A Fish Ladder, Finally!

Chris’ Grandma Lois turned 80 on July 19th, but since he was on tour with his army band, I took the train up to Seattle to represent.  I met up with Chris’ Aunt Carol, Uncle Bruce and cousin Terra before our big family lunch and they took me to the Chittenden Locks and fish ladder on Lake Washington.  I think this was actually the first time I’ve really seen a functioning fish ladder up close, which seems kind of silly to me at this point in my career.  But it was pretty cool – they had the ladder that you could walk along side of, and then you could go inside to see the fish in the ladder through a viewing window.  As it was in the middle of July, it was the height of the sockeye upstream migration, and that’s what most of these fish were.  But it was the beginning of the Chinook migration, and we saw a big old Chinook hanging out in the fish ladder too.

Here are some boats going through the Chittenden Locks into Lake Washington.

This is the upstream end of the fish ladder, looking towards Lake Washington.

Sockeye salmon, for the most part.

Hey you fish, you’d better hurry up or you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow to get to the lake!

There were also seals lurking very close to the entrance of the fish ladder,
filling up on breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The mini Gyger family reunion was a great time – I think everyone had fun at Ray’s Boathouse, and I know I had a good time chatting and drinking with Aunt Kim, Uncle Bruce and Bumper later that evening.  Here’s a link to the photos I took if you’d like to check them out!

Grandma Lois’ 80th Birthday

Unchained from my desk for a day!

A couple of weeks ago I got to head outside to help release translocated subadult and adult bull trout into the Clackamas River for a reintroduction project that I’ve been involved with for nearly three years.  These bull trout were taken from the Metolius basin, implanted with radio tags so they can be tracked, and trucked over to the Clackamas River, where they will hopefully reproduce and re-establish a population in a part of their historic range.  It was an amazingly beautiful day out, and I hope the bull trout like their new home!

You can read more about the day at the Columbia River Fisheries Program Office’s Dish on Fish blog, here.

Spider fun facts!

I did a little research, and within no time, I learned Shelob’s true identity: she’s a common European cross spider (Araneus diadematus). I don’t know why she came from Europe; presumably, she heard about how most of the humans on this continent are flavored with pork grease, corn syrup, and MSG. But you can see why she’s a cross spider – the white cross on her abdomen stands out clearly in the photo I took of her in my previous post.

Anyway, a couple of interesting things I learned about cross spiders. They are orb-weavers, and rebuild their large webs almost every day. Most suburban yards around here have over one hundred webs in them, which I can believe given the number of webs on our front porch alone. When creating the radial support lines for the web, the spider takes advantage of the morning winds (she often anchors them a fair distance away, so uses the wind to carry her to an anchor spot), and the orientation of the resulting web indicates the morning wind pattern.

Also, the females will perch upside down in the web (like in my pictures below) waiting for prey, and when something hits the web, she darts over, immobilizes it with venom, then wraps it up in silk. I actually saw Shelob do this with a bee a few weeks ago – she was crazy fast, and she wrapped that sucker up good and tight in no time.

But here’s what I’m really not looking forward to. In late summer and fall (now!?), the females will lay egg sacs, which hatch out about a gazillion little spiderlets that hang out in clumps then disperse after a few days. While spiderlets sound cute, you can be assured that several will reach adulthood and wreak havoc upon the local hobbit population (or whatever else that will make an appropriate substitute, since I believe Shelob consumed the last of our hobbits). I am not crazy about the prospect of finding over a hundred of these clusters in my yard any time soon:


I’m now thinking that telecommuting may be the way to go, permanently. I can send Chris out to get groceries and cat litter, and if he doesn’t make it back, well, I guess that means my arachnophobia-induced precautions will be validated. I haven’t seen Shelob in a few days now, but I’m sure that’s because she’s off laying egg sacs or planning something equally nefarious. I’m glad that I got some photos of her before she disappeared so that the police will have something to go on when they find, in response to a neighbor’s report about a “funny smell coming from the yellow house”, our cold lifeless bodies sucked dry and wrapped in silk.

Shit. I just read the rest of the spider website…I guess we’re coming up on Tegenaria duellica season: the season of the giant house spider, which are common in this area. And since I’m pretty sure it eats cats for between-meal snacks, I’m guessing I’m screwed.

This here is a giant house spider. Sorry, I did not get permission to use this photo, but it was the only one with a reference to scale so you can see how utterly horrifying this creature is. And our basement is likely chock-full of them.

And you thought I was kidding about Shelob…

So very wrong, you were!

On the bright side, I took these pictures with my new camera so I was able to maintain a relatively safe distance. On the down side, I think I still managed to piss her off because after a couple of minutes of invading her space she scrambled up underneath the porch rail, presumably to plot my demise and eventual consumption. So I guess that means that use of the front door (necessitating crossing into Her territory) is off limits, at least until the first frost. But maybe I’ll not take any chances and just wait things out until spring.

One small step for fish biologists, one great splash for bull trout!

**Please note: this is my personal blog and reflects my personal opinions. Any questions about this project relating to agency positions should be directed to either the US Fish and Wildlife Service or the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Thanks for reading!**

Sooo…this post is going to be about work. Which I rarely blog about, but last week was a good week, so I’m going to go ahead and share. One of the first projects I became involved with when I started my job here almost two years ago was the reintroduction of bull trout in the Clackamas basin, a little bit southeast of Portland. Bull trout once coexisted in the basin with a suite of native fish species including salmon and steelhead. However, bull trout disappeared from the basin in the 1960s (the last confirmed sighting was in 1963) largely as a result of overfishing and habitat degradation. So, now that many of the issues that caused bull trout to be extirpated have been addressed, the Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Forest Service, decided that the time was ripe to reintroduce bull trout into the Clackamas to resume its spot in the ecosystem.

Bull trout in the Kootenai River drainage in Montana. Photo by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Stock (used with permission).

The reintroduction project has been in the planning phases since the mid-2000s. Bull trout were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1999, and reintroducing them to a part of their native range falls under recovery actions planned for this species. Our office provides technical assistance to the regulatory folks, and it was my task to perform the preliminary bioenergetics modeling for bull trout, as well as lead the development of the Monitoring and Evaluation Plan for the project, which is anticipated to continue for up to 20 years (and perhaps beyond that). I am currently the chair of the M&E committee, comprised of biologists from several of the agencies involved in the project. It was a big task to complete the M&E plan, but a necessary one for a couple of reasons.

First, the bull trout population in the Clackamas is an experimental one. The major benefit of having a strong Monitoring and Evaluation program is that we will learn something no matter what happens – we will learn why the reintroduction succeeded or failed. Either way, we will know more about what might work for the recovery of this population as this project progresses, and ultimately for this species elsewhere in its range.

Second, we need to pay close attention to what these bull trout do in the Clackamas because there are other listed species in the basin, such as Chinook, coho and steelhead. In fact, this project has been fairly controversial because of concern for these other listed species, which makes it all the more important that we have a strong M&E program and dot all of our regulatory i’s and cross all of our regulatory t’s. Because bull trout are top predators, where these species overlap in time and space salmon and steelhead may face an increased risk of being eaten by bull trout. Of course, bull trout eat plenty of things other than salmon and steelhead (other fish, insects, etc.). But part of our monitoring program focuses on the interaction of all of these listed species so that project managers can take action if it looks like the impacts from bull trout are greater than anticipated.

Anyway, there’s a bit more to the story, but I’ll cut to the chase. Last week was a big week for us because we finally completed all of the regulatory requirements needed to get fish in the water. About 30 subadult and adult bull trout were collected from the Metolius, implanted with radio tags so we can keep track of their whereabouts, trucked over to the Clackamas, and released in the Big Bottom portion of the upper basin. Yay! There was a fair amount of press there, and it was great to see these beautiful fish swim in waters they hadn’t seen for 50 years. Let’s just hope they stay there! We’ll continue to move juvenils and subadults/adults through July, and our monitoring program will kick in almost immediately.

You can see some of the video footage and pictures that were taken here:

From the Oregonian – http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2011/06/bull_trout_released_in_upper_c.html

From KGW News Channel 8 – http://www.kgw.com/video/featured-videos/Bull-trout-released-in-Clackamas-River-124829994.html

And here are some pictures I took – enjoy!

There were plenty of people on hand to witness the first bull trout release!
Above, this bull trout was just taken off the transport truck. The cooler was walked down to the banks of the Clackamas and the bull trout swam in the waters of its new home a few moments later.
This was the first bull trout back in the Clackamas! Good luck – we’ll be keeping track of you!

M is for…wait for it…

…Montana! Ha – I’ll bet you thought I was going to say M is for Marci! But I didn’t – I know, shocking, right? Well, it still is for Marci, but as I initially stated, M is also for Montana. Which is where I went just a couple of days after Chris and I returned from Alaska (July 13-15). I flew out to Kalispell, which is just outside of Glacier National Park. I’d only driven through Montana once, several years ago, so the whole place was pretty much new to me and I will say that I quickly learned that M is also for Magnificent. Yes, Montana is indeed Magnificent, Majestic, Marvelous, and M-pressive!

My trip was only Tuesday through Thursday, and much of the time was spent in a meeting room in Whitefish, just a stone’s throw from Kalispell. I was there for a bull trout recovery planning meeting and while it was slightly dry (as opposed to wet, which fish tend to need), our group did get outside one afternoon for a drive up Grave Creek in the Kootenai watershed. We were only a few miles from the Canadian border, which you can see in this picture – there’s a line cut through the trees to mark the interface of our countries. How’d you like that job, trekking through some of the most rugged land in our continent to cut down and maintain a tree-free line?

The Canadian border from the headwaters of the Wigwam Basin.

The following day I was able to spend a couple of hours driving around the south end of Glacier National Park. I found Lake McDonald and the views of the mountains particularly stunning, but the drive through the forest was interesting too.

Lake McDonald, with several peaks in the background (from left to right, Mt. Vaught, Mt. Cannon, Mt. Brown, Little Matterhorn, and Edwards Mountain).

Large portions of the forest had burned in wildfires which made the trees look like skeletal toothpicks – you might think this would be not so picturesque, but you could see the topography of the landscape really well instead of just driving down a thickly wooded corridor. Additionally, seeing the forest regenerating with new growth and baby trees was a reminder that forest fires are a natural part of ecosystem processes, and that they benefit the native species that have evolved to survive with fire as a part of their environment.

One of the burn areas. Note the burned, branchless trees in the background; the vibrant green groundcover is nearly a monoculture of lodgepole pine treelings that are about 2-3 feet high.

Anyway, the water there was incredible – aqua blue from the glacial till – and we took advantage of a shady spot next to the Flathead River to enjoy lunch (I accidentally left my prescription glasses there and had to return for them after realizing they were missing a half hour down the road…oops!). I’m glad I got to see the area, and now I understand why bull trout like to live there!

McDonald Creek – note the beaver lodge on the right that has been there for decades! I’d like to live there too if I were a beaver…

Playing Catch-Up

Yikes! Time has slipped away from me folks, and I realized that with all the stuff going on right now I forgot to actually write about my spring break trip that I took with Chris. I posted a slide show of all the pictures on this blog a while back (you can see the pictures here), but I totally forgot to give you the inside scoop! So here goes…even if it is old news by now.

Sunday, March 28:

We started our road trip by stopping by the Hip Chicks Do Wine tasting room in Newberg where we sampled several yummy wines. However, we wanted to check out a few other places that were going to close at 5 pm so we kept moving down the road to our bed and breakfast, the amazing Abbey Road Farm B&B. The guest rooms are in converted grain silos and the grounds are amazing! Definitely check out the pictures. After checking in (we were the only people there during our stay), we went to downtown Carlton and stopped in at the Barking (a.k.a. Barfing) Frog (we weren’t impressed), and the Tyrus Evan tasting rooms. Then a nice dinner at Cielo Blue – terrific bruschetta and it was free, since the waitress spilled my water in my pasta and comped us the appetizer.

Monday, March 29:

While I’m not normally a breakfast person, I was looking forward to a farm-fresh meal. John and Judi (the owners of the B&B, not my parents) cooked us up a fancy meal of grapefruit (topped with toasted coconut, maple syrup and a raspberry) and crepes (with whipped cream, strawberries and kiwi). John went through an exhaustive list of the tasting rooms and wineries we should visit, and talked about all the people running the wine scene in the Willamette Valley. He knew A LOT about wine and we felt a bit overwhelmed and baffled after all his recommendations. So instead of heading out for wine at 10 am, we decided to tour the grounds, which consisted of us harassing the chickens (ok, so we mainly fed them cinnamon raisin bread), making friends with the goats (we’ll see you tomorrow morning, ladies!), and having John show us around the Agrivino Event Center he built. After, we headed out to The Carlton Winemaker’s Studio where JP gave us a nice intro to the local Pinots (we liked Lazy River and Britton’s Basalt Block) – they have several wineries featured at that tasting room, so it was a nice tour. We then went just up the road to Cana’s Feast to sample their wines…and by the end of that visit we had blown our wine budget (but we have lots of really good wine to enjoy at home!). We drove through Dundee and stopped at the Dundee Bistro for dinner, then went back to the Abbey Road Farm for our second night.

Tuesday, March 30:

We managed to get ourselves up nice and early to meet Ricardo, the goat tender, for some good old-fashioned goat milking fun. At 7 am it didn’t feel like so much of a vacation, but hey, we did want our farm-lite experience. Sunflower the goat was very patient with Chris and my unexperienced hands, but we got the hang of it eventually. After all four goats were milked, we took our pail of milk down to the kitchen to Judi who set it up to pasteurize. We had a delicious breakfast of granola with yogurt and berries, VERY fresh eggs, chicken-apple sausage, potatoes, and zucchini bread with lemon-zest goat cheese.

After that it was time for us to head on down the road. Down that road we made a stop at the Brigittine Monastary (their website has an E-zine…an E-zine!!!) where we were greeted by a very friendly cat who led us to the chocolate truffle sales room. It was tended by a monk who had apparently not quite taken a vow of silence, but who made some sort of promise to use as few words as possible during the day. So we bought a couple boxes of truffles, nodded to the monk, and said goodbye to the cat.

We ate lunch at The Beanery in Corvallis, then visited my good friends Jeremy, Dana, and Autumn Monroe for a couple of hours. It was sooooo nice to see some old friends, whom I’m sure will be in my life for a very long time. They all looked well and I was happy to see that Autumn already has quite the biological vocabulary at such a young age! After that, we kept driving south and stayed the night at the Eugene Hilton. Nothing of note there, really, other than the fact that Sarah Palin would speak at that very same Hilton a month or so later. Boooo!!!

Wednesday, March 31:

We were kind of done with wine tasting (by that point our palettes were very confused) so we decided to head to the coast and stay in Newport for the next couple of days. After leaving Eugene we stopped to see a dreary road-side glassblower in Mapleton, activated my new (i.e., Chris’ old) iPhone in Florence (yay!!!), then drove North and checked in at Green Gables B&B in Newport (we’ve stayed there before and liked it so much we decided to stay again). My friend Julie (from grad school at CSU) lives in Newport so I gave her a call and we met her and her boyfriend Perry at Quimby’s for dinner and drinks – I hadn’t seen her since 2002! She hasn’t changed a bit and it was awesome catching up with her. After, Chris and I checked out a whale skeleton sculpture at a beach park, watched Stardust in our room, then…well, maybe I should just stop there.

Thursday, April 1:

Oh, Thursday. Spring break was going by too fast! We finished watching Stardust (which is a very good movie, by the way), and enjoyed a delicious breakfast in the Italian Cafe (part of the B&B) with food made by sisters Rhonda and Yolanda (or Rho and Yo, depending on how bold you are). We had fresh-baked orange-cranberry scones and sweet rolls, and a cranberry sausage quiche which was amazing…

Later, we went down to Newport’s waterfront which is apparently undergoing a major facelift judging by all the construction. We stocked up on our decade’s supply of salt-water taffy (2 lbs, a variety of flavors), checked out the sea lions on the pier, and window shopped. We had dinner at the Italian cafe – manicotti, chicken parmesean, and orange-chocolate cheesecake – YUM!!! We enjoyed a second night at Green Gables, and had a storm roll in which was reminiscent of the storm we experienced during our first stay. Very romantic!

Friday, April 2:

Breakfast was soooo good the day before that we had the very same breakfast on Friday. It was sad that our vacation was almost over, but as you can see, we took some good pictures and will remember it for a long time. Plus, on our drive home we had Combos! Pizzeria and pretzel flavor – yippee!!!