The last 7 months have been quit the learning experience for me. I have made life long friendships and gained a plethora of knowledge. I am joining the Idaho State Dept. of Ag team on Monday for a full time permanent position doing Livestock Investigations. I will also be evaluating environmental compliance with CAFO’s (Confined animal feeding operations) . I am looking forward to my new adventure. Thank you for the opportunity of the CLM internship!
I’m back from our federal furlough and everyone is frantically trying to catch up on missed work. Since I came back, I’ve been building willow exclosures, mapping water sources, and monitoring riparian areas post-grazing season. Last night we got about four inches of snow so more people are in the office than I’ve ever seen at one time.
The big news this month is that I am busy applying for graduate programs. This CLM internship has given me the perfect opportunity to narrow down my interests and finally settle on a field of study. Yay, wildlife biology! Although the government furlough was not ideal for anyone, the shutdown came at a relatively good time for me. I was able to use my time off to study for the GRE, research graduate programs, and contact prospective graduate professors. There is always much more to do on my applications, and the next part will be to just wait and see!
October 29, 2013
Las Cruces, NM
I mentioned in an earlier blog post that BLM New Mexico only has two botanists stationed throughout the state—one in Farmington and one here in Las Cruces. This has implications for plant conservation. Our mentor and local botanist, for instance, is responsible for managing approximately 11 million acres of public land. However, in addition to managing an enormous area of land, botanists in the state have the added hardship of being responsible for two full-time jobs: seed collections for Seeds of Success and threatened and endangered (T&E) species monitoring. Because seed collections are more time sensitive in the short term, work on T&E species usually occurs later in the season, after SOS projects are nearly complete.
Until now, 95% of our efforts have been focused on seed collections. However, Kate and I are now beginning to plan several T&E related projects for the upcoming weeks. A few weeks ago, we helped Evelyn Williams, a researcher from the Chicago Botanic Garden, set up a preliminary pollination study for the rare plant Lepidospartum burgessii (LEBU), and in a few days, we will return to the LEBU site to check up on the progress of her experiment. We are also going to be involved in projects related to several other T&E species, including the Sand Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia arenaria) and the night-blooming cereus (Cereus greggii). While Kate and I really enjoyed our Seeds of Success work, we are excited to mix it up and experience a new aspect of plant conservation in the upcoming weeks.
My CLM internship with Big Thicket is finished in a week, and I leave Texas better able to deal with all kinds of new extremes: extreme humidity, extreme thunderstorms, extreme heat, and extremely sharp palmetto leaves. I experienced so many things during my work and time off, both good and bad: I felt the pain of fire ant attacks, had my car invaded by crazy ants, was bitten by mosquitos the size of a quarter, chased black widows and centipedes out of my bed, stepped on a copperhead, watched a rattlesnake eat a frog, spent more days than I want to think about up to my waist in swamp muck, watched the sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico, lived in the hometown of George Jones, ate something called a Super Monster Burrito, hammocked in the Thicket, stood on the highest point in Texas, ate phenomenal barbeque, went to an Astros game, and worked in a national park. While not always comfortable, working at Big Thicket certainly gave me the adventure I was asking for and helped me improve my work skills. I leave Texas with no regrets and hope to take what I’ve learned to the next stage of my career!
It’s been a hectic month to say the least, I don’t mean in the sense that it’s been busy, but instead slow and full of anxiety. The shutdown isn’t a common issue with CLM employees and would not have been a problem if I still had a car. I mean this in a few ways; since I couldn’t travel anywhere further than my bike would take me, the 16 day shutdown went by pretty slowly. During the shutdown, I went on long walks or bikes through town everyday, studied a lot, got some geographically-limited birding in (front yard, in town, and at the reservoir), worked out, and watched a few movies. I do all of these things normally, but getting out in the field helps make life more interesting. I’m not much of an indoor person, so it started to wear down my spirits.
OK, now to talk about the good parts of the Shutdown! if Anyone spends time in the desert like I have, Desert Ecology by John Sowell is a great read. I’ve been reading it and making flashcards based on some of the topics he talks about. It was published in 2001 but the info seems up to date for the most part. I found out that the 2 most common passerines in town are the White-crowned Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers. I’ve also been seeing Dark-eyed “Oregon” juncos a little further from town but I’ve never seen that variety before so it was exciting. Finally got a picture of a Black-billed Magpie, a super common bird but I’ve never been able to get a picture before now. There are tons of American Coots at the reservoir but I also happened upon a group of Double-crested Cormerants, a Great Blue Heron, and a mystery duck that I’m hoping to figure out (but if I can’t figure it out for sure, I’d rather say a mystery than guess at it’s ID). Walking through town I noticed a tiny bluish-purple mustard growing roadside and on some lawns, I still need to figure out what it is.This plant was not here during the heat of the summer but only came up recently; temporal partitioning makes the world a more beautiful place.
Finally I’d like to mention that our almost 3 week hiatus didn’t ruin seed collecting for us, the seeds are still there. Actually, for the species we’re interested in they’re even more abundant. Yesterday I made 3 hefty collections on my own, or rather, finished 3 collections we started before the shutdown. I think things should stay pretty busy until the end because of all the time we had off. Two and a half weeks of work left, and I’m excited to finish things up here.