Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Crews

I came to work at the Columbia River Fisheries Program Office in the summer of 2004. The following year, the program I work on, the Native Trout Program, began working in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest looking at a number of different parameters of bull trout populations there. But, that is a story for another day.

It quickly became apparent that we would be doing quite a bit of work out there and we would need a number of people to get it accomplished. Thus, began the rotation of biologists through the Native Trout Program. The first year, Jeff J., Jeff H., John and Danielle were out there with me. The Jeffs and John had been working in the program for a few years conducting work in the lower Columbia River on coastal cutthroat trout. We spent three weeks in the mountains. The hot, dry weather was a welcome change from the damp, rainforest environment of the coast range.

Danielle, Jeff, John and Mike at camp (2005)

We would spend the days hiking through the mountains and streams. We would spend the nights sitting around the campfire, eating good food, and listening to Jeff H. play the guitar. A side benefit of this work, we quickly found out, was that we were going to be in great shape by the end of the summer. I think, among the five of us, we lost about 100 lbs. that summer. Within the year, Jeff J. had taken over another program in our office, Jeff H. had gone to work with another program in our office, and John and Danielle had gone to work with other conservation agencies in Washington.

John, Jeff, Mike and Jeff taking a break from driving through the mountains (2005)

The departure of the Jeffs, John and Danielle resulted in a turnover of personnel in the Native Trout Program for 2006. Four new people came to work with varying levels of experience. By the end of the summer, everyone was on the same page and holding their own. This summer continued the musical theme begun the previous year. Joel was a genius on guitar. You name it, he could play it. If he didn’t know it, but you could sing it, he would figure it out. Justin learned a lot that summer, including how to be a good crew leader and play guitar. Darby came to us from Missouri and went back to work there for the Dept of Conservation. Andy, who was a student at Mt. Hood CC, decided that he did not want to work in a hatchery after he graduated.

Justin, Andy, Darby, Mike and Joel on our way out of Big Sheep Creek (2006)

2007 brought some new faces to the crew. Justin was still around. He just wasn’t able to come out the Eagle Cap with us because of a torn ACL. How he got that is probably best left for another day too. So, we recruited Jen from another program in the office to come out and help for a few weeks. Sheila, Anna (a student) and Ryan also joined us. Ryan had been volunteering/working with us on and off for a few years before finally getting him out with us for the summer. He was also the resident musician for the crew that summer. Ryan has since moved on and is the point man for the Builders and the Butchers, a local Portland band. Anna continued her schooling with a graduate degree.

Anna, Mike, Sheila, Jen, and Ryan after a long day in McCully Creek (2007)

The only new face we added in 2008 was Brook who had been working for a company selling tile. She had previously worked for US Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife, and decided that selling tile was not for her and wanted to come back outside and play with the fish. I think she made the right choice, not that I am biased, and you’ll see her in all the remaining photos. Justin got to come out with us this summer, Jen insisted on coming back out, and Sheila joined us for another year before going back to school to become a teacher.

Justin, Jen, Sheila, Mike, and Brook on our way out of Lick Creek (2008)

Justin’s last year with us was in 2009. He was an incredible contributor to the work we conducted during his tenure with the Native Trout Program and is missed. But, I suppose we don’t blame him for moving to Bozeman where he is a stone’s throw away from where a river runs through it. Brook returned for a second year and we recruited Bill from another program in the office to join us for a week. There are two things I will remember about this year: Kim and the wolves. Kim was a student at Lewis and Clark University and a member of their basketball and softball teams. That isn’t why I will remember her. I will remember her because after spending all day hiking up and down mountains and through streams, enduring rain followed by hot, humid weather, she would come back to camp and go for a run. Yes, a run. I will never completely understand that. But, she exemplifies the incredible, unique people I have had the privilege of working with over the years. The cherry on top for the year was Justin, Brook and Kim discovering and pointing Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife in the direction of the wolf pups – the first confirmed pups in Oregon since they came back.

Justin, Brook, Mike, Bill, and Kim after a wet day in Lick Creek (2009)

We trimmed the crew way down in 2010. Brook took over for Justin as crew leader and resident guitar player. Shawna took over for Kim as our employee who was a former Lewis and Clark women’s basketball player. I think Shawna liked Hells Canyon because she is working for Bureau of Reclamation in that area now. And, Nicole was our addition that continued our many years of providing opportunities for current students. She is finishing up at Oregon State University this year.

Brook, Shawna, and Nicole overlooking Hells Canyon (2010)

2011 brought many challenges… including not being able to hire a crew until mid-summer. But, we were able to bring on some quality guys to help out for a couple of months. Mike had just finished up school and was pursuing his second career after previously producing videos. Jason came to us from Brook’s husband’s hometown in Michigan and brought along a GIS degree and more working knowledge of GPS/GIS technology in his little finger than I will gain in my lifetime. Chris was our student from Evergreen College. None of them had ever done the type of work we were doing. All were experts by the time they moved on.

Chris, Mike, Jason, Brook, and Mike’s last day in Big Sheep Creek (2011)

We have had some really good people move through here over the years. There have been others, but these are the ones that have worked in the Eagle Cap with us. I wanted to take a moment to recognize them for a couple of reasons. First, we could not have done it without them. Second, while it is ultimately fun work, it is not always easy work. And, finally, because each of them has brought something different to our program: music, kids, hats, attitude, food, experience, basketball, fishing, woodwork, coffee, GIS, torn ACLs, busted ankles, stories, different perspectives, and the list goes on and keeps growing. It has been a privilege to work with each and every one of them, and I look forward to the new faces that this year brings.

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