August Highlights

Most of our months field activities have been eaten up by the air quality. The fires surrounding us and the variable wind patterns have made predicting good days to go out difficult. However, we did get to assist on brook trout removal at Crater Lake NP, work on a wetland restoration project, and spend a day out with a stream restoration crew. When the smoke wins, we have been working on office projects for a few different biologists and techs.

The Crater Lake project has been ongoing for three seasons now, meaning our brook trout removal was a slow go, but that is a good thing! Only seeing 1-2 fish a day meant the project was meeting its goals, even if it made the days long. We did however get to see some other fun critters and explore parts of the park we would otherwise not get to see.

Working on the wetlands restoration project with a partners biologist in the office was one of my favorite things so far this season. It is one of few projects that you get to see the results of quickly, which makes it a super hopeful process! The project not only expanded the wetland area on this property, but also worked to create better fish habitat to the river section flowing through it. The owner communicated that within a few weeks, he had been catching more native fish, so like I said, quick results!

The stream restoration crew we joined was working within the Bootleg Fire burn area on Five Mile Creek. Their project was also to create better fish habit, but from the trees remaining after the fire. This process was super informative in regards to what water can do when you change its flow pattern. We got to help move trees into the creek, build BDAs, and build other flow-changing structures. We had done inventory on this creek before this stream restoration project started, so seeing the changes made within that short period was amazing.

When the smoke won, we got to work in the office on different projects for whoever needed our help. We got the opportunity to work with permits by organizing and filing important information from them, to work on data from the telemetry crew, and the time to work on professional development with different people in the office. Even though this internship was very field work based, I have also loved the office component of it. I am a big picture learning person, so seeing the reasons and the outcomes of the fieldwork we have participated in has been helpful for the knowledge base I was hoping to gain in this position.

Fish & Wildlife July Highlights

Most of this month was spent doing mussel surveys, which is easily my favorite thing so far. The Klamath Basin is home to one of the healthiest Western Ridged Mussel populations, however this species is proposed for listing due to losing much of its range elsewhere. For these surveys, we floated the Sprague River in kayaks, watching the bottom for mussels. The intention was presence/absence reporting for data about the ranges they occupy. Nearly every section of the river we explored had healthy populations, which was an exciting find! Spending the day on the river, watching fish, and finding mussels is just about the best thing to get to say you do for work!

Mussel surveys on the Sprague River, featuring Maddie.

Another adventure we had the opportunity to take was to Ashland, OR, which is the home of the National FWS Forensics Lab. This lab investigates all international FWS crimes and holds an impressive collection of species samples used for identification in other cases. We toured the building learning about the different lab departments including morphology, genetics, chemistry, and more. We even got to participate in sample organization. The tour was an amazing experience, but bittersweet to say the least. While learning so much and seeing many species samples was a great opportunity, we also had to face the fact that many of those samples are obtained through illegal, unsustainable, and unethical trade practice.

The month was filled with more electrofishing as well! Brook trout removal is a never ending job, but one we have so much fun doing. Towards the end of the month, we also assisted in an inventory project on Five Mile Creek, recently recovering from the Bootleg Fire. This opportunity offered a different set of species to work with including redband trout, sculpin, lamprey, dace, and minnows.

Month 1 in the Klamath Basin

I spent the first month of my internship doing a lot of floating around the Klamath Falls USFWS office. We had the opportunity to be a part of a few different projects and gain diversified experience, as well as meet so many great mentors throughout the field.

We started out with the hatchery team, working with Lost River suckers and Shortnose suckers. These species are a key focus throughout the basin, as they have become endangered by water quality issues throughout their small range. We got the chance to be a part of larval collection from the Williamson River, as well as learn the ropes of taking care of the fish being raised by the hatchery over the course of my first 3 weeks. This included feeding, water quality testing, water treatments, hatchery upkeep, hormone injections and so much more!

During the next week, we got to work closely with our mentor on his bull trout projects. This involved monitoring for population size within the existing population range and removing invasive brook trout in a potential range. The populations of bull trout in Oregon were already existing in very narrow ranges and few were in a good position, but the recent Bootleg Fire created a larger problem sweeping through a few of those key ranges. Due to these populations being isolated from others they have become genetically distinct and can not be helped through outsourcing to populations outside of the basin.

Our first bull trout catch of the season!

We also have had the opportunity to be a part of a Canadian goose banding project, taking data on the populations within this flyway. This was an adventure because I am terrified of birds, but great exposure therapy! As well as help with a population survey of Applegate’s Milkvetch, an endangered species of pea plant, only endemic to the Klamath Basin and currently suffering due to drought conditions.

Holding a gosling during banding, and a rare occurrence of a smile on my face anywhere near a bird.