Monday, October 3, 2011

A Geographer in the Wild

I got to hold a fish!

This was the highlight of my summer, professionally speaking. I am currently a cartographic technician STEP at the USFWS’s Columbia River Fisheries Program Office while I finish my Master’s in Geography.

My native habitat as a geographer is in front of a computer using GIS technology. My regular duties include supporting projects with spatial analyses such as habitat patching for bull trout, and visualization of data typically in the form of maps. I also work with GPS technology, and now – FISH!

Considering I spend most of my working time in an office I really look forward to the opportunities when I can get out in the field. This serves two purposes: First, I find it beneficial to the quality of my work to see the places I map and experience it firsthand, and second, it’s so nice to take a break from the computer once in a while.

I have been working on a map of the White Salmon area for the office and was excited to see the study site in person. It makes a place more real when you can go there and see the terrain with your own eyes. From a mapping perspective, going out with the field crew provides me the opportunity to see what’s important to them and I walk away with a better understanding of the data collected and the conditions it was collected under.

Our office is currently moving fish above Condit Dam on the White Salmon River so they can spawn upstream. This is in anticipation of the dam’s removal, Specifically we’re moving Tule fall Chinook and I was able to go out for the first week of field work. The whole week was full of firsts for me. I got to see the hatchery and the weir, wear waders that didn’t leak, assist in catching, tagging, and transporting fish, and, of course, hold one! It was a great experience and I hope I can go out again soon.

Submitted by Nadia Jones

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