The Art of Seed Cleaning


Seed collection came to a close for me in October, and with it, so did my time spent in the field. However, I still needed to organize all the plant matter I had accumulated over the summer and send it off to the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Boise, ID. Towards the end of the month, my supervisor and I decided it would be a neat experience for me to participate in the seed cleaning process. So, I tucked all my seed collections and their respective herbarium specimens into a box and headed out to Boise. I spent a few days in Boise learning the art of seed cleaning and witnessing many mounds of messy fluff transform into neat little packets of seed eager to be planted.

The hard work of many interns this summer now patiently waiting to be cleaned.

After the species identification of seed collections were verified, each bag of seed was cleaned by hand and then by machine before moving into storage. Hand cleaning could be a daunting task, especially if there happened to be a lot of debris in the collection, but this step definitely improved the effectiveness of the mechanical seed cleaning. I could feel my eyes begin to cross as I sorted through piles of fluff for hours on end, but it was rewarding to complete a collection. Additionally, this monotonous task was made enjoyable by sharing the experience with the fun crew of Boise seasonals.

Machaeranthera canescens at the beginning of hand cleaning.

Tessa, one of the Boise seasonals, doing a stellar job at hand cleaning M. canescens.

The machinery we used for seed cleaning is located at the Lucky Peak Nursery, near Lucky Peak State Park. This step in the seed cleaning process is also pretty time consuming, but it’s a bit more engaging than the hand cleaning. We would run a collection of seed through a mechanical brushing machine that would ideally remove most of the pappus (all the fluffy stuff) from the seeds. The seed collection would then be transferred to an air column, where a stream of air was supposed to separate all the debris from the viable seeds. The effectiveness of these machines often depended on the cleanliness of the seed collection and the species we were working with. I worked on Crepis acuminata and Machaeranthera canescensC. acuminata is much better behaved when it comes to seed cleaning.

The brush machine.

Tessa: master of the air column.

While cleaning wildflower seeds is not the most exciting thing I have ever done in my life, I think it’s neat to see the end-product and it’s an important step in improving the germination rates of the seed. I am glad I had this opportunity. I will definitely appreciate the cleanliness of any packet of seed I plant in the future!

C. acuminata before cleaning.

C. acuminata after cleaning.

Some packets of CLEAN seed – aren’t they beautiful???

Cheers to more adventures!


USFS Idaho Falls, ID

Goodbye, Wyoming… For Now

In the summer of 1956, my grandfather, Art Humble, moved to Cody, WY to start his first job out of college in the coal industry. In the summer of 2017, I collected plant fossils for a research project in Hanna Basin, WY among the layers of coal, carbonaceous shales, and sandstone. On my last day that summer, the coincidence struck me as interesting. Art and I have always understood each other well. Even in my early years, I was very bookish, and I loved history, and we always bonded over that because he is also bookish and loves history. It was funny to me that we would spend time in the same places when we were around the same age.

Art Humble and me

I never thought I would go back to southern Wyoming so soon.

This past spring (2018), when I found out I had gotten into the CLM program and would be working in Rawlins, WY (just 40 miles from Hanna), it was my grandfather who was the only one in my family who had been to Rawlins before.

“It’s not much”, he said. And he showed me a photo of the simple, brick storefronts of downtown Rawlins from when he visited there. Rawlins has grown considerably in the past 60 years, but it is still small, with a population just under 10,000. I moved here 3 days after graduating college with no sense of what to expect out of my first real job using my real degree. I quickly found that, while Rawlins itself does not have a ton going on, the BLMers in our field office are incredibly kind and interesting people.


Once I started working, the weeks started to fly by incredibly quickly. I climbed sand dunes to survey Penstemon haydenii, an endangered plant that only grows in constantly disturbed sand dune environments. I tried to cut through thick reeds and willows to search for Wyoming Toad, the rarest amphibian in North America. I built a snow fence to protect sagebrush seedlings. I spotlight searched all night long for the ever charismatic black footed ferret. I ground checked for historic raptor nests. I surveyed Bennett Peak for invasive weeds. I visited Cody, WY with my boyfriend. I collected SO MANY SEEDS for Seed of Success. I even returned to Hanna Basin for one of our seed collections.

The CLM internship was a very good decision for me. I learned a lot at work, I went to 3 national parks, and I met some nice people. That’s all I can really ask for. I hope to find a more research-focused position for my next job, and eventually apply to graduate school. I love plants; I love natural history; I love ecology. I am really just following that bliss.


Now, I am looking at the clock on my last day of work, mentally preparing for the drive home ahead. I don’t know what’s next for me. I can’t even be sure where I will be 2 weeks from now, but today, I am starting the journey home to my family, and I am set to start substitute teaching until I figure things out. I will see my grandfather, and celebrate my mom’s birthday, and keep applying for botany-related jobs, and feel anxious about the future.

The only certainty in life in uncertainty, especially when you are 22. In the summer 1956, Art Humble did not know what the future would hold for him in Cody, and in the summer of 2018, I felt the same way about Rawlins. This week, on the phone, my grandfather put these feelings into words. They seem very profound for me right now, as I move on with no real plans for the near future. I can’t say that I won’t end up back in Wyoming for work for third time.

“You never know what to expect until you are there.”

I love you, Wyoming

Time Vacuum Discovered in Ozark National Forest


If you have 5 months of time you’re trying to relieve yourself from you may now rest assured.. the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests recently unearthed an antiquated time-vacuum beneath restored glade-woodlands.  It continues to effortlessly function despite its appearance, and significant aging.  All that is required of you is to come prepared with yourself, and yourself alone.  Traverse the bluffs, the plots of pine, the prodding briers, passed the oblivious armadillos (that truly have the best intentions) and all under the thick curtains of sun.  It will appear as if no change has taken place…but upon checking your calendar (for those who still rely on physical calendars like we aren’t in 2018) you’ll notice someone, or something, has crossed off the previous 5 months.

In all seriousness, however, I am bemused by how quickly this term has reached its end.  Of course I’m finally beginning to grow quite comfortable in the grooves I’ve made and found myself in.  Things tend to work that way, don’t they?  I suppose facing a fleeting sense of time is necessary.  It encourages you to become more efficient in your efforts.  Good, or bad, your plate from which you place endeavors upon becomes larger than before.  However, once you reach those final pages closing that chapter, it serves as a way to gain a notable reflection on: yourself, the things you have accomplished, and the things you wish to improve.  Grooves keep you going, but grooves may serve as an obstacle preventing you from acknowledging your overall, wide perspective as well.  All I know is I’m disappointed to close this chapter of my life, but I’m also eager to capture the next opportunity that appears before me.  Might I add as soon as humanly possible, too.

I’ve discovered in this short period of time that my resolve for conservation, and restoration has only strengthened.  Before we work in an actual conducive, and generative environment pertaining to our fields of interest, we tend to either romanticize, or grossly misconceive it.  I believe that after meeting too many individuals to count who all share the same common interest as me performs as a tool to reaffirm, and encourage my pursuits.  To be in the midst of minds who not only thoroughly comprehend anything, and everything including biology, ecology, and methods of restoration, but who are also in a position to actually make/see a noticeable difference, (and have) has become a ceaseless source of inspiration and motivation.  I can only hope that I’ll become eligible to acquire a title such as that.  I quickly gathered that I am so far from the knowledge and competence necessary, yet so close to being on a path leading towards just that.  If I am given a short moment to come up with one thing I have gained from this internship, it’s gratitude.  Gratitude I express for being given the opportunity to develop a sense of what this was all about.  I can only hope to find something similar again!

Although I know I’m experiencing what feels like a loss of time, (subletting my apartment in town, planning for the trip back to NH, etc), I will quickly acquire more.  I’m positive,  I’ll have plenty of spare months ahead that I’ll be willing to submit to this so called “time-vacuum”.  I wonder if more will be unearthed?  Perhaps there are hundreds, and in other places, too?  Well, one thing is certain, I’ll be sure assist in the process in efforts to find them.

(Candid photo of me.  Notice the impact of 5 months of being sucked away.   Looks like absolute misery, right?)

Until next time CLM,

Ozark-St.Francis National Forest

Heart & SOUL

This summer has been one for the books. I am going to miss a lot of people up here who kept me sane and opened their hearts to me. The internship made me think a lot about what I want in my life and how I want to live out at least the next year of my life. I’ve excepted an AmeriCorps position back in New Orleans with a super awesome urban forestry non-profit. I’ll be planting trees around the city to help mitigate the heat island effect and help the city deal with water (more trees=more places for the water to be effectively absorbed). Check them out —> SOUL NOLA 

As much as I enjoyed learning how a government office is run, I’m excited to learn more about the non-profit world. I’ve been missing the outreach/community organization minded work that I was involved in during college and I know that you can always  volunteer (which I did multiple times this summer) but in my mind it just isn’t the same as helping and serving your community as a full time job. And of course working for the government is almost ultimate service but you don’t work directly with communities in the same way as you do in the non-profit world. I’m excited to start learning this non-profit side of service while still keeping my ability to work outside!

What I learned:

I can effectively identify milkweed from a car going 20 mph

I can glue plants to botany paper for hours and actually really really enjoy it

Milkweed seeds and pods look like an artists pallet

I expected to be outside more than I was (this was particular to my internship and obviously don’t ring true for others). And I don’t think I expected to be driving as much as I did!

I also thought that I would be working more closely with monarch butterflies but I mainly worked with a whole botany cabinets worth of plants, milkweed, and Echinacea.

I realized that Arkansas is basically trying to start its own seeds of success program and that it is just getting off the ground. Too bad it wasn’t farther along because that would have been a very enjoyable project to throw myself into.

Because Arkansas is landlocked they make lakes everywhere to make up for it. So I don’t have any field photos of myself….but here is a picture of me enjoying 1 of the 3 lakes that is within an hour from Hot Springs.

I learned that sometimes a position that isn’t exactly fit for you is exactly what you need. When I say ‘exactly fit’ for me, I just mean that it didn’t combine certain loves of mine that I realized I want in my career and that’s ok. My supervisor Susan along with my ‘second boss’ Virginia were great company the whole summer and really gave me a great idea of what it’s like to work in their sector of the Forest Service. I think that if I returned to this kind of work I would either want to be directly involved in a Seeds of Success program where I am outside most every day or I would be a wildlife tech (a job that seems immeasurably fun).

I learned that seed cleaners make your job go a lot quicker.

Overall this was a great experience and I got to dip my hands into a bunch of different things! From field surveys, to creating signs for pollinator gardens, to collecting plants out in the forest then gluing those plants, to collecting seeds, to taking care of a milkweed garden….the list goes on and on.

I can’t say that your CLM experience will be like this (any future interns reading this) but if you end up in Arkansas let me know and I can and will give you the low-down. This state and the Ouachita National Forest became my home for the past 5 months and I can’t think of a better use of my time.

I’m off to the non-profit world but I know that I will be returning to field biology and a more science minded industry in the future….I’m just not sure what that will look like. The goal is to combine all my loves from community service to environmentalism/food access and all the way over to ecological theory and evolutionary concepts.

Signing off,

Rachel Froehlich


“You gotta drive 50 miles to go 5. Welcome to Wyoming”

Quote from the movie “Wind River” based on events that happened in the Wind River Indian Reservation, about 2 hours west of Casper. And one of the most true statements about Wyoming.

My experience out here has been nothing short of an adventure. I have been luck enough to travel around most of the state of Wyoming and Colorado, for work and for fun, during my internship. With only a week left of my internship, I have been reflecting on the amazing times I’ve had out here.

Some of the most memorable experiences I’ve had are driving around the wilderness during rangeland health assessments and cheatgrass monitoring, raptor surveys, Ute ladies’-tresses surveys, working with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) doing pronghorn antelope surveys in Casper and black-footed ferret trapping in Meeteetse, going bird banding with Audubon Rockies, exploring and mapping subalpine forests with foresters in the Casper Field Office, and getting my Wilderness First Responder Certification in Steamboat Springs, Colorado for my CLM internship alternative training workshop.

Beautiful arches found during cheatgrass monitoring on the Burke allotment

Black-footed ferret in a trap in Meeteetse, Wyoming

The black-footed ferret is a highly endangered species that was considered to be extinct until it was rediscovered in Meeteetse, WY in 1981. I was lucky enough to participate in these intense overnight surveys in the Meeteetse reintroduction site with WGFD in September as a part of my internship. If you work for the BLM, check out the article I wrote about my experience that I submitted to the BLM Daily!

Me holding a Bullock’s Oriole that was banded with Audubon Rockies at Edness K. Wilkins State Park

Finding creative ways to unroll the flagging tape while flagging boundaries for a juniper removal project

Old abandoned car found at Lost Creek. Possibly a new method to successfully growing Sagebrush?!

Beautiful, peaceful quaking aspen stand with a stream running through it at the Snowshoe Creek allotment rangeland health assessments.

A wild Bison and a wildlife intern. Taken on my weekend trip to Yellowstone National Park.

The places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen have been absolutely amazing. I have learned so much about wildlife ecology, land management, and the reality of conservation in the federal government. My last few weeks in the Casper Field Office will be spent writing end of the year summary reports of our findings in the field, which is even more important for making management decisions by interpreting the data I collected all summer. I’m grateful for all the time I was able to spend in the field and for all the technical writing experience I am able to take with me in my professional career.

Special thanks to my mentors Jim Wright and Ben Bigalke for teaching and challenging me everyday. You have both taught me so much and helped me realize why I want to become a wildlife biologist. I hope I find awesome co-workers like the ones in the Casper Field Office in my future career.

Jessica Druze, Wildlife Technician, Bureau of Land Management High Plains District, Casper Field Office

The Wild West

June 2018

It’s my third week as a Wildlife Intern in the Casper Field Office and I am loving it so far. Being in the mountains is such a nice change from New Jersey. Although the landscape here is mostly grassland, there are still so many mountainous landscapes nearby. Every day I think to myself, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this.”

During my first week, I learned about each of the divisions within the resources department here at the Casper Field Office including Wildlife, Archeology, Range, Hydrology, and Forestry. I learned how to ride a UTV, which was a lot of fun! We also trained on our first big project of the summer, Range Health Assessments. During these assessments, the wildlife, range and hydrology crew all go out together to assess the ecological health of different plots of BLM land all over Wyoming to collect data used in making future land management decisions. I learned about a lot of new plant and animal species and I’m excited to keep learning more.


An American Badger hunting in a Prairie Dog colony.

Bitterroot flower, one of the many beautiful plants seen during Range Health Assessments

Sego Lily

My second week of work was a full week of Range Health Assessments. The crew and I have a lot of fun driving all over Natrona and Converse Counties while getting work done.

Wildlife, Range and Hydrology crew during Rangeland Health Assessments!

Wildlife Biologist, Jim Wright, and I during rangeland health assessments

My role includes working with the wildlife biologists in the office to evaluate the wildlife habitat, specifically for greater sage-grouse. We use transects to examine the diversity and health of sagebrush shrubs as well as overall vegetation cover to assess the habitat. We are always looking for signs of wildlife in the area, and I have seen a couple of female sage grouse with their chicks so far! The wildlife here is so different from New Jersey and I am really enjoying working with wildlife biologists to learn as much as I can about it.

During week 3, there was a lot of rain which made it difficult driving on the two-track roads to get to our destination. A few days were spent turning around after failed attempts to get the truck past the mud on the roads. In addition to the normal range health days, I got to scout a plot of BLM land that is being overtaken by Pinyon Juniper in the sagebrush ecosystem. We used the GPS to navigate around the land and mark off boundaries for a contractor to come in to take out most of the Pinyon Juniper.

I am so grateful that CBG is able to provide me this amazing opportunity. I am looking forward to the experiences I will have out here, at work and in my free time. So far, it has been life-changing.

Snowshoe Creek allotment

Gone With The Wind

The winds are coming back to Casper. The gusts rush through the cracks of my ranch house in the early hours of the morning. The temperature is falling steadily: biking to work is ever more harrowing. There can be no denial: Winter is coming; seasonal work is petering out, and my time at the BLM is no more.

My last weeks at the BLM office were consumed by the less glamorous, but still important task of organizing and entering data. All of the 80 springs my co-intern and I documented needed to have folders made with maps, photographs, and water quality data. We also uploaded the spring data into a GIS database, which Shane and the range team will use to decide which springs need attention first. Of the 80 springs we visited, only three were non-functioning. To fix the riparian systems, the range team will coordinate restoration work with the lessee. Most often this will mean altering the time at which the rancher has cows on the pasture, and possibly building an exclosure fence to allow the spring time to heal.

The BLM processes a lot of paperwork. A LOT. So much so that after contributing our fair share of new files, we got to box and store thousands of old files and recycle garbage bags full of unnecessary copies.

Old Files and Manuals!


After completing our last task at the BLM it’s time to say goodbye to Casper. I leave the CLM program with a profound appreciation for 4 wheel drive vehicles, and for all of the men and women in the resource department of the Casper Field Office. Thanks to them, and especially to my mentor Shane, I now have a much better grasp of what it means to “manage land.” And as the winds pick up in Casper, I travel eastward, to my home land.

The work truck.

Fall is Upon Us

Hey everyone,

Fall is finally beginning to appear here in the Chihuahuan Desert. The cottonwoods are starting to change, the temperatures are dropping, and our chances for seed collection is starting to slow down! As usual, I have been spending most of my time collecting seed. However, the past few weeks have been uncharacteristically rainy. Since the rain makes most of our roads near impossible to drive on, I have been stuck in the office. This isn’t all bad though, it has allowed us to catch up on shipping seeds and doing our soil data.

Me assessing soil data when it was rainy for an entire week

Having been placed in the CFO BLM office, there have been quite a few opportunities to do some outreach! At the beginning of the month, I was able to visit the local zoo (The Living Desert Zoo) and help a few of my colleagues set up a table at a public lands informational event. A few weeks later the employees at the BLM had the opportunity to help judge the middle school’s science fair. These events have just been a few of the many different chances to help with public outreach.

Me and another BLM employee doing the tabling event at the Living Desert Zoo in Carlsbad, NM

I have also had the chance to do a little more cross training with other people here in the CFO office. Two weeks ago, my co-worker and I went to two of our major rivers, the Delaware and Black River, to help monitor riparian areas and assess the Proper Functioning Condition (PFC) of these rivers.

Identifying vegetation at the Black River site – featuring my SOS co-worker and mentor

A storm rolls in while assessing vegetation a the Delaware River site

Below: random pictures from the field

Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)

Sacred Thorn-Apple (Datura wrightii)

Black Swallowtail friend while we were collecting Verbesina encelioides













Caitie W.

Carlsbad Field Office BLM – Seeds of Success Intern

Fall musings in Carlsbad

October 26, 2018

Fall is finally arriving here in southeast New Mexico. The fall chill set in very suddenly and caught me off guard (see photo of me with socks as gloves).

When your hands are cold but you didn’t pack gloves because you didn’t think it would get cold in the desert…

Back when I was in school, I used to dread the stress and work of starting school in fall so much that I never really appreciated the reds and oranges and yellows of fall foliage in the Midwest. The color of fall here seems to be yellow. Yellow leaves falling from aspen groves in the mountains, and from cottonwood trees along the rivers. The hills glow with golden flowers of all shapes and sizes. Sartwellia flaviarae in particular dominates the landscape with its bright yellow hues. It is an aster subshrub that is very common in this area but not prevalent outside of our region.

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that we just have a month and a half left of our internship. After the initial shock of moving to a small oil/ranching town in the middle of the desert, Carlsbad has begun to feel almost like – dare I say it? – home. I’ve gone from the landscape being totally foreign to recognizing many of the plants I see while in the field. Of course, I always have more plants to learn. But it is kind of exciting to reflect on where I was—barely being able to recognize any plant genuses—to now being able to identify several species on sight. And grasses! I’m amazed that now I can generally tell grass genuses apart. Before this internship, all I could tell you was if a plant was a grass or not.

This month we also served as science fair judges for the Carlsbad middle school. I was in charge of judging Environmental Engineering projects—a little off from my expertise but I gave it my best! Some seventh and eighth graders had impressively higher-level projects, from thinking about what grass is best for preventing eroision, to testing soil salinity and its impact on crops. One eighth grader even made their own biodegradable plant-based plastic six pack ring.

Fall colors in Lincoln National Forest

These projects gave me a lot of hope about what the next generation of scientists are capable of!

In my weekend time, I’ve been experiencing parts of New Mexico and Texas. Early this month, I attempted to see the hot air balloons at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Much to my chagrin, the wind prevented any balloon launches, but I was still able to check out Albuquerque and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. It was a great way to learn about the Pueblo culture, and see some local Pueblo artists displaying paintings, pottery, and jewelry.

The tippy-top of Texas!

The surrounding mountain ranges offer fantastic hiking opportunities here. To the south, Guadalupe National Park offers a hike to the highest point in Texas—Guadalupe Peak. Talk about jello legs coming down the trail! To the northwest of Carlsbad, Cloudcroft also has great mountain hiking trails in Lincoln National Forest. We were able to see the aspens changing color here!


With my internship in its last month and a half, I’m trying to learn all I can and really get the full New Mexico experience, but so far I would say it’s been pretty fulfilling.



Bonus cactus picture!…I just thought it was pretty. Mammillaria heyderi – “Little nipple cactus”



BLM Carlsbad, NM


The Sights of Restoration

Hey, it’s Renata again (one of the interns in Oregon). I luckily have a bit more time at Dorena Genetic Resource Center before I have to head out. However, to date, one of the coolest parts of this internship has been getting to shadow the Restoration Services Team or RST (they have their own fun logo and everything). They plan and often help implement restorations after human land use (especially after things like highway or road construction). I’ve had the chance to shadow them a bit as they go to planning meetings and have gotten to visit some of the previously restored sites. A lot of the plants we grow at Dorena go to these restoration projects so it has been fun to see the end result of our work in the greenhouses and out doing seed collections.

Part of what was so cool about shadowing RST was getting to see the decision-making process. There are a ton of moving parts as they work with different government agencies overseeing the larger project (like building a highway), the engineers, the contractors, and all manner of other experts. RST’s work often comes last because you don’t want to put in the plants only to have them trampled by construction equipment (which has sadly happened before), so their timeline is always partly up in the air. They then have to make sure to collect as many local species as possible and whatever they can’t collect there they have to find in nearby areas in the same seed zone. Then you grow them, propagate them, and then get a crew together for out-planting. To give you a sense, for one project they have 12,000 huckleberry ready to go out for planting. That’s just one species. The scale of these projects can be pretty nuts when you look at the number of people working at Dorena. It is also just exciting to have other government agencies prioritize getting local seed sources and try to have as many native species replanted as possible.

Rather than have me drone on about one project or another, I figured I just give you a sense of what we get to see as we work on these projects. We go from planning, to seed collecting, to propagating, to out planting and then to monitoring and we get to do it all in some pretty breathtaking places. So I hope you enjoy!


Dorena Sunrise

Mountain of cells for sowing

The crew doing some transplanting

Sunrise in Klamath Falls

Seed collecting in Klamath Falls (with smoke, of course)

Seed collecting in foggy Klamath

Foggy Klamath seed collecting

Klamath area seed collection

Foggy Nestucca


Nestucca when the fog cleared up

Part of a restored highway for restoration

Bridge view at restoration site

The view in Pacific City (where we stayed while doing some seed collection)

Haystack rock at Pacific City

Sunset at Dorena