Farewell Oregon

I finished up my internship in Northeast Oregon as summer came to an end. The weather seemed to herald the autumn arrival with cooler days and much needed rain. Even our local mountains, the Elkhorns, had a dusting of snow! I started with the thaw of spring and left with the (slight) chill of fall. I will certainly miss the beautiful landscape that surrounded our office with its seemingly endless open space to explore.

My final month(s) of my internship were a mixture of water quality monitoring, riparian assessments, office work and a few fish surveys! I was very excited to have the opportunity to wok with our fish biologist, learning about the life cycle of salmon and how to find ideal salmon habitat, such as redd sites throughout our rivers. We took a tour of a large scale creek restoration project, focusing improving salmon spawning. I was fascinated by the different techniques and specialities involved with creating viable salmonoid habitat from constructing channel shifts to re-vegetation of banks.

Catherine Creek

In my final weeks at the BLM, I finished up my independent project of determining thermal regimes of streams within the Powder River Basin. I was specifically examining how grazing may be impacting the stream temperatures by complying historic temperature and grazing data, along with flow levels, elevation and a variety of other factors. After analyzing the data through correlations and linear regression models, I found there was a notable positive relationship between the level of grazing and maximum average temperature. Other factors, such as elevation and percent of BLM ownership, also had a role. My report suggests further examination of stream temperatures in the basin as my analysis was limited in scope, but showed there exists potential effects of grazing.

My internship through the Chicago Botanic Garden has given me a good perspective of the management side of conservation. Before CBG,  I had mostly been involved on the research side of examining impacts and recommending shifts in management. Carrying out the objectives of any management plan has its successes and obstacles. I have seen or heard how many plans have to be alter once implementation begins in the field. Through my independent project, I learned about how many government agencies work on improving the efficacy of restoration plans through cycles of research and monitoring. The success of restoration and conservation relies on both. Monitoring often provides the long term data that research relies on for trends. These trends are the starting point for many a research question. As someone who is thoroughly invested in pursuing a research career, I enjoyed coming to understand the role monitoring serves not only for management plans but also future scientific study.

I would like to thank Krissa, Rebecca, and the rest of CBG.


Phillips Lake

Vale District Office, BLM

Midsummer Notes

I am over half way through my time here at the BLM in Baker City. There is rhythm to our team as field sites and protocols become familiar. Stream channel assessments have changed up the routine a bit though with new techniques like plant identification!

We started off by attending training on multiple indicator monitoring (known hereafter as MIM) for riparian systems. The focus of MIM is quantifying the impacts of grazing on streams from bank stability to plant composition. The training brought people from a variety of backgrounds from range management to geo engineering. MIM has a holistic approach, attempting to account for all forms alterations. While alterations are examined individually, their potential relationships are examined in the final analysis. In the field, we discussed these connections as we practiced the methods of MIM. I found it intriguing to examine the morphology of streams as well as riparian vegetation.

Conducting MIMs on our own sites has been a real eye opener. Our first stream was in poor condition with highly eroding banks and little plant biomass left after cattle are taken off. It is shocking and disheartening to hear from my mentor how difficult it can be to have the grazing reduced on such allotments. It is a consequence of a working landscape. Ranchers often depend on free range grazing in the summer and cannot feed the cattle sufficiently otherwise. However, the impairment of these valuable ecosystems is gaining notice as evident by the growing importance of MIM in BLM.

I often find myself struggling with the complex and seemingly conflictingly commitments of the BLM. The reconciliation of conservation and resource utilization has been a subject of many a class or book of mine, yet the challenges are something I feel I am only beginning to grasp. It is easy to ignore when sites are part of large swaths of conserved land like some of our streams (see below), but it is evident in these highly degraded streams that there is still much to be done.

potters creek

Oregon: 2nd Month-New Faces, New Places


Elk Creek

Now over two months into my internship, I have gained more experience in water quality monitoring as well as begun training on riparian surveys. We have covered much of our resource area in the past month from the sub-alpine forests near the Wallowa Mountains to the lower elevation canyons along the Grande Ronde and Snake River.  We had to camp out for a few sites along the Grande Ronde and awoke to a chorus of coyotes and the brilliant night sky. One of our sites, Joseph Creek, winds through a stark basalt canyon in contrast to its lush banks of alders, blackberries, and many species of wildflowers. Joseph Creek is one of our long term monitoring sites, where the BLM uses these long term trends to adjust management of the surrounding area, be it grazing intensity or off road vehicle usage. Some of these sites are also Section 7 ESA streams, meaning they are habitat for state and federal listed fish species such as the Chinook salmon and the Steelhead trout. At these sites along with the usual water quality protocol, we also deploy temperature loggers for the season to measure the daily maximum and minimum so we can have a thermal regime for each stream.
South Fork of Walla Walla

Looking down at Joseph Canyon
Recently we had another intern, Zoe, start with us from the local watershed council and she is a wonderful addition to the team. She is new to ecology and natural resources studies for the most part, so my mentor and I are teaching her the ways of fieldwork and the science behind our projects. Zoe is from the area and has already been informing me of more places to explore!

Speaking of exploring, I’ve had a few more adventures in and around the gorgeous local mountains.  I had the fortunate chance of seeing a Great Grey owl hunting in a private ecological reserve in the foothills of the Wallowas! I also went hiking in both the Elkhorns and Wallowa mountains and am eager to go back to both, which contain many miles of backcountry trails.

Elkhorns Wallowas IMG_0206

Also a couple weeks ago, I attended the CLM Workshop at the Chicago Botanic Garden, which was an inspiring experience. I got a chance to learn more about plant taxonomy and how important a role it plays in restoration projects. For someone new to the plant world, the information was a bit overwhelming, but it gave me a glimpse of what distinguishing characteristics are used to key out a species and how seeds are collected and raised for establishing or maintaining a species.The symposium that brought speakers from various backgrounds was most relevant to my interest as they discussed restoration at the large scale, including wetlands as well as entire watersheds. It was a real privilege to hear Professor Joy Zedler, a prominent leader in watershed restoration, speak on the potential framework for future studies, through looking back on her own projects. I left the conference feeling a better sense of purpose in my own work with the BLM, understanding monitoring’s importance in recognizing shifts in ecosystems and through successful collaboration with stakeholders management plans can mitigate loss of species as well as ecosystem function.  In conclusion, I have to say the conference was also  a great opportunity to explore Chicago, as well as meet the fabulous set of individuals that are my fellow CBG-ers.


Getting my feet wet in Northeast Oregon


Over three weeks ago I packed up my bags and headed for Northeastern Oregon to the little town of Baker City. While I left the coast behind for the first time ever, I was welcomed by the awe-inspiring mountain ranges of the Wallowas and Elkhorns. The wilderness that surrounds this area beckons any outdoorsy folk to strap on the boots and explore! I am already planning my adventure on the Elkhorn Crest Trail. As it is also my first time in lovely Oregon, I plan to pack in as many ventures across the state. Ideas are welcomed!


view of the Elkhorns from our lab

I came to work at the Baker BLM field office with the hydrology tech, monitoring the water quality streams and rivers as well as conducting riparian surveys. My first few days were full of the general orientation: defensive driving, computer access training, rig maintenance, calibration of equipment and of course a soldering lesson. One of the skills I am excited to gain from this job is MacGyver-like problem solving, be it fixing a malfunctioning probe in the field or soldering on wires to ensure proper connection for a flow meter.  As any field scientist knows, you got be prepared for the unexpected from missing sample bottles to finicky Trimbles that just don’t feel like working today, thank you very much.

We kicked off our field season on day two. Our main focus for now is measuring physical parameters, nutrient levels and flow at sites throughout the Powder River Basin. This is part of an ongoing project examining the nutrient export quantities from tributaries in the watershed, looking at long-term trends from 2003 to 2016. We often work in the lower elevations amongst the familiar (I hail from the coastal scrub of San Diego) sagebrush, which is currently bristling with lupine, arrow leaf balsamroot and an ever growing plethora of other wildflowers I’m only beginning to learn. Plant geeks, I’m a novice with the species so bear with me. At some of our sites, we enjoy the shade of cottonwood groves and the sweet smell of wild mint with the lovely sound of our (hopefully) burbling brook. In these idyllic settings, I’m learning how to examine stream systems such as appropriate sites to measure flow to identifying potential concerns such as elevated temperature, abnormal algal growth, or channel shifts. I am excited to gain a better understanding of the geomorphology of river systems.

I’m looking forward to our riparian surveys where we shall identify the surrounding plant community, as well as look more in depth at changes in the environment. I hope to learn not only the techniques and protocols of stream monitoring, but also riparian plant species as well as different stream classifications. I plan to learn more about the rest of the river community with our fish and wildlife biologists. With my college days behind me, I find myself itching for the chance to learn. Here’s to geeking out!

The pictures below are from my favorite site that is in the higher elevations where the greenery shocks my dry California eyes from the coniferous forest to aspens alight with vibrant new leaves. Currently our resource area also faces drought conditions, but as my mentor points out, the season can always change. Working on my rain dance!

Sisley Creek

Sisley Creek

Sisley Creek


Lara Jansen

BLM, Baker Field Office

will have more field pictures to come.