Taos has held up to its reputation of being a quaint mountain town full of eclectic residents and unconventional life styles. I’ve had the chance to check out the famous Taos Earth Ships, and I’ve hung out with some of their residents. For those unfamiliar, the Earth Ships are off the grid homes that are made primarily of recycled building materials and exhibit energy efficient designs. Because most of them utilize locally found soil to construct adobe-like mud walls for the structures, I find them to closely resemble life-sized sand castles. As you drive past them on the main road, it appears as if giants have constructed sand castles with various types of artistic designs all across the desert horizon. Apart from its interesting communities, Taos has also proven to supply an ample amount of outdoor entertainment. The town is riddled with fantastic Mountain bike and hiking trails. I’ve also had the opportunity to try out white water rafting on the Rio Grande.
Apart from my social life in Taos, my Internship has proven to be extremely educational and exciting thus far. I spent the majority of my first weeks in Taos helping with an invasive species mitigation project at a local camp ground. The project is being undertaken by a local youth conservation core. To aid the conservation core in their efforts to mitigate invasive species at the campground, I created a field guide of commonly found invasive species in the Taos area, and helped in locating and prioritizing work areas at the campground.
I have also gotten two SOS collections under my belt. Our first collection was Chaetopappa ericoides. The collection was memorable to me as we deployed the use of hand held vacuums to collect our seeds. Due to the fluffy nature of the plant’s seeds, vacuums proved to be an effective means of collecting many seeds in a small amount of time. They simply sucked right up into the vacuum. Our second collection was Hesperostipa comata. Although we resorted to a more traditional hand picking method, we still managed to collect well over the 10,000 seed minimum.
Shortly after our Hesperostipa collection, we were informed that a rare species of Astragalus was found on a parcel of land that was scheduled to be treated in the near future. The proposed treatment involves disking the entire parcel of land. Upon completion of the proposed disking, all of the existing flora will be uprooted, and the soil will be tilled up to about 6 inches depth. The rationale behind carrying out such a treatment is to decrease sage brush abundance, and increase the abundance of grasses and forbs on the site. This management tool has not always proven to yield such outcomes however, and in some cases has increased the abundance of invasives. Despite the controversy however, our crew was given the responsibility of surveying the entire 300 plus acres of land for populations of Astragalus ripleyi. This task is still ongoing, and involves combing the entire proposed treatment area by walking quarter mile to mile long transects that are spaced 10 meters apart across the entire treatment area. So far we have been at it for 7 days, and have found about 6 populations of ripleyi. We hope to be finished with the survey by the end of the week, and resume SOS collections shortly after.