Month 4 in Casper

My fourth month here in Casper, WY has been very active, and much less routine than the previous months.  I have had the opportunity to engage with many different land management professionals here at the field office, including the rangeland health specialists and hydrologists.  This has resulted in a number of new training and learning opportunities.

On the wildlife side, I recently took part in an ongoing project to install and maintain artificial bat habitat boxes in natural areas around Casper.  The project aims to encourage the establishment of bat populations to help manage insect levels.  I went out and checked every installed bat box around Casper to check for bats and perform any necessary maintenance.   Unfortunately, in the five boxes that I checked, I did not see any evidence of bats inhabiting the box.  There were quite a few wasp nests however, which was an absolute joy to clean out.  Hopefully they see more bat activity in the future.

Observing the bat boxes was helpful in understanding the installation of wildlife projects, which is particularly useful knowledge for the implementation of my wood duck box project.  This past month I surveyed multiple natural areas here in Natrona county and examined published literature on wood duck nesting habitats to determine the best locations to install two wood duck nesting boxes.  I finally settled on two different areas; one where I will mount the box on a metal pole and one where I will mount the box on a tree.  The pole mount is significant because any area where I propose ground disturbance (i.e. installation of the pole) requires a cultural and wildlife clearance.  Wildlife is a nonissue, since this is a wildlife project, but for the cultural clearance I brought one of the field office archaeologists out to the proposed site to ensure that there were no cultural or historic artifacts or sites present at that location.  Once I had successfully cleared both sites for box installation I began to write the categorical exclusion (CX) document to begin the project.  This document is named for a project that is small enough or has a minimal environmental impact so as to not require a full National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental assessment.  I completed writing the background and proposed action sections and am waiting on clearance from resource management to implement the project.

I have also begun constructing a report on all of the cheatgrass monitoring that I have performed this year, as well as the vegetation monitoring from previous years.  The idea is that it will be a living document, chronicling the treatment and monitoring efforts occurring in each grazing allotment.  I plan on breaking down each section by grazing allotment and providing a map showing the allotment and all past/proposed treatments, summarizing the history of cheatgrass monitoring action on that allotment, and making a recommendation for future conservation management based on the vegetation monitoring data.  It is quite an undertaking, but could be very useful for the field office once completed.

Outside of these projects I have had a variety of interesting interdisciplinary experiences.  I helped a rangeland health specialist fix a fence and survey an area for a contractor, I helped the hydrologist process soil samples and inspect water wells, and I helped the forester map an area for contract preparation, among other things.  Additionally, I have been trained in operating ATVs, UTVs, skid steers, forklifts, and tractors.  Overall, it has been a very busy month with a lot of diverse experiences, and I look forward to finishing out my internship strong this month!

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