Fun With Forbs

Upon Arriving at my CLM Seeds of Success mentorship location in Rawlins, Wyoming, all I could see was sagebrush. Fat ones, skinny ones, low ones, tall ones- but all sagebrush. My thoughts were- “What forbs could I possibly find in this environment?” and “Gee, what a monotone, diversity-lacking ecosystem.”

After the first week of getting trained and acquainted with the field office, these thoughts quickly dissipated from my mind. Our Seeds of Success crew, consisting of me, my coworker Kyle, and mentors Frank and Ray, would set out on daily adventures in the field. Each day would (and continues to) hold exciting botanical explorations. Fields of yellow (Lomatium foeniculaceum), orange (Sphaeralcea coccinea), and purple (Astragalus spatulatus) would greet us with a warm embrace.

Sphaeralcea coccinea, Scarlet Globemallow. Found near the Adobe Town Wilderness Study Area

Cymopterus bulbosus, Bulbous Springparsley. Found in the Red Desert area.

Oenothera, Evening Primrose.

Finding these pops of color is something that I look forward to every day. When I think back to my initial feelings regarding this high desert ecosystem, I realize how wrong I actually was. Because this environment is so extreme, it harbors a great diversity of plants who have evolved to withstand its intensity. Knowing that these perennial plants go from highs of 100 degrees in the summers to lows of almost 40 degrees below zero in the winters, cultivates a feeling of respect and admiration.

In addition to the plants, I have also been exposed to the great diversity of landscapes and ecosystem types in the Rawlins Field Office District. We have focused most of our time in an area known as the “Red Desert.” Above ground there are many extremophile plants living in clay, saline soils. Below ground harbors rich deposits of oil and gas. It is because of the below ground mineral content that we spend our time in this area. One of Wyoming’s largest sources of income is energy production in the form of oil, gas or wind. With the production of this energy of course comes disturbance, and with this disturbance comes a need for reclamation. As a Seeds of Success team, we hope to gather seeds in order to assist with this reclamation process. I find that being able to see gas pads and other disturbances in a real-world setting gives me more of a drive to do what I do. Our country has a need for energy, making these disturbances nearly inevitable. At the Bureau of Land Management, it is our job to manage the land. Making sure that disturbances due to energy production are minimal and that the areas are reclaimed in order to restore habitat, are just a few modes of this management.

A “gas patch” area with several oil/gas pads in the distance.

My first month as a Conservation and Land Management Intern has treated me extremely well. Each day holds new curiosities and treasures in all types of forms. From the land itself, to the sprinkled pops of color which are extremophile forbs, and the BLM. I look forward to what the rest of the season holds.

Off to a Great Start

Rawlins, Wyoming has treated me well over the past two weeks. Being a small town girl from Montana, I had some sort of an idea of what I was getting myself into upon moving here. With any transition comes uncertainty, and this can be rather nerve-wracking. I drove over 1,000 miles to arrive in this high elevation city of around 9,000 inhabitants. On the way, I drove through canyons, glided passed incredible rock outcroppings, and started to acquaint myself with my new ecosystem. I was greeted by the smiling faces of my new mentor, coworker, and housemate, and immediately felt comfortable and welcomed.

The first few days in the Rawlins Bureau of Land Management field office were overwhelming, but only in the best ways possible. My mentor, Frank, introduced my coworker, Kyle, and I to close to everyone in the office (probably 35 handshakes). From range management, to the minerals division and (of course) the wildlife department, each and every person was welcoming and light hearted. I found that the office was a rather close-knit community, each division and department working together in ways unique to most offices.

The weather in Rawlins the first week (the last week of April) was rather daunting. Sideways blowing wind, sleet, rain, and even hail throughout the week, and a foot of snow on Friday to top it off.

My housemate, Katie, assured me that summers around here would be amazing- warm with clear skies close to every day. This made me forget about the 20 degree temperatures and look forward to the field season to come.

So far I have spent three days in the field, each day so new and exciting. I have seen wild horses, golden eagles, Columbian sharp tailed grouse, sage grouse, a horny toad, cottontail rabbits, antelope, and so many more creatures. But, even more exciting, are the plants. Although it is still early in the season (it snowed last week, after all) I have become acquainted with a diverse array of inhabitants of the sagebrush steppe ecosystem. Multiple different species of Artemisia, other shrubs including Atriplex, as well as forbs- Lomatium foeniculaceum, Cymopterus bulbosus, Phlox hoodii, and Astragalus spatulatus– just to name a few, were introduced to me the first day. I am so amazed by these high desert plants, each with a unique life history to be able to sustain life in such an extreme environment.

I look forward to the season to come. I know that I will not only find curiosities and excitement at work in the field, but also at home with my new roommates and in my surrounding area. Here’s to a great season!