Marking Anasazi Skippers (Ochlodes yuma anasazi) at Wild Rivers

Hello again from New Mexico! The best part of the last four weeks was the time my coworker, and I spent at Wild Rivers National Monument marking and resighting Anasazi Skippers. I’ve never done this before, so the process was exciting.

The Anasazi Skipper is a subspecies of Yuma Skipper (Ochlodes yuma) that lives in the Rio Grande Gorge. Female Anasazi Skipper lay their eggs on the leaves of the common reed (Phragmites australis). Once the caterpillar’s hatch, they rely on the leaves of as a food source. The caterpillar creates a cocoon by chewing a section of one of the common reed leaves until it dangles then adheres the leaf sides together with silk.

Wild Rivers is housed within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. The runoff from the roads enables a large population of nectar rich Asclepias subverticillata (Horsetail Milkweed) to thrive. The study wanted to see if a nectar rich source away from the common reed in the gorge lured skippers out of the gorge and if the butterflies returned to the common reed patches in the gorge.
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Rolling into September

The days are still hot here in Salt Lake, but the nights and mornings are starting to get a tad cooler which makes me excited for fall. It will be so nice to eventually get a break from the desert heat!

August had Theresa and I scouting for seed, keying out plants, and checking them under the microscope once more. We were disappointed when we headed to the higher elevations in our field office in Rich County. The two of us had envisioned fields of wildflowers in the mountains. Silly SOS pipe dreams! We should know better by now that BLM land is typically not in the best shape and that it typically doesn’t contain the lush meadows of the mountains. We did find an abundance of Cordylanthus ramosus and tons of rabbitbrush, and while those aren’t the most exciting or showy or our target plants, the sheer numbers we found of them were quite impressive.

As one of our last big scouting/collecting trips together before Theresa leaves to begin the journey of grad school, we decided to head to the Deep Creeks. The Deep Creeks are a range of mountains on the border of Utah and Nevada that take quite a long time to drive to, thus camping or staying in the nearby field station is logical. We got a great recommendation of a camp spot from the aquatic AIM crew as well as other co-workers at the office, and it hands-down was the prettiest remote camp spot we’ve had all season. Gorgeous rocky canyon walls dotted with P/J, sweeping views of the valley and mountains in the distance, an epic sunrise, and no wind at night!

Part of the epic sunrise during our time in the Deep Creeks.

Unfortunately we realized that we missed out on some great native grass populations there due to our focus being elsewhere all season. We did find a surprise collection of Cleome lutea, one of our target species, though so that was pretty neat.

Many Cleome lute plants had these little fellas hanging out in the center of the flower clusters

Other recent explorations throughout our field office have revealed Cleome serrulata populations that have tons of pollinators, our pygmy sage site finally flowering, surpassing our collection goals, and making a pit stop for the “famous” raspberry shakes near Bear Lake. As the field season slowly winds down, and more days are dedicated to data management and office-type activities, I feel beyond grateful to have seen so many places of remote Utah that not too many people get to see.

Cleome serrulata with various pollinators around and on it

Microscope photo of H. annuus

Corinne Schroeder
BLM Salt Lake Field Office

Gardens, seeds, monarchs, crystals

I have been cleaning up some of the pollinator gardens scattered around the forest and planting some of my seeds. Much to Terry’s and my dismay, when we went to visit the Mauldin Fields pollinator garden this week, it was completely brush hogged. The person who is in charge of telling the contractor where to mow apparently forgot to communicate  for the second year in a row. Or maybe he thought it needed to be cut down for some reason? There were countless milkweeds planted there, some that we wanted to collect pods from. The area consists of two huge fields full of wildflowers. It was pretty discouraging. Much time, money and effort can be wasted on these projects if they are not properly maintained (left alone mostly). I wonder what will happen next year? Maybe Susan will lay the smack down.

The Fourche pollinator garden was still alive and well, although it was taken over by sericea lespedeza. I cut down sumac (Rhus sp.) that had grown up in the middle, and Susan and Gabe weed wacked and sprayed herbicide. They said it was necessary to control the sericea. I planted some seeds further down by the pond where blackberries (Rubus sp.) had taken over.

Christy generously let me take over part of the budget office with my seed saving operation. It got displaced when the new Silviculture detailer, Mike Stevens, moved in. But actually the budget office is better because it has more space. Above you can see, from left to right, mountain mint (Pycnanthemum sp.), black eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta), and white milkweed (Asclepias variegata) seeds drying.

I have seeds from quite a few species collected now. Last week I added rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccafolium), hairy sunflower (Helianthus hirsutus), and ironweed (Vernonia sp.) among others. Since we are not participating in the seeds of success program, there is a lot more flexibility to collect opportunistically and not wait for a huge population. I love collecting and sowing seeds. Susan calls my bag of seed mix my “fairy bag.”

Yesterday was my first time this year seeing monarch butterflies and caterpillars! I have been looking for them all summer. These ones were spotted on butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) planted in the seed orchard, as was the caterpillar munching heartily pictured below.

While Terry and I were out checking milkweed pods for ripeness along the forest roads, we stumbled across a vein of quartz crystals. On further inspection, it appears to be an abandoned mine. I found a whole bunch of beautiful crystals. My life is complete!

Only 6 more weeks here. It is starting to get cool. It’s already cold in Boone, NC where I will be moving back to. There may even be snow on the ground by the time I get back. I hope everyone is having a good time out there and learning a lot! Cheers.


Acronyms are a pretty common occurrence in BLM office here in Roseburg. Just out of curiosity, I tried googling this one and came up with the following possibilities; Pacific Crest Trail, Pennsylvania College of Technology, and Patent Cooperation Treaty. In fact, what PCT stood for in the context of my day was Pre-Commercial Thinning.

I did not actually conduct the thinning, instead I went out with the silviculturists to mark the boundaries of what is to be thinned (Pre-Pre-Commercial Thinning?). The idea behind PCT is that it can both help overall forest health, as well as maximize the production of timber (in our case; Douglas fir). When trees are planted too closely, they compete with one another which can prevent them from growing quickly, in terms of both diameter and crown height. It also can lead to heightened tree morality and dense patches of even-aged trees that can increase the chances of pest outbreaks and contribute to fuel build-up and wildfires. Despite the costs of contracting a PCT, the increases in terms of volume per acreage often make it financially attractive for private timber companies, and the BLM likewise usually thins out the forest it manages to promote forest health and promote the growth of large trees, as well as to meet the timber targets of the Northwest Forest Plan as established by Congress in 1994. Pre-Commercial Thinning, as the name might suggest, doesn’t produce any economically valuable timber as the stand is still too young. However, periodic commercial thinning, which takes places later in the stand’s development, instead of one-time clear cutting events is seen by some as a good compromise in balancing the often competing interests of forest health and maximum timber production.

We flagged the boundaries around the units relying both on a handheld GPS with the ‘official’ boundary lines, but also based on what we were seeing in the forest around us. You can tell, after some practice, where the boundary lines are just based on the distance between trees, the diameter of the trees, and the amount of understory that signal different ages and treatment regimes. These visual clues don’t always match up perfectly to the GPS boundaries. Part of this is because there may be impassable bluffs, rocky areas with poor soil that were managed differently, and because past silviculturists may have created buffers around streams and other sensitive areas. Essentially, there is plenty of variation even within the same unit. At some point in the near future, a crew of people with chainsaws will come through what we marked and cut trees according to a criteria of distance between trunks and size of trunks. You can see the effects of this type of treatment when looking at the tree rings of a cut tree. The tree rings are wider immediately following thinning treatments and for several years afterwards, indicating faster growth when the canopy opens up and competition beneath the ground lessens.

Okay, so I can’t actually complete this post without mentioning the incredible solar eclipse of a few weeks past, and the fact that the entire Pacific Northwest is on fire right now. Enjoy a few pictures of those, because my camera didn’t come with me on the silvicultural escapade!


This is my favorite map that I’ve seen thus far of wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. It’s obviously not a particularly informative map, and the main intention behind it is to create the overwhelming impression that the entire Pacific Northwest is on fire and smoky. Which it is.



For some reason, this campground we did some repair work at is not full at the moment….

I haven’t gotten used to having a red sun for most of the day, but there is definitely a certain beauty to it….

The solar eclipse, as seen from 10 miles east of Salem, OR.


With the senescence of most of our rangeland plants for the fall, our internship experiences have become more varied. Between working on smaller projects we were able to cross agencies for a week and complete sensitive species surveys with the Forest Service Botany team.

We were able to see tons of amazing plants in an entirely new (to us) ecosystem, but the biggest excitement was finding the tiniest plant: botrychium.

The botanists warned us about “botrychium headache” our first day in the field. Apparently, crawling around through dense meadows and timber searching for a fern that ranges from 5-15cm makes you see cross-eyed after a while. Botrychium is a “moonwort,” a type of tiny fern found all over the United States. Its sporophyte generally consists of two leaves, a non-fertile one with simple to pinnate leaves, and a fertile leaf that contains a grape-like cluster of spores. Since they are so incredibly tiny and hard to find, little else is known about them. When looking for them we were told they didn’t grow with vaccinium species, and other than that “good luck.”

The botrychium in this picture is next to the strawberry leaves.

This plant is tiny! Those are spruce needles it’s growing through.

We were incredibly lucky, and on our first lunch break happened to spy some under a tree near our lunch spot. It was exciting discovering a new place where this sensitive species grow, and neat seeing such a tiny, elusive plant in real life!