Monday, July 31, 2017

Catfish Wranglin’ on the San Juan River

by Karen Burke, Native Aquatics Technician


It was a clear, cool day in the Southern Utah desert as we rolled through the dust and dirt to the put-in near the town of Montezuma Creek, Utah. We were to spend four days on the San Juan River electrofishing primarily in search of non-native channel catfish and the native, endangered razorback sucker and Colorado pikeminnow. I was excited and nervous for my first work trip that would also be my first multi-day river trip.


Colorado pikeminnow
Photo:  John Caldwell UDWR
razorback sucker
Photo: John Caldwell UDWR
The project we would be working on is in conjunction with the San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program. This program aims to protect and recover populations of the native Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker in the San Juan River while continuing to develop water resources. The Colorado pikeminnow is a large, carnivorous fish and a top predator of the Colorado River system. They can grow up to 6 feet long and sport a smooth, slender body, a large mouth, and pharyngeal teeth (teeth located on the gills in the back of their throat). The razorback sucker is one of a few native sucker fish that is recognized by its obvious and unique sharp hump or keel behind its head (hence the name razorback). They have fleshy lips on the underside of their head, can grow up to about 3 feet long, and feed on plankton as well as various bottom-dwelling organisms and material.


One challenge to the survival of these native endangered fish species has been habitat alteration and fragmentation in the river system. This has occurred largely due to human influence and infrastructure. For example, dams and diversions trap sediment and nutrients while altering historic flow rates. Channelization along with introduced and now invasive plant species (such as tamarisk and russian olive) alter stream morphology by stabilizing banks and preventing the river from taking its historical, meandering course. This historical stream morphology provided habitat for these fish in backwaters and throughout a large floodplain. Another major cause of native species decline is competition and predation by non-native species, like the channel catfish. Reducing the numbers of non-native fish can be a key step in restoring native fish populations. It is obvious that restoring the native fish populations in the San Juan River will take lots of effort and perhaps some major changes. For now, our crew would be doing our part by catching the wretched channel catfish so that we could estimate their populations and remove them - all in a valiant effort to help our spectacular native fish thrive.


Raft e-fishing on the San Juan
Photo:  Karen Burke UDWR
I got thrown right into learning the ways of electrofishing from our rafts. I soon realized that one minute the water will be calm and undisturbed, and then suddenly you are bombarded with numerous fish surfacing all at once. As the fish appeared I did my best to scoop them up into the net. I was even working up a sweat at times. The different fish species would tend to each respond in a unique way to the shock. The flannel-mouth suckers (another native fish, but not endangered) would spastically thrash, the razorback suckers would dart along the surface of the water, the catfish would float along totally stunned, and the elusive Colorado pikeminnow would surface for just a moment and propel themselves quickly away.


Karen with channel catfish
Photo:  Chelsea Gibson UDWR
The most chaotic moment of electrofishing occurred when Brian and I ventured down a precarious side channel. We became completely surrounded by catfish, many more than I could possibly net. I did my best as Brian attempted to spin the boat in every direction to catch as many as possible. In that moment, it became apparent to me how crucial catfish eradication efforts are in this river system. The numbers of these non-natives in the San Juan River are impressive. With the many that we are able to catch on these trips, there is hope that native fish species will be able to better compete for habitat and avoid predation.
Karen on the "sticks"
Photo:  Chelsea Gibson UDWR


The second morning we awoke to a river that took on a reddish-brown complexion. There would be more electrofishing in these muddy waters and my first chance to row the boats. I quickly came to love the feeling of navigating the waters and the excitement of avoiding obstacles. The remaining days on the beautiful San Juan River to the take out at Mexican Hat, Utah quickly floated by as the geology became more fascinating and beautiful and I began to learn the nature of whitewater.

The trip was filled with cute young catfish, heinously disgusting old catfish, and even some of the lovely native fish species. The most memorable catfish of the trip appeared not to have any eyes and had a large bloody lesion on its side. I was a bit horrified. The trip left me dreaming of being surrounded by fewer ugly channel catfish and more native sucker fish and Colorado pikeminnow. These dreams would soon come true on the Green River.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Now accepting applications for Native Fisheries Technicians for the 2017 field season

Native Fisheries Technician
Salary: $10.99 – $17.41/hr

Opening Date: 1/9/17
Closing Date: 1/18/17

Position: Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Resources - Moab Field Station is seeking to fill several Wildlife Technician positions without benefits available in Moab, Utah. These positions will begin in mid-late March. There will be several long-term positions available that will run through October as well as several more short-term positions available concluding in June.

Responsibilities: Assist with various field projects involving native and endangered species of fish on the Green, Colorado, and San Juan Rivers and Lake Powell. Duties include monitoring of native and nonnative fish populations, using seines, raft and Jon boat electrofishers, trammel nets, trap nets, larval light traps, sonic tracking and submersible PIT antennas. All field work is carried out during river trips which last up to 10 days. Technicians will be expected to row rafts, motor boats and become proficient with all collection techniques, identification and tagging. Following field trips technicians clean and maintain equipment, and prepare for future trips. Applicants MUST be agreeable to mechanical removal and disposition of nonnative fish species. Project technicians will also be responsible for data collection and organization.

Qualifications: Applicants must be willing to work a flexible schedule under harsh and adverse field conditions and camp while conducting fieldwork. Applicants must be willing to and capable of performing physically taxing tasks and working outdoors in hot and/or rainy/cold weather. Field trips range from three to nine day trips in remote canyon locations. Applicants are required to be over 18 years of age, possess a valid driver’s license, and provide proof of citizenship. Desired experience includes: scientific data collection, whitewater rafting, motorized boat operation and maintenance, boat-mounted electrofishing, fish netting and seining, fish identification, backcountry or whitewater safety training, the ability to work independently, attention to detail and mechanical aptitude. Housing is NOT provided although meals, tents, sleeping pads, dry bags and all camp gear are supplied during fieldwork.

Weblink:  http://moabfish.blogspot.com/  Info about specific projects, locations, and fish species.

Contact: Resumes and cover letters may be emailed to: katherinecreighton@utah.gov (preferred)

You may also apply by mailing your resume and cover letter to:

Katie Creighton – Project Leader
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources–Moab Field Station
1165 South Highway 191, Suite 4

Moab, Utah 84532

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Now Hiring: Native Aquatics Biologist (Wildlife Biologist II)

The UDWR Moab Field Station is now hiring a Native Aquatics Biologist (Wildlife Biologist II). 

Please go to the following link for more information and to apply:


Job Description
The Utah Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Resources is seeking a Native Aquatics Biologist who will serve as Principle Investigator (PI) with the recovery and management of threatened and endangered fishes of the Colorado, Green and San Juan Rivers.

The biologist will enter, maintain and analyze data collected for Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program (UCRRIP) and San Juan River Recovery Implementation Program (SJRRIP) projects. Analysis will be summarized in annual and final reports and professional presentations for interested parties. Primary investigators should develop a high level of expertise and ecological understanding of the species of concern in order to effectively describe the current status of threatened and endangered species and determine actions necessary to move toward delisting.

The ideal candidate will have:
  • A Master's degree in fisheries, aquatic biology, wildlife management, or a directly related field. 
  • Knowledge of and/or experience handling and/or monitoring the endangered fish of the Upper Colorado River Basin.
  • Experience working in remote settings for 3-10 days at a time.
  • Experience with boat electrofishing, trammel netting, hoop netting, seining, PIT tagging.
  • Experience rowing inflatable rafts on class II-IV white water.
  • Experience operating motorized boats on swiftwater and in hazardous conditions.
  • Experience maintaining rafts, hard bottom boats and outboard motors.
  • Strong working knowledge of statistical software for biological data analysis and population modeling (specifically Program MARK).
  • Experience analyzing, reporting and presenting findings to committees and at professional meetings.
  • Swiftwater Rescue Training and Wilderness Medicine Certification.
Example of Duties
  • Conduct field investigations, research, and fish sampling during multi-day river trips.
  • Supervise seasonal technicians in the field.
  • Data analysis and report preparation. Analyzes (using Program MARK), summarizes and/or reviews data; reports findings, interprets results and/or makes recommendations.
  • Write or draft technical reports, articles or related material based on research, investigation or analysis.
  • Answer technical questions regarding data, trends or results from studies.
  • Present findings to committees and at professional meetings.
  • Coordinate program activities, services, and/or program implementation with private providers, other governmental entities, program users, etc.
  • Maintain and repair sampling equipment.
Typical Qualifications
  • bachelor's degree or higher in fisheries, aquatic biology, wildlife management, or other directly related field. 
  • knowledge of statistical software for biological data analysis and population modeling (specifically Program MARK)
  • fisheries field techniques (trap and trammel nets, electroshockers, PIT tag arrays, etc.)
  • communicate information and ideas clearly, and concisely, in writing; read and understand information presented in writing
  • fisheries or natural resources report writing skills
  • speak clearly, concisely and effectively; listen to, and understand, information and ideas as presented verbally
  • ecological processes, theoretical and applied ecological principles, scientific methods, fish biology, fisheries management, data management
  • identify various various native and nonnative fish species of the Colorado River Basin
  • management, protection, propagation, conservation of fish and wildlife
  • wildlife ecology and habitat requirements 
  • fisheries and/or natural resources research methods, techniques, and/or sources of information 
  • compose and produce reports, documents and related material 
  • present findings (oral and Powerpoint) at professional meetings
  • use logic to analyze or identify underlying principles, reasons, or facts associated with information or data to draw conclusions 
  • conduct a methodical examination 
  • find, gather and collect fisheries and/or natural resource information or data 
  • agency, professional and/or industry standards and practices 
Supplemental Information
Working conditions:
  • Multi-day/overnight field work in remote river locations for extended periods of time (3-10 days at a time, 100 days a year) with highly variable weather.  Employee must be able to row a boat for long periods of time and will be required to camp in a back-country setting.
Physical requirements:
  • Work requires physical exertion. Work is performed in and around water (rivers). May require the ability to stand; walk over rough or slippery surfaces; bend, crouch, stoop, stretch, reach, lift moderately heavy items (50+ lbs.). Work on unstable surfaces and in inclement weather. Must be able to row heavy rafts and navigate class II-IV whitewater.
Other requirements:
  • Bachelor's degree in fisheries, aquatic biology, wildlife management, or other directly related field. 
  • Must have or obtain valid Utah driver's license.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Seasonal Native Fisheries Technician Positions Now Closed


This job posting is now closed. Thank you for the great response. If you have not been contacted for an interview, please keep us in mind for next season. Happy fishing and see you downstream!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Now Accepting Applications for 2016 Field Season: Native Fisheries Technician

Native Fisheries Technician
Salary: $10.99 – $17.41/hr

Opening Date: 1/20/16
Closing Date: 2/2/16

Position: Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Resources - Moab Field Station is seeking to fill several Wildlife Technician positions without benefits available in Moab, Utah. Two of these positions will begin April 11, 2016 and run through October. There may be several more short-term positions available beginning April 11th and concluding in June. Start date is firm.

Responsibilities: Assist with various field projects involving native and endangered species of fish on the Green, Colorado, and San Juan Rivers and Lake Powell. Duties include monitoring of native and nonnative fish populations, using seines, raft and Jon boat electrofishers, trammel nets, trap nets, larval light traps, sonic tracking and submersible PIT antennas. All field work is carried out during river trips which last up to 9 days. Technicians will be expected to row rafts, motor boats and become proficient with all collection techniques, identification and tagging. Following field trips technicians clean and maintain equipment, and prepare for future trips. Applicants MUST be agreeable to mechanical removal and disposition of nonnative fish species. Project technicians will also be responsible for data collection and organization.

Qualifications: Applicants must be willing to work a flexible schedule under harsh and adverse field conditions and camp while conducting fieldwork. Applicants must be willing to and capable of performing physically taxing tasks and working outdoors in hot and/or rainy/cold weather. Field trips range from three to nine day trips in remote canyon locations. Applicants are required to be over 18 years of age, possess a valid driver’s license, and provide proof of citizenship. Desired experience includes: scientific data collection, whitewater rafting, motorized boat operation and maintenance, boat-mounted electrofishing, fish netting and seining, fish identification, backcountry or whitewater safety training, the ability to work independently, attention to detail and mechanical aptitude. Housing is NOT provided although meals, tents, sleeping pads, dry bags and all camp gear are supplied during fieldwork.

Weblink:  http://moabfish.blogspot.com/  Info about specific projects, locations, and fish species.

Contact: Resumes and cover letters may be emailed to: katherinecreighton@utah.gov (preferred)

You may also apply by mailing your resume and cover letter to:

Katie Creighton – Project Leader
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources–Moab Field Station
1165 South Highway 191, Suite 4
Moab, Utah 84532

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hiring Soon for 2016 Field Season!

Please keep an eye on this site for upcoming job opportunities at the Moab Native Fishes Office. We will soon post technician openings for the 2016 season. These positions will begin in early April and run through October. A few shorter-term positions are available that will begin in early April and only run into June.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


​Vacancy: BLM Interdisciplinary Ecologist or Fish Biologist, 
GS-408/482-11 position.  
https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/403692100

The BLM UT will be filling TWO positions through this announcement, one position in the Canyon Country District, Moab, UT and the other in the Green River District, Vernal, UT. For more information regarding the BLM Utah, please see link below.



http://www.blm.gov/ut/st/en.html  

This is an exciting opportunity to be involved in a growing aquatics program with the BLM in Utah!  This position will provide professional expertise for the BLM District regarding aquatics, fisheries, riparian, and wetlands ecosystem management; sampling procedures and data collection; analysis and interpretation of inventory and monitoring data; and other expertise relative to aquatic ecology. 

The Interdisciplinary Ecologist/Fish Biologist will serve as the lead for the aquatics program and as the subject matter expert regarding aquatic, fisheries, riparian, and wetland resources for the District. The incumbent will be responsible for coordinating and working with a wide variety of partners and key stakeholders to develop fisheries, aquatic, riparian, and wetland projects to better manage these resources.  The incumbent will also ensure that these resources are considered in the development and review of other projects that occur throughout the District.  The incumbent will determine effects of land management activities on components of aquatic and riparian resources over time. Based on an understanding of the relationship between biological and physical processes, the successful incumbent will develop conservation measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate any adverse affects to aquatic and riparian resources.