Hello Upper Willamette Resource Area!
After several seasons of working around the Pacific Northwest, this year my duty station will be in Eugene/Springfield Oregon where I’ve made my home for the past 6 years. I can’t wait! The majority of time I’ve lived in Eugene I haven’t had a car (don’t worry, the city is great for bicycles) so my exploration of the area outside of city limits has been guided by the wills of friends with vehicles. For the next 5 months, however, I am going to spend hundreds of hours exploring and getting to know the nooks, crannies, and plants in what I consider my own backyard!
Working for and alongside people who have led my field trips, mentored school projects, and who I have generally thought of as natural resource heroes, I think this field season is going to be a great one.
My first week has brought about the usual routine of paperwork, trainings, technical difficulties, and a whirlwind tour all the folks in the office. I even got to drive part of an OHV course as part of my driver’s training test. You’ve got to love the opportunity to drive over logs, rocks, and slosh through giant mud pits!
Having survived the first couple of days, I got geared up and headed out the door to start the first of my rare plant monitoring. My target species: Eucephalus vialis, also known as wayside aster.
Belonging to the Aster family, this sensitive species is somewhat tricky to spot. Varying in height depending on habitat conditions and currently in a vegetative state, it does a great job of blending in with other vegetation. It’s also prone to growing in and among poison oak, which makes for an even bigger challenge. Hooray for Tecnu (and Dawn dish soap my mentor has recently divulged)!!
Eucephalus vialis has some look alikes, especially when the plant doesn’t grow very tall. Luckily Cheshire has lots of tricks for plant identification. For this aster, one of the best ways to identify it from others is its anastamosing veins, where the veins rejoin after branching and forming an intertwining network (which can be seen in the picture below).
It’s only a been a few days and my brain is already swirling with names of new plants or familiar plants that I’ve never properly identified, but I can’t wait to learn more! It feels great to be starting a new field season. I have a feeling this internship is going to be full of adventures, an abundance of new tasks and skills, and an experience I’ll never forget.
Emily, Bureau of Land Management, Upper Willamette Resource Area