Extracurricular Activities

As we approach the end of August and seed collecting is winding down a bit, our mentor has provided us with opportunities to expand our knowledge and experience past seed collecting.  Throughout the summer, but particularly now, we’ve had the opportunity to survey and monitor various endemic or rare plants in the Fremont Co. area.  Earlier in the year, we were tasked with monitoring the phenology of a rare plant called Yermo xanthocephalus, commonly known as desert yellowhead, which only occurs in two areas of Wyoming.  We collaborated with a botanist performing studies to understand what pollinates this rare plant and at what frequency, as well as perform paternity analyses.   My partner and I helped her set up pollinator traps and checked on the maturity of fruits for her on a weekly basis.

Setting up experimental pollinator traps

Another rare plant we spent a few days mapping out was Cleome multicaulis, a beautifully tiny, spindly little forb apart of the mustard family.  It only occurs in or near very alkaline, dried lake beds.  Even though its flowers are purple and it’s about a foot tall, they’re still somewhat hard to spot at first, because they are so thin and delicate.  We typically found them along the perimeter of these dried lake beds, usually near or under a group of sagebrush.  One of the days we spent scouting for this plant, my partner and I had three separate encounters with rattle snakes.  We’d definitely ran into them before, being in Wyoming, but I’ll say after the third rattle… we were both a bit on the jumpy side.  I believe we called it a little earlier than we might have usually, because our nerves were shot by then.

One of my favorite areas we spent time at was in the badlands of Chalk hills, where we scouted and mapped out a rare sagebrush, Artemisia porteri, commonly called Porter’s sagebrush.  I realize it’s a bit bizarre for someone who loves botany to also enjoy an area so void of vegetation, but I did 🙂  Perhaps it’s because I’ve just never been exposed to such a drastic habitat, part of me felt like I was on Mars…or at least the closest I’ll ever get to being on Mars.  Surprisingly, we saw a lot of Jack rabbits in the area, which was really cool.  We were successful in identifying the rare sagebrush, and once we got a better feel for the distinct areas they occurred, it was a very pleasant way to spend a day out in the field, in a habitat that I was so unfamiliar with.

Badlands of Chalk hills, where we found Artemisia porteri

We recently received very exciting news; our internship was approved for a month extension, so instead of finishing up in late September, my partner and I will work a the BLM- Lander Field Office until the end of October, which is wonderful!  Any extra employment I can get, especially during the off-season for field work, is very welcomed.  And I’m especially excited to have an opportunity to see what Lander’s like in the Fall 🙂  I feel very grateful right now, and look forward to the upcoming months!

Becca Cross,

BLM- Lander Field Office

In Full Swing of Things

It’s mid July and we are fully immersed in seed collecting.  For the last couple weeks, and for our unforeseeable future, all my partner and I do is check in at the field office, drive out to a field site, pick whatever wildflower seeds we are targeting that day for roughly six to seven hours, and then return and go home and pass out.  Sometimes we spend the entire day both picking the same seeds, for instance with Comandra umbellata, which produces a single seeded fruit, so for us to reach a target of 20,000 seeds, it could take an entire week.  If we are collecting something in the Apiaceae or Asteraceae family, which can produce anywhere from 75-150 seeds per plant, we can complete an entire collection and then some within an afternoon.  These collections are by no means more significant, but as the person making the physical collections…I love those days! The satisfaction one gets  from collecting 35,000 in one day is incredible.

Seeds collected from Perideridia gairdneri ssp. borealis 

We’ve strategically selected field sites with more than one species seeding out, making what we call opportunistic collections along the way.  Recently we spent the entire week at one particular field site called Miner’s Delight because there were four viable collections seeding out all at once.  My partner would tackle one species, while I focused on another, and then midday we might switch, to avoid becoming bored or sloppy.  They’re long days, but it’s also very pleasant once you allow yourself to become fully immersed in your work and nature.  One collection we made during that week that I am particularly proud of was Penstemon radicosus, which is very beneficial for native pollinators in the area 🙂

This little guy caught my attention while I was collecting Lomatium simplex var. simplex at Miner’s Delight that same week, I had to take a few minutes to bask in his/her colorful glory.  I’m finding the proximity that seed collecting allows me to have with so many different bugs, is one of my favorite perks about this job.  I’ve watched beetles oviposite eggs, dragon flies mating, and a slew of incredible spiders.  My phone is quickly filling up with just pictures of plants and insects…

Caterpillar hanging out on the branch of Lomatium simplex var. simplex

A colorful caterpillar hanging out on the branch of Lomatium simplex var. simplex

An enormous spider with a hefty meal, found on Polanisia dodecandra ssp. trachysperma

We’re a little more than halfway through our internship and we’ve made about ten or eleven collections so far and have many more in front of us.  Right now I can’t imagine life void of seed collecting…which is a good thing, I guess!

Rough Start

After the first six weeks of our internship, we are finally ready to begin seed collecting!! Almost…not quite.  Unlike the previous Spring, when our field office apparently experienced record high amounts of precipitation, this year was quite the opposite.  We did experience some precipitation, but mostly in the form of rain, and much later than to be expected.  So, we were a bit dismayed, as there were a handful of days our mentor would send us somewhere to look for a specific population, that perhaps the year before had bloomed out phenomenally, but this year, practically nonexistent.  It wasn’t too frustrating, but rather a bit unnerving for my partner and I, as this was both our first SOS internship, and we were worried that maybe we were missing something or weren’t looking in the right habitats.  However, anytime our mentor was out in the field, she reported the same lack of spectacular blooms she’d seen at this time of year in previous seasons, which gave us some comfort.

Unfortunately, the timing of our CLM internship training also played into an overall loss of potential seed collections.  It’s a bit of a conundrum, because the training was truly excellent.  It was loads of fun getting to familiarize ourselves and work at the Chicago Botanic Garden for a whole week, and the speakers were all personable and full of useful information!  It just ended up falling on a week that was a prime seed collecting window for where we’re at in Wyoming.  Not to mention, the week before our training in Chicago, our mentor had a training of her own that she needed to attend, so we missed both the first and second week of June for collecting seeds.  And the first two weeks of June are pretty critical for many of the potential collections we’d spent the last three to four weeks scouting for.

So as of now, we’ve only made a couple full collections.  Many of the populations we revisited had either already seeded out, or been severely damaged due to insects.  BUT our mentor seems very determined that we’ll find more populations in habitats of higher elevation, and makes the point that this is a good opportunity for the SOS team to branch out and try to make collections that have never been made before 😀 Keep your fingers crossed that next time I report, we’ll have made more progress!

 

Becca Cross,

BLM- Lander Field Office.

“Don’t be in a hurry.”

The five months of my life as a CLM intern have come and gone and with it, so have many new experiences. I did not really know what I would be getting myself into when I decided to commit to the CLM internship nor did I know what to expect before moving out to Idaho. For the most part, I anticipated spending most of my time outside, hunting for wildflowers; I was also hoping to determine where my professional career might head in the future. Seed collecting was definitely the focus of my internship, but I was also privileged to experience many other areas of work within the Forest Service as well. These opportunities allowed me to explore many of my interests within conservation work, but I can’t say I have figured out the rest of my life just yet.

If I wasn’t meandering through the desert, searching for various flowers in the aster family, I could still be found working outside. I spent a day completing a horsemanship training class, which included a 4 hour ride through the back country. That was basically my first time on a horse and it was an incredible experience. I was also quite sore the rest of the week. I had a few opportunities to shadow range specialists throughout the summer and fall as they monitored areas that had been grazed by cattle or sheep. It was interesting to see how a landscape might change over time, as was the case when sheep and beetles were used to control leafy spurge in certain rangelands. It was also neat to understand how the intensity of grazing could be determined by looking at a landscape.

Other opportunities that arose for me included participating in environmental education and volunteer outreach events, hiking through the Jedidiah Smith Wilderness to inspect campsites and their respective bear boxes, surveying land with an archaeologist, and visiting a phosphate mine with a soil scientist. (I have spent some time at a couple of other mine sites before this internship, but I have never experienced anything as massive as this phosphate mine operation. Talk about a slice of humble pie.)

I went for the longest hike of my life in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness and was able to call it work! It was 18 miles of some beautiful country.

I am currently interested in a LOT of different aspects of conservation work, so I still don’t quite know where my life is headed in the long-term. I do know I would like to spend a bit more time exploring my interests before eventually returning to school for a graduate program. For now, I’m not quite sure what my next step will be in life. However, when I mentioned this in the office one day, someone merely told me, “Don’t be in a hurry.” It was encouraging to hear that as I begin to enter another period of transition. I may not have experienced any major epiphanies while working in Idaho this field season, but I have learned to be more comfortable with taking life one step at a time.

Cheers to more adventures!

Shannon

USFS Idaho Falls, ID

The Art of Seed Cleaning

October

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!

Shannon

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

Status

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,

Corey
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