August

Our seed collections have been rolling nicely along here in Rawlins! We are over halfway done with our collections for the season. Now that we have a better grasp on the phenology of the plants here coupled with the dry year, it’s been easier to understand how to prioritize our collections between the forbs (especially the asters!) and grasses.

Collecting bottlebrush squirreltail (Elymus elymoides) in the Chain Lakes area, which is rich with oil and gas pads.

We’ve also been branching out a lot into other areas of our field office, primarily with the wildlife biologists and interns. It’s been really cool to see the kind of projects they are in charge of and even get to work with other agencies, like we did with Wyoming toad surveys! I mentioned before that I had really enjoyed endangered species work, and that was even more solidified with these surveys.

Anaxyrus baxteri in all her glory.

We spent three days out at Mortensen Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Laramie with biologists from the BLM, USFWS, and USFS from areas in Wyoming and Colorado. We split into groups and took different plots around the refuge; censusing the toads we found and splitting them into groups of adult, overwinter, young-of-the-year, and metamorphs; as well as taking measurements and swabbing for chytrid fungus. We also released tadpoles from enclosures that had recently grown legs and lost their tails, and were therefore (hopefully) developed enough to survive on their own in the lake.

Hanging with a beautiful toad

About to release a bucket full of newly developed baby toads

 

We’ve also gotten to go out with the other wildlife CLM interns in our field office who are doing a herpetofauna study with their mentor. They do intervals of 10-day trapping, and we got to help check their plots around the Ferris Mountains and record and measure anything they’ve caught. Although the study is centered around herps, we’ve mostly seen some smaller snakes and a couple small mammals. As an aspiring botanist I haven’t gotten to handle much wildlife, but as you can see from the following photos I was pretty excited about it.

This vole kept trying to bite me while I measured his ears but I admired his sassiness.

 

The excitement is apparent here, with a very docile deer mouse

This is the first snake I’ve ever held – a small, slithery garter snake.

I’m excited to continue seeing other parts of our field office and make progress on our seed collections in the next half of my internship!

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