Springtime in the Mojave

Last month I began my CLM internship at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Western Ecological Research Center in Henderson, Nevada! It’s hard to believe so much time has gone by already – we sure have been keeping busy! My fellow interns – Renee, Rachel, and Sam – have posted over the last few weeks and have given a great introduction to the work we’ve been doing out here in the Mojave desert.

Our first project is focused on researching ecotypic variation in Mojave desert plant species used for restoration. Getting to help out with this project has been very exciting because it is the first year of the study (it will continue for another ten years). The first task was to help establish “common gardens” across the Mojave desert. Three locations were selected this year, each in a different designated climate zone – one site is in southern Utah in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, one is in California within Fort Irwin National Training Center, and another is in Twentynine Palms, California, just outside of Joshua Tree National Park. All three sites are incredibly beautiful!

We first had to help out with constructing fences to go around our gardens so herbivores wouldn’t eat our plants. After this was accomplished, we began planting at each site. As Rachel mentioned, we planted three different plant species: Ambrosia dumosa¬†(White bursage), Larrea tridentata (Creosote bush), and¬†Sphaeralcea ambigua (Desert Globemallow). These plants were propagated from seeds that were collected from a variety of source populations spanning the various climate zones present in the Mojave.

This past week we finished up planting at the “Joshua Tree” common garden site, which was our final site! Each common garden site now has about 600-700 plants that we hand-planted with love and care.

the "Joshua Tree" common garden site after we finished planting!

the “Joshua Tree” common garden site after we finished planting!

relaxing after a long day of planting

relaxing after a long day of planting

sunset as we were driving to our campsite in Joshua Tree National Park

sunset as we were driving to our campsite in Joshua Tree National Park

Also, on our drive home from the site this week we stopped a few times along the way to collect annuals that we saw! Here is a photo of Rachel with her Jepson Desert Manual in the backseat of the truck as she guides us through the key:

rachel

we were able to ID this one in the backseat - desert chicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana)!!

we were able to ID this one in the backseat – desert chicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana)!!

Happy Vernal Equinox, everyone!! Thanks for reading!

— Meaghan

Las Vegas Field Office, USGS

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