Epilogue: An Epic Footnote in CLM Internship History

(Curtains Open)…..

Hello Everyone!! This is it!! The Season Finale!! For the past four field seasons, I have been all over the West looking for plants, birds, and various ecosystems. Here are some fun facts from my past and present internships.

a.) I worked in temperatures ranging from 26°F to 110°F!

b.) Most of my internships were in sagebrush steppe, but I had the opportunity to work in mountain tundra, forests, riparian landscapes, wetlands, dunes, deserts, grasslands, badlands, talus regions, pastureland, and ephemeral springs.

c.) I saw some of the most amazing plants and animals during my internships. Some of my favorite plants were seen in Burns, Oregon! Leiberg’s clover (Trifolium leibergii) was my favorite plant to monitor out West! If you google search the plant, you could see my picture of it in the images section. One of the rarest plants I encountered was the Malheur Wire Lettuce (Stephanomeria malheurensis). The wire lettuce would only grow on a very small flatland area where there was tuff and limestone parent rock.

Leiberg's clover (Trifolium leibergii)! My favorite rare plant to monitor!

Leiberg’s clover (Trifolium leibergii)! My favorite rare plant to monitor!

d.) Fifty percent of the time, the towns I stayed in for my internships were on fire at one point. (Burns, Oregon and Wenatchee, Washington had fires within city limits.)

One example of when Wenatchee caught on fire!

One example of when Wenatchee caught on fire!

e.) Every place I worked, I was fortunate to see the greater sage grouse  (Centrocercus urophasianus)

f.) I loved working with song birds and game birds, but monitoring golden eagles in Wenatchee was an amazing opportunity! Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) built nests in the craziest locations in central and north-central Washington. Viewing the eagles feeding, taking care of their young, and protecting their territory was great to see! Even during the intense fire season, the eaglets did not seem to mind.

Sage grouse!! They might not be the smartest birds, but they are one of the most spectacular birds I had the privilege to meet!

Sage grouse!! They might not be the smartest birds, but they were one of the most spectacular birds I had the privilege to meet!

g.) Buffalo, Wyoming provided plenty of different job opportunities to fill my resume! One of my favorite jobs (beyond AIM and S&G monitoring) was doing NISIMS. I hiked in hostile back country for over 200 miles looking for salt cedar (Tamarix ramosissima), leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), Canada thistle (Cirsium arvensis), and different bromes (Bromus).

Salt cedar being devious.

Salt cedar being devious.

Internship Accomplishments

2013-2016 Conservation of Land Management Internship for the Bureau of Land Management

  • Performed a vast number of plant surveys in central Oregon, Northeastern Wyoming, and central Washington.
  • Monitored rare plant species.
  • Evaluated weathering and erosion of soils within specific study areas.
  • Created multiple maps with the use of GPS systems and ArcGIS.
  • Photographed a variety of landscapes, fauna, and flora for documentation efforts.
  • Updated plant databases.
  • Developed powerpoint presentations for plant identification.
  • Created geodatabases and shapefiles for GPS systems.
  • Digitized field collected data.
  • Worked with Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access to create graphs and               reports from statistical data collected over the present and past field seasons.
  • Monitored invasive shrubs and grasses in forested, sagebrush, and high desert communities.

2013 Field Season in Hines/ Burns, Oregon (Additional Experience)

  • Performed ES&R/Vegetation monitoring for numerous post fire studies in Harney County.
  • Monitored and documented invasive species with the study areas.
  • Evaluated landscape dynamics and erosion processes.
  • Performed rare plant monitoring surveys.
  • Co-authored several ES&R reports.
  • Surveyed mule deer populations.
On top of the Steens near Burns, Oregon! This place had the most unique plants! The Alvord Desert was near by! This area had many interesting rocks and unique plants as well!

On top of the Steens near Burns, Oregon! This place had the most unique plants! The Alvord Desert was near by! That area had many interesting rocks and unique plants as well!

2014 Field Season in Buffalo, Wyoming (Additional Experience)

  • Performed vegetation monitoring in many allotments across Northeastern Wyoming.
  • Used a number of survey methods to assess greater sage grouse habitat.
  • Performed bird surveys in the Wilderness Study Area.
  • Documented plant, amphibians, bat and invertebrate species for Wyoming Wildlife databases.
  • Collected seeds for the Seeds of Success Program.
  • Worked on the Powder River Basin Restoration. We would evaluate the landscape after a fire and prepare restoration guidelines to develop ideal habitat for greater sage grouse and other sagebrush bird species.
  • Helped with habitat restoration to preserve the sagebrush ecosystem and eliminate   unwanted invasive plants.
  • Organized and maintained databases that would be used for future monitoring efforts and report writing.
This was taken in the Fortification Creek WSA in the Buffalo Field Office! This place had amazing wildlife!

This was taken in the Fortification Creek WSA in the Buffalo Field Office! This place had amazing wildlife!

2015 Field Season in Wenatchee, Washington (Additional Experience)

  • Helped with the capturing and tagging of sage grouse and pygmy rabbit.
  • Monitored golden eagle and peregrine falcon nests.
  • Monitored for Washington ground squirrel.
  • Worked with NISIMS: Monitored specifically for invasive plants on BLM land.
  • Mapped invasive plants using ArcGIS and the GPS.
  • Completed rangeland health assessments. Recorded rangeland indicators, worked with rangeland improvements, and completed soil testing.
  • Worked with line point intercept that included plant identification, plant density, and canopy gap.
  • Helped out with Seeds of Success: Searched for plant populations and collected.
The Dune System near the Saddle Mountains in Washington! This place had a hidden eagle nest that was hard to find! This place had an incredible dune system full of specialized animals. Bonus, the top section of the mountains had opal and petrified wood!

The dune system near the Saddle Mountains in Washington! This place had a hidden eagle nest that was hard to find! This place had an incredible dune system full of specialized animals. Bonus, the top section of the mountains had opal and petrified wood! Also, around 11:00am, jet planes would fly through the area!

2016 Field Season in Buffalo, Wyoming (Additional Experience)

  • Worked on an extensive remote sensing/ supervised classification project involving cheatgrass and landcover detection in the Powder River Basin.
  • Worked on vectorization, georeferencing, and digitizing GIS projects.
  • Updated GIS files, documents, and geodatabases.
  • Documenting, labeling, and categorizing large maps, slides, and aerial photography for the Buffalo Field Office Library.
  • Performed AIM vegetation monitoring with the Buffalo Field Office and University of Wyoming.
  • Performed extensive song bird, sage grouse and nest surveys with the Buffalo Field Office and the University of Wyoming.
  • Worked with NISIMS: Documented remaining salt cedar, leafy spurge, North Africa grass, and other invasive plant populations on BLM Land.
  • Helped out with multiple education opportunities and community outreach through the Buffalo BLM Recreation Department.
This place was the Hat Ranch Allotment! I believe we are looking at the Spearfish Formation (red sandstone). Also, this area had the Sundance Formation, which was a high yield fossil site!

This place was the Hat Ranch Allotment! I believe we are looking at the Spearfish Formation (red sandstone). Also, this area had the Sundance Formation, which was a high yield fossil formation!

Present Interns I worked with…
I have had the great opportunity to work with other CLM interns on this internship! All of them definitely worked very hard during the Summer time to get their work done! I was fortunate enough to be able to travel with them to their sites and see what they do for work! Some of the places and jobs they did have were very interesting.

Nick and Corinne mostly spent their time monitoring in the southern Bighorn Mountains doing site evaluations and rangeland monitoring. They did go to other places such as the Gillette Area and along the Powder River Basin. The southern Bighorns were beautiful!! All of the past rangeland interns would love to do vegetation monitoring around there! The geology and the plant diversity was incredible! Corinne and Nick were always hard at work, taking the truck and UTV on back country roads to very obscure, in the middle of nowhere site plots. It was always an adventure to go out to see what they were doing. I also went with them to brush up on my plants and monitoring skills. Some sites had very bizarre plants that were challenging to identify, but both of the rangeland interns were able to identify everything. Nick and Corinne were very helpful when I was doing NISIMS. I would take them out near VanHouten Draw and show them how to look for weeds and record them in the Trimble GPS device. (Even though Trimble GPS devices will be replaced by phones soon) They were able to complete the monitoring season with no issues and they were able to monitor most of the sites they were given!

Nick, Damen, and Corinne!

Nick, Damen, and Corinne!

Damen spent most of his time going to various back country roads, finding if the back country roads were really roads or just cow trails. He also went to many recreation areas and did site visits with his mentor. Damen had many skills that he applied to his internship! He used education for many of the outreach programs. He even gave me some very helpful tips when teaching younger kids! Beyond his education and recreation skills, he was great at writing reports and using various computer software to complete jobs for the BLM.

All of us worked very hard over the Summer and we learned a lot from each other. After work, we would get together for various celebrations, mostly birthdays, and talk about Bighorn trails, field stories, politics, fishing, and work! We would usually have a big cake for these events. (Like ice cream cake, picture cake, cupcakes, and quarter section cakes!) Sometimes we may catch a movie later in the week!

Overall, I am very happy that I was able to work with very capable and hardworking CLM interns! I learned from each one of them as they contributed their expertise to field work! I wish them all the best in their future endeavors!

Interview with Krissa and Rebecca

How you’ve grown personally and professionally?

Wow! Four field season’s worth of experience! Usually the max amount of internships would be three, unless a particular field office would want you back for a specific reason. My last internship was supposed to be Wenatchee, Washington (last field season). I learned that the Buffalo Field Office was looking for a GIS/ Remote Sensing seasonal to complete the cheatgrass project. I quickly asked if I could fill in as a seasonal, which they agreed. I still got funded under CLM as an intern, but they gave me higher priority responsibilities that other BLM employees usually work on.

The past three field seasons have given me plenty of experiences that made my resume glow! I had botany, wildlife biology, landscape restoration, natural areas management, GIS, weed management, and rare plant monitoring to name a few jobs that I did within three years. One thing I wished I had more experience with was GIS and song bird monitoring. Luckily, this final internship filled that space! I had plenty of GIS and bird surveying opportunities to make my internship very well rounded, specific, and not all over the place.

Looking at Melilotus and Bromus infestations in ArcMap.

Looking at Melilotus and Bromus infestations in ArcMap.

The Buffalo BLM field office gave me projects that normally other employees would work on. I was a bit nervous, because I would not want to let them down. Plus, I am working in the Big Leagues now. If I had a future job, I would be exactly doing these kinds of work related tasks. I feel confident in my GIS and remote sensing capabilities. I am very strong in a number of analyses, techniques, and Boolean statements within the GIS program. One thing I still need to work on would be GIS computer script. Beyond GIS, I was very confident in my navigation, survival, and timing skills when I was out in the field doing vegetation monitoring and NISIMS. NISIMS was extremely tough! I had to walk in 100°F weather in hostile terrain. With the skills I picked up in the previous internships, I was able to survive whatever VanHouthen and Burgher Draw threw at me!

Spiny Buffalo Bur (Solanum rostratum) was one of the rarer NISIMS plants I encountered. P.S. Do not walk into this plant.

Spiny Buffalo Bur (Solanum rostratum) was one of the rarer NISIMS plants I encountered in VanHouten Draw. Also, this was one of the many dangers you could encounter there. Seriously, these burs were not friendly.

I was able to work with my communication skills in the most unlikely places. I was able to teach and lecture in four different school groups ranging from K-12. I had meetings with the higher officials in the NOC and state office in regards to why I was using up a lot of memory and bandwidth on the server for my cheatgrass project. Those phone conferences were interesting and they provided me with experience with in having to explain myself, the project I am working on, and how everything would be alright at the end. Apparently, I succeeded with this, because they did not call after a while. Another communication opportunity was to speak with the BLM Staff and employees about my cheatgrass project. Usually, my presentations would be exciting and interesting, but when you are talking about GIS applications and remote sensing, it could be a bit dry. I was able to show the data, the analyses that were used, and how this data would benefit everyone! In the end of the presentation, I had a lengthy discussion with the employees about the overall project, which was always a good sign.

Overall, the final internship helped build my GIS experience, communication skills, my teaching skills, and my bird identification skills. I am really happy with the results from this internship. With all of these opportunities, I would definitely be able to get a very nice job working for the Federal or Private Sector job market!

What are some new skills that you have gained on your internship?

This internship provided me with plenty of “jack of all trade” skills and experiences. My main experiences were GIS, field work, or bird survey related.

Diane and Courtney ( GIS BLM Legends) gave me various small projects to accomplish in between field work and major projects. I definitely learned more about remote sensing applications in ArcGIS. Diane allowed me to attend many of the GIS training days, where I was able to help out other BLM employees and learn new applications and GIS skills. I even attended a GIS seminar in town where we learned about GIS involvement with oil and gas projects. Along the lines of GIS and remote sensing topics, I learned many interesting skills in regards to drones and their applications. During the early Spring, I used my CLM funds to attend a Drone (UAV) Conference in Laramie, Wyoming. When I was at the conference, I learned about all of the new drones and data collection software that was being used in military and academic settings. I got to fly and accidentally crash a drone in the process. ^_^; (Not a highlight) The conference provided me plenty of opportunity to network with people and learn about potential software programs I may be using for work!

One of the large UAV/ drones I encountered!

One of the large UAV/ drones I encountered!

During the Early Spring and Summer seasons, I was able to travel with three wildlife biologists. One project was to count sharp tailed and sage grouse on various leks sites in our field office with BLM Legend Chris. I learned about the counting process and how that data transferred into reports. I accompanied BLM Legend Don in the field two times to do song bird monitoring along the different roads near Arvada and Recluse, Wyoming. I got to sharpen my songbird song skills and learn how to identify birds by their flight. Don was very knowledgeable and I was able to learn a lot from him. I got to help BLM Legend Wyatt with bird banding and mist netting. This was a trial and error experience for me, but the other ornithologists were patient. Catching cliff swallows was very hard to accomplish, especially when the bridge over a river was very tall. Learning how to untangle the birds, handle them, and band them was like an art for some people. Hopefully in the future I will get better at banding birds.

Sage grouse strutting his stuff.

Sage grouse strutting his stuff.

This internship provided me with more field work skills. My navigation skills have been improved and I am able to navigate through difficult terrain with ease, especially after doing data collection with NISIMS. I was able to learn new plants when I was with the Range staff and interns when we were doing S&Gs. Some of the plants up in the Bighorn Mountains were rather odd, because they had to adapt to a different climate and precipitation level. For example, a large Lithospermum species in the badlands area east of town may develop different growing habits and shape structure up in the mountain peaks of the Bighorns. I really had to use the taxonomic key to find out about some of the tricky plants. Sometimes, I worked backwards where I just looked at a genus instead of starting from the beginning of the taxonomic key.

Sagebrush/ Mariposa Lily (Calochortus spp.)

Sagebrush/ Mariposa Lily (Calochortus spp.)

What are some learning experiences that stand out to you?

There were three experiences that stand out to me during the term of this internship.

Experience 1: The End of the Cheatgrass Project
Working on the cheatgrass supervised classification project had been a definite learning experience in regards to real world applications of GIS. Using different ArcMap tools had been a tough, yet rewarding experience. I spent hours upon hours of just processing data. After months of processing and supervised classification, extracting data through algorithms and arithmetic have been challenging and very tedious at times. After mapping the processed data and ground truthing the results, the final product had turned out to be very successful. This large project in itself was a huge learning experience and I am very happy on how everything turned out. Plus, I got to use applications I used in my college education!

Experience 2: Educating People at Welch Recreation Area

Each age group of people has been an experience. My main background in education was College Academia. Having to rework lesson plans for people ranging from Elementary to High School Level had been tough. Fortunately, I was able to reach out and educate all the students. Teaching about rocks, vegetation monitoring, birds, insects, and plants had various hurdles. I quickly picked up on what the students were interested in and developed short lectures with field applications for everyone to work on. I enjoyed this experience, but I could see how teachers for K-12 must have patience, endurance, and street smarts when working with these children.

Experience 3: Helping Sara Burns with Vegetation monitoring

 No matter how long you worked in the field or the experience you develop over time in regards to vegetation monitoring, there would be always something new to learn or see. Plant taxonomy would always be changing and you would have to refresh yourself at the beginning of each season with grasses and forbs. Helping Sara with her Master’s project has had its challenges. Not only did I have to learn a new vegetation monitoring system, but I had to think outside of the box when monitoring reclamation sites. These sites had some of the weirdest weeds and vascular plants that were not in the taxonomy books of Wyoming. I had to look at other taxonomy books in states outside of Wyoming to find out about various Brassicaceae, Chenopodiaceae, and Asteraceae weeds that would grow in disturbed areas.

Sara Burns looking at various plants.

Sara Burns looking at various plants.

What were some rewarding experiences/memories of your internship?

There were three experiences that stand out to me during the term of this internship…..

Experience 1: Surviving Salt Cedar Monitoring

This experience had been one of the most rewarding trials of my internship. I walked over two hundred miles of drainage, draws, riparian landscapes, and badland regions looking for salt cedar. Thunderstorms, quicksand, fields of thistle, rabbit excrement piles, rattlesnakes, high temperatures,  and barbed wire fencing were just a few of the hurdles I had to endure when working with NISIMS in the draws east of Buffalo, Wyoming. When I was done with the entire project, I was able to fall back and treat myself to a few fishing flies to celebrate this huge task. Completing the project was one of the most rewarding experiences beyond vegetation monitoring.

Sorry salt cedar...your days are numbered!

Sorry salt cedar…your days are numbered!

Experience 2: Getting Done with Supervised Classification

Completing the cheatgrass project had been extremely rewarding for me. Not only did I use my college education and past field experiences to complete the project, but I learned about many other techniques that could be applied for my future work! Finishing the project on a successful note lifted a huge burden off my shoulders. The results were satisfying to everyone, so I was very happy on how everything turned out in the end.

Experience 3: Finding Bird Nests

One of the toughest tasks of this internship was finding active bird nests with the University of Wyoming. You would think it would be easy to find bird nests, but you would be dead wrong. Vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), Brewer’s sparrow (Spizella breweri), and western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) bird nests were incredibly tough to find. Luckily, I did find a few active nests. Even finding one nest in a day was extremely satisfying and rewarding!

Found an active nest!!

Found an active nest!!

What were some expectations that were or were not met?

My main goal with this internship was to be able to help out as many people as possible and accomplish any major project that was given to me. My mentor, Janelle, expected me to finish the remote sensing cheatgrass project as a priority project, afterwards I could help out with other BLM Legends with their work. The remote sensing project took a few months to complete, and I was able to successful complete the project. I was able to provide information and valuable data for the field office to use in the future for reports and land management projects. I was very happy with myself that I was given more advance work to do and be able to complete everything without any major setbacks. After completing the major remote sensing project, I was free to help out with bird surveying, GIS projects, BLM Recreational education sessions, vegetation monitoring, and office organization projects. All my expectations for this internship were met and I was very glad that all my goals were met by the end of the internship. This internship was a real resume builder, that was for sure!

Dear Present CLM Interns

Good Day, Present CLM Interns!

You might be asking yourself right now, “Hey! I am in the office right now and my internship has been extended through the Winter. What is there to do?” For some interns Winter Season could be very busy with projects or it could be the complete opposite! In the desert areas, there probably is plenty of SOS projects or vegetation surveys. In mountainous, forested, or sagebrush areas in the North, work may be harder to come by. I will give you a couple of tips you could use for your internship along with your office work projects.

  • Make Lists and Databases: One thing that is definitely beneficial for yourself, your field office, and future interns would be to make lists and databases. If you are a SOS or a vegetation monitor, you may want to develop powerpoints and excel spreadsheets on the plants in your field office. Here are some ideas for potential powerpoint and excel projects.
    1. Develop a plant guide for trees and shrubs, grasses/ sedge, forb families, Plants of Concern, SOS plants, or a weed guide: List the common name, latin name, habitat, description of the plant, and an interesting fact. (Add pictures of the plant as well). This may seem like a massive project, but it would help many people down the road in your field office or state. You might just want to work on a small powerpoint of plants that you struggled with. If you create a powerpoint guide on grasses, sedges, and rushes in your area, many future interns would thank you! Sometimes creating specialized powerpoints for specific genus like Lomatium, Eriogonum or Astragalus may help out a lot. Sometimes these plants may be confusing or hard to tell apart and making a printable powerpoints for future interns may be great.
      1. If you make a species guide for what dried grasses and forbs look like in your field office in late Summer, many future interns would thank you and you would win the Noble Prize.
    2. For wildlife biologists, the same kind of powerpoints guides may be applied to fish, insects, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and other animals.
    3. For those of you who specialize on lichen and mushrooms for monitoring and research, a powerpoint guide or spreadsheet would be very necessary and helpful to future interns and the public.
    4. Excel Spreadsheets that list all of the plants or animals in your field office would be a great guide for future interns as well!
  • Learn New Skills: Since you may have more time, you might want to add more skills to your resume. You might want to learn various GIS applications for example. If you work for the Department of Interior, there are classes you could take to boost your skill levels in GIS and other related programs on DOI Learn. If you are looking for different projects to do outside your priority projects, ask your advisor for other projects relating GIS or other software programs. This would help build variety in your Winter work schedule.
  • Learn from other Employees: During the Winter time, you could shadow different employees at your work! (If it is alright with your advisor) Sometimes you might want to take a day or two off your regular work and learn what other employees do for their work. Shadowing someone would be beneficial for you if you want to learn new skills or learn how different jobs work.
  • The most important thing you could do after doing your main job would be to make the transition to the next generation of interns easier. For example in the past, I would develop a few reports on what to do for future interns. Some of my internships, I learned the hard way on finding resources or knowing where specific plant populations are. Writing reports on locations of various populations would save many hours of searching for future interns. Providing a list of phone numbers, contacts, and local organizations would help a lot! Even writing a letter for future interns may be very nice to develop, so they could get a sense of what to do the first few weeks and following field season.

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Thank you!!

I wanted to thank everyone who read or skimmed read my past blogs! (Especially my family and friends who provided extra input when I shared the blog on social media.) I know some of my blogs were super long, but there were many activities happening each week and I wanted to give present and future interns an idea of what I do! ^_^ I wish everyone a successful future and good luck!!

(Fun Fact: Each blog usually takes 3-6 hours to plan, write, and organize. I take blog writing seriously!)

Moment of Zen

Castilleja species

Castilleja species.

(Curtains Close…)

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About Justin

Hello! My name is Justin! I am an intern working for the BLM in Buffalo, Wyoming! I will be working on remote sensing and GIS projects. My favorite outdoor hobbies include bird watching, plant identification, rock hounding, exploring, and fishing.

One thought on “Epilogue: An Epic Footnote in CLM Internship History

  1. <Thunderous applause)

    Way to go Justin! I wish you all of the best in your future endeavors. I’m positive you’re going to do some incredible work and really make a huge difference in conservation. Hopefully, you end up sticking around the same area sooner or later so you can really have a big impact in one locality. It was a pleasure working, and getting to know you.

    also…
    you’re the definitive CLM legend!

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