After 10 days of traveling across the country, again, I am finally in Prineville, Oregon, where I will call home for the next 5 months. The trip from New Jersey was outstanding just like it was last year but this time I got to bring a friend, Ryan, to explore with me. Ryan had never been in the west so I thought “What a great time to see it!” We got to spend 10 days driving, camping, and exploring new places as we made our way to Oregon. I got to bring him to one of my favorite places in the US and that was Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. We spent three nights camping on the Estes Park side, where we got to do some pretty awesome hikes, including Cub Lake. Most of the park was closed off due to winter snow that had not receded yet, but that didn’t stop us. From there I got to reconnect with some friends in Casper, Wyoming, where I called home last summer through my CLM internship. It was wonderful to see familiar faces and hangout at the local watering holes again. From there we hit Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Grand Teton National Park. Luckily, the time we got to Jackson Hole was the same time the World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb was going on. The Hill Climb was an awesome experience, it was something I had never seen or heard about before and I am so glad I got to experience it on my way. After Wyoming we finished the route and ended up in Prineville!
My first couple weeks in Prineville have been amazing so far. I started out my season with Greater Sage-grouse lek Surveys, which were incredible because that was the one thing I missed out on in Wyoming last year. In order to do a lek survey one must get up around 2 or 3 AM and start heading out to the lek locations to make sure you arrive at the lek before the sun rises. Once you are there you get to see male Sage-grouse strutting and calling to the females to get them to mate with them. Getting up at 2 AM had never been worth it before until those days I got to see Sage-grouse strutting across a lek just as the sun rose. After lek survey days I got to go out and do Golden Eagle nest surveys, which included seeing a Golden Eagle sitting low in its nest incubating eggs. With all of these surveys comes hiking, which was incredible, any excuse to hike is good enough for me. These first couple weeks of exploring the ecosystem I will be working in this summer have been amazing so far with some spectacular views.
At the end of my first month I got to travel up to Cheney, Washington with the AIM crew, I will be working with, and attend the National AIM Training which was a blast! This was a very hands on training that I believe anyone who needs to do AIM plots for the BLM should absolutely attend. It was very informative and the trainers were wonderful to work with. It also was a wonderful time to get to know the crew that I will be working with for the remainder of my time here in Oregon.
Overall I believe my time here in Oregon will be spectacular and I cannot wait to explore the cascades and high desert areas!
I cannot believe this internship is over. I am going to miss the friends and people that I met on this journey in Wyoming. Everyone here was welcoming and caring toward me and I am sad to leave this place.
While I was here I have been able to take part in so many wonderful things through work and on weekends. Work has made me realize that I have chosen the right career path. I cannot wait for what the future holds. I have been able to help out different resource departments within the Bureau of Land Management. Other than working with the Wildlife Biologists in Casper I have also worked with the Range Land Health staff, the Forester, the Archaeologists, and RMG staff. This job has given me so many experiences.
While out west I have been able to visit so many National Parks that I otherwise would not have been able to see from New Jersey. These beautiful places hold such a huge place in my heart.
Hike through the South Bighorns
Hanging out in the Tetons
Watching the sunset over the Grand Teton Mountains
Watching the sunrise from my tent in Hovenweep National Monument
Driving through the Valley of the Gods
I cannot wait to start my trek back to the East Coast, but Wyoming will stay a large part in my life and I hope to get a career our West so I can come back to this amazing place.
Fourth month down, the time is really flying here! There is nothing about this position that I do not love plus all the people I work with are wonderful.
Pretty Avocet seen in the field
I started off the month by helping the Casper Field Office’s forester, Cindy Allen, with multiple wildlife surveys. I got to go out to Coal Mountain and walk throughout an area that is going to be thinned out from Juniper (Juniperus spp.) to promote understory growth and Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) regrowth. I was also able to go out and walk an area that is proposed for a fence installation project. For these wildlife surveys I walked with a wildlife biologist, Elizabeth Thyfault, and surveyed the area from any BLM sensitive wildlife species and possible active raptor nest sites. I also got to do another wildlife survey for a proposed fence project that one of the rangeland health staff members, Matthew Roberts, has been working on that needs to get clearance from all resource departments.
This month I was able to go on my first on-site. An on-site is where resource specialist go out to a location where a company wants to drill and oil well (or something similar) and they check that site to make sure that there is not anything at the site that could be disturbed by noise or visually. We went to approximately 15 proposed well pads, each having a maximum of four wells for each pad. At these sites, as a wildlife biologist, we would look for raptor nests within ½ mile of the proposed site, any signs of sage grouse habitat (including leks), and other BLM sensitive wildlife species. I believe that meeting all of the people from the oil company and interacting with them in order to understand what they do was very helpful to me if I decided to stay out west; being from NJ there are not many oil wells in the area to be worried about.
The last week of the month was spent cleaning out bat-boxes and backpack spraying for cheat grass. Then I got to fly home to NJ for a Disney cruise with my family, which was a nice way to break up my time here. I love it so much here and I am sure this was one of the best opportunities I have had to fully emerge me into the wildlife biologist field. I hope that I will be able to land a permanent position as a wildlife biologist somewhere out west.
My cruise went to Nova Scotia, Canada – such a beautiful place!
I cannot believe that I have finished up my third month here in Casper, Wyoming. So far it has been an incredible experience and I am so happy to be getting this opportunity.
I started off the month with once a week monitoring of Ute Ladies-tresses (Spiranthes diluvialis) an orchid flowing plant that is officially listed as a threatened plant species in the U.S. I would go out with other biologists and interns to known populations and record the number of plants I saw in those locations.
I also got to help place fence markers along existing fences bordering BLM land. Fence markers are used primarily to deter wildlife, including the Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), from colliding with fences. Evidence has been found that Sage-grouse collide with anthropogenic structures, including fences. Therefore, I worked to help prevent this by placing fence markers along fences close to leks on fences with t-posts or areas of shorter vegetation.
Monitoring Coal Mountain for wildlife with the Casper Field Office Forester
This past week I have gotten to go out on multiple wildlife surveys for proposed projects. I worked with the Casper Field Office’s forester, Cindy Allen, where I got to go out to Coal Mountain and walk throughout an area that is going to be thinned out from Juniper (Juniperus spp.) to promote understory growth and Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) regrowth. I was also able to go out and walk an area that is proposed for a fence installation project. For these wildlife surveys I walked with a wildlife biologist, Elizabeth Thyfault, and surveyed the area from any BLM sensitive wildlife species and possible active raptor nest sites.
Monitoring for Raptor nests at a proposed fence installation site
Coming up I will be helping the lead wildlife biologist, James Wright, with a project called “Natural Bridge – True Mountain Mahogany Regeneration and Restoration.” This project is designed to mimic prescribed burning through a chemical treatment of Plateau® to kill the above-ground true Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus) and to eradicate Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) from the area. For this project I will be helping to set up vegetation monitoring permanent transects in the project area. This is to monitor the chemical treatments and record how the plants are responding to the treatment.
My time here is incredible and I’m sad to say I only have two months left!
I can’t believe a second month has passed! The time is going by so quickly.
Recently, I have been working on a lot of cheatgrass monitoring projects. Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) is an introduced annual grass that is widely distributed on rangelands throughout the western U.S. This grass is considered opportunistic, meaning it spreads rapidly throughout habitat, it is extremely tolerant of grazing, and it increases in population with frequent fires. With these cheatgrass monitoring projects, we set up permanent transects in heavily populated areas so that we can get an estimation of how much cheatgrass is in that area. After monitoring that site the BLM hires a contractor to go out and spray those sites with herbicide to kill off the population and combat it from spreading elsewhere.
A patch of cheatgrass from on of our monitoring sites.
I have also been able to participate in the Port-O–Potty Owl Project (aka the Poo-Poo Project), by the Teton Raptor Center. This project was started with the idea to prevent wildlife entrapment within vent pipes found on vault toilets by installing safe and effective screens. Many small owls are attracted to small spaces and dark holes because they are cavity nesters. The vents on the outhouses are like tunnels for these birds and once they fly in they can’t get out. For this project I went out and installed about 25 screens on top of toilet vents throughout different public lands that the BLM Casper Field Office is responsible for. I really enjoyed participating in this project because I know that it will make a difference in protecting different cavity nesting species by blocking off unsafe pipes.
I was also finally able to review a couple of wildlife camera trap images that were taken from the last six months. I am excited to say that a known bobcat in the area had kittens this year! Five to be exact! We got an awesome picture of them playing on top of a guzzler that was installed previously by the BLM.
This image is from a camera trap set up at one of the guzzlers installed by the BLM, Casper.
The same camera trap but this time we got Bobcat kittens in the photo!
This month I am very excited to start on some Ute Ladies’-tresses monitoring. Ute Ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes diluvialis) is an orchid flowering plant that is officially listed as threatened in the U.S. This is due primarily to habitat loss. They are also considered extremely vulnerable to other threats because their populations are so small and their reproductive rate is very low. This plant occurs along riparian edges, high flow channels, and moist to wet meadows along streams. To monitor this species we will be going out once a week to survey areas of known populations. We will then record the number of plants we see and whether or not they are flowering at that time.
Found a blooming Ute Ladies’-tresse covered up by some taller vegetation!
I am so grateful for my time here at the BLM and I can’t wait to learn so many more new things in the coming months!
Getting to Wyoming was an incredible experience in itself but once I got here I got to learn so many new things. We started out by learning the new Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring (AIM) strategy to collect quantitative information on Sagebrush habitat. During that time I got to meet a few other interns that work with our Range and Hydrology staff from the Casper Field Office, where I report for work everyday. We all worked together to learn the new protocol within the Stagebrush Steppe Ecosystem.
For most of my internship I get to work with wildlife, which is a great experience. I have done a lot of nested frequency surveys to check Greater Sage Grouse habitat. I have also been doing raptor nest and artificial nesting structures surveys during which I got to see many red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, and ferruginous hawks with their young in nests.
I also got to participate in an Environmental Education Day, where I taught children about ecosystems and food webs. This whole month has been a wonderful experience so far and I look forward to the remainder of this internship!