Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Counting Silver Creek

I get a lot of questions about what goes on at the Preserve in the winter months.

We do a lot of monitoring at Silver Creek in order to track and ensure that the habitat is remaining healthy and viable. In a nutshell, we spend a lot of time counting things throughout the year and when the weather gets bad, we analyze the things we have counted. We watch the water quality and quantity, track bird and fish numbers, monitor upland vegetation and willow communities, and much more. We also monitor visitation- where do the people come from, how many are there, and what are they doing. Counting things. Analyzing them. What does it mean when visitation has increased? When trout numbers are down? Bird numbers up? More vegetation? Less weeds? These are the things I think about in the winter.

This summer (June), with the help of Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Geological Survey, we will be monitoring trout populations. It is a really exciting time on the Preserve. The fish monitoring only happens every three years and, yes, we need volunteers. We usually shock (in order to measure and weigh them) the fish at night, and then the next morning I kayak the creek to make sure there were no fish fatalities. It is a great way to spend time and easily the most exciting monitoring that we do.

Sometimes, in the winter when I am thinking about the exciting things to come in the spring and summer like the fish population surveys, I like to try and make connections in our data analysis where there may not be connections (I do this in my free time, at work, my focus is more serious).

For instance, you would think monitoring people and monitoring fish would be completely different. But it seems to me that there are some of the same challenges and there are definite parallels. You would think it would be simple to count people and to count fish. Amazingly, counting things is not so easy.
For instance, to count visitors, we ask that people sign in (Please do it. Since the Silver Creek Preserve is private property, it gives visitors a ‘trespass permit’ for the day). Some people treat signing in at the visitor center as a very important ritual. They park their car, amble up the walk, look around, talk to the volunteers, sign in slowly (often in all capital letters), and meander back to their cars while they get ready for their visit. Others screech to a halt in the parking area, run up the walkway, scratch their name on the sign in sheet, and then peal out in the parking lot on the way to their fishing spot. As far as the trout, the same behavior occurs. Some of them just meander into our nets. Others hear us coming from a mile away and are long gone by the time we reach them. You can see their wake in the moonlight… much like the night fishermen who never sign in. In the summer, the trout are everywhere. In the winter, they disappear. In the summer we get about 80% of visitors signing in, and in the winter we get about 80% not signing in.

So, as the summer and spring season are upon us and more people are visiting the Preserve, my advice to you--- please don’t be a bad fish. Sign in.
-Dayna Smith


Unknown said...

How do I sign up to volunteer for the fish shocking count?

Anonymous said...

Please call me to sign up, 788-7910