Thursday, February 23, 2012

Social Media at the Hatchery

How many times do you check your facebook account in one day? How about twitter? Are you a YouTube junkie? Do you have a Blog? Social media is the community of this generation. This is how information is exchanged, how the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) mission is conveyed. Often it is much easier to bring the Hatchery to your home via the internet, facebook, flicker than it is for you to visit us. Of course, we would love you to get outside and visit us, but the next best thing is to bring it to you.
Four things to know about Social Media and the USFWS:

       1)    All the photos on the USFWS flicker page are available and free for download to the public. The FWS    national digital library is also a source for free photos. When downloading anything from the internet, look at the copyright information and credit the photographer appropriately.
       2)    A great way to find out about local outdoor events, such as fee free days at refuges, or kids fishing days, is through the FWS Facebook page. Idaho is part of the Pacific region whose page is updated several times a day.
       3)    The FWS has a YouTube channel. Find your favorite video and tell us about it!
       4)    The USFWS pacific region twitter page has over 15,000 followers! Come see what all the buzz is about!

Dworshak National Fish Hatchery contributes to all of the above social media sites. Like us, follow us, tweet us. Let us know what you think about the work we do! Tweet ya later…..

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Steelhead PIT tagging

Figure 1. PIT tags are about the size of a grain of rice
Members of the Dworshak Fisheries Resource Office (FRO) and Dworshak Hatchery production staff have been working the last few weeks to mark the 2011 broodyear of steelhead with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags as an integral part of our steelhead monitoring and evaluation program.  PIT tags are small tags, about the size of a grain of rice (Figure 1), that are injected into the body cavity of juvenile salmon and steelhead.  They are passive in that most of the time they are inert when being carried by the fish.  But when fish swim near a PIT detector site, signals being emitted will energize the tag and it then bounces back an electronic code unique to that fish.  Currently most of the dams between the Snake River and the ocean have the ability to detect PIT tagged smolts as they migrate to the ocean.  Those data are used to estimate travel times and survival of the ocean bound smolts.  For those fish that return as adults one to three years later, the PIT tags will also be picked up at five locations as they migrate upstream, including Bonneville Dam near Portland, OR, Lower Granite Dam a few miles downstream from Lewiston, ID, and in our trap as they are collected for broodstock.  Those detections collected over three years are used to estimate the total number of steelhead that return from each broodyear released from Dworshak to determine if we are meeting our mitigation goal for Clearwater River steelhead production. 
Figure 2. FRO PIT tag trailer.

 This year’s effort, coordinated by Carrie Bretz, involved tagging 30,500 steelhead over three weeks.  Tagging is conducted using the FRO tagging trailer (Figure 2).  Fish are pumped from a pond into the trailer where they are anesthetized and the PIT tag is injected using a hypodermic needle (Figure 3 & 4). The tagged fish are then returned to the pond through a pipe.   There is a bit of work to get it all set up but once up and running the process works very well.   Fish to be tagged are representative of all production, including early through late takes, fish reared in each of the three systems, and for those that will be released on- and offsite.  This required tagging fish from 12 different ponds and to move the trailer several times over the three weeks.  The next step is to see if any of the tagged fish show up in the pond mortalities and to look for any tags that might be shed (using a magnet pushed along the bottom of the ponds) and then wait for fish to be released in few months so we can start collecting data.

Figure 3&4. PIT tags are injected into fish using a hypodermic needle.

By Chris Perry

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Juvenile steelhead waiting to be sampled.
Hi there! My name is Christina and I just completed a two week volunteer externship at the Idaho Fish Health Center and Dworshak Hatchery Complex. I wanted to share some of my experiences here on the blog and encourage anyone who’s interested in fish health to volunteer at this remarkable facility!
 I came to beautiful northern Idaho from Colorado where I’m a third year veterinary student. I’d heard that fish health was fascinating and that great opportunities were becoming available for veterinarians. So I decided I wanted to learn more, to get my feet wet so to speak, in the field of fish health.  And learn I did! Under the tutelage of the wonderful veterinarian and the brilliant biologists at the Idaho Fish Health Center, I’ve experienced the most fun and interesting externship of my vet student career so far. Here are some highlights:
Fish health monitoring:

The virology lab at the Idaho Fish Health Center.
During my two weeks at the hatchery complex I was fortunate enough to participate in a lot of fish health monitoring. This is done to keep hatchery fish disease free, not only at Dworshak but also at tribal and affiliate hatcheries. In fact, I got to travel a lot, riding along with a fish health specialist to hatcheries in Idaho and Washington to sample steelhead, Chinook, and coho. Once we caught enough fish we would take scrapings of skin and gill samples and look at them under the microscope for parasites and bacteria.  We’d remove a piece of the kidney, spleen or gill to test for bacteria and viruses like Bacterial Kidney Disease and Infectious Hematopoetic Necrosis Virus. Testing is done back at the lab under controlled conditions.

Juvenile Chinook salmon being sampled for bacterial and virologic testing.

Trichodina, a common fish parasite,
taken from a skin scraping as viewed
under the microscope.

The first take of steelhead was spawned on Jan. 4th (see earlier entry) and I was lucky enough to be there. It’s exciting to witness the bustle, the splashing of three foot long fish as they’re brought up into the spawning area, the clinking of machinery, and the constant circulation of buckets filled with tens of thousands of colorful eggs that will become the new generation of this unique and valuable population of steelhead trout.

But keeping fish healthy can’t be done in laboratories with just microscopes and scalpel blades! Part of my time at Dworshak was spent learning a bit about hatchery management, how the fish are kept, raised and even tracked as adults. I had a blast! One day I spent the morning separating dead from live eggs at the Nez Perce tribal hatchery. Another day I swept vats containing tiny Chinook fry at the Clearwater state hatchery. Back at Dworshak staff taught me how to pick daily mortalities out of the ponds and look for abnormal behaviors that might indicate illness. For a (very fast) change of pace I got to assist a mobile tagging crew inject PIT tags into Chinook salmon. Every day there was something completely different for me to do!

One of many ponds at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery
containing tens of thousands of steelehad trout.
 Lastly I wanted to thank the staff at the Dworshak hatchery complex; especially Guppy, Laura, Corie, Liz, and Chelsea at the Idaho Fish Health Center, Rick and John at the hatchery, the staff at the Nez Perce tribal hatchery, and the weekend crew at the Clearwater state hatchery for sharing some of their extensive knowledge about fish health and management with me. Because of them I’m seriously considering a career in fish health, something I knew next to nothing about before I came to the hatchery. Imagine a job where no two days are the same and you get to work both inside and outside. Best of all you’re charged with the protection and care of some of the Earth’s oldest species with an incredible life history and rich cultural significance. If you’re still not convinced, come visit the hatchery and see for yourself!

Kooskia National Fish Hatchery is part of Dworshak Fisheries Complex
 and produces spring Chinook salmon and Coho.

When I first arrived at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. What I discovered was that fish health really is fascinating. Though I’ve learned a lot about fish through my experience, there’s still so much to learn, challenges to face, and discoveries to be made in this exciting field. 

*photos courtesy of the Idaho Fish Health Center/USFWS