new stuff II

It has been more than four months since I arrived in Lakeview and I am continuing to learn all sorts of new things. For a month or so the office revolved around a fire that I could see from the office. This was my first exposure to the fire culture out west.

Out in the field I have continued monitoring and establishing trend plots in the rangeland. I also accompanied the fish and wildlife biologist and a  range specialist doing stream surveys to assess if it is in proper functioning condition. The field season is winding down and there is lots of office work to be done. I have been writing health assessments and updating spreadsheets and will be involved with writing EAs very shortly.

The most exciting work related experience was a tour of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, OR. Thanks to Tommy Esson, a big group of people in the surrounding areas were able to learn about the types of wildlife crimes committed and how the lab goes about cracking cases. I was really impressed by the advancement in the instruments they use.

It feels as though this is the home stretch in the internship. Some folks have already moved on, which makes me sad. The CLM interns are some of the coolest people I have ever met and hope to stay in touch in the future. This experience would not have been such a blast without them!

Outreach Rocks!

It’s been about three months since I’ve written a post. In three, quick months, I have seen and done so many things out here in northeastern Wyoming. I’ve been to every corner of the Newcastle field office (during Sturgis) while carrying out my Visual Resources Inventory work. I’ve learned all sorts of things: from riding OHV’s to ArcGIS to distinguishing between sedge species. As a recreation intern, though, my most fulfilling experiences have been through my interactions during BLM outreach. I’ve taken kids fishing, taught them orienteering skills, gotten waist deep in cold pond water to teach them about the environment of aquatic insects, and taught them how to not leave a trace while recreating on their public land. The most amazing of these experiences, by far, was helping out with the Upton Summer Discovery Program.

The BLM and the Weston County School District #7 have been teaming up since 2008 to connect these students to the great outdoors. During the two week-long sessions, with ten students each week, we camped out in the Black Hills National Forest, developed our own lessons, taught and played with bright, enthusiastic kids, and hopefully made a lasting impression and inspired some of them to explore more. I have a few more opportunities for outreach while I’m here, but for the most part, I will spend the rest of my internship in the office. All in all, I have had a great time and hope the remainder will be just as interesting.

Loving the Modoc

I cannot believe fall is already rapidly approaching the Modoc. Already the redbud has ripened and some leaves are beginning to turn colors. My field season experiences continue to be interesting and varied. My partner Joe and I scoped out a habitat corridor to post a game camera for Arlene, the wildlife biologist at our field office. The sight for the camera is under a bridge which is over the South Pit river across from the Modoc Wildlife Refuge. Arlene is hoping to capture any wildlife crossing under highway 395. Besides helping out other departments in our office, seed collection is still the main project we have been working on. Joe and I have made over 20 seed collections and have plans on making even more. We often drive out into the field looking for more plants populations to collect from while exploring new areas. Last week we collected coffee plant and elderberry.

When I first arrived here I was rather uncertain how I would like working here for the entire summer…but the truth is I have really grown to love this area. A few weeks ago I went to the county fair in nearby Cedarville. The fair was quite the adventure complete with demolition derby and line dancing. (: So something really exciting is the fact that Joe and I both got extended to work into the fall. I am looking forward to gaining more work and life experiences on the Modoc. One of the projects we will be working on is mapping Wyoming sagebrush with GPS using ATVs.

In other news, there was a large fire that started near Likely, CA, a mere 22 miles from Alturas. Joe and I were out checking out some potential seed collection sights and saw smoke quickly grow from a small few acres to hundreds in a matter of minutes. The fire started from a RV on 395. Over the next week the fire grew to over 10,000 acres and is still not declared contained.

Looking forward to watching the rest of the leaves turn across Northeast California…

From Mayapple to ARTR.

Coming from the East, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Colorado Plateau. Now that I’ve been here for three months, I’ve gotten to explore the epic landscape and familiarize myself with the flora and fauna of canyon country.

I remember my first field day when I saw sagebrush and tamarisk for the first time and wasn’t quite sure what they were.  As I am approaching the end of my internship, I am able to see how much I’ve learned about this ecosystem and have fallen in love with Colorado (which, considering there are so many beautiful outdoors activities within a few hour radius…is not hard!).


I have really enjoyed my work as a range technician.  The focus of my internship has been evaluating the health of BLM land.  We look at soil, erosion, and vegetation, as well as the potential of the land the provide habitat for the Gunnison Sage Grouse.  I’ve gotten to collaborate with the range staff and ecologists and have learned so much about how the BLM manages for livestock and grouse.

Glade Park Assessment.

Fawn sleeping in the sagebrush.

I’ve also accompanied other biologists in the field and learned about rare plant surveys, bighorn sheep radio-telemetry, and fire-effects monitoring.


I learned to identify a lot of new plants.  I had no previous experience identifying grasses in such a dry climate—so I’m always excited when I see one I know and it’s alive!

I have also gotten to enjoy and explore Colorado.


Into Mordor.


I’m sure that you all appreciating this experience as well, but I am so grateful for this opportunity.  I love this job and the chance to work with such knowledgeable and passionate people.   It’s hard to believe that my internship ends in less than two months.  I’ll be sad to leave Grand Junction, but I’m excited for the next journey!

The Limber Pine

Limber pine, some blisterine, dropping orange fascicles of needles

Your old friend Ribes now carries disease that makes you weep from your branches,

All around you, your fellows stand dead, tall and small, dried and rotting.

Poked and prodded, the humans drill holes, spray paint your trunk, leave little cages over your cones.

And then the silence returns

People less predictable than plants… or are they?


The Farmington Donut Hole

 When it comes to rain, Farmington is still “the hole in the donut”, as I recently heard someone say in our BLM office. Still SOS optimistic, we have been focusing our monitoring and collecting efforts in the rolling Piñon-Juniper hills near Cuba, New Mexico, about 100 miles south of Farmington. This little 25 square mile area at 7,000 ft has been a botanical paradise for us in the dry desert.

While this plant oasis has been absorbing the precious monsoon that has evaded much of northern New Mexico, not all of the plants have been able to flourish. Number one on our SOS target list is galleta grass (Pleuraphis jamesii), a grass that is a powerful species for reclamation projects due to its vigorous growth with robust rhizomes. Last week is when we discovered that ~ 80% of the galleta seed had not properly matured after testing spikelets with our teeth at each population we marked.

Rocky Mountain Bee Plant (Cleome serrulata) we are collecting in Cuba (it’s tall enough to stand up while collecting!)


The plants that have been lucky enough to receive rain were mostly in flower last week. Yesterday we went down to Cuba expecting to collect at least one species. At our first site, 6 species had seeds that were mature and ready to collect! In attempt to expedite the collecting, Henry had the idea of using a vacuum to suck the seeds off the plants. This idea materialized into bringing a dustbuster to the field. Several fluffy asters we thought would do well with the vacuum clung dearly to the involucre. Finally, Heterotheca villosa relinquished its clutch from the motherplant and was swept up into the vacuum. I hope Henry titles his next blog, “Housekeeping with Henry.”

Housekeeping here for Heterotheca– with Henry


We don’t often run into the public when we are scouting or collecting seeds in remote BLM land. When we do, it is exciting to explain why we look like we are digging through the brush and in turn, find out what the public does use the lands for.  The BLM road we were on yesterday oddly had a lot of traffic. Several people pulled over to chat with us, which made for some nice breaks of sitting upright amidst the standard “SOS forward hunch” (though I have begun to collect seeds in a circle around the stool that I sit on so that I really have to twist to reach the seeds directly behind me. It gives my back a little stretch but it looks ridiculous).

The last fellow that stopped at our site was a little Navajo man that waved me over to his truck. He opened the bed cover and I stepped back, overwhelmed with the unmistakable sharp scent of sagebrush. The truck bed was full of it! He had been collecting soft flowering sagebrush tips all day off BLM land. Why? To make little incense bundles that he dries and sells on the internet! A couple years ago he needed a permit to collect sagebrush, but now he no longer does since the BLM is trying to rid their land of the “invasive” native sagebrush. As he was describing to me a-mile-a-minute about how the airplanes have been dropping kill pellets, I thought he may be upset about the BLM sage-attack as it directly affects his business. Turns out, he is very pleased about the sagebrush herbicide because he believes no matter what, the sagebrush will always grow back for him. He also said the new regrowth is bright green and much easier to find! He gave me his phone number to notify him of where sagebrush has been sprayed so he can track it for new growth in the next year. For his sake, I hope the sagebrush stays predictable.

Area where the Navajo man was collecting sagebrush for his internet business



Deidre Conocchioli

BLM, Farmington, New Mexico

Weeds and Seeds

Over the past month I have been working on weed removal, seed collections, watering willows to restore a creek bed, watering and protection of baby oaks, and packaging seeds that were ready to be shipped.
We have been working on weeds all over Fort Ord National Monument. The photo taken was a field of Bull thistle and Italian thistle; we then weeded, wacked and racked it into the pile that you see. I also was looking for Yellow-Star Thistle the last week on a site that had been eradicated to make sure there were no stragglers.
This month, I successfully gathered the remainder of the seeds I was planning to collect and sent them to Bend Oregon for cleaning. I have now begun more collection for the next shipment.
I am still working on the restoration project we have going in a creek bend on the east end of Fort Ord. There is over 5,000 feet of fire hose to create an easier watering system then using buckets. This project is becoming a success and the willows planted should making to the raining season.
In relation the creek bed I have been working with volunteers to ensure the success of baby oaks planted in a valley. There has been vandalism lately on this project so we have increased monitoring this site to more than normal.
The past month the range of work done has been great and I am excited to see what else is to come.

Bison Pipeline: Tying It Together

Hello! And greetings from Eastern Montana!

My crewmate, Kimberly, wrote an excellent post below titled “Gone Fishin'” about our crazy adventure helping the fisheries girl here finish up her field work for the summer. Since she did such a good job descirbing it, I’m going to skip that and talk about something else.

I’d like to talk about the Bison Pipeline. The Bison Pipeline is a natural gas pipeline that starts in Wyoming, cuts through eastern Montana, and ends in North Dakota, a total of 303 miles. When Kimberly and I recieved an email about tagging along to the pipeline to evauluate how the revegetation’s going we jumped at the chance. I have always been interested in reclimation, and was looking forward to getting out in the field to see what it’s all about.

We met John Beavers, owner of Westech Environmental Services, a company based out of Helena, MT, out at the pipeline and John showed us an area of the pipeline where they had experiemented with a new technique, called brushbeating, to see if it made reclimation easier/more effective.

While out there I also had the opportunity to ask John some questions. A lot of questions. I wanted to know where they get the seeds from, who plants them, how it’s decided if reclimation is effective, etc. John was great and answered all of them in stride. One of the things I really took home was the importance of the work that we do with SOS. When you hear the amount of native seed they need to actually make reclimation work it’s daunting. But when you go out to sites like these, and see reclimation in progress, and think about what we do and how that’s helping, it really makes you feel good. 🙂


Switching it up a bit.

It’s been a dry, dry year.  Our range field monitoring has officially ended now that everything is yellow.  So now its on to new projects.  We were able to continue some riparian vegetation monitoring, and will begin analyzing it for the first time when we get some free office time.  We also just finished a limber pine survey, trying to find some healthy trees that have mostly escaped the rust for use in seed collection later. Our main project now is surveying BLM fences, especially around significant wildlife areas.  We’re hoping to get a good survey of the types of fences, particularly not wildlife friendly fences so they can tagged for sage grouse, or have the sheep fence removed for pronghorn.  I’m thinking this will be able to keep us quite busy until its time for another new project.