Making actual seed collections

I have been working in the desert for the last 3 months, making me more than half way through my internship with the CLM. Since being here in California I have gotten to go to a plant conservation conference in San Diego, visit Death Valley National Park, Sequoia National Forest, Mt. Zion National Park, Los Angles and Las Vegas. This list fails to include all of the stunning places I have seen in the Ridgecrest Field office. I feel very grateful to have worked here the last 3 months. Many plants are seeding right now in the Ridgecrest Field office.

In this blog I wanted to talk about the seed collection process. The most interesting and beautiful part of the seed collection process is scouting. Having the opportunity to drive/hike around searching for plants is an absolute blast. Over the last few weeks we have transitioned from focusing on annuals to perennial shrubs. This makes it a lot easier for us to make a seed collection. Over the last week we have made at least half a dozen seed collections. Last week we made an Encelia farinosa seed collection in Pleasant Canyon. Pleasant Canyon is in Panamint Valley, one of the most beautiful parts of our field office. There are quite a few riparian areas there and amazing biodiversity of plants/animals. Also, the Navy base has a flight path right through there, meaning you almost always get an amazing airshow while collecting seeds.

On this particular day myself and the other SOS intern were scouting around for Chylismia brevipes and happened upon a few other populations, including the Encelia. We found a population of about 100 plants that were all in seed in this canyon.  We quickly got out and vouchered some of the still flower plants. We then took some photos of the population and filled out the SOS data sheet. It does not take long to make a seed collection, especially with 2 people. We probably finished our collection in under an hour. We collected over 15,000 seeds from over 60 plants. Since this took so little time, we were able to go take some other vouchers and also check out a lake bed. Just another great day in the Ridgecrest field office! 

Mistakes and Adventures

As I settle into Ridgecrest, I finally feel as if I am starting my job. Over the last few weeks, myself and the other SOS intern have started collecting seed and tissue samples. There has been a lot of difficultly in trying to figure out what protocol should be followed for each sample. Last week we filled out the wrong data sheets for the samples we mailed off. This mistake was mostly due to the fact that we still lack computer access at work, making it difficult to find the proper instructions for each species. Next week myself and the other SOS intern are going to meet up with an employee of the Santa Ana Botanic Garden, which will be extremely helpful in figuring how to properly follow their instructions.

Besides all of the mistakes, going out and scouting has been a lot of fun. It’s really amazing to get to hike/drive around see all the different ecosystems in the Ridgecrest field office.This environment could not be more different that the high humidity and total green of the southeast US. I feel that every canyon we walk into looks so different than the one we were in the previous day. The variability in plant diversity throughout the area is really surprising to me. Diversity here is not only controlled by soil type and moisture but by ability to be dispersed to that area.

Last week we went out to collect for a wildflower show that the Ridgecrest community is currently putting on. This exhibit showcases the high level of biodiversity in the desert. I never thought I would see riparian areas with amphibians and cottonwoods out in the middle of the desert but you can hike just a few miles and go from Joshua trees to willow trees. I feel really grateful to have the opportunity to come out here and have an experience unlike anything I could have had on the East coast. 

Driving Cross-country and First week in the Desert

First week working with the BLM/CLM accomplished! So I have been in Ridgecrest for 2 weeks now but this was my first week of work. Ridgecrest is a very tiny town kind of in the middle of nowhere, but it definitely has its charms. I live in S.C. originally so having the opportunity to drive cross country and see so many sites I have always heard about was truly amazing! I went to the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon, which were both so breath-taking.

At work this week we did a lot of administrative paperwork. I had to do a driving course, FISSA, and fill out a bunch of paperwork for getting my I.D. card.  We did go out into the field twice. One time we went out to do some work on a Common Gardens project with the USGS. The common gardens is in the Ridgecrest BLM area, so myself and the other Seeds of Success intern are going to have to go water it every few weeks. The project seems to be providing a lot of information on different restoration efforts in the Mojave Desert.

We also went out and did some vegetation surveys for forage species for having sheep graze on BLM land. Then we went out to some other areas to examine California Towhee habitat. It was a beautiful hike and we had the opportunity to see some mining communities. All in all it was a really great first week!