Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
What I Did on My Spring Break…
Midwest Region, March 27, 2009
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University of Missouri student Tony Overman holding a shovelnose sturgeon from the Missouri River. Tony volunteered for the Columbia NFWCO during his spring break.
University of Missouri student Tony Overman holding a shovelnose sturgeon from the Missouri River. Tony volunteered for the Columbia NFWCO during his spring break. - Photo Credit: n/a

Many college students choose spring break destinations with beaches, oceans and sun tans. Some are a little more devoted to their career development. Spring break for some University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) students involved torrential downpours, thirty mile-an-hour winds, and long days on the Missouri River.


The university’s Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Society (FASS) as well as The Wildlife Society (TWS) programs give students an opportunity to become involved in the natural resources field. The programs encourage members to volunteer with different natural resource agencies in order to gain some hands-on field experience. This year, technician Chris McLeland from Columbia NFWCO participated in several FASS and TWS meetings at MU. Chris gave short presentations on  Columbia NFWCO’s current Missouri River projects. Chris was successful in recruiting eight students from FASS and TWS to help our office with their Missouri River sampling. These partnerships have been beneficial to us in the past. Two of these students were already seasoned “river rats” after helping out with last year’s pallid sturgeon broodstock collection effort.   


The original intent was to add a crew to specifically collect pallid sturgeon broodstock. Strong storms, rising water levels and river temperatures put sampling crews into high gear. We decided during the week to double up on sampling effort so we could finish our gill net sampling before the water reached our temperature limit of 55 Fº. During the first day of sampling with the students, a federally endangered pallid sturgeon was captured. This was a great opportunity for the students to experience a “work up” of the rare fish. When a pallid sturgeon is captured, the field crew has to take measurements for morphometrics, check for hatchery-placed tags, and photograph the fish. While only two of the students were able to see a pallid sturgeon, all of the volunteers were able to handle the more common shovelnose sturgeon.


Unfortunately, several inches of rain in portions of the Missouri River basin caused river levels to rise rapidly, and subsequently only three days of field work occurred. A few of the volunteers accepted the invitation to clean gill nets when crews were flooded off the river. This dedication shows that these students truly are interested in a career in the natural resources field. This experience will give all of these students a reference that will look great on their resume. In return for their help, we are planning a “Thank You Cookout” when the weather gets warmer. Partnering with this group allowed our office to double their effort during a week when help is hard to find. Partnerships like this are an important component of The Fisheries Program’s Vision for the Future.

Contact Info: Andrew Plauck, 573-234-2132 ext 175, Andrew_Plauck@fws.gov
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