Yellow Cottonwood Leaves

Well mates, what can I say? It’s officially time to call down the final curtain on my experience in Idaho. It’s a strange feeling. I honestly couldn’t summarize my experience in a little blurb or string of sappy adjectives. Because my whole time out here, from April to October has been made up of these little moments (milliseconds really if you look at it in the grand scheme of life) that have made me smile, think, learn or laugh uncontrollably and I could not hope to describe their meaning and significance.IMG_6632

It’s amazing to me how much Idaho has become part of my life—even the little things, like visiting the library or the long daily drive out to the field sites. I came out to Idaho back in April with little idea of what to expect, since this was my first time out west. It was a whole new landscape, set of plant species and environment but I ended up learning so much about working in an agency, fieldwork, plant identification and western history and culture. I never imagined how beautiful my CLM state and neighbors would be, or how many adventures I’d go on!IMG_7885

I think I can speak for all CLM interns when I say we all moved out somewhere foreign and made a new life for ourselves. New routine, new people, new lifestyle. We should all be proud of ourselves for being able to do that…as well as grateful for that opportunity. I feel incredibly lucky to have been an intern on this program and met amazing people and worked in a government agency. I not only had the opportunity to complete different types of monitoring, wetland delineations and rare plant surveys in crews, but also to shadow staff in my field office to experience what their work entails, which provided me with insight on what career path I would be most interested in. I was constantly struck by how kind and open-minded all my co-workers and BLM staff were, welcoming us into their office and sharing advice and their experiences with us interns.IMG_8559

I think the perfect way to say goodbye to Idaho was returning to the beginning of our crew adventures when we camped at the Diamond A. This last week that I worked as an intern, we went back to our Big Cottonwood campsite near Murphy Hot Springs. We marveled at how much it had changed with the seasons passing. We first camped there in spring when the river rolled by so fast and the canyon had not fully greened into summer. We continually visited the area in the summer and as I discussed in a previous post, a lot of memories were forged in this site. But this time the cottonwoods were yellow and the grasses were golden. 100_0222

The air was crisp, but there was this stillness to it that made one feel like the canyon was holding its breath. And the colors! It was as if someone had taken a paintbrush and painted all the leaves yellow! It was beautiful. While I missed the green leaves and warm summer days, but at the same time, I collected some yellow cottonwood leaves. It seems that everything has its time, but it can’t last forever. The things that truly matter, that mean the most to us, we always take with us and revisit.100_0224

And so, with that my dear Idaho, I bid you farewell, knowing that when I direct my myself east on Route 30 to leave Twin Falls behind, there is no doubt in my mind that someday I will return.

So long for now,

Maria Paula

Jarbidge Field Office

Bureau of Land Management

Twin Falls, IdahoIMG_9572

Riverside Romp

It’s September and fall has finally come to Idaho! It really surprised me how colorful the foliage gets out here and how distinct the change in seasons is. We don’t have a lot of trees out here, but the willows and aspens are changing and if you go further north in Idaho towards Stanley there are many more trees changing to shades of red and gold.


And speaking of gold, a spectacular change has come over our field office. The green grasses have given way to the steady sunshine, turning into a sweet gold that is swept around by the whims of the crisp autumn wind. Makes me smile to walk through it as we do Lepa surveys and reminds me of the Eva Cassidy song “Fields of Gold” (that reference was for you, my dear Emily).

This month, I was able to experience fall in the most unique of ways—visiting Yellowstone National Park for the first time! Ricecake, Avery and I went on this adventure and had a blast. This was my first time and although I grew up reading about it, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We spent the first day looking at geysers around the western side of the park near Old Faithful. The geysers were so cool! IMG_9069While exploring the paths around the geysers, we even saw a coyote. Later that night in our campsite, as I curled up in my sleeping bag against the cold night air, I heard the unmistakable bugle of an elk. There was some commotion near our campsite, and it seemed that the elk was very close-by. It was so thrilling to hear it bugle as it continued on and off throughout the time I was awake…the sound was ghostly, almost ethereal…yet mournful at the same time, I’d never heard anything like it.

Throughout the time of our stay, we saw bison, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, elk, mule deer, a badger, hot springs and an endless array of lovely landscapes.IMG_9199

My favorite part was Lamar Valley, which is where the wolves are most populous. I knew it was a long shot to actually see one, but I was most excited to wander around their territory and imagine them watching us from the shadows. We found some wolf scat and prints, which I was rather shamelessly excited about.


The Lamar River was a beautiful place to eat lunch! Later we climbed down to the riverside to become children again, scrambling around the shore rocks yelping in delight at each colorful rock or piece of petrified wood we found (and of course did not collect). We kept finding the coolest rock ever, and then someone would find one even cooler and then someone else would a find a green one…no this white one! No! This piece of petrified wood! Look how pretty it shines in the stream water! Look at mine! And it went on until we chose the best ones to photograph. Truth is, I could have spent the whole day along the Lamar River making all these awesome finds. I can’t tell you what part of the visit was my favorite, but this riverside romp comes pretty close!


Around the valley, we had to give the bison a wide berth, even when they were on the path. The immensity of their stature was insane and the park service was very clear that they could outrun or gore one of us easily. I never felt unsafe, but I couldn’t stop gawking at their intimidating furry beast bodies, especially when they’d get close to the car on the road.

We left the park several times to camp on forest service land, which turned out to be way more fun than getting an established campsite. The starry night we spent in Montana was definitely my favorite! I would recommend anyone who is doing a CLM internship near Wyoming (future CLM interns, are you reading this?) to go to the Yellowstone, especially during the fall off-season. As for me, I hope someday to return to Yellowstone, to see new things but also revisit the old, and think back fondly on this first adventure.


Maria Paula

Jarbidge Field Office

Bureau of Land Management

Twin Falls, Idaho

Rocky Canyon Cubicle

This week we’ve been checking the condition of fences for cattle access, especially in canyon areas where they may try to sneak down to get to the streams and riparian areas below. It may sound like really mundane work, but I think for me at least, it’s been one of the most exciting parts of the internship.


Not because checking for cattle hoof prints or trails down the canyons is particularly thrilling, but the access points take you to these beautiful, remote places. You can’t just do the work and leave. Nobody in their right mind could do just that. It’s places like these that require a thorough exploration. You never know what you’ll find! There are really cool rocks, nooks in the cliffs, wildlife, caves and of course, photos to take.


I always feel so lucky that I get to explore the furthest reaches of the middle of nowhere. Even though I’m an outsider (and an easterner at that), I feel like I get to know and see places that even native Idahoans never see. It’s definitely a perk of the job. A bunch of my friends back home have daily routines that include getting up later in the morning, working an office job in a cubicle all day and going home. They may jog or take a walk around the neighborhood or perhaps even take a weekend trip, but how many end up driving out two hours to a remote location in the pre-dawn hours, scaling up and down a rocky cliff side and assessing the status of a wetland all before lunch? I am incredibly lucky to do the things I do!4

A few days ago, Ricecake and I were checking out a riparian area down in Murphy Canyon and on the way up from the riparian area, we found a cool cave and rock formation that we checked put for a while. We even found some blue rocks! We’re thinking the blue and white parts on the rocks are some sort of calcium deposit. There were only a small areas that had these rocks, we’ve worked around here before and never seen them. What a lucky find! A perfect way to end August.

Thanks for reading!

Maria Paula

Jarbidge Field Office

Bureau of Land Management

Twin Falls, Idaho

Foothills to Canyons

Hello everyone,

It’s funny to read my last post from back at the end of June…along with my crewmates I was moving our camping site to a sheep pasture to continue HAF monitoring in the foothills. Since then we’ve been also monitoring wetlands, attending trainings and moving on to working with thermograph data!

skyFirst of all, although we finished after the first week of July, it wouldn’t be right to leave out our last week of camping and HAF monitoring from this blog entry. The sheep pasture turned out to be a spot fairly close to the main road so that it wasn’t as remote, but far enough that we could take a quiet walk through the grassland or climb the hill behind our trailer to see the stars and watch the sun sink into the horizon at the end of the day. Those two weeks that we spent finishing HAF and living in that pasture definitely presented a whole new set of challenges and new experiences. In a way, it was like going back to the beginning of the season: we worked in unfamiliar roads in more remote sites that took longer to navigate and hike to. IMG_7075Also the vegetation species richness (amount of different species) just about exploded in the foothills, I’d never seen such a high forb density and we were taking plenty of specimens back to identify, so we learned a lot of new species! The fields of lupine and penstemon created a beautiful landscape of red, purple and yellow, you could even smell the lupine!

On the weekends, I’ve been going on some trips to explore the west, including Dinosaur National Monument, Ritter Island, Shoshone Falls and even Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming! On the way back, I caught a glimpse of northern alpine Colorado and I want to check it out more. But I am absolutely in love with Utah (so much like San Juan!), so I’m building up a list of places to hike and camp in on my way out at the end of the internship.utah

Living in a trailer, I realized how content I am living in small spaces. It’s cozy to be in a nook, taking up a small amount of space with a wild, empty expanse around you. Now that our fieldwork camping is at an end, we are driving from our field office daily to our work sites, often to collect data on wetland vegetation, attributes and map it on GIS. But now we are also downloading the thermograph data, which consists of using a GPS to find the thermograph apparatus, which is staked down in a stream pool collecting water temperature data and importing the data onto a field computer before re-launching the thermograph again to gather data for another year.

These thermograph streams are often in remote canyons, so we’ve been lucky to see a lot of cool landscapes, plants and rock formations. I love sitting back against an aspen and thinking about when the last human was last there.


Of course, in terms of some of the thermograph sites, someone visits them annually, but they probably don’t stop at the places we would stop or go further beyond the thermograph sites.  But leaning against this exact tree? Perhaps I am the first.

Working on wetland inventories takes us to more lush regions with access to water, so the vegetation tends to include riparian sedges and rushes.

Sometimes we’ll see birds, and we always are on the lookout for wildlife. I think we’ll also start Lepa monitoring (rare peppergrass species) pretty soon!

‘Till next time!

Maria Paula

Jarbidge Field Office

Twin Falls, Idaho


Fond memories and new beginnings

Hey everyone,

Well, a lot has happened since my last post! There’s been fieldwork and new sites, weekend adventures and the Chicago workshop, where I met fellow interns and participated in seminars.

I’d never been to the Midwest, so the workshop week was full of fun experiences for me. One of the first things I noticed was that northern Illinois reminds me a lot of the northeast, with its lush, green forests full of trees and plants familiar to me.


The same trees I climbed as a child, the same forests I built forts in, ran through trying to spot wildlife and pretend I was an explorer roughing it through the wilderness and living in nature alone.That was really neat, like a quick taste of home. The gardens in the Chicago Botanic Garden were beautiful, with a place for everyone to enjoy. In between activities and seminars, I liked walking around and getting lost, taking way too many photos and geeking out on the plants. Watching other visitors, there were people of all ages—elderly couples, children, younger people, it seemed like they all found a place in here. Whether it was sitting by a bubbling fountain, walking through the dwarf shrub gardens or my personal favorite, the vegetable gardens and English wall gardens, everyone had that look of contented enjoyment. Perhaps I am projecting myself a tiny bit, but I distinctly remember walking by a pair of older women chatting animatedly on a bench, purses abandoned and gesticulating wildly. IMG_6754They caught my attention because they reminded me of the elderly ladies in Argentina during the afternoon siesta, exchanging gossip from across their verandas or out on the plaza. Giggling like schoolgirls, their banter can always be heard over the silence of sleepy afternoon as they happily share information and camaraderie. I also noticed people walked slower in gardens, like all the needs to rush about and make it to one place or another did not matter within the confines of the sculpted hedges and rose bushes. I liked that. Sometimes I wish people were more like that outside in the real world, journey-lovers versus destination seekers. It’s something I think all of us forget from time to time and I try to incorporate in my own life. Stop and smell those flowers! 🙂

Anyway, besides the garden, I liked meeting my peers, hearing about their work and attending the lectures. My favorites were definitely the population genetics lecture, a topic I find fascinating, especially in plant ecology, and Dean Tonenna’s talk on Numa culture and history. I love learning about new cultures and the artifacts he brought were beautiful. So unique to a people and each basket or jug had a story.IMG_6738

It was interesting how some interns had been at their offices as long as I had, while others had just started a week ago. I tried putting myself in their shoes, remembering what it was to have finished my first week and thought about what I’d like to accomplish now that I’m about two months in. I certainly want to explore Idaho a bit more and learn more of the alpine forbs that we may encounter soon. I also realized that I am not as quick to identify trees in the northwest as I would like (mostly because we don’t encounter them regularly), so I checked out a guide book, which I think will be handy to learn from in case we come across more trees. Haha, and also simply because I like trees.

But going back to enjoying the journey and maintaining enthusiasm for simple pleasures, before going to Chicago, my crew and I bade farewell to our Diamond A campsite. I was surprised at the little tinge of sadness I felt as I saw our Cottonwood campsite shrink in the rearview mirror.  The Diamond A was a rugged allotment, that’s for sure. We had cold, rainy days when the thunderclouds seemed to roll out of nowhere and biting winds that made you want to just snuggle deeper into your sleeping bag.  There were muddy roads and long drives to get out into our sites. But the snowcapped mountains, the new forbs and thrill of being out there in the wilderness were beyond all of that. daI loved the warm glow of the sun on my cheek when it managed to break through the grey sky and seep down through the ridges of the rocky canyons. The colors on the cliff rocks and the lighting as the sun lowered in the horizon…indescribable.

Coming back to the camp at the end of the long day, I’m sure it meant different things for everyone. For me, seeing our clunky white trailer, the fire pit and the picnic table in our campsite clearing—I had the sense that I was being welcomed home. Welcome to unpack our gear, change clothes and settle down to id plants, chat with my crew mates or sit by the Bruneau River to watch it roll by. To step back from our narrow focus of the task at hand (our vegetation monitoring) and drink in the vast mountains and landscapes unperturbed by the urban sprawl less than three hours away, feeling the solitary wilderness we were living in.

da2Even after a long day, I enjoyed an evening walk down the twisted canyon road away from the campsite to marvel at all the rock formations and reflect on the day. I had a special spot further down the road tucked under some junipers, where a twisted branch provided a perfect spot to for a girl to curl up and listen to the river and the birds. As the horizon darkened, the star-filled night and moon caught high up in the cliffs made me feel incredibly small, yet thankful to be a part of the moment.

I’ve always been amazed at how quickly one phase of life can unfold into another and our bodies and minds shift with it. I suppose it’s a testament of the human ability to adapt and hold on to memories of people and places we care about as we move along on this earth. This week we are headed to a new camping site in a sheep corral, which will be a mostly grassy area with—you guessed it—sheep. Our trailer is already there and I’m excited that it will be our new home site. I have yet to live in grassy wide-open area, so can’t wait to experience that. I am picturing this vast expanse of crested grasses rippling in the howling wind and an endless sky of rolling clouds and beautiful starry nights. But then again, that is classic Maria Paula romanticized imagination. Anyway, I’m excited for our new home and adventures!


‘Til next time!!

Maria Paula

Jarbidge Field Office

Twin Falls, ID




Camping in the Diamond A

Hello everyone,

Just finished up my first week doing vegetation monitoring and camping! Working at the Jarbidge Field Office has been really fun and I’ve learned a lot so far-especially about how an agency like the BLM functions and the typical workdays of techs. Most of my day consists of being out in the sagebrush, gathering data on the habitat vegetation composition and whether it is adequate for sage grouse.IMG_6566

I work in a crew that collects plant canopy measurements using point intercept transects. We also do stem counts on forbs that constitute an important part sage grouse habitat. The forbs are starting to flower more now too.

A lot of my time is spent driving to the field sites in our truck, but I’ve become really familiar with the more rural and agricultural areas (possibly where they grow potatoes?) on the city outskirts.IMG_6608

This week I’ve been up in the mountains of the “Diamond A” allotment of BLM land. The mountains are still snow-capped, and although with the cold, rain and snow you can tell that the area is a very harsh living environment; it has a rugged beauty that makes it breath taking to work in. While out in the field I saw my first badger ever and a golden eagle. I also met some of the ranchers driving cattle through the pastures on their horses (looking every bit like cowboys from old westerns, haha), which was really cool. It was pretty rainy and cold, so we had to return into town earlier than planned, but the weather this coming week is supposed to be much better.

Twin Falls continues to be a nice and quiet city to live in and I’ve had the opportunity to travel a bit more around the area, including the Magic Reservoir, Sun Valley and Balanced Rock, the latter of which is literally an Idaho-shaped rock balanced on a cliff on the road next to one of the field sites.IMG_6618

Next week I will be heading back out into the “Diamond A” for another week of camping and habitat assessment. Can’t wait!!

Maria Paula

Twin Falls Jarbidge Field Office

Sagebrush and Leks in Twin Falls, ID

Hello everybody!

Beautiful snow-capped mountains!

Beautiful snow-capped mountains!

Just finished up a whirlwind first week here in the Jarbidge BLM Field Office in Twin Falls, ID and it’s been great so far! Aside from training, I got to join along an agency tour of some sites managed by my field office, which was amazing! It is still cold enough in the higher elevations that the mountains were still snow-capped. I was also lucky enough to get out before dawn to see some sage grouse leks and help with the male counts, which was really cool!

On my free time, I’ve checked some of the hidden gem spots between Twin Falls and Boise, which offer tons of recreational activities, especially hiking and photography, two of my favorites. I’m amazed by how much history is packed into this state and the different landscapes! Some recommended places are Malad Gorge, Bonneville Point, and anywhere in Thousand Springs State Park. I’m a bit of a history nerd, so I was pretty excited to learn more about the portions of the Oregon Trail which ran through Idaho, and it was cool to see the marked pass points and wagon wheel ruts that still exist today.

The sagebrush landscape

The sagebrush landscape

Ritter Island was still closed from the winter season, but it’s supposedly a birder’s paradise, so I plan to go up there pretty soon again because it looked beautiful from the gates.





Next week we start some monitoring projects and spend more time out in the field. Can’t wait!


Maria Paula

Jarbidge Field Office, Twin Falls, ID

Indian paintbrush!

Indian paintbrush!