At the moment…

photo (11)

Devils’s Tower. Huge, amazing, and people actually climb to the top!

photo (12)

One of those sub-par photos of a very gorgeous natural water feature in Yellowstone.

photo (13)

Oh you know, just a pic from my view driving home. #wyo

photo (14)

My family and friends worry sometimes…I wonder why!

At the moment, my fellow intern and I are getting ready to go the Bighorns for a week to help a forester in Casper with field work. Last night I went a little crazy making food and packing. I mean, I have enough food for two weeks. I’d say I won’t go hungry for these 4.5 days just a short drive from Buffalo. Oh well-never hurts to come prepared!

I recently took a bit of a vacation to Yellowstone and found that my iPhone is a pitiful camera for such occasions. It was amazing and beautiful, of course. But I came back telling everyone that I think the places I work everyday are better than Yellowstone. In fact, the drive back to Newcastle, via Cooke City and highway 296, had the most spectacular switchbacks and views. Even walking in the National Forest behind my cabin is gorgeous and I can go whenever I want. I hope everyone is finding beauty in all the mundane -yet fleeting things during their internships. I’ve been trying to remind myself to take the time to smell the roses, so to speak.

Our inventory projects are going very well. I think we finally have the hang of a proper field day. However, there was one time that neither of us brought the data sheets. Have you ever done that, where each of you thought the other person had grabbed something only to find that neither of you did. That would have been fine, as we could simply recreate the data sheet on normal paper right? Wrong. We had NO scrap paper. So what do enterprising young ladies do? We record all the data on the iPhone in the notes section and copy and paste it into an email at the end of the day and have it on our computers to use! There is something to be said for this technology stuff!

Also, we were assigned another project that included driving all over a huge piece of land and digitizing major vegetation types and later doing timber inventories for a fuels analysis. Except 85% of the roads on the map we had were ATV Trails! In short, we got a little stuck in certain places and had to hoof it in some STEEP areas. But when it’s steep, there are almost always good views. I hope we plan a little camping for work there, because there is this one camp site that has a 300 foot drop 20 feet away from it, overlooking a view to die for. A very desolate view, but hey, that’s Wyoming for you.

I hope everyone is doing once-in-a-lifetime type things!


Ode to Cheat Grass


Cheat Grass,

Downy Brome,

Bromus tectorum,

Wretched Fiend.

You have many names,

and have taken many lands.


When a band of horses turns the earth,

when a herd of cattle lingers at water,

when a fire sweeps through the sagebrush,

in the bare earth

you spring up

first and foremost,

claiming every inch of space,

cutting in line,

and unwilling to share.


You are the earliest bird

who gets the worm,

steals the land.

Establishing a blockade,

the natives can not grow,

and you are free to thrive.


You weave yourself

into my socks,

and poke my ankles

when I’m trying to work.

Fire monitoring drags on

when I cannot see

stunted perennials

through your shadow.



in the evening light,

you glow

and sway in the breeze,

and I forget

you are so terrible,

so pervasive,

and for this short moment

I enjoy your presence.


What a treacherous cheat!

You are a formidable foe.



Carson City BLM

CLM Intern Update! Adventures in the Yakima River Canyon and Beyond!


Fire Perimeter Map taken from This showed all of the major active fires in our region.

Fire Perimeter Map taken from
This showed all of the major active fires in our region. (If you looked at the link above, there is an interactive map. Click on North Central Washington State to see all of the fire perimeters.)

This month has been insane with all kinds of fire activity. This was considered one of the worst fire seasons in Washington State history, producing some of the largest fires ever! To the north of Wenatchee, Washington there were major fires burning throughout the area. One of the first fires that we noticed was the Wolverine Fire. We saw the smoke from the fire settle in the Columbia River valley for the past couple of weeks. As the humidity lowered and the temperatures rose daily, we started to have red flag conditions for our field office! Soon we started to get all kinds of fires. The First Creek Fire and the Reach Fire started near the Wolverine Fire by the town of Chelan. We were all very worried for the people that lived in this area. The Reach Fire eventually combined with other small fires in the area and developed into the Chelan Complex Fire!! This fire was near a lot of structures and firefighters did all they could do with fighting the fire and preventing structural damage.

This gif was taken from the Q13 Fox Seattle News Station Site. Source:

This was what the wildfires looked like around Chelan. This gif was taken from the Q13 Fox Seattle News Station Site.

To the north, there were larger fires in Okanogan County! The Okanogan Fire combined with other fires to develop into the Okanogan Complex Fire. This was considered one of the biggest fires recorded! Omak, Okanogan, and other smaller towns were directly impacted by this massive fire. Another huge fire to the east was called the North Star Fire. This huge fire was slowly making its way to the Okanogan Complex Fire, but has stopped short for awhile. They recently renamed the east fire of the Okanogan Complex Fire, Tunk Block. A fire near the town of Twisp claimed three firefighters. There was a memorial for them and many people in the surrounding communities sent their support for the families impacted by this lost.

Condensed smoke from the Okanogan Complex and North Star Fires.

Condensed smoke from the Okanogan Complex and North Star Fires.

With the Red Flag warning, the air condition worsen to the point we could not leave the office to go into the field. The red flag warnings made our bosses nervous, so we could not do any field monitoring, in case a fire started up near us in the field. The shocking thing about these fires was that almost every site we visited in the past for golden eagle visits or for NISIMS burned! The air quality was pretty bad some days where you could not look across the Columbia River! One area to the north looked like another planet!! When I was doing NISIMS (Invasive plant monitoring) in the north, the smoke and ash from North Star and the Okanogan Complex blew into the area. The smoke created a yellow overcast effect to the surrounding landscape. I wore a mask so I would not inhale the falling ash and smoke. Luckily, I was not exposed to the air for a long period of time. Mostly, I monitored from the truck and got out to confirm specific species. The sun was red and all the animals such as quail and deer looked nervous and were discombobulated. There were layers of smoke in the area where it looked like it was permanently 6:00pm. I felt like an astronaut on Venus….except it was a lot cooler out…like upper 90s.

The road to Barker Canyon and Jackass Butte.

The road to Barker Canyon and Jackass Butte.

It felt like I was on another planet!!...except there were California quail (Callipepla californica) everywhere.

It felt like I was on another planet!!…except there were California quail (Callipepla californica) everywhere.

The Columbia River under smokey conditions.

The Columbia River under smokey conditions.

In Wenatchee, the smoke could even be smelled in trace amounts in our office. Most of the BLM staff were working into overdrive! They had to deal with constant shifting of the fire on a daily basis. Meetings occurred all the time and many of the staff members that had a red card were sent out in the field to help fight the fire. The people who remained in the office worked really hard and were constantly busy. Jenny, Reed, and myself took this time to work on all of our reports! Jenny and I had three major reports to write. The golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) report, the ESR/NISIMS report, and the Sulfur Canyon Watershed Assessment Report. Every time we did take a break from the reports, we would look out the window to see hazy conditions over Wenatchee. We hoped that there were winds from the south to blow some of the smoke away. It got so bad some days where we could not see the end of the town! It looked like we were on a floating island in the clouds…or something out of Silent Hill.

Recently, a cold front moved in!!! The red flags warnings have abruptly ceased and rain started to fall in the area. In just one week, the smoke faded away and Wenatchee returned to its normal state. It is a lot cooler in the area and we were able to leave the office!! The bright blue skies with massive fluffy cumulus clouds were a welcoming site! The weather seems like Autumn! No one is complaining on the rain we are getting now. There were small fire activities to the North, but a majority of all of the fires have been contained for now. All is safe again!! (NO THANKS TO YOU CHEATGRASS D:<)

Small Update! Writing Reports! \(OoO)/

The recent fire activity had put a damper in our field plans for monitoring up north. We decided to write and complete the yearly reports before the end of our internships! We had three major reports to write which were the golden eagle report, the ESR/NISIMS report, and the watershed assessment report! We were really efficient and developed some high quality reports for our bosses! Pictures, graphs, and tables galore! We wrote different notes and documents for the next interns that will be working on the projects. We wrote very good notes on how to find golden eagle nests, so any person can be a professional eagle nest searcher. There was a lot of GIS involved and I got to practice making all sorts of maps and work with data entry. After a week in the office, we completed a majority of our work. Recently, Reed and Jenny went out to one of the final sites to record invasive plants in the Rattlesnake Mountains. This data would be inputted into our report and submitted before we end our internship.

The office was starting to calm down a little due to the lack of fire activity. (Which is a good thing.) We all had a spontaneous potluck BBQ lunch! Having the chance to talk with the staff have been relaxing and rewarding. We have been talking to our mentors and bosses about the pros and cons of different jobs and what to do in the future. We learned a lot and took notes about what we would do for our future careers!!

Adventures with Rusty!! Into the Yakima River Canyon!

One day, Jenny and I decided to take a small break from report writing to join our office neighbor, Rusty on a trip to the Yakima River Canyon. Rusty helped out with the Recreation sites in this area and we came along to see what a recreational BLM staff member does! We were kept busy for most of the day. We checked for reservations at various sites. We cleared fallen wood debris from campground sites. We even cleared trails of garbage, invasive plant overgrowth and willow trees. One of the most important jobs were to clean the garbage and make sure there was toilet paper in the bathroom stalls. We saw many birds and even a herd of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis). Rusty said this was a more of a laidback day. During the Summer time, the Yakima River Canyon would have hundreds of people everywhere to the point where everything was chaotic! We came during a quiet time! Jenny and I learned a lot about the business of keeping the Yakima River Canyon orderly and how the BLM took care of their land!

Bighorn sheep grazing!!

Bighorn sheep grazing!!

Rusty cutting down a fallen elm tree branch.

Rusty cutting down a fallen elm tree branch.

Now we have a long weekend break thanks to some comp time and Labor Day!! BLM Legend Heather Bromberg from Buffalo, Wyoming came in for a visit. Nice time to hang out with friends, go rock hounding for petrified wood, and have many root beer evaluations!! (I really did do root beer evaluations with Reed, Jenny, and Heather! They were good evaluators!)

Enjoy some pictures of the Wenatchee Resource Area!!

Bridge over the Yakima River!

Bridge over the Yakima River!

Cichorium intybus!!!

Cichorium intybus!!!

Acer negundo understory along the Yakima River.

Acer negundo understory along the Yakima River.

I apologize!! Since the recent fires put a damper to things, I did not take a lot of pictures or go on any monitoring adventures! Next post would be totes different! Thank you to my family, friends, and other people who read this blog!

Next Time….on Justin’s CLM Blog……. IT IS THE SEASON FINALE!!!! Yay!!!! Time flew right by!! Questions will be answered, pictures will be shown, shenanigans will be rampant! See you then everyone!!!!

Moment of Zen!!!!!



Big Bear Lake, CA – End of Internship

This swallowtail was pollinating cardinal lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis pseudospectabalis) in a wetland along the Whitewater River, August 28 2015

This swallowtail was pollinating cardinal lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis pseudospectabalis) in a wetland along the Whitewater River, August 28 2015

Acontium colombianum, photographed during a personal trip to the Golden Trout Wilderness in late August 2015

Monkshood (Aconitum columbianum), photographed during a personal trip to the Golden Trout Wilderness in late August 2015

I will be transitioning to a Forest Service employee next week, and will continue the rewarding experience I’ve had as a CLM intern on the San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF) in southern California.  The SBNF is one of the nation’s “urban forests”, and is also incredibly diverse floristically.  I began my appointment as in intern working for our district botanist.  In January 2015, I was extended with funding from our Forest-wide restoration program, which is currently focused on restoring Forest lands damaged by Off-Highway Vehicles.

As a botanist, I’ve been excited about the opportunity to work in a region with such a unique and interesting flora.  Almost 2,000 plant taxa have been documented in the San Bernardino Mountains, which means that about 25% of the California flora occurs in this 1,061 square mile range.  Finding new occurrences of rare plants is always a bit of a rush, especially when those plants are federally threatened or endangered.  I’m especially proud of new finds of white bog adder’s mouth orchid (Malaxis monophyllos brachypoda), San Bernardino Mountains bladderpod (Physaria kingii bernardina), and Parish’s checkerbloom (Sidalcea hickmanii parishii).

The experience as an intern with our Forest-wide restoration program widened my focus immensely.  I realized that I had essentially no experience with plant propagation, and had fun learning my way around the greenhouse, researching propagation techniques, and keeping most things alive.  I began considering soils, hydrology, pollinators, plant physiology, and even sociology in ways that I hadn’t really thought about as a rare plant surveyor.  Restoration work involves more than the observation of plants and their habitats:  What soil treatments should we perform to repair compaction and control erosion?  How do we control OHV use in this area?  What native species are best suited to the site?  I also had the chance to help write grants, work with our Urban Conservation Corps, and manage our GIS database.

Many thanks to both my mentors for their guidance throughout my internship, and to CLM staff for their support.

Mountaintop Ranger District

San Bernardino National Forest

The monsoon that ain’t.

Hello World,

I have been woefully derelict in my blog-writing duties but have a little free time today, so here it goes. My interns have been here since the beginning of June (yes, I’m an intern with interns) and this is my first time collecting seeds. So here’s the gist of my experience so far: the natural world is uncooperative. In southern New Mexico, our usual rainfall pattern is that it is very dry (average monthly rainfall 0.25″ to 0.7″ in Las Cruces; driest month: March) February through June, wet during the monsoon season, July through September (1.4″ to 2.2″ per month; wettest month: August), and pretty dry October through January (0.5″ to 0.9″ per month). This year, here’s what we’ve got in Las Cruces: January 1.13″; February 0.04″; March 0.34″; April 0.44″; May 0.8″; June 0.71″; July 2.41″; August 0.96″. There’s been a lot of variation within the Las Cruces District, but most places have shown a similar pattern: wetter than average in June and/or July, drier and hotter than average in August. What this means for me is that the early summer rainfall got lots of plants going and then August, which is supposed to be wetter and a bit cooler, was instead abnormally hot and dry. So most of those plants that were happy in July are either maturing earlier than you’d expect or going crispy. Those that are maturing early and look like they have good mature infructescences that ought to have lots of seed are often proving to have just empty husks when you start cutting things open. Setaria leucopila, for instance, hasn’t had a single well-developed seed in any of the fertile florets I have checked from several populations. Pleuraphis jamesii and Panicum obtusum likewise haven’t yielded any seed, and seed set rates for Bouteloua eriopoda, Bouteloua curtipendula, and Bouteloua gracilis are, thus far, so low that they may not be collectable even in large, dense populations. The odd rainfall also changes plant community composition. A site dominated by Enneapogon desvauxii last year, for instance, is dominated by Gutierrezia sphaerocephala this year and there is hardly an Enneapogon there to be found. Machaeranthera tanacetifolia, which I didn’t include in our target list because I have never seen it in sufficient abundance for a seed collection, is the dominant plant over a few patches of several square miles each. We’ve also been having some problems with herbivores, both domesticated and wild. A lovely population of Ipomopsis longiflora from which we had hoped to collect was decimated by, I think, rabbits. Sporobolus flexuosus that looked great in late June was mowed down by cattle in July, although the 5% or so of plants that escaped grazing to produce seed were, hopefully at least, enough for a decent collection. Although some of this is rather obnoxious, there’s a good side, too. Due to early maturation, we’ve made more seed collections than I would have expected by now and are at something like 23 of our intended 36 collections. And, although the target species list I made back in March or so has suffered and is by now wildly inaccurate, other species that are desireable for restoration or reclamation seeding have stepped in to fill the gap. I didn’t think we would be able to collect Bahia pedata, Baileya multiradiata, or Machaeranthera tanacetifolia, but we’ve made two collections of each. Enough of that, here are some pictures:

Interns, Jeanne Tenorio:

And David Morin:

Bahia pedata:

Baileya multiradiata:

Machaeranthera tanacetifolia:

And some insect friends encountered in the field; first, Odontoloxozus longicornis (a fly):

Murgantia histrionica (a bug):

Diabrotica undecimpunctata (a beetle):

Lakeview BLM


Greetings from Lakeview! I write today in the midst of a town festival. Although Lakeview is small in size, it’s large in celebration. Today’s festival is called Occupy E Street. The entertainment list boasts a car show, BBQ, and several local vendor booths. The streets are buzzing with people and the music choices are an auditory delight. Today is a lovely day off, yet I find myself continuing to think about plants.

So far we have made 26 SOS collections. It has been a successful few months of SOS work as well as other tasks performed for the BLM office. Another one of my favorite collections has been of Eriogonum heracleoides (parsnipflower buckwheat).


A mix of Eriogonum species at Sagehen Butte. Heracleoides has an orange top in this photo at its current stage in the life cycle.

What makes this species differ from its counterparts is the whorle of oblanceolate leaves surrounding the middle part of the stem.


View from Sagehen

This is a photograph of another expanded view from Sagehen Butte. In the distance Camas Creek runs through the valley and Fish Creek rim is off in the far left center.

Next I would like to take you to one of my (and Kayla’s) favorite places in Lake County. Introducing:


The Devil’s Garden

The Devil’s Garden is an ominous basalt bed north of Lakeview. Here we collected Chamaebatiaria millefolium (desert sweet) aka fern bush.

We also spent two days here caving for signs of bats and potential bat habitat. An issue for bats in the northeast to central United States is called white-nose syndrome. This is a fungus responsible for impacting the lives of millions of hibernating bats in this country. Healthy potential bat habitats are pertinent to the livelihood of this species.


Here Kayla and another tech climb out of a cave that was surveyed on our first outing.

In other news, Crater Lake National Park is only 113 miles from Lakeview, so we took an impromptu trip a few weeks ago to visit beautiful Crater Lake.


A view of the lake and Wizard Island from the rim of Crater Lake.

Crater Lake formed from the eruption of Mount Mazama around 7,700 years ago and created this amazing caldera. Today it is filled with fresh rainwater and has no entry from any other water sources like creeks or streams. It is one of the freshest bodies of water in the world.

The excursion was an experience of a lifetime. I recommend this site to anyone who has the chance to visit.

This time, I leave you all with a cute photo of a horny toad that Kayla and I found in the field.


Until next time,







Desert Wanderings

My internship is coming to a close, not because my hours have run out, but because I am getting on a plane to Scotland tomorrow to start my Master’s degree. Unfortunately I am departing when the weather is finally starting to cool down, but I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.

The month of August I joined forces with Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and was their eyes on the ground in the Palm Springs field office to scout populations for fall seed collections.  Based on herbarium vouchers and word of mouth I developed routes for the desired species, which were documented with GPS locations, pictures and a record of associated species. All this information was complied into a summary packet of pictures, maps generated from GIS and community descriptions.


Alligator Rock looking to eat my Jeep during a survey in Desert CenterIMG_5846

Bullet holes and giant cholla (Cylindropuntia munzii), perks of the Bradshaw TrailSantaRosas

Final Product!

I also got to participate in a rare plant survey of Monardella stoneana on Otay Mountain in San Diego County. Volunteers from California Native Plant Society and BLM employees used previously recorded locations of this species as a starting point and then we expanded our search from there. Afterwards I took the GPS coordinates recorded and plotted them on a map to see the land ownership where this population lives.


Monardella stoneana in the foreground and the wash I walked down looking for it.

This internship has been an great opportunity to work with a variety of scientists and understand the possibilities of my future career. I have learned a lot of applied skills, from recognizing desert species to making maps in sophisticated software. After being a lab rat (no pun intended) for so many years, it was a nice change to be out in the field even when it was 110 degrees. My mentor gave me substantial freedom to complete tasks I felt were necessary for future success of the field office, and this encouragement has allowed me to develop personal habits that will be essential in my future endeavors. I am known to be shy and follow whatever I am told, but during this internship I was encouraged to network with a wide group of people and take the initiative to accomplish important goals. I got to see a great deal of our massive field office and experience different ecosystems: the high, cool Mojave Desert, the valley inferno of the Sonoran Desert and the variety of coastal plant communities in San Diego County. I have learned tons and will take all of this new knowledge on my next adventure!


Tioraidh! (Bye in Scottish Gaelic)


BLM Palm Springs – South Coast Field Office