Oh the places you will…. pee?

My summer job is ending, as summer jobs tend to do. In less than a week I’ll be headed back to Maine for Graduate school. When I started reflecting on what I had learned this summer I figured I could sum it up best by recounting all of the places I had urinated. Crude as it may sound; I think you’ll find it a revealing reflection.
I’ll start out first by saying that dehydration is a real issue out in the desert, water is by far the most important tool one carries with them. Hydration is so important that in my field office there are pee color charts you can look at to calculate your hydration! I’ve also learned that hydration is the key to a good mood. Nothing makes me crankier faster than not being properly hydrated. That being said, I learned to gauge my hydration on the frequency of my urination. Good days I peed all the time, bad days I did maybe once or twice.
My first week here I was what one might call gun shy, preferring to pee in only designated locations. However, once the field work kicked into gear that was no longer a viable option, and thus began my journey in the exploration of Northern California. My first very memorable pee outside came one day a few weeks in with a group of BLM employees who were out assessing locations for future fence projects. I trotted off to find a suitable juniper tree and on the other side was a simply beautiful view, wildflowers and sagebrush on a gentle slope. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen prior to that moment, in fact it was the exact sight I saw almost every day, but seeing it from that angle and that vulnerability brought an entirely new appreciation.
Since then I’ve peed inside of a hollowed out redwood tree; off of a rock cliff in the Warner Mountain range; on the edge of wildflower meadows under a Juniper tree; on a beach in the Pacific Ocean; on a hill overlooking Shasta Mountain; for warmth in Blue Lake; under scrutiny of cows; looking off into Surprise Valley; pre, mid and post seed collection; while checking both front and back tires (side note, when driving to a field site it was common practice to announce the need to pee by saying “I’m going to check the front/back tires”); watching the sunset in the sage steepe; at dusk in the wildlife refuge; next to an old mining shaft; in the middle of a few year old burn (lots of saplings!); as well as in bathrooms of course!
I’ve learned that there is much more to this internship than seed collections or vegetation monitoring. While the specific tasks were obviously important, the internship was also a collection of new environments and scenery. In those few peaceful moments of release, I could really appreciate where I was and the true importance of my job.
I would like to thank the entire Alturas Field Office and the Modoc Wildlife Refuge as well as Krissa and Marian for all of their help and guidance. This has been a very memorable and hydrated summer!

Spotting Leopard Frogs

Over the season, my main project has been to map Mountain Plover habitat. However, this project has been interrupted from time to time by other projects from other areas of the BLM. It’s refreshing to receive a new project after bouncing around the countryside in the work truck for hours and I was happy to help out with Multiple Indicator Monitoring (MIM) on riparian habitats within the Kemmerer, WY, field office.
MIM helps assess the health of riparian areas before and after cattle grazing within specific areas along streams. MIM helps the BLM determine if grazing rotation should be altered or suspended temporarily along riparian areas. For two weeks, I sat in ankle- to waist-deep streams studying the vegetation composition along the banks of streams within one allotment. From sunrise to nearly sunset everyday, we wallowed in the water and soaked up the sun. What made the days most exciting was finding critters of all sorts up and down the streams. These critters included garter snakes, giant 5-inch long caterpillars, fish, and northern leopard frogs. I had seen leopard frogs before in science dissection labs, but never in the wild. So, it was nice to see one still hopping around without the stench of formaldehyde trailing behind it. Interestingly, although these frogs are commonly used for dissections, they are becoming of concern in our area. So, we eagerly took GPS locations of the frogs we sighted and, of course, tried to catch them. Northern leopard frogs are large, slimy, and can leap without warning, making them very difficult to catch. I was unsuccessful, though I attempted several times to catch a frog larger than my palm.
On weekends, I try to explore more of the area outside of the field office I work in. Lately, I’ve been enjoying Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. The southern end of the gorge that crosses into Utah mingles with Ashley National Forest and offers some excellent hiking trails. My dog, Finn, and I love to spend our days exploring different areas of this part of the gorge. On one hike, we spooked a young bighorn sheep and watched it prance down the steep walls of the gorge. We have also seen several northern sage brush lizards and raptors. The water at the bottom of the gorge is a deep blue, contrasted beautifully against the red and white rock cliffs. There is much to explore around my field office, which has made for some fun weekend trips. The landscape varies drastically in every direction, making deciding where to go difficult. But no matter where I go, I find awe-inspiring landscapes as well as challenging and fulfilling adventures.

Spectacular September!

The monsoon season is wrapping up in Las Cruces. Our Fire Danger sign moved off of the extreme and over to mild for about one week. Sadly the meter is pointing back to the extreme again. Luckily, despite the heat, we can still spot those enigmatic creatures of the desert.

Nice catch by our neighbors!

The rain we did receive allowed us to amp our collection number up to 7 with members from Poaceae and Nyctaginaceae. The most difficult collection we’ve faced was Boerhavia coulteri, Coulter’s Spiderling. The entire plant is incredibly sticky and I was shocked that half of my collection was glued to my hand by the time that I finished. We have a few other collections lined up and are waiting for them to come to seed.

Sticky as a Nyctag!

My free time in New Mexico consists of running, hiking, patiently awaiting the start of hockey season, and checking out the local food festivals. I vacated briefly to California over Labor Day week and it is remarkable how different the environment and flora is compared to the desert. As we drove through Arizona I saw Saguaro cacti (Carnegiea gigantea) for the first time. It’s bizarre to realize that this internship is about half finished. The first few months flew by and I expect the next few will move just as quickly.

The occasional guest in our bunkhouse.

The Real World: Sacto Edition

When I applied to the CLM program, I had visions of living in a small middle-of-nowhere town. I was excited to ride my bike to work, order “the usual” in a favorite restaurant, and live in a quaint country house with a huge garden.

Just one scroll through the area’s Craigslist was enough to cure me of that delusion. People were renting living room couches for more than I’d paid for a large bedroom back in small-town Ohio. “Welcome to the real world sweetheart,” it screamed; “you’re moving to California!”

Looking for a place close to the office, I settled on a room in suburban Folsom, CA. Yes, the very same Folsom as Folsom Prison and Johnny Cash. The area boasted miles of bike trail and a cutesy old-town business district along the river. However, as the weeks went by I began to feel like a black sheep—the recent college graduate living in a town of 30-50 year-olds with school age children. “Where are all the young single people?” I wondered.

I would like to say that I had a change of heart and fell in love with Folsom, or that I am now magically happily married with two kids of my own. But that’s just not what happened. In reality, I moved last Saturday. Despite valiant efforts to fulfill my small town fantasy, I’m now a Sacramento urbanite.

Filling out my CLM application last spring, I was hardly prepared for this; I live in the city and commute 30 min to our large (but mostly deserted) suburban business park. Life in midtown is bustling and full of young folks, but some days I’m convinced the shopping centers, traffic jams, and bright city lights will swallow me whole. It seems like I’ll never get the hang of all these one-way streets.

Despite the frustrations, I’ll admit Sacto does have charms of its own. Living in the city and working with the BLM I am able to experience the rugged beauty of the area’s open lands during the day and return home to the deliciousness of a city. After all, not many small towns can boast authentic falafel and fresh 1am doughnuts not far from your door.

Over and out.

Sophia Weinmann, El Dorado Hills, CA

Over the hump

Halfway through my CLM internship experience and the “To do” list has been lengthened greatly. During this past week of respite I’ve realized exactly how busy things will be when I return to work. However, the fact that I have recently returned to the field (with great care not to aggravate my still perplexing injury) has alleviated most of my worry.

The abundance of work doesn’t mean we’ve been neglecting our duties. In fact, just last week we completed this year’s survey plots in the study of Greater Sage Grouse habitat suitability. This was a large project and it feels fantastic to open up so much time for other work. We also recently finished our fence line surveys for the summer after walking miles and miles of fences to record raptor perch locations.

The Double-Arch Alcove in Kolob

I have also been lucky enough to join the USFS on some of their electro-shocking expeditions, where we waded through the chilly mountain streams and collected the local fish for measurements, and a brief survey of some pellet surveys in treatment areas. During some upcoming weekends we will be joining the recreation crew at some BLM sites to provide some wildlife education for children and I’m also looking forward to helping with some trail maintenance on National Public Lands Day.


All in all, things have been pleasantly busy and interesting. The diversity of projects ahead has me excited to get started on the second half of my internship and see what new things I can learn!

Co-worker bonding during a long work day

Late Summer in Cody, WY

Work continues, with different tasks practically every day. I love variety.

As the weather continues to transition into Fall and my amphibian searching season is winding down, I will increasingly be doing things like fence type inventories, re-spacing fence wires, making a last minute seed collection, other office work involving GIS mapping and sorting through eagle and vegetation data, and helping other people in the office with their work. Some of the work with other people has included trail assessments, evaluating streams for proper functioning condition, and weed spraying.

Yesterday I was fortunate to accompany the wild horse specialist on her quest to see if a mustang mare had foaled yet. We saw lots of horses and a few foals, though not from the particular mare we were checking up on. I was surprised to learn that all the BLM horses have names. Most are named by the USGS (US Geological Survey), but I guess I had expected that they would all have code numbers or something so as to remain distanced and objective with their management. Talking to the wild horse specialist has been very educating; I have always wondered about the management methods of the mustangs and what exactly the controversy over their presence on the land and their management was all about. I never really knew how I felt about the matter, but now that I have an understanding of the various viewpoints and issues involved in it, I have developed an informed opinion. What that opinion is I think I will keep to myself for this entry, but this realization does highlight the value of learning from a diversity of people in the office. You never know what kinds of useful stuff you’ll pick up on, and it’s great networking for future jobs and references, not to mention friends.

I am still waiting to hear whether or not there will be funding to extend my internship, so I have been trying to plan for my next job, but if they can find funding I would like to stay in Cody a while longer. It’s been a great a experience, and I like the place and people. I already feel that the end is quickly approaching, and it makes me a little sad. I know that I will be reluctant to leave, but for now I can’t do anything but press on and learn everything I can squeeze out of the whole experience. There is still plenty of interesting work to be done, and an intern couldn’t ask for more.

Always an Upside

The temperature has started to cool of here in New Mexico, making the days more pleasant. Fall has always been my favorite season and I cannot wait to experience the changes here.

I have made a few more seed collections since my last post. My favorite collection so far was of Erysimum asperum. This lovely wallflower has yellow flowers and stems that surpass all the sagebrush around. Their seeds come in pods and are extremely small with an orange sunset color. These wallflower seeds were so cool to pick up and hold in your hand, also fairly easy to collect!

The monsoon rains everyone keeps hoping for have not made their appearance this year, causing major setbacks in seed production. On the upside, our mentor has gotten a permit to collect in the San Juan National Forest in Southern Colorado. There we have been able to make 3 seed collections so far in a beautiful mountain meadow.

Less than 2 months left in my CLM Internship and I cannot wait to see where they lead me. Hopefully I will have pictures for my next post.