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ACE Pacific West South | Santa Margarita River

ACE Pacific West South had the unique opportunity this past fall to partner with California Trout on an invasive species removal project just outside of Temecula, CA. The eight-person ACE crew led by Joseph Ortiz worked alongside the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in the Santa Margarita River.  Electrofishing is a common scientific survey method that is often used to determine species abundance and density. When used in surveys, the fish are usually measured and recorded and then returned to their habitat unharmed. For invasive species removal, electrofishing is used to briefly stun and slow down the non-native species so that they can be removed manually from the habitat. This method allows the native species to quickly recover from the electric shock and return to their natural state. Electrofishing uses direct current electricity, which flows between a submerged cathode and anode. The current causes the fish to swim toward the anode where they are removed using nets and buckets. Once the US Fish and Wildlife Service and CA Department of Fish and Wildlife administered the electric current, the ACE crew members followed with nets to retrieve the fish. The crew also assisted in surveying, classifying, and using extermination techniques for invasive fish. In situations where the river was too high to administer the electric current via standing on the river bed, the team utilized a small pontoon to get the job done safely.The species removed included green sunfish, black bullhead, golden shiner, bluegill, largemouth bass, mosquitofish, American bullfrog, and red swamp crayfish. These species do not exist naturally in this area and outcompete the native species for food and resources. The project will continue in the fall of 2020.  ACE is excited to have had this unique opportunity to learn about these techniques alongside our partners in the field. 

EPIC Experience | Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge

The Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is now also home to two USFWS EPIC interns! This is the first group of interns to have the opportunity to work with USFWS biologist, Angela Dedrickson at this particular refuge. Interns Rose Caplan, and Shannon Finnerty started their year-long internship in September of 2018. During their time with the refuge, they have been an integral part of the US Fish and Wildlife Service team.

Interns in the bird blind to conduct monitoring with a refuge volunteer.

Mississippi sandhill cranes in their temporary enclosure.

The refuge was established in 1975 under the authority of the Endangered Species Act to protect the critically endangered Mississippi sandhill cranes and their unique, and itself endangered, wet pine savanna habitat.The population was once at a low of 30-35 individuals, however, with the efforts of the refuge they have been brought up to over a hundred individuals as of 2019. The 20,000 acres of the refuge also protects the critically endangered Mississippi gopher frog, more commonly known as the dusky gopher frog.

Intern Rose and Shannon check camera traps and fill feeds to monitor and track the wild cranes on the refuge.

Each morning the interns monitor the new cranes which are brought in from another facility to be released on the refuge. Through captive rearing and reintroduction to the area, as well as wild birds nesting in the savannas, the crane population continues to grow. The interns monitor their behavior and reactions to potential threats, as well as monitoring the wild population through camera traps. Rose and Shannon have also played a roll in the dusky gopher frog project from the time they arrived as tadpoles to their eventual release later this year. 

A intern dons a “crane suit” which allows her to approach the crane enclosure in somewhat of a disguise. This is done to prevent the cranes from becoming comfortable with humans.

Interns work with USFWS biologist, Angela Dedrickson to survey the potential release site of the dusky gopher frogs.

Interns on the refuge bayou conducting wildlife surveys from a boat.

A squirrel tree frog.

Both ACE and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are excited to see the partnership grow and continue into the future. An in-depth video for follow on the refuge and the role ACE EPIC interns are playing in the protection of these species.