I can’t believe I have been working in Carlsbad, for the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), for over a month now. I have been keeping a small journal listing all the different things I do every day. Reading through my journal, I am astounded by plethora of different jobs I have experienced over the past month. My primary task at the BLM has been finding the presence or absence of Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (DSL) in predetermined locations. The DSL is a habitat specialist that is only found in large dune complexes called blowouts, which are surrounded by shinnery oak. The Dunes Sagebrush Lizard was recently listed as “state endangered” in the New Mexico. If a DSL is found in a location there can be no development within 200 meters of that GPS point. Every Friday I use GIS to find locations within BLM land that maybe suitable for the DSL. Mondays I usually go to the predetermined locations and place pitfall traps in the hopes of catching a DSL. In every location we place 10 pitfall traps spread apart to maximize our chances of catching something. The pitfall traps are 5 gallon buckets sunk into the sand so they are flush with the surface; so far we have dug 21 arrays with ten buckets, meaning we have dug 210 holes all across southeast New Mexico. Every day after traps have been sunk, I go into the field and check the traps to see what has fallen in. I record any other reptile that has fallen in as well as wind speed and cloud cover. Traps are set out for five days and then pulled out. If a DSL is caught before those five days the traps are pulled out and we record the GPS coordinate of where the lizard was caught, the sex, and multiple pictures are taken to prove that we have caught a DSL.
Although I check traps every day, I still have time to experience and work with other departments at the BLM. I have been sitting in on NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) meetings to understand intricacies of developing something on federal lands. I have also been helping the BLM place interpretive signs into a nearby river explaining the ecology and history of the river. Last week we were invited to local summer camp to teach kids between the ages of 6 and 12 the differences between reptiles and amphibians and the importance of stream water quality. We have started to conduct macro-invertebrate samples along the Delaware River, and soon we will begin Prairie chicken surveys. On my off days, I have already hiked to the top of Guadalupe Peak (the highest point in Texas), gone 750 feet below ground level to explore the famous Carlsbad Caverns, and have been mountain biking in a nearby trail system. All in all there has not been a dull moment. The BLM is keeping me active and I am thoroughly enjoying my time here in Carlsbad.