Thursday, December 23, 2010

Highlights from this past year!

It's that time of the year. Report writing. So we all needed a break from that and thought we’d take the opportunity to share with you some of our highlights from this past year.

Donna was lucky enough to see Western Pearlshell mussels releasing conglutinates.

Jen recently published her first manuscript in River Research and Applications which describes how Bonneville Dam tailwater elevation and seasonal precipitation influence chum salmon spawning activities in tributaries below Bonneville Dam.

Rod shared this: "While I was doing redd surveys this year on the White Salmon River in Washington, I saw what I thought was the biggest tule fall Chinook salmon I've ever seen spawning there. She was deep in a pool and I could only make out her tail, which was white from digging a redd in cobble to put her eggs in. It was a massive tail and I saw the tail dig sideways in the gravel, and could roughly make out her dark silhouette when she was sideways. Several fish attempted to swim into her area of that deep pool and then would bolt away as she chased them off. Easily the highlight of my year."

TAW had 5 highlights including:
-larval pacific lamprey surviving in saline conditions
-observing western pearlshell mussel conglutinates around the fifth of may
-bull trout critical habitat designation being completed
-coauthoring a manuscript that showed how regulating tailwater elevation at Bonneville dam influences chum salmon spawning in tributaries and
-getting a PIT tag antenna in NE Oregon to operate exclusively on solar energy.

Paul got this screw trap out of a NE Oregon stream unscathed:

Don and his crew completed the final report for 5 years worth of research to determine whether Bull Trout from the Walla Walla Basin venture out into the mainstem Columbia River. They do.

Shawna learned how to surgically implant radio tags in bull trout using electronarcosis:

Jeff investigated the salinity tolerance of Pacific lamprey ammocoetes.

Christina completed a first draft of the Pacific Lamprey conservation plan.

Ruby went to see Condit Dam,scheduled to be removed next year, with Howard and his daughter.

Mari's highlight of the year was enjoying the camaraderie at the office retreat.

Maureen PIT tagged a total of 3000 juvenile wild steelhead in Eagle and North Fork Eagle Creeks.

Courtney's highlights included:
- tagging mussels with Donna on a warm summers day
- hiking up the SF Walla Walla River trail to the Bear Creek PIT site and watching rattlesnakes scurry as they got closer, and
- jet boating up the lower Walla Walla River.
In that order.

Henry completed a simulation for Pacific Fishery Management Council that showed that fishing both mark-selective and non-selective fisheries in the same time period and management area would result in an underestimation of unmarked impacts in the non-selective fishery.

In seach of bull trout and deploying temperature loggers Brook, Shawna, and Nichole left the town of Imnaha and ventured 24 miles on a gravel road and stumbled across Hat Point, the high point on the Oregon rim of Hell’s Canyon with the best view of of Hell’s Canyon and the Seven Devils in Eastern Oregon.

David coordinated with other offices and completed the mapping portion of the 2010 Bull Trout Final Critical Habitat.

Trevor will always have fond memories of E-fishing winter steelhead in Eagle creek with Bill, Brian, Sheila, Maureen and the crew for all the double rainbows, sick sticks, trucker talk, big fish screams, laughter, and good times.

In 2010, Marci was able to be a part of moving a bull trout recovery action forward in helping to develop the Clackamas bull trout reintroduction program. Oh - and she also got to get her boots wet occasionally by helping out with Pacific lamprey, coho and coastal cutthroat trout surveys. She simultaneously managed to 1) avoid full body stream immersion, and 2) not get eaten by the insanely large spiders that dominated the forest insect fauna this year. Yahoo!!!

Larry’s highlight was finally getting all of the fish back from the taxidermist and up on the walls.

Bill really enjoyed working with students on Eagle Creek.

Amy's programs helped remove 19 barriers to upstream salmon movements, improved over 14 miles of instream and riparian habitats, and restored 80 acres of tidal wetland. 2010 was a great year in restoration for Oregon's north coast.

I hope you all enjoyed our highlights. 2010 was a great year at the CRFPO! With that, I bid you farewell until next year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Four Years at the CRFPO

It all started about four years ago when I first found myself standing in waist deep water inside a cold and dark room. As I checked my surroundings, my senses were overwhelmed by the thick, damp, and cool air. The strong smell of heavy moss that characterizes many streams in the Pacific Northwest filled my nostrils with every breath. This room had the feel of a place that people rarely entered, and those that did come here, didn’t stay for long.

Prior to my entrance, the water in the room was still, now it rippled and boiled, for my presence had stirred many beasts under the surface. The powerful animals were becoming nervous, and they began to express their will to survive regardless of my intentions. Echoing sound waves from nearby rapids pulsated off the concrete walls and continuously reminded me that I was way out of my element. I struggled for balance on the slick flooring nervously looking up at my coworkers above to ensure I hadn’t been abandoned. I continued on and apprehensively scooted my feet towards the grey ghostly shapes as they had now congregated in numbers near the corner of the room. My mind subconsciously flashed to a Star Wars scene where Luke Skywalker and Han Solo were faced with a mysterious aquatic animal (a hungry dianoga) in the waters of the Death Star’s trash compactor. As I closed the distance on the group, they grew increasingly nervous probably realizing I had no intent of halting my forward progress. My anticipation grew as I knew with just one more step I would be within netting range, and prove my merit to my coworkers watching from above. Just as I was visualizing how I would expertly step and swipe up my prey like a hungry osprey, the group broke ranks like NFL linebackers and burst from their huddle in a violent tail walk assault across the surface of the water towards me with speeds that seemed to approach time travel. Instantly drenched with water and defeat, I made a defensive and empty swipe in a convulsive manner that had very little in resemblance to a raptor’s successful quest for prey.

My attempt at self-protection also failed as a heavy-shouldered 15 pound Eagle Creek steelhead had just rammed into my leg knocking me off balance and nearly upending me. With a bruised shin and ego, I regained my balance, smiled, and absorbed the echoing laughter that bounced off the ladder walls as my coworkers above expressed copious amounts of joy in knowing the new guy had just been beat into the gang. Steelhead 1, Trevor 0, and that is how the score began as I awkwardly wandered around the fish ladder proceeding to help capture, bio-sample, tag, and release every one of the dozen adult steelhead remaining in the trap. I knew from that day on that this new job as a Fish Biologist with the Columbia River Fisheries Program Office was going to be challenging, exciting, rewarding, and right up my alley.

Fast forward four years after my first field day, and I am now packing up my office and taking my experiences with me as I began a new permanent job with NOAA Fisheries hydropower division. Looking back after four years, I realize that I have become comfortable inside fish ladders, hatchery raceways, and streams while working on countless projects doing things that I could previously only dream of. The projects I have worked on at this office have not only been fun and exciting, but more importantly I feel they helped contribute to the continued benefit of both fish and fisheries.

Whether I was sliding around in murky fish ladders, capturing and tagging fish, building PIT tag antennas, writing reports, or conducting numerous other tasks, I gained skills at this office that will no doubt be invaluable as I continue on my career path. There is now doubt in my mind that many aspects of working here will be missed. However, what I will miss the most as I leave this office isn’t the excitement of the field work or the rewarding challenges, it won’t be the roomy office with a door and the short commute, it won’t even be the slimy fish hands and numb fingers. What I will miss the most without a doubt will be the friends and coworkers who have shared this experience with me and contributed so much to the comradery that make this office a truly great place to work.

So with that I will pack up my gear and take a turn down the road of life, and hopefully bump into you all in future travels. Thank you all for the wonderful experience and I hope you all the best.

Submitted by Trevor Conder

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Northeast Oregon in Winter

We are traveling to the Wallowa National Forest to maintain our PIT tag antennas. This requires a visit to our site, make sure the power is running, and download our information. PIT tags were implanted in bulltrout in the summer months to gain an understanding of their abundance and distribution. When they swim past our antennas, their unique code is recorded with a date and time stamp. This information gives us an understanding of their movements throughout the year.

Sometimes it is very cold but it is always beautiful. Last December I recorded a temperature of -11ºF! We use MAX to drive to our remote sites and snowshoe in the rest of the way. Snow is on the ground from November to June and has been as deep as 6 feet at times! Under all that snow and ice, bulltrout are there waiting for the thaw.

Submitted by Brook Silver

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Certified Fisheries Professional

About six months ago, while I was in between projects, I decided to finally submit my application to the American Fisheries Society for certification as a fisheries professional. Why did I do this? I have worked in the fisheries profession for about 25 years now and have been a member of the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society for much of that time. Being part of the American Fisheries Society has been an important part of my professional development, from attending meetings and hearing from other professionals, presenting my first poster and paper, writing for publication in AFS symposiums and journals, to helping with organization of conferences and workshops. I have also chaired the Chapter’s Fish Culture Committee which led to me serving as President elect, President, and Past-President of the Chapter. Doing these activities and helping others do the same is very rewarding and is great for providing inspiration on development of fisheries projects as well as development of self and others. At chapter, division and national meetings you gain a perspective from a local, regional, and international scope. You develop not only professional partnerships but lasting personal friendships as well. So applying for professional certification was another step in development, and I am happy to say, after all this time, that Douglas E. Olson is now recognized as a Certified Fisheries Professional through the American Fisheries Society. I encourage you to apply and be recognized. For more information on Professional Certification go to

Submitted by Doug Olson