Last week concluded my five month internship at the USGS in Las Vegas, Nevada. I have had an incredible, unforgettable experience working here – it’s hard to believe it’s already over and that I have to say goodbye to my fellow CLM interns and the wonderful crew at USGS that I had the great pleasure of working with.
If you’ve been reading my blog posts, you may have read about the diversity of projects that I’ve been working on over the last few months. At the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in northern Arizona, I helped survey experimental plots that had varying combinations of herbicide and seeding treatments, which were being analyzed for effectiveness for use in large-scale restoration. In the Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park, California, I helped monitor two endemic desert dune species by assisting with physiological measurements on target plants. I also helped out with a project which involved vegetation surveys to see see how much forage material was available for desert tortoises that were being translocated to a new area.
However, the project that I believe I spent the most time working on throughout my internship was our “common garden” experiment. At the beginning of my internship (February-March) we established three “common garden” sites to assess ecotypic variation of three different perennial species commonly used for restoration. Over the next few months (March-July) we went back to these sites several times to water the plants to help them establish as well as take measurements (ex. cover, density, reproductive effort) on each plant. This project was very rewarding because it was the only project we helped out with that was in its first year. We helped out with every phase of this project – from digging trenches for the rodent-proof fencing to planting over 2000 plants to working on data analysis in our final weeks. Data collection will continue for another few years, and it will be very interesting to see what findings come out of this experiment that we lent an initial helping hand with!
I’m so grateful to have spent these months in the Mojave desert. Before arriving here, I didn’t know anything about the desert really, and now upon leaving, I feel as if I know this landscape intimately and I have grown to respect and admire its extremes. Surviving in this environment was certainly challenging, but I have learned a great deal from these challenges. To all the new CLM interns just starting out – I wish you the best of luck with your internships! Immerse yourself as much as possible in your new environments and enjoy!
Thanks for reading!
— Meaghan Petix
Las Vegas Field Office, USGS