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!