Over three weeks ago I packed up my bags and headed for Northeastern Oregon to the little town of Baker City. While I left the coast behind for the first time ever, I was welcomed by the awe-inspiring mountain ranges of the Wallowas and Elkhorns. The wilderness that surrounds this area beckons any outdoorsy folk to strap on the boots and explore! I am already planning my adventure on the Elkhorn Crest Trail. As it is also my first time in lovely Oregon, I plan to pack in as many ventures across the state. Ideas are welcomed!
I came to work at the Baker BLM field office with the hydrology tech, monitoring the water quality streams and rivers as well as conducting riparian surveys. My first few days were full of the general orientation: defensive driving, computer access training, rig maintenance, calibration of equipment and of course a soldering lesson. One of the skills I am excited to gain from this job is MacGyver-like problem solving, be it fixing a malfunctioning probe in the field or soldering on wires to ensure proper connection for a flow meter. As any field scientist knows, you got be prepared for the unexpected from missing sample bottles to finicky Trimbles that just don’t feel like working today, thank you very much.
We kicked off our field season on day two. Our main focus for now is measuring physical parameters, nutrient levels and flow at sites throughout the Powder River Basin. This is part of an ongoing project examining the nutrient export quantities from tributaries in the watershed, looking at long-term trends from 2003 to 2016. We often work in the lower elevations amongst the familiar (I hail from the coastal scrub of San Diego) sagebrush, which is currently bristling with lupine, arrow leaf balsamroot and an ever growing plethora of other wildflowers I’m only beginning to learn. Plant geeks, I’m a novice with the species so bear with me. At some of our sites, we enjoy the shade of cottonwood groves and the sweet smell of wild mint with the lovely sound of our (hopefully) burbling brook. In these idyllic settings, I’m learning how to examine stream systems such as appropriate sites to measure flow to identifying potential concerns such as elevated temperature, abnormal algal growth, or channel shifts. I am excited to gain a better understanding of the geomorphology of river systems.
I’m looking forward to our riparian surveys where we shall identify the surrounding plant community, as well as look more in depth at changes in the environment. I hope to learn not only the techniques and protocols of stream monitoring, but also riparian plant species as well as different stream classifications. I plan to learn more about the rest of the river community with our fish and wildlife biologists. With my college days behind me, I find myself itching for the chance to learn. Here’s to geeking out!
The pictures below are from my favorite site that is in the higher elevations where the greenery shocks my dry California eyes from the coniferous forest to aspens alight with vibrant new leaves. Currently our resource area also faces drought conditions, but as my mentor points out, the season can always change. Working on my rain dance!
BLM, Baker Field Office
will have more field pictures to come.