Saturday, January 31, 2015

I No Longer Own a Trash Can

      I no longer own a trashcan... and I'm slightly terrified. The convenience of throwing something away, hauling it to the curb once a week, and never seeing it again is over. Many articles about waste-free living along with getting tired of cleaning bits and pieces of trash from my car and house has inspired me to begin a waste-free experiment for the next month. And no, I didn't choose February because it's the shortest month (as my boyfriend pointed out to me), but because I have spent January researching and preparing my life for this dramatic lifestyle switch. Inspired by Bea Johnson, who wrote "Zero Waste Home", which has been my holy bible this last month, I've decided to reduce my waste as much as possible, so much that a trashcan will become obsolete.
        In order for this experiment to work I had to set some guidelines and defined what waste truly meant to me. For the sake of my sanity, I decided to define waste in terms of landfill waste. As much as I wish I didn't have to drive and burn gasoline, my decision to live in paradise and commute to Gunnison for school has its consequences. Landfill waste is much more easier to measure and keep track of. Instead of throwing things away, I now have to find alternatives to things I have taken for granted. I have also decided to include plastic-free in my terms of waste, because plastic truly is swallowing up the planet. Being waste-free might seem simple at first, because I could just stick to stuff that can be recycled. But to me that seemed like cheating. Recycling still takes enormous amount of energy and it forgoes the number rule of my experiment: REFUSE. Reduce, reuse, and recycle just got two new cousins: Refuse and Rot. Refuse should always come first. I have to ask myself every time I'm about to do something; do I really need this? Sure I can recycle the cans of beans and sodas, but is that really reducing my consumption? I have to refuse the things that are cluttering up my life. Refuse is the first R that make the next four easier and more manageable.
        I know I said I'm doing this project for the month of February, but February will be my trial run. It will be the month where i learn what works and what doesn't and what I can do to tweak it for later months. Anyone can be waste free for a month if they want to be miserable as well. I want this experiment to be sustainable and fun. Stay tuned for more pictures and my next blog on the two most wasteful areas of the home; the kitchen and the bathroom.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Second Week with CPW

     September 30th:  Today the goal was to electroshock Henson Creek, a tributary to the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River.  We were going to shock a section of the creek that was about one mile upstream of Lake City.  The idea was to get a general population sample and species composition of the creek, as well as compare the numbers of stocked to wild fish.  We made the journey to the site and continued to get everything set up, once again the individual electrodes, shocking truck, holding well, live well and all the tools to process the trout.  We got everything set up and began to shock the section.  Due to the high river flow from rain the previous days, we once again got shut out.  With higher flows the electrodes voltage had to be increases.  More water makes it difficult to locate the fish, and then once they do receive a shock the high flows take them downstream very quickly. We quickly realized the flows were much to high and once again got shut down.  I have fished this creek for many years, so I was excited to see the fish it had to offer.  So we packed everything up and checked out a couple of other potential shock sites for the next season.
    October 2nd:  Today was the first day of the Kokanee Salmon spawn at the Roaring Judy Fish Hatchery.  Blue Mesa holds a landlocked/freshwater species of Kokanee Salmon.  Every fall the fish travel all the way up the Gunnison River and then take a left on the East River where they have a five mile or so journey to the hatchery.  The fish are diverted into holding ponds that are connected to fish runways.  Once the fish are in the runways, they are blocked off from downstream.   Then stations are set up to extract the eggs from the females and the milt from the males.  Some of the fish are not quite ready to spawn, so they are released back into the runways and assessed again in a few days.  Once a female is determined ready to spawn, her eggs are squeezed out into a bowl.  Then a male that is determined ready goes through the same process to extract the milt.  Eggs and milt are mixed, given some fresh water, and then sit for about a minute or so.  This minute or so allows the fertilization to occur.  Then the broken or bad eggs are removed from that individual batch, and poured into a main egg holding bucket.  On this particular day we precess upwards of 500 salmon.  About once a week, 100 salmon are taken as samples once they are spawned out.  These were taken back to Gunnion were the Otolith Bones were extracted.  To my understanding, the otolith bone is an inner ear bone in many fish species.  Once they were extracted we placed the bones in individual packets with the fish's sex, weight and length.  These are sent into a lab where the age of the fish can be determined through growth rings, as well as weight, of the otolith bones. A lot more salmon to go!      

First week as intern with CPW

         September 23rd was my first day as an intern for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife.  I am working with the head aquatics biologist of the Gunnison office, with the main focus of fisheries management in the Gunnison watershed and surrounding areas.  The fall season is a busy time for the aquatics department, as this is the time of year the rivers are low enough to take population samples and the lakes have began to cool down enough for productive fishing.  I will be working with CPW every tuesday and thursday until I fulfill the required hours for my internship.   There are three main areas I will be working as an intern for CPW; trout population samples on specific streams and rivers in the basin, Kokanne Salmon spawning during their annual run up the Gunnison river, and Lake Trout removal out of Blue Mesa Reservoir.   During the first week, Sept. 23rd and 25th, the main focus was electrofishing.  The tuesday I worked we made our way down to Montrose to meet up with some of the biologist and temporary workers for the Montrose CPW office.  Our goal was to electrofish the lower Gunnison River around the city of Delta.  This was going to be an interesting place to sample mainly because of its location.  It is an area that is sort of between the pristine trout fishing waters of the Black Canyon, and the lower more desert oriented river of the lower Gunnison before the confluence with the Colorado River.  This leads to a wide range of fish species occupying the river, everything from brown and rainbow trout to multiple sucker species and endangered species of the Colorado River Basin.  The main focus was going to be on the sucker population, as many species have crossbreed with others.  The idea was to get a general impression of the species composition, especially the multiple kinds of crossbred sucker fish.  There was also a goal to see if introduced species further down the river had made it up to where we were going to be sampling.  Unfortunately everything did not go as planned.  The objective was to launch two rafts that were to float two miles down the river and set up the fish processing location below a diversion dam.  This is an area where a live well would be set up, then fish would be brought to us and we would identify, measure, weigh and tag certain species.   A jet boat launched at the take out of the section, and was supposed to travel up the river to where we had the station.  Unfortunately the water was off color and lower than expected, leading to the jet boat being unable to make it all the way up to us. The plan was for the jet boat to shock certain stretches, and then bring the fish back up to us at the station to take records of them.  Too bad things didn't go as planned, as I was looking forward to seeing the process and the species of fish that would have been shocked.
          September 25th came around and we headed up to Pitkin where we electroshocked quartz creek.  We shocked two different sites, one above the Pitkin State Fish Hatchery and one below it.  We had four people each with there own electrode, one guy maintaining the power source to the truck, as well as two back up netters, one who was dragging a live well. We walked up the stream all four in a line and shocked all the trout habitat we saw.  Each fish was transferred  into the live well and then placed in a large holding net.  A second pass was done at each site, to net all the fish we missed on the first.  Then all the fish were identified, measured and weighed.  30 one year old brown trout were sampled at each site, meaning the heads were cut off to send into a lab.  The whole purpose of this was to asses if the hatchery was having any impact on whirling disease within Quartz Creek.  I was truly amazed at the amount of fish a small section of stream holds.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

First Weeks Working with the Coal Creek Watershed Coalition

It has been off to a slow and steady start working with the Coal Creek Watershed Coalition (CCWC), located in Crested Butte, CO.  As the beginning of fall has arrived, everyone in the coalition has been busy getting their ducks in a row.  They have been getting Watershed Plans together, analyzing their data from summer sampling events, and preparing for the next CCWC meetings.  I have been given access to their Facebook page and official website.  I have been sharing relevant and local environmental articles and videos on the Facebook page.  So far, they have been very popular with the people who follow the page.  Having this insider look is new to me, it is pretty cool to be able to see all of what is going on in the Gunnison Valley-- dealing with water issues.  As for their official website, I have been updating it and giving it a newer, fresher look compared to how it was before.  Zach Vaughter, my supervisor, shared with me that it has been hard to keep up with the website when everyone is busy doing their own share of work for the coalition, along with whatever obligations they have outside of the coalition.  It brings me joy to know that I am the one who the coalition can rely on when they are too busy to do this task.  I am looking forward to what the CCWC has in store for me!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Final Week

Last week was my last week at the internship. I mainly was doing the Lake Michigan route all week so that entailed me getting up at 5 everyday. I also had plenty of resamples that week so it kept me busy for my last week of work. Tuesday I have over 15 beaches I need to go resample all around the North Inland route and as the week kept going on the amount of beaches I need to resample went down. But there were still a large amount all the way up till Thursday. Mainly there were so many is because the day before sampling and after sampling we had a lot of rain. My last day I got to go out on the chain and samples the 10 beaches out there. Im extremely sad that this internship is over.  I enjoyed and learned more then I could have ever imagined. It was sad to say goodbye to all my co workers. But Im so grateful to have been given amazing opportunity.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


This week I had my long inland route which consist of 40 something beaches.  The next day I only had 5 resamples on my route. As I was sampling I realized that some of the beaches that I had done Beach inspections for a couple weeks a go decided to go ahead and put new rafts out that were not there when  I initial did the inspections. A very few had kept with any of the rules of having signs saying no diving or one beach took down its buoys that shows where swimmers are swimming. So that afternoon after sampling I went and called all the head people of the beaches that had made changes and did not obey by the rules and I had to let them know they needed to make the changes ASAP. Tuesday and Wednesday I helped with plant sampling on the Chain which is a hard job because there are so many spots I have to there are over thousands of spots that you need to throw the rack to see where plants are growing. It normal takes 2 to 3 days to finish a whole lake on the chain. I was lucky enough to see a couple new plants that I have not seen in other lakes. I also became really good and bring the boat back on to the trailer and locking it up. On Thursday I did the Lake Michigan run which wasn't bad at all the waves were not as bad as I have seen them before. But I did notice so many people out and about around the beach but I have noticed that is mainly when its a really nice sunny morning. This coming week is my last week. I am very sad about it because I love my job and I love all the new things I am constantly learning and my co-workers I am going to miss dearly. But this week I am mainly doing the Lake Michigan route and then Thursday I am doing the Chain for beach samples. Ill keep you guys posted!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Last week of July

This month has flown by so quickly I can not believe that it is already over. This week my main route was mainly Lake Michigan so I had the early 5 am shift. But its not bad I don't mind being up that early. I get to see the sunrise and its lovely. Monday though we had a very strong wind from the East and with that it brought massive waves I have never seen before. They came crashing down on the beach making it very difficult to collect samples but I managed. Tuesday I was on the Lake Michigan route as well and it was very interesting because the waves were still rough but nothing compared to the day before. But it was really interesting to watch as the days went on the water seemed to become calmer and calmer to the point at some beaches the water looked like glass. But when you look at the beach's  tell a different story you can see all the destruction that the waves caused to the beaches. One of the beaches has really tall sand hills and then roll down to the water but after those waves it looks like a jagged cliff that you have to jump off of to get down to the water. After my route I would go back to the office and fallow up on my beach inspections so keep making calls to people who I hadn't talked to yet and then I would go out and drop off any of the beach display signs for the beaches that needed them. I had one call though that I told the beach manager what I noticed that was missing and the manager became so defensive and kept insuring me that everything was there . It made me laugh though because I was just at there beach the week before it was there. I couldn't understand why this person was trying to argue with me about really safety precautions. Isn't it the beach managers responsibility to keep everyone safe? But I was able to tell the manager that I wanted to see the changes with in my next route so hopefully they will get on that. Then today myself another intern and a full time lakes management went out on the Chain O Lakes and collected beach samples along with hab samples and we also did beach inspections that took us a little longer but we were able to get it all done in a timely fashion. Most of the beaches did well but just a couple that needed some things added. So next week ill probably give those beach managers a call and let them know what they need to fix. After beach samples I went on the same lake with another intern and we did plant sampling and identifications for the rest of the day. We had pretty much all lotus and pond lilies  around us. With the identification of the plants it helps us have a better idea of what plants are in the water and what are invasive plants we have and from there we can make a plant map and it can be usefully later one. I really enjoy all of the different things I am learning in this internship and I also like how I am constantly doing something different.   I have swim cast downloading this weekend so we will see how the lakes are doing this weekend and ill enter all the data into the website.