Month 2

The last time I posted here, I had been in town for all of a week, and was just getting settled in. It’s honestly a bit shocking to me that that was only four weeks ago: I’m already feeling very comfortable with the job, even as I’m thrown/throwing myself into new tasks every few days.

The focus of my internship is the restoration of a desert oasis and the surrounding area, and the main project from the last four weeks has been planting seedlings to encourage recovery following the removal of invasive tamarisk. Since I arrived we’ve planted nearly 200 individual plants in areas that had been opened up or damaged by the removal process, and though we still have some 80 plants waiting to get in the ground, this phase of my internship is nearly done.

The other thing filling my work hours has been GIS training, something I’ve always wanted to learn both because I’ve always been a little geeky about maps, and because it’ll be a huge help finding work in the future. I’m happy to be able to say that in two weeks ArcGIS has stopped seeming overwhelmingly complicated, and is now merely frustratingly complicated, similar to how I feel about R or MATLAB, or every other computer science tool I’ve worked with.

Next week I’ll be starting with the two main projects that will occupy my time and energy through August: vegetation surveys, and seed collection for the Seeds of Success project. I’ve already got experience doing both veg surveys and seed collection from university and previous jobs, so I don’t expect much difficulty jumping into these projects either.

I’ve attached some pictures this time. I’ve always been bad at taking pictures, both in that I don’t have much talent for photography and in that I typically forget that I even own a camera. So I’m sorry to say that I don’t have as many pictures as I’d like to. But let me say: the experience of standing on the San Andreas fault line just after dawn and looking out over Dos Palmas oasis as it is both still shrouded in nighttime fog and lit by the sun rising over the mountains? Definitely worth getting up a few minutes early for. Sorry I don’t have a picture of it! You’ll just have to come see it in person.

habitat restoration in progress

habitat restoration in progress

Each day, a new challenge and a new opportunity

Moving is made easy by cleansing on many levels. Loaded up “Little Red” (my Nissan pickup) with my down-sized life and moved to Wenatchee, WA last Sunday afternoon. Went to work on Monday morning. The Bureau of Land Management, Wenatchee Regional Field Office is situated on the beautiful Columbia River in the center of town with access to a lovely riverfront park and some of the most welcoming, easy-going, knowledgeable staff. Not to mention humorous. I felt at home immediately. Beginning this season for the BLM is a radical shift for me in comparison to the last handful of years in academics, work load, schedule, climate, plant communities, etc. but if there were a definition of a calm transition I might at least come in runner up. I’m so thankful for this, for the chance to gain new perspective, for the opportunity to work for a federal agency managing a beautifully, fragile ecosystem, for the opportunity to expand my heart and my mind. I’m thankful to know that whatever occurs, however long the days, whatever the conditions in the field, I am always capable. Strength and grace always. Best of luck to all of you in sharing this year’s adventure!

What’s up, from Carson City!

Hey there! It’s Alexandra (Alex) live from Carson City, NV. It is now my 6 week in the internship. It was quite a pleasant weather shift, moving out here from the brutal winter Chicago has been experiencing! I find the scenery out here in the wild west amazing. The Chicago skyline is pretty cool at night and all, but I have to say, I love being able to look out my apartment window and see the Sierra Nevada Mountains!

After mainly doing plant biology research in a lab the past two years while working on my Master’s degree, working as a botany intern for BLM has reminded me how much I miss field work. I came out here knowing next to nothing about desert flora, and over the past several weeks, I’ve learned so many new plants. You look out into the Great Basin, and you think you are looking at a monoculture of mostly sagebrush, but once you venture out into it and creep around the desert floor, you begin to realize that there is diverse salad of wildflowers, grasses and shrubs. My favorite place we have visited is the Hardscrabble area/allotment. Another intern and I were surveying the riparian areas for noxious weeds, and we hiked up the canyon to a beautiful Populus tremuloides (trembling aspen) stand. This allotment is adjacent to Pyramid Lake, and we had a stunning view of it from there (sorry I don’t have a photo). All is well so far, more to come soon!

Just the Beginning

This is my second season as a CLM intern. My first season was spent in the Carson City area of Nevada.  It was filled with adventure, amazing new friends, and knowledge gained.  I am sure that my second season will offer similar opportunities for new adventures, friends, and learning.

It has barely begun, four days in my new position to be exact, and I already love it. I am based out of the BLM Prineville District Office in Central Oregon. Half of my time has been spent completing online training courses and familiarizing myself with the computer files here. The second half of the week, I was lucky enough to get out into the field!  I helped out another employee here at the BLM planting Cottonwood trees along Bridge Creek.  I learned that the purpose of the trees was to create shade, which helps push out some of the weedy species in the area. The trees are an alternative to using herbicides, for fear that the herbicides would leach into the creek.

All in all, I am excited for my second season as an intern, now located in Prineville, Oregon!

Spring Fieldwork

Springtime has arrived in the Mojave Desert and has ushered in a busy field season! We recently completed the preparation and planting of 3 common gardens across the Mojave Desert (2 in California and 1 in Utah). Additionally, we assisted with a vegetation survey in burned and unburned areas of Coyote Springs, NV and we just started our work in the Eureka Dunes at Death Valley National Park.

Horned Lizard in Coyote Springs, NV

Horned Lizard in Coyote Springs, NV

This past week we collected data on Eureka Dunes evening primrose (Oenothera californica ssp. eurekensis) and Eureka Valley dune grass (Swallenia alexandrae). These two plants are endemic to the Eureka Dunes and are federally listed endangered species. It was exciting to work with plants that are found nowhere else in the world and I hope this research will contribute to the improvement of their populations.

Eureka Dunes evening primrose (Oenothera californica ssp. eurekensis)

Eureka Dunes evening primrose (Oenothera californica ssp. eurekensis)

Eureka Valley dune grass (Swallenia alexandrae)

Eureka Valley dune grass (Swallenia alexandrae)

In addition to collecting field data on these plants, we also installed soil moisture probes 5 meters deep into the dunes using a manual auger. This proved a little challenging at times, but it should aid in our understanding of how these plants are impacted by dune soil moisture dynamics.

digging 5 m deep holes for soil moisture probes using manual auger

digging 5 m deep holes for soil moisture probes using manual auger

Although the field season has been busy I have enjoyed having the opportunity to help with a variety of different projects. Doing fieldwork on several projects has enabled me to discover and learn about a variety of different areas within the Mojave and this has been one of my favorite aspects of my internship.

I can’t wait to see what else spring has in store!

-Renee Albrecht

New Beginnings in Ridgecrest California

I arrived at the BLM Ridgecrest, California Office on March 3rd, and things have been a whirlwind since arrival! On top of the paperwork and necessary training, we have been involved in Rangeland Health Assessments, Allotment Monitoring, Endangered Species Monitoring in the El Centro Office, SOS surveying, NOPA writing and the Sand Canyon Environmental Education program. The Ridgecrest BLM office is responsible for about 1.8 million acres of land and apparently our opportunities for expanding our experiences will be very numerous. We have also been lucky this year – we have already received more rain than last year, so the annuals have been very plentiful and it looks like we will have quite a few collections for SOS.  Being from Reno, NV, part of the Great Basin, I am pretty familiar with most of the flora and ecosystems in the area, but it is exciting to be in a new area, seeing the differences of the Mojave and learning how the BLM works.

A fringe-toed lizard from the Imperial Dunes

A fringe-toed lizard from the Imperial Dunes.

Imperial dunes with rare cloud coverage.

Imperial Dunes with rare cloud coverage.

Pierson's Milk-vetch, the endangered plant we monitored in Imperial Dunes.

Piersons Milk-vetch, the endangered plant we monitored in Imperial Dunes.

An interesting guy eating our annuals.

An interesting guy eating our annuals.


Probably the most unique find so far.

Probably the most unique find so far.



Ridgecrest BLM Office

Field Trips and Plantin’ Plants

The first month-and-a-bit of my CLM internship has gone smooth as ever. Still living with great roommates and working with great co-workers. Recently, I’ve used comp time to take a few Fridays off–and one was particularly interesting. I used the long weekend to go with a group of USGS scientists to Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona as a volunteer on a rare plant survey. We were searching for a small species of cactus, censusing plots that have been monitored for 25 years.

So the Vermilion Cliffs themselves are beautiful and a sight to see. We found the first rare plant plot right along the edge of Badger Canyon at the base of the cliffs. After orienting ourselfs in the plot, we quickly noticed three huge birds perched on an overhanging rock in the canyon wall. Turns out there are re-introduction sites for California condors nearby the Vermilion Cliffs–and we were looking at three of the re-introductees. Two juveniles (still huge) and an adult. Some folks on the trip had seen the birds before, but needless to say, we dropped what we were doing and just watched. The condors were perched totally still on the overhang until they all at once spread their wings out wide to soak up the sun. It was a truly amazing spectacle. We were less than 100m away from the birds and they were really putting on a show for us. Everyone snapped pictures and watched for a good 30 minutes. Then, back to work for the rest of the day. We looked and looked for the remainder of the weekend but didn’t see the birds again–not surprising since they can cover 250 miles in a single day.

Work the past few weeks has been great. Energized by seeing the condors, us interns have been planting native species gardens across the Mojave. We got all the plants in the ground, watered, and now we wait a few weeks to begin monitoring. Next week we’re off to the Eureka Dunes, CA to install weather stations and collect seeds of some endemic plants–another new site and a new adventure in the field awaits.



Sam Somerville

USGS, Las Vegas Field Station

Henderson, NV



Winterfat – retrospective overview

Hey! This is my second post and month of being here, in Carson City. First of all, I must say that it’s never boring here and every day I discover more and more of new things. In particular, this time I’d like to share a maybe less practical but still amazing story which I’ve been thinking about for the last couple weeks. The case is, we finally met a winterfat bush!  Almost every time we’re in the field we are chatting about and guessing which bush is, this mysterious plant with the longest Latin name ever – Krascheninnikovia. What attracted my attention is of course a genus name. The first thought was, why is a genus with such a Russian name here, in North America? Well, there is an answer to this – Krascheninnikovia species’ range occupies East Asia and west coast of North America. But also, we were curious who was Krasheninnikov and why the genus was named in his honor. Actually I’m writing this mainly because of the answer I’ve found. Stepan Petrovych Krasheninnikov – a prominent Russian botanist of the 18th century who made an amazing expedition to the far East of Eurasia where he spent almost 10 years!  A graduate student of a theological school who fluently spoke Latin and Greek, he started his 10 year botany expedition still as a student (Faculty of Natural History this time), assisting in herbaria collections and writing field notebooks during the first couple years of his journey. It would probably take quite a few pages to describe all his achievements, but what amazes me and what I’d like to mention is what type of a scientist Krasheninnikov was. A true naturalist whose knowledge covered not only botany or even a narrow branch of this science, but also zoology, geography and cartography, geology, meteorology, speleology, hydrology… and surprisingly he also did a great contribution to linguistics studies of local languages in Asia. This is indeed amazing!

Approximate itinerary of Krasheninnikov's expedition

Approximate itinerary of Krasheninnikov’s expedition

Due to his dairy during his unbelievable trip he made about 16.5 thousand miles on foot and a horseback. I wish I could have a cup of coffee with such a personality… Though it’s hard to imagine such expeditions these days, the courage and enthusiasm of the first botanists and incredible Scientists, I guess, will live and inspire our future generations. Well, I think this is just the right point to stop and start the next observation of nature and try to understand what is happening around us and in particular in Carson City on Morgan Mill Road. Until next time!


BLM, Carson City, NV

PS: Apparently another German botanist Johann Anton Güldenstädt who re-described the genus and named it for his colleague, was pretty amazed by him too…

Stepan Petrovych Krasheninnikov

Stepan Petrovych Krasheninnikov



Arcata, CA

My first week here in the Arcata, CA BLM office has been a great introduction to an ecosystem about which I know little. It is fun to experience mixing of unfamiliar excitement with familiar comforts. For example, this week I helped install tsunami warning signs on a BLM-managed trail to the ocean. A Minnesota native, I am used to being around water. But the possibility of a magnitude 9 earthquake leading to waves that could swallow most of a city is a new consideration. And while I’ll miss the blooming of springtime ephemerals in MN, in old growth redwood groves I have spotted western relatives of some of my favorites – trilliums and dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra formosa).

I am here as a forestry technician. A large part of my time will be spent on a Sudden Oak Death (due to a pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum) mitigation project. This project will involve cutting and piling tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus) and California bay trees (Umbellularia californica) over 142 acres. The project will also reduce fuel loads and help restore the forest to historic densities.

Overall, I am happy to be in an unusually diverse region. Ecologically and geologically, there are so many different things happening in NW California! Tidepools, coastal marshes, endemic dune species, the largest redwoods, six significant rivers, sedimentary and volcanic mountain ranges, enough federally designated wilderness to fill a lifetime, and forest stands with 18 species of conifers are all easily accessible.

Happy exploring, wherever you are!


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Going Rogue

The Conservation Land Management internship has been a fortunate change in career directions for me.  Because of this internship, I have veered off of an academic, research-based path that I had been following for the past 5 years.  Though my research experiences have allowed me to study many interesting ecological questions, I am now immersed in work that I find especially fulfilling because I’m not just studying the problems.  I’m solving them.

My supervisor and I often talk about the careful balance that the BLM must maintain between allowing and limiting public access to BLM land. The BLM limits access in order to conserve habitats and resources.  Sometimes, though, public use and conservation goals are in parallel.  This is apparent in an interesting relationship between the ATV users and the endangered beach layia, Layia carnosa Nutt., in the Samoa sand dunes.  The native plant species of the sand dunes, including layia, rely on a disturbed habitat to thrive.  The word “disturbed” conjures negative connotations of weedy, degraded habitats choked by invasives.  The dunes habitat, however, has historically been constantly disturbed because of the fierce wind and ruckus waves that beat the northern California coast.  Invasive beach grass, Ammophila arenaria L., and ice plant, Carpobortus edulis L., have stabilized the dunes, rooting the shifting sands in place and outcompeting natives like layia.

In parts of the dunes, the BLM allows people to ride ATVs across them, treading sand in their wake.  The BLM created some permanent paths that the ATVers now maintain and are barren.  However, the ATVers also create rogue paths all on their own, clearing the frozen dunes from invasives and introducing disturbance back into the habitat.  Monitoring that I have completed this week indicates that beach layia and other rare natives can now grow in these cleared paths.  These paths aren’t permanent, so the natives can establish themselves without immediately being torn up by the ATVs.

I feel a little like these ATVers: leaving the strict academic path I was once on to travel a more rogue path that is benefiting both me and the native plants I am conserving.

A rogue ATV path off from a maintained one.

A rogue ATV path off from a maintained one.  Notice the natives plants growing in the rogue path.

Native plants growing in disturbed sand.

Native plants growing in disturbed sands.