Week Eleven

This summer has been quite the adventure! I cannot express how much fun I have had working at HAREC for the last three months! Before this summer, I never had any experience with entomology. This internship opened my eyes to a new area of science for me. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about invertebrates, and although I am not planning on pursuing entomology as a career, I believe that it is a very important aspect for understand community dynamics and processes. I have also enjoyed getting more field and lab work experience. The field work we did this summer was extremely rewarding despite all of the mishaps that we had to deal with. We had yet another flat tire this week! That makes a total of five flats this summer! Check out Lauren’s post “2015 Summer Bloopers” http://grasslandrestoration.weebly.com/blog/2015-summer-bloopers!

Flat tire Number 5. Photo courtesy of Lauren A. Smith (click to enlarge)

Even though our internships are over, Estany, Samantha and I will continue to working for Lauren in her lab on campus. I am very excited to keep working on such an interesting project with such great people!

Last sunset in Hermiston! (click to enlarge)

Week Ten

Well, this was officially the last week of my internship! I’m going to continuing helping Lauren out for the next week and a half or so, though!

Lauren was gone all week, Estany and I were on our own for the most part, but we got a lot done and had a lot of fun!

On Monday and Tuesday, we finished pinning all of the bees that we have collected! After next week, we’ll have one more set of samples to pin from the Zumwalt, but as of this week we are completely caught up with all of the samples that we have.

After we finished pinning, the next step was to enter all of the bees into an Excel database. We got all of the data entered on Tuesday, and so far we have collected a total of 11,068 bees! 8282 (53.97% of the total) of those bees are Agapostemon! I mentioned in my previous post that Lauren, Sam, Estany, and I all made a bet about what percentage of out bees were Agapostemon, and it turns out that none of our guesses were even close to the actual percentage. However, my guess was still the closest, so I get a free Blizzard! I guessed 70%. Estany guessed 74.79%. Lauren guessed 80%. And Sam guessed 85%. While we were pinning it definitely felt like there were a lot more Agapostemon than there actually were. Either way, we are all very glad to be done with pinning.

For the rest of the week, Estany and I worked on sorting through pitfall samples. We have both decided that this is by far the smelliest job that we have done all summer. The mixture of invertebrates, dirt, vegetation, ethanol, and leftover antifreeze does not produce the most appealing smell.



Here are some examples of pitfall samples. At the top is a sample after being sifted through twice, the other two are samples before being sifted through at all (click to enlarge)

It takes about three hours to sort through one pitfall. We separate out all of the spider and wind scorpions from the pitfalls for Lauren’s research, and we also take out all of the other invertebrates in case somebody wants to use that data in the future. Each sample is sifted three times at least. We put the sample through a sieve initially to remove some of the dirt. Then after picking out all of the invertebrates that we can, we sift it again and look for more. We do that at least one more time, sometimes two more. Doing pitfalls gets very tedious after doing two or three in a day, but it is also really fun and fascinating to find the spiders and wind scorpions.

A vial of spiders collected from a pitfall for Boardman (click to enlarge)
A vial with two wind scorpions collected from a pitfall from Boardman (click to enlarge)

Overall it was a pretty fun week! We got so much work done and got do some new stuff too. Also I took care of Lauren’s jumping spiders while she was gone this week!

One of Lauren’s spiders hiding out in a mass of web and a grasshopper (click to enlarge)
Lauren’s other spider (click to enlarge)

Next week, Lauren, Estany, and I will be going back to the Zumwalt for our last set of field work for the summer!

Week Nine

This week was a pretty laid-back week! We mostly worked in the lab, but we also went back out the Zumwalt to pick up pitfalls.

On Monday, we just worked on more pinning. However on Tuesday, Sandy came to the lab and worked on bee identification with us! We had so much fun, and it was really fascinating to learn how to ID some of the most common bees that we collect. To identify bees, we use various keys that are made up of different pairs of statements (called couplets). Identification starts with Couplet 1, and we determine which of the two statements is true of the bee that we are looking at. After choosing the statement that is true of our bee, we are directed to another couplet. This continues until we reach a couplet that ends with a specific genus (some go to species, but the key we were using only went to genus). Since this was pretty much our first time (for Sam, Lauren, and Estany and I) identifying these types of bees, we were practicing using specimens from Sandy’s reference collection. Sandy would give us each a bee without the label, and we would try to key it out. If we got it wrong, Sandy went through the key with us backwards to figure out where we went wrong. It was a really fun experience, and I learned a lot about different characteristics and the anatomy of bees!

Example of an Agapostemon under a microscope (click to enlarge)
Another bee used during our ID session (click to enlarge)

On Wednesday, Lauren and I went back out the Zumwalt just for the day to collect pitfalls. It was a little bit more of a hassle to hike to the upper plots this time. Instead of carrying all of our equipment with us, we decided to just put the pitfalls from each plot in three separate 2-gallon Ziploc bags, so that we could take them back to Summer Camp and process them there. So after lunch, we processed the three samples from the upper plots. Then on our way out of the preserve, we picked up the rest of the samples. It was extremely smoky again the whole time we were there, which made the hike a little unpleasant, but overall it was a pretty good day! And I fished for more grasshoppers on the way out again!

On Thursday and Friday, we were back in the lab. Lauren is going to be gone all of next week, so she showed me example of how to process pitfall traps (because we only have five pan trap samples left to pin!!!). I am also going to be working on creating an Excel database of all of the bees that we have collected. At this point, all we will be including in terms of ID of the bees is if they are Agapostemon (the green bees) or not. We all made bets about what percent of the bees we have collected are Agapostemon, and the prize for the closest guess is a free Blizzard from Dairy Queen!

Week Eight

This week was pretty busy, but it was really fun! We finally got to go back to the Zumwalt Prairie again!

On Monday and Tuesday, we just worked on more pinning. We worked mostly on our August samples from Boardman and the Umatilla. We are getting so close to being caught up! I also now hold the record for the largest sample pinned in our lab! Last Tuesday, I started pinning a sample collected at plot Degraded 3 at Boardman. There were 555 bees, and of those 555 bees about 430 of them were Agapostemon! Pinning that sample was brutal, but finishing it was a relief!

Most of the Agapostemon from Degraded 3 pinned on a foam board before I labeled them (click to enlarge)

On Tuesday night, Lauren, Sam, Estany, and I went to the Umatilla County Fair! We saw so many cute animals, and we got to go to the Dustin Lynch concert too!

On Wednesday morning, Lauren, Sam, and I left for the Zumwalt. It is about a three hour drive to Summer Camp, and we got there at about 10:00 am. Since we have three days each time we go to the Zumwalt, we have a little bit more freedom to spread out all of the work that we need to do. So on Wednesday, Sam and I set out pan traps and pitfalls and hand-netted, and Lauren did her percent cover and native/invasive grass surveys.

Part of the Zumwalt Prairie taken in June 2015 (click to enlarge)
Same location taken in August 2015 (click to enlarge)

It is amazing how much drier it is at the Zumwalt now compared to the first time we were there in June (see pictures above). We actually were not allowed to drive to three of our plots because driving is restricted on any unimproved roads because of the extreme fire danger. This means that now we have to hike to at least three of the six plots with all of our equipment in packs.

There was a lot of high smoke in the skies making the sun red (click to enlarge)
Smoky skies over Summer Camp (click to enlarge)


On Thursday, we did our floral surveys, and we ended up just hiking to all six sites because we did not need much equipment. The floral surveys were much more pleasant this time! We only had to count about a thousand blooms rather the 13,000 blooms that we counted at the Zumwalt in June!

After we finished our work on Thursday, the three of us went to explore Joseph, a little town just southeast of the Zumwalt. We also stopped by Wallowa Lake for a little while!

A bee that I found while walking around Joseph (click to enlarge)
Wallowa Lake (click to enlarge)

On Friday, we hiked to the plots to collect the pan traps and refill the pitfalls. Sam and I also fished for grasshoppers on our way out of the preserve! There were a ridiculous number of grasshoppers at the Zumwalt this time, and while we were driving on the dirt roads, they all started jumping up around the tires of the Suburban. So naturally, we decided to use the hand nets to catch some of them for Lauren to feed to her pet spiders! Sam caught 12 grasshoppers!

Sam fishing for grasshoppers! (click to enlarge)

Overall, we had a pretty good week! It was very pleasant at the Zumwalt, and we had fun staying at Summer Camp and exploring Joseph while we were there!

Week Seven

Yet another busy week! This week we started another set of sampling at the Umatilla and at Boardman.

On Monday and Tuesday, we were at Boardman and Umatilla, respectively, putting out pan traps and opening pitfall traps. We also did vegetation surveys and hand-netting at each site. Sandy, Sam, and I were in the truck this time, doing the relatively easily accessible sites, and Estany and Lauren were the lucky ones who got to ride on the UTV again. Everything we very smoothly, and the weather was very nice compared to some of the previous days. At Boardman, we even thought it was going to start raining on us the whole time; we were extremely grateful for the break in the hot weather! Unfortunately, because it was cooler and windier, hand-netting was not very successful at Boardman or the Umatilla. We did see hardly any bees at any of the sites, but we did see a few elk while we were stopped for lunch!

The elk that we saw at Boardman on Monday (click to enlarge)

On Wednesday and Thursday, we went back to Boardman and the Umatilla to collect pan traps and refill pit falls. Sandy was unable to come with us to Boardman on Wednesday, so Sam and I got to drive by ourselves for first time! It was a little bit scary in some areas, but we made it through without any issues! And we also had another elk encounter on our way back to the entrance. We weren’t able to see anything on either side of the truck (the sagebrush was really tall), and we came extremely close to hitting a herd of about 15 elk that ran right in front of the truck while I was driving. That definitely got our blood pumping for a bit!

Contrast between the burned and unburned areas at Boardman (click to enlarge)

On Tuesday, after finishing our work at the Umatilla, Sandy came to the lab and we started learning how to identify bumblebees! Sandy gave us each a couple of bees from a reference collection (without the label) to practice identifying with our microscopes. It was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot about the anatomy of bumblebees!

A Hunt’s Bumble Bee (Bombus huntii) that I identified (click to enlarge)

Overall, it was a very busy week, but we accomplished a lot and had fun doing it! I took Friday off to go camping in Central Oregon with some friends!

Week Six

I had so much fun this week! Estany and I got to go to Starkey Experimental Forest for a couple of days to help out Sam and Sandy with Sandy’s project. It was a great experience, and we got to tour the facilities there too!

After a day in the lab on Monday, Estany and I left early Tuesday morning to drive to Starkey. It was about a two hour drive, and we only made one wrong turn trying to get there. We met Sam and Sandy up there; both of them had already been at Starkey since Friday morning. Once we got there, Estany and I got settled in the bunk house, and then the four of us got started on our field work. In her project, Sandy is looking at the effects of different types of grazing on bee communities. There are three pastures that she surveys at Starkey: Pasture 2, Pasture 3, and Pasture 5. Within each pasture, there are four different sites where different types of grazing occur: Deer/Elk, Livestock, All, and None. We worked at two out of the three pastures on Tuesday. Sam and Sandy had already set up and collected pan traps at all three pastures, so all that we did while Estany and I were there was hand-netting.

Example of a vial with a Targeted Hand-netting sample in it. We label each vial with the type of hand-netting, the site, the date, and the type of bloom that the bees were caught on. (click to enlarge)
Part of Meadow Creek that runs through all of the sites at Starkey (click to enlarge)

After we finished our work for the day, one of the graduate students living in the bunk house, Danielle, took us to see the captive elk that live at Starkey. These elk have been hand raised and are used in different studies including ones on elk grazing patterns. Danielle works primarily with mule deer for her research for her Masters; however, she told us that she also helps out with the elk and at the handling facility at Starkey. It was so much fun to go hang out with the elk and see them up so close!

Sam, Danielle, and me with two of the captive elk at Starkey (click to enlarge)
Me with one of the elk (click to enlarge)

On Wednesday, we went out to Pasture 5 and hand-netted at each site. It is a much longer drive to get to Pasture 5 than it is to get to Pastures 2 and 3, so Sandy usually surveys at Pasture 5 on a different day.

One of the bees that I caught while hand-netting at Pasture 5 (click to enlarge)
Sandy transferring her samples to clean vials (click to enlarge)

I had so much fun working and hiking around at Starkey! It is an absolutely beautiful area, and I got to work on my hand-netting skills which will help with field work at Lauren’s sites as well.

Sam, Estany, and me at the entrance of Starkey Experimental Forest (click to enlarge)

On Thursday and Friday, we were back in the lab, pinning and packing up vehicles for the field work that we are going to do next week!

Week Five

The past few weeks have been pretty hectic and I have not had a chance to write a post, but I’ve finally got some free time this weekend!

Week Five was pretty uneventful compared to Week Four. We worked in the lab all day on Monday. Sam, Estany, and I continued to work on pinning bees. We are getting so close to being caught up!

On Tuesday, Lauren, Sam, Sandy and I went out to Boardman to pick up the pitfall traps that we opened the week before. No flats this time!! Hooray!!

Lauren processing pitfall traps at Boardman (click to enlarge)

On Wednesday, we had a reporter, Gail Wells, and a photographer from OSU come interview us and take pictures while we went to the Umatilla. It was great meeting with Gail, and she and her husband took out to dinner that evening to talk with us some more.

Example of a pan trap (white cup) and a pitfall trap at the Umatilla (click to enlarge)

On Thursday, we met with the Experiential Learning Coordinator, Katie Gaebel, to talk about how our internships are going and our experiences here at the station.

After my interview on Thursday, took the rest of the day off and left to go down to Southern Oregon! I spent the weekend camping, eating great food, and spending time with my friends and family.

Sunrise at camp (click to enlarge)

Week Four

Well, this week was crazy to say the least! We spent over 20 hours doing field work this week, and had our fair share of problems along the way.

On Monday, we just worked in the lab again. Sam and I pinned more bees and packed up the vehicles to go out to Boardman the next day.

Tuesday was our first of field work at Boardman. At each of the 18 sites, we were putting out pan traps, opening/filling pitfall traps, hand-netting, and doing floral surveys. However, about two months ago, there was a fire that burned over 40,000 acres of the Boardman Grasslands, including about a third of Lauren’s sites. It also made the roads extremely sandy. Because the roads are so terrible, we rented a UTV to get to some of the sites. We split into two groups: Sam, Sandy, and I in the truck, and Estany and Lauren in the UTV. Unfortunately, the UTV got a flat tire about an hour into doing fieldwork, and they weren’t able to finish the seven sites that they were supposed to do. So we had to drive out in the truck and pick up Lauren and Estany. The whole point of having the UTV, though, was that we were worried that the truck wouldn’t make it on some of the roads that the UTV was going on. Fortunately, we made it out there without too much trouble, but it was definitely not a drive I would care to do again. Once we picked up Estany and Lauren, we finished all of their sites, and the 11 that we were going to do in the first place. All in all, it was a very long day; Sandy, Sam, and I spent 13 hours doing field work on Tuesday.

Me opening a pan trap at Boardman (click to enlarge)
One of the burned sites at Boardman (click to enlarge)

On Wednesday, Lauren, Sam, and I went to the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge. We did the same things we were doing at Boardman on Tuesday: putting out pan traps, opening/filling pitfall traps, hand-netting, and doing floral surveys. Luckily, everything went fairly smoothly, and we finished the six sites before noon.

Part of the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge (click to enlarge)


Columbia River at the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge (click to enlarge)

On Thursday, we went to Boardman again to collect pan traps and do vegetation surveys. This time Estany didn’t come with us, so I was in the UTV with Lauren, and Sam and Sandy were in the truck. Lauren and I were sure that everything was going to go smoothly on Thursday… but of course we weren’t that lucky. About fifteen minutes from the station, one of the tires on the trailer carrying the UTV blew out.

The remains of the tire from the trailer (click to enlarge)

Fortunately, we were close enough that Dan, one of the mechanics from the station, came to the rescue and helped us fix the trailer. Sandy and Sam left to get started on their sites at Boardman, and Lauren and I finally got back on the road about an hour later. Once we were at Boardman everything went smoothly. Riding in the UTV was quite the experience though. I don’t think I’ve ever had that much dirt in my eyes, but it was a lot of fun!

Lauren and I on the UTV trying to avoid inhaling more dirt that we had to (click to enlarge)

On Friday, Sam and I went back to the Umatilla to collect pan traps and Sam did vegetation surveys.

Overall, this week was a lot of fun, but it was definitely long and I am really happy that it’s the weekend! Now we just have to keep our fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly next week while were doing field work.

Week Three

Week Three is in the books! It was a very long week, but we accomplished a lot, and got caught up with a ton of lab work.

On Monday and Tuesday morning, Sam, Estany, Lauren, and I set up twelve experimental plots in some of the fields here at the station for Sandy. Other than that, we spent the rest of the week in the lab.

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Sam and I worked on pinning insect samples from Starkey Experimental Forest where Sandy is doing research. The purpose of Sandy’s research is too look at the effect of different types of grazing on bee communities. At Starkey, Sandy has three different pastures that she does experiments in. Within each pasture, there are different levels of grazing: Deer and Elk, Livestock (Cattle), All (Deer, Elk, and Cattle), and None. She also has three methods of bee collection which include blue-vane traps, pan traps, and hand-netting. Within each sample, we separated the bees and non-bees (beetles, flies, etc). Unlike with Lauren’s samples, we pinned everything in the samples instead of just bees. It was really interesting to see the huge variety of insects collected at Starkey.  Altogether, Sam and I pinned around 2,300 insects in three days!


All of the insects from the Starkey samples that Sam and I pinned this week (click to enlarge)
After we finished the samples from Starkey, we continued to work on Lauren’s samples. We finished with all of the samples from 2014 and the samples from June 2015 from Boardman. Now, we are pinning this year’s samples from the Umatilla and the Zumwalt. We also had some really blue bees in a couple of the Boardman samples!



We accomplished a lot this week, and it’s nice to be finally be almost caught up with lab work! I’m really excited to get out of the lab though. We have a lot of field work coming up next week!

Week Two

Happy Fourth of July! Week 2 was a success! I mostly worked in the lab this week, but we did spend one day in the field.

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Sam, Estany, and I worked on pinning bee samples from Boardman from August 2014, and we finished! Which means that we only have one more month of bees to pin from last year, and then we move on to working on this year’s samples! Sam and I also repainted 163 pan traps on Monday and Tuesday. We had to chip all of the old spray paint and primer off of the cups, and then prime and spray paint them again. It was very tedious and time consuming, but now we are ready to put out traps at Boardman in two weeks!

These green bees are some of the most common bees that we have been seeing in the August samples from Boardman (click to enlarge)
On Thursday, Sam, Lauren and I left the station at 6:00 am to go out to the Zumwalt for the day. We collected all of the pit fall traps that we set out last week, and Lauren did more vegetation surveys. It was really interesting to see all of the critters in the pitfalls as we processed them… lots of spiders, beetles, and grasshoppers. I’m excited to have a closer look at them in the lab. Unfortunately, a couple of the sites that we put out at the Zumwalt are located in areas where several ranchers graze their cattle. At the three lower sites many of the pitfalls had been pulled out of the ground—or stepped on in some cases. Another problems that we encountered was that because it has been so hot lately, most of the pitfalls were dried up. Overall it was a good day in the field though! We finished before noon and headed back to the station that afternoon.

Part of the Zumwalt (click to enlarge)
Sam and I processing pitfall traps at the upper sites at the Zumwalt (click to enlarge)

And since it is a holiday weekend, we got Friday off! I ended up washing the station cars early on Friday morning before it got hot outside, but then I left to go visit family in Washington for the Fourth of July!