Thursday, December 20, 2012

Highlights from 2012

The highlight for me was continuing our lamprey surveys in the Lower White Salmon and White Salmon River mouth and to witness firsthand the changes to this ecosystem after the breach of Condit Dam and subsequent flushing of the Northwestern Reservoir Sediments.  (Jeff Jolley)

My highlight was helping to get the PIT tag array system and solar panels in the Imnaha River working extremely well so we can really understand bull trout movement in the watershed. (Tim Whitesel)

The highlight for me was working with STEP students Taylor, Hannah, Juliette, and Sean. (Donna Allard)

My highlight without question was working with STEP students Brianne Ankenman, Aaron Mettler, and Emily Peterson.  Bright, pleasant young people.  The work we did (bull trout occupancy sampling in the Umatilla Basin) wasn't as hard as it gets, but it wasn't easy, and they were always game, never complaining--even when their guide (yours truly) led them out of the steep and deep Shimmiehorn Creek country onto the wrong ridge (i.e., not the one the rigs were on), adding five miles of hiking to their day.  Just more opportunity for The Bear Bells (Brianne and Emily) to chat away, and for Aaron to cross train lugging around the backpack electrofisher.  (Paul Sankovich)

Brianne, Aaron, Emily, and Paul

I got to spend a week in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge mapping water control structures. This entailed a lot of hiking around dry ponds and ditches with a GPS unit. While looking for the structures, it's not hard catch glimpses of all the wildlife. I saw golden eagles, bald eagles, otters, beavers, coyotes, deer, and lots of quail just to name a few. The refuge, located in SE Oregon, highlights a high desert environment with few trees, lots of sage, and is characterized by being very flat with buttes, capped with rimrock, that stick up out of the landscape. Truly a breathtaking place to work.  (Nadia Jones)

Krumbo Reservoir
My highlight was doing the fall Chinook salmon redd surveys in the White Salmon River this year with everyone.  We observed redds and salmon upstream of the former Condit Dam location (the dam was breached last year and removed this year).  I expected salmon and spawning in the upper White Salmon River but seeing it with my own eyes made it a highlight for me this year.  (Rod Engle)

My highlight this year was working with a crew of fun, dedicated and hard working students.  Juliet Harrison, Brianne Ankenman, Sean Hansen, Aaron Mettler, Ben Wishnek, Jordan Miller, Emily Peterson, and John Newbury.  (Brook
STEP Students
I got to put a bull trout from the Metolius into the Clackamas River as part of a bull trout reintroduction program!  (Marci Koski)

Marci releasing a bull trout into the Clackamas River

  • Learning how to surgically implant radio telemetry tags in juvenile spring Chinook salmon.
  • Kayaking the lower Warm Springs River to mobile track radio-tagged juvenile Chinook salmon.
  • Conducting spawning ground surveys on the White Salmon River and being one of the first groups of people to raft through the former site of Condit Dam - an experience I will never forget!  (Jen Poirier)

Jen surgically implanting a radio tag into a Chinook salmon.

My highlight for 2012 was tracking juvenile Chinook salmon in the beautiful lower Deschutes river.  (Brian Davis)
Deschutes River

2012 was a fun year, I think one of my favorite things was seeing projects that were years in the making happen on the ground with so much great collaboration from so many partners.  In particular, providing fish passage at the South Fork Necanicum dam was really exciting.  (Amy Horstman)

My highlight during my time here so far would have to be a tie between going out to help with PIT tagging, and watching the office run around to "Gangnam Style" during the CFC Cake Walk fundraiser.  I never thought I'd hear that ridiculous song here.  (Christina Uh)

Highlight for 2012:  Being a part of the Service's Region 1 Surrogate Species "Training Team".  Working with colleagues in other Service programs to put together workshops and a webinar to explain and solicit feedback on the Service's use of surrogate species as a biological planning tool for Strategic Habitat Conservation. Manning Region 1's Surrogate Species Hotline, ready to jump into action at the ring of a phone!  (David Hand)

Dave manning the hot line.

The highlights of 2012 for me were on-site project visits both for the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board, and with Amy Horstman on projects funded by the National Fish Passage Program.  (Ron Rhew)

For me, the highlights of 2012 were working with a great group of folks on the NW Fish Culture Conference; starting conversations to develop an ECOS-FIS-CRiS database evolution; and the honor of supervising a stellar hatchery assessment team.  (Doug Olson)

The highlight of my year was getting certified as a Swiftwater Rescue Technician through a three day training course in the White Salmon River, WA.  (Maureen Kavanagh)

Maureen with her certificate of completion.

My best part of 2012 was getting to work at Winthrop NFH in August.  On my day off, I went up to Harts Pass and took a hike on the last stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail before it reaches the Canadian border.   It’s definitely a place I look forward to revisiting every year.  (Geoff Gribble)

Hart's Pass

The highlight for me was hiring Christina Uh last summer and making her part of the new Pathways program.  (Larry Fishler)

 One of my major highlights of the year was working with Donna Allard, Sean Connolly and others from the regional office to produce a video overview of the automated marking trailers at Spring Creek NFH in March.  It was awkward having a video camera following me around for a day,  but it was great to be able to work on something that would help showcase and explain to the public how an automated trailer works . Sean's team did a great job of cutting out about 80% of the awkward footage and piecing together the few good parts to turn into, what I think, is an excellent video.

 Another big highlight for me was getting out to Winthrop NFH in August to coded wire tag Coho salmon for the Yakama Indian Nation.  Winthrop NFH is a great location to work at and I really enjoyed spending a day off fly fishing the Chewuch and catching 8 - 14 inch cutthroat and rainbow trout on a 3 weight fly rod.  It was an amazing experience that was good for the mind and soul.
  My final highlight of the year would have to be spending a week at Winthrop NFH in October with the CRFPO project leader and having the opportunity to get him into the field with the marking team.  It was great to not only show Howard what we do, but also to have him be a part of it.  Marking team members enjoyed having the opportunity to work with him and I think, (although they may not admit it) slightly enjoyed having a chance to boss him around a little.  Howard was very helpful, worked hard, and seemed to enjoy the change of scenery.  The marking team is hopeful that he might find the time to join us in the field again sometime in 2013.  (Jesse Rivera)

November 2012 Bull Trout Embryo Collections (William Brignon)
From left to right – Ryan Koch (USFWS), William Brignon (USFWS, OSU), Carl Schreck (OSU, USGS), Doug Olson (USFWS), Porter The Dog (volunteer), Jacque Schreck (volunteer), James Archibald (USFWS), Cheyenne Wahnetah (Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Indian Reservation of Oregon), Tim Whitesel (USFWS), Rob Chitwood (OSU), and Brook Silver (USFWS). 
Poster Presented at the 2012 Northwest Fish Culture Conference and the 2013 Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society Meeting.  (William Brignon) 

My highlight is working on the Pacific Lamprey Conservation Agreement which was signed by 33 of our state, tribal, federal and local agency partners. (Christina Luzier)

Signatories of the Pacific Lamprey Conservation Agreement

The highlight of my year has been to watch a number of our biologists and professional staffs grow.
Many folks at CRFPO have stretched their scientific capability by voluntarily advancing their education through working on completing undergraduate or graduate degrees.    Many others have advanced themselves and teams by coming up with creative and new approaches to field techniques and population assessment approaches.  A number of our folks have published manuscripts to share this information with our partners and colleagues.
The area where I have observed tremendous professional growth is in our staff taking leadership roles in advancing the operation of our office to building conservation plans across multiple regions with multiple partners.  Our administrative folks have kept our operation smooth, despite the challenges of a new financial system. Many of our folks have volunteered to participate and lead on regional and national initiatives related to landscape conservation and climate change issues.  The general feedback I have received from numerous internal and external partners is that – ‘our folks are advancing fish conservation in a big way’.

Lastly, we have a number of dedicated folks constantly improving the delivery of the quantity and quality of our enormous fish marking program.  The individual leadership these folks take day in and day out for delivering this program is amazing.

Watching these future leaders of the Fish and Wildlife Service grow and step-up to this huge conservation challenge is the highlight of my year.  (Howard Schaller, Project Leader)

Happy Holidays Everyone! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Anadromous Fish Evaluation Program

Each year the Portland and Walla Walla Districts in the Northwestern Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) fund biological studies designed to answer important questions about adult and juvenile salmon, steelhead, bull trout and Pacific lamprey condition and survival as they migrate upstream and downstream, over and through, eight large hydropower dams (Bonneville, The Dalles, John Day, McNary, Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite) owned and operated by the Corps in the mainstem lower Columbia and Snake Rivers.  The program is called the Anadromous Fish Evaluation Program or AFEP for short.  Annually, representatives from the regional fish management agencies (federal, state and tribal) meet throughout the year with the Corps to discuss current information gaps and needed studies about fish passage condition and survival at the hydropower projects as the physical structure/configuration (new turbines, spillwalls, surface passage structures, fish ladder improvements, etc.) of the projects and their operations (powerhouse /turbine operations, spill patterns, amount and timing, fish collection and transportation, etc.) change from year to year.  Study proposals are developed from the compiled list of study needs by researchers, reviewed and commented on by the AFEP participants for scientific appropriateness to answer the specific question(s) the study proposal is dealing with, and then finalized.  After receiving agency and tribal input on their recommendations for study priorities, the Corps selects the studies to be funded the following fiscal year that fit within the allotted budget.  After the end of the fieldwork/study season preliminary results are presented at the annual AFEP Review, typically in late November.  The results of these studies feed into decisions on the operation and configuration of the eight hydropower projects, and discussions on further needed studies during the following AFEP cycle. 

The Dalles Dam and the 800 foot long spillwall completed in 2010 to direct juvenile fish passing over the dam into the safety of the deep main channel, away from predators. (USCG and USACE)
The Dalles Dam 800 foot long spillwall as seen from the dam. (USFWS)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has a responsibility for all public and treaty tribal trust species, as do all federal agencies, but the Service is particularly interested in improving the fate and survival of bull trout and Pacific lamprey as they migrate in the mainstem.   The 2012 Annual AFEP Review just concluded on November 29 after three days and over 35 research presentations.   The research presentations were divided into seven categories; estuary studies, avian and pinniped (bird and sea lion) predation studies, adult fish passage and survival studies (includes bull trout), juvenile fish passage and survival studies, system survival studies, transportation studies, and lamprey studies.  The 2012 research presentations may be viewed at:  The Service has been pleased to be a partner in the AFEP process for many years, not only as an active participant in the discussions for study needs, their development and review, but also as a research partner in the field studying bull trout use, movement and passage in the mainstem Columbia and Snake Rivers. 
Adult fish ladder at Lower Granite Dam. (USFWS)

Well, the 2012 AFEP season is now officially over.  However, the AFEP respite is short, for in early January the Corps will present its selection of studies for the 2013 fieldwork season, and the meetings will begin to review the final results of the 2012 work, and begin to develop study needs for 2014.  The cycle continues with the goal of making fish passage as safe as possible to prevent irreparable loss that would adversely affect the continued existence of an Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed species.

Spill for juvenile fish passage at McNary Dam.  Surface top spill weirs are in place in spillbays 19 and 20 (3rd and 4th bays from the right). (USFWS)

Submitted by Dave Wills 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tenacious Trespasser #2: Bullfrog

They secretly slither, swim, hitchhike and crawl their way, often traveling thousands of miles over land and sea to invade our local rivers, lakes and streams.  Once they make themselves at home, these pesky invaders wreak havoc on the aquatic ecosystem and local economy.  Yes folks, we are talking about Aquatic Nuisance Species.  In the next few months we will introduce you to 10 tenacious trespassers that pose a threat to the native flora, fauna, and fishes of the Columbia River Basin.  Keep a close eye out for these critters because we need to send them packing for good!

American Bullfrog   (Lithobates catesbeianus)

What is it?

The bullfrog is the largest species of frog in the United States with males reaching 8 inches in length and weighing up to one pound.  They inhabit a variety of freshwater habitats including ponds, marshes, streams, and rivers; as well as man-made habitats such as canals and storm water ponds. 

FACTUnlike other frogs, bullfrogs spend most of their time in the water where they feed.
What does it look like?

Tadpoles are dark green with black dots and yellow bellies and are up to 6 inches long.  Adults are greenish to dark brown with dark spots and gold eyes.  They have an exposed eardrum (tympanum) which can be twice the size of their eye in males.  The bullfrog lacks the two parallel lines of raised glandular skin between the back and side found on native frogs.  Instead a fold of skin begins just behind the eye and extends to its ear.
FACT:  The BULLfrog is named after its distinct call which sounds like a cow mooing.

Where is it from & where it is now?

The bullfrog is native to the eastern United States and southern Quebec and Ontario.  It has been introduced to many areas of the western United States, Europe, South America, and Asia.

FACT:  The bullfrog can now be found in all of the lower 48 states.

How did it get here?

Bullfrogs were probably originally introduced accidentally during fish stocking into many lakes in western states.  They were intentionally introduced as a food item (frog legs) during the early 1900’s and have been widely distributed through the aquarium trade.
FACT:  Bullfrogs can travel up to a mile over land during wet seasons, allowing them to colonize new waters and expand their range.

What are its impacts?

Adult bullfrogs eat anything they can catch and swallow including native frogs, turtles, birds, fish, crustaceans, and bats.  Because they lack predators and have a high rate of reproduction, bullfrogs can quickly establish themselves in areas resulting in declines in native populations.  Bullfrogs have been blamed for the decline of the native Western pond turtle in Oregon, Washington and California. 
FACTBullfrogs lay up 20,000 eggs each season while native species such as red-legged frogs only lay up to 5,000 eggs.

What is being done about it?

Control measures such as regulated harvests, introducing predator species (e.g. largemouth bass), trapping and collection of egg masses have been used to combat this fiendish frog, but most methods are considered too expensive and time consuming.  Prevention through public education is considered the best, most effective measure to combat the spread of Bullfrog.  And remember, Washington State has classified the bullfrog as a Prohibited Aquatic Animal Species, meaning they may not be possessed, purchased, sold, propagated, transported, or released into state waters.
FACT:  In Oregon, the bullfrog is considered a controlled species and can be legally harvested year-round; no license is required.

How can YOU prevent the spread of bullfrogs?

  • NEVER release unwanted pet frogs or science projects into the wild.  Instead, consider giving it to a friend.
  • DO NOT purchase or share bullfrogs at any life stage (eggs to adults).  Report any bullfrogs you see for sale to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife or Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Submitted by Donna Allard