First Month in Wyoming

It has been a whirlwind of a month.  Moving out to Wyoming has been both interesting and fun.  I am stationed in the Newcastle Field Office, which is 17 miles west of the South Dakota border.  My fellow intern and I are lucky in that we have access to government housing.  It just has a few drawbacks, like no internet or cell phone service, but we have gotten used to it.  This just means finding creative ways to spend free time.  It is great living here because with the lack of internet I tend to explore the area more.  It is an amazing area.  There are several National Forests, National Parks, and National Monuments outside the door.  These places include Devils Tower, the Black Hills, Jewel Cave, Wind Cave, Yellowstone, the Big Horns and many others.

Every year our office hosts a weeklong camp for middle schoolers showing what field science is like and the different opportunities out there.  Everyone had a fun week with the kids camping out and the adults in a small cabin, and let me tell you the cabin was very nice when thunderstorms came rolling in.

There was a lot to do every day; we had surveying, astronomy lessons, forest inventory, fire ecology, water and stream health, and wildland firefighters.  The firefighters got the kids really excited, there was a huge truck and they got to try on field packs and roll out hoses.  The kids had a lot of fun trying to outdo each other in what they could carry; it was funny seeing a ten year old carrying 50 pounds of gear.  While helping the kids was fun, one of the highlights for me was climbing to the top of a fire tower at sunset, this is something that you just don’t get in the East.  Overall helping the kids discover new ways to enjoy the outdoors was very rewarding.

Sunset in the Black Hills

Much of the past few weeks have been fun.  It is nice to start getting into the meat of our summer projects.  We have three projects all at different stages of completion.  As the internship is focused on forestry, the projects concern different types of forest management objectives.  Of the three projects, one is almost competed and is almost ready to be summited for bid.  This means that loggers are going to be bidding on the right to harvest the tract of land.  All of this is within the overall goal of reducing the forests susceptibility to mountain pine beetle and promote wildlife habitat.  The other two projects, one a meadow restoration and wildlife habitat improvement and the other a timber sale to promote forest health are where the bulk of the field work will be focused on. Can’t wait to to see how the summer will turn out.

Idaho: Month 2

I’ve been living and working in Idaho for almost 2 months now, and time seems to be going by reasonably fast. Most days I get up very early for work, drive 30 miles each way to and from the office, and come home around 5 pm. By the time I get home, I only have the energy to eat, shower, watch some Netflix, and go to sleep. I enjoy this routine sometimes because I’m busy and time flies, but it also makes me eager for adventure and relaxation on the weekends.

Me on the Snake River Feat. Diana’s toes

I haven’t had the chance to go out and explore very much outside of Twin Falls. I did take a mini road trip to Pocatello to visit a friend from school. Two other CBG interns came with me, and none of us had ever been to Pocatello, so it was good to explore a new area. However, there are still things to do in Twin Falls! I finally went kayaking down the Snake River with some friends and it was a relaxing day on the water.


Native plant garden in Twin Falls. We came here for a forb workshop led by the Department of Fish & Game.

Almost 2 months into this internship, I can already tell that the rest of my time here with the BLM in Shoshone will be extremely valuable. Most of my time here has been spent training and learning about the botany and wildlife found in our field office. I’m starting to feel more comfortable identifying plants, but there is still so much more for me to learn and apply in the next 4 months.

In the near future, I would like to get more involved in the GIS work happening in our office. By the looks of it, many other interns are using GIS in their work, and I’m jealous. I enjoy collecting data and then analyzing it in GIS because it offers such a unique visualization. I’m always amazed by what GIS can do and I want to continue to improve my skills. If I were to go into a graduate program, I would likely focus on spatial analysis or some type of environmental informatics (GIS/remote sensing/modeling).

Doing work

Work perks

For now, I know that I want to improve my applied ecology and botany skills. Before studying something on the large scale, I want to have on-the-ground experience. Field work is the perfect way of acquiring those skills. Our training workshop in Chicago was somewhat helpful in learning about botany. It was made very clear that all of the CBG interns have varying levels of botany expertise. So when it came to the botany lesson, some people could follow along and identify plant families quickly, while several of us struggled to keep up. My school doesn’t even offer a botany or plant systematics class. 🙁 I guess most of my western botany knowledge and skills will have to be acquired on my own time and on the job. Thankfully, hands-on learning is one of the best ways for me to learn.

The training workshop was a great way to meet other CBG interns, and I am so thankful for that opportunity! I met some great people that I would love to spend more time with. It was great to see so many people with similar interests in terms of conservation and land management. I know that many of you will go on to do great things.


Go Blackhawks!!!!

The workshop was also scheduled at a perfect time for me because my graduation was that weekend. I went to college in Chicago, so I got to see most of my friends and family. After a month of being in Idaho, I was so so so thankful to see the people near and dear to my heart. It was a perfect refresher. I got on the L after arriving in Chicago, and I never thought I would be so happy to smell the lingering odor of urine on the train. I know it’s gross, but it was a reminder of the last 4 years I spent in that beautiful urban city.

But now I am back in Idaho, and I want to enjoy my time here while it lasts. I’ve never spent this much time in a rural area, nor have I done this much field work. This area is growing on me and I’m starting to feel more at home. I’m so glad I have other interns here with me because we can share the new experience with each other.

Until next time,


BLM-Shoshone, ID

Adventure and sunshine in the semi-arid valleys of Grand Junction Colorado.


As one of Colorado’s largest Western cities Grand Junction has proven to provide not only interesting geographical features but valuable cultural experiences as well.  The areas surrounding Grand Junction contain some of the most beautiful semi-arid landscapes that I have ever had the fortune of witnessing. Locations such as the Colorado National Monument, Hanging lake, and the legendary Moab area, located not even two hours away from Western Colorado, have provided an endless mountainous region in which to explore. As the majority of my work so far in the field office has involved varying methods of rare plant and hydrological data collection I confidently believe that I will enjoy every day of “work” in these areas.

In addition to its geographical inspiration, I have encountered character building interactions with many of the city’s 59,000 inhabitants. Having spent the majority of my life in Chicago, Illinois, I hope the readers of this post can believe I have never witnessed anything quite like “Country Jam” or pop country music for that matter. Even though I typically find myself disagreeing with the common populous on many issues, I have still grown to appreciate and love the cowboy country atmosphere of this region. For example, I used to typically believe that hunters are individuals who simply enjoy killing animals for fun; I now understand that this belief could not be farther from the truth. The outdoorsman and women who I have had the pleasure of meeting are some of the most dedicated environmentalists that I have met in Colorado. I have developed a much greater respect for someone who acquires their own food through a hard days work in nature.

Apart from the culture of this area, as well as its noticeable beauty, I also have truly been enjoying my interactions with the Bureau of Land Management staff. I find that almost everyone I meet is equally concerned with the well being of these areas, many of the staff in the Grand Junction Field Office were actually born right here in Grand Junction. Due to the amount of time that many of the employees have spent in this region, I have an endless amount of fruitful recommendations in which to plan my next adventure.

Archaeology, Horny Toads, & Chicago

Greetings, readers!

Idahoan souvenirs from Pocatello

Idahoan souvenirs from Pocatello

I can’t believe it’s already the end of my 7th week here in Idaho. It seems like it was just a few days ago that I was scrambling from thrift store to thrift store looking for the cheapest and least-likely-to-have-bed-bugs mattress I could find for my first night in Twin and worrying about my cat, Leopold, who I cruelly had flown with me from Florida and was completely zonked out from the cat-Xanax his vet prescribed. Now, we are living in an almost-furnished apartment (an armchair and a love seat almost makes a couch, right?) and Leopold louder and fatter than ever.



Since my last post, we’ve had lots and lots of training. We attended a 2-day forb workshop hosted by Fish & Game which was a lot of fun. We learned about native seed collection, the importance of different kinds of forbs to sage grouse diets and their chicks, insect diversity, and we visited a private botanic garden filled with native and exotic plants ranging from Joshua trees to North African/SW European spiny pillows (Ptilotrichum spinosum). My favorite part of that tour were the brilliantly colored cacti, specifically the Black Knight Pricklypear (Opuntia rhodantha).

Black Knight Prickly Pear

Opuntia rhodantha

During the field portion of the training we identified many ‘new’ plants with the help of the former state botanist, who was not only incredibly entertaining but the most impressive walking botanical encyclopedia I’ve ever met. We were also able to look at a variety of different sagebrush species and I got to handle my first horny toads! Words cannot describe the feeling one is overcome with when holding a pudgy, inert, horny toad. It was love at first toad. I don’t think these are the blood-spurting-out-of-their-eyeballs variety, but if I encounter one, this blog will be the first to know.

Words cannot describe the feeling one is overcome with by holding a pudgy, inert, horny toad.

Words cannot describe the feeling one is overcome with when holding a pudgy, inert, horny toad.

Our mentor arranged for us to shadow the office’s archaeologist, Lisa, for a day, which was really exciting. Lisa gave us a tour of some of her allotments, including a graveyard from the 1800s, Native American rock art just feet away from grazing cattle, lava tubes where human remains have been found, and told us stories about working with the Bannock Shoshone Native Americans and recording their oral history and learning about the different medicinal uses of native plants, such as camas. I studied human dimensions of natural resources and environmental policy, and ethnobotany & ethnoecology has always been a subject I’ve thought about pursuing, but unfortunately there aren’t many graduate programs for it. Luckily, I met an Ethnobotany PhD candidate from the University of Kent, UK who was at the Chicago workshop, who I plan on keeping in contact with and following her research. I also had the pleasure of meeting the Jarbidge office’s archaeologist, Shane, who offered helpful advice for pursuing a career in archaeology during a fuel’s ecology tour.

The grave, there were about 20 creepy cat-sized crows waiting for us when we arrived...

The grave, there were about 20 creepy cat-sized crows waiting for us when we arrived…

Lava tube where human remains were excavated from

Lava tube where human remains were excavated from

We also helped out with HAF (Habitat Assessment Framework) monitoring with some of the other range cons (which we hadn’t done since our first day of work). We went up to a loamy hillside allotment that was lush, green, full of new (and living!) forbs. It was absolutely beautiful and the weather was beyond perfect at a cool ~70 F. We gathered data on shrub canopy cover (line intercept) and forb diversity/availability, and soil type. On our way back to the trucks we stumbled upon a sage grouse nest with some chicks and more horny toads.

HAF Monitoring at Poison Creek

HAF Monitoring at Poison Creek

Carla (fellow CBG-er) and I also got to drive out and do trend by ourselves for the first time, which was really exciting. We only did one site that day because it took a bit longer than we thought to find, but we managed to finish the monitoring (while racing a looming thunderstorm) and not get stuck in any muddy roads, so it was a success!

Sheep about to cross Swinging Bridge for the filming of its 50th anniversary that our mentor organized.

Sheep about to cross Swinging Bridge for the filming of its 50th anniversary that our mentor organized.

And lastly, we returned from the Chicago Botanic Garden workshop a few weeks ago– which was really, really, amazing. First we went over general HR/safety information, career/graduate school advice, safety, sampling techniques, plant identification/terminology, Seeds of Success (and some basic collection protocols), and lastly a symposium from a variety of conservationists that discussed various projects ranging from altered fire regimes and the resulting spread of invasive species to the largest prairie and wetland reconstruction project in America (Glacial Ridge Project, which was my favorite lecture).

Volcanic Sunset Cactus

I also got to explore different parts of the city such as Clybourn (for Jamaican food), Roger’s Park (where we had ‘the best Indian food in Chicago’– apparently Chicago has the 2nd highest combined population  in the US of Indians and Pakistanis after NYC), downtown, the Art Institute, and the diner Big and Littles (many thanks to Carla and her boyfriend who showed me around)!

Displaying IMG_3668.JPG

I think this was in a movie or something

American Gothic

American Gothic

But the best part about the workshop was the opportunity to get to know the other interns and speak with the instructors and organizers and find out what their projects, locations, and backgrounds were. It gave me a lot of insight and perspective on my own path as I navigate the waters of post-undergraduate life. It’s really humbling to think about how lucky I am to have met all these different people (apparently we are the most diverse group of interns they’ve had in terms of ethnicity, age, and gender). I can’t wait to see what the next 3 months have in store for us!

Until next time,

Diana Gu

BLM , Shoshone ID Field Office