Saying goodbye to the Gem State

 

Today is my last day at the Shoshone Field Office and it is feeling really bittersweet! I am excited to see what life holds for me next, but looking back, I am beyond pleased with how my internship went. One of my favorite things about this position was the diversity of tasks my boss, Joanna, let us explore; With monarch tagging, bumble bee surveying and bat monitoring with Idaho Fish and Game, electrofishing with USGS, rare plant monitoring with the Idaho Natural Heritage Program, and cultural clearances and cave surveying with other teams in our office, it has been a whirlwind! It was great getting to not only work in other areas of ecology that I have not been exposed to, but also work with other agencies.

Of course not every day can be as exciting, we often helped with more mundane tasks, such as GPS’ing fences and accessing range improvements. These days often involved driving through BLM land for hours on end. However, these days proved to be some of the most valuable in my eyes! Spending nearly entire days in a truck with the same three people can really bond you together like nothing else. We often were at our silliest, leading to funny stories and great memories. The people I have met here have been amazing and I truly feel like I have made life long friends.

Elk skeleton – working in the desert you find so many bones and sheds!

Another great thing about Idaho is how jawdroppingly gorgeous it is! Most of my money ended up going towards gas to explore all of the beautiful sights and I have no regrets. The last five months has given me a chance to explore not only Idaho, but Utah and Oregon as well! These weekend trips have been spent with other CLM interns and has provided me with so many fun and unique memories. I was also only four hours away from Yellowstone National Park, which gave my friends and family back home a great incentive to come and visit!

City of Rocks! One of my favorite places in Idaho!

Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Logan, Utah! Coming from Florida, I was so excited to see fall colors!!

Signing off from Shoshone,

Barbara

Scream if you love potatoes!

My time spent in Idaho is coming to a close. Today is my last day in the office and I’ll be heading back to the Midwest at the end of the following week. I’m grateful of my time and experiences I’ve shared here in Twin Falls and Shoshone. My last day is filled with mixed emotions as I’m excited to be moving back to a familiar place, but also upset I’ll be moving away from people I’ve grown to care so much about these 6 months.

Idaho BLM has given me so many new experiences working with people from all over the country, people of all ages, and people with varying levels of experience in range management.

I came to Idaho with an open mind, seeing as this is my first job after graduating, and I’m grateful that the CBG program was able to send me out West. I felt like it was important to stretch my comfort-zone and pursue this job as far west as I’ve ever been, and I truly enjoyed my time here and the experiences I went through. I made friends with locals and they took me on many adventures, one of which was to my first rodeo which is where I really learned to understand potato appreciation (being from WI, you get a lot of cheeseheads, so potatoes were new to me). I’m now interested in getting my Red Card after experiencing wildfires so near to home and hearing talk around the office about fire culture. Idaho has moved me to explore more of the world, expand my understanding of people and express myself in new ways.

I’ll miss the people, I’ll miss my house, but I’ll definitely miss flora of the west.

SG

Idaho Fish and Game

More work outside of BLM has been pretty fun lately. Aside from our new projects relating to GIS and GPS, we also get the opportunity to work on other projects throughout the week with Idaho Fish and Game.

Last week I was able to go out on a bat project. I honestly know very little about bat calls and bat biology etc. but it seemed like something I would enjoy and I’m glad to report I did!

I had previously gotten the chance to work with Ross Winton working on an entomology project, so he was a familiar face. It was fun getting to see his work with insects and bats, alongside Senior Conservation Officer Meghan Roos. The second day of data collection we went out with GeoCorps interns as well.

After dinner, waiting for the sun to set, waiting for the bats to emerge!

2 CBG CLM & 2 GeoCorps. After dinner, waiting for the sun to set, waiting for the bats to emerge!

We started our day at 3pm, set up microphones at designated spots, had dinner, drove a transect to capture 25 miles of bat calls and ended around midnight. We had a small hike to some of the points but were able to see a young queen bee, a beautiful sunset, a moose and her calf and hear coyote’s (wolves??) and investigate some pretty neat unknown plants. Overall, a very entertaining couple of days.

Queen. Captured by the talented Ross

I love the spatulate leaves on this plant. No idea what it is though, anyone have any idea?

In other news, the eclipse is coming up and Idaho is expected to have almost a quarter million people travel in the path of totality, if that’s you, be safe!

Cheers!

SG

Catching endemic beetles

Just before the holiday weekend, my field crew finished our main field project and had the opportunity to join Idaho Fish & Game for a day field-trip. Many Burley and Shoshone Field Offices’ CBG Interns were able to join Ross Winton with Idaho Fish & Game on a hunt for a beetles on different species of Eriogonum, commonly known as Buckwheat.

Unfortunately, I know pretty much nothing about buts/insects/arachnids whatsoever, but I got into contact with Ross again and he filled me in on a few things about what we were looking for that day.

Our goal was to find any Chrysobothris beetle on Eriogonum or Crepis species, however the jackpot was Chrysobothris idahoensis, a wood-boring jewel beetle. This species is an Idaho endemic and a species of greatest conservation need. Ross let me know that, “they live as juveniles (larvae and pupae) in the roots of Eriogonum and emerge and often visit flowers as adults in June and July.” So, in addition to sweeping above Eriogonum flowers, we also dug up some roots of that same genus to perhaps find beetles emerging later.

Ross with mouth‑operated aspirator to aid in capturing samples to easily transfer them into vials (not pictured, his beetle-head belt buckle)

During the first hour or so we split up over the landscape switching off duties between sweeping and digging for roots. My first time sweeping, I found it, I had found the jewel beetle! I swept over strictly Eriogonum species for about 20-30 minutes and my beetle made it quickly into a sample vial full of acetone and ethanol. The little beetle was somewhat shiny and green, had a square head and a pointy butt, easily distinguishable from other insects in the same vial. My name went on the specimen and we all were excited to find more that day. Unfortunately, no more were found on the site, possibly too late in the season to see their emergence.

Chrysobothris idahoensis, species of greatest conservation need

A quick glimpse of other neat creatures we caught.

Again, sorry I know nothing about entomology

A giant, gross/cool wasp?

Other beetley things

Pollinator on a mariposa lily

I’m glad I was able to get in touch with Ross again and we all got the chance to work a day with an entomologist. So neat! 10/10 would recommend to a friend

-SG

 

Southern Idaho at First Glance

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Hello there from Shoshone, ID!

Wyethia field in Sawtooth Mountains

 

 

My name is Patricia, and I am working primarily on SOS with Danelle Nance for the BLM. I came out here late May from Phoenix, AZ and life in Southern Idaho (so far) has been treating me very well. (A pleasant surprise! — Sorry, I have to be honest and admit that I was definitely a skeptic about Idaho before I arrived here, but I couldn’t be happier that I just went for it with this one.)

With Danelle and my SOS partner Jenny, and Harpo (another CBG intern) in the Bennett Hills scouting out potential SOS populations of our target species (field of Yarrow on right)

Dierkes lake at sunset – great rec site located in Twin!

One of my favorites so far this summer – spiny hopsage *Grayia spinosa*

SOS partner and new friend (Jenny) killing it on a climb at City of Rocks – definitely recommend going if you’re into climbing!

Similar to a lot of the other interns in my office, I am living in Twin Falls, which is approximately 30 minutes south of the Shoshone Field Office. Compared to Shoshone, Twin has a little bit more going on in regards to groceries, people, and not feeling too isolated. It is in a great location — Sawtooth National Forest, Yellowstone, City of Rocks, Sun Valley, etc. are only a short drive away! Plus, there is also a ton of great local climbing, biking, and hiking spots too. Dierkes Lake near Shoshone Falls, in particular, has been a great place to boulder, sport climb, run, and swim with both work and new friends. I think that this effort to explore my new surrounding area extensively after work and during the weekends has helped me immensely in adjusting to this new environment.

In regards to work, I cannot express how awesome Danelle has been as a mentor.  She truly has been an approachable and helpful guide these first few months: helping me feel comfortable in the office and pushing me to take advantage of the ample learning opportunities here in our field office. With that said, my knowledge in botany for the area, plant identification, and field skills have all been strengthened immensely, and my interests have become much more apparent to me.

Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls – great spot to watch and meet crazy base jumpers who come from all over the world!

Until next time.

CLM round two

Wrapping up my 5th week at my internship in Shoshone, Idaho, it’s hard for me to decide what to write my blog post about! There has been so many exciting moments that it’s hard to choose! This is my second gig with the CLM program, but my experiences have been vastly different. Last summer I worked at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank, doing Seeds of Success work. I was stationed at Staten Island, NYC and I lived in Brooklyn. Now I am here in Idaho working for the the BLM and it has definitely been a change in pace. Although I really loved New York City and having such a unique CLM experience, I can really appreciate the quietness of Idaho.

I’m originally from Florida, so about 10 days before the start of my internship, my cat and I drove out to Idaho. It was a 48 hour drive and luckily I have a cat who weirdly loves the car! Driving across the country was definitely an experience. I had never spent any real time out west before and driving through  Wyoming felt like I was being awoken to the amazing-ness of the west. As I drove into Twin Falls (the town I live in), I am taken by surprise as I cross over a bridge with a GIANT canyon (now I know it’s the Snake River Canyon)! This was just the beginning of the beauty I have discovered in Idaho so far. Seriously, my phone storage has been hating me ever since I moved here.

Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, ID!

One thing I really love about my job so far is the diversity of things that we get to do. We started out doing a modified version of AIM (Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring). Doing MAIM has been great so far and I really love learning new species of plants everyday. We get to visit beautiful spots and *maybe* one day I will be able to easily identify the different species of sagebrush! However, we are quickly wrapping up that part of the job and are moving on to other projects! We get to help out on various projects with Idaho Fish and Game, which really excites me because I have a degree in Wildlife Ecology and have a love of both plants and wildlife! Today we went out and did bat and invertebrate surveys in three different caves. This was such an awesome experience, even though we did not find any bats unfortunately. Tomorrow we will be helping out on pollinator research! Very exciting stuff!!

Bat and invertebrate surveying

The workshop at the Chicago Botanic Garden was also a great experience. They were lovely hosts and it was so nice getting to meet interns from all over the country!  The “Butterflies & Blooms” exhibit at the garden was amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone who visits the garden.

 

Butterfly or leaf? Found at the Butterflies and Blooms exhibit at CBG

Hiking out to our field site!

Overall my experience has been wonderful and I am looking forward to more to come (and to eat more potatoes).

Signing off from Shoshone, Idaho!

Barbara Garrow

Never have I ever been out West

My first week after graduation was filled with excitement and anxiety. I actually skipped walking across the stage during graduation because I was moving in to my new house that same weekend. I finished my last day as an undergraduate on a Thursday and started work in a new state the following Monday! Thankfully, I have very supportive parents that helped me trek my way with each passing minute farther and farther west than I had been before.

Our drive was only supposed to take 2.5 days, from Madison, WI to Twin Falls, ID. It turned into almost 4 because we got swamped with a snow storm in the middle of May!? Never would have thought to pack snow boots for May weather as I had already experienced 70 degree weather coming from Wisconsin. We ended up getting stuck in Cheyenne, WY for 9 hours. But here’s my dad as we happily continued to make our way as the roads cleared!

My dad with a smile as we finally are able to get onto I-90 from Cheyenne to Twin Falls, ID

The following first two weeks were flooded with new information and training. Besides all the online training, we also had some great hands on training in the field. I work directly with 4 other CBG interns, there are another 3 at my office.  All 4 of the CBG CLM interns I work with come from different states and are familiar with different flora, so learning new plants in the arid environment of southern Idaho has been quite entertaining!

As a contractor working for the BLM, I am assessing habitat cover and preferred forbs for sage grouse.The methods we used to do this assessment was modified as soon as the interns arrived, so as we learned the ins-and-outs of the methods, so were the crew leads and supervisors, to some extent. This was quite a bumpy ride to start as we all were interpreting specific methods differently and encountered different scenarios than were provided in the new manuals. Each day we came up with new questions and each day we solve them with gusto and readiness to continue the following day, knowing we’d come back with still more questions.

Shoshone, ID modified AIM crew. Our first time out in the field together, 4 CBG interns, our crew leads, & our mentor

Out with my crew, my mentor and other range techs from my office

Throughout the next few weeks I learned to adjust to the lack of trees and the beautiful diversity that can (surprisingly) be found here! I started to learn common grasses and forbs and learn varieties of sagebrush.

As my roommate and I got a feel for the area, we began most of our weekends traveling to some touristy sites. These areas were nice to visit while we’re learning about the area because they were so chock full of historical information and just fun random facts that are super useful for newcomers like us!

Bitterroot at Craters of the Moon National Park

Back out in the field the following week, I started slowly discovering I had some favorite plants and animals we continue to run into. I had studied trees for my undergrad but I’m finding myself drawn to some of these little forbs in southern ID.

Little horned lizard that I kind of love

Lupine! I’m slowly falling in love with this plant for some unknown reason

At the start of the next week I traveled to CBG for the Workshop, which was an incredible opportunity and I am super grateful I was able to attend. I had the chance to meet other interns in the neighboring field offices for the BLM. I was happy to be back in the Midwest and actually had the chance to see my parents again after a month in Idaho.

Back in Idaho, our big group split into 2 groups of three people, we were officially on our own! Driving to any one of our plot points may take anywhere from 1.5-2.5 hours one-way. The drive can be a little daunting, but each location is so unique and the views there are so absolutely incredible, it’s always so gratifying once we arrive.

Upper Davis Mountain view about 4 miles away from our plot point

Coming from Wisconsin and having spent a lot of time up north where there are unpaved roads, I knew how to drive a pick-up truck on gravel roads, but some of the “roads” out here barely warrant the name. Thankfully, I have stellar crew lead that has extensive experience driving on these same roads last summer! Also, I will admit, I have a really poor sense of direction, so I am thankful for her navigation skills too.

I’m also learning how to use USDA plant codes for these common plants. I’ve worked with plant codes previously doing monitoring but since the locations of these plots may have upwards of 45 species, keeping up with all plant codes and numbers following each code has been a struggle of mine. I tend to learn the common name first, then the scientific name, then the code. But sometimes the same code can be used for  2-10 different plants so you also have to remember which number corresponds to which plant!  Ex. ERNA6 & ERNA10, one is a forb and one is a shrub, and you could possibly have both on the same site!

Penstemon with a little visitor wasp

To help me with learning plant codes and scientific names I’ve made a little “key” of all the ones we’ve come across and keep the booklet with me out in the field. So far, it’s been pretty useful and have only used it 2 days but have to update it already!

Quick lunch break before finishing modified AIM transects. This location actually had upwards of 35 species, 12 of which were unknown to us! (We’re still working on keying them out)

I’ve been in Idaho exactly a month and I really cannot wait to continue exploring this state. I’ve been trying to convince all my family and friends from home to come visit me, because there’s so much here to see! One month down, four more to go. So far, this has been one of my favorite summers, yet.

SG

 

 

 

 

July in Idaho

It’s been another month already? Time flies, and I’m already more than halfway done with my internship.

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Setting up transects for our Sage-grouse Habitat Assessment Framework

This month we completed our long-term vegetation trend monitoring portion of the internship. The past couple weeks I have been working on habitat assessments for the Greater sage grouse conservation initiative. It still requires vegetation monitoring, but we use different methods for collecting data. We are mostly concerned with shrub canopy cover for nesting and availability of sage brush and preferred forbs for consumption. We’re able to complete multiple sites in a day, but it goes especially quickly in areas of low diversity and minimal to no shrub canopy cover. 

Thankfully, the weather lately has been bearable, but last month was brutal. Working out in the open desert can be exhausting when it’s over 100 degrees F and there’s no shade for relief. On the worst day, Diana and I finished off a 2 gallon cooler of ice water. Hydration is no joke!

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Celebrating America properly with friends, the great outdoors, hot dogs, and sparklers (of course)

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Chelsea, Diana, and I visiting the Sawtooths for a day

I’ve also had the opportunity to do some more exploring this month. The 4th of the July weekend I went camping in Hagerman. I also went swimming and cliff-jumping here in Twin Falls (Dierkes Lake & Hidden Lake). Last weekend I went with fellow CLMers, Diana and Chelsea, on a day trip to the Sawtooth National Forest. I’m so glad I finally went because it was absolutely beautiful!

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View from an overlook at the Sawtooth National Forest

I try to balance my weekends with rest, work, and play. I love visiting new places around me, but I’m also trying to prepare for my post-internship life. Soon enough, this adventure will be over and I’ll need a new job.

This week the range techs in my office got to participate in a river clean-up day on the Snake River near Hagerman. We got to see our CLM friends from the Jarbidge Field Office, which was fun. Our group of 7 took an inflatable paddle raft, led by our fantastic guide, Evan, from the recreation department in the Boise Field Office. We went at a leisurely pace looking for trash to pick up, but there was honestly no trash in sight. Evan guided us through the eddies and fast waves, giving me my first taste of white water rafting! Afterwards, we all enjoyed a delicious BBQ lunch at one of the picnic areas near by.

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Taking a float break from all of that cleaning (Feat. Diana in the background)

The rest of this month we will continue with our HAF studies, and hopefully visit some new areas in Idaho on our free time.

Until next post,

Carla–BLM Shoshone, ID

Idaho: Month 2

I’ve been living and working in Idaho for almost 2 months now, and time seems to be going by reasonably fast. Most days I get up very early for work, drive 30 miles each way to and from the office, and come home around 5 pm. By the time I get home, I only have the energy to eat, shower, watch some Netflix, and go to sleep. I enjoy this routine sometimes because I’m busy and time flies, but it also makes me eager for adventure and relaxation on the weekends.

Me on the Snake River Feat. Diana’s toes

I haven’t had the chance to go out and explore very much outside of Twin Falls. I did take a mini road trip to Pocatello to visit a friend from school. Two other CBG interns came with me, and none of us had ever been to Pocatello, so it was good to explore a new area. However, there are still things to do in Twin Falls! I finally went kayaking down the Snake River with some friends and it was a relaxing day on the water.

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Native plant garden in Twin Falls. We came here for a forb workshop led by the Department of Fish & Game.

Almost 2 months into this internship, I can already tell that the rest of my time here with the BLM in Shoshone will be extremely valuable. Most of my time here has been spent training and learning about the botany and wildlife found in our field office. I’m starting to feel more comfortable identifying plants, but there is still so much more for me to learn and apply in the next 4 months.

In the near future, I would like to get more involved in the GIS work happening in our office. By the looks of it, many other interns are using GIS in their work, and I’m jealous. I enjoy collecting data and then analyzing it in GIS because it offers such a unique visualization. I’m always amazed by what GIS can do and I want to continue to improve my skills. If I were to go into a graduate program, I would likely focus on spatial analysis or some type of environmental informatics (GIS/remote sensing/modeling).

Doing work

Work perks

For now, I know that I want to improve my applied ecology and botany skills. Before studying something on the large scale, I want to have on-the-ground experience. Field work is the perfect way of acquiring those skills. Our training workshop in Chicago was somewhat helpful in learning about botany. It was made very clear that all of the CBG interns have varying levels of botany expertise. So when it came to the botany lesson, some people could follow along and identify plant families quickly, while several of us struggled to keep up. My school doesn’t even offer a botany or plant systematics class. 🙁 I guess most of my western botany knowledge and skills will have to be acquired on my own time and on the job. Thankfully, hands-on learning is one of the best ways for me to learn.

The training workshop was a great way to meet other CBG interns, and I am so thankful for that opportunity! I met some great people that I would love to spend more time with. It was great to see so many people with similar interests in terms of conservation and land management. I know that many of you will go on to do great things.

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Go Blackhawks!!!!

The workshop was also scheduled at a perfect time for me because my graduation was that weekend. I went to college in Chicago, so I got to see most of my friends and family. After a month of being in Idaho, I was so so so thankful to see the people near and dear to my heart. It was a perfect refresher. I got on the L after arriving in Chicago, and I never thought I would be so happy to smell the lingering odor of urine on the train. I know it’s gross, but it was a reminder of the last 4 years I spent in that beautiful urban city.

But now I am back in Idaho, and I want to enjoy my time here while it lasts. I’ve never spent this much time in a rural area, nor have I done this much field work. This area is growing on me and I’m starting to feel more at home. I’m so glad I have other interns here with me because we can share the new experience with each other.

Until next time,

Carla

BLM-Shoshone, ID

Field Work in Idaho!

Hello, readers!

My name is Carla and I’m finishing up my second week here in Shoshone, Idaho working for the BLM. I just moved here from Chicago about two weeks ago, so I’m still trying to take in all the new people, places, and things around me. I love the city, but it has been very refreshing so far to be in a new environment. Considering I grew up in Michigan and did forestry research in college, one of the most noticeable changes for me was the lack of trees. However, I can’t complain that I get to see beautiful views of canyons, rivers, and snow-topped mountains every day on my way to work! (Although I could do without the sulfuric odors coming from some of the farms).

Snake River (I pass this on my way to work every day)

Snake River (I pass this on my way to work every day)

My first day of work at the Shoshone Field Office actually consisted of very little time in the office. I went out to one of the BLM field sites with several of the office employees for a training session–for all, not just the new interns–on their Habitat Assessment Framework project, which aims to study sagebrush habitats for the Greater sage grouse (a ground-nesting bird I was not familiar with until I got here). It was a great way to meet the people who work in the office and get a view of their group dynamics. It was impressive to see how much they knew about the local plants and ecosystems. There were times when I had no idea what they were talking about, but there were other moments when I did understand their references to ecological/GIS terminology and I knew I was in the right place.

I also couldn’t help but think about the importance of this work that the federal government is doing. I bet so many people have no idea that the BLM is doing such detailed research in the fields of botany, ecology, geology, and more! Perhaps it is more common out west, but since there are not as many BLM field offices in the Midwest/east, it felt pretty new to me.

The rest of the week consisted of touring the field office and BLM field sites. I got to visit the Craters of the Moon National Monument, which was full of lava rock, and surprisingly full of wildflower life. I got to explore dark and icy caves with one of my co-workers that knows the insider places to go (Way to go, John!).

Photo credit: Diana

Diana & John at Craters

I have also been working closely with a fellow CLM intern (& roommate), Diana, on long-term trend monitoring. This project consists of visiting specific locations and conducting plant surveys to see how the vegetation is changing over long periods of time. It feels good to get back into the habit of plant ID and spending the days outside while it’s not too hot yet.

Just a few rain clouds at our trend monitoring site...

Just a few rain clouds at our trend monitoring site…

It has been fun going off-roading and driving around the many scenic areas in this part of Idaho. It’s amazing how the landscape can change so drastically from flat range land to steep slopes, snowy mountains, and quick-drop-off canyons. I look forward to exploring more of Idaho and the surrounding states in my free time!

Until next time,

Carla

BLM–Shoshone, ID