Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Olympic Mudminnow Workshop - October 17, 2012

We are pleased to announce an upcoming workshop on Olympic mudminnow, Washington State's only endemic fish.

The workshop is a 1-day event designed to provide background information and research findings on Olympic mudminnow and establish a partnership coalition capable of developing and implementing a conservation strategy for Olympic mudminnow and their habitat. It is being sponsored by the Washington-British Columbia Chapter of the American Fisheries Society and will be held on October 17th at the Lacey Community Center in Lacey, Washington.

More information (including a registration link) can be found at  http://www.fws.gov/wafwo/Olymudminnow_wkshp.html.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Youth Fisheries Academy with the Skokomish Tribe

Hey there!

One of the Youth Fisheries Academies that we conducted this summer was with the Skokomish Tribe. I worked with two large groups of kids from 1st through 12th grade. I first worked with the high school students at George Adams State Fish hatchery. I started the day leading an invertebrate sampling station where students got a chance to step into the creek and see what they could catch. I had never led any stations on benthic macroinvertebrates before, but growing up fly fishing gave me the knowledge I needed to successfully lead the group.

Zach netting invertebrates
First, I explained just exactly what we were looking for-- animals that live on the bottom of a stream, are large enough to be seen without a microscope or magnifying glass, and have no backbone. Then we tromped around the creek to stir some of these animals out of the gravel and into the net.

Identifying the "catch"
Once the sample was collected, the group and I went onshore to pick through the sample container and start identifying our "catch". The students seemed blown away at the amount of living invertebrates we were able to pull out of 1 square foot of gravel; many had no idea that these animals were even around.

Later that day I switched from invertebrate sampling to fish dissections. I helped the students dissect their own trout as I demonstrated proper dissection technique on a large coho salmon. This is one of the most popular stations at all of the Youth Fisheries Academies so I really enjoyed leading the dissections (even though it got blistering hot in the dissection tent and I smelled like hot, old, dead salmon for the rest of the day).

Fish dissection
The second group of kids I worked with were aged of 5 through 13. This is my favorite age group to work with because they usually are enthusiastic, extremely curious, and ask some hilarious questions during the lessons. I helped lead a fish health and ID station for the first half of the camp and then helped the campers identify the live trout and salmon smolts that we brought. Halfway through the camp, a Skokomish storyteller told an amazing story to the children about how the Skokomish Tribe and the chum salmon came to be. After the story was finished, we transitioned to salmon dissections for the remainder of the camp. The kids and I had a blast going through each salmon organ together and explaining the purpose of each one.

This camp was one of my favorites this summer with great campers, parents, stories, delicious barbeque, enthusiastic questions, and the smell of salmon dissections in the air! What more could you ask for from a summer job?


--Zach Moore, STEP Fisheries Technician


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Life Aquatic 2012 - Youth Fisheries Academy Camp at Makah NFH

During the Youth Fisheries Academy day camps, I help run the technology station. Here we teach kids about the various techniques and equipment that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). I start by introducing the campers to fish tagging and methods used to track salmon released from hatcheries, which includes a hands-on activity using tag scanners and a discussion about the importance of tracking fish for conservation. Each year, millions of fish are released from hatcheries around the state of Washington. By tagging many of them, using the same kind of chip you might have in your pets, and placing automated tag readers at strategic locations such as fish ladders, we can learn where the fish are going, when they are returning, and estimate the size of the fish populations.

Explaining radio telemetry equipment
Working in the fisheries area of USFWS means that I am primarily focused on fish and aquatic invertebrates, but the agency deals with much more. The next part of the technologies station shifts the focus to tracking animals using radio telemetry. This involves placing a radio transmitter on an animal and using radio receivers to determine its location. After introducing the radio telemetry equipment at a camp at Makah National Fish Hatchery, one of the campers asked, "So, theoretically, I could put on this collar and hide somewhere and you would be able to find me?" He was thrilled when I told him that our very next activity was radio telemetry hide-and-seek. He put on the transmitter collar with enthusiasm and said he was going to be a bear. While he was scampered off to hide, I talked to the rest of the group about the importance of tracking individual animals to determine what habitats they are using as well as tracking populations in order to set hunting limits and determine population health. The other campers then set off with antennas and radio receivers in hand to locate their "bear" friend hiding somewhere at the hatchery. It is fun to watch campers get so excited.

More than just being fun, the Youth Fisheries Academy curriculum is designed to give kids experience with fishery science as well as teaching the purpose and importance of the work we are doing. This dual emphasis ensures that a new generation is raised with an awareness of the conservation challenges we are facing and hopefully plants some seeds for future field biologists who will continue this important work.

--Clay, STEP Fisheries Technician