Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Human Resources

As an office assistant for the CRFPO, one of my focus areas is human resources. Personnel recruitment can sometimes be pretty confusing. I thought I might try to help define the types of positions there are within the Fish and Wildlife Service.

There are several types of appointments within the Service. There are Permanent, TERM, Temporary, STEP, SCEP and Details. A Permanent, or Career appointment, is just what the title implies. A person is hired in this position until they choose to leave. A TERM appointment is a 13 month appointment that can be extended for up to four years. Once the four years are up, the position has to be posted as a new job and the incumbent will have to compete for that position again. A Temporary appointment is an appointment that is a one year or less appointment that can be extended up to 24 months. This type of appointment is one that can be terminated at any time. A STEP appointment is a Student Educational Employment Program. This is an opportunity for a college student to work while they are earning a degree. How far advanced a student is with their education will determine the grade level at which they can be hired. A STEP student appointment can be extended as many times as the supervisor wants as long as the student is enrolled in school at least half time. A SCEP appointment is when a student signs a contract with the Service to stay with them a certain amount of time after they finish school because the Service will pay for all of their school. A Detail is when you are already working for an office within the Service and there is a need for someone temporarily in another position. This is a great opportunity to learn different things.

I hope this helped define the different types of appointments available within the Service. If you want more information come to me if you have any questions.

Submitted by Melissa Kennedy

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Marking and Coded-Wire tagging at Winthrop NFH

In August I had an opportunity to get out in the field and do some “hands on” work operating an autofish trailer to coded-wire tag Coho for the Yakama Indian Nation (YIN) Mid-Columbia Coho reintroduction program and Winthrop National Fish Hatchery. This facility was opened in 1941 to provide mitigation for the loss of salmon and steelhead habitat that occurred upon the construction of Grand Coulee Dam. The hatchery switched to rearing trout for sport fisheries during the 1960’s and 70’s, but shifted back to helping restore salmon and steelhead runs during the late 70’s and the following decades.

Upon arrival at Winthrop NFH, after an 8 hour drive, Geoff Gribble and I had no time for rest, we immediately got to work preparing for the next day’s early morning adipose fin marking and coded-wire tagging. This wasn’t going to be a small job, as we had three groups of fish of three different species to mark utilizing one of our automated fish marking trailers.

During the process of coded-wire tagging for hatchery salmonids, a metallic tag is inserted into the snout region of the fish before release into the river system. This tag has a six digit identification number etched onto it that is specific for the stock of fish being tagged. To avoid confusion between stocks, this I.D. number will not be used again. When the fish later return as adults, the tags will be recovered and the information present is used for the management of fisheries and the evaluation of fish stocks. The adipose fin marking refers to the removal of the adipose fin from the fish. When a fisherman catches a fish without this fin, he is allowed to keep it. If a fin is present, he must release it as it is a native fish.

Our first task was to unload all of our marking equipment from the trailer. Equipment we had to unload included many things such as a water pump, pipe and hose stands, pump box, cable protectors, air compressor, large tote, electrical cords, buckets, nets, steps, etc. Once everything was unloaded we could begin setting up the automated trailer.

I leveled and adjusted the trailer while Geoff put the pump box and pump into the raceway and connected it to the trailer. Once the pump was setup, we could then pump water into the trailer to rinse the troughs and equipment with fresh water. The trailer is rinsed to remove any residue that may have remained from disinfecting the trailer before it left the previous hatchery. Disinfection is necessary to prevent the transmission of pathogens between hatcheries and groups of fish. So at this hatchery, since we were marking three different species of fish, we had to disinfect the trailer three different times.

After rinsing the trailer out we setup our irrigation pipe (used for distribution of marked fish exiting the trailer) and then cleaned, oiled and lubed all the moving parts of the marking lines and sorter within the automated trailer. At that time we also brought in a few buckets of fish to run through the sorter to sample for length. The sample allowed us to determine what size headmolds and adapter plates we would need to use on the marking lines. The automated trailer is fitted with headmolds and adapter plates that can process specific size ranges of fish. Adapter plates are fitted with foam pads and these plates are what close and hold fish in place at the headmold. The headmold is what the fish slides into headfirst so that it can be tagged and/or clipped.

After we got our sample and setup our marking lines, we were finally ready to call it a day. We left the hatchery knowing we had everything set and ready to go for the next day’s steelhead marking and tagging.

Tuesday morning arrives and it’s time for us to start running the steelhead through the trailer. Although the marking lines have already been set with the appropriate adapter plates, it generally takes a couple of hours to fine tune everything so that the fish are running through with maximum efficiency. When the trailer is running at its full potential, it is capable of marking up to 70,000 fish during an 8 hour work period. This number is largely dependent on the percentage of fish that are sent directly to the marking lines. Any fish that are of a greater or lesser length than the adapter plates on the lines are sent to a stock tank in the back where a couple of hand taggers are present. The hand taggers will process these fish so they do not have to be run through the trailer repeatedly. As there are a greater number of machines that can operate quicker, it stands that as more fish are sent through the marking lines than into the back each day, then more fish will be marked and coded-wire tagged. Steelhead, however, grow at a wider length distribution than do coho or Chinook salmon, so it took us a day and a half to complete almost 64,000 fish. For the rest of that second day, we spent the time disinfecting and moving the trailer so we could run a group of spring Chinook salmon for marking.

Generally spring Chinook are tagged earlier in the marking season. This year, however, we were short a tag group when they were originally supposed to be done. The marking of this group and the following required disinfection only takes a day so we leave that evening ready to start marking the coho the next morning.

The CRFPO marking team has tagged fish for the YIN reintroduction program for a number of years now. The goals of the YIN reintroduction program are to re-establish runs of Coho to the Methow and Wenatchee subbasins and to develop over time locally adapted populations. The program began in the mid-90’s using a stock of Coho from the Lower Columbia River basin and since it’s inception they have achieved a high degree of success restoring Coho runs in the Methow and Wenatchee basins. In fact, they have eliminated reliance on the lower Columbia river stock originally used to re-establish these populations. Brood are now collected from returning adults within the basin.

Coho marking went even better than expected since the fish were of uniform size and the group was tag only. We were happy to wrap up the marking a few days later and go through the disinfection process once again, finally pack up the trailer for transport and call it done. While working on the road can be fun and enjoyable, especially somewhere as beautiful as Winthrop, it’s always nice to get the job done and get back home.

Submitted by Jesse Rivera & Geoff Gribble

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Summer’s STEP on the Columbia

Summer 2011, for me, was spent as a STEP (Student Temporary Employment Position) student working on the Hatchery Assessment Team with the USFWS’s Columbia River Fisheries Program Office. Just as any proper summer should, mine was filled with bush-whacking trail adventures, acquisition of new skills, technical difficulties (associated with our electronic equipment), challenges, rewards, and of course FISH!

My summer challenge was re-acquiring my “stream legs.” After nine months of classroom studies, keeping my waders from collecting their own stream water samples from the field each workday was a task in itself. Especially due to the unusual higher summer flows and lower water visibility – overall concealing inconspicuous slippery and shifting stream rocks and making stream walking entertaining to say the least.

Netting was probably one of the most rewarding aspects of this job, especially netting multiple steelhead at once and getting to shout “double rainbow,” or even better “triple rainbow” (an Eagle Creek crew thing). Also, netting a really large cutthroat, steelhead, or especially an adult Chinook (which only half-way fits in the net), was pretty exciting. Rocking the shocker and handling fish were also much fun and very enjoyable.

In the field I observed not only the creek, but Eagle Creek as an ecosystem: deer, kingfishers, adult Chinook salmon, juvenile steelhead and coho salmon, Pacific Giant salamanders, garter snakes, and lots of sculpin – even a sculpin consuming a fellow sculpin!

As summer comes to a rapid and unfortunate close and books, lecture halls, and exams dominate the next nine months of mine, the experiences and memories of working in the astounding and beautiful Pacific Northwest with all the awesome and friendly people of CRFPO will stick with me forever. Working for USFWS was a great experience – thank you to all CRFPO’ers for an amazing summer adventure!

Submitted by Megan McKim.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bio-sampling Salmon

Taking the eggs from a female salmon.

This is the time of year that we begin to spawn the Chinook salmon that are returning to our hatcheries. Hatchery staff do the actual spawning but people from our office are responsible for biosampling the fish. After the fish are spawned and sampled by the fish health people to test for disease, the fish are handed over to us.

The tag detector separates tagged fish from untagged fish.

Bio-sampling consists of recording the sex and fork length of the salmon. A couple of scales from each side of the fish are removed and placed on scale cards so we can determine the age of the fish later. We also collect the snouts of any fish with coded wire tags. How do we know if a fish has a coded wire tag? In years past, a fish with no adipose fin was tagged. Not so anymore. Most or all fish from hatcheries are now marked with an adipose clip regardless of whether it is tagged. So before heading to our table they all pass through a tag detector which separates the tagged fish from untagged fish.

Chopping off a snout with a tag.

What is this information used for? Aged scale data, coded wire tag recoveries, and other data collected during sampling is used to evaluate annual hatchery returns and compile annual run age compositions. Data is also used to help predict preseason run size for the upcoming year.

Visitors are welcome to view the spawning operation at our national fish hatcheries. Visit the Gorge hatcheries website for schedules and contact information or our salmon webcam to see the salmon returning to Little White Salmon NFH.

Submitted by Pat Kemper, Steve Lazzini, and Donna Allard