Friday, June 29, 2012

A gorgeous day at the office!

Usually, a day at the office for me entails sitting at my computer, typing away on planning documents and reports.  I occasionally see a bird or two flutter past my window, and I am lucky enough to get real sunlight every day (well, in the summer, that is).  But yesterday, I was able to visit the office that other fish biologists get to call their own every day - and it was gorgeous!

The Clackamas River, Oregon (M. Koski, USFWS)
The Fish and Wildlife Service, and other agencies like the Oregon Department of Fish and Game and the US Forest Service, have a great many people who spend the majority of their working hours outside for their various research and conservation projects.  Yesterday I tagged along with some of them to watch bull trout being released into the Clackamas as part of a multi-year project to reintroduce this threatened species back into habitat they historically occupied.  These are very special fish that were collected from Lake Billy Chinook, implanted with radio-tags, trucked over to the upper basin of the Clackamas River, and will hopefully reproduce and re-establish a self-sustaining bull trout population.  Last summer was the first time the Clackamas had seen bull trout since 1963, and since many of the problems that caused their disappearance from the river are now mitigated, the Clackamas is a suitable home for bull trout once again.

Doesn't this Clackamas tributary look like excellent bull trout spawning and rearing habitat?  Why, yes it does!  The water here is COLD, CLEAR, COMPLEX (i.e., lots of woody debris and cover), and CONNECTED.  Those are the 4 C's that bull trout need! (M. Koski, USFWS)

Planning for this project started in about 2004, and I've been involved in the planning efforts for almost three years now.  My work has focused primarily on helping to define and shape the monitoring and evaluation program, and provide technical assistance when needed.  When bull trout finally went into the river last year, there were a lot of really happy people that were able to start seeing their hard work pay off!  And yesterday, although I didn't do the difficult tasks of chasing down the fish and trucking them over, I was able to actually put one of those bull trout in the river myself.  Woo hoo!

Patrick Barry (ODFW) and Brad Goehring (USFS) pick out a nice subadult bull trout for me from the transport truck (C. Allen, USFWS).
Good luck, bull trout!  I hope that you like your new home! (C. Allen, USFWS)
You might notice that there are a couple of people filming off to the side.  They are from Freshwaters Illustrated, and have worked with the Service on a number of other projects, currently producing a short film about Pacific lamprey conservation.  So who knows...perhaps we'll get to see some more really cool bull trout reintroduction footage in the future!

If you want to learn more about the Clackamas bull trout reintroduction project, please visit the project's website here.  You can read more about why this project was initiated, how it will benefit the recovery of bull trout, and how we are safeguarding the other listed fish in the Clackamas with our monitoring program.  There's even a short video of bull trout spawning from our very first year of the reintroduction!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Students for the Summer

Although the weather does not seem like summer, the number of students working in our office tells me otherwise.  A total of 13 students have been hired for local field work. Eight have been hired to work out of Walla Walla and will probably not step foot in this office, at least this summer.   Not all of the students have started but each day seems to bring new faces into the office.  I was happy to work with a few of the students so far.  I'm sure I will be getting to know more of them as the weeks go by.  They are enthusiastic, smart, fun, and ready to learn more.  Here are a couple of pictures of their work. 

Sean and Taylor worked a week together at Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge (JBH).  This work is part of a bigger multi-agency project titled "Multi-Scale Salmon Ecosystem Action Effectiveness Research in the Lower Columbia River and Estuary".  Part of the work at JBH is to evaluate the effects of tide gate replacements on the refuge.  We accomplish this by sampling various sites with a seine to determine monthly fish community composition and distinguish between native and non-native fishes.  Taylor will spend most if not all of the summer at JBH, while Sean will be part of lamprey research team.

Pulling out a seine with a kayak.
Taylor and Sean sampling fish.

One week I travelled to Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge to continue the post-restoration monitoring work (  There Brook and I worked with Sean and Juliet.  It was great having two more people to help carry all the gear out to the sites.  We also split up for awhile to get the work done more quickly.

Brook and Juliet removing fish from a fyke net.
Sean and Juliet sampling fish.
I am looking forward to meeting and working with some of the other students who will be joining our office for the summer.  Hopefully, you will meet them too, through their own blogs.

Submitted by Donna Allard