Seeds of Success is only sometimes successful.
This is what it feels like lately! With summer edging towards us here in Ridgecrest the seeds are going FAST! The seeds are often gone faster than we expect them to. For example, upon seeing a flowering population and imagining that in a couple of weeks it will be ready and then one goes back to find that its almost all gone! This happened to us yesterday. I wondered if any other interns had troubles like this. I felt as if it was still a valiant effort but with a taste of failure. However, it seems there’s always more to collect. Perhaps not at the same location, but with 1.8 million acres surely there is somewhere else to go, right?
Last week I went to the Owens peak wilderness and after doing some monitoring in short canyon decided to go higher. Upon going higher I found a suitable population of Chylismia claviformis for collection that really excited me considering how it had eluded me the first time I had seen it. Senescing too quickly for me to realize what it was and that I should be focusing on it as a target. I almost wish the internship would have begun sooner to allow for more research time before the initial field season had truly began. But so it goes.
Last week we went to conglomerate mesa with our office’s wilderness coordinator. Conglomerate mesa is part of The Inyo Mountains across from The Sierra Nevada creating Owens valley. This is such a beautiful place.
We were in conglomerate mesa doing some monitoring for vegetation in a reclaimed mining area. Wilderness Areas is an interesting aspect of the BLM and its management plan. The Wilderness designation provides a lot of protection to the land, yet a Land with wilderness characteristics (LWC) has much less protection. As I witnessed with conglomerate mesa. Conglomerate mesa is adjacent to Malpais mesa, a wilderness area. However, since it’s not technically a wilderness area, it is open for public use. Including mining. This is a surprising aspect of land management to me. As an ecologist/botanist I typically find mining unnecessarily destructive, yet the computer and my cell phone and countless other devices would be impossible without mining so perhaps my labeling of mining as something “bad” is hypocritical of me. This is a moral dilemma I have yet to solve.
We spent the next few days in Owens valley making our way up to Independence to work with an actual BLM botanist! Mr. Martin Oliver. We began a Blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima) collection but as it’s a small producer and we were a little early it didn’t seem to be working out so we switched targets to a needle grass (Stipa speciosa). A much easier plant to collect. I was glad to see that I’m not the only one who inaccurately predicts seed the seed ripeness window. It’s truly a difficult factor to determine.
As the summer goes on I’m learning more and more about populations, their productivity rates and the conditions in which create a good habitat for an individual species. It’s important to note these differences when assessing whether the population will be of large enough size for a suitable collection.
Hello Blog readers!
I hope to once again effectively highlight my journey here in the sunny place that is Ridgecrest, California. A nearby sign reads ‘100 miles to anywhere’ that seems aptly placed. This past weekend (4/22-4/24) we (My fellow intern, Erin, and I) attended the Owens Lake Bird festival in the wonderful little town of Lone Pine, CA.
This little town was once famous for its role in cinema production. Many of the old west hit movies were shot here. As well as “Tremors”!!! This little town should deserve more recognition for its natural beauty than those films indicated. In fact, many of those old west movies were set in other states entirely, yet all share the same backdrop that is the beautiful Eastern Sierra and adjacent Owens valley.
Owens Lake is important to note on an ecological scale, as it has recently been reformed into a lake. In the 90+ years previous it was more of a playa. However, it has recent history as a lake. All the way up until when the aqueduct was constructed. This is the lake from which Los Angeles receives the majority of its water. In the early 1900’s some clever engineers developed and implemented a water diversion scheme known as the LA aqueduct. The aqueduct runs over 300 miles from Owens lake near the town of Lone Pine to LA. So crazy!!
This was a lucky week of work for us as we got to work with a real botanist doing seed collecting. The wonderful Sarah De Groot took us out to the Funeral mountains to help show us some proper protocol for seed collection. It was so educational to be out with a field botanist. Everywhere we turned we uncovered a new little plant hiding from view. From some plants that have no leafs, or at least ones appearing as they don’t, to some very strange shrubs, to a skin irritating phacelias several new plant friends were made and several seed collections as well. The most challenging aspect of it for me was realizing how allergic I was to the Phacelia (Boragaceae) genus. Almost every one I’ve touched leaves me with some minor dermatitis. I wonder if this is an issue for any other interns out there?
Today we helped teach an outdoor environmental education class to some 4th graders at the lovely sand canyon.
By far, another exciting couple of weeks here in California. Hoping to make more collections while they are still viable. Finding proper timing can be the most difficult part of collections I’m learning. Aside from identifying a population, one has to then figure out when the best time to collect seeds will be and hopefully the weather cooperates!! One day we had 40 mile gusts come down on us while in the middle of collecting. Anywho..
Alabama hills with MT. Muir? The mountains aren’t labeled in real life
Alabama hills- Mobius Arch
Sunset after a rain in Weldon, CA
It’s been a month since I arrived in Ridgecrest, California. The Mojave holds a lot of beauty. Everyone tells me spring is the best time to be here and I’m glad to arrive at such a fortuitous time. However as things begin to warm up I’m noticing the faint green shading in the hill sides turning browner and browner.
Last week I participated in some rare plant monitoring in The Kelso Canyon that lies within the Bright Star Wilderness area which is in the Southern Sierras and the northeastern edge of our field office. This is truly a gorgeous area. To drive up out of the desert and see a creek heavily lined with cottonwoods and tufts of grass and nettles is a rare and refreshing sight. Unfortunately, my camera was dead for most of this trip.
But I included some photos of other cool things! I especially enjoy the Beavertail blossoms. This week was also exciting because we got to see our first Desert Tortoise! Such cute little creatures.
Beaver tail cactus bloom
A lone raven over the rademancher hills above ridge crest
A close up of the Kelso Creek Monkey Flower
A size comparison of the Monkey flower
The Kelso Creek monkey flower a rare species endemic to this region with only 9 known populations
1st Desert Tortoise sighting!!
An accidental selfie taken while trying to photograph a flower
Hope everyone else’s internship is going as well as I feel mine is. I love the desert. Or wherever one might be.
We also made our first seed collection this week. We collected Plantago ovata . This little annual is widespread but has such small little seeds and is often under 6″ tall. This meant lots of stooping to collect nearly microscopic seeds.
Then we collected wildflowers for this weekends upcoming Wildflower festival which is here in Ridgecrest! A great chance to learn the local areas flora. So much variety. I saw at least a 100 different flowers all in the same room! What a information overload but truly worth it.
I think that’s everything!
BLM Ridgecrest Field Office
So much on my mind!
First off, Hello from Ridgecrest, CA!!! A beautiful piece of dirt and rocks that creosote and some other amazingly adapted plants call home.
I dont even know where to begin explaining the strange journey it’s been out west. As a native Midwesterner, moving to the desert was a huge shift. I drove from Lawrence, KS. As I slowly inched across the highway the land went from a lush spring green to a increasingly more arid landscape. As I crossed through western Kansas into southeastern CO, I began to question my journey. Seeing the Midwest form of a “desert” and fearing how much worse it would be once I finally got here. As someone that has spent his entire life in the Midwest, it was quite a dramatic turn of events.
Once I was here, I didn’t believe it. I still have trouble remembering where I am when I walk outside. The Sierras in the distance. The brownness.
“The desert is a long and brown land” – A quote from a natural history book I’m reading about the area. This is truly a fascinating place. I am in the Indian Wells Valley that is on the east side of the southern extent of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. To the south are the El Paso mountains, which are littered with Creosote and Lysium shrubs. The flowers are amazing. So many new species and genus. However it’s been fairly frustrating that a key hasn’t been written in the past decade (or at least none of the books anyone has given me are recent) and many of the genus have been renamed. The joy of taxonomy!
Our project seems interesting. There weren’t that many collections from the previous year and this year seems to be a big year for flowers. I wish the internship would have started a month ago, as the learning curve seems steep and the diversity is surprisingly high.
This weekend we are planning to go to Death Valley and Darwin Falls. Apparently there is water out there. Although when one looks at the landscape, I find it hard to believe.
This is a photo over looking Rigecrest.
This beautiful looking shrub I believe is Lycium andersonii
The infamous California Poppy Eschscholzia californica
More to come soon!
Robbie Ray Wood