Goodbye Reno..For Now

I am going to say the cliche statement — I can’t believe how quickly my time in Reno came and went! In a couple of weeks I will be driving back east to Colorado, and I am happy to say that I will miss this area. I learned a saying here, “Reno: so close to hell, you can see Sparks”(If you don’t know, Sparks is a town right next to Reno). I use this saying with no negative intent towards Reno; it is a crazy place full of great people. I have made a lot of friends in this town, and it feels good to know that Reno is a place I can call home. To the west lies the Sierras where I caught frogs and fish, and to the east lies myriad Nevadan mountain ranges where I collected native seed.

Here is what I have been up to in my final month here: I spent a few days in September helping to monitor a wetland restoration project near Sonora Pass. I walked around as the “biologist on site” looking for any Yosemite Toads that may be displaced by the construction. In order to restore the meadow to make it a more wet site, the road crew removed the top layer of sod in and surrounding the unwanted ravine, filled in the area with dirt to make it more level, and then returned the top layer of sod. This will allow next year’s water to flow more slowly and into a larger area of the meadow, rather than directly into the nearby river.

USFS road crew at work on a wet meadow restoration project

This month, I have also been helping out on the University of Nevada Reno (UNR) campus. I worked with a current grad student (who is a botanical genius); together we transplanted some native plants into her pollinator garden on campus. We also worked on designing a dry creek bed where she will soon transplant more native plants. Our final project together was planting two beds of native plants at the USFS station in Sparks. These beds will qualify as an official pollinator garden for the Forest Service. We used about 15 different species of flowering plants that will bloom at different times over the course of the summer. I hope they survive the winter and flourish next spring!


A pollinator garden at UNR made up of native, arid/desert plants

This honey bee was happy to find this evening primrose open for business in early October!

Dry creek bed on UNR campus

Watering the newly transplanted native plants into their new home at the USFS office

Overall, I think that my most important gains from this season were the friendships and professional relationships that I formed. I met a lot of different people working for different government agencies, all of whom are trying to advocate for native plants and wildlife conservation. I have learned a lot from them all, and I hope that I am able to continue their work wherever I end up.

Signing off,

Zoë Moffett

US Forest Service, Sparks NV

Killing invasive fish to save frogs!

August, 2018

Thanks to my mentor Dirk, at the end of July I was able to go out on a backpacking trip with 2 fish biologists from the forest service. With 3 other ladies from California fish and wildlife, we hiked 16 miles to Stella Lake. This lake is right on the eastern border of Yosemite and is right on the PCT! The purpose of this trip was to continue an ongoing project called the high mountain lakes project that is designed to remove fish from alpine lakes in order to help restore populations of the endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog. This frog is endangered due to a combination of factors including predation by invasive fish and due to outbreaks of the Chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). Our team spent a week at Stella putting in gill nets in order to catch and remove rainbow and brook trout. During our time up at the lake, there was an active forest fire in Yosemite called the Ferguson fire. This made the visibility pretty awful and sometimes made breathing a little difficult.

I really valued my time with these women because they didn’t mind me asking all of the questions that I could think of! I learned so much about the project and about their jobs in general. I am very grateful that this internship has allowed me to meet such a diverse group of people.

Dawne Emery and Rachel Van Horne out on Stella Lake, setting up the gill nets.

Making me feel like I’m back in the Rockies! This Alpine Gentian looks an awful lot like the Arctic Gentian that I sought out in CO.

Thanks to the high mountain lakes project, we found frogs all around this lake and didn’t spot any fish!

Marmot friend 🙂

Bee enjoying Ranger’s button (Sphenosciadium capitellatum)

Zoë Moffett

US Forest Service, Sparks NV

Scouting up in the mountains

July, 2018

Still acting as a sort of third wheel, I have gone out with a different duo working out of Reno. This team could not function more differently than the first team that I worked with. While they still of course do a great job, they are much more independent and quiet. This was a tricky transition for me as I came from a team of two who constantly chatted and joked, cooking and walking together even when the day was technically over. It took some adjusting, but I figured out how I fit in with the new team, finding my own ways to spend my solo time in the mornings and evenings. I am learning a lot about group dynamics and team efficiency in a field setting.

We have been scouting out for small, research collections for the Rocky Mountain Research Station. As the summer continues, we have to move higher up into the numerous mountain ranges where plants are flowering later in their phenology and where there is more moisture.

Camping spot south of Austin, NV

I have started to keep a list of reasons why I love the Nevada landscape. Here is a sample:

  • So much BLM and USFS land! You can camp basically anywhere.
  • The milky way is incredible basically every night.
  • Constant night hawks and poor-wills at night.
  • A species of mountain mahogany that is new to me! Cercocarpus ledifolius. 

Quick pit stop at Diana’s Punchbowl! There’s a hot spring in this formation that reaches 200°F!


Zoë Moffett

US Forest Service, Sparks NV

Getting to know the Great Basin

June, 2018

In May, I moved from Colorado to Reno with the help of a good friend. Together we drove west across the state of Nevada, peering at the sage brush and endless mountain ranges, so different from those in Colorado. Every time we passed a sign declaring “Entering the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest”, we would look around, discussing my new “office” for the season.

My internship is with the Seeds of Success (SOS) Program working with the US Forest Service. However, I have realized that this internship is not going to function exactly as I thought it would. Unfortunately, I do not have a partner for the season. This means that I will be acting as a “third wheel” with two different 2 person SOS crews from the Great Basin Institute (GBI). In order to scout out populations and make collections, these teams go out for 8 days at a time, camping out in the desert. So far, I have gone out with one of these crews to help scout grass populations and to make a few collections. These two girls have been working together since April, so I was a little nervous to come into a group that had already been so established. It was also tricky because they already had their training and routines down – and here I was coming in with no real understanding of their work or group dynamics. It was awkward to try and learn on the job, asking for clarifications and tasks without wanting to slow them down. Luckily they are two lovely people who I immediately got along with on a personal level.

With the help of a fantastic crew of inmates from the Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF), we collected a crazy amount of Indian Ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides)

A few SOS field tips that I have learned right off the bat:

  1. Don’t wear nice hiking songs in sagebrush habitat. The cheatgrass will shred them up
  2. Podcasts are king when collecting seed nonstop for hours at a time.
  3. Gatorade powder can really help out with those 100 degree desert afternoons.

Until next time,

Zoë Moffett

US Forest Service, Sparks NV