A long trip home

As I write my last blog post, I’m sitting in my living room back in Kansas in the midst of a job search, hoping to find something that will tide me over until next field season. My internship in Wyoming is complete, and it was with a heavy heart that I left to start a new chapter. My time with the BLM was amazing, and I feel like I learned just as much this last summer as I did my whole undergrad career. From how to beat the sun where there are no trees, to what kind of food to pack for long field days, to which mud puddles are perhaps not worth the risk of driving through, my experience has given me the opportunity to learn many things about the world around me, as well as myself.

Certainly the hardest part of leaving my internship was saying goodbye to all of the wonderful people I met in Buffalo. I had the pleasure of working for some amazing people at the BLM, and I was very sad to leave them. Although they see new interns every summer, they still made us feel just as welcome as anyone else in the office, and they did their best to assure that we were involved in some very cool projects. It was also great working with Krissa and Wes (though I didn’t get the chance to meet them in person), as they were always very understanding and ready to help with anything we needed. Most of all, I will dearly miss my fellow CLM interns Sean, Nick, and Kelly. It was really great working with this crew, and we had an absolute blast this summer. I made many good friends in Wyoming, and I should hope I get the pleasure of seeing them again someday.

I really can’t say enough good things about this program. I had an amazing experience working with CLM and the BLM, and I would highly recommend this program to anyone looking for an internship in plant or environmental science.

Wrapping up in Buffalo

Hello all! My internship is nearly complete here in Wyoming, but we’re not done yet. Although field season for plants is long gone, there have been other opportunities to get outside to enjoy the brisk weather. Just last week, we were able to accompany a couple of archaeologists in inspecting a proposed waterline route. An oil company wanted to install an above-ground waterline to a well, and we were tasked with checking the surface on the proposed route for any artifacts that may require preservation. Finds would typically include Native American artifacts, such as tools and projectiles, as well as artifacts from the early 20th century. We didn’t find anything that the Smithsonian would be excited about, but we did find a rusty can holed with a knife, whose dimensions dated it approximately in the mid-20th century!

We have also been involved in tree thinning projects, which are parts of both fuels reduction and habitat restoration projects. Ponderosa pine thinning was part of a massive fuels reduction project in beautiful Mosier Gulch, which involved a lot of stick-stacking. We followed behind the saws, picking up the debris and making slash piles for burning. Making good piles for burning is a kind of art form, and we were experts by the time we were done! I was also briefly involved in a juniper thinning project, whose goal is to eliminate juniper encroachment on sage grouse habitat. The Montana Conservation Corps was called out to do the sawing and snipping, and we were tasked with documenting the project in terms of before and after photos, as well as using GPS to map the treated area. Alas, I didn’t get to do any of the actual work, but being involved in the logistics stage gave me an idea of what they were doing, and why they were doing it.

It would seem our trips into the Bighorn Mountains are done, as snow has made driving up there very dicey. None of us wants to be the one to call for help after we get stuck somewhere-we’ve had enough close calls this summer. I’ll be done next week, so my adventure time is limited-I hope to make the most of it! Until then.

Daniel Collis

BLM-Buffalo, WY

Working on Miscellany

Hello all!

It seems like ages since my last post on this blog. I see everyone is still very busy in their internships, those of us who haven’t already completed theirs anyway. Things are still rolling fairly smoothly here in Buffalo, WY as well. Our field monitoring season has ended some time ago, and now we are in a different sort of work entirely. I miss our old task of driving to the middle of nowhere to lay down a transect and collect some hard data, but our new tasks are every bit as interesting, if not more so.

A little while ago, we got to help out with a high school biology field trip by teaching the kids about various topics in ecology. It was a whirlwind of activity, but it was a lot of fun! My station involved drawing a tree stump using materials found in the forest, and then writing a poem about the stump to share with the group. There were lots of groans (“Poetry?! Ugh!”), but I think the kids secretly enjoyed their little creative task. We have also been involved in some burn pile monitoring, which involved wandering around the forest to locate isolated piles of slash and marking it with a GPS point so that it gets burned. That was a great couple of days, and we even found some unexpected scenery to enjoy! Perhaps my favorite task recently was to help re-blaze a BLM trail in the Bighorn Mountains called Poison Creek. The trail was beautiful, and it felt good to be helping with a public service to make the trail more enjoyable for everyone. This internship keeps getting better, and I sorta wish it would never end! Alas, it will be over soon, but that is for a later blog. Until then.


The “S” word (Sage Grouse)

Field season is just about wrapped up here in northeastern Wyoming, and it’s a bittersweet parting. As much as it may have seemed like we were hanging out in an oven replete with stinging insects and UV radiation, working out in the field is always fun and rewarding. There’s nothing quite like standing in the middle of nowhere with a pencil and a yardstick, using your knowledge and experience to play a major role in deciding the future of the land around you. It seems that these parts (at least the BLM parts) are destined to remain sagebrush grasslands for the foreseeable future in order to provide essential habitat for the Sage Grouse.

Yep, I said it. Sage Grouse. You might call it something of a “hot topic” around here. Sage Grouse conservation is a primary concern of our BLM office, a fact that is not lost on land owners in the area. These animals require sagebrush throughout their life cycles, so naturally sagebrush removal is typically not allowed on BLM land. Many land owners have come to terms with this fact, and seem to grudgingly accept the restraints in return for renting BLM grazing pasture at a low cost.

A few, however, are extremely irritated by “sage chicken” conservation efforts, and are not afraid to let people know it! Another touchy subject with some people is the mere mention of being affiliated with the U.S. government, which can lead to some deft maneuvering through racy commentaries on current and past administrations. However, for every cantankerous land owner we come across, we’ve encountered at least three others who are really understanding and willing to help us get to where we need to go and do what we need to do. Negative experiences leave an impression, but the positive has certainly won out throughout the course of my internship.

Alas, now it’s time to start transforming this mound of field data we’ve collected into something that people can use for land management decisions. I’m trying not to think too much about my internship being over halfway complete, and having to eventually leave behind all the cool people I’ve met *sniff*, so I’ll leave that for my next blog. Until next time.


Every day is field day!

Hello fellow interns! I hope you’re having a wonderful time in your respective locations. Time is certainly flying by here in Buffalo, WY. My internship is already at its halfway point, which means a job search is probably in my near future. As much as I love my job here, I know it won’t last forever (sigh). My fellow interns and I have made lots of progress in both Seeds of Success and range monitoring duties. One of the things I love about working at the BLM is the amount of flexibility we have. People can coordinate interdisciplinary projects without too much headache, and it really helps to get things done when essential staff are gone. The SOS interns have been a huge help in our range monitoring duties, and us range interns have been able to assist SOS with some collections as well. However, field season is winding down (as I’m sure you all know) and there are opportunities to get involved with other projects. Just yesterday we were able to help with a project to clear out an area overgrown with pine trees by stacking the felled trees to prepare them for burning. Hopefully we will get to spend more time in the mountains for work, but we shall see. It’s nice taking these big work trucks into the wilderness, for they can reach places that my little Toyota Camry cannot.

Our work in the field is typically lots of fun. An interesting thing I’ve learned is the amount of variability in landowner attitudes towards government entities. Many ranchers and landowners are friendly and understanding when they deal with government employees. I enjoy these people, because they make our job much easier. Some people are relatively indifferent, or grudginly cooperative. A select few are downright rude, and even openly hostile. The latter can certainly ruin your day, as some fellow interns have discovered. All in all, a day in the field is typically a day well spent. Sometimes field work can get a little monotonous, but I’ve found it’s easy to spice things up by serenading your co-workers with some ’80s pop hits. Roxette always seems to make the day go by faster! It’s also a plus if you have awesome people to work with. I just happened to get lucky and be stuck with a bunch of fellow Alanis Morissette fans. How cool is that! Anyway, if you made it this far, thanks for reading and enjoy your weekend!

My new favorite season: field season!

Man, are we busy! Training is finally over, and field season is in full swing. We are working long hours most days to complete a long list of allotments due for monitoring, and it’s getting pretty hot up here in Wyoming. Given all that, I still wouldn’t trade my job for anything! I love coming to work every day, and the people here are awesome. I had some reservations about moving to a town as small as Buffalo, but I’m glad I took the plunge. It’s hard to get used to most of the stores closing before I get off work, but there are plenty of other things to do besides shopping. I still haven’t explored much of the Big Horn Mountains yet, but there are lots of trails and things close to town that are really neat. My new favorite haunt is the Clear Creek Brewery, which I would highly recommend to anyone passing through here.

It’s kind of sad that field season is almost over: it really flew by. However, I know that the indoor parts of range management are just as important as the outdoor parts, if not quite as much fun. Anyway, I hope all my fellow CBG interns are having as much fun as we are here in Buffalo! Stay safe in the field – you run into all kinds of crazy stuff, as I’m sure you all have figured out. One important lesson I’ve learned out there: you can never have too much water!

Into the West

The past couple of weeks have been intense. I was offered my internship a week before graduating from the University of Kansas, so I had a week for finals, a week for packing, and then I headed straight for my new home: Buffalo, Wyoming! I have found out that living in Kansas is about as far west as you can get in America without actually being in “the West”, as the feel of frontier days still permeates the countryside. Things move slower here, people talk more, and Mother Nature is indomitable. Buffalo is situated at the base of the Bighorn Mountains, which is part of the Rocky Mountains. The scenery is beautiful, and almost every day in the field is picturesque. The people I have encountered here are very welcoming and friendly, making the transition much easier. My fellow interns are awesome, and the staff at the BLM in Buffalo are more helpful and understanding than I could have ever hoped for. I am being trained primarily in range management, which involves evaluating land leased out by the BLM for species composition and overall ecological health and productivity. The work is very involved, and I feel like I have learned more in the past ten days than I learned in entire semesters of college! Anyway, I have taken quite a fancy to my job and where I work, and I wish it would never end!