A Hodge Podge of Protocols

Its been a while since I last wrote anything here, but a lot has gone on since the last time and I have been learning a lot of new protocols in the meantime. The last time I wrote I was just about to head off to the CLM conference in Chicago. It was a great experience! We heard talks from people working with and studying native seed, learned more about the Seeds of Success program, got to explore the beautiful Chicago Botanic Garden grounds, and were able to meet many other fellow interns. It was nice to be back in a city again too, I haven’t had Chipotle since being there.

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I finally saw a sage grouse! Truly the reason for this field season

When we returned to Shoshone, we finished up our HAF surveys in a few weeks and moved on to many other protocols. The next protocol we worked on was fire re-entry. After fires, the BLM will seed some specific grasses that do well in the climate and that the cows and other grazers will find palatable. Looking for the seeded grasses, we would walk a transect and measure the closest species, note whether it had seed heads or not, and give it a quick tug to see if grazers would rip it out or not when trying to eat it. We pretended to be cows for a while and it was pretty sweet.

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The area on the left burned in 2014, the difference is stunning

After that we checked out some trend data plots. These sites were established in the 1960’s and have been monitored every couple years until the present. This long term data give a great picture of how the land is changing over time and what the impacts on specific areas are. Unfortunately we were unable to find 2 of the sites, apparently fires burned through the area and, in the re-seeding effort, the plots got ripped up. The rest of the plots we found gave us great data though, and I feel confident in saying that I am an expert at identifying dead plants in Southern Idaho.

I had never gone caving before, but we were able to go out with the Geo Corps team, people that work with the geological resources in the field office, and explore some of the caves around here. Southern Idaho has a volcanic history, and that activity has left many caves in the area, mostly of the lava tube variety. We explored 4 caves, including Gypsum Cave, which, measuring 2.5 miles long, is the second longest lava tube in the lower 48 states. I was also able to go with the Geo Corps team to assess some sites for rock hounding in our field office. They were making a brochure for the field office to hand out to people looking for neat rocks, and we went to some of the sites to see if it was worthwhile to send people there. Although the day I went with them didn’t lead to as exciting finds as some of their other sites, I found some obsidian and cool looking calcite.

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Gypsum Cave

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Tea Kettle cave, my favorite cave so far

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Caves lead to some good opportunities for artsy photos

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I found out obsidian and quartz are both primarily made from SiO2, but the difference is black and white!

Finally we were able to join up with the Idaho Fish and Game biologist to do some monarch tagging! Monarchs go through a huge migration every fall down to Mexico, and our goal was to catch and tag ones we saw in order to get some data on where the monarch population of Idaho end up. It was fun to spend a day working with butterflies, and it was pretty funny to be grown adults sprinting down the road with a butterfly net. We were only able to tag 2 Monarchs, but luckily more were tagged before we got started.

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After catching them, a small sticker is placed on the right wing

I have about 2 months left in my internship now, and I have certainly learned a lot and had experiences I would probably not have anywhere else. Huge shout out to my mentor, Joanna, for coming up with all of these opportunities for us, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season has to offer!

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Ipomopsis aggregata, one of the showier plants I’ve seen out here

BLM, Shoshone field office

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