WoW….I can not believe that I am half way through the fourth month of five to complete with the SOS program. Recently I have been working with a family that contracts with the BLM and grows BLM SOS seed. The couple joined me in the field last week to complete Symphoricarpos rotundifolius (Mountain Snowberry) collection. The time I spent with them was valuable and interesting. They are exuberant about the SOS program and have many great research ideas, some of which include defining species group parameters. Cataloging which species are found in conjunction with one another so that restoration efforts can be maximized. It is refreshing to work with civilians that are passionate about improving the quality of public lands.
Recently I was speaking with another intern at our neighboring office and found myself saying that with every passing month I feel much more confident in my ability to complete the job successfully. I am able to identify seed ripeness much more easily and with confidence, I am able to collect more quickly efficiently and accurately, and my off-road driving skills have improved tremendously. The privilege of driving the government trucks is wonderful and has allowed me to see a lot more of the beautiful country out here then I would if I were traveling as a civilian. I am up to a total of 24 collections, when I package and send out the completed seed lots I feel a great sense of pride to see my completed work. The fall is just about in full swing here in Surprise Valley and many of the shrubs are nearing seed ripe. I should be busy with collections for a bit longer thankfully, and I hope that the weather does not turn too cold to fast.
This past week has been exciting and hectic here at the Cedarville BLM. Our office had its first large scale, multi-day fire. Many crews came from all over the northeastern portion of the state and the BLM office served as the central meeting point for fire activities. The fire fighters were excited; because of the wet season there has been almost no fire to fight. This week marks the end of the seed rush here in the Surprise Resource Area. For the past few weeks I have been collecting seeds at an extraordinary pace, almost a complete collection a day. The days are still hot but the nights are cooling off quickly and seeds are dispersing. Many species have already dropped their seed and others are quickly following suit. The growing season is short here and the beginning signs of fall are setting in. Although seed collection has been dominating most of my time I have still had the ability to venture off on different projects. I was given another opportunity to work at our neighboring wildlife refuge and go “birding.” Birding takes place once night falls. An airboat is used to cruise around the refuge chasing and netting birds. Our most recent birding adventure was fruitful, we caught and banded a crane.
I am sad to see the summer pass on, August is coming to a close but unlike most seasonal positions it is not time for me to move on just yet. However with the passing of the summer months also comes the passing of the hot weather. I am excited to witness the fall in this wonderful place, the idea of fall in the high desert sounds peaceful and mild. The fall is also the time for me to collect many species that have needed the entirety of the growing season to mature. Many of the different shrub-like species are ready for collection later in the season. This will be the first fall in 18 years that I will not be attending school. I am already anticipating the nostalgia for going back to school season. Once this fall sets in and students fully return to classes I will feel as though I have transitioned into the adult world and this internship is serving as a great stepping stone for this huge life transition.
The weeks have been flying by. This past Wednesday marks my fifth week in Cedarville. Much has happened in these few weeks; I have become acquainted with many projects that are conducted by the BLM. My third week of work began by traveling to Chicago from San Francisco. The week spent in Chicago at the Chicago Botanic Garden was wonderful. The workshop in Chicago gave me the opportunity to meet two other interns at the Alturas office twenty miles away. On Wednesday myself and the other two SOS interns from Alturas went out with a crew from the Forest Service to conduct vernal pool surveys. The following morning we were able to help out at our neighboring National Wildlife Refuge by conducting duck brood surveys. It is rewarding to start work early in the high desert because then fewer hours are spent in the hot afternoon sun. I am beginning to get a handle on my project. I have scouted out many populations that will be ready for seed collection in the coming weeks and have already made a few collections of species that are currently ready for collection. I can navigate myself around this region much more successfully now that I have done some seed scouting. In addition I am becoming confident in my ability to recognize and identify many of the species that are present in this area.
The high desert is more and more intriguing every day. The vast landscape appears to be homogenous throughout but once a closer look is taken it can be seen that the geology changes drastically over short distance. The geology largely affects the type of vegetation that will flourish in this dry climate; the soil type is often reflected in the variety of sage that is abundant at a particular site. Another quality the desert embodies that I find soothing is the constant hum of insects in the air. In some areas, often times surrounding riparian areas, while conducting a seed collection I am accompanied by the most beautiful fluttering butterflies. I had the opportunity to visit blue lake which is located just on the other side of the Warner Mountains. The area surrounding the lake burned in a wild fire a few years ago. I had never seen the beautiful destruction that a fire can cause. Awe struck is the appropriate way to describe how I felt. I am nearing half way, and aim for a new experience every day!
This evening marks the end of my first week in Cedarville, CA. Cedarville is a sleepy town in the top northeastern corner of California. Much of the work conducted by the Cedarville BLM takes place in Nevada. To move from state to state within many of my work days is a completely new experience for me. I am currently still becoming acquainted with the region that the Cedarville BLM covers and the possible terrain that I will be directly working with. Thus far my days have been filled with invigorating field work. Today I saw my first baby rattlesnake. Because I am coming from the state of Maine I am not accustomed to working in such a dry climate. However Cedarville is experiencing an exceptionally wet year. Many lakes that have been dried up for over five years have filled again. I have been told that there is a lot more green landscape than normal for this time of the year. The full moon shone on the alkali last night. To view a full moon shining on such a majestic landscape was breath taking. The vast sage-step ecosystem that dominates this area carries one of the most wonderful aromas. The lupins here seem like miniature versions of the lupins we have in Maine. There is a large Native American presence here and there has been for quite some time. The archeologist working at the station tells me that this is one of the most archeological rich places she has ever experienced. The ground is littered with artifacts, there is an endless number of obsidian flakes that are the result of the manipulation of stone by the ancient Natives. In summary my days have been filled with entirely new experiences each and every day! It has been a long day and a long week in the field and my brain is not quite recalling all of the amazing things that have happened. However this post quickly sums up everything that has caused me to gasp! I have not been here long and I have only given you a quick introduction to my experiences so far, but there is more to come! So stay tuned!