Local BLM trainers contribute to another successful Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring training season
Story by Melissa Dickard, AIM Section Chief (NOC); and Emily Kachergis, National AIM Program Lead. Photos by AIM NOC trainers.
Across the West, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) staff from field, district, state and national offices stepped up once again to pull off a successful training season for BLM Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring (AIM) data collectors. Over sixty BLM state and field office staff worked with BLM National Operations Center (NOC) specialists and a BLM National Training Center (NTC) coordinator to offer a whopping 25 locally distributed AIM trainings—14 supporting upland (terrestrial) monitoring, eight supporting stream and river (lotic) monitoring, and three supporting riparian and wetland monitoring. This is the largest number of trainings the BLM AIM program has offered in one year. Over 450 people (contractors, interns, and BLM seasonals) were trained to collect standard high-quality information for evidence-based decision-making.
AIM data collection trainings rely on a “train-the-trainer” approach where technical specialists from the NOC work closely with state and field office staff as well as the NTC to host standardized field trainings across the West. This approach creates a training cadre that is dispersed throughout the BLM. Thus, each local AIM training always has local AIM experts available to answer questions and ensure each training session meets needs. This year, local BLM trainers in the Desert Southwest enabled us to offer the earliest AIM terrestrial methods training ever to support early season data collection in hot climates. The train-the-trainer approach also supports more trainings for smaller class sizes and ensures that experts in local plants and systems are available. While the NOC and science partners continue to play an important role in organizing and assisting with trainings, state and local BLM staff are what really make this effort possible.
The AIM training approach has many benefits for everyone involved. Trainers get an opportunity to calibrate with each other to ensure protocols are applied consistently, and they can apply their AIM expertise in their local office. The data collectors get to meet and interact with staff from many levels of the BLM, improving communication and thus data quality. NOC specialists receive valuable feedback on AIM implementation which helps them provide technical support for AIM data collection, management, and access across BLM. Long after training season is complete, AIM trainings create a professional network that works together to apply AIM data to land management decision-making, which is the core goal of the program (see AIM data use examples).
Chris Sheridan, ecologist from the Spokane District Office, said, “Pairing BLM aquatic specialists from the districts with the lotic AIM field crews during training facilitated transfer of knowledge on local riparian conditions, improved consistency of field classifications, and developed connections between BLM professionals who will use the data and the lotic AIM crews collecting the data.”
Meghan Krott, who recently joined the AIM team at the NOC after working in several field offices, said, “Hosting a local training is a wonderful opportunity to showcase your field office and interact with trainers from the NOC and other areas in your state. Using local staff as trainers is also beneficial because they have a lot of great knowledge and history of the streams and management decisions in the local area that can help trainees gain valuable insight into both stream conditions and BLM management.”