Wednesday, March 10, 2010

For the Love of Fish

One of the most gratifying aspects of the work and culture at CRFPO is working with students. Long-term (a.k.a old) employees, such as myself, get to share their experience and passion with students. In turn, these students share and develop their passions with us, as well as rekindle the passion we sometimes forget about. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife has a program called STEP (Student Temporary Employment Program). Each year we try and hire a number of Biological Science Technicians through the STEP program. This program (and these students) help us get important work done and helps students get invaluable practical experience as their resumes begin to take form.

In 2009, the Conservation Team at CRFPO was fortunate enough to hire three STEP technicians, Kim, Michaela and Brian. These students worked on various projects for the C-Team. Their experiences (okay, job responsibilities) included work with bull trout that are listed under the Endangered Species Act and with Pacific Lamprey (although not listed under ESA, a species of concern). They were able to work in areas that ranged from the mainstem of the Willamette River (yes, they had to drive a boat on the river) to remote wilderness areas in NE Oregon (yes, they had to camp). They got to network (work side by side) with federal, state, tribal and city biologists. Among other things, they learned how to electrofish, operate big boats, identify larval lamprey, and put PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tags into fish. Like all of us, they had good days and bad days “on the job”. Fortunately the good days far outweighed the bad days. How do I know? Well … Kim was a second-timer (would you come back for more if you hated it?); Michaela is hoping to be a second-timer; and Brian never left!

The work that these students completed was incredibly valuable to the species we are trying to help conserve. I get to use results of their work every day. More importantly, the passion they expressed for the work and the gratitude they expressed for the opportunity was infectious. They are the future. And the future is bright!

Submitted by Tim Whitesel, Conservation Assessment Team

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