection and having a great time being in the field. You all taught me so much and I am forever grateful that I met all of you! Thank you Monica and Chris for all of your help in the preseason and during this season, you both are amazing and I appreciate you both!

This was such an amazing season! RMRS Crew 2023!!

RMRS Office

Busy, yet somehow slow September!

September has flown by, and it was my last full month at the RMRS in Boise. It has gone by so fast!

September was busy for the RMRS, yet slow at the same time. We started off the month by checking on the hornworms, and they were progressing beautifully!

Hornworm cocoon

I went on a trip to the Ruby Mountains in Nevada for fun with my friend Matt, and we hiked around the area and found some ERUM (despite being off the clock we still checked out the population!)

After I got back from Nevada, I immediately went back with my Forest Service coworker Bebe. We drove down to Ely to check on 3 ERUM populations, and all 3 were still not seeding! In September, we were not expecting them to still be flowering/developing seeds. The phenology this year was so interesting due to how wet the year has been. So, we decided to stop by Great Basin National Park to look around the area for ERUM while corresponding with our boss back in Boise. We found a gorgeous alpine lake, and hiked around outside the park in search of ERUM.

When we received a final set of coordinates to go check out, we headed towards the area. We pre-download maps before heading into scouting areas, and normally these maps with satellite imagery are great. Bebe and I were 15+ miles away from a main dirt road, and we were following satellite imagery to get to our location, when we found out that the satellite imagery must be pretty old. We were looking for roads that were completely overgrown with trees and brush, and with the sun quickly setting, we decided to keep trying to find an alternative route out of the area instead of retracing our steps. We struggled for two more hours trying to find real roads, but once we got out back onto the main dirt road, we were so relieved. The sky was dark, with no moon in sight, so the stars were incredible. As we were driving, hundreds of jackrabbits were running across the roads, as well as Kangaroo Rats (a lifelist animal for me to see!!). We got so see some up close, as they were pretty common on the road.

Later, I met my friend Matt again in Elko, and we went out looking for plants. We went to Angel Lake, and hiked up a fair ways to check out all of the amazing flora. Nevada has amazing diversity, and the alpine areas are stunning.

Elric, Marguerite and I then trekked out to Silver City, Idaho in search of ERUM. We were successful early on in our search, which is such a morale booster. We collected our ERUM and got to see a historic small mining town too!

Then, my time off began. I went to the Oregon Coast with my family, and my brother and I drove separately so we could visit Crater Lake National Park along the way. We accidentally went on what felt like the busiest day of the year there, called Ride the Rim day. Hundreds if not thousands of people come to bike around the entire rim of Crater Lake, which has incredible gain and loss on it. They close off 3/4 of the rim for bicyclists safety, so my brother and I only got to experience the west side of the park. It was still stunning! We decided to go hike to some waterfalls afterwards on the Waterfall Scenic Byway, which heads towards the Oregon Coast.

Then, we made it to the coast! It was nice to relax and spend time with my family, as well as see so much flora and fauna! We did another famous Oregon hike called The Trail of Ten Falls, which was absolutely stunning! It’s a seven mile round-trip hike that is worth every step!

Then, when we got home my parents surprised us with a puppy! His name is Mac, and he is an adorable addition to the family.

Unfortunately, after my trip I tested positive for Covid for the first time in my life. It was such a bummer, since I missed out on some of the last seed collection trips for the 2023 season. But, since I was home I was able to see my hornworm emerge!! If anyone knows the specific ID, let me know! I know it’s in the sphingidae family!

Overall, this month was so busy yet so slow. This summer has been jam-packed full of adventures, and I’m so sad that it’s coming to an end!

The Moth Mans Dastardly(?) Scheme

It was a dark and blustery night. Vigilante crime fighter; The JackPott and her sidekick Stone Throw sit perched atop a lone tree amongst the vast plain of prairie grasses. A breeze speeds across the landscape, birthing rippling shadows in waves of grain.

“Do you smell that?” JackPott inquires, inhaling a swath of the sweet scented air.

Stone Throws gaze unfocuses from the murky crystal which had captured her attention, miles away from the tree she currently occupies. *Sniff sniff*. “Crime….”

“Precisely!” With the speed of a pronghorn, the dynamic duo launches from their roost, landing in the front seats of their super-charged hover truck: The Grassmobile. The roof closes overhead as a dim green glow floods the cabin. “Stone Throw, time to turn it to 11!”

“On it boss!” Stone Throw swiftly inserts a cd into the stereo and cranks the volume knob as far as it goes, where a piece of tape labeled “11” has been placed over the 10 setting. YMCA by the Minions nearly fries the speakers.

“Lets ride!” And with the press of a button, The Grassmobile zips away with the unfathomable speed of a shooting star.

After a few minutes of zoomin, a shadow emerges and smashes into the winshield. The truck screeches to a stop, launching the figure forward. Our heroes leap out of the vehicle with the grace of two toads. The shadow raises from the brush, illuminated by the headlights. Large brown wings, red glowing eyes, and bushy antennae morph into clarity as the duo approaches. “Mothman!” They shout in unison.

“Yeeeees it is I, THE MOTHMAN,” he shouts in a cheesy 50s mobster accent, shaking a fist to the sky. “I have plotted and traveled for months to achieve my goal, and you two goons won’t stop me now, see!” With a powerful flap of his wings he zips into the air.

“He’s escaping! Get him!” Stone Throw summons a swarm of rocks from the surrounding landscape, preparing to launch the mineral mass at the fleeing criminal. Just as she’s about to launch her attack, however, The Mothman diverges from his trajectory, and makes a beeline, a mothline if you will, straight towards the still beaming headlights of The Grassmobile, bonking his head and knocking him cold.

When he awakens he’s tied up and unable to move. “There’s no escaping this time evil-doer! What have you been scheming?”

“Wahahahahah! Its too late fools! My plan is complete! The bugs have been released! Sweet Clover shall be no more!”

“Wait… you don’t mean to tell me your plan was to release bugs to eradicate sweetclover?”

“Yes… YES! Its the perfect plan! I’ve smuggled the grumbo bug which heavily preys on sweetclover into North America in order to eradicate one of the most prolific invasives to ever plague this landscape!”

“Oh, well I mean I guess that’s technically illegal but, uhh, well, does the gurmbo eat anything other than sweetclover?”

“Just Alfalfa.”

The two crime fighters look at each other and shrug. They untie Mothman and he flies off into the night.

Moral of the story: I really don’t like sweetclover.

Summer is a social construct: Reflections of a post-grad

Few things are more characteristic of summer than a hot, stifling August. For the student, August means the end of summer and the start of classes. June and July show you that you have all the time in the world, to go outside, explore, hike, or run. August reminds you that maybe you don’t actually want to spend so much time outdoors since air conditioning is preferable to your shirt sticking to your back.

The South Dakota grassland from a plant-eye view

For me, this year is different. In a sentiment that I’m sure is expressed by most recent graduates, there is no school to bookend the summer this time. And it’s weird. For the past ~17 years of my life, school has been the schedule that I’ve built my life around. Work, vacations, and activities have all been dependent on school. I hear friends that are still enrolled, parents of young kids, my brother talk about the current transition, the start of the new (school) year. And for me nothing is changing* except the growth stages of the grass. It is abundantly apparent that the rigid structures I scheduled my life around were ephemeral, and if you have enough vacation days, summer vacation can happen at any time of year.

So I return to the grass. Among the other realizations I have gotten from this job, I have realized just how many different species of grasshopper there are. I really hadn’t had much grasshopper exposure before this (perhaps because I didn’t spend seven hours a day belly down in the grass), but I love having company for fieldwork in these little guys**.

Goob the Grasshopper

Now I know I’ve just spent a considerable amount of time and words talking about how the school schedule no longer applies to me, which is true, though there are aspects of my work that do feel like returning to school. Our fieldwork was slated to finish at the end of August, and now we are in the office, weighing biomass samples and entering data. In a way, this is the best of both worlds. I have escaped the iron grip of homework while still getting to enjoy the air conditioning during the hot days.

*This is not entirely true. I have less than a month in the job I’m currently in, but that life-change has nothing to do with the school year.
**One of my colleagues insists that grasshoppers are one of the worst insects, worse even than ticks, and he will have to accept that he is simply wrong in this case.

Adventures into Nevada

This last month was quite the adventure! I went all over Nevada looking for ERUM and collecting seeds. We collected quite a few seeds from a number of areas in Nevada and Idaho. I also went to Reno to help with the common gardens. We went downtown after we finished work and saw this amazing art!

I also went on a GLORIA project trip and monitored the top of mountains. I learned a lot from experienced botanists. We also found ERUM up in the alpine habitat and went back last week to collect, and got two different varieties of ERUM seed collections!

One of our locations that we used for camping in Nevada was Angel Lake, which had a lot of ERUM and was also a beautiful locations.

We found a ton of beautiful campsites in Nevada!

Beth tried to take a panorama of our campsite and ended up with this monstrosity of a photo… Anyways, it was another great month, and hopefully I will get a lot more seed collections in this next month before the end of the season!

Steens to Nevada, exploring mountains for ERUM!

This month has gone by fast! The Rocky Mountain Research Station has been busy this month!

Since my last post, I have been busy traveling for seed scouting. One of the research station’s techs, Marguerite, joined me on a seed scouting trip. We are completely focused on Eriogonum umbellatum, and we went looking up by Council, Idaho. We went to this neat lookout with an amazing view.

While we were searching for ERUM, we came across something pretty cool! We left it alone, but it was a neat find!

Old shotgun and ERUM!

Then, Elric and I went out to Nevada with another one of the RMRS techs, Bebe! We had a great time searching for ERUM in northern Nevada. This was during the tropical storm warning, but we lucked out and never hit rain once. We found wonderful places to camp and explore, and we saw some gorgeous sunsets and stunning alpine lakes! We also collected one population of ERUM, and are going back in the future when the plants are seeding to collect from two more populations!

Elric and I went to explore South Mountain (in the Owyhees in Idaho) in search of ERUM. We found a ton of Eriogonum heracleoides, but unfortunately no ERUM. We stopped at a neat lookout and had a nice time exploring the area.

To end August, a forest service tech Joe and I went to explore Steen Mountains in Oregon! This trip was grand. Steen Mountains has a 60 mile loop road that is accessible for most cars (washboards but no potholes), and is 100% worth the trip. We found ERUM all over this range, and in the high elevation site it was still blooming! Joe and I had a nice time exploring the area, and we woke up one morning and realized it was in the 20s while we were sleeping (brr). After a successful seed collecting trip, we traveled back to Boise!

This was a great month of exploring and seed collecting! looking forward to next month with my team!

The Anything But DRy(iNG) Summer

This summer started like any normal summer, with lush, green landscapes and a plethora of wildlife. The beginning of the season was serene and unusually cool. I took in the views of our field sites along with a whole load of knowledge regarding the experiment and data collection. The spring was rainy many days and the cloud cover was definitely welcome. Although I was sure my knees would give out from kneeling all day after just the first week, I somehow survived.

I have learned so much this past summer about grassland ecosystems and the organisms that call it home. Some could say, maybe even a little too much. I grew attached to my favorite forbs and grasses. Many times, I would dream about doing stem counts or aerial cover. I also made enemies with many small, biting insects. Every morning began with dousing myself in sunscreen and bug spray. By the end of the day though, I still went home with souvenirs on my skin. The days were long and often tiring (on hot days especially), but the work was equally rewarding. It was such an interesting experience to be a part of the data collection and processing, and start to glimpse the outcome of our work. Being outdoors all day also allowed me to get very familiar with the larger wildlife, like the Western Meadowlarks that perched fenceposts, the prairie dogs that littered the badlands, and the occasional rattlesnake in our plots.

The sheer amount of consistent rain this summer was an outlier compared to normal years. Our sites stayed green for much longer than usual, and bogs of collected water were present all summer. The mosquito season was far prolonged and the air remained humid even on some of the hottest days. Our plots directly reflected the abnormal weather patterns, regrowing in a few days after mowing.

The experiences I had and the connections I made this summer were priceless. On my second to last day on the job, I had the opportunity to join the Wildlife Biologist at RMRS on a herpetology survey of the Badlands Bombing Range in South Dakota. We spent all day looking for herps and talking about what being a biologist in the real world is like. Although I still have a couple more years in college, it was a very insightful experience which will guide me throughout my education.

Month 2!

Lately I have actually been doing my job! We have finally started sampling tissue and collecting seeds from around Idaho which includes Oregon, Nevada, and California. Our Erum hunts have been fun! I had no idea how many different types of Eriogonum there are or even just variations of ERUM itself. I have taken tons of pretty pictures over the last month or so and I’ve been to so many cool places! I’ve been to Modoc Plateau a couple of times, and we also went to Ketchum, which was beautiful! Recently I traveled all over Nevada, finding different collections of ERUM.

I am getting quite good at backcountry driving. I was not too well versed with the subject coming into this job, but I have been doing it more and more, and it is actually really fun! I like the challenge of dodging rocks and potholes and trying not to get the truck stuck in mud.

I also went on a GLORIA alpine monitoring trip which was super fun! We climbed sheep mountain and I learned a ton of new plants from some super experienced botanists. I also discovered my new favorite camp snack. When I get lazy and don’t want to cook at all, I simply make myself a tasty cold cheese burrito. It is surprisingly good, although my fellow interns protest it.

The truck that we have dubbed mountain goat just reached 100,000 miles! We stopped and celebrated on the side of a mountain. Overall, this past month has been a ton of fun, and I have really enjoyed being out in the field more searching for plants!

Hornworm Kisses to Alpine Hiking!

Another month down! This month has been packed with trips and projects for the Rocky Mountain Research Station.

First, Elric and I headed to Sun Valley to scout for some Eriogonum umbellatum and Lomatium dissectum. We hiked this scree covered mountain, and when we got to the top we found a small population of Lomatium! It was super windy up there, and as we were hiking some jets flew over our heads! We also took a beautiful hike in Antelope Valley, and found two varieties of Eriogonum umbellatum!

After that successful trip, I decided to go visit some other CLM Interns in Council, ID! Dan and Levi introduced me to their housemates, and we explored the beautiful area around Council. Dan knew a spot for (low) cliff jumping by a waterfall, and we camped on this huge rock.

Then, we had a busy week ahead of us! Our station went to the Botany 2023 Conference in Boise, ID. We got to interact with botanists from all around, go on rafting on the Payette and Boise rivers, go on hiking field trips, and sit in on talks about botany research! It was an amazing time to get to see what the world of botany is like, and meet many peers who love the field! Such a wonderful time with great people.

Right after the conference, Elric and I departed to Eastern Idaho to take part in the GLORIA (Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments) Project! We met up with Kat and Alex, who work in Idaho Falls (Alex is a CLM intern and Kat works in the Idaho Falls office as a Resource Assistant!) Our group hiked up to Sheep Mountain South and began alpine monitoring. Luckily, the weather was cooperative while we were there, with only one small sprinkle while we were on the peaks. Our group had 4 peaks to survey, and we split up during the day to cover more ground and set up our monitoring equipment. It was a great weekend and a nice change of pace working in alpine environments!

Overall, it’s been an exciting and busy month! I look forward to what the rest of August holds!