Farewell Carson City, your company has been delightful…

Hello friends. This is my last post about my CLM internship 2014. Since the last one many things have happened and there is a lot to tell, share, and express this time. October and November both were super busy with wrapping things up and still having SOS program running. Primarily because of Great Basin vegetation peculiarities, a big part of native species actually seed out in middle and late autumn, which happen to be our last months here. We all managed it well, with a team of eight people we were able to accomplish a lot. Eventually we’ve made way more collections than the average number of collections since 2004. Unfortunately we, as probably all SOS teams, didn’t get any feedback right away.  But of course we hope that all our collections are of a good quality and will be useful for many-many purposes.

With all trips that we made for seed collection we also had to prepare an annual report, just as the whole field office does, about our time being here, what we’ve done and what we could have done better – sort of an overview of 2014 program. It was fun and interesting.  We really felt like part of a field office team and that we played an important part in the office’s life. It was a funny period of time, when you have a few weeks to go but there is a ton of ideas where to go, what to collect, what is the most important to do and so on… It is certainly sad, that we didn’t get to do everything that we thought about, but at the same time it is good to stop and move on. There is always something that you lack time for or would like to have “just a week more”, so it is a good idea to stop at some point having a little bit of time to wrap things up.

In general, it has been an incredible time. This was my first summer our in the west and I must say that it was incredible. From the very beginning of my time here I felt like this part of the world is unique and being a botanist here is just a lucky occurrence for myself. And regardless of the fact that we all have learned a solid number of species and biology of local flora, you never feel like it is enough. The nature is so diverse, the transition between Great Basin and the Sierras is indeed incredible. These two huge ecoregions for botanists provide something unknown and interesting every time you are outside. Our team spent truly a lot of time in the field and it is one of the things that I’m very grateful for. Overall it was a great experience with exceptionally bright and positive moments and I know that such memories I will never loose. Again, we had a wonderful team in Carson City and I’m thankful for the work shared fun time spent together to all my friends – Alex, Andrew, Ari, Mary, Ethan, Laura, and Rebecca. Special thanks of course to Dean – our mentor for whom it was not easy to manage such a big team but turned out really well – I’m very glad that that I was part of CLM 2014 Carson City botany team.



Beautiful Great Basin (Boundary Peak on the horizon)

Wet Wetland Winter

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We have been seeing a lot of cool looking mushrooms pop up in the prairies.

Well it took a little longer than usual, but the moisture finally settled in the Willamette Valley and the thirsty prairie pools have been filling up, attracting flying V’s of waterfowl and inviting new green life to proliferate.  It is this time of year when we start to see more grey than blue, but there is something warm and inviting about the misty mountain tops.  And while the hardwoods have dropped their colors, the rivers grow more colorful with the silver backs of Chinook, Coho, and Steelhead.  It is always a relief and a rush of joy to see them return to spawn after facing the endless gauntlet of polluted water, damns, fisherman, degraded steam habitat, aquaculture parasites and diseases, and predators.


Here is a burn treatment adjacent to a shade cloth treatment planted with Kincaid’s Lupine.

So, we have been dodging the rain, making quick attempts at spreading native seed. Soggy handfuls of seed make it hard to disperse evenly.  But none the less, we successfully seeded all the prairies that were control burned earlier this fall.  This past week, we spent several days with a youth crew planting starts, pulling weeds, planting willow stakes, and installing shade cloth.

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Willow Stakes planted by youth crew.

Glaciers and Caribou

Hello fellow interns,

Winter has arrived, albeit rather mildly.  I’ve yet to experience a true Fairbanks chill as the November temperatures have been rather uncharacteristically warm (daytime temperatures usually in the teens) with the exception of one -7ºF day.  Warmer yet in the hills as they are above the infamous temperature inversion that traps cold air (and air pollution) in the valley.  ‘Freeze up’ is in progress on the Chena River in town and trees are coated with ice and frost, reflecting light magnificently and resembling gravity-defying chandeliers.  ‘Termination dust’ has fallen and although Fairbanksians curse it for halting summer activities, they soon change their tune and curse Mother Nature for not providing enough for winter activities like skiing.

Mid-November freeze up in progress along Chena River.

Mid-November freeze up in progress along Chena River.

In the office, I’ve been working on tracking down lots of past invasive plant species data, cleaning it up, and getting it ready to submit to AKEPIC (The Alaska Exotic Plants Information Clearinghouse).

I’ve also been still working away at identifying plant specimens from our office and over the past few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of going to the University of Alaska-Fairbanks to compare our specimens with those in their herbarium.  This has been a really fun and valuable process for me as I’ve been able to see a larger scale herbarium in action and be around and get advice and identification help from some very talented botanists.   We thought we might have a rare plant Arnica lonchophylla amongst our specimens, but alas it turned out to be the more common Arnica angustifolia ssp. tomentosa. Although an admittedly intermediate specimen, as verified by one of the herbarium’s very talented pseudo-retired botanists.  I’ve also really enjoyed this experience as it has allowed me a glimpse into the academia side of things.  It has been very interesting and enlightening to be able to compare and contrast these two very different worlds.

The biggest recent happenings, however, occurred in late October when I was able to go to Anchorage for the annual Invasive Plant Conference!  The conference was a really amazing opportunity to witness and experience the full scope of the invasive species management community across Alaska.  I was able to meet, talk with, get advice from, share management successes/failures with, strategize and laugh with people from all over the state who work for all different types of organizations and agencies.  Not to mention learn a lot from many great lectures, presentations and workshops.

I was also able to visit with my Anchorage CLM counterparts Bonnie and Charlotte, complete with some time on the Matanuska Glacier!

All in all, a great week in Anchorage.

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December has brought even milder temperatures in the 20s (what the heck Fairbanks?!) and more AKEPIC and plant ID work.

I also had the opportunity to drive north to Central, AK to monitor the winter caribou hunt along with some peers from Alaska Department of Fish and Game.  After a nasty drive across Eagle Summit in nearly white-out conditions we arrived at a very cold Central field station.  One heater malfunction, one rented ‘hotel’ room and several greasy meals later we were able to comfortably sleep in the field station. The next few days were spent driving along the Steese Highway checking hunters’ permits and licenses as they emerged from the surrounding hills on snow machines towing caribou.  The hunt was remarkably civil with no citations written and no fist fights or shots fired between hunters (apparently this civil-ness is quite a rarity).  The scenery was breath-taking as usual: rolling hills of snow dotted with the black silhouettes of spruce trees.  Certain portions of the road looked like a moonscape of pure white snow with no vegetation in site.  Something you would see in Antarctica (or Mann’s planet from Interstellar).  Mornings before sunrise (i.e. before 9:15 AM) and evenings after sunset (i.e. after 3:45 PM) were spent at the Steese Roadhouse for more greasy fare.  It is the sole restaurant, general store, and gas station in Central.  After one day of hunt monitoring weather forecasts started predicting some ominous snow storms, and thus, with the hunt slowing down and weather on the way we left on the second (and last) day of the hunt and headed back to Fairbanks for fear of being snowed in.


Us monitoring the caribou hunt along the Steese Highway.

Hope all you CLM interns still on board are having a great winter!


Fairbanks, AK




Baby, it’s not so cold outside…

Whelp, it’s been a balmy 45 degrees here in Taos. About ten degrees higher than normal. No snow. No ice. Just mud. I have to use four wheel drive just to get up my road, then do some Tokyo drift moves to get in my driveway before the tires finally grip gravel. My dog, who is white, insists on running through all the mud he can find and tracking it through the house, finally depositing what’s left on his feet in the bed. I wake in the middle of the night to dried mud nuggets between the sheets. On the plus side, I can make a small fire before bed, and it’s still relatively warm in the morning.

Otherwise, there’s not much to report. Attempting to orchestrate some community groups for weed removal and eventual re-seeding. And up to my eyeballs in NEPA…. I think I have about five different projects going on, two of which I’m starting from scratch. I’ll be sure to report on them once I’ve removed the subsequent gray hairs…

With that, Happy Chrismahanakwanzsolistikah!


It can be lonely, oh so lonely…but, that’s OK-I got field work!

Hello fellow CLM-ers!

I know many of you live in remote areas of the country.  I live in a town of 4500, which is small, but it’s still suburbia nonetheless.  I have the library, gym, grocery stores, and restaurants to keep me busy if need-be.  Also, the Big Horn Mountains are right here for adventures.  But with all the other interns gone it’s kind of lonely.

Let me elaborate, this summer I had 2 room mates and 4 friends outside the homestead. We hung out all the time! Exploring the area, traveling around the state or to Colorado and South Dakota, we exercised together (Ms. J. Pastick), went to conferences together and then worked together! A lot of ‘we’ time. Well…that is no longer.

My time in Buffalo became quiet very quickly. Initially, I didn’t want to just enjoy it, so I turned to the office to get that socializing ‘fix’ I need, as if it’s a drug. I worked with range-land conservationists, wildlife biologists, environmental policy specialists, natural resource specialists, and the recreation planner (she’s fantastic, a lot of personality, and very admirable). As you can see, there is a lot of networking to be had in this office. Then, after work I went to a co-workers house for dinner and look at these great leftovers!

food yumm

Then, the moment of truth-a field day to myself!!! (queue the music-dun dun dun).

I started to worry for me, thinking I would lose some sort of character I’ve obtained through socializing all these years and all this time in Buffalo.  I know this seems irrational, mainly because it’s only 1 day, and that our line of work (botany, wildlife, and forestry) requires independent field work. In my defense, here at the BFO we haven’t had any solo field days! We’ve always gone out in groups-always.

So, I went out there…gulp….by myself….and….IT WAS AWESOME!  I hadn’t realized how independent I can be.  I drove an hour out, then onto snow covered secondary roads, made a radio call into the office every now and then, went up hills and through valleys.  Then I came to a funky gate that looked difficult.  I decided I shouldn’t open it for fear I couldn’t close it on my own.  So, I parked the truck and walked in a mile.  On my hike, I saw wildlife tracks in the snow, heard bird calls, appreciated the view (see below), and sang to myself.  It was nice.  Not terribly different from being with my co-workers, yet in the same respect, I was alone!


To all of you interns out there dreading this day-fear not! It’s worth it.  It might even be something to push for if you haven’t already had the experience. On another note, I realized the truck I was using didn’t have chains for the tires or kitty litter. Then, I realized I don’t know what sort of snow conditions would make me want to use the chains.  I don’t know how to put them on either.  I watched a video once, but it’s more memorable to do it yourself. So, that’ll be another project this week.  Yay, more work!

I haven’t talked about science at all in this blog. So…let me talk about my project with the Powder River Basin Restoration Initiative (PRBRI).  Utilizing GIS, I use the buffalo field office layer, than add Greater sage-grouse core and connectivity layer, within those parameters I add the fire perimeter layer and pick a historic fire.  Call the lessee or land owner by looking up their information in the physical range files (billing history).  I double check this information online because sometimes a person has changed ranch hands. Possibly a death in the family or old age. I don’t want to call a landowner and them tell me, “oh, that was my mother-she died.” After I receive permission, I ask for best road access and conditions, inquire about locked gates and the fire. Also, I give a time frame of when to expect me on the property.

I print out maps that include the following details; coordinates, township, range, section, ownership, basement and topography (separate maps), prairie dog towns, fire perimeter, roads w/ names (if available), well #’s (for locating purposes), and fence line (if available). I print out my comprehensive field form. This may take 1-2 hours to assemble, print, and organize.

For mobilizing, I grab 2 GPS units with backup batteries, uploaded maps, and Terrasync technology.  Also, make sure the updated data dictionary has been installed.  Grab UTM’s for road access. Don reflective vest, warm clothing, bring back-up warm clothing, gators, and hand/foot warmers. Check out on white-board, grab a field buddy, and field vehicle.

Now, ready for the field-whoopeee!!  In the field, ALOT of time is spent going to and fro, then traveling down secondary or two-track roads-safely, to get to your destination.  Once I find my historic fire, I hike up to the top of the tallest mound.  This is to get a good vantage point.  In the fall, I can easily use ocular estimation to determine cheatgrass infestation-it is whitish compared to say crested wheatgrass. Then I’ll walk a transect of the fire, taking a vegetation inventory as I go, and mapping distinct areas of cheatgrass infestation, juniper, and sage brush revival.

That’s all for now folks!


The rain has finally come to California and it’s amazing! As many of you know California has been in a sever drought. We have been struggling to keep planted native plants alive on restoration sites this past year on Fort Ord and seeing rain falling from the sky was like seeing little orbs of life making their way to the earth.

What a transformation. When I started my internship at Fort Ord it was the middle of the Summer and most of the grasses (invasive and native) had dropped their seeds and had started to turn brown. The only green I saw on Fort Ord was from the Oak Trees and and the evergreen maritime chaparral plants (Chemis, Ceanthus, Manzanita). The grasslands have just exploded with green little seedling and it has been a beautiful experience. I have learned a lot with my mentor going out and botonizing. Pulling up seedings and identifying the seed casing still attached. The wildlife has been so active also. After the first rain we got, I saw 7 bobcats (I might have seen one or two twice) in one day! Before that I had only seen 3 over a four month period. The birds are out and about foraging and for a birder like me there is nothing better! Even the herps have been making their way out. I’m hearing frogs croaking and seeing salamanders wandering the paths. Oh, and the insects have been crawling around in droves. Centipedes and beetles have been teeming around the ground. It’s been a struggle trying to avoid smashing them.

I just find it so amazing to have been able to experience this! I love animals and wildlife and it makes me so happy to be able to see the changes and the life that rain brings. I hope we get a lot more because we really need it!

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Forever Grateful

Let's do ONE more seed cut :)

Hello everyone,

As I sit here on my last day of work reflecting on this internship that has now flown by, I’m realizing a lot.  To the top of that list is, well the fact that I don’t have a job lined up for after this.  I am very much hoping my family and friends back home will graciously accept my cheap holiday presents in the form of rocks I’ve collected along the way out here.  If not, I suppose my large collection will continue to grow…fine with me

glistening gypsum!

glistening gypsum!

I’m also here thinking about the very first day I strolled into the BLM office.  It was the Friday before I started work and my mom was still in town helping me find a place to live.  I came into the office to sign some forms and meet the team.  Nervously, I approached the front door beneath the daunting Bureau of Land Management sign, thinking,  “OK, I guess this is it.  For the next few months I’ll be working for ‘the man.'”  I quietly walked in and my mentor came to the front to meet me.  He took me on a tour of the building, one that made me feel like I was finding my way through a maze.  Finally we stopped at the cubicles with the other interns, soon to be my work space too.  We briefly introduced ourselves, smiled and I was pretty much on my way.  Now looking back 9 or so months later, I am so happy I took that chance, packed all my things up and moved 2,800 miles away from home.


In my time out here, I have had some great adventures.  Did I save any money while I was out here?  Not much, but I have felt like I’ve really taken in the west as much as possible and been paid in more ways than simple monetary checks.  Nevada for me has been a place of endless blue skies, more mountain ranges than I can begin to name, and surprising oases popping up in the forms of ephemeral streams, emerging springs, and playa lakes.

Sand Mountain at sunset

Sand Mountain at sunset

In addition to the numerous natural wonders of this area, my time here has been spent with unforgettable field work and tons of learning experiences.  I’m leaving Carson City certainly a better botanist than when I arrived, a more in tuned reader of the landscape, and with a head full of latin botanical names that could bore anyone for days.  Luckily though, most of my time here was spent with others that appreciate such disciplines.  I want to dedicate this post to the 7 other interns from the Carson City office.  Together we made over 100 seed collections, monitored our fair share of fires, and put on a large handful of educational outreach events.  Above that, I will more remember the late night talks around a campfire, family dinners, farmers markets, festivals, and of course the lamest yet creative botany jokes ever to be made.  Together we walked dozens of miles through the back country of Nevada, crawled mountain passes by truck that most wouldn’t even consider walking, and watched hundreds of shooting stars jet across the night sky.  In short, it’s been great, and truly an exceptional experience!

Last seed collecting trip: Artemisia cana

Last seed collecting trip: Artemisia cana

Lastly, for any of those reading this and are considering applying for a CLM internship, I say DO IT!  Don’t be afraid, take a chance and embrace every second along the way.  For those current and recently finished interns of this year, best of luck in all your next steps.


Sunny wishes and Shine On!

Andrew Lyons

Carson City NV, BLM Office

Only in Nevada

Only in Nevada