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


1 comment:

  1. This was a good suggestion that you put up here...dude…..hope that it benefits all the ones who land up here. 

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