About Charlotte

From the Southern Appalachians, now in the Chugach.

Homer, Alaska

Hello All,

I’m Charlotte, a repeat-CLM intern based in a new town in partnership with the NRCS in the little fishing town of Homer, AK (Discovery Channel’s “The Deadliest Catch” and “The Last Frontier”). I’ll be the acting biotech-ecologist for this office for the duration of the Nulato Hills mapping project. It’s a Soil Survey with vegetation data (which is where I’ll be helping), and it will be published on the Web Soil Survey for all to see, eventually.

This time of year we’re doing the spring thing: ramping up for field work by solving logistical puzzles, like how to get helicopter fuel delivered to a remote field camp. Even with spring excitement, there’s been some snags with budgeting that might cut our field tripping this season, adding work to the following seasons necessary to complete a larger area mapping project. So a data-crunching kind of summer it might turn out to be.

I’m happy to bring some prior experience to the project, having already worked with the NRCS as a seasonal and having Alaska flora-familiarity through a more agency-rounded internship based in Anchorage.

Still, there is a lot of reviewing to do! If anyone has a real knack for grasses (I’m looking at you, range botanists), I’m all ears.

Happy (almost) Spring!

Charlotte
Homer, Alaska

 

Vagrant lichens and holy cities

Hello CLMers.

This month I’ve been doing another kind of preparation for field season–I make identifying lichens fun (and easier)! In the tundra of interior Alaska, lichen mats are a huge source of winter forage for maintained reindeer herds and their wild brethren, caribou, Rangifer tarandus. So much so, that we’re worried about depletion, so we’re preparing to tally up the lichen mats and make sure they’re not being crunched on too hard. Included is the one of my favorites, “vagrant lichen” Masonhalea richarsonii, which dries out, curls up and wanders, rolling across the tundra until it becomes moistened and flattens out again. Now, however, spring is springing in AK, and the green things here are stealing the limelight once again.

The vagabond himself

The vagabond himself

A few weeks ago, in lieu of the Chicago Botanic Garden training I attended last year, I went to the National Native Seed Conference in Santa Fe. I’d never been to the southwest before, and took advantage of roaming the city when I wasn’t learning about native seed grow-out strategies and applications. The art-filled city, home to the “Game of Thrones” creator R. R. Martin and inspiration to artist Georgia O’Keefe, is filled with entire streets of galleries–paintings, pottery, and the like. The nearby mountains have names like “Sangre de Cristo” and “Atalaya”, and the surrounding country side is dotted with Pueblos and the exceptional Bandelier cliff-dwellings.

The city seen from the International Space Station: a mecca for skiiers and mountain bikers.

The city seen from the International Space Station: a mecca for skiiers and mountain bikers.

Santa Fe, "Holy Faith"

Santa Fe, “Holy Faith”

Streets decked with chiles.

Streets decked with chiles.

The Conference itself is in its third year, and was host to Thor Hanson on its opening night, author of the new book “The Triumph of Seeds”, which he told us was largely based on his young son’s absolute obsession with finding seeds. Taking us from his family’s countyside wind-race experiment with parachute-like seeds to his more academic excursions to study the genetics and distribution of rainforest giants, Hanson made us aware of just how “ingrained” in our life seeds are, pointing out that even our diction is molded by seeds. Even the origins of “culture,” a very people-centric word, is based on a farmer’s term for the maintenance and upbringing of seeds. Thus we all began the conference with a new respect for our subject.

The week-long conference had panels ranging from the Monarch Project, which is a large movement to provide better habitat for monarchs, especially by assessing milkweed populations, to the much-discussed fate of the sagebrush and sage grouse.

And of course, S.O.S. collecting was on everyone’s lips. The value of a conference like this is in collaborating with people who might be having similar problems–it seemed like so many offices came up with unique solutions to cleaning seed, optimizing production, dealing with local seed producers (or the lack there-of), and challenging climes, often with a small budget, or none at all. Some of my favorite talks were about finding ways to construct machines to very accurately dry, de-beard and clean seeds using only parts from the local department store.

A home-made seed cleaner on a budget for those of you without

A home-made seed cleaner on a budget for those of you without

A water content table published by the FDA which is pretty applicable to optimal seed storage: 30% (x-axis), right before enzymes and bacteria start getting excited, but not too dry that you oxidize your lipids.

A water content table published by the FDA which is pretty applicable to optimal seed storage: 30% (x-axis), right before enzymes and bacteria start getting excited, but not too dry that you oxidize your lipids.

And although it is a National conference, speakers and students popped up from the UK, Spain, Italy and beyond, working on developing policies to make native seed distribution feasible in their own countries. One project I was excited to hear about was the restoration of olive grove lanes in Spain; olive plantations take up a large proportion of land along the Mediterranean, and farmers keep the lanes between them bare for easy maintenance and pest/disease management. Thankfully, a list of compatible (short, disease and pest resistant) native plants is being compiled and sourced to fill in the spaces which make up so much of their landscape. And in the heartland, I was glad to hear of small private projects such as MPG Ranch, a large tract of philanthropically conserved land in Montana, that is now being closely monitored for restoration after being used extensively as range land.

I was happy to draw nearer to seedy people with the shared cause to solve native plant population issues, which are only becoming more urgent as climate change alters the landscape. Seeds may be everyone’s savior! If any of you end up repeating your internship next year as I have, I would highly suggest this conference next spring!

Over and out,

Charlotte

20150502_120005

Happy spring!

 

Back in the saddle again: Anchorage

Hey CLM-ers. As it turns out, I’m back for round 2–my internship has been renewed for the 2015 season, and I’m excited to start! I’ve decided to be a bit more blog-friendly this go around, so I thought I’d start the season off right and share some wintery travels.

This weekend trip is a perfect example of how both challenging and rewarding wilderness travel can be in ‘the last frontier’. Especially when you’ve never traveled 20+ miles on cross-country skiis, let alone one. But with a good reliable group and expedition savvy, even my blistered heels and snow-encrusted self made it successfully to Tolovana Hotsprings. The lovely little site is a couple hours ~NW of Fairbanks, and boasts 3 hot tubs and 3 rentable cabins. That, and a layer of fresh snow, and a great group of people (shout out to CLM-Fairbanks, great trip with fellow-intern Katie!!) made it quite a magical outing.

Topo map of my backcountry ski.

Topo map of my backcountry ski.

 

Finally! I had to go above Fairbanks to find it.

Finally! I had to go above Fairbanks to find it.

 

My first time on classics in nine degree F weather.

My first time on classics in nine degree F weather.

 

The water was ~120 degrees F

The water was ~120 degrees F

 

Home sweet cabin

Home sweet cabin

 

As far as the office goes, I’ve now converted over to the NRCS from AKNHP to study map units in the hopes that I can help assign and define eco-site descriptions to new projects this season. That, and of course, help them whittle down their stack of “the ghost of season-past” field notes into database form.

Hopefully we’ll get another jot of good snow, but if all else fails, bring on the green things. I miss them too!

–Charlotte

 

Adios and Vaya con Dios

 

 

 

20140609_174347Here’s a pictoral journal of my time in Anchorage, AK! I definitely didn’t post as much as I meant to (this is my first one) but I had to have a record of my amazing time in this internship and this place! So here it is.

Over the course of this Summer and Fall, I’ve learned and traveled all over the state, from the Mighty Yukon River (yes, “the Mighty” is warranted, it looks as big as a lake) to the little isolated Rohn Cabin on the Iditarod trail next to the South fork of the Kuskokwim.  I’ve been in the Alaskan, White, Chugach, and the Kuskokwim Mountain Ranges, ID-ing plants, digging holes through permafrost, determining successional seres and keeping an eye out for rare and invasive plants alike.

I’ve learned so much in my time here, especially in the UAA Herbarium, about collection management and databasing, and then how to use that information to prep for the field, compare similar species, and use voucher information for plant range reports. And working in such an expansive, unpopulated state gives you the feeling that you’re really making a difference. There’s so much more to do here! So if you’re an intern lucky enough to have been placed with Alaska BLM, and even if you’re not a fan of the cold, I would highly encourage you to consider getting up in the 49th state! You won’t regret it, and who knows, you might get a bite from the “Alaska Bug” and end up staying here, as I hope to do!

The time has come to apply for other jobs, federal and otherwise, and I can’t be thankful enough that I have the experience I need to give me an edge in that hunt. Thanks to all my CLM mentors and friends that have made my time here formative, fruitful, and fun.

20140702_204537 Driving down the Richarson Highway, looking at the Alaska Mtn Range, surveying for SOS species.

20140820_123733 In the White Mts near the little village of Central, doing NRCS Soil Survey Work.

20140820_151915Sunshine Mtn in  Kuskokwim Mts near McGrath, collecting SOS species.

20140827_135534Rohn Cabin, on the Iditarod trail, invasive plant monitoring and removal.

MidAirstrip_1At the Rohn Cabin airstrip, removing invasives.

20140912_170713In a burnt spruce forest overlooking the soft, rolling White Mts during NRCS soil surveys.

20140913_150400In a wet meadow in the White Mts, having found a moose jaw. Hoping to collect some discount from the Moosejaw outfitters for our excellent advertising shots.

20140922_112657My fellow intern Bonnie, taking a sweet shot of the Alaskan Range, just south of Denali on the George Parks Hwy.

S.Fk.Kusk_9The South Fork of the Kuskokwim River

20140913_151710-MOTION 20140913_151930-MOTIONThe BLM Anchorage pair, going where no interns have gone before. I think Alaska has left a mark on us, don’t you?