Adventurous Volunteers needed for Community Salmon Investigation

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It’s already time to sign up for Community Salmon Investigation for Highline (aka ‘CSI: Highline’), with training set to begin Oct. 3.

“We are hoping for even more volunteers than last year – even people who can only survey every now and then,” said Elissa Ostergaard, Miller/Walker Creek Basin Steward.

Here’s more info from Elissa:

Be part of Miller/Walker Creek Stewardship
How many adult salmon return to Miller and Walker Creeks in Burien, Normandy Park, and SeaTac each year?  This program is teaching us that the numbers can vary a lot! We also investigate how many of these fish are stricken by pre-spawn mortality each year, and thus how many are surviving long enough to lay the eggs of the next generation.

A better understanding of the numbers of fish returning to the streams and the extent of pre-spawn mortality is one of the top recommendations the community identified as part of coordinated monitoring of the streams (see the 2009 monitoring coordination recommendations).  Adult salmon in our streams are the Pacific Northwest equivalent of the “canary in the coal mine” – they reflect the health of our lands and water.  Knowing adult salmon numbers and what’s happening to them once they enter the stream will serve as “vital signs” for our streams.  By being part of our Community Salmon Investigation team, you can help us learn more about this community resource.

To accurately monitor adult fish returns and fish health, we need your help!  We’re looking for volunteers to collect data on adult salmon that will return to Miller and Walker Creeks from mid-October 2013 to late January 2014.  Please sign up by Thursday, September 26.

Beginning in mid-October and continuing until late December or into January, we need two volunteers to visit Miller and Walker Creeks each day at several locations to look for fish.  We need enough volunteers to staff every day of the week because only a sustained, daily survey will provide us the accurate information we need to understand stream health.

This is an exciting and unusual opportunity to see parts of your community that are normally off-limits.  You will get closer to one of the most interesting animals of America – the Pacific salmon.  You will be part of an important community effort to better understand how well we’re doing taking care of our lands and waters.  And, of course, you’ll get to cut open dead (salmon) bodies, almost like the CSI teams you watch on TV!

Volunteer Expectations
As a volunteer, here is what to expect:

  • Commit to volunteering either one day per week or one day every other week (or as an occasional substitute for someone) for the 3.5 month period from mid-October to late January.
  • Teams will be responsible for sending 2 people to collect data collection on one day each week (e.g., every Tuesday).  Ideally each team will have three or four people, so each person only needs to go out every other week, and there are enough volunteers to fill in on days when one team-member cannot go out.
  • Assume it will take three or four hours on your survey day
  • You will work only during daylight hours, which will, of course, become more limited as the season progresses.  People who work five weekdays will want to volunteer for Saturday or Sunday surveys.  Those with flexible schedules will be encouraged to do weekdays.
  • You need to be able to walk up stream channels/banks that are rocky and wet/covered in running water.  You may need to climb over and under downed trees and push through or go under brush.  Overall distance walked each daily survey will be about one mile (a portion will be in the stream).
  • You will need to go out rain or shine but you will not monitor when the stream is running high to keep you safe (plus it’s hard to see fish in high, turbid water).
  • There are two sites to be inspected on both Miller Creek and Walker Creek – all sites are in Normandy Park because all adult salmon migrate first through the lower part of the creek to find a place to spawn.  Short drives will be needed for you to reach all the survey sites.
  • You will work in pairs for safety and to maximize data quality.
  • You will need to follow the access requirements of the private and public landowners who are graciously providing us access to the streams.
  • You will count and record information on living fish.
  • You will take measurements of each dead fish.  This will involve handling and cutting open carcasses.  Gloves will be provided.  You will record information on adipose fin presence (indicating whether the fish came from a hatchery), sex, percent egg retention, spawning status, and if possible, coded wire tag scans (another sign a fish came from a hatchery).
  • You will need to provide your own rain gear and footwear.  In most cases, we expect you will need to use hip waders. My rubber hip waders – which have survived many years of rough service already – cost around $40, so buying a pair is not a big investment. Chest waders are also a good alternative.
  • You will be given sampling collection kits and sheets for recording field data.
  • You will be trained or paired up with a trained volunteer who will teach you what to do, and the project manager will go with your team on the first survey.

Everyone who is interested in being on a team, being a team “lead” and helping train other team members, or being an occasional surveyor is invited to attend the training:

WHAT: Training, using maps and survey routes, fish identification and measuring techniques, staying safe, equipment kits and scheduling

WHEN: Thursday, October 3, 2013, 4:00-6:00 pm

WHERE: Normandy Park City Hall

REGISTER: Please contact Elissa Ostergaard, Miller/Walker Creek Basin Steward to sign up for the training.

When you sign up, please tell Elissa:

  • What day(s) of the week are you available?
  • Would you like to survey every week?  Or every other week?
  • Do you have family or friends who will be on your survey team?
  • Will you attend the survey training on October 3, 4:00-6:00 pm?

To sign up or of if you have any questions about whether this volunteer activity is right for you, please contact Elissa at [email protected]gov or 206-296-1909.

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