A Cup Full of Seeds Equals a Big Success

Federal land managers in Nevada are optimistic that native seeds collected will eventually translate into warehouses full of locally adapted seed. The following article excerpt is re-posted with permission from the author/photographer Dan Hottle with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Marcus Tamura and Lauren Gonce, two Great Basin Institute interns and Seeds of Success program crewmembers, may be the only people on the planet who spent their entire summer scouring more than 4,500 miles of Nevada’s rugged outback to get their hands on the precious seed of native plants with names like hoary tansyaster.

 “Unfortunately we don’t have airplanes and drones and teams of hundreds of people on the ground helping us search for these kinds of plants,” said Tamura, who traveled up from the San Francisco Bay area. “So Lauren and I drove about 1,500 miles each week looking for 12 different species that we hoped we could find growing where we could spot them from our truck.”

After several hours of driving, searching, walking, bending and picking through acres of rocky, arid land at the end of each arduous day, the two interns considered themselves lucky if they had collected enough seed from native Nevada plants to be able to fill a coffee cup.

 A Seeds of Success collection team comprised of Great Basin Institute interns Lauren Gonce and Marcus Tamura collect seeds from native plants in central Nevada. 

A Seeds of Success collection team comprised of Great Basin Institute interns Lauren Gonce and Marcus Tamura collect seeds from native plants in central Nevada. 

The specific seed species being targeted by collection crews are recognized by western botanists and ecologists as part of the foundation of healthy native plant communities throughout the Great Basin. If enough native seeds are collected, they can be used in large-scale restoration efforts to help increase resilience against invasive species and slow wildfire cycles that imperil the vital sagebrush ecosystem.

“Finding large enough native plant communities from which to collect seed from a vast landscape across Nevada is a slow, painstaking process,” said Sarah Kulpa, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service botanist based in Reno. “The seed collected from those populations can be used for research and development or given to commercial growers so that land managers will be able to start restoring vegetation and wildlife habitat lost in wildfires with the seed from our native plants.”

A cup’s worth of seed hardly sounds like enough to be able to replant thousands of acres of vegetation destroyed by wildfire, but federal land managers in Nevada remain optimistic. They hope that through perseverance the cupful collected by crews today will eventually translate into massive warehouses full of locally adapted native seed that can be used for future rehabilitation and conservation projects.

Read the full story here and watch this accompanying video to learn more.