Friday, June 22, 2012

USFWS Internship - Spring 2012 Field Work - Part 2

Zach Moore
More about my field work experiences . . . .

I also had a chance to help sample Olympic mudminnow around Olympia with Roger Tabor, USFWS biologist. This was a great way to get some new knowledge of, and experience with, a species of fish I previously knew nothing about. I went to several different wetlands to catch and sample these interesting little fish. The capture method involved swiping a frame net into murky ponds and pulling out handfuls of mudminnows. We sedated the fish so we could collect data such as length and weight, as well as stomach samples for diet analysis, and then returned them to the pond.

But my favorite field work opportunity was working on the Tsoo-Yess River on Washington's Olympic Peninsula near Makah National Fish Hatchery. I went up there with a crew for several days at a time. Our goal was to capture and collect outmigrating juvenile salmonids such as steelhead trout, coho salmon, and Chinook salmon. To do this, we installed a fish weir (river fence) that directed these small fish to the rotary screw trap. Installing a fish weir is a lot of work and it took us a couple of days to finish the entire thing, but when it was done it felt like a great accomplishment. I also assisted with the screw trap sampling where I gained experience utilizing a useful fish sampling device and improved my fish identification and data collection skills.

Sampling juvenile salmon at the screw trap on the Tsoo-Yess River
(fish weir in background)
I feel fortunate to have had this valuable opportunity with the USFWS. I was able to receive 16 college credits for my work and build and diversify my resume at thr same time. It was also a great way to get my foot in the door with the USFWS. My hard work paid off--I applied and successfully competed for a paid seasonal fisheries technician position with the USFWS Fisheries Division!

Working in the field was definitely my favorite part of my spring internship and I can’t wait to do more this summer! I am looking forward to new adventures and career-building experiences this coming summer. Stay tuned!

--Zach Moore, USFWS Intern/Fisheries Technician

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

USFWS Internship - Spring 2012 Field Work - Part 1

Zach Moore
Hello again! After finishing my volunteer work with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) this past winter, I applied for a quarter-long internship  this spring. After my application was accepted by the USFWS, I found a sponsoring professor at The Evergreen State College and worked with both to formulate a learning contract that enabled me to receive college credits for my work. I found my spring internship to be the coolest college class I have taken yet! I was able to visit and work in some amazing places as well as gain a great deal of experience in fisheries field biology.
The field work gave me a chance to work alongside fisheries conservation professionals collecting valuable data--a nice contrast to sitting in a crowded classroom listening to lectures. This work sent me to a handful of amazing places like Neah Bay, the Elwha River, and deep into the forests around Olympia. I gained a wide range of experience, including electrofishing, fish weir installation, habitat measurement, handling live fish specimens, and recording all kinds of data.

One field project involved updating Washignton Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) maps and habitat types through field data collection. This project is headed by the Wild Fish Conservancy and the USFWS made me available to provide assistance for this valuable conservation work. We would collect abiotic (non-living) habitat data such bankfull width, wetted width, and gradient. We also used GPS technology to verify stream locations. The biotic (living) sampling involved electrofishing to verify the presence or absence of fish. The data collected allowed us to update WDNR records that were previously inaccurate. For example, two tributaries of Swift Creek were previously listed as "nonfish-bearing"; however, we were able to verify the presence of fish in them through our field work. The reclassification of these two tributaries will now result in improved protection of critical fish habitat, including the bordering riparian zone.