Snow in April


The thousand mile trek from Reno, Nevada to Denver, Colorado felt like the blink of an eye, but passing through the White River National Forest made the time stand still by its beauty, also probably because driving a 15′ truck while pulling a car up 10,000′ passes almost literally brought us to a standstill. Aspens on the left and right and snow still on the ground, it was like a right of passage into the beautiful capital of Denver.

Looking out into our new home

The first week of my first CLM internship was filled with the elusive potential for computer access and many informative scientific papers. One that stood out was called “Evaluating approaches to the Conservation of Rare and Endangered Plants” which started off with a quote from Nirvana:

“Take your time, hurry up, the choice is yours, don’t be late”

and then proceeded to discuss the general currently accepted process behind setting up a rare and endangered plant evaluation, which I see echoed in the past and present work of my mentor, Carol Dawson.

I also spent the week being brought up to date on the plants that Carol and past interns have worked on. Including 9 threatened and 3 candidate species, one of which we monitored my second week.

Now on to the fun stuff!

Since 2011 Astragalus debequaeus has been listed as a threatened species, is found near the Roan Plateau, and is the first species that we surveyed for.

I can already tell that I am going to like field work here in Colorado. Not only was I able to see hundreds of million year old formations, but also I met up with the Ecologists that worked out of the Silt and Grand Junction field offices as well as the director of the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.

We spent our field days scrambling along the lose shale foothills of the Roan plateau surveying for Astragalus debequaeus. At one point we were looking for more plots when we also stumbled upon Sclerocactus glaucus and Astragalus naturitensis as well. Although these were not our intended targets per say (I am learning that this geologic area is as Dr. Dawson would say “chock a block full” of rare species) it was nice to see what we would be looking for in the future.

Sclerocactus was blooming its dainty pink flowers and so was Echinocereus triglochidiatus:

Echinocereus triglochidiatus

After a full day it was nice to come back to Silt and peer down at the tame but powerful Colorado River. I have grown up in a state (Arizona) where the Colorado River not only plays a part in our everyday life as a source of drinking water and is the border of our western edge, but is also a part of history, something I learned and heard about as a kid. I realized I have actually not spent too much time observing it and I felt an odd connection to home as I watched the sun set and the swallows catch their pray and return to their mud nests.

The Colorado River from our hotel in Silt

Next week we survey again!

Tell then,



Colorado State Office

Lakewood Colorado


The beginning

Hello Upper Willamette Resource Area!

After several seasons of working around the Pacific Northwest, this year my duty station will be in Eugene/Springfield Oregon where I’ve made my home for the past 6 years.  I can’t wait! The majority of time I’ve lived in Eugene I haven’t had a car (don’t worry, the city is great for bicycles) so my exploration of the area outside of city limits has been guided by the wills of friends with vehicles. For the next 5 months, however, I am going to spend hundreds of hours exploring and getting to know the nooks, crannies, and plants in what I consider my own backyard!

Working for and alongside people who have led my field trips, mentored school projects, and who I have generally thought of as natural resource heroes, I think this field season is going to be a great one.

My mentor, Cheshire Mayrsohn, (Botanist for the Upper Willamette Resource Area, Northwest Oregon District) showing me the ropes of filling out GeoBOB survey forms.

My first week has brought about the usual routine of paperwork, trainings, technical difficulties, and a whirlwind tour all the folks in the office. I even got to drive part of an OHV course as part of my driver’s training test. You’ve got to love the opportunity to drive over logs, rocks, and slosh through giant mud pits!

One of the rocky mud pits I got to drive through.

Having survived the first couple of days, I got geared up and headed out the door to start the first of my rare plant monitoring. My target species: Eucephalus vialis, also known as wayside aster.

Eucephalus vialis

Belonging to the Aster family, this sensitive species is somewhat tricky to spot. Varying in height depending on habitat conditions and currently in a vegetative state, it does a great job of blending in with other vegetation. It’s also prone to growing in and among poison oak, which makes for an even bigger challenge. Hooray for Tecnu (and Dawn dish soap my mentor has recently divulged)!!

Eucephalus vialis has some look alikes, especially when the plant doesn’t grow very tall. Luckily Cheshire has lots of tricks for plant identification. For this aster, one of the best ways to identify it from others is its anastamosing veins, where the veins rejoin after branching and forming an intertwining network (which can be seen in the picture below).

It’s only a been a few days and my brain is already swirling with names of new plants or familiar plants that I’ve never properly identified, but I can’t wait to learn more! It feels great to be starting a new field season. I have a feeling this internship is going to be full of adventures, an abundance of new tasks and skills, and an experience I’ll never forget.

Emily, Bureau of Land Management, Upper Willamette Resource Area

A note on the value of genetic diversity within a species

Within the S.O.S. protocol it is noted that “each seed collection should comprise of a significant representation of the genetic variation within the sampled population.” This statement reflects a recognition, stated explicitly elsewhere in the protocol, that the capture and storage of genetic diversity within a species or within a population of a species is a goal nearly so worthwhile as the collection of seeds from a large number of species. I will use this blog post to first relate my team’s recent experience collecting seed of Juniperus osteosperma from two distinct populations and then to examine an ongoing story in which a rare, naturally occurring genotype may play a role in future ecosystem-level restoration.

My crew travelled to Washoe co., NV, on two occasions over the last week to collect cones from two stands of Juniperus osteosperma. By collecting many tens of thousands of viable seeds from a large geographic area we increased the odds of collecting genes that will allow the species to persist in an era of changing climate and novel pathogens. While it remains unknown which genes, if any, collected by my team will be of use to J. osteosperma in the future, I will offer an example of how genetic diversity may play into a future large-scale reintroduction effort in the eastern United States.

[A juniper woodland in Washoe co., NV]

Castanea dentata, the American chestnut, was driven to the edge of extinction by a fungal disease in the early 1900s. Some individuals, however, show varying degrees of genetic resistance to the pathogen. While several organizations are attempting to develop resistance to this fungal pathogen in American chestnuts by means such as the insertion of a gene found in wheat into the chestnut genome and cross-breeding with the naturally resistant C. sativa of eastern Asia, the American Chestnut Cooperators Foundation is actively cross-breeding these resistant strains of C. dentata to a degree of success. This may, in the future, allow for a reintroduction of the species into the forests of which it was once a part and a restoration of lost aspects of those forests’ ecology.

[Good job crew- that oughta do it]

While the story of C. dentata and the American Chestnut Cooperators Foundation revolves around genes that were preserved in situ in the eastern American hardwood forests, similar stories may in the future be told about a great many species which were unable to persist in their historic range under the combined stresses of habitat fragmentation, climate change, and novel pathogens and which, consequently, will revolve around the use of genetics preserved in seed banks around the world.

From Boston to Buffalo

Despite numerous trips out west, I’ve never had the opportunity to drive the whole way. So as I started thinking about the logistics of moving to Wyoming there was clearly only one option: road trip. Well, I could not have had more fun transitioning from New England. It was a perfect excuse to explore some beautiful national parks along the way, have a little adventure, and spend some extra time getting to know home for the next 5 months.

The sun begins to set in Badlands National Park, SD

Now, over 2,000 miles and 12 states later I find myself in Buffalo Wyoming, surrounded by the Bighorn mountains, and about to wrap up my first week as a Surface Use and Environmental Compliance (SUEC) Intern with the BLM.

Spring Snow on the Bighorn Mountains, WY

My time in Buffalo started off with a snow storm, road closures and unpredictable weather, but it took a turn for the better as my internship began and we are now experiencing daytime temperatures in the 60͒s and 70͒s; it’s supposed to hit 80͒ this weekend! My first week as an intern has certainly consisted of the necessary enrollments and trainings – not to mention getting to know the logistics and numerous aspects of the position – but there are plenty of assignments for me to get started on. I’ve been inundated with information and work in the best possible way, and now that the weather is cooperating I’ve gone into the field to join on some inspections. Of the number of sites we visited, the largest was easily a reclamation site waiting for final approval of abandonment. It had been resurfaced and reseeded, and after a number of years, had integrated back into the landscape. While the sagebrush regrowth wasn’t complete, we were happy to see that the other native vegetation had completely filled-in, and that the sage brush is making good progress. On the opposite end of the spectrum, is a plugged pit we inspected. With no regrowth and some erosion, the reclamation process will have to start over.

The vegetation hasn’t taken at this pit, plugged last year, and will need to be reseeded

View of the high plains landscape just up the road from the reclamation pit

I was also excited to realize that although unplanned, the start of my internship overlapped with the last week of lek counts/visits for the sage-grouse mating season. Given that sage-grouse have been a standard reference in pretty much every biology, animal behavior, and conservation book I’ve ever read, it was about time I see them in action. With their inflated gular sacs and fanned-out tail feathers the males are striking, and their performance did not disappoint. I was lucky enough to hear plenty of booming, and see the males strut and square off.

The first time out we visited an easily located lek, but the second day found us moving through the sagebrush looking for signs, until we finally found the lek had shifted to another hillside. It was definitely worth the 4am wake-up, and provided some great wildlife viewing. There’s nothing quite like starting your day with a sunrise and some sage grouse, or viewing a nesting golden eagle as you head to the office.

I’m already looking forward to next week, and can’t wait to meet the rest of the interns who join the office on Wednesday!

Bachelor group of Bighorn sheep in Badlands National Park, SD

Looking up at Devils Tower, SD

Southern Transplant

It’s a long way from Starkville, Mississippi, but I feel confident when I say, I believe I’ve found my own little piece of home here in Burley and Twin Falls, Idaho. To say the BLM team in Burley are an accommodating and friendly folk would be an understatement. Not only have they made sure I get to expand my experience in certain fields I’m interested in, aside from the initial job I came here for, but they made a girl feel like she’s at home away from home on her birthday. Homemade cake and donuts while working out in the sagebrush steppe all day… now, how can you find anything wrong with that kind of birthday celebration? Celebrations aside, this field season has commenced with a great start.

Views of Sheep Mountain and Black Pine MT range during a plant workshop

To be honest, the highlight of my month has been two things. First and foremost, the opportunities to complete some raptor nest surveys for the BFO (Burley Field Office) biologist. Being able to jump back in the raptor survey and identification saddle was a nice change of pace from training and office work. Most importantly, at least three life birds were crossed off the list when golden eagles, ferruginous hawks and sage grouse decided to grace us with their presence! I wish I had pictures as proof, but unfortunately they weren’t up for a photo shoot. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Second place actually ties with two highlights from the past month. One would be my growing knowledge and library of plant identification for this ecosystem that is entirely new to me. I have had a blast collecting samples from the field and keeping them in a makeshift press in order to have real samples on deck just in case. The surprising amount of diversity here can be breathtaking, but who knew there were so many species of sagebrush? (Probably many people, but I certainly didn’t until a few weeks ago). Thanks to Roger and the rest of the crew at our initial plant workshop, I feel like I had a great start and great group of teachers to help me along the way.

Chocolate lily found in City of Rocks area.

It has been quite the adventure so far, roaming around the sagebrush steppe and marveling at each new jewel I discover when I look closer (or when a plant guru points them out to me, which happens to be the case the majority of the time).

Another beautiful discovery hidden away in a nook somewhere in City of Rocks reserve.

I suppose I should tell you the last experience that tied with second in most exciting things to come from my first month in Idaho. Now, this could have turned into a major inconvenience for our other team that was completing raptor nest surveys in the area, but thankfully with a little bit of brain power and a whole lot of horsepower, inconvenience was avoided. I realize there may be some folks here in CLM who don’t have experience with backcountry driving, which is why I’ll explain what happened in hopes that just maybe, this will help someone out in the future.  First off, take it from first hand experience, but don’t go driving off into two tracks that sort of appear like roads if you glance real hard. The risk and time it will take from you is just not worth it. Secondly, if you believe you’ve gotten yourself stuck in a field truck, give yourself a few minutes to calm down and think. Yes, I’m sure you can probably guess what happened by now. We might have run into a bit of trouble with a few, well hidden dips in the road, but rest assured, there’s a happy ending! After realizing what had happened, all it took was a few minutes of contemplation to realize 1) Hey dummy, you should have put the truck in 4 wheel drive ages ago, and 2) if you’re losing traction, look for a wooden plank. Why a wooden plank you ask? Well, I can’t necessarily explain all the logistics behind it, but if you feel as if your tires are losing traction in mud (bits of mud are flying everywhere when you hit the gas), it’s always good to have a wooden plank on hand to stick under the tires. This will allow more traction for your tires when you try to drive out of that mess and can hopefully save you from having to wait to be pulled out. The relief from realizing this worked was enough to make my entire weekend! This was also an important reminder that if you aren’t sure you can clear something with your truck, it’s better to get out and inspect the area yourself before driving through it. Now, if this little tangent didn’t teach you anything at all because you have more sense and/or experience than me, then I hope that at least you got a chuckle out of it. I’m a firm believer in not taking yourself too seriously and learning from past mistakes.

I’m sure I could fit more into this post if I rattled my brain hard enough, but I’ll keep my first post short and sweet. Until next time, stay safe and keep on, keepin’ on!

Best wishes,

Isabela V

Restoration in the City Limits


When I applied to the CLM internship I pictured myself out in a super remote area trying to adjust to long days of hiking and without much human interaction. Working in the West Eugene Wetlands with the BLM couldn’t be farther from that! The West Eugene Wetlands is a partnership between the BLM, state government, various non-profits, and the community of Eugene to restore and preserve wetland species of the Willamette Valley. Before white settlers came out west and decided to farm the land, the valley was full of small forbs, tufted grasses, and a smattering of oaks. So often conservation is done far from the public eye but here you can drive on main city roads and see endangered species out your car window! It’s interesting to think about how a 150,000 person city can coexist with the 300+ species found in the wetlands including many that are threatened or endangered. You might not be able to tell from my photos but we are never more than a 20 minute drive from downtown Eugene!

It’s my third week here in the wetlands and we’ve already finished monitoring for our first endangered species, Lomatium bradshawii (Bradshaw’s lomatium).  I worked with one of our main partners, the Institute for Applied Ecology, to do this monitoring at 5 sites around Eugene. Bradshaw’s lomatium is extremely delicate and one of the first plants to bloom in the wetlands along with common camas, western buttercup, and death camas.

An intern from the Institute for Applied Ecology and I count Bradshaw’s lomatiums in a square meter along our transect. We found anywhere from 0 to 140 individuals in each square meter!

Bradshaw’s lomatium with one flowering head.

Next up on our list of endangered species is the Fender’s blue butterfly(FBB). The weather has to cooperate just right for these little guys to emerge from diapause, fly around, and lay eggs for next year. It rained for my first two weeks, so on our first sunny day above 70 degrees we headed out hopeful with nets in hand. Earlier in the week my mentor and I attended a training for all the people who would be going out across the state of Oregon monitoring FBB. It was awesome to meet the people from all the different agencies (Army Corp of Engineers, Fish & Wildlife, Institute for Applied Ecology, & Washington State University) who would be doing similar work. We learned identifying characteristics, life history, and the proper way to swing your net.

Waiting for a butterfly sighting in a field of Plectritis congesta(common nectar source for FBB) and Lupinus sulphureus spp. kincaidii(FBB host plant).

During our first couple days walking butterfly transects we were able to net many butterflies, but so far all have been a common species that looks similar to the endangered FBB. This other species of blue butterfly is the silvery blue (SBB). Both butterflies host on the Kincaid’s lupin, occupying the same habitats. A trained eye can sometimes distinguish the two species during flight, but netting or using binoculars is required in the monitoring protocol to truly ID the two butterflies. As the weather continues to warm up we should be seeing more and more butterflies so I’m hoping next week we see our first FBB of the year!

The silvery blue butterfly here looks almost identical to the FBB. Very subtle color differences, a couple ventral wing spots, and slightly different life histories differentiate the two species.



West Eugene Wetland, BLM

Sagebrush Living

Adversity, evolutionarily speaking, shapes organisms over time, like a sculptor chisels a block of marble. Plants and animals must adapt to eat and reproduce in an unruly habitat that does not consider their comfort when it snows during the summer or when salty soils threaten the growth of desert sprouts. I thought a lot about the prospects of working in a harsh environment as I drove North into Wyoming from Colorado to start my internship with the Chicago Botanic Gardens. The disparities between the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains and the sagebrush steppes of Wyoming are immense: dark green and amber hills fade into pale green and straw-colored plains. I looked forward to diving headfirst into a new town and region, despite still having my head in the Ponderosa pines of home.

Riding my bike back into Rawlins- its just over the hills!

I pulled into the local Taco-Johns of Rawlins Wyoming to meet Frank Blomquist, half wildlife biologist, half botanist for the Bureau of Land Management’s Rawlins Field Office. He directed me towards the “Barracks”, the recently renovated housing for BLM employees and my home for the next 5 months. The men’s building, consisting of ten bunk beds and two main rooms, made me sympathize with the other organisms of the surrounding sagebrush.

Frank, our mentor, showing us a sharp-tailed grouse lek

Once Monday came, however, I remember I had a job to do this summer. Rawlins, it turns out, is the epicenter of an amazing landscape. What I had envisioned to be an oppressed landscape is in reality a gorgeous and thriving ecosystem, hiding its gems from the interstate-80 drivers cruising through what they must see as a desolate wasteland.

Camouflaged cottontail stock-still among prickly pear (Opuntia sp.), budsage (Artemisia spinescens), and Gardner’s saltbush (Atriplex gardneri)

Frank and Ray Ogle, our two mentors for the summer, explain to Julia and I our internship responsibilities. The two of us must collect at least 10,000 seeds for twenty-five different collections. Botany has always been a personal interest and hobby of mine, but the prospect of collecting plants and seeds was (and is) both exciting and intimidating. After we find the species, make sure that they are ripe for seed collecting, and then collect flowering specimens and the associated 10,000-plus seeds, we will clean and prepare them for shipment to a seed bank. Ultimately the seed bank doles out the 10,000 seeds for research and conservation efforts, while the left over seeds return to Rawlins for other local restoration projects.

Ray and Julia keying out a tough species- turned out to be blue mustard, Chorispora tenella

Local restoration projects entail maintaining the public lands that oil and gas, cattle, wildlife, and recreation all share. In fact, BLM land was, and in some instances still is, considered to be the land that “no one else wanted”. Pioneers passed it up for more hospitable land farther west and ranchers also originally turned up their nose. The government even gave some of the land to the railroad companies to pay for the transcontinental railroad with the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, creating a legacy of the “checkerboard”: hundreds to thousands of one square-mile plots of land that alternate between public and private lands. Now, when traveling through the dirt tributaries of I-80, you would be hard pressed to find more than five miles of road without seeing evidence of oil and gas production.

A population of western wallflower (Erysimum asperum), notice the well-pad in the background

The public BLM lands are leased to oil and gas companies for drilling wells. Well-pads, as they call the area around the wells, roads, and other construction units disturb and shake up the soil enough so that invasive or unwanted plants move in and outcompete the plants that sage-grouse and pollinators rely on for nourishment, nesting sites, and shelter from predators.

Sage-grouse hen posing in front of her namesake, sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata)

The native seeds that we collect will be sown within these disturbed sites, helping to maintain public land and a healthy ecosystem by limiting undesirable plants from taking over. Sage-grouse and pollinators, especially native bees, are species on the decline as their habitat disappears more each year. The seeds that we will collect have these species in mind.

Pronghorn running along the fences which seem to keep them from their friends on the other side, though they sometimes can crawl underneath the fence.

As of late, we have been scouting out the early seeding plants. The targets are members of the carrot family, also called apiaceae. If you have seen carrot leaves, then you would recognize the leaves of these species. One is called Lomatia foeniculaceum, or desert biscuitroot, and has small bright yellow flowers that call out to us among pale green leaves and cracking red soils. Already we have found a large population of L. foeniculaceum and collected several voucher specimens, important for pairing with the seeds and that serve as a way to make sure we collected the right species. The moniker “biscuitroot” is appropriate for this species, as it took nearly thirty minutes to carefully dig up the foot-long, chubby root and then to press it for drying.

Lomatium foeniculaceum

The other species are in the genus Cymopterus, the springparsleys. C. acaulis has been more elusive than C. bulbosus, but the latter has led us around nearly four hundred miles of sagebrush desert searching for flowering populations with enough individuals for collection. We think that we are either too early or too late in the hunt as a very small proportion of the C. bulbosus have flowered, and even fewer have produced seed. Most of what we have found are only leaves, barely peaking out of the cracks in the soil.

Cymopterus acaulis

We have been studying all the species of the area as well, and nothing excites me more than searching for one particular species while also being able to identify all the others underfoot. The species that I cannot identify, however, I defer to Julia, whose background is in botany. She recognizes species, new and old, as if she has run into old friends on the street. I would still have my face immersed in the plant-term glossary if it were not for her. For more elusive identifications, we ask Frank.

Young male mustang guarding the road

On top of collecting our share of seeds, there seems to be many enticing projects around the BLM office. These include pine needle collections for a study of whitebark pines, raptor nest monitoring, and more plant work with the BLM Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring Strategy group, or AIM.

Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, notice the pointy tail

Coming from an ornithology background, I am also fascinated with the local birds. So far I have added some “lifers” to my list: Sage sparrows, Sage thrashers, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, Sage-grouse, and the Ferruginous hawk. As far as other wildlife goes, the Pronghorn antelope are always nearby and feral horses occasionally make an appearance. Most recently, I stumbled upon a “horny toad”, which is not a toad at all, but the lizard Phrynosoma hernandesi and the state reptile of Wyoming.

The “horny toad” sizing me up

As I learn about the species here in Southern Wyoming, both plants and animals, the region grows on me more each day. I’ve learned to embrace this small town off of the interstate and to focus on the plants of interest. Because as long as I have plants, animals, and places to explore, I can adapt to live just about anywhere. Over time, the botany has become easier and I look to the day when I can list off species’ names and attributes much like the botanists I work with.

Pronghorn everywhere!


Rawlins Field Office, Bureau of Land Management

Off to a Great Start

Rawlins, Wyoming has treated me well over the past two weeks. Being a small town girl from Montana, I had some sort of an idea of what I was getting myself into upon moving here. With any transition comes uncertainty, and this can be rather nerve-wracking. I drove over 1,000 miles to arrive in this high elevation city of around 9,000 inhabitants. On the way, I drove through canyons, glided passed incredible rock outcroppings, and started to acquaint myself with my new ecosystem. I was greeted by the smiling faces of my new mentor, coworker, and housemate, and immediately felt comfortable and welcomed.

The first few days in the Rawlins Bureau of Land Management field office were overwhelming, but only in the best ways possible. My mentor, Frank, introduced my coworker, Kyle, and I to close to everyone in the office (probably 35 handshakes). From range management, to the minerals division and (of course) the wildlife department, each and every person was welcoming and light hearted. I found that the office was a rather close-knit community, each division and department working together in ways unique to most offices.

The weather in Rawlins the first week (the last week of April) was rather daunting. Sideways blowing wind, sleet, rain, and even hail throughout the week, and a foot of snow on Friday to top it off.

My housemate, Katie, assured me that summers around here would be amazing- warm with clear skies close to every day. This made me forget about the 20 degree temperatures and look forward to the field season to come.

So far I have spent three days in the field, each day so new and exciting. I have seen wild horses, golden eagles, Columbian sharp tailed grouse, sage grouse, a horny toad, cottontail rabbits, antelope, and so many more creatures. But, even more exciting, are the plants. Although it is still early in the season (it snowed last week, after all) I have become acquainted with a diverse array of inhabitants of the sagebrush steppe ecosystem. Multiple different species of Artemisia, other shrubs including Atriplex, as well as forbs- Lomatium foeniculaceum, Cymopterus bulbosus, Phlox hoodii, and Astragalus spatulatus– just to name a few, were introduced to me the first day. I am so amazed by these high desert plants, each with a unique life history to be able to sustain life in such an extreme environment.

I look forward to the season to come. I know that I will not only find curiosities and excitement at work in the field, but also at home with my new roommates and in my surrounding area. Here’s to a great season!


Prineville, Oregon – Month 1

After 10 days of traveling across the country, again, I am finally in Prineville, Oregon, where I will call home for the next 5 months. The trip from New Jersey was outstanding just like it was last year but this time I got to bring a friend, Ryan, to explore with me. Ryan had never been in the west so I thought “What a great time to see it!” We got to spend 10 days driving, camping, and exploring new places as we made our way to Oregon. I got to bring him to one of my favorite places in the US and that was Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. We spent three nights camping on the Estes Park side, where we got to do some pretty awesome hikes, including Cub Lake. Most of the park was closed off due to winter snow that had not receded yet, but that didn’t stop us. From there I got to reconnect with some friends in Casper, Wyoming, where I called home last summer through my CLM internship. It was wonderful to see familiar faces and hangout at the local watering holes again. From there we hit Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Grand Teton National Park. Luckily, the time we got to Jackson Hole was the same time the World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb was going on. The Hill Climb was an awesome experience, it was something I had never seen or heard about before and I am so glad I got to experience it on my way. After Wyoming we finished the route and ended up in Prineville!

My first couple weeks in Prineville have been amazing so far. I started out my season with Greater Sage-grouse lek Surveys, which were incredible because that was the one thing I missed out on in Wyoming last year. In order to do a lek survey one must get up around 2 or 3 AM and start heading out to the lek locations to make sure you arrive at the lek before the sun rises. Once you are there you get to see male Sage-grouse strutting and calling to the females to get them to mate with them. Getting up at 2 AM had never been worth it before until those days I got to see Sage-grouse strutting across a lek just as the sun rose. After lek survey days I got to go out and do Golden Eagle nest surveys, which included seeing a Golden Eagle sitting low in its nest incubating eggs. With all of these surveys comes hiking, which was incredible, any excuse to hike is good enough for me. These first couple weeks of exploring the ecosystem I will be working in this summer have been amazing so far with some spectacular views.

At the end of my first month I got to travel up to Cheney, Washington with the AIM crew, I will be working with, and attend the National AIM Training which was a blast! This was a very hands on training that I believe anyone who needs to do AIM plots for the BLM should absolutely attend. It was very informative and the trainers were wonderful to work with. It also was a wonderful time to get to know the crew that I will be working with for the remainder of my time here in Oregon.

Overall I believe my time here in Oregon will be spectacular and I cannot wait to explore the cascades and high desert areas!

Month one in Prineville

I have now been living in Oregon for just over one month, and I’ve had some great experiences.  I found housing in a small ranch style house on a 5 acre property in Redmond, about 35 minutes from the BLM office in Prineville.  This may seem like a hassle, but the drive is gorgeous; a great way to enjoy the morning or unwind after work while listening to music or a podcast.  I am one of 3 interns on the Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring (AIM) crew at the Prineville District Office (PDO) this season, but have yet to complete a single AIM plot.  The reason being that we only completed the AIM training last week, and only received our assigned plots today!  Hopefully this means we can begin next week, following at least one planning day.

Although we have been unable to begin our AIM plots, my time here at PDO has not been wasted.  I’ve been performing a variety of wildlife related jobs, including Greater Sage Grouse lek monitoring.  Leks are essentially breeding grounds for the greater sage grouse where the males strut and display the large, yellow gular sacs on their necks in an attempt to attract a mate.  Despite living in prime sage grouse real estate in Wyoming, I had never seen an active lek; suffice to say it was a fascinating experience.  The strut is absolutely bizarre to witness, and I would encourage anyone who has not seen it to give it a google and watch in amazement/incredulity. Unfortunately, none of the leks here in Oregon rival the 200+ grouse populations of Wyoming.  In fact, one of the leks I checked this year was completely abandoned, possibly indicating a departure from the area by the sage grouse.  Some inferences can be made by this as well, since sage grouse are considered an indicator species in this ecosystem.  The BLM may decide to do some habitat monitoring in the area, to discover if any notable changes or disturbances have occurred.

In addition to lek monitoring, I also performed some Golden Eagle nest monitoring.  The nesting season is beginning, and the BLM keeps tabs on all active nests in the area.  I have yet to see any offspring, but I did discover one nest where a large female eagle was sitting low on the nest, likely over some eggs.  This monitoring was a very cool experience, as it involved a good deal of off trail hiking and searching for wildlife in beautiful high desert ecosystems.  I was also able to see some of the cool tools that wildlife biologists use to monitor these birds, including GPS backpacks that can display the eagle’s travel area on google earth, and give us an idea of where to find the nests. Unfortunately, one eagle was discovered dead in the nest, and we are currently unsure of the cause of death.

Living in the area has been very fun, with a variety of outdoor and indoor activities to occupy one’s time.  I have been spending a good amount of time snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor, a large volcano in the Deschutes National Forest that offers 360 degrees of terrain to ride from its breathtaking summit.  Hiking and trail running is very prevalent, and I have taken full advantage of the BLM trails behind my house for these purposes.  Additionally, the Bend area is absolutely packed with craft breweries and distilleries, which prove fun to explore and compare.  Although I have visited Portland once, the west side of the nearby Cascade mountains still remains unexplored, and I look forward to getting over there once the weather improves.  Overall, I’ve had a fantastic experience so far, and I’m excited to explore more of Oregon!