Raptors and Wildflowers

Greetings from lovely Carson City, Nevada! My 3rd week here at the Bureau of Land Management is in full swing and a few paragraphs can’t possibly sum up the wondrous ride I’ve been on for the past 17 days. The highlights: I had a crash course in the flora of the sierras and the great basin; I completed online courses on ethics, blood borne pathogens, defensive driving, and much more; I worked with the other 4 interns to make a dichotomous key of the flora in a single allotment; I explored Carson City, wild horse ranges, Reno, and miles and miles of sagebrush steppe.

Yesterday was by far my most exciting and interesting day thus far. The motley crew of botanical interns and our supervisor, Dean, spent all day in Canoe Hills, near Golden Eagle Regional Park. We were surveying for Medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae), an invasive grass that has just started to make inroads into the allotment. It’s a fierce competitor and terrible forage for all grazers so there is concern about its spread onto BLM land. Additionally, there’s a proposal to build a new set of bike trails in this area that may or may not aide in the spread of this plant that thrives in disturbed sites. To conduct the survey, I spent my day hiking on established and proposed trails all over these stunning hillsides, scanning the ground for Medusahead’s distinctive spikes. Lomatium austiniea, Viola beckwithii, and Phlox lomatifolium are in bloom in small patches, lending splashes of color to the dusty olive brown. When I finished my weed survey, Dean sent me to survey the cliff sides for Golden Eagle nests. So I climbed (gingerly and carefully, of course!) from hillside to hillside, in search of raptor hangouts. At this point, I could no longer contain my enthusiasm. My job was to hike, gather crucial conservation data, and record my findings on a map. Quite literally a dream come true!



Viola beckwithii

Adventure is out there!


Springtime in the Mojave

Last month I began my CLM internship at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Western Ecological Research Center in Henderson, Nevada! It’s hard to believe so much time has gone by already – we sure have been keeping busy! My fellow interns – Renee, Rachel, and Sam – have posted over the last few weeks and have given a great introduction to the work we’ve been doing out here in the Mojave desert.

Our first project is focused on researching ecotypic variation in Mojave desert plant species used for restoration. Getting to help out with this project has been very exciting because it is the first year of the study (it will continue for another ten years). The first task was to help establish “common gardens” across the Mojave desert. Three locations were selected this year, each in a different designated climate zone – one site is in southern Utah in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, one is in California within Fort Irwin National Training Center, and another is in Twentynine Palms, California, just outside of Joshua Tree National Park. All three sites are incredibly beautiful!

We first had to help out with constructing fences to go around our gardens so herbivores wouldn’t eat our plants. After this was accomplished, we began planting at each site. As Rachel mentioned, we planted three different plant species: Ambrosia dumosa (White bursage), Larrea tridentata (Creosote bush), and Sphaeralcea ambigua (Desert Globemallow). These plants were propagated from seeds that were collected from a variety of source populations spanning the various climate zones present in the Mojave.

This past week we finished up planting at the “Joshua Tree” common garden site, which was our final site! Each common garden site now has about 600-700 plants that we hand-planted with love and care.

the "Joshua Tree" common garden site after we finished planting!

the “Joshua Tree” common garden site after we finished planting!

relaxing after a long day of planting

relaxing after a long day of planting

sunset as we were driving to our campsite in Joshua Tree National Park

sunset as we were driving to our campsite in Joshua Tree National Park

Also, on our drive home from the site this week we stopped a few times along the way to collect annuals that we saw! Here is a photo of Rachel with her Jepson Desert Manual in the backseat of the truck as she guides us through the key:


we were able to ID this one in the backseat - desert chicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana)!!

we were able to ID this one in the backseat – desert chicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana)!!

Happy Vernal Equinox, everyone!! Thanks for reading!

— Meaghan

Las Vegas Field Office, USGS

Spring in Colorado

The first day of spring was yesterday and it was actually a nice spring day with a high of 66, but it didn’t last long as a cold front came in and the weekend will end up being in the high 30s.  I have a feeling this will be the weather pattern for springtime here in Colorado.

I have completed the Phacelia formosula monitoring scheme and am now tweaking it slightly to present it to Fish and Wildlife Service.  I will soon start on a complete status report for P. formosula as well.  I finished up the GIS mapping for the possible monitoring of Corispermum navicula that will hopefully be started this field season.  I still have to work out all of the issues of that monitoring scheme to make it easy enough to be follow by all field personnel.  Soon enough I will be implementing the monitoring that I have been working on over the winter.  It is always a joy to see the office work being applied to the field, improving the management of the natural resources that were entrusted to the Bureau of Land Management by the public.

I talked with Carol and Phil and we are getting ready for field season by scheduling dates for future monitoring trips, as well as possible seed collections.  I am also trying to determine the best times during the next 6 months to go and check the Phacelia formosula populations in order to get the best understanding of its germination cycle.  Soon enough the field season will start and I will not be in the office as much, but will be out enjoying the beautiful Colorado backcountry once again.

Nathan Redecker

Lakewood, CO

BLM CO State Office


Dichotomous Key

My time here in the great basin has been full of new experiences. One of these new experiences has been creating a simple dichotomous key focused on riparian areas. I have been working on these keys with some of my fellow interns. The dichotomous keys that we create will be used in a Native American youth camp that we will have the pleasure of assisting with in a few months. The youth camp is going to be with high school aged students which creates a scope of challenges. The key needs to entertain the kids as well as inform them. As we all know dichotomous keys can be complex and at times hard to follow.  We are trying to avoid that hardship, especially with grasses. The keys also need to be short because the students will be working on identifying these plants within a small block of time in a field setting. My team mate Andrii and I have come up with this preliminary key:

Grasses, Sedges and Junceae

1a Plants have a triangular stem with parallel veined leaves up to 1″ wide; stems are round to oval with leaves extending from the base; inflorescence is found on the stem

    2a Stem is roughly triangular with flat leaf blades. Inflorescence is at the tip of the plant extending from multiple branches that have fruit like seeds surrounded by scales; fruit length is approximately 0.7-1.6mm. Scirpus microcarpus

     2b Stem is oval to round with leaves extending from the base of the plant. Inflorescence is found on the stem.

          3a Leaf blades flat and broad, some have rolled edges. Inflorescence is cylindrical found at the top of the plant, appearing like a large speared hotdog.  Fruit is like a seed surrounded by hairs.  Typha latifolia

3b Leaves are basal, bladeless sheaths. Inflorescence is found on the side of the stem, not at the terminal end. Flowers are small, dark and brown. Juncaceae Juncus balticus (articus)

1b Plants differ in size and appearance  (never triangular). Usually  have hollow stems and swollen leaf nodes. Cauline (on the stem) leaf consists of a tubular sheath  on the lower portion and a free narrow leaf blade; basal leaves often form dense tufts, a combination of both types is very common.   Poaceae; true grasses

     4a Plants that are very tall – 7-14’, rhizomous. Leaves are alternate  along the stem; leaf blades are about 1’ long and up to 2″ wide.  Panicle is open, sometimes reddish in color. Plants tend to form very dense stands, occupying moist to wet areas of riparian zones. Phragmites australis (common reed)

     4b Plants that are much smaller.

5a Inflorescence is dense and compact; spikelets are sessile or sit on very short pedicels

6a Plants are annual, up to 8” tall. Awns are densely arranged, 5-9 mm long. Leaf blades are flat, glabrous; ligules are membranous 5-6.3 mm long. Can be found in riparian zones and disturbed areas. Polypodium mospeliensis (rabbitfoot beardgrass)

6b Plants that are perennial, usually taller.

7a Grass grows in tufts, with culms about 4-25” tall. Awns are loose, 1-4” long and are widely divergent in maturity. Leaves 1-6 mm wide, can be flat or involute; collars usually yellow with 0.4-0.6 mm membranous ligules. Plant can grow in a broad range of soils and is valuable forage for large animals. Elymus elymoides (bottlebrush squirreltail)

7b Awns are shorter or absent.

8a Glumes are narrow, needlelike. Ligules are always membranous, but well distinctive – 1-8 mm long. Leaf blades are flat, scaberulose and glabrous. Plants are common mainly along streams, or in dryer sites of riparian zones. Leymus cyneresus ( basin wildrye)

 8b Ligules are absent or very short.

9a Plants are perennial and tufted. Culms are up to 3’ tall,  spikes are no longer than 6”. Spikelets are awned. Leaves are long, involute and coarsely veined. Collars can be yellowish in color, usually with short 1 mm long ligules. Commonly grows on dry, rocky hill sides or plains. Pseudoroegneria spicata (bluebunch wheatgrass)

9b Perennial and tufted grass. Spikes are shorter –1-2.5” long. Leaves can vary from flat to involute, collars are often yellowish with 0.3-0.7 mm long ligules. Can be found on grazing areas, disturbed lands like roadsides and burned areas. Agropyron cristatum( crested wheatgrass)

5b Inflorescence is open, can be narrow but spikelets are on distinctive pedicels

10a Plants are annual. Culms are usually 2’ tall with relatively large, drooping and awned spikelets. Leaves are slightly haired. Plants can occupy a wide range of habitats, from uplands to riparian zones. Bromus tectorum(cheatgrass)

10b Plants are not alike. How are the plants not alike, not like the above plants or not like each other?

11a Inflorescence is diffuse with distinctive branchlets. Spikelets have one flower and dark seed when mature. They can commonly be found in sandy, clayey and well drained soils throughout the Great Basin.  Oryzopsis hymenoides (Indian Ricegrass)

11b Inflorescence is narrow to diffuse. Spikelets are awnless but bear many flowers. Poa; (bluegrass)

12a Plants are rhizomatous and usually don’t form dense tufts. Panicle is often pyramidal, about 2-6” long. Leaves are flat or folded with 0.4-0.6 mm long ligules. Commonly foundon moderately dry roadsides, meadows and open woods.  Poa pratensis; (Kentucky bluegrass)

12b Small, densely tufted perennials. Spikes are 1.5-3.5” long. Leaf blades are soft, folded or involute, often boatshaped at a tip. Ligules are membranous, about 1.7-5 mm long. Commonly grow in relatively dry habitats, sagebrush valleys, and wooded areas. Poa secunda (Sandberg bluegrass )



Provo UT, big sagebrush prelimary results

Hello from Provo, Utah. The presentation of my preliminary research results in Boise, Idaho at the Great Basin Native Plant Program (GBNPP) received good comments. The research community and managers were very interested in our results and application to ecological restoration. I received valuable feedback and new ideas. Additionally, last week I started field activities, and collected new samples. Our experiments are moving forward with more materials in different environments and new variables.  This week my mentor and another scientist are training me in chemical ecology techniques for the study of big sagebrush ecosystems. One of the most interesting things of my training was discussing new ideas and projects. I really appreciate the support of my mentor and all the things that he is teaching me.

I feel thankful for all the support of my companions at the Forest Service, Provo Shrub Science Lab. I am learning many interesting things. Thank you CLM for this opportunity.


Provo, UT

Forest Service, Provo Shrub Science Lab




Good Things

It is in the 80’s and sunny in Redding and the planting season is coming to an end. There are numerous restoration sites on the district that are old mining sites or other disturbed areas. We are trying to get as many plants in the ground as we can before it dries up more so we don’t have to hold them in the greenhouse over summer. Today we had about 70 middle school kids help plant a gravely hillside. It was great!

I have done some seed collections, weed monitoring, and rare plant monitoring in the field as well.

In the greenhouse we’ve been sowing, transplanting, weeding, watering and straightening up.

At home I have been cleaning seeds and working on extra projects. I hope to leave the office with good reference material for the next seasonal technician. I have made maps of the restoration sites and what plants and seeds to use. I am also making a seed collection guide that includes photos and protocols for various aspects of native plant propagation. I find it hard to work on this at times because there are always plants to be cared for in some way.

This is an amazing job and my boss is super stellar. I have always been enthusiastic about botany and restoration work and I just keep getting more jazzed about it. Grateful to have such a soulful job.

Charter school helping with a planting site

Charter school helping with a planting site




Farewell to the Wetlands

After nearly two years here, my time as an intern at the West Eugene Wetlands is coming to an end. I have accepted a permanent position at another organization, and while I am excited for the new experiences my future holds, I will definitely miss the wetlands and the team of people with whom I worked.

When I began this internship, not too far out of college (with a background in English, no less), if someone had pointed out a plant and asked, “What can you tell me about this?” my answer probably would have been a tentative “It’s green?” I have learned so much in the last two years, however, that now my answer would be more like “Oh, that’s Kincaid’s lupine. It’s a threatened species and the host plant of the Fender’s Blue Butterfly.” And that is an amazing feeling.

During my time here, I have had the opportunity to assist with monitoring, planting, seeding, leading educational groups, and much more. And while I’ve enjoyed the variety of experiences, some of my favorite memories are in the complications my partner and I have had in the field, like spending 3 hours attempting to find 12 rebar we’d stuck so far in the ground only an inch showed (after mowing, burning, or even animals digging burrows, the landscape can really change from year to year), or trying to square up a new macroplot without a compass. There is nothing more satisfying than putting our heads together and being able to formulate a solution to a problem that has plagued us (whoever knew pythagorean theorum would come in handy outside the classroom?).

Anyway, I am so happy to have had such an amazing opportunity and I would like to wish all current and future interns luck with their endeavors.

Good luck!

75 and Sunny

Another spring season has started here in the Central Valley of California and with it comes the inevitable, weeds. A significant component of my internship at the Cosumnes River Preserve is identifying, mapping, and treating weed infestations. It is not my favorite task, but I believe it is a necessary evil. This year looks to be an especially busy one. It seems new invasive populations are popping up out of the woodwork.
Last Thursday I was able to plant at my RD-150 restoration site with the help of fellow preserve co-workers. We had a great day for the planting and encountered minimal complications (Can we still consider this a restoration?!) Any other free time I have had in the past several weeks has been dedicated to writing the NEPA document for one of my other projects.
Until next time!!


Late winter at the Colorado State Office:

Spring appears to be on the not so distant horizon here on Colorado’s Front Range. Although spring in the Rockies is typically characterized by capricious and unsettled weather; Chinook winds rush off the mountains as the peaks are warmed by the growing strength of the sun. In town, temperatures climb momentarily into the seventies coaxing people from their winter repose. Although, just as you’ve gotten used to the idea that winter may be relaxing its frosty grip, the weather takes another turn and we wind up with six inches of sloppy spring snow on the ground. Spring appears to be further off in and among the high peaks and parks. Last weekend while skiing through the lodgepole pines of Grand County I was taken aback by the greater than two meters of snow which still insulates the cold hard ground. Somewhere down there beneath that blanket of white are the plants we hope to be monitoring in a few months’ time.

At the Colorado State Office my attention has been focused west of the high peaks on the high desert canyons and plateaus of the Western Slope. The Grand Valley and Gunnison River basin form the banana belt of the state; so to speak. The climate is relatively mild and supports vineyards and extensive orchards of peaches during the summer months. On the plateau the flora comes to life months earlier than do the alpine congeners. Out there, hiding in the shaley alluvium, is a particular cactus with has been the object of my time over the past several weeks. Sclerocactus glaucus is a small barrel cactus with highly plastic morphological characters which have long confounded its systematics. Due to variation in its form and a range which overlaps with other taxa of the same genus it is presently unknown exactly how rare or prolific the species is. Over the past couple of years, in addition to several revisions in taxonomic status and demographic monitoring studies, there has been quite a bit of work investigating the genetic structure of the species at a population level. This research has begun to illustrate that Sclerocactus glaucus might be less ‘threatened’ than it has been determined to be by the Fish & Wildlife Service. I have been working to synthesize a comprehensive literate review and status report which reflects the most current and up-to-date understanding of the species and its range.

Field season is shaping up to be a busy one. It seems that several times a week Carol (our mentor) receives a request from someone else to assist with surveying and monitoring. It is becoming apparent that we will be tending to a generous amount of demographic monitoring of rare and endangered species across the state this summer. These monitoring projects will take us from the Mancos badlands, Roan Cliffs, and red-rock canyons of the Western Slope, high into the alpine tundra of the Mosquito Range, to the dunes and sage-steppe of North Park. In addition to monitoring established trend plots, my fellow intern and I have several new projects to implement.  It remains to be seen how much time we actually end up spending in the office this summer.

From the Front Range,

Phil Krening

Colorado State Office – BLM

Lakewood, CO

Fast-approaching Spring

The past several weeks have been exciting and each new observation or activity has filled me with a certain sense of joy! About 2 weeks ago we had a much needed rain in the Carson Valley and a small amount of snow in the Sierras, which desperately needs more snow for this winter season. Thanks to the new snow I was able to go snowmobiling for the second time and get to view the wonderful trees of the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. Some of my favorites are the Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana), Sierra White Fir (Abies concolor var. lowiana) and the California Red Fir (Abies magnifica). All of these trees and more are such a wonderful representation of forests that are full of life and excitement! One such creature is the small Chickaree (Tamiasciurus douglasii) that is a bundle full of energy, running to and fro gathering cones and seeds to eat or stash away. The Clark’s Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) is another animal that is quite conspicuous and talkative as you make your way up in elevation. This bird can store over seventy-five pine seeds in a special pouch inside the throat.  It then takes the seeds and buries them in caches along the mountain slopes. I have read some research that says they usually bury their caches on south-facing slopes, so that in the spring time the snow in these areas will melt faster and they can get to their caches earlier!

I have also seen the emergence of the California Ground Squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) in the past two weeks. They are funny animals that scurry around on the ground looking for items to eat and then run back to their burrows! If presented with the chance to see them up close or through binoculars, I believe you will be surprised with how nice-looking they really are and the characteristics of their fur. Another bird I was able to see recently was the Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya), which is adorned with a very nice plumage. The back and upperparts are mostly gray, but the underparts are a rusty orange color and of course they have the usually tail-bobbing characteristic of the Phoebes.

The snow is melting fast on the eastern slope of the Sierras and many plants in the sagebrush steppe have already begun to flower and release their buds from dormancy. Several species from the Grossulariaceae have begun to leaf out and show flowers and flower buds. The Golden Currant (Ribes aureum) is leafing out and showing flower buds, while the Desert Gooseberry (Ribes velutinum) has leafed out and several individuals which I have seen are in flower! Various willow species have also begun to open their male and female catkins, which are so beautiful to look at up close. The Arroyo Willow (Salix lasiolepis), Yellow Willow (Salix lutea) and Peachleaf Willow (Salix amygdaloides) have all begun to flower and leaf out in the past two weeks. Several herbaceous species that have begun to grow and flower include the wonderful and colorful Yellowbells (Fritillaria pudica), Sagebrush Violet (Viola beckwithii),Longleaf Phlox (Phlox longifolia), Darkred Onion (Allium atrorubens var. cristatum), Slender Phlox (Microsteris gracilis) and Whitlow Grass (Draba verna) to name a few of the colorful characters of early spring!

It excites me to know that the sagebrush steppe is beginning to come alive and that there are many other members of this incredible habitat that I will come to know well over the course of this year!

An incredible tree that grows in an austere and becoming environment. (Abies concolor var. lowiana)

Surrounded by large mountains this watershed is a jewel in the Sierra Nevadas.

The HUGE cones of Sugar Pine! I think it’s possible that someone could climb a tree quite high to get a closer look at these beauties.

The colorful male catkin of Salix lasiolepis.

The small, yet lightening flower of the Desert Gooseberry.

The sandy and dry habitat of Prickly Pear. Job’s Peak, of the Sierra Nevada mountains, looms in the distance:)

Darkred Onion is almost inconspicuous in vegetative form but when the flowers come out it cannot be missed by the attentive eye!

Longleaf Phlox has a quite showy flower that brings color to the sagebrush floor.

Yellowbells is a wonderful flower to see in the early spring as the sagebrush steppe begins to awaken.

Follow new roads and adventures to the edge of discovery my friends,


Carson City BLM Field Office