Diving Right In

Shortnose and Lost River suckers are two species endemic to the upper Klamath basin.  They are relatively slow growing and long lived, with maturation times of 5 and 8 years and average lifespans of 12 to 20 years.  Historically there were hundreds of thousands of each species living in upper Klamath lake.  Their abundance and large size (max length of about 2 feet) made them a reliable and culturally important food source for the native American tribes.  Now, with a host of different factors negatively affecting their survival, both species are federally listed as endangered.

In 2016, in an effort to prevent both species from going extinct, the US Fish and Wildlife service partnered with Gone Fishing, a local business that specialized in rearing tropical aquarium fish, to start a propagation and rearing program for Lost River and shortnose suckers.  This partnership was ideal for several reasons.  First, there was an already existing facility with ponds and a geothermal water source that proved to be useful with controlling water temperatures over winter.  Second, the owner had decades of experience and expertise with rearing and propagating fish which has contributed a great deal to the success of the program.  Third, the partnership with a local small business helps the program gain support from the general public, where the economy is largely based on agriculture.  Efforts to protect endangered fish are not always welcomed if it means restricting water use for irrigation.

This effort is unique in that unlike the hatchery programs of the past, which supplemented the wild populations with fish hatched from a captive broodstock, this program captures wild larvae as it is drifting downstream.  This does not significantly impact the wild population because the adult suckers are spawning successfully.  The population bottleneck happens during the early juvenile stage in the first 1 or 2 years of life.  The larval fish are started off in glass aquaria for the first few weeks and fed a diet of brine shrimp.  The glass tanks are useful for monitoring the larval fish for disease.  After the fish outgrow the tanks they are transferred to .1 acre earthen ponds, built to try and mimic their natural environment.  They are raised in these ponds for 2 years, after which they are collected, weighed, measured, tagged, and released.

This spring, the first 2 weeks of April, the first cohort of larval fish captured were released back into the wild.  It will be several years before we know if these fish actually make it to reproduce, but the release was celebrated as a proof of concept, there was 99% survival to the release stage.  The program is now gaining a lot of attention and support, from congressional leaders to local farmers and other water users who view this as an opportunity to allow the downlisting of the species, leading to fewer water restrictions.  That could mean more funding and an expansion of the program, as well as higher stakes for delivering concrete results.  Let’s hope we can meet these high expectations.

Klamath Basin Propagation

Following the birds:

            I left New York nearly a year ago with my eyes set on the West Coast. My destination was the Cosumnes River Preserve (CRP) in Galt, CA. That opportunity was a CLM internship with the Bureau of Land Management. My experience was great. So great, in fact, that I decided to reapply to the program and see if any new/fun opportunities presented themselves.

During my last few semesters of college I began to dabble in fisheries courses. Prior to that, nearly all of my attention and study was focused on plants, because plants are awesome. What I soon found out, however, is that fish are pretty neat creatures too (and I find the fieldwork to be more fun). Some of my experiences at the CRP further reinforced this newfound notion and I began seriously looking into opportunities for fisheries experience.

Now, I am in Klamath Falls, Oregon working with the Fish and Wildlife Service with the main focus on working in their Sucker Assisted Rearing Program alongside another CLM intern. Before hearing about this opportunity, and unlike Galt (which I had never heard of prior to my internship there, although it now has a place in my heart), I had heard of Klamath Falls before. This is perhaps unsurprising for birders or anyone working or interested in the Pacific Flyway. As it turns out, the Klamath Basin is also popular among birds and their enthusiasts. I had, however, never really heard about anything more than that. I wrapped up with some volunteer work at the CRP just a Friday prior to my start here, and as I did so, I realized that like many of the birds that had called the Central Valley home for the winter, I too was soon to be migrating north along the flyway*.

*Whether or not this is a sign of some deep connection with the birds, I cannot say. Although, much like them, I am happy to be escaping the heat of Central Valley summers.

View of Mount Shasta and Part of Klamath Falls

Details of the position so far:

As part of the Endangered Species work here in Klamath Falls, there is an ongoing propagation effort to rear endangered suckers (Lost River and shortnose suckers) as supplements to the existing populations. These populations are battling many factors outlined quite well in the USFWS’s Revised Recovery Plan for both species. For the sake of keeping this post relatively concise (mostly, to save me having to write them all up for you), I am including a link to that plan.

USFWS Revised Recovery Plan (Lost River and shortnose suckers):

https://www.fws.gov/klamathfallsfwo/suckers/sucker_news/FinalRevLRS-SNSRecvPln/FINAL%20Revised%20LRS%20SNS%20Recovery%20Plan.pdf

Working in this program has already provided a good variety of tasks. On a day-to-day basis, the suckers require tending and some slight monitoring. This means things like checking water temperatures (adjusting if necessary), feeding, salting (when needed to help prevent disease and parasites), and checking for mortality or abnormal behavior (hopefully, unlikely). Being a relatively new project, with a moderate amount of troubleshooting and amending plans for efficacy and to resolve unpredicted errors, there is a fair amount of maintenance/construction required as well.

Once fish are big enough, they are released back to their normal stomping (swimming) grounds (waters). In our first week here, we were able to assist in the release of quite a few fish. This process involves netting fish out of their holding tanks, scanning them for PIT tags, transferring them to the release site, acclimating them to the water at the release site, and then ultimately releasing them. They are then free to face whatever the future has in store for them (hopefully not too much predation or too many harmful algal blooms). A pretty good description of this process can be found at the following link:

https://www.heraldandnews.com/news/local_news/boosting-sucker-survival/article_27e925da-64e0-5e13-b207-8ac0a1c1cf7d.html

When studying any animal it can be important to observe their movements. This can range from daily movements to more broad movements (i.e., migration). This helps folks to better understand when, where, and why a species of interest is utilizing an area. I leave plants out in this regard, because, as I assume we all know, most plant/plant-like things are not moving about in quite the way that animals do. Here at the office, this means that 200 of the reared suckers (~180+ mm in total length) are receiving radio tags.

Now, one doesn’t just put radio tags in fish all willy-nilly. Much like any surgery, there are some things to consider. How big do the fish need to be to receive the tag and be able to function/survive with it? Where will the tag be installed? How do you prevent them from tangling while they recover from surgery and await release? In order to address these questions proactively, staff here at the office organized a trial run to make sure their procedure would work effectively and efficiently. Lucky for us, we were able to sit-in on the operation (and assist with some small details) and it was quite an experience (add fish OR assistant to the resume?)

Our time here would feel unfulfilled if we did not get the opportunity to see some mature adults heading upstream to spawn, so we headed out for a couple of days with Bureau of Reclamation staff to do some monitoring and tagging of suckers at a place called Gerber Reservoir. Using trammel nets, we caught suckers (and some bycatch—perch, crappie, bass, and bullhead). The adult suckers were scanned for PIT tags, inspected for parasites/disease/or injury, measured, sexed, identified, and had a PIT tag inserted (if they were lacking one) before being returned to the water to go on their merry way. To summarize: We caught some big suckers*.

*While uncertain of the origins of this colloquialism, and the extent of its use in rural-American parlance—I like to believe it comes from a long-fought, line and tackle battle with a member of the Catostomidae. For instance, “Holy cow, that’s a big sucker!” Again, whether this is the case, I assuredly cannot say.

Looking forward to another great season.

Tyler Rose
CLM Intern
USFWS-KFFWO (Klamath Falls, OR)

*Any opinions expressed herein are my own.

Flowers and Fire

Wow, has a month already gone by?!

Temperatures have started to warm up over the past couple of weeks, and so field season has officially begun. Since my last post, the early spring wildflowers have begun to display their wonderful colors; some of earliest ones are already starting to die off–for instance, Henderson’s fawn lilies, shown below.

Fawn lily (Erythronium hendersonii)

 

The other week, I went with one of the botanists to tour a meadow where a local organization had conducted controlled burns in a previous year. The organization wanted to show us how the burns had helped to control the invasion of species like Taeniatherum caput-medusae, Poa bulbosa, and Centaurea solstitialis. They had also repopulated the area with native plant seeds, so the entire meadow was pretty much an explosion of white popcorn flowers, pink plectitis, and blue lupines.

The meadow was packed with flowers!

 

Shortspur seablush (Plectitis congesta)

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time conducting surveys for Fritillaria gentneri, an endangered species of lily that is endemic to southwest Oregon. Gentner’s fritillary is pretty fascinating; from what I’ve heard, a lot of people suspect that the species is a hybrid between Fritillaria recurva (scarlet fritillary) and Fritillaria affinis (checker lily). Most of the time, the species reproduces asexually through its bulbs. It tends to prefer meadows and very open oak woodlands. A lot of work is being done by the folks up at OSU to analyze certain genetic factors (for instance–is it a hybrid or an individual species?) as well as to grow seedlings that are being used to repopulate certain areas. Most often, the plant will only display bulb leaves, but since the leaves tend to look exactly like those of other fritillaries it can’t be identified that way. However, on the scarce occasion that the plant produces a flower, Gentner’s fritillary can be distinguished from F. recurva and F. affinis in these ways:

Color: Not a great way to tell them apart, since the colors are arbitrary and usually unreliable. However, in general, F. recurva tends to be a bright scarlet color, F. gentneri tends to be a sort of dark red/maroon, and F. affinis tends to be purple-brown and yellow speckled. Gentner’s fritillary sometimes grows a sort of almost-scarlet color, though, and can often be mistaken for F. recurva if identified solely by color.

Flower shape: F. recurva has (as the name implies) petals that are recurved at the tips, and F. affinis has wider set flowers with non-recurved tips. F. gentneri usually has non-recurved tips, similar to F. affinis, but can sometimes have slightly/partially curved petals that can be mistaken for F. recurva.

Style/nectaries: The best way to distinguish between the three species is based on their styles and nectary glands. F. affinis has a style that is strongly divided (for at least half its length), as well as a nectary gland that is ¾ the length of its petals. F. recurva’s style is the least divided, usually ¼ to ⅓ its length, and its gland is less than ½ the length of the petals. F. gentneri is an intermediate of the two; its style is divided around ⅓ to ½ its length, and its gland is ⅓ to ½ the length of its petals.

Fritillaria gentneri (Gentner’s fritillary)

Fritillaria affinis the most easily distinguished due to its yellow and brown color.

Fritillaria recurva (note the scarlet color and recurved leaves)

All in all– it’s fairly easy to distinguish F. affinis by its color and shape, but recurva and gentneri can get a little dicey, so it’s best to identify based on styles/nectaries.

On another note– over the past week, I’ve been spending some time working on keeping an invading population of shiny geranium (Geranium lucidum) away from an OHV trail. The population has pretty much taken over the understory; at this point, the main priority is to prevent the plant from being carried to other places. As such, my supervisor and I have been using weed torches (yes, he trusted me with fire) to wilt the geranium within 15 feet of the trail in an effort to prevent the plants nearest the trail from seeding so bikes/ATVs/etc. can’t carry the seeds to other locations. Overall, I like wielding a weed torch. It’s kind of fun. Is that bad?

On my way to burn some noxious weeds…

 

Until next time,

Aleah

April showers? Bring it on!

I’ve already been here for a month? That’s amazing!

Hello! Rachael here.

It seems like everything is blooming a little later this year, which has been both frustrating and quite useful for catching up. The data on rare plants is usually accompanied by a field log, where the intern or employee explains the environment they are in, emphasizing the rare plants and those either competing or coexisting nearby, as well as what is in flower. That’s been helpful for learning the area.

Many rare plants are not so unique that they can be identified without the flower. For example, Erythronium, or the trout lily genus are abundant in the park and state of Maryland, but the white trout lilies are listed as S2.

Here is an Erythronium species leaf, and then a flowering Erythronium americanum found at a different location.

Erythronium species leaf

Erythronium americanum

These have just started flowering. The rare white trout lilies should also flower soon.

I enjoy being able to visit so many sites within the park, but revisiting them at a later point in the season is an added experience. A few weeks ago, the few plants out of the ground were bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) and hepatica (Anemone americana). Because of the leaf shape, A. americana is one of my favorites. They are so cute and simple (I don’t think my photo does it justice, though…)

Anemone americana

There was still snow then. It was cold, beautiful, and I had no idea what I could have been stepping on. Needless to say, not much useful data was recorded.

The next time I visited the same site, Dirca palustris, commonly known as leatherwood, was in flower. This shrub is super flexible, and the coloring of the stems is lighter. It’s a unique plant that’s pretty hard to miss, especially if it’s reaching onto the trail (it grabbed my face on an incline) with those little flowers.

Dirca palustris in flower

But back to challenges, because what fun would it be to have every rare plant clearly identifiable from the trail?

A lot of my time in the office is either spent figuring the best way to visit a site (at the best time) and updating myself on how to differentiate between rockcress. The kicker here is that some of the rockresses that used to be Arabis are now Boechera or Arabidopsis, and it seems the rare plant community accepts the synonyms (or maybe I’m under the wrong impression).

But aside from having multiple names and multiple species, rockcresses aren’t easy to differentiate unless they are a little more developed than the ones I’ve included in photos here. The basal and cauline leaves have characteristics that separate the species, but are variable and rather similar to each other. In order to tell them apart for an accurate identification, I’ll wait for flowers and fruits. That should be soon if not sometime this week!

Arabis? Boechera? Too soon to tell! –And is that Micranthes on the left?

Anyway, I am feeling a little better now about the whole Arabis/Boechera struggle after consulting both the regional and Maryland botanist about it. They also gave me some career advice, and asked me what I’d like to do. My answer is usually “eventually I’ll get to grad school, but I want to explore my options and work outside for as long as I can. Let’s look at some plants!”

A man (park volunteer?) came up to me while I was working the other day, explaining how picking up trash was good exercise (he was about to pull a tire from the river). After loading five or so trash bags full of beer cans, wine bottles, silver-side-out chip bags, muddy shoes, etc… into his car, he found out I was a wanna-be botanist, and he posed an ID question: it’s got these shiny sort-of leaves (makes hand motion like rubbing dimes together) and alien-like flowers. White at the top, yellow beak, bizarre thing, really, those flowers.

I told him I couldn’t match anything to that description. Alright, he pulled some (please don’t pull plants! You can’t have those.) out of his car. It was a rather car-heat-stroke looking Dicentra cucullaria. Dutchman’s breeches! What a name. They are flowering all over the place.

Dutchmans breeches

Speaking of native plants, my last post featured Mertensia virginica, but these are in flower. I sent a pic home saying they reminded me of Mom, and the response asked if they have thorns. *sigh* I was trying to be nice…

Virginia bluebells

Last week, another intern (through a different program) came along for a day out in the field. We drove down to a pretty popular trail (after hanging some signs for a rabid raccoon)(at the site where the man was picking up trash and Dutchman’s breeches). This section of the Billy Goat Trail is definitely a cool area. It transitions from rocky outcroppings to sandy riparian beach to swampy to forest within a mile or so. Because of this and its proximity to highly populated areas, the plants are pretty diverse. The downside is the constant threat of invasive plants and the risk of rare plants being trampled.

We spotted flowers (finally!) and rare plants along the trail, so I’ll have to get back to explore the whole area.

Stellaria pubera–giant chickweed, stitchwort

Phlox subulata–moss phlox

I am having a great time, and interacting with others reminds me why I wanted to be here: to learn and to serve, basically. I have the opportunity to work outside as much as I want and understand how to better protect the environment and history through the vegetation. That’s my job. Plant protector (in a way) in Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park; that’s my internship.

I came across a great couple of lines the other day from Gwendolyn Brooks’ “An Aspect of Love, Alive in the Ice and Fire” dedicated to LaBoehm Brown:

 

“You rise. Although / genial, you are in yourself again.”

 

The Potomac, still, across from where I am staying.

Still can’t believe we’ve been more than halfway through April all day…

Rachael

Well here I am

I’ve wanted to move out west and work in the outdoors since I was 14, so when I got the offer for a position in Oregon, there was no thought process needed. Finally, here I am.

Having driven across the country from New York, I can say that there’s a lot of things I’m not really used to, and other things that seem pretty familiar. Back home you can’t see more then 200 yards from all the trees. Here, the trees are absent in the valleys. There’s also wildlife I’ve never seen (in person) before, like Bighorn Sheep, Mule deer, wolves and cougars. The town is about the same size as where I come from though, so it isn’t totally foreign. And it goes without saying, that I will never get tired of these views.

View from the field, the mountains in the distance are in Idaho

As I already mentioned I decided to make the 35 hour drive from upstate New York to Oregon, and I don’t regret it. The views were amazing, and getting to see what the rest of the county looks like was a great opportunity, which you certainly don’t get from flying. If you are able to drive, I say go for it! There aren’t many times in your life when you will have the time, and now I can say I’ve driven across the country.

My introduction to Idaho

So far the job itself hasn’t been too fast-paced. These first few weeks have mostly been training, meetings, and getting equipment ready for the season. I’d be lying if I said that staring at a computer screen while it tells me how to drive didn’t get boring occasionally, but the payoff was worth it when we got into the field. Since the new plants haven’t really started to come up yet, we’re mainly just surveying using last years weed remnants as our reference, mapping it out to spray later. (Did I mention I’m doing invasive weed control?) My mentor has been great, and I think I will really enjoy working with her for the next few months. She makes sure that I’m learning new things and that I’m kept busy. Everyone in the office has been very kind so far as well. I”m very excited for the season to start, and learn new things about this wonderful place. Much thanks to CBG for making this possible for me, this is an invaluable opportunity to get into this field.

I don’t really like talking about myself too much, so I think I’ll just leave it at that. Anything I say is my opinion, and may not reflect the views of the Bureau of Land Management.

Mike,

Bureau of Land Management, Baker City field office.

 

Life on the (dirt) road.

I built my 6×12 trailer tiny home (named the Carol Cottage) last year in New Hampshire, and made way down the Appalachians at the end of January bound for warmer weather in Florida. Avoiding the major highways at all costs, I put my little 1995 4runner through steep, winding mountain passes, muddy swamps, deep rutted logging roads, and everything between. While stopping to experience Grayson-Highlands state park in southern Virginia, I struggled to find a spot with cell reception where I could phone-interview with the CLM. Everything worked out well because I was offered my current position as a wildlife intern for the BLM in Casper, WY! While Wyoming isn’t exactly near Florida, I still had a couple of months to experience life on the road before setting up in WY for the summer.

In that time, I was able to briefly experience Dixie life in South Carolina, Alabama, and Florida before heading west to southwest Texas, and north through New Mexico, Colorado, and finally – Wyoming!  

With zero local knowledge other than what I acquired on satellite images, and no personal contacts in WY other than my mentor with the BLM, the adventure of finding a home base to park my tiny home began. My first night in Wyoming was spent on top of Casper mountain, where I could see on a map I’d be able to set up on some public land temporarily. It was 10 degrees and snowing outside that night… but with the help of my little propane heater, Rome and I stayed comfortable in the Carol Cottage.

The universe continued to help us out the following morning when we met a land owner who offered to let us stay on his 5 – acre property 15 miles outside of town – for free!

The following day was day 1 at the BLM Casper field office, and my nerves were at an all time high – I’ve never worked in an office setting before, never mind a federal office.. for all I knew it could’ve been a scene from Men in Black. My nerves were put to rest immediately upon entering. I was given a warm welcome from the front desk, and introduced to my mentor – who was super down to earth, and helpful in getting me settled, and introducing me to most of the staff who I’d be working with for the rest of summer.

As i toured the office I was relieved to see that although it was a cubicle city, it was outfitted with taxidermy, wildlife posters, typical “office humor” comic print-outs, and tons of deer, elk, antelope, and bighorn antler/horn sheds acquired in the field. The place was already starting to feel comfortable. Vibes in the office were positive, and the unmuffled conversations between cubicle walls consisted largely of hunting, 4x4ing, and light-hearted joking.

I’ve been able to go out for sage grouse lek monitoring twice last week – and I can already tell there are going to be some stories to come from the field. Working out in the field with a single other person is a pretty intimate experience, and I’ve gotten to learn a lot from conversations about the history of the Casper area, the high-plains ecosystem, the local culture, and opportunities for recreation – to name only a few.

The scenery at these lek sites first thing in the morning is breath-taking. We arrive 15-30 minutes before first light, and literally watch the ecosystem come to life as the sun rises and we start glassing for sage grouse activity. In my first two field days I came into close contact with at least 4 raptor species, tons of mule deer, herds of antelope (the fastest land animal in North America!), and of course, sage grouse.

A lot is happening all at once, and I’m grinding hard to get up to speed – but everyone is being super patient and helpful. This week I’ll be getting out on another few lek surveys, and I get the opportunity to do an aerial survey for undocumented leks in a HELICOPTER! More updates and photos to come!

Oregon Intern Part 2: Not Quite Field Season AKA Office Adventures

Hi all!

First off, I’d just like to say this: I’m beyond excited to be a part of the CLM program again, and I’m so incredibly happy to have been placed in Oregon for a second time, as it had become a second home over the course of my first internship. I can’t quite say I’m a full-fledged Oregonian yet– that takes a lot more time, flannel shirts, and locally roasted coffee. But, I do feel a lot of love for the land here. Oregon is peaceful.

This time around, I’m stationed in Medford, Oregon, a bustling city nestled snugly between the Cascade Range and the Siskiyou Mountains. I feel pretty lucky to be living here. Looking out my apartment window, I can see tons of gorgeous snow-capped mountains, and the valley itself is home to tons of orchards and vineyards. Ashland, the next town over, is home to the Shakespeare Festival, as well as a diverse music scene. I predict many hikes, concerts, and wine-tasting ventures in my future.

A view from Tallowbox Mountain

On my first day of work, my mentor introduced me to the area through a long hike to the top of Tallowbox mountain, where I was able to get a bird’s eye view of the Medford district. It was a lot like that scene in the Lion King, where Simba and Mufasa are sitting on top of Pride Rock and Mufasa is like “Look, Simba, everything the light touches is our kingdom.” (I’m mostly kidding, ha ha). I was glad to see that many of the species I had become familiar with from my internship in Roseburg were also common to the Southern Oregon, and I spent some time learning a few species I hadn’t heard of before.

Garrya fremontii– Frémont’s silktassel

 

Ericameria nauseosa (rubber rabbitbrush)

 

Field season hasn’t truly kicked off yet (many of our field sites are still covered in snow), so my first couple of weeks with the Medford BLM were spent immersing myself in a variety of cubicle-based activities. I can say with a fairly large amount of confidence that I am now intimately familiar with the botanical survey file cabinet. One major benefit of my office adventures has been that I’m beginning to have a much better understanding of the inner workings of the BLM. Throughout my first internship, I spent most of my time in the field, so I had no real conception of the incredible amount of bureaucracy that can go into a managing public lands. By spending more time in the office I’ve begun to wrap my head around the type of work done by full-fledged botanists: multitudes of meetings, boatloads of paperwork, hours of GIS work, and endless emails. Just the other day, I sat in on a meeting between the district botanists as they spoke about their new annual treatment plan and the upcoming field season. Contracts were discussed, plans were made, dozens of acronyms were used. I questioned whether or not they were speaking some foreign language. I had already known that the government speaks in acronyms, but I didn’t know what the majority of them meant. The botanists were very kind and paused their conversations periodically to explain what certain things meant, and how they related to their work. With time, overwhelming confusion faded into a desire to keep up with the conversation. It’s been hard, but I’m starting to get the hang of it!

The Big Friendly Filing Cabinet

Overall, these first couple of weeks have been educational, to say the least! I’m definitely looking forward to field season, but I’m really glad to have been able to spend some time learning about all the office work that goes into that. It’s given me a lot more respect and understanding for this type of work.

Aleah

First of the Season

Hello CLM bloggers and scientists; happy spring!

I’ve gotten a hearty welcome here in Maryland at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park, and have a feeling I’m going to learn quite a few plants here.

I’ve also learned (in the barely-one-week-and-a-half I’ve been here) a bit about snakehead fish finding their way into the canal, about the collaboration necessary to re-route a trail then add a sturdier bridge, about aqueducts and mule-towed boats.

Back in the canal’s heyday, mules walked along the towpath tugging a cargo boat up the canal (which would be opposite the river, to the left of the towpath, and out of photo). Here’s a photo of the towpath and the Potomac River.

I had the opportunity to head into the park and check out some sites where construction would impact the land by driving heavy machinery, dumping soil, or clearing trees. We didn’t find any rare plants, so business continues.

What about some botany? What am I doing? Rare plant surveys! Identifying and keying  to be sure what I’ve found is rare. Counting and keeping data. Looking for any effects invasive species and land use might have on historically documented vegetation communities.

The neat thing about the Chesapeake and Ohio canal National Historical Park is the diversity of the flora. Because it spans communities from bustling metropolis to historic farm villages with a few people per mile, there is a chance for many types of habitats to foster introduced and native species, as well as those not found in many other places. I get to look for those not often found elsewhere.
Challenge accepted!

Gosh the anticipation of getting out into the field is killing me, mostly because the more time I spend leafing through the Flora of Virginia, the less competent I feel. I know that’s just winter. I’m not saying the snow isn’t beautiful, especially with at least a half foot of it lining the Potomac right now, but I miss being engulfed in the green seasons.  I thought Maryland doesn’t usually get much snow…

Anyway, here is a photo of a native plant I captured a few days ago, Mertensia virginica, or Virginia bluebells. It’s not flowering yet, but we’ll get there!

Here’s to a great season!

 

Rachael

 

By the way, anything I post in this blog is my opinion, and not necessarily that of NPS or CBG.

Reflection

Reflection

Reading through the blog site it appears winter is a time for reflection, although I am new to the season.  I have postponed my conclusion with this job and inevitable winter experience by traveling south for a few weeks of sunshine and play.  While I’m cresting my third year as an Oregonian, up from the tropics of Hawai’i, I still seem to resist winter as a part of my annual cycle.  I initially dreaded the arrival of chapped lips and obligatory coats, but I found myself rooting for the season when I arrived back home this year. The balmy month of January and my memories of dry, warm December had me pulling for the underdog to at least not make an embarrassment of itself.  True to form, the season saluted me with the coldest day of the year my first day back at work.

I could read into this as an omen that one cannot escape winter, that it eventually must come to pass, but come on.  We’re scientists. That stuffs for tarot cards and horoscopes (which, by the way, is totally cool if that’s what you’re into.  I’m sure you could find a great reading from half the residents of my town, Ashland, OR, but I digress).  Regardless, here I am on an assuredly wintery day writing a reflection on the year past.

I have decided, after this rather rambling introduction, to actually present my reflection as a poem.  However before finishing I need to thank Stacy, my mentor, and my coworkers, Sienna & Shannon, who are bright spots as human beings.   So without further ado, here is my haiku:

Collecting summer’s seeds,

Despite the strain to obtain,

Brings warmth in winter.

 

Signing Out

Eight months ago, all I knew was that I had accepted a job in Buffalo, Wyoming. I knew I would stay at least five months, I knew I’d be moving into an apartment with a perfect stranger, and I was entirely uncertain of what my internship responsibilities would include. I had lived in remote places before, and I had lived outside of my home state prior to May 2017, but this move felt especially intimidating. I had never been to Wyoming, but I was very aware of the vast cultural differences I would likely encounter between the conservative Western state from my urban homeland of New York.

Upon arriving in Buffalo and showing up to my field office for the first day of work, the other CLM interns and myself were thrown head-first into the field season. Training after training, deciphering protocols for the various field methods and databases we were expected to know, learning the names of our office coworkers and USDA plant codes; there was never a dull moment, and there was always something needing to be done.

My time spent in the field was met with a variety of interesting challenges: interacting with landowners who make their vehement animosity toward federal agencies known; explaining ecological concepts to folks who are certain sagebrush is an invasive species to the American West (**it’s not**); diffusing contentious conversations that inevitably arise within a crew containing an array of personalities; learning to identify Carex and Poa species for the first time. These tasks were absolutely a strain on my mental and physical wellbeing, but nonetheless served as indispensable growing experiences that have allowed my communication, professional, and botany skills to expand beyond horizons I initially could not see. Of course, my  coworkers were instrumental in this journey which has allowed me to reflect and grow in the way I’ve just described. My mentor, Bill, gave myself and his other mentees the laissez-faire approach we needed to navigate our way through this internship, but was also more than helpful when we needed guidance. Dominic, my crew-lead and absolute MVP of the field season, was encouraging and excellent company at each of the forty-something remote field sites we visited last summer. Not to mention the countless other employees at the Buffalo Field Office that have adopted me as their intern since October and allowed me to participate in the work that they do (Rachel, Charlotte, Wyatt, Chris, etc.) I am fully aware of how fortunate I was to have been placed in such an inclusive office, at the foothills of a mountain range, and within close proximity to several national parks, forests, and monuments.

I know I’ve written about this before, so please pardon my redundancy, but even with all of the skills I’ve gained and experiences I’ve had since accepting this internship, I feel my greatest and most rewarding accomplishment has simply been living here. Making a home in a place I never felt I would fit, filling a niche I was certain wouldn’t exist for someone like me, has allowed me to realize just how parochial my worldview was eight months ago before I embarked westward. No place is perfect, but I am proud of myself for not only living in Buffalo, but for also making myself feel at home in a place I never thought I could. I managed to befriend people both inside and outside of my workplace, climb the highest peak in the Bighorns, see a mountain lion run along the Powder River as I waded upstream, hold a horned toad, camp underneath a starry sky in Medicine Bowe, stumble upon a free jazz concert somewhere in Montana, and I can’t remember feeling as if I had missed an opportunity or circumscribed myself to a comfort zone.

Shadowing employees from Fish & Game while mist-netting for bats. I believe this one was a northern long-eared.

Forcing my dad to try hiking in Wyoming.

Outside of Casper, Wyoming awaiting the 2017 solar eclipse with friends, David & Martín.

BFO Wildlife Biologist, Chris, observing bighorn sheep licking the minerals off our truck outside of Jackson, WY.

Moonrise over the appropriately named Mistymoon Lake after summiting Cloud Peak in the Bighorn Mountains.

Moving forward.

I feel an appropriate way to end this blog post, along with my internship, is to borrow words from CLM intern Tyler Rose: “I don’t know if I truly understand all the ways in which I grew through this internship…I do know, however, just how inspired I feel to continue to go forth and engage in conservation as a full-time focus of my life.”

As I try to express my gratitude for this internship and programs like CLM, as I anticipate the wave of sadness that will overcome me as I drive toward the California coast in a few weeks, and as I continue to imagine what the coming months will look like while I acquaint myself with a new place and a new job, I know I will always have my time in Wyoming to look back on and my ambitions as a conservation biologist to motivate me as I inevitably move forward.

Some of the memories from my time in Buffalo are more fond than others, but all are meaningful, and each has contributed to forming this experience I’ve just had and the experiences I will have when I leave. Again, a thank you to CLM, the BFO, and anyone who has been reading these. Its been a pleasure.

Signing out —

Elyna Grapstein

CLM Intern - Buffalo Field Office, Bureau of Land Management

January 8th, 2018