Research Associates Evaluate Sage Grouse Habitat in Northern Nevada

By Katie Rifenburg, Research Associate

Greetings from Winnemucca!

As we wrap up the field season I have been spending a fair amount of time reflecting upon our experiences throughout the summer. I learned a lot over the past few months and grew a lot as both a Research Associate and a person.

To summarize, our project catalogs the natural springs in the BLM Humboldt district as part of Sage Grouse Management project. Springs and riparian vegetation make excellent sites for wildlife browsing, nesting, and a cool place to rest out of the sun. These spring habitats also contribute to the livelihood of a handful of endemic and endangered species here in the Great Basin, including the sage grouse.

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Research Associate Colin Lawrence revels in the beauty of a high-desert wildflower bloom north of Winnemucca.

When I first applied for this position, I was a little confused how we were going to measure water chemistry in the desert. Isn’t the desert known for its lack of water? Still to this day, when I tell people I monitor the natural springs in Northern Nevada, their first reply is “there is water there?”  In fact, the lack of water makes it even more important to protect these springs, and I think it’s even more special when we find a healthy spring full of water and riparian vegetation.

The best part of the season was all the wildlife we got to see. Elk, big horn sheep, coyote, wild horse all graced us with their presence. Again, I always thought of deserts as barren wastelands. After my experience with this position, I’m now in constant awe of how much life and beauty the desert has to offer.

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Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon pulchellum).

If you prefer verse, Katie offered this poem about her experiences in the field:

I reflect on our time this summer
As we took on the role of desert plumber
Making sure that all animals, small and grand,
Had water in this dry desert land.
When I started, I was skeptical at best

If there was water in the hot, dry west
But now I’ve seen the wildlife browsing
As they come to springs and start carousing
And no one has to dare
To ask me if there’s water there.

We can all be in awe of the life in this place
From all the animals whose presence did grace.
We saw elk, coyote, and sheep over this time
and ran in horse herds feeling sublime.

Thanks for a great field season
And now that it’s ended, go party (within reason).

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