With only two weeks left of my internship and winter looming upon us, things have been slowing down in Rawlins. My co-intern and I have made twenty-one of our twenty-five collections, and now we are just waiting for our sagebrush species to go to seed. However, these last four collections might be tougher than we thought – I came back from a weekend trip of summiting Mt. Elbert to more snow in Rawlins! Since we’re only at 6,500 feet, I wasn’t expecting this much snow until later in the month…but I guess Wyoming wanted to make up for the fact that I’ve spent three snow-less winters in New Mexico and wanted to send me off with a white farewell.
While we’ve been waiting for our sages to seed, we’ve been helping some departments around the office with projects – weed location with a specialist, raptor nest outreach with one of the wildlife biologists, and NEPA/ESA consultation with our mentors. Although this paperwork hasn’t been the most exciting aspect of our internship, I think it’s a really unique skill to be able to use later in life, because so few recent graduates have this experience and government positions value it highly. We’ve been going through permits and referencing maps for sensitive, threatened, and endangered species to allow, not allow, or allow with stipulations, activities that would occur on public land. We’ve also been accompanying some wildlife biologists on raptor nest projects, including searching for nests around wind projects, implementing new artificial nests, and visiting the elementary school to teach kids about nearby raptor nests and other wildlife.
Since we’d been doing a lot of tasks with the wildlife department, it was nice to get back into plants to help out the weed specialists. We went to two BLM campgrounds that are along a river to search for leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), musk thistle (Leucanthemum vulgare), spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa), and oxeye daisy (Carduus nutans). These species, within the past ~10 years, had been routinely sprayed and we were out there to see if the spraying had proved effective. We walked areas that historically had one or more areas of the weeds to see if they were present or gone, and if they looked as if they were dying back from the treatment.
After my final weeks are up, I will be moving to Texas to work in horticulture at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. I am grateful for the experiences and lessons this internship and this town taught me, and will carry them with me on my next adventure.