Changing of the Season

As fall approaches I am both grateful and surprised to get an extension on my Internship. I have had a wonderful experience in the Jarbidge Field Office. My mentor Pattie Jo Courtney is fun to work with, not to mention I continue to learn a lot from her. I am looking forward to the change of weather in October and starting a couple new projects. We are starting to look for slick spot pepper grass, Lepidium papilliferum, code LEPA. There are grid groups set up within the field office in different pastures. These grid groups are designed based on soil condition, plant species, and other environmental factors to best find the slick spot pepper grass. I have been walking the grids with a Juno GPS for about 2 weeks and I am not finding any LEPA. However, I have seen some sage grouse and I enjoy hiking across the desert, I get approximately 8 to 10 miles per day.
I will continue to do some wetland inventory as long as the weather allows me to get into the field. Wetland inventory includes finding the main wetland species, taking pictures and determine if the shape is the same as previous years. If it is, I take a point on the Juno and fill in the data dictionary. If the wetland is a different shape, I will take a polygon with the Juno and continue on with the information in the data dictionary.
That’s about it for now, until next time. Be Safe!

Goodbye, Klamath Falls, you will be missed.

I never thought I’d find a seasonal survey job working with 8+ very different species, but my CLM internship with the Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife Office (KFFWO) provided that. I have learned about not only a wide range of new species in this unique ecosystem, but also about my favorite part: the bigger picture – the chronic environmental problems that have led to the decline of some of these species and why. I also picked up some useful skills every wildlife biologist needs including new survey methods, renewed GIS skills, off road driving and electrofishing.
I’ve worked in teams before – one that comes to mind was working on a year-long research project at university, where we met weekly and then conducted fieldwork together. We had our challenges in terms of workload equality and team member reliability, but we pulled through in the end and we got on really well. This internship was a whole new level of teamwork. Not only did we spend whole weeks camping together in the field and sharing desk spaces in the office, but three out of four of us decided to live together. Here’s the thing about us: we’re all girls, we’re all intelligent and passionate about our work, we’re all stubborn and we all have radically different personalities. We’ve had a bit of an emotional rollercoaster this summer through our work and personal lives, and we’ve had our disagreements, but we’ve come out of it still speaking to each other. To deal with our disagreements and personality clashes, we’ve all had to rethink our words and actions and come up with ways to accommodate each other. What was most important to us was to maintain our professional work ethic and relationships and also to preserve our personal relationships and appreciation of each other. It’s been challenging, but I think we’ve all learned something from it, if only to be cautious when deciding to work on an all-female team… (haha). I have a new understanding of intimate teamwork.
Oh, and then there were the more practical things we learned, like how the Endangered Species Act works to protect endangered species in all its strengths and faults. The species I was lead for (Oregon Spotted Frog, Rana pretiosa) was proposed for Threatened status under the ESA just last month, and I had the exciting opportunity to present our frog fieldwork at a public workshop. The presentations went well. Private landowner attendance was limited but they were there, as well as Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams. I feel fortunate to be able to work with this species that was stuck at Candidate status for the last 20 years and see it moved forward to a proposed listing.
This CLM internship has been a unique experience I would never have had without the Chicago Botanic Garden.  I also very much enjoyed the professional development opportunities in the form of attending the International Congress on Conservation Biology in Baltimore this year, where I made some connections that have been important for consideration of my next career steps. Thanks CLM and KFFWO!

How do we save the frogs?

As project lead on the Oregon Spotted Frog surveys, I was invited to come on a site visit in June 2013 to a historically important creek along with private landowners, US Forest Service staff and private consultants. The creek was Jack Creek, and frog populations here crashed from over 300 egg clusters each year to less than 30 within a few years. It is thought that the primary driver was an intense drought year combined with overgrazing. Since then, a number of measures have been implemented to try and remedy this severe population crash. Radio-tagged beavers were brought into the creek in the hopes that they would re-establish and build up ponds along the creek where old dams are deteriorating or are lost. Grazing intensity is being more carefully managed by USFS. The purpose of our visit was to review the habitat and determine what else could be done to restore the creek. A developing headcut along the creek is becoming more pronounced and moving up the creek bed, threatening to drain surrounding ephemeral wetlands and increase sediment transport via faster, straighter flows. The private consultants that were present on our field visit had a proposal to halt this development by filling the headcut in with sediments and allowing the stream to re-establish itself as a meandering creek. Their company had recently performed similar work at a Nature Conservancy property in the area, and initial results were promising. I asked them when it had been implemented and they said October of the year before.
The solution brought about some questions; what’s to stop the next seasonally high flow from washing the sediments out and undoing the restoration effort? Their previous work had not been implemented very long ago; what was the life expectancy of these projects? However, these concerns were not expressed by other members of the group. Perhaps it is because the system is primarily spring-fed and does not follow traditional flood trends. Perhaps it is because there is urgency to implement restoration now, before the frog gets listed as Threatened and even restoration projects on federal lands require a formal Biological Assessment. They spoke of spending a few days out there prior to restoration construction to catch whatever frogs they could and temporarily relocate them out of harms’ way.
So I spoke with the private landowner on our way back to our vehicles from the creek. The man owned land adjacent to the forest service land and he grazed his cattle along the creek on the USFS land. His opinion was that the land had been grazed for over a hundred years (by his ancestors) and that the frogs had been coexisting quite happily with the cattle in that time frame. Indeed in the absence of natural wildfires and presence of introduced plants, well-managed grazing can provide the disturbance the landscape needs to provide suitable habitat for Oregon Spotted Frogs (and other species). He thought we hadn’t really given the beavers the chance to do their part, and that the best approach would be to give the system time to work itself out. USFS and other public stakeholders are afraid that the frogs are running out of time, and more radical actions need to be taken. I’m not sure what the best approach is, I agree with both parties but I wonder about the impact of the proposed restoration effort.
We revisited the area on September 20th. We were looking for frogs in a newly colonized area where they had been seen 4 weeks previously by a member of the public who previously worked for the Forest Service. We found 3-4 subadults on a portion of USFS property adjacent to that same private landowners’ land, holding on in a very small pool that had been heavily impacted by cattle. Cows had been found in this particular land parcel previously and the landowner built a new fence to remedy the situation. So what now can be done? The biggest concern was water permanence; these particular pools exist along the largely dry creek bed, and seemed to be spring-fed by a seep adjacent to the channel. This seep had been heavily trampled. The biologists debated whether an artificial addition of water would be helpful or a waste of resources.
This whole experience brings up some very important questions in my mind. In a system that has been heavily altered, how much manipulation should be done to save an endangered species? When is it better to do something over nothing? The short-term plan is to contact the landowner about the cattle again and warn of potential loss of grazing rights. Plans are moving forward for the head cut restoration. The evidence of range expansion in the frogs at this site are a good sign, I just hope they are expanding into the right place.

Saying goodbye to Oregon…

Finally, a wonderful six months has come to an end. It has been a great field season filled with wonderful people, memories, and experiences. I have learned so much and will leave here with much more knowledge, skills, connections, and friends than I came with.


Suited up for bullfrog hunting!

I gained a wide diversity of new field and survey skills this season including electroshocking, PIT tagging, locating egg masses, identifying western fish species, monitoring eagle nests, and much more. I have to say though, I will be glad to never look at another Applegate’s milkvetch again. We surveyed milkvetch for hours on end, for weeks, staring at the ground, looking for any tiny seedling of milkvetch. At times I would close my eyes after a day of milkvetch surveying and see milkvetch on the floor and carpet. Some of us even had dreams of milkvetch.  Milkvetch surveying was the only field work I wasn’t very fond of this summer, but it was a good experience either way, and when you’re outside in beautiful weather all day you really can’t complain much.

My favorite work of the field season was electroshocking. We utilized electroshocking for both bull trout and Lost River & shortnose suckers. Electroshocking was a lot of fun to me because it required a lot of action, focus, and quick movements and it was fun to try and capture the fish before they came to. It was also interesting to be able to handle the fish and inspect them so closely, as well at PIT tagging them. I got to know a lot of new fish species this way through close inspection of their characteristics. I realized that I really enjoy more hands-on kind of field work. I really enjoy working closely and personally with a species, up to a certain point of course. I wouldn’t want to do anything really harmful or too invasive to a species. Even though I generally consider myself more of a bird and mammal kind of girl, I found that I really enjoy the field work that is conducted for fish.

I do have to say that I did miss mammal and bird work this summer. I gained a lot of great experience and skills with aquatic species, which I’m sure will be very useful in the summer and make me a more diverse and competitive applicant for future jobs. Next field season though I would definitely like to gain more experience working with birds and mammals. I found that although aquatic species work is a lot of fun and you get to hang out in and near water most of the time which is great, my passion still really lies within the birds and mammals. These are the species that I get really excited about and feel that I identify with and understand more.

All in all, this field season has been an amazing, informative experience that I am very thankful to have had. Klamath Falls will always have a special place in my heart from now on. I will leave here with great experiences and friends, and probably tears. I found an amazing community of caring environmentalists here that are all very special people and I will have a hard time saying goodbye to. Memories and experiences last a lifetime though and shape the kind of person that you become, and thanks to all of these experiences, I know that I will leave here a better person.

I am very thankful to this internship program and to Krissa and Wes, who are two very caring and kind individuals that I’m sure have helped so many people, including me, and have provided unforgettable experiences. Thank you for making my experience possible.

Gearhart Mountain Wilderness with the crew after a long day of work

Red-headed sapsucker!

15 weeks down, less than 7 to go!


There’s not much to report on for the last month. Avery and I are waiting on sage to be ready for our SOS collection goal, and the oil and gas field monitoring for reclamation is over.

Where we collected Krascheninnikovia lanata, winterfat, for SOS

We spent one day inventorying our field office herbarium here in Rawlins, Wyoming and another relabeling the cabinet specimen tags and updating herbarium data on the computer. I saw quite a few plant families I’d never heard of while we worked on these tasks. Santalaceae? Hippurdiaceae? Neato.

A couple weekends ago I finally headed north and saw Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. The Grand Tetons, wow, now THAT’S my cup of tea. Being in the trees was refreshing and I did a nature-filled 16 mile hike with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in months. It was wonderful.

Sunset at Grand Teton National Park

It’s been great having so much sunshine so late into the year. What with having three day weekends (and sunny ones at that) I’ve had a decent amount of time to work on and promote my solar powered art pieces. I’ve made five sales in the last month and a half and now have over thirty of my works in eight states! Now that the weather’s cooling down I’m looking forward to spending even more of my free time indoors being crafty and cooking fall-time foods.

I’ve been learning quite a bit about how things work around here and very much appreciate that. I’m excited to see what comes next (^:

Fifteen weeks down, seven to go!

The title’s the hardest part!


Hello! And greetings from beautiful Montrose, CO. It’s a crisp, fall afternoon here and I’ve spent the day in the office working on various projects as we wait for the adobe hills to dry out from the approximately 2 inches of rain they received yesterday, the official first day of fall. Luckily, my last two days of summer couldn’t have been better – two days of bliss floating down the Gunnison River with a bestie from college.

I’d also just like to take a moment to point out that I absolutely love everyone’s posts. I’m sorry I don’t comment more (i.e. at all) but I really do read the blog and I love finding out about what everyone is doing and looking at everyone’s pictures.

Now I’d like to talk about the wildlife life count for the summer. I’ve seen:

– a little baby kestral (a.k.a. a fledgling – not really a baby)
– a mama black bear and her three little baby cubs (so cute!)
– a bobcat that had just caught a rodent of some sort
– and numerous deer, elk, and pronghorns

Lady Elk

A heard of Lady Elk checking my mentor and I out in Burn Canyon.


Handsome ram snacking on corn in Escalante Canyon.

Little Bull Snake Buddy

Little Bull Snake Buddy

While most of my work revolves around rare plant surveys, I’ve also gotten to do a fair amount of work relating to wildlife. For instance, I recently got to head up a gnarly road on a UTV to get back to a small creek up on the Grand Mesa. There we did electrofishing with the idea of doing genetic testing on what we believe is a population of Cutthroats. I’ve also gotten to go out with Jedd, the Hydrologist, to do some macroinvertebrate inventory which has been very pleasent – just beautiful days out playing around in the river.


Possible Cutthroat – waiting on the genetic testing!

Weighing Fish

My mentor Ken being crafty and rigging a way to weigh fish!

And of course I’ve been doing plant stuff! The CLMer’s from Denver have come out twice now to help out with Colorado Hookless cactus monitoring and Clay-lovin’ Wild Buckwheat monitoring. I really enjoyed working with Carol (CO BLM State Botanist) and her CLM crew – you guys are awesome!


CLM CO Crew! Nathan, Darnisha, Katie, and me after completing a long week of cactus monitoring.

Carol also recently helped Ken and I out with ID’ing some pretty cool plants that we were struggling with (thanks Carol!!).

Proboscidea louisianica

Crazy plant I found in the adobe’s – Proboscidea louisianica. In the Martyniaceae family a.k.a. the Unicorn Plant family!

Anyway, now we’re working on Land Health Assessment’s (woohoo – more transects!) and I’m getting busy on all the data entry from my Sage Grouse Habitat Assessment Framework from way back in May. Well, I’m signing off!

Brandee Wills
Uncompahgre Field Office – BLM
Montrose, CO

Georgia Peach at 14,000ft!

We have been extremely busy with monitoring trips from the alpine tundra (snow can still be seen in a few places) to the desert (by far we are the tallest living things around). Being from GA, there are not very many places you can hike above 14,000ft. Monitoring Eutrema penlandii in the alpine tundra and seeing the little pika was extremely exciting. They can be heard running around the rocky slopes gathering grass, making little haystacks, and tucking them away under large rocks preparing for the harsh winter. During our trip to Meeker, CO, we had the exciting opportunity to see the wild horses on BLM lands spending time in the much needed shade around the pinyon-juniper community.  We also met a few new and returning seasonal employees, research students, and people from many different organizations and agencies.

While the majority of spring has long gone in the foothills of Colorado we took a trip into the mountains above 11,000ft and to our surprise behold spring is still occurring in some parts of this amazing state – just a few hours away from the State Office. There were gentians and gentians galore…these are some of my favorite plants.

The BLM has some beautiful areas that I never knew existed and I feel quite fortunate to have seen so many places that I would have otherwise never known existed. Being a CLM intern is an amazing experience to have. Between collecting seed or recording plant herbivory, I am still amazed by how truly beautiful the West really is!

For your pleasure, here are a couple of photos from some of the places we have monitored or scouted for seed thus far this season. Enjoy!

The CO State Office SOS Team identifying plants near Mosquito Pass

The CO State Office SOS Team identifying plants near Mosquito Pass.

Along the river we found plenty of potential plant species to collect.

Along the river we found plenty of potential plant species to collect.

Our plan is to visit the site in a few weeks to see if the Pyrola rotundifolia population is ready for collection.

Our plan is to visit the site near Mosquito Pass in a few weeks to see if the Pyrola rotundifolia population is ready for collection.

Pedicularis groendlandica in flower

Pedicularis groendlandica in flower (near Mosquito Pass).

Our goal this field season has been to collect from BLM lands mostly and widen our range of plants specific to certain ecoregions/life zones. We have some amazing collections and the season isn’t even over yet! I’m looking forward to finding more plant species that I’ve always wanted to collect.

Chamerion angusitifolium

Chamerion angustifolium shown. The bees are too busy to notice me, so I take this opportunity to take a couple of photos.

Gentianodes (Gentiana) algida "Arctic Gentian"

Gentianodes (Gentiana) algida “Arctic Gentian”

Frasera speciosa was a really fun SOS collection.

Frasera speciosa was a really fun SOS collection.

(photo of myself) In Montrose, CO

(photo of myself) Hello my little Sclerocactus glaucus friend, I spent the past winter studying about you. This is the largest cactus that we found while monitoring around the Escalante-Dominguez Canyon area. S. glaucus was very close to being pineapple size. And of course, I decided the next step was to take a family photo (say “cheese…”).

Phacelia formosula (North Park phacelia) is an endangered, annual found in Jackson County. Its endemic to the state of Colorado.

Phacelia formosula (North Park phacelia) is an endangered, annual found in Jackson County. Its endemic to the state of Colorado. Rosette shown.

Happy Seed Collecting,

Darnisha Coverson

BLM Colorado State Office, Lakewood


Winding down in Escalante

Three and a half months down, one and a half months to go. We’ve finished collecting most of our species and things are starting to wind down a little. Luckily more opportunities have started to open up. In fact, this morning I’m leaving for a week long camping trip down in the Escalante River for some invasive species removal and plant population monitoring. We’ve done a good deal of population monitoring recently and we’re planning on doing some range land monitoring when we get back. I’m looking forward to learning about that. Another potential opportunity we’ll have is cougar monitoring with one of the office’s wildlife biologists, he’s been tracking one with a collar for a while and examining the kills. We also hope we can get out with the paleontology crew again, but we’re still working on that.
Last week was probably the last Hummingbird banding session we’ll have. It’s been a great season, we’ve caught Black-chinned, Rufous, Broad-tailed, Calliope, and one Anna’s Hummingbird! The Anna’s has never been caught in Escalante before and on top of that, we’ve caught more Calliope than they’ve caught in the past. It’s been a great year for banding.
I’ve been doing a good deal of camping this last month, Zion twice, Arches, and Canyonlands. It’s been great being out here and being able to take advantage of all the great places around me. I don’t know if I’ll be doing anymore major site seeing while I’m here, but there’s still a lot of great local places to check out. It’s also nice that the job puts us out in the field where we end up seeing so much in the first place.

Autumn Ambushes and Aspen Adventures

A few days ago, autumn snuck up behind me and caught me by surprise. We were up in the Bodie Hills on a particularly blustery afternoon, reconstructing a previously-established aspen monitoring plot, and I smelled it. It was an electrifying moment—surrounded by rustling aspens just beginning turn and reveling in the unfamiliar urge to put on a jacket, I smelled that wonderful crisp, leafy smell that signifies fall in all of its glory to some deeper part of my brain. It was wonderful. This summer was busy and intensely alive, but I have never been one to dream of living in a place where the summer never ends. Give me gloriously colorful falls, deep and snowy winters, and those springs in which the first flowers to emerge feel like declarations of victory after a long fight with the cold over endless summers. Bishop was starting to worry me when it hit 93 degrees before noon last week, but it looks like changes are coming.

It is fitting that fall found me in the Bodie Hills. Autumn ambushes aside, the Bodie Hills are often filled with surprises: hills that appear to be nothing but gray-brown brush from a distance reveal pockets of wildflowers and fields of lupine when approached, and vistas of the Sierras and Mono Lake appear unexpectedly as you wind your way along the bumpy roads. Nestled between the northernmost peaks of the White Mountains to the east and the dramatic eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada to the west, they are best known as the site of the abandoned mining town of Bodie, the oldest unrestored ghost town in the country. For our purposes, it is a sage grouse haven and home to numerous aspen groves that reveal the damper soils in the region.

Ah, the aspen groves. Now that we have wrapped up our SOS collections for the summer and surveyed most of the sage grouse nests, fire monitoring and aspen surveys have begun to dominate our weeks. The aspen monitoring, a deceptively simple project involving re-surveying permanent plots to track aspen regeneration after different management strategies to encourage aspen growth (mowing, thinning of other tree species, and in some cases burning), has in fact resembled a giant scavenger hunt. Finding the plots themselves has proved the challenge; a few have GPS points associated with the permanent posts, but most are either identified by a grove or simply by a vague description in paper records. Needless to say it has been an adventure, with frustrating GIS sessions more than compensated for the satisfaction of finding T-posts in a grove with no previous GPS information whatsoever. Lesson learned: always create good metadata records as you go, your successor will thank you.

Fall has arrived, our tasks are shifting—did I say our? The biggest change around here, alas, is the departure of my fellow intern, Bridger, who has been a great coworker, a patient teacher when it comes to filling the gaps in my botany knowledge, and the best hiking buddy I could have asked for. I’ll miss having you around, especially on those long drives—audiobooks just don’t cut it. But so it goes. Time stops for no one, and the changes will continue through the rest of my stay here. Some will be welcome, others will require adjustments—but I hope that more of them will resemble my first formal encounter with autumn in the Eastern Sierra. Standing on that blustery hillside, staring out across the mountains and surrounded by the sounds and smells of fall, it was a moment of clarity and quiet exhilaration that I won’t soon forget.

Fall comes to the Bodie Hills