Month 2 in Surprise Valley

My second month at the Surprise Field Office has been busy. Fellow CLM intern Amy and I have been working hard to meet our goal of 16 collections. We’ve got 10 so far, and are currently working on 2 species of grasses. The main challenge has been finding riparian areas with sufficient populations to collect. It’s also been raining here on and off for the past 2 weeks, so a lot of our riparian areas are totally flooded. The rain is definitely a good thing, but we’re not able to collect anything when it’s so wet.

The rest of the time I’ve been working on an Environmental Assessment of a juniper reduction project we’re proposing. It’s still in its early stages, so writing it is a fairly dull task, but we’re grinding along. Learning how to write NEPA documents is something I’m really glad to be learning. I’m not sure where else I would be able to get this experience without any prior knowledge of the NEPA process. I’ve been taking some time to do online GIS courses through ESRI as well. I had almost no GIS experience coming into CLM but I now feel comfortable navigating the program and using its basic functions. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to integrate my new GIS knowledge into my NEPA report.

Here’s to another month of new experiences.

Matt Phillips
BLM Surprise Field Office

Teach a Scientist to Fish and She Can Put it on Her Resume for Life.

As things move to coasting speed in the world of the suckers, I have gotten a chance to branch out and help with other projects around the office. Namely bull trout research. The last five years of CLM interns have spent several weeks every summer electrofishing and tagging bull trout as well as red bands and browns. Fellow intern, Casey, and I joined in the tradition and raided the office’s communal supplies of camping gear for a great week of trout work. Electrofishing is like high speed treasure hunting for science. You walk up a stream and turn on the circular cathode of the electroshocker in areas that look like good trout habitat to create a current strong enough to temporarily knock out the fish. Ideally these are deeper sections with slower moving water. It took me a while to realize this. At first one area that the team leaders would say looked good, would look identical to another that they would pass by. But then it gets exciting. The stream can be totally clear and you won’t see any fish until you turn on the electroshocker. Instantly there will be trout everywhere and you will need to move fast to catch them before they get away or wake up from the stun. It doesn’t matter how many fish you catch, every one elicits cheering with bonus points for more than one fish at a time or stylistic grabs. It may be my new favorite thing.

Casey and I also got the opportunity to learn to tag the bull trout. Sticking a sharp needle with a tag into the back of a small fish is very intimidating for someone who has never even really handled fish before, but I got the hang of it. It helped that the other guys we were with caught and killed an invasive brown trout for us to practice on. It felt a little like a cat bringing home a dead mouse for their helpless kittens to learn how to hunt, but I appreciated the help.

Only a few days after electroshocking, we were given another chance to get out of Klamath Falls, Oregon for a few days. To check on our sucker rearing pens in the middle of the lake, we need to be able to drive the office’s two boats. The Department of the Interior requires that you have passed a Motorboat Operator Certification Course to do this, so off to Orofino, Idaho we went to spend three days playing with fast boats on a reservoir… I mean “working with”…yeah. Now Casey and I are free to go out in the field and deal with our ornery boats all by ourselves. This is a freeing feeling but also a little scary since our mud boat spontaneously decides to stop behaving sometimes. I’m sure we can handle it though. And if not, that’s why we pack extra oars.

Never a dull moment with Fish and Wildlife!

Until next time,

On the hunt for trout!

On the hunt for trout!

Casey sizing up a trout

Casey sizing up a trout

I'm tagging fish! And rocking a great outfit.

I’m tagging fish! And rocking a great outfit.

A bucket of trout ready to be tagged.

A bucket of trout ready to be tagged.

Bull trout.

A bull trout

Missoula, Montana

Hello from Missoula,

It has been another busy month here at the Missoula BLM office. While temperatures have been pretty consistently in the 90’s, fire season smoke has not seemed to hit us too badly yet. My fellow interns and I have continued to conduct forest inventory on an almost daily basis, but we have had some chances to search for Whitebark pine (an infrequently spotted species on our lands), and I was able to camp with several other seasonal employees to conduct integrated vegetation monitoring for a week. I continue to have a great time here in Missoula both at work and outside of work, and I am still learning new skills and techniques each week. I have taken many pictures over the course of the month, a few are below!

– Vince Fasanello

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