A few months ago I moved to the Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge to start my internship as a refuge technician through the Public Lands Stewards program of the Mt. Adams Institute. To be honest, I was feeling a little apprehensive and didn’t really know what to expect. During our first tour of the refuge everything felt so daunting. I couldn’t remember the names of the streets or the locations where we would be setting our fyke nets. The refuge itself seemed gigantic and some of the side roads we drove on where terrifying. To this day I don’t know how we are able to drive on some of those roads.
After our first full day of work, my coworker Bre and I took a long walk from the bunkhouse. It was then that I really saw for the first time how beautiful this place was. In two days I had seen more variety of rare plants and animals than I had in a long time. I saw Sandhill Cranes, elk, Oregon spotted frogs, and a woodpecker along with tall pine trees, and open meadows of Camas lilies. It was breathtaking and I had a feeling this was going to be a good summer.
The main project that we work on daily is retrieving, processing, and setting fyke nets. Fyke nets are designed to catch creatures in the streams and wetland channels. In this case we are using the nets for invasive species removal. We mainly focus on removing bullhead catfish and American bullfrog to help the endangered Oregon spotted frog population. During the processing portion, the catfish and bullfrogs are counted, measured and weighed. Sometimes we catch thousands of catfish and it takes a large portion of the day to measure and count them all. Hopefully the work we do and the data we collect will be helpful in future removal efforts.
Naturally we also get to help with other refuge projects as well. So far this has included clearing water structures, bat surveys, bullfrog hunting, endangered plant surveys, and butterfly tracking. We may even get to band a Sandhill crane!
Overall I’ve had a good time and I know this will continue to be a good experience. I work with great people who care and have taught me so much already. At this moment there is nowhere else I would rather be. Conboy Lake is a special place; I am proud to be working on preserving it for future generations.