Dead Stick Botany

As my coworker so eloquently put it, we are officially entering “dead stick botany season” here in northern Wyoming. As if learning how to identify grasses for the first time wasn’t difficult enough, learning to identify dead or dry grasses has proven to be quite the challenge for me. But, flowering plants are still abound and much easier to find in a key than grasses are. Even this late in the season, there are some angiosperms here still doing their flowering thang. Check it:

Rush skeletonweed (Chondrilla juncea)

Not an angiosperm, but that’s fine. Horned lizards are the state reptile of Wyoming.

Now that we are in the full swing of the field season, our crew has officially gotten a groove going. Each day, we arrive at the field office early to beat the heat, load our truck and head out to one of our ninety-something randomized field sites to collect species richness, canopy gap and soil data. Once we’ve finished with data collection, we return to the Buffalo BLM Field Office and complete entering the data into DIMA (an online database specific to the type of monitoring we do).

Amiah (CLM intern) looking at canopy gaps along a transect we established.

Dominic (BLM hydrologist) working the spud bar as we try to get a 30″ soil pit dug. Camille and Amiah (CLM interns) in the background carry out the Line Point Intercept method along a transect to collect species inventory of the site. I like my job.

Soon enough, most plants will no longer have obviously identifiable features and our ID season will come to an end. After speaking with my supervisor, I learned once it becomes too difficult to identify plants in the field, all us interns have the option to work with the rest of the office departments and explore other interests we may have such as wildlife biology, hydrology, mineral rights, GIS, etc. I’m not entirely sure what interest I’ll end up exploring, but I’m absolutely looking forward to new experiences.

I’m definitely not in Virginia anymore…

Hi!  I am Andrea, working with the BLM doing forestry work in Newcastle, Wyoming.

My first week here at the Newcastle Field Office consisted mostly of onboarding activities including gaining computer/ internet access and taking defensive driving courses to use federal vehicles. While that was necessary and important, my mentor also took me out to a few of the parcels where we would be doing our forest inventories and timber cruises. I also had the opportunity to meet some of the landowners and loggers involved in the contracts. The conversations I heard were completely over my head!

Cool crooked tree we saw near the South Dakota/Wyoming Border.

Cool crooked tree we saw near the South Dakota/Wyoming Border.

Most of these forestry and timber sales activities are completely new to me. In my previous positions, I performed forestry inventories for conservation planning only. No one was going to be logging the woods I was working in, except possibly to create habitat for flora and fauna. Terms like board feet, stumpage, and uneven-aged management are unfamiliar vocabulary!

This is the view from my backyard/forest service land!

This is the view from my backyard/forest service land!

It is incredible talking (or rather listening) to the landowners and loggers as they have
such concern about the welfare and management of the forests. They all point out
examples of proper tree thinning and nice meadows that have been created. They also
point out stands of trees that are too dense and should be managed so they are better
protected from Mountain Pine Beetle and fire damage in the future. Ultimately, forest
management and proper thinning will allow trees to grow larger, as they are not competing for sunlight and for the limited nutrients afforded by some of the lower quality soils/marginal sites. The Ponderosa Pines out here grow taller and straighter than any species of tree I have ever seen. It’s no wonder they are such an important timber tree. The really nice trees in well-managed forests are just majestic. I never thought I would use the word majestic for a pine tree, but the perfection of some of these trees is amazing. You can just tell that they are healthy. Some of the larger ones are well over 100 years old and some can live to be over 200 years old.

I couldn’t believe it, but on the drive home from one of the parcels, it was snowing. Not just snowing, but accumulating quickly on the grass and road. When I woke up the next morning, there were about three inches on the ground. I came here from Virginia, so sub-freezing temperatures in late May just don’t happen. Welcome to

Inspecting a prescribed burn area post treatment!

Inspecting a prescribed burn area post treatment!

My second week was turbulent. I came back from the field one day and was told that my mentor had died unexpectedly the previous night. I felt shock and sadness and wondered what to do next. After a bit of scrambling by the office manager and other BLM professionals, nearby foresters were contacted to help fill the role of our mentor. Also, the Range Technician, Wildlife Biologist, and others came forward and offered to create learning experiences for us in their fields of expertise.

All in all, these first few weeks have been a wild ride. I am simultaneously learning about forest management, the role of fire in the Black Hills region, and all of the intricasies invlolved in making relationships and completing projects in the Federal Government. Most importantly, I am having so much fun and meeting some of the most interesting people with backgrounds more varied than weather out here!

I wish everyone a fantastic internship!

All Best,


Finding Home in Lander, WY

After spending the last year not staying in the same place for more than a few months at a time it feels wonderful to come to rest in Lander WY, looking forward to a season spent surrounded by the smell of sage and an open sky. Already in the two weeks I’ve been here I’ve started to feel quite at home. Truthfully, this isn’t hard to do in such a small, welcoming community. I think I’ve found my kindred of spirit, who will delight in backpacking, rock climbing, and weekend yard sales as much as I do. There are familiar faces, or at the very least friendly ones at every turn.

Our first week at the Lander Field Office led into Lander’s second week of straight of rain, which has been relentless since we arrived. We’ve been told this is highly unusual even for the rainy season here, but is none the less a great delight to ranchers (and their prospective BLM permitters). It has also made an initial tour of the field office, which contains approximately 6.6 million acres, a little more difficult. Rain here means that many of the dirt roads, made up of various types of expansive clays, turn into a slippery, sink-able mess and therefore are impassable. It will be an added challenge for Erin and I to navigate and problem solve around as we venture more out into the field this week!

Popo Agie River, Lander, WY

Popo Agie River, Lander, WY

Our New Office

Our New Office

Wyoming (Indian) Paintbrush

Wyoming (Indian) Paintbrush

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

The rain also means though, that EVERYTHING, including the WILDFLOWERS, are going to go CRAZY this year. Lander hasn’t seen this much rain in a long time. One quick drive to Government Draw proved the impact the rain will have on the fields, which are already bursting with color. Wyoming paintbrush was exploding through the tufts of grass and sage like tiny fireworks of orange and pink and red. We walked around “oo-ing” and “ah-ing” at every other plant and how bright the colors were. In Sinks Canyon, just 15 minutes from where we live, the hillsides are beaming with arrowleaf balsamroot, phlox and blue-bells. I’m looking forward to watching this place evolve and transform like a seasonal kaleidoscope over the coming months.

Erin and I had our first crash course in plant ID last week, which for me has included my first true experience with identifying grasses. Already notoriously tricky, it’s made a little more difficult that the grasses are in an early stage and show much variation even within a single species. We are practicing picking out species like Sandberg bluegrass, mutton bluegrass, prairie junegrass, various wheatgrasses, blue bunchgrass and indian rice grass. We’ll also be differentiating soon between the many types of sage and small annual forbes – something I look forward to very much!

A Wyoming Summer to Remember

It’s hard to believe that three months have flown by since the CLM training workshop at the Grand Canyon. Thanks again to Krissa and Marian for organizing such a great week! I really enjoyed myself and learned a lot.

My Geographic Information Systems (GIS) internship with the Rock Springs, Wyoming BLM field office has afforded me many opportunities to learn new skills in GIS software. Most of my time is spent inside working on various small projects for numerous employees throughout the office. One day I may be working on a map showing the spatial relationship between oil and gas wells and sage grouse core areas for the Minerals and Lands department and the next I’ll be working on creating a reference map of Herd Management Areas for the Wild Horse Specialist to use out in the field. It is nice to have such a mix of assignments.

I’ve become more experienced in digitizing geographic features, as well as in general data management. Over the course of three months, I’ve assisted in geographic data acquisition, organization, analysis and maintenance. I’ve also become more experienced in the manipulation and creation of shapefiles and have done extensive work in readying sage grouse and pygmy rabbit datasets for further analysis by our wildlife biologists.

My cubicle workspace

While office life may not parallel the glamor and excitement of field work, it has helped me improve my computer skills and hone my interpersonal skills in a professional environment. I’m especially thankful for my mentor, Doug, who has imparted his vast GIS knowledge with patience and enthusiasm throughout my time here. He describes himself as “eccentric” and brings a welcome boost of levity to the office environment with his humorous perspective and playful attitude.

Doug on a normal day

Using a Trimble GPS to ground truth features in the field

Along with indoor activity, I also manage to get outside occasionally. In addition to accompanying my mentor for some GPS ground-truthing work, I’ve also been fortunate enough to assist various field crews from the recreation, wildlife and Seeds of Success divisions here.

Folgers coffee beans? Nope, my collection of chokecherries for the Seeds of Success program.

Some memorable moments from the field include: Sitting by a pristine creek for a lunch break and enjoying the scenery and perfect weather, trying to winch a truck out of a muddy sinkhole, walking fencelines inspecting them for sage grouse “strikes” in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains, watching wild horses and bull elk from atop White Mountain (just west of Rock Springs) and seeing two red foxes dart in front of the truck on the way to check a recreation site.

A very stuck truck!

Two fellow CLM interns enjoying a beautiful day for planting trees on National Public Lands Day.

I also had the opportunity to participate in my field office’s National Public Lands Day (NPLD) event a couple of weeks ago. Myself and other CLM interns helped to direct and assist nearly 100 high school students and teachers in planting over 950 native trees along a local riparian corridor. It was a rewarding service project and an enjoyable outing with my fellow interns.

Fall hiking with my roommates

Speaking of the other interns here, we have grown close as friends and share a camaraderie that extends beyond the workday. Although you might not guess it from a glimpse of Rock Springs itself, there is no shortage of places to go and things to do here in southwest Wyoming. Weekends are always jam-packed with fun, adventurous activities. Over the course of the summer, I’ve been hiking, camping, backpacking, road biking, mountain biking, swimming, rock climbing, tubing down rivers and playing in sand dunes. It’s been great to enjoy such varied activities with a fun group of people!

Fellow CLM intern Deanna sledding down a giant sand dune

Myself on a backpacking trip in the Wind River Mountains

I look forward to my last month here as a CLM intern and eagerly anticipate the remaining adventures that await me!

Melissa Buchmann
Rock Springs, WY
Bureau of Land Management

Wyoming… Wy not?

Great Basin Spadefoot Toad

Great Basin Spadefoot Toad

Despite having lived in Providence, RI (college) and Seattle, WA (post-college) over the past 5 years, I’m a sucker for wilderness and wide open spaces. Throw in a passion for ecology/zoology and some job sleuthing, and here I am, a CLM wildlife intern in Rawlins, WY.

My job here is, along with co-intern Jackie Taylor, to travel around the Rawlins Field Office (the majority of southern Wyoming) inventorying amphibian populations to better inform future land management decisions. We’re continuing the inventorying done last year by 2009 CLM interns Timothy Barwise and Brandon Fessler, and so far it’s been fantastic driving around listening to frog and toad calls, wading around in marshes in hip boots, and taking in the experience of being a government employee (though my favorite part might be taking a few minutes while out doing night surveys to check out the brilliantly clear night sky).

Yours truly, holding a tiny boreal chorus frog

Yours truly, holding a tiny boreal chorus frog

It’s been quite an adjustment moving to a town as small as Rawlins, though (population: ~9000). I’m quite used to walking, cycling, and public transportation; now, here without a car (for now), I feel quite isolated at times (our barracks are on the outskirts of town), though most of the other interns are gracious with ride offers so it’s not as bad as it could be. All in all, while I still miss city life, it’s not so bad here. Work takes up most of my time anyway. I sure do miss coffee shops, though. (Folger’s coffee is definitely not the best part of waking up.)

Kevin Neal
Wildlife Intern
Bureau of Land Management, Rawlins Field Office