The past couple of weeks have been dedicated to constructing drift fences on the north side of Ferris Mountain. Our project focuses on population density of wildlife within the area; specifically herpetofauna. These drift fences are effective techniques to sample species in a particular area. Each drift fence is built in a Y-shape formation with pitfalls located in the center of each line segment, and a funnel trap connected to the end. There are a total of 12 drift fences within the North side of Ferris Mountain that we will open for ten consecutive days and check each day to monitor our progress. Constructing the drift fences was arduous at times, but when you work in such a beautiful place surrounded by the solace of nature, it is easy to smile. I am excited for trapping season to begin and am ready to find some herps!
We were able to take a break from building drift fences to help with surveys for monitoring Greater Short-horned Lizards, the state reptile of Wyoming. This was the first time I was able to PIT tag a reptile and get an in-depth understanding on why the recapture method is so important. Because evidence indicates that populations are declining in Wyoming, it is vital to gather as much data as possible to understand the resources they are tied to and what may be affecting their numbers. I was so very grateful to be a part of this survey, and look forward to getting the chance to work with these uniqure creatures again!
During the fourth of July weekend I was able to hike in Medicine Bow with my roomates. We explored several trails and discovered some hidden gems. The amount of snow left from the late winter lingered over the mountains and I found myself walking in snow drifts knee deep. The beauty was awe-inspiring and left me with an overwhelming feeling of joy and happiness. The ability to be able to explore Wyoming and what it has to offer has only made me more excited for what is to come within my job and out of it. I am so gracious for the opportunities I have had and for what awaits me!
This month in southeastern New Mexico has reminded me of the tenacity of life by displays of brilliance in what many would consider an arid wasteland. I am grateful for each of these moments and their valuable lessons…
I hope that everyone else’s internship is progressing positively. Mind the summer heat.
This week I had the great opportunity of attending a bird banding session with an Audubon Rockies group in Wyoming’s Keyhole State Park. While this was my first hands on experience with bird banding, it was the third of such events this summer. Like any good birding experience this banding event begins at sunrise by setting up ten mist nets in various locations within walking distance of the processing site. These nets placed in a variety of locations allow for the assessment of bird species by habitat as some nets remain in wooded areas while others are in open shrublands.
Capturing birds in any area allows for the collection of very detailed information on diversity and health of ecosystems. Seeing birds up close, assessing their health and mating status provides us with much more information than could be obtained by a simple audio and visual survey. Banding birds means that the data collected at one small sight can be applied on an international scale. By entering band numbers into an international database, recaptured birds can be tracked across vast landscapes and even continents. This allows scientists and the public to gain a greater understanding of these impressive migratory bird species on an individual and population level.
So far this year 105 bird species have been banded at this sight in Keyhole State Park. Among the species I identified and was able to handle were Bullock’s Oriole, Western Wood-Pewee, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, and this handsome Cedar Waxwing.
These banding sessions are open to the public and great chance to see what goes into bird banding and data collection, and even get a chance to hold and release a bird if you’re lucky. There are two more bird banding events this summer on July 25th and August 8th. If you are in the area I would highly recommend checking one of these out and spending a night or weekend in the park while you’re at it! Check out Audubon Rockies for more information on how to get involved.
Katherine, Resources Intern at BLM’s Buffalo Field Office
These past few weeks have been crazy busy. During the week of July fourth, we were only in the office from Monday to (half of) Wednesday because of the BLM’s Independence Day paid holiday schedule. My Monday was spent reading vegetation transects and monitoring livestock compliance around two of our pastures: Pickett Lake and Eagle’s Nest. Reading transects means that my team and I are physically walking down a straight line between established posts or rebar to record 20-25 points of data. Every 5 or 6 paces, we stop and measure the droop or stubble height of the designated key grass species for that site. This is an important thing to study because if the grasses are getting too low, the ecosystem and landscape can be seriously affected by it and may not be able to recover easily, if at all, once the cattle leave. If we are performing livestock compliance checks, that involves us literally counting any “trespassing” cows/sheep when we see them on pastures that should be empty. This can take us a long time somedays, because our allotments are literally hundreds of thousands of acres. We also have to draw and get pictures of the brands on the livestock. This is crucial for the BLM to know which ranchers they need to contact in order to get the animals moved. That day we found some pretty little forbs, and I even saw my first sage grouse on the way back to the office. 🙂
On Tuesday, I went out to the field with one of the BLM’s wildlife biologists, and assisted her in the procedures for sage-grouse “HAF,” or Habitat Assessment Framework. Her transect-reading protocol reminded me a lot of AIM’s, so I had a little bit of a head start on HAF’s approach. When we first got there, we used a compass to align ourselves and set three 25 meter transects at 0, 120, and 240 degrees. Along the transects, we used the LPI, or line-point intercept, method to record vegetation heights and forb diversity. LPI sampling provides a quantitative look at the cover of important species in the ecosystem. Since sage-grouse feed on forbs, and nest in sage brush, these were our study’s focus. This took us all day to do, especially since we read two sites and had to abandon the second site to wait out a storm for a bit. When we got back to Lander, I was inspired by my fun day and immediately started studying my forbs. I love seeing all of them out in the field and being able to name them has been really fulfilling. Ever since this Tuesday, I have been studying, and studying, and have learned so many of them already!
Wednesday was a shortened day because of the holiday, so we spent it in the office managing various data that we had been piling up for weeks. The long weekend that followed was a really awesome one for me because my boyfriend flew in all the way from my home state. 🙂 While he was here I showed him some of my favorite places like Hell’s Half Acre, Sinks Canyon, and The Bus. We also went to a rodeo for our first time ever haha… I still have some mixed feelings about that! Towards the end of the weekend, we drove into Boulder, Colorado to see the Dead & Company’s last performance of their Summer Tour 2019. It was such an incredible show and the setlist was nearly perfect. This was probably the best way we could have ended Johnny’s visit out here. He had to leave me the next day from Denver, so I dropped him off and then made the 5.5 hour drive back to my little home in Wyoming.
For the past two weeks at work, I have been getting into the routine of transect reading and livestock compliance checks, and learning the country and the vegetative species of our two allotments. Once we spend about a week out in the field, we are usually ready to spend a whole day in the office compiling, summarizing, and scanning all of our data.
The weeks are still going by way too fast, but it’s exciting to see how much I have learned, and just as refreshing to know that I have only been out here for a month. Wyoming is seriously WYld and wonderful; I love living out here.
After nine years of highway reengineering, conservation planning, archeological protection, nonprofit partnerships, and extensive research, the beautiful seed of wetland restoration was planted this week at the Curlew National Grassland in southern Idaho! What exactly does this mean? It means, 3,400 perfect graminoid starts were planted along one mile of Rock Creek to establish a strong streambank stocked with native plant species. With the proposed reconstruction of highway ID-38 back in 2010, the Caribou-Targhee National Forest hydrologist, forest botanist, Rose Lehman, and many other partnered to establish a strategy that ensured the structural integrity of this location in the Curlew (see photo below). This meant a variety of regulations and compromises such as: upsizing culverts, avoiding stream meanders and/or natural springs, and Native American lands.
Two Idaho native graminoids were chosen for streambank stabilization: Nebraska sedge (Carex nebrascensis) and Baltic rush (Baltic balticus). The planting took a total of two days. Co-intern, Olivia Turner, five volunteers from the Sagebrush-Steppe Landtrust in Pocatello, ID, two hydrologists, and myself gathered together for the second day of the project. Buckets filled with plant starts and shovels in hand, we successfully spread out along the parameter of the stream. Each 2-person team would simply create holes in the mucky Idaho clay and ease every juvenile into the soil. The ground along the stream is incredibly moist and idealistic for these younger individuals. So ideal that the estimated regenerative success rate is 90% for this particular project area! That would promote roughly 3,060 individuals to take root and thrive!
The project was a complete success. The day was filled with affirmation for the future of this particular site. It was a wonderful experience to step aside from SOS and terrestrial botany for a moment and participate in wetland restoration. The future of this project paints the picture of a lush wetland habitat filled with native sedges and rushes, a running stream, moose in the willows, and the pink flowers of mallow blooming.
Sending nettle stings, coyote pawprints, and garter snakes where you all may be!