Drought and Rain and Gratitude

Goodness, how time flies! We are about half way done with our internship already! While the beginning of the summer focused more on scouting out sites for plants we were able to collect, we are now finally getting into the full swing of seed collecting season. We’ve made over 40 collections so far (sometimes up to five in one day) covering all five New England coastal states. We’ve voyaged over seas of sand dunes, gotten sucked into mud waist-deep, narrowly escaped endless clouds of mosquitos, bushwhacked through 10-foot tall stands of Phragmites, walked through creeks chest-high in water, canoed through rivers that were more plant-matter than water, and had a few lucky days of being caught in the rain – a very welcome way to cool off. Every day has been a different adventure with new things to learn. It’s been a very immersive (figuratively and literally) way to experience the natural world, and I’ve been enjoying every bit of it.

The rare winged monkey-flower (Mimulus alatus) - totally worth the wading through a creek up to our chests!

The rare winged monkey-flower (Mimulus alatus) – totally worth the wading through a creek up to our chests!

These seeds drying in pans really brighten up our living room, but our neighbors think we are really weird...

These seeds drying in pans really brighten up our living room, but our neighbors think we are really weird…

Our first fleshy fruit collection! Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry).

Our first fleshy fruit collection! Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry).

Currently most of New England is in a moderate to severe drought. Although we don’t have enough comparative data to draw any solid conclusions, we are pretty sure that the drought has been impacting many of the plants very badly this year. Last week were in a small salt marsh in Southern CT, when we came across a huge patch of Schoenoplectus pungens (three-square bulrush). There were plenty of plants to collect from, however after sampling a few of them we realized it wouldn’t be worth it. The seeds were either absent or had turned to mush, the top half of the plants yellow and sun-scorched. Similarly, there have been several times now that we’ve witnessed a very distraught population of Juncus gerardii (black grass). This is one of the four main component species of a salt marsh, usually filling the landscape of the upper marsh area. Most of our sites with J. gerardii have massive populations, yet we are having trouble finding good seed – some we have had to not even attempt a collection from. According to our mentor and last year’s records, J. gerardii should have plenty of seeds available for collection well into August.

One of the largest of our salt marshes, in Barnstable, MA. Most of the green here is composed of Juncus gerardii, but we haven't been able to collect it here because the seeds simply were not there. But it is still a really beautiful site.

Great Marsh,¬†Barnstable, MA. Most of the green here is composed of Juncus gerardii, but we haven’t been able to collect it here because the seeds simply were not there. But it is still a really beautiful site.

I don’t think I would have fully understood the effects of the drought if I hadn’t been out in the field this summer. It’s one thing to read or hear about something like this, but it’s another thing to see it up close. And it’s a third thing to experience it. Because we have been out in the field during the hottest parts of the day, I found I’m able to empathize with these plants on a much more personal level. However, we know that at the end of the day we will catch a breeze in our air-conditioned cars, fill up water bottles from a cold faucet, and eat a nutrient-balanced meal. The plants and animals in these habitats can’t make that assumption, especially during a drought like this. Being out there with these plants on a daily basis is helping me not take these gifts essential for our survival for granted… Yet for those few hours of our day, we are united in our experience. We’ve been drained and wilted under the relentless heat, and we’ve been dancing and laughing and re-energized during the rains. I like to think that the plants are having the same reactions too – we are just much more vocal about it.


Dry/dead Juncus gerardii at Great Marsh, Barnstable, MA. Sometimes you have to just make the best of the situation…


…and take a nap in the salt marsh ūüôā

Here’s to hoping for more rain, and moving forward with gratitude.

Krista Heilmann

Seeds of Success East Intern

New England Wild Flower Society

Framingham, MA


It’s crazy that summer’s over. I don’t mean my internship – that still has several months left – but summer itself. We’ve had weeks of crazed collections and 95+ degree days, but now the highs are in the 80s, it’s begun to rain again, and we only have a handful of species to collect.

Besides filling out herbarium labels and sending off the rest of our seeds, we’re starting to move onto other projects. Some of them are plants-based, such as pre- and post- aspen treatment monitoring and abandoned mine land restoration replanting. Others are wildlife-based, like prairie dog surveys. We’re not really sure exactly what the next couple of months will hold, but there are a lot of cool projects that we’ll get to help out on.

Outside of work, our lives have settled into routine. Evenings generally leave time for one extra activity before dinner, and three-day weekends encourage a lazy day before adventures. I’ve been in a slump for a couple of weeks, but gained some momentum last weekend and went backpacking in the Tetons with other Lander interns. I’m tied to Lander for a couple weeks while housesitting, and I’m hoping to stay out of the lazy funk and do some local climbing and general getting-my-life-together things.

Yep. August.

BLM – Lander Field Office

The end is near

I am in my last few weeks here as the botany assistant in the West Eugene wetlands. I am still working slowly but surely through the Wetland Plant Identification Guide I am making. The process is much more intense than I had initially thought it would be and I am a little nervous for its turnout. However, I am excited to finish it up and have it be of use to future interns.  And to keep a copy for myself, of course.

A new CLM intern, Emily, joined the crew as a biological technician in July. We have been working together along with the local youth crews to remove tanzia ragwort and meadow knapweed in the wet prairies, and blackberries that are encroaching on some of the endangered plants. ¬†Our highlight last week was the pack of llamas we ran into on the Long Tom river. ¬†It was in the high 90s and they were¬†having a river party with lawn chairs and floaties. I’m only half-joking (see photo below).

Long Tom river party with some llamas in Eugene, Oregon.

Long Tom river party with some llamas in Eugene, Oregon.

On my last week following labor day weekend I will be¬†visiting our seed castle with the City of Eugene’s ecologist, Diane Steeck. We will be preparing seed for upcoming planting projects throughout the city.

As my hours terminate on September 9th, I am taking the opportunity to visit my family in Minnesota before embarking¬†on a new venture- whatever that may be, I’m still trying to figure it out. ¬†I would like to stay here in the Pacific Northwest and continue to work in the botany field. ¬†So that’s what I am aiming for. Keeping fingers crossed and sending out resumes and cover letters like nobody’s business. ¬†I’ve had a great time here in Eugene with the BLM and its partners. ¬†I admit, I am a little sad to see it come to an end, but oh-so appreciative of all that I have learned and the people that I have met.

I’ll wrap up with ya’ll in a few weeks.

Happy August!




Wildlife and Rangeland

What does this mean to you?  Wildlife and rangeland.  Does it mean conflict of interest?  Does it mean working together?  Or does it mean two completely separate entities that should never have anything to do with each other?  To me, they are one in the same.  I have a Rangeland Management degree with an Option in Wildlife Management.  Basically, this means that I took not only all of the range courses but all of the wildlife courses as well.  I wish everyone had to do that.

Wildlife and rangelands need to go hand in hand. ¬†You can’t have one without the other. ¬†If you think you can, you’re kidding yourself. ¬†The BLM does a wonderful job of promoting multiple-use landscapes, and this includes wildlife. ¬†However, growing up in ranching communities, I know not everyone loves the idea of an elk eating their haystack. ¬†We moved into their space, not the other way around. ¬†I might sound preachy here, but it’s something that I feel more people need to understand. ¬†My internship this summer has allowed me to explore some absolutely beautiful and unique areas in Wyoming. ¬†I get to hang out in wide open spaces with little to no people within a 20 mile radius of me and little to no “improvements” on the landscape to ruin the view.

I’m lucky and I know it. ¬†Seeing exactly how the multiple-use landscape comes together is awesome. ¬†I have seen bikers, hikers, and horseback riders on the Continental Divide Trail, cows on rangeland, wildlife on rangeland, different agencies conducting research on BLM land, oil and gas exploration, and historical artifacts that take you back to the pioneer days. ¬†My passion will always be wildlife, but rangelands are important too. ¬†Maybe more important in many ways. ¬†There is beauty and importance in everything if you only take a look.

American Avocet 1 Broomlike Ragwort 1 DSCN0499