As my time here with the Carson City Bureau of Land Management Office comes to a close, I look back on all of the beautiful sunsets that I have seen over the last six months. This was a fantastic work opportunity, and I am so thankful that I was assigned to an area so ruggedly beautiful. Since June I have been able to travel throughout Northwestern Nevada and into Eastern California. Every field day was an amazing adventure with a new experience. I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to work in this area and to have experienced life out in the desert. I would recommend this program to anyone who would like a change of scenery and the opportunity to gain hands-on work experience in conservation. Whatever that next step might be, I know that I have come away from this internship with more than when I went into the program. Someone told me that I need to be careful when I move back, that the west will remain under your skin once you have experienced life out here and you will be itching to come back. I hope they were right.
Where the deer and the antelope play…and elk, and moose, and sage grouse!
In the past two weeks I’ve seen so much wildlife while we finish up our seed collecting. Driving out to the middle of nowhere to collect is getting more difficult now that most of the two-tracks are covered in snow!
Summer in Wyoming was good to me and I’m beginning to miss it now that cold weather has finally moved in. I didn’t truly appreciate the beautiful weather and normal driving conditions until last week.
However, the cooler temperatures allow me to reflect upon the past five months and relive the awesome experiences I’ve had since arriving in Wyoming.
I have learned about so many new plants, animals, and ecosystems, as well as the many responsibilities and interworkings of the various government agencies out here, especially of the BLM.
I think back to the hundreds of wonderful days I had in the field this summer, and remember the different animals and plants I’ve seen.
I’m surprised at how easily Wyoming became my temporary home, and how much I enjoy being here. I still have some time left, and I plan on continuing to make the best of this wonderful experience!
Rock Springs, WY
Playing a bit of roulette with my life after graduation, I didn’t state a location preference on my CBG application. For some reason, finding out that I’d be spending the next 7 months in Rock Springs, WY was not a daunting realization.
I’ve been undecided about future career plans for a while, so the opportunity to experience a totally new place (I’ve lived in Ohio my entire life) seemed like a great interim between school and more school and/or more work.
I showed up towards the end of June without a great understanding of what I was getting myself into. Fortunately, botany is AWESOME and it wasn’t hard to get into the spirit of my job requirements. A lot of what we do involves identifying plants—most of which I had never seen before. Sagebrush? I got used to that pretty quickly. It is fun to look back at my time here so far and realize how much I’ve learned and how many awesome plants I’ve found.
Even if we can’t collect everything we find, I still get super excited when I find some crazy flower and figure out what it is.
For example, while collecting Antennaria corymbosa and Penstemon humilis near the Wind Rivers I spotted an orchid (Spiranthes romanzoffiana, or Ladies’ Tresses) by a stream I was near. Put that at the top of the list of things I did not expect to find in Wyoming. However, that piqued my interest and led me to dig through our herbarium only to find that there are quite a few other orchid species in Wyoming as well, many of them in our district.
The biodiversity that exists out here in the high desert district never ceases to amaze me. We go driving through hot, flat, desert and suddenly there are huge populations of beautiful, showy flowers.
One of the most memorable moments for me was a day in the field after a big rain storm. It seemed as though overnight Opuntia polyancantha all over the desert had burst into flower, and the landscape was lit up by the yellow blossoms.
Living and working in such a different environment than I’m used to has led me to truly appreciate the crazy diverse ecosystems out here.
Accordingly, when people in the office (frequently) ask me what plants I’m managing to collect in the desert besides sagebrush and greasewood, I have some great answers for them!
As I reflect on my five months at the BLM office in Glasgow, Montana, a few main themes come to mind. The first is just how many amazing things I’ve been able to do. I’ve been involved in a variety of projects at work that have enhanced and increased my biology tool kit in a safe, open environment with very knowledgeable people. One of my favourite projects was helping out at the UL Bend Black-footed Ferret Recovery camp. BFFs are the most endangered mammal in NA and this is just one of many sites where they have been reintroduced. I helped trap ferrets and administer booster shots for the plague and canine distemper. All the trapping was done at night, and while it was tiring, sometimes monotonous work, to be able to help the recovery of such a sensitive species was a real joy. As an added bonus, the ferrets are very adorable!
Working at the BLM office also allowed me to interact with seasoned employees in other fields who were more than willing to answer my questions and take me out to see what they do. I was able to go to an archeological dig, help pull out salt cedar saplings from around a reservoir, do the rounds with our ranger, and stake the site for a new reservoir. Being Canadian, it was interesting to discover the various functions and goals of an American agency.
Working as a CLM intern allowed me to intimately experience another culture and landscape. Northeast Montana is unlike anywhere I’ve lived before and it was a lot of fun to immerse myself in the cowboy/small town culture. I met many wonderful people, including my landlady who in essence became my “Montana Mom”.
From the highway you get a sense of what NE Montana is like, but it was by driving all those back roads and hiking across the untouched prairie that the real magic and beauty was revealed. I’m very thankful I had the opportunity to be a CLM intern and for all the special memories I’ve gathered!
I find it hard to believe that 5 months have passed. It feels awkward to walk out the front door and feel a cool breeze rather than a sweltering heat wave. Moving from Chicago to Southeast California was a definite shock when the internship began. Reflecting upon my experiences out west I can say that I feel less anxious and irritable. I have retained some cynicism but nonetheless I am at ease when talking with my superiors and working in groups. My time in the BLM office has definitely prepared me for a job in the future where I will have to work with people who may or may not share common values. As a professional I feel that I have gained a great deal of experience doing independent work. There were many occasions when I had to work solo in the field with little information about where I was venturing. Every time I drove out of the office parking lot in the work vehicle was taking a great risk. The venomous snakes, summer heat and abandoned mine shafts were always looming threats. As tacky as it may sound, I feel like more of a man after the internship.
Rewarding experiences that stand out would have to include my bat surveys with expert Patricia Brown. I partnered with Pat on more than ten occasions to visit abandoned mines and track bat entries and exits with night vision. Not only did I have the joy of using expensive, militaristic equipment but I also witnessed some fascinating bat behavior. I don’t know many people who can say that they have worked this closely with flying, nocturnal mammals. The rattlesnakes that scared me while navigating dark mountainsides with only a headlamp also added to the fun. Another rewarding experience was the day I substituted our front desk man Murl. I talked to visitors from all around the country (many who were driving route 66 to LA) as well as some Europeans who were exploring “the land of gold and cowboys”. It was a challenge to describe a region that I was only beginning to understand to these visitors, but it brought satisfaction that I made their trip less confusing and more exciting. Last but not least I cannot stress how great the Grand Canyon workshop was. I wish I could see the other interns again because many of them felt like old friends despite only knowing them for five days or more. The smores cookout, the ethnobotany class and the weekend hike down to the bottom of Grand Canyon are all moments I will cherish. New interns that do not attend the workshop will surely miss out.
I think one of the most lasting elements of my CLM internship in Flagstaff, Arizona will be the land itself. Flagstaff is an anomaly; its a Ponderosa-clustered volcano in a sea of red and pink sandstone. It remains cool and rainy during the hot southwestern summers, and sports an astonishing diversity of ecosystems, transitioning from pinyon-juniper forest to alpine tundra in a matter of miles. On one particularly clear day, a friend of mine living in Bryce, UT said he could see the San Francisco Peaks of Flagstaff from the ranger station, some 177 miles away!
The forests here are of a storybook quality, and I enjoyed and wandering through them collecting seed immensely. Thousands of acres of contiguous national forest surround Flagstaff, all filled with giant butterscotch-smelling trees. Furthermore, there is no understory, such that one could easily walk for miles and miles, possibly getting separated from their car for hours (not saying that ever happened). It is not uncommon to catch a gang of elk, or wandering coyote off-guard.
For a multitude of reasons, it is no wonder that this place has particular significance for all the Native American Tribes in the region. Flagstaff is just a special place. It is for this reason that I feel honored to have had the opportunity to work here, to traverse and memorize its backroads, to learn its flora and collect seed from its variety of ecosystems. It is encouraging to believe that the seed we collected will be useful for land managers and researchers in the future, who wish to take care of this land.
Seeds of Success / Landsward Institute
I am in the final days of my internship as well as my time in the Arizona desert. Things have really begun to change around here, and it makes me a little sad to be leaving. The desert autumn brings the most wonderful weather shift–finally seeing frost on the sagebrush in the early dawn light, seeing my breath, wearing a sweater for most of the day, and actually wanting to be outside after 3pm–these things are all new to me here. The summer heat was so miserable I thought it would never end. Even in late September and early October it continued to break 100 degrees on a regular basis. Then suddenly something happened; we had an early autumn storm–something not very common around here–which brought rain for several days, the most spectacular lightning I’ve ever seen, and very muddy roads. Then it was cool. And that it has stayed. I can now say that it is absolutely perfect hiking weather, but I’m leaving!
The desert isn’t for everybody. I certainly don’t think it’s for me. I’m used to dark green vegetation surrounding me, and humid air, and streams, and sweaters in July. But it has left a certain something in me, something new, maybe an appreciation for the unknown. Never have I seen such vast expanses of territory unoccupied by humans, or really anything else for that matter. Being alone in the desert is like being in space. It’s quiet and still, like a vacuum. But then suddenly you develop an eye for movement… And then you see ground squirrels flashing their white tails at you, and giant grasshoppers, and tiny sparrows flitting between bushes, or the distant Zeeee of a towhee or the laugh of a pinyon jay. During my work surveying Mexican spotted owl potential habitat, I’ve probably stood in places no other human has been. I can appreciate that.
In the last few weeks I’ve checked a few more off of my desert animals checklist, including a tarantula, an owl (probably a short-eared or long-eared), a desert tortoise, and even a baby bighorn sheep!!! I never did and likely never will catch a glimpse of the elusive Mexican spotted owl. But I would like to think that through my work here, I’ve indirectly helped him out somehow. Without having done this internship I never would have gotten to do so many things, and it’s been hard work, but such a unique experience! I’ve thoroughly expanded the skill set to put on my resume, including things like ArcGIS Training, navigation skills, mist netting and banding, construction monitoring, backcountry hiking, bat identification, spotted owl biology and habitat classification, writing reports, learning desert plants, and driving a beast of a truck. So it’s been worthwhile! I leave here with a sense of accomplishment and a wonder at where this will take me next. So, here’s to the UNKNOWN! Woooooooo!!!
BLM Arizona Strip District Office
The collection season is winding down here in Western Nevada, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t the opportunity for one last trip to Anaho Island National Wildlife Refuge on Pyramid Lake to collect native seed. Although it is early November and snow has returned to the higher elevations, there are still an abundance of chenopods, buckwheats, asters, camissonias, and a variety of other sagebrush steppe and salt desert scrub species in seed this time of year.
We first travelled to Anaho Island back in June to collect seed from native grasses, forbs, and shrubs, which create an important habitat for the island’s population of American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos). The colony is one of the two largest American White Pelican colonies in the western U.S. The island also supports a number of other colonial nesting and migratory bird species such as the Common Loon (Gavia immer), as well as a large population of rattlesnakes.
Our trips to Anaho Island have encompassed the multidisciplinary and cooperative nature of the CLM Internship and the Carson City BLM office. Although our team is comprised solely of Seeds of Success and botany interns, we had the opportunity to work with other federal agencies on natural resource issues at this wildlife refuge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the refuge and one of their bird biologists repeatedly escorted us out to the island on USFWS boats for our native seed collections. Also, on our last trip to the Anaho, we met up with U.S. Geological Survey biologists who were counting fish tags from the endangered Cui-ui (Chasmistes cujus), a large sucker fish endemic to Pyramid Lake and the most important food source for the American White Pelican colony there. The birds had regurgitated the fish tags, along with the skeletons of the fish they had consumed. We were able to help the USGS biologists count fish tags in addition to making our native seed collections. The seeds we collected can now be available for any restoration efforts that may be necessary at the wildlife refuge.
Besides all of the great work we were able to accomplish, perhaps the greatest part about our trips to Anaho Island was the fact that we had the opportunity to travel out there at all (the island is closed to the public because it is a wildlife refuge). We were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery, the unique ecosystem, and the amazing wildlife of the island, all while getting our Seeds of Success work done. This is just one of the great opportunities that we wouldn’t be exposed to without the CLM program and we are all very grateful to have participated in such interesting and important conservation work.
In addition to field work, we also have amazing opportunities to attend workshops and training with other scientists and ecologists. In August, our team was able to attend the “Vegetation Rapid Assessment/Relevé Workshop” given by the California native plant Society (CNPS) in South Lake Tahoe, CA. We had the chance to learn and practice current rapid vegetation assessment techniques with scientists from nonprofits, other federal agencies and academics in a unique fen habitat.
In September, our team attended the “Cheatgrass & Medusahead Management Workshop” hosted by Ecologically-Based Invasive Plant Management (EBIPM) in Reno, NV. We learned about weed management issues in Northern Nevada and Eastern California, as well as current experimental treatments from leading weed scientists. This workshop had over 100 participants from local conservation groups, federal agencies, and weed specialists.
In November, we will attend the Great Basin Connectivity and Climate Change Workshop Connectivity and Climate Change Workshop at the University of Nevada, Reno, where researchers will present assessments of riparian vegetation and animal habitat in additional to projections of connectivity for multiple species of animals and plants under different scenarios of environmental change. This will be another great chance to connect with scientists in our area and to learn more about important issues in conservation and natural resources management!
-Maggie Chan and John Krapek, CLM Interns, Carson City, NV
I was given an opportunity to explore, for five months, the manner in which our government manages our public lands. This has been the most useful aspect of my time. I have been working some people who are very passionate about being good stewards of the land they are entrusted to manage. This is not a simple task they have. I know that I will have more respect for our public lands knowing more about their management.
Personally, I will hopefully help to contribute good science to help these managers, in order to simply preserve.
I have learned some good monitoring techniques and started the long task of learning GIS.
I have gotten an opportunity to understand what it is like to work in what would be considered harsh conditons (100+ degree heat in full sun for 8 hours a day). Strangely, I enjoyed it and I now miss it.
My time here went quick.
I am ready for the next opportunity to see things anew.
BLM Grand Junction, CO
Hello Current and Future Interns!
As I reflect on my internship experience, I am flooded with positive thoughts. I have benefitted greatly from the training and practical experiences and have significantly expanded my botanical knowledge and comfort with common techniques and protocols. Thanks to the CLM program I possess proficiency keying out plants, collecting voucher specimen, using GPS and GIS technologies, designing plans for and carrying out monitoring of rare species, using a Munsell soil chart to determine soil color, and writing up technical reports for both public and internal audiences. In the last weeks I also got CPR/First Aid Certification. I think it would be very valuable if this was incorporated into the initial CLM training workshop, because many of the interns spend significant time out in the field in often isolated conditions.
Still, the greatest rewards of this experience were the personal ones. Spending everyday outdoors in such a majestic landscape has truly ignited my passion for conservation work. As I wandered the sanctuary of trails other flock to on their days off, I was constantly filled with appreciation. My job was a privilege and, even more importantly, by doing it I was contributing to the preservation of the landscape and the feelings of elation and tranquility we get as its visitors. Getting to work with a fabulous group of people, my mentors Carol Dawson and Peter Gordon and fellow interns Lorenzo Ferrari and Teresa Olson, was a pleasure. Carol’s animation made even the most commonplace tasks seem exciting and Peter’s polite encouragement contributed greatly to our learning. Lorenzo’s caution, Teresa’s focus, and my optimism made for a well-balanced team despite, or perhaps because of, our very different assessments of the situations we encountered. I would also like to thank Krissa (CLM Manager) and Marian (CLM Coordinator) for always making themselves available to assist with any questions or problems that came up. Thank you all for making these 5 months such wonderfully memorable ones for me!
Best of luck to all my fellow interns! I am sure you will continue to do great things!
Here are some photos to illustrate a snippet of my CLM experience:
Conservation and Land Management Intern
Colorado State Office of the Bureau of Land Management