Vegetation Rapid Assessment Workshop

Last week the team and I participated in a very informative training with the California Native Plant Society. We traveled to Yuba County in California, named so after the beautiful Yuba River that flows through the area. I had the pleasure of meeting several people working with different agencies and private consultancies throughout different areas in California that were also taking the course. I won’t get into the specifics, but I learned several new protocols that definitely increased my skillset, as well as changed the way I perceive vegetative communities.

Our lovely little campfire

I really enjoyed seeing oak trees again. It was very reminiscent of the midwest oak hickory forests I know so well. I had the pleasure of meeting some new oaks too, like Quercus douglasii and Quercus wislinzenii (sorry, no photos of the oaks). The salmon on the Yuba River were spawning, so we all climbed onto some boulders overlooking the river to watch them jump out of the water. All in all, it was a great training. I gained new skills, met some good people, and got to see some beautiful scenery.

Season Finale: Journey’s End! Farewell Buffalo, Wyoming!

Wow! Five months of adventure in the high plains, badlands, and mountains of Wyoming! My second internship with the CLM program was an amazing experience!  I had a variety of opportunities to practice my plant and animal identification skills, expose myself to new ecosystems and plant communities, understand local politics involving wildlife and oil projects, participate in community education events, and gain a sense of what I want to do with my life. This experience aided in developing a plethora of skill sets, which would help me with my future job(s)! This would be my last blog entry involving stories, gifs, experiences, and even an interview! Brace yourselves! \(OoO)/I am going to include "Your Moment of Zen" right now. So grab of cup of tea or Red Bull and select your play list. This post is going to be long. \(^_^\);;

I am going to include “Your Moment of Zen” right now. So grab a cup of tea or root beer and select your play list. This post is going to be long. \(^_^\);;

Botany Treasures of the Landscape

There were a variety of plants that we saw when we were monitoring around Gillette, Wyoming and the Bighorns. We saw seven tree species, nineteen shrub species, fifty-six grass and sedge species, and one hundred and sixty-six forb species!! I expected a lot less diversity in our area, but the high plains desert always surprised me! Of course some of the Astragalus and Aster species were tricky to identify, but the majority of the plants we did encounter were easy to identify. There were a few plants I really did like. The Asclepias species such as green comet milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora) and showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) were my all-time favorites. They always had unusual and rare insects crawling all over the leaves. I love the flowers for these plants and they always cheered me up under the blazing afternoon sun. Another unusual forb was the ground plum milkvetch (Astragalus crassicarpus). Their fruit was cool to find in the prairie landscape! The books say they were edible and good in meals, but they tasted horrible. Side note: The plant may induce vertigo in some people. I was fine though.

One of my favorite grasses was the littleseed ricegrass (Piptatheropsis micrantha). This grass was very hard to find and was usually found in forested canyons in Campbell County. I love the seeds and the grass shape. The best part was popping the grass seeds, so they would spring out into the field and reseed. Two of my favorite shrubs were winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata) and silver sagebrush (Artemisia cana)! In my last internship, silver sagebrush was rare to come across and we usually saw them in wet playas or shallow basins that were inundated with water for a small period of time in the spring. In Buffalo, Wyoming, they were ALL OVER!!! O_O At first I was so excited and pointed the shrub out all the time.  Eventually I stopped doing that because they were present in almost all of our sites. The limber pine (Pinus flexilis) was my favorite tree species that I encountered on the high slopes of the Bighorns. They were listed as a threatened species in Wyoming, due to the white pine blister rust. In many parts of the West, they were pretty common. They were even considered an ornamental pine tree back in Chicago, IL! I love their bending branches, shape, and pine cones. They were slowly recovering from the rust and efforts from our BLM and other agencies in terms of seed collection and propagation would hopefully make this tree common in the higher elevations of the Bighorns.

From left to right: Comet Green Milkweed, Ground Plum Astragalus, and Limber Pine.

From left to right: Comet Green Milkweed, Ground Plum Milkvetch, and Limber Pine.

In the Valley of Junipers and Pine (Mid October)

Recently, we have been helping the Montana Conservation Corp (MCC) with cutting down juniper (Juniperus scopulorum) and ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa). The reason we were cutting down some of these trees was to create ideal habitat for the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). The bird species preferred 10-15% sagebrush cover on an almost flat landscape in our area. The sage grouse do not like anything that vertically grows such as juniper trees. They also do not prefer power lines. Predators like hawks could perch on the tree/power lines and hunt sage grouse with ease. We went into the landscape around the Thunder Basin/ Burnt Hollow area and used loppers and sulkies to cut down many juniper that were growing all over the landscape. The MCC used chainsaws and other tools to cut down some of the junipers over twelve feet high. I did this for a few days with my fellow interns and seasonals and I was able to use my trimming arboriculture skills, but instead of making the junipers pretty, I just cut them down.

Sage grouse gif

This is a gif showing the ideal and not ideal habitats for the greater sage grouse.

Against All Odds! On the Road to Fortin Draw! (Early July)

One of the hardest places Sara and I had to monitor was Fortin Draw. This was an isolated piece of land located parallel to a major highway and rail road system. We got permission from the landowners and drove north of Gillette to a small road leading up to the allotment. The road looked like it was washed out, full of cow tracks, and had the consistency of clay. When walking by yourself on the road, you could easily trip or fall! The truck had an easier time on this road. ^_^ We did come across many boulders that I had to move out of the way, so Sara could drive with the truck further down the road. The road was so narrow, that we could not turn around. After about an hour of slowly driving down this secondary road, we came to our site. We parked along a hill that overlooked the train tracks and the highway nearby. Sara and I went to the site and performed our monitoring duties.

These were some pictures of Fortin Draw. We had to go under a fence to get to our site. Later on we found out there was a gate opening on the other side of the hill.

These were some pictures of Fortin Draw. We had to go under a fence to get to our site. Later on we found out there was a gate opening on the other side of the hill.

When we came back, we noticed another road that ran closer to the train tracks that we wanted to take, because it looked smoother and not as bumpy. As we drove, we got stuck twice! We had to dig ourselves out and have the truck in four wheel drive to get around some of the iffy sections. One part of the road was covered with yellow sweet clover, and I went ahead to see if it was safe for the truck to move forward. Much of the dirt and gravel was loose towards the end, but I directed Sara away from the trouble spots. One time the ground underneath one of the front tires started to give making the truck lean downhill. I asked Sara to quickly back up the truck and hug the left section of the road. We finally made it out of Fortin Draw alive and our truck (which was called “Big Mama”) survived with hardly a scratch. Our hearts were beating a mile a minute and we decided to head back early and organize our data and call other land owners.

Interview with Krissa!

I received an email from Krissa regarding the final blog post! There were specific questions she asked me regarding the internship. Let us begin!!

1.)    How you’ve grown personally and professionally

I have grown personally, professionally, and physically from this internship! I have grown in confidence and strength in monitoring in the back country areas of Wyoming. Personally, all of the challenges I have encountered made me a better and stronger person overall. Patience and the ability to remain calm in dire conditions really helped Sara and myself figure out many different puzzles. The rangeland monitoring portion of our internship was mentally challenging in a good way and having a positive mentality in the field goes a long way.

Professionally, I have vastly grown in plant identification skills. There were many plants we had to identify, and the use of various textbooks and literature helped myself apply my college education to real world scenarios. This internship helped me grow in understanding the importance of public relations and being able to talk with land owners. I did have some interesting times with some land owners, but all of the experiences I learned really helped me in the long run. Being a people person was very important and being able to talk with people about a variety of subjects helped me grow. Working with advisors and co-workers on different projects really helped me grow professionally in the BLM. My mentor gave me many opportunities to interact and speak with everyone in the resources department. Overall, this internship helped me become very professional and it challenged me to look at myself. The experiences I gathered from this internship would definitely help me in my future career.

eeyup

I am prepared for any future endeavor!

Oh!! You were probably wondering how I grew physically from this internship. I took Pilates at the local YMCA and I was able to have a better posture. I actually grew an inch! Haha!! ^_^;;;;

2.)    New skills you’ve gained

There were many new skills that I have gathered and learned from this internship! With all of the rangeland health and S&G monitoring, I have learned five new wildlife and flora survey methods that would help in future sage grouse and rangeland health assessments.  I learned many new grasses and forbs, which really helped with my plant identification skills. I used the taxonomy key and identification books a lot, which greatly assisted me with grass identification. Some plants were tricky like the Astragalus, Solidago, and Penstemon species, but we were able to identify them with the help of experienced rangeland health specialists. This internship provided me with knowledge on computer software and remote sensing analysis. I was able to learn about all sorts of data entry and was able to display collected data in many different forms for reports and maps. I have had defensive driving courses in the past, but this internship really tested my driving skills to the max! I was able to navigate through tough terrain and the streets of Gillette, Wyoming with ease. ;)

3.)    Learning experiences that stand out to you

I had plenty of learning experiences during my internship with the Buffalo Field Office.  I had a huge amount of experience with file organization and data entry. It was super important to be as organized as possible when working in the Government. I had plenty of off road driving experience in the back country around Gillette. Some sites had steep terrain and secondary roads leading up to the transect. Sara and I used all of our defensive driving training and luckily survived everything nature threw at us. We did get stuck a couple of times, but we managed to escape the clutches of wet clay soils. Monitoring in windy conditions was VERY challenging. At least six days had windy/stormy conditions that made our measuring tape fly all over the place! /)_- We had be creative like MacGyver.  We used paperclips, rubber bands, and a series of rocks to keep papers and measuring tapes from flying off. With a field season underneath our belt, I could assure anyone that we were experts at monitoring during windy conditions…hopefully my future job will not require me to monitor during a hurricane. >_>;; My final learning experience  that really stood out to me was to deal with pesky grass seeds such as needle and thread (Hesperostipa comata) and cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum).  Cheatgrass was a huge pain to deal with in the field. Some sites had so much cheatgrass, that it would fill your shoes and ruin your socks. I could imagine myself walking through a cheatgrass field and all of the seeding cheatgrass would say, “Take my babies!” This would result in hundreds of grass seeds stuck in my socks. Haha!! Needle and thread seeds were not as crazy as cheatgrass seeds, but they did hurt when they hit you. I learned to always carry a tweezers or pliers with you when dealing with grass species out in the field.

A close up of needle and thread grass. Yikes!!! Those pointy ends could easily pierce my socks!! D:

A close up of needle and thread grass. Yikes!!! Those pointy ends could easily pierce my socks!! D:

4.)    Rewarding experiences/memories

There were many rewarding experiences I had during my internship duration at the Buffalo Field Office. Almost everyday working for the BLM was a rewarding experience. I learned something new each day that would either broaden my knowledge or resume in some way. One of my main moments that I was so proud of was when I completed all of the allotment folders. The process took 4.5 months of data collection and entry, making maps, photography, comprehensive report writing, and organization. After all of the hard work and a big pile of allotment folders, I could say that I accomplished the massive project within my internship time at the Buffalo, Wyoming BLM.

Yay!! I completed all of the allotment folders. The process took 4.5 months!

Yay!! I completed all of the allotment folders. The process took 4.5 months!

One day, Sara and I were out in the field and found a baby elk tangled up in a barbed wire fence. We helped free the poor creature and managed to save it. We were so proud of ourselves for that accomplishment that we were able to help a living creature in the wild.

A favorite memory of mine was when I went with University of Wyoming: Laramie Natural Diversity Database Research Division to the Fortification Creek WSA to monitor bird species and other fauna. We were out there for a week and I learned an incredible amount about the flora and fauna of northeastern Wyoming. I helped capture insects, search for reptiles and amphibians, watch biologists mist net for bats, and hiked miles on end to locate various bird species. Hiking amongst the badlands and juniper forests was an awesome experience that I would never forget.

yay

The University of Wyoming: Laramie Natural Diversity Database Research Division Group and myself!!

Towards the beginning of my internship, our mentor took us along to a public outreach event where we were with elementary school kids. Our goal was to teach them the differences between different flora. What is a tree? Is this a grass? Can you find a shrub? It was a scavenger hunt for plants that all the kids enjoyed. Allison, Dusty, Charlotte, Jill, and I had a fun time teaching all of the children. Some of the children were so excited about plants that they took many grass samples back to the classroom.

One of my favorite memories happened before my internship! My roommate, Sean wanted to take me out to a lek site to watch sharp tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus). We found two lek sites in the morning and many grouse. The males were strutting their stuff, while the females were just walking around socializing. We saw a truck approach us and a cowboy asked us if we were there for the branding. One thing led to another and we were involved with the local Sheridan cattle branding. We were busy for a couple of hours. They roped the calves and we had to lay them on the ground to be vaccinated, branded, and sometimes castrated. The overall experience was awesome! Later on, I heard that experience of Sean and I helping local ranchers with a branding helped increase public relations with the BLM. ^_^

Some calves that were ready for action!

Some calves that were ready for action!

5.)    Expectations that were or were not met

This internship went above and beyond my expectations. I learned more GIS skills that I could definitely use for my future job. Working with different tools and remote sensing applications in ArcMap really helped me grasp what the Government needed and used in terms of mapping projects. Many of the data entry projects helped me understand and elaborate more on my knowledge of computer software. I learned about efficient ways to work with Excel and transfer excel files between various programs. Microsoft Access was tricky, but was very beneficial for comprehensive report writing.

Learning about different survey methods and plant identification was a great experience. Many of the rangeland health specialists gave Sara and I many different sites to survey. We went on mountains, badlands, creeks, draws, buttes, forests, playas, salt flats, and wetlands to monitor all kinds of plants. Some of the locations were near mining facilities and oil platforms, which provided us with plenty of experience with talking with land owners.

Cabin Canyon (East). One of my favorite sites to monitor.

Cabin Canyon (East). One of my favorite sites to monitor.

The Buffalo Field Office provided me with a diverse and rich amount of experience that I would definitely use in my future line of work. Unfortunately, I did not have time to work on environmental policy documents before I left. I did receive insight on NEPA documents and other gas/oil documentation. Hopefully, in the future I would learn more about these documents.

Buzzworms (Early August)

I was talking with some of the uranium miners that worked south of Buffalo and Gillette. They were rough people that went through a lot for their work. One of the subjects they talked about were buzzworms. I was perplexed! O_o??? I have never heard of a buzzworm before. What is this buzzworm? I talked with one of the rookie people that were new to the job and he explained to me that a buzzworm was actually a rattlesnake! I froze for a good ten seconds…trying to connect the dots. Then I laughed! Buzzworm was the funniest name I have ever heard for a rattlesnake. For most of the time in the field, I warned the other interns of possible buzzworms in the grass. They would look at me with a confused look and then realize I was talking about rattlesnakes. We all had a good laugh over that word. Fortunately, I never encountered a buzzworm during the Buffalo internship unlike last year in Burns, Oregon where I saw many. The word ”buzzworm” would always stay with me.

This buzzworm is not amused.

This “buzzworm” is not amused. (Actually it was Mr. Rattles Version 2.0 from the last internship.)

Interns, Assemble!!!

I had the great fortune to work with three awesome interns, Heather, Sara, and Jill. They were hard workers and accomplished every task that came their way. No matter what the weather or condition they were always up for a challenge!

Heather’s main job was to help out with the Powder River Basin Restoration Program. She also came out with Sara and I to help monitor different sites in the Bighorns and the badlands region of Campbell County. She even assisted Jill with SOS seed collection! She worked with a lot of managers and created different documents to help with the future monitoring efforts of the PRBR program. She worked with all kinds of GIS and software programs. She also developed a lot of connections with land owners and people within the office. She was a professional! She was a quick thinker and was always concerned for people’s well-being. She worked on a variety of projects that dealt with cheatgrass detection and sage grouse monitoring. Heather was always there for you and cared for everyone. She was calm and collected through a majority of our trip, except when a dog tried to herd her truck. Haha!

Heather and I ready for another adventure.

Heather and I ready for another adventure.

Sara was the other rangeland monitor. We would travel all across Sheridan, Campbell, and Johnson County to monitor the allotments we were assigned. We went through thick and thin to monitor different sites in the rain, intense sun, and wind storms. She was extremely dependable and very hard working. We hiked through the mountains or into the Badlands to get to a transect. She was well versed at back country driving. Sara went to the limit and surpassed it! She was very helpful in data entry and always lend a helping hand to Heather or Jill. Another job she excelled at was public relations. Many land owners really liked her! She had the charisma that made many people smile in person and probably over the phone.

Sara was ready to identify all the plants! \(O_O\)

Sara was ready to identify all the plants! \(O_O\)

Jill was our SOS intern for our office. She collected around eighteen seed collections, but I think she was going to do more Fall collecting. (She could’ve done more, but she only had funding to do eighteen collections…) Jill did accompany the rangeland and the PRBR groups for many data collecting escapades. She was very good at photography and tended to be the S&G photographer for the group. She always had a nice sense of humor and an interesting taste in music. Most of her seed collection occurred during the hot Summer months under the intense sun. Collecting all kinds of forb and grass seeds was her specialty. She was always in high spirits when performing her job. Her plant presses were a work of art.

Jill and I picking seeds for SOS.

Jill and I picking seeds for SOS.

I just want to thank all three of the interns for being who they were. It was a sincere pleasure working with all three of them! \(^_^)/

I Want to Give Thanks To These Wonderful People

(Small extended applause could be heard in the background for the duration of this reading section.)

(Small extended applause could be heard in the background for the duration of this section.)

I want to thank all of the BLM Legends who helped me with the internship and provided support and guidance. I want to thank my mentors and rangeland specialists, Charlotte, Dusty and Kay. They were very helpful and incredibly awesome at their job. They provided the right amount of guidance to help the interns out. They helped anyway they could and provided us with all kinds of opportunities. All of the rangeland specialist were great and would be missed! I want to thank Chris and Don for all of the wildlife biology jobs involving bird monitoring and habitat assessments. I could tell they loved their jobs and had an affinity for nature. I want to thank my head bosses Chris and Bill! They really helped me get settled and figure out some of the technical parts of my job. I always enjoyed talking with Bill about birds or receiving a good morning hello from Chris! (I also appreciated the Chris messages when I came back from work. Heather enjoyed them to a lesser extent.)  >;)

I want to also thank Diane who helped provide input on various GIS questions. I want to thank Michelle for helping Sara and I help hunt down land owner phone numbers. I also want to thank her for providing us with unlimited M&Ms. I want to thank all of the BLM/ NRCS specialists, Jen, Allison, Janelle, Arnie, Keith, Scott, Maverick Dan, and Nayeli for all the knowledge they imparted on all of the interns. I want to thank Connie for all the cool rocks and nice rock hounding stories! Last but not least, I want to thank Sean “The Sean” Casler for sharing room and board at the apartments. Thanks for all the stories and adventures! The cattle branding was one of the most unique experiences I’ve had! You may be wondering why he was called Sean “The Sean”, well…why not? ;)

BLM Legends and Interns

BLM Legends and Interns working in the field!!

I want to thank Krissa and Rebecca at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Thank you so much for this opportunity!!! I have learned and experienced all of what I wanted to get out of an internship. Thank you so much, Krissa, for all of your hard work and for providing me with an awesome internship! I also want to thank Rebecca for helping me with every question I had. Thanks for providing assistance and guidance on different problems throughout the internship! (I do apologize for turning in few of the time sheets late. … ^_^;;;;) Again thank you. You’re all the best in the biz! \(^_^\)

Finally, I want to thank my family members and friends who always called and encouraged me on my internship. The home packages were awesome! I want to thank my parents who were always there for me and supported me every step of the internship! Thanks for the small Canada vacation and the pictures of your adventures. Thank you to my sisters and brother in laws for the packages and phone calls! They were really appreciated. I want to thank my friend, Jo Smith, who provided artwork for one of my previous blogs. You are very talented and the best in the biz! Thanks to all of my friends for all the chats, texts, and private messages. They mean a lot to me!

Oh!!!!! I forgot to mention! If you read this far, congratulations. You won a gold star!! I want to thank any interns or other people who have read my blog! You were all the best!! ^_^

Gold Star

Gold Star for my fellow blog readers.

Riding off into the Sunset

Here is a gif from Indiana Jones. Just picture all four CLM Interns from Buffalo, Wyoming riding off into the sunset.

All the interns riding into the sunset...but three of the interns have to return on Monday for the rest of their internship.

All the interns riding into the sunset…but three of the interns have to return on Monday to continue their internship.

…….OH NO!!!!!!!! NOT AGAIN!!!!!!!!!

Oh crumbs… this was the second time this happened to me. I forgot to post about important A-ha! Moments in my blog for an entire season…Let me see…. My 2014 Field Season A-ha moment: The woolly bear caterpillar becomes the Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia isabella)! Many people think that these caterpillars could predict weather based on the size of the brown band. This was actually considered folklore and there was no scientific evidence to link weather and the woolly bears according to the Farmer’s Almanac website. Another fun fact: They like to gather in cracks of buildings during the winter to keep warm. :3

Woolly Bear and its adult form the Isabella Tiger Moth. Picture came from: https://animalgals.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/woolly-bear-caterpillar/

Woolly Bear and its adult form the Isabella Tiger Moth. Picture came from: https://animalgals.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/woolly-bear-caterpillar/

It’s True, Gotta Love What You Do

I’m living in the end times. End times of my internship, that is. First, I want to say that moving to New Mexico to be a CLM intern is THE BEST THING I could have done after graduating. I am so glad that I took a leap of faith and did it. I’ve got just a little over a week left to work, and I’ve already asked if I can come in a few more days as a volunteer because I’m not quite ready to say goodbye. I’ll get a little more herbarium time in and maybe even some final field visits.

Sunny even became a better botanist this summer!

Sunny even became a better botanist this summer!

This internship has really helped fine tune my botanizing skills. I’m much more confident with grasses and the mega plant family Asteraceae especially. I know that with a couple of good books and some time I can learn the ID of plants anywhere I plop down, which is a spectacular feeling. I’ve also had a nice peek into what working for the BLM might be like, and actually know some of the acronyms! During my time here I was also junior ranger deputized and titled “budding botanist” by my mentor, got to help with National public Lands Day dressed as Seymour Antelope, and was a real member of an ID (interdisciplinary) Team for a ecological assessment.

I liked the SOS work; the mission is admirable and makes for a job you can feel good about. I love the physicality of collecting the seed in the field; this kind of work has always been meditative in a way for me. I felt like a proud seed mama every time we sent a shipment of seed to Bend. “Go, my dear little seeds, for within you lies the promise of a shining future”… I know, I’ m a little nutty but that is how it feels. I would like to see more of what is being done on the ground with some of these native plant materials in terms of grow out and restoration in the future. I also feel that I have a better grasp on the realm of landscape ecology, and looking the environment as more a whole than individual parts. Even though my time was focused on SOS, I am thankful to my mentor, Sheila for encouraging us to get to know other people in our office and experience some of the other fieldwork that the BLM conducts. I’ve enjoyed learning about well pad reclamation and range/riparian monitoring in addition to our botany work. I also feel accomplished in that I wasn’t just a needy intern; I actually helped my mentor get important things done and was able to make some portions of her workload more manageable.

A typical collection site

A typical collection site

It’s been eye opening to work in Farmington because of the booming oil and gas industry here. Everything else comes second, and all summer I have seen the people that work here struggle and fight to get other causes recognized as important, from archaeologists to recreation and wildlife specialists and of course, botanists. It’s got to be hard to work in an environment like that and I’m not sure if I could do it, but I am glad to know that there are people who do in spite of all the challenges that the oil and gas machine presents.

I will be applying for the CLM internship again in November. There’s a lot more to see and do, and I’m not ready to apply for a permanent position somewhere. I just want to keep gaining a variety of experience. Doing this internship has made me think that academia and returning to grad school may not be for me, but that is still to be seen. I still don’t have a clear path, but I think CLM has helped send me in the right direction, and I’m happy with that. This season proved to me that is truly is important to enjoy and be fascinated by your work, so that is what I intend to do. I really appreciate what Krissa Skogen, Rebecca Johnson, Peggy Olwell, and others have done to make the CLM program possible. I would recommend this internship to anyone interested in land/natural resources management and ecology. Thanks also to Sheila, the “coolest boss ever!”, my coworkers here at FFO BLM, and of course my CLM intern partner in grime (we like to get our hands dirty) Sarah. I’m looking forward to next season! Keep up the good work fellow interns, and love all that you do.
Hannah Goodmuth, Farmington NM.

Seymour Antelope!

Seymour Antelope!

October

Greetings fellow interns,

Things are finally beginning to green up again here in the Northern California Central Valley.  This has come to be one of my favorite times of the year here.  Being originally from the Midwest, I am accustomed to seeing dry, dormant, dying vegetation in the fall as plants prepare for a cold hard winter, but here the fall season brings moisture and precipitation to a system that has been dry and dormant throughout the mid and late summer.  It makes for a lovely green fall full of re-awakening plant life.  Judging by my inability to pass air through my nasal passages, I am convinced the rejuvenated plants are also contributing to an increased pollen count.  You take the good with the bad!

Many exciting things are currently happening at the Preserve.  Birds have begun showing up in numbers and we are once again participating in bi-weekly waterfowl counts.  Every year the Cosumnes River Preserve supports tens of thousands of migratory birds utilizing the Pacific Flyway.  With the extremity of the drought over the last several years, many historically wet areas do not have water this year, and we are expecting above average bird numbers.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife is in the process of developing a mountain lion study at the Preserve.  The pilot study will involve trapping and radio collaring cats to better understand how and why they are using the Preserve as habitat.  Trapping is scheduled to being this winter. The cats are definitely present at the Preserve, but they are such cryptic animals that their life histories here are quite mysterious.   I am very eager to read up on the findings of this study.

The Preserve is also working on the development of a partnership with the Center for Land Based Learning through their Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship (SLEWS) Habitat Restoration Program.  This program gets California school students directly involved in native habitat restoration projects through  hands-on field work days at various sites throughout the Sacramento Valley.  As a significant portion of my responsibilities at the Preserve include managing habitat restoration projects, I think this will be an excellent opportunity to expand our projects while educating students and having a good time!

Lucky for me, I have also had the opportunity to participate in a few SOS seed collections throughout the late summer and early fall months.  I love being able to get out in the field to explore, monitor plant populations, and collect seed!  I was also joined by fellow SOS intern Julie Wynia, and it is always great to be able to socialize and collect with other folks from the CLM program.  We reached our 2014 BLM collection targets for the Mother Lode Field Office, and have already begun collecting for the 2015 fiscal year.  Hope your fall season has been going equally as enjoyably as mine has-

Best,

Patrick

Protect the Ancients

This past week I had the opportunity with a friend from work to go to Death Valley National Park. This is a truly amazing place and the difference in topography and scenery around the park is quite an impressive feat in the natural world. We went to Eureka Dunes in the northern portion of the park where there are several endemic species to dunes: Oenothera californica ssp. eurekensis and Astragalus lentiginosus var. micrans. These particular dunes are the ones endearingly called “The Singing Dunes.” It was a very special place to be and see the wondrous landscape of Larraea tridentata, Echinocactus polycephalus, Opuntia basilaris, Eucnide urens and many other species of desert flora.

We also traveled to Mesquite Springs in the lower part of the park and hiked the beautiful Telescope Peak, which is over 11,000′. The following day we searched for a plant that Rebecca had vehemently sought after and eventually we found it in Surprise Canyon out of Panamint Valley. It was an amazing plant, Annulocaulis annulatus, and many of the other species of flora in the canyon were quite interesting. Particularly, the shrub Peucephyllum schottii (Desert Pygmy Cedar), which is found in the Asteraceae family. I have never seen a shrub in the Asteraceae that captivated me with amazement like this particular plant did. We left the park that night and headed to Lone Pine, CA where we enjoyed a good meal at the Mt. Whitney Restaurant.

The greatest part of the trip for me was most assuredly the chance to walk amongst the ancient Bristlecone Pines (Pinus longaeva). It has always been a dream of mine to see these splendid specimens gnarled and contorted on the dry slopes of the White Mountains in CA. A tree that quite literally has weathered the toughest storms, winds and cold for millenia. Feeling the bark and seeing the needles (they stay on the tree for 35-40 years before dropping) closely bundled on the branches, the sap laden cones and knowing that these trees have stood for thousands of years was a humbling experience considering that our own lifetimes are like a blade of grass that springs up and withers away the next day. What a thought!

This was a trip I will not soon forget and it may well be my last trip here in the vicinity of Carson City.

Consider the wonders around you my friends,

Ethan CCDO BLM

Final Post Provo Shrub Sciences Laboratory

Hello everyone, this is my last post at the CLM blog. First of all, I am going to summarize our research during my internship at the Provo Shrub Sciences Laboratory. The first month and a half, we were exploring the technical details of the portable e-nose device and smell theory. Followed by that, we standardized the e-nose methodology using known Big Sagebrush volatiles to establish the smell parameters for our experiments, and then we analyzed Big Sagebrush smell. While we were working on our lab experiments, we were also working in the field collecting phenology data for different Big Sagebrush populations at the common gardens in Utah. Also we did several field trips at different locations of Utah and Idaho to collect different samples of wild Big Sagebrush, additionally we received samples from different common gardens of Idaho. We analyzed ploidy and smell of known and wild populations at the lab, looking to differentiate between subspecies. We presented our first results in March 2014, at the Great Basin Native Plant Project Annual Meeting, in Boise Idaho. During the Spring and Summer we were collecting smell and volatile compounds at common gardens and in lab, to determine smell patterns differences between Big Sagebrush populations in different environments and seasons. In addition during the summer we were working in seed experiments at the lab, looking to differentiate between Big Sagebrush subspecies. Our results were presented at the SER Northwest & Great Basin Regional Conference, in Redmond Oregon. We are hoping to complete two papers with our data.

When I first started at the Shrub Lab I did not have much experience in the United States. Now that I am completing my internship with CLM, I feel much better prepared for graduate school in the United States. During my internship, I have had the opportunity to make new friends at the Provo Shrub Lab, and I have to say that it is a nice place to work, with very interesting people. I want to say thank you to my mentor for all the support, and the things that he taught me, and for encouraging me to continue exploring new things. Also I want to say thank you to Krissa, Wesley and Rebecca for all the support, I really appreciate it.

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Thank you CLM and Provo Shrub Sciences Laboratory

Hector

Provo, UT

USDA-Forest Service RMRS, Shrub Sciences Laboratory

Re-seeding In Burnt Lands

With the collecting season rapidly coming to an end, our duties have begun to shift, but still maintain seamless relevance with our prior work. Southern Oregon was hit hard this year with some large forest fires that completely torched some BLM lands.  Our seed collecting work early this season has now come full circle as a result of reseeding projects in these burnt forests and meadows.  The seed we are using was collecting in past years but former CLM interns, and was sent to a number of different farms around the Pacific Northwest and grown out to increase the number of poundage.  It is these seeds, of the same ecoregion, that we are using to repopulate the native grasses and forbs.  I will be spending this week and next onsite, where the Oregon Gulch fired occurred, with 8 members from a community justice crew.  We have already covered roughly 300 acres and will be covering much more in the days to come.

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The Seed Castle

Post fire site walk_2014 (18)

Over the last couple of weeks, I worked with the City of Eugene putting together native seed mixes for different land managers.  Last week, they caught a lucky break of good weather that allowed them to prescribe burn, so the seed mixes will now be dispersed at these sites.  Putting these seed mixes together took place in the “seed castle”, a colossal wooden warehouse sitting right beside the train tracks. Gloomy and still like a scene from “The Departed”, I kept my ears perked in anticipation of sirens and heavy footstep.  Who knew when our covert restoration operations might be interrupted?  There was a moment for contemplation.  How funny it is that these seeds, seeds of opportunity, beauty, diversity, nutrition, seeds of life, that harbor so much potential, so much value for prairie health, so much importance, made their way to these plastic bags in this old, dreary, dank warehouse.  I could only imagine how these little carbon capsules of unthinkable shapes and sizes will explode into their glorious forms and colors to feed the soil and the critters creeping and crawling about.

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September in the High Desert of Eastern Oregon

            Just when work seemed to be slowing down with the end of the field season, the month of September came to the rescue.

            It was time for Marta and I to start going out to various (20+) trend sites located throughout the 400,000 acres of land recently burned in the lightening-caused Buzzard Complex Fire (BCF). At these sites we noted the vigor of remaining vegetation (as well as regrowth) and took plot and landscape photos. Unlike all the other ES&R trend sites we’ve monitored this summer (which burned anywhere from 1-3 years ago), these BCF trend sites burned less than 2 months ago in July.

To be able to explore and collect monitoring data on very recently burned high-desert shrubland-steppe was quite the experience. It is really hard to imagine what 400,000 acres looks like until you are out there on the ground. Let’s just say it is like looking out in nearly every direction from wherever you may be and seeing burned land as far as the eye can see. Here though, it is important to understand that fires do not burn evenly across the landscape in terms of fire severity. So, in the high-severity burned areas the land was completely barren of any vegetation and it was easy to see where shrubs were once rooted in the ground before the fire by looking at the darker spots of the ash covered land. In the moderate-severity burned areas the land was of course still ash covered in many places, but there remained dead, blackened stumps of shrubs and stubs of burned down bunchgrasses scattered throughout.  In the low-severity burned areas remained little islands of still intact (and sometimes very much alive and green; unburned) shrubs and or bunchgrasses. Most encouraging though, there were a good amount of sites that had rubber rabbitbrush regrowth and bunchgrass seedlings sprouting up!

July 2014 Buzzard Complex Fire

July 2014 Buzzard Complex Fire: High-Severity burned area

July 2014 Buzzard Complex Fire: Moderate Severity burned area

July 2014 Buzzard Complex Fire: Moderate Severity burned area

July 2014 Buzzard Complex Fire: Low-Severity burned area

July 2014 Buzzard Complex Fire: Low-Severity burned area

 

 

 

 

Attending the BCF tour was another wonderful experience that came with the month of September. The purpose of this tour for the BLM Buzzard Complex Fire ES&R Team (made up of a few Rangeland Management Specialists, Resource Area Managers, Noxious Weed Specialists, and Natural Resource Specialists) and the Burns, OR USDA Agricultural Resource Station (USDA ARS) was to show special interest groups (such as Oregon Natural Desert Association), cooperating agencies and tribal representatives the condition of the land throughout the burned area, all the while discussing the threats (exotic annual grass invasion, herds of feral horses ripping out seedlings, short fire return intervals, etc.), opportunities (exotic annual grass/fuels reduction with grazing, seeding/planting desirable species, noxious weed treatments, etc.) and management actions, in addition to addressing any of post-fire management concerns.

July 2014 Buzzard Complex Fire Tour led by BLM Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation Team and Burns, OR USDA Agricultural Research Station scientists

July 2014 Buzzard Complex Fire Tour led by BLM Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation Team and Burns, OR USDA Agricultural Research Station scientists

The 1st stop of the tour was at a (medusa-head infested pre-fire) research plot located in the burned area. Here, the scientists from the Burns, OR USDA Agricultural Research Station discussed the results of their experiments concerning establishment of a variety of seeded/ planted native vs desirable (crested wheatgrass in particular) species post-fire in this low-precipitation, low-elevation landscape. The scientists explained why the natives had a very hard time establishing (virtually no germination success) and why the desired bunchgrass (crested wheatgrass) was much more successful in establishing. Simply put, the crested wheatgrass was much more hardy and competitive than the native species.

Here are some quotes (though I apologize because for some I did not write down who said it as I was scribbling it all down like a mad-man so as not to miss anything) I took from the informed discussion that followed:

  • ·         Being a perennial bunchgrass, crested wheatgrass has a very extensive root system, so “just because you see bare ground on top of soil does not mean it is unoccupied underneath…and don’t be alarmed when you see annual grasses in between bunchgrasses because it could be simply due to high precipitation that year, but may not persist” (USDA ARS scientist).
  • ·         “Bunchgrasses are key if you do not want the land to convert to exotic annual grasslands of cheatgrass or medusa-head” (USDA ARS scientist).
  • ·         “But, then how about the issue of crested wheatgrass taking over and keeping native vegetation from establishing?” (Oregon Natural Desert Association representative)
    • o   “There is competition with native species and crested wheatgrass, but if we seed natives alone at these low-elevation, low-precipitation sites, the seedings will not be successful.” (BLM Natural Resource Specialist)
    • o   “Think of the crested wheatgrasses as a place holder for natives once the technology and resources are made available which would allow us to succeed in native revegetation efforts.” (BLM Resource Area Manager)
    • o   “It is much easier to restore a crested wheatgrass dominated plant community to a native plant community than it is to restore an exotic annual grassland community to a native plant community” (BLM Rangeland Management Specialist).
    • o   “We would prefer to use native species just as much as anyone else. We are not satisfied with looking at a crested wheatgrass landscape and saying ‘ok, we’re done, we’re happy’. No. We need a long-term outlook.” (BLM Natural Resource Specialist).
    • o   “Time is the best tool you have to get back the natives” (BLM Resource Area Manager).

At the second stop, the matter of feral horse herds on post-fire/rehabbed areas was discussed. I have not learned much before about the influence of feral horse herds on public rangelands, so, I found this part of the tour to be very interesting.

The third stop was to demonstrate winter grazing annual exotics with nutrient supplements post-fire. It was explained, as expected, that the cows lost a little weight in the beginning and there were problems with the adult cows kicking the calves off the supplements, but near the end the cows were again at good weight. Although this practice of biological thinning is a rather slow, less effective way to combat exotic annual grasses (due to grazing after the annuals have already gone to seed), it does nonetheless reduce the fine fuels on site.  So, it helps. It is this type of treatment action that will hopefully take place on medusa-infested areas of the BCF in winter if resources are made available by permittees (which have been really cooperative since the permittee meeting in July when the BLM ES&R Team presented to them their BCF management) and if there is enough precipitation this fall.

In concluding the tour, everyone shared their final thoughts on the matter of fire rehabilitation and the need for pro-active fire management (i.e. Tri-State fuel breaks, fine fuels reduction to increase fire return intervals, etc.), instead of re-active fire management (i.e. millions of dollars spent on fire suppression, leaving little money for rehabilitation efforts) and were all very appreciative of this opportunity to be on the ground to really understand what happened on the land and what needs to be done to ensure the land does not degrade further and transition into an exotic annual grassland.

 

Ariana Gloria-Martinez

Burns, OR BLM

 

October at the Burns, OR BLM field office

Last week, I had the great pleasure of volunteering at and attending the Regional NW/Great Basin Society for Ecological Restoration Conference in Redmond, Oregon (titled: Collaborative Restoration: From Community Efforts to Landscape Scales). This conference was just what I needed at a time when I will be finishing up this internship in less than a month and be on the hunt for my next chance to gain professional hands-on experience with anything related to ecological restoration.

            My goal of attending the conference was to get to know and have real conversations with the many other practitioners, scientists and enthusiasts that were also in attendance. It was a bit of a different conference experience than I was used to because I was there as a lone ranger (in that I did not have the

Sagebrush-Steppe Restoration- A Paired Watershed Juniper Study, led by Tim Deboodt and Michael Fisher

Sagebrush-Steppe Restoration- A Paired Watershed Juniper Study, led by Tim Deboodt and Michael Fisher

comfort/security of friends from a University student club with me). Yet, as a recent grad it turned out to be really good because it allowed me to break out of my shell and develop my professional skills and learn of the many job opportunities I should apply for soon now that they have a face to my name J.

            I spent most of my time at presentations related to shrubland/grassland restoration since that is where my educational and experiential background is, but also made sure to expand my horizons by going to panels and presentations on more unfamiliar topics such as urban restoration, energy mitigation, native plant development and materials, and conservation through prisons. Also, the poster session I attended (and more specifically the grad students I spoke with about their research) added to my excitement about going to back school in a year or two to pursue an advance degree in ecological restoration!

            Then, Friday I attended the Shrub-Steppe Restoration-A Paired Watershed Juniper Study fieldtrip led by Tim Deboodt (staff chair of Oregon State University Extension) and Mike Fisher (Forestry Professor at Central Oregon Community College). The goal of the study was to evaluate the impacts of removing (cutting) western juniper on the hydrologic function of the two watershed sites (one of which was used as the control- no juniper removal). What I enjoyed most about the fieldtrip was learning about the geologic, ecological and management history of the study site from the people who know it best (Tim and Mike who’ve been working on this site for 20+ years and saw the importance of collecting 11 years of baseline data and who also have not determined an ending date to the study as they will be passing it off this year to another scientist to lead the research). I also really enjoyed our two mile hike between the two watersheds because I was able to observe first-hand the visual difference between the control site and the site where juniper had been removed.

Overall, I really felt lucky to be a part of that conference because it allowed me to learn from a diverse group of practitioners and scientists about the many challenges they have faced as well as successes they have had in conserving the flora, fauna and land of all types of ecosystems through ecological restoration with the help of invested and passionate local communities, academic and private partnerships by way of progressive and productive collaboration.

Sagebrush-Steppe Restoration- A Paired Watershed Juniper Study, led by Tim Deboodt and Michael Fisher

Sagebrush-Steppe Restoration- A Paired Watershed Juniper Study, led by Tim Deboodt and Michael Fisher

Ariana Gloria-Martinez

Burns, OR BLM