From Idaho to Utah

The past few weeks have been popping with traveling, camping, and seed collection all around Idaho and Utah.

One of our many stops was on the Curlew Grasslands, it was an awesome day.

My co-intern and I, Claire, have been able to explore some awesome country and have continued to meet and collaborate with a whole slew of professionals (thanks to the top notch planning of our mentor!) including Forest Health specialists and a conglomerate of Forest botanists from both Idaho and Utah. We’ve even met other seasonal workers and shared SOS collection stories and techniques as we scouted for and collected seed together.

At one of our collection locations ft. Claire 🙂

Spending the day with other seed collecting friends and botanists in Utah.

Our primary plant for seed collection these past few weeks has been Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagitatta). Just yesterday we spotted balsamroot growing on an unusual space on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache NF in Utah-it was a rocky, scree covered slope within a canyon. The population was robust, so we split into groups and faced the steep climb head-on with paper bags in hand. As I climbed up using both hands and feet I stopped here and there to pop off a few seed heads and turn down my long sleeve shirt in the burning sun. The balsamroot continued to flourish the higher up I got-eventually I came to the top and found a clearing of penstemon, hawksbeard and balsamroot. The flowers were fluorescent in the sun and the darker seed heads of the balsamroot bobbed as warm wind moved through the canyon. I took a moment to breathe and located our trucks on the canyon floor-they were small, white dots far below! -and then turned to take in the canyon view.

Up on top!

I could see that to my left and right along the slope the balsamroot was loving the rocky habitat. I could hear the other collection teams communicating, their voices echoing a bit between the canyon and mountain walls. After roaming around to cover the extent of the population where I was I packed my paper bag in my backpack and headed slowly back down.

We all met back at the trucks, laughing about the bizarre habitat, the intense climb, and our surprise at the amount of balsamroot we found. It was a super successful day and a great end to the work week!


Rainbow out in the RFO

June went by fast out here in Wyoming. My co-intern finally arrived this month and I think we will be a good team this summer. We started the month off on night call surveys and finally heard Spadefoots calling! It was a really exciting moment and we were able to get within a couple meters of the calling toads. We also found clusters of egg masses in the same vicinity. Knowing definitively that the Great Basin Spadefoots are in this area could allow us to increase protections in the area for this BLM sensitive species. I’ve attached a video of them calling below!

Great Basin Spadefoot egg masses

The second week in June I was in Chicago for a week long training with the Chicago Botanic Garden. I was most interested in the plant taxonomy that we learned as it is an area that I do not have a lot of experience with, being predominately wildlife. I learned a lot and meet a ton of new and interesting people, including our hosts, who I hope to stay in touch with into the future. The Chicago Botanic Gardens are an absolutely beautiful place and I recommend visiting them if you ever get the chance. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to see some herps in the gardens, catching a fowlers toad (Anaxyrus fowleri) during one of our exercises and finding a spiny softshell turtle laying her eggs (Apalone spinifera).

Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera)

Chicago Botanic Garden

When we got back from the gardens we returned to doing night call surveys but unfortunately didn’t find anything. The good news from the week was that the funding for our trapping project finally came through so we will be able to start making progress on that soon! This last week we were able to help the Wyoming Game and Fish Department with their breeding surveys for the Wyoming Toad (Anaxyrus baxteri). The Wyoming toad is considered extinct in the wild and is found only within the Laramie Basin. There are multiple zoos with programs dedicated to the survival and propagation of the species. No single reason has been determined for the rapid decline in the species population but likely culprits are chytrid fungus, pesticide usage, or habitat alterations. For the breeding surveys we were looking mainly for egg masses and tadpoles and they will have surveys for adults later in the season. We were able to find both captive breed and wild tadpoles and a few adults during our surveys. It was really exciting to find the wild tadpoles as it is a great sign for the population. June was a good month and I look forward to what July has in store.

Wyoming Toad (Anaxyrus Baxteri)