EXCITING BEGINNINGS (AND A FEW COLD MORNINGS) HERE IN CHESTER, CALIFORNIA!

A small brown trout caught from Last Chance Creek just upstream of Chester meadow. Once heavily stocked by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, these fish compete with native rainbow trout populations. However, well-established wild populations also create valuable recreation opportunities and tourist attractions, and thus serve as a benefit for local rural communities.

A small brown trout caught from Last Chance Creek just upstream of Chester meadow. Once heavily stocked by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, these fish compete with native rainbow trout populations. However, well-established wild populations also create valuable recreation opportunities and tourist attractions, and thus serve as a benefit for local rural communities.

So… first, a little about myself, then a little about my project, my first month on board, and my efforts to begin creating a positive impact in the community surrounding my new home.

Born and raised Northern California, I grew up moving between the small foothill and farm towns of the North State, exploring the outdoors when and wherever possible, and doing so primarily through angling. I attended the University of California, Berkeley, where I completed a BA in Geography and learned about the real value of working for positive impact on society and environment.

Plug and pond meadow restoration treatment in the Red Clover Valley in eastern Plumas National Forest.

Plug and pond meadow restoration treatment in the Red Clover Valley in eastern Plumas National Forest.

Since then I’ve worked on Northern California land conservation as a Land Steward with the Sutter Buttes Regional Land Trust, where I was tasked with strategizingconservation efforts and monitoring the land trust’s conservation easements and real-property holdings.

More recently, as a member in the AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Program, I worked at the intersection of fisheries science, watershed-focused education, and community service. Working with the staff of the Marin Municipal Water District Fishery Program, I monitored the salmon and trout populations on Lagunitas Creek in West Marin, educated area classrooms, and coordinated volunteer habitat restoration events and citizen science initiatives amid other community outreach. I am excited to apply and expand upon the skills learned through these experiences over the coming year and consider it a pleasure and privilege to do so in service as a Sierra Fellow.

Aftermath of the Moonlights Fire. Today’s devastating wildfires, the product of decades of misinformed management centered on fire suppression, not only affect forest health but also in-stream habitat conditions by creating unstable slope conditions and releasing massive amounts of sediment. This can negatively affect trout and other aquatic organisms.

Aftermath of the Moonlights Fire. Today’s devastating wildfires, the product of decades of misinformed management centered on fire suppression, not only affect forest health but also in-stream habitat conditions by creating unstable slope conditions and releasing massive amounts of sediment. This can negatively affect trout and other aquatic organisms.

My project as a Sierra Fellow will consist of completing a Basin-wide Native Fish Assessment and Improvement Strategy for the Upper Feather River Watershed. The complete project area is comprised of the the four primary branches of the Feather River and all of their tributaries above Lake Oroville.

This work will consist of assessing historic distributions of fish species within the watershed, investigating watershed and habitat conditions that affect fishery quality, and identifying current distributions of fish species using an exciting new sampling technique that reveals presence and absence of species by examining eDNA (environmental DNA, extracted from small bits of tissue suspended in the water column). I will then collate all of this information into a cohesive and comprehensive basin-wide restoration strategy for the watershed.

An excavated pool on Upper Indian Creek, above Antelope Lake, created to aid the passage of spawning wild trout that migrate up from the lake; many road crossings and other culverts across the watershed are still in need of retrofit to allow such passage.

An excavated pool on Upper Indian Creek, above Antelope Lake, created to aid the passage of spawning wild trout that migrate up from the lake; many road crossings and other culverts across the watershed are still in need of retrofit to allow such passage.

My first month as a Sierra Fellow has been an exciting learning experience, consisting of getting to know the Plumas National Forest by touring watersheds, seeing the sorts of watershed degradation that has occurred in the past, visiting restored sites, strategizing project efforts with technical support partners, and in my free time exploring the streams and rivers near my new home in Chester.

In addition to my work on the larger scientific initiative, as Sierra Fellows, it is important for us to integrate into the communities we now call home and create some positive impact therein. For my part, I am planning to engage with the community by promoting literacy through Plumas County Library’s literacy program. I will serve as a volunteer tutor to help strengthen the literacy skills of children and adults alike.