Sweet September

I am about to finish my third month here in Redding and it has been a great experience so far. I have enjoyed getting to know the people around the office and I am happy that I no longer feel like a stranger in a strange place. I am getting familiar with our tasks and I have more courage to ask people here for help explaining things. I am trying my best to make the most out of this opportunity and learn important skills.  Some learning experiences and challenges may seem small, but the important thing is the sense of growth and maturity I feel at overcoming them.

This past month has been great. One of the coolest part of this internship is that since we use an elementary school’s greenhouse to grow out our seeds, we also get to spend time with some of the students once every two weeks where we can plan activities for them to learn about the greenhouse, about what BLM does, and hopefully about how to care for plants and the environment. I hope that with the time they spend with us, they can get a feel for the importance of maintaining land native and maybe even spark an interest in them to learn more, spread their knowledge with others, and know how to better protect their land. We have also gone on more stream surveys and those are always fun because of all the wildlife we encounter: turtles, giant salamanders, tree frogs, yellow-legged frogs, bullfrogs, crawdads, and fish!

I am excited for the restoration part of my internship! Since we have gotten our first taste of rain, we know that the planting season is upon us. I am eager to experience the many steps that lead up to a restoration project. Such as planning burns or mowing and herbicide application. Then there is a question of getting volunteers to help out, deciding which plants go where and then figuring out if we want to use some kind of irrigation system. Right now, I am trying to research about the options we may have for irrigation strategies like the deep tube system. I am also going to learn more about the different methods used for the native seed’s propagation, like how acorns are best grown in a bag with a moist paper towel in the fridge first, or how certain seeds need to be boiled first. I know there is a lot of hard work ahead, but I also know that it is going to be the most rewarding! I am also looking forward to getting a kayak lesson with a few people from the office, even though it will be terrifyingly cold, I know it is a great skill to learn and be able to use for surveys! Also, there is a day when I get to help at a BLM booth at the Coleman fish hatchery and I look forward to seeing inside the facility.

Veg training in the Sierra

A few weeks ago we had the privilege of attending a California Native Plant Society workshop outside of Truckee, CA. The workshop was held at the UC-Berkley Sagehen field station where we learned the Relevé and rapid assessment vegetation monitoring techniques. It was great to learn and interact with the experienced botanists from CNPS staff as well as the other trainees.

The workshop began with a powerpoint presentation that went completely over my head and I left thinking I was in for a very painful 3 days. Once we got into the field everything started to make sense. The monitoring techniques consist of things that you may already know like estimating cover class, soil texturing, identifying land form, and creating species lists. However, the style of monitoring is set up so that these measurements can be taken quickly so the surveyors can map large areas in a single day. The training is a very useful skill to have but, in my opinion, learning from botanists and contractors from all over the US was perhaps even more valuable than the training itself.

Sagehen is an amazing place. The field station is located in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains.  It is amazing how different the plant communities are not even 50 miles from the Carson City and the Great Basin.  For three days we botanized in alpine valleys, mountain sides and natural fens. We stayed in cabins and had access to showers and a kitchen which were welcomed luxuries and a nice change of pace from tent camping. My favorite part about the field station was their underwater stream gauging station where you can view trout and brook char.

Rapid assessment in a sub alpine meadow

Brookie from the stream gauging station

Autumn in the High Desert

CLM Internship Blog post

September 24, 2013

It’s raining in the high desert this week. Snow is forecast at elevations from 7000 feet and above. The desert is a little confused. That burst of rain this last month, signaling the end of fire season, also the signals the cold to come. Yet, I am finding grasses sending up that withheld seed head in a last ditch effort to propagate. And Lupinus caudatus rebloomed. Yesterday, I even found two blooming Castilleja.

I am excited about the weather changes since Artemisia needs the cold nights to prompt the final part of its process. I have been checking on my populations almost weekly to start my collections for those species. With about 300 hours left, I still have considerable fall collections to make. Artemisia here I come!

Luckily, the Bend Seed Extractory is within a 30 minute drive from the office and as I look at the overflowing bags in my storage cubby, I may get to complete that final transport this week and create some space. Along with all those seeds are associated insects and crawling things that now share my cubicle! Unlike some of the other interns, it’s been a quiet and uneventful summer of collections. We have 52 collections and counting.

My most memorable moment of this month was the 105 degree (F) day along the John Day River slopes collecting Pseudoroegeneria spicata on a 45% slope above the river.

While the views were spectacular, the seeds seemed a bit thin and I was covering most of the 5 acre collection site… up and down a number of times. To add to the heat, I left my water bottle at the truck at the bottom of the slope. Finally, as I completed my last traverse at the bottom of the slope, I slid down the final scree slope at the road edge. It was deep red ochre and my slide left a clear exclamation point. I rested at the road when a couple drove up in a rented Toyota Prius and asked directions. I asked about their accents and found they were from Great Britain. Of course after the directions and handy maps in my pack, they asked about what I was doing and I got to explain about the SOS and CLM programs and Kew Gardens. Lo and behold they had been there and they shared with me a considerable amount of what they know of the gardens and the surrounding area where they live. It was fun to make the bigger international connection. So many days I simply get absorbed in my small task of collecting the seeds before my eyes – sometimes even missing the antler shed at my foot or the snake curled under the rock, and barely catch the scuttle of the fence lizard in the corner of my peripheral vision. Having the chance to talk to someone about my part in the bigger picture made me feel connected.
Reflections for next year
Find out which pastures are being rested and which are active before going in the field so you don’t get 3 hours out in some rugged country to find the cows ate absolutely everything and what they didn’t eat they trampled!

Robin Snyder
CLM Intern Prineville District BLM, Prineville Oregon

A busy past three weeks!

Whew! One week of training and two weeks of intense office work and I am beginning to forget what the inside of my tent looks like.  For several weeks it seemed I spent more nights in that tent than in my own bed.  Not that I am complaining of course- hiking on the dunes of Sand Mountain, counting rare butterflies, collecting native seeds in alpine meadows, and my favorite: watching epic desert lightning storms, these are all of the perks that come with fieldwork.

Here is a snapshot of what the past 3 weeks away from the field have looked like:

  1.        Truckee River Education Event (TREE) at the Nature Conservancy’s McCarren Ranch property.  This event has been occurring for several years and is intended to get low income, inner city, elementary school children not only learning about nature but interacting with it in a hands-on way.  We had the opportunity to develop a new activity for the students that would get them thinking and talking about invasive species and the importance of biodiversity and native species.  We decided given their ages a game would be the best way to engage the children.  A lot of planning and research went in to creating this game and in the end it was deemed a success.
  2.        California Native Plant Society (CNPS) Releve/Rapid Assessment: For two and a half days we spent our time around professionals from private and state agencies learning standardized methods of vegetation classification.  The training was housed at U.C. Berkley’s Sagehen Field Station in Truckee, CA.  The beautiful lodge pole pine forest was a nice contrast from the harsh desert landscape we have spent so much of our summer surrounded by.  This training was an excellent chance to network with professional scientists from a variety of disciplines.  It was reassuring to hear that despite talk of a shrinking job market- there is job creation and stability in the private sector. 
  3.        Assisting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the listing of a rare/endangered species:  This project has definitely been a labor of love.  Being the first listing for our office in recent history, the amount and types of data requested have changed several times.  Primarily we have been tasked with compiling spatial data in the context of natural and anthropogenic threats, in particular, development, mining, livestock grazing, and fire.   This project has required organization and an adaptive attitude.  It has been satisfying to pull together years of spatial data to tell the story of the threats posed to this species.  If all goes as planned we will ship our data out this afternoon and eventually have a federally protected species!