Friday, July 31, 2009

GRAND Explorations (Post 25)

Opuntia sp., Prickly Pear

For any of you diners who may be have been curious and/or faithful enough to check in on the blogue over the past month: I thank you! I am very sorry that there have been no updates.

I have been engaged in all manner of extravagant adventures over the intervening weeks and this post should really have been published in installments along the way. Forgive my ineptitude.

The excellent Chicago Botanical Garden program that I am interning with (Conservation and Land Management Internships) sent myself and the other five interns working in Rawtown to the Grand Canyon for a week of workshops with government scientists. It was great week of socializing with other animal and plant nerdkids like myself and I was fortunate enough to befriend several of them. Along the way to the AZ we took the liberty of enjoying some of the national parks in Utah. By the way, southern Utah is surprisingly gorgeous.

As for the GC, if you have not yet had the fortune to experience it, I strongly encourage that you do. In classic American style, the place's size was beyond compare. Compared to the numerous human-made wonders I have been awed by, the awe aroused as I approached the canyon rim came from a different place. Cathedrals and Eiffel Towers inspire a cerebral awe from an appreciation of beauty wrought by art and genius while the Canyon's is a primal reaction - first contact with a thing beyond one's comprehension, beyond what one would conventionally consider possible. I don't want to hype it up, so I won't post too many pictures. Also, I hardly took any. I felt there was an overwhelming futility in attempting to record my experience in fotos.
Presenting the gorgeously goth California Condor.

We had a surreal experience when we hiked to a mountain lion kill site populated by one (1) rotting elk. This was right at the canyon rim in the midst of a burned forest.

Canyon elk abound.

We drove up to the canyon listening to Queen, which became an impressively perfect mood setter. We later repeated this technique with great success by listening to "Bohemian Rhapsody" as we drove into Zion NP:

Of course, we involuntarily sang along.

Arches, near Moab, UT and where the opening segment of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed, we visited on our way down. It was astounding and a nice warm up to the wonder that was to come.




My beloved Girlfriend brought me great joy when she came to visit a couple of weeks ago. Another reason besides laziness for not updating this blogg was caused by my reluctance to become too deeply involved in anything besides her (and, of course, my work).

We had 0urselves a glorious visit. During her western-tyme, we enjoyed many western-style things together. We found wild horses in the desert, went fossil hunting, shot guns, and went on a wilde roade trip into the western mountains. There we visited Grand Teton park and Yellowstone. Grand Teton was beautiful, and Yellowstone was great. We camped out and had fun! We looked for animals and saw bison and elk and tourists! No bears. Yellowstone has its own Grand Canyon, through which flows the iconic Lower Falls of the Yellowstone. Beautiful. Classic. I want to go back next time and adventure in the backcountry a bit.

Family portrait.

Beautiful girlfriend.

It hurt to take my girlfriend back to the airport. I was filled with sad. But I will see her soon! I will be taking her to Los Angeles soon for her internship. We won't be far apart this winter because

There is Great News:

I was offered an internship to follow up this one starting Sept. 28th. I will be working with the US Geological Service (USGS) on their socal/sonevada desert tortoise recovery projects. I believe that it will primarily consist of driving atvs around the desert in search of radio-transmitting testudos. Also looking at plants and caring for tortoise hatchlings.

I will be living in Henderson, NV. It is a part of this city.


As far as science is concerned, we have been having great luck finding our uncommon amphibian quarry. In the past few weeks we have been helping the Fish and Wildlife Service with the recovery study of the endangered Wyoming toad, finding spadefoot toads in the process of maturation, and hunting for the hopefully soon-to-be protected Northern Leopard Frog.
Giant Leopard Frog.

Spadefoot toadlet, just metamorphosed.

Clinging to life in desiccating earth.

Spadefoot tadpoles do not always metamorphose ahead of evaporation, but some made the incredible transformation and may survive to overwinter underground.

Remarkable spadefoot survivors in a tiny mudpuddle.

Spadefoot tadpoles taken from the teeming mass (Spea intermontanus).


Hat recovery operation from a mineshaft.

Brood parasitism - the cowbird lays its eggs in a redwing blackbird's nest. The cowbird hatchlings hijack the nest and the care of their involuntary surrogate parents by ejecting the redwing hatchlings and eggs.

The endangered Wyoming Toad (Bufo baxterii) - bad at existing.

Wyoming Toad Habitat - Laramie Plains lake, lightly grazed.

Swabbin' Toads

Sage grouse taking flight; North, to the future.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009