Where is Vernal?

The right seed, in the right place, at the right time.  This straight-forward goal was synthesized by the Colorado Plateau Native Plant Program, at a conference in Monticello, Utah. It assimilated a broad range of presentations, including the latest research on local plant genetics intertwined with climate variability, new conservation technology, and agronomic requirements for successful seed production. This simplistic goal resulted from a conversation of the various stakeholders involved with collection and production of native plants for habitat restoration.  Often, the center stage of this conversation was Vernal, UT.

I have been an intern with the Bureau of Land Management in Vernal now for several weeks. During that time, I was able to attend the conference in Monticello and see where Vernal lies in the big picture of native plant restoration.  When I first arrived in my new habitat, the local flora was covered with two feet of snow after what had been an unusual winter.  However, I have learned it is a botanically interesting region due to roughly fifty endemic species associated with local geology, especially the oil-shale.  The energy sector also finds this area very interesting. Consequently, there are abundant future reclamation needs. The anticipated demand for native seeds played a key role in Vernal’s place at the conference.

While the snow melted, I compiled data to answer the question of “what seed?” I have become acquainted with the local flora of the herbarium and their locations on a map. However, I got my first taste of the field today, checking on seedlings of a milkvetch species that is endemic to a particular bend of the Green River.  The tiny seedlings were exciting to find and identify, being that they are so unique to that location. The landscape was enamoring, and I look forward to a season of discovering its hidden gems.

A view of the Uinta Mountains

Endemic Astragalus species

Endemic Astragalus species

Budsage… enamoring landscape in the background

Portland, Santa Fe, Chicago, and Santa Fe

The month of June has been full of variety for me. I left my Portland, OR home in the mossy, forested Pacific Northwest on the last day of May, and began a 1900 mile driving adventure to the desert southwest. After a refreshing soak at Summer Lake hot springs, a stunningly beautiful stay in the Ruby Mountains, crossing the Great Salt Lake desert, and a slow and reflective drive through the Four Corners area, the adobe town of Santa Fe and the southernmost Rockies greeted me with thunder and lightning.

bladderpod

Our first opportunistic seed collection was from a small mustard yet to be identified to species

I had only a week to adjust to a new climate, landscape, and people before flying to the midwestern city of Chicago for the CLM training. Between sessions, we had the opportunity to explore the Chicago Botanic Garden in its entirety. My favorite area was the arid greenhouse, letting me know that my tugging desire to live and work in the southwest was well-founded, and giving me the opportunity to meet dry-adapted carbon-fixers from all around the earth.

cactus flower

Cactus flower at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Back in my new home of Santa Fe, I joined with a large and diverse group of people for our regional training. A fellow CLM intern, an ACE (American Conservation Experience) intern, and I will be working closely with interns and employees from the IAE’s (Institute for Applied Ecology) Southwest Program. To begin our summer together, we camped in the Valles Caldera, a dormant, enormous, and beautiful volcano in the Jemez Mountains. With the help of Steve Buckley (National Park Service botanist), we sharpened our botanical skills and began to learn New Mexico’s flora.

Tsankawi, New Mexico

New Mexican beauty, Tsankawi ruins. A short hike break on our drive back from training at Valles Caldera.

After several weeks of travel and training, I am looking forward to a summer and fall spent exploring New Mexico, collecting seed from plants and places I have yet to meet, and honing my botanical skills!

Laura Holloway

Santa Fe (New Mexico State Office), BLM

Transitioning from Seed Collecting to Other Projects

A rare find - Kelso Creek Monkeyflower.

A rare find – Kelso Creek Monkeyflower.

Another rare find - a flowering Cholla cactus.

Another rare find – a flowering Cholla cactus.

Hello again from Ridgecrest CA. As of this week I am entering the third month of my internship. It’s hard to believe. The last two months we have been rushing to gather as many collections as we could for the SOS program. The flowering season is very short in the Mojave, and there hasn’t been any more rain, so it looks as if we may be at the end of our seed collecting. Fortunately, we had more rain this season than any previous years for the SOS program in this area. To give an idea as to what that means in the desert, we have made 18 complete collections so far, whereas in the previous 5 years the average was 6 complete collections. None-the-less, we feel pretty good about being able to provide a good collecting season. We have 3 more months to collect – the hard part will be trying to find something that hasn’t dried up.

The DTRNA volunteers hard at work making a collection of California Poppy.

The DTRNA volunteers hard at work making a collection of California Poppy.

The collection site of California Poppy and Fremont's phacelia in full bloom.

The collection site of California Poppy and Fremont’s phacelia in full bloom.

The highlight this past month: I took it upon myself to work with the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area (DTRNA), an organization dedicated to protecting the Desert Tortoise, to organize future cooperation with the SOS program to provide seed for the DTRNA. I set up a training day in which the DTRNA joined us in the field collecting seeds. We taught them about the protocol, what we take into consideration, and how to identify the target collection. We made three complete collections in one day! It’s amazing how much can be done when you have a few extra hands. All of the details haven’t been worked out but I really hope that there will be a way to continue using volunteer help to collect seeds and use the extra for restoration purposes in this area. There has also been talk of another organization interested in doing the same thing. I am working with my mentor to figure out the best approach to accomplishing this. Jeff Gicklhorn has been a really supportive, patient, knowledgeable and (incredibly) nice mentor.

One of the great things about the position in Ridgecrest is that the office is very supportive of taking advantage of the learning opportunities through the BLM. This week I am participating in NISIMS (National Invasive Species Information Monitoring System) training, and next week we will be traveling to Las Vegas for a NEPA class. This month is basically already booked full!

Cheers,

Leah Madison

Ridgecrest California BLM Field Office

It starts!

There are two CLM interns here at the Safford, AZ BLM field office this Summer, myself and Rosalee. We will be working together on multiple projects for our two mentors, Heidi and Jeff. Between now and the July monsoon rains we will be working mostly with Heidi on native fish monitoring as well as some non-native fish removal in local stream, rivers, and pools. In the fall, we will switch gears and begin helping Jeff out and utilizing our Seeds of Success training as we aim to complete over 30 collections for the SOS program. In between these major projects, we will work on some restoration projects both here in the Safford area, and in the Patagonia, AZ area. Once construction is complete on the common greenhouse for the Safford BLM/Gila Watershed Partnership/Eastern Arizona College, we will also be helping out there with the propagation of native plants for various restoration projects. Additionally, when we are not in the field we will be completing data entry for both mentors and helping to create digital herbarium specimen for the BLM Office.

I can’t believe 3 weeks of the internship is already gone! It has been such a whirlwind! After arriving and moving into my housing on the 1st of May and settling in, work began on Monday May 6th. That first week was mostly paperwork, meetings and trainings, with a small amount of field work thrown in. For some reason I find it highly ironic that probably the only job for which I will ever have a cubicle, is for a field-work based internship! After our first Monday-Thursday, we then had Friday and Saturday off before we began our roadtrip up to Boise, ID for the Seeds of Success – Seed Collecting for Conservation and Restoration course. The training was very fun and informative and I had a great time. Idaho is a beautiful state with great people! Our third week was very fun. We caught up on reimbursement paperwork and surveys for our training courses as well as more data entry. Wednesday was extremely cool. We got to complete Utility Terrain Vehicle training and are now certified to drive UTVs!

I find that I am still just as excited about the vast number of learning opportunities this internship offers as when I signed on to come to Safford 3 months ago. I can’t wait to see how much more I can learn not only about the ecological communities in which I am working, but about the agency in which I work. I am definitely looking forward to the next 4 months! And now I am off to relax and explore the area during the long Memorial Day weekend!

Gila Chub from Bonita Creek

A Wyoming Summer to Remember

It’s hard to believe that three months have flown by since the CLM training workshop at the Grand Canyon. Thanks again to Krissa and Marian for organizing such a great week! I really enjoyed myself and learned a lot.

My Geographic Information Systems (GIS) internship with the Rock Springs, Wyoming BLM field office has afforded me many opportunities to learn new skills in GIS software. Most of my time is spent inside working on various small projects for numerous employees throughout the office. One day I may be working on a map showing the spatial relationship between oil and gas wells and sage grouse core areas for the Minerals and Lands department and the next I’ll be working on creating a reference map of Herd Management Areas for the Wild Horse Specialist to use out in the field. It is nice to have such a mix of assignments.

I’ve become more experienced in digitizing geographic features, as well as in general data management. Over the course of three months, I’ve assisted in geographic data acquisition, organization, analysis and maintenance. I’ve also become more experienced in the manipulation and creation of shapefiles and have done extensive work in readying sage grouse and pygmy rabbit datasets for further analysis by our wildlife biologists.

My cubicle workspace

While office life may not parallel the glamor and excitement of field work, it has helped me improve my computer skills and hone my interpersonal skills in a professional environment. I’m especially thankful for my mentor, Doug, who has imparted his vast GIS knowledge with patience and enthusiasm throughout my time here. He describes himself as “eccentric” and brings a welcome boost of levity to the office environment with his humorous perspective and playful attitude.

Doug on a normal day

Using a Trimble GPS to ground truth features in the field

Along with indoor activity, I also manage to get outside occasionally. In addition to accompanying my mentor for some GPS ground-truthing work, I’ve also been fortunate enough to assist various field crews from the recreation, wildlife and Seeds of Success divisions here.

Folgers coffee beans? Nope, my collection of chokecherries for the Seeds of Success program.

Some memorable moments from the field include: Sitting by a pristine creek for a lunch break and enjoying the scenery and perfect weather, trying to winch a truck out of a muddy sinkhole, walking fencelines inspecting them for sage grouse “strikes” in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains, watching wild horses and bull elk from atop White Mountain (just west of Rock Springs) and seeing two red foxes dart in front of the truck on the way to check a recreation site.

A very stuck truck!

Two fellow CLM interns enjoying a beautiful day for planting trees on National Public Lands Day.

I also had the opportunity to participate in my field office’s National Public Lands Day (NPLD) event a couple of weeks ago. Myself and other CLM interns helped to direct and assist nearly 100 high school students and teachers in planting over 950 native trees along a local riparian corridor. It was a rewarding service project and an enjoyable outing with my fellow interns.

Fall hiking with my roommates

Speaking of the other interns here, we have grown close as friends and share a camaraderie that extends beyond the workday. Although you might not guess it from a glimpse of Rock Springs itself, there is no shortage of places to go and things to do here in southwest Wyoming. Weekends are always jam-packed with fun, adventurous activities. Over the course of the summer, I’ve been hiking, camping, backpacking, road biking, mountain biking, swimming, rock climbing, tubing down rivers and playing in sand dunes. It’s been great to enjoy such varied activities with a fun group of people!

Fellow CLM intern Deanna sledding down a giant sand dune

Myself on a backpacking trip in the Wind River Mountains

I look forward to my last month here as a CLM intern and eagerly anticipate the remaining adventures that await me!

Melissa Buchmann
Rock Springs, WY
Bureau of Land Management

Welcome to an Alaskan Summer

It’s June 21st, and aside from my cousin’s birthday, the coming of summer rarely catches my attention. But in Anchorage, Alaska, the longest day of the year makes time for celebration, specifically 19 hours and 22 minutes of it.

Anchorage Solstice Festival

The crowds return after the rain stops

Ever since moving to Alaska on June 10th, the long days have continually surprised me. Although I expected the extra sunlight, I pictured my plane landing at 10pm in darkness. Coming out of a movie at 11pm, the bright sun felt out of place.

Despite some chilly winds and scattered showers, downtown Anchorage hosted a great solstice festival last Saturday. The city teemed with shoppers and vendors, a band with enthusiastic headbanging, and an exciting girls roller derby. The festivities move outside of downtown and continue today with a mountain top circus.

The Power Line Trail, Chugach State Park

The Power Line Trail in Chugach State Park

Thankfully, I don’t need to fight the crowds on solstice to experience the great Alaskan wilderness. My Seeds of Success training with the Alaska Natural Heritage Program takes me outside nearly every day to get us acquainted with Alaskan plants. Our first foray into flora was in Chugach State Park. Twisted hemlocks graced each bend, while wild blueberry bushes coated the ground. The glacially-carved valley presented the perfect picture of Alaska.

Potters Marsh, the coastal trail, Goose Lake, and the Campbell Strip received visits from our group, too, and each introduced us to new and varied arctic vegetation. And when we aren’t hiking through the woods or spying moose on our bikes, we’re planning exciting new adventures. Seeds in Fairbanks, Nome, and Glennallen better be worried. We have plenty of daylight to snatch ’em all.

Anchorage Coastal Trail

Jordan on the coastal trail

-Dan Brickley, BLM, Anchorage, AK