Botanizing in Burley

Like many other interns, I came out West from the East Coast- specifically Boston, though I grew up in Vermont. A supervisor from a previous job recommended I get some interesting western experience to help my resume stand out back east, so when I was offered a CLM position in Shoshone, Idaho on a fuels crew, it seemed to fit the bill! I was apprehensive at first about transitioning to such a different area so far from everything I’ve ever known, but Idaho has, surprisingly, been feeling a lot like home.

A typical day’s habitat, cheatgrass galore

When I first arrived at the Shoshone office, I was informed that I would actually be working in the Burley field office from now on. I was a bit disappointed, as Burley is quite the drive from Twin Falls, where I found housing, but quickly changed my mind. The Burley field office includes a large mountain range on the Idaho-Nevada border, so I’ve been getting experience with an exciting variety of habitats – from the typical sagebrush steppe to juniper forests. My field crew was incredibly welcoming from the start, and after only a week, I felt more comfortable with them than any other field crew I had ever been on. It must be something about firefighting – there’s a camaraderie about them that welcomes even “rookies” (even a botanist like myself who won’t be fighting fires in any form this summer!) into the family.

My crew were very excited to see my terrified reaction to this ~60 degree road we drove up

Our field work is fairly straightforward – areas that have been burned in past years are quickly reseeded with a mixture of grasses, forbs and sagebrush, and then monitored regularly in order to assess how those plants are doing versus the ever-present cheatgrass. It can be disappointing at times, since most 1,2 and 3 year plots are still generally 50+% cheatgrass, but sagebrush and other established grasses look promising in some of the older areas. It’s unfortunate that the diversity is somewhat low in these plots – I started my time here in a whirlwind of plant ID, trying my best to learn all of these Western plants as fast as possible (grasses are the toughest), but haven’t had many new plants to learn since starting the fuels work. However, the presence of a new or showy plant in plot does become more valuable to me as a result (prickly pears are blooming! Castilleja too!)

Prickly pear definitely have the showiest flowers around

I’m in love with Castilleja

While I’m not doing as much straight botanizing as I expected, I’m glad to have been chosen for a fuels position. The work focuses more on management, and though I don’t have any plans to continue working on fire projects in the future, I have been hoping to shift my experiences from botany to more general natural resources management. As this position is all about assessing whether a fire management tactic is working as hoped, I feel more confident in habitat and project assessment, as well as project planning. We should be switching things up from the fuel monitoring projects very soon, so I look forward to new challenges and sights!

-Bureau of Land Management, Burley Field Office

Time to get moving

Wow, so much to catch up on. Field season is in full swing. Running between monitoring, meetings, and trainings this internship is flying by.

I’ve been fortunate to work with the Institute of Applied Ecology (IAE) quite a bit this past month. They are a local nonprofit whose mission is to “conserve native species and habitats through restoration, research, and education.”   The Upper Willamette Resoure Area botanist has agreements with IAE to perform some of the restoration and monitoring work throughout our resource area. Some species of focus have been Bureau sensitive species Lathyrus holochlorus, Sisyrinchium hitchcockii, Frasera umpquensis, Horkelia congesta ssp congesta, as well as the federally listed threatened species Lupinus sulphureus ssp. Kincaidii.

Frasera umpquensis at Upper Elk Meadow ACEC


Me enjoying a fen at Upper Elk Meadows. Elevation ~ 4,000 feet

Some restoration activities IAE has so far implemented to benefit these species are mechanical removal of trees and shrubs to expand meadows and prevent encroachment, burning of invasive grasses to limit their cover and spread, removal of invasive species such as Scotch broom, false brome, and blackberry, and post activity seeding with native seed (including seed collected through Seeds of Success!!). At one site, restoration activities included tree removal or girdling between meadows to make corridors for the federally listed Fender’s blue butterfly who uses the Lupinus sulphureus ssp. Kincaidii (Kincaid’s lupine) as a host plant.

Kincaid’s lupine at Oak Basin ACEC

Monitoring of these projects often includes a complete census of the population or a variety of quantitative sampling, such as density or cover. Although monitoring can be disheartening if plant populations are declining, we have seen some remarkable progress resulting from the restoration activities at one of the Sisyrinchium hitchcockii where the population has increased and now covers an area approximately 4 times larger than before restoration took place.

Sisyrinchium hitchcockii

Lost Creek meadow, Sisyrinchium hitchcockii site

Andy Neill, of Institute of Applied Ecology, and me doing monitoring of the Sisyrinchium population

In addition to field monitoring, the past month has been packed full of training and workshops. Beginning with Chicago Botanic Garden’s Conservation and Land Management Internship Training Workshop in June and continuing in Southern Oregon at the Siskiyou Field Institutes Graminoid Identification Course, I’m beginning to feel more and more confident working in the realm of Botany and understanding the important role that federal land management agencies and their partners play in the conservation of plant communities.

Sisksiyou Field Institute: Our wonderful teacher, Linda Vorobik, leading the class through a Darlingtonia californica fen near Selma, Oregon

Siskiyou Field Insitute’s front porch. A beautiful spot to relax after a long day of keying grasses, sedges, and rushes.

One major event happening in my internship this week is the retirement of my mentor, Cheshire Mayrsohn. Congrats Cheshire!   I want to say thank you for your time, patience, imparting of your expertise, and ceaseless guidance. The information and experiences you have shared with me are invaluable and I will carry them forward with me throughout my career.

Cheshire Mayrsohn, Upper Willamette Resource Area Botanist, Northwest Oregon District

Life as a Recreation Intern

The second week of my internship consisted of the CLM workshop in Chicago. It was a lot of fun, and nice to be in a big city for the week. It also made me appreciate the lack of heat and humidity back in Wyoming.

The day after I arrived back in Buffalo, I drove to Newcastle, WY and met a group of 8 middle schoolers that had all signed up for a science camp. We drove up to Summit Ridge in Black Hills National Forest and set up camp. For the next four days, teachers from Upton middle school and BLM specialists from various offices came to teach lessons and facilitate activities. Some topics included Astronomy, Wildlife, Gold panning, GPS, Forestry, and Water Quality testing. I helped teach Orienteering and Water Cycle lessons, and put my Master Educator certification to good use by teaching a Leave No Trace lesson and a game. The kids were great and really enjoyed and learned a lot from the week. It’s hard to believe I’m getting paid to go camping!

Helping kids build bat boxes at the Upton Science Camp

Leave No Trace lesson- notice my diy backcountry white board 🙂

The next week started out with a long and hard day. A trail at one of the sites was being rerouted by a Montana Conservation Corps crew because of some old bison bones that had started to become exposed along the old trail. Rachel and I hiked the flagged out route for the new trail carrying carsonite trail markers and the heavy, awkward beast used to pound them into the ground. Once we got to the end of the trail, we turned around and hiked the old trail so we could dig out the old markers. Although I expended a lot more energy than I normally would on a hike, the trail and area were both stunning and I was glad to be spending the day outside recreating.

Tuesday and Wednesday consisted of some more necessary trainings- GIS and ATV, the latter being quite exciting.

ATV Training

On Thursday, I got the chance to teach another Leave No Trace workshop for some teens on a camping trip through an organization from Casper. Outreach and education is probably my favorite part of my job so far. I’m really passionate about LNT and love getting to introduce it to others!

One of my favorite LNT games- Okay! No Way!

I’m loving the variation in duties that a “recreation intern” has, and the amount of time spent thankfully outside. My days off are also amazing, being only a few hours from some of the best and most beautiful climbing, hiking, and National Parks in the country.

Got to spend a weekend in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks- only a 4 hour drive!

Week One

I started my internship on June 15 at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center in Staten Island, NY.  The first couple of days were spent getting set up at the office, exploring the nursery and doing some work in the Seed Lab.  The next week began with three days in the field on the east end of Long Island.  We visited several different habitats and learned numerous native species.  All in all we hiked over 20 miles through dunes, high salt marsh, pitch pine lowlands, inland coastal mixed hardwood forests and freshwater wetlands.  Having lived on the east end of Long Island for the past 3 years, I am ashamed to say I had been to only 1 of the sites that we scouted.  In this part of the state where residential development continues at an unrelenting pace, the profound beauty and tranquility of these natural areas provides a stark contrast.  I am inspired to be doing work supporting the resiliency and protection of these precious resources.  I look forward to many more adventures and to starting our seed collections in the weeks to come.

Sarah, Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank

High Salt Marsh, Hubbard County Park

Juncus gerardii

Eubotrys racemosa, still holding last seasons beautiful seed heads, common in the adjacent pine barrens

Hither Woods in Montauk, mixed hardwood coastal forest carpeted with Carex pensylvanica


Native thistle breakfast for a bumble bee

Walking Dunes Trail in Montauk with Quercus ilicifolia, Hudsonia tomentosa and Ammophila breviligulata

The “Wind Tunnel” with Napeague Harbor in the distance

Calopogon pulchellus, a rare orchid we were hoping to find in bloom in one of the bogs among the dunes

Otis Pike Preserve, Pinus rigida showing evidence of a prior burn

More Carex pensylvanica, I love the contrast of lush green and the scorched, denuded trees

Comptonia peregrina, rarely able to be collected, which we found in great numbers and loaded with fruit

Catalpa speciosa blossoms, I have never gotten to see this tree in bloom

Getting Klammy in Klamath Falls

I am so late on my blog post because I have been busy, busy, busy!!

The last month and a half since my last blog post has been full of crazy awesome happenings! We have had projects galore here at the Klamath Falls Field Office and I just got back from an incredible American Association for the Advancement of Science conference on the Big Island of Hawaii!

The AAAS Conference was everything I’d hoped it to be. The conference was located at the Hawaii Preparatory Academy which included several lecture halls, a dining facility, outdoors facility and dorm rooms. Because everyone was able to stay right there on campus, it created a very tight-knit environment. I got to meet all of the speakers, admins, AAAS employees and organizers, and so many more! I feel as though this allowed me to network a lot better. I made some wonderful friends and connections while I was there that I’m hoping will allow me some opportunities in future endeavors!

What I really loved the most about this conference is that it hosted a wide range of the latest research in science topics from Environmental Science to Anthropology and from Psychology to Conservation Biology! I sat through some incredibly interesting presentations about hammerhead shark conservation, algorithms for conservation biology, and the death of the Hawaiian Ohi’a tree. Seeing everyone’s passion for their research has me really motivated about specializing and pursuing a Master’s degree (and maybe one day doing a presentation of my own at this conference!). Doing research or working in conservation in Hawaii is one of my ultimate goals! The islands are so secluded and their wildlife populations so specific to the island that conservation is of huge concern there. It would be so rewarding to be able to make a difference for such a unique and beautiful place! I want to thank Chicago Botanic Garden and my mentor for allowing me the opportunity to do my alternative training at this educational and unforgettable conference. It has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life!

A really beautiful hike that I got to do around the conference in Waimea, Hawaii!

On top of the excitement of the conference I attended, we have worked on several projects here at the field office! One such project led Jeff and I into the Fremont-Winema National Forest to check for evidence of cattle grazing in the riparian areas of the North Fork Sprague and Sycan Rivers. Lo and behold, we found evidence of those darned cows, trampling around where they weren’t supposed to be! Photos and GPS points documenting where everything was should hopefully lead to future projects and initiatives to keep those cows out!

Fremont-Winema National Forest is rull pretty! Working here wasn’t so bad!

A second project that we were very fortunate to help out on with was with Canada Goose banding! Early in the morning we had about eight kayaks and two air boats go out on the water while everyone else stood along the shore lines to deter the birds from fleeing onto the road or into vegetation. Using the air boats and kayaks, we corralled the birds into one large sitting group in the center of the lake. After that, the air boats and kayaks “pushed” the geese into a large net at the other end of the lake. This mostly amounted to us slowly paddling behind them while they nonchalantly swim into our trap 🙂 After the birds are all rounded up, we take each bird and sex it and band it! It was such an experience unlike any other! I am so thankful for the opportunity to be able to work on such a fun project!

Banding a Canadian Goose!

How hilarious is this photo? Me driving an air boat for my first time. Yes, I am yelling.

Aside from these fun little side projects, Jeff and I have been working on a couple of bigger projects that should keep us busy for the entirety of the summer. One of them involves taking endangered larval sucker fish and testing them in different scenarios (having or not having vegetation, etc.) at our ponds to test for rates of survival. A second project involves using a computer program to trace around the heads and mouths of sucker fish to create an analysis for future identification. Both should involve some scientific writing and statistics so that is exciting (I need a refresher)!

So far this internship is exceeding my expectations! I’ve been able to add a plethora of experience to my resume. I’ve started applying for several jobs and I should be taking the GRE within the next couple of months so that I can apply for some graduate programs. The future is unknown, but I am hopeful and excited!

Marissa – Klamath Falls Field Office – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Weeds Weeds Weeds

Nobody ever said weeding was easy. Literally nobody has ever said this, because it would be crazy to say that. Weeding is the hardest thing that anybody anywhere has ever done since the start of time.

First of all, weeds generally grow pretty close to the ground. That means that you’re going to have to bend over to pull it. You may be thinking, “oh, that doesn’t sound so bad, I have to pick stuff up off the ground all the time”.  Bending over to pull a weed isn’t so bad the first time; Heck, even the second time isn’t so bad. By the 50th or 60th time though, you start to question what you did in your life to bring you to this point. How did all of your decisions lead you to this? What did you do to deserve this? But by the 200th or 300th plant, all the pain has washed away. You’ve entered a state of enlightenment. Where does the weed stop, where do I begin, aren’t we all everything anyways? This state of positivity lasts for maybe a hundred plants or so, then the aching back starts to worm its way into your consciousness.

Second of all, lots of weedy plants are either pokey, or like to grow near other plants that are pokey. And in my experience, pokey plants aren’t that much fun. On a related note, some weeds like to grow near the biggest bummer of a plant there is, poison oak.

Luckily for me, I’ve got help in my endless battle against invasive plants. I have been working with some high school aged kids to help remove invasives. Not only am I grateful for all the help, and the company (misery loving it and all that), but it has been a fascinating insight into youth culture. I’ve learned all sorts of interesting things. For example, if something is lit it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s on fire. It could just be fun and or good!

At the end of the day despite the sore backs, scratches, and rashes, it feels good to remove weeds. It feels good to know you’re making a positive impact on the ecosystem and the world. I’m not saying weeding is easy, but it is pretty lit.


BLM, West Eugene Wetlands

Chasing Trails: Paper and Dirt

After a great week in Chicago at the CLM workshop, I have come back to the Buffalo field office to find a pile of work that has accumulated in my absence. Along with the field work entailed in abandoned/reclaimed well inspections, comes the necessary paperwork, so I’m not particularly surprised. Luckily, even the paperwork can be pretty interesting sometimes. With multiple operator changes, operators going bankrupt, and abandoned sites over 10 years old, it can be pretty big puzzle to piece together and each group of wells has its own challenges.

View riding home from the Buffalo Field Office.

There’s also often the added factor of split estate, where surface and mineral ownership is divided among multiple parties. Due to the Homestead Acts, particularly the Stock-Raising Homestead Act (1916), many wells have private citizens as surface landowners, with the federal government owning a portion or all of the mineral rights below. This is obviously important in the permitting process, but it is also key for any reclamation on those sites.

Heading down from the two-track to try and find the original well site.

While the BLM has conditions and requirements for a well to be released from bond, when it’s on private surface we defer to the wishes of the landowner for how they want the site to be reclaimed; this may also mean the site does not go completely back to its original, pre-development state, as it does on Public lands.

Ultimately what this means is a lot of research before going to a site – what’s the well’s status? Has the necessary paperwork been filed? What operator is responsible for the reclamation? Is there a landowner – if so is it the same landowner? And plenty more that are too long to list. All of this creates a framework for what we expect to see when we get there.

View from the old well site once we found it.

Often a site visit can bring up further questions, but it’s always great to go to the field and see a site that has successful revegetation, wildlife habitat/activity, and has finished the reclamation process. When you go out to the field and have trouble finding the original well site because of how well it has rejoined the surrounding landscape, it’s a good day.

After catching up on all the office work, the rest of our week was spent in the field – visiting reclamation sites, and joining some of the Environmental Protection Specialists (EPS) and Natural Resource Specialists (NRS) on their inspections and monitoring. They each have numerous projects going on so it’s always a great opportunity to learn more, plus they’re all a lot of fun to work with. I’m looking forward to some of the new projects we’ll be jumping on these next few weeks since they all have a different focus/involve a different work-group then we’ve experienced so far. It should keep things interesting!

– Christine

Buffalo, WY Field Office

Spill site an EPS in our office is monitoring. It has gone through bioremediation, and is starting to recover, but there’s a long way to go.

Seeds for days!

We are right in the thick of seed collection, here in the West Desert. It is hot and dry and I absolutely hate all the cheat grass seeds in my socks and shoes, but there is still something so satisfying about meeting goals and making collections.

Life is good out here in the desert!

BLM Salt Lake Field Office

Troubleshooting upcoming issues…

Rolling into my 9th week, I am getting more comfortable with my surroundings and the lay of the land. Thanks to the SOS workshop I can more confidently scope out for possible seed collections and have a better grasp on what I need to do.

As time progresses us more into the summer the temperatures are increasing. Last week and all week long temperatures peaked at 112 degrees Fahrenheit. To deal with those temperatures, we had to be in the field early, before the heat took over. Thank goodness this week had highs of only 95 degrees, although I see another heat wave in the near future. With increasing temperatures, things are drying out quickly. Much of the Redding’s BLM land is covered in invasive grasses. They are now dried to a crisp and create fields of golden yellow-brown.

Sacramento River Bend Recreational Area

Seeds are starting to ripen with aid from this heat! Another collection has been made of a California fescue. This is particularly exciting because A) it is a big population of this fescue and has not been taken over by non-native grasses and B) it would come in handy for any future restoration projects. The collection was done under the canopy of grey pine so it was nice and shady when collecting and I did not have to stand out in the sun. This most definitely will not be true for other collections but at least there are some that can be done out of the sun.

California fescue collection sight

I have had one failed collection so far. I started a collection of Arnica discoidea before the training week. When I came back more well informed, I realized that this population was not big enough for a 10,000+ seed collection. Most of the seeds had been predated on or aborted and what I thought what a 50-60 seed flower head was more likely a 20-30 seed head. Oh well, it was a good experience learning the plant and now I know for future collections!

Some other issues have arisen in this past month as most of my collection plants start to ripen. I still feel as if I am not confident on when some seeds are ready to collect. Ceanothus integerrimus has explosive capsules, so I need to make sure to get there before the seed explode out of the capsule, but when would it be too early? Also, predation is a thing! My whole Kotolo milkweed population got wiped out by grasshoppers. All the flower heads had been eaten and only the vegetation remains. It will be hard to get seed from that one without any flowers! Looks like i’ll have to do some more scouting for more milkweed or just possibly another plant that has a large enough population!

This is the beautiful kotolo milkweed that we would of gotten seed from if not predation!

So being not a very picture oriented person, I have not taken too many photos of the field from last time I posted. But, I do have a nice photo of a Pyrola aphylla. This is seeming to pop of everywhere now and is always fun to see as it adds color to a brown landscape.

Pyrola aphylla



  • Amanda at the Redding Field Office- BLM

First week in Buffalo!

Last Wednesday I left Indianapolis and made many stops on the way out to Buffalo-my home base for the next 5 months. I hiked at Badlands National Park, saw tons of wildlife in Custer State Park and the Black Hills, did some rock climbing in Spearfish Canyon, and stared in awe at Devil’s Tower for an evening.

Bison in Custer State Park

Devils Tower National Monument

Monday, my first day at the BLM Buffalo Field Office, was filled with learning including new names, acronyms, protocols, and more about the area. Despite all of the required training, I was still able to spend hours out in the field, even on Day 1!

Petrified Tree- one of the BLM sites in the Buffalo Field Office range!

The fact that my position entails being outside and exploring this beautiful country every day is what excites me most about the upcoming 5 months… So far, so good!