Finally Not Sweating

Wow. What a summer this has been! I will try to succinctly summarize the last two months and reflect on the CLM experience overall:

First, I’d like to say thank you to Fall for coming. Although it was a rather abrupt shift, the outdoor temperature in the Twin Falls District is FINALLY tolerable and I have (for the most part) stopped sweating 24/7. YESSSSS. Swee(a)t relief.

 

The post-blowout pile of lovely invasives accumulated under the explorer

Second, the primary seed collection season (for forbs at least) in southern Idaho wrapped up in late July, so lately Patricia and I have been mapping sagebrush populations throughout the entire district in hopes of finding the “perfect” site for collecting Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata wyomingensis) when it eventually sets seed. This has proved to be tougher than expected as Wyoming big sage and Basin big sage hybridize in certain habitats, making field identification tricky.

We’ve also thoroughly tested the BLM road-appropriateness of the 2009 Ford Explorer to find it handles far better than one would expect! Shout out to the Explorer for fording streams, climbing mountains, dealing with rock after rock after rock, straddling ruts, and most of all, having A/C. Oh, and not catching on fire (see above).

A recent view from a potential Wyoming sagebrush collection site near the Nevada border

Some cute LBM’s amongst the sagebrush on a damp summer morning (I wish my fungi identification skills were better but plants provide enough confusion and frustration for the time being)

More views from mapping (seconds before a nasty thunderstorm)

5 AM wake up calls are not too bad when you’re blessed with witnessing sunrises with clouds like these!

A friendly resident of Bench Lakes (Sawtooth National Forest)… photogenic lil’ bugger

One of the few beautiful late summer bloomers: Eriogonum microthecum. Thank you for brightening my day!

A fellow explorer of the sagebrush steppe… horny lil bugger

Disappointed that I couldn’t capture a better representation of Bruneau Canyon’s beauty. It is truly exquisite.

Dierke’s Lake Park: the provider of tricky overhung climbing routes, questionably sanitary swimming, and cotton candy sunsets

Third, besides navigating BLM roads and staring at sagebrush all day, we were able to work on other projects including: riparian photo points of the Little Wood River, scouting Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Pinyon pine stands (Pinus monophylla) for potential collections, and monitoring the effectiveness of juniper thinning and post-fire restoration projects which allowed us to camp near a scenic creek. We also journeyed 2 miles into one of the longest caves in the continental US, rock on!

 

When you spend 8 hours each day looking at sagebrush, you’re bound to find one that looks like a tree– thus a new species was discovered: Artetreesia tridentreeta

The cone and needles of Pinyon pine (Pinus monophylla)… sappy lil bugger … only took 2 hand sanitizer and 4 hot water rinses to be rid of the stickiness

You could say that camping out for Idaho Mountain Festival at Castle Rocks State Park was a bit colder than expected. However, gathering with fellow climbers with breathtaking views was well worth only getting up one route.

Overall, the CLM internship has been an absolute blast. I feel incredibly grateful to have participated in various projects and explore the most special areas of the district. I had the privilege of not only collecting seeds in stunning surroundings for work but also leading a nature walk for 4H’ers, camping along a remote creek, exploring the Chicago Botanic Garden, and keying several of my favorite plants (Carex and Juncus species). I was able to vastly improve my GIS skills using ArcMap, my techniques in creating herbarium specimens, and ability to drive on unmaintained roads.

In addition, my overall botanical knowledge increased tremendously as I am now fairly comfortable using Intermountain Flora and Plants of the Pacific Northwest, much more familiar with family characteristics, and can confidently identify (at least to genera) most of the Southern Idaho native forbs, shrubs and trees while also understanding their seed anatomy and phenology. After completing countless collections for Seeds of Success, I have such a profound appreciation for the tenacity and triumph of plants and their seeds.

It is so rewarding to see all of our hard work pay off! Some of my favorite SOS species.   Top: Penstemen cusickii.                                          Bottom: Chaenactis douglasii

 

Lastly, I would like to thoroughly thank my supervisor Danelle for her thoughtful guidance and support throughout the internship, CBG for making this experience possible, Patricia for putting up with me for way too many hours every week, and each of the individuals who made this an unforgettable chapter.

Farewell sagebrush and wide open spaces… the forests are calling!

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