Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Fisheries Academy

Last month, I attended Fisheries Academy at The National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) in Shepherdstown, WV.  The mission of the Fisheries Academy is to inspire and develop the future leaders of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Fisheries Program.  Well, it worked.  After two weeks of training, and learning about the inner workings of the Fisheries and Aquatic Conservation Program at the national, regional and field station levels, I left inspired and invigorated about my own future and career in the Service.


Throughout the two weeks of training, we had representatives from each of the eight USFWS regions, (, share the goals, issues, and challenges of fisheries conservation and recovery in their region.  It was great to learn about the work being done all over the country, and to share experiences and build camaraderie with other fish heads (as we affectionately call ourselves in the fish business). In addition to classroom time, we had several field trips which helped to strengthen some of the in- class training we received and gave us an opportunity to meet with national directors and leaders of the USFWS.

Hey look, it's the Capitol!                            Photo Credit:  Benjamin Gilles
One of our off-campus field trips was to Washington, DC. While there we met with majority and minority staff for the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs, toured the Department of Interior building, and met with David Hoskins, the Assistant Director of the USFWS.
Mural painted by Maynard Dixon (1939) in the Department of Interior building, Washington, D.C
Photo Credit:  Michele Atha        

Mural Painting on a wall in the Department of Interior building, Washington, D.C.       Photo credit: Michele Atha


For many of us, the highlight of the class was a trip to Antietam Battlefield just a few miles from the NCTC campus. We spent the day learning about the importance of communication and goals in leadership, and ultimately how this plays out on the battlefield (I mean work place)!  It was about 20 degrees that day, yet still one of the best days of training.
Even in the sun, it was a cold day on the battlefield.   Photo Credit:  Matthew Patterson
Poised and ready to take aim at those pesky work deadlines.  Photo Credit:  Matthew Patterson
For me, this training helped bridge a gap between the work I do at a field station and its role in helping to direct policy and management decisions on the regional and national levels.  I met some really fantastic people from all over the country, and the bonds I formed with my fellow Fishery Academy graduates during those two weeks will stay with me for the rest of my career!
Submitted by Maureen Kavanagh 


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

One in a million…

That’s about the chances a Western pearlshell mussel larvae or glochidia has of surviving to become a free living mussel.   The Western pearlshell has several strategies which may help it overcome these huge odds though.  First of all, they can live well over 100 years and are among the longest lived animal species on the planet.  Second, they release millions of eggs each year they reproduce (3 to 4 million).  Third, they are capable of reproducing throughout their lives.  Last but by far, not least, in sparse populations, female Western pearlshell mussels may become hermaphroditic and self-fertilize.  More on these amazing creatures soon.     

Western Pearlshell mussels
Submitted by Donna Allard

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

National Science Teachers' Association Conference 2013

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sponsored an exhibit booth at the 2013 National Science Teachers’ Association Portland Area Conference on October 24, 25, and 26. Over 2,300 educators attended the conference, which offered a variety of professional development opportunities including workshops and an exhibit hall. The conference encouraged teachers to explore new and innovative approaches to teaching science, offering insight into the 45-state Common Core standards and the “Next Generation Science Standards”.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service exhibit booth was a truly collaborate effort centered on invasive species education and the ‘Don’t Let it Loose’ campaign. Educators engaged in conversation about the role of introduced species in native ecosystems, along with the responsibilities of lab teachers and pet owners. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service booth was incredibly popular among teachers, and offerings included interactive displays, live support, and educational giveaways. Teachers could choose from a variety of giveaways, including three posters with information on local invaders, Refuge and Service brochures, invasive species stickers, and informational packets on introduced species.  This was also the perfect venue to introduce the Aquatic Nuisance Species Education Trunk recently developed by the Columbia River Fisheries Program Office.  The exhibitors estimate that more than 700 educators visited the booth over the course of three days. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service booth invited educators to provide feedback through a simple survey. Results indicate that all of the participants learned some interesting facts as a result of the exhibit, and over 50% of them ‘significantly increased their knowledge of natural resources’.
Trevor Sheffels, Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge Biotech, put the final touches on the exhibit booth as educators wait to enter the exhibit hall on Thursday morning.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service exhibit booth was supported by the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, the Friends of Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, Pacific Region Visitors Services, the Pacific Region Aquatic Invasive Species Program, the Columbia River Fisheries Program Office, and made possible with a grant through the Regional Invasives with Volunteers program.  All of the planners, coordinators, and exhibitors were enthusiastic, knowledgeable and engaging. Trevor Sheffels, Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge Biotech, was a vital exhibitor since he recently completed his PhD on invasive species. Sheffels helped teachers brainstorm about ways to incorporate invasive species into ecology teaching units, and he offered expertise on local issues, including Nutria. Glenda Franich, Pacific Region Visual Information Specialist, participated in powerful conversations sparked by the exhibit. Franich shared “many teachers didn't realize that Hydrilla is an invasive species and so threatening to native plants and aquatic ecosystems. This was all very interesting to me and I thank you for bringing the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to the conference and letting teachers know we are working to make the nation/world a better place for people and wildlife.”
Submitted by Kim Strassburg, Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Notes from our PATHWAYS student.

If you keep up with the CRFPO blog, you might recall seeing my name a few entries back. My name is Christina Uh; I am one of just two PATHWAYS students working at the Columbia River Fisheries Program Office. I currently am a member of the administrative team in the office, working as a student office assistant. Or if you prefer fancy titles, I am an “Office Automation Clerk”.

To give you a quick snapshot of who I am, you would need to know four important things:

1)      I am (very proudly!) the first in my entire family to go to a 4 year university.

2)      I am a member of the Navajo Nation (not tribally enrolled) from my mother and Hispanic from my father. Specifically, my father is from a little place called Oxcutzcab, Yucatan and we have the indigenous Mayans’ blood running in our veins! Pretty cool huh?

3)      I love being outdoors, fishing, hiking, and the Portland Trail Blazers.

4)      I LOVE my family and my dog Maddie (check out her cute face below).

My job here at the office is pretty great. Some of the things I get to work on are; making sure timesheets are correct and ready to be certified, any and all things relating to our staff traveling for work, and other miscellaneous office duties. I consider myself to be two times luckier than the average student office assistant because I also get to spend some time away from the desk.

Once a week I pay a visit to Eagle Creek National Fish Hatchery to feed larval lamprey, or “my little dudes” (as I like to call them). There are 20 tanks, each containing 8 lamprey that all get fed different treatments as part of a captive rearing project. I also try to take advantage of any volunteer activities that I can. For example, over the summer I spent a day working with a crew at the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge catching White-tailed deer for relocation.
I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to work at the CRFPO. Not only do I learn something new every day I go to work, I also get to expand my skills in multiple different areas. I get to learn the “behind the scenes” portion of fisheries work, as well as gain some hands-on, in the field experience. Something I could not have done at just any ol’ office position.
Hiking at King's Mountain

Submitted by Christina Uh. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fish Marking Team Wins Prestigious Columbia River Fisheries Program Office Team of the Year

Each year the fish marking crew is responsible for the marking of over 30 million fish in the Columbia River Basin.  This may mean simply removing the adipose fin, inserting a coded-wire tag into the fish snout, or a combination of the two.  In addition, over a quarter million fish are PIT tagged.      

Mass marking refers to the removal of the adipose fin from young hatchery fish before they are released into the wild.  Removal of this fin identifies hatchery fish from their wild counterparts.  In selective fisheries, hatchery fish may be harvested while wild fish must be released unharmed.  Federal law now requires mass marking of most salmon and steelhead reared at federally funded hatcheries.

Pictured left to right:  Jesse, Geoff, Dan, Darren, Pat, Steve, and James  (Chuck is not present)
The team begins each year with a few PIT tagging jobs in the Columbia River Gorge.  By mid–February, the crew starts their biggest single marking job at Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery.  They run three automated fish marking trailers (2 shifts a day) for almost two months.   Just to give you an idea about the enormity of the job, about 12 million fish are mass marked at this hatchery alone.  In addition, a small portion of those are also being inserted with a PIT tag or coded-wire tag. 

PIT-tagging at Dworshak NFH
This team has been voted the CRFPO Team of the Year because of their hard work and dedication.  The following saying was adapted from James Farley:  Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays the marking crew from the swift completion of their appointed duties.  With that, Congratulations Fish Marking Team!

Read more about the marking program at these past blogs.      Staggering Numbers


Monday, October 28, 2013

Lower Columbia Fish Recovery

One of the yearly activities I engage in is site visits for projects proposed for funding by the Lower Columbia River Fish Recovery Board.   The projects that we are looking at are intended to help recover salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act.  Fish recovery boards were established by the State of Washington in the late 1990’s to coordinate recover actions and administer State and Federal funds for fisheries restoration.  Generally, the process works like this:

·        the recovery board announces the availability and timeline for applications for a new funding round;

·        meets with project proponents to explain the application process;

·        receives draft applications from applicants;

·        schedules site visits for proposed projects;

·        schedules a draft review with the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC);

·        provides comments back to applicants to incorporate into final applications;

·        schedules a final project review and ranking with the TAC;

·        presents the TAC recommended project list to the board for approval.

There are a few other steps at the State level, but basically this is the process that starts again the following year.  Below are photos taken during this years’first-day site visits for proposed projects in May.

Rock Creek looking upstream from the bridge.  This is a preservation project to maintain good conditions in a productive stream.

Rock Creek in the Lewis River Basin.  Sometimes conditions can be hazardous.  Proposed project is land acquisition to protect existing habitat values.

This is a side-channel site on the East Fork Lewis River that is being proposed as a design project to improve habitat conditions.  The East Fork Lewis River can be seen in the background.

Upper Daybreak Park site on the East Fork Lewis River, site of proposed project to add cover and habitat complexity for fish.  Note the lack of features in the existing channel, as well as bank erosion on the meander bend.

This is a site on the East Fork Lewis River near the town of La Center Washington.  The project is a design project to augment fish habitat in the existing wetland.

Submitted by Ron Rhew

Monday, October 21, 2013

Smoked Salmon and Cheddar Cheese Biscuits Recipe

Salty and cheesy with an orange tint from the carrot juice; these biscuits are splendid as well as nutritious and a worthy replacement for cookies as an after school snack during this festive Halloween season. It’s fun to watch the kids decorate the biscuits and gobble them up fresh out of the oven!

Yield: 12 large biscuits


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 stick (2 ounces) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus more for brushing
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely diced smoked salmon
  • 1/2 cup carrot juice2 eggs, beaten


  • 12 black or green olives

Brush on Top:

  •  2 tablespoons butter, melted
  •  ½ teaspoon paprika powder


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour with the sugar, baking powder, salt and paprika.
  3. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or two knives, until it's the size of large peas.
  4. Stir in the cheese and salmon and make a well in the center.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the carrot juice and eggs. Pour the liquid into the well and quickly stir until the dough is well combined and holds together.
  6. Drop dough in 12 equal mounds about 2 inches apart onto a buttered large baking sheet.
  7. Flatten with fork and decorate with olive pieces.
  8. Bake in middle of oven until golden, 18 to 20 minutes.
  9. When biscuits come out of the oven, use a brush to spread butter/paprika over the tops of all the biscuits. Serve hot.
Submitted by Valerie Sinesky