A Summer of Seeds in New Mexico

By Taylor Cain, Southwest Plant Materials Technician

January 2023

Youth Conservation Corps interns Josh and Anna, and IAE Ecologist Ashlee Wolf in the Jemez Mountains. Left to right: Josh Ortiz, Anna Archuleta, and IAE Ecologist Ashlee Wolf.

The 2022 field season kicked off in a wonderful new way last year when five local Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) interns joined our Southwest Office—ready to expand their conservation skills and support a diversity of IAE projects in New Mexico.

They hit the ground running by helping to plant over 5,000 native plant seedlings at one of our local seed production farms in Corrales (Albuquerque Metro area adjacent to the Rio Grande River). After that, they spent the majority of their time roaming the diverse Northern New Mexico landscape in search of native plant populations suitable for seed collection, providing weeding and seed harvesting support at IAE-contracted seed production farms near Albuquerque, and assisting with restoration work at the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve near Santa Fe.

YCC crew with a showy milkweed plant. Left to right: Francesca Galliano, Hailey Loya, Anna Archuleta, Josh Ortiz, Feather Candelaria, and University of Chicago intern Emile Sow.

Thankfully, as the summer monsoons arrived to awaken the landscape, the team was able to make their first seed collections. In mid-September the crew made several trips into the Jemez Mountains, west of Santa Fe, to collect seeds from native plant species that make up the primary diet of the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse.

These seed collections will be used to grow seedlings for restoration of jumping mouse habitat in the Santa Fe Forest.  The YCC crew had opportunities to meet and learn from others passionate about native plants when they attended the Native Plant Society of New Mexico 2022 Conference held in Albuquerque.  Francesca Galliano, YCC crew lead, gave a poster presentation describing restoration activities at the Leonora Curtin Wetland.  At the close of their season in late October, the crew had made 29 seed collections from 16 different native plant species, pulled countless weeds, attended conferences and workshops, and consistently brightened the days of all of us here in the Southwest Office.

Josh Ortiz, the lizard whisperer.

The experience of working long days under a bright summer sun seemed to strengthen bonds among crew members, and it was rewarding to watch them become a tightly knit group who worked hard, communicated well, and had fun together.

Thank you to the 2022 YCC crew: Francesca Galliano, Hailey Loya, Feather Candelaria, Josh Ortiz, and Anna Archuleta for a job well done!  We wish you all the best on their next steps in life, and hope that your experience this season was as beneficial to you as it was to the mission of IAE.  And a big thank you to New Mexico’s Youth Conservation Corps program for providing the funding for these positions, and to all the IAE staff who helped make their season a success!

YCC crew plus University of Chicago intern, Emile, previously featured on our blog. Left to right: Emile Sow, Josh Ortiz, Francesca Galliano, Anna Archuleta, Feather Candelaria, Hailey Loya.