A Day in the life of Angela (Watershed Stewards Program member & soon-to-be masters student):
Hello, everyone! My name is Angela, and I am a member of the Watershed Stewards Program** (WSP) and a soon-to-be masters student at the University of Washington in the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs. My current position with WSP has me placed with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Coastal Watershed Planning and Assessment Program (it’s a mouthful) where I do salmonid habitat surveys. Salmon and trout are amazing, powerful fish and the surveys we do inform future in-stream restoration projects.
7:19am: We spent the night at a campground next to the Eel River among the redwoods of Northern California. I forgot a bowl and a spoon for my morning oatmeal, but remembered my favorite fish mug for coffee.
8:33am: Some of the creeks we survey are too far into the mountains to walk to and the roads aren’t in good enough condition to drive on, so we use ATVs to get there. Vroom, vroom.
9:46am:After about an hour of ATV riding, we finally arrive Sebbas Creek. Our surveys include starting at the mouth of a stream and hiking up, documenting salmonid habitat until you reach an end of anadromy. This end of anadromy is where it is no longer possible for salmonids to swim upstream for spawning.
10:00am: Every day until we reach an end, we will have to cross this giant pool. Good balance is very important or else you’re going swimming and this pool measured in at 6.5 feet deep.
10:42am: By 10:42am, we finally arrived at our ending point from the day before. Here we will continue our survey again. A perfect stream for salmonids has a lot of complexity and a lot of woody debris in the water. Wood provides a hiding place for juvenile salmonids and a home for their food- aquatic macroinvertebrates.
11:02am: We hang a flag at the end of every page of data, or every 10 habitat units. Ideally, we hang it in a place where it can stay for 5-7 years, when surveyors come back to the creek again.
11:12am: To get the length of different habitat units, we use a string box. My partner, Ryan, walks and I hold onto the string while the box records how far he’s gone. When he reaches the end, I use a measuring stick to record depths and widths of the unit. He takes note of sediment, and what kind of foliage grows on the river banks.
11:44am: When we come across a log debris accumulation, we have a special data sheet to fill out. This one is wimpy. Some can go on for hundreds of feet. We record things like height, number of pieces of wood, and how much dirt is being held back by the structure.
11:57am: I had a very lazy week, and packing lunches while camping is hard. This day, I just brought myself a clif bar and some nuts to hold me over until dinner.
2:30pm: At only 2:30pm, it’s time for us to hike back out of the creek to our ATVs if we want to be back at the campground by 5pm. At this point, Ryan and I have taken data on 200 habitat units total. Salmonids travel for hundreds of miles to their natal streams and can leap over barriers up to 8 feet high.
3pm: Before leaving, I put my camera underwater to snap a picture of some juvenile steelhead trout. I was surprised I could get so many in one picture
3:52pm: My favorite part of my job is being on land that people rarely get to see. Our ATV ride took us high to a ridgeline, with a lovely lookout east.
5:26pm: Once back at the campsite, it’s relaxation time. With no cell service or internet, a lot of reading is done in the comfort of my hammock.
8:12pm: After dinner, I made myself a tiny fire. It will take 3 showers to get the smell out of my hair. I’ll hang out here until its finally dark at 9pm and retire to my tent. That’s my day!
**The mission of the Watershed Stewards Program (WSP) is to conserve, restore, and enhance anadromous (salmon and trout-bearing) watersheds for future generations by linking education with high quality scientific practices.
I hope you enjoyed reading about Angela’s interesting day out in the field!