Friday, August 15, 2014

Pacific Lamprey Geocaching Adventure

Geocaching enthusiasts and friends of Pacific Lamprey, please join us in a new adventure. Travel bugs have been launched in the Pacific Northwest in four different locations. One lamprey travel bug is hiding in a geocache somewhere along the mouth of the Columbia River at a historic site in Washington. Another is hiding somewhere in a culturally-significant and historical site on Yakama Nation land in Toppenish. Two more are soon to be adventuring around the Portland area and Clearwater Basin in Idaho. (Check here for new information.) Please help them migrate. Don't forget to take your picture with the bug and log your entry into

Pacific Lamprey Travel Bug

For more information:

Pacific Lamprey Geocaching Fact Sheet
Pacific Lamprey Geocaching Project News Release

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Connecting Children with Nature

There’s no doubt that fishing and camping as a child had an influence in my career choice and implemented a lifelong conservation ethic in me.  In particular, my dad and my oldest sister’s-husband fished with me from a very young age and through my teenage years and family camping excursions occurred often.  Some of my best memories growing up are fishing trips with my Dad in western South Dakota. 

Now that I have a family, spending time outside, camping and especially fishing are activities we want our girls to experience while they’re growing up.  They’re at ages where their curiosity is sky-high and it’s just a matter of getting them out to experience nature and explore.

They both have been fishing before but this year we bought both of them fishing poles in the winter and told them they should get used to using them for the summer during our camping and fishing trips.  After the girls endured an excruciating 5-second introduction of casting by me, the poles were immediately snatched from my hand for their own attempts with a sponge fish or a bobber on the end of the line so nobody gets hurt.  Frustration ensued but after a short period of coaching and correction they both figured it out.  Periodically over the next few months, I would see one or both of the girls with their poles outside casting toward the tree in our front yard, or even the neighborhood kids having a turn at casting.  A few times we had to establish that casting was not something that needed to occur in the living room near breakable items but could happen in the driveway or yard anytime they wanted to practice. 

I was cleaning out our garage this spring and had our camping gear strewn about but was able to capture some of their spontaneity with the poles and excitement for our two big summer camping/fishing trips.  Notice the excellent technique!


Our first trip this summer fishing and camping was a big success!  First I should define success ….. getting the girls out in nature and getting a pole in their hands.  We didn’t catch fish on the trip but here’s some of what we did and talked about:

·        Will we eat what we catch?  This was discussed on the way to the lake with our poles and was a fairly in-depth and long discussion almost exclusively between the girls but they decided that they should if it was big and would not if it was a “kid” fish.  Our youngest had pointed out to me that in the movie Brave that Merida and her mom, Elinor, caught and ate fish together when Elinor was turned into a bear.  I said that our fishing would be similar but different.   

·        Salmon eggs vs. worms vs. lures.  What are lures and how do they look attactive to eat? Our oldest compared lures to earrings like Grandma wears but not the same thing.. a good observation, I thought.

·        Osprey  and what they are doing flying above the lake (we also saw them dive on fish and carry their meals back to eat).  Very exciting!  The girls deducted fish were present in the lake and the potential to catch something was palpable with the osprey successfully “fishing”.    

·        What are those things swimming by the shore? (Newts) Are those fish? (Amphibians) So they are frogs? (Similar). Why aren’t they fish? (scales vs. skin and terrestrial and/or aquatic lifestyle). Will we catch them?  (maybe).  We followed them along the shoreline watching them swim, pop their heads up and search for food.  What do they eat? (good question).  What’s that? (A crayfish)  Is it alive? (after a stick invesitgation by the girls it was determined dead).  Can we touch it? (Sure).  Are there more? (Likely).  Will we catch them? (Maybe).  I said bigger fish likely eat them in the lake which got our older daughter staring into the distance to paint that mental image, which appeared enthralling by her expression.
Anyway, a small snippet of our excursions and all told and we probably fished for a total of 3 hours over our entire camping trip before rainy weather, cold or wind played a role for deciding to move on.  Not as much time fishing as we had hoped but still a huge success and a lot of fun for them. 


If you’re thinking about how to get a kid out fishing or into nature this year there’s always opportunity to be had.  The Service has a great introductory website to just getting kids out in nature here.  Also coming up September 6th from 8:00 am - 1:00 pm is Kid's Fishing Day at Carson NFH (information will be posted  here).  This event is great in that all the poles and gear are provided for the kids, Service staff will help them fish, they are nearly guaranteed to catch something in minutes, the catch is cleaned and bagged, and you might even get a momento like this.
The States of Washington and Oregon do a fantastic job organizing kids fishing events (Oregon and Washington) as well as outlining fishing tactics and locations (Washington and Oregon).   Some of the fishing events require kids to register so it’s best to try and plan a little bit ahead.  
We plan on meeting some of my family in Glacier National Park later this summer for a week of camping, hiking, fishing and just exploring nature.  I know the girls are going to have a great time and we can make some memories. 
Submitted by Rod Engle


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Connecting Kids to Nature: Skyline Crest Youth Come to the Columbia River Fish Office

Sally Jewell, the Secretary of the Interior Department, announced a national initiative earlier this year to engage and inspire young people to connect to nature.  She confirmed her commitment to “welcome a new generation of young people into public land stewardship, into science”.

The Pacific Northwest Region of the Service provided a little funding in “mini-grants” to help deliver on this promise.  So, we partnered with Vancouver Housing Authority Community Family Resource Coordinator Sharon Linn and Skyline Crest Community Health and Wellness Advisor Sara Angelo to help connect underserved inner city kids to nature. 

Our “Take Time to Connect to Nature” project aims to add an innovative component to an inner city low income housing facility by providing hands-on and in the field nature experiences. Using a nearby neighborhood greenspace and field trips to other Pacific Northwest destinations, mentors and volunteers lead youth groups in activities such as a FWS hatchery visit and guided nature bike rides or hikes.  The project is a great collaboration – New Season’s grocery store even teamed up to help provide the kids with healthy, delicious lunches on some of the field trips!

In early July, 20 Skyline Crest youth from ages 7 to 15 came to a three-hour Nature Day at our Columbia River Fisheries Program Office.  Ten of our staff members led the kids through a variety of activities to give them hands-on experience with nature, native species, and scientific methods. 

We were impressed and inspired by how much fun the kids had learning about salmon, owls, and radio telemetry.  They showed so much natural curiosity and a love of science….they had a blast picking out rodent bones from barn owl pellets and dissecting big spring chinook salmon!

They grasped the salmon life cycle, from freshwater to ocean and back again, and made bracelets with various beads representing each life stage.  Creativity and artistic flourish were present as they made “gyotaku” Japanese-style fish art prints to take home.  

The day really underscored that every child is a naturalist…given the opportunity, time and access to the natural world they will apply curious and creative minds to interact with and explore nature.  Who knows what effect these early experiences might have or where they might lead a child to later in life …our job is to make the connection so they have the opportunity to forge their own path.

 Submitted by Amy Horstman and Donna Allard

Monday, July 7, 2014

Working with the City of Portland to Restore Urban Stream Habitat

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services to evaluate the success of aquatic habitat improvements in Tryon Creek.  In 2010, the City of Portland completed a 900-foot off-channel aquatic habitat enhancement along the Willamette River.  Habitat improvements included floodplain connectivity, removal of invasive species, and installation of root wads and boulders. 

In 2012, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service began an intensive monitoring program to assess community, relative abundance, and temporal use by fish in the improved area.  Sampling occurred monthly throughout the year and weekly in the spring, sampling will continue in July 2014 at the same frequency.  Backpack electrofishing and seining is used to sample from the confluence to the Oregon State Highway 43 culvert.  All captured fish are identified, checked for external markings, measured, and tagged with a passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag.  Genetic samples collected from salmonids are transferred to the City of Portland.  To determine temporal fish use of the confluence habitat, two PIT tag antennas are installed at the mouth of Tryon Creek.  All PIT tagged fish moving over or through these antennas have the opportunity to be detected and identified before entering or exiting the Willamette River.

Sampling the mouth of Tryon Creek
Resident fish such as adult and juvenile cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, and hybrids of the two were identified in the confluence habitat along with outmigrating juvenile steelhead, Chinook, and coho salmon.  Native fish were more abundant than nonnative fish and coho juveniles were the most abundant species observed.  Coho and Chinook were detected emigrating after an average 37-44 days suggesting the habitat serves as a refuge for outmigrating juvenile salmon from elsewhere in the Willamette River basin.  PIT tagged Chinook and coho salmon (originating from upstream locations in the upper Willamette River basin and Eagle Creek) utilized the Tryon Creek confluence as part of their migration.

The Tryon Creek Confluence Habitat Enhancement Project improves aquatic habitat in the lower Willamette floodplain and provides refuge for native fish species.  Information collected from this assessment will aid the City of Portland in determining if the project is meeting its goals, gauging if the site is achieving desired function over time, and improving the design of future projects. 

This project is relatively small compared to the Willamette watershed overall, however, the combined efforts of habitat improvement and fish monitoring lead to a larger product.  This collaboration improves the design of future projects benefitting the entire Willamette River and supports the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s mission to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. 

 For additional information, please see this factsheet from the City of Portland:

Submitted by Brook Silver

Monday, June 30, 2014

CRFPO Carbon Footprint

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Columbia River Fisheries Program Office (CRFPO) convened a Carbon Footprint Team in 2013.  The goal of this team is to quantify, track, and make recommendations toward reducing the office carbon footprint.  To this end, we established a process that involved establishing objectives, meeting regularly, establishing contacts outside of CRFPO to collect information, conducting an energy audit, adopting a carbon footprint calculator, quantifying the office carbon footprint, and developing recommendations to reduce that carbon footprint.  The energy audit was conducted by Clark Public Utilities and provided some insight to ways we could easily reduce our carbon footprint.  The carbon footprint calculator was adopted from Seattle Climate Partnership, and provided a platform to easily input data so that the office carbon footprint could be quantified.  The CRFPO carbon footprint for FY 2013 was approximately 350 metric tons of CO2.  Recommendations developed included ways of reducing the person commute between home and office, changes to the office vehicle fleet, and reducing electricity usage, all of which represented the biggest sinks to the CRFPO carbon footprint.  This approach developed and implemented by the CRFPO Carbon Footprint Team identifies a way that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field offices can easily quantify and track their carbon footprint, and can be a meaningful step toward making changes that decrease the carbon footprint for the agency.
 Read the CFT Carbon Footprint Report

Submitted by Michael Hudson

Friday, June 20, 2014

Finding More Than You Are Looking For

This has been a fun spring because I had the opportunity to get out with a student intern and coworker.  They were continuing a project that our Office started a few years ago, which was to investigate reproductive timing of the western pearlshell mussel.  The project was conducted in a local stream, and involved inspecting adult mussels for signs of spawning and drift samples for larval mussels (i.e., glochidia, see previous blog for more on the life cycle of mussels).  Because glochidia are really small, around 1/20th of a millimeter, we use a very fine-mesh net to collect drifting material that is then preserved in alcohol.  The real work starts in the lab where we look for glochidia by picking through all the preserved material under a dissecting microscope.  Although this is often like “looking for a needle in a haystack” when a needle may not be there, the net collects other organisms, which makes the work interesting.

Below is what the material typically looks like magnified 20X.  Where’s “Glochido,” and can you identify some of the other organisms?

This is an early instar (i.e., stage) of a mayfly (Family—Baetidae).  These insects will grow a lot and emerge as winged adults that live for just a couple days or so.

This is the larvae of a small fly called a midge (Family—Chironomidae).  Midges are an extremely diverse group.  Because they are usually very abundant, larval and adult midges are a major source of food for aquatic and terrestrial predators.

The oval object with a black dot is actually a seed shrimp (Class—Ostracoda).  Seed shrimp are crustaceans (large group that includes crabs, crayfish, shrimp, and barnacles) whose two-part shell makes them resemble miniature mussels.

Here are two types of fly larvae, a midge (upper left) and black fly (lower center; Family—Simuliidae).  Black fly larvae have mouth parts with fan-like structures that are used to strain microscopic food particles from flowing water.

There’s “Glochido” (lightest object slightly up and left of center, no stripes or glasses).  This glochidia is about 0.06 mm long and appears small even when magnified 40X (same magnification used for all photos except the first one).  A key characteristic is the faint line appearing horizontally on it at this angle.

Submitted by Sam Lohr

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Discovering New Interests: Looking back at my year with USFWS

(Foreword:  Sarah Martin is a student at Portland State University studying communication.  She will soon finish her one year communication and outreach internship with Region 1 Fisheries.)
I live with nature documentary fanatics.  In the evenings while I study or after I go to bed, Evan (my husband) and Huxley (our cat) lounge on the couch transfixed by the wonders of nature conveniently harnessed and transmitted indoors.  Blue Planet, Planet Earth, Life, Life of Birds, and Life of Mammals are among their favorites, but I’ve never taken the time to develop an interest. 

I’ve never developed an interest, that is, until this past year when I’ve had the opportunity to benefit from first-hand experience and one-on-one Q and A sessions with fish and aquatic resource experts.  I tease my friend Donna, a Fish Biologist at the Columbia River Fisheries Resource Office, that she has become my very own nature documentary.  I always look forward to our chats when she shares her knowledge about interesting aquatic species like fresh water mussels, Pacific Lamprey, and white sturgeon.

You might ask why my interests have developed over the past year.  The answer: Opportunity!

 I am a student at Portland State University pursuing a master’s degree in communication.  Although I don’t have a background in aquaculture or fish biology, I have been lucky enough to have a one year graduate assistantship with Fishery Resources to help with communication and outreach initiatives.  As part of the communication work I do, I read technical information and talk to experts about scientific findings, aquatic species, and conservation then write short stories or summaries for people like me (i.e., non-experts).  So, while it may be surprising, my naiveté on the subject is actually an asset because I ask a lot of questions that other non-experts might wonder about. 

As it turns out, my budding interest is infectious.  Well, perhaps it’s more accurate to call it “communicable.”  The factoids that Donna and other experts have shared with me, along with my hands-on experiences helping with spawning at hatcheries and stream sampling, have a way of sneaking into my daily conversations.  A few examples…

·        After helping with spawning at Carson National Fish Hatchery last August, I tried to impress Evan with my newfound knowledge. Unfortunately, it turns out that he and Huxley had already seen a few spawning documentaries so I wasn’t able to teach him anything new.  I did, however, gloat about the fact that I got to experience spawning for real instead of just in documentary format!

·        After stream sampling with a crew at Abernathy Fish Technology Center last September, I found myself raving to anyone who would listen about the wonders of waders (they are pretty incredible after all), not to mention the interesting studies and genetic research that the folks at the Technology Center do. 


·        At dinner with my parents last week, I described the incredible reproductive odds that fresh water mussels face (check out Donna’s post about it).  I also told them about the neat lures that some species have evolved (check out Donna’s recent post about them… Whoa!). 

These are just a few of the instances when the important and interesting work that the Service does have snuck into my daily conversations.  Prior to my first day last July, I didn’t know I would be so interested.  Now that my one-year appointment with the Service is nearly complete, I will miss the opportunities for hands-on experience and one-on-one Q and A sessions with experts.  Evan and Huxley might be able to persuade me to take in a documentary or two to fill the void.  And, maybe I can persuade Evan to do a little citizen science with me (tales of our adventures will have to suffice for Huxley because he’ll have to stay home)!