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.

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…

New Digs

I know I’ve totally been slacking on my blog. Sorry! But facebook has been getting a lot of my attention – so if you’re on facebook, you can check me out there. I’ll attempt to catch up a little bit now though, for all you non-facebookers…

First off, before I left for Portland, my friends in Carlsbad threw me an AWESOME going away party. Susan hosted and nearly all my friends made it to the party – there was even a Snow White pinata filled with mini-alcohol beverages, courtesy of Michelle and jeep. And the food was awesome! Everyone chipped in to get me a $170 gift card to Powell’s Books, and I gave everyone an appropriate Non-Performance Award.

The next day several folks helped me with loading the truck. At one point they were convinced that not everything would fit and I almost had to rent a trailer, which I was definitely not looking forward to doing. However, everything was jammed in – not a square foot to spare – and only two things didn’t make it: the cat tree was donated to Sparkles (Michelle’s new kitty), and jeep had to bring up my office chair the following week. It always works out in the end, but I’m thinking that my next move will entail a 17′ truck instead of a 14′ truck. At least.

It took two full days of driving, but Mom and I finally got to Portland. My apartment managers are assholes, but I’m trying to forget about that. I got really lucky in finding my apartment – it’s in the Bretnor Building, constructed in 1912, on NW 20th and Lovejoy – right in the heart of all the cool stuff that happens in Portland. 21st and 23rd have a ton of restaurants and shops, and I’m about 6 blocks from the Pearl District. Everything is within walking distance, too – aside from work, I don’t have to drive my car. I’ve walked to Powell’s Books a few times, and even down to the Saturday Market. And now that I have a bike, it will be even easier.

I had to start my new job at the Columbia River Fisheries Program Office the next week – I wish I had some more time off, but dems de breaks. Gots to make money, you know. The new office is nice – lots of native plants around the building, and one entire wall of my office is windows that look out into a virtual jungle of bushes and trees. I’ve been enjoying watching hummingbirds and chickadees – and a towhee – along with bees and other insects buzzing around. My office seems to have quite the spider population in it, but so far it hasn’t been a problem. Once those little guys grow up though…that’s another story…

Catching Up…

So…lots of stuff has happened between now and my last post. There’s too much to write about right now, but I will provide you with links to pictures. That’s the good part, anyway, right? The big news is that I recently moved up to Portland, Oregon, where I will be starting a job with the Columbia River Fisheries Program Office in Vancouver, Washington. I guess my official title is Recovery Assessment Program Leader, but basically I’ll be a fish biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It was definitely sad leaving all of my friends behind in Carlsbad, but I’m very happy to be up here in Portland. I found a great apartment in a really cool part of town…the next step is getting a bike! I’ll post some pictures of my place once I get a bit more unpacked.

In the meantime, here are some photos from previous events.

First, in the beginning of July, my friend Michelle came and visited me from Pennsylvania. I hadn’t seen her (or talked with her) since graduating from West Chester University in 1998, but we found each other on facebook. We met up in Old Town San Diego, went to the Wild Animal Park (of course), and cruised around Point Loma and downtown San Diego over the weekend. You can view the photos from her visit here.

Next, at the end of July, I drove north to Blue Lakes (near Ukiah) for a Koski family reunion. I was there for a couple of days and it was really nice to see everyone, especially the next generation of Koski’s. The weather was perfect and it was great connecting with most of my cousins, although three of my blonde beautiful cousins were MIA (you know who you are, H’s!). Check out the photos from the reunion here.

After the reunion I drove up to Eureka to meet my friend Cara. We went to a Roller Derby (go, North Jetty Betty’s!), then went to Arcata to dine on crepes at one of Cara’s favorite restaurants. The crepes were FANTASTIC! Cara works and lives at Redwoods National Park, so the next day we hiked the Damnation Creek trail to the coast where we explored the tidepools. Then, it was time for me to head back south (sigh)…but the photos still linger here.

The only unfortunate part of the trip was that my check engine light went on, and upon taking it to the shop for a diagnosis, I learned that one of the catalytic converters has crapped out on me and it would cost $2000 to fix in California. Fortunately, I’ve moved to Oregon where it may not be illegal to use an after-market catalytic converter so I might not have to junk my car…but like I said, it looks like I’ll be wanting to invest in a bike soon. It won’t work for getting me over to Vancouver every day, but it’s at least a little less pressure on my aging Outback when I need to go out for groceries or local errands!

Fishy in San Francisco

At the beginning of September, the Fish and Wildlife Service paid me to attend the American Fisheries Society annual meeting in San Francisco. Of course, I was born there and all, and have been to the City many times since then, but I decided it would be a fun trip. So, I whipped up a poster to present some of my graduate work during a poster session and set off. It was a nice week away from the job, but I soon discovered that going away for a week is not necessarily a vacation – you still have to meet your deadlines, so you basically have to bust your ass trying to get stuff done before you leave, and then when you get back you have to bust your ass trying to get to all the stuff you missed while you were gone. It’s not like I actually got to skip any work – it was just crammed in other places! Anyway, the trip to SFO was good – I saw lots of people from Colorado State, and we had a good time eating out and going to socials. Oh yeah – I also went to a few of the scientific talks – they were pretty good, I guess, but not a whole lot of new information, I thought. Want to see some pictures??? Here they are:
I stayed at the Parc 55, right downtown. This was the view from my room on the 21st floor at night.
Monday night was the poster session / social – right in the middle of it, these drums and symbols started banging and a couple of Chinese dragons came around to harass the meeting attendees. It was good fun.
A few of my CSU friends – Jill, Matt, Ayeisha, and me.
Jeremy (right) had a screening of his documentary film, River Webs. It was awesome! Afterwards, a few of us went out to sushi (that’s me on the left, then Owen and Miki, Dr. Fausch from CSU, and Jeremy).
Thursday night was the best social ever – they closed the Hyde Street Pier (near Ghiradelli Square) just for the AFS’ers and gave us access to the National Park’s boats. I declared myself captain of the Balclutha.
We all enjoyed the many buffets throughout the pier (serving fresh tuna, all sorts of salads, soups, fresh vegetables and fruit, and chocolate fondue), as well as the completely open bars that were set up and didn’t stop serving. That’s me above, Andrew, Jill, Matt, and Ayeisha.
The last day I was in the City I walked down to Japantown. I hadn’t been there since I was a little kid, and it had really changed. There was hardly anybody around, and all the shops were totally pricey and upscale – no bargain bins of stilt sandals and tabi sock anywhere! But at least I got a picture of this completely bizarre business sign. Good times!

I don’t want to jinx myself but…

Woo hoo! I looked up my job application status for the Army Corps of Engineers today, and among all the “rejected” notices, there was actually one application that made it to review! This is the first time that I’ve seen this message, so I think I might have made it past an initial hurdle of some sort. The position is for a Fishery Biologist in Portland, which would be great. I might even end up working with my bro!

So, to recap, I have four applications in consideration right now: one for the EPA, two for the USGS, and one for the Corps. Needless to say, keep your fingers crossed for me! Thanks!