Final Blog


Kurt Heckeroth holding Asclepias speciosa seed


Kurt Heckeroth and me with 18 species that we delivered to BSE, including over 22lbs of pure Elymus glaucus seed head. Total SOS species collected for 2016: 28

When I accepted the CLM internship in Tillamook, OR, I had no idea the rural OR coast would become my home for the foreseeable future. Alas, life has a funny way of happening while you’re making plans. And opportunities arise that make too much sense not to pass up.   You see, towards the end of my internship (mid September) I applied for a job with the nonprofit, Tillamook Estuaries Partnership, and accepted the position of the Northwest Restoration Partnership (NORP) Coordinator. I must say that I would not have come across this career opportunity without the CLM internship program and my mentor, BLM Botanist, Kurt Heckeroth.

Kurt Heckeroth and I both share an interest in identifying bryophytes and lichens, which we were able to indulge in a little bit this field season. More so however, he has a passion for native plant propagation, from collecting the seed, to putting a 2 to 3 year old plug in the ground. This passion of his inspired him to initiate the Northwest Oregon Restoration Partnership (NORP) in the late 1990’s which supplies genetically adapted native coastal plant materials for restoration projects throughout the NW OR area. The partnership has grown to 36 partners in 8 different counties and has 7 satellite nurseries.


Sowing beds at the NORP nursery

My workweeks are spent at the largest of the NORP nurseries located at the Oregon Youth Authority Camp (where male juvenile delinquents are able to come out and work with living native plants).   The nursery has the capacity to grow 100K plants that will be planted to support riparian and wetland restoration efforts.  These restoration projects occur on private, state, and federal lands, because efforts are being made to manage from the watershed level to insure healthy fish passages for Salmon.

From a seed collector, I come full circle within the National Native Plant Materials Development Program, to restoring native plant communities by providing necessary native plant materials to the whole NW OR coast region.


Over 50,000 OR coast native plants at the NORP nursery

Logging the Siuslaw

During the week, I am a CLM Intern, but during the weekend, I work as a Lichen surveyor in the Siuslaw National Forest performing lichen community analysis for air quality monitoring.  This is no roadside analysis, this is bushwhacking through thickets of prickly Salmonberry and Himalayan Blackberry for as far as a mile off an old logging road that was decommissioned 10 years ago and has become a temperate rain forest jungle right-of-way.

Two weekends ago I followed the Alsea River East in from Waldport, OR on Hwy 34.  After about 20+ miles, I turned North for several miles up a Siulsaw logging road, and boy did the name fit the description.  Large segments of the ridge sides were clear cut.  I thought “I have to be on private or state land, there is no way the Forest Service would clear cut to this extent now a days.”  Alas, to my che-grin, I concluded that it had to be  USFS land due to the fact that my survey plot was on it (they’re almost always on  USFS land).


Siuslaw National Slaughter


Siuslaw National Slaughter

Some logging began in the PNW as early as the 1830’s, but it did not kick off until the turn of the century.  In the 1990’s PNW timber contributed to 1/3 of America’s plywood and had fed the housing boom since WWII.  Chances are that any wood house built since 1946 contains materials from the PNW.  Douglas-firs are the most valuable tree in the timber commerce worldwide. In the 90’s, the USFS had proclaimed that timber is the nation’s number 1 agricultural crop.  Timber companies obtain logging units from Private, State, and Federal lands. In fact, virtually all old-growth forests on private forestry company lands have been logged.

The Oregon Forest Practices Act is the legislation that Private and State logging operations have to adhere to and compared to California and Washington legislation, it is pretty lax: comprised of minimal regulations for timber harvesting, road construction and maintenance, slash treatment, reforestation and pesticide and fertilizer use.

To give you some perspective of the amount of timber sequestered from the PNW; there has always been focused attention on the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, however according to 90’s statistics, only 15-30% of the ancient Amazonian rainforest has been logged, compared to about 87% of the ancient PNW forest logged, in less than a century.


Siuslaw National Slaughter


Siuslaw National Slaughter

And now Oregon Public Radio just aired that a new study found that over the last decade an increasing amount of Pseudotsuga menziesii trees on the Oregon Coast Range have been infected with the Swiss needle cast fungal disease.  Oregon State University research has suggested that the epidemic has grown by as much as 30% over 1 year.

The fungus does not actively kill the tree, but instead clogs the needle stomata and thereby greatly reduces tree vitality.  The effect can slow the growth of commercial timber by up to 50% which results in an estimated $128 million dollars in economic losses per year!  However, it has also been shown that if one plants Tsuga heterophylla, Thuja plicata, and Picea sitchensis with the Pseudotsuga menziesii, then the trees are less susceptible to it.  So, in conclusion, if we STOP clear cutting and treating Doug Fir as a crop and instead replant with a variety of trees and lightly thin over longer periods of time, OH YEA, and not export most of our domestic harvest from private and state lands overseas to Japan and Korea, then we might just save little chunks of our coastal temperate rain forests and still keep Oregon’s economy alive.  And maybe we’ll be able to see more Giant Pacific Salamanders (Dicamptodon tenebrosus).


Dicamptodon tenebrosus, the largest terrestrial Salamander in the World. Found in the Siuslaw National Forest along a creek that cuts through a tiny swath of old growth.

4 reasons why my blog is late

In the thick of summer, I am in the thick of seed collection.  The target list that my mentor and I developed consists of over 30 species and I am the only CLM intern here!  So, I had to solicit the help of some great local Youth Corps.  They work 10hr days, so with transportation that adds up to over 12hr days for me (leaving not sooo much blog time).

Reason 1. Had 12 hr work day, the majority of which was at Yaquina Head Lighthouse collecting Gaultheria shallon.

GASH_ORO80-33_B2 GASH_ORO80-33_C3DSCN1262

Reason 2. Spent a wonderful morning with my mentor schooling Youth Corps on how “mossome” nonvascular plants are!


Then my parents came to visit all the way from MD!

Dad and me

Dad and me at Cascade Head on the Oregon Coast: Where the Salmon River meets the sea.

Reason 3.  Had 12 hr work day, some of which was collecting Rubus leucodermis with a great crew.



Reason 4.  Had 2 12 hr work days, the majority of which was collecting Bromus vulgaris and carinatus as well as Elymus Glaucus.  We need 10 pounds of each species for BLM grow out, and I could not have gotten the collection started without the Columbia River Youth Corps!


I think a stonefly, on Elymus glaucus



So after a busy week and more to come, I kinda feel like this…Slime Mold and Me

Rambling Woman

Phew, what a crazy busy two and a half weeks it’s been!  The CLM training at the Chicago Botanic Garden was wonderful.  After a full week of learning from all different types of people that are associated with native seed, I became wholly inspired, and more importantly, empowered.  Empowered by knowledge.  For example, now when someone asks me what I do and the usual follow up question why, I can answer them like I actually know what I’m talking about…Score!


Me and Laura Holloway enjoying the Japanese Botanic Garden in CBG


Best Italian sub in the World, Chicago


Oh yea, plants, Orchid in the tropical green house of CBG


Oh yea, plants, Orchid in the tropical green house of CBG

After coming back into Portland, OR late on Sunday evening, whoops, maybe Chicago just did not want to see me go too soon…. I spent a day and a half in Portland waiting to catch the Bolt Bus up to Seattle, WA for a Grass Identification class.  The class was held at the University of Washington and Discovery Park for 3 days.  I, of course, waited until the last minute to book a hotel.  Therefore, none were available under $200, so it was the hostel life for me.  At this point, I am 11 nights without sleeping with personal space.

The Grass workshop was Poaceae Botany Bootcamp.  We learned the anatomy of grasses as well as their implications for management as invasives and restoration species.  We also learned that humans planting grasses as cereal grains basically attributed to the advent of human civilization.  Now I know why I love cereal so much (instinctual, maybe?).  One of the many goals of the class was to come out able to field ID 25 genera, um, I got a couple down, but let’s just say, I’m glad there was not a test.  Also, now I am excited to collect many grass seeds for SOS.  There is that empowerment by knowledge again.IMG_0248IMG_0258


Bolt bus took my back to Portland, OR for a long 5 hours trip; in traffic for 21/2 of them.  Apparently, President Obama was flying into Seattle, so they closed down the freeway.  I mean, I get he’s kinda a big deal, but torturing thousands of people that just wanna go home on a Friday evening?, No one is that important.  Anyway, I stayed the weekend in Portland (I could not miss the World Naked Bike ride this past Saturday).  By Sunday, I have not slept in personal space for 15 days!  Sunday afternoon I drove back to Tillamook.  Unfortunately, pack rats moved into my place while I was out and colonized 2 drawers and a cabinet, leaving only carnage behind (what I do to feel like a mountain woman, sigh).  I am lying, falling asleep in my own bed, in my own room, in my own apartment and I open my eyes to look around because in sleepy fog, I forgot where I was.


I come back to find my Frye boots and Teva Sandals rigged apart with rat poopies ornamenting the crime scene.

Today, Wednesday 29, I went to another training in Lowell OR, and learned how to use Plant Associations.  Assessing where groups of plants grow gives us clues about the type of environment (ie climate, soil, and topography) and vis versa of a particular site.  When assigning plant associations one studies a plot of land 1/10th of acre in size and surmises what type of micro ecosystem and environment is present.  These associations help agencies make informed land management decisions dealing with tribal contributions, timber (resource) extraction, as well as foraging ground.  The only reason I could write this paragraph is because today I became empowered by this knowledge.


USFS and BLM employees from all different departments coming together to learn about plants

Thank you CLM and BLM for encouraging training and education in what I find most interesting.  After my 2 1/2 weeks in 4 different cities, I will be delighted to return to the field to apply my newfound knowledge and skills.



A Day in the Life of a Wildlife Biologist

Midway through my academic career studying biology and environmental science, I came to the figurative fork in that good ol’ path called life and got stuck deciding whether to specialize in botany or wildlife. After some path pacing, it came down to botany for two simple reasons: plants don’t move and I can slice them open without tasting my breakfast for the second time. I’m joking, kinda.  I believe that ultimately, your passion finds you.

So here I am now, a CLM intern at the BLM field office in Tillamook, OR studying under the botanist Kurt Heckeroth, and I could not be more grateful! Of course the best part about being the intern is that you get to do all sorts of cool stuff, which may include hanging out with wildlife biologists all day banding Northern Spotted Owls. This experience I am about to share does not reflect what I do on a daily basis as an aspiring botanist within the Seeds of Success Program. But there will be more news of that nature next month!

I am lucky to have ended up in the Pacific Northwest, as it is the home of the oldest cathedral forests on the planet. The remaining old growth forest canopy towers over 300 feet occupied by ~1000 year old Pseudotsuga menziesii, ~500 old year old Tsuga heterophylla and Thuja plicata. Here one can become lost studying the symbiotic connections between all trophic levels of life. This web has many center points, one of which includes the Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis) as part of a keystone complex*, involving ectomycorrhizal, Hypogeneous fungi (truffles), P. menziesii, and the Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus). Truffles are an essential food source for the squirrel, as well as a major contributor to water and nutrient cycling between host plant species, such as P. menziesii. The squirrels disperse truffle spores, scattering them along the forest floor by way of their feces. Spotted owls prey on flying squirrels and thereby bring the tropic levels full circle.

Spotted owls are specialized organisms, needing large swaths of intact old growth to breed and hunt. They are thereby incidentally good indicator species, one whose absence/presence tells us about the health of a forest. Due to extensive logging of PNW old-growth timber beginning in the 1830’s, the spotted owl was listed as threatened in the 1989. Today, with less than 13% of old growth forest remaining and the barred owl invading their territory, the spotted owl population is still declining.


Me and my BLM coworker, Wildlife biologist, Jessi Huck.

Many of the wildlife biologists that I went out with to band the owls commented on how their days as a species could be numbered.  When the wildlife biologists at the Tillamook field office invited me out to band I knew that as a botanist, this was a once in a life time opportunity I could not pass up: to lay my eyes up the charismatic organism that symbolized the fight to save old growth trees.

After too long of a drive, we rallied and walked into BLM land of the West Cascades, with a container of mice and Scott, one of the only certified bird banders in the Salem district.  We were not 500 feet off the road when a male spotted owl responded to Scott’s impression of squeaking and hooting.  But, it was the female who showed up first.  One of the many tricks of bird banding is feeding the owl mice, a lot of mice.  After about the third mouse, the owl becomes more comfortable, and if you’re experienced enough, you can catch them in mid flight.

After catching the owl, another person has to be sitting down ready to be handed the owl.  The seated person holds the owl legs firmly as the bander applies the bands as well as weighs the bird and inspects the bands of the tail feathers.  With the female owl, Scott also inspected the brood pouch.  If it was wide and a little inflamed with a reddish, purple hue, that indicates that the bird is nesting, but alas, the female we banded was not nesting.  Scott also checked the ears for infection or mites, because that indicates the overall health of the owl.  There is video footage of the banding that I uploaded to the media gallery, unfortunately, they did not post well to this blog.


Jessi Huck, holding a male spotted owl


Me, pretending to be a wildlife biologist

Reference for keystone complex*( *

Tillamook BLM Field Office, OR