Frozen Toes, Nose, and Fingers

Hi everyone,

It has now been a little over two months since I have started my internship, and I have had so many opportunities that I had not expected. One amazing experience was a conference I was able to attend the first weekend of September with the Native Plant Society of New Mexico (NPSNM).

Sitting near the base of the Gila National Forest is the quaint town of Silver City. This is where Lucy (the other SOS intern) and I got to spend our three-day weekend presenting posters for the conference. The relaxed nature of the NPSNM made it easy to talk about something I am very passionate about: conservation. My poster outlined the different effects of the oil and gas industry, which has been booming in our resource area. Although all land use changes can cause numerous negative side effects on the surrounding landscape, it is easy to see that the presence of “pumpjack forests” has begun serious degradation to the habitats around them. Aside from the obvious destruction to the land, these oil fields can also cause wildlife poisoning, air pollution, and even change the hydrology of an area. This is why environmental education for this industry, and many others, is so important.

Poster for the Native Plant Society of New Mexico conference.

An amazing double rainbow in the Gila National Forest.

One of the three field trips taken during the conference. This trip was to look at the restoration efforts of an old ranch in the Gila National Forest.

Who doesn’t love a baby Horned Lizard!

Me (left) and Lucy (right)

In other news, the monsoon season is still in full swing here in the Chihuahuan desert. Many new plant faces are starting to appear, which means we will be very busy for the next few months! I still continue to be astonished by the concept of rain in the desert… Especially when the temperature can drop from the normal 80°-100°F range to a chilly 50°-60°F range due to this rain. Needless to say, I spent this last week with frozen toes, nose, and fingers while traipsing around collecting our precious seeds.

An example of storms in the desert. (No worries, I was not driving in this picture)

(Again, I was not driving)

Look close! The desert can hold the tiniest of little treasures.

Just another tiny treasure.

Best,

Caitie

Carlsbad Field Office, Bureau of Land Management

Welcome to the Chihuahuan Desert

Hi everyone!

A large amount of seed production begins in late summer here in the Chihuahuan Desert! Since many desert plants rely on the summer monsoon season to begin flowering, I have only been in Carlsbad, NM for a little over a month now. Being from the tallgrass prairies of Kansas, the desert has been a drastic change in scenery! However, desert ecosystems are fascinating and being an SOS intern means that I get to see so many unique plants and help to collect their much needed seed.

One of the biggest challenges so far has definitely been the heat. During my first week in Carlsbad, the temperatures were reaching 106°F! This is why the monsoon season is welcomed in the area, since rain brings cooler weather and a lush landscape. Another characteristic that takes some getting used to is the prominent presence of the oil and gas industry. Aside from the obvious habitat degradation the industry causes, the oil and gas pads emit gases that have the potential to cause serious harm. One gas of note is Hydrogen Sulfide. This gas, which is colorless and odorless, can be fatal if the concentration is too high. Since this is a major health concern, we need to have H2S monitors handy whenever we are in the field. Despite the potential hazards of the desert, I am having a great time becoming familiar with this ecosystem and all of its associated flora and fauna.

An example of just how many oil rigs can consume an area.

Believe it or not, this is an oak forest! (Quercus havardii)

Proof that this plant is indeed an oak.

One of my favorite desert plants so far, Chilopsis linearis.

Aristida purpurea (One of the plants that we have made numerous collections of so far.)

Yucca elata

One of the many storms that we have seen brewing in the distance.

Best,

Caitie

BLM Carlsbad Field Office

Seeds of Success Intern