Week Two Bites the Dust

So far the CLM Internship program has been quite the adventure for me. My first week was spent at the workshop in Chicago, where I met dozens of fellow interns and several mentors. Krissa, Wes, and Matt were there too, of course. It was excellent to spend a week with some of the CLM team, and the Chicago Botanic Garden was a hoot. I loved the greenhouses!

I’m just ending my first work week in Rawlins, Wyoming. So far there’s been paperwork, CPR and first aid certification, an off-road driving test, a computer access test, and a few hours of seed collection site scouting. One full 12 hour day was spent counting individual Penstemon haydenii plants. These vanilla scented forbs are endangered in Wyoming, and are known to occur only here and in Nebraska. We battled windy, steep dunes to find these beauties, and although it appears we counted an all-time low number for that location (and perhaps even more so because we did), the experience was thrilling and quite special.

Wyoming’s endangered blowout penstemon

I’m excited to learn the local flora, and should be starting some seed collections soon. We’ve been given a long list of native plants categorized by priority. It’s been a dry year so far, and we’re starting late, but hopefully we’ll still be able to check a good number of species off our SOS list. Two weeks down, twenty to go.

I found this curious mushroom at the bottom of a dune

A Month of Wildlife and Water

It’s hard to believe that almost 2 months of my internship are done. This past month has been a whirlwind of work-filled weeks and busy weekends. The biggest adventure of this past month, and perhaps of my entire internship, was a two night float trip on the Gila River. I had never before been on such a trip. It was physically difficult due to the extremely low levels of water flow. In fact, it was the lowest flow trip that any BLM team from our office had ever completed. This trip began my month of animal encounters, with a rattlesnake at our campsite the first night, and the next day we encountered seven different Desert Big Horn Sheep, including a mom and her lamb at the riverside getting a drink of water. During the trip we used an electro-fisher and seine nets to monitor fish populations at four different sites along the river. In addition to our sampling efforts, our days involved approximately 10 hours of paddling, dragging loaded canoes over rock beds and plenty of getting in and out of the boats! Needless to say it took a while to feel fully recovered!

I feel like I was not very detailed in my last entry with exactly what I am doing during our fish monitoring/removal work, so I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about it now. When we plan to set nets in Bonita Creek (as we did 4 times in the past month), it is a two-day process. We leave the office at approximately 12-12:30 and drive about 45 minutes to the Gila Box National Riparian Conservation Area. There are many different areas of Bonita Creek that have perennial pools (ie, they have water year-round). We typically try to set our nets either in large pools or areas of the creek that have running water. The most important thing is that the water be deep enough to mostly submerge the nets in, otherwise we run the risk of a raccoon or other animal trying to get into the nets to get the dog food (which we use as bait). We allow the nets to sit overnight and collect fish. The fish enter the traps, but due to the design of the traps, cannot leave. However, they do still swim about inside the trap. In this manner the fish are not harmed and remain alive to be measured and put back (if they are native), or measured and removed (if they are non-native). The second day of our effort involves leaving the office at 6 AM and once we arrive we collect all the nets together and process the fish trapped inside.

One of the pools we set in for our Green Sunfish Removal Efforts

Example of how our nets are set in the water. Note how the black Promar is not 100% submerged. Sometimes Sonoran Mud Turtles enter the net and we leave them an air pocket.

Example of how our nets are set in the water, we usually tie them to a tree or something solid on the bank to prevent the nets from being washed downstream in case a storm surge comes.

We use two types of nets in Bonita Creek: Promar Mesh and Metal Minnow. They have very different mesh sizes and typically catch different compliments of fish (based on size). The Promar tend to catch most of the Bullfrog Tadpoles, Sonoran Suckers, Gila Chub, and the non-native Green Sunfish and Bullhead Catfish. The Metal Minnow traps tend to catch mostly the smaller, non-native Mosquito Fish and Flatheads, as well as young/small individuals of the other species.

Collection of Nets to be Processed

We collect all of our nets together in order to count and measure the fish within.

Measuring Set-up

We dump the fish out of the nets and into the blue bucket. Then they are measured on the white board and recorded. Natives are placed back in the pool while invasives are placed into the white bucket that contains a fish sedative.

Fish in the Bucket

Includes native Gila Chub, Bullfrog Tadpoles and native Sonoran Suckers.

Using these nets almost every week leads to damages. A large quantity of time this past week has been devoted to repairing both Promar and Metal Minnow nets in preparation for a team of contract workers to come and camp out at Bonita Creek for 3 full days of fishing aimed at causing a collapse in the breeding population of Green Sunfish. As a side note, in Bonita Creek we have also had a fair share of animal encounters. We have seen white-tail deer, juvenile brown bear, as well as a grey fox.

We also visited Pategonia, AZ one day and assisted Caleb (one of the other interns who traveled with us to Boise for the SOS training course). He works for Borderlands Restoration. We helped him to complete their monthly survey of pollinator supporting plants at 100 random points on a parcel of Nature Conservancy land. The group is trying to formulate a nectar-calendar for their area. They are going to look at when they currently have plants that support pollinators, and what periods on the calendar currently do not have plants to support pollinators. Then, once they have completed this process, they will plant new species into their system that will fill in the gaps. They hope that by creating a year-round supply of food for pollinators, they may cause a chain reaction that will allow their system to grow and recover from the bottom of the food chain, up to the top. I think it is a very interesting concept and will be excited to hear about the progress of this project in the future!

We also began work on creating a brand new BLM Junior Explorer Booklet. It will be called “Across BLM Lands: Desert Fishes and their Aquatic Habitats”. It has been very educational to collect information for this booklet and to create different activities in order to communicate the information to 8-12 year olds. I am excited that by the time I leave this internship I shall (hopefully) have a booklet to take home that I co-created!

The last major thing that we have done is two hiking trips in the Aravipa Canyon Wilderness to Horse Camp Canyon. The pools that remain in this canyon during the dry season are a sort of refuge habitat for Green Sunfish, from which their population survives the monsoons and then re-colonizes the main stretch of the stream in the spring. The hike out to this site is arduous to an inexperienced hiker like me, to say the least. It is 5.5 miles of hiking each way. In total we hike approximately six hours each time we go out there. The trips are very physically demanding as the route requires hiking over a variety of surfaces as well as in and out of the creek for long periods of time.

Our first trip was to pick up 10 Promar nets and 10 Red Promar nets that had been set the night before by another research team. Between our efforts pulling those nets, seining, and the efforts of the research team the day previous we removed approximately 600 Green Sunfish. It was an incredible day for wildlife as well! We saw a black bear on the road, on the drive into the Wilderness, and we also saw four white-tailed deer within 10 minutes of hiking. We thought that would be the extent of our wildlife experiences for the day. However, around an hour into our hike we rounded a corner and saw a Mama black bear and two cubs. When the mother noticed our presence, she sent her cubs up a tree. We were able to walk around them at a safe distance and kept on with our day. We also saw the same family group on the hike back out. As if those weren’t enough, we also encountered a fully coiled and rattling rattlesnake on our hike out as well. Jeff was the one who startled it, and I am very glad it wasn’t me; I am not 100% sure how I would have reacted. At the very end of our hike out to the truck, Rosalee and Heidi came across a troubled juvenile red tail hawk from the Creek. Rosalee formerly worked at Wildlife Rehab Centers and so she was able to help secure the bird. Heidi and Jeff took the bird to Tucson the following day and apparently it will make a full recovery. Our second trip into Aravipa a week later didn’t involve any pre-set nets, we only used seine netting and we removed 400 Green Sunfish. Though it was not nearly as exciting for wildlife, we did see a juvenile bobcat on drive in.

It is incredible to see so much life thriving out here in the desert. The last thing that I expected when I signed on to work in the desert was to almost constantly encounter animals in their natural habitats. I have been incredibly lucky so far and I can only hope to continue to see more animals. My goal/dream is to see a coati in the wild. My last internship was at the Oakland Zoo, which involved taking care of our troop of six coati, so I am very fond of these animals and would be beyond excited to be able to see them while I am here in Arizona. Even bought myself a coati hat when I visited the Desert Museum in Tucson last weekend [which is well worth the trip and I would highly recommend it!]

The Coati Hat that I bought at the Desert Museum in Tucson

This will be my first weekend to stay in Safford, with nothing to do, since the beginning of my internship. It will be amazing to relax and recover from a long month of work.

Until next time! 🙂

Desert Delights

The past month has been eventful and full of learning. The outings I have been involved with have been varied and included some remarkable wildlife sightings. The desert keeps surprising and delighting me!

I have continued to be involved with native fish monitoring and non-native fish removal.    Several weeks ago, myself and 3 others from the office traversed the Gila Box National Riparian Conservation Area to complete annual monitoring. The river’s flows were very low, causing some difficulty in floating through the rockier areas. However, the monitoring was a success. We used an electrofisher along with dip-nets and a seine to sample the stream for fish. We saw Desert Bighorn Sheep atop several bluffs. At one point, a mother and baby came down to the water to drink. An adorable sight. I also saw my first rattlesnake! Camping out by the river was a feat, after long hours on the river, but the clear night sky made the hard work worth it.

Our work in Bonita Creek continues. We have been setting nets at least once a week and removing hundreds of non-natives. The native populations of Gila Chub and Sonora Sucker seem to be doing well. However, the Gila Chub we have been catching and measuring are frequently noted to have Lernaea, a barbed parasite. This coming week contract workers will be working on Bonita Creek alongside us.

I have also had the privilege to hike through Aravaipa Canyon twice over the past weeks. There are several side canyons off of Aravaipa, one of which harbors invasive green sunfish populations. The hope is to remove these populations and prevent their spread. The fish were removed using nets that were set overnight, along with seining and dip-netting. Aravaipa canyon is truly a gem. The bluffs and canyon walls are decorated with saguaro and unique rock formations. The canyon floor is lush. The stream is banked with abundant watercrest and horsetail. Willow, ash, and mesquite composed a majority of the trees. The canyon is full of vermillion flycatchers, white tailed deer, and leopard frogs. On our first adventure we were fortunate enough to glimpse a mother black bear and her two cubs. The mother escorted the two cubs to a tree, while keeping on eye on us, and the cubs climbed the tree to safety. The mother proceeded to “camp out” at the foot of the tree and watch us as we moved on. When our group was almost back to the car, we came upon an injured juvenile red-tail hawk. Fortunately, from my previous internships working in wildlife rehabilitation, I was able to use my raptor handling training to safely capture the hawk. The hawk was then transported to a wildlife rehabilitation center upon our return. And on our second trip back, a juvenile bobcat darted across the road. What eventful outings!

Another project that has been a priority over the last month has been creating a Junior Explorer Booklet to highlight the native desert fish in Arizona. The book will be for children age 8-12. Coming up with the educational activities and information for the book has been fun and challenging. Activities in the book include mazes, crossword puzzles, and matching. Each activity highlights a different habitat type or particular site in Arizona. Making the book both fun and educational for children has been a great way to understand the information I am working with, on a new level. I have been putting my artistic abilities to the test!

Life continues to be pretty great working at the Safford, AZ BLM office. My mentors are wonderful teachers and I learn something new every day at work. I’m enjoying the projects I am involved with, and looking forward to many upcoming adventures!

It’s 3am, do you know where your biologists are?

If you guessed getting ready for bird surveys, you are correct!

In the southwest United States, the best time to observe wildlife is when it is cool, which is either at dawn or dusk. Birds in particular are very active in the morning hours, when there is less background noise and songs carry long distances. When it gets hot, most birds hunker down. That means bird biologists have got to get out bright (actually, no, dark) and early to complete thorough bird surveys.

On Tuesday, my fellow wildlife intern and I participated in two intense bird surveys: a breeding bird survey in the morning, then a nightjar survey in the evening. The breeding bird survey sent us out at 3:30am to a route our wildlife biologist, Sheri, has been running for four years now. We drove to specific points, turned off the car engine, and had three minutes to name all the birds we saw and heard. Fifty points were plotted on our GPS, and the birds kept us busy at each one. Birds we saw included common nighthawks at dawn, violet-green swallows in residential areas, lots of horned larks, golden eagles and burrowing owls on rangeland. It felt like we had been working all day by the time the sun came up and brightened the mountains.

We took a break until that evening when it was time to go searching for nightjars. Nightjars – also known as goatsuckers because it was once believed that they sucked milk from goats during under the cover of darkness – are small nocturnal birds that rest on the ground and feed on insects at night. Like the breeding bird survey in the morning, we drove to specific points and paused to listen for the birds. The two species of nightjars in Southwest Utah are the common nighthawk and common poorwill. In the bright moonlight it was possible to see the birds as they flew erratically after moths, but listening for their songs was the sure-fire way to identify the birds. Nighthawks make a nasally peer, while poorwills softly say their name, poor-will.

On Tuesday, the nightjar survey concluded close to midnight before driving back to the office. The nightjar surveys continued Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Despite being pretty tired by the end of the week, it was worth seeing and hearing birds and other wildlife before the rest of Utah woke up. Wildlife biology requires a high level of patience and endurance. Often you don’t see your target species. Last night we only heard one poorwill. Oftentimes you must work odd hours in remote places. But it is worth it, because the data goes toward conserving habitats and species. Wildlife biology is difficult work, and for me, it is absolutely worth it, even if I got to be up and working at 3 am.

Working, waiting, willow wattling

It’s hard to believe I have been it has been almost 5 months since I came to Nevada. Now that field season has picked up time seems to be moving faster still.  Our crew has begun camping more regularly and when the field site is 4 hours out into the desert you start to understand how it is necessary. No complaints here though! I am still getting used to camping under fire restrictions. I’m just glad we to enjoy the s’mores early in the season while the campfires lasted.

Willow planting in Burbank Canyon was a new experience. One that taught valuable lessons of communication, patience, and the importance of vocabulary (what the heck is a wattle?). Last year’s crew buried willow cuttings in plastic bags for us to locate and unearth and so we set out for the field armed with shovels and Trimble units. Perhaps I was overly excited about the idea of hunting for buried treasure but the task soon proved to be more frustrating than anticipated.  It wasn’t until a few hours of fruitless digging that we discovered only 1 of our 2 GPS coordinates was entirely accurate (That poor little willow wattle never stood a chance). Eventually, we found our buried willow treasure. About 50 Ziplock bags each containing several scrawny sticks sprouting tiny roots and shriveled shoots.  Honestly, they looked pretty wimpy but at least they were alive. We dipped each on in rooting hormone, stuck it in its hole along the drainage and hoped for the best. After a day and a half we planted the last of them.  I’d be interested to come back later in the year and see if they survived.

Looking back, I can see the importance of having accurate data to act on. A piece of misinformation nearly turned a restoration project into the exact opposite. Better communication and clear instruction would help prevent this sort of scenario in the future. All in all, it was a mistake I can learn from and kind of a funny story.




BLM- Carson City

Seed collecting in Colorado

In the last couple weeks, I have continued to scout for seed collection sites at numerous Open Space parks near the Denver, CO area. I also got the opportunity to travel Silt, CO to do some scouting on BLM land, where I saw some different species include a very cool Cymopterus purpureus and the beautiful Calochortus sp. Collected herbarium vouchers for species that we thought had a big enough population to create a 10,000+ seed collection.

Last week I participated in the CLM Internship Training Workshop in Chicago, IL, where I got the opportunity to meet some of the other interns in the program. The workshop was very well organized and very informative for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the Conservation Genetics presentations. Dr. Jeremie Fant was one of the most interesting presenters I have seen in a while. The quality of the presenter made the content that much more interesting and gave me additional ideas for possible Graduate thesis proposals.

When I got back to Colorado, three species were ready for collection in Silt, CO; Cymopterus bulbosus, Cymopterus purpureus, and Allium textile. We made our way out to Silt and got to collect seeds all day. Like all ecosystems, there is always at least one annoying little insect that seems to enjoy the taste of humans and Silt was no different with cedar gnats. We had bug spray but it seemed not to bother the gnats and they annoyed us the whole time we were on the site location. Next day we packaged up seeds and shipped them off to Bend, all of them except the Cymopterus purpureus due to a low seed balance. We collected additional seeds later in the week when the winds were high in Silt and the gnats were not an issue. We also made a collection at an Open Space park near Idledale, CO.

During the week we also got to go to a drone demonstration which was interesting. I was surprised that it was a helicopter and that it could fly in 35mph sustained winds and had a top speed of 70 mph, but most of the models used by natural resource managing agencies have governors on them which restricts their speed to 20-30mph.

Nathan Redecker
Lakewood, CO
Colorado State Office

Week 4 Complete in Good Old Southern Oregon

What an exciting and amazing 4 weeks it has been! Working with Doug Kendig and Marcus Lorusso out of the Medford, OR field office has been quite the educational experience. My favorite plant we’ve come across has defintely been the Darlingtonia californica; what an incredible species native to our area. We have been focusing a lot on sepantine soils, and searching for endemic species found there. Just yesterday we vouchered a Horkelia sericata and completed a collection of a Lomatium californicum, which brings us to 19 completed collections. I have been learning so much about identifying key characteristics within plant families, and the proper terminology to describe said characteristics. I am getting more and more familiar with the Jepson and other field manuals; making it easier and easier to identify and key out specific plants. Marcus and Doug have been incredibly patient and understanding, and I have learned so much from both in such a short amount of time. As I look ahead to the weeks to come I can’t help but feel as though it’s going to be a wild ride! I am so grateful for this opportunity, and the experiences for personal growth encompassed within. Plants are awesome!


I had the pleasure of having an incident during my internship. I guess it is now my duty to tell you about what happened. Also, how my evacuation turned into a surprising team building exercise.

As you may know, I work in the Mojave desert where I sleep in a sleeping bag atop a ground pad and a tarp. I was peacefully sleeping when some venomous creature slipped into my sleeping bag and invenomated me on my left gluteus maximus. I actually have no idea how the spider got in my sleeping bag, as a matter of fact there is still an on-going debate on wither or not I was bitten by a spider or stung by a scorpion. I think it was a spider. Well, whatever the invertebrate, it somehow found the opportunity to bite me, in the bum. It was a classy organism.

I was not aware of the bite until I was packing up my gear the following morning. I felt a tingling/ burning sensation radiating from my lower left gluteus maximus and through my upper left leg. Soon after this sensation started, I began to have slight cramping in my lower back and abdomen, since this can be commonly associated with something else…I did not think much of it right away. But I did realize that I may have been bitten by something and I did have a raised dot on my bum, so I informed my team leader of the situation. We then grabbed our gear and started the morning hike to our field site. I was having severe craps at this point but I thought I was being a pansy, so I told myself to suck it up, get up and hike. During this hike to the site I was slowing down my team because I kept stopping while I got sick and walking became more difficult.

My team and I eventually reached the bottom of the hill that we were to hike up. Things had progressed, my lower back was spasming more which made walking even more difficult and uncomfortable. I sat at the bottom of the hill for a few minutes trying to prepare myself to hike up. I willed myself up the hill, telling myself to stop over exaggerating and that I was fine. By the time I reached the top of the hill my legs were shaking so much I had to lean on me team leader while we walked the rest of the way to the field site. I heavily collapsed next to our plot.  My team insisted that I rest. I laid down but the pain continued to get worse and soon I was having difficulty breathing. This was the moment my team leader became aware that it would be wise to take me to the hospital. In preparation for the evacuation I was helped up, but my legs had stopped working so I quickly sank back down to the ground. Thankfully I have two co-workers that have first aid training and wilderness first responder training, so they began trying all the different carrying methods they could think of . One person was sent ahead to pack our gear and prepare the car while the other three assisted with carrying me down the hill while monitoring my breathing, pulse, and consciousness. Like I previously mentioned, they used a variety of methods to carry me down the hill to allow different muscles to be exhausted. Each time we stopped and they had to hoist me back up off the ground and into another caring method I would think, ” Man, I know I am in a lot of pain but I am glad I am the one being carried.” The hill was extremely steep and was covered with cactus, yuccas, and other very poky plants that seemed to be intentionally place exactly in the way, making it even more difficult for my co-workers, no, friends to carry me down the hill.

While monitoring me, the Wilderness First Responder trained co-workers, kept telling me to breath and count to ten. I was conscious but this task seemed too hard and it boggled my mind, I knew that there was no way I could count and breath at the same time, my mind could only focus on so much at once. I chose to breath and I looked into her eyes so that she knew I understood. Well, this co-worker, who I am very grateful for, kept talking to me and telling me to breath and count and was very attentive. I was trying to breath and listen; it was difficult to do both I just kept thinking, “Please shut up, I am trying to breathe!!”. I had to keep telling myself that she is amazing and  helping me, so I should chill out, but man did I want her to stop talking. I really do appreciate her.

After my team of co-workers got me to the car they laid me down in the back, my head in one co-workers lap and my legs in another co-workers lap. My legs were spasming so much my co-worker could feel the muscle spasms. They all monitored my breathing and heart rate while driving as safely, but swiftly to the nearest hospital. My vitals seemed to be stable. Once we reached the hospital I was admitted to the ER where they asked a lot of questions multiple times, and I kept asking for pain medication, I just wanted people to stop talking to me and make the pain go away. Finally they gave me lots of benadryl and other things, not sure what, but I fell asleep. This was a significant improvement from the pain I was in before. My co-workers waited at the hospital with me for hours to make sure I was okay and they did not leave until I was safely out of the ER and in a overnight room. They are wonderful people and I am very grateful to and for them.

So this is my story. The next week I was back out in the field sleeping on the ground again. There is no reason to fear the desert or the things in it, it is a beautiful place and sometimes bad incidents just happen. I hope that no one is discouraged or scared by the contents of this blog. I encourage everyone to try sleeping on the ground, it is delightful and I will continue to do it.

Yucca brevifolia!

Even though I have been in my internship for almost 3 months, this week I got my first crack at seed collecting. Since my internship is with the USGS, we have been doing mostly plant ecology research field work this summer, not Seeds of Success. However, my mentor is considering doing some sort of analysis on Joshua Tree, Yucca brevifolia, seeds which I have not gotten the full explanation yet. So this week I got to collect some Y. brevifolia seeds from the Parashant National Monument in Arizona, near where some of our research plots are for a different project. Prior to this adventure, I had no experience with collecting seeds/fruits off of trees without a ladder or some other way of getting taller to pick them. So when my mentor told me to take a long stick and knock the fruit off the tree carefully I was a little unsure how this was going to work! After observing the fruits 10 to 15 feet above the ground for a while and wondering if I had the skill to get them, I decided to take a whack at it. Here is a picture of my attempt:

This is actually a staged shot that was taken post-collecting! We found a really short tree with no fruits on it near the side of the road as we were driving back to the office because I forgot to get a photo earlier. But I think it still gets the point across. I was very careful to not injure any leaves during this trial of collecting, and we gathered over 50 fruits for my mentor. Also, the leaves of the Joshua Tree are very pointy, but I was sure to not get pricked at all! The seeds are now drying back at the USGS office, and once they are ready, I am sure that I will begin the next step in the process of whatever type of analysis we will be running.

First week in Kemmerer

Here’s a fun party trick: tell someone that you are moving to Wyoming and wait for their reaction. There is a 95% guarantee that your proclamation will be met with a dropped jaw, an uncomprehending sneer, and a single word: “why?” After a week here, I can now tell you why. So far I have gone out in the field every day and have learned how to map springs, seeps, and reservoirs on a $6,200 GPS, fixed a fence, seen beautiful country, and tried to track my very first moose. As soon as I finish this blog, I will walk across the street and fly fish for a couple hours.

I haven’t been in Kemmerer for long but I am looking forward to learning about a familiar ecosystem from a new perspective. As this is my second CLM internship, I will be looking at wildlife habitat instead of range. It’s a whole new world; just going out with my boss and coworker (an ex-CLMer himself) proves to be a lesson in animal systematics and identification. I am having a great time so far and really believe that this internship will help me pin down a field for graduate school. I’m sure to collect some great information, pictures, and fossils to include in my next blog!