Wrangell-St. Elias Park and Preserve, Alaska

With Alaska being a 67 hour drive from South West Michigan and only 4 days available after I graduated, I opted to fly into Anchorage. Upon arrival on that Friday I bought a car and got everything sorted to arrive all spic and span for training at 8am on Monday. My first week was dedicated to the various training sessions that are required for NPS staff, things like information sessions about the park, how to talk to guests, and defensive driving. (My favorite line in the online driving course was…”Physics does not know who you and your family are so wear a seat-belt.” Thank you driving course, it is true physics does not know who you are because it is not a living thing. But seriously guys wear your seat-belt, you don’t need a bad line to know that).Flat Top Mountain

My second week was dedicated to training for the Alaska Exotic Plant Management Team (EPMT) that I will be a part of. Alaska is a unique state for so many reasons, including the scale of invasive weeds. For one, the amount and variety are relatively low compared to the lower 48.  This allows for the National Parks in the state to keep, document, monitor, and control infestations. This past week I journeyed to Anchorage for training on the GPS devices we will be using and the proper protocols for the project. I am pretty excited to get to work monitoring and killing some weeds.

Engaging an Attention Span of 12 Minutes

This month, I have been researching outdoor education opportunities to do after my CLM internship.  I decided that I should first get my feet wet in the field by assisting Park Ranger Julie on a trip to Headwaters Forest Reserve for students from a local elementary school.  The two major goals of the outdoor education program that I had recently applied for echoed in my head as the school bus arrived:  first, help the kids relate to each other and, second, help the kids respect their environment.  The bus parked and out poured forty excited, talking, running, climbing kids.  One girl came up to me and told me that a person’s attention span is their age, plus two.  At the age of 10, her attention span was 12 minutes.  She asked my age.  23 years old.  My attention span is 25 minutes, she told me.  Several kids told me that I look like I am 16.  Maybe my attention is really 18 minutes. Accomplishing the goals might be easier said than done considering those stats.

Amid all the chaos, Ranger Julie managed to corral the kids together and focus their attention as she told them about Headwaters.  She has 12 minutes, I thought.  Our lessons along the trail lasted this amount of time or less, as well.  Underneath the canopy of old growth redwood trees, I would pick up a feathery needle cast and explain that it was a clue that redwoods were near.  I showed them the hilt shape of the base of a fern leaflet, a clue that it was a sword fern.  I would pluck a redwood sorrel leaf, hand it to the kids, and then instruct them to rip it in a half, hand it to their neighbor, thank nature for the gift, and then eat it.  Savor the sour taste.  Despite my attempts, though, I struggled to maintain their focus for even 2 minutes, let alone 12.  By the end of the day, the constant complaints from the kids made the three mile hike seem more like a forced death march.  My lessons were drowned out by endless, scattered, children chatter.

Were the goals of the hike met?  Perhaps not to the extent that I expected, and the experience taught me how little I know about teaching kids about the outdoors.  However, I did eavesdrop on a conversation between two students, Shawna and Cole, and noticed how much they related to each other as the conversation passed back and forth easily between them. Their 12 minute attention spans were fully engaged.  At the end of the hike, Shawna approached me and, in her hand, was a piece of redwood feather.  “This is from a redwood tree, right?” She respectfully returned it to the forest floor.  On a small scale, perhaps, the goals were met after all.

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Coyote Springs

Hello Everyone!

May has been our busiest month yet! We’ve been out in the field every week, working across four different states (Nevada, Utah, California, and Arizona)! Even though I’m stationed in Henderson, NV, I have spent the least amount of time working in the field actually in the state of Nevada. This month I did get to help out with a project here in southern Nevada, at a location we call “Coyote Springs”. Every month we’ve been going out doing vegetation surveys at Coyote Springs at locations that are in both burned and unburned areas. A team of researchers from our office has been working on translocating desert tortoises to Coyote Springs this season, and our vegetation surveys are useful in seeing how much forage material is available for tortoises at different areas of the site.

On one particular day I had a very exciting encounter at Coyote Springs – we were driving along one of the dirt roads to get to a survey point when we spotted a desert tortoise in the road! This desert tortoise was “wild”, not one of the ones that were translocated to the site. Since she was in the road and we had to continue driving down the road, I had the opportunity to put on some gloves and move her gently off the road. This was my first desert tortoise siting! It’s pretty funny that I hadn’t seen one yet because there are so many researchers at our office that study and track desert tortoises, and they get to see them every day.

I finally got to see a desert tortoise!!

I finally got to see a desert tortoise!!

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Gopherus agassizii

Next week I’ll be heading back to Coyote Springs for another week of surveying – temperatures are continuing to rise (this week it was over 100 degrees for a few days in a row!) but we’ll keep up with field work for another few weeks.

Until next time! Thanks for reading!

— Meaghan

Las Vegas Field Office, USGS

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Alturas, CA

My third month in Alturas, California is coming to a close and it seems like so long ago when the mornings were 19° and snow covered the roads.  Rising at 3 in the morning, dressing in three to four layers, meeting my partner at the office and heading out to the field by 4 was a way of life.  Early this month things changed pretty abruptly.  The Sage Grouse season ended sooner than we expected, we had already planned out our survey schedule for the next week when we were told to wrap it up.

My partner for the first couple months is a botany tech funded through the Great Basin Institute, and has since been tasked with other projects while my work has become increasingly independent.  I have begun learning about raptors in preparation to monitor nesting sites and search for new nests in and around both known Sage Grouse leks/brooding habitat and areas that will be experiencing disturbance.  I have compiled a list of proposed and accept projects within our field office such as juniper removal and other construction related activities.

As far as botany, I have worked on an ID team for the Eagle Lake field office.  The ID team is a small group that surveys large pasture areas to determine the overall health of the site in order to determine if it can handle more, less, or the same amount of cattle or sheep and what, if any, rehabilitation needs to be done.  The group includes a wildlife biologist, a soil scientist, and a range con working together to complete transects and other monitoring practices.

I have also surveyed for rare and special interest plants.  We have found Eriogonum prociduum, prostate buckwheat, several species of Penstemon, beardtongues, and some lupines.  Recently, we found a new population of lupine within an area scheduled for juniper removal.  We had to mark and flag this area to restrict the timber cutters from driving in and around the site.

I am having a great time here in Northern California.  Alturas is a tiny town, not for people that like a city vibe or the night life, but it has a certain charm and I enjoy waving at other drivers as we pass one another.  I feel comfortable with my work and the area and look forward to getting up in the morning (not that is something new, but we have all had a job or two where we did not want to get up).

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Springtime in the SnBr

Spring has finally reached us up here in the San Bernardino mountains. Everything has flowers and leaves and it is beautiful.

I have been surveying a couple of limestone mining claims for several endemic plant species, some photos of which I have included below. I also have been continuing to survey along unauthorized off road vehicle routes that will either be completely shut down or turned into legitimate routes depending on what I find during surveys.

I am doing some research on possibly putting together an air quality study of the San Bernardinos using lichens. This is really exciting for me because lichens are my passion. There are programs in the Pacific Northwest that do these kinds of analyses every year, so it would be really cool to put together a baseline study that could someday lead to consistent monitoring.

I have almost finished the first month of my internship extension, so I have been living and working in Big Bear for almost six full months now!

The majority of the below photos are Forest Service sensitive plant species, two federally listed plant species, and just some pretty flowers. Enjoy!

 

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Erigeron parishii is federally threatened and is endemic to the San Bernardino mountains.

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Astragalus albens is federally endangered and is a carbonate endemic only found in the San Bernardinos

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Flannel bush (Fremontidendron californica) flowers

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I just can’t get over how beautiful cactus flowers are!

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Phlox dolicantha

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This is a really cool quartz outcrop where we found a HUGE population of Dudleya abramsii ssp. affinis.

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Dudleya abramsii ssp. affinis

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Lewisia rediviva

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Lewisia rediviva

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Acanthoscyphus parishii var. cienegensis

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Astragalus bicristatus

Business as usual…

Howdy y’all.

Blair (the best raft guide ever!)

Blair (the best raft guide ever!)

I’ll tell you what, May has just flown by! Can’t believe it’s the last week already. We have been so busy here! We spent three days out on the Gunnison River doing Sclerocactus glaucus surveys, and man oh man, let me tell you, that little guy is all over the place out there. Check out Phil’s blog entry (http://clminternship.org/blog/?p=54871) for more info on Sclerocactus, but basically these surveys were in an effort to get more numbers so we can get this thing de-listed.

Naturita Milkvetch

Naturita Milkvetch

Let’s see, what else…well I’ve been checking a lot of old EOR’s for Naturita Milkvetch. Naturita Milkvetch is a BLM sensitive and it really didn’t seem to be doing all that well last year (likely because of the drought), so we wanted to keep a closer eye on it this year and it’s going bonkers, which is great! I’ve already found two new EOR’s this season. There’s also talk about taking it off of our sensitive list. Check it out, it’s a cutie.

I also made a pretty sweet map (HydropowerBuckwheat) to basically just document that I didn’t find any Clay-loving Wild Buckwheat (the only endagered plant species we have in my field office) where they want to put in a hydroelectirc station/powerline. That survey was a doozy! I was hiking up and down, up and down these steep adobe hills while it was snowing on and off thinking to myself, “this plant isn’t going to be here” the whole time (the land was just too steep! this plant likes gradual slopes, or hanging out in swales, etc.). I got back to the office and asked Ken if he had actually expected me to find it there or just sent me on a wild goose chase…but seriously it’s good to check all potential habitat so it was well worth our while to spend a day there.

The legend herself!

The legend herself!

I also got to meet Krissa (finially!). She was out this way with a bunch of her people (shout outs to Matt, Evan, and Rick, y’all were great!) doing some really interesting research on floral scents/pollinators of various Oenothera‘s. Krissa and her crew did a great job of explaining everything to me, but I hesitate to go into too much detail on here because I’m afraid I might not explain it right.

Collecting floral scent of Oenothera lavandulifolia - looks like it's on a little plant ventilator!

Collecting floral scent of Oenothera lavandulifolia – looks like it’s on a little plant ventilator!

Then after meeting up with those folks my sister and I headed down to Moab for some quality bonding time.

Sister Bonding at Delicate Arch

Sister Bonding at Delicate Arch

Next on the to-do list – Crawford HAF inventory! Oh yeah, that’s right, Sage-Grouse habitat assessment! I look forward to devoting the next month and half or so to staring at the ground! Well enough for now folks – talk to y’all in a month or so!

Brandee Wills
Uncompahgre (I can finially spell it without looking it up!) Field Office – BLM
Montrose, CO

Busy in Colorado

I have been in the field for the majority of the past few weeks .   May started off finishing out some monitoring of Astragalus sp. and then the following week we headed off to High Lonesome Ranch near DeBeque, CO to assist ranch personnel with locating endangered Sclerocactus sp. on their property and to discuss the opportunities that ranch might have in the preservation of the Sclerocactus sp. as well as other species of concern. Long term trend monitoring and additional surveying were discussed as ways to assess the populations status on the ranch.  Then, the next week we headed down to the Montrose area to assist some of the field office personnel with cactus survey that were to be completed along the Gunnison River.  The remoteness of the areas wanting to be survey warranted the use of the rafts to access the survey sites.  Along the 26 river miles the individuals found represented approximately 25% of the supposed global population which makes one wonder if the global population is significantly underestimated.  Finally, the week before Memorial Day weekend we head to the far southwest corner of Colorado to Dolores.  While in Dolores we collaborated with personnel at a the Dolores Field Office to set up some initial long term trend monitoring for Oreocarya revealii in the Big Gypsum Valley.

Regards,

Nathan Redecker

Lakewood, CO

BLM Colorado State Office

Reaching to New Heights! CLM Internship Redux!

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.

Pediocactus simpsonii

Pediocactus simpsonii

Opuntia polyacantha

Opuntia polyacantha

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

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)

Zigadenus venenosus              (meadows death camas)

 

Penestemon angustifolius (broadbeard penestemon)

Penestemon angustifolius (broadbeard penestemon)

Misadventures

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.

I could not get a picture of myself beyond this point, because I was pretty busy helping.

Rook is the best herding dog!

Rook is the best herding dog!

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That is it for this week, everyone! Thank you for reading and have a nice day!! ^_^

Justin Chappelle

Buffalo, Wyoming BLM

And now…please click on the below picture for your moment of zen…
degrgregr

Botany by Boat: Plant Inventory in the San Juan Island

For the past week, I have been working with a Geocore intern to collect baseline data for the San Juans National Monument.  We, along with a number of amazing volunteers, collected information on recreation infrastructure and botanical communities on 11 islands over the course of 4 days. Some areas covered several hundred acres while others were less than a tenth of an acre in size. The vegetation spanned from thin soiled herbaceous balds to coniferous forests with dense (DENSE) understory shrubs. We visited islands with a long cultural history, sites of lighthouses which still attract thousands of visitors each year. We visited popular camping islands along the scenic bay. We also managed to monitor small islands in the archipelago, spots not known by the public with no human trails. Between island visits, we saw breathtaking views from the boat; of the nearby islands and of the Olympic and Cascade Mountain Ranges.

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Cattle Point Lighthouse, San Juan Island

Plant composition varied marginally with each island. The more trafficked islands as expected had more invasives including English Ivy, Canadian Thistle, Himalayan Blackberry, Hairy cats ear, Dandelion, Rosefoot Geranium, as well as a myriad of grasses. Smaller islands tended to have western juniper trees
and Garry Oak, both species being uncommon elsewhere in the arcipelago. Regarding the prettier characteristic flowers of the San Juan Islands, we found
Great Camas , Death Camas, Nootka Rose, Nodding Onion, Hayacinth Brodia, Bicolor Lupine, Common Paintbrush, Woodland Strawberry.

Great Camas

Great Camas