Hello everyone!!! This is Justin Chappelle reporting from Buffalo, Wyoming! This is my second year as an intern for the CLM (Conservation of Land Management), and I am beyond excited. Previously, I worked for the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) in Burns, Oregon on ES&R (Emergency Stabilization & Rehabilitation) monitoring throughout Harney County. I liked the experience so much, I wanted to do another internship with the CLM through the Chicago Botanic Gardens.
Presently, I am an intern for the Buffalo BLM station working on rangeland monitoring, SOS (Seeds of Success), and other side biology projects. This is my first week here and everything has been very busy. The other intern, Jill, and I did a couple field excursions and certification classes to help us get adapted to the upcoming field season. We will be monitoring many trend sites and scouting out locations to collect seed for SOS projects. Working in the high plains desert will be tough, but the experiences gathered from this internship will greatly help with my future job.
Certified and BLM Approved.
In order to go out in the field we would have to take a series of safety classes. Half of the training was done online and the other half was with BLM employees. I learned a lot from the CPR class, because our teacher was really hands on. The other intern and I had to learn how to work with AEDs, learn how to help people when they are choking, and learn how to efficiently do CPR. The class was exhausting, because we had to pair up with BLM employees that were a lot taller and bigger. We had to catch them as they fell over and we had to put them in certain positions to allow them to be resuscitated. (I had my workout for the day.) We were tested at the end and we passed with flying colors. We were CPR certified…and BLM approved. 😉
The next major training we had was defensive driving. The four hour long computer course was extensive and detailed…and sort of dull…but it had to be done! ^_^; The next step was to take a four hour class within the BLM building. We watched that BLM driver safety video that was done in the Western Oregon forests. I think it is funny how the video was mostly in a forest setting, while most of the BLM lands are in high plains deserts or drier regions of the United States. We passed the examination at the very end of the course and had to take our driving tests with one of our bosses. Jill and I easily passed. So we were certified in defensive driving …and BLM approved. 😀
Field Excursion: Into the Powder River Basin!
There were many opportunities to go out into the field to view all of the BLM land. Our mentor wanted to give us as much experience with the roads and the local flora. We went out to look for many SOS plant locations and identified many of the key high plains desert species. I noticed many of the plants that were in the Powder River Basin could also be found in Illinois (where I am from) and Oregon! The grasses were a little difficult to identify, because they were just emerging. Except Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass)…that grass was fully grown and ready for action. <_< Hesperostipa comata (needle and thread), Poa seconda (Sandbergs bluegrass), and Pascopyrum smithii (western wheatgrass) were some of my favorite grasses to identify that were sprouting out of the ground. This land had many diverse grasses and it will be very easy to collect the grass seed portion for the SOS projects.
When we entered the Powder River Basin, the area reminded me a lot of the Badlands in South Dakota. I could see most of the rock outcrops were made of kaolinite, goethite, and aluminum based minerals. The clay feel of the soil with the erosional patterns of the outcrops definitely looked like the Badlands. Many of the flowers and plants we saw in this section were adapted to these soils. There was a lot of Zigadenus venenosus (meadows death camas), Sarcobatus vermiculatus (greasewood), Penestemon angustifolius (broadbeard penestemon), Phlox hoodii (spiny phlox), and various scurf pea species. In some areas, we saw Opuntia polyacantha (plains prickly-pear cactus) and Pediocactus simpsonii (hedgehog cactus), which were very majestic in a spiny Wyoming way. Eventually, we saw a majority of our key SOS plants blooming. For some of the species we will have to make a mad dash to collect all of their seeds.
Most of our trips through the Powder River Basin were accompanied by large thunderstorms. During this time of year, the field is inundated with storms. Looking at a green prairie with a back drop of a massive cumulonimbus was strikingly beautiful. Even when identifying plants, the clouds kept the sun out of our eyes. This won’t last for long, but the scenery was breath taking.
The Powder River Basin had a lot of activity! There were many Lepus spp (jack rabbits) and (Antilocapra americana) pronghorns! They would gracefully eat grass or try to out run our vehicle. We would use our defensive driving knowledge and be aware of these creatures in case they ran in front of us. (Which was like 40% of the time.) The pronghorn seemed to dominate the area and were comfortable with eating around oblivious cattle. We did not see any jackalope, because they do not exist. There were many Cynomys ludovicianus (black tailed prairie dog) villages in the Powder River Basin and some of them had Athene cunicularia (burrowing owls) nesting on the outskirts.
Season Variations for Buffalo, Wyoming.
There was a lot of human activity as well dotted throughout the landscape. The Powder River Basin is known for the natural resources such as coal, oil, uranium and natural gas. We would pass different pumping stations that would help with resource extraction. Many trucks would be hauling different resources around the back country to processing plants. Viewing both natural and human processes in effect reminded me of the importance of restoration and preservation. Learning how to balance different processes is the key for the success of future generations. ^_^
Zigadenus venenosus (meadows death camas)
Penestemon angustifolius (broadbeard penestemon)
This is the section where I talk about my adventures outside of work. \(^_^\)
A Slice of Cowboy Life
My roommate Sean invited me to go with him early in the morning to look for Tympanuchus phasianellus (sharp tailed grouse) leks. I was ecstatic! I have never seen this bird before and there is a good chance that I would be seeing them this morning. We went on a red sandy road east of Sheridan, Wyoming and arrived at the site around 5:45am. We saw two leks and both of them were active. The male grouse were strutting their stuff and did little dances for the females. They looked like a B-52 bombers with an erect wagging tail. The females were unimpressed and probably did not care for the rainy mist going through the area. The males were trying extra hard to shuffle and make thumping noises. The experience was incredible! O_O
We were traveling back to the car and we saw a truck hauling a horse trailer coming towards us. The cowboy pulled over and asked if we were here for the branding. Sean and I introduced ourselves and said we were looking for sharp tailed grouse and did not know about the branding occurring on this pasture today. We noticed more trucks and trailers coming towards us and so we went along with the caravan. We talked with many cowboys and cowgirls who were getting ready to herd the cattle. We stayed in our car as they herded every cow into the corral. When it was safe to exit the car, we walked to the corral. The goal of the branding was to brand, vaccinate, and neuter the calves. This was a community event and around twenty five people showed up with their families to this event. They were all here to help this rancher with the tasks. Sean wanted to help out and I was a little hesitant at first because I was not dressed for it nor was I prepared to help with the cattle. Eventually, Sean and I talked with the cowboys and the head rancher, asking them if they needed any help. They showed us how to gather the calves and brand them. The process was very quick and it seemed like the calves were in no pain at all. They were running around and staring at everyone after. Sean and I both helped out with holding the calves down. They were very strong and by the end of the branding we were covered with mud and poop. We were both tired from the event, but we met many different ranchers and cowboys/girls. We learned a little about the slice of cowboy life in Sheridan, Wyoming.
I could not get a picture of myself beyond this point, because I was pretty busy helping.
Rook is the best herding dog!
That is it for this week, everyone! Thank you for reading and have a nice day!! ^_^
Buffalo, Wyoming BLM
And now…please click on the below picture for your moment of zen…