Now over two months into my internship, I have gained more experience in water quality monitoring as well as begun training on riparian surveys. We have covered much of our resource area in the past month from the sub-alpine forests near the Wallowa Mountains to the lower elevation canyons along the Grande Ronde and Snake River. We had to camp out for a few sites along the Grande Ronde and awoke to a chorus of coyotes and the brilliant night sky. One of our sites, Joseph Creek, winds through a stark basalt canyon in contrast to its lush banks of alders, blackberries, and many species of wildflowers. Joseph Creek is one of our long term monitoring sites, where the BLM uses these long term trends to adjust management of the surrounding area, be it grazing intensity or off road vehicle usage. Some of these sites are also Section 7 ESA streams, meaning they are habitat for state and federal listed fish species such as the Chinook salmon and the Steelhead trout. At these sites along with the usual water quality protocol, we also deploy temperature loggers for the season to measure the daily maximum and minimum so we can have a thermal regime for each stream.
Recently we had another intern, Zoe, start with us from the local watershed council and she is a wonderful addition to the team. She is new to ecology and natural resources studies for the most part, so my mentor and I are teaching her the ways of fieldwork and the science behind our projects. Zoe is from the area and has already been informing me of more places to explore!
Speaking of exploring, I’ve had a few more adventures in and around the gorgeous local mountains. I had the fortunate chance of seeing a Great Grey owl hunting in a private ecological reserve in the foothills of the Wallowas! I also went hiking in both the Elkhorns and Wallowa mountains and am eager to go back to both, which contain many miles of backcountry trails.
Also a couple weeks ago, I attended the CLM Workshop at the Chicago Botanic Garden, which was an inspiring experience. I got a chance to learn more about plant taxonomy and how important a role it plays in restoration projects. For someone new to the plant world, the information was a bit overwhelming, but it gave me a glimpse of what distinguishing characteristics are used to key out a species and how seeds are collected and raised for establishing or maintaining a species.The symposium that brought speakers from various backgrounds was most relevant to my interest as they discussed restoration at the large scale, including wetlands as well as entire watersheds. It was a real privilege to hear Professor Joy Zedler, a prominent leader in watershed restoration, speak on the potential framework for future studies, through looking back on her own projects. I left the conference feeling a better sense of purpose in my own work with the BLM, understanding monitoring’s importance in recognizing shifts in ecosystems and through successful collaboration with stakeholders management plans can mitigate loss of species as well as ecosystem function. In conclusion, I have to say the conference was also a great opportunity to explore Chicago, as well as meet the fabulous set of individuals that are my fellow CBG-ers.