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!



I am well into my second month as a range technician with the Dillon, Montana field office and things are finally starting to pick up. The sun has begun to shine more frequently, the temperatures are warming up, and the plants have begun to grow. The other range technicians and I completed our task of checking spring and wildlife exclosures, which proved to be a fun way to get to know the district and its surrounding areas. I was able to help out in restoring an old cabin that will serve as an awesome recreation and fishing spot for locals, visitors, and BLM employees.

We had a week of seasonal orientation that was filled with safety training, first-aid classes, defensive driving courses, and much more. I am definitely more confident in my trailer backing skills now! After orientation week, there was a week of training where we learned the vegetation monitoring techniques that we will use for completing upland and riparian trend studies. Some of the training served as a great refresher and also provided supplemental knowledge to what I learned as a CLM intern last year. One of the most important tasks that we learned was how to complete an MRWA (Montana Riparian Wetland Inventory). MRWAs will be relevant in completing district watershed assessments and for updating Environmental Assessments related to grazing allotments. I am so stoked to be able to walk over 200 miles of stream while looking at the diversity of plants and condition of the streams. I have already learned a lot about the botany of the Rock Mountains with help from the great crew here.

My time has also been filled by studying for the GRE and applying to graduate school. What a stressful process…whew. I think that I may have some leads though! Wish me luck! I’m having a great summer so far! I hope everyone else is too!