The End

Hoffmannseggia glauco, my favorite plant that we collected seed from for SOS.

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name…

…and that horse was a primer grey Toyota Tundra with 160,000 miles on it.

This internship has been beyond incredible.  I’ve learned more in the past ten months than my freshman year of college.  Spending the majority of my time out in the field has allowed me to experience so many unique things – amazing animals, picturesque sunsets, gorgeous scenery, and even a wild looking local or two.  How many 24 year-old girls can say they have changed a flat tire on a dirt road in Death Valley in 116° heat?

What I love most about science is that there is always more to learn.  The more we learn about the world around us, the better we are able to understand how all of the components of the environment connect.  A more complete understanding of these systems enables scientists to make intelligent decisions to manage our natural resources.  I want future generations to be able to experience the environment in the same way I have been so fortunate to.  Through my course, work, and life experiences, I have developed a diverse background in soil science, watershed management, sustainable agriculture, and wildlife biology.  This botany internship has given me a better understanding of how ecosystems are connected.  I want to work in environmental restoration and leave a positive impact on the world.  This job has brought me one step closer to achieving this dream.  Many thanks to all of the wonderful people at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and the CLM program!

–Christi Gabriel

Experts tire changers, pretty good at collecting seeds too.

We have been done with our spring SOS seed collecting for a couple of months now and have been stuck in the office doing loads of computer and paper work.  It took us 4 or 5 weeks to get through all of the important stuff and now we have some free time.  Hooray!  I’ve been taking advantage of the free GIS courses I signed up for through BLM.  I mostly self-taught myself to use ArcGIS, so learning the actual best way to do things is very interesting.  I’ve also gotten to help out on rare plant surveys and other projects that I don’t usually have time for.  We have some awesome trips planned for the Fall, so now we wait.  Even though I’m stuck in the office during the week, I still get plenty of time outdoors on the weekends.

This summer has flown by – I only have about one month left in Southern California.  We just cataloged all of our seed collections, which took almost a full ten hours  to complete.  It was incredibly satisfying to see the several hundred bags from our thirty something collections all laid out and organized.  In a strange way, it’s like seeing our babies all grown up.  But, by “babies” I mean grocery bags full seeds and “grown up” I mean fully dried, photographed, and packed to be shipped.

Now that all of the spring annuals have dried up, we have been in the office entering all of our data and completing other paperwork.  We have just finished identifying all of our vouchers and have started creating labels for the specimens staying at our Herbarium.   Honestly, I thought this would be much more boring than it is turning out to be.  It has been a nice change to be in the office and great to have  more time to get to know the other folks working at the Herbarium.

Earlier this week, our collection team was able to attend a Desert Managers Group restoration workshop in Barstow.  Learning about the successes and challenges of groups working to restore, conserve, and protect the southwest U.S. was very fascinating.  As a young person interested in environmental conservation, it was also exciting to learn about opportunities in the region in restoration.


I arrived in Southern California with my life condensed down to a couple suitcases and a feeling of excited anticipation that only comes from beginning a new adventure.  I had flown across the country for an internship with the Seeds of Success (SOS) project at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, California.  I was excited and a little anxious about beginning my new job in a place I’d never been before.  Like the majority of CLM Interns, I majored in environmental science in college.  The focus of my studies and previous employments was sustainable agriculture – researching methods to produce food that is both healthy for people and the planet.  I know a lot about the environment in controlled settings, like on a farm, but haven’t had much exposure to studying natural lands.  The SOS internship sounded like a prime opportunity to learn about an ecosystem that was completely different than any I had ever been exposed to and a chance to apply my background in environmental sciences off a farm.

Over the first few weeks on the job, I was inundated with new information.  For example, the preferred language of botanists is Latin; I had forgotten this wasn’t truly a dead language.  I had to quickly adjust to not using the common names of plants.  I sometimes had difficulty placing the plant I was looking at in the correct family I was learning, let alone using Latin to name it.  Rancho Santa Ana has a huge herbarium, which was also a new thing to me.  I had been in one once before, but never appreciated all the work that goes into to making a useful herbarium specimen.  Desert plants are obviously much different than those of the deciduous forests I lived amongst my whole life.  At first glance, everything seemed so spiney and prickley.  Once I learned to look beyond the defenses, I saw the wonderful beauty these beings exude .  For a while, everything seemed so new that I felt I hardly knew anything.

I’m now in the third month of my internship and I have happily realized I recognize a lot of the plants I see.  I even know some of the other plants I can expect to be close by.  And because I spend about 25 hours a week working in the field, I’ve also learned a lot of the reptiles, mammals, and birds that are fortunate enough to call Southern California home.

It’s been a refreshing change to apply what I studied in college to new landscapes and to ecosystems that aren’t manipulated by man the way agroecosystems are.  Now that I’ve began to make my way up the learning curve for Southern California botany, the HOT weather has arrived and the plants are drying up.  I hope I can maintain what I’ve learned and continue to build to it.  I want to be the type of environmental professional who knows how all the parts of an ecosystem are connected.  This internship is helping me connect some strings of the web of life and I am enjoying the experience.