Buffalo, WY

Two weeks in and I am officially feeling settled in Buffalo, WY! I am working at the BLM office under the Outdoor Recreation Planner, and having a blast thus far. Though I do have a few main projects that I am working on, it seems as though every day will be different and keep me on my toes (which I really enjoy).

On my first field day, we hiked out to a Wilderness Study Area to determine the (relatively) easiest path that we might be able to create a trail for public access. Low and behold, we bushwhacked ~5 miles through sagebrush and Juniper, up and down many steep ridgelines, to only make it half way to the WSA! After giving in to defeat and dehydration we had to turn around, and only once we made it back to the car I realized I had gained a new found love for the rolling hills of the Wyoming prairie.

My second field day we got to meet with ranchers to discuss a questions, concerns, and ideas for our management plan for a recreation area that is adjacent to where they run their cattle. This was an incredible experience as I got to be a part of a collaborative conversation with a diverse range of stakeholders, values, and viewpoints on how to work together towards a few common goals.

Since then, I have got to help coordinate a volunteer day for local high school kids, hike into and clean up remote camp sites, and be a part of an interdisciplinary team working on Environmental Assessment. I even got to go out with an Archeologist  one day, in which we found a 6,000 year old projectile point!  

When driving into this area, I was enamored by the Utah-esque red sandstone cliffs that give a beautiful contrast to the deep green pine forests. While being awestruck by the scenery beyond, it is easy to almost miss the ~1,000 foot deep canyon with towering white limestone cliffs that seems to appear out of nowhere. 

All in all, it has been a fun and exciting start for the first couple weeks that has only made me fall more in love with Wyoming. To boot, Buffalo is a friendly small town where all our neighbors made sure to make us feel right at home by baking us a pie and cookies for a house-warming gift. Not to mention, you are right at the base of the snow-capped Bighorn Mountains, which beg for your attention every day with the view right from town.

I am definitely looking forward to the rest of the summer and all the adventures that are in store.

Cheers!

Ryan DeAngelis

Buffalo, WY

BLM

Roaming in Wyoming

Hi friends!

One Friday afternoon, about a month ago, I graduated from the University of Kentucky with a B.S. in Sustainable Agriculture. That same day, I began my 23 hour journey by car to Buffalo, Wyoming. I’ve been out west a few times for short term trips. However, this has been my first experience in Wyoming and my first time living in a town with a population of less than 5,000. The past few months have provided lots of opportunities for growth and situations to adjust to. I’m so thankful for the new experiences, people, job, and scenery. I’ve been able to visit 2 national parks already (Buffalo is within driving distance of several) and witness some breathtaking scenery.

Building new friendships with people who have similar interests has been very rewarding to me. The mountains, wildlife, and vast prairies of Wyoming has shown me how different the ecosystem here is from what I am used to. I’ve been challenged to learn about range plants, animals, GIS, and a variety of other useful skills. I miss my home and friends in Kentucky, but I realize why I need to be here- for growth and the opportunity to explore. After 4 weeks it has been reinforced how much I love my state, as absence makes the heart grow fonder. I may not be in Buffalo for long, but it has already left a mark that has changed me for the better.

 

-Savannah McGuire

Range Intern

Bureau of Land Management- Buffalo Field Office

Buffalo, Wyoming

 

 

One of our range sites in Kaycee, Wyoming (Red Rock Wall)

Someone kindly donated rhubard from their garden to the office

Wildflowers picked in Buffalo

Making new friends at CPR Training day

New and Old

Two weeks into my second summer with the Casper BLM, I am struck by the simultaneous newness and familiarity of it all. Driving for hours over highly-eroded dirt roads or hiking through public lands that haven’t been inventoried since I was four years old, I am reminded of the thrill of living and working in a place with so much uninhabited land.

A year and three weeks ago, I left behind 22 years of big city life and arrived in Casper, Wyoming — where for the first time, I could walk into a coffee shop and be the only one there.

One of the things I’ve learned about working somewhere like Casper is that the abundance of open land makes the work diverse. As a hydrology technician, I do so much more than look at water. The first two weeks of this summer have consisted of a lot of planning, some map making, exploring new areas, 15+ hours of driving, a lot of mud, a Proper Functioning Condition (PFC) workshop, processing water samples, and a family of mice found in a cardboard box of sample bottles.

When every day is an adventure, the unexpected becomes the norm.

Everything isn’t always clearcut. It’s important to be flexible because plans will change. A rancher will call with a leaky pipe that needs to be fixed immediately. A 50-year rain event will render bentonite roads untravelable for days. What appears to be a 40-minute drive on a map will take an hour and a half on sketchy dirt roads. Occasionally, an afternoon hail storm will leave you fishtailing back to the office. Planning and organization can only get you so far.

It’s interesting knowing what I know from last summer and seeing new interns experience Wyoming country and all of its challenges for the first time. It’s easy to forget that I was once that person who gawked at every pronghorn and had never navigated using ownership layers. Two hours seemed like a long drive to me. I hadn’t experienced wet bentonite and barely even recognized the rocky dirt on the side of the mountain as a road my first week in the field.

These Wyoming country quirks seem so second nature to me now. Township, cattle guard, and allotment are everyday words in my vocabulary. And yet, there’s still a particular wonder about exploring new parts of Wyoming, watching baby pronghorn frolic through the fields, driving for hours without seeing another vehicle. I’ve learned a lot in the past year, but I still have a lot to learn. I look forward to all the new adventures this summer brings and all the old memories it reawakens.

High Desert Herps

The first two weeks of my internship with the Bureau of Land Management’s Rawlins Field Office have held intrigue and excitement via a vast collection of ecosystems comprised of spectacular faunal diversity amongst an awe-inspiring landscape. With spring’s arrival shortly before my own, I have caught the biologists and associated staff’s entrance into their field season as their new projects have begun firing on all cylinders.  With a goal of surveying the herpetofauna located within the boundaries of the RFO, BLM biologists utilize an array of strategies and methods including but not limited to: dip-netting, seining, drift fencing (with associated funnel traps), pit fall traps and point-transect observations.

The High Desert of Wyoming may not be well-advertised as a home for amphibians but present in this habitat are several. Dip netting in the first week of the internship resulted in the catch and observation of Western tiger salamander (Ambystoma mavortium) larvae.  Following such we had dialogue regarding the individual’s life cycle and the possibility that we were observing a neotenic specimen, that is, it had retained its juvenile (larval) characteristics into sexual maturity.  This state, if present, would likely have resulted from environmental pressures associated with less than ideal conditions in the animal’s domain.  In the pictured individual’s case this was a small, isolated detention pool with high turbidity, limited vegetative cover and is a location utilized by grazing cattle for drinking water.  There is presumably, although not definitively, a low level of connectivity between similar bodies of water in this area although other distinct individuals were sampled at this point.

I expect this internship to be an opportunity for continued education and such will allow for perspective gain. Additionally, it will allow for the chance to perform hard sampling on uncommon species in remote regions; the idea of which should be enough to stimulate any scientist or nature enthusiast.  More to come.

 

Go With the Flow

This month has pretty much been all about larval collections. At 2:45 in the morning on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we arrive at the bridge up in Chiloquin that spans the Williamson River. We take our nets, tie them to the bridge, and let them fish the river for 20 minutes. Then we pull the nets, dump the fish into a small insulated bucket, and reset the net for another 20 minute fishing period. We do this for 4 sets and we are usually leaving the bridge right as the sun is starting to come up. After getting back to Gone Fishing we have to count out every single one. This part can get interesting on days when the catch is super high. The fish never seem to want to leave the bucket one at a time, so the whole process takes both focus and patience which can be a challenge at 7am when you have been up since 1:30. I have developed a habit of drinking a lot of coffee.
It’s been pretty suspenseful. The spawning is a little different each year so you never know the size or shape of the larval peak. The first week we didn’t catch anything. That was actually what we were hoping for because it meant we didn’t miss part of the window. On the other hand it was a little frustrating getting up at 1:30 in the morning with nothing but a 0 to show for it. On the 7th we caught our first larval sucker, on the 9th we caught 37 more, then the catch started exploding.
We have room at the gone fishing facility to stock 6000 juvenile suckers in the outdoor ponds. Accounting for larval mortality the goal is to collect 10000 larvae. The drift could be small or really short lived so during the beginning of the collections there is definitely an urge to collect as many as possible. Despite catching 922 on our third haul since catching anything we decided to add a third net just to be safe. This proved to be a little redundant once the catch per net went from 128 to 264. At this point we had already caught over 6000 fish and the catch was still going strong. We want to collect across the entire spawning period to avoid artificially selecting for early spawners, so we dialed it back to 2 nets and once we hit our target we actually released some of the larvae we collected on the high effort days. Right now we are still pulling in about 500 per day with 2 buckets. That’s far from the peak of 1700 so it seems we are winding down but you never know. There have been a couple false springs this year so we might have two peaks.

Starting Over

In the first week of my internship in Grand Junction Colorado I have found myself leaning new plants and their ecology. The flora here is unlike what I have experienced before and it manifests a diversity of organisms that is different depending on the ecoregion I find myself. The experience of learning the inhabitants of a space begins for me with becoming aware of them as individuals. From this point of view, it is important to identify organisms to their latin genus and species at some point, however this requires many hours of keying out plants and is secondary to an initial awareness of the variance of individuals present in a landscape. My goal is to reach the point that I previously experienced where there were few species that seemed new to me, and the ones I had come in contact with appeared familiar, while still unique.

Some of the ostensibly more exciting plants I have seen the past week were Astragalus linifolius and Skelerocatus glauca, both are considered endangered in Colorado. While surveying some trails for Sage Grouse Habitat a coworker and I stumbled upon at first an isolated A. linifolius, we then decided to do transects only to find that the area was scattered with many individuals. At this point we spent the following hours scouting and recording the gps coordinates of the edges of the population. While mapping this area I stumbled upon a single flowering S. glauca, and after this discovery we started to survey this area and found 6 other individual cacti! It was a rather exciting afternoon and that left me feeling accomplished, because both populations were previously unknown and represent a good sign for both species.

Western Regression

I almost cried when I saw the mountains again, I was so happy. Driving west from Chicago I wondered what my internship would be like at the BLM Colorado State Office in Denver, CO. Although I have spent a lot of time doing field work between undergrad and my graduate degrees, I had little experience with Rare Plant Monitoring, which is the focus of my internship.

The team searching for Oreocarya reveallii

Monday morning I met the team I will be working with and I remembered how amazing everyone is in this field. By Tuesday we were headed out to the four corners regions to monitor Oreocarya revealii, a fairly recently described species. It was exciting to read about all the research that informed our monitoring efforts, from genetic studies to research concerning edaphic habits. The methods used to understand this species were ones that I learned about in my graduate coursework, so I was quite pleased that the knowledge I gained in school was carrying over to work. While O. revealii is considered BLM Sensitive, it is still being determined whether it should be listed as threatened or perhaps even endangered. This is where our team’s efforts come in. By studying the demographics of the species over time, we can help inform the US Fish and Wildlife Service about how this plant is doing. Is the population increasing? Or decreasing? Or is it remaining stable? What threats might endanger the species and can these be abated?

My CLM Internship mentor Carol Dawson.

After spending a couple days with my mentor Carol, and the rest of the team, Phil and Sam, I know this will be an awesome summer. I am so happy to be able to work with such amazing people doing amazing work!

Walking back to the truck after completing a monitoring plot.

Klamath Falls Larval Hauls

Another month gone by in Klamath Falls:

To begin with, those of us working within the Sucker Assisted Rearing Program, based here at the Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife, have been busy collecting sucker larvae for rearing at our Gone Fishing Facility. This entails working a 2am-shift in which plankton nets are used to catch larval suckers as they drift downstream in the wee-hours of the morn. These larvae are small (about the length of a grain of long grain rice, more or less) and mostly transparent. Each plankton net is rigged with a flow meter so that we can get an idea of larval density as they float down the river into the shallow waters of the Upper Klamath Lake. Once the fish are caught, they are then transported to the rearing facility where they will be monitored, fed, and given treatments for disease and parasites. With some TLC, they will grow up big enough to be released into earthen grow-out ponds sometime around July.

In addition to this major component of the internship, there are some other activities that we have been involved in. Working on the rearing facility includes some construction, plumbing, and miscellaneous work. A typical day usually consists of caring for the larvae throughout the day and working on these tasks. Other sucker-related activities have been in the form of surveying for areas to collect eggs from the suckers, working to repair a pit tag array (used to detect movement of tagged suckers downstream), and going out with technicians from Oregon State University to track the radio-tagged suckers that we released last month. All of this has kept us busy.

However, we interns do not spend all of our time only working with the suckers. We have also been out surveying for Oregon spotted frog egg masses in the marshes around the lakes perimeter. This is a fun task that involves trudging through the marsh in waders while keeping your eyes peeled for the egg masses, which can sometimes be difficult to spot.

The past couple of months have passed by at what feels like a very rapid pace. There has been a lot to learn and there have been plenty of opportunities to get our hands dirty and do some real conservation work in the field.

Looking forward to the next few months.

Tyler Rose

CLM Intern

USFWS-KFFWO (Klamath Falls, OR)

 

Unusual Inhabitants

I’ve had a lot of interesting adventures over the past month. Guess what? I’m finished with Fritillaria surveys! I’ve gotta say, I do miss the thrill of trying to hunt down the species, but the fact that more often than not Fritillaria gentneri was not in the survey areas was starting to make me sad. It’s a rare species, which makes it unlikely that there would be any new populations, but still–I had this sort of fallacious mindset that I’d be finding rare plants every day. These surveys did have their cool moments though, despite the lack of rare plants. For instance, a few weeks ago I was surveying for F. gentneri and stumbled on a huge population of F. affinis!

On a survey after that I saw a Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) decked out in stunning turqouise hues. He got pretty angry when he saw me and did some pushups (which, as I’ve learned, is what lizards sometimes do to express male dominance) before scurrying off.

Later that week, I saw a gorgeous northwestern ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus occidentalis). The poor little critter was startled, but not enough to coil up and show off its characteristic orange underbelly.

On a different day, I was helping out with some flora site revisits in a different resource area and we got to meet an elephant (true story).

Over the past week, I’ve started up with a new task: invasive plant surveys. Out in the middle of the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area is the Box O Ranch, which was a ranch founded in the 80s and later abandoned in 2003. Due to its previous use the area is now a hotspot for invasive species, primarily yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis), sulfur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta), and Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense). Despite that, it remains to be one of the most beautiful views I’ve experienced during my time as an intern in Medford.

One of the weirdest things I saw out there was this–

At first glance, I was thoroughly confused. To me those brightly-colored, hairy dots looked like some sort of fruit or reproductive organ of a plant. Around me were about 30 other individual plants, each of which were covered in the things. But it was fairly obvious that the plants growing it was a Rosa species, and the mysterious thing attached to the plant looked nothing like an achene. On closer inspection, I saw that the dots were growing out of the leaves, and that almost all of the Rosa in the area had the thing growing off of it. I stared at them for a long time; I had never seen anything that looked like this.

Later on I had the chance to do some research. As it turns out, the thing growing off the plants is a gall created by Diplolepis bicolor, or the spiny rose gall wasp. As the name implies, the wasp specifically targets Rosa species, laying its eggs on the underside of the leaves. The larva then hatch and begin to eat the plant, stimulating the plant to create outgrowths in the form of red galls. The larva live in and are nourished by the spiny structures. More often than not, other insects take advantage of these galls by laying their own eggs inside and allowing their larva to eat the spiny rose gall wasp larva. Cool, right?

Until next time,

Aleah

May flowers (and rain)

Hi, Rachael again.

I said bring on the April showers, not May showers!

Here at the C&O Canal, we’ve had enough rain to wash out culverts, roads, parts of the towpath, and cause landslides. Many of the popular trails near the river had been flooded, and were too dangerous to access. The power of a flood-motivated river is amazing, though! Whole trees tumbled downstream and you can’t help but watch water roar through what is usually a quiet run. We placed sandbags around one of the Visitor’s center, but thankfully the river crested at a lower level than anticipated.

Hopefully this weather takes a break soon, or else I won’t get to find those floodplain plants!

Although not a roaring flood, these silver maples are usually dry up on the riverbank

But it is spring, so let’s see what’s growing (other than puddles).

Early in May was the best time to spot trout lilies or fawn lilies (Erythronium spp.). The white trout lilies are rare here in Maryland.

I am trying not to be mad aboutmissing them in flower (seriously, there are records for where they grow throughout the park, and I found ABSOLUTELY NO E. albidum open). They are still identifiable by the stigma, style, and capsule, which I guess I can call a happy compromise (no beautiful white petals, but at least they didn’t hide from me).

Erythronium albidum; Notice the white style topped by a conspicuously three-pronged stigma

Close enough! E. albidum flower

Erythronium americanum has a yellow stigma and style. The stigma is not conspicuously three-pronged.

E. americanum

Easy enough, right? Until a seasoned botanist suggests there might be an occurrence of another species of Erythronium that hadn’t been recorded here. Honestly I spent hours pouring through various Floras and websites and poking at the patches of leaves and capsules until I decided to sleep on it. Species identification can get far more complex than it needs to be, especially since living things are not as cleanly defined as text from a page.

The other species of Erythronium also has a yellow style, but Erythronium umbilicatum, unlike E. americanum, does not have auricled petals. Many of the physical characteristics for these two species of Erythronium, such as capsule shape and anther color are variable, which makes telling them apart tricky. According to the regional botanist, the style on E. umbilicatum is not persistent, and therefore the trout lilies in question were probably not Erythronium umbilicatum.

Enough about flowers-without-flowers. I promise there some easy-on-the-eyes plants, because that’s what everyone raves about when they hear I’m a botanist. Oh!–the wildflowers!

Trilium erectum (yep, I had to put this one on Instagram)

While I’m at it, I’d like to appreciate the enthusiasm I’ve seen for the plants in this park. Not only from staff and members of a native plant society, but visitors that just want some exercise do want to hear that there is something worth protecting. It’s nice to see a community that cares about their strip of wildlife, and individuals who want to learn about their park.

Tradescantia virginiana – spiderwort

Let me interrupt the flower photos with a copperhead molting on the towpath

Podophyllum peltatum — all parts of mayapple is poisonous, unless the fruit is perfectly ripe.

Paw paw flowers, which, I’ve been told, are pollinated by flies

There is concern about the number of paw paw ‘trees’ growing in what should be successional forests, since other seedlings such as maples and hickories have a hard time competing with paw paw. Deer do not like to eat these guys, so there is no natural control. It is becoming increasingly difficult to have something with a taller canopy so the understory can develop, with the ash trees dying out from effects of the emerald ash borer, and no more american chestnut trees. After that meeting with the regional inventory and monitoring team, I realized that I am not just learning about protecting rare plants here, but how to keep the forests healthy for future inhabitants. This park goes beyond us and beyond the canal’s locks and dams, which is important to remind myself when I think of the more direct ways I could be helping people.

Many of the rare and watchlisted herbaceous plants (that are not in the floodplain) grow in the understory in places with larger trees. While not as exciting as seeing them in person, I’ve got some photos for you!

Primula meadia — shooting star, formerly Dodecatheon meadia, an S3 in Maryland. The white flowers are Micranthes virginiensis.

Delphinium tricorne S3

Phacelia purshii, S3, miami mist (more of a floodplain/low area plant)

Phacelia covillei, S2, which looks similar to Nemophila aphylla, but the bracts of P. covillei are longer, and the capsule is flatter than round (grows like a weed)

Maianthemum stellatum, S2 (grows on riverbanks and forests, which are at stake)

Because I am sure there are enough flower photos on here;

Dead man’s fingers! 
“If you can bring nothing to this place / but your carcass, keep out” — William Carlos Williams “Dedication for a Plot of Ground”

Thanks for spending time with this post, and keep up the hard work!

 

Monocacy Aqueduct, the “unbreakable aqueduct”

 

Rachael