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.

Fog, and soon snow, settling on the mountains near the state line between Wyoming and Colorado

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.

Signing off,



I Have A New BFF

We are starting to wrap our collecting season here in Wyoming as we finish the last of our forb and grass collections and wait for our sagebrush sites to go to seed. All we have left to collect are black sage (Artemisia nova) and Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis), which typically go to seed in October or November – right around when I am set to leave. While we have been monitoring these collections, we’ve been getting to work in our little herbarium and go out with – you guessed it – some more wildlife biologists. I’ve enjoyed our time here in the herbarium as I worked in the herbarium at New Mexico State University and loved it. We also will get to visit the Rocky Mountain Herbarium at the University of Wyoming later this month to confirm the ID of the vouchers we’ve collected.

When we’re not working, we’re usually hiking – Medicine Bow National Forest

Our biggest project this month was getting to do black-footed ferret surveys with Wyoming Game and Fish in Shirley Basin. We went nocturnal for our BFFs, working from about 7pm to 7am, spotlighting for the ferrets in trucks and on foot through about ten different plots.  We learned how to recognize the different eyeshine of animals in the area – ferrets have a turquoise eyeshine, pronghorn and foxes have green, and rabbits and badgers have red. It was pretty fun to chase all kinds of animals into their burrows trying to correctly identify them, and feel a whole new kind of excitement seeing that little black mask that meant you definitely had a ferret! They’re pretty curious creatures, and would readily pop out of their burrows to investigate who was shining a light on them and interrupting their night hunt. My partner and I even had a few who turned trapping into a game, jumping out of their burrow and running from one to another as we chased them around with a spotlight and a metal trap. Once we successfully set a trap on top of a burrow, we plugged the surrounding burrow holes with containers and left the sites immediately to give the ferret a chance to check out the trap. For every trap set, we came back every hour to see if anyone had been curious enough to get themselves stuck. At that point, we nudged them into a transfer tube and took them to the processing trailer where the non-game biologist would do all the handling and assessments.

Our first trap, a female kit, sleeping under the anesthesia

Our little girl, waiting to go back home to her burrow

After going under anesthesia, we took body measurements, hair for DNA samples, gave rabies and distemper vaccines, and PIT tagged every new ferret that was found. We also used hair dye to draw unique marks on each of their chests to be able to identify them at a later time. Everything we did those three nights was virtually unchanged from when this surveying started back in the 80s, right after black-footed ferrets were listed as endangered in the 70s, so it was really cool to be part of a reintroduction program that has existed for so long. It was definitely one of the more taxing experiences I’ve had in this job, but with that, it was one of the most rewarding.

Hanging with my BFF.


Our seed collections have been rolling nicely along here in Rawlins! We are over halfway done with our collections for the season. Now that we have a better grasp on the phenology of the plants here coupled with the dry year, it’s been easier to understand how to prioritize our collections between the forbs (especially the asters!) and grasses.

Collecting bottlebrush squirreltail (Elymus elymoides) in the Chain Lakes area, which is rich with oil and gas pads.

We’ve also been branching out a lot into other areas of our field office, primarily with the wildlife biologists and interns. It’s been really cool to see the kind of projects they are in charge of and even get to work with other agencies, like we did with Wyoming toad surveys! I mentioned before that I had really enjoyed endangered species work, and that was even more solidified with these surveys.

Anaxyrus baxteri in all her glory.

We spent three days out at Mortensen Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Laramie with biologists from the BLM, USFWS, and USFS from areas in Wyoming and Colorado. We split into groups and took different plots around the refuge; censusing the toads we found and splitting them into groups of adult, overwinter, young-of-the-year, and metamorphs; as well as taking measurements and swabbing for chytrid fungus. We also released tadpoles from enclosures that had recently grown legs and lost their tails, and were therefore (hopefully) developed enough to survive on their own in the lake.

Hanging with a beautiful toad

About to release a bucket full of newly developed baby toads


We’ve also gotten to go out with the other wildlife CLM interns in our field office who are doing a herpetofauna study with their mentor. They do intervals of 10-day trapping, and we got to help check their plots around the Ferris Mountains and record and measure anything they’ve caught. Although the study is centered around herps, we’ve mostly seen some smaller snakes and a couple small mammals. As an aspiring botanist I haven’t gotten to handle much wildlife, but as you can see from the following photos I was pretty excited about it.

This vole kept trying to bite me while I measured his ears but I admired his sassiness.


The excitement is apparent here, with a very docile deer mouse

This is the first snake I’ve ever held – a small, slithery garter snake.

I’m excited to continue seeing other parts of our field office and make progress on our seed collections in the next half of my internship!


Things are starting to ramp up as we head full swing into summer here in Rawlins, WY. I am almost two months into my field season and we’re in the middle of our voucher specimen and seed collection. I’m enjoying getting to see so much of the field office collecting and scouting for plants and really being in the wilderness. As of early July, we’ve completed 6 seed collections so far, putting in long days with travel and collecting.

We also got to branch out a little bit this past month from seeds to do some endangered species monitoring with our mentor, Frank Blomquist, and Bonnie Heidel, from the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database (WYNDD) in Laramie. We went out to Bear Mountain, in the northeast section of Carbon County, to monitor the Blowout Penstemon (Penstemon haydenii). Our first day at Bear Mountain included hiking to the sand dunes in the mountains and censusing all the plants we could find, listing them into 3 categories – flowering or fruiting, vegetative, and browsed. We were prepared for a long day in the mountain; we had tried to census the day before and got hailed out so we made sure we had all our rain gear this time.


With P. haydenii

Our second day was on the other side of Bear Mountain running transects to get an idea of how many seedlings and mature plants were present in a different sand dune blowout. This census is done each year to look at the persistence of the seedlings in the blowout and see if they are surviving despite the changing placement of the dunes.

Our little seedlings



Completing transects with my co-intern Anah, our mentor Frank (not pictured), and Bonnie.

I think the endangered species work has been one of my favorite things out here so far, other than getting to seed pronghorn every single day – I’m still not used to it! I enjoyed the deviation from our usual scouting and collecting to go to a different site (this one is actually an ACEC, or Area of Critical Environmental Concern) and complete work that contributes to emerging research.

Rawlins, WY

Here in Rawlins, Wyoming, I am wrapping up my third week of the field season and preparing for the trip to Chicago. This is my first time in Wyoming, and my first time in the true west – I grew up in the northeast, went to school in the southwest, and traveled along both coasts, so living here is my first high desert experience. I already feel at home in this small town, surrounded by wilderness. We are within a couple hours of major towns in Wyoming and Colorado, and Yellowstone, Teton, and the Rockies are just a day trip away! Although I haven’t yet visited them in my time here, I have seen some incredible views just from our field office, which encompasses over 3 million acres of public land.

Seminoe Dam in Carbon County, which we saw this week driving from a field site

Lupinus argenteus at Cow Butte

As a Seeds of Success Intern, my first three weeks have consisted of voucher specimen collection, meaning that I search for plants on our target list that are in flower and go collect them before they begin to seed. We have already started 17 collections for the season, and will continue to monitor these populations and collect seed throughout the summer. Because southern Wyoming is still a (high) desert ecosystem, I am able to make connections between some of the plants here and some of the plants of the Chihuahuan Desert that I am used to. Big sagebrush is the dominant vegetation here, and I am enjoying learning the minute differences between all the subspecies.

Keying out a buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum) in a Wyoming big sagebrush site

In addition to voucher specimen and seed collection, I have already gotten the chance to branch out and see other aspects of the BLM – working with realty, reclamation, and wildlife specialists to see the wide range of departments that work together on many different projects. Oil, natural gas, and wind energy make up a large portion of the  challenges to the public land in our field office, and it has been interesting to learn how these complex projects affect the land and wildlife in our office, and how difficult the processes can be. These projects influence our target species list as SoS interns, because we aim to collect native species that can be used for reclamation and wildlife.

A male pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) in a proposed wind project area

I am excited to visit Chicago, continue the field season, and complete our field office projects and collections. Happy botanizing!

Chloe Battista


Rawlins, Wyoming