Having public support can make a world of difference when doing endangered-species recovery work. But it can be tough to build interest in relatively unknown, rare and elusive species like the four endangered Colorado River fish – the humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker. Dale Ryden, the project leader at our Ouray National Fish Hatchery – Grand Valley Unit (NFH-GVU) in Grand Junction, Colorado, tells us about one co-worker whose mission, in addition to his regular job, is public education and outreach about the endangered Colorado River fish.
|Mike Gross shows off a replica of an endangered razorback sucker to a group of elementary school kids during a tour at Ouray National Fish Hatchery – Grand Valley Unit. Photo by USFWS
While much of the river system that supports the humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker in western Colorado runs through pristine and isolated habitat, a surprising amount of the river runs directly through the densely populated area in and around Grand Junction. And, even though this natural wonder is essentially right in their back yard, many people in and around the Grand Junction area know little about these unique and fascinating next-door neighbors that rely on the same river water people use to cook, shower and water their lawn.
Mike Gross is a Biological Science Technician at Ouray NFH-GVU and as such, already has a full plate of regular job duties to perform. Yet over the last decade or so, Mike has built a public education and outreach program at this small hatchery that provides hatchery tours to about 1,000 people a year. Mike provides tours year-round for everybody from small family groups to school field trips (elementary school to college), newspaper reporters, water users, environmental groups, Service leaders, congressional staffers and even the head of The Nature Conservancy. Mike has the unique ability to tailor his message about endangered-species recovery, what it is and why it’s important to any audience, making it interesting and engaging to people of all ages, from preschool, through high school and college, to professional.