Weed Smack Down Wrangell-St. Elias NPP

On July 12th the Exotic Plant Management team helped in hosting the Weed Smack down, which is a one day event to get people in the Copper Basin involved in the effort to control invasive plants. This event is aimed to control White Sweet Clover, which a very aggressive invasive in Alaska, below is the press release for the event.

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Thanks to all of the fabulous Weed Warriors who showed up, the 2nd Annual Glennallen Weed SmackDown was a smacking success! On Saturday, July 12, more than 40 community members pulled and bagged 2,032 pounds of White Sweetclover from 35,458 square feet (0.82 acres) of heavily infested areas near the intersection of the Richardson and Glenn Highways, where many travelers pass.  This year saw a 4-fold increase in participation in the Copper Basin Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA) led SmackDown over last year with a 15 month old as the youngest Weed Warrior. Research shows that White Sweetclover (and its relative, Yellow Sweetclover) competes with our native berry crops for pollinator attention and binds gravel soils along streams and rivers, impacting the quality of spawning areas.  White Sweetclover is one of the most common weeds found within the Copper Basin CWMA and has been further spread by the recent road construction in the Glennallen area.  The SmackDown achieved its goal of removing the plants before they go to seed and spread further. The event was topped off with a Thai lunch, and participants received t-shirts.  Thanks to all who helped!

To learn more about the Copper Basin CWMA and how you and your organization can become involved go to the website or look for our new logo (above), designed by Cordova High School Junior Cadi Moffitt, at cooperator booths at the upcoming Kenny Lake Fair. The Copper Basin CWMA is comprised of 13 public, private, and nonprofit parties in the region. Of those partners, the following key members organized the SmackDown:  Laurie Thorpe, Bureau of Land Management Glennallen Field Office; Danielle Verna, Don Hofstetter, and Kate Morse, Copper River Watershed Project; Megan Weidman, Conservation Land Management Intern with the Chicago Botanic Gardens; Ann Biddle, Kenny Lake Soil and Water Conservation District; Robin Underwood, Wrangell Institute for Science and the Environment; and Peter Frank and Miranda Terwilliger, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve. The US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Alaska Association of Conservation Districts provided additional support. We’d also like to recognize the Student Conservation Association and the Southeast Alaska Guidance Association students and the National Park Service trail crew for their participation. The Alaska Department of Transportation signed the shoulders and allowed us to work in the right of way. Thanks also to several private land owners who allowed us to pull on their properties.

 

Rain, Invasive Species, More Rain

Hello my lovely fellow interns,

Since we last virtually spoke (as in I post and you maybe read), I have been doing a lot more work with invasive and rare plants.  I’ve familiarized myself with NISIMS and conning ArcMap/ArcPad into doing what I want and have been out to Chicken, AK (tiny town southwest of Fairbanks) and Coldfoot, AK (even tinier town (10 people at last census) north of the Arctic Circle) collecting NISIMS data.  Mostly we are focusing on white sweetclover and bird vetch so I’ve gotten really good at identifying white and purple blurs along the roadside as we cruise by in the trucks in the rain.  White sweetclover and bird vetch are both marching quite steadily up the Dalton Highway, which leads way north up to Deadhorse, the northernmost city in Alaska accessible by car (about 8 miles from the Arctic Ocean).  This is obviously bad news.  White sweetclover grows pretty much continuously from Fairbanks (Dalton Highway milepost 0) to Coldfoot (milepost 175) and beyond.  Bird vetch is less continuous so we were focusing on that—recording where it is and how dense it is.  We found it as far north as milepost 196, yikes!  After we gather data the hope is to develop a management plan to figure out how to handle this problem.  The Dalton is used mostly by the oil industry to haul supplies to and from Deadhorse and the oil infrastructure on the North Slope (in fact it used to be called the Haul Road) so you can probably see how invasive plant species might be abundant there.

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Dalton Highway leading north into the Brooks Range

The rare plant front is progressing a little more slowly.  We learned that the GIS rare plant data that we have is fuzzed and thus not very useful for navigating to sites to monitor rare plants.  Now it seems we have resolved the problem so I will soon be able to get out to the field, hopefully tracking down some of these populations to monitor them and scouting areas where new populations might be hiding.

For the month of August I will also be working with another wildlife biologist in the office to re-visit some plots that were monitored pre-2004 fire to see what they look like post-fire.  Said biologist had been noticing that spruce forests are not regenerating post-fire as they used to and instead earlier succession environments are persisting.  Hopefully the data we collect here will help shed some light on this situation.

The latest adventure I’ve taken part in was a 38 mile float/raft trip down the Fortymile River, southwest of Fairbanks.  I tagged along with the office realty specialist and his intern and learned how to conduct mining compliance inspections at long term mining campsites along the river.  I also used this time to do invasive species inventories at these campsites.  I was surprised (but encouraged!) to find no invasive species at any of the 14 sites that we visited.  Despite some rain and cold, the raft trip was one of my favorite thus far—floating down the river was obviously lovely, I was able to learn how to raft from some experienced mentors and our three person team took part in several adventures such as rescuing a sunken hovercraft and helping guide a suction dredge down a series of rapids.

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Beautiful view down the Fortymile

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Doing mining compliance inspections

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Suction dredge floating in the river

No invasives but plenty of gorgeous native plants…

Labrador Tea-Ledum palustre ssp groenlandieum

Labrador Tea, Ledum palstre ssp groenlandieum (among many other taxonomic synonyms)

Cloudberry,Salmonberry-Rubus chamaemorus

Cloudberry/Salmonberry, Rubus chamaemorus

Bog Blueberry-Vaccinium vliginosum

Bog Blueberry, Vaccinium vliginosum
And most delicious!

Bluebells-Mertensia paniculata (1)

Bluebells, Mertensia paniculata

Only the Good Things

My internship would have been over at the end of this week.  I would have to leave my trusty white truck, Floyd, my awesome computer space way in the back by the window, and all the new people I have befriended.  My little prison cell sized trailer would have to be returned to the man who lent it to me and the Chinese restaurant downtown would lose all the income I provide for them.  The Warner Mountains would become memories and their rocky peaks would erode with time leaving only the sand of what I had once known.

BUT…

have worked hard during my time here at the Alturas BLM and I have made friends.  I have shown respect for my superiors and never passed up an opportunity to get new experiences.  As my time here dwindled, I had to make a decision on whether or not to work at getting extended or moving on to the next experience.  Though I hesitated at first, I did ask for an extension, and wouldn’t you know it…I got one!

Networking has always been both a priority and a way of life for me.  My mentor did not have the funds to keep me on any longer, but I have spent time with the supervisors of the nearby BLM offices.  The wildlife biologist atI the Surprise Valley BLM office and I have worked together multiple times and had once asked me if I was going to stick around.  I told him I wanted to and his reply was “I will keep that in mind.”  When my own supervisor could not keep me, I asked if she could talk to Surprise Valley.  Within 15 minutes I had an answer…the answer I wanted to hear.

Everything you do is important to your character.  All you can do is strengthen your weaknesses and invest in your strengths.  I am not the most knowledgeable intern, but I know how to communicate and I know how to listen.  I am not the most assertive, but I know how to work and I know how to compromise.  The more in-touch you become with your own characteristics, the more clearly you can see how you fit in, how you can become an asset to yourself and those around you.

My experience here at the BLM has been a very individual experience.  I am responsible for much of my day to day planning and often there is not a crew out there telling me on the bad days that we just need to finish this much or pointing out the good aspects of the day.  In many ways it is more an exercise in responsibility and maturity.  Though my plant ID for this area of the country has progressed much slower than I would have liked, my confidence in making judgement calls and trusting my instincts has grown considerably.  In getting extended, I feel as though my hard work payed off in more than a good word or reference letter.  The merit of my actions compelled a separate office to take me on and that makes me feel good.

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“Sneffel”ing about leavin’

Hello! Greetings from Montrose, CO one last time…

So I have good and bad news. The good news is that I got accepted into grad school! (My poor advisor, he has no idea what he’s gotten himself into by accepting me into his lab…) I’ll be attending the University of Northern Colorado where I will be doing conservation genetic work on the DeBeque Phacelia (only the cutest endagered plant in the history of the world).

DeBeque Phacelia

DeBeque Phacelia

See!? See how cute it is?? It’s as big as that quater!

Aaaaaand the bad news.. I’ll be leaving my internship and the beautiful town of Montrose far too soon. :(

Before I get to the mopey part where I write about how sad I am that I’m leaving I’ll update you real quick on what I’ve been doing. Let’s see…since I last wrote I:

+ Attempted to hike into a magical and mysterious place called “Rose Creek” to do owl surveys with my mentor and the wildlife biologist..alas, the best laid plans fall apart and we never hiked further then the Forest Service boundary (I could go into all the details but I think it deserves more then one blog post)…Rose Creek eluded us and I guess we’re waiting until early next spring before we try again (and by “we” I do mean “them” because I’ll be in Greeley doing the school thing).

+ Attempted to do bat surveys in Tabeguache (Tab-i-watch) Creek and Mesa Creek in the west end. First night in Tabeguache – a million bats flyin’ around, but none dumb enought to fly into the net. (Also, an absolutely perfect night for star gazing, saw about five shooting stars.) Second night in Mesa Creek – harassed by a very bold bear cub (I have a pic of him but it’s on my personal camera, sorry guys!) and forced to break down camp in the dark and move before we could really get started (we would’ve caught bats too, one almost flew into the net as we were taking them down). Alas. The best plans fall apart.

+ Went out with the hydrologist for a few days to do water quality sampling and macroinvertebrate surveys in the west end. Some of the best days ever. Just got to play in the water!

+ Aaaaaand, last but not least, I just finished entering my last HAF data sheet EVERRRRRRR!!! into the computer. :) Big day and I feel very accomplished.

SO that’s that, just about two weeks left here and I’m not sure what the game plan is, though there are rumors that I’ll be electroshocking fish (!) in the west end!

Now time to get a bit mopey..this is my second season in Montrose and it really feels like home now. I work with/for the BEST people ever, and they have really pushed me to be a better biologist/botanist – they challenge and encourage me and were really the impetus for me applying and getting into grad school. I’m not sure I would’ve had the guts to do it without the kick in the butt these people (especially my mentor, Ken) gave me. And along those lines, dear everyone at the CBG – keep up the good work!! Without this intership I’d probably still be a telemarketer/liftie in Gunnison/Crested Butte instead of on my way to being a professional botanist (finger’s crossed anyway). Really, thanks so much for this program and all that y’all do.

And since I’ll be leaving soon I’ve been enjoying the mountains (and my friends) here like crazy before I leave and am stuck on the soul-crushing front range of Colorado (hmm, I’m sure it’s not that bad). I’m proud to say that last Sunday I accomplished a goal I set for myself last summer but was unable to accomplish due to vehicle constraints.. I climbed Mount Sneffels (the silliest sounding 14er in all the state, and one of the most recognizable peaks in Colorado)!!! It was my 6th 14er, and my first one since college. I will now proudly post some pictures of the expereince.

On my way up - I'm on the right looking so ridiculously happy it hurts.

On my way up – I’m on the right looking so ridiculously happy it hurts.

On top of Sneffels - 14,157 ft - with one of the coolest gal pals I know!

On top of Sneffels – 14,157 ft – with one of the coolest gal pals I know!

The best hiking buddies ever!

The best hiking buddies ever!

I can’t believe that I’m leaving – and so soon! I’m going to miss Montrose so much but I’m looking forward to all the new and exciting things grad school has to offer!

Officailly signing off on my last CBG Internship blog ever -

Brandee Wills
Uncompahgre Field Office – BLM
Montrose, CO

Final Reflections

I recently finished my internship with the USGS in the Mojave Desert. My final weeks were spent doing fieldwork at the Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park, and wrapping up data entry and analyzing the data we (my fellow interns and I) collected throughout our internship. As we tried to piece together our results into a coherent narrative of the workings of desert restoration, I frequently thought about my experience there and what I would take away from my time in the southwest.

In our internship, we worked on several projects all geared toward understanding the effect of restoration techniques in the Mojave Desert, often for desert tortoise habitat. Because we worked in several areas across four states, we were exposed to the extremes of the Mojave and the challenges to restoration in different areas. I learned about post-fire restoration techniques and monitored their effectiveness, examined the effects of fire on habitat suitability for desert tortoises, and studied the effect of source material on successful plant restoration. Throughout all of this fieldwork, I gained experience using dichotomous keys for plant ID, learned several sampling methods, and learned about the intricacies of a delicate ecosystem – all things I hoped I would learn at the beginning of my internship.

Additionally, I had the opportunity to work in a unique and beautiful part of the Mojave that is the Eureka Valley in Death Valley National Park. It takes over two hours to reach once you are inside the park, driving on dirt roads over mountain passes. I went there three times for a week each to monitor populations of two endemic, endangered plants on three different dune systems. I can honestly say I’m not sure I ever would have seen this valley if it wasn’t for this internship, which would have been a shame because it is a fascinating and beautiful place.

While I am sad to leave the Mojave behind, I am grateful for all I’ve learned throughout this internship and the friends and mentors I became connected with through this program. It’s been a blast, but now it’s on to the next adventure – grad school!

A beautiful sunset in Death Valley marks the end of my internship

A beautiful sunset in Death Valley marks the end of my internship

Cheers,

Rachel

USGS, Las Vegas Field Office

The Heats Winding Up As I Wind Down

Things have been nothing short of interesting here in the Rogue Valley. The heat has been on as temperatures have been reaching averages of 104 degrees regularly. We got a bit of relief last week as some cloud cover, rain, and storms moved in, but this has only lead to the birth of numerous lightning fires throughout the state. Luckily most of the fires have been to the East of the Cascades so far and we have not experienced much air pollution from the smoke of nearby fires.

As a result of the weather, and the fact that pretty much everything on the valley floor has gone to seed and dried out, we have moved our scouting for plants into the higher elevations of the nearby mountains. Between 2,000 and 5,000 feet elevation, plants are now either still flowering or going to seed. Scouting the mountains has reignited an appreciation for the geology of this region. At the south end of the Rogue Valley the Klamath-Siskiyous and the Cascades encompass the valley like a large bowl. This leads to a wide variety of habitat niches. Some of the mountains nearby are plutons, large rocky bubbles, essentially. Some mountains are volcanic, others the result of the North American tectonic plate shifting over the Juan de Fuca plate. Most of the mountains nearby are basaltic while others toward the Illinois River valley are mostly serpentinite and yield diverse plant communities all their own including many local endemics.

We have now reached approximately 50 collections, so we are merely 10 collections away from our initial target of 60 collections, which we are sure to exceed. So far we have vouchered approximately 130 botanical specimens. As the season starts to enter its final leg, it seems like we have made good progress and I am satisfied with our results.

This all comes in good time as my Environmental Education graduate program at Southern Oregon University starts back up. I am now in a transition period between switching from the seed collecting world to the outdoor education world as I have to reduce my work time in exchange for taking classes and planning lessons in preparation for our Fall in the Field residential and day programs in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Ashland, OR and the Deer Creek Center in Selma, OR. I have a little over a month to go with the BLM/SOS and I can say that I am pleased with my experience in this program thus far and will look back fondly on this internship. It looks like we will have accomplished what we set out to accomplish and got to explore Oregon’s many wonderful outdoor areas in the process. I suppose I can’t ask for much more than that.

 

- Jason

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Eastern Oregon

Hey!

With fire season in full swing here in Eastern Oregon, the office has been pretty busy this past month. Fortunately, these fires have provided me the oportunity to conduct spatial analyses on what kinds of lands and structures have burned so a rehabilitation plan can be put into place. This involves looking at former restoration plans and determining what the botanists, engineers, etc will need analyzed. Then, I create models using ArcGIS model builder so I can can save the proccesses to be used on a future fire if need be.

In addition to fire analysis, I have been working on creating maps for an Oregon Trail tour an archaeologist in the office is leading. These maps would be for the public going on the tour so they can find their way and also just as an overview of the route. This project has been a test of my cartography skills as I have had to try to find a way to fit a lot of information into an 11×17 map.

In all, these past few weeks have been great and I’m excited to continue my work here!

Vale, OR

Bureaucracy and butterfly plant

Howdy from Cheyenne, Wyoming! Requisite cowboy-speak; it is, after all, Frontier Days in Cheyenne this week, and everyone and everything is rodeo- and country-music-crazy. Over one million tourists come through over the course of nine days, and I can hear the nightly concerts (Florida Georgia Line, Brad Paisley, and Tim McGraw, to name a few) from my house, two miles from the arena.
But outside Frontier Days, my position here is based around revising Bureau of Land Management (BLM) documents that assess the effects of government action on threatened and endangered (T & E) species and establish conservation measures to protect them. The documents, called programmatic biological assessments (BAs), exist for every species occurring in Wyoming that is listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). BAs can be more than 50 pages long, could cover just one field office in the state or all ten of them, can go years without being updated, and rely mostly on intergovernmental communication and consultation, rather than published scientific literature. So, revising them is a pretty big job. I spent a while wading through the bureaucracy and maze of documents and policies that pertain to the species I’m working on, trying to acquaint myself with a world and a set of language that are very different from the academic research I’m familiar with. The profusion of acronyms, which you might already have noticed, doesn’t make things any easier– knowing an NSO from an HMA from an ACEC from a DPC (and so on and so forth) is critical in working on these documents. But I’m getting the hang of it, asking questions, and figuring out how this system works. Hopefully soon you’ll see updated programmatic biological assessments for Yermo xanthocephalus (desert yellowhead), Spiranthes diluvialis (Ute ladies’-tresses), and Gaura neomexicana ssp. coloradensis (Colorado butterfly plant).
Threatened and Endangered plants of Wyoming poster, in my cubicle for inspiration. And because plants are pretty.

Threatened and Endangered plants of Wyoming poster, in my cubicle for inspiration. And because plants are pretty.

But thankfully I haven’t spent all of my time poring over government documents. Over the last few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to help out with surveys for that last species, Colorado butterfly plant. Butterfly plant is a threatened species that occurs in riparian areas, and in Wyoming, only occurs near Cheyenne. The Fish and Wildlife Service has been conducting the surveys. A survey basically consists of driving out to a known butterfly plant habitat in the morning, walking with the other surveyors–from one to five people total–in a line to extend horizontally from the side of a creek through suitable habitat for the plant, and calling out how many plants we find as we walk along the creek while someone takes GPS points. Some surveys, each of us have only seen a few plants: maybe one or two at a time, and spaced far apart. But on other surveys, there have been too many to count: we’ve had to just make estimates of the number of plants in a huge cluster. And at one survey location, we saw a mutated specimen of the plant with a much wider stem– think rhubarb instead of a daisy– and an enormous inflorescence with dozens of flowers at the tip, instead of just a few.
normal, non-mutated butterfly plant

normal, non-mutated butterfly plant

mutant butterfly plant

mutant butterfly plant

And we’ve found some other fun critters on the surveys, too. One of the surveyors nearly stepped on a snipe nest (Gallinago sp.), and on another morning, after seeing several areas where antelope had bedded down in the tall grass, another surveyor startled a fawn who jumped out from just a few feet in front of her and bounded in the opposite direction.
snipe eggs

snipe eggs

I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to do a mix of field work and office work in my position– it makes you appreciate both aspects of the job so much more. I look forward to spending more time in the field on visits to a few of the field offices in the coming months, and I’m excited to continue to learn more about these endangered plant species and the work we can do to protect them.
Here’s a Frontier Days rodeo picture for the road. Cheers from Cheyenne!
Bull riding at Cheyenne Frontier Days. They played "You Shook Me All Night Long" while this section started; also note that the bull is airborne here.

Bull riding at Cheyenne Frontier Days. They played “You Shook Me All Night Long” while the event started. Also note that the bull is airborne.

Summer at Provo shrub science lab

Hello, I hope you all are having a fun time this summer. As in my previous post, I am going to talk about our research and my experience at the Provo shrub science lab. Our e-nose research is going well, especially during the summer days. The reason is because we are finding better smell profiles results and a good differentiation between sagebrush subspecies with the hot weather.  Additionally, at this time we are combining chromatographic techniques with our e-nose experiments which seems very promising to complement the identification of smells and chemical profiles of subspecies, and the differentiation between them. I talked in my last post about the plan to present at the SER conference in Redmond Oregon, well, I am finally registered. But we have not just done science in the laboratory this past month, we also starting cleaning some of the sagebrush experiments at Ephraim, Utah. I have to say that my mentor gave me a good lesson on how important it is to just take a break from the lab sometimes, and take a shovel and remove some weeds.

Like in my previous posts, I want to say thank you to my mentor, to all my companions and the CLM staff for all the support, and the CLM program for this great opportunity. There is always something to do at the Provo shrub science lab and I feel lucky to work in this incredible place, with such incredible people.

EPH.1 EPH.2 EPH.4

Hector

Provo, UT

Forest Service, RMRS, Provo Shrub Science Lab

The Wind

Seed collecting within the Great Basin has provided an environment equal to collecting within a sauna. As the sun beats down and the wind neglects to blow it is not uncommon to find yourself sweating spontaneously. After hours of working within this environment I have become increasingly grateful for the wind. The wind is a beautiful force that has so many wonderful qualities. Not only does the wind provide a wonderful and delightful environment to cool you off, but it is also a great pollination mechanism for many plants. If it was not for this delightful entity many plants would not have developed or even maintained the morphology that they have today. Those traits would have been selected against and the world around us would be a very different place. On that imaginative note, I hope you have a great week.