What is it to be a botanist? As some of you know the Botanical Society of America has started a social media campaign to “reclaim the name.” I’ve checked out their Facebook page and saw a lot of familiar faces posting their mug shots along with what and where they study. I’ve noticed mostly academics sharing their interests in plant genetics, morphology, pollination ecology, etc. But where are all the federal botanists? I honestly only know of a handful of actual federal botanists, and the rest are range ecologists, wildlife biologists or weed specialists who got roped into doing T/E species monitoring. Does that make them botanists? In ways, I feel like ours is a dying art and we are at the forefront of the last charge. At the same time, I feel that’s what makes us unique and our work more critical, because not everyone has the desire nor the skill to be a botanist, roped in otherwise by charismatic megafauna. I’m curious to see what others think outside of academia. Especially working with the CLM program, we should be representing the botanical work that we do for the federal government, and that it’s not just about grazing or timber or oil and gas.
I am an ethnobotanist, amateur agronomist. Say it loud, say it proud!
Until next month. More plants. More dirt. #iamabotanist #reclaimthename
P.S. shout out to my counterpart Patrick in Las Cruces for actually taking his photo (because I can’t actually figure out my phone’s camera).
Hey there! Recent updates from the CLM Team in Carson City. Lately, we’ve been working on a ton of fire monitoring, battling rough roads, enjoying the somewhat cooling temperatures, meeting some new four (and six!) legged friends, and as a team coming together really well in all our planning efforts. Certainly not to forget our seed collecting days, we’ve been all over the place from the Pine Nut Mountains, vast meadows, Indian Creek Reservoir, and all places in between! We have spent a good deal of time this past week planning for a huge weekend at Sand Mountain. It will be a weekend filled with families, friends and friendly campers enjoying the time ATV riding and soaking up all that Sand Mountain has to offer. Our part in this weekend is to spread the word of the conservation work that we do, lead botanical walks, engage the public, and a few nighttime adventures. I’m most excited to hunt for scorpions using a blacklight this weekend (most scorpions will fluoresce under UV light…so cool!). So much planning has gone into the weekend, which hopes to be fun, informative and maybe even a little relaxing. All in all, my time thus far in Nevada has been an uphill climbing roller coaster filled with incredible views, new perspectives and (mostly) smooth sailing. Hope you’ve been enjoying the ride too!
Be Well & Shine On,
Carson City BLM Office
Topaz Lake Sunset Rejuvenation!
Fire Monitoring in the Pine Nuts
Welcome to the Moon
Paint and Clouds!
Where’s your Momma
Tarantual Hawk lovin’ some Goldenrod!
Life is carrying on as usual at the Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife offices. We are monitoring our propagation cages daily and trying to avoid total doom for the young suckers. This month has had a few complications. Upper Klamath Lake has been teasing us with blooms of the dominant algae, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae. This aquatic plant grows in such high densities every summer that the lake takes on a “pea-soup” green color. It also smells terrible. This part is not so bad if you are a fish, but in some cases all the algae will die off at the same time, causing the oxygen in the lake to plummet to near zero. Our main job is to check the amount of oxygen in our cages continuously so that if the bloom crashes, we can turn on our aeration system and keep the fish alive.
Lots and lots of Aphanizomenon flos-aquae
In other news, we have a lot of fish in our cages but most of them seem to not be suckers. Last week we decided to pull up one of the cages to see how many fish we had. The unfortunate answer is not very many. Our two Tule lake cages have roughly 100 juvenile suckers per cage which is fairly dismal considering we put about 7,000 larvae in at the beginning of summer. Upper Klamath Lake has even less. If we were trying to improve populations of fathead minnows we would be a success story. Somehow we have thousands of this invasive fish in our cages instead. Oh well, it is a pilot study. We’re only learning for next time.
Lots and lots of fathead minnows.
Time for something more optimistic. We took a break from shortnose and Lost River suckers this week and participated in a survey for Modoc suckers. Unlike the other species, Modoc suckers are doing really well. Past CLM interns surveyed their range in Northern California and Southern Oregon and found that the species is present in a larger area than was thought when they were originally listed as an endangered species. This work has allowed one of the scientists in our office to file for delisting. The report isn’t finished yet, but the Modoc sucker could potentially be the second fish to be delisted in the history of the Endangered Species Act. We contributed to the monitoring of this species by helping with an annual survey to determine their distribution through Thomas Creek in Lakeview, Oregon. It felt good to continue the work of previous interns and work with a fish species that is doing really well.
There are less than two months left and work to save the fish continues in Klamath Falls.
Until next post,
The past month has been filled with fires, lightning, and unpredictable weather. One day it’s hot, the next day it’s perfect. One minute it’s pouring down rain, the next it seems like there’s been no precipitation for months. Luckily, it seems like the fires have calmed down a bit, although there are still a few in the area and some smoke in the sky making the world glow red at sunset. The fires have stayed relatively far away, although some road closures from one prevented us from getting to one of our sites for a few days. Otherwise, work has become relatively routine. Monitoring water quality, checking for live and dead fish, and working on a report of our propagation methods has become the day-to-day. This is broken up by evening trips out to the lake when the dissolved oxygen drops to turn on the aeration systems as well as a trip to Lakeview, Oregon to help out with Modoc sucker surveys. We’ve also sampled one net at each site to get a feel for how many of our fish are our target species. To do this, we simply pulled a net out and pushed the water and fish to one end, then lifted the net above the water, giving us a nice view of the fish. At one site it looks like we have about 100 Lost River suckers and a few hundred minnows in the sampled net, and at the other site we have only about 10 Lost River suckers and a few hundred minnows.
Measuring fish from the nets.
I’m glad we have some suckers, although out of the thousands we put in, the numbers are extremely low, and we still have another month or so for them to hang on until we tag and release them. The minnows are another unfortunate result, but there’s really no way of keeping everything out of the nets while still allowing water and nutrients to circulate in and out of the nets, so we just have to deal with it.
This last Tuesday night I went out and did a survey for the federally endangered Arroyo toad with a large group of my colleagues. It was really fun and the creek where we surveyed was beautiful, besides the amount of trash that people leave there. The Arroyo toad buries itself in loose sand during the day and then comes out at night to feed on insects. It looks like the common Western toad, except it does not have a white stripe running down its back. The coloration looks very similar to chunks of granite so they can be hard to spot. We didn’t find very many toads, which was disappointing, but we did find a very beautiful rattlesnake, some awesome spiders, including a tarantula, and a few kangaroo rats. It was a great time, but I was exhausted the next day because we didn’t get back to the office until 2 in the morning. Here are some of the photos from the night survey:
This is the adorable adult Arroyo toad (Rana mucosa). The babies are even cuter!
This is the first tarantula I have ever seen in the wild!
Pretty amazing to see all this water here in August during one of California’s worst droughts!
A view from the trail of the creek we went to survey for Arroyo Toads.
The main project that I have been working on since my last blogpost is collecting lichens for an air quality monitoring project for the San Bernardino mountains. Lichens can be chemically analyzed for concentrations of various elements that are indicative of air pollution such as nitrogen and certain metals. Their thalli sequester whatever is deposited on them and they have no way to excrete wastes. This can be problematic for more sensitive lichens in polluted areas. The species composition of a site can be telling of the types of pollution present as well by the presence or absence of certain lichen species.
I have sites throughout the mountains where I have been collecting lichens and am hoping to finish up next week to send them off to the lab for testing. It has been difficult to find lichen in some areas, particularly chaparral, because that habitat burns frequently and lichens don’t hold up well against fire. It is also just dry in general so I have been mainly collecting saxicolous lichens, which means rock-growing. There aren’t many epiphytic foliose lichens in the San Bernardinos. These last couple pictures are from sites where I have gone collecting.
A neat view from the north side of the forest into the Mojave desert. You can see where the white limestone has been mined.
Cool sandstone (I think) rocks, but no lichen on them unfortunately.
Only three more weeks left in my internship! I can’t believe I have been here for nine months!
The time has come for me. To have another birthday that is! The 28th birthday is coming up here in about 1 week, but the party will have to wait until I return to the sweet, sweet smell, sound, look and feel of fall in Wisconsin. I know it’s all rather sudden but we must make due.
Seed collection has been stagnated a bit by the rainy weather but luckily that means we have plenty of time to clean seed and get all our other office work organized and ready for leaving time. As of now it looks like my last day will be the 26th of September which means I have less than a month left!
I apologize, but I just can’t hide my excitement. I love Wisconsin and I didn’t get out much this past winter because it was a nasty cold one, especially after living in a tropical climate for over two years. Adjusting to the weather has been the least of my problems however after coming back from Tanzania. Once you get out and get used to a simpler lifestyle you realize that we are all crazy; Americans mainly but I assume the psychoses permeates throughout most of the western, developed world. When I say ‘the western, developed world’ I am of course really referring to the consumers. You look at our lives and we take and we take and we take without even the notion that we must give something back if we are to sustain our existence on this earth. Money deceives us into believing we have payed for what we’ve taken but this grand illusion is slowly becoming illuminated to reveal that we have depleted our natural resources through ignorance and neglect. All I want for my birthday is a revolution. I want people to acknowledge our place on this planet and rediscover a lost reverence and respect vital to our coexistence with the multitude of other beings with whom we share our home. :/ :/ :/ :/
I would also like to complete the 25 seed collections we have for this season but I’m pretty confident that I don’t need any birthday luck to have that desire become a reality. Right now we’re looking at some Chrysothamnus vicidiflorus (Green Rabbitbrush), Krascheninnikovia lanata (Winterfat), Artemisia tridentata (Big Sagebrush), Elymus elymoides (Squirreltail), Psoralidium lanceolatum (Lemon Scurfpea) and that silly Geranium. And that will make 25! Got some GIS course coming up here in mid-September which I am looking forward to.
I would like to sign out on this final note. We need to be the change that we want to see in the world. We cannot expect more of others than we expect from ourselves. If I want to see people come to respect the earth, reduce their consumption and give back, the first thing I need to do is respect the earth myself, reduce my own consumption and personally give back what I can. That’s how I see it, but the Great Pacific Garbage Patch keeps growing and our pollinators keep dying due to poisoning from neonicotinoid pesticides.
The Botanical Society of America is encouraging botanists to take selfies with, “I am a botanist!” signs to increase the visibility of botany. These have been all over my facebook newsfeed the last few days. All my friends are doing it, so I’m giving in to peer pressure. Also, since most of the #iamabotanist photos are taken by academics in labs, I figured it was worthwhile to add another kind of botany to the mix.
Summer is winding down here in the Rocky Mountain West. This past month was full of forest inventory, monitoring fuels treatments, collecting camas seeds, and continuing to search for the rare botrychium paradoxum (to no avail). The days are getting shorter, the nights cooler, but we are still holding on to that last bit of summer. Today, we floated on the BLM raft down the Clark Fork in order to access forest stands to inventory. We had awesome weather and gorgeous mountain views. While I am going to miss the summers here, I am very much looking forward to seeing the aspens, cottonwoods, and larch trees turn this fall!
Here are some photos from the past month:
Elephant head, pedicularis groenlandica
Cool mystery caterpillar!
Rafting the Clark Fork
Rafting the Clark Fork
A visit to Garnet Ghost Town
Beautiful forest inventory
The ability to monitor status and trends in the biophysical components of wilderness is an essential part of land conservation stewardship. It is also one of the most difficult. The tasks: quantify unauthorized actions that manipulate the land, inventory the abundance and distribution of non-native species, quantify visitor use, record travel routes, and accomplish all this while hiking for 15 hours, climbing 8,500 vertical feet, and topping out two of the top three peaks in the range.
The rugged desert-like range known as the Inyo Mountains presents one of the boldest mountain fronts in North America. They have similar topographic relief to the neighboring Sierra Nevada, but in a fraction of the horizontal distance. Traveling in the Inyo required physical fitness, rock climbing skills and route finding abilities, oh and water is non-existent. The lower slopes of the mountains are covered by desert scrub typical to the Mojave, while higher elevations contain pinyon-juniper woodlands, groves of limber pine, and one of the largest stands of bristlecone pine in California. For the desert explorer, this is paradise.
Similar to running water quality tests in potable water; conducting a wilderness inventory of human impacts in a rarely visited region can feel rather uneventful. We traveled by faint use trail for less than half the day and the only visible human alterations were cairns guiding the way when a trail was non-existent. Uneventful, purely from a data collection standpoint, but outstanding from a hiking/working standpoint. In my previous blog I described a trip up Matterhorn peak on my own time, and peak bagging has been the focus of my weekends. I never would have thought I would get to spend a work day doing almost exactly (I would have gone in the Sierra because there is water) what I want to be doing. I am so fortunate and honored to have the job I have.
It’s been another busy month in Surprise Valley. I am wrapping up seed collections for the season, reaching my target of 16 species. If time permits, I will collect a few different shrubs when the time comes. Overall, I learned a lot from my experience as a collector. I hope for another shot at some point, knowing that I can do things better the next time around.
My current focus has been on writing Environmental Assessments and tracking down the equipment and seeds needed to re-vegetate some riparian areas and burn sites. It has been a challenge to find the right seed mixes within our budget because native seeds are getting to be expensive.
This past week I was able to get a break from plant stuff and help out at the Summit Lake Reservation. I went out to trap and collar sage-grouse which was quite the experience. I spent three nights in a row wandering about with a fishing net looking for the birds. We had success the last night and now we know where there are many birds roosting for future attempts. During the day time I got to track the birds that had already been collared. We were able to find 3 out of 7 birds. Although I am exhausted form being up around the clock for the past three days, it was an awesome experience.