The field season is anything but over here in southeast Arizona. Throughout October and November our crew has been working on a variety of field projects.
Green sunfish removal from Horse Camp Canyon has finally been completed! This is a big success for Heidi Blasius and the BLM office. Removal from this side canyon began in 2009. Horse Camp Canyon is the only known source of green sunfish into Aravaipa Creek. Green sunfish are piscivorous and eat the young of the native fish that live in Aravaipa Creek. I was an integral part of the 2013 removal efforts. I camped with a Southwestern Conservation Corp crew at the west entrance into Aravaipa Canyon for a week in September. We hiked 80 nets into Horse Camp Canyon (HCC), a 5 mile hike from the west entrance. Each day we hiked to the site, set nets, seined, and dip netted, and then hiked out. What a week! Then in October another SCC crew worked at HCC for us. The four pools in HCC were finally deemed clean of green sunfish on 10/30/2013. We removed close to 2,000 green sunfish in 2013! I was given the honor of presenting the results of the non-native removal efforts in HCC at the annual Desert Fishes Council conference. I spent five days in Flagstaff attending the meeting. My presentation went well, despite my nerves. It was great practice in my oral presentation skills as well as data preparation and analysis.
Once we returned from the furlough, SOS collections were of high priority. The shutdown occurred just as seeds were ripening in this area. Recognizing the time constrains of our collection season, our crew had several collection trips each week, as well as collecting on the weekends. Our team has made 49 collections and we still may be able to accumulate more through the end of November and into early December.
All and all I have thoroughly enjoyed our collection season. Three new interns have started under my mentor over the last couple months. It is great to have some new friends in the area. We have explored new areas of the field office and learned a magnitude of information about native plants. There is no better way to learn the local flora then to be out in it actively identifying things. We have taken several trips with Steven Buckley, a botanist for the NPS. He is extremely knowledgeable of the flora in this area and helped our SOS collection team in correctly identifying plants for collection. He also instructed us in the creation of seed balls. We made over 4,000 seed balls one afternoon that will be used in restoration efforts on the Buenes Aires National Wildlife Refuge. The Buenes Aires National Wildlife Refuge is a beautiful area. Steve accompanied us to Brown Canyon, an area closed to the public. The Canyon was lush and diverse. My favorite plant of the day was Coral Bean. The bright red color of the beans is a message to beware of the lethal poison contained within.
The Aravaipa Creek Bi-annual monitoring was a highlight of our fall field season. Aravaipa creek is home to 7 native species, two of which are federally endangered. The natives include the Longfin dace, Agosia chrysogaster, Speckled dace, Rhinichythys osculus, Spike dace, Meda fulgida, Desert sucker, Catostomus clarkii, Sonoran Sucker, Catostomus insignis, Loach minnow, Tiaroga cobitis, and the Roundtail chub, Gila robusta. Loach minnow and spikedace are the two that are listed. There are very few streams in the southwest that can boost of having this many native fishes. It was my first time identiying several of these species, and really a treat to see the endangered populations doing well. The monitoring took place at 8 different 200 m sites. Each site was seined the entire length, and all the fish were identified and counted.
It has been a great couple of months. I greatly enjoy the extended field season in Arizona. It’s November and we are still able to perform non-native removal in Bonita Creek (although this results in frozen fingers). I’m looking forward to holiday season and visiting Arkansas for a couple weeks. I hope that all other CLM interns and CBG staff also enjoy lovely holidays.