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.